The Siren Call of the Shiny

In education we are consistently pulled by the “shiny.”  In addition I believe the public and educational administrators are even more strongly attracted to the siren call of the “shiny,”  and demand that educators do the same – putting even more pressure on educators to develop what feels like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)- an inability to stay focused on any one “shiny” for an extended period of time.

What is the “Shiny”?

So what is the siren call of the “shiny”?  It is jumping on the latest bandwagon/craze/trend/technology/ideology without looking at, understanding, making a conscious decision to do so.  When we as educators or instructional designers let the “shiny” drive our design, the resulting education becomes flat, misaligned, and in need of constant updating.

In a presentation by Ruben Puentedura on the various models in education there is one point where he talks about the “oooo shiny model” that focuses on technology.  But anything that catches our eye  – a specific strategy, a textbook, a classroom set up, etc., could be considered the “shiny” in this context. (You only need to watch/listen for about 30 seconds. I really do like his SAMR model.  I would recommend listening to this entire presentation [both part 1 and part 2] or some of his other shorter presentations like his SPARK PDX 2014 talk.)


Best Practices

I was in the process of reviewing entries for an award for Best Practices, when these thoughts came crashing together.  I was looking at an amazing course, with real life impact, for a group of people I love and appreciate.  I could see how it would benefit not only the intended audience, but the educators and other people in the participant’s lives.  The research, however, was non-existent.

Actually what I should say is that the connection to research was non-existent.  I know there is research supporting many of the aspects of this course, but the author of the submission entry did not make those connections, in fact there was no reference list at all.

So what makes something a “Best Practice”?

Why?  Why did you think it would work?  What evidence do you have to back up your choices?

I believe one of the hallmarks of good teachers is the constant improvement of their instruction.  This does not mean that they respond to the siren call of the “shiny.”  Instead they stop and evaluate the new “shiny.”  They ask critical questions, and do a bit of reading, conversing with colleagues, and lots of thinking.

Some questions they may ask…

  • What is the purpose of this tool?
  • How does it work with my current curriculum?
  • How much of my time will this take?
  • How much time will it take for students?
  • Could this help with the current problem I have (in week 2, that one concept, etc.)
  • Does that purpose fit with the goals of my course/topic/unit?
  • Will this enable me or my students to do more/better/faster? (This is where SAMR comes in!)

So, as you see the new and emerging tools, ask lots of questions.  Stretch to find ways and tools to redefine teaching an learning.



Dissertation Proposal…check

Friday (9/16) I successfully presented my dissertation proposal and have permission to move forward.  (Which explains why this blog has been so quiet – all my writing has been focused on my dissertation research.)

Some Background

I have done the work.  I have searched (and continue to search) the literature.  I have written and rewritten over 100 pages (which is now whittled down to about 50).  I have had my dissertation adviser changed twice, and my committee reorganized three times.  With all this change there have been many different preferences and explanations I have had to provide throughout the entire process leading up to the proposal date.

All this change made me unusually nervous.  I have given many presentations.  I have managed classrooms of 40+ students.  I have presented to large auditoriums of people.  But all the change throughout this process made me uneasy.

Some Realizations

I am a Teacher.

When I finally moved into what I call “teacher mode” the presentation went smoothly.  I am a teacher at heart, and it is evident in the success I find when I’m in “teacher mode.”

This realization came first during a point with lots of questions. After quick short answers of “yes” to one question and “no” to the other, I proceeded to expand upon the yes and build to explain the no.  At the conclusion of my explanation I turned to the one who asked the second question (the one with the “no” response) and asked if there was something still bothering her.  She looked at me and first said, “How did you know I had another question?”  Internally I responded “Because I’m a teacher.”

But really, how did I know?  I knew because she had asked one of the initial questions and while I knew the one question was fully supported, this second question had the potential to still be muddy.  I knew because I could see it on her face.  I knew by the look of the other committee member that the other question had been thoroughly answered.  But as a teacher, I knew I need to make sure I followed up on her first question to ensure that I addressed the question adequately.

