#BSNMooc Post #2: Learning for Problem Solving, The Great Gatsby, and the Lost Generation


At least | that’s what | he said | later | on shore
While I | washed my | feet of | gritty | wet sand.
My thoughts | swimming | back to | moments | before
When I | panicked,| not see | ing him | from land.

Yes, that will do nicely!


I watched | a buo| y with | gray hair | floating
In the | ocean,| no wor|ry in | his mind.
To God,| he di|rected | his face | gloating,
“A more | perfect | life you’ll | struggle | to find.”

I like that rewrite!

At least | that’s what | he said | later | that day

While I | washed my | feet of | gritty | wet sand.



First, I have to say that this is really hard.  🙂

In the ocean, on his back he floated,
No worry in his mind, nor in his heart.
To God, he lifted his face and gloated,
“My life is perfect. We’ll never part.”

I like the first quatrain. Well, I should say that I like it enough to not change it yet.

On the beach, his children played in sand,
Castles they made, and buried mother’s feet.
She let them, scrunched her toes, feeling safe on land,
Comfortable in her beach seat.

Oh, that’s terrible. I just really like the bit about burying mother’s toes.

Mother heard a frightened, “Where is he?”
Her eyes opened wide.  Was he lost?
Kids laughed as he came from the sea,

As I sit here, with my pen, I wonder
Will I write well?  Will these words drag me under?


In the ocean, on his back he floated,
No worry in his mind, nor in his heart.
To God, he lifted his face and gloated,
“My life is perfect. We’ll never part.”

On the beach, his family played with sand,
Castles they made, and buried mother’s feet
She laughed, wiggled her toes, …

Then she saw her husband had disappeared…

As I sit here, with my pen, I wonder
Will I write well?  Will these words drag me under?


Great Feedback
What a wonderful gift I received today when I checked in on my professional development courses.


More on Consideration Number One

I simply found it fascinating that an educator would say that SBG and CBE do not reflect the real world.  I understand why the person said it.  If you don’t meet the goals set in the workplace, there are consequences.  If you don’t do the work you’re supposed to do, there are consequences.  As I said above, however, adults set these deadlines while collaborating on a project or task, and the goals are continuously revisited for validity.  The manager does not set a goal in a grade book and give you a zero if you don’t meet the goal.  Yes, you have to explain yourself if you don’t meet the goal, but if you can explain yourself well, the penalties are often slight or not imposed at all.

Which brings me to my next point: Communication feeds the heart and soul of any human organization, project-based or not.  [pullquote]Communication feeds the heart and soul of any human organization, project-based or not.[/pullquote]In this reformed version of grading, students and teachers work on communication and collaboration skills, two very important skills to have as one enters the workforce.  If done right, I believe the students will learn to acknowledge that goals and deadlines are important, but more importantly, they will learn to communicate with their teacher when they are struggling to meet them or believe the assignments are not going to help them achieve their goals.  I think that educators are misunderstanding a fundamental part of this learning process when they allow students to miss deadlines or not complete assignments at all.  That’s a misconception about the process that absolutely must be addressed.  Students are missing vital learning opportunities when they do not attempt an assignment simply because they know they will not be penalized.  When students and educators agree that the assignments are learning opportunities and that they should communicate about its effectiveness and collaborate to make changes if necessary, that is when true learning takes place.  That reflects what happens in the real world. 

This week, I am tackling this activity for the Mooc sponsored by the Blended Schools Network:

The “When Will We Ever Use This?” Blog Post

Students often ask us, “When will I ever use this in the real world?” Consider a handful of standards taught in your class.

