Archive for March, 2012


Module 4 Reflection and Summary

March 31st, 2012 Comments off

Chapter 4 in the Building Online Learning Communities was filled with information on common issues that arise and considerations that need to addressed and pondered when designing or delivering an online course.  They talked about time constraints, timing constraints, and other time issues.  Also, they discussed synchronous vs. asynchronous facilitation and some of the advantages and pitfalls of each.  I was surprise to learn that an instructor puts more time into an online course than a traditional course.  I had never really given it much consideration though.  After reading it, it does make sense.  The instructor has to check on and monitor the course daily if not more often.  It was also surprising to learn that they often make less money or have to facilitate these online courses in addition to their normal brick and mortar work load.

Creating the communication plan is a great idea.  It gives me a springboard so that I can launch other communication events within my online courses.  It also gives me some great ideas that can help to jumpstart the online community and learning.  I probably will use this discussion plan in my future online or blended environments.  It has ideas to help me manage time.  I feel better about my future classes now that I have this.  I may not refer to the document on a regular basis, but I have done the mental groundwork now and it will remain with me.

Facilitating the discussion this week was interesting.  The class-members, initially didn’t respond to the prompt and I was beginning to think that I would not have much work to do and was worried about the quality of the prompt, but after a while responses started t flow in.  I was surprised at some of the reactions to the prompt.  There a wide variety of opinions of the quality of the activity presented that caught me off guard, but I tried to remain objective and give each opinion it’s due.  It was a good learning experience.

I used my assessment criteria to assess one of my own discussion prompts.  Here is how it broke down.  I was on time with my posts and replies.  5.  I tried to elaborate on other class members postings beyond the “I like or I agree statement” but I may not have gone far enough. 3.  I always try to be thought-provoking, but in the particular post, I may have fallen a bit short on that one.  3.  I did follow the five rules of basic netiquette. 5.  I feel that my replies demonstrated my understanding of the material under discussion. 4.   So the total score is an 80%.  This is not my best work and I can see that.  I realize that all students have time constraints and I am no exception.   We don’t always put forth our best work and this is an example of me not putting forth my best effort.  In the future, I shall endeavor to be a better participant and live up to my own expectations.

I have always been of the mindset that synchronous delivery of online content would be a better choice.  After learning about all of the timing issues and the benefits of asynchronous deliver, I feel that I might lean more in that direction now.  Asynchronous deliver seems to allow for deeper thought and less anxiety about participation since students can participate at their own pace and with forethought.  That’s not to say that synchronous methods will never be used, but with all of the issues and time problems (especially for a more globally distributed group of students) it would have to be planned and implemented very carefully and would not be the bulk of the course.


Communication Plan

March 31st, 2012 Comments off

Part 1 – Routine Tasks

  • Check and respond to course email (daily)
  • Monitor and respond (if necessary) to course discussions (daily)
  • Contact dormant or quiet students via email (weekly)
  • Contact dormant students that have not responded to emails (bi-weekly)
  • Admin work for course management [posting grades, making new modules available, etc.] (weekly)
  • Grading / Scoring Assignments (weekly)
  • Hold office hours via synchronous chat and telephone (semi-weekly)


Part 2 – Discussion Forum Strategies


Personal Statement:

Hello and welcome to all.  My name is Fabio Cominotti.  Beyond school, I have four children (three of which are boys) and a divorced wife.  I say divorced wife because we are divorced but still together.  It’s really a long story and not very interesting.  Okay, it’s interesting but really too long to tell.  Anyway, family is important to me as I assume it’s important to most of you as well.

I’ve never liked being called Mr. Cominotti.  Mr. C has been okay, but I really prefer my name.  Sure I have and have had many nicknames and I probably won’t share them.  So calling me Fabio is fine and I like it.  While we not be on the same level as far as course content, I am her to facilitate and guide your learning.  I am not better than you and I don’t like being ascribed that status by forcing you to call me by a title unless you’re my daughter’s date or boyfriend.  If that’s the case, then you must call me Doctor Cominotti and / or Sir.  As for anyone else, please address me as you would a friend or acquaintance—by my first name.

There is not much to tell about me.  I enjoy reading and writing—especially short stories or sci-fi.  I also enjoy talking about good stories or movies.  I also enjoy many other things like scuba diving, jet skiing, parachuting, and bareback bronco riding to name a few.  Okay, I don’t do any of those things.  Well I did get on a jet ski once and promptly sunk it but we don’t need to dwell there.  Needless to say my family won’t let me use one again.

It is my hope that you not only learn from this course, but have fun and enjoy it as well.  Please, my virtual door is always open so please don’t be afraid to contact me for any reason.  I will respond as quickly as I can and, legally, I must warn you that this call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance.  Thanks and have a great semester.

