The Imagination Machine

We recently had an assembly by “The Imagination Machine” brought to us by our PTA.

The students really enjoyed it and afterward they were tasked with writing their own stories. After we brainstormed of “who, what, where” students wrote, and had a good time doing so. They practiced the writing process and improved their pieces. Teachers were asked to turn in the best papers so that they could be sent on to The Imagination Machine for consideration as they will be visiting us again before the school year is out to perform some of our students’ stories. I wanted to share the stories of those selected from my class in a new way, so I decided to finally try out SoundCloud and have students make their stories into mini podcasts for anyone to listen to.  Please click HERE to access the playlist that contains the following stories:

  • “The Lost Swimmer” by Xiomara
  • “Aquaman Saves the Ocean” by Jesse
  • “The Lost Little Girl” by Audrey
  • “The Boy With Bad Luck” by Andrew
  • “The Hero” by Wyatt
  • “Samantha Steals Jewelry” by Amanda
  • “The Friendly Ghost” by Therese

The class on the whole did a great job with their writing. I am seeing much neater penmanship, improved spelling and sentence construction, and proper paragraph structure. One area I observed that needed some work across all students was adding more details, which we will continue to work on.


Instructional Design Principles and Distance Education

The following post has been prepared for GCU TEC-571 Distance Learning in Education and addresses the following prompt: Select three instructional design principles (i.e., graphic cues, examples, combinations of instruction) that you feel should be more developed for learners within distance education courses.”

My present academic experience in an online Masters program is my first time being a learner within a distance education course. I can say honestly that the experience is mixed for me. I am excited to be pursuing the Master’s degree I wanted originally, and I am excited to be learning so much more about the rationale behind the many facets of educational technology. My current course focuses on distance education, and all I have as a personal reference is my rather short tenure as a distance learner.

Much of the discussion in my present course from the onset addresses how distance education cannot simply be treated like your traditional “brick and mortar” education, which I completely agree with. I do however think that the structure of a lesson/course can be similar. For example, lessons in an offline classroom are largely based on Madeline Hunter’s lesson plan format: getting ready to learn (review, anticipatory set, objectives), instruction (input and modeling), checking for understanding (guided practice), independent practice, and finally closure (assessment). I have been teaching long enough to see that there have been variations to the formula but Hunter’s foundation remains unchanged. I have taught solely at the elementary level, but I have been a student of all levels and I know that Hunter’s structure is not limited to elementary lesson structure. It works at all levels.

That being said, I reflect on this widely accepted and successful structure and I find it is not present in my present graduate course. It is my perception that I am provided more of a “Must Do” list of items that I am to complete largely on my own as if it were some sort of independent study. I am assigned a lecture to read as well as a text and other links to other resources, but there really is no meaningful contact with the professors or my peers, and I believe that is a major hurdle in my experience as a distance learner. Sure I can email them or leave a message for them on a message board, but that is no where near the same thing as real human interaction, (the sort of interaction you get when you attend a physical class) which I do believe is possible within the world of educational technology. The theory of Multiple Intelligences presents itself here. In our offline classrooms we are expected to consider the various “intelligences” of our learners (how they learn best) as well as their strengths and weaknesses.  That should be no different for the online learner. Lessons and courses should be designed with this in mind for both offline and online learners.

The power of interacting with your instructors and your peers, is huge and completely possible online. While my present Master’s program is the first time I have been a distance learner in terms of my “official” education as a working professional, I have realized it really is not my first time being a distance learner.

I became a distance learner once I joined the Discovery Educator Network (DEN). The first time I attended a webinar was the beginning of my experiences as a distance learner. Twitter has also added to my experiences as a distance learner in the exchanges I have had that either further contact and communication with a presenter I may have seen at a conference, or with other educators I have networked with. The groundbreaking event for me as a distance learner was the Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) called Second Life (SL).  It was because of the DEN that I joined this community in 2007 and have never left.  I have used Skype more as well as a result of my exploration of SL and use of it to broaden my own personal development as an individual as well as an educator. SL and Skype have single handedly changed how I want to learn (and get the most out of my learning) as a distance learner. They have brought the personal connection that in my opinion, makes distance learning (and in turn distance educating) much more enriching and impactful.

It is my belief via my own experiences as a distance learner in a MUVE, that many instructional design principles can be addressed and enhanced to meet the needs of the distance learner. The only real limitation is the age of the targeted learner. For example, I teach 3rd grade presently and the highest grade I have taught is 5th. A MUVE like SL is best geared toward high school and higher education. However I know MUVEs like Minecraft are used with increasing regularity to instruct younger learners.

