Category Archives: Weekly Writing

Final Plan: Rationale + Online Interviewing Unit

The Rationale

This unit is a set of three lessons. The rationale is based on the  taxonomy of “significant learning experiences” from Fink (2013) and the notion of “learning as an enculturation into a practice” from Brown (2006). Both authors put a focus on learning as an active process where the instructor is more of a mentor who engages with learners, who are more than passive vessels. Brown speaks of changing the “epistemic frame” of a course so that teachers show learners “how to be” in a field. The field in this case is business communication. In order to be a competent interviewer AND interviewee, learners need to practice “professional” communication, which will differ from the conversation and discussion styles they use in other contexts. Learners also need to be able to adapt their communication strategies to any technology that may mediate their conversations with potential employers and employees.

Originally, this unit had one set of overarching objectives. However, now that there are three distinct lessons, there are also three sets of more specific objectives. The three lessons are 1.  a foundational unit on the differences between face-to-face and online interviewing, 2. practicing being the interviewer (R), and 3. practicing being the interviewee (E). This is a unit that takes place towards the second half of the semester. The learners are assumed to have mastered an earlier unit on best practices of being an R and E and how to write good interview questions. The focus in the last two lessons is on higher-level objectives of adapting what was learned from the first half of the semester to an online environment. To that end, I have  responded to peer feedback by adding assignments that “check in” with learners along the way. This will help track progress  and provide more opportunities for dialogue leading up to the final project.

I am assuming going into this unit that learners  have a background in vocabulary and concepts from the first few weeks of the course (like the definition of an interview) but will also be learning some core concepts specific to interacting in an online environment. My focus in moving through the three lessons is to go from understanding and recall to application and adaptation. By the end of the unit, learners will have written questions and prepared for an interview that will be conducted as part of the “integration’ of their new knowledge. The three separate lessons all come together in a “final project” interview when the learners have a chance to demonstrate competency at being an R and an E in an online environment.

One of the core premises of the course is that in order to gather the best information, set up potential employees for success, and ensure a good “fit’ with the organization, it is just as important to teach interviewer skills as it is to teach interviewee skills.  By having learners  practice the process step-by-step and critically reflect on what’s happening, I can help learners  build skills that will help them advocate for themselves and feel like they have more agency in the interviewing process.  I value the interpersonal aspect of Fink’s taxonomy, so I will also ask learners  to reflect on their own performance and that of their interview partner. Learners  will also plan how to protect their legal rights, and reflect on the value of this process to them personally by thinking about how they can use interviewing skills to reach their career goals.

The Plan

Situational/Contextual Factors

Physical Context and Logistics

  • held at the main campus of UAF, a 4-year institution in Fairbanks, Alaska
  • 15 to 20 students will enroll
  • 200-level elective offered from the Department of Communication
  • open to all levels of undergraduate students
  • meets two nights a week for 1.5 hours per session
  • classes are primarily face-to-face in a traditional classroom, but online interviewing unit will begin with online class session to orient students to a videoconferencing environment

Social Context and Cultural Expectations

The course will be focused on employment interviews, teaching skills relevant for the role of interviewee AND interviewer. According to  Forbes  (2012) online, the average person stays at a job only 4.4 years, and millennials are expected to stay for an average of less than 3 years. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that employment interviews will be a recurring situation most people will face throughout their adult lives. Based on my experience, interviewees expect the interviewer to be prepared, attentive and fair. Those of us who have been interviewers expect interviewees to be confident, engaged and knowledgeable.

Because employment interviews can affect one’s income and career progression, it is also reasonable to assume that society places a high value on “good” interviewing skills. The UAF Dept. of Communication, realizing the need for instructional support of this skill-building, successfully argued to fund a class on interviewing. UAF’s curricular goals are reflected in the  proposal document  submitted for the course, in which the head of the Dept. of Communication wrote, “I do think that it may have a positive affect on programs such as Nursing, Marketing, Justice, or Business to mention a few. Basically any program that has an ‘interviewing’ component or necessity will benefit from the course.”

Learner Characteristics

The course is an elective and will be offered in the evening, so there is a chance that both full-time traditional students and working adults will be attending. The prerequisite is the basic English course, so students should have college-level writing abilities. However, their experience with interviews may vary widely, as can their reasons for enrolling. Some may be using it to bolster their degrees in professional communication or public relations; others may be taking it as professional development. I will survey the class at the beginning of the semester to learn more about their history and motivations.

