Author Archives: kgebauer

Philosophy of Teaching

This is not the first time I have written a philosophy of teaching, but with each new version something always changes because I have changed and grown as an educator. I have been told that beginning teachers, like myself, tend to be idealistic in their philosophies and that is probably true with me. I tend to have a philosophy that is idealistic, but not always put into practice because I reach so high. I would hope after years of fieldwork and two student teaching internships I would be a little more practically honest in this philosophy of teaching, but since it is my first time addressing the online learning environment no promises.

First, I would have to align myself most closely with the constructivist theory of learning and teaching. I want to be more of a guide, but I know from my own experience I do not always practice this in every lesson I teach and design. In constructivism students are active learners creating knowledge and reflecting on their learning process (Ally 2008; Siemens 2005). Learning should be a journey of exploration and discovery. Collaboration and cooperation is also important to me as en educator, but in the online learning environment I found it difficult to meet this aspect of my philosophy. In the physical classroom I use Kagan cooperative learning to help manage the classroom, but in the online learning environment this is more of a challenge. Swan, Garrison, and Richardson (2009) support the idea that collaborative and cooperative learning is essential to the online learning environment and is worthy to pursue in order to foster successful and effective learning experiences of students. By using discussions and peer feedback on assignments seems to be the way in which I choose to practice this aspect of my philosophy in the online learning environment. I need some more practice and guidance, but in my future in online teaching I look forward to improving my practice of this aspect of my philosophy and exploring the community of Inquiry framework described by Swan, Garrison, and Richardson (2009) to better improve the collaborative features of my online teaching.

With all that said it is also important to me that I prepare my students for the real world by allowing students to experience learning in authentic and place-based ways. In the online learning environment I found the best way for me to practice this was through personal connections and creating a community of learners that share their culture, beliefs, values, and ideas through introductions, discussions, and their projects that are connected to where they live. Even though distance may separate the student and the teacher in the online learning environment that is no excuse not to utilize the students’ unique sense of place, which has only been enriched through the online learning environment. This is where I draw on facets of the connectivism theory, where a student’s sense of place in the online world is continually changing because new information is being added constantly. The online landscape is being changed by others, but most importantly the students are making their own contributions to it; they are learning “to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information [which] is vital,’ and their “…ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical’ (Siemens 2005). This is what I like about the online learning environment students can easily add to it and shape it. Students are active learners and doing things, as Fink (2013) would describe it.

One aspect of my philosophy that has become stronger is my belief in the power of metacognition and reflective learning, which both Fink (2013) and Ally (2008) emphasize in their writing on the learning process. I have learned the importance of my learning activities need to all work together to help guide students through a learning process that is reflective. If students are to become critical thinkers and active participants in this world they need experiences that allow them to think about their thinking and the thinking of others. This is why I like to have class discussions both in the physical classroom and online learning environment. Discussion encourage students to communicate their thoughts and then reflect on those thoughts after being exposed to others thinking on the same topic. Learning is cyclical and discussions are a nice visible manifestation of this characteristic of learning. Learners need other learners in order to deepen their metacognitive and reflective learning experiences. This connects to my strong belief about having a cooperative learning classroom management style, learners working together to learn.

Finally, no philosophy would be complete without mention of assessment. For me assessment starts with McTighe and Wiggins (2004) Understanding by Design framework. Beginning with the end in mind first always helps to refine my assessments because my outcomes are clear. I do not always faithfully start at the end, but I always find myself going back to it to get my lesson planning on track. Whether it is formative or summative assessment reflection is an important component of the assessment process. Students should be continually reflecting and assessing their own learning. This is done through reflective writing, discussion, and self-assessment. Assessment is not just for the teacher. Assessment is just as important to the students because it informs the next step in students’ individual learning experience. Formative assessment is best at accomplishing informing both the teacher and the student about where the learning path is going and how students are progressing toward meeting learning outcomes and the K-12 Alaska State Standards. Timely feedback is a big part of successful formative assessment. Feedback needs to be encouraging and constructive. Most importantly formative assessment informs and shapes instruction. It is also meant to lead students to be successful with the summative assessments. I prefer to have project based summative assessments where students are creating. I see summative assessment as a means for students to try out different roles and create something based on the role they are playing whether it is an author, poet, historian, researcher, etc. Summative assessment should show what the student has learned and what they can do with it now. Successful teaching cannot be done without solid assessment because it is not only a reflective learning experience for the students, but also for the teacher. Teachers cannot improve and grow without utilizing assessment and reflecting on it themselves. Assessment is a vital cog in the wheel of the learning cycle.

