Why I became a STEM or STEAM Educator

I enjoy making a difference, learning new things, motivating others, and providing a leadership role assisting K12 students and teachers with improving instructional design via learning technology.

Recently, I was asked to reflect about my STEM career role to young girls and to share with a larger audience using #STEMDaisies. I would like to share my reflection now and encourage other ladies serving in STEM career fields to reach out and do the same.

Pedagogical Tool Review: Wiggio (A Desire2Learn Productivity Platform)

Originally posted on jennysmoore:

When I set out to do a review of a pedagogical tool to facilitate student-centered learning by fostering engagement in either a hybrid or online-only course, I intended to focus on the a variety of tools embedded within Desire2Learn (D2L) that could be used for just such a purpose, but the uniqueness and complexity of Wiggio, a productivity platform used to facilitate group meetings and collaboration, necessitated an in-depth look at this particular tool. The capabilities offered by Wiggio are not new, but what Wiggio does that many platforms do not is offer a combination of capabilities that is usually achieved through the use of multiple platforms or programs, and while Wiggio is embedded in D2L, those who do not use the D2L learning platform can still benefit from Wiggio.

Wiggio, which is marketed primarily to academic communities, offers a host of productivity and collaborative tools ranging from a convenient…

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Part 1: Digital Citizenship Education… Over 20 Essential Resources

Originally posted on 21 st Century Educational Technology and Learning:


Welcome to a series that examines the importance of facilitating digital citizenship with today’s students. First, to ensure you do not miss one of these valuable posts or other resources covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, Web 2.0, STEM, 21st century learning, and technology integration, please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS.  As always,  I invite you to follow me on twitter (@mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on. Have a great week – Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech)

Booking Info – Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference?  I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have done 100′s of workshops and presentations.  Check out my Booking Page… Please contact me soon if you have an interest. It is not to early…

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Motivate, Engage, and Empower Through Knowledge Visualization


A process piloted in rural Texas employing ‘the arts” to assist low income student to become more engaged and excited about STEM topics related to space weather is described below. The program inspired students to reflect on vocabulary to a larger community via digital art. Students later were able to participate in lab activities to further explore topics related to magnetism and solar energy.

Originally posted on Tom R. Chambers:

During the 2011-2012 school year, I worked with eighth grade students to motivate, engage and empower them to pay attention to and understand/retain content in the Sciences (Space weather). The bigger picture involved us with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission: a Solar Terrestrial Probes mission comprising four identically instrumented spacecraft that will use Earth’s magnetosphere as a laboratory to study the microphysics of three fundamental plasma processes: magnetic reconnection, energetic particle acceleration, and turbulence. The mission will be launched in October of this year (2014).

The above processes are not only a “mouthful”, but also an immediate put-off for today’s young generation mainly because they (processes) are perceived as difficult and boring. Difficulty calls forth boredom for their young minds … any mind, perhaps … and consequently, there is no appreciable interest.

In order to generate interest and defuse this perceived difficulty, knowledge visualization was pursued to make Digital Art…

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3D printing in the math classroom

3D printing in the math classroom.

When Someone Else Takes Credit


Words of wisdom: “Every challenge has become an opportunity to dig even deeper wells of personal integrity and practical wisdom.”

Originally posted on The ART of Business:


Have you ever worked long and hard on a project, only to have a coworker sweep in and be recognized or take credit for what you accomplished?  Or perhaps you have been in a team scenario where the team’s success has ridden primarily on your hidden efforts.

I have.  More than once.

We may smile and nod, say it’s OK–we understand.  Remind ourselves, after all, “There’s no I in team.”  But deep inside it is not OK and our trust becomes a little more fragile, our relationships more cautious, our cards more tightly held.

There may be no “I” in team, but there is certainly a M-E.  There’s no team without M-E.

Teamwork should be about bringing our best selves to the issues at hand,  weaving our gifts together with others creating a synergy of the whole that is far greater than the mere summation of the parts.  Synergy cannot…

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You can survive.

6100 Course Reflection

As a result of the 6100 course, I have developed a personal theory of learning, applied instructional design approaches employing my personal theory of learning, and created a research proposal exploring teacher STEM perceptions in online and conventional learning environments. I have a deeper understanding of how Piaget’s theory of constructivism connects to Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism to Paper’s theory on constructionism. Prior to this course, I did not have a strong background in learning theory as it applies to instructional design approaches. Also, I was able to create two instructional activities with two colleagues exploring topics associated with alternative energy and fabrication printing employing the 5E instructional model and product based learning instructional model. Both activities included considerations for online instructional delivery. In addition, I was able to improve my ability to provide professional development using the Canvas learning management system (LMS).

