Sonja Redmon, Director of Transitional Programs to College and Career at Wayne Community College

Hello readers! Today we are talking with Sonja Redmon, former Director of Transitional Programs at Wayne Community College. Ms. Redmon has 30 years of experience in education including 22 years in the director position. During her tenure, she saw the program through many changes and helped it grow to one of the Top Ten in Enrollment in the State of North Carolina and Top Three in State Performance Measures.

The end of June 2018 marks the end of Ms. Redmon’s educational career. As she looks forward to retirement and the new adventures there, she has taken a moment to reflect back on her career and her legacy and share some wisdom with us.

How long have you worked in education? At which colleges? In what roles?

I’ve worked in education since 1988 when I was hired as a part-time Adult High School English instructor.  I worked as an instructor for a few years and was then hired as the lab coordinator. In 1996 I was hired for the director’s position. All of these roles were in the Basic Skills department at Wayne Community College.

What made you choose a career in education?

As the saying goes, I fell into education sideways. In other words, I did not choose education as a career, it chose me. My mother worked at the college in 1988 and heard about a need in the Basic Skills department for an English instructor. I was ready to get into the job market at that time since both of my children were in school and I had an English degree so the rest is history. No pun intended since I also have a history degree!

You have worked in both instructor and administrative roles in your career. How did these different roles help you become a better educator and communicator with others?

Working as an instructor helped me tremendously once I became an administrator. I could still identify with the needs of the instructors and that is something that stayed with me throughout the years. Sometimes, budget or higher ups would get in the way, but I always tried to do what was best for instructors and students.

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from teaching?

Ha ha. I quickly learned in the beginning that I didn’t know everything and that if I only listened, the students had a lot to teach me as well.  Another lesson learned was that I couldn’t save them all no matter how hard I tried. It took me a few years to learn that bitter lesson.

Besides advancing your career and salary, what made you change roles from teaching to administration?

That change was primarily about career advancement and salary. Back in my day as a teacher, the maximum pay for part-time was $9.00 per hour and that was even with a masters degree.

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from leading other educators?

I’ve learned that like the students, other educators had much to teach me. Even after all these years, I was still learning from other educators including my teachers as well as teachers and administrators from other colleges. I never attended a meeting or workshop that I didn’t learn something. That’s why I have always been a strong proponent of professional development.

You have worked in fields outside of adult education. What made you choose to work in Adult Education?

I liked helping people. It was just that simple. I liked making a difference in a student’s life, and I liked making a difference in my instructors’ lives. I cannot even count the number of times an instructor has said thank you to me for hiring them. That has been special.

You chose to not only work in adult education but get your degree in it. How did that help your career?

Being in education administration, I knew I needed to go back to school myself and earn a masters. Adult Education seemed the only way to go since I enjoyed what I was doing. I also knew an Adult Ed degree allowed for multiple career opportunities. When I applied for the director’s position, a Master’s in Adult Ed or a similar degree was a requirement, so I can safely say that my degree helped me to get hired as director.

I’ve always been glad I made that choice.

You have been an avid supporter of professional development for your team. In your opinion, why is professional development important?

Lifelong learning is important in all aspects of life and especially in this career field. Change in adult education is constant whether it’s a better way to teach math or new requirements from WIOA and OCTAE. Learning from an expert and learning from peers at other colleges is vital to stay on top of the game. Teachers and staff have been fortunate to have access to the strong adult education staff at Appalachian State University. Like I said in a previous question, I’ve never been to a workshop or even one of our weekly meetings that I didn’t learn something. For those of you reading this, if you think about it, neither have you.

We all know that education is a challenging place to work in because it is often thankless, politicized, and changing. In the past few years alone, we saw a lot of changes in adult education that affected our budget. What advice can you give to current and future administrators navigating their way through shrinking budgets?

All you can do is keep a positive attitude and plan, plan, plan. By planning ahead, you may be able to save a job or two when in a low budget year. You do this by trimming out the non-producing areas. That is hard for me to say because I’ve always thought that a class with only one student was a class that was a gift to that one student. He or she needed the one-on-one at that point in life.

Communication is also critical. Instructors and staff must realize that they hold the power to make or break a program. Enrollment and retention are 90% instructors and staff. The best recruiter is a satisfied student and the best retention is when a student learns and doesn’t feel the class is a waste of time.

