Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What Would You Ask a Real Teacher?
Think about the time when you were studying to be a teacher.  It might have been last year or many years ago or you might still be in an Educator Preparation/Teacher Education program (hopefully at the University of Northern Iowa😉).  The most important part of your program was your interaction with real teachers while you were observing classrooms, engaged in classroom teaching, and/or student teaching.  This was an opportunity for you to ask practicing teachers about why they taught a certain way or how they interacted with a student.

Imagine connecting with practicing teachers on your own and asking them about their opinions concerning teaching.  This is something that we are challenging our students at UNI to do.  We are asking them to expand their PLN (Professional Learning Network) to find teachers in the field.  Once they have found them, we are asking them to begin a discussion with them about teaching.   In some cases, it is a one-shot experience and in other cases it turns into an on-going connection.  This is a process that we use with our future teachers, but it is a practice that could be just as valuable with other practicing teachers.

Finding a Teacher

How do you find other teachers?  There are multiple ways to connect with other educators, but here are a few that I especially like:

Twitter #Hashtag: 

Did you know that if you searched Twitter for #3rdchat that you would find a plethora of 3rd grade teachers who want to connect with distant colleagues?  This holds true with #2ndchat and #8thchat  and #HSchat  and #MSchatHere is a whole list of educator #hashtags by Cybrary Man. (Yes, I know that these #hashtags are also used for Twitter Chats, but they are a treasure trove for making connections.)

Global Collaboration Databases
You can also find teachers waiting for connections in Global Collaboration databases.  These are databases where educators post their names and contact information hoping that they can find other educators with whom they can connect.  There is a variety of these databases out there, but one that I share with my students is Classroom BridgesThis is a project created by Katie Siemer for her Google Certified Innovator project.  

What Should I Ask?

I have had a few students who have searched this database to connect with educators.  One of my students recently made a connection with an educator in Colorado.  They have an appointment to have a Google Hangout discussion next week. Everything seems to be set except when this student sent me an interesting question:     What should I ask her?

Great Question!!  I had been so intent on them making the connections that we didn't actually talk about what she could/should ask this teacher. Should she ask about running a classroom? Should she query about building connections with her students?  Should all of the questions be professional or should some be about the personal side of being a teacher?  What about time management?

So how should I answer her?  I asked some of my Ed Tech and Design team and these are some of our suggestions.
  • What skills (technology and otherwise) do you wish you had when you started teaching?
  • Why did you become a teacher?
  • What have been your favorite projects and learning opportunities you have had with your kids?
  • What global collaboration projects have you done?  Tell me some stories.
  • How diverse is your class?  How do you use technology to enhance your classroom's cultural inclusivity?
  • Do each of your students have their own computer/tablet?  If so, how has it changed the way you teach and how they learn?
       And Finally, "Can we stay in touch?"

What are your suggestions for what she should ask her new professional connection?  What would you ask another teacher if you were in this situation?  

Leave your suggestions in the comments sections or tell us a story of when you connected with another teacher this way.


Sunday, September 09, 2018

11 Tips towards Engaging in a Terrific Twitter Chat

Twitter Chats are AWESOME!!!