Instructor Characteristics and Pedagogical Challenges

As the instructor, I am bringing some experience to the table, having taught the course (same book and format) for two semesters at Purdue University; this will be my first time teaching it at UAF. I feel that this is in my “zone of competence” because over the past two years I have presented on this subject for Staff Appreciation Day and for 4-H leaders and youth in order to keep up my skills. Overall, I’d say my “challenge” is that students often feel overwhelmed by or apprehensive of interviews because the power is imbalanced and the stakes can be high.

Sample Learning Objectives

This is a set of 3 lessons for a unit that would occur in the second half of a semester course on interviewing skills. Millennials are increasingly being asked to serve on hiring committees to provide perspective on their generation, so it is likely that interviewing is a responsibility they will face even at the entry level. Thus they practice the roles of both R (interviewer) and E (interviewee).

Lesson 1: Foundational Knowledge

Learners  will understand effects of using computer software during interviews by comparing and contrasting face-to-face and online interviewing situations.

Learners  will be able to identify potential pitfalls in the use of common videoconferencing technology.

Learners will connect this new knowledge with their prior knowledge by reflecting on their interviewing experiences to-date.

Lesson 2: Interviewer Role

Learners will adapt to an online environment by navigating videoconferencing software while conversing with classmates.

Learners  will engage in problem-solving and critical thinking by designing contingency plans for how to address common pitfalls associated with videoconferencing technology.

Lesson 3: Interviewee Role

Learners will discern when best practices are being followed by critiquing peer performance in video-recorded online interviews.

Learners will apply knowledge of self-presentation to an online environment by writing an interviewee preparation plan that includes notes on time management, background selection, technology prep, etc.

End of Course Objectives:

Learners will be prepared for legal issues by discussing protected classes of info that may appear about candidates online, and assessing their own digital footprints for sensitive info.

Learners  will apply their knowledge of online interview tactics in a final project by playing the roles of both R and E in an online environment.

Learners  will reflect on the value of their interviewing experiences by identifying ways in which interviewing skills can help them reach personal career goals.

Sample Assignments

Using the required text of Interviewing: Principles and Practices by Stewart & Cash (2008), students can work through role-playing exercises with the sample interviews in the text. Then, those same sample interviews can be used as a template for generating learners’ own interview protocols. It is important for students to write out their questions or go-to examples beforehand so they can check for common pitfalls, clarity, and legal issues. In previous lessons, learners would have worked on activities like critiquing this sample interview protocol from Indiana  and answering the question of how he or she would streamline some of the lines of inquiry so that both R and E are better able to keep track of what is being asked. The focus of this unit is to adapt that knowledge to an online environment.

Lesson 1:

Create a “Similarities’ and “Differences’ list of how interviews compare when conducted online versus face-to-face.

Create a “Pros’ and “Cons’ list of being invited to interview in an online environment instead of a face-to-face environment. Then contribute to class discussion: How do you feel about talking through video chat? What makes you nervous? How might you prepare your environment so you are comfortable?

Check-In Activity: What prior, if  any, interview experience do you have in an online environment? What went well? What didn’t go well? What was surprising?

Lesson 2:

Write an interview protocol that will be used to interview a candidate at your most recent place of employment. Reflect on the differences between face-to-face and online, and include a section that describes what extra preparations you will have to make as the interviewer (time differences, equipment, contingency plans in case of technology failure, etc.)

Pick an activity partner and try out  Google Hangouts. Have a conversation about a current event of your choice. Relay your experiences on the class discussion board, and answer this question: How would you change the way you spoke with your partner if this were a formal interview instead of a topical discussion?

Check-In Activity: What problems did you have with the technology? Do you have access at home to practice, or do you need class time to explore online environments further?

Lesson 3:

Keep practicing with the technology by doing a mock interview with a peer using Google Hangouts on Air. This time, make sure you are recording and that the Hangout feeds to YouTube. You will be matched with another activity pair and provide peer reviews of each other’s interviews.  Pay particular attention to how you will appear on video, what background you choose to sit in, time management, the clarity of your audio feed, etc.

Check-In Activity: Turn in a draft of your interview protocol (as R) and your prepared examples and questions for the “company” (as E). The instructor will give you feedback on these documents and your sample video two weeks before the final project so you can make adjustments before the live role-playing event.

Final Project:

Apply your knowledge of self-presentation in an online environment by playing the role of interviewee in a mock employment-style interview. Your partner is interviewing you as a potential teaching assistant for this class. Each learner will subsequently serve as an interviewer for another student’s mock interview, and will receive feedback and points for doing so as well.


