Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fail to plan is plan to fail!

Mr. Franklin was very right, a good plan is very important for a successful outcome. This is absolutely right when we are talking about the creation of videos for an online course.
In the past I have done my share of video on the moment, with outcomes that sometimes were very disastrous, taking so much time for cleaning up the videos from pauses, stumbling thoughts, and so forth.

Planning a good video is a task that requires time and effort for doing it right.
Various elements that needs to be considered in the planning process are
  • Time-frame - Best practices recommend to stay within the 3 minutes but depending on what you are trying to present, sometime you need more time. No matter what, try not to go over 7 minutes.
  • Consider what you want to present to your audience: what are the sections of the course you want to show or highlight? Why?
  • Focus on the anchors of the course, the important elements that every student should be familiar with right from the start.
  • WRITE it DOWN! Yes, it is important to do it! Yes, often we THINK we know what we are going to say, but the truth is that when we start recording ourselves we can so easily get sidetracked and loose the target we had in mind the at the beginning. The result usually is a very unpleasant and not very functional waste of time!
    Write down what you want to present in a script. Educational Use of Digital Storytelling  is a great site for finding resources for this process, including templates for the storyboard of your video. I like the simplicity of the second version of the Word template found in the middle of the article.
  • Evaluate which tools you ave available for recording your work, compare pros and cons depending on the situation. Sometime you need to make a podcast on the fly, so you are willing to sacrifice on quality of image or sound, while if you have the time and the access to a good video/screen recording tool, is worth to spend the extra time for doing a good final product.
    Personally I like to use Camtasia Studio for creating my videos. It requires some editing, but it has great potentials!
Here below you can see an example of SCRIPT I have done for an introductory video for my new courses, and the final product of the video.
SCRIPT - Introduction to Mrs. Pokryfki's courses

Sure, every project has to have a good share of challenges to deal with. In my case, for this specific video I came upon a good variety.
1. Do not give for granted that the content of your course will be the same next year ... with the Foreign Language department curriculum review will come new material - I am very excited about this, but I will discuss it in another post - therefore the video I have created right now might not be accurate next year.
2. Do not give for granted that the LMS interface will be the same next month!Just last Friday I was informed that in January we will be moving to the new interface which means that all the videos we have made new last August will be to be redone!
3. Plan in advance a general script and be ready to adjust it at the last minute since you do not always have access to the new interface long before students roll in your courses.

These are some of the challenges you might encounter, but I am sure that there can be more to add to the list.... Bottom line, be ready like a Kong-Fu Panda for attacking the content and create your videos :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Cloud for Collaboration

One of the most relevant tools for increasing engagement in online courses has been proved to be the interpersonal connection, which is strongly supported with the use of collaboration as format for formative assessments and practices.
Based on the feedback I have received from my online students over the years, they always loved the opportunity to feel being part of a class and sharing ideas and experiences with their peers.
Usually LMSs offer opportunity for fostering collaboration among students. For Moodle users some build-in tools for collaborations are the forums, great for class discussions, the glossaries, good tools Poodles offer the opportunity for collaboration using voice or video recordings - however, based on my experience, they can be giving some technical challenges sometimes.
for collaborative activities on specific topics;
With Canvas the build-in collaborative tool is the discussion. A very nice feature of this tool is the option of assigning peers review of the post either manually or randomly, which means that each student is given the name(s) of the person(s) they need to interact with. This helps in pushing students toward reading and commenting on posts of people they do not know and that they might not have chosen on their own.

My favorite collaborative tool that I have been using for several years is VoiceThread. The best way  I can explain what this tool does, is defining it as PowerPoint on steroids! You can use still images or videos individually or in a slide show, and students can comment on each frame typing or recording their voice or video. Everyone can listen to other people's posts and they can build in or comment. I have used this tool in various ways: mostly I used for recreating the classroom interaction with my students in the target language. What I like so much about this tool is that is so versatile and I can use it for my interactions with students as class while each of them can listen to what other students are saying. For foreign languages online courses this is a great asset!

Other tools that I have been using include Google Doc/Google Drive for , Blackboard Collaborate, and Microsoft Lync.

Researching on the Internet for resources I have found several websites providing a lot of good resources. Those that I would like to recommend are Kathy Schrocks - Guide to Everything
and EmergingTechEd. These sites present a very good variety of tools for promoting collaboration.
One tool that I have found on these sites that I have not yet yet but that I find intriguing to try is

I am not quite sure how to implement this tool to my courses, but I think that it would be a good tool for reviewing language structures in peer groups. I will play with it and I will add more ideas for using in another post.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Essentials For Engagement

I just got back from a week of super-intersting-exciting-total-immersion in the iNACOL symposium. This was my very first time at this conference and I am completely blown away by this experience. The Keynote Speakers were all remarkable and the educators presents were powerful. For the first time EVER I was able to find 3 other "white flies" like myself teaching foreign languages online in an asynch environment... one is from Oregon, one is from Wisconsin, and the last one is from Minnesota. We bonded right away and collaboration flew right on... but this is the topic for another
post! :)
Let's get back to iNACOL.... "Competency-based Education" was the buzz word this year, and a good number of sessions focused on strategies for switching to this type of education where students are not seeking a grade but learning!.. what an odd concept, isn't it? - chuckle -  I deeply agree with these principles and this is what I envision for my ideal online courses. This is my most ambitious goal and I am not sure how long it will take to achieve it, but I strongly believe that this is the greatest investment I can do for my students.

