As citizens , we are recognized as members or inhabitants of a community. And within every community, there are rules that need to be followed for our own well-being and the well-being of others.  Whether our communities are physical or digital, the same basic rules apply: be kind, respect others and protect yourself.

Understanding and practicing these concepts is much easier in a physical community, where we recognize the faces of community members, make eye-contact when speaking to one another, and often base our personal safety on visual observation of the world around us.  But in a digital world, these basic rules are much more complicated. The digital world includes more potential for danger and it is harder to recognize and easier to disguise than that in our physical world.  Digital communities have no physical boundaries and can include an infinite number of members, most of which we may not know. Profile photos may mislead us into trusting people who are not who they say they are.  As we communicate with others, what we say and do cannot be forgotten or erased, and remains a part of the digital world forever.  As digital citizens, we must understand the dangers and responsibilities that come with our use of the Internet, and practice the use of digital tools with respect, safety and kindness toward others.

As a K-5 educator, I begin my school year by discussing Internet safety with my students. We compare their neighborhoods with “digital” neighborhoods. Just as kids aren’t allowed to just go outside and walk down the street without asking an adult, they should also get permission to go online at home.  Just as they should not talk to strangers in their neighborhood, they should not talk to strangers online either. There may be places in their neighborhood that are safe to visit, but there are also places they should not go. It’s important that when they go online, they know where those safe places are. And most importantly, they should always tell an adult if something makes them feel uncomfortable, no matter what neighborhood they are exploring.

I also spend much time with my students throughout the school year practicing digital rights and citing sources. At the bottom of every research worksheet that my 1st-3rd grade students complete, I include the question “How do I know?” This is where they write  the web address of the district tool they have accessed (Pebblego or Brittanica). 3rd-5th-grade students use the citation tools provided by Encyclopedia Brittanica to cite their sources. (Typically, we do not allow students to conduct Google searches, for fear of encountering inappropriate images and sites.)


Online Courses

Through my years as a technology instructor I’ve focused my attentions on free web tools and resources. As I’ve completed my most recent graduate course about online learning, I’ve continued to do so. My exploration of tools available for creating online learning environments has resulted in the following list.

Google Sites – I’ve used Google sites in the past with my high school students and with the seamless inclusion of YouTube videos, and Google apps, it’s simple to create collaborative environments, student worksheets and forms, and diagrams necessary for online instruction. Google Analytics has also allowed me to monitor how often the tools have been used outside of school hours which is a feature I found useful for measuring the success of the course.

Schoology was the online application I chose to use for this course, and seems to be the online course creator that was most often used by my colleagues. I found it easy to use with those tools I’m most accustomed to using – Google apps and YouTube videos. I especially appreciated the support for collaboration offered by Schoology. And although I didn’t necessarily use the grading feature for my course, the fact that it’s available makes this a tool I would consider in the future.

At Udemy, online course creation is free. In-depth courses can be created by anyone to use either for free or for a fee (for the creator to determine). If you’re looking to sell an online course you’ve designed, this is a great option.

CourseSites by Blackboard is free resource for creating open courses or MOOC’s, in a social learning environment. It includes assessment options and accommodates a variety of media.

Learnopia is another free online course creator. Similar to Udemy, course designers can offer their courses for free or for a charge.

While the above provide options for designing online courses, a number of sites exist that offer pre-designed online instruction, one of which was included as a resource in my own online course. Khan Academy offers free courses and resources in a wide variety of subject areas. Additionally, Peer to Peer University (P2PU) is an open source learning community that offers courses in a number of subject areas. It is run by volunteers and focuses on “learning circles” where participants can take online classes together.



Throughout this course I have reflected on my own philosophy of education and the theories of instructional design that influence my role as a technology educator. For more than eight years I have been designing courses, curriculum and lessons for 9-12 and K-5 technology students. Some of my instruction has been online, but the majority has been problem-based, typically with results that express my students’ individuality and interests.

I am not an objectivist. I do not place importance on learning facts or terms, or principles, because technology is constantly changing.  I am more focused on my individual students and their ability to use the tools available to them than I am on theories, terminology, or historical facts regarding technology. I don’t consider it my job to deliver content, but to present problems, and provide support in using digital tools to solve them.

My teaching approach is a cognitive process. It is my goal to help my students analyze and make connections to previously learned information in ways that allow them to solve problems and discover new skills using digital tools. I am also a constructivist, because I believe that each of my students processes and organizes information differently. I feel strongly that their personal experiences will allow them to make connections that are authentic. Their collaboration and discussion with one another will result in more effective learning experiences than any information I can deliver to them. In that way, my approach is one of constructivism. Learners in my course will be assembling their own knowledge regarding digital tools and processes that can be used in their classes.

My online course is designed to address the disabilities of my current school, rather than the K-5 learners within it (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014). Despite having more than adequate access to digital tools and online applications, educators are untrained in using technology as an educational tool. My course provides learners (teachers) with examples of blended learning, while creating an environment in which they will explore digital tools of their own and share their experiences with one another. The team-teaching element that is offered in the course provides additional social interaction, during which learning can take place through shared experiences.

My UbD Plan includes foundational instruction in the form of two short videos about blended learning strategies. Small group discussions will immediately follow these videos, and learners will share any blended learning experiences they’ve had, and brainstorm others that could be used in their classrooms. Applicative instruction includes their creation of collaborative documents using Office 365, a tool that was provided to them (without training) by the district two years ago. This will provide them with experience not only in using Office 365, but in online collaboration as a learning activity. Remaining instruction as planned in my UbD includes additional collaborative discussions, exploration of the iPad apps available on our campus, and evidence of learning in the form of artifacts, shared documents and online feedback (surveys) throughout the course.

