Mini Class: Going Beyond the Screen

It’s been quite a week this week! I went to Maine and back with my parents and learned about designing a mini online class! One is a little more relevant to this blog than the other. 🙂

If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say mini online class, please explore Massively Open Online Courses and Peer 2 Peer University. Those are where I learned about the idea that someone can create a class and offer it to an unlimited amount of people at one time. I should probably stop referring to them informally as a mini class and maybe instead call them Giant classes. It’s an amazing idea to think that an expert in a field no longer has to be bound by the number of people that they can personally reach. They can create a class where the readings, videos, homework, everything is already created before participants even start. They don’t have to worry about answering questions, providing feedback, or contacting everyone in the course. Instead they can share their knowledge with a large amount of people. The best part is that so many people are doing this FOR FREE! It’s taking Khan Acadmey to a whole new level and I’m already so excited about it!

For CEP 811 we were to explore these wonderful mini/giant classes and then outline our own. I’m not an expert on anything yet (I believe in the 10,000 hours rule that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book Outliers – and that’s almost 5% of my life!) but I have been teaching online for two years now and have gone to many conferences about the best practices of online learning. When I talk to new teachers to online education or sceptics that online learning is “real” I always seem to be asked about how I build relationships with students online when I never meet many of them. Below is my mini course made for a giant amount of people that starts to answer that question. [Note: This is still just an outline and will not function as a real course at this time.]


In my Connecting Beyond the Screen course my peers will master building relationships with students in an online course by designing information sheets, planning field trips, and collaborating with peers via Twitter. 

Course: Connecting Beyond the Screen

Audience: K-12 grade teachers, with an emphasis on 6-12, who teach students online (or partially online).

Time Length: Six weeks.


By the end of this course participants will:

  • Create an introduction video to a classroom.
  • Maintain a Twitter account documenting their assignments and explorations.
  • Design opportunities where students will interact with each other outside of the classroom.
  • Understand multiple ways to interact with students synchronously and asynchronously.
  • Plan multiple ways to summarize a lesson.
  • Create a bank of questions to get students talking with each other.

picture summary

Week 1: Put Yourself out there!

Summary: Getting to know your students while teaching online often starts by sharing about yourself. If your students get to know you better, then they will share more about themselves. 


  1. Watch this video about the 8 lessons that other educators learned about teaching online.
  2. Watch this video about the importance of an introduction and three steps to giving a consise short introduction. This is a general video not related to education, but has some good points to consider while creating your introduction video.
  3. Watch this example of a teacher introducing themselves. I would suggest allowing more time on each slide so that students can read and look at the picture, but overall it’s very exciting and engaging!
  4. Watch this short video about how one teacher incorporates herself into every lesson.


  1. If you do not already have a Twitter account, create one and explore the ins and outs of using Twitter.
    1. Try watching this tutorial if you are new to Twitter. (Don’t worry I didn’t really Tweet until earlier this summer!)
  2. If you do not already have a blog, create one and explore the ins and outs of using one.
    1. Try WordPress, Blogger, Weebly, or any other you already knkow about.


  1. Make an introduction video
    1. Ensure that you show yourself either on video or in picture.
    2. Show off your work environment. Where do you work? What’s your desk look like? How and why are you organized in the way that you are?
    3. Talk about your goal(s) for the school year. These can be more personal or something that you want the whole class to achieve.


  1. Share your information sheets with others via Twitter. Use the hashtag #BTS14
  2. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.

social media

Week 2: Photo Evidence

Summary: Now that you’ve shared some about yourself in your classroom and learned about your students, you might want to put a face with all the information you are learning. Create a student information sheet where students attach a picture to send to you. Check with your school policies about photo usage before sharing with others.


  1. Read through this interesting article about putting a face to online learning.
    1. Explore VoiceThread after reading and think about if that program would work for your setting.


  1. Look at the two examples below and search online for more – there are a ton out there that just need minor changes to fit your classroom!
    1. Who I Am Information Sheet
    2. All About Me


  1. Create your own Student Information Sheet with at least one space for a picture. Since this will be distributed online, ensure that all items can be edited.


  1. Share your blank student information sheet with others via Twitter. Use the hashtag #BTS14
  2. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.

jk rowling listening

Week 3: One-on-One

Summary: Online you can really make time for one-on-one meetings that can’t easily happen in a physical environment. These “meeting” can be synchronous or asynchronous, and can go a long way in creating a deeper relationship with your students.