When I look at my courses critically, I have to admit that students are working for the grade, which somehow I find sad, however I can identify myself in this kind of rat-race for the A whenever I am enrolled in a college class. Unfortunately our educational system is focused on grades and GPA is an extremely important element of every students' life from high school level on. Grades define who you are, how good you are, which prizes or scholarships you might earn,  which college might accept you, and so forth. But what about what students really KNOW and MASTER?
In my opinion the overall "design" of education should reflect encourage and promote mastery and competency and be the framework upon which creating individual pieces of education, such as our courses.

Why am I going off on Competency-Based Education when I am trying to talk about students' engagement in online courses? Well, in my opinion the actual educational framework of a course creates the premises for the effectiveness of all the bells and whistles needed for promoting and supporting students engagement.

I have been reading several articles about students' engagement in online courses - I found a great collection of resources on Edutopia  and there is a lot of scholar articles on this topic as well - and I see that all strategies have in common one aspect: the importance of the human connection!
In spite of the technology in which online students and teachers are plunged in, the element that really connects educators and students and hooks students is the human connection established with the instructor and among peers.

John McCarthy, author of "Igniting Student Engagement: A Roadmap for Learning"  places "being real" as first practice. He meant to focus on the the authenticity of the learning process, however this step requires the knowledge of students for being able to create a connection between the authentic component and their personal lives and interests.
Ali Briggs in "Ten Ways to Overcome Barriers to Student Engagement Online"provides a very nice outline of steps to follow for establishing a positive environment that would support and promote student' engagement in online courses.
I went through the checklist and I did a self reflection... I did not need to go too far for finding my "guilty" spots. It is so hard sometimes to organize your days for fitting everything, but I like having this checklist now as reference for what I need to prioritize, considering that the consequences could be failing my students and loosing the priceless connection with them.

Going back to the connection between competency-based learning and engagement, I think that it is pretty straight forward recognizing how a student would feel more connected with the content studied in a course when he/she has the feel for it and can see and measure her/his own progress in a realistic manner, not framed by grades. 

I am going to make a checklist sheet with these important steps and I will post it here in the blog for whoever wants to use it.

Work in Progress

Now that we are into the second half of the first semester of this school year, I am in the process of reviewing my e-courses on Canvas and evaluating those sections that had a rough initial start of of some elements of this new (to me) LMS.

There are 3 goals for major change of my courses I want tackle before the beginning of the Spring
  1.  First contact email sent to students at the time of their enrollment with the first directions for the access to the course and link to the introduction of the course video. Although it is not  specific component of the course, this email is very critical since I can send it to students and their parents/guardians, allowing all of them to have a first taste and feel for the course. Parents/guardians are not yet able to access to my Canvas courses with an observer account - this might change next year - so this first video will allow parents/guardians to have an understanding of what the course is about right away.
    I think that this piece of information will allow parents more understanding of the learning environment of their kids and will empower them in asking the right question to the students whenever they want to know more about their progress.
    I am also considering the option of creating a video specific for parents/guardian for guiding them through the course and show them how and where they can monitor the progress, activity and score of their kids in the course, as well as seeing my feedback to their work. This idea is becoming more relevant due to a feature present in Canvas: the "what if..." option in the grade book. Students indeed can use this feature for changing their grades (not on the actual grade-book) and see what they would need to score in a particular assignment for changing their final grade. Great feature, right? Well, recently I was told of a parent who was completely blown way when she realized that he son was lying to her and showing her the "what if" grades instead of the actual scores of his work. The discrepancy between the reports shown by he student and the concerned emails from a teacher moved the parent to call our office for figuring out what was going on. It was just then, when the parent was able to access to the course and go to the grade-book that realized that something was very wrong and that what she was seeing at that moment was far different from what she was shown regularly by her child.
    Now, this episode is pretty iconic of how great tools can be used in the wrong way and you never know what to expect!
  2. Redesign the first section of the course for being more user friendly and making sure that all the important information are provided to students. This process will include the remake of the navigation video and the use of Google Docs as repository of content shared by multiple courses, such as the students tools.
    This goal is very important to me especially considering the major failure to launch I had with the Fall semester. I have made a list of all the possible things that could go wrong - not that I can be 100% positive that nothing else will pop-up, but at least I can beat the odds! I have been researching various Canvas sites for gaining more ideas of functional and well designed courses to use as models.
    Something that I would like to keep on target is the accessibility of the site especially to hearing and vision impaired students. This is certainly a great challenge because often it conflict with my creativity drive. Finding the right balance between functionality, accessibility, and aesthetic is definitely challenging, but it is something I want and need to address since I would like to have my courses being accessible to all our students. Last year for the first time I have seen the tool used by a blind student for navigating the Internet, and that experience was a wake-up call for the code barriers we create in our e-courses when we start paying with fonts, colors, and all the very cool visual effects.
    I am planning to have one of our district vision specialist to test my courses for accessibility, and I would like to have a few students testing my spring courses for user-friendliness during the Christmas break.
  3. Review my assessment program. This will benefit my students and also myself in the way that at this time I have a graded task with need or re-grading almost every day, which times 120 students makes my life a nightmare! I am sure that there must be a better way to assess my students. I really want to look into how to streamline my assessment program for making it more relevant to students and less grading-intensive.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Networking and Self Care

