Sunday, October 9, 2016

A past struggle with a project...

 A few years ago, I worked in at our school districts online elementary school.  I was directly out of my student teaching and had spent time in the online environment earning my teacher’s license.  So there was some familiarity with the online learning environment, but not enough to call myself an expert. 

In the middle of the school year, our principal wanted some of the staff members to try incorporating video instruction into our daily lessons online.  I wanted to try doing this to bring more engagement to the lessons for my students online.  Being one of the only teachers trying to do this, it was rather frustrating to have little support trying to record myself to have a face to go along with each lesson.  My principal suggested that I start with just one grade level lesson and try moving forward from there.  But being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to try and do it for two grade levels.  At first, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I was going to use the video instruction.  I decided to use it for my discussions on novels the students were reading.  I wanted to create questions for each novel and then put them in a video asking the students the discussion questions for that week.  At first, I was able to record the video, but figuring out how to embed it into the website so the video was view-able was bleeding my most valuable resource, time.  I was spending too much time on this project that it was biting into my time to create the other lessons for the other grade levels.  About two weeks in, I finally was able to get two videos up for 3rd and 4th grade literacy circles.  After putting the videos up, I realized that the videos weren’t very effective because it was just me asking a question to the students and not actually engaging in a conversation.  I quickly was demoralized by my failure and decided to scrap the project. My principal supported my decision to stop making the videos but also tried to convince me to use the video in a different way in my instruction.  But I was just too deflated by my failure to even consider moving in a different direction.  This is one of my biggest regrets as a teacher to this day.  Giving up on that project was the easy thing to do.  I chose to take the easy road instead of learning from my mistakes and moving forward. 

Upon reflection, I can now see that I was the cause of the scope creep for my own project.  Thinking that I could learn how to create the video, change the format, embed into the website and make it engaging for the students in two grade levels instead of one was just too much work.  I can now see the importance of taking baby steps while moving through a new teaching technique.  Taking small steps at the beginning can help you take much bigger steps later on in the future.  This failure in the past has helped me be successful with other projects as a teacher today.  Learning from that mistake has helped me be a successful teacher.    

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Communicating Effectively

Communicating Effectively

This week, we learned about communicating effectively while working on an Instructional Design project.  For this assignment, we were asked to watch a video that has a purpose of communicating in three different modalities: as written text, as audio and as video.  This was very interesting for me because it showed to me the importance of being mindful of clear and concise communication in whatever form you are communicating.  Below, I break down each form of communication in more detail. 


What does each message mean?
In the email message, Jane is speaking with Mark about an ETA on a missing report.  This is important to her because his report contains data that she needs for her report.  At the end of the email, she suggests that he can even send the data in a separate email, maybe suggesting that he doesn’t even need to do the report.  But the way that she says this at the end makes the message even more confusing.  Jane is making the message confusing because she is forgetting to avoid ambiguity.  Dr. Stolovitch talked about avoiding ambiguity in our video this week.  (Laureate Productions, n.d.).”  The message is kind of confusing for Mark and that it comes off as kind of unprofessional in my opinion.  If Jane would have taken the time to write the message a little more clearly, she could have made her point a little better.  She opens and closes the email professionally, which is a good thing.  Overall, this is an ok way of communicating.  Not the most effective. 


What does each message mean?
The voicemail message from Jane to Mark comes off as being a little friendlier.  You can hear in her voice the importance of the message and that there is some sincerity in her tone.  Dr. Stolovitch said in his video that tone can have an impact on any communication (Laureate Productions, n.d.).  When communicating to a coworker in a voicemail, tone is one thing that the sender needs to be aware of and make sure they are using the proper tone.  Jane is anxious to get the report from Mark because it is so important for her report that is also due.  But in the message, you can hear her anxiety, but it is also being presented in a tone that shows she is trying to be professional.  The end of the message, just like in the email, is rather confusing and hard to comprehend exactly what she is saying.  The wording of it is confusing and would cause me to have to listen again if I was Mark.  In the email, I was able to re-read the message to comprehend the final sentence.  In the voicemail, I would have to listen to it a second or third time to understand her message.  Overall, it is a good piece of communication, but is just as effective as the email. 