When negative changes happen, it is hard to stay motivated. What advice can you give for motivating your team when circumstances are demoralizing?

I believe communication is the key. Just keep everyone updated on what is happening. Often not knowing leads to imagining even worse circumstances. Communication also allows for input from everyone on how to deal with the situation. We all like to feel useful and when we do, it’s a natural motivator.

In your experience, what has been the biggest thing that helped you adjust to changes when they happened as well as help you lead others through those difficulties?

Patience. Patience with the changes. Patience with teachers and staff protesting the changes.

A lot of the changes in adult education have influenced educators to leave adult education or retire before their positions were cut. With so much fear over job cuts, why should anyone stay in adult education?

Adult education is a worthy cause and a good career. Job cuts can and do happen in all areas of education as well as in the private sector. There were positions cut this year in curriculum. It’s just a fact of life, especially in this day and time.

Think positive and make yourself valuable to the team is my best advice to anyone whether in adult ed, curriculum, or K-12.

You have been the Director of Transitional Programs to College and Career for many years and many of the current employees you leave behind have only known you as their leader. What do you hope will be your legacy as you leave this role?

I hope that I’ll be remembered as someone who cared for both students and employees. I also hope to be remembered as the director who grew the program into one of the top ten in the state enrollment-wise and one of the top three in the state performance-wise.

As you retire and look back on your career, what advice would you give to younger educators working in adult education now?

Accept change.

Persevere through the bad times. You’ll have more good times.

Hire the best team possible. The instinct for that will be gradually learned.

Stress professional development. Knowledge makes everyone’s jobs easier.

Thank you, Ms. Redmon, for sharing your time with us today. We appreciate your insights and all you have done for your program at Wayne Community College. We wish you much joy and success in your retirement. 

Azucena Rodriguez: DACA Student Graduate

In 2012, a young mother with small children tried to come back to school and finish her high school education. She took the entrance exams and received the sad news that she had “zero knowledge” and “needed to go back to middle school”. She felt disappointed and ignorant.

Azucena left the school, and a friend referred her to Literacy Connections of Wayne County. That’s where she met Brandy Ross. Brandy was a member of the Air Force who volunteered her spare time to tutor at the center. “Brandy was tough,” Azucena said, “she gave lots of homework and took no excuses. One time I couldn’t finish my homework because my daughter was sick. She said, ‘Look, I need you to be serious with this. I want you to do your homework and next time, don’t even come if it’s not done.’ Then she walked out and left me to do the work.”

Brandy was demanding, but she wasn’t always so tough. Learning English as a second language, Azucena struggled with grammar and vocabulary. When she didn’t understand what a word meant, Brandy would look up different ways to explain the words to her. She bought her gifts to encourage her too like boxes of pencils and erasers and Dr. Seuss books.

Brandy Ross showed me a different way to see life, and she gave me hope. –Azucena Rodriguez

Azucena with Brandy Ross.jpg

Azucena (left) with Brandy Ross on the last day of her tutoring

Another person that helped during this time was the then director of Literacy Connections, Ms. Pat. Whenever Azucena got discouraged, Ms. Pat was there to encourage her and push her to find hope when there was no hope.

Ms. Pat taught me that the only thing that can stop you is yourself. –Azucena Rodriguez

Because of Pat and Brandy’s investment, Azucena got the knowledge–in a year–that she needed to enter the High School Equivalency program at Wayne Community College. That’s where I met her.

When I first met Azucena (pronounced as-zoo-see-nuh), I stumbled over her name. “Call me Lily,” she said with a smile, “that’s what it means anyway.” It was 2013, and I was fairly new to teaching. I began to look forward to seeing Lily’s bright, enthusiastic spirit in my classroom. She inspired her peers, and she inspired me.

Nevertheless, the need to work won out for her. Lily got offered a job that took her more and more away from school until, finally, she quit school altogether. “I knew school was important,” Azucena said, “but I didn’t realize how important it was to the big picture of what I wanted to do.” As the responsibilities of her job increased, so did the gnawing guilt of knowing that she was giving up on her education. She wondered how she could ever expect her children to finish school if she didn’t do so herself. She was making good money and moving into management, but she was working 24-7. “I felt like I was married to my work; I didn’t even realize how much I was tearing down my own body and hurting myself. It was crazy to work that much without rest.”

