Posted in Edublogs

Tell A Story


EduBlogsClub Prompt #16:

Prompt: Write a post that tells a story. 

Tell a story about a time in your career as an educator that you want to share. It can be a positive memory, a time you wish you could change the outcome, a student you remember, or just a class lesson you want to share.

(The following post was written as I was flying back from from Arizona. I had just completed my second and final residency week @ Grand Canyon University in mid June 2017.)

Hello, my name is…

“…Dr. Melanie Ruiz, and my area of expertise is online learning.”

That was how Dr. Mark Schmitz had us close our weeklong second residency. He warned my 16 classmates and I that he had a powerful 5 minute exercise that could bring us to tears. He walked us through 5 cleansing breaths, and then had us write our names on a blank sheet of paper. He instructed us to leave some space at the front of our names. I jokingly whispered to my neighbor “I want to put Dr. there!” Not to long after that Dr. Schmitz had us do exactly that. He then had us silently read our names with doctor in front 5 times. Then he had us introduce ourselves that way to our classmates and state our area of expertise. Then everyone in the room had their turn. He was right about the tears. I was not the only one tearing up a little at the idea of introducing myself this way. I have only ever referred to myself as Dr. Ruiz in jest. I have even repeatedly reminded my dad that I am not a doctor yet when he calls me Dr. Ruiz on Facebook.

“Hello, my name is Dr. Melanie Ruiz, and my area of expertise is online learning.”

I tried to hide the quiver in my voice when I said that out loud, but I know my classmates heard it. Even writing about it now brings tears to my eyes all over again. Dr. Schmitz encouraged each of us to keep the paper with our names on it and write more papers with our name written like that and post them all around us, to remind us that this is real and it is possible. This week of my second residency made me really understand the work ahead. My dissertation is not just an idea in my head, it is a very real and valid research project that will make me Dr. Melanie Ruiz and a scholarly writer.

I often think back to when I was a child and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember only being able to think about being a lawyer or medical doctor, neither of which suited me. As an older child I loved reading and do to this day. I remember thinking about being a writer, a notion I dismissed when I figured there was no way I could make a living doing that. I had to be more practical. I went all the way to my bachelor’s degree not knowing what I really wanted to do. The topic of career guidance is a whole other issue I won’t go into here, but it amazes me how life works. I am sure my classmates at Grand Canyon University (a Christian university) would chalk it up to God (like Lynette – my Facebook feed is not complete without a “Love God! Love Fam!” post from her). Maybe it is God or the will of the universe.

After working in finance for 4 years and not seeing a future for myself, I knew I had to do something. So off to the bookstore I went, like I did anytime I had something that needed investigating. (The Internet was young in those days, so the library and bookstore were my favorite places.) I soon was taking a Meyers-Briggs assessment that told me I was an INFJ and of the careers that suited my personality writer and educator were among the top 5. Again I reminded myself that I could not earn a livable wage as a writer and dove headlong into teaching. I have never regretted that.

Over the years since then I have dabbled in writing, mainly in the form of blogging as well as through my virtual reality experiences. In 2014 I took my writing to the scholarly level by enrolling in my first online program with GCU, to earn my long desired second Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction: Educational Technology. It was over in a year and then I began to dabble with the idea of a doctorate. I had never wanted a doctorate before, I had never considered it. But there it was, a viable option. I looked at the higher ups in my district, many of them doctors and thought “I can do that too.”

So here I am in the middle of my online doctoral program and realizing that I am a writer and that me introducing myself as a doctor isn’t a joke.

The universe has a funny way of showing you the way, even if it takes decades. You just have to be open to seeing it.

What story do you want to tell? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂


Posted in Graduate Studies

Class Size Matters PSA

As a part of my online graduate studies in the area of Educational Technology, my assignment this week was to create a PSA (public service announcement) as a part of my Digital Storytelling class. The topic of the PSA was up to each student. I chose to do mine on one of my top three “hot button” issues – class size. (My other two areas of concern are class technology for students and teacher prep time, in case you were wondering.)

Posted in Graduate Studies

Sample Distance Education Mini-Lesson

(This post is designed to meet the requirements for the Distance Education Mini-Lesson as assigned by GCU TEC 571)

Lesson Format: Hybrid
“A hybrid lesson is a combination of modalities and technology with face to face instruction.”
I chose this format as it is closest to my actual teaching environment. The lesson is designed as remediation where direct instruction based on the gradual release model has already taken place.