What does each message mean?
This message from Jane to Mark is by far the most effective of the three forms of commicating in my opinion.  In the message, Jane is speaking to mark in a fair tone, and she has a smile on her face as she is talking.  She doesn’t look upset or anxious.  Dr. Stolovitch talked about the importance of body language when speaking face-to-face (Laureate Productions, n.d.).  In this message, her body language is welcoming and is not confrontational at all.  The only thing that I saw as being closed off is that she has the patrician between her and Mark and her arms are crossed on top of the patrician.  This could be taken by Mark as being closed off and a little frustrated with Mark.  The ending of the message is a little bit easier to understand from Jane.  She says that she needs the data but Mark could just send the data in a separate email if needed.  I didn’t have to watch the video a second time to understand that discussion. 

Overall Evaluation:
As we moved from one form of communication to the next, the message became clearer for the viewer.  The most confusing was the email.  As people are reading emails, tone can be interpreted by the viewer that wasn’t meant by the sender.  This happens quite often in my personal life.  Written text offers no tone and is open for interpretation.  That can be a terrible situation.  The voice mail was a little more effective for the viewer because tone was interpreted by the listener; it was present in Jane’s voice.  The only thing that made the voicemail difficult was a lack of body language.  While listening to the voicemail, you are still kind of unclear whether Jane is anxious about getting the data from Mark and is she is upset he hasn’t sent it to her yet.  When we got to the face-to-face interaction, it became clear that she wasn’t upset and presented some comforting body language.  The patrician of the cubical in-between the two people could be viewed as a bad thing, but to me the look on Jane’s face was telling that she wasn’t upset at Mark.  She is just anxious to get her report finished, which needs Mark’s data to finish. 

For Future Use:

As I move forward in my career, I will be able to use the most effective form of communication with my team.  This exercise helped show me that the form of communication is dependent on the message that needs to be conveyed.  If it is just a quick reminder about a meeting or some other deadline in the project, an email can be used to communicate.  I will only use emails in the future if there isn’t any chance of tone being interpreted by the reader.  Quick messages that are not about some ones lack of performance can be effectively communicated by email.  Voicemails to me can be a tricky thing to use.  It allows you to convey the tone of your message, but there is not chance for the listener to see your body language.  I will probably avoid voicemails completely, unless it is to ask a co-worker to stop by so we can chat or to call me back so we can talk.  I will never leave a message for someone with information that is important and that should be done face-to-face.  My preference for communicating is in the face-to-face form.  This exercise this week helped me understand that with visual evidence.  In a face-to-face meeting, you are able to convey your tone, body language and your overall demeaner to your audience.  You can give them ease by having nice open body language with a soft tone in your voice.  Or if you are in a pinch, you can show them that this is important with your body language and an urgent tone in your voice.  The problem is that face-to-face meetings can’t always be accomplished.  So, I can now see how I have to evaluate my communication choice before just sending an email to a co-worker.  Taking the time to evaluate before can help make the project go so much smoother! 

-         - Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.).  Communicating with stakeholders [Video file].  Retrieved from

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A flop from the past...