The Citations…

In preparing for this presentation, I knew that I need to demonstrate that I had thoroughly reviewed the research.  The foundation of my study needed to be constructed of previous research.  However, I struggle with remembering names and including them naturally in a conversation. (This is not unique to research – my sisters will always win at the “guess the name and artist on the radio game”.  I may know every single word of the song, may even know how to play it, but struggle to remember the artist and title.)  I don’t struggle as much in the writing, but definitely in the speaking.

In creating my presentation I made sure that I included the citations on the slides (they would be my “cheat sheet”).  At the beginning of the presentation I made a conscious effort to include the names, but it was when I let myself talk about the concepts in “teacher mode” that the connections became more clear.  One committee member said, “I wish you could have recorded that so you could hear how well you made the connections.  Those connections need to be equally clear in your chapter 2.”

Now to just put my “teacher mode” into my writing.

LinkedInGroups, Twitter: Finding Cool Stuff

As we, my students in HRD 4407 / 5507 and I continue to grow our PLN, the task at hand is first to find a group on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Groups

Joining a group on LinkedIn allows you to see what others are sharing in the group on LinkedIn.  You can see what topics and especially who people in your group are following on blogs, twitter and other social media.

Two groups I have joined on LinkedIn are the Instructional Designers Group and the Moodlers Group.  Instructional Design is the area of my doctoral degree and there are so many different areas of employment for instructional designers.  This is a large group (67, 519 members as of 6/4/2014).  I do not expect to connect with or “get to know” all of them, but I do like what people in this group share.  As I was looking up the group to link in this blog post the article below was shared – which I thought was appropriate considering Michell’s blog post on identity, privacy and social networking

A tale of two doctoral students: Social media tools and hybridised identities

The Moodlers Group is much smaller with 1,788 members, but as Moodle support is a large part of my job, I thought it would be valuable to connect with others using Moodle.  This group tends to have discussions on best practices in implementing and supporting Moodle.


The second task is to find someone new to follow on twitter and then to look at who s/he is following.  I enjoy seeing who those I want to learn from are learning from.  There are some amazing learning paths and connections as you explore who is following whom in social media.

I happened to be looking up a book by Douglas Rushkoff – Program or Be Programed.  I really needed to find it on Amazon and place an order, but being lazy and since the Google search page was open I simply searched the title of the book, knowing there would be an Amazon link in the results list.  At the top was Douglas Rushkoff’s website, and it occurred to me that this would be a good person to explore his website and possible blog.

On the book page, at the bottom I found easily identifiable social media links.



So, I click on the twitter icon, logged in to my twitter account and “followed” Douglas Rushkoff.

Once on the page below, I can see that there are more than 27,900 people following him, but he only follows 317 people.  I can also see that he recently gave an “astoundingly refreshing keynote” at the BEA2014 conference, based on the first tweet listed.

There are also some suggestions of people Twitter thinks are simliar to Douglas Rushkoff and recommends that I follow them too.




But the second step of this task was to see who he is following, who are these 317 people.  In the six people that showed up first, there is an artist, a book publishing professional, an optimist, a software artist, the office of creative research and the 18th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.  As Douglas Rushkoff is a “media theorist,” it does not surprise me that terms like “artist,” “publishing,” and “creative” come up in the descriptions.  Of these, I too added the Office for Creative Research to those I am following.



There are so many ways to find people to add to your PLN, follow the paths, search with key words and explore the profiles.  Add to your own profile, the keywords, phrases, descriptions and ideas that best represent who you are and who you want to become.


The “Frame” of School & Stop Learning and Start Thinking

In working on some research for my doctoral program I was lead to Punya Mishra’s blog, Mishra is one of the creators of the TPCK (or TPACK)  model.  Curious about the most recent posts on the blog I found Banksy’s biggest trick OR why I hate art museums (with a link to a full article by Isabel Wilkinson about the “trick.”)