In conclusion, it is my ultimate goal as a teacher to spread the joy of learning and to help guide students to their passions and encourage those passions to grow. It is also a goal to help students become critical thinkers that are active in doing, so they do not become passive citizens. Everything in my philosophy of teaching is meant to lend itself to these goals, maybe not completely, but I am learning too. My teaching philosophy will never be totally completely. I will always be reflecting on it and continuing to learn new things that will shape me and hence my teaching philosophy.


Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning. In Theory and Practice of Online Learning (2nd ed., pp. 15-44). Athabasca University.

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Siemens, G. (2005).  Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.  International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2(1).

Swan, K., Garrison, D.R., & J.C. Richardson. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework.   In Payne, C.R. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks.   Hersey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57.


Memories Matter Online Unit & Rationale

Here is the link to my Memories Matter Online Unit, but you will need to sign up for Canvas in order to access it, sorry, but you can delete your account after viewing it.

Unit Overview and Background

Memories Matter is an 8th grade English online asynchronous unit, with the exception of one synchronous session. Approximately 20 students are enrolled. These students are either enrolled in a virtual school or are home school students. So all students enrolled are familiar and comfortable with technology and have basic technology skills and the appropriate equipment and software to complete the unit. Developmentally the students are adolescents, which means they are egocentric, ready for abstract thinking, and need structure for long-term planning. In my unit I attempt to use these developmental characteristics to my advantage by making assignments have a connection to the students’ lives and guiding the students to think about abstract concepts that are not black or white, but deal with the grey area such as sameness, ideals, and morals. The unit is designed to guide students to the final project and to practice necessary reading and writing skills according the Alaska English language Arts Standards. Students will engage in a lot of personal writing by keeping a reading journal and writing two memoirs. Students will also conduct research and investigate two past memories by interviewing family and friends, looking at photos, and examining their own memory. Through discussion students will explore grey area ideas and concepts about the importance of memories and recorded history. This will lead them to think carefully, critically, and reflectively about the importance of memory and recorded history in their own lives, which culminates in the final metacognitive reflection.

It is the hope that by using a main piece of literature in this unit, The Giver by Lois Lowry, that it will help engage students in the roles of readers and writers, which will then lead to the role of author. With the asynchronous nature of the unit it is also designed to help students develop independence, which is important at this age as readers and writers. I as the instructor will act more as a guide as students explore the unit. As students explore the theme of telling the story through the lens of memory and recorded history in The Giver it will give the students a focus while reading and most importantly a purpose. As Wilhelm (2008) states storytelling is “a primary way of knowing and organizing our personal knowledge of ourselves and the world. Storying defines humanity, makes us human, empowers us in being who we are, and makes it possible for us to conceive of being more than we are’ (p. 52-53). By having the students become storytellers they will practice their reading and writing skills while developing a better understanding of the world they live in and their place in it.

Unit Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to think critically about the importance of memories in the book The Giver, recorded history in their own lives, and in larger historical contexts through reflective writing.
  • Students will be able to think and reflect about their own values and beliefs concerning sameness, diversity, uniqueness, culture, history, power, and societal issues.
  • Students will be able to infer the meaning of vocabulary words in context.
  • Students will be able to practice their reading fluency by reading passage aloud.
  • Student will be able to create a memoir using a variety of sources (memories, interviews, photos).
  • Students will be able to conduct personal research by interviewing friends and relatives.

 Assessments and Learning Activities

The above objectives are met through a variety of assessments and learning activities. Most of the assessment in the unit is formative. Rubrics, checklists, and participation are all used to assess the students’ progress in meeting the unit’s main objectives. The summative assessment is the final project, which is a set of assignments that culminate in a final metacognitive reflection. To help guide students to this final project McTighe and Wiggins (2004) Understanding by Design framework was used and the GRASPS (Goal, Role, Audience, Situation, Product/Purpose, and Standards for Success) template was consulted. The path through the unit may not be perfect, but my inexperience as an online educator must be taken into account. Fink (2013) encourages that reflection be a part of the learning process and that the learning activities guide the students to this reflective end to flex their metacognition muscles.