Brown, J. (2006). New learning environments for the 21st century: Exploring the
edge.  Change, 38(5), 18-24.

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

Meister, J. (2012). Job hopping is the new ‘normal’ for millenials: Three ways to prevent a human resource nightmare.  Forbes. Retrieved from

Stewart, C. J., & Cash, W. B., Jr. (2008). Interviewing: Principles and practices (12th ed.).  Boston: McGraw-Hill

Tool Review: Khan Academy and GradeCam

  1. Khan Academy

Overview: This was a tool I had used 4 years ago. But since then the website has changed a great deal. The core aspect of the website has remained the same. The website is essentially a database of videos that help teach different subjects and for different levels of learning. The founder Salman Khan got the idea when he made video tutorials for his cousin and he said he preferred learning from the videos rather than being taught in person. The website has grown since then and covers a huge number of subjects. Math, Science, language, music, art and more are covered in series of tutorials. And there are practice question sections that test the student on their knowledge after watching the videos. The use of this service is completely free.

Khan Academy screenshot

Potential: The potential of this tool in the classroom is huge. Through the online tutorials, the teacher can assign what is done in the classroom currently, as homework. The web tutorials and practice problems can be done as homework, so that the teacher can then spend the classroom time, helping the students clarify their doubts and working with them one on one. This resource is great for parents who don’t want their children to lag behind during the long summer break or for parents who choose to home school their kids. With the fun and easy user-interface and the basis of it being a game (play for points, badges and unlock avatars), students are engaged in the

Classroom Feature: A new feature I noticed in Khan Academy that I didn’t remember from 4 years ago, was the classroom feature in Khan Academy. A tutor, parent or teacher could set up and manage the accounts of a bunch of students and monitor their progress as they move through the different ‘levels’ of Khan Academy. This is a good tool for teachers to be able to ensure that their kids are able to match the pace of the rest of their class. They can also see problem areas where they can step in and give one-on-one assistance to children who aren’t able to navigate through a certain topic. This also creates opportunities for interaction and collaboration with kids working in groups to get through a set of math problems or a project set up on Khan Academy.

Hardware requirements: The only hardware requirements is having access to a computer, laptop or mobile device and ensuring that there are a set of working speakers or headphones to watch the videos.

Design: The design elements of this website are extremely attractive. The colors and shapes and overall web design are appealing visually. There is just the right amount of seriousness and playfulness to the badges and avatars for the site to appeal to a vast number of age groups and create an environment that seems informal and inviting. The videos themselves haven’t changed much in 4 years. They still involve Sal Khan using a virtual blackboard and writing on it in different colored inks to teach a subject. During the course of the video, you only hear his voice and never actually see him. Visually the learner is focused only on the blackboard and any other visual cues that sometimes appear in the videos (for example: pictures and portraits from the lesson on the French Revolution).

Student engagement: The student engagement is definitely higher than the teacher engagement with this tool. While there is some amount of passive learning while watching the videos, it is balanced out during the exercises in which the student has to apply and test what he has learnt through the videos. This promotes more active learning than passive learning.

Overall, I think Khan Academy is an excellent tool and resource for the classroom.

2.  GradeCam


Overview: I had never used or even heard of GradeCam before this assignment and that is why I chose it for the tool review. When I went through the website for GradeCam, I realized that the tool was quite a useful one for teachers. This tool allows teachers to create quizzes with answers to be filled out on bubble answer sheets. Then these sheets can be scanned by a camera and answers can be tallied immediately through GradeCam. The scores then go directly the teachers gradebook. This saves the teacher a lot of valuable time that would otherwise be spent grading and tabulating of all the scores.

Potential: The classroom potential of this product and service is great. Teachers can create as many small quizzes and tests as they need to during their lesson plan and do not have to worry about all the extra time that would be spent grading, tabulating and analyzing the results. The software would do all that for the teacher instantly. The results would even show the teacher the percentage of students who got a particular question wrong or right, which would help her identify the problem areas for her class and what she needs to work on in the curriculum. This would also give students practice with standardized test bubbling during exams. Their new longitudinal charting feature now allows teachers to chart the progress of a child over the course of a semester or year. This seems like a very helpful tool that would save the teacher a lot of time spent analyzing each student’s progress.