Lily had the opportunity to meet some of the executives in the company that she worked for. It was at that point that she realized that she meant nothing more than the manual labor that got the job done for them. Education would make all the difference.

Lily had further confirmation of this idea when she discovered that her work permit would not be eligible for renewal unless she was enrolled in school. So, reluctantly or otherwise, Lily came back to us in November 2016.

Azucena was a focused and devoted student, but her resolve was different this time. This time she was staying till she finished her degree. She came to every class, led small groups, and worked over 80 hours online in supplemental work. She wasn’t the cheerful Lily from before either. She was pensive and angry at herself for ever letting go of her education in the first place. She was also annoyed by the apathy of her peers. She had seen the real world and how little it had to offer to someone without an education. Why didn’t they care more?

I thought that, in life, all you had to be was a hardworking person, but it’s not true. You need education to learn what you don’t know. Being a hard worker burns you (takes all your energy), knowledge doesn’t. Without school, you’re nobody. –Azucena Rodriguez

In May 2018, Azucena Rodriguez finally achieved her goal. She walked across the auditorium stage in her cap and gown and felt the pride of a dream being fulfilled. Her mother, husband, and three children were there to love and support her.

20180627_124515_0001.png

Azucena has some fun with grad pictures with her children (left to right): Miranda, Cruz, and Fabian

For now, Azucena is enjoying time with her family. She hopes to get a part-time job and come back to school for a degree in Industrial Systems Technology.

All The Law Allows: The 13 Considerations of WIOA

Adult Basic Skills Education has changed a lot over the years. Just in five years, we have seen regulations come and go about what we have to do for funding to keep our programs–our jobs–alive. When this post was written in 2018, adult education programs had to comply with the following guidelines known as the Thirteen Considerations of WIOA. These considerations are still in play today.

The original text is worded as such:

WIOA’s 13 Considerations

(1) The degree to which the eligible provider would be responsive to —

  • regional needs as identified in the local plan; and
  • serving individuals in the community who were identified in such plan as most in need of adult education and literacy activities, including individuals who have low levels of literacy skills; or who are English language learners;

(2)  the ability of the eligible provider to serve eligible individuals with disabilities, including eligible individuals with learning disabilities;

(3)  past effectiveness of the eligible provider in improving the literacy of eligible individuals, to meet State-adjusted performance levels, especially with respect to eligible individuals who have low levels of literacy;

(4)  the extent to which the eligible provider demonstrates alignment between proposed activities and services and the strategy and goals of the local plan, as well as the activities and services of the one-stop partners;

(5)  whether the eligible provider’s program—

  • is of sufficient intensity and quality, and based on the most rigorous research available so that participants achieve substantial learning gains; and

(B) uses instructional practices that include the essential components of reading instruction;

(6)   whether the eligible provider’s activities, including whether reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, and English language acquisition instruction delivered by the eligible provider, are based on the best practices derived from the most rigorous research available and appropriate, including scientifically valid research and effective educational practice;

(7)  whether the eligible provider’s activities effectively use technology services and delivery systems including distance;

(8)  whether the eligible provider’s activities provide learning in context, including through integrated education and training, so that an individual acquires the skills needed to transition to and complete postsecondary education and training programs, obtain and advance in employment leading to economic self-sufficiency, and to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship;

(9)  whether the eligible provider’s activities are delivered by well-trained instructors, counselors, and administrators who meet any minimum qualifications established by the State, where applicable, and who have access to high quality development, including through electronic means;

(10)   whether the eligible provider’s activities coordinate with other available education, training, and social service resources in the community, such as by establishing strong links with elementary schools and secondary schools, postsecondary educational institutions, institutions of higher education, local workforce investment boards, one-stop centers, job training programs, and social service agencies, business, industry, labor organizations, community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, and intermediaries, for the development of career pathways;

(11)  whether the eligible provider’s activities offer flexible schedules and coordination with Federal, State, and local support services (such as child care, mental health services, and career planning) that are necessary to enable individuals, including individuals with disabilities or other special needs, to attend and complete programs;

(12)  whether the eligible provider maintains a high-quality information management system that has the capacity to report measurable participant outcomes and to monitor program performance; and

(13)  whether the local areas in which the eligible provider is located have a demonstrated need for additional English language acquisition programs and civics education programs.