A flop from the past…

Looking back into the past can be difficult sometimes.  I have very little experience as an official Instructional Designer or as a Project Manager.  But, I do have experience as a teacher creating lessons on a daily basis for an elementary school classroom.  When asked to think of a project that wasn’t successful, it made me think of a project that I tried to complete when I was working in an online school teacher English Language Arts to Kindergarten through 6th grade students.  This was a difficult year to begin with.  This was my first teaching job outside of my student teaching and had only been a student in the distance learning environment.  During the first quarter, our school saw the importance of communicating with the families from a distance.  Up until that point, we were trying to just communicate with the families via email and telephone.  This was in 2009 and Skype had just been introduced the year before.  As a staff, we wanted to be able to have access to this technology to be able to communicate with the students and families on a daily basis.  Our principal wanted to speak with the district to get approval for using this new Skype technology for communication.  Looking back on this project, there were some things we did well as a staff and some things that we failed on to make the project unsuccessful.
Well, let’s start out with what we did well as a staff during the project.  From the beginning, our principal was well organized and had a team of three of us to present this idea to our district.  The team consisted of our principal and three teachers.  I was one of the teachers and the other two were the math elementary teacher and a middle school math teacher.  Together, we put together the proposal for the district to allow skype usage for our school.  We presented to the district the importance of communication to our families while teaching in a distance learning format.  The presentation was well organized and made it clear how important it was to communicate when we had no face-to-face contact with the students.  In the presentation, we also focused on making connections with the students to motivate them to work from a distance.  As a team, we also worked well together and never really had any arguments during the project.  The project came together cleanly and was well rehearsed for the presentation to the district higher ups. 
Looking back on the project now, I can see where we dropped the ball as a team as well.  First of all, we forgot to discuss the technological side of using this new technology.  We didn’t present an idea to the district about what technology would be needed for each staff member.  We didn’t mention that each staff member would need a webcam, microphone and program licensure to use on our computers.  This was a huge mistake because it showed that we didn’t look into what it would take to use the program on a daily basis.  We were so focused on just getting the program to assist in our communication that we failed to see the technical side of the implementation.  We also didn’t speak to the district about what each student would need to have on their side of the communication to be able to Skype with their instructors.  The students would also need a webcam, microphone and licensure.  The biggest mistake we made as a team was that we neglected to think about the security it would take to run this program on computers in the schools network.  Speaking with IT of the district prior to the meeting would have helped us speak of security during the presentation.  After our presentation, one of the people asked about security and how we would make sure our network stayed secure while using Skype.  None of us, not even our principal had an answer for this question.  This was detrimental to our project.  This made it very clear to the district that our staff wanted to use the program, but didn’t do our homework to make it a reality. 
Now I can see how important it would have been to have a subject matter expert on the team to help us with the technology side of the presentation.  A technology expert could have given us the logistical information that we were lacking in our original presentation.  They would have also been able to discuss with us and the district committee about the security issues that Skype could bring to our network.  We assumed as a staff that we could just convince our district to allow us to use it for its teaching impact.  The subject matter expert could have helped us succeed in the project.  In hindsight, we were doomed from the start by not putting our egos aside and bringing in someone who could help use with the technology part of the project.  Now I can see how important it is to make sure we have everyone we need on the team to ensure we are covering all of the bases.  Technology is a big part of these projects in education and having someone involved with technology expertise will help be more successful in the future. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Nice to meet you!

Hello all,

My name is Drew Norkoli and am currently a 4th grade teacher at an elementary school in Colorado Springs Colorado.  I have been teaching for 8 years now and came into teaching as a second career.  I started my professional career as an Assistant Superintendent on a golf course.  I quickly realized the golf business wasn't for me.  After working for a year for my teacher's license, I got a job teaching English Language Arts in an online setting for Kindergarten through 6th grade.  That was a tough job and I learned a lot about distance learning.  The next year I got a job at my current school and taught 3rd grade for five years.  This will be my second year teaching 4th grade and love it so far!  I decided to get my masters in Instructional Design and Technology because of my intrigue into using technology to change education.  I have been using a flipped classroom model to teach math for the past four years and think there is a lot of room for change in our traditional educational system.  Over the past year, I have been learning a lot that will help me in this endeavor.  Hopefully, you will all have some kind of impact on my career.  I look forward to working with you all again and some of you for the first time.  Here's to another great class!

Drew Norkoli

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The future of distance learning...

The future of distance learning...