A distance course could be housed in SL, but not limited to it. Any Learning Management System (LMS) could be used in conjunction with it, like LoudCloud, which is used in my present course. It serves largely as a syllabus and message board.  With the course structure outlined in a LMS, the courses themselves could be attended in SL (at varying times to account for different time zones) to bring in that personal aspect that is so very important. As with any new software there is a learning curve, and just learning SL itself…an orientation per se, (much like one gets before they go to college) would be an excellent ice-breaker… something we all do as “real-world” educators with a new class.


I am a founding member of a virtual photography education project called VISIONAIRE, which I actively work on with two very dear friends I met in SL, one of whom is an art therapist who has worked with sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder and lives in Ireland (Wren), the other in Singapore who also happens to have real life experience as an educator as well as a photographer for VOGUE (Nariko).


Avatar Name: Nariko Okawa


Avatar Name: WrenNoir Cerise


Avatar Name: Silly Avro (aka Prisilla S. Avro)

It was through my experience as a student in this project as well as a manager that I began to see how the use of a MUVE in distance education was very real and very powerful for both the learner and the instructor. Using VISIONAIRE as a case study and Hunter as a lesson foundation, the following principles can be modified to meet the needs of distance learners.

Instructional Design Principle #1: Getting Ready to Learn (review, anticipatory set, objectives)

In VISIONAIRE it was clear from the onset that our over arching objective was to improve the virtual photography skills of each student. I remember the opening activity vividly. We were tasked with bringing to class an example of a virtual photographer we aspired to be like and one that was not quite our style and explain why. Each student came with a sample from Flickr as there is quite the thriving community of virtual/SL artists there and in SL voice, local text, or Skype we explained our thoughts behind each sample we brought to share with our instructors as well as our classmates. In this activity alone we reviewed our own virtual photography knowledge, understood the objective, and our mutual sharing served as the anticipatory set.

Instructional Design Principle #2: Instruction (input and modeling)

In terms of the actual instruction, the instructors (Nariko and Wren) lectured and facilitated group discussion via inworld voice, local text and Skype, depending on the needs of the group.They modeled via samples of their own work, or via sharing something they were working on to illustrate a point via screen capture tools like Gyazo. We congregated in a building that looked nothing like a traditional classroom. It was more of a cozy building with seating for our avatars. In truth it could have been held anywhere…in an open field, a park, another planet, etc.

With the second batch of students Wren took them on virtual field trips to different locations to challenge their use of inworld photography tools as well as post processing tools such as PhotoShop or Gimp. She also had them build their own tools in SL for use in their virtual photography.

Instructional Design Principle #3: Checking for Understanding (guided practice)

We met inworld weekly and in each session we were given assignments to prepare spotlighting different aspects of virtual photography, and then share with the class upon our next meeting (using the previously mentioned methods). Nariko and Wren would review and comment as well as our peers. It was a deeply meaningful process.

Instructional Design Principle #4: Independent Practice

As mentioned above, we were given assignments to work on for the week. A collection of the assignments from the first two batches can be viewed on Flickr.

Instructional Design Principle #5: Closure (assessment)

When a cycle of instruction comes to a close it is met with a heavy heart on the part of all participants. We celebrate achievements and all the things we have learned and how we have grown with a graduation exhibit housed inworld and promoted on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, blogs). VISIONAIRE students display their final projects in their very own galleries. Avatars come from all over the world to view the work of our students and celebrate the learning and success of their friends. It is quite the experience and well received by both students and attendees.

Batch 1 Graduation Exhibition Invitation (April 2014)


Batch 2 Graduation Exhibition Invitation (January 2015)

VISIONAIRE batch 2 exhibition_004

Batch 2 Graduation Exhibition space in Second Life

While VISIONAIRE is but one example, it is one I was a very active participant in as a learner as well as an educator. It symbolizes for me the very real potential MUVEs  like Second Life have in distance education, and that distance education not be relegated to two dimensional learning management systems and message boards. Distance learning can and should be as vibrant as the traditional offline learning experience.

Draxtor Despres: Education 2.0 – Not Afraid of Second Life!

Draxtor Despres: The Drax Files: World Makers [Episode 19: Virtual Chemistry]


Dickey, M. (2011). The pragmatics of virtual worlds for K-12 educators: investigating the affordances and constraints of Active Worlds and Second Life with K-12 in-service teachers. Educational Technology Research & Development, 59(1), 1-20. doi:10.1007/s11423-010-9163-4

Short, D. (2012). Teaching scientific concepts using a virtual world – Minecraft. Teaching Science: The Journal Of The Australian Science Teachers Association, 58(3), 55-58.

Wang, C., Calandra, B., Hibbard, S., & McDowell Lefaiver, M. (2012). Learning effects of an experimental EFL program in Second Life. Educational Technology Research & Development, 60(5), 943-961. doi:10.1007/s11423-012-9259-0

Yunfei, D. (2011). A Measurement Model of Students’ Behavioral Intentions to Use Second Life Virtual Environments. Journal Of Education For Library & Information Science, 52(1), 41-53.




