Create 1.1.1 Time Management Quest


 Screenshot 2014-05-24 17.47.03

Spend time planning:

I have the freedom to plan my days in the way that best meets my needs.  Colors and a larger font help me plan on the computer. I use a planning tool for my basic schedule for a week.  My daily plan begins with email reading and responding. Although I check my various email accounts right before I go to bed, someone somewhere has been up while I was asleep communicating digitally with me.  Currently I have students in the PDT, MDT, CDT and Mexico and India time zones.  I do not even try to keep up with exactly what those international zone are.  I just know that as I am going to bed, my students in India are doing virtual classwork.  If I were not to tackle the emails first, there is no telling what fires I would have to put out later. There is a time for grading. Then the time for calling students and parents is later than I would like for my schedule, but it is dictated by the various time zones I deal with.

The plan includes going outside with my doggie, and eating breakfast and lunch.  The place where I am negligent and trying to change, is just getting up from the computer and walking around for a few minutes.  I tend to get so focused on the task at hand that I don’t stop frequently enough.  This is a piece of the plan I am working on.  I am considering using the alarm on my smartphone to give me reminders.


Sometimes other forces try to set a person’s priorities, but in the long run I am the one who has to prioritize for myself. Sometimes that is circumvented when a supervisor puts a task on my plate and tells me that it has priority for that time.  That does not happen often, so I have the task of determining the value of various tasks and designating what is most important.

Do the right thing right (my right):

Here is where I follow a “road less traveled” in today’s digital world.    I type on keyboards and click on screens every day.  I also use a reporter’s notebook and a pencil everyday. This started when I first began to teach online.  I would look things up, a fact would emerge,  a student’s need would pop  up, I would get the parents’ phone number, and now I would have windows open everywhere with necessary pieces of my current puzzle to solve on different screens.  I could not have each piece open and readable all at the same time. Then, I needed a log of what I was doing for verification and later on for reminders,  So I use resources on my screen and jot my notes on the reporter’s notebook.  It is just the right size to fit to the right of where I use my mouse.  I buy these in packs with colored covers,  If things are complex and I have school work going on and other issues related to my home and family, I keep two on the desk.  One for school and one for everything else.

Now, I have folders and files, color-coded and appropriately arranged in my documents on my computer.  However, I cannot count the number of times when I needed info quickly and flipping through my notebook with dated entries was a lifesaver.  On the computer I can only narrow down naming entries in my documents to a certain point, and coming up with new names for files with such repetitive information becomes difficult.  I keep all of these notebooks, they take up very little room, and they have been a saving grace many times.  I believe that we are in a digital evolutionary process.  I am just stuck with enough of my un-evolved self to still need my paper and pencil.

Less Volume, More Time:

Once I was a better multi-tasker, not outstanding, but better.  I have learned that to be more efficient I have to tackles fewer things during a day, or a week or a week-end.  I decide which few tasks need attention and I concentrate on those.  I’ll bet most of us have done this at least once.  You are working on the computer, typing away, and your cellphone rings.  You answer and tuck it up under your chin.  The caller talks, you continue to type, you acknowledge the call with some sound, and after a while you realize that you have no idea what the caller has just asked you a question about.  So, I am trying to force my self to remove my fingers from the keyboard, concentrate on the call, and then go back to the keyboard.

I have set a deadline for phone calls from students and parents at 9pm. That is when I am on my way to bed.  My cellphone does stay on the night stand by my bed because of my elderly parents, but I have learned to ignore other calls and let them go to voicemail  At worst, I have the number in calls missed and I can call back the next day.  In 1967 Charles. E. Hummel wrote a book, THE TYRANNY OF THE URGENT.  We can too easily become tyrannized by the “urgent” that really is not urgent.  We all need to remember this for our own mental, emotional and physical help…not to mention for the quality of our work…not all that seems urgent really is.

Practice Intelligent Neglect:

One of the ways my reporter’s notebook helps, is that I can jot down a concern or question, go on with the work I have planned and go back to the notebook to look at what is there.  Sometimes the issue has been resolved and sometimes the issue no longer seems critical for me.  During any given day, I re-examine what I had deemed priorities and see that which are actually pressing for me to do.

As I think about what I have just written I believe the we all need to be a bit more humane to ourselves.  We can never completely fulfill the expectations that others may set for us.  And, we need to come to terms with our own expectations of ourselves and allow ourselves to be truly human. We are dealing daily with the digital world, but the human race is not digital…yet.

Create 1.1.3 Appearances Quest


appearance TOOL

Appearance counts.  You just cannot get around it.  Most students, like most adults, respond to enticing visual stimuli with a more positive attitude than the way we respond to bland, uninteresting stimuli that does not stimulate.  Of course, too much can cause an overstimulation that shuts down productivity.  Like decorating a room, the developer should carefully choose and blend color and images to invite the person in and try to get her to investigate the subject in more depth. On some of the course assignments I viewed I thought that on all of the PDF’s of print, just one image would break the monotony of letters.