            This is an exciting time to be studying instructional design and distance learning.  The future of these two areas is intriguing because of their high amount of growth over the past 10-15 years.  Since I graduated high school over 15 years ago, the amount of educational opportunities out there in the distance learning format is staggering!  The online learning environment is becoming more accepted by the general public.  Many people have seen the advantages of this style of learning.  Being able to work at your own pace and on your own time schedule is intriguing for many people.  Because of this intrigue and acceptance, I feel like the world of distance learning and online education will continue to grow at a staggering rate. 
In the next 5-10 years, I feel like we will start to see the inclusion of distance learning into a high percentage of high schools throughout the country.  I also feel like every university will have online degrees available to go along with the traditional programs.  In 20 plus years, it is hard to say what will happen for the world of distance or online learning.  I think the programs will be more widely accepted and the online classes will continue to change and evolve with the technology.  Looking back on when I took classes for my teacher’s license, my online learning experience was much different than this online learning experience.  The classes now are different because of the changes to the technology and to the evolution of instructional design.
As a future instructional designer, I feel like I can help make it more accepted by the public.  I am just an elementary school teacher, but I feel like I can still use the principals taught in this class to help increase distance learning acceptance.  With the help of technology, allowing students to do some form of learning online in my 4th grade classroom is becoming more realistic.  Looking to have a blended type classroom will help parents of my students see that online learning can be a valuable resource.  Many people in the general public still feel like online learning or distance learning is only good for high school students and adults.  But as an elementary school teacher, I feel like this is a false misperception.  Many students can learn online or at a distance.  What is most important is the instructional design of the learning.  If the learning is designed properly for the distance learning environment, than the students can learn, no matter their age.  As a properly trained instructional designer in the future, I can design quality lesson for the online environment for my students under 10 years old.  This can help change people perception that online learning is only for teenagers and adults.
There are a few things that I will do to help continue to improve the field of distance education.  One thing that comes to mind is to stay up on the current research and strategies that are being used in the field.  The foundations of research class helped me see the importance of keeping up on research.  This applies to the field of distance learning as well.  There are continuous changes to the field and keeping up with the newest trends and strategies will help me utilize and promote the program effectively.  Another thing I can do in the future is to continually try the new strategies and tools that are coming out.  Sometimes we need to start using tools and strategies that are uncomfortable.  Relying on what is comfortable is very easy, but making sure you are using what is relevant and backed by research will help your credibility.  Feeling the discomfort outside that comfort zone will help us grow and change as instructional designers.  In the future, I hope to be a professional that is willing to take those risks to help grow the field of distance learning. 

Distance learning has helped me grow as a professional and don’t know where I would be without the opportunity to learn online.  I became a teacher because of online learning and am currently earning a higher education degree because of online learning.  That makes it even more important for me to promote the field and help it reach its full potential.  The potential of distance learning is unknown, but it extremely exciting to know that I as an instructional designer can help play a role in its future growth.        

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Distance Learning or Distance Education

Before I started working in this Master’s Degree program, I would define distance education or distance learning “as a type of learning that is done from a distance away from a traditional classroom in a brick and mortar building.”  This week, we learned the official definition of distance education or distance learning.  Distance education is defined by Dr. Simonson in this week’s video as “formal education which the learning group (teacher, students, resources) are separated by geography and sometimes time (Laureate Productions, ND).”  My definition is fairly close to Dr. Simonson’s. 
My definition for distance education wouldn’t change much after reviewing this week’s resources.  I would make sure my definition talks about that there is a separation between the instructor and the student.  I really like Dr. Simonson’s definition because he talks about a separation of geography and sometimes time.  This makes it very clear that distance education means that you can be anywhere in the world and still participate in an educational course or module. 