We are in the full swing of this school year, the first quarter has already closed and now we are getting closer to the holidays seasons which is going to bring the closing of the first semester before we can even realize it. The healthy glow we had on our first day of school is long forgotten and out faces start showing the signs of little sleep and lot of work... welcome to the life of a teacher! ...Well, this is something that I have to remind myself all the time: "Take care of yourself!" My mom has a beautiful Italian saying "an empty bag can't stand up!" Let's try to make sure we are not emptying ourselves so much that we cannot be there anymore for our students as we would like to be.


There are various way you can take care of yourself, sleep more, reduce stress, pamper yourself, but also there is a great prevention you could do which goes beside yourself... start reaching out to the amazing community of educators we have in our state and beyond! As educators too often we get somehow sucked into our daily school life of our classroom, either traditional or virtual, and we forget that other people out there, sometimes even close-by are going though similar situation, or have been already similar situation, and they could share their expertise and help us. The common saying of "why reinventing the wheel" is something we should always keep in mind, long before we burn-up ourselves too much.

Every year at ASTE I hear so many people, including myself celebrating the amazing experience of being able to connect with educators from around the state and being able to share experiences and tools. Every year we promise ourselves that we will keep in touch with these people, and then when we go back to our districts, we go back to our routines, and we do not think much about the people we connected with until the following ASTE conference.

Why waiting for so long? Remember all these amazing people are out there, and while they all have a lot to offer, they might also need something that we can offer them. Some districts more than others are celebrating collaboration beyond the boundaries of their own district staff, and are supporting and promoting this very positive networking. I would like to recognize the amazing contribution Kodiak Island School District has been doing this year sponsoring several PD events for educators from all over the state.

ASTE has created a couple of years ago the SIG Networks for helping supporting the connection among its members and other educators during the 360 days of the year in between conferences. These Networks are all gathered into a Google+ community ASTE Networks, and it is a great place to go to for keep the connection with the people you have met or heard of during the yearly conference. There are also some other great communities on Google+ worth of mention: AKTeach Webinars and PD, Alaska Online Teachers, Alaska Teacher Talk.
Twitter is also a great tool for keeping connection and for connecting with new shakers and movers who could have some precious tidbits.

The bottom line is, you are not alone out there, but you are part of an incredible and very talented community. Keep that in mind and remember that this is a great way to take care of yourself and others at the same time.

Images retrieved from, on 11/07/2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Frist Steps with a LMS

The most effective way to start using an LMS is to get some good PD for it.  Dha!
Ok, I get it, this doesn't always happen. Often we have to figure out how to fly while building the plane and this is what teachers are very familiar with. So what do you do beside screaming, crying, and wish the world was fairer to you? Here there are a few suggestions for keeping your mental and emotional sanity while get the handle of your new LMS.
  1. Before starting look around the Web for some good examples of courses created using the LSM of you choice. You can gather ideas and strategies for planning your own e-learning course. I have found some good examples searching Google for "Canvas course".
  2. Make a list of the MUST HAVE elements that should have in your course and start writing the text that you will add to the LMS using World documents. Having this content ready will save you a lot of time when you will start building your course.
  3. LMSs have a website with resources, forums, and troubleshooting guides that can help you in figuring out how to get started with the LSM you are using.these are the links to Moodle and Canvas resources sites.

  4. Fortunately out there there are a lot of people working on LMS and some of them are eager to share their knowledge making very helpful and instructive videos. Search YouTube or Vimeo and you will certainly find  something that will help you getting started and troubleshooting some of the adversities you might encounter on your way.   Here there is an example of video found on YouTube with the directions for getting started with Canvas.

  5. In Alaska most if not all school districts are using one LMS. Connect with other educators and asks for help with the particular feature you are working at. A good way for reaching out for educators in Alaska is through one of the Google+ communities such as ASTE Networks, Alaska Online Teachers, and AKTeach.
    I am sure that each state has similar resources, however thanks to the WWW it does not make any difference where you are, today you can reach anybody around the world as easily as your extra neighbor!

How to....videos, the best way to

If you are a teacher, you value your time and EFFICIENCY is one of your best friend! With this in mind, in the years I have been teaching online I have learned that "How to...." videos are you secret weapon! Something else that I have learned is that their placement int he course is very critical. If they are placed strategically in the e-course, most of the time they will allow students to find an answer right when their question rises, and save teacher from replying to numerous similar emails on the same topic.
Yes, I have learned this the hard way.... and I share my experience so that you will not have to do the same.

Today whenever I receive 2 emails asking explanation about the same topic, I go ahead and either look or make an "how to..." video. This year with the change of LMS I had to redo some of my videos, while I have found great resources on the Canvas Help website. The only problem though was that the videos were hosted on Vimeo, and our district blocks it, so I had to move them to YouTube and doing so I have crated a playlist with all of them that I can share with students.
You can access to my play list at this URL: Mrs. Pokryfki Courses - Guides and How to...

