Educational Design Research in my Future

I am nearing the end of my final coursework for my doctoral program. That brings up some mixed feelings for me–I am definitely excited to be moving on to the next phase and starting my dissertation, but this does feel like a conclusion to things as well. It has been a joy working with my cohort throughout the past three years, building friendships even though we rarely meet up in person and live on several continents.

A key part of my course work this semester has been practicing peer review. I have found this so very beneficial; we are at a point where the members of our cohort have become real friends, and it’s a pleasure to read each others’ work, and reflect upon, critique, and encourage our classmates to continue to strengthen what we have developed. I have enjoyed getting to know how my friends think about our field, and this is one aspect of the cohort model that I have found so beneficial for me: we develop relationships that are strong enough that we don’t take it personally when we hear the critique; we welcome it, because we know that our friends are looking out for us to help us make our work ever stronger! It is strange to think that we will not meet up online regularly after this course wraps up. And while I know we will continue to keep in touch, it will be different not interacting with them on a weekly basis.

Because the fact is, I am finishing up my last courses for my doctoral work as I write this reflection; we have less than two weeks remaining. The Educational Design Research (EDR) course I have been taking this semester was a research elective; I had to take one more research course, and I had a choice of several options. I am so glad I selected this course; I think it was the perfect choice for me at this point in my program. EDR seems almost ideally situated for my field of educational technology, as it is intended to generate both practical outcomes (interventions) that address real problems in education, but also generate theoretical understanding at the same time.

I have already taken courses focusing on quantitative methods and qualitative methods in previous semesters; EDR can use either, or both. One key focus in EDR is on understanding the context where the intervention will be deployed; this makes tremendous sense to me within the field of EdTech. Early in my studies–in fact, in the very first course I took in this program–we examined media comparison studies, studies intended to quantitatively examine the effectiveness of a particular medium or technology as compared to some other teaching approach. We discovered how these studies almost always result in “no significant difference,” meaning, “statistically speaking, these things are the same” or “the amount of learning is the same, no matter the medium being used.” That sounded crazy to me at the time, but that is a reflection of my lack of understanding of statistical analysis then; I know better now. The difference I see is this: using different media may result in the same amount of learning overall, but the experience may be very different! And that is where qualitative methods are so beneficial: understanding the experience of the teachers, the students, the learning environment.

And then, considering EDR…now I understand more about how to design an intervention, based on analysis of the problem, and with an eye toward ongoing evaluation over time. I also understand the value of creating multiple iterations to continually refine the intervention, and further develop the theoretical understandings as well. And the benefit of using both qualitative methods to describe the relevant information from the context and quantitative methods to increase the rigor of the study can be a benefit on both ends. I have become convinced of the benefits of EDR as a research approach, and I am certain I will use EDR in my long-term research agenda.

Image by David Jones via Flickr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Now that brings up the question: will I use EDR as an approach for my dissertation? My honest answer right now: I am not sure. I have done some reading over the past few weeks that indicates it certainly is possible to use EDR as a doctoral student. My dissertation might function as the first iteration of a longer-term study; there are examples of dissertations that have been conducted this way, and there is some appeal in this for me! However, I have been thinking about conducting a case study for my dissertation for some time now, and I am not sure that I need to change this planned approach at this point. However, one might argue that a case study could be the first iteration of an EDR study. So…I guess I will say that it is not outside the realm of possibility that I would use EDR as an approach to my dissertation research, but I am not leaning that way at the moment. I would  like to read still more examples of EDR dissertations before I make that final determination, I think. However…since I’ve written an EDR proposal as part of this course, that may actually sway me. Could I use this proposal as a start for my dissertation proposal that I plan to write this summer? That might just win me over… 🙂

I have benefited greatly through my work in this course. It has shaped my thinking about the way research is conducted in my field. I feel well-prepared to conduct research as an academic in my field, and I am excited to use this approach in the future!

EDR: Design, Evaluation and Implementation

In the current module of the design-based research course I am taking this semester, we have been focusing on three key tasks: design, evaluation and implementation. Design is (obviously!) an essential aspect of design-based research, but these other two tasks (evaluation and implementation) are also extremely important.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the design of a proposed project to address a real problem for the pre-service teachers I currently serve: how can I best help prepare them for the challenges of technology integration? In crafting my design, I have conducted what I think is a thorough review of the literature. Honestly, at least half of the reading I have been doing in my doctoral program for the past three years has been focused on this topic, so while I have certainly read new things this semester, I find I have been revisiting things I’ve read previously, and I find that I am synthesizing from many sources, seeing how the pieces fit together, and designing a way to address this problem.

