Stop Looking for a Silver Bullet!

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Why, oh why, Dear Reader, do we think we have to find the technological silver bullet for education?

There is no one-size-fits all! Think of it this way: education is a vehicle, a car, let’s say. We never, ever, ever say that the windshield wipers are the car. We do not confuse the tires with the engine. It is the sum of the parts that make the whole, that make the car run, that make it faster, slower, etc.

Some of us blame or praise technology for education’s failures/successes. Or we think that the solution to a problem must be X software.  Educating and teaching is so much more than a technological tool.

Technology is a tool for teaching and learning, not the entire car.

My rant of the day. What do you think?


Engage with Infographics

With the great focus on improving student performance in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic areas, there has also been an awakening for STEAM. The A representing the Arts.

The University of Florida has created a fantastic infographic to describe the reasons why the arts are vital to well-rounded students. The work they put into this is notable on its own. But guess what else they did? This very cool infographic is designed to be a feeder or marketing tool to pique interest in their Online Master of Arts in Art Education!

This type of marketing is more and more prevalent now. We receive emails embedded with cool articles, graphics, etc. and then when we click the “eye candy” we are taken to some sort of advertisement.

How can these lessons of engagement be applied in education?

Professor Liz Farley-Ripple, who is teaching Education Policy and Governance at the University of Delaware, has found a way! The very first correspondence students received from her was this Piktochart news-paper headline engagement piece.

ed policy class 1st contact

ed policy class 1st contact

EDUC 839 Intro | Piktochart Infographic Editor.

Taking a summer class is already a daunting task, but having the first connection be something visual and engaging put me at ease as a student. However, it also piqued my interest to log into the class LMS and start learning!

So, tell me, what ways will you engage students with infographics?


Surgery Day

For all of you associated with UD and beyond, send your prayers and strength to Meg and her family as they deal with surgery for her young son, Jack.

Finding the Road

1:51p.m.  Just learned they are closing Jack up…. Dr. Piatt will be out with our next (and final) surgery update.  The nurse said he asked how WE were doing out here.  🙂  The social worker found us a sleeper room for the night.  The road is about to get harder before it gets easier, but I think we’ll still be on the road by the end of the day, and that’s all that matters.  Still holding Jack’s rattle in my hands.  I wonder if he will ever be able to believe and truly understand how many people care so much about him…

1:10p.m.  Wow!  Just learned that Dr. Piatt is finished with the microscope and has called for Jack’s derma patch (sp?)  The nurse explained that this means he is finishing up the tumor removal, and that closing up is not far away.  I can’t believe it- seems far ahead…

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Frustrated Researcher Part Trois

Knowing how and why administrators make decisions is probably impossible to fully understand on some levels. Internal politics, budgets, external political climates, institutional rankings, workloads, etc. all play a complex role in how decisions are made in an educational environment. My interest is primarily how an institution makes educational technology decisions and how these decisions directly affect online educational pursuits.columns

The final key research interest I have is how instructors are supported and trained to apply technology in their classrooms and/or to teach online classes. It is very interesting to see how instructors can use the same technology in very different ways, some for the better, some not. I do think it could be helpful if instructors utilized an instructional coach to learn the best practices of a new tool they want to use. Additionally, I am interested in how an instructor’s own personal curriculum theory plays into how students perceive their satisfaction and learning in online courses.

Of these interests, I will probably focus on how institutions make decisions or how online instructors are supported. During the next few months, my goal is to refine my research idea and more clearly identify the “problem” in my area of interest. I have not begun to think about how I will collect this data…yet.

Frustrated Researcher Part Deux

The three areas that I am interested in studying

  1. Understanding the effectiveness of online/distance learning in the higher education environment with a particular focus on cognition and technology
  2. Understanding how administrative decisions (or lack of) are guiding online education
  3. Understanding how instructor training of online education and instructor identification of his/her personal curriculum theory influences student satisfaction and learning

are varied, which leads me to believe that I will need to distill and define what I ultimately want to research for my EPP. With that said, I will discuss why I have a keen interest in cognition and technology, online administrative decision-making, and instructor training. Before I begin, however, I must first state that although my focus is about the online educational environment, I have found that criticisms and claims can be supported for both online and face-to-face teaching methods. For instance, I typically hear people criticize and compare the worst concepts of online courses to the very best of the face-to-face courses. Rarely, do people openly discuss the failings of the face-to-face methods when bashing the online teaching environment. We tend to create distinct separate silos for online and face-to-face, which I believe is an error in the overall goal to promote innovative education opportunities.

Cognition and technology in education needs to be desperately studied and I am very interested in knowing what works and what does not. When the brain is presented with several levels of sensory input, what does it select to use and retain and why? When we know that there are limits to the brain’s working memory, how can we create environments that support this limitation? How can the understanding of this information help


educators make wise decisions when creating online courses, or selecting software tools to license. We cannot fully trust the marketers of these products to rea

lly know what the student needs. We must have a basic understanding of how our brains function for optimum learning in order to make informed decisions for our students.

Yes….there is a part 3 coming…

Frustrated Researcher P1

kitty thinking about food

I find myself to be a frustrated researcher. I have many ideas and concepts that I would like to investigate, but I do not feel that I have the resources to pursue them. I have a very strong interest in understanding the effectiveness of online/distance learning in the higher education environment with a particular focus on cognition and technology; I want to know how administrative decisions (or lack of) are guiding online education; and I am keenly interested in how instructor training of online education and instructor identification of his/her personal curriculum theory influences student satisfaction and learning.

