Archive for August, 2011

Online Learning: My Pre-Test

I recently took an online professional development course offered by the Massachussetts School Psychologists Association entitled Ethics 102: The Ethical Practitioner.  It provided me with ten hours of NASP-approved PD, plus helped me satisfy my National Certification in School Psychology requirement of three hours of ethics training per three-year renewal cycle (my new cycle just started at the end of July).

Beyond the immediate benefits, however, I thought it would be a good “dry run” of online learning for me, as my upcoming doctoral program is a hybrid online/F2F format.  Having been through graduate school once before, I’m familiar with the F2F part, but I’m curious as to what the online part will look like.  With my first online learning experience now behind me, I thought I’d write down some of my initial reflections on the process.  Please note that what follows is not a critique or endorsement of the content of this program, but rather the online format.


My biggest takeaway from this experience was how much I liked setting my own pace and focus.  This course covered a broad array of topics under the “ethics” umbrella, and as I expected, I was more knowledgeable in some areas than others.  The fact that this course was available online meant that I didn’t have to sit in a lecture hall or hotel conference room and be spoken to (or worse, read a PowerPoint).  I was able to wear what was comfortable and sit where I wanted (I completed most of this course horizontal on my living room sofa).  I was able to skim over some parts, and spend more time focusing on others, both in reading more closely and in utilizing external resources to learn more.  While the course provides the same content for anyone who takes it, the asynchronous nature of the delivery allows for greater differentiation than the standard lecture hall setting.


That said, I acknowledge that reading text is far and away my preferred method of receiving information.  I’d sooner sit and read than watch a video or listen to a recording, at least for academic purposes.  As such, this particular course was right up my alley (about 200 pages or so of reading), but I can see how folks with preferences for audio or video might find this format limiting or off-putting.  Also, while the course did allow for self-reflection with some case study-style exercises, the drawback to self-study is that you’ve only got yourself to work with.  Here is where having someone else in the room to bounce ideas off of or discuss options with would come in handy.

Final Thoughts

As part of the course evaluation, I left this comment for the folks at MSPA:

I would be very likely to take another online-only course for NASP-approved hours.  I am not always able to attend NASP-approved events in my area due to my own professional and personal scheduling constraints, and I applaud the MSPA and NASP for promoting online learning opportunities for their members.  I wish more state associations would follow suit.

My own state school psychologists association usually has two conferences a year, but I have only been able to attend one or two in the last six due to demands at work.  The national association convention is in a different city every year, and long-distance travel hasn’t been in my budget for some time (although I do hope to attend the 2012 NASP Convention right here in Philadelphia!).  That leaves me very few options for obtaining those necessary NASP-approved hours, but this course really fit the bill.

Although doctoral study will obviously be much more in-depth than a single PD course, I thought the experience would be a nice teaser of what’s to come.  I’m happy to say that I enjoyed my first major formal online learning experience, and I’m looking forward even more to starting the hybrid online/F2F format in a few weeks.

Research Opportunity: Writing and AAC

Normally unsolicited emails about products, guest posts, or “special opportunities” get deleted with barely a cursory skim, but I received one recently that I felt warranted a closer look, and eventually a blog post (guess there’s a first time for everything).

Samuel Sennott is a doctoral student at Penn State and the co-creator of the Proloquo2Go app for iOS.  I have seen firsthand how nonverbal students can use this software to communicate, and I can’t overstate how phenomenal an impact it has made on their confidence and independence, let alone their communication skills.

Although Sennott is no longer with Proloquo2Go, he is continuing his work in the field of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) with a research study focusing on the writing experience for middle school students who use AAC.

Further details (including how students and teachers can participate in the study) can be found on Sennott’s blog.


Leadership Day 2011: Networking 101

This is my third year participating in the Leadership Day blog carnival, organized by Dr. Scott McLeod of the University of Kentucky or Iowa State University (depending on which online bio you read), or maybe both; I’m not quite sure.  In 2009, I wrote about my experiences working for an effective school leader, and in 2010 I suggested that meaningful leadership (technology-related or otherwise) doesn’t necessarily have to come from administrators.  I’m taking a slightly different approach this year, the success of which relies heavily on input from my readers.

I read an article not too long ago (which, to my chagrin, I am unable to locate at the moment) that stated that while teachers are using online resources such as Twitter and blogs for professional networking purposes, school principals (and, presumably, other administrators) are not.  From my admittedly small sphere of reference, I find this hard to believe because I’ve been following the blogs and Tweets of principals and superintendents like Eric Sheninger, Michael Smith, Pam Moran, Patrick Larkin, Dave Sherman, Scott Elias, Melinda Miller, and many others for what feels like ages.  Beyond the text-based world, Scott and Melinda also host the excellent (but far-too-infrequently updated) Practical Principals podcast.  I assume, however, that the article author knows better than I (because otherwise I’d be writing for major blogs and magazines, right?), and that the vast majority of US school administrators are not connecting with each other online.

The summer I started Tweeting, blogging, and generally involving myself in this world of online networking with other educators (four years ago already, sheesh), I was asked in a Skype call what I felt was a barrier for other teachers to get started in these activities.  My answer then (a lack of a real clear “point of entry”) informs my contribution to Leadership Day 2011: I have created a Google Doc to which I invite you, blogging and Tweeting and Skypeing principals and administrators, to add your online info.  Feel free to add as much or as little info as you desire.  I’ve left columns for Twitter & Skype usernames, blog URLs, and specific areas of interest, among others, but please add new fields if I’ve left something important out.

My goal here is to create a document that you can hand to non-connected administrators (physically or digitally) and say, “Here’s where to start” when it comes to reading administrator-specific blogs or Twitter feeds, or who they can contact if they are interested in making connections for x or y purposes.

My thinking, of course, is that in addition to the general benefits networking affords, when more administrators understand and use these tools, there will be more support for teachers who wish to do the same, especially with their students.

Will you help build this “point of entry” directory for our yet-to-be connected colleagues?  If so, here it is.