Posted in CCCWrite, Reflective Writing Club

Reflective Writing Club: The Impact of Digital Technologies

img_6057Reflective Writing Club Prompt 3:

  • Compare your current professional experiences with your professional experiences at the beginning of your career.
  • Discuss how digital technologies have impacted what you do professionally and how you do it.
  • Has your professional identity shifted at all as a result of the emergence of digital technologies? What about who you interact with and how you interact with them?

I became an educator in 2000 and have worked for the same school district for my entire career thus far. When I reflect on my professional experiences through the lens of digital technologies, the beginning of my career is vastly different than my more recent experiences.

One major difference that jumps to mind at the moment is the entire job hunting process. I recall having to fill out paper applications for a teaching job. Edjoin is used pretty extensively in my area (though I have been told that is not necessarily the case nationwide) and the automation of the application process has made it much easier to apply for more positions in a variety of locations. The use of EdJoin in my search for an administrative position has made it incredibly easy to cast a wide net. Too wide as my husband would complain, he has gotten rather used to me working very close to our home.

In terms of the classroom, things have changed tremendously. As a student I had some access to emerging digital technology, but that was very limited. Those experiences with technology are some of my most fond school memories. I even remember an instance where I had asked a teacher in upper elementary (somewhere between 4th and 6th grade) about using a computer she had in the back of the classroom. She wouldn’t let me for reasons I don’t exactly recall, but I do recall the machine was seldom (if ever) used. When I became a teacher myself decades later, it was surprising to see that not that much had changed. Instead of one or two machines in a room (if there was one at all) there was now 3 or 4…for classes of 20-30 students. There weren’t any computer labs yet so it was a real challenge to give students the exposure to digital technologies that I felt they needed.

My family had always been rather techie. We got our first family computer in 1992, though I had been exposed to computers for a few years already in school. I had been exposed a little to computers in upper elementary and even more so in intermediate school. I recall distinctly being enrolled in the one computer class they offered and working both with MS-DOS as well as Apple lle (which was nearly 5 year old technology at the time). My family moved just after intermediate school ended. It wasn’t particularly traumatizing for me, though like most kids I would have preferred we not move so I could go to high school with my friends.  My new high school was fine and they offered a computer class too, where I got to work with newer machines and the variety of productivity programs available at the time. I distinctly remember getting to make a flyer…for what I don’t recall, but it was a very enjoyable learning experience.

College took my use of technology to a whole new level. I recall how important it was for them to promote that they had multiple computer labs…some strictly Apple and some strictly Windows. It was during college that my parents got me my own machine…an all in one. The brand escapes me now, but I know I really wanted an Apple iMac and I think I may have gotten a Compaq (price likely the reason).

I feel like I have fallen down a nostalgic technology hole and am veering off topic. So let me refocus. College took my use of digital technologies to a whole new level. Emails and preparing my coursework digitally became the norm. Social media wasn’t huge back then…tho I did have a MySpace account before I had a Facebook account, but I think that came a bit later. (Note: MySpace was created in 2003 and I graduated from college in 1996.) Online applications weren’t huge yet so my job hunt once returning home from college was rather traditional. While I recognize this post is to do with professional identity through digital technologies, I have to acknowledge that I first began building a digital identity for myself via America Online. That experience was completely new and one many learned by doing. There weren’t all these handy sites explaining the importance of online safety and whatnot, though I found if you used your common sense you could stay out of trouble online. I didn’t truly begin to develop my professional online identity until I launched my own class website in 2005 (this one, though it looked much different back then) and got active with Discovery’s Educator Network. That was another point in my digital learning that greatly accelerated my understanding of digital technologies and how to use them effectively as an educator.

My professional identity is always evolving, thanks to digital technologies. I have more recently began to use my online professional identity to network with other educators across a variety of platforms. My biggest difficulty is keeping up with all of them and continuing meaningful conversations with everyone, but I doubt I am alone in that. With how easy digital technologies have made it to communicate globally, it is very easy to get swept away by the tide of information.

How have digital technologies impacted you?
Share with me in the comments below 🙂



Posted in Edublogs

Video Killed The Radio Star

youtube-1684601_1280EduBlogsClub Prompt #23:

Prompt: Write a post about videos and/or that includes a video.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Write a post about any topic, but embed a video. Even better if you created the video!
  • Discuss how videos have helped you engage students?
  • How have videos helped you be a better educator?
  • Share a story about a lesson that involves videos and how the students responded in ways you didn’t expect.
  • Create a list of video clips that either provide educator professional development or help create lessons in the classroom.
  • If you find incorporating videos difficult, discuss why you find them challenging.

I love making videos. I love teaching students how to make videos. I make some “vlogs” with my son on my YouTube channel, but it’s pretty much a hobby and something he and I do for fun.  My YouTube channel is mainly just a catch all for the videos I make, personal and professional. If I was serious about focused video creation, I would make a new channel just for that specific purpose. So for any who look at my YouTube channel, you have been warned, it’s a mixed bag.

When I have taught students how to make videos, I am limited by district devices and allowed programs. I remember years ago when I taught 5th grade, I had attended an American Film Institute (AFI) training via the Discovery Educator Network on making movies. It was after that institute that I hosted an after-school film club and taught 5th graders what I had learned about making films. We had a few small video cameras and district computers that came standard with Windows Movie Maker. Those early years of film making were great for the kids, they really learned a lot about making and editing videos, at least on a very basic level. Sadly, over time equipment stopped working and was not replaced, so film making went by the wayside.

More recently in my classroom I had taken to creating paper slide videos with my students using a smartphone or a tablet. (The linked video is not my own, but I did have one once upon the time, though it doesn’t seem to be up on my YouTube channel.) Once again, it was the Discovery Educator Network that exposed me to this idea. It is a very affordable and fun way for kids to make videos.

When it comes to making the most basic of machinima, I have used Screencast-o-matic to capture myself gaming. Take for example some machinima I made of my Minecraft Club: (keep in mind I was VERY new to Minecraft and that I hadn’t worked out how to capture my students talking to me so you only hear me talking to them…I did say it was basic 🙂 )

Once out of the classroom and in my role as a teacher on assignment, I spent a little more time with PowTooons. It was a tool I had come across and had known about for some time, but hadn’t had the time to really dig into and learn how to use. Now that I have taken the time to create with it, it is certainly a tool I would use with students if I were still in the classroom. Here is a sample of one of my Powtoons:

I really enjoyed the concept of a “Mrs. Ruiz Explains” series, but I have not had much time to make that really come to life. Video making takes a lot of time, and producing something that could serve students (or a YouTube audience) is something most people make a full time job out of. So at the moment for me, video creation remains a hobby and something I know I can do if the need arises.

I have found that the use of videos increases student engagement, and even more so when you have students creating the videos.  As an educator, I have found that creating my own videos really focuses my thoughts on a topic and allows me to create a video for my specific instructional needs. On a personal level, I find video creation to be a very rewarding outlet for creativity.

How do you use videos in your teaching? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂


Posted in Graduate Studies

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.