Speaking of print, thus fonts, thus font size, I was shocked at how many schools have very small fonts on their Home page, as well as their course pages. Parents are probably examining the online Home pages of these virtual schools first.  In fact, I would not be surprised if the potential students spend little to no time looking at and reading that page.  I am especially sensitive to the issue of small font because my eyesight.  I can see and read without my glasses, but I often have to boost up the size of the print on my screen.  Thank heavens for the MacBook’s “command plus sign.”  I am always immediately turned off when encountering a screen full of tiny print.  If it is important to me, I’ll boost it up to read it.  I believe that many people who do not have 20/20 vision do not put on their distance or even reading glasses when they go to the computer.  Of course I have no hard data, but I think that adults are put off when they encounter a screen of very small font and a great deal of text.  If the parents are going to be the first ones to view a school’s Home page, more attention should be given to the size and amount of print on the screen that is their first contact with a school.

Believing that I am still a student, I want my courses to have some color to set a tone, some excellent images and text that is well-arranged and of an legible size.  Give me some slideshows and some video.  Be careful about giving me too many white sheets of paper with no images, just pages filled with text.  This is worse than textbooks.  At least most textbooks have an interesting image or two per page.  We have the opportunity to be infinitely more engaging than a textbook with slideshows, videos, audio files, comic strips, animation…and the list goes on.

Five schools with all the elements of an engaging and pleasing appearance.

K-12:  American History is an interesting layout.  Color, images and slideshows invite the learner in.  The resources are well-arranged and noted.

GAVS : French 1, La Rentrée scolaire is a colorful module, with color, audio and engaging images.  The module is very eye catching.

FLVS:  The Anatomy module is attention-grabbing and lively.  The is a narrated slideshow that shows like a video.  The images are of excellent quality.  They use virtual microscopes for lab segments.

Arizona Connections Academy: has a colorful and well-arranged website.  In the Music course there are numerous visuals, interesting assignments with assignments opening immediately from buttons.  The course is visually pleasing.

Five schools who lack the integrity of visuals, colors, images and easy transitions from one part of the lesson to the next:

Mountain Heights Academy:  has some interesting visuals, but their courses would benefit from more color and more images.  All of the text is aligned left, which leaves a large area of empty white screen to the right.

 Henryco: has interesting tools when you click on them, but the screen is crowded and not appealing.  There are no visuals on the initial page of the Polynomials unit, but it is bordered in a lively purple.

Alaska Virtual Academy: states that it uses some of  the K12 curriculum, but the sample lesson on Biology 1 was not very attractive past the opening slideshow. When I clicked on the Synchronous session link all that came up was a screen of HTML.

Arkansas Virtual Academy: also uses some of the k12 curriculum.  I looked at Modern American History.  There are some images and colors, but the same issues stated with Alaska VA are here.

Blue Sky Online: has a demo course about weather.  The course page has one image, no other color and a rather small font for all of the information listed down the left side of the screen.

I’ll close with this.  Wouldn’t it be fun to be the Virtual Decorator who is hired by online schools to pull their sites and courses together into more cohesive and attractive courses.  It would be like playing decorator in your own home with some else’s money.  I wonder if someone has already created that job for himself or herself.

Create 2.1.1 Web Tools Quest



Storage and Collaboration

Dropbox:  In the ubiquitous cloud, you can store files and documents that can be accessed anywhere.  You are no longer tied to your computer, and you don’t have to keep buying flash drives and then keep up with where you put your last flash drive with your critical information saved on it.  You can go to meetings, make presentations, work from a remote location and your documents and files are always accessible.  It gets better.  You can share as much or as little as you like with colleagues or students.  Students can post assignments and completely bypass the need of a dropbox on an LMS.  I have been using the Basic version, which is free, and you get 2GB+.  I do have a lot, I mean a lot, of photos, and I may have to move up to the Pro, which is $9.99 a month for 100+GB+. This will store over 20,000 photos.  I do not have that many, but I love being able to share pictures of my family with my family. Five grandchildren make for a great deal of photography.

Google Drive (formerly Docs):  This is…you know where…yes, in the cloud.  Here you can not only store, but you can collaborate, edit, etc. in real time with colleagues or students.  This truly puts a new slant on keeping up with the most recent copy of something you are working on.  You and the others do not have to…the most recent project is right there, and you can work on it together.  Google Calendar is part of the package.  I have used one personally for several years and have found it very friendly to use.  I am a “use color” person,  so this works well for me.  You can share calendars in your classroom, and everyone can keep up with events and deadlines.  All you need for this, and more, is a G-Mail account.

