Friday, August 29, 2014

30th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning 
August 12-14th, 2014
Madison, Wisconsin
As always, University of Wisconsin Extension puts on an excellent conference that focuses on distance teaching and learning. The best part about the conference is that there are 7 tracks of info sessions to choose from. Here are some key take-aways from some of the sessions I attended.

One of the first sessions I attended was labeled something about a TPACK. I was curious. TPACK stands for Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. It is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology. The model shows how each of these three knowledge areas overlap to an ideal sweet spot that teachers can aim for. No argument there but the question is how can we support faculty to get there?

Evaluation for innovative change KEYNOTE by Dr. Michael Quinn Patton
This was a very good keynote that brought to light traditional forms of evaluation are just not cutting it. Dr. Patton explained that as educators we should adopt “evaluative thinking.” It is important to acknowledge failure and, learn from it, be open to it and reflect on the experience. Dr. Patton said “Education remains stuck in delivery method rather than making a difference in student lives.” Timing of feedback is critical. The greatest learning opportunity occurs early in a course so action may be taken. In other words, don’t wait until the end of the course to evaluate students or inquire feedback. A learner’s initial experience can really set the tone for the rest of the journey in the course.

Elliot Massie had a quick virtual spotlight shortly after that. He brought up an interesting concept “learning interruptus.” You can read his blog post about it here: In a nutshell, learning interruptus is about how learners are swimming in a sea of learning options, choices, and personal control. His example is about how so many people may have good intentions and start a MOOC and then find that they just stop at the first week and never come back. What kinds of things distract you when you are learning? Elliot reminded us to be flexible with students and as we design learning modules. What would happen if we allowed students to redo an assignment until they got an A? Is there harm in that? Think about the advantages.

Grand Canyon University reported on some research they did with classroom assessment techniques and the connections it has to student learning. I love CATs! CATs are usually non-graded activities that check for understanding. Their research showed that when students choose to address their muddiest point and key take-aways in a one minute paper their quiz scores were higher than the students who didn’t do the one minute paper. Nice!

New book by Bonk! Add some TEC-VARIETY with a free PDF ebook by Curtis Bonk and Elaine Khoo! Go to and look for the link to download. The focus of the book is on meaningful engagement and illustrates 100+ activities for motivating and retaining learners online.

Ray Schreoder- KEYNOTE Staying ahead of the wave
All the links are in his Google site
Ray has laid out the steps to predicting the future! Understand the economy, technology, trends and job market. Check out the Google site.

Jane Bozarth- Using social media for learning
Jane always has great ideas to share. She talked about several methods for incorporating social media to engage students. She had Facebook at the top of her list. I didn’t realize there are ways now that you can create closed groups in Facebook and you don’t have to friend everybody in the class.
You can check follow what she is linking on Diigo
One example that sparked me is about using Pinterest, having students post something and then class and instructor can view all at once. Works best with visual work. You can then see one of many.
Jane’s new book is “Show Your Work; The Payoffs and How-to’s of Working Out Loud”
She mentioned a site I had not heard of called “” it is a place for people to post or view homemade tutorials on pretty much anything.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dropping down to the field of the heart

I attended a spiritual seminar a couple of weeks ago and came back feeling peaceful and recharged. In this day and age, we get inundated with flashing news, nonstop twitter updates and text messages. No wonder we get stressed so easily because we don’t relax any more. Worse yet, we've forgotten how to relax.

A large portion of the seminar devoted to explaining why it is important to hush the mind sometimes and enter into the “field of the heart.” Meditation is a good way to reach this heart centered awareness. As you engage in the meditation process, you will discover that your mind quiets naturally, and you become more aligned with your inner being. It is in this state that miracles start happening – you’ll see life as a joy rather than a burden.

For us meditation newbies, the seminar provided some useful techniques (Jonsson, 2013). Give these techniques a try and reflect on what you have noticed:

1.      Elevator: Imagine an elevator in your head. See a miniature version of yourself stepping into the elevator and allow for the doors to close. Press the down button. Follow your awareness as the elevator descends out of your head, down through your throat and even further down into your chest cavity. Allow for the elevator doors to open. Notice what you notice when you step into that space of no space and no place.

2.      Take a moment to feel into someone or something that you love unconditionally. Feel that connection. Notice the feeling and allow for that feeling to move through your entire body.

3.      See yourself as a Vitamin C tablet. Drop yourself through awareness as a vitamin C tablet into a glass of water and feel within yourself as your sense of separation dissolves.

