Reflection after Incubation…

Part 4 – Back to work and reflection

Idea Notes Addendum (new thoughts are shown in green)


  • Go through each chapter in the textbook and pick out 1-2 “sticky” areas and create short videos where I walk through a process or technique to help students better understand a particular technique – include actual coding.
    • Review the help discussion forum in each class to identify the “sticky” areas that students are asking the most questions about and use those discussions as video topics. I can keep a video library and provide links to the videos as needed from semester to semester.
  • Ask students to provide 1-2 areas in the chapter reading that they would like more clarification on. I will choose the 1-2 most popular areas based on student input and create a short video.
    • This requires input from the students, they may not have time in their schedule, and I may receive limited responses. I don’t plan on doing this.
  • Create generic videos that I can use throughout all of my online courses demonstrating how to submit completed work, accessing the web server, and interacting with the web server, which are common practices and requirements across all the courses in the program.
    • This is very doable, will benefit the students, and can be used for all courses not only a single course.

Student Support:

  • Assemble a document that contains all the support services offered at the college that can be distributed the students: (learning centers, career services, counseling & academic advising, disability/special services, Financial Aid, Reading & Writing Studios, Veteran and military services, health and benefits assistance, child care resources, and food assistance through the food pantry).
    • The document will include the name of the service, location (if applicable), and a contact name, phone number, and email.
    • The document will be emailed out to the entire class as well posted within the online classroom.
      • The college may already have a document like this so I can check there first before creating my own.
      • There is a tutor for my courses so I can include the tutor’s schedule at the start of each semester and post that in my online classroom as well as send it out via email.
  • Offer online office hours for students who cannot make it to on campus office hours.
    • This will be offered during a set time each week – all students welcome from multiple sections.
      • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.
    • Offer Individual online assistance (by appointment) for any personal issues and/or program advising.
      • See note above.
  • Advertise workshops at campus that promote student success.
    • Post announcements in the online classroom and send the information out to the class via email.
      • This information is already available at the college so I can simply link to it from within my online classrooms.
  • Share job/internship information within the virtual classroom and via email.
      • This is something that would be made available to students whenever I am given the information; it’s not something that may occur every week. It’s very easy to do with an email or link to an external website.
  • Encourage on/off campus study groups.
    • These are set up and managed entirely by students.
      • I won’t be involved in setting up the study groups; this will be the student’s responsibility. However, I can offer suggestions and sent out an email to the class with recommendations.
    • Offer meeting suggestions such as the campus Learning Centers or the Student Centers (at both campuses).
      • For meeting online, I can enable the chat feature in the online classroom so students can interact synchronously.
        • This is simply a setting in the college’s LMS.

Making a Personal Connection:

  • Conducting “optional” online meeting sessions during the first week of class and half way through the course to connect with students.
    • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.
  • Invite students to follow and connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.
    • This information is present in my contact information but sending out an email to the class inviting the students to connect with me may be effective and also serve as a reminder.
  • Holding an online meet and greet – get to know the students and they can get to know me.
    • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.


Connect by Senjin PojskićWhen I started the process, I found it very easy to start jotting down questions, thoughts, and ideas based on my problem of practice. As I got to the idea notes section and as I was writing, I kept thinking to myself, “I need to narrow my focus, I can’t possibly do all of this at one time.” Reflecting on the information that I wrote down, I realized there are so many variables in this problem that I don’t have any control over and those variables are a big component of the problem. In order to wrap my head around this problem, I decided to break down the ideas into three main categories: videos, student support, and making a personal connection. From the main categories, I then tried to create subcategories – I was really trying to make sense of it all (actually, I was trying to determine a pattern – cue our previous week’s readings). As I’m writing at this very moment (after my “mind break”), there may only be a single category, student support, and everything else could easily fit into that single category. Yes! Did I just have a “profound insight”?

I’m a big fan of taking mental breaks and do it often. It’s usually in the form of exercising. I will be jogging outside or walking on the treadmill and an idea will hit me! I have learned to try to have paper and a pencil handy, or I add voice memos on my phone so I can record the ideas. Before reading the article from Psychology Today, I thought it was odd that this kept happening to me – 95% of my ideas/solutions come to me when exercising. Whew! I feel better now knowing that it’s just my mind getting “unstuck”.


Pojskić, Senjin. (2011, June). [Connect, Jigsaw, Strategy] [Image]. Retrieved from


Fun with Words & Problems

This week we were tasked with inventing a Sniglet out of something that we have noticed or encountered in our everyday lives. A Sniglet is essentially a word that doesn’t have a dictionary meaning.

