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Personal Philosophy Statement

My personal direction in education is one that is focused on the future. I believe that with the advent of technology, there is a deep need for a revolution in education rather than reform. Sir Ken Robinson, in his 2010 TED talk, made the point that reform implies we are trying to fix a broken system. However, what we really need to be doing is changing the system completely.

The first and foremost aspect of my personal educational philosophy is personalization of education. The major aspect of education that can and should be changed is the standardization of learning. There are many branches and directions a person can go and there is a need for more than just doctors and lawyers and engineers in the world. With the advent of technology and constant innovations, personalization of education is very much a possibility that can be explored for our education system. Through the tool review, I was able to see how using tools like Khan Academy can help start the process of a more personalized education, with students learning at their own pace and exploring subjects they are drawn to in more depth.

Siemens (2005) put forth a learning model for the digital world called ‘connectivism’. Connectivism states that learning and knowledge are based in a diversity of opinions and that learning is a process that takes place that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements. Learning is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.

Ken Robinson also states that the traditional education is linear and it is one we should get rid of. In this world of inter-connectivity and fields of study that branch out into specialized fields, personalization of education is very much possible.  A student can follow their interests in a field and find a passion through the following of the connections into deep knowledge construction.

However, while I do advocate for personalization of education, that does not mean isolation of the learner in their learning. I definitely think that collaboration among peers is extremely important. Respectful collaboration between students can lead to active construction of deeper meaning and learning among peers. This collaborative constructivist approach is definitely part of education in a future completely dependent on technology.

Traditionally, higher education has focused on the constructivist learning methods while at the elementary levels, instruction is given more importance. However, Sugata Mitra highlighted in his ‘Hole-in-the-wall experiment’ and TED Talk in 2007, that young street children in India, who had never even seen a computer in their life, were able to teach each other how to use it by simple curiosity and the creation of a community of inquiry. Other children, who didn’t even know English, were able to teach themselves how to use a computer and play with games and explain why certain things didn’t work in the computer because of lack of needed hardware.

Garrison and Archer (2000) noted that construction of meaning may result from critical reflection but ideas are generated and knowledge is constructed through collaboration and sustained dialogue. This is an excellent point to note. While meaning can be constructed in isolated critical reflection, true deeper understanding of a subject can only come from collaborative dialogue. This takes me back to reading about Socratic dialogue and how the method Socrates used in his construction of understanding was critical and logical dialogue with others.

The Partnership of 21st Century Skills laid out a Framework of 21st century skills that are important for students to learn and focus on in today’s technology age. The framework highlights communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity as extremely necessary for students today. I think through a constructivist learning model, students would be able to work on and develop all four of these important skills.

My personal philosophy in education is still fluid and not fully formed yet. When I come across an idea that just cannot be ignored, my philosophy changes. However, as of now, I believe that technology is the present and future and education needs to change accordingly. As a result my philosophy focuses on personalization and collaboration.


Work cited:

  1. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: Bring on the Revolution
  2. Seimens G., (2005) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2(1)
  3. Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk: The child-driven education
  4. Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T, & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text–‘based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2
  5. Swan, K., Garrison, D.R., & Richardson, J.C. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: The community of inquiry framework. In C.R. Payne (Ed.), Information technology and constructivism in higher education: Progressive learning frameworks(1st edition)
  6. Partnership for 21st Century Skills



Journalism Lesson Plan Rationale

Course Title: Journalism Basics: A comprehensive course on the applications of journalism

The overall goal for this class, as it is named, is for students who enter the class, to learn how to apply the 5 basic principles of journalism that are covered in the course and be able to actually report on news stories and work as journalists. This is a basic, lower division class and so it starts with the basic assumption that the students taking this class have little to no understanding of basics of journalism when they begin the class. This class would be a stepping stone for students who then want to pursue some more upper division journalism courses and would be pre-requisite for the upper division classes.

Throughout the course, peer interaction and feedback has been given high importance to help students construct a deeper understanding of the field.

