Connecting the Classroom and Outside World

Educators, what are some strategies for connecting the classroom with the outside world?

NOTE: I’d like to share responses in my keynote at the iConnect iLearn Conference and on my blog and wiki. You can submit your ideas using the form below, share your text/audio/video reply in the Comments section of this post or respond to the corresponding Twitter and Plurk discussions. You can also view the compiled database of suggested strategies on my wiki, Learning Telecollaboratively.

Learn with Us (IDT7078)

As I mentioned in a recent blog post I’m teaching a seminar this summer focusing on Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0 Technologies. I concluded the earlier post by sharing the following:

In keeping with the principles of Web 2.0 I encourage the participation of everyone with an interest or expertise in this topic. You may contribute to the discussion and fun by using the following tag/keyword: idt7078. Be on the lookout for ways (Ustream, Skype, Twitter, Plurk, etc.) to informally participate with us. I would certainly consider making it possible for those wishing to enroll in the course and participate from a distance, too.

Greg R. Fishbone replied to my earlier post and asked the following question regarding my concluding statements.

I’d love to participate informally, but how does one follow a keyword?

I think this is a GREAT a question and I suspect Greg is not the only one wondering about this. I’m sharing this information here in hopes of helping Greg and anyone else that may be interested in being part of our learning community this summer.

Google Keyword Search
You can add the following RSS feed to your aggregator (such as Google Reader or Bloglines). New blog posts, wiki entries, bookmarks, videos, podcasts, etc. tagged with idt7078 will then be “delivered” to you as they show up in Google.

An alternative to this strategy would be to setup a Google Alert for idt7078.

Twitter Search
You can also add a keyword search for idt7078 to TweetDeck or similar Twitter platform if you are using one. If not, then you can add the following RSS feed for the Twitter Search of the course tag to your aggregator.

Plurk Search
Add idt7078 to your list of Saved Searches in your profile’s dashboard.

Educational Technology Certificate

You can earn a certificate in educational technology with our 4 online courses. Visit for full details and assistance.

Professional Development Meme 2009

I’m a big fan of goal setting. It can provide a road map for the short or long-term and can be an effective motivational strategy. I have set a few professional development goals for this summer and have challenged a few of my friends/colleagues to do the same thing. In 2008 I realized that I could set this up as a blog meme and hopefully encourage some of my online friends to achieve a few items from their To Do Lists. There are a myriad of ways to approach this, but I’ve opted to take the short-term, easy-to-assess approach, but I’ll leave some wiggle room for you to customize it to meet your needs. The official information is below.


Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2009 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

The Rules

NOTE: You do NOT have to wait to be tagged to participate in this meme.

  1. Pick 1-3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
  2. For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/07/09).
  3. Post the above directions along with your 1-3 goals on your blog.
  4. Title your post Professional Development Meme 2009 and link back/trackback to
  5. Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme09.
  6. Tag 5-8 others to participate in the meme.
  7. Achieve your goals and "develop professionally."
  8. Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

My Goals

  1. Continue to improve video skills and integrate my own instructional videos into courses.
  2. Finish all the items on my To Do List regarding my website.
  3. Submit at least 1 of the articles currently in progress for review.

I Tag…

Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0

Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0I’m teaching a special topics seminar this summer for graduate students (3 hours graduate credit). The topic will be Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0 Technologies. While we’ll consider common trends and issues and survey many of the popular tools and services related to Web 2.0, the heart of the course will be learning to effectively integrate Web 2.0 technologies and principles with teaching and learning. The focus will be on K-12 education but accommodations can be made for individuals from other fields (health, corporate, military, higher education, etc.).

I’m very excited about this class. I taught the course in Summer 2008 and we learned a lot and had a blast! You can view the ebook (authored by the graduate students) and other course materials that emerged from the 2008 Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0 class to get an idea of what this class will be like.

In keeping with the principles of Web 2.0 I encourage the participation of everyone with an interest or expertise in this topic. You may contribute to the discussion and fun by using the following tag/keyword: idt7078. Be on the lookout for ways (Ustream, Skype, Twitter, Plurk, etc.) to informally participate with us. I would certainly consider making it possible for those wishing to enroll in the course and participate from a distance, too.

Web 2.0 Tools in the Classroom: Valuable or Distracting?

The following was posted on The Chronicle site today and has kicked-off a lively discussion.

Web 2.0 Classroom Versus Learning
By: Josh Fischman

There were some skeptics here this morning at The Chronicle Technology Forum, listening to a talk called “Building the Classroom of the Future: From iTunes to Twitter.” Some in the audience seemed unconvinced that tools connecting students to the Web, and to one another, would help in that future classroom.