  • How are these concepts used in the real world?
  • How might you use those applications as inspiration for projects in your classroom?
  • How well do your current practices reflect the real-world applications of the standards you teach?
  • Consider offering a full lesson plan based on these reflections

Returning to The Great Gatsby

One of the issues with teaching this novel is that it is hard to establish relevancy for today’s learners.  We want them to take away some sort of information or philosophy from the novel, but often (I think) students feel that they cannot connect to the characters and story Fitzgerald produced.  As part of a unit on the novel, I’d like to introduce some Essential Questions or Driving Questions that would put the reading in perspective.  I sort of did that the first time that I tried to teach this novel, but not to my liking.

Ernest Hemingway in Milan, 1918
English: Image of Gertrude Stein and Jack Hemi...
English: Image of Gertrude Stein and Jack Hemingway in Paris, 1924. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The anticipatory set or advance organizer would include a frank discussion about the lost generation of the ’20s and Fitzgerald’s biography.  There is a terrific quote from A Moveable Feast by Hemingway (1996) that introduces us to the term ‘lost generation,’ which was coined by Gertrude Stein. Stein told Hemingway that folks who served in the war (World War I) were all a ‘lost generation’; she cited their drinking habits as an example of how the veterans have disconnected themselves from every day life.  Hemingway responded in the text by saying that he decided upon reflection that all generations are lost in one way or another.  He added at the end of that reflection: “But to hell with her lost-generation talk and all the dirty, easy labels” (pp. 30-31).  Still, he later used the term in The Sun Also Rises.

I would ask the students the following questions.

  • “Do you agree that every generation is lost in some way or another?  What are the characteristics of a generation that is lost?  Extend your answer beyond alcoholism; consider other characteristics.” 
  • “How might the term ‘lost generation’ apply to the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan?”
  • “How can we help and support those who are lost?”

Signature of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Then, we could watch a video I found about Fitzgerald.  The students really enjoyed it when I showed it during pre-service (Vanderveen, 2005).  Afterward, I would ask the following question.

  • “Although Fitzgerald did not serve in the war, in what ways did he demonstrate inclusion in the lost generation?”
  • “Do you know someone like Fitzgerald?  How might you help that person?”

These questions, I would explain, should put this novel into context.  I would post them in the classroom and online in a prominent place.


The Pennsylvania standards that I used before would still apply (“Clear Standards”, 2010)

Standard – 1.1.12.A: Apply appropriate strategies to construct meaning through interpretation and to analyze and evaluate author’s use of techniques and elements of fiction and non-fiction for rhetorical and aesthetic purposes.

Standard – 1.3.12.A: Interpret significant works from various forms of literature to make deeper and subtler interpretations of the meaning of text.  Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period.

Standard – 1.3.12.C:

  • Analyze the effectiveness of literary elements used by authors in various genres.
  • Analyze the author’s development of complex characters as well as their roles and functions in a variety of texts.
  • Determine the effectiveness of setting as related to character, plot, theme, and other key literary elements.
  • Determine the effectiveness of the author’s use of point of view as related to content and specific types of genre.
  • Analyze how the author structures plot to advance the action.
  • Identify major themes in literature, comparing and contrasting how they are developed across and variety of genres.
  • Explain how voice and choice of speaker affect the mood, tone, and meaning of text.
  • Describe how an author, through the use of diction, syntax, figurative language, sentence variety, etc., achieves style.

1.5.12.C: Write with controlled and/or subtle organization.

  • Establish coherence within and among paragraphs through effective transitions, parallel structures, and similar writing techniques.

The Common Core Standards would also be helpful here as I develop the unit plan, specifically:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

Culminating Project

Keeping the questions in mind during our reading will help us to segue to the culmination of the unit.  After a summative assessment of the text, I would like the students to collaborate on a project in which the result is a web site of resources (not just links, but articles, case studies, surveys, self-assessments, etc.) for those of a ‘lost generation.’  It would be something like what Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have tried to do for veterans.  One of the blog posts they would write (independently) would be about why they are doing this and how it relates to their study of Gatsby.

  • Grouping: Heterogeneous grouping of 3-4 students
  • Method: Jigsaw approach with clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • Where to publish the website: Google sites could work

What do you think?


