What’s All The Fuss About?

As a voting citizen, why should I feel as though I need to maintain an arsenal of weapons “to protect myself from the government?” I hear that thrown around as “ammunition” (pun intended) against stricter gun control. The people who are in power in our government were put there by the electorate (the people). If my reasoning for having a cache of weapons with the intent of taking action against a duly-elected government, that smacks of fascism and/or anarchy. Pretty scary, if you think about it. Maybe I should be less worried about the government and more worried about who wants to get rid of some (or all) elected officials.

Now, if I lived in the 1700’s and was a part of a colony, which was controlled by a (non-elected) King, and felt as though I was being oppressed by said King (i.e. him making laws without regard for the citizenry or my colony. Then I might feel a need to protect myself from a (tyrannical) government. Even if I felt as though some of my officials were doing something beyond the powers of their office, it seems to me that there are “checks and balances” in place to limit the power and any one man or group and that there are policies in place to remove officials if they overstep the boundaries of their office. Please let me know in the comments if there is an impeachable offense that has occurred. Also, please backup your claims with evidence.

I live in America (‘Merica!). I am not a part of a militia. I am no longer a part of the military. We are a people who are free to elect officials as we see fit. The last election was a legal one (as far as I know). That means that even if I don’t agree with the policies of some official(s) within our government, I am duly bound as a citizen to abide by the laws they impose. If I am unhappy, the only (legal) recourse I have is to impose my will in the next election. Why aren’t all the gun control opponents raising cain about term limits? If you don’t like the direction of the country (and by extension the government) is going, let’s do something about it. I am not sure that complaining about the roster of the players (which we selected) is the best way to change the game.

That said. I also do not feel as though it’s necessary to maintain anything with more than a couple of rounds. I shot expert (and still do) during basic training. I really only need one round to do what needs be done (sarcasm). In reality, my preference would  actually be a small shotgun. If you come in my bedroom in the middle of the night (or any other time of day), I only need point in your general direction and you’ll likely be in a bad way.

One final note, this NRA commercial in which they ask about whether the President’s children are more important than mine? That’s not really an effective analogy. His kids have armed guards because it’s a privilege of his office. Not because there is some ranking of importance on children. A benefit of that privilege is that they have armed guards assigned (individually, mind you) to those children. Additionally, those guards are members of the federal government whose job it is to protect the President, and by extension his kids. So is the NRA saying that the federal government should be putting federal officials at all schools to protect our kids? I thought they were against big government? I also thought that some of their use of the 2nd amendment is to protect themselves from the government. Doesn’t it seem counter-intuitive to then provide more federal officers who have guns? In close proximity to YOUR KIDS?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I don’t claim to have the answers. I hope to start a discussion with some questions.


  • District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)

Looking at someone else’s course and this week’s readings

I had to do a little writing for the week:


There are many elements of a course which contribute building a successful learning community.  I found the Venn Diagram (Swan, 2004) useful in thinking about this idea. As instructors, our responsibility is to create an environment conducive to learning, which contains three types of presence: social, teaching, and cognitive. Students coming from a face-to-face environment (or being a part of one at the same time) will crave the social presence. In fact, I would say this social piece is extremely (if not the most) important of the three. According to Social Development Theory, social interaction plays a vital role in the process of cognitive development(Vygotsky, 1978). If an online course is expected to be a successful learning community, it must include those critical elements. They are opportunities for students to interact

  1. with one another,
  2. with the instructor,
  3. and with the content.

This must all be done in such a way that students can interact asynchronously (or with synchronously, but in limited amounts). This sounds an impossible task, but we have found that there are many tools available to both students and instructors that make it possible to build community in a course.

Before we go much further, Roblyer & Ekhaml (2000) bring up a good point when they that a definition of interaction must be agreed upon. Citing Gilbert & Moore (1998) they note that “interaction… is a reciprocal exchange between the technology and the learner, a process… referred to as ‘feedback’.” This seems like a reasonable way to describe it. I once described it in a blog post as a sharpening stone and a knife. You talk to one person, they take your information and are changed. They respond and you are changed. By interacting back and forth, you are both changed, hopefully for the better.

In our online courses as SNU, we use discussion boards as a way for students and instructors to interact. However, I’ve seen many courses in which students were “discussion-boarded” to death. I imagine that’s a bit like being water-boarded, but I’m not sure. We also use collaborative projects/documents as a way for students to interact. Google Docs, specifically, makes this a great tool for students. I always enjoy presentations much more (as an instructor) when it has been created by several students. Probably my favorite (these have gone in reverse favorite order) is video. YouTube makes it so easy to create video (especially when integrated with QuickTime on a Mac) to create video, there’s no reason to not use video in online courses, for everything from feedback on essays/projects to instructions and introductions for each week’s assignments. These follow the tips provided by Patricia Smith in “Developing Community Online”  (Faculty Focus). I do think it’s extremely important to recognize that students are quite different from those of just a couple of years ago. If faculty insist on using outdated modes of contact or assignments styles/types, student interactivity, outcomes, and learning will likely suffer. As instructors, we have to let students know the expectations for communication and participation in the course. We should also be willing to adapt (within reason) to modes of contact/instruction that work best for students.

It has been (widely) accepted that interactivity is crucial in education. Even John Dewey, back in 1916, referred to interaction as the “defining component of the educational process that occurs when the student transforms the inert information passed to them from another, and constructs it into knowledge with personal application and value” (Anderson, 2004). If our outcomes for online education are the same as for our face-to-face courses, why would we perceive interactivity differently? At least on our campus, there is no differentiation between outcomes in online learning and those of face-to-face. The courses even count for the same amount when it comes to calculating load.

