education / Online Classes

15 Take-aways from Online Grad School Classes

edtechTwo of my summer online classes–MTI 562 (the Tech-infused Teacher) and MTI 563 (the Differentiated Teacher)–just ended. More than a dozen of us–teachers, library media specialists, tech integrationists, lab teachers–gathered virtually for five weeks to experiment with some of the hottest tech tools available for the classroom–Google Apps, differentiation options, digital storytelling, visual learning, Twitter, blogs, backchannels, digital citizenship, assessment, and more. Sessions were run like a flipped classroom where attendees accessed daily topics, read/watched materials, tested their knowledge, experimented with projects. In some cases, they failed and tried again–and shared with classmates what went wrong and how it was fixed–or how they attempted to fix it. They chatted with colleagues on discussion boards, blogs, and Twitter. They asked the class mentor (aka, guide or teacher) questions on class topics or any tech ed issue they needed help on. Once a week, we got together virtually (Google Hangout or TweetUp) to share ideas, answer questions, and discuss nuances.

Some of the problems students faced down:

  • How to use twitter
  • How to use GHO
  • How to make a webtool interactive
  • How to work tech tools into their unique student groups
  • How to create screencasts and screenshots
  • How to create professional blogs
  • How to embed materials into digital portfolios
  • How to create a vibrant, healthy Personal Learning Network

Now as I wave goodbye to these students I’ve only known five weeks, here are my takeaways:

  1. I’ve enjoyed meeting online to chat on blogs, help each other on the Discussion Forums, mull over ideas on the Google Hangouts, and explore TweetUps. I will miss this collaboration and communication.
  2. I’ve been impressed with the growth in each student. Though they had options, most picked webtools they didn’t know how to use. When they had problems, they asked classmates for help and often received it. This is a healthy PLN in action!how i learn poster
  3. Often, I heard ‘Now I know how my students feel’–in reference to trying a tool that just wouldn’t do what it was supposed to.
  4. Because this was an online class, learning broke out everywhere. I had students join the weekend Google Hangouts and TweetUps from baseball games, campsites, and in a car (on its way from here to there). That is today’s learning–taking it to students.
  5. I’m always surprised what resonates with teachers. It reinforces the importance of options, involving students in decisions, and differentiating.
  6. Lots (and lots) of schools are not 1:1, making do with shared carts of digital devices.
  7. Lots (and lots) of students don’t have internet access at home. As educators, we need to remember this.
  8. Screencasting was quite popular in these two classes as well as Summer PD workshop. It wasn’t familiar to all–or even a majority–of the teachers, turned out to be quite easy, and had lots of useful applications to their classes.
  9. Another popular tool: Thinglink. It offered the right balance between intuitive and robust.
  10. Listening to our GHOs reinforced that lots of students aren’t ready for PARCC/SB tests because they aren’t comfortable with keyboarding skills like key placement, drag-and-drop, highlighting, copy-pasting, and more. Happily, schools are addressing this issue with a variety of creative methods.
  11. Attendees were expected to experiment with lots of apps in these classes. Several students shared that this plethora of many and varied online tools was almost making the integration of tech into ed more difficult. Why? Because there was too much information–how does a good teacher select the Perfect App? What many schools are adopting is an approach that focuses on five apps for the year, get all teachers comfortable with them and knowledgeable in how to apply them in a wide variety of ed circumstances. This is reminiscent of the early tech days when everyone used just three tech tools: Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Teachers were comfortable with those programs, students learned them and then applied. All stakeholders (including parents) easily understood projects created using these common tools.
  12. It was noted by several HS teachers in the group that it’s difficult to teach keyboarding in high school because students think they know that subject–even if they don’t.
  13. All students understood the importance of teaching digital citizenship, but often there was no cohesive plan to organically blend lessons into classes where students use the internet.
  14. TweetUps worked best with larger groups. There need to be enough participants to fill the posting lags that are inherent to communicating with non-visual methods.
  15. A lot of students hadn’t used Google Hangouts before. By our third session, everyone was comfortable enough to troubleshoot connection issues when necessary.

