How My Virtual School Views Technology

This week I gave a survey to staff members at my school in order to better understand how our school is already using technology to help students and how open we are to learning more. I created a 13 question survey using Google Forms to help me get to these answers. You can view (and even take!) the survey here: Technology Survey. However this survey is specifically geared towards educators at my school, Michigan Connections Academy, so many of the questions and/or options might not make sense to you.

I sent the survey out Sunday night and was happily surprised by the results. About a third of the staff took the survey during the work week! You can see the breakdown in this info graphic created using [I’m sorry to say that I didn’t realize WordPress doesn’t support iframes and I cannot have the pretty pictures right here for you and you must click to view them.]

As you can see I got a wide range of teachers from different grades, though more secondary than elementary. I would expect that since last year I taught 6-12 grade and they know me better, so responding to a survey from me might mean more to them.

I learned from my survey that educators at my school are using a WIDE RANDE of digital tools already, outside of the required ones. This shows the breakdown per grade level as well. 

Of course I wanted to know more than just what technologies were being used, but I wanted to get a glimpse at why they were using those specific technologies. To learn more click on this link for an that allows you to choose grade level groups or just look at the total of responding educators.

So now I know who responded, what they are using, how they chose why they are using it (or at least the beginning of knowing this information), so now I wanted to know how we can change and continue to learn and use new digital technologies. Staff members were really interested in learning more and getting trained, especially if it didn’t take up any more of the precious time during the day: see this here for more!

Now that you got a summary of the data I collected, I encourage you to read my short (about 700 words) paper that goes over my analysis of the data. If you have any conclusions, comments, helpful ways MICA can improve please let me know in the comments!


Create infographics & online charts | (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2014, from

One account. All of Google. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2014, from


Complex Problem in a Virtual Geometry Classroom

A new school year has just begun and I’m on both sides of it as a teacher and as a student. My graduate class this semester started with a discussion of different types of problems that exist; well-structured, complex, and unsolvable problems. To simplfy describe them well-structured problems have one best solution, complex problems have many things to use in order to solve it in many possible ways, and unsolvable problems are self-explanatory – they can’t be solved. These unsolvable problems are also mentioned as wicked problems and often the “solution” is just the best that you can come up with at the time with the information possible. These wicked problems can exist for may years, with new “solutions” replacing the past “solutions” when more time and knowledge is available.

Complex Problems

This week I thought of well-structured and complex problems present in the area/perimeter unit of Geometry. I will work with a couple Geometry students in my virtual Title 1 classroom and I want to use a mix of well-structured and complex problems to help them learn the material. The complex problem that I adapted came from an activity I did my first year of teaching in West Virginia. I was in a more traditional brick-and-mortar school teaching mainly Geometry to 10th grad students. I handed students a piece of graph paper, instructions, and told them to design a dream house using all polygons that we had learned. They then “bought” material from me in the form of scrapbook paper and determined how much it would cost to cover the floor in their dream house. Students enjoyed this project and I heard a lot of good conversation around the room about how to solve for the area of each room and then the cost of each room. However, I am a virtual teacher now and I can’t complete this activity in the same way.
Floorplanner Dream Park

My park created using

I am happy to say that I found a free program that will help me complete this complex project online! Floorplanner is a free tool where you can search for items and then create a layout on a grid from a top facing view. Using this tool students start with a blank grid on the screen. They can then search for items to place on their grid to show their park layout. I searched and found a circle pool, a hexagonal gazebo, a rectangular park bench, and more! I would also allow students to design something other than a park if they desire as long as they place different polygons into the area. With Floorpanner I am able to complete this project in a virtual environment and students can share their work online with each other. With the program being a free download all students in my class can have access. Students can get immediate feedback from me and their peers on their project rather than having to mail in a physical model and wait for me to receive it and critique it. Floorplanner also will allow students to quickly change their design plans by just clicking and moving their object instead of having to literally cut and paste or redraw their object.
Complex Problem: Use Floorplanner to design a park with 10 structures located in it. You must have a structure with a following shapes: regular polygon with 5 or more sides, rectangle, circle, and square. Use your floorplan to design your dream park and then determine how much sod you will require to cover all open space with new grass.

(That video was created using Screencast-O-Matic – which is a wonderful free site that I love! I have my students create these and send them to me throughout the school year because they are so easy to create and share.)