One of the readings from our major text for the semester noted that, “designing solutions to educational problems fundamentally involves change” (McKenney & Reeves, 2012, p. 112). That is what I am really thinking a lot about right now: what might have to change about our teacher preparation program to better prepare students for technology integration? This is not a simple question, but through conversation with my colleagues, and even a sort of informal focus group of some of my students, I am devising a plan to help boost pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy for teaching with technology. I am focusing my attention on self-efficacy because I have come to realize that there is no way I can teach students every different piece of technology they might possibly have access to in their future classrooms. Add to this the fact that technologies are ever-changing, and it becomes even more important to foster that sense of learning-to-learn when it comes to technology.

At the same time, I have been thinking a lot about the evaluation-reflection process, and how this project might actually be implemented. McKenney and Reeves (2012) describe this process akin to the way software developers might think about the iterations of a particular tool, in terms of alpha testing (basic logical tests of soundness of design and feasibility of usefulness), beta testing (use in context, though perhaps not with full functionality), gamma testing (just before final release, the highly-stable version that is evaluated for effectiveness and impact), and then the “final” release. This analogy is helpful for me as I think about the different iterations a particular intervention might pass through in the development and design process, and it rings true with me for my own work as an educator: I generally try to approach my teaching practice as a continuous learner, always looking to improve in the next iteration, and reflecting at every point along the way. However, I think my teaching practice might currently be better described as “continuously in beta,” and this is why I find the approach McKenney and Reeves (2012) advocate helpful: how can my work begin to generalize into other situations, be implemented beyond just my own classroom, and be a positive influence on others? I worry that I sound a little arrogant when I say things like that, as if I have things all figured out and that everyone should want to do what I am doing in my own teaching practice. I recognize that I am a work in progress, and that my teaching practice, and even this design project is a work in progress!

However, I hope that the project I have been working on for this course–a project aimed at improving my students’ abilities to integrate technology in their own teaching practices–would, in fact be something that would spread and be implemented more widely than in my own teaching practice. I say this not out of arrogance, but out of a hope that the work I am doing would be valuable to others, and that when they read about the development work I have been doing for this project, they might see it as relevant for their own situations, and that they might apply or adapt the things I am doing and discovering in their own contexts. Because that seems to be the most helpful part of EDR: seeking not only to develop theoretical understandings, but also practical solutions to real problems!

students on iMacs
Image by US Department of Education [CC BY 2.0]


McKenney S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting educational design research. London: Routledge.

EDR – Analysis and Design

Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about how to best create a design-based research project that is both realistic in scope and also helpful for my current role as a teacher educator. Also, I am working on a sort of guided study project concurrently, and I am finding much overlap between these two projects. I have a lot of thoughts swirling around in my mind right now, so as I am reflecting on my work over the past few weeks, I will try to distill them into a few key themes.

The first thing I should note is how helpful our text for this course has been for me. McKenney and Reeves’ (2012) Conducting Educational Design Research has been an invaluable resource for me in my current understanding of design-based research in education. I am finding it is written not so much as a how-to manual offering step-by-step instructions for conducting a design-based study, but rather a handbook of advice for the educational design researcher. I find this helpful, because as I am reading more examples of EDR studies, I am finding that there are general patterns in place, but the details of how a particular study is carried out seems to vary quite widely. I suppose this is my muddiest point on creating a design-based study: how concerned do we need to be about the structure of our study?

Our work in this module of the course emphasized the analysis and exploration phase, and I was grateful for the advice provided by McKenney and Reeves (2012) on this topic: “The main goal of analysis during this phase of educational design research is problem definition…the main goal of exploration, which may be conducted alongside analysis activities, is to seek out and learn from how others have viewed and solved similar problems” (p. 85). This is very much what I have been working on through this module: defining the problem and examining what the existing literature on my topic suggests. The problem I am tackling is a big one, but a real one for the students (pre-service teachers) I serve: how can I help them to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for effective technology integration? And as I crafted an initial explanation of this problem and shared it with my classmates for their reactions, I received many helpful questions and comments that helped me to clarify the problem statement and be more deliberate in how I articulated the situation. They definitely served as “critical friends” as recommended by McKenney and Reeves (2012, p. 85). I was able to articulate my own beliefs, as they impact the study I am proposing, and I was able to provide an analysis of the context of the problem, as well as the needs and wishes of the various stakeholders in the project.

Through my review of the literature, I found that there are many perspectives on how to best proceed, but I was encouraged to find so many researchers emphasizing both self-efficacy for technology integration as well as the TPACK framework as means for developing this kind of knowledge and skill. (And this is the part that dovetails nicely with my guided study project, which is also about self-efficacy for technology integration.) I have re-read several pieces over the past week by Peg Ertmer and her colleagues about fostering self-efficacy in preservice teachers (Ertmer, 2005; Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010; Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, Sendurur, & Sendurur, 2012), and this has been so affirming for me; I believe I am definitely on the right track with my design for this project. I also had the opportunity to re-read Mishra and Koehler’s seminal (2006) piece, “Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge,” which I reference often, but it has been over a year since I read it through. It was a good reminder for me of why I am doing the things I am doing, working with pre-service teachers: helping them to become the most effective they can possibly be! Also, it was interesting for me to take note that Mishra and Koehler used design-based research in their development of the TPACK framework–I had never caught that before, perhaps because I had never really understood what “design-based research” meant.

