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Digital Learning Day 2012

For the inaugural Digital Learning Day, my virtual students will wake up and log in to their Connexus homepages to a Webmail message from me, Mrs. Carbajal.

My students will continue their regular online studies, but I’m going to take advantage of the day and evaluate the 3rd-5th graders’ current technology skills, and what else we can incorporate into our lessons.

Using Google Forms, I created the survey below to determine what technology my 3rd-5th graders currently have access to, what they are already using, and what they’d like to do in the following areas:

  • text messaging
  • mobile devices
  • educational websites or apps
  • Twitter

I also created a message board discussion post for the students to share use of additional technology tools as project options.  Students have gotten the hang of PowerPoint already in their shared writing lesson online, and I want to give them some additional options to interact with and pursue.


Virtual Math

How can you teach math virtually, or explain a math concept from a distance?  There are many ways.  On Friday, a student in my Gifted Math 3 course did not understand the question below.  He wrote an email message to me explaining how he thought his answer choice was correct, but didn’t understand how the second option should be correct. I quickly took a screen shot of the problem, and then used PowerPoint to draw Smart Art over the diagram to show how the correct answer makes sense.

Victor used 4 tangram pieces to make a pentagon shaped like the one below.  Which Tangrams did he use?  Multip Choice answers and drawing to show correct answer. The student was able to ask his question on his time, and receive a response from me via email message when he was ready to check again.  He now has a written and visual explanation of his question to refer.

What other ways have you found you can teach math concepts at a distance, virtually, or asynchronously?


As a virtual teacher, I get to teach synchronous lessons when my students log in to my virtual classroom at scheduled times.  At Capistrano Connections Academy, we use Adobe Connect called LiveLesson®.  The screenshot below is from a 3rd grade Literature Study discussion session. Student names and faces were blurred or blocked out for their privacy.

Screen shot of LiveLessonExplaining Pods
In Adobe Connect, the host can move and re-size pods (the little windows you see above) in any way they desire.  Layouts with pods can be saved to easily reuse the same arrangement.  In this particular session, I’ve used the following pods:

  • Chat Pod
    • renamed to be “Discussion Pod” with instructions for students to only stay on topic
    • I do not want to mislabel this as the “Chat Pod” and let the students think they can use it for socialization.
    • I do let the students chat before we begin and if there is extra time at the end, because I do want to allow time for connecting, however we need to stay on topic once we’ve started the lesson.
  • Share Pod
    • Many things can be shared here (website, application, whiteboard), and this is an example of sharing a PowerPoint presentation.
    • The current slide shows student pictures (with faces blurred for their privacy) because I like students to visualize who is talking throughout our discussion.
  • Attendance Pod
    • This pod shows a list of the students present, and will also show their “status” which can be raising hand, showing to speed up/slow down, agree/disagree, etc.
    • I ask students to change their status as a quick way of checking for understanding and attention.
  • Note Pod
    • Notes can be created, re-sized, and saved.
    • In this picture I have a note pod up with the “Focus Question” for our Junior Great Books discussion.
  • Poll Pod
    • Polls are great features to engage the students, vary the lesson, and to get quick feedback from the students.
    • I created this poll quickly during our discussion when I realized the question really only had two answers, and this way the students could see classmates’ opinions and if they changed throughout the discussion.
  • Applets
    • Adobe swf files have been created that work in virtual classrooms.
    • “Stage Lights” appears on the screen and I use it to show the students how much time they have on their microphones.
      • I encourage my students to interact frequently, so I’d rather they use the microphone for under a minute to allow time for responses, rather than talk for about 5 minutes straight and not allow other students to comment and interact with their ideas.

Kinds of Lessons
While the picture above is from a small group literature study discussion, there are other uses for LiveLesson® sessions too.  Here are some that I’ve taught:

  • 3rd-5th grade Shared Writing session
  • 2nd-5th grade Math Lessons
  • 4th Grade Writing Lessons
  • Open Tutoring Lessons
  • 4th-5th grade Science lessons
  • 4th-5th grade virtual science fair presentations

I hope this information is useful and helpful to you.  Do you have any questions or would you like to see more examples?

Do you Scoop It?

I recently learned about Scoop It from Twitter.  Scoop It is a great place to keep track of things you read and come across online that you find useful, specifically to a certain topic.

