Screen Capture

I love, love, love these tools! Talk about reducing the intimidation factor for students who may need additional support or those who simply want to review in total the lesson of the day, week, month, semester. Being able to offer instruction using my screen, my voice, and my materials, really allow each student to have one on one instruction on demand.

In the brick and mortar classroom, using this type of delivery can provide the opportunity to develop learning teams that move at their own pace whilst being sure that each student is receiving the same instruction and explanations. This can also provide a great method for remediation and differentiation for those students who may struggle and require a deeper exploration of classroom concepts.

In the online classroom, these tools offer the opportunity to engage students using real-time, moving images, rather than the same tire PowerPoint slide show. I can provide a lot more information and ensure that students are deeply immersed in the learning in a variety of ways. Archiving sessions provides students the ability to revisit concepts that they find interesting or that they may have had difficulty grasping the first time. Students quickly learn they are accountable and have no excuse.

I can provide step by step instructions using a video and voice over for those tasks that students need be able to perform and systems they may need to utilize throughout the course. One of the things I hope to impart to all of my students is a sense of “I got this”. These tools allow them to get on board with me and feel confident in a way that only one on one instruction can offer.  In my demonstration

In my demonstration, I explain how to use the LMGTFY – Let Me Google That For You site. It was originally developed as an off hand, kind of passive-aggressive way to sidestep those people who would rather have you give them the answer than research it themselves. As an educator, this can be an all too common plight of the modern student, but sometimes, the learner really doesn’t know how to search for information. I have found the LMGTFY site can really be a great platform for introducing students to the idea of online research. I hope you find it beneficial too!

I reviewed several tools including:

  1. Screenr – Free online recording tool
  2. Jing – Free downloadable recording tool
  3. – A repository for your Jing videos
  4. Screencast-O-Matic – Free and subscribed recording tool
  5. Explain Everything – A collaborative and interactive whiteboard

I chose to build my demonstration on Screencast-O-Matic. I like the simplicity and the option to upgrade should I desire. Here is the link for a fast demonstration of Screencast-O-Matic and LMGTFY

Synchronous Vendor Market

I selected the BigBlueButton (BBB) Live Session Application for my test run. Having had a lot of experience with commercial applications like Adobe Classroom, I was surprised to find BBB is very similar and can readily be modified to meet the needs of any delivery protocol. Oh…and…it’s free! This type of delivery would be beneficial for direct instruction, tutoring sessions, homebound student live sessions, academic group meetings, and for professional development.

This type of delivery would be beneficial for direct instruction, tutoring sessions, homebound student live sessions, academic group meetings, and for professional development.

I expected the application to be less flexible because it is an open source free platform, boy was I wrong. BBB is every bit as user-friendly and feature-filled as some of the commercial products I have used. Good to know! I did not have any issues per se’ except with the microphone, I continued to pick up voices even with my external microphone muted, until I realized the default is the internal built-in mic, something to keep in mind! I also found the screen share a little limited. I use multiple screens. I’d like to choose which screen to share. Neither issue would be a show stopper and I am sure a few more minutes of practice would sort those bugs out!

I easily implemented the tools, like the assorted templates for the meeting space, the whiteboard and presentation upload. Those make customizing a session quick and easy. I like that the tutorial videos were up and ready to go for the person joining as a default. Overall, I find the BigBlueButton software to be every bit as good as some of the commercial options, certainly, for one teacher, BBB has everything I could possibly need.

The recording of my practice session is here BigBlueButton Playback, along with the link to the BigBlueButton Site!


Commercial vs. Open Source Virtual Classrooms

This post will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the open source versus commercial software in relation to synchronous learning in a virtual classroom.

My experience with virtual instruction has afforded me the opportunity to become very familiar with commercial software options for synchronous delivery. A significant advantage to using a commercial product vs an open source product are the features available. Technology is great when it’s great. Technology, however, often derails. When that happens the jumble can stop instruction in its tracks. But features come at a price. If it comes to using a product that is open source to using no product at all, then open source it is.  

I decided to do a comparison between Adobe Connect and Big Blue Button to highlight some of the features each has to offer. Most commercial products offer similar features to Adobe Connect.

