Archive for May, 2012

Classroom Management – What is it?

Elaborate in the comments section!

Food for Thought!

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. – Socrates

Active Learning and Technology – Compounding Technology on Virtual Training Technology


In the article, “How Technology keeps a 3000-Student Class engaged” (, John Boyer successfully uses technology to engage his class of 3000 students in active learning. For instance, Skype interviews with guest speakers, announcing online quizzes only on Facebook and Twitter, etc. This is blended into his physical classroom.

Technology is moving the world into a Global Village paradigm.
Free images from 


Upon reading the article, my reaction was, “I agree that technology can definitely create opportunities for active learning and engagement…but I am cautious. Can I use the technology in my virtual classroom in the same way that Boyer does in his physical classroom?”


Currently, technology is what’s holding my virtual classroom together. My department uses Webex technology and VOIP conference lines to share computer screens and conduct training sessions about market research technology. This has already closed the physical space between clients and my trainers in entirely different countries. For example, clients in Australia do not need to fly to our office in Vancouver to be trained or vice versa.

But what about using Skype for guest speakers? My company does host virtual webcasts using a tool similar to Skype providing discussion sessions similar to the interviews that Boyer incorporates into his classes. In these webcasts, an expert from another department in my company discusses tips and tricks for better research online. This is something the expert does outside of his/her daily operations at the company. As well, these do not happen during class time but at a scheduled time once a month and is accessible by all our clients – past learners, and current learners. They are also recorded in case our clients/learners are not able to attend at the scheduled time. This technology has enabled one expert to communicate to hundreds of learners in different cities and countries. This is slightly different from Boyer’s approach of having a guest speaker Skype in during class, but it is a better solution for my company as we can have up to eight sets of classes going in a week. If a guest speaker were to show up for all these classes, it would pull them away from their core function at the company which is not ideal. However, one should note that in this case, it isn’t Skype that is inappropriate for my classroom setting, but rather, the instructional strategy of using a guest speaker in class. It isn’t exactly scalable for the hundreds of sessions that we provide every month.

Currently, my company does use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with the world with respect to company news, tips and tricks about online research, interesting resources, etc. However, the training department does not use Twitter or Facebook in the way that Boyer does in providing access to online quizzes. If these channels were to be adopted, they would be made private to learners only as my company is very careful about protecting how our products work. I wouldn’t be able to tweet a link to a quiz containing screenshots of our software product as it could easily be shared from one student to a competitor. Any quizzes are best completed during the training session. As well, having more than one Twitter or Facebook account associated with the company can be confusing to our learners as both the corporate account and the training department account would be tweeting resources about online research.

What my interpretations have shown me is that I can’t use the technology in exactly the same way that Boyer does in a virtual setting. However, with modifications, the technology/media can be appropriate for my teaching situation. More about this in the Decisional section.


The article has brought to light that not all forms of technology and media are marketed to be educational tools. For instance, John Boyer found a way to make use of Skype in his classroom to enhance the learning experience of his students. Skype was not intended to be an educational tool, but it reminds me, as an educator, to consider new technology/media from a training perspective. I will write about new technology/media that I stumble upon in the department blog and encourage my trainers to do the same.

I’ve also realized that I shouldn’t force technology/media into my classroom just because I work at a technology company and it is expected that I would be a cheerleader for it. More importantly, what should happen is that when considering new technology/media I should identify whether or not it fits the needs of my learners and whether it balances the needs of my employer. I will sit down with my team and we will collaboratively come up with guidelines for analyzing the appropriateness of new technology/media and for adopting these tools.

As well, a tool can be used in more than one way that suits different educational settings. For instance, Boyer found that guest speakers via Skype works for him. Although this would not work too well for my virtual class, I could use Skype to stay connected with students who need to speak with me or my trainers face-to-face outside of class. I will meet with my team to discuss adopting Skype as a tool of communications with clients as soon as we analyze the appropriateness and determine the guidelines for adopting the tool.