With the goal of taking students with a complete lack of knowledge or understanding of journalism to understanding and application of journalism principles, the steps the students would have to take through the class would be first to learn and understand principles, then identify and analyze these principles in real-world situations. That would be followed by applying the learnt principles in real world scenarios. Finally, the students should be able to construct effective narratives while applying the principles in real world scenarios. To take the students through these steps, I developed the following learning objectives for the course:

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn and understand the different basic principles of Journalism

Since there is the assumption that the students taking this class know nothing about journalism principles, the first of the 4 modules in this class would focus on developing learning and understanding of the principles. This would be the only module which would focus more on instruction. I chose this learning activity to be facilitated through PowerPoint presentations by the instructor as well as real world examples of the principles to increase understanding.

In order to facilitate peer interaction, I chose to have group discussions and reflections as the highlight of the classroom activity. This would give the students the opportunity to interact and construct deeper meaning through peer interaction.

Finally, to test their understanding of the principles, their assignment would be to develop a page of reflections from the lectures and group discussions.

  1. Analyze real-world situations according to these principles and identify the correct use of the learnt principles

The next step after learning the basic principles is to be able to analyze and identify them in real-world scenarios. To facilitate this, the instructor demonstrates some analyses of real-world examples with the help of class discussions.

After the instructor has effectively demonstrated how to conduct such an analysis to identify the principles of journalism and whether or not they are being used effectively, I chose to facilitate the classroom activity of analyzing news articles in groups. The discussion and peer interaction again, according to the constructivist learning theory, is the way that learners are able to construct deeper meaning and get a wider understanding of the subject.

To test the students’ understanding and ability to analyze and identify the principles of journalism in the real world, the homework assignment would task the students to collect 5 news stories that have been published that demonstrate the effective use of the principles in them. To further test their abilities to analyze, the students are tasked at providing a paragraph to defend their claim for each story.

After understanding and learning about the principles, being able to analyze stories to identify the principles was the important foundation that needed to be created before students could jump into the application of the principles in journalism settings. As a result, this is an extensive module in the course.

  1. Apply the basic principles of journalism in real-world scenarios

This is possibly the most important module of the course. In this module, students learn to apply the principles they have learnt so far, in actual journalism related activities and exercises.

This, being the most important aspect of the course, I elected to also make it the most engaging. With a series of mock scenarios, role playing and fast paced activities, I wanted to ensure that the students are able to get a feel for real-world application of the learnt principles.

This module does not focus on instruction. Instead, it focuses on peer interactions and discussions in class to develop understanding of how to effectively apply the learnt principles.

  1. Construct effective narratives following the learnt principles of journalism

This is the final module in the course. The students by this point should have learnt about the journalism principles and how to identify its correct use. They should also be able to apply these principles in reporting activities. The final task is to be able to construct effective narratives on their own while applying the learnt principles of journalism. For this module, the students have to go out and find a story that they think needs telling. Then while applying what they have learnt, they have to create a news package and present it to the class. This assignment also requires peer assessment and feedback at the end of it.

My focus in this lesson plan was to develop a highly engaging class that would promote peer interaction and help them construct deeper understanding of the journalism principles and how to apply them.


Final Project based Lesson Plan: Journalism basics

Course Title: Journalism Basics: A comprehensive course on the applications of journalism

Prerequisites: None

Required Text: Associated Press Stylebook, 2014

Course Description: This course is designed to teach the basics of journalism and their real-world applications. The class size would be about 20 students. This would be a lower division class in the Bachelor of Arts program and students coming in would have little to no prior understanding of the basics of journalism.

This class would be a 10 week long, 2 credit course. Primarily the class would meet face-to-face for 2 hour lectures each week. The total in class hours spent on this class would be 20 hours. Outside of lectures, the homework that will be assigned will be individual papers, group assignments, and a final project. All assignments will be turned in3 days before the face-to-face class so that the instructor and peers have the time to go over the assignments to provide feedback before the class.