These considerations are important to understand, and we can benefit from a translation into plain English. Thanks to Steve Schmidt, Assistant Director of Adult Basic Skills Professional Development at Appalachian State University, we have the following translation.

WIOAs 13 Considerations in Plain English

  1. We serve students who most need our services, especially lower level students
  2. We serve individuals with learning and other disabilities
  3. We meet state student performance standards, especially at the lowest levels
  4. We and our partners work together to meet our local plan goals
  5. Our program lasts long enough for students to make progress, and we use research-based reading practices
  6. All of our instruction is based on scientifically valid research and best practices
  7. Our instructors use technology effectively for both classroom and distance learners
  8. We provide learning in context so individuals acquire skills to transition to post-secondary, obtain career/jobs and exercise their citizenship rights
  9. Our staff is well-trained and pursues quality professional development including through technology
  10. External partners help us create career pathways and support students to completion
  11. We offer flexible schedules and necessary support so our students succeed
  12. We keep an excellent student management system that reports student and program outcomes
  13. We teach ESOL and civics education to adults in our communities

How are you doing meeting the letter of the law in your program?

Ability to Benefit: Changing the Way We Look at Learning Differences

One of the first students I ever really struggled with was a student who had been in our program for many years but never really progressed. He bounced from one class to another. He showed up to do the work and, most days, he was happy and engaged about it…but he just couldn’t do the work at the same level as his peers. We started to have conversations about conversations with him. It was suggested that we should have a conversation with him about his “ability to benefit” from the education he was getting–or not getting–in the classroom. None of us had the heart to have that talk, and he eventually left on his own. Years later, it still bothers me what happened to him.

We call disabilities “learning differences” because it removes the stigma and provides a more accurate term for the broad range of differences in our students. Students can have physical limitations, intellectual challenges, emotional challenges, and/or learning difficulties. Some of these problems are actual diseases and illnesses; others are phobias students are working through; considerably more are not diagnosed at all. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, one-third of students enrolled in adult basic skills education programs have a disclosed or undisclosed learning difference or disability.

As educators, we are told to meet certain standards and follow certain benchmarks that keep inching ahead of us…changing before we can meet them. It is hard enough to get a student to these benchmarks when they have every cognitive ability to do well in class, but what about the ones who don’t? What about the ones who are different? How do we get them across the benchmark?

If you really want to make a difference, start seeing the differences as assets, not deficits.

I love what the writer, Nalo Hopkinson, said about herself. She has a non-verbal learning difference and doesn’t pick up on a lot of social cues, but she says of herself that it is “a good brain for a writer to have”. As she explains what her mind is like in this short video, she keeps telling you why her differences are a good thing.

Learning Difference (LD) learners need extra encouragement in a classroom because they have very few positive experiences in learning. The last thing an LD wants to do is try to learn when it already carries bad associations of bullying peers and teachers who cared more about content cramming and bottom-line scores then what they needed to do to help them learn.

An LD may not look like much on the struggling side of learning, but look what they can become!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Adopting the right attitude can change a bad experience into a positive one.

  • (Teachers) Be patient with your students and be willing to change your teaching styles to whatever works best for them NOT you. Get CREATIVE!
  • Reinforce a positive perspective on their abilities; minimize focus on their inabilities. Take this project for example; it is a beautiful representation of turning a learning difference into a positive situation.
  • Change your mindset to see their weaknesses as gifts. Learn growth mindset!
  • (Students) Be willing to work your way out of accommodations.

 

The greatest lesson I have learned in life is that I still have a lot to learn. –Anonymous

 

Perception is Everything: How Growth Mindset Increases Outcomes in a Classroom

Over thirty years ago, Dr. Carol Dweck began studying students’ attitudes about failure. Her research led her to coin the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” to describe the way people view intelligence and their ability to learn. More specifically, she studied the way the brain worked and how neuron connectivity can change with experience. Her discoveries backed the idea that the brain can learn new ways to process information. Couple that with a changed belief structure (believing your brain can grow) and really impossible results become possible.