As I think about the next steps for this project, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, to be honest. Writing a proposal is one thing, but actually implementing it will be quite another! But I should not get the cart before the horse; the scaffolded approach to developing this proposal is quite enough for now. This course has been very encouraging for me so far, and affirming in both what I have learned in terms of the key ideas within our field of educational technology more broadly and my interest of teacher preparation more narrowly, as well as my developing skills as a researcher.



Ertmer, P. A. (2005). Teacher pedagogical beliefs: The final frontier in our quest for technology integration? Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 25-39.

Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2010). Teacher technology change: How knowledge, confidence, beliefs, and culture intersect. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 42(3), 255-284.

Ertmer, P.A., Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., Sadik, O., Sendurur, E., & Sendurur, P. (2012).Teacher beliefs and technology integration practices: A critical relationship.  Computers & Education, 59, 423-435. DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.02.001

McKenney S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting educational design research. London: Routledge.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6): 1017-1054.

Getting Started with Education Design Research

This semester I am taking Education Design Research (EDR) as a research elective for my doctoral work. While I had heard of EDR before as a methodology, I really had never learned too much about it, so this course is is a great opportunity to learn more. EDR is also known as design-based research (DBR). This terminology may be more familiar for some, as it is sometimes used in other fields beyond education. I am fascinated by this approach so far, and I am interested in learning more!

The text we are using for this course is by McKinney and Reeves (2012), and I found their definition for EDR helpful; they describe this methodology as “a genre of research in which the iterative development of solutions to practical and complex educational problems also provides the context for empirical investigation, which yields theoretical understanding that can inform the work of others” (p. 7). The basic idea of EDR, then, is to develop an intervention to address a particular problem in education, while at the same time also generating theoretical understanding of the situation. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods can be used, depending on the nature of the research question, and from the reading I have done so far, EDR seems to be one way to make mixed-methods research a reality. (There is some contention about the used of both quantitative and qualitative methods in the same study in education; I can not speak to weather this is the case in all disciplines.)

Taking this as an introduction for the uninitiated into the idea of EDR, I feel that I should say that am not fully certain about just what this approach looks like in practice. I have looked at several examples of EDR studies, and it seems like there is a wide variety among them. So…a few parts are still a bit muddy for me.

A Few Muddy Points about Education Design Research

I wonder a bit about the general acceptance of this methodology. EDR is a relatively “new” methodology (as compared to more established quantitative and qualitative traditions), as it was formally introduced in the early 1990s. Early in the course, we read seminal works introducing the approach of EDR; both have a copyright of 1992. (See Brown, 1992, and Collins, 1992). I have not yet found many examples of EDR studies to review; it may very well be that I am not looking in the right places, or–as I suspect–perhaps this approach is still a bit too novel that it does not yet have widespread acceptance?

That is perhaps a trivial wondering in the grand scheme of things. A more substantial “muddy” point for me is this: although I appreciate the emphasis on both practical outcomes (i.e., interventions to solve educational problems) as well as theoretical understanding (i.e., adding to the research literature in the field of education), I wonder how well this always works out in practice? Over the past few weeks I read several examples of EDR/DBR studies (including Wang et al., 2014, and Thompson Long and Hall, 2015) and I viewed presentation by several of my classmates on other EDR/DBR examples. Throughout these studies, it seems that some researchers definitely emphasize the “improving practice” piece, while others focus more on the “developing theory” piece. Perhaps that is in the nature of how an individual study unfolds? Or perhaps the authors actually have multiple publications underway from the same research study, and different journals emphasize different elements? But this was something I wondered about: if EDR is truly aimed at both of these outcomes (the practical and the theoretical) should they be expected to be given equal treatment? Or is it really all right to emphasize one over the other?

A third wondering that remains a bit “muddy” for me is the generalizability of EDR studies. Because these are  studies of the particular (along the same lines of case studies), the outcomes are going to be strongly contextualized to a given setting, where the research was carried out. McKinney and Reeves (2012) indicate that this is not too much of a problem (they put much of the burden for generalization on the reader of the research, rather than the researcher himself or herself–see pp. 21-22), I wonder if this approach is accepted by many educators? In my exploration of case study methods, I have found two schools of thought on the topic of generalization. Some theorists believe the burden lies upon the researcher to build a case for generalization–or perhaps “transferability”–to other settings. The other group place the burden–similar to McKinney and Reeves’s approach–on the reader, though with the expectation that the researcher will provide a “thick description” of the context (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) to support the reader in determining the transferability. I am curious to learn more about this aspect of EDR/DBR in particular.