Clear standards. (2010). Pennsylvania Department of Education – SAS – Standards Aligned System  Retrieved October 5, 2010, from|773|0|0
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. (n.d.). Common Core State Standards Initiative | Home. Common Core State Standards Initiative. Retrieved August 4, 2012, from
Hemingway, E. (1996). A Moveable Feast. New York, NY: Scribner.
Vanderveen, L. (2005). Meeting F. Scott Fitzgerald [DVD]. West Long Branch, NJ: Kultur
bimatoprost online
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Blogging Education Teaching

BSNMOOC Post #1 – Ideal Blended Learning Environment in the Year 2013

Our assignment this week is to create a post that reflects upon one of four projects.  I decided to write the “Pie in the Sky” post, describing an ideal blended learning environment in the year 2013.  The questions we are to answer are:

  • What sort of content is delivered online? What is delivered face-to-face?
  • Which assessments use the Internet? Which assessments do not?
  • What benefits does this environment have for students?
  • What sort of resources are being used in the classroom?
Cover of "The Great Gatsby"
Cover of The Great Gatsby

I’ll take each one in turn and put it in the context of a unit on the novel The Great Gatsby.  Since I have been reading Gatsby (for the fourth time), a question has been niggling at me: “How would I make this relevant to youth today so they might enjoy reading a terrific novel?” I must tell you that I tried blended learning with this novel when I was student teaching and the results were disastrous.  That unit haunts me to this day.  Therefore, I think it interesting that I chose to read it again just as this MOOC was starting up and fortuitous that I can reflect and project upon it as I try to come up with a more successful unit plan.

I must also confess that I long to have my own classroom.  Writing this post is sad in a way, because it describes something that isn’t – and may never be.  Nevertheless, it will be written.

My classroom would exist in two spaces, the physical and the virtual, as any blended learning environment would.  I would use a learning management system like Moodle to develop online activities that required independent thought and collaboration.  I would use authentic assessment ideas to create assessments that asked students to think about events and characters in the novel and construct new knowledge (technical or cultural), or to develop their value system, personal philosophy, or writing skills.  I would provide opportunities for those who not comfortable with classroom discussion to contribute to the overall discussion through forum posts and replies. I would couch the novel within our current context, always trying to pull from our culture to make connections with the culture of the 1920s and the lost generation.

What sort of content is delivered online? What is delivered face-to-face?

I would start out with a video presented through the LMS on the lost generation and Fitzgerald.  I have one I used back in pre-service and I do think that it is good.  The students could watch the video outside of class and respond to it via a forum, sharing their ideas with their peers.

I think I would like to have students read the novel a bit at a time in preparation for class.  There are some teachers that cannot afford to let the books out of the classroom because they would not get them back; I hope I would not fall into that group and would let students take the book throughout the unit.  I believe 15 – 20 minutes of reading on certain nights is enough to ask.  Then, I would ask them to log into the LMS and write a forum post based on a question I pose for that evening’s homework.  I would also ask them to respond during the week to at least three classmates’ posts.

Once in class, I would like the students to write for five minutes about a quote that they should have encountered during their reading the night before.  Then, I would like to read aloud for fifteen minutes, with someone as the narrator and others taking roles and reading their character’s “lines.”  After that, we can have a guided discussion, an authentic activity, or group discussions about what they read.  An example of an authentic activity, in my opinion, is one I tried while teaching the unit in my pre-service days.  I had most of the students act as journalists and interview other students who volunteered to play Nick, Daisy, and Gatsby.  The journalists were to ask the characters questions like, “How do you feel about how you were portrayed in the book?” This time around, I would also ask someone to portray Fitzgerald.  Perhaps I would portray Hemingway and add what I think he would say about the book and the characters.  The two authors always had a love-hate relationship.  I think this is a good opportunity to do formative assessment, to see how well the students understand the characters and can ask good questions.