Growth Mindset 2

In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.
This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. –Dr. Carol Dweck, 2012.

The key to a growth mindset is perspective.

Both students and teachers need to believe that someone can grow and change even when they do not currently show signs of ability to do so. Discouragement does more to stop progress in a classroom than anything else does. It is the teacher’s job to encourage and motivate his/her students to see their own worth and put in the effort to live up to their potential.

Growth mindset starts with teaching cognitive learning theory.

Research shows that educational goals are reached when both students and teachers are knowledgeable about how the brain works and learns new material. Teachers should discuss successful learning practices with their students before they cover the necessary material of their course; taking the time to do so will enable those students to actually retain the information they are about to receive. USA Today did a great article on how the brain works for students about to enter college. This article can be a tool for training and discussion in the classroom. Teachers can also read more about growth mindset and download the lesson plan used by Dr. Dweck’s team to teach it here.

Growth mindset is a journey not a destination.

Changing the way you think about yourself is not something that is going to happen overnight. We cannot always have a growth mindset because discouragement is going to happen. That is just a part of life. However, we can recognize fixed mindset elements in ourselves and get feedback and strategies for improvement. The Mindset Works website has a quick interactive quiz for this. In a few short questions, you can gauge where you are and get feedback on how to improve. Check it out here.

 

Google Classroom: An Approved Online Learning Environment for Adult Education in North Carolina

(This post was presented during a live workshop presentation at the 2018 ABSPD Institute at Appalachian State University.)

If you are a teacher like me, you are constantly looking for a way to help your students be more engaged in their learning. Let me tell you a little about my history with Google Classroom.

A little over two years ago, a student came to me and asked me why we were not using Google Classroom. She had read an article about a chemistry instructor using it on campus, and she wanted to know why we, in Adult Education, were not on the boat with the rest of the college. To be honest, I was floored. I was partly impressed that my student was so motivated to learn, and I was partly embarrassed that I didn’t know more about this product being used on my own campus. I took the initiative to set up a meeting with that chemistry instructor. He graciously showed me all he knew and pointed me to the guru, Alice Keeler, to learn more. I became curious and I started to play with creating classes.

Courses launched in January 2016 for Adult High School English 3 and 4. Then courses launched for High School Equivalency in math, social studies, science, reading and writing, and digital literacy. The courses were tested by over 100 students and time was meticulously calculated and averaged for reporting and getting the courses approved by the State.

When you are considering any form of online learning, you have two major questions to answer. While Google Classroom had wonderful answers to the first question, it presented problems for the second.

1: How are my students going to access it?

Google Classroom offers free access to their platform online and through a free mobile app. Students can access their work on their phones and do their work on their phones without the need of a computer. The app does require internet access so they will need to work with their data plan and/or in a wifi area.

At first, students could only access Google Classroom through .edu accounts. These emails are made automatically for all active students of our college, but they are also deactivated every semester that a student is not actively enrolled in. It takes time to find the accounts, set up passwords, and enroll the students. If a student takes a semester off and their account is deactivated, we have to start all over with the enrollment process.

There is talk that Google is now opening Google Classroom to non-edu accounts. I have not seen that work yet, but it could resolve the access issue if students could use their existing Gmail accounts instead of ones set up for them by the school.

2: How are we going to track their time using it?

Google created the tool and gave it to us for free, but they do not plan on entering the game of telling us dates and times that students log in to do their work. The bottom line on this issue is to either use an external time clock or experiment and test your times and get them approved by the State for proxy time. While you may have a physical time clock for your program, that cannot work for students logging in to work remotely. What we did was test and submit average times for proxy approval to State. In 2018, we finally got our approval.

Here is the document we submitted for approval that includes detailed descriptions of how the courses were created, the outline for each course, and the time allotted for each assignment in each course.

WCCs Google Classroom for ASE Learners_updated 09-16-16.docx

What Got The Ball Rolling for Approval

During an auditor’s visit from State, I was asked to show the auditors what I was doing with Google Classroom. The people were highly impressed and asked me if I would be willing to share my work with other schools. Of course, I said yes. 😉 A few months down the road, I was invited to present during a Webinar. I shared this presentation.