Conceptualizing EDR and Comparing to Other Methodologies


I created this concept map to show my current thinking and understanding of EDR as a research methodology.

EDR, as I currently understand it, results in both practical and theoretical outcomes. The practical results are the nature of seeking to address problems of practice by designing interventions that will actually be put into place through the course of the research. At the same time, researchers will be seeking to develop descriptive and even predictive theories based on the work they conduct in the development and implementation of the intervention.

McKinney and Reeves (2012) describe the process of EDR as

  • Theoretically-oriented – EDR uses existing theory to frame the inquiry, and aims to further elaborate theoretical understanding (p. 13)
  • Interventionist – EDR strives to positively impact practice through the design and use of solutions to real problems (p. 14)
  • Collaborative – EDR is conducted in collaboration between researchers and practitioners (p. 14)
  • Responsively-grounded – EDR is structured to explore the complex realities of teaching and learning contexts and respond accordingly (p. 15)
  • Iterative – EDR interventions evolved through multiple iterations of investigation, development, testing, and refinement (p. 15)

EDR has connections then to a wide variety of research traditions. It connects to qualitative methods such as grounded theory and case study through the emphasis on “thick description” of the context (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) and the development of knowledge by examining a specific context. EDR is strongly linked to action research methods with it’s emphasis on solving problems of practice. And EDR may employ survey methods, or other quantitative methods as an essential aspect of understanding the situation, and in understanding the results of the intervention. EDR seems ideally situated to bridge the qualitative-quantitative gap, depending upon the research questions being asked, of course.

Finally, while there are many different ways researchers carry out EDR studies, McKinney and Reeves (2012) have advocated a generic model for EDR research comprised of three main “movements”:

  1. Analysis + Exploration – to understand the context of the problem
  2. Design + Construction – to create the intervention to address the problem
  3. Evaluation + Reflection – to determine the suitability of the intervention to actually solve the problem, and to develop the theoretical understandings that may result.

These steps may be repeated through multiple iterations, and, in fact, it seems likely that this is the preferred approach to EDR, based on readings from Brown (1992) and Collins (1992).

I am still early in my explorations of EDR/DBR as a research methodology, but already I see tremendous possibility in this approach! I may not use EDR for my upcoming dissertation, but I can definitely see myself using EDR for future research projects in Education.



Brown, A. L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178.

Collins, A. (1992). Towards a design science of education. In E. Scanson & T. O’Shea (Eds.), New directions in educational technology (15-22). Berlin: Springer.

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry (Vol. 75). Los Angeles: Sage.

McKinney S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting educational design research. London: Routledge.

Thompson Long, B., & Hall, T. (2015). R-NEST: Design-based research for technology-enhanced reflective practice in initial teacher education. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 31(5), 3–5.

Wang, S.-K., Hsu, H.-Y., Reeves, T. C., & Coster, D. C. (2014). Professional development to enhance teachers’ practices in using information and communication technologies (ICTs) as cognitive tools: Lessons learned from a design-based research study. Computers & Education, 79(1), 101-115. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2014.07.006

Social Networks for Learning? Yes!

This summer has flown by in a blur. Between taking two courses, being home with my kiddos while my wife was at work, working with colleagues to prepare them for teaching online, and beginning planning for teaching my fall courses, I haven’t had much time to catch my breath.

But I have continued to carve out time for blogging and networking via Twitter. And EdTech 543 was instrumental for this ongoing work.

I set out at the beginning  of the course already well on my way toward using social networks for my own personal learning. But could I use social networks for a formal learning situation? I wanted to know more about the underlying theories, and learn more practical examples by doing. This course did not disappoint. From mapping out my own PLN to creating do’s and don’ts for preservice teachers using social networks to participating in realtime professional development, there were a wide variety of activities and experiences that I will carry with me from this course.

I want to differentiate between things I learned that I will continue to do for my own learning, and for my teaching. I will list a few of each that this course has helped to shape and solidify in my thinking and practice.

Specific things I learned that will continue to affect my own learning:

  • The whole idea of connectivism really challenged me. I am still not sure if I agree that it is a learning theory, but this has kept nagging at the back of my mind throughout the course. I intend to continue to read and reflect on this topic, and perhaps there is a paper in me to share more about this topic.
  • I will definitely continue to connect with colleagues near and far via Twitter! I found a few chats that were new to me in this course, and I have continued to connect with those groups of educators. I intend to keep up these connections.
  • Attending a virtual conference (#RSCON5) was a fantastic experience, and I will definitely be doing that again! I hope to present next time as well.
  • Mapping out my PLN has made me much more aware of the role these different social networks play in my own learning. I plan to become more involved in Google+ communities, and in fact, I already have.
  • I now have a much better understanding of the importance of curation–not just collecting resources, but organizing them, annotating them, and sharing them! I intend to continue to create and maintain curations as time and interest allows.