I am interested in these topics due to the career path I chose several years ago, which put me in the forefront of online education at a higher education institution. I designed policies and procedures to facilitate the distance learning program from 1997 when everything was paper and video-based until 2012 when almost all aspects of course were entirely online. During this time in 2003 I became more interested in the instructional design aspects of teaching online and started helping faculty members create rigorous standards-based courses.

Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to actually conduct research in these areas. I have however, been witness to anecdotal information during my 15 years with the program and have read journal articles and tried to incorporate solid research-based ideas into my support of faculty and the program.

Join me In Part 2 when I will talk more about my identifying a topic and next steps.

#udsnf12 more than a class


#udsnf12 is a very meaningful hashtag as it exploded the social networking world for me.

Matt created a safe environment to explore what it means to connect to learning networks. Not just what it “means” but what it really feels like to experience it first-hand. He demonstrated why our online profile is important and how to increase our online presence in a positive powerful way. We not only learned about Seimen’s theory on Connectivism, we experienced it! I became a thoughtful consumer and connector with a more educated perspective of what I really needed and wanted in this realm of connectivity.

The class experience felt like being thrown on a sail boat and not knowing how to sail. He gave us a bunch of tools, but we really didn’t even know how to hoist the anchor until after a few lessons when we could really begin to harness the wind and sail!

Because Matt made his thought processes known to his students, I think we all felt that we were in this together. His honesty and enthusiasm were critical components to the success of this class and his students appreciated it.

And do you want to know the super-cool thing? All of the resources that Matt creatively pulled together for us were absolutely 100% free.

Thoughts about education


Places please! Sit in your seats! Be quiet. The play is about to begin and I am ready to play my part as an eager, attentive student. The teacher plays the leading role and her students play their supportive (or not) cast of characters.

I loved getting positive feedback from teachers. Any nod of approval and I was in heaven. And I learned that I was able to get good grades by following the formula. Good grades=Listen + Do the Homework + Be Attentive. I really did like school, but I think I liked the attention more.

I certainly felt that I could not show that I liked school. It was not “cool” to like learning. School was something to be dreaded. When many people were groaning about something, I was usually secretly excited.

I even noticed this sentiment when I took my first doctoral class last spring. The students were tiiirrreed. Because it was my first class in a few years, I was very motivated to have the opportunity to be in this class. I had energy and they were clearly exhausted. Not everyone, of course, but many. I felt guilty for having so much enthusiasm. But I did not let this interfere with my momentum and I forged on to have a great learning experience.

Yet, I learned the most about learning when I was a teacher for the FIRST Step Program in Wilmington, Delaware, in the early 90’s. “My” students were obligated by the State of Delaware to attend high school equivalency classes in preparation to take the GED test because they were on public assistance.  It was in this electrified emotional environment I realized that the curriculum needs to meet the person not the person adjusting to curriculum. With significant effort I was able to create multiple levels of learning on just about everything we did. Our time spent together was more of an evolutionary process as we developed a strong community.

I believe that everyone can learn and that this learning can provide opportunities. Unfortunately, education is only one piece of a complicated puzzle. Several of my students were battling various kinds of issues like substance abuse, domestic violence, and poverty.  Other women were clearly controlled by the men in their lives. These adults were the children who were seen as difficult when they were in elementary and middle school and eventually dropped out. They felt that teachers did not care about them and because they were dealing with a less than supportive home-life, they chose the path of least resistance.

paulo freireIt was during this time that I learned about Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed and how society can be changed by creating a community of learners.

I think the most important step in any educational activity is finding and igniting passion and a sense of exploration that is not dogmatic and tied to some artificial timeline. Preconceived notions of deadlines are the antithesis of true learning.


Back to It


I am back from my hiatus. I recharged my batteries and am ready to start again. I decided to drop my winter class and take a break, which was a great decision. I am refreshed and very excited about spring semester.  The two classes I am taking are Curriculum Theory and Analysis for Educational Decision Making. Scott Richardson is teaching Curriculum Theory and I cannot wait until our first class next Thursday. After only reading a few chapters in his selected text, Curriculum Theory by William Pinar, I know this class will be worthwhile.

Pinar talks about using an autobiographical technique to challenge how we teach. His second chapter is entitled, “Autobiography: A Revolutionary Act.” How cool is that? Looking at our lives and telling our stories can shed light to our own interiors and our own personal journeys, in addition to informing society and moving it forward. Pinar blends philosophy, psychology and human rights into our educational pursuits. I think he sees education as a way to free society and bring balance into our existence.


The journey begins….again

Thank you!

Dear Social Networking Class at UD:

flowers for youI just wanted to say, thanks!  Wow, what a trip, eh? That Canadian dude sure had us connecting, collaborating, curating, content aggregating, cooking. Wait, no, we didn’t cook, well, in one sense, yes we did! We were cookin’ all semester. Creating accounts all OVER the web, following more sites and streams than I ever thought possible. With a little help from Netvibes ;)

Oh, and guess what? I blogged. Yea, I expressed myself publicly. For me, a big step. So thank you to everyone in class and in cyberspace who supported me and commented. It makes you feel a little less alone out in the great big web when someone says a little something.

Looking forward to next Monday!thank you1