This leads to the learning activities, which are directly linked to the objectives as well as the Alaska English language Arts Standards for 8th grade. Each assignment clearly states the objectives in a student friendly way and align with the above-mentioned objectives. For example, the reading journal assignments encourage students to meet the first two objectives. The goal of the reading journal is to help students read purposefully, think critically, and write reflectively. Where as the vocabulary quizzes and passage readings focus on the concrete skills the students need to continue to develop throughout their education. The unit has a balance between the concrete and the abstract. The goal is to help students become better readers, writers, and authors while thinking critically and reflectively, but it is also practicing necessary basic skill like vocabulary and reading aloud fluency. This is also in line with the developmental characteristics of 8th grade students. The discussions, peer reviews, and the single synchronous session are learning activities to help the students explore their egocentric thinking while exposing them to others perspectives to help widen their view of the world and to grow as readers, writers, and authors. After completing these various learning activities that prep the students for the final project there is a whole section designated for the final project to guide students more clearly to the end of the unit where students get to create as authors and reflect on their learning through out the entire unit. Literature is a powerful tool, but what is more empowering is applying what was learned from it and then creating your own personal literature. Hopefully this unit accomplishes this goal.


Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wilhelm, J. D. (2008). You Gotta BE the Book: Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents. New York: Teachers College Press.


Tool Evaluation – GoAnimate, PowToon, Viola

GoAnimate Tool Evaluation

Here is my GoAnimate creation.

The learning curve for GoAnimate was easy after deciding on a template to use. GoAnimate walks you through how to create a video step by step. There was no guessing how to add elements or where to find them. Browsing through things to some time, but once I was familiar with the options and played around a bit it was no problem. There are several backgrounds, characters, animations, props, text, and sounds to choose from. You can also add your own narration and even make a composition shot to zoom in on your created scene. All in all the features of GoAnimate are basic and easy to understand and navigate.

There was one main drawback. As with any new tool it always takes more time than you want the first time. I had everything the way I wanted it and then I discovered the free version only allows you to create a video that is 30 seconds long. I originally thought I could make a longer video in my first skim. This added extra time to creating a video because I had to trim it down to 30 seconds. It is also hard to do multiple scenes in a 30 second time frame. Another drawback of the free version is that you cannot embed your videos you can only link to them. When you want to showcase your video for presentation purposes this could be a deal breaker.

In the end I still found it useful and I can see why people would invest in this tool. The free version on the other hand has its limits and hence has fewer educational uses. In my online unit I used GoAnimate to create a 30 second introduction to myself and instructed my students to do the same thing. Other possible educational uses could include students creating commercials to advertize a book, mock election, or propaganda for a historical event. A teacher could use it to create writing prompts to engage students or a teaser for an upcoming unit. There are many possibilities, but they are limited by time. I am not sure the time put in to creating a 30 second video is worth it, especially if students are not familiar with it.

PowToon Tool Evaluation

Here is my PowToon creation.

The learning curve for PowToon was small because it has many parallels with PowerPoint and other slide presentation tools. There was an easy walk through tutorial. You can select a ready-made template or start from scratch. I started from scratch because creatively that is easier for me, but many of the templates could be useful if you need a jump start or do not want to reinvent the wheel, which saves a lot of time. Due to the similarity and familiarity of PowToon’s features with slide presentation tools the time to create a product was less than GoAnimate. In PowToon you add and delete slides, add music, text, and narration, add your own images or choose from the variety of characters props and backgrounds offered, and of course there are slide transitions and a few animations to choose from. Editing is easy too and very visual. There is a editing bar at the bottom that makes it easy to keep track of your editing. Very organized editing layout.

The only drawback I encountered with PowToon is that it can move slowly if there is not enough bandwidth. Loading it took more time than I would like, but I do not have the fastest Internet at home. Getting it to load took probably five minutes and refreshing a couple of times. So if you have a whole class of students on at one time I could foresee the site either crashing or there being delays, but with an online class this would be less of a problem. Also like GoAnimate you cannot embed your presentation video with the free version. All you can do is copy a link. In the online learning environment this makes it less visually appealing, but in the physical classroom this probably would be less of an inconvenience. Either way this publishing limitation of the free version is less of an issue because it has enough options for creation of a good product.

There are more educational uses with PowToon than GoAnimate, in my opinion at least. The templates in of themselves lend more options. There are templates that can be used for book reports, compare and contrast, class syllabus, announcements, school/class rules, teacher/student introductions, storytelling, and unit teasers. I personally used PowToon to create a mini lesson presentation on the difference between autobiography, biography, and memoir. I found this more engaging than me doing a mini lecture or a PowerPoint. I could see myself using PowToon a lot in the future and more importantly my students. It is a nice way to mix things up to get away from PowerPoint, Prezi, and NearPod both for teachers and students.

Viola Tool Evaluation

Here is my Viola creation.