I have created specific videos for guiding showing student how to type accented letters and how to deal with some tech issues such as when their headset is not recognized. What I use for making these videos is Camtasia, a pretty good video editing software, a little spendy though. If you want to try a free tool you can use Screencast-o-matic. You can have some more features and tools using the paying version, which is still a  fraction of the cost of a more advanced tool, such as Camtasia. I have used Screencast-o-matic especially when I want a podcast done on the fly. Also being a web based tool, I can use it from any computer, as long as I have a webcam.

Another tool I am using for making videos is GoAnimated. This tool allows you to created animated cartoons and you can either record your voice or use computer generated voices for having your characters speaking. What is pretty cool is that you can also have the speech done in several languages, male and female voices. I have used GoAnimated for creating stories and instructional videos as well. I really like this tool for the many options you have for presenting concepts in a fun and engaging way.

The last tool I would like to share with you is VoiceThread . My best way to explain what this tool does is "PowerPoint on steroids!" Basically you can create a slide show of still images or of videos, add your voice and test, and students can comment vocally or in a written way to each slide.
I use this tool a lot in my language courses for creating interactive activities in which I ask questions and students reply to me in the target language, allowing asynchronous interaction with students.

Both GoAnimated and VoiceThread can be easily embedded in your LMS. I have used on Moodle as well as on Canvas.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Planning an effective introductory to the course video

The first rule should be "put yourself in the students' shoes". This is a mistake that unfortunately comes easier that not when you spend a lot of time creating and developing a course. You know the course inside-out and this familiarity with its structure can make you underestimate some of the challenges or some of the "unexpected" and not successful ways students could move in the course getting confused and frustrated.

Retrieved from
When I designed my course I did this, and I have followed the steps students should take in the first video I made, however something that I did not consider was the starting point from where a student access to the course. I gave for granted that the starting point was the homepage of the course, while it is not. In the page where students arrive when they log in, is a general Canvas entry page that at this time does not show the list of the courses the student is enrolled in, but students need to click on a tab "Courses and Groups" for opening a drop down menu with the list of the courses/course in which they are enrolled. Then clicking on the name of the course they do arrive to the home page.
In the entry page though students see two lists: "to do" and "coming up".
The first list shows a partial list of assignments already due. This is particularly challenging for students who are enrolling in the course after the beginning of the course, and it happens very often. This list as I said does show assignments graded, however some assignments that have embedded content do not show in this list. Also anything that needs to read, watched, listen, does not show unless is linked to a grade.
The list coming up shows only assignments graded that are coming up in the calendar.

Before the beginning of the course, when the course was not populated, I did not see the presence of the list "to do". This has been a very misleading section that made students click directly on those assignments without accessing to the homepage and following through with the course. Since I did not foresee this issue, my original video did not include any direction for the entry page, while now I am aware of the importance of that first step for avoiding a huge sidetracking of students.

Another think that is overestimate is the fact that students will read directions :) For this reason in my video I had to add a couple of directions for finding some essential tools or the course: one is a video with the directions for typing accented letters on a keyboard, and how to use Microsoft Lync, a chatting tool that is already installed on all computers of our school district. While the former is a tool for students work, the other is their tool for connecting with me directly. Both tools are very important.

An overall good strategy for creating an introductory video should include:
  • Make a plan of the flow of the course: from where students enter to where they should go to.
  • Consider any possible deviation from he flow and alert students of the risks in taking those paths. 
  • Identify and introduce students to icons connected to particular elements of the course, so that they could recognize them later instead of guessing.
  • Make a list of the important elements students should know right from the beginning, contacts with the instructor, how to see grades, how to see teacher's comments, where to see the due dates, where to see announcements, etc...
  • If you can, TEST IT with someone who is not familiar with your course, a colleague would work, the effectiveness of your video in his/her ability to access to the course and move through following the path you planned. 
The tool I use for creating my video is Camtasia Studio. It takes a little longer than using some of the more immediate tools, but it also offers great editing capabilities, so that the final product can be of a good quality.
Unfortunately I was not able to finalize the new video today for some technical difficulties, but I hope I will be bale to publish it here tomorrow.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Everyone needs a road-map!

This is even more important when we are talking about online courses. Over the years teaching online I have found how important is to give students right at the very first contact an effective and user friendly tool that takes them exactly where they need to go in the course and that shows them around the course as a good hostess.

Thinking about it seems a pretty logical tah! idea, right? The challenge is making an EFFECTIVE introduction video!
This process takes quite some time, effort and definitely a few failures to launch. After working on Moodle for 5 yeas I thought I had my intro video pretty much nailed down to perfection. I was so proud of it. This year though with the adoption of the new (for me) LMS Canvas I had to remake all my introductory video on a LMS I was not very familiar with, so I am back dealing with my first "failure to launch" Canvas' road-map.

It is amazing how many things I learn in the first 48 hours of the school years, when the floodgate is open and students are pouring into the courses. That's when you find out a lot of the things that can go wrong! This time around though there was a particular step that I totally underestimated and that has proved to be critical in the misguidance of students arriving to the course. I had some great conversations with some of my colleagues at the Distance Learning department, and we are planning to put our hands back on the video and create some guidelines for all our intro to the course videos so that students enrolled in any of our courses would find some sort of consistency in the navigation.