As I am working on research thinking about teaching, strategies, technology, learning, improvement, quality, preparing, supporting – I read the account from a school perspective.  Now I do agree with the art comments and the perspective that there is beautiful art all around us.  Just because someone puts something in a museum or an acclaimed critic declares a specific person the “greatest” does not in itself make it art.  Wilkinson states in her article “It’s a classic example of art without the frame – and it raises the important question: how much does our experience of art rely on context?”  With all my thoughts on teaching and learning I thought about how we “frame” education.

Stop Learning…OR why I hate school

Mishra’s title states “…OR why I hate art museums”  I have heard plenty of “…OR why I hate school/education”  I also recently watched the TEDxTeen video, where the Jacob Barnett encourages us to stop learning (as in the traditional school type of learning) and to start thinking.  At the end he reiterates his point and includes – if you are in a specific field – chemistry, biology, math, instructional design – “be the field.”

But back to the “frame” or context.  How do we “frame” education and learning?

Framing Content

There is the level of a teacher “framing” content.  I lived an experience during a geology unit in an integrated science class I was teaching.  My job was to help this group of 9th graders get “caught up” in science so they would be ready for the rest of their science classes in high school.  The summer before I taught this course my husband wanted to renew his rockhounding hobby – and bring me along.  I was reluctant at first, but gave in when he found a spot in a small cove nearby.  He could look for the rocks, I could just sit and enjoy an afternoon at the beach.

By the time I taught that unit on Geology, my husband had me hooked.  I was looking at rocks in a whole new light.  Just last week we finished tumbling some of those first beach rocks which were petrified wood.  These brilliant bands of blue appeared, seemingly out of no where.  My mind immediately started thinking about what elements would cause a blue color? why didn’t we see the blue before? what did we use in the final polish stage – did that turn something blue? So in my geology unit, I brought in some of the rocks I had found and many more of the rocks from my husband’s collection to use as examples.  My student “caught” my excitement about rocks.  I had them bringing in all sorts of rocks to share.  Living in south central Los Angeles, the majority of the rocks were pieces of concrete – but they were looking at their world in a whole new way. And because they were looking, we had real conversations about science and their world  “What is this one?” “Well what do you see?” “Well, it is kind of crumbly right here.” “What kind of rock would have that characteristic?…why?”

Just as a museum, or a art critic “frames” something and designates it as art, so too must teachers “frame” their content.  In a recent webinar by Tom Reeves he described a biology course that created short videos to catch the students’ attention – to “frame” the content.

Framing Education

Learning happens everywhere, just as there is art all around us.  But all too often we need someone to say “Hey look at this!”  We need someone to “frame” it for us. We all have an idea of what education looks like and it will have a strong resemblance of what our own education looked like.  So how do we provide the “frame” for courses, for programs, for schools, for education without the resulting “that’s why I hate schools”?

I do think we each need different “frames” at different times.  And sometimes it takes time, much longer than a class period or a semester or a  year.  In watching Jennifer Roberts talk for the Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching, she talks about slowing down.  One of her assignments requires students to study a piece of art, in person for 3 hours straight.


Just as with art, if we take the time, we can find our own “frames” for learning.  Learning can happen anywhere, just as art is all around us. The question is how do teachers “frame” teaching and thus influence the “frame” of education.

Using Multiple Instructional Models – SAMR and TPCK

It appears that most people are looking at my Why We Need Learning Theories post.  I think combining instructional models fall into a similar thought.  My current internal visual is actually using various magnifying glasses to closely examine an instructional design through multiple perspectives.  I would argue that good designers do just that – look at their work from multiple perspectives.