During this same video, he made a very good point about how distance education has really increased in the past 10 years because of the invention of the internet.  “Distance Education had been really popularized, really important in the United States (Laureate Productions, ND).”  I would agree with Dr. Simonson on this statement.  About 8 years ago, I signed up to complete my teacher’s license certification in an online program through Western State College in Colorado.  At the time, there were very few online programs available.  This past year, I started looking into earning my Master’s Degree online and couldn’t believe the difference in the number of programs available online.  I was blown away at the difference in the sheer number of programs.  In just 8 short years, there was a dramatic increase in those numbers. 
I feel the program of distance learning is always changing because of the technology that has become available over the past 30-50 years.  Dr. Simonson talked in his video about how distance learning started with programs like correspondence studies, open universities in Europe and has evolved into what is distance learning today in the online environment (Laureate Production, ND).  I feel that there has always been the desire for people to continue their learning and education.  Technology has helped make this possible because it can allow people to learn when it is convenient for them and not have to enroll into a traditional brick and mortar classroom.  Technology does play a big role in the evolution of distance education.  But I don’t think it is the only role.
I think people’s professions also play a role in this evolution of distance learning.  There is an increased desire for people to continue their education these days because of the financial improvement that can result.  For me, the increase in my yearly salary because of the Master’s Degree helped convince me to sign up for the program.  There was also a desire to see if other doors open for me in my career in the education world.  As an Instructional Designer, there are multiple paths for me to take for the remainder of my career.  I don’t feel like I will have to spend the rest of my career in a classroom.  Speaking for me, having a backup plan can be nice in case they feel like their career becomes stagnant. 
The future of distance education is very bright in my opinion.  The use of technology and the internet has increased the desire so much for people to continue their education in the past 10-15 years.  If this innovation continues in the future, there will be some exciting things coming down the road.  There will also have to be some hard work done by the schools and universities to make sure the material that is out there is rigorous.  Sometimes people think that technology incorporated into a lesson makes a good lesson.  But, the structure and the design of the lesson make a good lesson and the technology can be the cherry on top of the Sunday.  Just technology alone doesn’t make a great lesson.  Thoughtful planning and integration of technology into distance learning will help make it become something great. 


Laureate Education (Producer), (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Video file]. Retrieved from

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reflection on Learning Theories Class

This Learning Theories course has been a pleasant surprise.  At the beginning of the class, we were reading about the brain and just the basics of the leaning theories.  My first thought was that this class was going to be very boring and very philosophical.  There is a lot of gray area in theories, it is not like science or math where it is very black and white.  I enjoy science and math because there is instant feedback on how you are doing and if you are learning the concept.  With learning theories, there isn’t one correct learning theory and there are many that have valuable uses as an Instructional Designer. 
As the class progressed, I started to see that having multiple learning theories is a good thing because everyone learns differently.  Some people can relate more to Behaviorism and Cognitivism, while others relate more to constructivism and social learning.  What I found to be very surprising about learning theories and how people learn is that there is very little specific information about how people learn.  With how technology has advanced, I thought that the science of learning was a little more exact.  It was very shocking to hear that scientists are still a little unsure how the brain exactly works while we are learning.  Over the years, I just assumed that science was so advanced that they were exact in knowing how this happens in our heads.  Another thing that I found to be rather shocking was the myth about people being right and left brained.  That was surprising because you hear about this all the time in the news, social media and through teacher trainings.  I have heard so many justifications about students from other teachers or their parents saying, “Oh he is just right brained and has a hard time grasping math concepts.”  Another thing that was surprising to me was that there is now a new learning theory to go along with the advancement of technology.  It is good to see that theorists are taking technology into consideration because I see students in 4th grade who learn better when technology is involved.  I can see why there are skeptics to Connectivism, but I don’t understand how rigid some theorists are in an intellectual field that is so fluid. 
Reflecting on my learning preferences was refreshing and eye opening.  For many years, I found myself to be a very visual learner who was a very diligent rule follower.  But, as I’ve gotten older, I have seen that I am a social learner and can relate to connectivism.  The use of technology in my daily life has made it a very relevant piece of my learning.  Social media websites and blogs are now a very important part of how I learn.  The thinking web we created in this class helped me see that my learning is done a lot through technology.  Over the past ten years, I have become very kinesthetic in my learning preferences.  There are many professional development classes that are just a traditional sit and get type environment.  I really struggle with these and have a hard time staying focused.  Classes that have movement incorporated into the class help me stay focused and show that the instructor is making an effort to meet every person’s learning preference. 
This class has also helped show me the importance of connecting learning theories, learning styles, educational technology and motivation.  As an effective Instructional Designer, it is extremely important to hit multiple learning styles and theories in every lesson that you create because every person learn differently.  Technology is a tremendous tool that can help you meet those learning preferences, but isn’t going to happen by just having new iPads.  Your lesson design is the most important part and technology can just help make it that much better.  There have been amazing teachers for years without the use of great technology.  I can see now that it is because they focused on their lesson design and saw that being the most important.  Motivation is also an important part of learning for students and I now have some great tools to help build intrinsic motivation.  Extrinsic motivation has been a strength of mine, but I have struggled to try and improve my students intrinsic motivation.  Students sometimes have little motivation on their own to learn and work hard, and I always thought it was just their attitude and I could do very little to help improve that.  Now I see that I can have a big impact on each student’s motivation with making little adjustments to my designs. 
This class will have a great impact on my Instructional Design career.  It has reminded me that every student learns differently and as an Instructional Designer, I need to cater to each of these styles.  It has also shown me that brain research on how people learn is still unclear and I need to keep up on this research to help me as I move forward in my profession.  I have started doing some research for some blogs that I can put on my RSS reader to help keep me in the loop in this field.  Finally, this class has given me the tools to see that the lesson design is most important over the use of technology.  There are many people out in the world of education that feel that giving each student a laptop or iPad will help create great teachers.  But it is important to remember that at the foundation of teaching is your lesson design.  And as an Instructional Designer, focusing on your lesson and then incorporating technology to improve the lesson is the best way to have a lasting impact with each student.  I can relate to this through my favorite sport; golf.  In golf, technology has improved the game immensely.  But at the foundation is your golf swing.  Just getting a new driver isn’t going to make you a better golfer.  Focusing on your swing and technique will improve your game.  Add the new driver after the improvement of your swing will help make you the better golfer you want to become. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Reflection on Learning Theories

