Thursday, June 9, 2011

From chalk to stylus...

Integrating new technologies into the classroom could be a challenging task.  Six years ago our school was equipped with bulky Dell computers (Windows 2000) and Mac OS 9.  In their eyes, our staff and students were equipped and ready for success.  As an initiative from the county we received LCD projectors.  A year later, we received laptops.  Title I administration; evaluated the classrooms.  Trusting the amount of technology (computers), they decided to implement a new project; from chalk to stylus.

As part of this project, Interwrite boards were to be installed in all Title I classrooms.  Every classroom had installed an Interwrite board and trainings were offered to all teachers.   Everything seemed to be a piece of the puzzle.  One day, during winter break all boards were installed; without asking the teachers.  They planned the amount of boards and they assumed that our computers and projectors were all we needed.

Here is where the scope creep invades our innovative project. Dr. Stolovich shares with us the importance to identifying what are the prerequisites needed in order to have a successful project.  It is evident that this project did not consider it.  They wanted interactive boards but they didn’t analyze the existent technology.  None of our computers were able to run the software and also the teachers had no training on it.   After a few months with Interactive boards in the classroom and no use, the Stakeholders established a plan.  They created early starters groups to be trained and to train others, they updated all the software’s, and they added the writing tablets and clickers.  This interventions or changes cost additional money and wasted instructional time.  This changes meant more than a year, without using our equipment.  Not only not being able to use our technology (interactive boards) we had no space to write on since the new boards were mounted in top of the traditional chalkboards.

If I were the PM of this project, I would develop a timeline with specifications of each person involved. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Each detail should be considered.  They only thought about the equipment; they forgot the technical support, the training, the software, pc’s vs. mac’s and teachers technical expertise.  All of these aspects should be considered before the project starts.  Defining a scope should be done carefully, all details and aspects should be considered.  A timeline helps you to monitor the progress of your project and the budget gives you and idea of what is available and how it will be used.  Today, the boards are not still not being used to their maximum capabilities changes, old technologies, changes in staff and most of all changes in administration with wonderful ideas and no plans.


“Practitioner Voices: Overcoming ‘Scope Creep’” Walden University, 2010
“Project Management Concerns: ‘Scope Creep’” Walden University, 2010

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

An instructional designer has to focus on all the elements that are embedded in a project.  This week we are exploring and estimating the cost of all resources that are needed to complete a project.  We need to plan for the parts that we know about and or for those that we are not expecting.  There are several websites and resources that share some tips and guides to estimate costs.  For the purpose of this post I will share resources written to guide the design of an online course. 

The cost of e-learning

Designing and developing an online brings costs and benefits to any organization that decides to expand their teaching capabilities to another level.  To understand and plan effectively

This site presents the characteristics of an online course.  According to the learning experience that the organization plans to develop there are aspects to be considered. Judith V. Boettcher, shares the time and costs of designing and developing the course and the instructional materials.  This site shares links to templates that could be used to design a course.

Estimating Cost and Time in Instructional Design


This site presents the different modalities of online course.  Depending on the features and interactivity experiences on each course the cost varies.  This sites presents the characteristics of each modality and how to calculate cost based on numbers shared from organizations such as U.S. Navy, Air Force and Verizon.



Thursday, May 19, 2011

Communicating Effectively


Emails have been adopted as a common communication tool.  Emails are one-way communication until the other part responds to it.  Email could feel impersonal and add pressure to the other part involved.  The use of acronym (ETA) could interrupt the message being sent and generate misunderstandings.  If the writer knows the other person is busy why does she insists?  If Mark and Jane collaborate as a team this email is not necessary as it is written, everyone should be aware of deadlines. 


Listening to the voice of the speaker allows the listener feel and perceive the mood of the conversation.  With the first example, I felt a lot of pressure and stress in the email. This feeling disappeared when listening to a voice that invited for collaboration.  The voice sounded calm and showed professionalism.  