Topics will cover the basic principles or journalism. The course will focus on the comprehension and application of these principles in real-world scenarios. For their final project, students will have to find a news-worthy story, and develop and articulate a news story while demonstrating a good understanding of the principles that have been covered in the class.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn and understand the different basic principles of Journalism (5 course hours)
  • Lecture: Students will learn about the 5 topics, (5Ws and 1H, Copy Editing, Ethics, New Media, Photojournalism) the basics of journalism through PowerPoint presentations by the instructor and examples from the real media that illustrate each principle.
  • Classroom Activity: Students will be broken into groups of four and will reflect and discuss on one topic each during the face-to-face session and present 4 or 5 key points about their topic to the rest of the class.
  • Homework Activity: Based off of lectures and reflections with classmates, students will articulate their reflections in a 2 page essay to be posted on Blackboard as homework. Peer feedback will be posted on the reflections and this will be then discussed further in the next in-class lecture with the professor.
  1. Analyze real-world situations according to these principles and identify the correct use of the learnt principles (5 course hours)
  • Lecture: During the first face-to-face lecture session with the instructor, instructor will provide examples of different news stories that have been published in various media (print, television, internet, radio). These can be examples of big stories that have been broken in the past by news media outlets, or small stories from local media. Using the different learnt principles, the instructor will assist the class in analyzing a few of the examples and show students how to recognize what good journalism and bad journalism is.
  • Classroom Activity: The class will be broken up into groups of 4 and given 3 or 4 examples of real-world stories to analyze among themselves. The students should be able to identify the learnt principles within the real-world examples and analyze whether they are being used correctly or not.
  • Homework Activity: Students have to go out and look for published news pieces that demonstrate the proper use of each learnt principle in journalism. Then, in a document, they have to submit links to the stories, along with a paragraph of defense as to why they think the principles can be identified in that story and why it is a good example of journalism. This document must be submitted on blackboard and peer feedback must be given before the next class. This will be discussed further with the professor in the next face to face session.
  • Classroom Activity: When students come into class for the next session, they need to bring that day’s local newspaper with them. That class can be spent in a copy editing exercise where students can pick stories from the paper and copy edit and re-write them.
  • Classroom Activity: The instructor can bring forth some ethical dilemmas that journalists often face and the students should be able to use the knowledge that they have acquired about the ethics in journalism to identify and analyze what can be considered ethical and unethical journalism. This activity is great for student involvement and discussion.
  1. Apply the basic principles of journalism in real-world scenarios (5 course hours)
  • Classroom Activity: A mock scenario will be set up by the instructor in class or a breaking news situation. This will involve some role play and the couple students will get to enact a scene. The rest of the class must be acting journalists and report on the mock scenario that was played out. This is a fun exercise and students have to work to break the news first, while maintaining ethics, AP style writing and the other journalism principles they have learnt and know how to identify.
  • Classroom Activity: The instructor will pick a lecture session that is online (for example: Bill Nye). The scenario is created that this lecturer is in town and is giving a much anticipated lecture. Tickets to this lecture sold out on day 2 itself and so there are a lot of people who will not get to attend the lecture. The hour or so long lecture will be played in the class and the task for the classroom is to come up with real-time social media tweets and facebook status updates, as if they are journalists covering the real lecture and are live-tweeting to their audience. At the end of the lecture, the students will compile their tweets, photos, and status updates and submit them to the professor for feedback.
  • Homework Activity: The students can get to choose an event over the course of the week that are happening on campus (a party, a lecture, a parade, a free lunch, a press conference, etc.) The students then have to cover the event as photo journalists with a minimum of 7 photos and captions that tell the whole story of the event. This needs to then be uploaded as a gallery photo feature. Peer feedback must be given before the next class.
  1. Construct effective narratives following the learnt principles of journalism (5 course hours)
  • Homework Activity: For their final project, the students are required to find news worthy story and create a complete package for the story for print as well as web. The students must demonstrate a good knowledge and application of the principles of journalism. They must prepare a 5 minute presentation to give to the class as their final presentation.
  • Classroom Activity: The students have to present their final projects in front of the class and participate in peer assessment and analysis of each other’s work.