Making the case for Web 2.0, Cole W. Camplese, director of education technology services at Pennsylvania State University at University Park, spoke engagingly about the opportunities for students to draw information from the Internet and bring it into classroom discussions.

At least two professors in the audience, however, questioned the value of open laptops and ongoing Web searches during class. When teaching physics, one of them said, some aspects require sustained concentration and focus from students. He was concerned that they would not learn intricate equations if their attention was divided.

This is an ongoing debate in higher education. It has led some professors to ban laptops. It has led others to argue that Web tools make the classroom a more productive place. There seems to be substantial evidence supporting both positions. Which side are you on, and why? (Source)

What is your reaction? Do you think Web 2.0 tools enhance teaching and learning or are they distractions?

Confusing the Level of Effort with Quality of Work


I’ve been teaching for more than 16 years now. Whether teaching elementary and middle school students or undergraduate and graduate students I’ve occasionally encountered learners that believed that no matter what they get an A for effort.

I’ve recently read some research and several articles on this topic. The response I received after sharing one of the resources over Twitter and Plurk is the motivation for this and a forth-coming blog post. I invite your feedback and reaction.


Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes
By: Max Roosevelt

Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.

Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory.

“I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “

In line with Dean Hogge’s observation are Professor Greenberger’s test results. Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.

Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view.

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”

At Vanderbilt, there is an emphasis on what Dean Hogge calls “the locus of control.” The goal is to put the academic burden on the student.

“Instead of getting an A, they make an A,” he said. “Similarly, if they make a lesser grade, it is not the teacher’s fault. Attributing the outcome of a failure to someone else is a common problem.”

Additionally, Dean Hogge said, “professors often try to outline the ‘rules of the game’ in their syllabi,” in an effort to curb haggling over grades.

Professor Brower said professors at Wisconsin emphasized that students must “read for knowledge and write with the goal of exploring ideas.”

This informal mission statement, along with special seminars for freshmen, is intended to help “re-teach students about what education is.”

The seminars are integrated into introductory courses. Examples include the conventional, like a global-warming seminar, and the more obscure, like physics in religion.

The seminars “are meant to help students think differently about their classes and connect them to real life,” Professor Brower said.

He said that if students developed a genuine interest in their field, grades would take a back seat, and holistic and intrinsically motivated learning could take place.

“College students want to be part of a different and better world, but they don’t know how,” he said. “Unless teachers are very intentional with our goals, we play into the system in place.”


Note that this article has sparked a lot of conversation about this topic. Take a look at the many replies in the comments section.

What Lies Ahead?

New Ideas Come through Conversations

We’re living in exciting times! It’s still the (late) dawn of a new century. Innovation and scientific discovery abound. Digital technologies are changing the way we work, play and stay connected. The business world is evolving and there’s the potential for positive transformation in education. This is not a new conversation. It has previously been brought to light by Karl Fish, Clay Shirky, Clayton Christensen, and others. The following video is based on Charles Leadbeater‘s book, We-Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production, in which he explores the potential impact of the Internet. Watch this 4 minute video and then let’s discuss it a bit.

Here are a few phrases from the video that I like.

  • “The audience is taking the stage.” What a picturesque (Ooh, good word!) way to describe the whole 2.0 thing.
  • “Mass innovation comes from communities…it’s like building a bird’s nest where everyone leaves their piece.”
  • “Equality because knowledge can be set free to help people who need it but cannot pay.” Isn’t this a paradigm shift?! (I know, I don’t like using that phrase, either…but it is!)
  • “Freedom because more people will know what it’s like to be creative.” This one hits me right between the eyes. I started this blog to share resources and interact with K-12 teachers. I had no idea just how right-brain this would be. It has become a creative outlet in some ways.
  • “In the past you were what you owned. Now you are what you share…How do we earn a living when everyone is freely sharing their ideas?” Are the freeconomists right?

Here are a few side thoughts.

  • Video is emerging as a dominate form of communication and whole new language and literacy are evolving right before our eyes. The graphic design and music selections used in this presentation wouldn’t have been my first (or second or third) choice but they work well. Of course, the pacing was key.
  • The technological, scientific, economic, political and medical predictions for 2009 are intriguing, but none of us know what really lies ahead in the years to come. It all just reminds me that the future is truly full of potential.

So, what do YOU think? Please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments. Remember that you can also leave audio and video comments, too.