5 Building Blocks for Online Education

Teachers who are new to online teaching and learning need a place to begin, some scaffolding to help them restructure their courses and make sense out of this new world. So I came up with these 5 building blocks to give our teachers a foundation on which to build their online courses.

Our Building Blocks

I. Content – Provide students with content to learn.

*Goal will be to use more than one content type per lesson

  • Etext
  • Video
  • Presentations
  • Podcasts
  • Games that teach the concept
  • Simulations
  • Interactive learning modules
  • Google Earth, Sky, 3D
  • Online flashcards

II. Social component—(learning is socially constructed)

Asynchonous (not in real time)

  • Discussion boards
  • Commenting on each other’s work
  • Gmail
  • Twitter
  • Collaboration
  • Small groups in Edmodo
  • Interview someone through email

Synchronous (in real time)

  • Gchat/video chat
  • Live classroom discussions
  • Collaboration with peers
  • Interview someone through skype or google video chat

III. Do Something – the assignments –these are as authentic and relevant as possible – real problems or challenges

  • Write, produce, create, think critically, solve problems…

IV. Share It – students should then share their Do Something with peers or with the online community (the Creative Commons) – to build knowledge. Our students are Knowledge Curators and Producers, not just consumers.

V. Assess learning

  • Can assess their Do Somethings
  • Peer review Do Somethings
  • Quizzes/tests – formative and summative
  • Standardized assessments when needed
  • Pre and post testing to measure success

Just like with real building blocks, teachers can rearrange them, stack them, lay them flat, and build until they have created something that reflects their vision. Oh, and it’s fun. 😉


No iPad? No problem. Make a multimedia etext with iAuthor and share it with your students for free on any computer.

I wanted to make a multimedia etext for students, but ran into a little trouble. One, our students don’t have iPads to read the new iBooks created from iAuthor, and two, they aren’t getting them anytime soon.

But no worries, I found a way to create rich multimedia etexts or learning modules that your students can download for free on a Mac or PC. They can even take notes on it, highlight passages, and search through the entire text for a word or phrase. Read the rest of this entry »

The Digital Classroom

What is “Positive Technology”?

Positive Technology is my spin on Positive Psychology. I used to teach a class in Positive Psychology and I loved the focus on using our minds to create engagement, flow and happiness in our lives. I see technology in the same way. It can be used to make us better people and improve our world.

As a technology coordinator, I am charged with the task of helping teachers to integrate technology into their curriculums. Teachers frequently ask, “What program/app/web 2.0 thing should I use?” and my answer is always, “What are you trying to teach, and what skill or character trait would you like your students to develop?”

  • Trying to teach math concepts? Khan Academy might help.
  • Trying to teach compassion? Go to Heifer.org and teach students how a class fundraiser of $120 can buy a pig that will change an impoverished child’s life.
  • Trying to teach critical thinking and problem solving? Let your students embark on ThinkQuest competition.

Positive Technology is all about putting human development and global improvement first, and using technology to support it.

12 Reasons Why We Need Technology in Education

1. Makes learning mobile, students can learn outside of the school walls and beyond the bell schedule.
2. It empowers students to learn on their own, follow their passions, create, innovate and build knowledge.
3. It affords them a level of communication and collaboration never before possible. This has two major advantages:
  • It allows them to communicate with others not in their geographic location, opening up new perspectives;
  • It helps them develop team working skills, necessary in today’s world where the problems are best solved by many minds working together. Read the rest of this entry »

First Steps to Designing an Online Course

Always put yourself in your students’ shoes. What do they need in order to stay interested and to keep learning?

Online classes can be extremely exciting or extremely dull, depending upon how they are designed. If you simply migrate paper to digital, it will kill your students’ love of learning quicker than Apple comes out with new versions of iPhones. But done right, it can be the most exciting way to learn that your students have ever experienced. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Building Blocks for Online Education

These basic 5 building blocks should provide you with a strong foundation for designing your online classes. I outlined these building blocks for our online blended learning curriculum, and the teachers have appreciated having this structure to refer to as they create their online courses.

1.    Content – you need to provide your students with some content to learn.   *The goal is to use more than one content type per lesson to reach all types of learners. Read the rest of this entry »