This is my first Canvas intro video and the Home Page shown here actually has been already restyled reducing the size of the 3 buttons, placing them on the right of the welcoming message, and adding my photo and contact info right under the buttons, as you can see in this image on the right.
I am not yet 100% satisfied with the layout of my home page, however this organization did not cause any troubles, while the video did, and this is why I would like to start tacking that first.

I would greatly appreciate any constructive criticism about the video and if you have 2 cents also for the home page, feel free to throw them here as well :)

Next step: listing problem caused by the current video and then start planning the new video!

Friday, October 9, 2015

My LMS world
These days we often hear talking about LMS, but not necessarily everybody knows what this anachronism means or what it represents.  LMS stands for Learning Management System, which in other words is a software that allows the creation and management of an online based course content, students data and work management. In other words is the online classroom in its broad meaning, including curriculum, communication, and students' activities of a given class.
 Sometimes it is called "virtual classroom", "e-learning environment", or "online course", and it can be used either for formal instruction or for training in either completely online deliver or as online component of a blended learning environment. Schools of all grades, especially post-secondary education, use LMS for delivering online courses to students and for educators' professional development. Industries as well are using more and more LMS for providing training to their staff, especially when they have personal on multiple locations.

I have been an online teacher at KPBSD since 2009 and over the years I used various LMS for my online courses. The first LMS I have used was ANGEL. This LMS was already in use by my school district, and honestly I did not now anything about LMS at that time, so I was not in the position of being able to appreciate or not all its potentials.
The second year as online teachers my district migrated the online courses to Moodle, and we used this LMS for five years until this summer we switched to Canvas.
The initial move to Moodle was supported by the idea of using an open source software, which technically was supposed to be financially advantageous for the district. The problem that raised over the years was the need of full time support for the management of the software and the technical development needed for customizing Moodle to our needs.
We also came upon some challenges connected to the use of some of Moodle's features, such as the questionable functionality of some audio and video recording/playing, negative feedback from students about its navigability, and difficulty in integrating external services in a smoothly integrated fashion, such as YouTube, Quizlet, Dropbox, etc.
Moodle has also some great features though, such as the ability to store the "note for grader" which is a general feedback for essay questions in which a teacher can store an answer not visible to students, but useful for the person who is grading students work as reference of what the correct answer should be like.

At this time I have been working with Canvas only for a couple of months, so I am still pretty new to it for being able to provide a reliable review of this LMS. For what I have heard form students, it seems that they like it better than Moodle and they find it much more user friendly. What I and all my colleagues of the Distance Learning Department have noticed in the short time we have been using Canvas, was the exponential increase int he students interaction with their instructors using the messaging/emailing feature build in Canvas.
One feature that I am particularly fond of, considering that I teach world languages, is the easy to use video and/or audio feedback I can leave to any type of work submitted by my students.

Overall though I will be able to provide a more comprehensive and reliable critical review of this LSM by the end of this school year.

On other LMS that I have been using form the student prospective is Blackboard. This LMS is used by the University of Alaska system, and taking my classes with UAF via distance delivery I have been using it for few years now. From the user prospective, it is definitely not as user-friendly as Moodle or Canvas can be, but I do not have the insight of the teacher/course-builder prospective. I would actually appreciate if someone would fill me in with their knowledge and experience about this LSM.
This is all I have to share about LSM, I hope this post has been informative and if you have any questions, suggestions, comments about any of the LSMs mentioned here, please drop a note. :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Paper Circuitry Resources

Printable Notebook
This booklet was produced by CV2 and Nexmap and can be printed and used as learning tool following the Creative Commons conditions cited at the end of the notebook.

Jie Qi
She is the GURU of Paper Circuitry

Exploratorium San Francisco based research organization with tons f resources.


You can purchase material such as the sticker LED lights from them. They also have tutorials and educational material. This is only for Alaska school Districts.

You can purchase material such as the sticker LED lights from them. They also have tutorials and educational material.


How to Videos on YouTube
Folding Copper Tape for Paper Circuitry
Soldering & Adding Microcontrollers to Paper Circuits

Educational resources and Professional development
Google+ communities:  AKTeach, 21st Century Notebooking, and Aste Networks.

My Examples of Paper Circuitry
iNACOL - Project Based Learning sesssion - Final product
Mrs. Pokryfki HS students and other learners of Paper Circuitry

Saturday, August 1, 2015

AKTeach Conference: Final Project / Plan of Implementation

What I am going to do with what I learned... 