Preliminary views of Tools: Khan Academy, GradeCam and PhotoMag

For this assignment, I chose Khan Academy, Photomag and GradeCam. I had used Khan Academy 4 years ago, when I had gotten it into my head that I needed to go back and re-learn math (since I had virtually given up on it in highschool). However, it has been a long time since then and no doubt it has changed since then. I have never used Photomag, but as I am in the field of journalism, it seemed like a tool that might help me in my lesson plan as a group activity. GradeCam seemed like a good way for the instructor to create quizzes and have the answers graded in real-time. GradeCam is also a tool I have never used before.

Early on, I realized the problem I faced with PhotoMag. It was an app specifically designed for the apple store and for apple products. Since I use android devices, this tool is not something I will be able to use or review. Initially, I didn’t realize what the problem was and I downloaded an app with a similar name (Photo Mag). I realized very soon that it was not the app I was supposed to be testing when everything was written in French and it was basically an app that downloaded magazines on your phone.

Khan academy is most definitely a form of balance between active and passive learning. During the videos of Sal Khan, the student has to listen, as is in a traditional classroom setting. However, the student then gets to apply and test what they have learnt in the form of quizzes. The student engagement is high because both the videos and the quizzes are short segments, the videos not exceeding 7 or 8 minutes and the quizzes comprising of 5 questions at a time. Khan Academy also seems well designed to engage students with good web design, the use of colors in the videos, and doing the quizzes to “win points’ and “badges’. While using Khan Academy in the past, I did not ever really see a sense of community or interactivity between users that might have changed with the option for teachers to set up their classes on the site.

GradeCam is a tool specifically for teachers. It does not play a role in the learning process of the students and it does not necessarily promote active or passive learning. GradeCam allows for teachers to take the bubble answer sheets that her students have filled out during a test, and scans it with a camera so that the results are then instantly tabulated and ready for the teacher to use. Their sales pitch is that by using their product, the teacher can spend less time grading individual papers and more time actually teaching. I don’t see this tool really helping the building of a community of learners either.



Fahy, P.J., Characteristics of Interactive Online Learning Media

Public displays of assessment: The pros and cons posting work online

When it comes to posting class work publicly, there are a lot of aspects to public displays of assessment that affect the interaction among students. As a student, there is often, a lot of hesitation and nervousness about posting or discussing their work publicly. Students may feel self-conscious about speaking up in a face-to-face classroom setting. Often, I, as a student, will worry that what I say will sound stupid and meaningless and that my peers would judge what I have to say. I am more comfortable talking to the professor after class and explaining my ideas to them directly, than I am saying them in public to a room full of people.

However, the virtual world is a totally different situation. In the online classroom, there is a level of disconnect from the peers and professor since there is no face-to-face interaction. As a result, students may be bolder in stating their opinions. Stating one’s opinion anonymously is always more comforting than making it publicly known. While filling out an end of course survey, a student may not want to provide their name if they are giving their professor a bad rank. Online haters often do not realize that their comments reach real people. The level of disconnect makes them able to put their opinion out there, with the comfort of knowing that they are anonymous.

However, while stating opinions seems like it is easier to do on the internet, publishing work on the internet that includes answers to questions and research is a bit more difficult. When there is an open display of the other student’s work, there is always apprehension about the other students. What if they wrote a better, more in-depth analysis than I did? What if we ended up doing the exact same work? Theirs looks way longer than I had intended to write. Do I need to write more?

While I think that publicly posting work does push students to work a little harder on their work, due to the added pressure of more eyes seeing the work, but it does also cause a little more stress each week about whether or not they are meeting the standards of the rest of the class.

Positive classroom interaction and peer assessment based off of the publicly submitted work does help assuaging the fears of some students when they realize other students are also just learning. Often, peer assessment can be good even when there are dissenting opinions, if students approach the issues with the mature outlook of creating better understanding of a subject rather than fighting over the issue.

I think the pros out weight the cons in the question of publicly submitting and displaying work done for a class, as collaboration and interaction is a way that students are able to access opinions and assessments other than their own, thus broadening their learning experience.