Not long ago I ran across the SAMR Model developed by Ruben Puentedura as a framework for evaluating how technology is being implemented in teaching.  Here is a visual of the model:

SAMR full model

Basically if the technology integration is at the substitution or augmentation level you will not expect to see much change in the teaching.  It is when the technology is integrated at the modification or redefinition level that we see transformation in education.

At AECT during a session on MOOCs David Wiley talked about how we know what strategies work well in a face to face setting with a class of 20, perhaps we just haven’t found the strategies that work in a really large course online.  Which made me think of this model – what are the strategies to integrate technology so that is causes the teaching/learning to be modified or redefined and thus transform the teaching/learning?

I wanted to review Dr. Puentedura’s work and was only able to find conference presentations posted on his blog and some YouTube videos.

In watching one of his longer presentations, I saw that he uses several models, including Mishra & Koehler’s  TPCK model.  At the beginning of the second part of the presentation Dr. Puentedura talked about the model in a way that gave me a new perspective on TPCK.  He states that you need to think about the content, pedagogy and technology “at the same time.” (at 3:05) They need to be connected and brought together.  There needs to be an opportunity for the content, pedagogy and technology to have equal influence on the design. This fits with my own best experiences where I am discussing a specific course with a faculty and bringing my technology and pedagogical expertise to the table with their content and pedagogical expertise to find best strategies in moving their course to a hybrid or online model.


I like how he easily jumps from model to model, making connections across them.  Which is better seen in the first part of the presentation. I think all too often people get “stuck” into one way of thinking – I use this model and this is the best model for me and my course/students, I will always use this model.  I’m all for models – they help make the design of courses transparent.  But I do like looking as a design through various lenses – which is what I feel Dr. Puentedura is recommending and modeling in his presentation.


In an interview with Stefan Olsa from the Center för Skolutveckling in Sweeden he says something at the end of the interview that caught my attention.  The question was where do you see schools in about ten years? (at 3:55) He would hope to see a school where the technology is integrated at the redefinition level, “where the students become the true owners of their own learning.”

The Constant Change of Technology or The Death of SlideRocket

Technology is constantly changing.  I do my best to have options and have a plan for when services are no longer available. I try to walk the middle ground on the technology “vs” arguments – focusing on the benefits of each side.

So, I am struggling with my grief over the loss of SlideRocket.

SlideRocket is/was a presentation option which was recently bought by ClearSlide. I assume that the presentation tools will be integrated into ClearSlides sales presentation options, but I am not in sales.  I am in education. And while I tried to sign-up for free trial to see if I could still access the presentation tool – perhaps I just needed to pay, I was informed that a salesperson would be contacting me.  I have yet to hear from Samantha.  I guess they don’t want to waste their time with educational institutions.

I have been searching for a replacement – which I have to find before December 2013. There are many presentation software/cloudware options available, but I have yet to find one that works as well as SlideRocket. In trying to pinpoint what it was that made SlideRocket AMAZING, I can’t narrow it down to one specific thing. I think it is the combination that was brought together so beautifully to create this tool.  So here is a list of the things that I wish I could find in one solution.

Not a Copy of Your Average Presentation Software

Creating a SlideRocket presentation was different. The tools were within easy access and yet had powerful options. There was an ease that came with inserting images, shapes and text. With little effort you had access to impressive design tools.


No, emailing large files back and forth or tracking the most recent version in cloud storage. It was easy to add additional people to collaborate on the presentation.  While same time collaboration was not as slick as GoogleDocs, with a little coordination each person could do their portion of the presentation.


In addition to the ability to collaborate, it was easy to share the presentation via a link. You could also use the permissions to add a password, collect emails and names and manage the ability to download, share, embed or print.

Faculty could add the same presentation link in several classes, but only had to update it in one place.  No need to worry about uploading large files into the learning management system (lms).  No need to worry about extra software.  No need to worry about access across devices – more on that below.