The learning curve with Viola screencasting and capture tool is very minimal if you have worked with other screencasting and capture tools. The video tutorials were helpful in highlighting the various features of Viola. For example, this tutorial shows you how you can capture images and edited them in a unique way to create a whole new image. Probably after 10 minutes of exploring and watching tutorials I was good to go to create my screencast. Viola’s key features include folders to organize your videos and images, you can trim your videos, easy navigation bars with options to record using the webcam, on a website, full screen, or a screen selection that can be a rectangle, circle, polygon, or freehand. Publishing is also easy with option to YouTube and Vimeo, while you can export to iPhoto, Dropbox, Google Drive, or your blog.

Viola is an easy tool to use, but like any screencasting tool you have to do it mostly all at once. While recording you can pause the video, which makes it easier to get a cleaner recording. You can also trim your recorded video, but only at the beginning and end. Duplication of video is also possible, so you could take the best parts of your attempts and export them to a video editing tool like iMove, but this requires more time and it is just better to try to get it all in one shot. I was unfamiliar with the short cuts for stopping and pausing the screencast recording, which made it a little clumsy, but with some practice this won’t be an issue in the future. As far as the image capturing aspect of Viola it is sophisticated, but you cannot make a video from your stills. In order to make a video you would need to export the images to a tool like iMovie or set it up in a way that you can do a screencast with the images on your computer screen. This is a little more work, but the editing features for still images captured might be worth it depending on what you are trying to communicate.

As you can see by my Viola creation example it does have educational applications. Its obvious educational application is making video tutorials for students on how to complete an assignment, navigate a website or tool, or even give a webcam lecture. The image capture aspect of Viola allows you to capture menus and images from anywhere on your computer screen, which makes it easy to violate copyright laws, so you have to be careful. The images could be used to enhance presentations, lessons, or used to engage students in a discussion, writing, or reflection activity. Although Viola is more of a teacher tool I could see students using it to do the same things a teacher uses it for, but the school would need a license in order to have access to all Viola’s features. I could see the screen capturing and editing tools be useful for students to create posters, advertisements, or images for a presentation or story. Overall I will be using Viola in the future to help enhance my lessons and walk my students through multi-step tasks.

Initial Review on Emerging Technologies

There are many tools that both teachers and students can use to create. In my own teaching experience I have probably utilized more technology tools for my own teaching purposes than for students to create and participate in active learning according as according to Fink (2013). I have been working on seeking more technology tools that benefit both the students and me. That is why I chose tools that I can use as a teacher and tools that students can use to create. GoAnimate and Powtoon can be used by me as a teacher and by students to create. Viola on the other hand is something I choice to invest in so that I can make nice screencast videos for my students to watch. I also plan on using all of these tools in my online unit.

GoAnimate – here is a short video overview of GoAnimate

Although the free version is limited by how much time, 60 seconds, you can record it still can be a useful tool. There are many options for customizations as far as the objects that can be placed in the presentation. Animations are limited, but it is just enough to keep things from looking too comical.

Students can definitely use it to create short presentations, like a book review, brief introduction, or short directions. What I like most about this tool is that it offers a variety of voices that can read the script you type. You do not have to use your own voice, which is a plus in my book as an introvert. It will be more difficult to think of a way to integrate this tool into my unit, but I think I can use it to help develop a sense of community by having students introduce themselves in 60 seconds.

PowToon  – here is a short video overview of PowToon

First, this tool is great because it is free and the free version has plenty of options. It is an awesome presentation tool and is easily navigated because it has similarities to PowerPoint, but it is so much more than that. I see myself using this tool in the future with my students both to make my teaching more engaging and have students create animated presentations. It definitely lends itself to active learning, but my first thought is always selfish in that I think this is a cool tool I can use to create animated presentations for lessons. I look forward to using this tool in my online unit for short mini lessons, instead of the traditional lecture I probably would have recorded. I could see students really letting their personalities shine through with this tool and it would be a good option for their final project in my online unit.

Viola – here is a short video overview of Viola.

I chose to invest in Viola because it allows you to edit your screencasts where as many free versions of screencasting tools you have to get it all in one shot, which is difficult to do. It also has many options, like capturing your screen in various shapes and at the same time. Images captured can also be edited and organized like photos. You can also record video from your built in camera. It is also easy to publish your screencast creations, which is a plus. I plan on using Viola to create tutorial videos and give directions for assignments.