While I was looking at the Intro to Fine Arts course, I noticed a couple of ways the instructor worked at building community with students. The main one was giving them a schedule of “virtual office hours” in which students could interact with the professor. I never saw the link, but I suspect this was due to the fact that it’s a model course and the link was not live. I also noticed the numerous discussion boards available each week. Students were required to post discussions and then respond to one another.

I ran this through our rubric (which was designed based on Quality Matters and SLOAN-C resources) and you can find it here. Before being offered at SNU, we would need to revise and insert some assignments to encourage more community. We follow a Prepare, Discover, Analyze, and Share (PDAS) model here at SNU. We encourage instructors to give students the opportunity to prepare (usually something like lecture or reading), discover (go find information or construct it), analyze (allow the information to interact or change them as the learner), and share (bring information back to the class and share it with other students). I’m not naïve enough to think this is the only way students can learn. It just happens to be what works best for us.


Anderson, T. (2004). Chapter 2, Toward a Theory of Online Learning. Retrieved October 10, 2012, from Theory and Practice of Online Learning: http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/ch2.html#three

Faculty Focus. (n.d.). Online Classroom. (R. Kelley, Ed.) Retrieved October 2012, from Faculty Focus: http://facultyfocus.com

Roblyer, M. D., & Ekhaml, L. (2000, March). How Interactive are Your Distance Courses? A Rubric for Assessing Interaction in Distance Learning. Retrieved October 10, 2012, from University of West Georgia: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/roblyer32.html

Swan, K. (2004). Relationshipes Between Interactions and Learning In Online Envrionments. SLOAN-C Editor for Effective Practices in Learning Effectiveness , 1-6.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.




Creating an online syllabus

I’m working on a class to get a certification for online learning – course design. As a result, I’m working on an online class and I needed to create/tweak a syllabus. I’ve been studying some different resources for online syllabi:

  1. The Syllabus
  2. Creating an Effective Online Syllabus
  3. Online Course Design: 13 Strategies for Teaching in a Web-based Environment
  4. Developing Your Online Syllabus

I’ve collected my thoughts while looking at best practices for creating an online syllabus:

One of the interesting differences between K-12 and higher ed is the importance of a syllabus. I think this mostly has to do with 3 factors: (1) the amount of time you have students on a weekly basis, (2) the fact that you only have higher ed students for half of the year and (3) students in higher ed also have more responsiblity to do independent learning as far as the content of the course goes.

In K-12, students get a lot more handholding than they do in higher ed. We need to give explicit information concerning the text (students have to find their own text, it’s not provided), students need to know where to go for help (tutoring, disability services, etc. – they don’t have a guidance counselor or special ed case worker to guide them) and the list could go on.
Inviting a colleague to see your syllabus is an interesting thought. Usually, this doesn’t happen on our campus unless there’s a problem, i.e. grade appeal. Having recently been in K-12, there isn’t the culture of sharing that is (more) expected in higher ed. Many (even on my higher ed campus) are unwilling share and show what they are doing. Without getting too philosophical, I think this is what’s wrong with education. We’ve cultured an atmosphere of secrecy instead of a collegial peer learning network. I definitely see the value in encouraging peer review on syllabi. If for no other reason than to get another set of eyes on it to “keep the university out of trouble”. For instance, if I forgot to include our disability statement, that could be a real problem in many cases.

As an adjunct instructor in Physical Geography, I really appreciate the analogy of the syllabus as a road map. Not only to see where we are going, but what kinds of challenges/experiences will the learner encounter along the way? Do I have to buy my own gas or is there a built-in system of help available?

I know many students have a problem with organization. Most classes use the first day of school as a day to cover the syllabus. This probably seems like drudgery to many students. What kind of strategy can we use to increase the usefullness of the syllabus and recapture that first day of class? Here’s my idea: why not create a screencast of the instructor going over the syllabus and require students to watch that and take a quiz over it? Just a thought. We need to sell this syllabus as a tool, rather than a requirement. I do really like the idea of giving a schedule to show explicit scaffolding of concepts so students can understand, I need to learn A before I can get to B. It’s a process of sequenced steps, not a bunch of individual activities. It’s got to be sold as an overview, not simply a list.

For students, the contract is likely the most important piece. They want to know “how they are going to get (earn – hopefully) their A (B, C, D, whatever). Explicit instructions on how to earn what points for what activity. Certainly the expectations from the instructor may be the most significant piece in this section. What can they expect time-wise from me? Do I keep up on grading? Do I start and end class on time? If I am contacted, what expectation is there for a response? What is the best way to contact me?


Fall 2012

So I’ll resist the urge to talk about how long it’s been since I’ve posted. I haven’t posted. Oh well.

I’m starting on my SLOAN-C certification for Online Teaching. This is a fully online workshop designed to prepare faculty to teach online (as the name implies). Another adventure. More learning. Just my thing. I’m excited to learn more about something that will make me more effective at my job. What is that job? I’m an instructional designer and I work at helping faculty discover the tools and strategies they need to effectively accomplish their learning objectives in an online format. It’s a new job and a new position; I’ve only been here since January. I have zero formal training in Educational technology except for an undergraduate class and one graduate class. Why did they hire me again?

I know my writing has been quite boring and dry lately. I’m hoping to make it more conversational and reflective again and move away from the drab literature review I was doing during my last class. I’ve got to get back in the habit of reflecting. I miss it and I miss knowing that I have something to catalog my progress as a novice course designer.

I will just say I’ve learned so much over the last several months. I’m beginning to play a little bit with code. I really want to learn more HTML, JavaScript and CSS. It’s a large task, but I really love it. I’ve even toyed with the idea of a second undergraduate degree in programming or computer science or network engineering. However, that’s likely not to be due to my advanced age and time restraints on getting this doctorate done.