Specific things I learned that will affect my teaching practice:

  • I teach preservice teachers primarily. They must begin building their PLN’s now. I intend to have my methods students join Twitter (or create a separate, professional account) and begin to collect and curate resources related to the content of our course.
  • The curated collection I created in this course will be used in my Introduction to Education course this fall as we consider school reform. I hope to curate more professional collections for my students this way as well.
  • I teach one graduate course regularly, which is entitled “Teaching and Learning with Technology.” It’s really an EdTech survey course. Several of the ideas and techniques from this course will find their way there:
    • A course hashtag for sharing resources (I’ve done this before, but it was more of an afterthought than an expectation.)
    • I will definitely have my students map out their own PLN–such a valuable activity!
    • I will likely have these students collaborate to curate a collection via Diigo.

Overall, the biggest take away for me from this whole course is the value of social networks for developing social presence in an online course. In the other course I was taking this summer (Online Teaching for Adult Learners), this was a major theme, and while we tangentially talked about social networks, I now see how immensely valuable social networks can be not just for informal, personal learning, but also in formal learning experiences online.

A "twordle" made from my entire Twitter history. Interesting to see what stands out, isn't it?
A “twordle” made from my entire Twitter history. Interesting what stands out, isn’t it?

Continuing to Learn: My Ongoing Learning about Adult Learning

The courses I’ve taken this summer have been focused on learning in online spaces. I have learned a lot, and had some of my previously held beliefs about learning online affirmed. I was encouraged to find that some of the things I had stumbled into in my previous attempts at teaching online are actually considered best practices for online teaching for adult learners.

This concept map is a modification of one I made at the beginning of the summer. The changes reflect my learning over this summer’s work.

Concept Map
Created with (Click the image for a larger view.)

As I reflect on my learning in this course, I would say that for the most part my thinking hasn’t changed dramatically, but I have a deeper understanding of both what adult learners need, as well as how to teach online for adult learners. My earlier concept map was focused on persistence in learning in the online setting. Persistence–“sticking with it” in the course–is a real issue for adult learners, who have many demands for their time and attention. In my revised map I have not changed much about the components leading to persistence, but I did add more information about what I have labeled as “contextualization” in the map:

  1. adult learners need relevant content that is applicable to their context, and
  2. adult learners need meaningful interactions with their colleagues/classmates as well as their instructor(s) to keep them engaged in the learning.

The other, more significant addition is a whole side branch about the instructor. In my earlier map, I focused almost completely on the learner’s side of things. Throughout this course, however, my attention has shifted toward what I can do as an instructor to support my students’ learning. Thus, I’ve added information about teaching presence and social presence, which I’ve come to believe  are the keys to making a great online course that is engaging, meaningful, supportive, and interactive.


As I think about the things I’ve learned throughout this course, I know it is going to have a direct impact in my own online teaching practice, and also in the way I encourage my colleagues to teach online. Here are a few specifics:

  • I am going to continue to  begin with a introductions (both from me, and from the students.) This helps to build social relationships, and this social presence in the course leads to greater cognitive presence (Stavredes, 2011).
  • Being a visible presence (literally!) by using video is a great way to increase an instructor’s teaching presence (Ko & Rossen, 2010). I will continue to use brief video clips to welcome students to the course and to introduce each module. I really appreciated Alice Keeler’s suggestion to use animated gif’s of myself (judiciously placed) on course pages to keep visual reminders that I am a real person. I will think about using this technique in the future.
  • I was glad to learn a new tool and practice new techniques for creating rich media tutorials. The rich media tutorial I created for this course has had great feedback already, and I know I will create more of these.
  • I had the chance to refine my thinking about creating effective online lessons. While I think of myself as quite good at curriculum design (Curriculum & Instruction was my Master’s degree major, after all), this course was a great opportunity to think again about how to apply what I know about good design to online courses.


To sum up: teaching online isn’t the same as teaching face-to-face, and teaching adult learners is not the same as teaching children or adolescents. This course was a great encouragement to me, and I feel better prepared to teach online as a result of taking it.



Ko, S. & Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching online: A practical guide. New York, NY: Routledge.

Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective online teaching: Foundations and strategies for student success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Creating an Online Lesson

Over the past two weeks I’ve been working on an assignment on creating a lesson in Moodle. I have worked with Moodle before, so that did simplify this assignment somewhat for me, but that doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and roses–this was hard work! Here are few of my thoughts in response to developing the lesson…

I have a new part of my job at Dordt College this year that involves me serving as a “Technology-Pedagogy Coach” for my colleagues. A large element to this role is going to be introducing faculty to online teaching. I am in the process of developing a blended course to help with this, because some of my colleagues have never taken (let alone taught!) and online course, and I think it is very important for them to have the experience from the students’ side of things. So this assignment of creating an online lesson was timely and very applicable! The lesson I created will serve as module 2 for this blended course.

With my background in curriculum and instruction, I decided to build the lesson as a way of introducing the course participants to Wiggins & McTighe’s (2005) “backward design” framework. It was interesting for me to be so mindful of good design as I was creating this lesson to help my colleagues understand good design!

It was easy for me to develop objectives, and likewise to match assessments I believe will provide evidence of the mastery of those objectives. Selecting materials and learning activities took some time, but I am happy with the resulting unit.

I tried to be very mindful of what we’ve learned in this course about social presence, and how important it is for students to have a sense that the instructor is “there” with them in the course. I tried to do this by including a video introduction to the module to accompany the learning guide, and by using tutorial videos that included picture-in-picture headshots of me presenting to the camera. As I teach the lesson, I will also be sure to facilitate (without dominating) the discussion of the readings.

All in all, I am excited to teach this lesson for “real, live students!” This was a very practical assignment for me. The most rewarding part has been seeing the feedback of my classmates, affirming my design decisions, and providing me with helpful critique that will allow me to reshape the lesson slightly before I teach it.



Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Preservice Teachers

Social media provides tremendous learning opportunities for professional teachers. Many teachers use tools such as Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, wikis, and blogs to find ideas and resources, connect with fellow educators, and curate collections of resources for their later use.

As a teacher educator, I want to prepare the preserivce teachers I serve to be ready for the rigors of the profession. I believe it makes sense to help them get into habits of continual professional development, even during their preservice phase and induction to the profession.

I intend to have my methods students use Twitter this year as a means of collecting and sharing resources. While many of my students are already on Twitter for personal reasons, they may not be thinking about Twitter as a tool for professional teachers (though there are many thousands of teachers connecting on Twitter on a daily basis!) To help them understand how professional educators might use social networks for personalized learning, I offer these ten do’s and don’ts…

1. DO consider creating separate personal and professional accounts for the social networks you plan to use for professional purposes. Alternatively, you might choose to segregate your use of social networks based on different purposes. For example, many teachers use Twitter for professional purposes and use Facebook for personal purposes.

2. DON’T post private information on a professional account. Be mindful about what you are sharing; think about your audience. Would you be comfortable with students,  their parents, colleagues, administrators, or people who might be interviewing you for a potential job reading and viewing what you are sharing? It’s all right for your followers to get a sense of your interests and personality, but be cautious sharing too much personal information, and certainly guard your privacy.

3. Do remember that social media is social: respond to people’s questions, thank people for their responses to your questions, share helpful resources and ideas for your followers, carry on the conversation and be involved. This is the best part about social media: communication is a two-way street. Certainly you will gain information and insights by following interesting people, but think about how you can be a benefit to those who follow you as well!

4. DON’T be afraid to connect with educators you might know personally. Social media is a great equalizer, and you may have the opportunity to interact with thought leaders and educational experts that you would not otherwise be able to meet! With so many educators active on social networks and ready and willing to share, you will learn a lot if you are willing to connect. However, now that I’ve said that…

5. DO “keep your antennae up.” Most educators seem genuinely interested in helping, but if anything about your interaction with a particular person makes you feel uncomfortable, get out of that situation. Don’t respond, block them, report them. Along these same lines, never click on a link in a direct message you were not expecting or from someone you’ve never connected with before…wisdom should prevail.

6. DON’T post photos without permission of those in the photos. This is particularly true of students with whom you may be working. Be sure to follow your school’s guidelines for use of students’ images and personal information online. It is generally not allowed to share pictures of students without written permission from a parent or guardian. Sharing specific, personal information about students is unwise, and usually illegal.

7. DO give credit where credit is due. While social networks are designed for sharing, be sure to properly attribute information, and be cautious about misusing images and videos in particular.

8. DON’T share links without reading them first. (Even long articles.) “Too long; didn’t read” is not acceptable. If you are sharing the link, there is a reasonable expectation that you stand behind the sharing, whether you agree or disagree with the author. (Side note: you don’t have to only share things with which you agree. It can be helpful to share things you disagree with and ask for other educator’s opinions on the piece–this can be a helpful way to learn as well!) The point is that you are responsible for the things you share.

9. DO remember that the Internet has a long memory. Your digital footprint is very hard to change once established. Be mindful of what you post! If you wouldn’t bring it into the classroom to discuss with students, don’t post it. If you wouldn’t like to see it on the evening news with your name and picture attached, don’t post it.