Google Presentation

We submitted the document “WCC’s Google Classroom for ASE Learners” for approval and, two years later, we finally have it! In April 2018, Arbony Cooper, Adult Education Coordinator of Integrated Technology and IEL/CE Programs for College and Career Readiness at the North Carolina College System Office, wrote my director to say our program has been approved for use starting July 1, 2018 and the information has been submitted to the NCCCS Compliance Review team.

This means the hours as specified in the document above are approved for use in North Carolina for the courses as specified! This is a BIG leap forward in Adult Education. It was approved for our program at Wayne Community College, but I see no reason why it could not be used for any other program in the state. I would reach out to Ms. Cooper for clarification if needed.

How do I Create Classes Now?

Now, when I want to use Google Classroom to teach a course, I create it following the approved outline and allotted hours earned. I create a new course and post assignment using priorly approved content and/or content equivalent that meets the standards and time requirements of the approved lesson. I schedule each assignment to be at least a day apart so they will show on the reports. I also include the approved time in the assignment title so the time will show on the reports. I can adjust the due dates as need be for my course, and use the reports generated by Google to suffice for the end of course reporting.

How do I Handle Reporting Now?

If I am using Google Classroom in combination with other courses in Odysseyware–another platform I create content in–then I create custom reports and update them weekly. For assignments completed in Google Classroom, I give credit for the approved time according to the report submitted to and approved by the State. At the end of the course, I will present my custom reports as well as the Google Classroom reports as proof of the time recorded during the term in Web Advisor.

What are some helpful resources for learning more about Google Classroom?

In addition to the links above, I recommend starting with the source itself–Google–and reading all they have to say about Classroom, apps that work with it, and their other interesting projects here.

Next, I recommend reading blogs from teachers that are currently using it. Alice Keeler is a go to in the industry. She is a big supporter of technology, blended learning, and flipped learning. She believes Google Classroom should be used to connect and interact with students. You can read more from her on her blog at http://www.alicekeeler.com/

I’ve created a YouTube playlist of several videos that teach more about Google Classroom and how to use it. There is also an introductory version of my presentation for students. You can access my playlist here.

How can Google Classroom help prepare students for College and Career?

At Wayne Community College, we have asked businesses in the community what they see most lacking in their new hires that are also our students. The overwhelming response was that they were very well trained for their jobs, but lacked soft skills like responsibility, teamwork, professionalism, and showing up to work on time. Transitioning from Adult Education to College, I have asked professors what they see most lacking in their new students. The overwhelming response was that they are not prepared for the online learning environment and the level of discussion and collaboration that they will be required to do there. Google Classroom can help with all of this.

I find that the best way to better soft skills with students is not to teach it directly–like lessons about time management–but indirectly–in the level of expectation we expect from them in their existing classes. In my classes, grades (in Adult High School) and practice tests (in High School Equivalency) are dependent on their attention to their work, class attendance, and participation. Many of the student assignments involve teamwork and a professionally organized presentation. If students play around, leave early, or don’t do their work, their ability to practice test and/or earn good grades will suffer for it. Furthermore, all students are required to enroll in Remind, a free texting app, and let me know if they are running late or going to miss a class. When they notify me, I arrange for work to be available online to make up for their missed time. If a student misses more than four classes, they can be dropped from the course. All of these requirements raise the bar of expectancy for my students; most of them will rise to that level. Having high expectations on them now will help them be better employees and students in the future.

As far as preparing them for online learning in college, I like to do this through the applications I have them use for student assignments. Not all students have computers, and those that do are not always equipped with expensive software programs. I like to stick to using mostly the Google Suite–Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, Open Docs, etc.–because I know students will need to be familiar with them for college and career and they have free access to those programs with their Gmail accounts. In addition to familiarity with collaborative tools, students need to understand how to make constructive feedback comments on discussion posts. To help them learn this, I use the questions feature in the Google Classroom environment to host discussion boards. I also teach a lesson on blogs and how to respond to them using my own blogs and those of a few trusted friends.

What can I do for course content in Google Classroom?