Work Referenced:

Gumport P., Chun M., Technology and Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges in the New Era, National Center for Postsecondary Improvement, 2000

Philosophy of Teaching and Learning – Lori

To articulate my personal philosophy of teaching involves an exploration of what I do in the classroom and why, but also what I strive to do, even if I am not always successful.   In an ideal world, my teaching and learning philosophy would be identical to my teaching practice.   However, it is through experimentation in the classroom that practice consistent with philosophy develops.

One of my main goals in teaching students is to prepare them for “the real world”, something I felt was lacking, or perhaps I just didn’t connect with, in my own educational experiences. I’ve worked to accomplish this in the classroom through a number of active-learning exercises: asking my students to consider the power and importance of assumptions and to tackle open-ended, ill-structured problems (similar to what Eric Mazur describes); taking them on field trips to visit facilities and talk to practicing engineers; working across disciplines and incorporating the social, economic, and environmental aspects of design.   While some of these types of activities were easy to incorporate, others took a leap of faith for me to actually implement.   For example, assigning open-ended design projects that were somewhat outside of my specific area of expertise took some courage.   What if I don’t know all of the answers to their questions right away?   With a few years of experience, and honing my own skills on learning how to learn, I’ve become more comfortable posing challenging but engaging problems, and supporting my students in their attempts to find answers.

Using Fink’s (2013) taxonomy, I can link these activities to what he considers to be significant learning experiences: foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension, caring, and learning how to learn.   Engineering education is quite content heavy, traditionally focused on foundational knowledge and application, as it will continue to be for both competency and accreditation/licensing purposes. But this content-driven focus can appear to leave little room for activities that foster the latter dimensions of significant learning. Finding ways to incorporate these types of activities takes re-evaluation of our teaching methods, what Fink describes as a shift from a content-centered to a learning-centered paradigm (p. 61).   This has been relatively easy for me to achieve in introductory-level courses, but may be more challenging in other course settings.   This is where philosophy and practice may take some work to align.

As I reflect on my experiences in this course, I realize that I now have an expanded and refined philosophy on teaching and learning that includes the concepts of backwards design and fostering a community of inquiry.   First, backwards design is a principle that resonates with me in terms of course design, the idea that learning objectives (inclusive of but expanded beyond content) are built first, and then course activities are built to encourage these results.   Second is the goal of developing a community of inquiry, described by Swan et al. (2009) as composed of cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. While the framework is discussed specifically for the online environment, the concepts can certainly be applied to a face to face environment.   Looking at social presence in particular, providing opportunity for the establishment of a social network within a course has value in many ways.   Increased learning through interaction with peers is one aspect, but the development of social capital in the educational environment has been shown to have positive benefits for students in terms of persistence and degree completion (e.g. Brown, et al. 2009).   Partner and group work can be a venue for these interactions, but requires teaching presence to make the most of these experiences.   Not only assigning these types of activities, but also providing guidance and structure to help students function in these types of situations (i.e. what does it mean to be a good team member?) should be specifically included in our direct instruction.   Looking forward to the possibility of preparing courses in an online environment, Swan’s framework will provide useful guidance in developing effective social as well as cognitive and teaching presence.

A final aspect of my teaching philosophy is the appreciation for various types of intelligence, and an understanding of the role of life experiences for students.   One thing that I’ve learned from teaching at an open-enrollment University is that each student is an individual, and there are numerous aspects that affect that individual’s ability to be a successful student.   And going further, there are many ways to measure success, many of which are not easily assessed by traditional exams.   I have learned that getting to know my students and their experience informs my teaching practice by expanding my view of how students approach and experience learning activities. As described by Stuart (2008), the role of course management (i.e. clear expectations, prompt feedback, fostering a sense of community, and a variety of lessons and assessments) will become even more important in the online environment when serving non-traditional students.   Finding ways to get to know my students in an online environment, through meaningful interactions and perhaps innovative techniques such as verbal feedback delivered by audio clips, will take additional effort and time, but comprise a necessary component of the course.   It is this type of time and effort investment – in both my students’ learning and my own preparation for future teaching experiences – that I hope my teaching philosophy will translate into effective practice.