Looking back at what I wrote in Week 1 allowed for some interesting reflection.  At the beginning of this class, I felt like I related more to the cognitive learning theory.  In the Week 1 discussion I said, “I feel like I am more successful in a cognitive learning environment.  I realized how I have learned in the past.  Everything for me needs to make some kind of connection to an example of something I can relate to. At the time, I had little experience with Learning Theories and how they worked.  I still agree with my statement there, but I feel like I make a stronger connection with another learning theory.  The past six to seven weeks have helped show me that I relate more to the social learning theory.  As I look back at all of my positive experiences in school, it has always been when I have interacted with people in a group setting.  My favorite education experiences in the past were in the form of class discussions or group projects.  I still feel that I favor the kinesthetic and visual learning styles.  But what has been a great new tool for me with this class is the importance of learning strategies.  This class helped show me that there is a difference between learning styles and learning strategies.  It took me a long time as a student to use good learning strategies to make sure I was grasping the concepts during school.  Now I can help my students succeed by teaching them multiple learning strategies to ensure they are successful in my class.  One in particular that I didn’t learn until much later in life was the importance of comprehension monitoring.  There were many times in high school and even college where I would read a text passage without making sure that I understood the text I was reading.  Helping my students learn this valuable learning strategy should help them be successful students in my class and down the road in the educational career. 

Technology plays a very large role in my daily life as a learner and as an instructional designer.  Weather sitting on my couch streaming a television show from my phone or gathering information for my next lesson plan though Google at school; technology has become a pillar in my life.  Creating my learning Mind Map a few weeks ago showed me how important technology is in my learning.

Obviously, it is currently helping me receive my master’s degree.  I am able to get the information I need to be successful in my classes and to complete my work on time.  Without the technology, this program wouldn’t be an option.  Digital textbooks, online discussion, virtual mind maps, RSS Blog feeds, learning theory matrix and online videos are just a few of the ways I have learned in this class.  I also use it to do professional development on my own time.  Using social media and other platforms to build my skills has increased over the past six to ten years.  Finding new websites or technology tools that will help my lessons has become a new obsession as well.  