Introducing….Spelling Story of the Week!

In order to promote better spelling, I have decided to publish a student spelling story to my website as a special treat to my students. As a proponent of educational technology, I would have preferred my students type and publish their stories themselves, but in light of the limited technology we possess in my classroom I figured me typing and publishing their stories for them was still something they would be very interested in and I was not mistaken. After teaching the words of the week, and creating a list for them to practice with on VocabularySpellingCity, they were tasked with writing a spelling story (my way of trying to multitask and not only work on spelling, but writing as well). My instructions to them were that they were to take this week’s words and use as many as possible in a story that makes sense. We have an editing procedure in class where the students sit on the floor to “peer edit” on another before they revise their papers and turn them in to me. After reading the completed papers the following was selected as the best of the week. We will repeat this routine each week with new spelling words.

(spelling words are in bold)

“The Boy That Broke His Leg” by Wyatt

Once upon a time there was a boy playing sports outside. He was going inside because a storm began. When he was stepping on the porch he slipped and broke his leg. His mom heard him scream and she ran to get him. They got in the car and drove to the hospital. They had to hurry because it hurt more and more. When they got to the hospital the nurse checked him in. The nurse was looking at it. She said “Yep, its broken.” They brought in the doctor and the doctor did some x-rays. By the time it was 10 minutes before 1:00 the doctor gave the boy crutches and a cast. The doctor said “Stay off the leg for 6 weeks.” Right before they left a storm started, so the doctor gave the boy a wheelchair. 6 weeks passed and they boy was 10. Then he tried out for a sports team and he made it because he practiced a lot.

The word spelling and cute boy using tablet against red apple on pile of books




Happy New Year!

School is back in session and we are back at school learning and working on our Common Core standards for 3rd grade. I know how excited the kids are after a long break and I wanted to give them a couple of opportunities to share in fun ways.

First I told the class they would get to be reporters and interview one another. I gave them some time to brainstorm questions then split them into A/B partners. Rather than just have them talk about their own breaks, I had them ask probing questions of their partner. After about 10 minutes of interviewing, they shared what they learned about the other person in pair presentations to the class. The students could then take one question each from the class about their own breaks.  It went very smoothly and they students really enjoyed the experience. I was amused by some of the questions, though many of them were largely the same.

Being the new year I thought it was a good time for some thought on what my students wanted out of their 2015. I saw some cute ideas on Pinterest for posters kids made that had their hand and foot prints and things about them…a keepsake essentially. I thought I would make it more like resolutions/goals. I discussed the concept of resolutions and goals with the class and had them brainstorm on what things they wanted out of their 2015. I had several confused and simply stating things they wanted and I had to remind them that they were not making a gift list for next Christmas. I also had several not maximizing the poster I had given them and I had to explain the importance of visual appeal and readability. I have included my instructions as well as some of the best posters in the class.

2015 Poster_teacher

2015 Poster_Xiomara

2015 Poster_Elena

2015 Poster_Denise

I thought the posters turned out well despite confusions. I will display the posters in the class for a time then give them to the students so they can see how their 2015 turned out in the end and if they achieved some of the things they wanted from their 2015.


Objective Assessments


Are tests the only objective assessment of student learning?

“If assessment is to be a positive force in education, it must be implemented properly. It cannot be used to merely sort students or to criticize education. Its goals must be to improve education. Rather than ‘teach to the test,’ we must ‘test what we teach.'” -Lockwood and McLean

Dictionary.com defines objective as: “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased” and assessment as “the act of assessing; appraisal; evaluation.”

My test taking sense causes me to immediately respond in the negative to the question that opens this post. Are tests the ONLY objective assessment of student learning? No. There are many other forms to objectively assess student learning.

For example, students can be assessed without bias and based on facts by completing performance tasks, creating and maintaining portfolios (electronic or otherwise), creating and presenting demonstrations, and via teacher observation.

While reading and reflecting on this topic, I encountered this wonderful infographic on Edudemic:


So again, are tests the ONLY objective assessment of student learning? No.  They are one of many different types of assessment and are designed in a plethora of ways with and without technology. I believe in order for any assessment to be objective and without bias that they should be more than your typical standardized test. I am glad to see the shift away from our massive state standardized test and toward the current computerized SBAC assessment (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). I have only seen it once with my last class because it is new, but it is more than your typical “test” and is made up of a variety of question types, ranging from multiple choice, to free response, to performance task. While tests are often the assessment used to assess student learning, they are not the ONLY objective way to evaluate student learning.

(GCU TEC 538 – Reflective Blog Post #4)