Adobe Connect runs about $500 per year subscription which is for 25 participants. So if you were supporting multiple classrooms, that would get steep fast! For that you get:

Conference Features
Annotation and Drawing Tools, Application Sharing, Audio, Co-Browsing, Desktop Sharing, File Transfer, Instant Messaging, Screen Sharing, Slide Show, Video/Webcam, and Whiteboards
Invitation Features
Ad-Hoc/Instant Meetings and Calendar for Meetings
Security Features One Time Password and Security Control Over Desktop Sharing
Meeting Follow-up Features Meeting Recording/ Playback, Participant Reporting, and Surveys and Polls


Big Blue Button, on the other hand, is open source, so there is no subscription fee. This could be a saving grace for an organization, or teacher, looking to add a virtual dimension to the learning environment. The services offered include:

Conference Features
Annotation and Drawing Tools, Audio, Desktop Sharing, Full Screen/ Partial Screen Mode, Instant Messaging, Slide Show, Video/Webcam, and Whiteboards
Invitation Features
Schedule Meetings
Security Features
Meeting Follow-up Features Meeting Recording/ Playback and Surveys and Polls

An open source application might take precedence over a commercial product for a small to medium sized entity that was simply looking for a place to house a meeting, not necessarily great for instructing.

The functions are limited in an open source space, like file sharing, application sharing, and screen sharing. These tools can be significant for instruction, demonstration, and evaluation.

In open source spaces, meetings have to be scheduled and cannot just “happen on the fly”. There is no participant reporting and no security protocol, priority issues to consider when choosing between Open Source and Commercial Software.

Generally speaking, the commercial software offers much more than open source software. In this case – you get what you pay for!

Describing Roles and Functions in Online Learning Environments 1.2.1

I am experienced as an online learner and as a professional online instructor and content developer. I began my online career as a corporate trainer and quickly found that there are a lot of cogs in the wheel of a successful online learning community. The roles are relatively straightforward for the students, designers, and administrators. The instructor, however, must wear many hats in an online community.

As the instructor, my role was clearly defined as a facilitator to learning. The information was readily available; it was my job to present it and cause students to be more engaged and invested in the learning, monitor their progress and report that in SIS.  Though my role was defined, it was also extremely adaptive. Sometimes I was simply a moderator, other times a technologist and always a subject matter specialist.  Salmon (2001) describes an online instructor as an e-moderator, the person who is responsible for responding to and building on the contributions of others to facilitate learning.

Some of the primary functions may include:

  • pacing curriculum
  • instructional methods
  • establishing time parameters
  • delivery and platform expertise
  • responding to technical concerns
  • assessing efficacy
  • Maintaining records in the student information system (SIS)
  • Navigation of the learning management system (LMS) to provide methods and gather resources
  • establishing netiquette

The role of the learner is that of the participant in an on-line community. The learner is responsible for becoming part of the learning community and retains that autonomy throughout the course using the student information system (SIS). My experience has shown that time management is a significant factor for students new to an online learning model. Without face to face instruction, the instructor cannot read between the lines and gauge how the learner is fairing. Students have to assume the responsibility of registering, paying for, and actively working with the community to develop their understanding of the material. They essentially are responsible for their differentiated learning.

The administrator is like the conductor. They maintain that courses are offered, facilitate student scheduling, and ensure that learning and teaching are happening by enforcing policy and monitoring student progress. An administrator may also encourage professional development and see that instructors are utilizing the tools of the trade to their fullest potential. The administrator will work with the content development team to ensure that course offerings are available in the LMS and resources are in place to support the instructor’s facilitation of the material.

Virtual learning doesn’t just happen. It is a process that involves a team of people engineering a seamless experience for the learner. There are many overlapping concepts, and each person has a role to play.



Delineating Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Content 1.1.1

As a virtual instructor in the corporate world, I utilized both synchronous and asynchronous instructional methods. I met with my students daily for four hours in an adobe connect classroom and then students continued their learning through Email and on-line discussion. And finally, they had to demonstrate their learning using the companies actual systems and work with customers on live calls.

I also taught health and nutrition to college students using a blended model. We met once a week in a brick and mortar and the rest of the instruction occurred via the internet through instructional video conferencing, content specific games, ePortfolios, collaborative forums and social media.

Currently, I teach in a traditional brick and mortar high school. We adopted a one-to-one plan last year and every student now has a laptop provided by the school. My classroom became a blended classroom because of the knowledge I brought with me from the corporate world. I had an advantage, most teachers really struggled with how to utilize the technology in the classroom. For the most part, they did not utilize them at all or only as word processing tools.

Creating a blended classroom without any training is just about impossible in my opinion. Fortunately, my experience provided me with the background I needed to really utilize the tools at hand. The kids were working on ePortfolios, eNotebooks, and on-line discussion boards. The ability to use a rotating station model really allowed me to differentiate instruction for my students with disabilities and offered remediation time that I otherwise could not have provided in class. The real-time data provided a window into how students were doing with the information and made very clear those areas in which they struggled.

I really don’t have a preference between asynchronous or synchronous classes. They both have merit and offer unlimited potential for learning. Ideally, how one learns, will be the best indicator for which model is the one for them.


Digital Health Quest 4.1.3

Practicing wellness is something most of us do not think about. Wellness doesn’t usually come into play until we are either already ill or afraid of becoming ill for some reason. If we are lucky, the issue of wellness won’t present itself for discussion until we are faced with the reality of aging.