Brown, S., Flick, L. and Fiez, T. (2009). An Investigation of the Presence and Development of Social Capital in an Electrical Engineering Laboratory. Journal of Engineering Education, 98
(1):  93—102.

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

Stewart, D. P. (2008).   Classroom management in the online environment.   Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4(3): 371-374.

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.

My Teaching Philosophy

This course has helped me to develop and refine my personal teaching philosophy, particularly as it relates to online teaching. My philosophy of teaching has been based on three fundamental components: clear expectations, integrated course design and active learning. This course has helped me support and develop these ideas, but has also encouraged me to add community and reflection to those fundamental components. In the relatively small classrooms, in which I teach, community has come about naturally and readily. In the online environment, this aspect, which is equally important as my previous components needs to be deliberately developed. I have also learned that by adding more metacognative experiences for the students is necessary for their growth as learners.

I believe that clear expectations are the cornerstone of any well designed course. Students that clearly understand what is required of them and the direction of the course can focus on learning the material, rather than navigating through the course. As Stewart (2008) states “clear rules and policies coupled with the incentive to become familiar with them, prompt instructor feedback via a variety of means, a sense of community, and a variety of lesson and assessment types are essential to student success in the online classroom.’ Clarity is important for all students, but particularly for non-traditional students and English Language Learners that already face additional barriers to success in online courses (Muilenburg and Berge 2005).

Having clear expectations and policies requires thoughtful instructional design. I think that Backwards Design promotes thoughtful course design and helps me to create meaningful assessments and activities that lead to mastery of the final assessment (Wiggins and McTighe 2005). While a clear instructional design is the goal of my teaching, I believe that it should also have some level of built in flexibility, when topics need further development or revisiting. Flexibility should be built around frequent formative assessment so misunderstandings can be detected and clarified early on. Fink’s (2013) model of integrated course design suggests the three integrated components of learning goals, teaching and learning activities and feedback and assessment. His model allows for flexibility and proposes a model that is more cyclical than linear. This model focuses on learning and teaching as a continuously evolving process, much like the scientific method and adopts a “growth mindset’ rather than a “fixed mindset’ (Dweck 2013).

Overall, my teaching style can be considered  primarily constructivist and relies heavily on inquiry based understanding. For both face to face and online classrooms I feel that deeper understanding of the material, especially within the context of Science, requires students to construct their own meaning through experimentation and observation. The CoI (Community of Inquiry) exemplifies this theory and I think it works particularly well with Science (Swan, Garrison, and  Richardson 2009). Creating authentic assessments and activities that allow online students to experience CoI’s is a challenge, but with the tools and skills I have learnt in this course and other ONID courses, I believe it can be successful.

Works Cited

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Random House

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Muilenburg, L. Y., & Berge, Z. L. (2005). Student barriers to online learning: A factor analytic study. Distance Education, 26(1), 29—48. doi:10.1080/01587910500081269

Swan, K., Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C. (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. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Rationale for Engineering for Educators Unit

Some of the learning activities for this unit have already been field-tested in an online environment, some have been attempted in a face-to-face classroom with a different audience, and some are completely new.   But all of the activities have been developed or refined with  very  specific audience, delivery medium, and  learning objectives in mind.    I’ll touch on  each of the activities by learning objective below.

Learning Objective 1. Identify and understand the components of the engineering design cycle (EDC)

This learning objective is likely the most straight-forward and content-based of the three objectives, and also the one that could be the most dry.   The focus is on lower-level cognitive activities (as categorized by Bloom’s taxonomy).   My intention is to have students experience the engineering design cycle through an active-learning exercise, taking the activity to the level of creation, the highest level in Bloom’s taxonomy.   The challenge will be to do this through a hands-on activity in an online setting.