Online learning allows me to address content while promoting the development of skills needed for future employability. These skills include communication, independent learning, ethics and responsibility, teamwork and flexibility, thinking, digital, and knowledge management (Conference Board of Canada, 2014). They cannot be learned by themselves and need to be applied to content areas and authentic learning situations in order for mastery to be achieved.

The fact that today’s students are natives to a digital age means that they expect to use technology for daily processes and entertainment. These students don’t think of technology as separate from their daily lives (Wicks, 2014).   To limit their learning environment to the traditional classroom is inconsistent with the world they live in, and can only complicate the learning process. Online learning makes it easier to integrate content with real-world applications. And while the audience for my online course is not considered digital natives, the need for them to recognize the significance of technology to the futures of their students is great. My online course is designed to become a “place” for teachers to learn from one another – a place that is shaped by the people within it (Morrison, 2015).

Additionally, online learning allows for instructors to reach larger groups of students and address the diversity of any group. No longer does class size need to be limited to the physical dimensions of a classroom, or the suggested ratio of students to teacher. In an online environment, students can learn from an instructor, independently, and/or from one another. A wider selection of resources can be made available to students.  Scheduling is also more flexible, allowing students to work independently as time allows, providing them with ample time for personal reflection and a deeper and more authentic learning experience.

The fact that students are not merely consumers of the learning experience, but contributors as well makes them active learners with an investment in the educational process. Their contributions to the online environment, in a variety of media, serve as a portfolio of sorts, providing evidence of learning and examples of growth for the group as a whole, or for individual students.

As I apply what I’ve learned to my own teaching, I understand the need for my students to be skilled in the use of technology as it applies to them as individuals. While my online course is designed for educators, I have recognized that their learning abilities and strengths differ, just as my K-5 students’ do. Activities are collaborative in nature, because I understand that social influence and shared learning experiences are primary sources of learning for teachers. The design of blended learning strategies will be very personal to each instructor, and based on the needs of his or her students. The fact that time is dedicated for PLC’s each week means that what is learned in the online course can be discussed face-to-face, and that teachers can work together beyond my online course to blend their curriculum with the digital tools available to them.

Evidence of learning will come in many forms, depending on the needs and experiences of the learner. Participation in collaborative discussions and contributions to the media library will be significant in determining the success of the experience. Additionally, student feedback and use of digital tools in their own classrooms will demonstrate their understanding of the benefits of blended learning.


Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., Gordon, D. (2014) Universal Design for Learning – Theory and Practice. Retrieved from

Morrison, D. (2015, October 16). How to Make Online Courses a ‘Place’ for Learning. Retrieved from 

The Conference Board of Canada (2014) Employability Skills 2000+ Ottawa ON: Conference Board of Canada

Wicks, M. (2010, October). A National Primer for Online Learning. Retried from 

Implementing My Online Course

I work in a K-5 school, where I teach technology. While my innovation plan and corresponding online course are geared toward professional learning with my colleagues, there are some ways in which online courses could benefit the learning of my students as well.

Because my district’s communication and collaboration platform is Office 365, it is the tool I would have to use for any student-centered online learning course in my building. Office 365 provides a safe environment for our young students to collaborate and discuss with other members of our district environment, and it is both approved and monitored by district administration. Keeping in mind that I am working with K-5 students, I would likely focus on 4th and 5th grades for any online course, since they would be most prepared to use the digital tools needed for doing so (keyboarding, terminology, login information and email addresses).

Each year, I spend a significant part of the first semester teaching students about digital responsibility and safety. I would use OneNote as my online learning environment for this “course” posting weekly assignments for students, and allowing them to submit responses (in the form of images, videos or text) within their shared notebooks. I would include instruction in crediting sources, and creating and responding to blog posts respectfully. I could choose whether to configure each assignment to be shared or to be saved privately in each student’s notebook. I would also be able to embed any required videos to student notebooks, where they could be viewed and discussed as assigned.

Another online course I could teach using O365 is in the area of creating presentations. Assignments would include the organization of student research in Word, the creation of outlines, and the ultimate development of a PowerPoint or Sway presentation.

In each of these scenarios, there would be no automatic grading, as students would each have their own independent ideas, contributions and creative works.

My Online Course

My online course is about blended learning, and it has been created for teachers in my building, so as I’ve designed it  I’ve considered  what I’ve learned in my research.  My research (and experience in speaking with my colleagues) shows that time constraints are the biggest obstacle to teachers’ use of technology in the classroom. Their workloads are more demanding now than ever, due to an increased population of high-need students, pressure to teach to assessments, and demands to learn new content and skills. For that reason, my course is meant to be used in conjunction with traditional learning in staff meetings. It cannot be used effectively by itself. Teachers aren’t comfortable enough using technology to learn about it on their own. They also don’t have time to put in to an online course, unless meeting time is dedicated for them to do so. My live instruction will accompany my course for a number of reasons. First, I want to model the blended learning techniques I’m trying to teach. Second, I want to provide support and guidance as I am offering professional learning. And third, I want to communicate that what we’re doing is important enough for administrators to dedicate time to learning more about it.

Learner participation is a key to the success of this course. While I will provide the guidance and design of the learning process, a majority of the activity will be conducted by the learners. They will participate in a number of activities during our meeting times, and throughout the weeks between scheduled meetings. Evidence of learning will come in the form of their in-class and online discussions, shared experiences, feedback, and PLC meeting minutes. Learning will be mostly experiential, including a number of cooperative, problem-based and inquiry-led activities.

I am making a real effort to make my online course an authentic one that I can use in the fall. While this means that I am not including tons of resources, what I am including is what I consider to be essential to the experience. The informal, one-on-one interaction that accompanies it (in the form of team-teaching experiences) will play a significant role as well.