Virtual School Meanderings

August 9, 2016

EDTECH537 – Guest Blog Entry: Is The Tried And True “Read and Discuss” Assignment Still Relevant For Teachers?

As I mentioned in the Week 7 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, students are asked to post two entries of their choice this week. To conclude my model blogging, I wanted to post another sample of a guest blog entry.

This is a guest blog post by Jason Siko is an assistant professor of educational technology at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in K-12 technology integration. In a previous life, he taught high school biology and chemistry.

As I embark on another semester of teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses (and my teaching load is entirely online), I am facing a bit of a crisis in the area of reading assignments. As an early career faculty member, I still keep my experiences of my time in the trenches as a guiding force for instructional decisions, as I taught for 13 years and completed my doctorate while working.

Obviously, I plowed through a ton of the academic literature, but my K-12 colleagues didn’t spend much time searching the university databases.  Further, many of them did not belong to any professional organizations, state or national.  This concerns me.  First, why do we spend time as instructors having students read the literature?  Much of it is poorly written and provides little in terms of brass tacks that can be applied directly to a K-12 teacher’s day-to-day existence.  In addition, outside of the academic program and some capstone project, they will more than likely never read another academic journal article.

So why do we do it?  Why do graduate classes assign something like the discussion prompt below:

After reading Author (20XX), post your thoughts to the discussion board.  Be sure to comment on the posts of at least two of your classmates.

As much as we hate to acknowledge it, perhaps it’s because we teach the way we were taught….

OR…are we creating a supply for our own publications, making it a requirement and necessity to facilitate reading of journals?  Or is there something inherently self satisfying about assigning our own work to ensure that maybe, just maybe, more than a few people will see our work?

Those things aside, the main problem still remains why are we assigning things that basically serve little to no purpose?  Before my inbox fills up with anecdotes of how meaningful this practice is, ask teachers who are NOT your students and/or do not know who you are to discuss what they felt about journal reading experiences, or even their grad school experience in general.  If they remain in K-12, did they suddenly go out of their way to find scholarly articles to read, or, like most teacher, rely on “journals” like Edutopia and the like to inform their practice?  

This brings me to the second issue.  Research is important, and fields advance from theory to practice because of it.  So, do we need to reimagine the way in which it gets pushed to the front lines?  I think so, but where’s the incentive?  I do not earn much credit toward promotion and tenure by publishing in practitioner journals.  I earn even less for blogging, Tweeting, and other interactions on social media.  On the flip side, educators are incredibly busy during the school year, so distillation is important.  However, distillation can miss nuance, which can lead to one-size-fits-all thinking.  Finally, states like mine are requiring less and less graduate work from teachers in order to maintain and advance their certification.

Given that this course is on blogging and social media, I’d like to throw out a few questions for discussion.  

  1. What are your thoughts on improving the process of reading academic work for a graduate class?
  2. What do you do to stay current on research, or what do you plan to do to stay current after matriculating through your degree program?
  3. How can researchers and practitioners better connect with one another to meet each other’s needs?

This is a guest blog post by Jason Siko is an assistant professor of educational technology at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in K-12 technology integration. In a previous life, he taught high school biology and chemistry. As is the pattern here at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry posted today.

August 8, 2016

7 Day Groove Challenge – Links Entry: eLearning Evangelist

As I mentioned this past Monday, Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger has issued a 7 Days to Getting Your Blogging Groove Back challenge.  I told my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom students that I would do my best to participate in this challenge fully – as a way to model different things you can do to ensure that you have a consistent stream of original blog entries.

So Darren has posted the seventh and final challenge for this week – Create a Links Post.   For my EDTECH537 students, this is the same thing as a “Links Entry.”


One of the big differences between how Darren has described Links Entries and he way that I presented them to my students is what gets linked.  In EDTECH537 I describe the Links Entry as an entry that provides a series of links (ideally annotated or with some context).  Darren, on the other hand, describes a Links Entry as an opportunity to link to other blog content – with the idea being to use your readership to generate readership for another blog (or at least another blog entry) that you found particularly useful or that you those was particularly good.  In the spirit of Darren’s description…

e-Learning Evangelist – http://rmrose.blogspot.com/

I want to focus my links on a single blog, that of Ray Rose.  For those that don’t know, Ray is a colleague in the K-12 online learning world.  He was involved with the original Virtual High School in the 1990s and is on the technical working group for the Center for Online Learning and Students with Disabilities today (and a whole lot in between).  His work recently has focused upon accessibility, and you’ll see that reflected in the entries that I have chosen.  For me, this is Ray’s best fiveentries over the past two years.