Scrabble Letters by BruceEmmerling

A Few Sniglets:

  • Cursorpounce (kur ‘sore pounce)  – The erratic pouncing movement of the mouse cursor when typing on a computer keyboard. This behavior may occur if your laptop has a very sensitive touchpad.
  • Day 7 Techno Crash (dāy sev in tek nō krash) – A computer or Internet connection that crashes every Sunday night.
  • Flourogunk (floor ō ‘gunk) – The residual toothpaste around the cap of the toothpaste tube.
  • Smillow (smil ‘low) – A smashed pillow that is losing its stuffing.

The Problem, Reframed Problem, and Solution

The next task assigned for this week was to state a problem, reframe the problem, and then provide a solution.

For the web programming courses that I teach, the students use and interact with a web server to develop, test, and then submit their completed work each week. Interacting with a web server is an outcome of the web programming program and a necessary skill for students working in the field. Since this is an integral part of each course as a way for students to develop, test, and submit assignments, having a reliable web hosting environment (e.g., 100% uptime guarantee, routine backups, and monitoring) and customer support (24/7/365) is crucial. Last year, the web server that was used for the courses at the college, failed. The server was no longer operational for two weeks prior to the end of the semester and we ended the semester without a web hosting environment. Immediately, the blame traveled to the IT staff and their inability to efficiently manage the web server and provide the necessary customer support to investigate and respond to the issue quickly.

Following the semester’s end, the IT staff had an opportunity to research the reason(s) why the web server may have failed. They looked into possible networking issues and then examined software and hardware issues. The research indicated that it was a complete hardware failure caused by very old outdated equipment. Further research indicated that there were actually two hardware failures during the past two years, which ultimately lead up to the web server becoming nonfunctional. The server was being “patched” with old refurbished components in order to keep an outdated piece of hardware functioning without spending a lot of money.

So the real issues behind the web server failure, was not the inability to manage the server (software installations, routine backups, etc. – that was all in place) but rather money was not being allocated to upgrade the server in order to keep it operational and up-to-date and the IT support staff did not have the manpower or resources to investigate the issue(s) in a timely manner.

The solution to the problem was to purchase web hosting services from an outside vendor that provides 24/7/365 support, a 100% uptime guarantee, a safe and secure hosting environment, and the ability to monitor and manage hardware and software system failures immediately and then respond accordingly . The fee for these services is minimal compared to the high cost of maintaining a dedicated IT staff at the college and the cost of maintaining up-to-date web server software and hardware and monitoring services for a computer that is housed on campus. Since this solution was put into place, everything has been running smoothly and the faculty, students, and administration are very pleased. The original problem seem to point to lack of involvement and disinterest where in fact the real issue was due to limited manpower, resources, and outdated equipment.


BruceEmmerling. (2014, January). [Scrabble Gameboar] [Image]. Retrieved from

This problem is a Wicked one!

During our Think Tank virtual meeting, we looked for commonalities among all of the brainstorming questions posted by each group member to arrive at our three defining questions that we will use as a focal point for the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking. The three defining questions are as follows:

  1. Why is it referred to as computational, critical, and complex thinking?
  2. Why does creativity play a role in complex thinking?
  3. Why is the classroom environment important for teaching complex thinking?

Question Mark by Gerd Altmann -

Why is it referred to as computational, critical, and complex thinking? had us all in agreement after noticing that simply doing a Google search or a MSU library search for “complex thinking” brought up results that used complex thinking, critical thinking, and computational thinking terms interchangeably. Do all of these terms mean the same thing or does each term have a different meaning? We thought this to be an appropriate question to try and answer since it’s the basis or our wicked problem.

Why does creativity play a role in complex thinking? Each of us viewed creativity as part of the complex teaching (and learning) process even thought we interpreted it slightly differently but in the end arrived at the same conclusion that it does in fact play a role in complex thinking. We thought it would be important to find out why.

Why is the classroom environment important for teaching complex thinking? We were in agreement on it being necessary to use a combination of both traditional and nontraditional teaching methods to teach complex thinking. With further research, we hope to determine which teaching methods are most effective and the role a classroom environment plays in teaching complex thinking.

I created a Teaching Complex Thinking Infographic using Canva that summarizes the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking and a wicked problem it is!


Altmann, G. (2014, May). [Question Mark] [Image]. Retrieved from

Reflection – A Look Back

Prior to CEP811, I had never heard of the Maker Movement and how it’s being integrated into and affecting education. I have experienced an entire new way of thinking where the opportunities to incorporate the Maker culture into the classroom and in the area that I teach, are endless! Combining the use of Scratch (an online interactive programming teaching and learning tool) with an invention kit such as Makey Makey to create Maker-inspired lessons, offers opportunities for collaborative group work in which the group members are both teachers and learners.