10. DON’T say things like “social media has no relevance for my profession as a teacher.” As Shawn Blankenship says, “Social media use is an expectation; it’s no longer optional.” Use it wisely, but expect to use it!

I anticipate discussing these ideas with my colleagues before simply foisting them upon my students. While I am definitely the most active of my colleagues in my department in social networks, they too have social presence online, and I hope that our conversation about these kinds of guidelines might foster more interaction for them in online spaces as well.

Likewise, before mandating that all of my students must use Twitter or some other social network, I will want to solicit their opinions as well. I hope that they will be interested in learning more about how they can continue their professional learning once they are practicing teachers as well.


Sources examined in developing the above guidelines:

Blankenship, S. (2012, April 20). Social Media and Two-Way Communication. Connected Principals. Retrieved July 20, 2014, from

Lepi, K. (2012, June 11). Crowdsourced School Social Media Policy Now Available – Edudemic. Edudemic. Retrieved July 19, 2014, from

NYC Department of Education. (2013). NYC Department of Education Social Media Guidelines. Retrieved July 19, 2014, from

San Diego Unified School District. (n.d.). Staff Social Media Guidelines. Retrieved July 20, 2014, from

Using Social Media as a Teaching Tool

In my last post, I shared a story as an example of how I learn from my PLN. I use Twitter as a key part of my PLN–I’m there to interact with other educators, to share ideas and resources, and to learn. Twitter (and other social networks) seem like a perfect fit for learning, but perhaps best for informal, personalized, just-in-time learning. This has me thinking and wondering about how well social media fits as a teaching tool. Can social networks be used for formal, whole-group, structured learning as well?

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Image via Garrett Heath [CC BY 2.0]
In the story I shared in my last post, I set out to find examples of how teachers are using Twitter in particular (or other social networks more broadly) as a teaching tool. I heard all sorts of stories from a variety of grade levels–really excellent ideas!

Since I currently teach in higher education, the instructional examples I learned from college and university professors might seem to have the most immediate practical application. But since I am a teacher educator, I was very interested to read the stories of how teachers in K-12 schools are using Twitter as a tool for teaching. I learned some great approaches that I intend to pass along to the future teachers I serve.

So here they are…the ten best ideas I learned for using Twitter as a teaching tool:

1. Broadcasting Learning with a Class Twitter Account (via @lhighfill)

My friend, Alice Keeler, connected me with Lisa Highfill, a 5th grade teacher who has set up a Twitter account for her class that they use to broadcast their learning. You can check out their class tweets for yourself–it’s worth taking a few minutes to see the amazing things these 10- and 11-year-olds are thinking, reflecting, rehashing, and designing.

2. Twitter as a Kindergarten Research Center (via @mattBgomez)

Matt is a Kindergarten teacher who uses Twitter to connect his class to other classes around the world. All of these classes tweet about what they are learning, and Matt has his students take note of words or ideas that they are interested in and want to learn more about. Students vote on the topic they want to learn about next week, and Matt collects resources for the “Research Center” in his classroom about that topic. Simple, beautiful way to help 5- and 6-year-olds expand their world, and have a voice in their own learning. (Come to think of it, you could do this with any grade level!)

3. Content-centered TwitterChats for High School Students (via @justinchristen)

AP Government teacher Justin Christensen has his high school students participate in live Twitterchats that are driven by and centered around content that they are studying in class. He uses the hashtag #hsgovchat to track the conversation. It’s not just Justin and his students in the conversation either–it’s AP Government students and their teachers from across the country who participate. A Great way to promote collaboration and I think this bridges the gap between formal and informal learning pretty neatly.

4. Exit Slips and Questions about Readings (via @MrLenziGS)

Jeremy Lenzi is a high school English teacher who started using Twitter with his students as an easy way of collecting exit slips–short responses to questions at the end of a lesson to see if the students “get it.” He reports that this worked very well, but he soon expanded his use of Twitter to encourage them to ask him questions about their English class readings outside of school hours. Getting kids to engage with material outside of school hours? That seems like a great way to use social media for learning.

5. Tweeting Scenes from Classic Literature (via @shfarnsworth)

My friend from #iaedchat, Shaelyn Farnsworth, is the epitome of a connected educator. She shared a bunch of great ideas for using Twitter with her students, and one I really loved was using tweeting scenes from classic literature. For example, when her class is reading Romeo and Juliet, she has them take on the role of a particular character, and tweet a summary of a scene from that character’s point of view. I love this! I can see adapting this to different grade levels–perhaps you would do so as a class with younger students to learn the concept of point of view, by middle school, students could be doing this on their own?