With respects to the Twitter and Facebook, rather than setting up an account specific to the training department, the trainers (myself included) should pass on any resources to the Marketing department as they manage the corporate Facebook and Twitter accounts. The Marketing department can post on our behalf. We can then point our learners to one Facebook or Twitter handle rather than two. This reduces redundancy and any confusion.

Four Steps – Planning for Learning How to Learn

If students understand how they can learn, then they can utilize the tools that they know would work for them. This awareness of the process of learning is discussed quite a bit in my post about Metacognition. Check out that post for some tools that you can use with your students.

Another useful tool I found is from the Study Guides and Strategies website:

According to the Study Guides and Strategies website, there are 4 steps in learning to learn:

  1. Begin with the Past
  2. Proceed to the Present
  3. Consider the Process and Subject Matter
  4. Build in a Review

On the website, there are questions that belong to each of the above steps that can help students develop their strategies to learn.

Students should first begin with the past and assess the strategies that have worked for them before. They can ask themselves questions like, “What is your experience about how you learn?”, “Did you like quiet or study groups?”, “What are your study habits?”, “What has worked, and what hasn’t?”

Then they assess the present and ask themselves questions like, “How interested am I in this?”, “What affects my dedication to learning?”, “Do I have a plan? Does the plan consider my past and learning style?”

Next, students consider the process and subject matter by asking themselves, “What is the heading/title and keywords that jump out?”, “As I study, do I ask myself whether I understand?”, “Should I go more quickly or more slowly?”, “If I don’t understand, do I ask why?”

Lastly, students build in a review and ask themselves, “What did I do right?”, “What could I do better?”, “Did my plan coincide with how I work with my strengths and weaknesses?”

Check out the website for more questions within each of the four steps.

When would you have students go through an exercise like this? Before a project or exam? At the beginning of the course?

I think for my own training scenario, I would have students go through an exercise like this before the course starts or at the beginning of the first class. I would then incorporate a group activity where they share with other students techniques that work for them. This can help other students adopt new techniques they haven’t tried before in learning.

Questioning Techniques – Purpose and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Why use Questioning in the Classroom?

Guy Claxton, Professor in Education and Director of CLIO Development University of Bristol (source: states that…

[q]uestioning enables teachers to check learners’ understanding. It also benefits learners as itencourages engagement and focuses their thinking on key concepts and ideas.

I agree with what Claxton is saying. Think back to being a student. What provoked you to think about something in a deeper way? When an educator asked questions, or when  he/she who lectured and made statements? It’s likely the former. As well, I find that by using questioning techniques, it makes for a more interactive class. No longer is the educator at the front of the room talking and filling the heads of students like a vessel.

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Questioning Techniques

Bloom’s Taxonomy can provide you with guidance for the types of questions you can ask your students.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a pyramid that illustrates the levels of learning and thinking. Educators aim for higher levels of learning and thinking in their students, however, one should note that levels of learning and thinking at the bottom of the pyramid need to be present before students can move up the pyramid.

The table from the University of Victoria Counselling Services webpage ( gives a definition of each level and question cues.

If you’re more of an audiovisual learner, please check out this video:

To summarize these two sources, see the table below. I’ve also added examples to each.



Question Cue

Knowledge At this level, students are asked to recall factual information in an objective manner.For example, “List the document types that you can create in Google Docs.” list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine, tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.
Comprehension At this level, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the information. This may include interpreting facts, predict consequences, and translate knowledge into new context.For example, “Differentiate between Spreadsheets and Fusion Tables in Google Docs.” summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend
Application At this levels, students are asked to use information, methods, concepts, theories in new situations. They may also be asked to solve problems.For example, “Relate the Two Factor motivational theory for job satisfaction to the educational setting.” apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve, examine, modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover
Analysis At this level, students use information to identify patterns or components, recognize hidden meanings, and organize part.For example, “Explain what the sample cross tabulation report is showing.” analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide, compare, select, explain, infer
Synthesis At this level, students use old ideas to create new ones, generalize from given facts, relate knowledge from several areas, and draw conclusions.For example, “Prepare a plan of how you will use the software tool to support your business process.” combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design, invent, what if?, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite
Evaluation At this level, students assess values of theories, makes choices based on reasoned argument, recognize subjectivity. The use of critical thinking is essential here.For example, “Recommend a solution for the business based on your assessment of related theories.” assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare, summarize