I’m excited to see how their project will work out this year! Students always find many ways to solve this complex problem and they learn a lot from discussing their ideas with their peers. I’ve had students determine the area of the whole park and then subtract each object’s area. I’ve had students “cut” up the grass area into easier shapes and figure out the area of each before adding them together. I’ve had students approximate with the boxes on the grid paper and then defend why approximation will work well for purchasing sod. The fact that there is not one correct, or even best, way to complete this project is another reason why this classifies as a complex problem.

I could see this work in brick-and-mortar classrooms as well with 1:1 technology, partners, small groups, computer labs, or done as my original paper idea. If you try this out with Floorplanner or have done something similar before in your classroom I’d love to hear about it below!
1. Celestine Chua. (2013). Problems. Retrieved August 31, 2014 from Flickr:

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:


Virtual Classroom Remix

This is the first week of my next summer course – CEP 811. I can tell that this class will be difficult, but completely worth all the work in the end. I’m already expanding my thoughts about education and technology and it’s only the first week!

This week I learned about the idea of remixing. I had heard of this term before to describe a new take on a song, but not dealing with other forms of media. I also hadn’t thought about everything that happens behind the scenes when remixing. Do you have to purchase the rights of every beat you use? Do you have to ask for permission first? Do you have to be a professional musician or can I do it for free on my computer? What happens if you “get caught”? For more on those questions and more you should check on the short series Everything is a Remix by Kirby Ferguson.

I wanted to, and was asked to for class, to try creating my own remix. To ease the worry of some of the questions above about permission and the law I have limited all my sources to be part of the Creative Commons and used Mozilla’s PopcornMaker. I choose the buzzword Virtual Classroom to explore since I recently started teaching at a virtual school in Michigan. I’ll admit that when I started to explore the program I didn’t read any Help Guides, check on YouTube videos, or even watch an example. I dove right in and tried to create something. I used their search option, pushed every option to see what would happen, and tried to use layers without really knowing what I was doing. I was just playing around to understand the basic idea of what this program could do before I tried to create something.

After my play time in the program, I read hints and guides through the Help menu, I watched some examples, and even watched a YouTube video to help me understand the specifics that I wanted to learn more about. I then started searching for content that related to a virtual classroom. I wanted to incorporate video, photos, popups, and sound clips to push my understanding of PopcornMaker. In the end I think that I like the overall product. Check it out here! 

I enjoyed the idea behind this program. Even without tutorials I could have created a project to share with others. However I had a lot of issues when trying to add or alter details. The layers sometimes did not work out in the way described and things would be blocking others. Sometimes I would move a video clip and it would extend the time to include audio I did not want in my project. I also had difficulty easing transitions between the videos. This is perhaps due to user error and over time I might be able to ease the change between images and videos. How do you think I could have created better transitions in my video? Do you think that I fully described the idea of a virtual classroom in under one minute?

References in my video:

1)   StudyPortals (2012). What is Online Education –, Retrieved July 3, 2014 from

2)   algogenius (2011). bs-iv-folie-2. Retrieved July 3, 2014 from Flickr:

3)   algogenius (2011). bs-iv-folie-6-gruppenarbeit. Retrieved July 3, 2014 from Flickr:

4)   algogenius (2011). bs-iv-folie-1. Retrieved July 3, 2014 from Flickr:

5)   The Network Podcast (2013). #7: Online Education and the Virtual Classroom, [sound clip]. Retrieved July 3, 2014 from

6)   Burke, Chris. (2011). He’s Home, [image]. Retrieved July 3, 2014 from Flickr:

7)   Kirsch, Gedas (2014). This is What Happens When A Kid Leaves Traditional Education, . Retrieved July 3, 2014 from PopcornMaker

8)   FacilitadorTube (2010). E-Learning: How to deliver an engaging Virtual Classroom presentation, . Retrieved July 3, 2014 from PopcornMaker:

9)   ConnectionsLearning (2013). LiveLesson®: Bringing the Virtual Classroom to Life, . Retrieved July 3, 2014 from PopcornMaker:

10)Ping Webzine (2014). Virtual classrooms changing the way students learn, http://clip. Retrieved July 3, 2014 from SoundCloud:

11)PaT (2010). Point & Click [image]. Retrieved July 3, 2014 from Flickr: