Professional Development

Great Teachers Conference: Collective Wisdom Session

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On 11/10/18 at 8:00pm, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference  Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

We ended the conference with a Q&A session with the youngest teachers as the audience, and all of us as the experts. We were asked to give advice for the first day.

Don’t make it too fun, but let them know things are serious.

Tell a funny story about yourself to put people at ease.

Be drawn in as a student. If it isn’t fun to be there, why bother to show up.

smile on the first day so people know you are happy.

why i love this subject, why I teach, why I am at wake tech

I know you’ve seen my ratemyprofessor ratings, make the expectations clear and how you will succeed in this course. Understand that each teacher has to teach to the slowest learner.

Tell them about your past, personal and professional- so you are relate-able.

Let them know that you are human. What are the expectations, and what is your educational experience. I’m thankful they are sitting in my class.

This subject is something I absolutely love. Here is a short survey including a small question such as “what is the purpose of music”. And it gets down to the basics of their thoughts and pre-suppositions

Validate that you know the subject matter, and ask if there is something you can do to make this class better

Talk about how great the day is and discuss how wonderful hot water, water, travel, freedom, etc. How many days would I have to teach without students

Don’t forget to move around the room. get to know people

There are alpha talkers. Monitor the alphas and let the betas come through.

Get students to move and get around with an icebreaker.

Keep track of who’s using the resources

Tell the students that they will all think they are your favorites by the end of the semester. Tell them that you’re human. They really will think it too.

Give 1 copy of the syllabus, and set up teams. Winner of the cahoot challenge gets an NQA pass on attendance.

Tell a story about being a student. I did not like this… I did not like that… explain it because this is why we’ll do things in this class.

Instead of something that you like, tell them to talk about something they hate and can share mutually.

Be friendly, tell jokes, talk about negative experiences, and relieve that baggage.

Do icebreakers such as 2 truths one lie, and decide what might be a lie. Its loud, rowdy, and get them in a fun space.

What name would you like to go by? Students are scared and intimidated, especially in remedial classes. What are you scared of

Tell some great stories about your kids or something you’re really happy about

make the opening speech about the appropriate subject- passion vs. professionality.

Do anything you can do to keep their attention just a few seconds longer. Make noises, jump around

Talk about things they like or hate in their classes, and by the end they’ll be really ready for the class

make a talk about practice and sweating and bleeding and put in the time. You cannot watch to get better. You have to work to get better.


How can we find time to grade. A teacher cannot focus on grading after lecture, and they are fresh in the morning. However the lectures are in the morning? Go when you’re fresh. Break it up into sections, do what you can to work in sections. Give answers in points and use the rubric, giving the answers to the rubric as a question response.

If you did not read the syllabus, what would you talk about to keep them interested? Personalize the experience of the class.

In challenging times of high stress, how do you keep the love of your field and student success. Keep a printed folder of positive comments and nice emails you received. In a seated class, walk around the class playing follow the leader- it breaks the tension. Keep a folder of letters of recommendations for your students to showcase how they’ve been successful and who you’ve helped. Keep the funny answers you get on tests and things. You aren’t just a teacher, but a teacher and coach at the same time. things won’t get better every day- there will be down days, but make sure you end well and begin well. Ride the wave. Its OK to back away. If you’re feeling poorly, just back away. Find students who you’re really happy to have in your class. Email that student a very positive response.

Take this with you: talk to the people around you. Don’t go office to classroom to car. Stop in other people’s audience. Collaborate. Most teachers miss the collaboration


Great Teacher’s Innovations Session

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On 11/10/18 at 8:55am, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference Innovation Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

Our team joined up in a group of 4 individuals and a facilitator. We began the session by revisiting a sheet of materials sent to us: Outlining a success we’ve achieved through innovation in the classroom, and a problem we’re facing in the classroom.

I started the session off with my innovation.

I had found problems in the past because several students had found themselves withdrawing from classes because they felt “alone and cut off from others.” Based on this qualitative data from students, I implemented several changes in 2017 across my online courses.

Introduction discussion boards were created where students were asked to share their preferred activities and photos of themselves. This encouraged personal connections in online courses, and allowed students to recognize those people they had in previous classes or who they knew from seated courses.