I’ve chosen to facilitate this design activity in a synchronous setting so that content delivery is real-time, and the experience most closely resembles what they would likely do in their classroom.   After presenting some basic content through 15 minutes or so of lecture with PowerPoint visuals, I’ll present the tower-building challenge and the scoring equation.   Then, students will have 30 minutes of time to build their towers using the kit I mailed to them previously (including 25 plastic drinking straws, 1 roll of scotch tape, and 20 marbles).   The session is quiet during this time as students work independently at their individual locations, but I am there in case there are questions.   The timing of the activity is important: real engineering projects have deadlines.   It would be nice to have all year to complete the project, but that is not how things work.   The tower designs would be very different depending on whether they had 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 days to complete the project. The actual time constraint is not as important as the fact that there is a time constraint.

After the 30 minutes, we’ll discuss the process of loading the towers to failure, and then allow some time for them to load and document the failures.   Next, we calculate scores and discuss the scoring equation which might look something like this:

SCORE = (S)*(H-7)^L

where S = # unused straws, H = height of tower (inches), and L = load supported (# marbles)

The equation has “hidden” criteria built in (if you use all of the straws, your score will be zero!) Discussion of the mathematical content, the components of the EDC, and how this might be adjusted for different ages and used with groups of 2-4 students in a classroom will follow.

The assignment for this section, a reflective blog post documenting their tower, allows them to not only to reflect on the experience, but also to practice technical writing and presentation skills using the engineering vocabulary and concepts  presented in class.

Learning Objective 2: Apply the engineering design cycle to create active learning opportunities in their classrooms that are age-appropriate, engaging, linked to content knowledge, and that address state and national standards

For this learning objective, teachers will apply their new knowledge and experience using   readily available,  field-tested engineering  curriculum.   By exploring the websites provided, teachers can search a wide variety of projects to find material appropriate to the age group and content area of their classroom.   The initial blog post assignment allows teachers time to explore the options and plan for implementation, collaborating with their cohort.

Actual implementation of an engineering lesson in the classroom will  require some flexibility on the part of the instructor.   Logistically, it may be difficult for teachers to complete this during a scheduled one-week time period, since set lesson plans  or testing may pose challenges to that timing.   Therefore, the  assignment should be  described early on, and then given with 2-3  weeks allowed for actual implementation.    Afterschool  activities could provide an alternate venue  for teachers to implement the activities.   But it is important for  the  teachers to actually teach the lesson(s) to gain that first hand experience.   Collaboration with the cohort through a synchronous session will  allow teachers to share  their experiences – what worked, what didn’t, and theories about why and what to do differently next time.    Peers and the instructor  will likely provide distinctly  different types of feedback, ideally  resulting in a robust,  educative assessment of the activity.  A reflective essay posted to the blog after the group discussion will provide an opportunity for  individual metacognition.

Learning Objective 3: Understand the engineer’s role in society, and inspire a desire in students to use engineering to solve problems that matter to people.

This last objective is perhaps the most idealistic and difficult to assess.   However, successful mastery of this objective has the potential to provide the most benefit.   This assignment will come near the end of the semester, after teachers have  gained familiarity with the process and implementation of engineering  design.    Additional content is provided via websites and selected videos and readings that present very compelling, specific problems that  face society such as providing clean water throughout the world, making solar energy more efficient,  and dealing with  the growing garbage accumulation in India.  Some of the selected content will describe engineering solutions to these problems.   Reflecting on these  readings, the teachers will find and research a problem  that is meaningful to them.    Teachers will create a  Thinglink to describe the problem, discuss the engineer and society’s roles in the solution, and pose a specific engineering challenge.   The Thinglinks will be shared on the blog with collaboration from peers encouraged (as part of their grade), and a final synchronous session will provide a forum for discussion of the problems and how those might be incorporated into a classroom. While this activity may fall short of actually requiring teachers to “inspire” students in a way that is readily assessable, it is designed to inspire the teachers themselves, who will then hopefully carry this into their classrooms.   A survey of  the teachers, performed 1-2 years after the completion of this course, could provide a longitudinal assessment of this objective.

Through all of the activities outlined above, students will have the opportunity  to experience what I want them to learn through a variety of both passive and active learning activities. Collaboration with their cohort as well as the instructor will provide multi-faceted feedback.   At the conclusion of the course, I hope that teachers will have the resources and motivation to discuss and implement engineering activities in their classrooms.