Face 2 Face

Face to face communication is the best way to share important information.  While observing the video, I felt personal connection, teamwork and cordiality.  Her body language helps to communicate the message.  The communicator is polite.  The video was taken in a office setting which reflects that there is communication between parts and there is no need of an official meeting to express their needs.  

The same message is shared in the three examples.  The way I felt changed in every segment.  Feelings can interfere with a person’s perception of communication. “Communication is not just words” (Stolovich, 2010).  Since 93% of the communication is non-verbal, the use of just words limits the message.  The tone of her voice, her gestures and her body language tells me, she that she is a team player. 

I would prefer face to face or videoconference if distance becomes a challenge.  Interaction helps to build trust and develop collaboration skills.  This exercise teaches us to integrate all possible ways of communication.  One point that Dr. Stolovich emphasizes in the importance of meeting face to face with all members, document the outcomes of the meeting and share it with all participants, accept feedback and modify as needed.  Communication can affect any project if not used effectively.   


Laureate Education. (Producer). (2010). Communicating with Stakeholders. [Online]. Retrieved from Walden University eCollege.

Laureate Education. (Producer). (2010).  Multimedia Program: "The Art of Effective Communication"


Friday, May 13, 2011

Building a new century

“Building a new century” was the name for a dream.  The fact that we are talking about its “Post Mortem” brings mixed feelings.   In 2003, I had the opportunity to teach at an Elementary School in a rural area at Puerto Rico.  It was a beautiful small school where I used to study in my elementary years.  For my surprise, when I was hired as a first grade teacher I found that every classroom was kept in the same way it was when I studied there.  No technology was present or used in an instructional way.  As a teacher, I shared my technology integration ideas with my principal asking for the permission to write a proposal for a grant.  I had no prior experience in this writing process.  Presenting my ideas to the staff and administrators was interesting; they laughed and my administrators just said that it was up to me.

Next day, I was researching, writing, planning, designing and wishing.  My proposal included the creation of two full equipped classrooms with 10 computers each, a computer lab, mini labs of 5 computers in 3 classrooms, 1 computer for each classroom, TV and DVD player for each classroom, printers, projectors and the use of Plato software’s (language arts, math and science).  For everyone’s surprise the grant was approved and $300,000 were assigned to our school.  My next step was to set everything up, train and implement.

What contributed to the project’s success or failure?
“Constructing a new century” project fails its initial dream and goal.  The first challenge was the absence of a team.  It was great to have new equipments; the only problem there was no commitment on learning how to use them effectively.  Each participant should be committed and understand their responsibilities as players of a team. (Greer, 2010)  Many teachers were afraid to allow the students use the equipments and others did not take care of it.  The fact that I was teacher and coordinator at the same time limited my time and space to train other teachers and supervise the implementation process.  The software used was designed and aligned to National Standards, bringing difficulties to its use.  Teacher needed to translate worksheets since all students were Spanish speakers.  Students were motivated in the learning process; teachers could not change their traditional teaching methods.  At this point students were reading texts from a screen instead of a textbook. 

Which parts of the PM process, if included, would have made the project more successful? Why?

The project management should include time management, staffing management and weekly status and issues report.  This project became a giant for one person to control and manage.  My days as coordinator became very long and the week started to have 6 or 7 days of work.  One limitation was the lack of a curriculum to follow and to enrich with technology.  Each teacher was responsible for developing their lessons and adding technology, which was a challenge for them.

In 2005, I moved to Maryland, leaving a dream behind.  Many teachers continue using technology and others covered their equipments.  “Building a new century", was more than just a design; it was needed a team.


Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A new learning experience!

A new course is about to start. Some new friends and a lot of good friends; all part of my learning. Who said that online learning was for solitary people? Not in my case, I am happy to have lots of friends in my screen. It's not about memorizing and filling bubbles in a test; it's about constructing knowledge.

Soon you'll read my thinking. Can you help me learn? Share your thoughts, questions, feelings or comments.


