Virtual Teaching

This category contains 9 posts

Special Guests in Online Lessons

A colleague of mine (high school social studies teacher) likes to invite special guests to synchronous virtual lessons, and I’m incorporating this into my teaching as well. In the past, he has invited state senators and legislators to attend his sessions, allowing students to learn from an expert and allowing the legislator to learn more about our school.

Benefits of special guests in a virtual lesson are:Image

  • motivating the student
  • providing an expert or second opinion
  • students can prepare questions in advance
  • the session can be recorded and replayed for those who missed it

I am putting a spin on having a special guest in my LiveLesson session tomorrow.  I teach a gifted science course to 4th and 5th graders, and in the second semester we have a long-term science project that ends with a student presentation in a virtual session.  Tomorrow’s lesson shows students what is required in the final presentation, and special guest, former student and current 6th grader, will join me to present parts of his project along with the instructions I provide. He will also be available to answer questions from the students. I hope this motivates the students and helps them realize they can do it!  🙂


Making Mistakes

During my Tier 1 Administrative Credential course module on Culture, I picked up on some ideas about making mistakes.  I realized that making mistakes is a good thing as a teacher and a leader.

Here are some bullet points on lessons I’ve learned about making mistakes:

  • Don’t be afraid to take risks, which may lead to mistakes.
  • Mistakes are learning experiences.
  • Making new mistakes comes from trying new things, and can lead to achieving new things.
  • Playing with techniques and trying new things adds variety to a routine and makes the process more engaging for everyone.
  • As a leader, acknowledging and sharing mistakes helps others feel comfortable and free to experiment too.

Thomas Hoerr’s MNM Philosophy, Make New Mistakes, recognizes that mistakes are opportunities to learn.  He stated that old mistakes entail repeating errors and not learning from experiences.  No mistakes mean we continue to use the same approach, perhaps we are error-free, but little learning takes place, and this sounds boring.  Making new mistakes though, means we try new ideas and strategies and learn from our experiences.

When I was a beginning online teacher, I tried new things and continually sought feedback from my students, their parents, and other teachers.  After seven years though, I found I had gotten stuck in my routine that I found worked, and was boring myself.  I started trying some new things and experimenting with my teaching though.  My lessons are not as streamlined and clean as before, but I am having more fun and my students are enjoying the variety too.

This also happened just in time for the mid-year reviews I conducted, and I was able to share my ruts and experimentation to dig my way out with the teachers I support.  I hope my example and our discussion helps them feel free to take risk and enjoy experimenting too.

Thomas Hoerr mentioned the “wonderfully liberating message” it gives to teachers when the leader shares a learning experience and celebrates the new mistakes he or she learns, and I would agree from the experiences I’ve had from my leaders.

Additional Resources:

The Art of School Leadership by Thomas Hoerr

5 Mistakes Everyone Should Make by Real Simple

Only Let Yourself Make New Mistakes by Peter Winick

Mistakes that Worked by Charlotte Jones

5 Cool Things About Online Education > Virtual Learning Connections

5 Cool Things About Online Education > Virtual Learning Connections

Click the link above to be taken to a post written for the Virtual Learning Connections Blog based on my keynote panel points from iNACOL VSS 2011 in Indianapolis.

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?

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!  🙂