Critical Thinking Prompters: 

When speaking of literature or any subject, it is always a good prompter to ask students why?  I love this question.  It forces students to think about why they did, said, wrote something.  It forces them to reflect and analyze their own thought processes and work.

What motivates this particular character to perform this particular action?  This is a generic question that can be modified to relate to the current character under discussion.

How would you change this story or ending to make it better? Why?  I like this question a lot as well.  It forces students to engage with the text and try and find things that they can improve upon or make clearer or better.   I then ask them to elaborate and explain / defend their decisions.

Purpose and Expectations of the discussion boards and / or areas.

 The purpose of the discussion boards in this course is multi-faceted.

  • The boards provide a place for you to get to know your classmates and colleagues as well as your instructor.
  • The boards provide a means in which to communicate and have a meaningful discussion that we all can learn from.
  • The boards also let us come together as a group and discuss topics and ideas.

Because these discussion boards are so important to this class, you are expected to adhere to the following.

1. Be respectful of others

2. Keep what you post related to class

3. Keep what you post appropriated for the environment

4. Think about what you are writing before posting

5. Be honest in what you write.

Introductions / Ice-breaker activities:

Please provide a paragraph or two about yourself.  You can include in that paragraph, your name, likes / hobbies, current job, reason for participating in this course, last book that you read and liked (as well as why you liked it), last book that you couldn’t finish as well as why you couldn’t finish it, and any other information that you might find useful or informative.

Next pick a book or movie that best describes who you are.  Present that to us and then elaborate and explain why this movie is a portrayal of you.  This explanation should be approximately two paragraphs or more.  Also please post a link to the IMDB article for this movie or the amazon description of this book (or other web source that can provide a summary and other information about your book or movie).

Part 3: Discussion Forum Assessment

All participation in the discussion forums will be assessed according to the following criteria.  Each category will be assessed on a scale of 1 (being the lowest) to 5 (being the highest).

  1. Discussion prompts / replies are posted within established deadlines.
  2. Discussion prompts / replies follow the basic rules or netiquette as stated above.
  3. Discussion prompts / replies are thought-provoking and show effort and forethought.
  4. Discussion prompts / replies fully explore ideas and avoid simple, “I agree” or “I like” response.
  5. Discussion prompts / replies demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of the material being discussed.

Your scores will be added and multiplied by five.  That will be your grade for the discussion portion of the course.

Part 4: Management issues and strategies.

  • Inactivity (group)

If the group becomes inactive, I might have to contact the group leader or individual members.  It’s possible that the group might be using some other means of communicating and working.  If this is the case a gentle reminder to use the venues provided by the course should be issued.  If this is not the case and the group is just inactive, I must ascertain why.  Gently probing should be used here.  Once a reason is determined, gentler  probing and suggestions might stimulate activity in the group.

  • Inactivity (individual)

An individual that becomes inactive within the class deserves an email.  If the email is not responded to, a phone call should be placed.  Once communication is established, I need to find out if the student has any concerns or issues that I can help with and see what I can do to help bring this student back into the class.   Some gently probing as to what some issues might be might be required.

  • Dominant student

For the dominant student, I have to step into the discussion and start asking questions directly to other students so that they feel like I and the group value their opinion and to give them the signal that they can participate.

  • Digressions

For digressions, some simple redirection questions should be posted to the discussion boards.  Sometimes a gently reminder that we are getting off-topic might be needed.

  • Misconceptions

I think that the best way to handle misconceptions is to set clear expectations.  When a misunderstanding or misconception occurs, I can make reference to the expectations and requirements.   I can also allow for error and the grace to make up for errors that might occur on a case by case basis.

  • Inappropriate Communications (flaming)

The offending student will be contacted directly and privately and asked to cease their inappropriate communication.  I would remind them that we are here to learn and that flaming is not allowed.  If the flaming persists, then removal from the course must be considered.  The key here is communication and careful monitoring of the discussions.

  • Poor quality of participation

Students suffer from a wide range of issues that can affect their quality.  I would contact the student directly via email or telephone and see what their circumstances were and if I can help.  I might make some adjustments for that student if they need to catch up.

  • Stagnant discussions

In this case, I would intervene with some new prompts / topics that relate to the discussion.  I might also ask students to elaborate on already posted ideas.  Basically, I won’t let it stop even if I have to start asking more and more questions.



Categories: S4 - Management Tags: , , ,


The Coherence Principle

March 25th, 2012 Comments off

The coherence principle states simple that more is not always better.  Extra elements within an e-learning, distance learning, or presentation does not promote learning.  Extra elements can include words, sounds, images, video, or any other element that is included that does not directly contribute to the objective and content that is supposed to be learned.  For example, background music playing during narration or throughout the presentation can distract the learner and even overload their cognitive processing channels.  Clark and Mayer (2009) state “keep the lesson uncluttered…avoid adding any material that does not support the instructional goal”.  In the case of the coherence principle, studies suggest that extra information; even if it is interesting, detract from learning.  A boring lesson or presentation cannot be made interesting with irrelevant information.