Adding Audio

The ability to upload audio files or to record directly into SlideRocket was one of the major selling points to our faculty. All other options that I have found thus far, have obstacles in terms of large file sizes, high learning curve or additional hurdles for the students.  It was also possible to record one slide at a time, with the ability to time the animations. Many of the other options available require you to record the entire presentation.  So updating the one slide in the middle becomes more time consuming than it needs to be.

Flash and HTML5

Another key component for faculty in using SlideRocket was the early availability of either flash or HTML5.  This made the presentations accessible across many devices.


The analytics in SlideRocket turned out to be wonderful for faculty. It was easy to see who was accessing the presentation and when.  In addition you could see the average time spent on each slide.


If enabled, any viewer could add comments to any of the slides.  Great tool for providing detailed feedback on student presentations.


It was easy to add a learning check or allow viewers to provide feedback to the presenter.  While the answers did not sync with the lms they were still useful and easy to access.


The design factors in SlideRocket were easily accessible.  The available templates made you feel like you could create something amazing. And I loved how all the templates were created as models, to help everyone make great presentations. I have seen some of this in other solutions, but not to the extent of SlideRocket.  And I know that many of the design things I could do in SlideRocket I could also do in your basic presentation software, but for some reason it felt easier in SlideRocket.

New Tool Suggestions?

At this point it comes down to prioritizing and deciding what we can do without. I would have to say that the ability to easily add audio and access through the lms are at the top of the list. As I’m looking for solutions, I’m open to your suggestions…

Teaching in the Unknown – Faculty Preparedness for Teaching Online and MOOCs

After reading several articles and blog posts about the Fundamentals of Online Education MOOC, (MOOC MessTwo Thoughts on the crash of the “Fundamentals of Online Education” MOOCThe MOOC Honeymoon is Over: Three Takeaways from the Coursera Calamity) I am even more convinced that being a student in a “new” environment is key to being a successful teacher in that same environment.

There is a push in education to move more and more teaching to the online environment.  I am amazed at how many of those online teachers have never taken an online class.  In the case of a MOOC you have the combined “online” environment with a massive number of potential participants.  Just as a teacher teaches differently to a class of 12 than to a class of 60, so too, does the teaching need to change in the environment of a MOOC.

My first experience with online education was my MA degree from Pepperdine.  It was not until much later that I realized what a high bar Pepperdine had set for me in creating my own expectations of an online course.  The community of learners that became the 2 Blue Crew, still has connections, over 10 years after we graduated.

Upon hearing about MOOCs – Massively Open Online Course, I decided to try one.  I enrolled in PLENK 2010, facilitated by Dave Cormier, George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Rita Kop.  Little did I know that these were among the pioneers in MOOCs.  This course set the bar for what I would consider a MOOC.

In both cases, my online experience and my experience with a MOOC, I have come to the realization that these experiences were unique.  I have endured being a student in other online courses and have listened to colleagues talk about their MOOC experiences, and I am grateful for my own introduction to online learning and MOOCs.

So back to the point…

I have thought for many years, that good teaching is good teaching regardless of the content or the environment.  Part of me does still believe that but when you change the environment, some of the familiar tools and strategies are suddenly missing.  You can’t simply “look” at the students to know that they are engaged and “getting it.”

I often tell the faculty I work with that teaching your first online class will feel a lot like your very first semester teaching. The part I don’t tell them is that your first semester teaching online has a lot of unknowns, especially if you have never taken a course online.  Think about, we go to school about age 5.  We’ve experienced a lot of “school.”  all those years of being a student and understanding how a class is supposed to work, making note of when it doesn’t work.  There is no way to replicate that tacit learning from being a student in time to teach your course fully online next term.

But we can encourage faculty (and anyone else involved in designing online courses and MOOCs) to be a student in these new environments.  We need to provide opportunities to experience things from the student side of things.  And, as pointed out in this Faculty Focus article Role Reversal: Learning from a Master Teachermaybe we should all put ourselves back in the student role from time to time and learn from the amazing teachers around us.


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