I now understand what the America’s Greatest Makers TV show is all about – I get it! Tinkering, exploring, playing, creating, problem solving, innovating, and collaborating…the possibilities are limitless and also integrates nicely into teaching the 21C skill sets that are now expected of learners. Educators can transform a traditional classroom into a Makerspace and create a personalized learning environment with Maker-inspired lessons – what a fantastic way to promote engagement and excitement in learning!

An interactive visual summation of what I’ve learned over the past 7 weeks can be viewed at:

A look back at CEP811 - Infographic


Culatta, Richard. (2013, January). Reimagining Learning [Video file]. Retrieved from

Dougherty, D. (2011, January). We are makers [Video file]. Retrieved from

Herman Miller, Inc. (2008). Solution Essay: Rethinking the Classroom. Retrieved from

Wanner, J. (2016, March 23). Are you a Maker? Take 2. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Assessing Creative Problem Solving

Color, Color Table by G. Altmann on Pixabay

Can creative problem solving be assessed? While majoring in Fine Arts/Advertising Design in undergraduate school at Wayne State University, I was continuously assessed not only on the technique of the medium used to create the work of art but also the creative process behind it and my ability to problem solve. I often wondered how my professors graded “creative process and problem solving”, how did they really know the entire process that I went through and the creative thinking that I engaged in while completing my work? I always felt that grading on one’s creative ability to solve problems was more subjective than objective, that is until I read the blog post “On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should” by Grant Wiggins.

As Wiggins (2012) points out within Bloom’s Taxonomy, “Synthesis was the level of thinking for such creativity”. The first half of Bloom’s definition of synthesis is as follows:

Synthesis is here defined as the putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole. This is a process of working with elements, parts, etc. and combining them in such a way as to constitute a pattern or structure not clearly there before. Generally this would involve a recombination of parts of previous experience with new material, reconstructed into a new and more or less well-integrated whole. This is the category in the cognitive domain which most clearly provides for creative behavior on the part of the learner…

After reading Bloom’s definition of synthesis and connecting it to creative thinking and problem solving, I now view assessing “creativity ” in a completely different light. In my art class at Wayne State University, I used paint brushes, watercolors, and a blank canvas to create a living piece of art; I was engaging in a form of synthesis and didn’t even known it. Synthesis is essentially “how two processes or concepts are brought together to create a new one.” (Halls, 2013) I combined the concept of art with the use of brushes, paint, and a canvas with creative thinking and problem solving to produce a work of art. I get it now!

This brings us to assessing creativity within a maker-inspired lesson. “Making is about empowering students to see that they can bring their ideas to life, and create new things” (Thomas, 2012). A maker-inspired lesson invites collaborative group work, communication, creativity, innovation, problem solving, engagement, and learning in its process. Assessing the creativity of problem solving that occurs during a maker-inspired lesson, can be accomplished by observing the synergy, communication, and collaboration within the group that took place during the lesson and the impact of the lesson’s outcome both on the group and the individual learner after its completion. Assessing creative problem solving can be determined through discussion both during and after a lesson as well as self and group assessments. Are rubrics part of the equation? “…students are coming to believe that rubrics hamper their creativity rather than encouraging it” states Wiggins (2012). Rubrics can be used for assessment, but the criteria for assessing the lesson must not restrict the learner’s creativity so it’s very important according to Wiggins, that the “right criteria and multiple & varied exemplars” are used.

Makers are essentially synthesizers. Through a series of processes and problem solving, they take various elements and parts and put them together to “make” something complete and whole that didn’t exist before. A maker-inspired lesson needs to be designed in a way that provokes creative problem solving in an engaging and collaborative way that maximizes innovation, communication, creativity, and learning. By building on a solid foundation of 21st Century Skills, which includes problem solving, communication, creativity, and collaboration and then adding “making” to the mix, is a successful recipe for an engaging learning (and teaching) environment. “Next will be schooling that stresses the ability to solve problems, but not just solve problems, but to be able to do it collaboratively so you can work in a group where the group is smarter than the smartest person in the group” (Gee, 2010).

So, can creative problem solving be assessed in a maker-inspired lesson? Absolutely!


Altmann, G. (2014, August 25). [Color Color Table] [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Edutopia. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games [Video file]. Retrieved from

Halls, J. (2013). How Creativity Occurs: Synthesis. Retrieved from

Thomas, A. (2012, September 7). Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from