Although this is a teacher centered tool it will be very beneficial in enriching the online learning experience of my hypothetical students. I also hope that it will help engage students in the learning process. I find that it can get boring reading directions and instructions, so I hope the screencasts I make will help engage students and be a clarifying tool in my online unit’s assignment instructions. It may also help develop a sense of connection with my students because it will be my voice guiding them. This might help close the distance between my students and I.

After this initial review of my chosen technology tools I have realized that I need to work on looking at technology tools with students in mind first. As Fahy stated it is more important to have tools that the learner can create with versus tools that only the teacher only uses. It is my goal with my online unit to offer my students more options to create with technology tools. I am attempting to find my balance with my chosen technology tools, so that I am less teacher centered with my technology tools use.

Considerations for Students Particpating Online

Public homework and online student participation seems to be a necessity in today’s online learning environment as well as the physical classroom, but academic honesty, student safety, and online social behavior all need to be considered when using the public forum of the Internet. But one can get too caught up in protecting students. Teachers will hide students behind layers of passwords and privacy settings, but this takes away the authenticity of online public homework and student participation. It takes away the real audience. It prevents students from making real connections to their peers and the rest of the world. Most of all it can take away the purpose of having public homework and online student participation. If we want students to be ready for the real world then we must assign them real world assignments, homework, and let them participate online authentically. If teachers hide their students behind layers of passwords and privacy settings students might as well be turning in hard copies that only the teacher reads and grades. If one of the goals is to help students develop healthy online behavior and practices than all the passwords and privacy settings are not a hindrance.

Of course students cannot just have free reign some precautions are still necessary. Students need to feel safe and teachers need to provide a safe learning environment. This means students do not use full names or have nicknames they use online when posting work and comments. This of course is more important and pertinent in K-12 than higher education. Teachers also need to remember after a school year or a course that the students work needs to be removed or made inaccessible to prevent students from flirting with the academic honesty line and to protect students’ digital footprint and online presence. Students do not need an online paper trail so to speak. There is probably more hype surrounding K-12 education than higher education about public homework and students participating online. Getting permission is essential both from students and parents as well as your administration. When this is done and students’ safety is communicated effectively there usually is no problem.

Guidelines for online behavior are also important to consider when student are participating in an online learning environment. Students need to be aware of their online presence and how it can impact their life. In a sense students need to learn how to separate their personal online social life from their academic online presence. Teachers need to give students a place to practice their professionalism in the online environment. Students need to develop healthy and safe digital footprints and what better place than in education where professionals can guide students. Even in this relatively safe environment students can still make mistakes that can be deleted, but not forgotten. Blogs can easily be removed and deleted, but if a student posts an inappropriate picture, video, or comment deleting it will not undue the damage and students need to understand that even if something is deleted it still impacts their digital footprint and online presence.

I think the pros outweigh the cons, but caution is always advised. Teachers need to protect themselves and their students. If there is ever any doubt or question about using the public forum of the Internet I would suggest following your instincts. Public homework and online student participation of course should only be done when it is appropriate, meaning it has value for students’ learning needs and fits the learning situation. There will always be a risk when having students participate and do work online, especially in K-12. Do not be afraid to use this tool to create authentic learning experiences. Hiding behind privacy settings and layers of passwords can be necessary, but do not let students’ safety be an excuse for not guiding students to being better online participants.


Thinking in Circles

Over the past few weeks my teaching brain has developed new pathways of thinking; the classroom I imagine in my mind when developing lessons has had to change dramatically too. No longer do I just see a classroom of students sitting at tables ready to learn. I now have a visual for the online classroom and it is very different and still taking shape in my mind. To say the least my brain has hurt from all the growing pains of learning how to teach in the online learning environment and imaging the students on the other side.

Designing an asynchronous unit for 8th grade students has been difficult because I enjoy class and small group discussions and students working collaboratively together in the classroom. This is easily done in the online learning environment, but is more suited for college students than 8th grade students. Young 8th grade students are not mature enough, do not have enough experience, and usually lack organizational skills for a synchronous online class. I have been wondering what I was thinking when choosing this age to teach. I know exactly what I was thinking. I am familiar with the age group and subject matter. No brainer. I do not know much about teaching college classes or students, but now that I have had time to think about my choice my natural teaching style is probably more suited for it as far as the online learning part is concerned. Choosing to design a college appropriate unit might have been easier in some ways; then again I would not be stretching myself as a K-12 educator and preparing myself for the future of K-12 online teaching and learning.