Your friend,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Future of Distance Learning

Today we are living in the “digital age” also known as informational era. The proliferation of technology has given tools for everyone to have access to information at their hands. As individuals, the use of technology is part of our daily lives. Every company has at least a computer, a third part of our population uses the Internet in a daily basis, around 75% of the persons in the US have computers at home, the use of smart phone, television, tablets, handheld devices and video games is growing quickly. Technology is part of our lives. Every interaction with these new technologies facilitates learning. Many persons refuse to accept distance learning as valid compared to traditional learning due to lack of experience, past experience or ignorance about the learning environment design.

Our educational system is promoting the integration of technology in the learning process. Our students are experiencing how to learn from the use of technology; opening doors to evolve into distance learning. My first experience with distance learning required; learning the use of the technology, developing research skills, developing navigation skills and learning the subject being taught. Many students were scared of taking distance-learning courses due to these facts. Today, our students are developing technology literacy skills as part of their daily interaction with technology.

In five to ten years, distance education will be accepted as valid as the traditional model. “If we can bridge that gap of comfort so they experience the environment, they will naturally take in to it” (Siemens, 2010). Educators have the responsibility of integrating a variety of technologies. Communication tools such as Skype has provided practical uses that facilitate the adoption of these technologies as educational tools. In the future distance education will become an option for all learners depending on their circumstances and learning styles.

As an Instructional Designer I can design activities that equip the learners with the necessary tools to be successful in a distance-learning environment. The use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter can be used as a promotional space to provide orientation and support to those that are in the transition of adopting a distance-learning program. “While it is unlikely that social networking has great potential for teaching and learning, these sites are important cultural even recruiting resources for educational institutions. They are also important in expanding technological literacy of our students” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, p. 246). Effective communication is vital to improve the perceptions of distance learning; being isolation, one of the primary myths about distance learning. I also believe that Instructional Designers should adopt the latest technologies and integrate them into the learning environment.

To teach; I have to model. As a participant, facilitator and designer I can continue to share and influence learners around me. As an elementary education teacher I plan to integrate distance-learning activities that will develop technology literacy skills to prepare my students for future courses. Developing technology literacy skills at early ages guide our students to communicate globally. Our world has become flat. Communication tools have minimized geographical separation. By positively influence others we can “prepare our students for global dimensions and jobs around the world” (Siemens, 2010).


Laureate Education. (Producer). (2010). “The Future of Distance Education”. [Online]. Retrieved from Walden University eCollege.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

Consider the following scenario: A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.

Converting a traditional course to a blended model requires some consideration.  Identifying the need and the available resources facilitates tools for the instructor to integrate new tools into the learning experience.  There is a need for a pre-planning phase, a plan that should be developed and followed by the instructor, activities that will make the content alive and the need for evaluation of the learning process and the design of the course.  With this in mind, the following best practices guide has been develop.  This guide includes tips and aspects to consider.   There is also a checklist of aspects that should be considered before, during and after the implementation process.

Click on the image below to access the best practices guide.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Impact of Open Source

Open Yale Courses
MUSI 112 - Listening to Music

            Yale University shares an educational experience with the users through this website. There is a variety of courses that were presented in a face-to-face setting and are now presented for all visitors in the website. There is no cost involved and the user can learn at his pace.  The website offers orientation about the purpose of the website, the terms of use and additional help.  It also provides space for user to fill a feedback survey that helps them improve the learning experience.

Does the course appear to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance learning environment? How so?

While exploring the Yale University website, I felt attracted to participate of the Listening to Music course (MUSI 112).  It is interesting to observe how a traditional course becomes an online learning experience.  After selecting the link to the class the user finds information about the instructor, about the course and information on how the course was delivered in the traditional setting.  The side bar guides the user to interact with the content and access the materials provided.  A syllabus is provided which includes information about the text materials and the grading policy that was used in the face-to-face instruction.  Lessons are divided and presented in a sequence.  Each lesson includes a video, audio and transcript of the conference.  The video covers the lesson being taught and keeps the learner engaged since the instructor interacts with the audience in the video and presents examples of the lesson being taught.    