I include a personal practice daily for wellness that includes mindfulness, yoga, and healthy eating. Wellness like anything we do well takes practice.

Today’s student is much less likely to get in the movement that my generation did every day. I was always outside or in the pool playing at something. I rarely sat down to watch something. I rode my bike everywhere and obesity was not even a blip on the conversational radar. So what changed?

Technology. The great big world became so small that we don’t even need to leave our homes to experience it. The information revolution changed everything, including how we relate to physical health and wellness.

Life has become one big scheduling event for a lot of people, myself included. So I have developed my own method of prioritizing wellness and health.

Addiction is rampant in our society. Drugs, alcohol, food, and technology. The Help Guide offers support on-line for anyone seeking guidance for mental, emotional, and social health. I like the information presented in this guide because it is not to heady and can be utilized by anyone. You don’t need to have a degree in psychology to benefit from the articles.

I have recently engaged in a program called Mindful Schools. This organization works to offer solutions to the toxic stress that life demands consistently outpace a person’s ability to cope.

Toxic stress in students

  • impairs attention
  • effects emotion and mood regulation
  • disrupts sleep
  • interferes with learning readiness

Toxic stress in teachers

  • decreases productivity and creativity
  • increases the frequency of anxiety and depression
  • leads to frustration and disassociation
  • increases the turn-over rate

Organization can go a long way to helping avoid the pitfalls of over scheduling. I forget half of what I was going to do some days, simply because I failed to write it down. Taking time to care for me is often the first thing to suffer. So I schedule it into my daily life. Calendars can be wonderful tools, but if you have one for work, one for home, and one for whatever, things get left behind. For me having a central organization tool is imperative. I use Todoist. It’s an app right on my browser, phone, Outlook at work, iPad…you get the drift, it’s easy and offers me the down and dirty no excuses tool I need to stay on track. Here is a picture of my daily screen reminders.

I use Todoist. It’s free. It’s an app right on my browser, phone, Outlook at work, iPad…you get the drift, it’s easy and offers me the down and dirty no excuses tool I need to stay on track. Here is a picture of my daily screen reminders. I use the free version, it has plenty of options, more than I need for my daily wellness tasks. I love that I can schedule my tasks priority as a 1,2 or 3 and that I can create my own categories. It’s hard to see I know, but hey, free version. This list below shows my category of Wellness expanded with my daily mindfulness and yoga practices scheduled as a priority 1.


Wellness takes practice. It doesn’t just happen. Conscious choice leads us to have happy and productive lives. Digital health is a part of what that looks like in today’s society.

Digital Safety and Security 4.1.2

student searching internet on laptop computer clipart

Knowledge is the key to understanding. That is true when it comes to internet safety as well. When considering how to keep ourselves and our students digitally safe, we must first consider the audience. I teach in a high school. Students routinely put themselves “out there” leaving their digital impressions hundreds of times a day without a second thought about how that can impact their present and future lives.

Our school adopted a 1 to 1 program through Common Sense Media. We began the school year with a five-day required program in which students and teachers participated by watching videos and joining in Kahoot games to answer a series of reflection questions about digital citizenship and safety. Throughout the lessons, I repeatedly heard students comment about how they had no idea “that” was even possible, or I never thought about “how” that might affect my ability to get into a good school.

I believe awareness is the most important thing when it comes to protecting ourselves and our students in this digital world. Some of the strategies I use in class include an introductory lesson on digital citizenship and internet safety. I monitor all the digital spaces my students have access to for inappropriate or  compromising material. If I do run across something questionable, I will address the post with the student directly and show them how such information can impact them.

Even if a student never posts a negative thing on the internet, they can still expose themselves to danger. According to Kasperski, a first step towards securing your devices and protecting yourself online is ensuring you have a good understanding of the major categories of malware and other threats.

What is Malware?

The name malware is short for ‘malicioussoftware’. Malware includes any software program that has been created to perform an unauthorized — and often harmful — action on a user’s device. Examples of malware include:

  • Computer viruses
  • Word and Excel macro viruses
  • Boot sector viruses
  • Script viruses — including batch, Windows shell, Java, and others
  • Keyloggers
  • Password stealers
  • Backdoor Trojan viruses
  • Other Trojan viruses
  • Crimeware
  • Spyware
  • Adware… and many other types of malicious software programs

But, malware is not the only threat to our students. According to, cyberbullying has become a hot topic in education. The bully is no longer restricted to the playground or the lunchroom or the bus stop. Cyber bullies can reek havoc in their victims’ life.