Engineering for Educators – Final Curriculum Plan

Unit 4: The Engineering Design Cycle

The goal of this unit will be to provide an overview of the engineering design cycle that will allow teachers to use authentic engineering problems in their classrooms, and to be able to adapt the methods to their particular age group and setting.

Context: This unit will follow introductory units focused on perceptions and misconceptions of engineers, academic motivation for inclusion of engineering in the K12 classroom, real world problem solving skills, and model-eliciting activities. The audience will be in-service K-12 teachers pursuing a Master’s Degree in STEM Education, but may also include pre-service teachers.  The course will be delivered online through BlackBoard Collaborate, and supported by a course blog.   Students will have some level of math and science proficiency, but it will be highly varied.

Learning Objective 1. Identify and understand the components of the engineering design cycle (EDC)

Learning Activities and Assessments:

    1. Students will learn about the EDC components by watching a narrated PowerPoint lecture on the EDC (content similar to
    2. Students will post reflections to the blog about the components of the EDC, comparing them to other processes (such as composing an essay, solving ethical problems, developing a hypothesis). Feedback will be provided by peers and instructors.
    3. Synchronous Collaborate session (2 hours): Tower of Straws. Background content on basic tower design will be provided by the instructor, followed by a hands-on tower building challenge. Students will use their tower building kits (previously mailed to each student) to construct a tower with an equation given (with “hidden’, mathematical criteria) to calculate their scores. Students will have 30 minutes to build their towers, and will document the towers by photographs. At the end of the time, students will post pictures on their towers during the Collaborate session. Then, students will be instructed to load the towers with marbles, and document this by video. Towers should be loaded until failure, with students documenting the type of failure. Group discussion about implications of the scoring equation (which variables were most important in getting the highest score? How would their process change if they were trying to achieve the lowest score?). This demonstrates one technique for embedding arithmetic and algebra content (order of operations, fractions, exponents, formulas) into the activity.
    4. Students will post photos and videos of their towers to the blog, and will document their score, failure mode of the tower, and what they would do differently next time. Feedback provided by peers and instructor.

Learning Objective 2: Apply the engineering design cycle to create active learning opportunities in their classrooms that are age-appropriate, engaging, linked to content knowledge, and that address state and national standards

  1. Students will review available resources for K12 engineering curriculum (,, etc.) , along with recent literature on a framework for evaluating engineering projects in the classroom (Guzey, S., Tank, K., Hui-Hui, W., Roehrig, G., & Moore, T. (2014). A High-Quality Professional Development for Teachers of Grades 3-6 for Implementing Engineering into Classrooms. School Science & Mathematics, 114(3), 139-149.)
  2. Students will identify two EDC activities that would be age and content-appropriate for their classrooms, describe each on the course blog, and reflect on: (a) how they would adapt the activities for their classrooms, (b) what challenges they would anticipate (are materials easy to come by? would the activities work in the timeframe they have available?), (c) what benefits they anticipate, and (d) what standards the activity would address.  Students will receive feedback from peers and instructor.
  3. Students will choose one of the activities to implement in their classroom. Students will document the successes and challenges of their experience in a 10 minute presentation to be shared during a synchronous session.
  4. On the course blog, the teachers will reflect on their collective experience — outlining best practices for implementing future engineering projects in their classrooms.

Learning Objective 3: Understand the engineer’s role in society, and inspire a desire in students to use engineering to solve problems that matter to people.

    1. Students will review the Grand Challenges for Engineering website ( and selected link and videos related to engineering and society such as and
    2. Students will create a Thinglink using an image that depicts a problem or challenge facing society. Ideally, the problem will have a local connection and will be appealing to students in K12. The Thinglink image should have embedded video, text, website, and/or audio content that describes the problem, defines both the engineer’s and society’s role in developing and implementing a solution to the problem, and very clearly poses a specific engineering challenge.
    3. A synchronous Collaborate session (1 hour) will be held to facilitate discussion of this unit.