From the table, as students are close to the top of the pyramid, they are move involved with knowledge and information.  However, there is value in questions at the lower level of the pyramid. They can help students build familiarity with course concepts before they move into synthesis and evaluation. There is an appropriate time for questions in each level in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

For example, if I as an educator have just introduced a new theory, I would not ask students to rank this theory against others (Evaluation) without ensuring that students comprehend the theory and others first.

For more posts about Questioning Techniques, click the Questioning Techniques category  in the sidebar.

Student Motivation: Changing our Approach and understanding Intrinisic Motivation

This journal entry focuses on motivation and takes a in-depth look at a statement made by Eric Jensen (in the Objective section), and also the speech made by Dan Pink in a TedTalks video.


“There is no such thing as an unmotivated student. There are, however, students in unmotivated states” — Eric Jensen.

In the Ted Talks video, Dan Pink shares his insight on motivation. Here’s the summary from the Ted Talks website:

If you want people to perform better, you reward them, right? Bonuses, commissions, their own reality show. Incentivize them. … But that’s not happening here. You’ve got an incentive designed to sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity, and it does just the opposite. It dulls thinking and blocks creativity.” (Dan Pink)


Upon reading the statement above, I thought, “Ah ha! What an empowering statement!”
Upon watching Dan Pink in the TedTalks video, I thought, “That comes as no surprise. I agree!”


With his statement, I believe Eric Jensen is conveying that if students are unmotivated, it isn’t of permanence or necessarily consistent with their character. Rather, being unmotivated is a state from which students can be moved. I relate it to the concept in physics about potential energy, (energy at rest), and kinetic energy, (energy in motion). To move something from the state of potential energy to kinetic energy, something has to change in the environment or an action needs to be taken upon the item in the potential state. Thus, I found the statement empowering: I, as an instructor, can build an appropriate environment or approach teaching in a way that sparks students to learn. This is important as motivation paired with active learning results in student engagement (Barkley, 2010, p.6) which results in increased knowledge acquisition and general cognitive development (Pascarella and Terenzini, 1999, as cited in Barkley, 2010, p.4).

Pairing what I’ve discovered from Jensen’s statement with Dan Pink’s talk about motivation, gives me a plan of action in motivating students (discussed in the Decisional section). Pink explained that incentives can do the opposite of what you want them to do if you are looking to motivate individuals to be creative and think beyond whatever task you have put in front of them . If I were to relate this to teaching, it would be akin to using “good grades” as an incentive for students to learn. For some students and some learning tasks, this may work, but they may not go beyond course material, gain insight from other sources, relate it to their own experiences, etc. They would do what was necessary to get the grades. I can relate to what Pink is saying. In my own teaching scenario, I am teaching clients to use a software tool in a business environment. They wouldn’t be motivated by grades. It also wouldn’t make sense for me to provide them with monetary incentive to learn, as I’d probably put my employer out of business. Something else needs to be done to move my students into a motivated state.

Pink mentions that motivation for creativity and use of cognitive ability needs to incorporate three factors:

  • Autonomy: the urge for individuals to direct their own lives.
  • Mastery: the desire to get better at something that matters.
  • Purpose: the desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

I concur with what Pink is saying. When training clients, I incorporate these three factors in my learning activities. In incorporating autonomy, when I train clients virtually on my company’s market research software tool, they are passed mouse control to complete learning tasks. I teach them the steps in the software, and repeat them if necessary; however, they are flying solo as the course progresses. I also ask them to work on their projects while taking the course so that they can immediately apply what they learn. They are responsible for their own education, their own projects, and their own successes.

Mastery is also incorporated. During the training sessions, there are discussions about how the learner’s success in learning the software tool translates into success in their jobs and for their companies. Their mastery of the tool means that they can rely on the tool when making million dollar decisions that can improve experiences for their own customers.