Other homework ideas include using Animoto to create a music video about a character, using Wordle or Tagxedo to create a word cloud about an event in the novel and to analyze the results of that cloud, or using another app from the web to create something that extends their reading into a new context. There are so many resources out there that it’s hard to start this paragraph without going on for pages!

Which assessments use the Internet? Which assessments do not?

I would tend to use formative assessment on the Internet.  For instance, the observations I could clean from the forum posts or activities are examples of formative assessment.  I would prefer the summative assessments to take place on-site.

What benefits does this environment have for students?

The first thing that comes to mind is that the blended learning environment affords students who are shy or need more time to think to work in a comfortable space.  As an online student over the past seven years, I appreciated the extra time that online activities provided me.  I needed that time to digest information and construct knowledge for myself so that I could share my thoughts with others.  I feel I learned a lot more because I was given that time to form more complex thoughts.

What sort of resources are being used in the classroom?

Online resources include web applications, the learning management system, and resources the student or I could find using Google.  I would also load rubrics to the learning management system that include self-assessment rubrics.

Resources on-site include print copies of the text (I have a graphic novel version as well as the traditional book), Kindle versions, and audio versions of the text.  There are some who prefer to listen to a book or some who could supplement their reading with the audio version.  English Language Learners might benefit from the audio version, for example, to hear cadence, pronunciation, and pace.  Other resources include re-printed articles and handouts for activities.


This “plan,” such as it is, assumes that kids will have access to technology and the Internet.  I found a resource for low-cost access to both that is worth noting:  This site offers low-cost access to the Internet and computers if families have at least one child who qualifies for free lunch.

This plan also supports a BYOD model that encourages students to bring their own technology to school.

Finally, this model assumes that the teacher will keep the students’ needs and capabilities in mind and make adjustments as necessary.  🙂

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Education Learning Teaching

A Supplement to the “Finding Resources” Event

Links You Might Need During the Event – This is a link to the survey I would like to administer and speak to at the beginning of the event. – This link opens a diigo list of interesting resources I found while preparing this presentation.

The Presentation

If you are using a Droid, you can follow the presentation via a SlideRocket. Advance the presentation yourself by using the controls on your screen. On the iPhone, you have to swipe to the left; I assume it is the same for a Droid. It is unfortunate that Prezi does not play nicely with Android. Still, I feel it important to model this very useful app that does play nicely with iOS and Windows. (By the way, Prezi has a subscription program just for teachers; it’s an upgrade of the free subscription at no cost. I highly recommend it.)

Finding Resources You Can Really Use

When I started my journey searching for resources to help me teach, I first turned to SymbalooEDU and I still use it as my home page when I launch Google Chrome. SymbalooEDU (and its vanilla version, Symbaloo) is a visual bookmarking site. Bookmarks are assigned to icons you can customize. The icons can be moved to any available spot on the webmix, you can share webmixes or make them private, and you can search for webmixes on a topic and add them to your collection. The second site I found quite useful was diigo. As opposed to symbalooEDU, diigo is a text-based content aggregation site that uses toolbars and extensions to capture web content and add it to a library. The list I reference above is a good example of one way to use diigo. Diigo has a membership program for teachers that is very generous, and a school district program also. It’s highly recommended.

Twitter and Hashtags for Teachers

I retrieved the infographic for this presentation from Edudemic, a blog that I think is terrific! The one hashtag I want to remind you all to investigate is #edchat. The Educator’s PLN dives deeper into the #edchat conversations on its Wikispace wiki.

Content Curation

I would love to see every teacher on There are so many excellent content curators there. The site appeals to people with various preferences: visual, textual, auditory, and interpersonal, for example. (Would you like to find out what your learning style is? Here’s a quiz from edutopia.) You can find me on Perhaps I will “see” you there!