  1. Read this article about the importance of building personal relationships with students from the National Educational Association.
  2. Read this article about the power of connecting with students on a personal and individual level.


  1. If you do not have an account already, create a free Google Hangout account. Learn how to set one up so that you are comfortable enough to explain to students if needed.


  1. Fill out a student information sheet from last week (one you created or one someone else created that you saw on Twitter).


  1. Tweet ideas about ways to connect with students one-on-one and in small groups using the hashtag #BTS14.
  2. Tweet your filled about student information sheet using the hashtag #BTS14.
  3. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.
    group classroom hug

Week 4: Building a Community

Summary: As you get to know each student, ensure that they are getting to know each other as well. Sometimes it can be difficult for students to befriend others online, they may need a push from a teacher.


  1. Read this short blurb about creating an online educational community. The goal of the article may be about a specific program, but it has some useful information within it.
  2. Go through this short PowerPoint presentation about building community in an online classroom. It’s geared toward language arts, but can be applied to any online classroom setting.
  3. Read this article about being a successful online teacher. While it certainly goes beyond just creating a community in your classroom, there are many specific helpful hints within the article and at only 8 pages you should just read the whole thing.


  1. Read through the document that gives a list of questions to start the lesson. I usually post one of these on the board while students enter my room and give them the first five minutes of class time to talk and debate the answer to the question. Once I use a question I use the strike-through on my copy so that I don’t ask the same question twice. You can choose to use this in any way that you can see working in your classroom.
  2. Look online for more ways to engage your online students. Share them via Twitter using the hashtag #BT14.


  1. Save the file of questions to start the class period with and then add at least 10 more questions.


  1. Tweet more questions that you can think of to add to the list using the hashtag #BTS14.
  2. Tweet out a request to meet with others taking this class and meet together using GoogleHangout.
  3. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.

 Equal Apple

Week 5: Summarize and Share

Summary: It’s become common practice to summarize the lesson’s material before moving on to the next lesson or class period. When teaching online you may also need to summarize social interactions and allow free time for students to mingle.


  1. Read this article about how to end a class period on a high note.
  2. Here’s an article about 7 ways to end a lesson.
  3. Read through this extensive list of summarizing strategies to use at the end of a lesson. Many of these can be used for content and for social summaries.


  1. Search online for more ways to summarize material for students. Think about how you can adapt them to summarize social interactions and increase student-to-student interactions.


  1. Write 5 short “lesson plans” that map out the end of your class period, showing how you will summarize the academic content and the social interactions as well as provide opportunities for students to interact with each other.


  1. Tweet your short lesson plans using the hashtag #BTS14.
  2. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.

Louvre Tour

Week 6: Think Outside the Classroom

Summary: Once you get students comfortable with you and each other in their classroom think about setting up opportunities for them to get more involved outside of your class. Plan field trips (physical or virtual), set up pen pals, start a club, design extra social online meetings for reaching a goal, etc.


  1. Read this article about the importance of field trips in schools.
  2. Read this article about the importance of field trip and other non-strictly-academic opportunities.


  1. Look through these virtual field trip options. Do any of these fit your students or school setting?
    1. Eschoolnews Top Ten Best Virtual Field Trips
    2. Subject Specific Virtual Field Trips
    3. Education World Virtual Field Trips
    4. Scholastic Virtual Field Trips
  2. Look up field trip locations in your area.


  1. Design two activities where students will interact with each other outside of your classroom.


  1. Tweet your two activities using hashtag #BTS14.
  2. Tweet a request to meet with others taking this course and meet using GoogleHangout to share you ideas.
  3. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.


Well after that lengthly post I’m going to keep it short and sweet to finish it off. While creating this “course” I was constantly reminded of how much effort it really takes to become comfortable with students and earn a relationship with them. I was also reminded of how important that can be. I know that every teacher forms relationships with students differently. If you have anything to add to this post before it becomes a more real course I’d love to hear about it!



  1. Dave Catchpole (2012). The Making of Harry Potter. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from Flickr:
  2. Jose Kevo (2009). Group Hug. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from Flickr:
  3. mkhmarketing (2013). Social Media Class. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from Flickr:
  4. Purple Sherbert Photography (2013). We must teach the children of the world equality, peace, and love. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from Flickr:



Research Based Musical Room

Last week I was asked to create a lesson plan using my Maker Kit (MakeyMakey) that would engage students in creative learning. I chose to have my students work together to create an interactive musical room as a version of an ice-breaker / team-building task. I did not place many guidelines on the assignment, because I wanted students to be free to create whatever they wanted. You can click on my lesson plan to view it (with changes from last week in purple) here –> Weinlander MakeyMakey Sample Lesson Plan.