I was able to participate as a student in an online course that modeled true social presence, cognitive presence, and teacher presence. Instructors met with students twice a week, coaching students on advanced learning theory topics. Without the consistent feedback and collaborative exchanges received by both peers and instructors, I would possess required skill sets needed to complete a PhD study. My understanding of learning theory was very vague, and the collaborative synchronous meetings helped me fill in the missing gaps. I was redirected to improve my understanding of how to apply learning theory to instructional design models, and began to approach instructional design differently.

During this course, I was able to further my research in STEM and STEAM research initiatives and found that little to no research exists regarding online STEM professional development approaches. This is a huge finding for me, as I now have a clearer understanding on the direction my studies could go as I approach dissertation study. I hope to utilize instructional design activities developed this spring using a professional development STEAM Camp K12 MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which was released for registration in Canvas’s Open Network yesterday. I would like to compare teacher STEM perceptions in online MOOC professional development to face-to-face professional development and hope to complete a mixed methods study doing so this summer.

Finally, I learned how to overcome obstacles and persevere during this process. The workload required this spring was heavy, but the work load  is preparing me for the final dissertation study. My writing process  has improved this spring, which is another benefit to blog postings required in the 6100 course. I was able to strengthen my connections with my online peers, through a stronger collaborative exchange. Activities required in this course paired me with three other cadre colleagues in which I had yet to work with. Our products and learning artifacts were strong and I enjoyed getting to know Bob Kaiser, Jarred Vanscoder, and October Smith this semester. Collaborative exchanges and discourse provided additional depth to my learning experience.

To sign up for the Canvas STEAM Camp Professional development MOOC, visit Canvas’s Open Network. Registration is up and the course begins June 2, 2014 and last for a 5 week period.

MOOCS: An Alternative to Professional Development and Lifelong Learning

What do you think the future of MOOCs is? What about mobile learning?Are these things you feel are going to be beneficial or will there be a backlash?

Richard Ferdig’s (2014) insight on how the rapid explosion of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS) continues to transform online learning within higher ed and professional development programs is thought provoking. The MOOC K12 phenomenon presents leadership with emerging issues and challenges regarding the quality of online instruction and the rapid need to transform K12 institutions to embrace 21st century learning communities. It is important for K12 teachers and leaders to engage in the MOOC world and enroll in a few MOOCS to gain an understanding and perspective on the future of online education. Ferdig’s (2014) research is correct to point out three findings, which is intended to assist in integrating technology appropriately to meet such challenges.

  1. Not all MOOCS are created equally.  Connected learning principles, cMOOCS , focus on knowledge creation, collaboration, and generation. xMOOCS, however, concentrate on knowledge dissemination. It is highly important that curriculum leaders, who in my opinion should be highly skilled in educational technology, evaluate MOOCS. Does the MOOC employ an instructional model aligning to pedagogical beliefs? Is feedback produced within the MOOC environment? How is learning accessed? 
  2. MOOC participants are self starters, or self directed learners, which means the motivation element exists. How would this look in a K12 environment? Interactivity is a huge consideration. Peer support can assist in providing interactivity.
  3. MOOCS facilitate conversations, engaging a very diverse audience, which can deepen the learning experience.

Will MOOCS replace face to face institutions or online learning university programs? MOOC completion rates are low, as MOOCS are free. Students enrolled in a for credit course pay to attend school, which includes an economic motivator that is perhaps missing within the current MOOC environment (Billsberry 2013). All 21st century instructors will need to up their game and become top instructors, as students now have options. How can this be accomplished? Improved online instruction can exist with instructors improving conversation,  facilitating and providing feedback in a timely fashion. Students will have the ability to preview what they pay for. Will MOOCS hurt postsecondary and for profit professional development organizations? My assessment is that MOOCS will push faculty, K12 instructors and leaders to become better. MOOCS will continue to provide equal access to knowledge and improve the overall online learning environment. This will continue to push the world into a new era, as knowledge will be attainable for the first time in third world counties. This could mean that K12 US education will need to refocus efforts on new ways to improve academic motivation as US students will now compete with a more educated global world. It is very unlikely that universities will begin closing their doors. However, maybe it is time for universities and K12 institutions to hire faculty and teachers who have a strong background in learning theory, instructional design, and ed tech. Serious conversations within K12 institutions on the purpose of why we are really here will need to be continued. Students will now have more options and school choices via online platforms to select a pathway to help them obtain a job, particularly secondary students. MOOCS will push all educational environments to reconsider approaches to meet student needs and skill sets needed in the 21st century.

Billsberry, J. (2013). MOOCs: Fad or Revolution? Journal of Management Education, 37(6), 739–746. doi:10.1177/1052562913509226

Ferdig, R. E. (2014). PREPARING FOR K-12 MOOCS. Tech & Learning, 34(6), 26-27.