After receiving some feedback on what I currently have for my unit-sized curriculum plan I definitely need to fine-tune my ideas and find the online tools to make ideas possible and attainable. Making an asynchronous class engaging and interesting is different because as a teacher I am technically teaching a student one at a time because the assignments and activities are individual. Going from thinking about how to teach a room full of students at the same time to teaching individual students sitting in front of a computer from anywhere has been a brain stretcher. I have had to think of new ways and then rethink those new ways in which I want to accomplish the same goals I had for a face-to-face class with different activities for an online class. I have not quite succeeded yet, but I know I have to help students make the personal connection first so they can see the worthwhile of reading and learning about The Giver by Lois Lowry.

All in all I have enjoyed stretching my brain in a new direction. I have come to realize how much of a one tracked teaching mind I have developed. It has been good to push and expand my comfort zone. Learning is cyclical in nature and I definitely feel as I have gone around in circles in my head, thinking, rethinking, reflecting, and doing it all over again. I still have a long way to go before my brain can easily switch from the face-to-face classroom to the online learning environment. Hopefully, one day it will become second nature to me to switch between the two learning environments.

Thinking About My Learning = Reflection, Reflection, Reflection…

Reflection on Fink’s (2013) Integrated Course Design Approach

Designing an online unit is something very new to me and I feel I understand the basics because most of what is done online is also used in the face-to-face classroom. Taxonomies are nothing new to me and I understand the need to have well-rounded objectives and goals when designing a lesson plan or unit. The most difficult aspect of integrated course design for me is balancing what I like to do in the face-to-face classroom with what is possible in the online learning environment. I like discussion and that can be done in the online learning environment, but it requires a certain readiness and maturity. I have come to realize that when designing an online lesson with an 8th grade audience in mind that the discussion component I like to utilize in my teaching will need to be modified or at least the teaching goals I would have for a discussion will have to be met with other activities. I have had to change my mindset from imagining synchronous sessions to a totally asynchronous class. With integrated course design, creating community is important and I wanted to do this through discussion and sharing. But I feel with my choice of teaching 8th grade students the community building is going to be mostly a teacher-student relational, maybe with an optional discussion board component.

The most beneficial part of integrated course design that Fink (2013) has taught me is to consider the situational factors. When designing an online course I feel there are a lot more factors to consider. The students are the same, but the environment requires one to rethink how those same students will be successful in an online learning environment. I have to really think about online learning readiness and how to design a successful unit around the fact that students may not be ready for all the tools and benefits of the online learning environment. It has made me realize that online learning is not for every student and I appreciate the K-12 face-to-face classroom social interactions more and more. I never realized how much I would have to narrow my audience of students for an 8th grade online class.

Reflections on the Online Learning Environment

I personally think the online learning environment is much more difficult and more time consuming than a face-to-face setting whether you are the teacher or the student. You have to be a motivated self-directed learner. I like the online learning environment for the convenience, flexibility, and the change of space. I always learn something new because online classes are so diverse in the students who take them, which exposes me to different perspectives and ways of thinking. The think time that an online class allows also is nice because I can really chew on my own thinking and reflect on what I have learned.

Learning About Myself as a Learner and Teacher

I have learned that I enjoy a variety of learning environments. The online learning environment meets my learning needs, but I do not think I could only take online courses. I crave the social interaction of the face-to-face setting as much as I like the think time of the online classroom. The reason I think I like exposing myself to a variety of learning situations and environments is because I am a teacher and love to learn. I want to learn how to create the best learning environment for students and that requires putting myself in the position of student from time to time. I can view my learning experiences from both the perspective of student and teacher. I feel this class balance that desire well because I am participating as a student in the online learning environment, but I am also learning how to be a teacher in it too.

As a teacher I have learned that I do not prefer to teach in the online learning environment. I think I would prefer a blended environment in the K-12 arena. If I taught in higher education I do not think I would have a problem teaching a completely online class. There is a part of me that wonders what it would be like to go and work for a virtual K-12 school because many aspects are similar to homeschooling. Maybe one day I will just have to give it a try.

Creating Objectives – Exploring My Process

Sorry this is a late post, but after a long weekend without Internet and coming home and updating my operating system, which I now regret doing, things did not run smoothly after that. I have had issues all week with my computer and Internet thanks to my operating system update that required other updates. My computer is finally running smoothly enough that I can do things without my computer constantly freezing up or shutting down on me. I guess that is an aspect of online learning; sometimes you are your own tech support.