This week I watched a TED talk about the digital divide between educators who use new technology to replace old techniques and educators who use new technology to do things that couldn’t be done before. Richard Culatta spoke about three main challenges schools are faced with currently – treating all learners the same, holding the schedule constant, and performance data being shared too late to be helpful. These challenges resonated with me greatly. It’s actually one of the main reasons why I love working at my current job as an online Title 1 teacher at Michigan Connections Academy. Students are assigned a certain number of lessons each day to evenly distribute their course throughout the semester. However there are no hard deadlines other than the end of the semester. Students therefore can spend 15 minutes or 4 hours on a single lesson, however long it takes them to understand. They can work on school 5 days a week for 6.5 hours, or split their time another way. At the end of each lesson 3-7 multiple choice questions are asked to see if students understand the material. These do not affect their grade, and instead are to be used to direct future learning and gaps in knowledge. never teachI was pretty convinced already at this point, but I did more research to see if personalized learning, collaborative problem-solving, and immediate feedback were the direction education should be taking (Cullatta, 2014). As I searched, I had my original lesson plan in mind. Yes, I had allowed students to work at their own pace, collaborate, and problem-solve, but I knew I could do better. I wanted to add an option of solving a problem I had given them, not just problems that they encountered along the way. Problem-based learning is a popular method of teaching in which students are given challenging and relevant problems to solve in a small group. “This approach is often used to increase learner interactions by working together collaboratively. Teams determine the needs, and work through the steps to solve the problem.” (Holland and Holland; 2014) Frequently that is how problems outside of the classroom will arrive – without direction. I hope to teach my students how to handle that in any way that I can.

I’ve updated my lesson plan to include some problems for students to think about, knowing that I could be interacting with students from Kindergarten to High School. A lot of these are open-ended questions to get the group thinking and discussing together. I’m planning on writing these on cards and having them placed in a common location for students to grab when they need. This way if the group feels that they are “stuck” or need a challenge before I recognize it then they can help themselves. Holland and Holland also talk about the benefits of active hands-on learning since students “need to hear it, touch it, see it, talk it over, grapple with it, confront it, question it, laugh about it, experience it, and reflect on it in a structured format if learning is to have any meaning and permanence” (Holland and Holland; 2014) I believe that with my added task after our four days together and the “problem cards” I have extended the learning experience for my students. Practice doesnt make perfectWhile thinking through this lesson I was concerned about classroom management. I work online, students and teachers are not used to interacting in person as a whole group. Using a MakeyMakey after state testing will be a different experience than many are used to. Plus, this is a lesson where students are supposed to get noisy, move around, work together, talk, rip things, build things, move things, laugh, etc. However the focus still needs to be on the task of building a musical room. While I was reading an article about motivation with games I checked myself against the three requirements of motivation from the self-determination theory: “autonomy, competence, and relatedness” (Eseryel, Law, Ifenthaler, Xun, & Miller; 2014). Students were given a lot of autonomy in this lesson; they decided what they made with whatever materials they could. Students would be gaining competence each hour and each day because of the ease of use of the MakeyMakey. This technology is weird to use at first, but it gets easier. Students will gain ability relatively quickly while working in their group and the MakeyMakey. Lastly students will have relatedness because they are all working together for a common goal using something that most of them (if not all) have never seen before. There is a straight forward goal of making a room come alive by just touching it, but they get to decide all the details to get there. With these three main things ‘checked off’ I think that classroom management will be stress-free since students will be motivated and engaged. The main concern I have is students waiting for the MakeyMakey. I think I can get at least one more kit before I put this plan into action however. 🙂

  1. Culatta, R. (2014, July 14). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. [Video File]TEDxTalks. Retrieved from July 17 2014


  1. Eseryel, D., Law, V., Ifenthaler, D., Xun, G. & Miller, R. (2014). An Investigation of the Interrelationships between Movidation, Engagement, and Complex Problem Solving in Game-based Learning. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(1), 42 – 53. Retrieved from July 17 2014 (14364522)


  1. Holland, J. & Holland, J. (2014). Implications of Shifting Technology in Education. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning 58(3), 16-25. Retrieved from July 17 2014 (87563894)


  1. Kathyschrock (2009). Teaching. Retrieved July 17, 2014 from Flickr:


  1. Shannon (2012). Practice Makes Progress. Retrieved July 17, 2014 from