4.      Get silly! See a waterslide from your head to your heart with a pool in the field of the heart. Energetically pop your eyeballs out of your head, drop them onto the slide and let them drop into the pool with a big splash. As your eyeballs resurface, notice your attention from the field of the heart.

5.      Notice the constant flow of thoughts in your brain or awareness without attachment. See your thoughts as clouds floating by. Do not attach to them. Observe them neutrally with a sense of curiosity and no judgment. Observing thoughts and experiences without judgment keeps us in a state of heart-centered awareness.

Jonsson, M. J. (2013). M-Joy practically speaking: Matrix energetics and living your infinite potential. Encinitas, CA: M-Joy of Being, Inc.

Monday, August 18, 2014

COLTT 2014 Conference Summary

Guest post by Sally Cordrey, Technology Specialist, ITS Center for Academic Technology, Regis University.

You’re Holding it Wrong: Fixing Lectures Online and In the Classroom, David Thomas, UCD

This presenter has presented at COLTT in the past and he is one of my favorites. He is very engaging, creative, and gives out prizes in his classes!

Abstract: Most lectures are a drag, recorded lectures are really a drag, yet teachers love lectures and students claim to like them. Question: What’s going on? This interactive session explains what is wrong with the lecture, what we can do about it, how to make the lecture work effectively both in the classroom and, more importantly, online.

 What lectures work? TEDTalks – no more than 18 minutes, well-rehearsed 50 times before recorded, experts tell stories, present ideas.

We are experts – how we think, work, act.

The key to a good lecture is modelling – demonstrate those things! How you think, how you work, how you act. Use visuals, objects, tell stories to bring content to life, make it relevant, memorable. Use real-time problem solving, case studies. Think out loud, give the students a peek inside of your head.

Don’t cover the material in the textbook or what is available on the internet and don’t lecture in a closed discussion, make it interactive. Use simple PowerPoints with good quality graphics, photos and few words.

Always answer, “If I had to do it over again, this is how I would do it!”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ling's takeaways from COLTT

I went to a fun session on infographics at the COLTT. If you don’t know what infographics are, visit to see tons of examples. I was not new to infographics. When we work with faculty, we always ask ourselves if infographics would be useful to communicate ideas visually and effectively to our learners. The new idea I learned from the session was that infographics was a very powerful tool to elicit an emotional response from your audience. I want to share with all of you a design template for possible infographics. It’s helpful to spend a few minutes to complete this design template before we jump into the actual creation phase.
Item name:
Intended audience:
Ideas on the product (e.g., website, poster, filier, slideshow):
Type of information (concept, process, instructions, data, fun facts, etc.):
Key components:
Intended reaction/emotion/action: 

Flipping classrooms:
Flipping classrooms was one of the hot topics at the conference. I have two major takeaways.
1. What if my students don’t read?
Sadly, this topic was brought up quite a lot at the conference. It’s a common challenge faculty face these days. If students don’t complete their assigned readings before the class, and you go over the readings with them during the class, they’re smart enough to figure out readings are not necessary. These are the strategies to “force” students to read:

  • Ask them to summarize the readings in 150 words. 
  • Use a couple essay questions/quizzes (depending on disciplines) to diagnose students’ comprehension of the readings. This type of diagnostic questions should be assigned low stake grades and used regularly throughout the term. Use the results to customize your teaching materials and address common misunderstandings in the class. 

2. Games and learning
One presenter who teaches freshmen time management had a great success in incorporating board games such as Monopoly and Chutes and Ladders in her classroom. She could have just presented her students with real life scenarios to discuss in the class. However, once she introduced the game concept to these scenarios, students got competitive and were motivated to complete all assigned readings before the class in order to perform well and beat other teams. Learning happens in a fun environment!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

COLTT Conference - What a Deal?

COLTT Conference - What a Deal?

I have been fortunate enough to attend at least one day of the Conference for Online Learning and Teaching with Technology (COLTT) for the past 3 years.  Every year I leave saying what a great deal! This year was no exception except I attended 1.5 days of the conference.  If you aren't familiar with the conference, it a 2 day conference held at CU Bolder.  The cost is very low and the administrative side of the conference gets better every year.  You can find all the details about the conference at:

I wanted to share a few of the gems that I took away from the conference.

