Monday, October 14, 2013

Connected Educator Month: Network to Learn, to Collaborate, and to Innovate

Online communities and learning networks are helping hundreds of thousands of educators learn, reducing isolation and providing “just‐in­‐time” access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration. However, many educators are not yet participating, and others aren’t realizing the full benefit. In many cases, schools, districts, and states also are not recognizing and rewarding this essential professional learning.
For these reasons, the U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators initiative is launching Connected Educator Month in October of 2013.Through October, there will be coordinated opportunities to participate in events and activities in dozens of online locations to develop skills and enhance one’s personal learning network.  

Getting Started
An intensive, two-­day, online conference on transforming teaching and learning—featuring U.S. Department of Education senior officials and education thought leaders—will kick off the month. Plans are underway for opportunities such as the following:
  1. Month-‐long forums regarding key topics, such as personalizing learning and the future of the teaching profession, which will be moderated by noted education leaders and consist of activities such as online discussions, interviews, webinars, and chats

  1. Guided tours and real-­time community open houses, which will connect educators with communities, answering questions such as: Who can help me solve challenges I’m facing in my classroom, and how do I best connect with them? How can I help change my profession for the better?

  1. •Contests for addressing community challenges, developing innovative ideas, and creating compelling video demonstrations

  1. Inauguration of a new series of open badges for connected educators as well as online communities

All events and activities will be archived and synthesized into multimedia “proceedings” that will serve as a permanent resource to educators and community sponsors.
Invitation to Participate
We welcome educators at all levels and those who support them to participate.  The first step is sign up, which can be done in seconds on the Connected Educator Month home page at Once you’re signed up, you’ll get regular updates about:
  • •Webinars and other real-­time events—many headlined by education, technology, and community leaders—that you can register to attend.
  • Forums on key education and community issues in which you can participate.
  • Guided tours, open houses, launches, exhibits, collaborative projects, polls, and other special activities of which you can partake or be a part.
  • Contests you can enter, badges you can earn, plus other resources ranging from starter kits to book clubs and classes to help you join the world of connected education or become more connected.

Connected Educators is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology and led by American Institutes for Research in partnership with the Consortium on School Networking,  Forum One Communications, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University, Grunwald Associates LLC, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

A View from the Field: Angie Emerick

AEA K-12 Online  interviewed Carroll High School Physical Science teacher, Angie Emerick, to find out how she blends her classroom instruction.  

Angie, What courses or content are you blending?
I am blending/flipping my Physical Science classes.  Physical science is a required course for all freshmen.

What are some considerations you use to determine if the instruction should be face-to-face or online?

I try to keep face-to-face lecture instruction to a minimum.  In fact, this year I’m hoping to do more flipped learning by recording my direct instruction and then providing the students with the video.  In the videos, I give explanations and information that the students will need for their work in class and test over it.  So far, I have used a combination of adding audio to SlideRocket slideshows of me giving explanations and example problems being worked out on my Smartboard.  I try to keep the videos less than 15 minutes.  Students watch the videos at home.  To make them more accountable for watching the video, they need to either take notes or be prepared for an activity or quiz the next day.   I am hoping this allows me more time to work with students as they complete physical science labs or solve problems. In my classroom, I have students work in small groups while I rotate from group to group to work with them.

View one of Angie’s videos.

What do students’ experience in the face-to-face portion of your instruction? What do students’ experience in the online portion of your instruction?
When my students are online, they are building background information, by watching my videos or reading through the online curriculum from AEA K-12 Online (formerly Resource Iowa). They also complete simulations online. Some of my favorite simulations are from pHet  (  These simulations are great because they allow students to work with something they possibly wouldn’t be able to do in class.  One of their favorites is the SkatePark Ramp simulation.  In this simulation, they can decide the shape of the ramp, the amount of friction, the size/mass of the object on the skateboard, and gravity by placing their ramp on Earth, Jupiter, or the moon.

When my students are with me face-to-face we spend most of our time working on labs, activities, having discussions, and solving problems.
What tools do you use for the online portion of your blended instruction?
I wouldn’t be able to function in my blended/flipped environments without Schoology, ITSI, and

I use Schoology to assign materials to students, provide links to online resources, and test online. Schoology helps me keep my classes organized and manageable.

I also use Innovative Technology in Science Inquiry (ITSI). (ITSI) is a great resource that anyone can use. It is a free portal-based source for activities using models and probes for all grades 3-12.  ITSI includes customizable activities in the areas of engineering, life science, earth & space science, biology, chemistry, physics, and math.  Before finding this resource, using probeware (ex. motion sensors, digital thermometers, force sensors) intimidated me.  Using these activities makes it so easy to do.  The customization feature is also nice because I can make the activities fit my students and classroom easily.  More information is available at or if you are ready to get started to sign up. 

AEA K-12 Online’s Moodle hosting services (formerly known as Resource Iowa) is a resource that is available to everyone through AEA K-12 Online. It is a learning management system where I can access the curriculum that I have developed and house my courses for students to use.
How has blending your instruction benefited your students?
I’ve seen move interaction and engagement in my students since changing to the blended instruction.  Kids are all about computers and technology now.  This puts the class in a format they are familiar and comfortable with.  I have also seen an increase in student achievement.  I rarely have a student fail my class. I do my best to create an environment in which students aren’t afraid to try and are willing to make a mistake in front of me and their classmates.  I want them to learn to work together, make mistakes together, learn from those mistakes, and become better for experiencing them.  Furthermore, in Carroll, we give Iowa Assessments. These standardized test scores are continuing to improve each year.
Any additional information you would like to share.
Both blending and flipping are a lot of work.  They also take most teachers out of their comfort zone.  I was one who liked to do the same thing all the time every year.  I liked the control and organization of it.  I have to say it was a big step to let go of that, but it was really worth it.  I would never go back to “traditional teaching”.  I love being a part of my students’ learning and learning right along with them.  The relationships you get the opportunity to build when you get out of the front of the classroom are amazing.  If you are thinking about changing what you are doing, it is OK to be scared.  It is important to have the support of your administration and educate parents from the beginning.  I could not have done this without the support of my administration.  They allow me to speak to parents at freshman orientation at the beginning of every school year.  This along with a letter home helps make parents aware of how different my class will be from day one.
I have heard different times during this change that I don’t teach.  Thank you for that compliment.  I don’t want to teach.  I want to be a partner in the learning process with my students.