I have talked about Twitter Chats (I like to call them Tweet Chats) before in Dr. Z ReflectsHere are a few posts you might find interesting. I have shared some links to resources for finding Education Twitter chats but I would like to introduce Participate as a rich resource for finding, sharing, and engaging in Twitter chats.  (I will explore Participate more fully in a future posting.)
One of my personal favorite chats is #iaedchat.  This Twitter chat meets every Sunday night at 8:00 pm Central Time.  We have Iowa educators, but you will find chatters from all over the country and even throughout the world.   I am inviting some of my EdTech Minor students to join the #iaedchat chat on Sunday and it has inspired me to provide some direction for "getting the most" out of Twitter Chatting.
Here are some suggestions for succeeding in a Twitter chat:
  1. Select Your Tool: My favorite tool for Twitter Chats is  It has a simple interface and refreshes constantly.  I have used some of the other tools and their refresh rates have been too slow. If you want to make your own selection, here is a recent listing of the 5 Best Tools for Twitter Chats.
  2. Show Up Early: Even if it is only 5 minutes, get settled before the chat because the pace can get rather fast and furious.
  3. Share Your Intro; Be prepared to introduce yourself at the beginning.  This is where we can learn about the location, profession, and grade level of the participants. 
  4. Engage in Questions and Answers: Questions will be introduced throughout the hour-long chat - usually 6 questions. Sometimes they are available before the chat. Each will be identified by its number (e.g. Q3:). Begin your answers with the number of the question you are answering (e.g., A3:)
  5. Answer as Much as You Want: You don't have to contribute lots of answers. You can lurk throughout  the whole thing but you won't get much out of it. Aim to post at least 4 answers throughout the hour-long chat. You are welcome to talk as much as you want, but placing a minimum will ensure that you at least dip your toe into the flood of genius that will flow across your screen.
  6. Reduce the Stress: If there are lots of chatters, the discussion can zoom past you. You can feel overwhelmed because you don't have time to read all of the posts.  You can take control of this by just identifying 3 or 4 chatters who are interesting.  Just follow their postings and respond when you have something to say.  Most Twitter chats have archives so you can go back and read the other postings at a later date.
  7. Follow Them: If a chatter looks interesting, click on his/her/their name to visit his/her/their Twitter page.  This will show you more about him/her/them and give you a chance to click the FOLLOW button.
  8. Remove the Retweets: You will see some Retweets in the chat. These add more lines for you to read.  The software allows you to Hide Retweets.  Click this button and you will see each posting only once.
  9. Tell Your Followers: Before the chat, tell your followers that you will be engaging in a chat. This way they won't be surprised by a deluge of wisdom coming from your Twitter account. (This is something you should do before you begin, but I shared it here so that I wouldn't confuse the new tweeters.)
  10. Have Fun: This is an opportunity to meet other people and learn other's opinions.  Enjoy it and make your contacts.
  11. Follow up: This is a great opportunity to make connections. If you liked what one chatter was doing in the classroom, contact him/her/them later to further discuss the topic, set up a classroom collaboration, or even schedule a meet-up face-to-face or virtually.  If you learned something from leaders in schools, and you think that you might like to work in those schools.  Make the connection and begin the conversation. 
Twitter Chatting is an easy and fruitful way to make connections with like-minded people. I hope that I have a chance to connect with you through a chat some day.   Until that day, perhaps you could leave some comments about what I have written or maybe in answer to some of these queries . . . 

  • What is YOUR favorite Twitter Chat tool?
  • Which chats do you recommend?
  • What other suggestions do you have for successful chatting?
  • Share a Twitter Chat story about what you learned or who you met.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

3 Major Challenges to Teaching Online and How to Beat Them

While there are many advantages to teaching online, I want to begin with the challenges because those are the demons in the room that we have to confront.  This list is done completely from my experience.  I have purposely not reviewed the online lists that others have created because I wanted this to come from my heart.  After I complete this post, I will search the web for a few lists that others have created and might expand your knowledgebase with items that I may have missed or answers that I hadn’t considered.  It will be a learning experience for us all.

To keep this from being a Whiners Fest, I will try to include strategies that I am using to confront these challenges.  I can not say that my suggestions are the only answers to these challenges and I would be MIGHTY GRATEFUL if you could share your ideas for addressing these challenges.  I might also note that I am providing the  plans that I have had in my head and tried to implement.  Posting them here requires me to bare my soul to the world and makes it more of a commitment for me to accomplish them.  (Please note that these are not curricular challenges.  Those I will save for another day.  These are personal management challenges):

“Out of Sight, Out of Mind” – It can be mighty difficult to stay engaged in an online course.  We are advocates for keeping our students engaged, but it is easy to get involved in my day-to-day activities if my students are not going to be meeting with me in person on a regular basis. This is not to say that these students or their work are not important to me, it’s just that it requires discipline to keep engaged as a teacher as well as a student.

  • Schedule: I try to organize my schedule so that there are specific times when I am reviewing their work.  Most of my classes meet on Tuesday.  Their assignments are due the Monday before we meet so I have allotted Monday for reviewing their work and preparing for incorporating their work into our Tuesday meeting.  I don’t think that it makes sense to grade their assignments before we meet, so I will go through and take notes about what they said and then use that to guide some of our discussion.  I can use these notes to make grading much easier when I grade.  
  • Schedule to go online daily.  I haven’t fully achieved this yet, but I need to create a checklist of things that I will check on a daily basis in each of the classes.  This might include Checking email; Checking assignments submitted; and Reviewing discussions.
TimeZones -  This is a challenge for which there is no cure.  One of my sections begins at 6:00 AM CST because I have students in South Korea where it is 9:00 PM and a student in Nepal where it is 6:00 PM. I am also meeting at 6:00 PM and 7:30 PM (CST) that same day because I have students in Iowa who are home from work and ready to learn. 