My vision for the implementation of the acquired knowledge has 2 related yet different plans:
The first focuses on sharing the acquired knowledge with peers educators, while the second focuses on sharing this knowledge with my own students. 
  1. Plan 1. I believe in the importance of sharing acquired knowledge with fellow educators (teachers and administrators) for promoting and nurturing an environment of cross curricula project based learning in line with the makers movement.
    I am planning to share with fellow educators presenting a session the following events:
    • Professional Development workshop with  educators of my school district,  KPBSD - Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. I have already emailed my administrator and the PD coordinator presenting my intention of offering this workshop. I am waiting to hear back from them for planning the details of this events.
      I would like to offer this workshop to teachers of various subjects, especially I would like to involve the Art, Science, World Languages and Language Art teachers since this could promote some collaborative cross curricula projects for our students.
      The material I am planning to use in this workshop is a basic kit formed by: copper tape, copper wire, conductive paint, multimeter, led lights, and batteries.
      I am planning to ask the district for financial support in financing the kits, especially for the purchase of the multimeters. We will have to decide if this material will stay with the teachers or if will be used during the workshop and then returned for further use.
      I would like to use the templates created by Jie Qi for making a simple and handmade notebook for the participants with the patters to use for getting started and learning how to create a simple circuit, a parallel circuit, and a switch circuit.
      More complex circuits will be shown as model using videos, and explain the material needed for those creations.
    • Webinar for ASTE Creativity and Communication SIG. This webinar will be offered to ASTE members using Goggle Hangout. I would like to offer this webinar at the end of August or beginning of September. This is a max. 1 hour webinar in which I would like to offer an introduction to Paper Circuitry explaining what it is about, and showing the material used for realizing it and some of the examples I have created, and, if I can organize it some examples made by other participants of the Kodiak AKTeach Conference.
      The nature of the webinar does not allow hands-on practice, especially for the short time-frame of the session, however it will be a good start for getting people interested in learning more about Paper Circuitry.
      I will provide links to web resources for learning more about this technique.
    • AFLA (Alaskans For Language Acquisition) Conference, September 18-20, Anchorage. I will present a session at this conference in collaboration with Lindsey Glenn, Spanish teacher at the Kodiak Island School District.
      This session will be an hands-on workshop of 4 hours in which we will first introduce the concept of Paper Circuitry using some YouTube videos, such as the video of Jie Qi of the interactive painting of the dandelions, then using the material for getting familiar with this technique and challenge the participants in coming up with some creative solutions for a second language course project.
      The material I am planning to use in this workshop is a basic kit formed by: copper tape, copper wire, conductive paint, multimeter, led lights, and batteries.
      I am planning to try to find financial help (gofundme/donorschoice) for purchasing the kits. We will have to decide if the multimeters will be given to the participants or if will be used during the workshop and then returned for further use in other workshops fsince this items are the most expensive of the kit.
      I would like to use the templates created by Jie Qi for making a simple and handmade notebook for the participants with the patters to use for getting started and learning how to create a simple circuit, a parallel circuit, and a switch circuit.
      More complex circuits will be shown as model using videos, and explain the material needed for those creations.
    • ASTE Conference, February 2016, Anchorage.
      I am planning to collaborate with a team of other 4-5 teachers who participated to the Paper Circuitry strand at AKTeach Conference, so that we can provide a variety of experiences with application of this technique in various levels of educational environment both in traditional classroom and online.
      I am planning a full day workshop, using the strucutre used for the AFLA conference, but allowing more time for creative production. Depending on the financial support received, either with a grant or from ASTE itself, we could purchase some more tools for our kits.
      I would like to see if during this conference we could have as guest through video-conference Jie Qi, David Cole, and Natalie Freed.
  2. Plan 2. Implementing the use of paper circuitry projects in one of my foreign languages courses.
    I would like to pilot the application of this technique with a small groups of students, so I will use only one of my course and use it for one project.
    Working with a small group will allow me to troubleshoot my delivery methodology and the possible problems that could arise since I teach online and I will have to orchestrate the delivery of the material to various sites in my school district.
    I need to have the numbers of the enrollment in my courses for deciding which course use for this pilot.
    I would like to start with a simple project, such as image/word matching.
    I will probably have this project done around the month of October, when students are finally sledded in their school routine and  they can focus better on more complex activities.
    My hope is to engage some science teachers, so that students could do a cross curricula project.

In my opinion these 2 plans are connected and somehow sequential in a vision of sustainability since  promoting and supporting the makers culture in our school districts with our administrators and our fellow teachers of all disciplines is fundamental for being able to implement cross-curricula project based learning with our own students.
I will keep tracking the progress of these two plans in this blog, and I am looking forward to collaborating with exceptional educators in the presentation at the various conferences.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Paper Circuitry Presentations - Call for Collaborators!

I would like to put it out there: I am planning to present Paper Circuitry at AFLA and ASTE.

For the AFLA conference I was thinking about collaborating with Señora Glenn since we are both foreign language teachers.
For the ASTE conference I was thinking that it would be very powerful preparing a full day hands-on session with teachers of various subjects and different grade levels for showing cross-curricula hands-on project-based learning.
Lindsey, Ryia, Amanda, Andrea, Nicole, I was thinking of you for sure and whoever else would like to join in would be great!

The outline of the presentations at the 2 conferences will be part of my project of implementation, however I understand that it will be subject to further work in the next months depending who will be collaborating in this project.
I will be back to AK on the 19th of July and after that date I would love to "hang-out" for collaborating on these projects.
I am so excited about it, and I hope we could get a "dream-team" going! :)

AKTeach Conference - My Reflections

In this post there are my reflections about the Kodiak Virtual Learning Conference 2015 divided in the 3 steps provided by the guidelines of this task.


Step 1: Explain the difference in your knowledge and skills at the beginning of the conference and the end of the conference.