With respects to purpose, there are student discussions about how online research is a new area in the market research industry. The learners are part of a greater change that is taking place in their discipline; they are part pioneers. This relays to them that they are part of a larger movement.

These factors incorporated into the training program has resulted in many enthusiastic students. They are motivated to learn and to strive for success. However, based in my interpretations, I think more can be done in motivating my learners.


From my interpretation, I have identified that if I were to come upon a student in an unmotivated state, I would first need to check my perspective on the situation. I would need to recognize that being unmotivated is a state and that I have the resources to move them into a motivated one. I feel as though there should never be a point where there isn’t something I could do for my students. I would need to assess why they are unmotivated to learn. I will set up a meeting with my training team to discuss the adoption of this attitude and to set up guidelines for assessing such situations.

Taking what Dan Pink has said in the TedTalk video, I will need to adopt more instructional strategies that incorporate Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. One that comes to mind is the Jigsaw instructional strategy. This activity requires students to become experts on a topic and sharing this information with a group consisting of students who are experts on different but related topics. Learners are autonomous as they are in control of how they want to learn or present the information to the group. Mastery is accounted for as they need to be experts on their subject matter. Purpose is fulfilled in that they are part of something larger. In order to get a full picture of what is being learned, they are driven to learn from other members in their group and to teach the other members. The motivation lies in the learning activity itself.

Before I can adopt strategies like Jigsaw, I will need to research them. I will set time aside for my trainers (myself included) to research instructional strategies that satisfy the three mentioned factors. This may be through online resources (asking the Training & Development group on LinkedIn, watching YouTube videos, searching in Educational Databases, etc.) or a trip to the local library.

Although I feel the learners of my training program are motivated overall, there may be specific instances where they are not motivated. For example, they may be willing to learn in class, but they may not be motivated to complete assignments that would be beneficial to them. I will identify the areas where my learners are not motivated, and will develop strategies for approaching this issue. However, before we can do this, I think more research should be done on motivation.

Motivation has many theories and we can not rely solely on the one described by Pink. For instance, while studying for my Business degree, I had come upon a lot of theories about motivation. This includes Maslow’s Hierarchy, the Two Factor theory, etc. I believe some of these could be applied to teaching. I will ask my trainers to present a motivational theory in our next training seminar and to facilitate a discussion of it suitability.

Instructional Strategy for Creative Thinking: Reverse Brainstorming

The following video introduces the concept of Reverse Brainstorming in the context of business. However, the main concept can also be used in education.

I could see this instructional strategy being used for case studies, or small group discussions where a problem or challenge is posed.

According to Mindtools (source:, the steps in using Reverse Brainstorming are as follows:

  1. Clearly identify the problem or challenge, and write it down.
  2. Reverse the problem or challenge by asking:
    “How could I possibly cause the problem?”, or
    “How could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?”.
  3. Brainstorm the reverse problem to generate reverse solution ideas. Allow the brainstorm ideas to flow freely. Do not reject anything at this stage.
  4. Once you have brainstormed all the ideas to solve the reverse problem, now reverse these into solution ideas for the original problem or challenge.
  5. Evaluate these solution ideas. Can you see a potential solution? Can you see attributes of a potential solution?

Let’s look at these steps in an example from my own teaching situation:

  • Step 1 & 2: My students often wonder how they can build engaging online surveys. Rather than asking, “How do I build an engaging survey?” they can ask instead, “How do I bore respondents so that they drop out of the survey?”
  • Step 3: Some possible solutions for the reversed problem are…
    • Visually boring questions
    • Same type of questions page after page
    • Question after question in the survey
  • Step 4: Reverse the solutions in Step 3 to solve the problem identified in Step 1:
    • Use Visually Rich Questions
    • Use a variety of questions. There are even varieties of the same type.
    • Consider using images, video, and pages with a sentence or two. These do not demand that your respondents answer questions.
  • Step 5: All of these solutions could be implemented to solve the problem posed in Step 1.