To seem more available, I began calling each student prior to the first week of class to let them know that I will be their teacher and they can contact me with any problems they have during the semester

To encourage more discussion, I also implemented a mandatory discussion feature into my courses in at least 9 out of 16 weeks, requiring a 50+ word minimum original post, and 3 student responses with 50+ words for credit. This encourages deeper thinking about our work, more in-depth responses about other students’ work, and more constructive criticism.

Mark Monsky went next. The Innovation that made the biggest difference in classroom was making a connection with students early. In seated sections, he found that students were not engaged. Learning names early makes the biggest innovations. Going out of his way, Mark found that students really like it. The problem here was one with numbers of impressions. Students only have to remember the name of a single teacher. Teachers have to remember the names and faces of 20-40 students.

Leighton Ford Went third. His Innovation was to include a review session and do problems on the white board in hopes that his students would learn. Students however, did not learn. PD suggests that the use of video media and screen captures would garner attention. He segmented questions in video files- concentrating on frequently missed questions with timestamps. Very few students clicked on the material and very few bothered to use the jump links. He went back to the in-class review, and had students instruct one another in a flipped classroom style. This was well received, and he is pursuing this to see how he might split up the questions and hyperlink each question to get immediate feedback.

Exams are taken seated in class, and 15 minutes set aside afterwards to revisit the most frequently missed questions. At first, reviewing the classes in person was a drain. Good students would tune out, and the energy in the room would be sapped. Leighton noted that he goes over every question as soon as the test is returned. Instead, he opted to move the review until the week of the final exam. All 4 tests were covered in a single day prior to the final exam. All students who showed up were engaged. After the test people may have had too many other things to do, and not paying attention. Before the final exam, students very helped. Striking while the iron is hot is the best way to keep them interested. Right after the test they are tired and burned out, however, talking to partners is always a great idea.

Leighton teaches a Gateway course in math. Most people are not ready, and failure rate is really, really high. Students show up in math and act like its a regular class requiring they listen and give a small effort, but math doesn’t really work like that. Very few students ask questions: they are not comfortable, and don’t want to show they don’t know the required knowledge. So he, breaks his class into groups. He starts his class with a quiz of basic skills and uses this quiz to organize the class. His top 8 students start the groups, with next 8 grades distributed, and so on until there are 4 people in each group. They practice in groups during class time, and this allows students to work the problems together. As a teacher, he is in class moving around to help, but will only assist students after they have asked everyone in the group and one person from another group. Environment is really a friendly room, and questions in class are low. But requiring students to ask questions before moving on allows for a more collaborative environment. You have to talk in class. This is a nice way to get confident in class, especially math. Gradewise there are improvements showing in the class and retention rates are higher. Student withdrawals are not so much about lazy students, but now more about personal issues. His division is looking to redesign this class in 2019, so he is hoping this idea will catch on. Is there lecture? Yes, some. Most info is online, and standard lecture that allows students to take notes and explain concepts. However, if he does 100 problems in 1 hour as a teacher, you  will learn very little. If students do the classwork, the retention of ideas is better and understanding is higher. Seats are permanent seats. How do they like it? Students choose the seats when they sit down. Have a perm group seat is the same as a standard perm seat. In classes without groups, they are forced to move so they can connect with one another. I applaud him for question method. They work together. Some students who come in shy end up being talkative, competitive, working together.

Steven Hill went last. “I love my discipline,” he noted, “and history can bore students. I go into character to deliver speeches and talks from moments in history”. He does impressions on day one: Winston Churchill doing a speech. They may start serious and end funny, but will always be fact. “Mr. Hill makes those dead people sound interesting!” a student remarks. He tries to make things as interesting as possible for students. Another thing is he uses is props. A stereooptic to show what 3D was like in the past, for example. In the classes, reviews are mostly positive. he mention that on the first day: “I do not give A’s in this class. You may want to drop this, but I don’t give A’s in the class.” after a long pause, a student will ask “You mean we’ll have to earn them?” “Of course,” he will reply, “But I don’t give F’s either”. Enthusiasm builds the class. Monotone is too boring and the student is encouraged and emphasized to learn on their own. A seated class should not force students to find their own focus. A teacher is only a click away. He sets it the first day- enthusiasm, expectations, I manage them all every day. Leighton related that students do not react in monotone classes, do not care. However, laughing, joking in the class, allows us all to find things lighter and more exciting. Steven suggests that high energy and positive expectations make for an excellent class and great set of materials. The least little thing can bring you down. Struggle to ensure that you are upholding that level of energy and enthusiasm. You’ll have to overlook and combat the idea that students may try to bring down the energy level in the class.