SUBJECT AREA: Mathematics – Division
Number of Students: 31 (16 male & 15 female) | Age Range: 8-9 years old

Mental, Social, Physical, Social Notes:

  • Disabilities: none
  • Learning Differences:(Based on recent MAPS results in Math: Operations and Algebraic Thinking)
    • Challenge: 10 students
    • Benchmark: 9 students
    • Strategic: 7 students
    • Intensive: 5 students
  • Ethnicities:
    • Hispanic/Latino: 22
    • Asian: 5
    • Caucasian: 1
    • Native American: 1
    • African American: 1

Current Knowledge, Prerequisites, and Notes About Learner Attitudes:

The class on the whole is eager and well behaved. There is a broad spectrum of academic abilities.

Learning Styles (29 students assessed via “What’s Your Learning Style?“)

  • Visual: 8
  • Auditory: 13
  • Kinesthetic: 3
  • Auditory/Visual: 2
  • Auditory/Kinesthetic: 2
  • Visual/Kinesthetic: 1


TITLE: Division Review
SUMMARY: In this lesson we will revisit the concept of making equal groups (dividing).
3.OA.3 – Use multiplication and division within 100 to solve word problems in situations involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities, e.g. by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.
ESSENTIAL QUESTION: How could you solve problems breaking quantities into equal groups?
1. Creativity and Innovation

a. Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
b. Create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
c. Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.
2. Communication and Collaboration
a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
3. Research and Information Fluency
a. Plan strategies to guide inquiry
d. Process data and report results
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
a. Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
b. Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
c. Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
d. Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.
5. Digital Citizenship
a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use information and technology.
b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
6. Technology Operations and Concepts
a. Understand and use technology systems
d. Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies.
Students will be able to solve problems breaking quantities into equal groups.
Blooms Taxonomy:

Students will remember how to solve a problem using division strategies.
Students will understand how to apply division strategies to solve problems.
Students will apply what they have learned about division to real world problems.
Students will evaluate their own division projects as well as those of their peers.
Students will create projects demonstrating their mastery of division strategies.
Relatively up to date computer (Windows or Mac operating system)
Smartphone or other device to record and upload with.
Internet browser (e.g. Safari, Explorer, Firefox, Chrome)
Ability to operate a computer.
Ability to navigate the Internet.
Familiarity with how to post to YouTube privately.
Familiarity with Discovery Education and Board Builder.
Familiarity with Edmodo and BrainPOP Jr.
DURATION: 20 minutes in class, as much time as needed at home
GROUPING: In class whole group, at home individual


ANTICIPATORY SET:  Review the BrainPop Jr video “Making Equal Groups(Since BrainPop Jr. is a paid service, access information has been shared privately with those who require it.)
Watch and discuss the video pausing at key points with the entire class, being mindful to select students from each ability level (Challenge, Benchmark, Strategic, Intensive) to contribute to the discussion.
Once the video has been reviewed and discussed, the online portion of the task will be explained including the rubrics that will be used to score them. Students will complete tasks remotely as outlined via a Discovery Education Board Builder. (For sample purposes, a guest log in to Discovery Education has been provided privately.)

ONLINE PORTION (parent/guardian permission and assistance required)

      1. Students will log into their Discovery Education accounts for the Board Builder that has been assigned to them entitled “Division Review.”
      2. Students will then visit the “Making Equal Groups” video page themselves where they will review the video.
      3. Students will complete the following activities related to the “Making Equal Groups” video page.
        1. Activity – Print out the activity page and record yourself solving the problems, explaining your thought process. Post privately to YouTube and share the link in the class group on Edmodo. Students will then review and comment on their peers’ work. (summative assessment)
        2. Division Is All Around You – Students will identify as many division problems in their daily lives as they can and have a parent record them identifying it and solving it using any of the division strategies we have discussed. The video can be privately posted to YouTube and the url shared in Edmodo for class review and comment. (formative assessment).
      4. Students will review and comment on their classmates’ work in Edmodo.


Other ways this lesson can be extended:

Students create a podcast using SoundCloud that takes a division sentence and makes it a story, then post the link to it in Edmodo for the class to listen and comment. Students could also use the same idea and instead of create a podcast, the could create an online book of it using StoryBird, sharing their completed story on Edmodo for peer commentary.

Students could create their own division Board Builder, and upload text, drawings, audio and video…serving as a portfolio of their mathematical and technical understanding.


The main area of concern would be the level of parent support and willingness to aid children this young in completing online tasks. A secondary concern is the technology literacy of the household and the level of necessary preparation students and families may need to accomplish online tasks.

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.