a weblog for teachers (with or without technology)


This new post is being made to ‘revitalize’ the teachnique blog. Since it’s been on ‘break’, the theme was updated… and the commenting option didn’t quit keep up for the previous entries! (But I just figured out how to update the advanced settings for each post so I think it’s working as expected again!)

Fellow Ed-Techers, this post is for you! Comment either generally here, or specifically on my historical responses to the training original exercise, to fulfill the discovery activities for ED 5320.


What are you thinking and feeling about this facilitated online workshop? Are you learning something new or reinforcing something that you already understood? Are you developing a sense of community with fellow online instructors who are participating? I am thrilled to have this opportunity to experience learning in the same online environment that my current students use. It’s been several years since I completed my studies using tools that have been improved and expanded recently. Almost every morning as I head back up to my alma mater, I do say “I’m just glad I’ve graduated” – out loud! And that’s true especially as I the end of the Fall 2009 UTTC faculty training fast approaches. Learning online requires as much – if not more – discipline than teaching online – which has highly-motivating incentive. My personal sensitivities to reducing the number of user clicks required to get from point A to point B, designing visually-pleasing page layouts that provide for easy reference, and building in flexible options to make the experience as meaningful as possible to each individual have been validated. Working alongside colleagues from across the system has been most enriching. I’m blown away by the talent and creativity – passion – evidenced in the work of just these few faculty and staff. I’ve seen some great models that will be incorporated in future iterations of my own work and have come up with some of my own new ideas that will improve my current practice eventually. Hearkening back to one of my first DE presentations though, I must also remind myself that it’s okay to take it one step at a time. Glimpsing the variety of innovative ‘teachniques’ shared in this training session (and at events like the IOL conferences) motivates me to keep trying out new technologies that may ‘click’ for my students, the future educators of our children!


Teaching online can create a unique set of challenges that we may not have to deal with in the face-to-face classroom. Part of being successful online is recognizing and dealing with these frustrating aspects of online teaching. Through experience we may be able to identify strategies for reducing or even eliminating the issue. If you are relatively new to online teaching, please describe an area of concern that you may anticipate will cause frustration. For example, “I feel that I will be frustrated that I can’t get to know my students since I cannot see their smiling faces.” If you have some experience as an online instructor, please describe an early frustrating situation or area of concern you had and how you have addressed it. Perpetual ‘glass head’ syndrome continues to be the most frustrating challenge for me as an online educator.  Because I focus on concepts rather than specific cases, I’ve been able to use the same basic course content for several years. And that means that I and the lessons have moved through several different course delivery products and versions. Thankfully I’ve been able to maintain a ‘student view’ of each iteration. But, I still know where I want them to go and that makes it hard for me to see where the course doesn’t make sense. One summer I was just beside myself and got so tired of the complaints (in a graduate education course) that I set up a discussion forum just for suggestions on a particular aspect that seemed to be driving us all crazy. One ambitious student actually provided constructive input that resulted in my expanding the class schedule in a way that seems to have solved the problem. The intended process was described in the course orientation, but it never hit home until it was made explicit in the syllabus. When I’m learning alongside my students is when we both gain the most, so my advice to newer online educators would be to first make sure you’ve done your homework (check it out from their perspective), then pay attention to what’s going on each semester. You’ll be able to pinpoint troublespots and know how to ask for help if a resolution isn’t obvious to you. Everyone’s learning experience will be improved in the long run!

Take stock of your pedagogical approach and ask yourself:

  • How do I see myself as a teacher?

The attached, cheesy, but fun, picture I made last summer (RNix_imagined) will give you a quick view of how I see myself at the moment, professionally. My teaching practice is governed by my life-long learning! It’s a nice whole with my research informing my teaching and driving my design… and so on! I consider myself a constructivist.

  • How do my students respond to my teaching style?

Due to the unusual nature of my completely online relationship with our mostly onsite students, I am thrilled that we all seem to manage to get along! It’s easier for some, but by the end of the semester, we’ve all figured out how to communicate effectively in this virtual realm – one of the learning outcomes of the Ed Tech course. Offloading most of the content to the LMS and finalizing updates before the semester starts enables me to focus solely on each individual, in addition to the class as a whole. I try to model professional and appropriate correspondence while remaining human and approachable. I want the course to be a safe and secure place for students to practice the same. By the same token, I am able to ‘nudge’ them with guidance and encouragement to experiment with new tools and techniques.

  • What types of learning activities do I incorporate into my face-to-face classes?
I only teach online now, leveraging most of the tools available in BlackBoard now (surveys, quizzes, etc.) to support my own lessons that are supplemented by a textbook. To gain experience and demonstrate ability, we work together to develop a major 3-part project that is peer reviewed throughout the semester. Students are also assigned to smaller teams (groups) to help with ideas for that through structured forums. When I do have a ‘real-time’ F2F audience, I almost always start out with some sort of experiential training activity. You can see the virtual renditions at www.utdallas.edu/~rnix
  • What changes in those activities do I need to make to move into the online environment?

I suppose I jumped ahead! Because I’m teaching about technology, it was easy – actually naturally logical – to migrate my presentation into the online environment. Now that was another story for the online Masters of Arts in Teaching I helped design and deploy… but that’s a story for another day!


What are your thoughts on using reflection in this course? I think that using reflection in this course is appropriate and will be effective. Most course development focuses on the future… All the hype of new possibilities tends to overpower the lessons to be learned from past experience, prior knowledge, and larger contexts. What are your thoughts on using a blog for these purposes? In my case, the technology is impeding the creativity, but this is something I’ve wanted to learn how to do. Personally, I don’t think I like the way blogs seem to flow quite freely; I prefer to structure information by topic or purpose more than the way I see blogs as a chronology. One of my greatest pleasures is to hand-write in a dedicated paper journal so I admit extreme bias!



Committed to walking the walk, I am adding to my professional life-long learning experience by taking a new Faculty Training course offered online by the UT-System TeleCampus in the Fall of 2009. One of our assignments is to use a blog site to develop a reflective journal, so, here’s the start of mine!

The term tech·nol·o·gy is derived from the Greek tekhnologia, the “systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique“. This blog is all about using (or not using) technology in teaching; hence, we thought we coined a new term (that’s already been used a lot) for its title: teachnique! By definition, the focus is on:
  1. a: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area <medical technology> b: a capability given by the practical application of knowledge <a car’s fuel-saving technology>
  2. a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge <new technologies for information storage>
  3. the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor <educational technology>

Clearly a work in progress, this site will be as dynamic as any preK-life classroom, hopefully!