Pinterest, too, is quite popular among teachers. The Pinterest Education boards are amazing. A search for Common Core yielded a multitude of boards dedicated to this controversial topic. Pinterest really appeals to those who are visual in nature. Give it a try, if you haven’t already. Please note that you have to log in to Pinterest before you can use the links in this paragraph.

The last resource I want to write about here is Zotero. If you are in graduate school or want to help your students write papers, you must check out this application and browser extension. It saved my life during my graduate studies, helping me to gather content and, more importantly, to create APA citations. It also formats citations in MLA style and others. The browser extension often finds the bibliographical data you will need to build your citation. If you are using your library database services, you can export the citations you find in RIS format, then import them into Zotero. It will take care of the formatting for you. Please check it out and recommend it to your students. You’ll be glad you did.

Other curation sites I recommend: Learnist, MERLOT, and TeachingChannel. This infographic from will recommend some other ways to start curating content.

Link to the “Social Media Landscape” Image

This is the page from which I sourced the “Social Media Landscape” image.

Blog Suggestions

I’m simply going to list my blog suggestions here. Please visit them and decide for yourself. Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything will NOT disappoint. I promise.

SAS – Standards Aligned System

The SAS site from the PA Department of Education is quite robust. Not only can you find resources for standards-based instruction, but there are many professional development courses offered by the site – and they are free! I have taken two so far and found the instructors warm, attentive, and knowledgeable. The courses are self-study; however, the instructors provide feedback quickly and with attention to detail.

Personal / Professional Learning Network

Please visit the Educator’s PLN and join. I think it is worth taking the time to navigate through the site and join some groups. You might find yourself meeting colleagues who will be very helpful in the future. From that PLN, you will also find links to other nings that are worth a look, such as a ning dedicated to the flipped classroom.

Social Learning and Learning Management System (LMS) Suggestions

The term “social learning” is hot right now, but Vygotsky and Dewey first claimed that all learning is social a long time ago, so I’m not sure why it hasn’t been a topic of discussion since then. At any rate, the site I recommend you look at for social learning are Schoology and Edmodo.

As for a LMS, many of you may know Moodle already. I happen to be developing a Moodle site for our company at this time, because so many of our customers use it and I think it important our employees understand tools our customers use. It’s an open source learning management system with a dedicated community of users and a robust development cycle. If your district or school is already using Moodle, perhaps you would like to build some courses or class sites? If not, perhaps you would like to investigate it and recommend it?

Lesson Plan Ideas

For MOOC ideas, please visit Coursera.

For creating infographics and / or visual projects, try these resources:

You can find Purdue OWL at this link.

Finally, you can find lesson plans for NaNoWriMo here.

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to come to Barnes and Noble this weekend and talk about technology, resources, and education. We appreciate it!

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Business Education Teaching

Project Management for Teachers Part III

It turns out there is a very good resource for project management with an education twist.  Hop on over to the PMI’s Educational Foundation and check out the resources they have there.  I especially liked the project management cycles slides and the workshop slides they included.  I hope you will, too!

In the meantime, I leave you with a few resources that should help you manage projects in your classroom:

Zotero: Zotero is more than a citation engine.  It stores resources, such as web pages, PDF files, and documents.  It keeps the user organized with folders.  Its browser extensions pull information from web pages in seconds that would take minutes for a human to type.  Zotero has saved my hide on many an academic occasion, including when I was writing lesson plans.

Diigo: This web-based curation tool harnesses the power of the web browser, too, to link web pages to lists.  Once you select a page, you can tag it, which helps you search for related pages.  It’s quite handy. This site provides a number of project management templates organized by phases in the project.  You might find them useful and be able to modify them to suit your needs in the classroom.

Results Without Authority, by Tom Kendrick: Although Kendrick wrote this book for project managers working on projects with diverse and loosely-connected teams, it is also a great project management primer.  I recommend it highly.



Kendrick, PMP, T. (2012). Results Without Authority: Controlling a Project When the Team Doesn’t Report to You (Second Edition.). AMACOM.
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