Join Me:  This is a great tool for collaboration.  You can hold tutoring sessions, share with colleagues, help someone with a problem or get them to help you with your own problem.  I remember the first time I experienced this type of screen-sharing.  I was having a problem with my Internet, and the provider had me on my hands and knees unplugging and re-plugging the modem, the phone line and the computer until I was just about at my wit’s end.  Then the tech said the magic words, “May I have permission to access your computer and your screen?”  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Now this technology is no longer hoarded in the hands of the tech companies, we can do it ourselves with one another.  I have been able to help a student fix a problem logging into a website in which there was an assignment, saving so much time and frustration.  It is a miracle troubleshooting tool.  With a simple click you can request control of the computer, and with a click the student can respond.


Audacity:  This is my personal favorite, but it does require a learning curve.  The beauty of Audacity is it’s editing capabilities.  You can splice at a split second of the recording.  You need to read a little and make sure you save for the kind of file you need for a particular application, but again, the editing capabilities are excellent.  This is free.

Audio Boo:  This is new to me, and I intend to use it for recordings that do not require substantial editing.  You can include your location and a description on the file.  The free account has unlimited posts, easy sharing to other platforms, with a maximum duration of 10 minutes.  An upgrade of  £6.99 a month gives 1 hour and iTunes Podcasting.


These are tools in the toolbox that perform tasks that make working easier.

Jing:  This is basically a screen-casting tool.  I work on a Mac, and it has the ability to “screen shot,”  but not without using more steps than I want.  Jing can also capture motion and provide the ability to create a video.  Jing is a free download.

Tiny URL:  So often we want to share an item that has a long and unwieldy url.  With Tiny URL you can input the lengthy url and have the program create a shortened one or you can put in your own ending to  If that url has never been created, you get it.  If it has been used the program will suggest alternatives, or you can keep trying your own until one works.  The use of the Tiny URL’s makes emails, documents and sharing of sites much neater and simpler.

Wordle:  This is more fun than mechanical.  When you want to capsulize a message, this is the perfect program.  You input words that speak your message, and Wordle creates a visual of words.  You can control size, colors and layout.  Maybe it is not “a thousand words is worth a picture,”  but it is an eye and mind-catching visual to express ideas.  This is free.

Create 2.1.2 Using Web 2.0 Tools to Differentiate Teacher Instruction Quest



The students will use these Animoto videos to study the weather.  They have images, animation and audio.  Plus, they are a bit funny.  Humor is a great motivator to learn.  The funnier, the weirder, the stranger something is…the more easily we remember it.

Create 2.1.3 Using Web 2.0 Tools to Differentiate Student Assessment Quest


cartoon stamps


Students will use Pixton to create a dialogue.  They will sign in to Mrs. Abell’s class for everything they need.

1.  Students will watch the video that accompanies each step.

2.  They will create a cartoon of at least three panels.

3.  They may choose their own characters and background as long as the background is appropriate for the dialogue.

4.  There will be a minimum of two panels with two speech bubbles.

5.  Double check the text for correct accents, gender and number.

6.  The final step is to record the text for each speech bubble.

7.  The cartoon should be saved to my class in Pixton.

8.  The following example is available for students to see.

Please view the cartoon.  If the audio does not play automatically, there are yellow buttons on the speech bubbles.

Here is a second type of assessment.


Please go to this site and “play” Cards, Learn, Speller, and Scatter and take A+Test. The students will use the activities to learn and review the content. Then, the A+Test will be used as the assessment.




Create 3.1.1 Open Educational Resources and Creative Commons Quest

Wordle: Creative Commons


Open Educational Resources (OER) include a rather vast array of online resources that are free for everyone’s use.  They are educational elements that are available to anyone who wishes to teach or learn. The array includes games, lectures, lessons, assessments, digital media, assignments, activities and more.

 A relatively new method of dealing with the fast-growing digital world and creators’ rights has been addressed by a non-profit group, Creative Commons.  It is young but has global standing.  The licenses of CC do not replace traditional copyrights, but seek to open up the usage of material created in the digital world.

The six main licenses are:



This item may be copied, displayed and performed and derivative works may be created on it only if the user gives the author or license holder the credits as specified by them.

Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by them.



The work may be used and passed on commercially or non-commercially,  giving credit to the creator/owner, but no derivatives can be made.

Attribution – NonCommercial – ShareAlike

The user may re-mix, change and distribute a new work non-commercially if the creator/owner is given proper credit and the work is licensed under the same terms as the original.

Attribution – ShareAlike


The work may be used, recreated and built on for commercial purposes.  The creator/owner must be credited and the new creation must be licensed under the same terms as the original.  This is the license used by Wikipedia.

Attribution – NonCommercial


The work may be recreated and built upon non-commercially.  The creator/owner must be credited, but the same licenses as the original does not have to be used.



The work may be downloaded and shared with others.  The creator/owner must be credited, but the work cannot be changed or used commercially.

The main six licenses can be combined in several ways.  The long-term efficacy of these licenses has yet to be determined in litigation.  To date, there have been several cases that actually went to the courts.  So far, the justices have found in favor of the holders of CC licenses.  However, the future, in terms of litigation, has not been assured.