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#BSNMooc Post #3: Higher Order Thinking Questions and The Great Gatsby

This week, I have chosen to blog about the following topic.

Anatomy of a Question

Make a public blog post sharing some well-written question that challenge higher order thinking. Explain to your potential audience what makes this a question worth asking students. Think of this as an opportunity to help other teachers in your subject area understand some of what you learned in this unit through a case study.

Honestly, I took this assignment and twisted it to suit my purposes.  I hope that is all right.  🙂

A Confession

I must admit that my experience creating online assessments is limited to my training days, when I would assess users’ knowledge of the applications that were the subject of the training.  I did not get too complex with my questions; instead, I tried to find out if they were actually paying attention during the training and hands-on practice or if they were more interested in their mobile phone and email. I also knew that the participants did not have as much time with the topics as someone participating in a traditional course, so my hope was that they would take what they have learned and apply it once they were back at their desks, using the job aids I gave them.  My assessments were better than smiley-sheets, but not by much.

That’s not to say I did not try the other types of assessments.  I did!  They failed miserably.  I believe that might be because I did not have as much time with my students as a traditional teacher and so many of my students had been out of school so long they were ‘out of practice.’  Or, it could just be that I did not create successful assessments.

So, I am back to the problem of lack of practice.  That needs to change, so this is a good opportunity to make that change.

One more note: When I was teaching, I saved the higher-order questions for the short answer and essay.  Since we are talking about online assessment, however, I am going to avoid those types of questions and focus on multiple choice.  Of course I know that you can administer the short answer and essay questions in online assessment, but I consider my experience with multiple choice questions my Achilles’ heel.

A Quiz

[slickquiz id=2]

I struggled mightily with the very short quiz above, because I would be much more comfortable giving the students essay questions or short answer questions to “formatively” assess their understanding of the novel.  I actually put a twist on this assignment, but since this is a non-graded course, I am taking a risk and asking for help with my questions rather than researching “well written questions” (which I did) and posting them here.  I hope no one minds!

I’m moving on now!  Thanks for reading.

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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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Business Education Teaching

The Curriculum as a Project Charter: Project Management for Teachers Part II

We can think of a teacher’s project as the fulfillment of a curriculum or a curricular component.  For instance, a project can be entitled “Seventh Grade English Language Arts.”  The lesson plan is a deliverable of that project and so it is tied to the curriculum and should contain elements of a project charter.

My lesson plans have the following headings:

Learning Outcomes – The learning outcomes were the standards I was following to create the lesson.  I was required to align my lessons with PA State Standards.  In later lessons, I would align them to the Common Core as well.

Learning Outcomes can be related to a project charter by thinking of them as some of the goals of a project – in this case the entire curriculum.  What do we want to do, not only in terms of the lesson, but the transfer of skills related to the standards the State has put forth for readiness for adult life?

Objectives of the Lesson – The objectives of the lesson are specific to that lesson.  By the end of the lesson, what should the students have done and be able to do in the future?

The objectives can be related to the project charter by thinking about project milestones.  What tasks should we complete successfully to reach that milestone in the curriculum?  What tasks will work toward fulfilling the outcomes desired?

Content – Project Charters often spell out what the components of the project are. Project managers explain what will happen during the project and what will not.  By explaining the scope of the project in detail, they are attempting to avoid scope creep, which is the addition of tasks and objectives over time.  Project Managers can refer back to the charter as these requests arise and decide if the request is valid, or can be deferred. Lesson plans can articulate the components of this part of the project, thereby also indicating what will not be included in the lesson.  I often plan too much, but have been told that was all right; too much is better than not enough.  The last thing I wanted was 25 students with nothing to do!

Characteristics of the Learners (“Where the Students Are”) – All projects should include a narrative about the stakeholders in the process.  What are their needs?  What are their strengths and challenges?  What problems are they trying to solve?  Your students are your primary stakeholders.

Prerequisite skills – Projects usually show what should be done before a project or milestone can start.  Lessons can show what skills students should have to complete this lesson, this part of the project.

Connections to the Curricular Framework – Answer this question: How is this project component related to the project?

Learning Theory Connections – I like to think about best practices when I make learning theory connections.  I like to answer questions such as

  • How will this lesson demonstrate the alignment to a particular learning theory or theories?
  • How will this lesson successfully implement suggestions provided by learning theorists?

Materials  – All projects and project components detail the supplies needed for the project and lesson plans should, too.

Learning Sequence – In project plans, which are often included in a project charter, the work breakdown structure sequences the tasks of a project numerically.  The learning sequence of a lesson plan would be a component of the overall work breakdown structure (WBS).

Culmination – This element describes what happens at the end of the lesson.  Think about the last task before reaching a milestone; that’s the culmination activity.

Extensions – The question that comes to mind here is: How can we take what we have learned here and transfer it to another lesson that is similar or to tasks in the future?  For projects, the question would be: How will this project component support future components?

Assessment Strategies – Project managers live and breathe metrics.  Assessments, both formative and summative are, basically, the same as metrics. Often in a project charter, you will find a reference to how the success of the project is determined by the metrics Project Managers will use.

Artifacts – These are the deliverables of the project or project component.

References – In a lesson plan, I always give credit where credit is due.  This bibliography component would probably not show up in a Project Charter, however.

The curriculum articulates the goals of a set of lessons and lesson plans reference back to those goals as teachers strive to explain what will happen during a particular lesson, why these tasks are important, what the students will produce during the lesson, and how the skills practiced will serve them in the future.

Your comments are welcome!

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