From this point on, we talked about issues and joys we face in the classroom.

If facing numerous ringtones in the class, I suggested grabbing the BBC ringtone “Sound 30yr olds cannot hear”. if nobody knows- who’s got the cellphone out? look it up! For the most part, students wish to succeed, and keep cell phones out of the way. was discussed.

Cell phone policies: what is the policy, what should we do when its out of policy? Discussing this in class keeps stress off teacher and requires buy-in from students.

Rather than having serious homework, offer 10 topics due on the day before test. If you finish 8, you get full credit. Still you may face students who never enter the course materials in the seated classroom. Its real bad in math 171. Not as bad in 153 taught in computer lab.

All in all, it was nice to hear about the level of accomplishment in the classroom. A lot of these points can have bearing for later in the session and when talking with other teachers.

Motivation In Online Environments

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On 9/24/18 at 5:45pm, I attended the Excellence In Higher Education Virtual Conference Session: Motivation In Online Environments presented by Dr. John Fisher of Utah Valley University


Most students come with associates degrees, and they offer a program in law enforcement and emergency leadership. Most of these courses will be online. They have recently started work in emergency management and leadership. Roughly 10% sign up for these upper-tier courses but never start. To get to the meat of the issue, he polled and openly asked questions to find what motivated the students to start and succeed.

What motivates the student or us? SDT sets us in motion and motivation to succeed.

So how can we support the SDT students?

by connecting with students we can establish the interpersonal relationships that emphasize choice and flexibility. Dr. Fisher talked about the “emotional bank account” that is built through these close personal connections. Often, it takes a whole lot more deposites than withdrawals. In most cases, more must be put in before others are willing to take from it.


THis chart, built by Chen & Jang shows a different set of motivations and learning outcomes.

Need is a strong effect, and needs satisfaction was positive – or less negative really- for final grades.

When we support autonomy, we see a greater understanding and success on the part of the student. As students needs were satisfied, they felt more positive.

WHile we feel that we can often give cop-out answers like: “Here’s the number to technical support, they’re much better…” but that’s not a very supportive answer.

Students who would take online courses again said they would do so because of the flexibility. Those who would not said it was because they did not get the interaction with the professor that they desired.

MOre men are taking online courses. This is an odd set of numbers. Is it because more men are coming back? it may be because job services, it is unknown

As you can see in these numbers, flexibility remains high.

These were the questions given to students to help determine how to help. The 5th question was overwhelmingly yes! The majority of online students seem to be non-traditional students with jobs and families, etc. It is odd that online students would like to have the strong contact of a seated class, but do not/would not find time to take those courses.

While 80 students took the class, only 65 seemed ready to answer the questions

Using Grounded Theory, he created some propositions and comparisons throughout the process with 4 areas specifically looked at:

ONe thing that came up was that students needed to engage early to be successful.

Students demanded that instructions were clear, that after 16wks they faced burnout. How long can you put up with the same stuff every week. They wanted to see paced courses so there was good pacing and variety

These methods are some suggestions made in terms of assignments, discussions and group work. Not all students like group work. On the other hand, others feel accountable and working. Which is surprising. Many students prefer questions and exams to papers, so some answers are quite revealing

Again, there are several major items which are commonly said, like shorter course durations, flexible schedules, the autonomy of the schedules, constant and immediate feedback, etc. Online courses must still be rigorous, worthy of credits, and collegiate-level work. Students like structured content with variety and interesting materials.

Dr. John FisherOne of the challenges of online courses is motivation. Some students sign up for courses and don’t start. This presentation reports on a study about student motivation in online education. During a course end evaluation, students were asked the following questions. Why do students not get started in online courses? What can be done to get them started and keep working on assignments? What motivates you to keep working? How could online courses be improved so you are better motivated? Responses were gathered from over 100 students in five sections of an upper division online course in emergency services. Responses to the questions were analyzed and propositions developed.

Course Writing Process and Experience

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On 9/24/18 at 3:15pm, I attended the Excellence In Higher Education Virtual Conference Session: Course Writing Process and Experience presented by Ron Signore of Columbia Southern University

It was very interesting to hear the material by Professor Signore. He used a lot of personal examples and personal experience when talking. One of the nicest points here was that Professor Signore had reached the rank of Master Chief! Very impressive.

Instructional designers are great team workers.