6. Connecting with a Class in another Country (via @shfarnsworth)

Another neat idea from Shaelyn: find a class at a similar grade level to yours at a school in a different country, and use Twitter to connect your students. (Kind of like class pen-pals for the 21st Century?) Shaelyn connected with a teacher in Sweden, and they started a hashtag for their students to use for sharing ideas, asking questions, and interacting with each other. Eventually, their tweeting back and forth gave way to class Skype sessions. A powerful way to expand your students’ global view!

7. Connecting with Families (via @mr_casal)

Chris Casal is a technology coordinator/technology teacher for a PreK-5 school, and has many great examples to share about using Twitter with kids too young to have their own accounts. My favorite is the one linked above–a Kindergarten teacher who admittedly “isn’t a huge fan of technology.” But she is on Twitter, and has found tremendous success in connecting with families of her Kindergarten students. One great anecdote: she live tweeted Grandparents Day at her school for the grandparents who couldn’t be there. She included photos of the students and the goings-on,  and this isn’t just a “special events” kind of approach–she does this regularly, and the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends love to be able to see what these kids are learning. How is this part of formal learning? Well, teachers today often talk about finding ways for their students to share their learning with an authentic audience. Kindergarteners are too young to have their own Twitter accounts, but they can definitely be active participants in sharing what they are learning in this way!

8. School-wide Twitter Chats (shared by @MathGuru7)

This idea came from Anthony Jones, who tweeted me the link to the Edutopia article above. The article explains #kidsedchatnz, a New Zealand-based education chat for kids, not their teachers. This chat is actually an example of flipped teaching: the kids who participate are often expected to have read something or prepared something ahead of time. And while the chat is facilitated by teachers, the contributions come from their students. The article shares lots of great tips for starting your own school- or district-wide Twitterchat.

9. Speaking Up in Class, Silently (via @eolsonteacher)

Erin Olson, a high school English teacher, uses Twitter (or “Twitter-like technologies”) to get even the traditionally “quiet” students involved in the discussions happening in her class. She finds that students who might rarely speak up in whole-class discussions are more likely to share their ideas and volunteer their thinking via social media. This kind of backchanneling could be helpful for any educator teaching a large face-to-face class who wants to be able to see what all his or her students are thinking during a discussion.

10. Helping Students Become Problem-Posers (shared by @mcleod)

Scott McLeod shared this post by Alan November with me, which describes a strategy for using Twitter to get students to not just answer problems, but to create problems. The example is from a high school geometry teacher, who tweeted a picture to her students, and asked them to generate a problem the picture might be able to illustrate. Amazing, authentic problems resulted!

Bonus: 60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in the Classroom (via @mcleod)

I was so thankful that Scott McLeod took the time to reply to my tweet for ideas. He also shared this fantastic resource: a list of 60 interesting ideas! If the first ten ideas I’ve shared here didn’t hook you…maybe one of these will…

All in all, this was a fascinating look at how educators are using social media tools to help their students develop as thinkers, connect their learning with real contexts, and generally expand their world by interacting with others through these networks. I am inspired to do more experimenting with Twitter in my own teaching practice!

Using Social Media as a Learning Tool

I love Twitter. If I had to pick one tool as the linchpin of my PLE, it would have to be Twitter. It’s such a great way to learn about topics you find personally or professionally interesting–as long as you can find a hashtag to follow. It’s also a great way to connect with other educators who share your interests. I–like many thousands of other educators–use Twitter for my own learning. But how can social networks be used as a teaching tool? Twitter seems ideal for informal, self-directed learning. But how well does it work as a formal, teacher-directed learning tool?

Since I love learning via Twitter, I put this question to my PLN:

I also tweeted the request specifically to some thought leaders in EdTech and innovative education whom I thought might have some ideas and resources for me, including Scott McLeod, Kevin Honeycutt, George Couros, Wesley Fryer, Alice Keeler, Rick Wormeli, and Eric Sheninger. Some of these wonderful people had specific examples off the top of their heads and shared links. Others referred me to colleagues on Twitter who had stories they could share. Most retweeted my request to their own huge followings. What happened next was fantastic.

Over the course of 24 hours, I’ve had interactions with over 50 educators sharing their great ideas. I have connected with teachers across North America, from the UK, from Australia, and from New Zealand. Some tweeted anecdotes of the things they did. Others shared links to blog posts they had written about their Twitter experiences. A few followed me and we’ve had conversations via direct messages. All were eager to share their stories and resources.


I have only met a precious few of these wonderful people face-to-face. They don’t know me but for the 9000-some tweets I’ve lobbed out there over the past 5 years. But they are so gracious, so friendly, so excited to share their experiences. I was honored by their receptiveness to sharing, to helping me answer my question.

So what was the answer to my question? How can teachers use Twitter as a teaching tool? That will be my next post…

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Image via Garrett Heath [CC BY 2.0]