Once posted the damage is almost impossible to undo and can lead to public ridicule, and in tragic cases suicide. Creating an environment of positivity when involving students in a DLC is one way to ensure a safe space for students to learn and develop academically. Encourage other students to DoSomething if they witness cyberbullying. Involving young people in social change is the only way cyberspace will ever become self-regulating.

Talk to parents, and offer them direction for developing strategies at home. An example may be the development of a social media agreement. Setting expectations ahead of issues is a lot easier that trying to quiet an angry storm that’s raging. There are many tools available that allow you to put your rules in writing. LifeLock offers the smart talk which offers many options for parents including a smart talk guide.

Digital Safety is really everyone’s business. Katie Greer got a lot of attention in Massachusetts when she started talking about the connection to crimes against children and the internet. Today she travels the country giving talks on Stranger Danger and Cyberbullying.

“I think everybody is looking for a special tool that is going to combat all of these things, but I think education is the best tool,” Greer says. “The biggest thing is awareness and constant conversation around the topic.”

Digital Rights and Responsibilities 4.1.1

Establishing and maintaining a successful DLC where citizens understand, observe, and are inclined to willingly support and ultimately benefit from Digital Rights and Responsibilities takes planning. Knowing the word ethics and being able to apply the concept of ethical behavior is something that all human beings struggle with from time to time. The digital environment is often perceived as an anonymous platform and digital misbehavior is often perceived to be victimless

Knowing the word ethics and being able to apply the concept of ethical behavior is something that all human beings struggle with from time to time. The digital environment is often perceived as an anonymous platform. Digital misbehavior is often perceived to be victimless.

Developing an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is paramount in the process of defining what is deemed acceptable behavior from users of any electronic system being utilized in a digital learning environment. As an educator, the AUP is the first line of defense when it comes to keeping students safe and teaching them to respect themselves and others online.

An AUP should address personal safety and intellectual property in its scope and should comply with E-rate requirements. This E-rate toolkit from Common Sense Media is a great one. I especially like the family toolkit option for connecting families to the conversation of Digital Citizenship.

The enforcement of the AUP falls on the commitment of the entire learning community and is only as strong as the commitment to enforce it.


Digital Resources and Netiquette 3.1.2

Digital etiquette, or netiquette as its sometimes called, is a basic set of rules you should follow in order to make the internet better for others, and better for you. It’s just as important to treat people with courtesy and respect online as it is in real life.

I have the Padlet I created and two additional links below that offer some ideas for incorporating Netiquette into your instruction. Having students research and develop their own Padlet or Poster is a great way to get them involved in creating the concept of Netiquette for their own social behavior.

Mrs. E’s Padlet on Netiquette

Brainpop also has a great program with teachable lessons on Netiquette 

Pinterest has some great reproducible posters and some ready-made programs for instructional use.

Access to the Digital Community 3.1.1

When we think of internet access, or wait do we actually think of that at all. Because I work in a low-income school district, I am more aware than I used to be regarding the disparity of access amongst my students.

The Broadband Availability Gap research is a real eye opener when we start to look beyond the advertisements for the next whammy dine service available. Though a heady piece of research, for those of us that are data-driven, it may just change previous assumptions.

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It is a site worth exploring and in my case, I will return often for updates and trends. Technology is only one of dozens of topics, check it out.

According to Digital Differences research conducted by Pew, differences in internet access still exist among various demographic groups, especially among high-speed broadband access at home.  1 in 5 Americans does not use the internet. Some of the factors that influence a lack  of internet use include:

  • Lower Income – Below 30K
  • Lower education rates
  • Age – specifically senior citizens
  • Citizens with disabilities

Cost and relevance are the primary reasons cited for nonuse.

Cord Cutters

More people are connecting via smartphone and cutting the cord to broadband commitment at home. Though this may result in lower bills, it comes at a price. According to Pew data, among smartphone owners, young adults, minorities, those with no college experience, and those with lower household income levels are more likely than other groups to say that their phone is their main source of internet access. Device only users are more likely than others to run up against:

  • Data-cap limits
  • Canceled or suspended service
  • Challenge when filling out applications and other forms
  • Limited visual quality

Those without home high-speed service face a major disadvantage when it comes to accessing government services, searching for employment, following the news, learning new things, or getting health information.

Non-broadband adopters are increasingly likely to view lack of broadband as a disadvantage in key areas of life

Suffice to say, the internet is important to everyone and some people are getting left behind.


How Can We Increase Digital Inclusion?

Technology and internet access strategies for individuals include (but are not limited to!):

  • Public access computers.
  • Computers accessible to defined populations (such as residents of a housing complex).
  • Free wifi hotspots.
  • Low-cost options for home computer purchasing.
  • Partnering with broadband providers to offer low-cost broadband.
  • Extending broadband service into rural areas lacking reasonable cost high-speed broadband.

Read our National Broadband Plan. Get involved, share ideas, don’t assume.