What did you learn from your experience using social media and other open source tools?

What did you learn from your experience using social media and other open source tools? Should they be used for teaching and learning? Tell the story of what you learned

Social media has changed my approach to learning, both a student and as an educator. I can leverage social media to collaborate, research, publish, and extend learning beyond my local environment. Also, I am allowed to showcase a reflection to a wider audience and this motivates me to want to learn and share more. Self directed learning is empowering. The social element provided within social media environments allow for a more free flowing approach to communication (Taylor, King, & Nelson, 2012). The freedom of information via social media provides educational platforms to users and students across the world. This presents both advantages and disadvantages to learning.

In a recent study, Fewkes & McCabe (2012) surveyed students and found that majority of participants, 73%, believed Facebook could be used as an educational tool,  citing benefits to include collaboration, homework assistance, productivity, and easier communication. However, only 27% of students surveyed had a teacher include Facebook in a learning activity. This to me signifies the largest issue facing schools. Teachers have had little training on how to integrate technology and social media into instructional activities. The learning curve is rapidly changing, Instructors need to not only learn how to utilize social media tools to advance their own personal learning, and they now must also leverage social media tools to facilitate a deeper learning experience. This requires strong professional development, time and support.

It is important that a teacher be present online and involves students to become both producers and contributors within a social media environment. Ignoring social media doesn’t provide solutions and fails students. Teachers and schools must model 21st century skill sets to students. Educational programs should promote social media tools and demonstrate appropriate use to a wider community. How will students choose to utilize social media tools if they are not exposed to using tools to advance a quest for knowledge? Social media provides classrooms with an opportunity to increase cognitive presence, teacher presence, and social presence, providing a more meaningful learning experience.

In 2010, I was a participating in a Twitter educational  chat when I began corresponding with other educators about integration practices. From this experience, I was provided a link to a program in which my life significantly changed. Due to a  Twitter PLN, I found myself two months later working on a curriculum packages with top ed tech and science teachers. Our product was shared with the world using a variety of tools via Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and Google+. A direct result of me participating in a self directed Twitter edtech chat, led me towards coauthoring curriculum and sharing experiences to the entire world. As a result, I decided to attempt to earn a PhD in Learning Technologies and cognitive systems. In addition, students in rural Texas received funding and recognition. Twitter has significantly changed the playing field. There is now a living conversation that continues on topics I am passionate about. I get to collaborate with like minded professionals about real world problems and we seek solutions. I have learned that I am not alone. There are many teachers eager to change the world and make a difference. Many instructional technologists feel alone and pioneers in the field often do find themselves struggling to meet demands. It is difficult to be in the trenches, but the reward of  learning outcomes shared within a social environment is worth is great.

Hunter & Caraway (2014) illustrate the importance of participating in social networking, as tools are becoming a very popular place for 21st century youth to construct, articulate, and participate in their own reality. Young people are already involved in fundamental acts of teaching and learning and employ social media to do so. Hunter & Caraway (2014) conducted a study with 30 ELA ninth grade and 10th grade students in an urban area, using Twitter as a means to have students organize, facilitate, and disseminate topics related to literacy and literature. Students became more engaged, and participation increased. Students appreciated experiences and developed academic identities, which was previously missing.

Hashtags provide students with a voice. I attempted to give students this ability in a rural town in Texas. I will never forget the day our Tweets landed a local DFW reporter in our classroom. We led a national campaign to help our rural community gain attention. Students developed a campaign and for 3 months began creating content, videos, and utilizing social media to save a local business. Students utilized the TwitterMapApp and we could see our message spreading over the world. Students became very engaged and began to care about learning. We could see visually see on Twitter and on the map the power of an idea and were able to view a movement take place. This was a powerful event in which I had the privilege of facilitating.

I have learned that social media can be utilized to provide for a richer learning experience. It levels the playing field, provides students with the ability to construct new knowledge by giving students access to multiple perspectives. Reflections are very empowering, and it is important that K12 classrooms help students develop an academic identify online. I have learned that those who ignore this problem will find themselves still encountering issues associated with social media. Reimagning instructional approaches employing social media platforms are essential to producing a transformative 21st century learning environment.

Be a participant, producer, reader, and contributor. Model appropriate learning and share experiences. Social media platforms serve to help push our students to become academic contributors.

Hunter, J. D., & Caraway, H. J. (2014). Urban youth use twitter to transform learning and engagement. English Journal, 103(4), 76-82.

Fewkes, A. M., & McCabe, M. (2012). Facebook: Learning Tool or Distraction?. Journal Of Digital Learning In Teacher Education, 28(3), 92-98.

Taylor, R., Dr, King, F., Dr, & Nelson, G., Dr. (2012). Student learning through social media. Journal of Sociological Research, 3(2), 29-35.


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