  • Schedule: The key is to create a schedule that will work for all of you. I have to be flexible. It is my job to teach these students and there are more of them than me.  Most of them have teaching jobs where they work all day and then meet with me at night.  You can also address this issue by recording your class sessions and making them available online for students to watch at a later time.  I have had courses where there was just no reasonable possibility for the student to attend the course live so he watched it the next day as a video and then asked me any questions that arose. I even teleconferenced with him periodically to keep him "in the loop."
Providing Support for Students – When you have a classroom full of students, it is easier to tell if there are issues with group work or interest in the class than if the students are on the other side of the “Big Pond.” I try to deal with this by keeping an open line of communication going between the students and myself. Some of this is covered in my previous posting, Communicating with Students Online, but here are a few other things I have tried:
  • Use Email Filters: I use Gmail filters to sort my incoming emails into folders (labels). (I will provide a video later to show you how to do this.) I have asked my students to send me email through the Blackboard LMS that we use so that there will be a specific heading in the subject line. The filter that I have created will then move the email into a folder specific for that class. I have positioned these labels in such a way that I can see immediately whenever students have sent me email. 
  • Consider Your Students' Experience: This may be a no-brainer, but I was just discussing working with students in collaborative groups with my colleague the other day when something dawned on me. Working in collaborative groups can be difficult for students. I do what I can to discuss the roles of members in collaborative groups and how they can best work together. I was noting that the undergrads were having bigger problems with this than my graduate students when it hit me that our graduate students are mostly practicing teachers who use collaborative grouping with their own students in their classrooms and have had experience working together as professionals.  My undergraduates are less experienced in collaborative grouping.  Sure, they have had teachers do it throughout their schooling but they haven't had to take responsibility as an adult to "get the job done."  This means that I need to have weekly feedback from the group members about how they are progressing. I need to work with the students to address any situations where students are not doing their part.
  • Make Personal Connections As Necessary: Based upon what I just said above, let me say there is no replacement for personal contact. When one of your students informs you that isn't doing his/her work, there is nothing wrong with you, the teacher, contacting the students in need. At first you can do this by e-mail. But if you don't get a response from your e-mail, don't be sure about making a phone call. If your students are in your country or continent this probably won't be a problem in today's day of cell phones and no long distance charges. I have had many situations where it was simply a matter of getting the communication going. In some cases I had students who were working three jobs and having problems connecting with the rest of the team. But in some cases I just had students to work doing what they need to do.  Receiving a phone call from their professor often handled the matter.
  • Use Social Media: This strategy has an interesting twist to it. I have created Facebook Fan Pages in the past and asked my students to share their ideas and frustrations there.  These didn't seem to work. When I asked my students to create the Fan Pages and administer them, the students used them much more readily. They used this venue for asking each other for clarification about assignments.  They were sharing interesting stuff they found. They asked colleagues for advice on professional situations. They even use it to share things that they are learning (while they are learning it) in professional workshops.  The best part is that the Facebook Feed for this academic medium appears with their social feeds through Facebook.  It is a constant part of their lives.  It was much more effective because they took ownership.  Try it.
  • Online Office Hours: Having office hours is easy in a face-to-face world.  You just sit in your office for the same 5 hours a week throughout the semester and wait for nobody to come. =-)  In the online world, it's not that easy. First of all, you can't expect them to come to your brick-and-mortar office. Your students will need to meet with you through some online channel.  This might be by phone, but more likely they will want to video conference with you through Zoom, Google Hangout or Facetime.  I have identified 5 hours on Tuesday (2:00 - 5:00) and Wednesday (3:00 - 5:00) to meet with me through Zoom. This means that I have opened my ZoomRoom on my computer and I am sitting there (usually correcting homework) waiting for students to drop by. I have selected times that are after school for my practicing teachers but sometimes I set up specific meetings with students who contact me for evenings or weekends.  It's whatever it takes to assist my students.
Here are some additional resources for you to review:  
What do you have to add to the discussion? 
What is your greatest challenge (or fear) with online learning.  (Mine is that you won't leave a comment on this blog posting so that this PLC can respond to it.)