I am no stranger to Bloom’s Taxonomy and Understanding By Design (UbD). Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning was new to me. I have had classes and practice writing objectives for years now. It does get easier with time and practice, but it will always be something to continue to work on throughout my career in education. We do not normally think about it, but we are writing objectives everyday of our lives because we all have goals we want to achieve. This helps me when I approach writing objectives because it reminds me it is a life skill and I need to model it to my students. Objectives are my thinking made visible and students need to see where we are going together. I typically write the objectives you see in a lesson plan, but then I always rework the objectives so that they are student friendly, meaning they will not follow the writing pattern I have been taught to follow for writing objectives. For example, my objective could be: After instruction students will demonstrate their knowledge of correct comma use by correcting sentences with comma errors. The student friendly objective would be: Practice correct comma use. They are simple and to the point. Student friendly objectives typically look more like a to do list. In a face-to-face setting I typically go over the objectives before starting a lesson. When I have forgotten to do this I immediately know because I get questions about why we are doing this or students are asking what we will be doing through the entire lesson. Objectives are just as important to students as they are to teachers. Objectives keep everyone on the same page. I would like to find a way to incorporate this into the online learning environment, maybe with a short video that explains the objectives for each lesson.

I tend to use Bloom’s Taxonomy because it is comprehensive and aligns with Alaska’s K-12 standards and its language. Bloom’s Taxonomy is also more measurable in terms of assessment than other taxonomies. Another taxonomy of shorts that I reference from time to time is Webb’s Depths of Knowledge (DOK), which is comparable to Bloom’s Taxonomy. There is a need to expand beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy and Fink (2013) describes the need here:

Any model that commands this kind of respect half a century later is extraordinary. However, as noted in Chapter One, individuals and organizations involved in higher education are expressing a need for important kinds of learning that do not emerge easily from the Bloom taxonomy, for example learning how to learn, leadership and interpersonal skills, ethics, communication skills, character, tolerance, and the ability to adapt to change. (34)

Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning and the UbD Six Facets of Understanding both have items that are not easy to assess and if they are assessed it is very subjective. I appreciate these items because it incorporates the human element, which does not easily fit into a hierarchy of cognitive levels. The thing to remember with taxonomies is that they are not as linear as they appear. There is overlap and many times more than one level is being used at the same time. When you incorporate the human elements of Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning with the cognitive aspects of Bloom’s Taxonomy there are many interconnections. Usually what would be considered a low level cognitive activity can usually be easily connected to high level thinking and personal application. For example, I want students to expand their vocabulary while they read, but at the same time critically evaluate what they are reading and apply it to their own lives. More specifically I want students to understand the word euphemism and how the use of euphemisms in the book helps the community maintain peace. This then is to help provoke thoughts about the price of peace and personal evaluations of a student’s personal beliefs about peace.

This is why as a teacher I tend to lean towards Bloom’s Taxonomy and elements of the UbD Six Facets of Understanding. It is difficult for a teacher to objectively assess if a student has developed new feelings, caring, empathy, beliefs, values, etc. These changes in learning are not usually found in the Alaska K-12 State Standards and hence not assessed in the traditional sense. These types of learning are important and should not be neglected, but are hard to write into objectives that can be measured. I tend to write these items as goals or hopes for students to learn.

Below is my brainstorming web for my first attempt at objectives for my unit on The Giver. I used Inspiration to create the web of my thinking process.

Brainstorm for Objectives

As made evident from my objectives the final project for my unit is having students create a memoir. When designing performance tasks I like to use the GRASPS template from UbD. I like using this template because it is straight forward in explaining what students need to do and gives the task a real life feel making it more applicable and relevant to a student’s life. It is my hope by using the GRASPS template students will see how all the objectives fit together and work toward the ultimate goal of making them better readers, writers, and most importantly better learners.

  • G — Goal
  • R — Role
  • A — Audience
  • S — Situation
  • P — Product, Performance, and Purpose
  • S — Standards for Success


Bloom’s Taxonomy interactive chart

Fink, L. D. (2013).  Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. (Revised and updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Webb, N. L. (2002). Depths of knowledge.

Measuring College Students’ Readiness for Online Learning

In the article by Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010), Learner Readiness for Online Learning: Scale Development and Student Perceptions, they attempt to identify what factors are good indicators for determining college students’ readiness for online learning. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) develop and validate an instrument for measuring college student readiness, the Online Learning Readiness Scale (OLRS). Gender is also explored as a potential factor impacting college student readiness for online learning. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) cite research that Tsai and Lin (2004) conducted on “…636 high school students and found that females were more likely than males to perceive the Internet as pragmatic and that males’ enjoyment of the Internet was greater than females’ corresponding enjoyment’ (p. 1083). Obviously male and females approach the Internet differently, but it does not prove that gender is an indicator of readiness for online learning. The research questions explored by Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) are below.