When I have received the first communication about the Virtual Learning Conference I was so taken by my own busy teacher's life that I did not have the chance to investigate in depth about the sessions offered by this conference. At first I was confused by not being allowed to attend to more than one strand during the two days of the conference. At that time I found this "rule" unusual and somehow unreasonable. There were at least  couple of sessions that I wanted to attend and having 2 days I assumed that I could have used one day for each session. It was just during the conference that I had an epiphany understanding the very good reasoning behind the "1 session rule", and I will explain it later.
I proceeded by elimination for deciding which session to attend, trying to focus on what I could benefit the most for my professional commitment in the next school year. Although I found Natalie Freed & David Cole strand intriguing (Integrating Paper Circuitry Into Your Classroom) I felt intimidated by the description of their session, especially the words "building circuits in notebooks all the way up to introducing how to code/program circuits". In my mind the "notebook" was synonymous of laptop, and although I am a "computer literate" user, I am quite "illiterate" when it comes down to the actual electronic component of technology.  Bottom line I considered this session "out of my league".
Moving to the next, Crystal Thomas was presenting Edgenuity & Blended Learning. My school district does not use Edgenuity, therefore I would have not benefit much from this session.
Sally Eberhart, Apple Trainer, was presenting a session that was catching my attention: "Getting The Most Out of Your Macbook". Although my school district is officially a PC district, Apple machines are crawling into the district. During the past year I had mini Ipads to use with my classroom students, and I used my personal Mac Notebook for editing and publishing my students IBook projects. Certainly this session could have been interesting!
Dr. Pam Loyd and John Monahan were presenting "how to build a UAV and explore how to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into your virtual classroom". In spite of my curiosity for UAV, I could not see any practical benefit for my professional development, so I nixed this session as well.
The last session listed was "The America Bridge Project-Building Projects, Partners, & Connections" lead by Ron Fortunato. Honestly I had no idea of what this session was about, and reading the presentation of the session I did not feel any "sparks", thus I passed.

Based on my elimination process I ended up selecting the Macbook session at my time of enrollment to the conference. It was few days later that I had the opportunity to discuss my choice with Nicole Fuerst, sharing my feelings about the paper circuitry session. It was Nicole who reassured me that I did not need to be an electric engineer for participating to this session and that in her opinion I would have benefit the most from this very strand. I trusted her good judgment, and looking back I am so grateful for her guidance! Certainly if I had taken the time to snoop around the web about paper circuitry I would have understood Nicole's advice right away, instead of during the conference...

Anyway, going back to the actual topic of this first step, I had no clue of what I was about to do when I walked into that classroom last June 1st, and when I opened the plastic box given to each attendee, there were only 3 items I was familiar with: a pencil, a flat battery, and the scissors! :)
During David Cole and Natalie Freed opening session I started grasping some of the potentials of this technique of applying technology to crafting, creating so many versitile artifacts. Watching the video of Jie Qi interactive painging of the dendilions I felt like Alice in the Wonderland, when she fell in the rabbit's hole... so many potentials for creativity!!!

During the 2 days hands-on workshop I appreciated the rare and precious opportunity to explore more in depth a single session, having the time for practicing, creating, asking questions, making mistakes and sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions with other neofites as well as with some experts, such as David Cole, Natalie Freed, and Jie Qi who joined us via Skype from the MIT lab.

The conference did not make me an electric engineer (although I have to admit that I bragged with my husband of my playing time with electric circuits!) however it made me realize that I do not need that qualification for being able to use these circuits in very simple and creative ways with my students. Working side by side with teachers of various subjects and grade levels has been also a great experience providing a lot of ideas for creative cross curricula applications of the paper circuitry. It was so fun playing and trying to figure new ways to apply this process in various ways.

Step 2: Explain how this experience will change your teaching practice, your administrative work, or how you support and guide colleagues. 

I do not think that this experience will "change" radically my teaching practice, but it will enrich it for sure!
Talking with the other educators attending the session made me think of ways I could apply the paper circuitry technique for engaging my world languages students using more hands-on and project based approaches in my courses and branching out more to science and art field.

Mostly I feel very motivated and excited in sharing this experience and what I have learned with colleagues first in my district and later, beyond KPBSD with the goal of connecting more effectively world languages courses with Science and Art, hopefully collaborating with other teachers in creating some cross curricula projects.
I have already emailed to my admin and to our district office presenting my desire for sharing my experience with fellow educators in  one day PD session during next school year.
Also I am planning to collaborate with few other teachers from other districts (Kodiak, Ketchikan, and Juneau)  for presenting a session at first at the AFLA conference next September,  and later at ASTE next year on this very topic.

Step 3: Reflect on how you are a virtual teacher...even if you haven't previously viewed yourself that way. Why do you think it was appropriate for you to attend the conference?

I am a virtual teacher, no doubts!
I have been teaching online for 7 years now and beside last school year, I have never taught in a traditional classroom, but only via distance delivery.
Over the years I have developed various courses for French, Spanish and Italian, mostly in async mode since this is the preferential deliver offered by our district, however I have implemented more and more blended component over the years.
When I started teaching online there were not yet courses specific for online education offered in AK, so I had to learn on my own, with trial and error and direct experience. I was so leased to find out that now UAS has a program for a teaching endorsement specific for online teaching, and during the conference I had the fortune of sitting next to Dr. Grahan, who is the chair of this program. In the couple of days we were at the conference I had the chance to ask a lot of questions about the course and I am going to enroll in it next spring! I was so excited in finding out about it and the opportunity to receiving a more formally structured preparation for my type of teaching.