Saturday, June 16, 2018

RWLDs - Readings/Watchings/Listenings/Doings: Textbooks No Longer Sufficient

Textbooks are not enough anymore . . . Use RWLDs
California has tried to address these needs using eBooks to replace their paper textbooks. but that isn't enough.

Our students are in the Multimedia Generation. These Millennials spend most of their waking hours Reading, Watching, Listening to, and Doing multimedia. This means that their brains are wired to acquire and assimilate information through multiple forms of media but most of our teachers still use paper textbooks.

Sooooo, how do we provide recent and relevant materials for our classes? Our answer is the RWLD. RWLD's provide the Readings, Watchings, Listenings and Doings that will inform your students in their field of study. 

Readings: Just because you aren't reading form a textbook, it doesn't mean that your students won't be reading. It means that you will be able to direct them towards recent and relevant readings in the form of articles, books and reliable websites. Just because I list the resources on the web, it doesn't mean that I don't assign books to them to read. In my last Emerging Instructional Technologies course I had them read Disrupting Class by Christensen, Johnson and Horn.

Watchings: These are the videos or vlogs that you want them to watch. These may be videos that are already available for you to use, or they might be videos or screencasts that you have made to help educate your students. While YouTube is probably the most popular resource for ready-made videos , there are many other resources that you can access. 
Here are some of the educational resources:
Listenings: Some of your resources will be auditory. These will primarily be podcasts. There is a huge selection of podcast resources online.  The most complete directory of podcasts is iTunes. It doesn't matter if you are a Mac or Window or Linex user. iTunes is available on all of these platforms so you should be able to find them and use them.
My dream for using the Listenings is that my auditory-learning students will be able to download them to their MP3 players and then listen to them as they walk to school or workout. The only problem that I have had is that not all of my students knew how to download sound files to their players.  You don't necessarily know hwo to do that if you are a Digital Native. =-)   It may require you showing them or creating a screencast to instruct them in how to download these file.
Doings: These are the activities that your students will do. I have my students complete surveys, do online searches, create projects, or whatever. This is the section that filles the things that don't fit the other sections. 

Check Out These Successful RWLDs

Additional notes:
  1.  Notice that I create my RWLDs using a blog. This is the easiest way to get things on the web. Another advantage is that a blog will provide an easy RSS feed for students to capture their assignments on their PLN. Finally, it is even possible to feed the RWLD blog into their YouTube accounts - that means no excuses!!!!
  2. Include an image on each of the postings. Be careful about copyright - you are the model. You may find what you need using the Creative Commons selections at 
  3. These resources don't need to be ONLY teacher-found resources. I have opened up the RWLD to the students so that when they were taking over the class for a day, they could add their own RWLD resources.
  4. Another advantage to putting your RWLD in a blog is that you can reuse your postings. You just need to reset your postings to appear on scheduled dates at the beginning of the semester.
We have been using RWLDs for a nine years now and they have been quite successful. What do you think?  Will they be useful to you?

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

30 Resources for Stopping Bullying at YOUR School
What are YOU doing to stop bullying at your school?  

Bullying comes in many flavors. It can be angry gangs on the playground. It can be a punch in the shoulder or repeated namecalling in the school hallways as students move between classes. It can be "cool" girls making fun of others to add to their feeling of superiority. It can be "macho" boys intimidating their gay classmates. It can be a class of students standing around a special needs student calling him "Stupid." It might be kids (or parents) waging anonymous online wars against a classmate who "rubs them the wrong way."

Fortunately, the anti-bullying movement is actively engaged in a fight against this aggressive behavior in our schools and in the general public (online or not). The U.S. government has taken a stance against bullying and supported with the website and grants for fighting this problem. The most important thing is to be informed of what can be done.