Does the course follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook?

            Our textbook Teaching and Learning at a Distance, shares some advices for instructors that teach online.  The first one is to “Avoid dumping a face-to-face course into the web” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Albright, 2009, p. 248) this is exactly what Yale is doing.  They are recording a class and sharing it on the web.  Zemsky and Massy, 2004 share four cycles that may be operating in the campus.  I see cycle 1 which presents enhancements to traditional courses and cycle 3, which integrates course objects, in this example videos, flash files, audio and text. 

Did the course designer implement course activities that maximize active learning for the students?

            The Listening to Music course, presented by Yale University was delivered in a traditional/conference delivery method.  “Adults are more self-directed and have specific reasons for taking the course.  They expect the instructor to help them achieve their goals” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Albright, 2009, p. 251).  There are no tools to assess if students have prior knowledge prior to the course.  There is no space for interaction with the instructor or other learners.  “The presence of other learners can benefit the learning experiences” (Dabbagh & Bannan-Ritland, 2005).  Therefore, the use interactive tools such as discussion boards or blogs could enhance active learning.  No assessments are provided or follow up activities such as assignments and projects. 

            This online learning experience was just a copy of a traditional lesson in a digital format.  I consider this course a one-way communication, where the instructor has the information and the learners just listen and receive it.  There are no tools to measure learning.  Integrating interactive tools that will provide interaction with the content, the instructor and other learners could maximize valuable information presented.

              Simonson, M., Smaldiono, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and Learning at a Distance.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interactive Tours

Scenario 2:
A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

           Students of all ages enjoy and learn from field trips.  The purpose of field trips is to provide experiences with other environments.   The teacher from our scenario wants enhances the learning experience with real-life connections.  With this purpose on mind I would recommend the integration and use of virtual field trips.  The principal art museums in New York, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) provides virtual field trips as part of their website.  These virtual field trips vary depending on the museum.  Virtual field trips include: digital images of artwork, videos and videoconferencing.  The Museum of Modern Art offers an integrated site named “Red Studio” designed for High School students facilitating opportunities of learning from the curators and sharing their ideas.  “Since online environments should be media rich and strive for authenticity, it is critical that many technologies be used” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, p. 116).  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) are part of Google Art project.  The Google Art Project integrates street view technology to allow the user to virtually visit and walk inside of the museums.  The student can explore different artwork and learn from the artist.  The student navigates different floors and rooms.  The user can create his artwork collection and add comments each piece added.  These collections can be shared with others by email, Facebook or Twitter.  The teacher could benefit from this feature to select and share the two pieces of artwork the students will critique.  One interesting feature of Google Art Project is the capability of zooming the artwork to observe minimal details such as cracks or brushstrokes.  Each piece of artwork provides detailed information about the artist and other work from the artist.

“The versatility of social software and other collaboration tools available today support constructivist environments that seek to motivate, cultivate, and meet the needs of the 21st-century learner (Beldarrain, 2006).  I recommend the use of a blog to provide space for the group critique.  The teacher could create a blog with multiple pages to provide space for different groups.  The link can provide samples of artworks and links to Google Art Project.  The use of a blog provides the teacher opportunities to see the entire student work in one site and evaluate individual and group interaction.

Some high school teachers are using Weebly. This tool offers website creation integrated with blog.  Some examples includes Chagrin Falls High School, they keep a website to showcase work and critique and Shayne Train who is a high school teacher that is looking for alternatives to facilitate students art critique.  She is allowing her students to use Voice Thread to record their thoughts and add the audio file to their blog posts. “Instructional design frameworks must be adapted to purposely integrate student interaction using technology tools” (Beldarrain, 2006).  The diary “USA Today” shares how school in many different states and countries are benefiting from the use of virtual field trips to enhance instruction. "Because we're taking them everywhere, (students) are becoming little global citizens," says Jody Kennedy, a teacher in White Plains. "They're becoming leaders. These are all happy surprises we've never expected."

