Virtual School Meanderings

March 20, 2009

MACUL 2009: Navigating the Land of Online Learning

Note that I am not able to blog this session as it is happening as the wireless at MACUL is spotty at best (and rooms in the center of the facility seem to have the worst connectivity), which is less than I would expect for a technology-based conference that has so many sessions about online learning, web 2.0 and other web-based tools. They have been up front about the sketchy wireless, but it seems kind of funny that even in the “bring your own laptop sessions” most of the audience have difficulty accessing the things on their laptop that the presenter want to walk them through. Kind of wondering why the cobo_free doesn’t work or why MACUL didn’t just try to use the Cobo network instead of trying to overlay their own unreliable cloud.

Anyway, the second session of the day that I am sitting in at the 2009 annual conference of the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL – also see their Ning) was:

Navigating the Land of Online Learning
Sue Porter and Connie Solis, Consultants

Schools and districts have a need for a great deal of information when they plan to offer online courses: understanding what online courses are, incorporating them into curriculum, developing policies/procedures, identifying best practices, and developing student and teacher support. Explore a new website that “Navigates the Land of Online Learning.”

The presentation itself was describing a resource created by Ingham ISD and Michigan Virtual School entitled Navigating the Land of Online Learning available at:

Essentially the tool is an overview of the various things that one would need to consider when it comes to online learning from the perspective of an administrator, a technology coordinator, the counselor, the parent, and the student.

The resource appears to be a Flash-based orientation that is set-up around the premise of a board game (i.e., each perspective or role has a different game piece and you activate or navigate to a particularly page by moving the game piece to a specific spot on the game board).

One interesting point to note, and I’ll let the designers know this at the end of the session, but even though this is only being released in the past week in their additional resources they have a link to the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) – which doesn’t exist anymore or at least has been re-branded as the International Council for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).

Apparently they also have a Moodle and Blackabord course on how to be an online teacher, and the Ingham ISD’s version of the training is taking place on 05 May 2009. I’m curious as to what this course includes, and would like to find out more.

Finally, the presenter highlighted a couple of books that she recommended for folks interested in teaching online. The list included:

  • Gene Maeroff’ – A Classroom of One: How Online Learning is Changing our Schools and Colleges
  • Andrew Zucker and Robert Kozma – The Virtual High School: Teaching Generation V
  • Scott Morris – Teaching and Learning Online: A Step-by-Step Guide for Designing an Online K-12 School Program
  • Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt – The Virtual Student:A Profile and Guide to Working with Online Learners

As the wireless is so sketchy in this room, I can’t spend a lot of time actually playing around on the website, so I’ll leave it at this and let you explore on your own.


  1. Just a comment on the wireless. The wireless at MACUL was the Cobo wireless. It worked fine two years ago, and again in testing Monday and Tuesday. I guess the old gear at Cobo could not handle the crush of 3400 people all trying to be online at the same time. Another reason why Cobo needs a face lift. The conference will face a different problem in Grand Rapids. The facility is new, but they have not added any wireless gear yet.

    The MACUL “AV” or “Internet” team is a volunteer group that works for months to try and get Internet connectivity and projection equipment for the conference, without breaking the bank. As with any network, what works in testing does not always work in production. The problem with a conference network is that by the time it starts to exhibit problems you can’t fix it before it is shut down for the year.

    I have been involved as a network engineer “volunteer” at other large shows such as Comdex and Interop in places like Las Vegas, Toronto and Atlanta. The difference between MACUL and these shows is that they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars staging all the equipment, setting it up and then managing it during the show. This is possible because the attendees spend over $1,000 each to go to sessions, and the both space starts at $200,000.

    This year we were able to provide the presenters with very good connectivity. The TWICE group did High Definition Video Conferencing without a hitch. As always we continue to improve the connectivity while keeping costs as low as possible. One problem currently with district budgets tight is that people are not volunteering to help maintain the conference AV/Tech. If anyone reading this blog would like to volunteer feel free to give us a shout via the MACUL website.

    Comment by Michael Porter — March 21, 2009 @ 9:01 pm | Reply

  2. Michael, thanks for the additional explanation. So the MACUL network that we saw was from Cobo. Interesting… By having the MACUL label there it left a lot of participants (myself included) thinking that MACUL were responsible for overlaying their own cloud over the Cobo one.

    I wonder why they just didn’t direct everyone to connect to cobo_free – as that network was dead all week.

    One thing I found odd was that the network started blocking Twitter and Plurk for the final keynote on Friday afternoon, which it hadn’t prior to that.

    Comment by mkbnl — March 21, 2009 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

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