This is a screen shot of my first curated topic, Virtual Instruction:

Screen Shot of Scoop It Topic Virtual Instruction

You can add the “Scoop It” button to your browser menu bar, and when you are on a particular article, website, or blog page you can add it right to your curated topic page.  It adds an image and description automatically, or you can add your own.  You can suggest posts for the topic areas you follow too.Scoop it App

Some of the benefits I see to Scoop It are:

  • quickly save good information
  • organize by category (it’s okay if your topics overlap)
  • can follow other topics and “rescoop”
  • easily shared via twitter in the same step
  • can add information suggested automatically or by other users
  • I get to save what I find useful (and not what I am not interested in)
  • all the good resources are shown in one place, rather than a series of book marks or weblinks

I find Scoop It very user-friendly, and a great way to store information I want to refer back to on various topics. I now have the following topics: Virtual Instruction, Transitioning Online, Common Core Coming to California, Virtual Leadership, and Public Speaking and Presentations. 

Do you use Scoop It?  What do you think?  What other useful tools do you have for your own professional reading and information gathering/sharing?

Oh the Places From Which You Can Teach

You’ve seen pin maps used to show where you’ve traveled? Here is my map to show some of the places from where I have virtually taught.

Map from where Cindy Carbajal has taught virtually

Oh the Places from which you can Teach via

  • My office
  • My home
  • Airports
  • Coffee Shops
  • Starbucks in Irvine (between a faculty appreciation breakfast at UCI and staff party at CapoCA)
  • a pub in Sacramento
  • Hotel Room
  • Hotel Lobby
  • Hotel gymSome of the advantages of online learning is the flexibility of the time, place, and pace, for both the students and the teachers.  My students have logged in to my synchronous lessons from even more exotic (France, Mexico, Indonesia, Philippines) and practical places (ice skating rink, gym, set, the road, etc).  Travels, talents, vacations, and family emergencies do not have to interrupt learning. 

    What about you?  From where have you taught virtually?

So… what do you do?

Sometimes I try to avoid the question of what I do.  I try to go with the quick answer that I’m an elementary teacher.  However, this often leads to the questions of where? (Capistrano Connections Academy, a virtual charter school) or what grade? (3rd-5th), which then leads to more questions: how does that work?  what does it look like? do you have a classroom?  do you ever see your students? is that a real job?

I enjoy talking about what I do, but I’m never sure how much information the other person really wants to know, or how much time they have.  I also feel bad for close family and friends that hear my continuous explanations.  In any rate, it’s become necessary to develop a series of bullet points to concisely explain what I do:

  • A K-12 Virtual School resembles an independent study program mixed with online college
  • The majority of my virtual teaching time is spent:
    • grading student work
    • answer questions via phone and email
    • making calls and emails to stay in touch with students & learning coaches, verify student work, and modifying the curriculum
    • planning/attending field trips
    • preparing and teaching synchronous lessons via the internet
  • CapoCA is a virtual, public charter school – meaning no tuition for students and participating in state testing
  • I don’t have a classroom.  I split my weeks working in an office and at home.
  • I’m part of the career ladder, so I also have leadership roles

Sometimes I hope that one day simply saying “I’m a virtual teacher” or “I teach the gifted 3rd-5th grade program at CapoCA” will be self-explanatory, but at the same time I’m happy to answer questions and go into more detail of what I do.

What do you think?  Are you a virtual teacher with similar experiences in explaining what you do?  Or are you just learning what a being a virtual teacher means?


Who am I?

  • I’m a virtual teacher.
  • I’m intrigued by technology.
    • enhances education through access to resources, productivity, cool tools, research, experts, and more

Why “Virtual Teacher Bullet Points”?

  • To Share
    • Until now, there hasn’t been much formal training in K-12 online education.  I want to share my experiences, encourage discussion on transitioning typical classroom activities and lessons, and build the best practices of online learning.
  • Brief and ConciseImage representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
    • In the age of Twitter, we enjoy reading quick snippets or morsels.  No one has time to read an entire essay.  If I open a blog that’s 20 pages long, I’m not going to read it.  My intent is to offer information, in a concise, easy-to-scan way.  If you want more detail, ask!  🙂