                                Flipped Classroom/ Higher Order Thinking/Just In Time
  • I went to several session around the Flipped Classroom, Higher Order Thinking, and Just In Time.  I came away thinking how each of these are intertwined and really support each other with minor adjustments to the process.  They really do focus on getting the student engaged and making the best use of the face to face time. 
  • Just In Time takes the Flipped Classroom one additional step by having the student engage in course material prior to class and provide the instructor with information about the material.  This allows the instructor to bring that information into the classroom and also better understand what to focus on within the classroom. 
  • One session I went to was called Unflipping the Classroom.  In Plato's day students got together discussed topics and then went to the expert.  Aristotle kind of flipped this by going more to the learn by listening to expert talk about the topic model.  So "Unflipping the Classroom" is referring back to the original and also a good marketing strategy for the talk. 
  • As with any term, there is concern that "Flipping the Classroom" can just become another buzz word.  We shouldn't think in the box, or outside the box, we should think like there is no box. 
  • Speaking of terms, the term "Essential Organizing Ideas" was introduced, and I left thinking isn't this the same as Learner Outcomes?
  • Whatever students can learn without you, they should, and then come to the class to learn more and practice.   For classroom we really need to promote this approach.  The big question I can't answer is, how do we incorporate this method into online learning.  Any and all thoughts are appreciated on this. 
                           Additional Tidbits or Gems
  • According to one study, the number one complaint from students regarding online instruction was a lack of instructor interaction. 
  • The elements of thought are not a linear process.  Website on higher order thinking:  This site has a really good Blog.
  • The act of writing improves engagement and learning. Hyperlinks in the text reduces reading comprehension.  Oops, ignore the hyperlinks above!
  • Confirmation that multi-tasking increases the number of mistakes.  We need to focus, but in today's world that is becoming harder and harder.  When the brain has information overload, it tends to shut down instead of focusing. 
  • Taking notes by hand increases retention. 
  • I really enjoyed Dr. Jeff Loats contrast with teaching and treating diabetics. He is stressing that we need evidence based teaching. Can you imagine going to your Doctor and asking how he is going to treat you since you are a diabetic and getting a response, I tried this before and it seemed to work. We need to have evidence that what we are doing is working. 
  • Forget the screens, since in the future we could have brain to brain transmission. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Avoiding the Conference Information “Black Hole”

The annual Conference for Online Learning and Teaching with Technology (COLTT) was another resounding success. The vast majority of sessions provided food for thought and ideas for implementing locally. This is almost always the case at conferences: you come away totally jazzed with fresh ideas and new perspectives after attending sessions and talking shop with colleagues. But upon returning to work the reality of the workday sets in and POOF!: all of the great takeaways and fantastic ideas are washed away amid the flood of emails, phone calls, reports, and daily stuff.

Well, not this year. This year, I’m doing something different. This year my conference to-do list is being made public. There are too many great ideas to let get sucked up into this conference information black hole for worthwhile projects.

So here are three project ideas being made public for the sake of accountability to be implemented this fall:

The Faculty Innovation Podcast
This is an idea that began taking shape since the first day of COLTT. David Lyons, University of Colorado at Denver, presented a session on social media tools for classroom use. His use of social media provided the idea for creation of a podcast for discussion of learning technologies and associated ideas and issues. The next day I lunched with Sally Cordrey and Tim Noteboom where I mentioned the podcast idea. We began discussing possible names when Tim comes up with idea for hosting the podcast at the Faculty Innovation Center. This serves the dual purpose of providing faculty perspectives on learning technologies while marketing the greatly underused Faculty Innovation Center, located in Carroll Hall Room 20. Look for the first podcast (or vodcast) episode in early September.

Guest Speakers for Technology Committee Meetings
There are two technology committees on campus. The Academic Technology Committee is charged with examining, promoting, and recommending academic technologies to the university. ATC reports to the Executive Technology Committee. The Educational Technology Committee is for RHCHP and answers to the Academic Dean. Both committees advocate for faculty for improving teaching and learning with technology. To provide new perspectives, guest speakers will be brought in to committee meetings, either in-person or via video conferencing. Speakers will come from regional institutions such as those presenting at COLTT. Every session I attended concluded with the presenter volunteering their email and voice number for more information. Hopefully we can mine this rich knowledge resource for guest speakers. Look for committee guest speakers to begin in October.

Improving Course Content
The third idea will be announced a bit later as Jill Giacomini works out the details. However, expect to see within the next few weeks an outline for a really awesome method to improve online course content.