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Brooks Ann Smith

Good morning- I am typing this as my online students are working on an assignment for  their Economics and personal finance course.  I have taught for 24 years, with most of those classes being face to face instruction.   Over the last two years I have taught two summer school courses online and really enjoyed it and seeing how it changed my perspective on how instruction can be delivered.

I have taken one class that was online and found it frustrating as the professor graded strictly on blog posts and very little content was delivered so it didn’t do a lot to enhance my knowledge for teaching online courses– it seemed more like a sharing site.

I have three children so Free time is a contradiction in terms but those hours not spent at PHS generally involve my doing something with my church, my son’s baseball schedule, running my daughter to dance class or creating something on my embroidery machine.  If I get a free moment I love to read and cook.

I tried a new piece of software/app while reading the chapter reading for this week.  It is called Evernote and it allows me to import/paste the chapter and highlight/annotate the reading on my computer and save it to my “notebook” that I have set up for this class.  The reading opened up a number of questions and introduced quite a few terms.  Online teaching has the potential for exponential growth but faces the challenges of discerning what best practices are and how to best utilize technologies while striving to create “environments” that facilitate connectivity of students to their learning environment.  After having taught a few online classes– I recognize that this is indeed the challenge.   One of my favorite books is the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and as I read the chapter it made me think of his work in “virtual realities”  Admittedly some of the terms seemed a bit complex but hopefully as the class continues I will come to have a greater depth of understanding of these ideas and concepts.

We have used blogs at our school in the past and I have toyed with the idea of one for personal use– as I have a propensity to create long posts on Facebook that would likely be better suited to a blog forum.  I have had a Twitter account for quite a while but am not an avid user — as limiting myself to 160 characters is generally a challenge I fail at.  I use it mostly in my capacity as Senior class sponsor to reach out to students with updates and information.  I do think blogs can facilitate learning and twitter certainly facilitates discussion and I am open to see how it can advance learning.

I love the idea in the reading that this technology may help level the geographic playing field and make education more readily accessible to people all over the world.  Education and shared experiences and knowledge connect us and create understanding that in my book goes a long way toward diminishing conflict.  One of my favorite shared experiences is travel and I take students abroad most every summer– so I will close this post with a picture of one of my favorite cities– a historical center of learning.  Arriverderciimg_2773 img_2781




  1. Thank you for the information on Evernote. I have seen this software before but had never tried it. I like to highlight and annotate reading passages. Sounds like a good program to try with our next reading.

    I agree with your statement about how an online learning platform can broaden a student’s understanding of other cultures, customs, etc. Knowledge and acceptance are powerful peacemakers. The key is engaging the online learner. We can offer the opportunity and hope to engage the student.

  2. I read the Last Lecture a few years ago and was truly inspired. I’m glad you reminded me of it. After reading the book I tried the web based program Alice designed by his interns to engage female students in computer programming. I loved it! I used it for a computer club for girls but the club time just wasn’t enough. Guess what the biggest frustration was? The students did not work on it outside of club time. I hope I can get ideas from this course about promoting SRL!

  3. Nice to “meet” you Brooks Ann.

    What platform do you use to teach the online finance course?

    Evernote is one of the few apps that I actually pay for. I use it for everything. I make all my text notes, audio notes, and picture notes in it. I actually use it to take pictures of wine labels too, then I rate them 1- 10. That way when I am in the store I can remember which ones I liked. BE careful though, Evernote just in the past few months changed their business model, and now you have to pay for some features that used to be free. Still worth it to me though.

    Thats incredible you get to travel every summer with students. Where were your last couple of trips? Are these trips based on anything in particular (like a content area, or project) or are they just fun trips?

    • We use schoology for Economics and we have the Virtual Virginia “plug-in” tied into it so that students can complete their modules and the big “discovery/achivement” between Kayla Siwiec and I this summer was figuring out how to set these module/scorms up on schoology so that it would automatically grade certain pieces of the modules– wow was that ever life changing!!!
      I too had to take the leap and purchase evernotes premium edition- humorously because I had highlighted the whole chapter for your class and then opened it later and somehow managed to erase it all AND the only way to get it back was the premium version which has version history capability– but nevertheless I think it will be worth it. My daughter is a freshman in college and I am encouraging her to use this platform also– so at least 2 of us are benefitting from it.
      This past year on our trip we went to London, Paris, Florence and Rome, and previously we have been to Madrid, Barcelona , French Riviera and even did a 4 day Mediterranean cruise of Turkey and Greek islands– which was awesome. This year’s trip was tough as we were in France when the terrorist attack happen- but the resiliency of the kids never fails to amaze me. They generally are based on a desire to show them some of the things they have learned in World History but end up being alot of fun!!!

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