As for the conference itself, I think that it was a fantastic opportunity for learning something new that first can be applied directly to my teaching, but also an excellent chance to connect and keep connecting with other educators from around the state.
I do strongly believe in the power of collaboration and sharing of knowledge, ideas and reciprocal support, and what I liked the most of this conference was finding the same values being the shared in the same passionate way by both attendees and organizers...therefore I would like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone!!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kodiak Virtual Learning Conference 2015

This year at the beginning of June I have been very lucky in participating to the Kodiak Virtual Learning Conference organized by AKTeach, the distance learning department of the Kodiak School District.
This is a pretty "young" conference, I believe it is only at its second edition, however it is a very promising, well organized, interesting, exciting, stimulating,.... (well you got the idea) conference!
Certainly Nicole Fuerst has done a fantastic job with the organization of this event and I am very blessed being part of her Professional Learning Community.

This conference was organized as two days hands-on workshops giving the opportunity to the attendees to work in depth of a specific topic.
Some of the sessions offered were:
- Natalie Freed and David Cole presented how to integrate paper circuitry into your classroom.
- Dr. Pam Loyd and John Monahan lead the session in about how to build a small Unmanned Aerial System Vehicle (UAV).
- Ron Fortunato worked with a team of administrators on the America Bridge Project-Building.
More information about these sessions and the other offered can be found at the following link:

I have participated to the session on paper circuitry and I am very impressed with its potentials of implementation in various classes, allowing a powerful cross curricula project-based learning experience involving Science, Art, Language Arts, and World Languages.
The paper circuitry is a cutting edge technique that applies electric circuits in original and artistic ways,  developed by Jie Qi, a graduate researcher in the High-Low Tech group at the MIT Media Lab.

As you can see I am eager to share with you all my experience. I would highly encourage everyone to participate to next year AKTeach conference. Keep in mind that in spite of the name it is not specific for online teachers, however the presence of several online teachers from various Alaskan school districts and universities offered a rich opportunity for sharing knowledge, tools, strategies, and ideas for improving our teaching.

In the next couple of months I will collaborate with teachers from various Alaska's school districts such as Kodiak, Ketchikan, and Juneau,  for presenting a session focused on paper circuitry at AFLA (Alaskans For Language Acquisition) and ASTE (Alaska Society for Technology in Education) conferences during the incoming school year.

Please let me know if you have any questions about anything I have shared with you i this post. If you are interested in learning more, I would be very happy to share my learning with other teachers in a full day workshop.

Ave, Bonjour, 你好, Hallo, Ciao, Вітаю, สวัสดี, Grüezi, ¡Hola!, Здравствуйте!, Goddag, ज्वजलपा, 今日は, Halauġikpiñ, Guten Tag

Hallo in Beton
I have been thinking about starting this blog for quite some time, however I was not sure where to start... It was difficult to transport in a written format the multitude of thoughts going through my mind. What if my reflections did not make sense to anybody else?
Well, maybe they will and maybe they will not, I will take my chances since I do not have any intention of "teaching" to anyone with this blog. On the other hand I would like to start an open  conversation with whoever is interested in partaking, focused on effective methodologies for increasing the acquisition of second languages using blended environments.

I have been teaching a few languages (French, Spanish, and Italian) for several years to Alaska high school students using various blended learning approaches, and I feel that there is still so much to study and learn about this field. English is not my first language and over the years I have experienced first hand various learning/teaching methodologies in traditional and online based environments. My teaching experience of the last 7 years has been almost completely web based, with various nuances of blended learning. Unfortunately over the years I have not been able to connect with other high school online language teachers with whom sharing my experience and brainstorm. On the other hand I have found that often traditional classroom language teachers are somehow "looking down" at online language teaching, as if it was a second class teaching practice.
Now, this is something that drives me crazy!!!
Let me explain...
While I do agree on the efficacy of teaching second languages at least partially face-to-face, I do understand that this is a "luxury" not affordable for many Alaskan students. Indeed here in Alaska there are many small schools in which the ratio students/teachers does not allow the on-site presence of language teachers (as well as teachers of other subjects, for what that matters), therefore the online delivery is the only option available for these students, and nowhere is written that online courses equals with low quality courses!
I guess that we all have experienced at least one poor quality course at some point of our educational life as students. We all wish that these negative experiences could disappear, but to tell the true, we know that are still out there! Let's face it, there is the good and the bad in both traditional classroom and online. All we can do as teachers who care about what we do, is trying our best for offering our students the best learning experience we can give. Hey, news splash, nobody is perfect and in spite of our best intentions sometimes we are far from what we would like to be, but what really matters in my opinion is that we honestly try our best.

In my experience teaching languages online is challenging however I do not not give up or give in, but I am highly motivated in seeking better and more effective ways to offer high quality learning experiences to my online students.
During this quest I am want to try anything that could sparkle interest, curiosity, passion, and motivation in my students toward languages. In this blog I will reflect upon what I am experiencing in this journey, in the intent to share my effort with other languages teachers who share my same vision.

...may the force be with us...always!

Image by andreas fragel (selber fotografiert) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (], via Wikimedia Commons