The coherence principle shares a commonality with the other multimedia principles discussed so far in this course.  Those principles include the multimedia principle which states that information should be presented with relevant graphics rather than just words alone, the contiguity principle which requires graphics and other multimedia to be on the same screen or near the text that describes it, the modality principle that states that words should be presented as narration rather than on-screen text, and the redundancy principle that says not to present words as narration and on the screen.  The commonalities that these principles share are in the form of shared goals.  All of these principles have the goal of increasing student learning and decreasing the cognitive load on students.  The ultimate goal is to make the presentations and lessons more effective and less stressful for students to learn what they need to learn.  The coherence principle reminds me of what the author Anton Chekov once said.  He said that if you have a gun in the first act of the play, then it better go off by the end of the play.  Basically, he was talking about unneeded details and props in plays.  There is no need to overload the viewer or reader in the sense of a story with details that do not drive the story forward.  The same principle is expressed in the coherence principle.  Unneeded details lead to confusion and lower learning outcomes.

Cognitive overload can be a serious problem with many lessons and students.  I’ve seen many presentations both in schools and workplaces that have many pictures and music.  For me personally, it was hard to focus on the actual content of the presentation since I was trying to figure out the relationship between the graphics and the content.  I stopped paying attention to the facilitator and let my mind wander.  I’ve also sat through presentations that did not include graphics or sounds.  They were short and somewhat dull looking, but the information was imparted and I understood it on a deeper level.  This makes sense to me and is backed up by the psychology principles.  Students need clarity and singularity of purpose.  I’ve found that students can get overwhelmed easily and distracted easily.  It’s important to keep the information channels focused and clear.  They need to be singular in purpose and present the information that supports the instructional goal.  Students learn in two different channels and the coherence principle helps to keep those channels flowing with important and relevant information and keeps them uncluttered with useless, albeit interesting, information and graphics.

I really like the coherence principle.  It simplifies instructions.  Too many times, I have taken too much time trying to find graphics and images to make my slides look better.  I’ve never felt good about my presentations and now I know why.  Simpler is better.  It makes sense to me.


Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2009). E-learning and the science of instruction, proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. Pfeiffer & Co.


Standards Addressed

S1 – Design – Candidates demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to design conditions for learning by applying principles of instructional systems design, message design, instructional strategies, and learner characteristics.

  • 1.2 Message Design – Message design involves planning for the manipulation of the physical form of the message.

S3 – Utilization – Candidates demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to use processes and resources for learning by applying principles and theories of media utilization, diffusion, implementation, and policy-making.

  • 3.1 Media Utilization – Media utilization is the systematic use of resources for learning.



Podcast Project – The Modern Classroom Episode 1 – AirPlay

March 19th, 2012 Comments off

The Modern Classroom is a podcast designed to promote ideas and technology to enhance the classroom experience either online or in a traditional room. The first episode focuses on Apple’s AirPlay technology and its potential uses in a classroom especially a classroom that does not have an interactive whiteboard. It discusses what AirPlay is and some of its potential uses from allowing more mobility for the instructor to enhanced classroom control. It also talks about costs and some other possible uses for AirPlay devices that can be utilized in the classroom. Please enjoy Episode 1 – AirPlay.

This project address AECT standard 1 – Design in the sense that the podcast had to be designed according to specific criteria and the design had to incorporate some message.  In this particular case, the message was designed to convey some ides to add some inexpensive technology to increase interactivity in a traditional classroom.  The design of the message address Sub-standard 1.2 – Message design.

This project also addresses the development standard (AECT Standard 2) in the sense that it had to be developed over the course of time using various technologies and tools.  It addresses sub-standard 2.3 – Computer based technologies since it was created and designed using a computer and the internet.


Standards Addressed

S1 – Design – Candidates demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to design conditions for learning by applying principles of instructional systems design, message design, instructional strategies, and learner characteristics.

  • 1.2 Message Design – Message design involves planning for the manipulation of the physical form of the message.

S2 – Development – Candidates demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to develop instructional materials and experiences using print, audiovisual, computer-based, and integrated technologies.

  • 2.3 Computer Based Technologies – Computer-based technologies are ways to produce or deliver materials using microprocessor-based resources.
  • 2.4 Integrated Technologies – Integrated technologies are ways to produce and deliver materials which encompass several forms of media under the control of a computer.




Space, the MOOC

March 2nd, 2012 Comments off

With a partner, We created a Massive Online Open Course about space and the universe. The course was designed during EDTECH 543 – Social Network Learning.  We made heavy use of social networks and other web 2.0 social media. The course has components on Google Sites, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and makes use of personal learning networks and other learning methods that revolve around social networks and media.

The course centers around the hub which was hosted on Google Sites.

Space, The MOOC

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,