There are many challenges that could be added to the integration and use of new technologies.  “Visionary educators seeking to improve current practices face the conflict between the new freedoms afforded by emerging technologies and the administrative control enforced for legal reasons” (Beldarrain, 2006).  Many schools might ban the use of public blogs or websites due to privacy issues and security.  The use of blogs can be set to private controlling the information being posted.  Our students are 21st century learners and integrating online activities to instruction provides experiences to become digital citizens.


Fuson, K. (2007). No permission slip needed. USA Today.  Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education. 27(2). 139-153.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Distance Learning

      Distance education is defined as “institution-based, formal education where the learning groups are separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, 2003).  This definition has changed through the years.  My initial definition of distance learning was to learn away from the walls of a classroom.  Self-learning was part of that concept of distance learning.  After exploring the resources recommended this week my perception or vision of distance learning has changed.  The benefits of distance learning are many and they will continue to grow as more technological tools are developed and more educators experience this educational opportunity.   

     My first experience with distance learning was at the age of 10.  My mother felt attracted to a correspondence course to study the Bible.  I remember receiving the books, completing them at my pace and sending them back.  I used to check the mail every day expecting to hear back from my teacher.  She would check my answers and send me a friendly note and stickers.  At the end of each course I would receive a certificate of completion.  At that time, I considered that teacher my special friend.  Most likely everyone was receiving the same letter; for me it was special. Wedemeyer (1981), notes for elements that are present in a teaching/learning experience.  These are: “a teacher, a learner, a communication system and something to be learned”.  In my experience I can identify all four elements.  This experience could be classified as Independent Study.

            Many individuals list as a challenge for distance learning; social interaction.  Interaction is important in the learning process. Sharing ideas, learning from others experiences and receiving feedback from your instructor or peers helps the learner continue in the right path.  Holmberg (1985) presents his theory of guided direct conversation.  In his theory he identifies communication as the basis for distance learning.  From his assumptions we learn that “distance learning will support student motivation, promote learning pleasure, and make the study relevant to the learner and his needs creating a feeling of rapport between the learners and the institution”.   In my experience, social interaction is valuable and strong in an online setting.  There is no space for gestures and everything needs to be expressed.  There is constant interaction between learners and space for research. 

            Distance learning is not a trend of the past, the present or the future.  It is a learning opportunity that satisfies the student’s needs.  Many schools are providing online learning opportunities for students that are “at risk”.  These students weren’t able to pass the class in a regular traditional setting.  These online classes "have a primary focus of helping students stay in school and graduate in time" (Watson & Gemin, 2008).  Others are benefiting from a blended approach that combines classroom setting and distance learning.  The learning process is the same; the tools have changed.  Old textbooks are being substituted for e-books, journals for blogs and oral presentation for videos.  I visualize the future of distance learning as students using their tablets everywhere they go to access their virtual classroom. Some technological instructional tools will enhance the teaching learning process: the use of video-conferencing as an interactive communication tool, the use of wikis to develop collaborative projects, podcast as oral reports, learning social networks such as ning (, blogs to express their ideas and the use of digital portfolios to evaluate and assess their learning process.

            We are living in a flat world.  Distance is not longer a barrier to find a better job.  To apply for a job, in most cases is required to fill an online application, submit a portfolio or a link to a website as a reference.  Our students will compete with students from the entire world to find a job.  Many companies are dividing their offices around the world to benefit from time difference and have 24/7 production time.  The opportunities are larger than ever before.  The competition is bigger also.  As educators we need to provide learning opportunities to equip our students for the demands of our “flat world”.  Many students will study in online universities and others might be hired as staff of distance learning.  Are we providing our students with experiences to effectively perform in a flat world?

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Watson, J. & Gemin, B. (2008). Using online learning for at-risk students and credit recovery. Retrieved from

Monday, February 28, 2011

It is time to blog!

     Hi!  I am back again.  I am part of a new learning experience, it is time for Distance Learning.

Welcome to my blog, feel free to leave your comments!