GradeCam chart

Free Service with required hardware: While there are some hardware requirements to use this service, other than that, the feature is completely free. The teacher can use some supported camera document scanners if they want to, but if they have a webcam, that can be used as the camera scanner as well. That way, if the teacher has access to a webcam on their laptop or desktop, and a printer to print out the forms, that is all they need to be able to use this free service. Along with that, the actual service is entirely free. The teachers can make an unlimited number of bubble answer sheets forms for class tests where she can customize each sheet to the test she is creating. The teacher can make answer sheets with anywhere from 10 to 100 bubble questions and the sheets can be customized for each student in the class with the unique student ID code. The sheets can also be customized to the student’s age and needs with larger bubbles printed for younger students.

While this tool is not directly related to student learning, it does make the job of teachers easier, thus freeing them up to work on their students. The website and video demonstrations were not extremely clear about the entirety of the service and didn’t highlight many key features. While the website could use some work, the service itself seems like a great resource for teachers.


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.


Unit 5, Week 2: Unit Plan

Unit 5, Week 2

Unit Plan:

The name of the course I am creating a lesson plan for is “Journalism Basics: A comprehensive course on the applications of journalism’.


The learning objectives that I have come up with for this course are:

  1. Understand the different basic principles of Journalism and analyze real-world situation according to these principles
  2. Apply the basic principles of journalism in real-world scenarios
  3. Construct effective narratives following the basic principles of journalism


For the purpose of this unit plan, I have selected two topics out of the entire course:


Topic 1: 5W’s and 1H: The “5W’s and 1H’ is the very basic principle of journalism. According to this principle, a news report is only complete when every question that can possibly be asked about the story, i.e. who, what, where, when, why, and how, are all answered. A good news report covers all these 5 questions in its lead paragraph.


  • The lesson will begin with an initial lecture about the concept.
  • This will be followed by case studies of different news stories and class discussion on whether they are effective news stories with adequate information.
  • Activity: Create a mock situation/ take a real event. Require that all students must  report on this mock situation or event. In order to make it interesting, stage a situation like an accident/ shooting scare/ press conference. Have some students be actors playing the parts in the mock situation and have the rest of the students report on it or discuss what different details need to be added to make a complete story.
  • Homework assignment: Find a newsworthy story and report on it. All questions must be answered. minimum of 3 sources.


Topic 2: New Media: New Media consists of all news disseminated digitally using the internet. This includes news on websites, through YouTube videos and Twitter and Facebook. Journalism has changed rapidly with the development of technology and this has in turn changed many of the principles of journalism that were once held in high regard. New media has caused journalism to become extremely fast-paced with more emphasis put on “getting the news out first’ rather than “getting the news out right’. Discuss the importance of hashtags.



  • The lesson will begin with an initial lecture about new media and its changing structure
  • This will be followed by case studies of different news stories and how they are covered differently in print and in new media. Also case studies about famous news stories that broke online (ex: Live tweeting of Osama Bin Laden Assassination and the Fox news fiasco)
  • Activity: Have a mock event/ press conference/ situation and have the students live tweet the event while also working against a deadline to package a story for web
  • Activity: Have students create a 1 minute video of an event and package it for web.
  • Homework: Find a newsworthy story and create a complete multi-media package for it with a written report and photos for print and for the website, 3 live tweets for it with hashtags, and a 1 minute video. This whole multi-media package must tell the whole story without becoming redundant.


Proposed assessment:

  • Class participation during in-class activities
  • Peer-assessment of each other’s work
  • Homework assessment based off of understanding and application of journalism concept
  • Final Assessment: Create a complete news package (for print, TV and internet). Assessment based off of understanding and application of journalism concepts.


Unit 5, Week 1: Personal Reflections

As I develop this unit plan, I find myself going back to all the journalism classes I have taken, as well as the actual work I have done in Journalism. It is a tough, constantly changing field. There is nothing constant in the field and just the same, there are very few rules but the ones that do exist, are also changing with the advent of technology.

I was developing this lesson plan so that we could develop an effective training program for the staff at our news organization. This training program needs to be created with the assumption that the staff do not know anything about journalism and are starting from scratch because, so often, they are indeed starting from scratch.

Coming up topics that the staff need to learn about was not too difficult because having worked with them as they enter the organization, I was able to already gauge what topics need to get covered with each and every new staffer, whether they have some knowledge of journalism or not.

However, in conjunction to those topics, coming up with engaging activities was really a problem. I wasn’t sure what kind of activities would effectively help them learn the topics at hand, while keeping the staff engaged and interested.

My partners Alda and Kelly, in the group assignment helped me realize how my learning objectives in the concept map didn’t exactly match my learning activities. This was a big help and I was able to fine tune my activities to align more with the objectives of the course.

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.