Here are some resources that I have found you might find valuable in building your program:

Stop Bullying Songs:

Bullying Stories

 Stop the Bullying Programs

Stop Bullying Websites

Stop Bullying Articles

Stop Cyber Bullying

NOTE: This is based upon a posting I did on Stopping Bullying back in 2013.  After talking about it in class today, I realized that it shouldn't languish in old posts.  It needed a rebirth. I have added some resources.  
Do you have other stories of success, programs for fighting bullying or ideas about how to combat this unfairness?  If so, please provide your ideas in the comments below.
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Friday, November 03, 2017

Dr. Z Reflects on a Successful Lesson in Ed Tech that He Just Taught

This is a first for me.  In the past, I have internally reviewed lessons that I have taught.  I have made notes about how I might improve the lesson next time I teach it.  I have never shared any of these reflections with others - - - until now.  Dr. Z Reflects - for real!

This is an extemporaneous reflection on how I introduced our final project.  Instead of just beginning the session by saying "Today we are going to be learning about our final project for the semester."  Instead, I began by contextualizing the upcoming project by beginning with us reviewing an article I had asked them to read before class, Five Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching.  I broke them into groups by tables and had each group review a specific characteristic and discuss how the assignments we had completed this semester fit that characteristic. They all share good observations and they agreed that we had been following the characteristics.  I followed this with an explanation that this final project is the culmination of our learner-centered experience and I showed them some examples.  The students left completely involved in anticipating the upcoming challenge.  Watch the 9-minute video and it will complete my story.

Here is the reflection.  I have some more ideas and resources that I will post below the video.  I hope that you find this interesting. PLEASE provide feedback in the Comment section at the bottom of this post.

Here is the graphic for the "5 Characteristics" article that I asked our student (Emily Caylor) to create.

Motivating Achievement

I also tried something new with our students.  We have a couple of assignments that they are responsible to complete throughout the semester.  
  • One assignment involves having them create a Blog and write 4 blog posts about things they are learning or things that interest them concerning educational technology.
  • The other assignment challenges them to expand their Personal Learning Network.  This means that they connect with other educators through Twitter or Facebook or ???
The problem is that many of them keep "putting it off" and the end of the semester is rapidly advancing. Many of the students are sorely behind on this assignment.   Last night I was talking with one of my Instructional Technology masters students who is interested in research the effect that self-monitoring can have on students.  I thought that one way for my students to monitor their own progress on these two assignments by sharing their successful progress on these assignments.  

At the beginning of class today, I created a table on the whiteboard that asked them to post their name if they had worked on their blog or their Personal Learning Network. As they entered the room, I suggested that they might want to put their names on the board if they had worked on either of these projects.  Twenty of our twenty-eight students registered success.  It will be interesting to see if that number increases next Friday.

So what do you think?  Was this reflection meaningful for you (it DEFINITELY was for me.)  Do you think that you will be doing some vlogging on your blog?

Respond in the comments below

Friday, September 15, 2017

Happy International Dot Day and National Online Learning Day!!

Just wanted to wish you a happy International Dot Day.    

This is based upon Peter Reynolds' book, "The Dot"  It is a short picture book that celebrates creativity and helping develop the creative mindset.  Here is a 4-min read aloud of the book.  You will LOVE it!

I first found this book a few years ago at the ITEC conference in Des Moines.  They had Peter Reynolds as a guest speaker.  Peter spoke about The Dot book in his presentation and I immediately fell in love with the book.  I stood in line for an hour to get him to autograph a couple of copies so that I could give them to our grandsons.

My favorite part of this story began while he was drawing a picture related to the book in the front cover.  I asked him, "When you draw, do you have the picture in your mind and then work to represent it on the paper?"  He thought about it for a minute and replied "No, I see the picture on the paper and then I just need to connect the dots."  Fascinating!

Originated by an Iowan

International Dot Day was originated in 2009 by Terry Shay, music teacher at North Tama High School.  Last year, I had a student in my Ed Tech and Design class who had Terry Shay as a teacher. He said that Mr. Shay was an amazing teacher.

Wait, There's More!

Just found another video created by the author, Peter H. Reynolds, that explains how he creates wonderful graphics . . . all beginning with a dot.


This is also National Online Learning Day.  This day "showcases how students of all ages are thriving with the ability to learn online—anywhere, anytime."
There is another webpage where you can read other students' online stories or share your own:

Follow the Twitter discussion today using the hashtag #onlinelearningday

Have a GREAT DAY!!