  • Could an OLRS model be constructed and validated through CFA (confirmatory factor analysis)?
  • What is college students’ readiness for online learning?
  • Does the gender of college students make any difference in their readiness for online learning?
  • Does the grade (i.e., level of accumulated academic credits) of college students make any difference in their readiness for online learning?

The study conducted by Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) included 1,051 college students enrolled in three universities in Taiwan that answered a questionnaire using a 5-point Likert-type scale. The questionnaire had five parts: self-directed learning, learner control, motivation for learning, computer/Internet self-efficacy, and online communication self-efficacy. The response rate was high at 87.6% and reasonably varied in the respondents’ characteristics. The make up of the participant population included 589 females, 462 males, 648 seniors, 321 juniors, and 82 freshmen and sophomores. The college students were enrolled in a variety of online asynchronous courses that included life chemistry (658 students), calculus (169 students), statistics (80 students), Taiwan ecology (79 students), and introduction to environmental protections (65 students) (Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own 2010).

What was surprising about the results of the study is that gender was not found to be an indicator or influence of readiness for online learning. Both the male and female college students responded to the questionnaire’s five dimensions similarly enough that there was no significant difference between the two (Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own 2010). What is interesting though is that women still seem more drawn to the online learning environment then men. There might be a learning preference difference among the genders that does not affect readiness, but affects the populations of online learning environments. The higher number of female respondents might also be attributed to the fact that females are more likely to respond to a questionnaire than males. This is something else to look into and consider in future research.

On the other hand what did affect learner readiness for online learning was grade level. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) found that juniors and seniors exhibited more readiness for online learning than freshmen and sophomores. This is attributed to the older students having more maturity and experience than the younger students. The junior and seniors were better at self-directed learning, learner control, motivation for learning, and online communication self-efficacy. This means the juniors and seniors could manage and organize their time, were more motivated perhaps because they were closer to graduation, and were more comfortable with communicating online with their peers and instructors. The only factor that was equal was computer/Internet self-efficacy, which is not surprising in this day and age. All the students regardless of grade level were comfortable with their computer and Internet skills and knowledge (Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own 2010). What is curious about these findings is that no ages of the students are mentioned. All that is known is that they are enrolled in a Taiwan university. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) assume that the juniors and seniors are older than the freshmen and sophomores. Does older mean mid to upper twenties for juniors and seniors? Maybe in Taiwan it is less typical to have students older than twenty something, but from my own experience in the United States it is common, especially in online classes to have students above the twenty something age. I think it is less about age and more about years of experience with the online learning environment that is important to consider. It would be interesting to know how many online classes the students had taken before being surveyed for this research. This seems to be a missing factor in the research. Prior experience should always be considered, especially when creating a tool to measure students’ readiness for online learning

Self-directed learning seems to be a key factor in determining readiness for online learning, especially among freshmen and sophomores (Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own 2010). Even though not even a tenth of the participants were freshmen and sophomores it is common sense that they would need more guidance from teachers how to manage their learning and how to develop self-discipline. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) make this statement about freshmen that it is difficult for them “…to adjust their high school learning patterns to college ones, and even tougher to make the adjustment from their high school classrooms to virtual college classrooms’ (p. 1088). If an incoming college student does not know how to manage their study time and lacks self-discipline online learning may not be the best choice until these basic skills are developed with the help of the physical education systems. Online learning requires more internal and individual motivation than do face-to-face classes where there are more social and peer pressures to help motivate the student because they are more visible.

After all that is said and done the OLRS (Online Learning Readiness Scale) was designed and tested to help further the research in the area of determining student readiness for online learning. As Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) point out their research includes a decent sample size, but more research needs to be conducted to include a variety of online classes with varying subjects. Also more needs to be done to look into how grade level, age, maturity, and prior experience plays a role in readiness in online learning. What else is highlighted about the research is that freshmen may be coming to college without the online learning experience they need to be successful and ready for such a learning environment. K-12 schools need to consider incorporating more of the online learning environment characteristics into the classroom because it is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the college learning experience. Maybe high schools need to offer an introductory course to online learning, something short and sweet. Many colleges require a similar course, but maybe it would be beneficial to start at the high school level. It could become a new requirement for graduation. All in all interesting ideas about how to gauge students’ readiness for online learning, but more needs to be done to improve the OLRS before it can be reliably used by anyone.


Hung, M., Chou, C., Chen, C., & Own, Z. (2010). Learner readiness for online learning: Scale development and student perceptions. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1080-1090.