Reusing past discussion questions which were fantastic where great to use for journal questions later. Use with no wrong answers, critical thinking required.

Lessons, required readings, chapter # and PPT Lessons. From these, search out suggested readings for video content and things. Crossword puzzels, games, etc. that use KEY terms are very helpful for course materials. Once done, all the activity is sent to the course ID and built

No news is good news.

Development: The editors and Course technologists build this in blackboard, and given an assigned launch date

Key is to be sure on the textbook selected, share the personal experiences, establish a rapport with the ID, Library resources. For the first time CW writer, you should pair with an experienced CW writer.

At the end, you should celebrate

Ron SignoreNo better way to truly know a course than to be the course writer. That in turn helps increase Faculty/Student engagement when the course is taught and presented to the students. This presentation is a breakdown of the process and my personal observations and experiences while writing CSU courses.

To Discuss or Not to Discuss? What is the Question?

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On 9/24/18 at 4:30pm, I attended the Excellence In Higher Education Virtual Conference Session: To Discuss or Not to Discuss? What is the Question? presented by Lisa Wingate of Columbia Southern University

My favorite items were the scenarios portion. While this was a great deal of up-front work related to the scenario, it has a lot of critical thinking elements, and we can see some real-life issues to go with it.

Current events vs Hot topics can be a good time to get to big items. Revisiting our ideas on emotional intelligence, You may be called on to calm things down.

Debate is nice, but thorughout the discussion, students have to stay on one side of the argument at all times. The use of evidence, facts, sources and citations is a great way to have discussion. One reason here is because you can see students working so hard to get students finding those information points on their own

Organizing structures are difficult to move through in some classes because students have to work hard. A good example: can you see a good job interview as a game

Establishing relevance is a fine way to connect with students. Ask probing questions to determine deeper thoughts. good for adding personal experience to do this question properly.

Deeper Learning questions typically require a medium prep time and a medium interactivity when used for students. Requires some scaffolding, so set expectations early!

Role play is a fine way to get students involved. While debate may force students to take a side, Role play may require students to create a series of questions or respond to a series of questions. They may have little or no experience. They will have to think from their experience and that’s a tough work for students. Its low prep for topics, but high prep for instructions required. There will probably be some medium interactivity for the teacher


We looked through the major 6 notes: Prior Knowledge, organizing, motivation, mastery, emotional intelligence, and meta cognition.

Look to see how the skills can help your students. This chart was discussed

Thinking back to how this started, we pondered: how can we use these questions to embrace deeper-quality learning. Examine their course/unit goals, being prepared,  thinking how interactivity is equal to engagement.

remember to actually enjoy your time.


Lisa WingateIn an online environment, discussion questions rarely elicit jumps of joy; more like moans of pain. And these moans come from faculty and students alike. This presentation discusses types of discussion questions that impact seven principles of learning: prior knowledge, organizing knowledge, motivation, mastery, practice and feedback, course climate, and self-directed learning.

Luring Students with Buzzwords in Classroom Discussions

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On 9/24/18 at 2:00pm, I attended the Excellence In Higher Education Virtual Conference Session:Luring Students with Buzzwords in Classroom Discussions presented by Leslie Johnson of Purdue University Global

This class had a very diverse following

Typical discussion is one post and 2 peer replies. Julie Evans was recognized for being “hard core” for Post + 4 responses (50+ words minimum).

Several of these words are already outddated because things move so quickly.

Several people are worried that their jobs might be replaced with AI

Not really sure how all these topics relate to our department, but I guess that’s the point of the discussions.

what are they, what is the cost, what is the wisest choice? What’s out there right now that’s offered as a bootcamp? What ethical concerns are there with bootcamps? She basically read off the cards

Awesome book for big data: Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble

Use as a guided peer reply or teaser report to take the place of a single peer reply. Shortly thereafter, this just opened to chat.

I thought this was light, easy to follow, and probably good for general education courses, but this wasn’t really by cup of tea.

Leslie Johnson of Purdue University GlobalEncouraging students to think further than required on a discussion topic in an online course can be quite the challenge. Students often want to complete the bare minimum of what is expected of them and move on to the next graded item for the course. Choosing global hot topics that appeal to us as educators that our students can also relate to within their field of study can be a great way to “lure” students into thinking more critically on the discussion topic and continuing the conversation. In this session, we will take a look at several buzzwords and how they can inspire invigorating dialogue in the weekly discussions of various fields of study