  1. TxDLA 2016 and Accessibility
    Ray regularly presents about accessibility issues in online learning, and this entry includes the slides from his most recent presentation that has a K-12 focus.
  2. Professional experiences of online teachers in Wisconsin: Results from a survey about training and challenges
    This entry is Ray’s review of a webinar and report that was released by REL-MidWest.
  3. Learning and Helping Quality Matters
    This is Ray’s entry about his presentation at a QM conference in late 2015.  As the only real set of K-12 online learning standards that are based on research, I thought his commentary was particularly interesting.
  4. iNACOL Leadership Webinar
    Ray provides some insight into his planning of an iNACOL webinar on accessibility that he did in 2015.
  5. Remotely Participating in SITE Panels
    SITE is the only academic organization that has a focus on K-12 online learning, and it is a conference that Ray used to attend – but these days his participation is usually done remotely.  This was the case with his participation, and thoughts, about the 2015 SITE conference in this entry.

EDTECH537 – Image Entry: VISCED

As I mentioned in the Week 7 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, students are asked to post two entries of their choice this week. To conclude my model blogging, I wanted to post another sample of an image entry.

Specifically, I wanted to post some information about the largest initiative designed to examine K-12 online learning on an international scale.  Most of us in North America are aware of the International Association of K-12 Online Learning reports:

However, the most comprehensive work done on K-12 online learning internationally was conducted by the now defunct VISCED initiative.

You can access their work at:

EDTECH537 – Week 7

Today begins week seven or the final weeks of my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course. The students this week have a couple of blogging activities and a couple of assignments that they have to complete by the end of the week (i.e., midnight on Sunday).

The readings for this week are:

  • Kirkup, G. (2010). Academic blogging: Academic practice and academic identity. London Review of Education, 8(1), 75-84.
  • Ewins, R. (2005). Who are you? Weblogs and academic identity. E-Learning, 2(4), 368-377.

On the blogging front, they simply have to post two entries, of any kind, on any topic that interests them. The first entry should be posted by the end of the day on Wednesday, 12 August and the second entry by the end of the day on Friday, 14 August.

There are also two assignments that are due this week. The first is a Blogging Plan for the next two months. Essentially, I borrowed the activities from these two challenges:

For the second activity, they have will design an activity that uses blogs in your own classroom. I have left this assignment open-ended to allow for the variety of students and subject areas that may be taught by my BSU graduate students.

Finally, I have asked that they continue to use Twitter throughout the week, and to use the hashtag #EDTECH537 for all class related tweets.

Later this morning I will post one sample entry (a Links Entry). Tomorrow morning I will post a second sample entry (probably a Guest Blog Entry). Finally, on Wednesday morning I will post a sample entry of the Blogging Plan.

August 7, 2016

7 Day Groove Challenge – Discussion Starter Entry: Why Do The People Of Ohio Allow This?

As I mentioned on Monday, Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger has issued a 7 Days to Getting Your Blogging Groove Back challenge.  I told my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom students that I would do my best to participate in this challenge fully – as a way to model different things you can do to ensure that you have a consistent stream of original blog entries.

So Darren has posted the sixth challenge for this week – Create a Discussion Starter.   For my EDTECH537 students, this is the same thing as a “Discussion Entry.”


As I have been participating in this challenge, I have blogged about the state of cyber charter schooling in Ohio (see 7 Day Groove Challenge – Story Entry: ECOTs and the Cyber Charter School Racket).  Over the past few weeks, I have seen a couple of items posted in Education Week about this issue – although not necessarily specifically about the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow or ECOT.

Essentially, these two items talk about the fact that cyber charter schools are being audited about overstating their attendance in an effort to get more state funding, and how these same cyber charter schools continue to perform quite poorly compared to brick-and-mortar charter schools and traditional public schools.  Notions that have been simmering in Ohio (and Pennsylvania for that matter) since the early 2000s.

I continue to wonder, and am asking honestly now, why does the public (and by extension those elected to represent the public) continue to allow this to happen?

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