My Mind Map also showed me that I use technology in high amounts to create my daily lessons for my 4th grade students.  My flipped classroom wouldn’t work without technology, for me or my students.  I wouldn’t be able to make the videos and my students wouldn’t be able to watch my videos.  I use a Mobi board in my classroom to help present the instruction during class time.  My website is another piece of technology that helps me communicate with my parents on a regular basis.  I could keep going and listing more technology uses in my class, but it would take up so much space.  Needless to say, it is very obvious that I use technology as a student and an instructional designer.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Mind Map of My Learning

For my Graduate Level class, I was asked to make a mind map showing how I learn as an adult.  With some reflection, I came up with the following Mind Map.  I broke my learning into three categories:  Schooling, Professional Development, and Social Networking.  I then broke those three categories into more categories with more detail.

Here is the Mind Map:

After creating my mind map, I took some time to reflect on how I learn as an adult compared to how I learned as a child.  My network on how I learn has changed over time.  As a child, the three branches were a little different.  I would classify the three branches as schooling, family and friends.  Those three branches have changed and been modified over the past 34 years.  The map has morphed into a bigger version of the original and changed because of the learning I have done since I was a child.  The three main branches of my mind map now as an adult are schooling, professional development, and social networks.  Those three branches have changed over time as an adult and have become bigger over time with many new branches growing and old branches falling off or being replaced. 
My network right now as a teacher has really changed the way I learn.  As I child, I was learning to become a professional.  Now as an adult, I think I have been learning to become a more experienced professional.  A lot of my learning now is done to hone my craft as a teacher and to make sure my students are getting the best lessons possible.  Another thing that has caused my learning to change has been the increased network of teachers that I have at my finger tips.  With the help of social media and professional development, the amount of information out there is astounding.  Let’s say I want to learn new techniques for teaching a math lesson for 4th grade, I just have to spend about an hour doing research online and will find plenty of new strategies for that lesson.  It takes some time to get used to finding this information, but once you become comfortable, it can make a huge difference in your effectiveness. 
For me, the best digital tools that help facilitate my learning right now are social media websites and The Khan Academy.  These digital tools really help me answer any of the questions I have about teaching 4th grade.  This is a new curriculum for me this year and I have had to use a lot of support to help me teach the new concepts.  The social media websites really help me stay in the loop with different teaching strategies in next generation learning.  There are many teachers out there doing innovative things and lots of them are shared on social media.  It has taken some time and effort to find worthwhile companies and organizations to follow.  But I think it has helped me learn about things that have an immediate impact on my profession.  Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest are my three most used social media networks.  Another one that is becoming a quick favorite because of this class is my RSS feed.  There are so many blogs out there that can help me learn as an adult.  It has been a learning process to figure out how it works, but I think it is a great way to make your professional development more personal.  The Kahn Academy has helped me so much as a math teacher over the last four years.  I make videos of my math lessons and the students watch them at home for homework.  For each math concept, I go onto the Kahn Academy to learn how to make the lesson friendlier for children and to pick up on any tips for teaching that specific math lesson. 

There are many ways that my learning as an adult now supports connectivism.  My learning is done from non-human appliances like computers and smart phones.  Apps on my phone help me access the information quickly and wherever I might need it.  I am always looking to learn more because of teaching a new grade level this school year.  I have taught 3rd grade for the past five years and am new to teaching 4th grade.  This has required me to know more about these new concepts I am trying to teach.  Finally, I have desired to try out the newest teaching strategies since I got my teachers license in 2009.  I have wanted to make sure that I am teaching something that is up to date and not 10 years old.  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Brian, Learning, Mathematics and Children