A comment from one student:

As a teacher I was not sure what to expect from this course. I found that much of what I currently do in the classroom has been validated. However and more importantly, I learned many new instruction and assessment strategies (along with some new tech tools) that I can now use and apply to improve the learning in my classroom. Thanks everyone!

Want more student perspectives? Check out these class blogs:


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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

29 thoughts on “15 Take-aways from Online Grad School Classes

  1. I’ve taken online classes before, but without interaction with anyone except the professor. I think I had to use a message board with only one class, but that was about it. This takes things to a whole new level to work and learn with others.


    • I know a lot of classes like that. Mine’s different, which frightens students at first, but then they get to love it. An important part of teaching is building a network of professionals you trust. Through classes like this, I hope to help others do that.


  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed the experience. It must be bitter sweet when classes come to an end. I think I mentioned before that I’ve never taken an online class, but now I totally want to!🙂


    • I would think you are more the norm, but some study I read in the last few months said many students have taken online classes as part of their regular curriculum. Yet, both of my children (20 somethings) are doing their Masters the traditional way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I heard a similar statistic in the UK – that students are choosing online classes in addition to the regular curriculum. It certainly makes sense, given the amount of time this generation spend on the computer! Someone told me about an online criminology course, and the subject has always been on my list! I’m really tempted – especially now, when classes are more interactive and students can chat with each other🙂


  3. Jacqui – two tings
    Ting 1: Please post, on this blog, classes you have coming up. I’m too lazy to access your other blogs to find out about what you offer.

    Ting 2: Can you offer mini-classes or tutorials for those of us lay people who want to learn more but don’t have the interest, time, energy to take a full-blown class?


      • Since I’m so LOW-tech to begin with I don’t even know what is out there to learn that might be fun, helpful etc.

        How to set up an EASY store on a blog
        How to work tech tools into blogs
        How to create a digital portfolio

        Your points seem like possible starters:
        How to use twitter (I don’t even know how to use hashtags . . .)
        How to use GHO (I don’t even know what GHO is, so not sure if I want to learn it)
        How to make a webtool interactive
        How to create screencasts and screenshots
        How to create professional blogs
        How to embed materials into digital portfolios
        How to create a vibrant, healthy Personal Learning Network


      • That’s a great list. We can meet via Google Hangout and chip away at them. I’ll be able to show you exactly how to do this by sharing my screen and you sharing yours.

        Which do you want to start with and when? Shall we invite Shari?


  4. It’s truly amazing what is going’ on within the world of education! I had take a course about tech writing– actually had blast using those sites ( what they were where named I’ve forgotten!! ). If I hadn’t screwed-up my Pell grants, I would love to go back to classes!


  5. Differentiation options? Backchannels? GHO?

    I’m apparently more clueless than I thought. I have no idea what these things are… (Then again, I also have no idea how to use Twitter, either. But at least I know what it is.)


  6. “This is reminiscent of the early tech days when everyone used just three tech tools: Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. ”

    Yeah, I’m still working on these basics.


  7. Read with interest. My “work” is ELearning; for working professionals. It has its challenges, but can help reach out to a much larger population, in a much more cost-effective manner. Also, the array of tech choices available is bewildering. For students as well as teachers. Your two courses seem like steps in the right direction for participants.


  8. ‘It was noted by several HS teachers in the group that it’s difficult to teach keyboarding in high school because students think they know that subject–even if they don’t.’

    I used to have exactly this problem with writing. Students thought they could write because they could put one word after another. How to operate the recoding studio, on the other hand, there they knew they couldn’t do it and were open to help.


    • Interesting. My daughter thought she could write when she arrived in HS and found out there was more to it than using big words. Luckily, her mind was open and she had several friends who were amazing writers which motivated her.

      I’ve had a variety of MS students eager for HS because they’d learn recording.

      Liked by 1 person

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