This week, we were asked in our Learning Theories class to conduct research on the topics of the brain and learning, information processing and problem solving methods during the learning process.  Because of my current position as a 4th grade Math, Science and Social Studies teacher; I wanted to connect this research to something I could use immediately.  So, I searched for research in these topics tied to math instruction in children under the age of 10.  There were some very interesting resources found through using Google. 
               The first article I found was through The Daily Mail titled “Now it all adds up!” by Leon Watson.  Here is the link to the article:
This article discusses how children under the age of 10 learn their math facts.  I found this article very intriguing because of the struggle I see firsthand with my 4th grade students with math fact mastery.  The children tested in the research were put into MRI machines and given basic math facts.  They would then look at what part of the brain was active while they were solving these problems.  Then a year later, they did the same thing to see what happens as the children get older.  The research showed that as the children got older, they used the areas of the brain for counting less and used the brains memory center more, the hippocampus.  This shows me the importance of building the children’s math fact ability while they are younger.  The article also showed that as we age into adult hood, the retrieval of simple math facts became almost automatic. 
               The second piece I found this week was a PBS website.  There was a documentary called “A Misunderstood Mind” and I found a link to the PBS website that summarizes parts of that documentary.  The website is broken into different subject areas and discusses how the brain operates in the different learning subjects.  There was a link to Mathematics and I learned lots about how children’s brains operate while learning math.  Here is the link the website:
I really enjoyed how this website was set up.  It gives you information on how the brain functions for different areas of mathematics.  Then at the end of each section, there is a little activity for you to “Try it Yourself.”  The one section I found most interesting was when they discussed the connection of Math and Memory.  There are different types of memory and discussed them individually.  Students use Factual memory when they are retrieving math facts, but they use procedural memory and active working memory when they are trying to recall how to complete multi-step problems.  This article shows me the importance of doing different types of math problems to make sure you are developing each part of the student’s memory.  Having the students do simple problems, math facts practice and multi-step problems will help them develop their memory skills to move through mathematics with success as the students get older. 

               Overall, this week has opened the door to my research into math instruction and the way children’s brains function during the process.  The door is just cracked though, I feel like there is so much out there for me to learn.  I’m hoping to spend the next few weeks continuing this research and adding some blogs to my RSS feed.  I would also like to bookmark articles connected to this research to share with my teammates at school. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Start in Blogging...

While searching for blogs this week to get some inspiration for my own blog, I found three that are very intriguing for me as a 4th grade teacher.  In my case, I am looking to get more information on Next Generation Learning because of the strong push by our school district to start incorporating Next Generation Learning into our classrooms.  While searching for Next Generation Learning Blogs, I found three that are fantastic and look forward to reading their blogs on a regular basis.  One is Google Plus page for a group called Bright Wave Group.  I found their company very intriguing.   They are a Next Generation Learning group providing resources for Instructional Design in the business/corporate setting not the educational setting.  Here is the link to their blog postings:  I look forward to getting some insight on Next Generation Learning from people outside of the educational field.  It will be nice to get strategies from people who are not classroom teachers, but are still teaching information to people. 
            Another blog I found about Next Generation Learning is from a group called Educational Elements.  They have a fantastic blog about Blended Learning, Next Generation Learning and other new styles of teaching.  Here is the link to their blog postings:
I am excited to get information from this blog because of the Blended Learning classroom I am using right now.  There are many ways to blend a learning environment and look forward to getting the latest news and strategies in this field. 
            My final blog I found about Next Generation Learning is from an organization called Next Generation Schools.  Their blog seems to be very informative on how schools from around the country are incorporating Next Generation Learning.  Here is the link to their blog:
This group is based in Wisconsin and I am looking forward to getting information from another group of education professionals on the topic of Next Generation Learning. 
Finally, I wanted to get some information on just teaching 4th grade in general.  For the past five years, I taught 3rd grade and currently in my first year of teaching 4th grade.  I wanted to find some information and guidance on what other 4th grade teachers are doing around the country.  I searched for a while and found one blogging community called Teaching Blog Addict.  Within this community, it is divided out to each individual grade level.  Here is the link to the 4th grade page:
It will be nice to get some ideas and strategies from other 4th grade teachers who have more experience that I do in the grade level.  I also look forward to contributing to this group. 

            Overall, I am excited to start this new journey of blogging and creating my own professional development opportunities on a regular basis!