Google Classroom makes it easy for you to use any type of information that you want to use to build a course. You can link websites, upload YouTube videos, insert docs from your Google Drive, insert self-grading tests from Google Forms, and more. What is super cool now, is that several web content sites are joining in on creating content that will add directly to your Google Classroom. My favorite for this is Khan Academy

You can find a lot of good material in other places too such as OpenEd, EdPuzzle, Ted Ed, and several other apps mentioned on the Google Apps for Education website.

Here is a list of some of my favorite content sources based on subject area:

English and Writing

Social Studies

Science

Math

Test Prep & Transitions to College and Career

 

In addition to all of the websites and information linked here, I hope you will consider my blogs as a resource for course content. Sign up to follow this website, and be the first to see new content post specifically for teachers of adults on Whitman’s Academics. Consider following Bairn’s Bard for original children’s stories and Rebecca Whitman for inspirational non-fiction and commentary.

 

Copyright Permission

Users are free to use the content from any of my blogs for educational purposes as long as the use credits Rebecca Whitman as the author and links directly to the online blog for use. Content is not to be printed or copied without the express written permission of the author.

Discussion Board Blogging

After reading my post, How to Comment on a Blog, I instruct students to practice what they have learned by commenting on blogs. The following lesson is what I use to create a discussion board through existing blogs. Most of these blog writers are people I know and trust, so I do not have to worry about the content of what the students are reading; I know whatever they read will encourage good character and self-analysis.

Here are the instructions.

 

Read 15 posts from a blog(s) on the approved list of bloggers below. (You can use the same blogger for multiple posts if you like, but you can only use bloggers on the approved list for this assignment.)

Write a comment on each of the fifteen posts you chose to read and send it to the blogger. (Your posts should be visible in the author’s comment stream. Sometimes the comments are pending approval and will post within a few days. Most of these bloggers regularly blog and check their comments, so don’t be surprised if you hear back from them on your post. You will be notified by email using the email you used to log in and leave a comment. Be polite and respond back to them as necessary if you do hear from them. Networking with a writer is always a good thing, and your feedback as their reader is invaluable to them.)

Copy and paste the urls for the posts you commented in an email to your instructor for grading. You should have fifteen separate posts that you read and commented on by the end of this assignment. (This step will be used to follow up on your work and grade your assignment.)

 

Approved Blog List

https://rebeccawhitman.wordpress.com/

The personal blog of your teacher 😉 written intentionally to inspire and encourage the perspective that you are made for a purpose and greatly loved by God.

https://datingwithjesus.com/

The personal blog of a young career woman trying to date while honoring Christ as the focus of her life.

https://www.ransomedheart.com/blogs

The official blogs of well-known writers and speakers, John & Stasi Eldridge, and others.

http://thenobleheart.com/gary-barkalow/

http://thenobleheart.com/sam-williamson/

The official blogs of The Noble Heart ministries with Gary and Leigh Barkalow.

http://charlesmartinbooks.com/blog

The official blog of the professional fiction writer, Charles Martin.

https://onetahayes.com/

The personal blog of a well-educated teacher, wife, mom, and grandma.

http://www.heartofawarriorbook.com/the-warriors-heart/

The official blog of Michael Thompson, founder of Zoweh Ministries.

https://magnoliamarket.com/hearth-hand-with-magnolia/

The official blog of Chip and Joanna Gaines of Magnolia and the DIY show, Fixer Upper.

https://strength4spouses.blog/

The personal blog of a friend and military spouse offering advice and insight helpful to living married to a military person.

https://www.goingbeyond.com/

The official blog of noted public speaker and actress, Priscilla Shirer.

http://www.billrosespeaks.com/

The personal blog of a local preacher sharing frank insight into everyday issues and cultural commentary.

http://thekindlingfire.com/blog/

A collection of blogs by outdoorsmen and women actively pursuing God.

How to Comment on Blogs

Most authors today write blogs in addition to or in place of published books. Our learning and our reading are expanding at a rapid pace online. Bloggers rely on readership and comments. Readership is when someone likes or follows a blog and reads it faithfully. Comments are when someone reads a blog and writes a message to the blogger in response to the blog on the individual post itself. Readership is a key factor in growth but comments are often how bloggers perfect themselves in their craft.

As a blogger, I have seen all types of comments come into my blog. Some comments show more reflection than others. Take the following comment for example:

I didn’t know that quote about woman made from Adam’s rib was from Matthew Henry. It is a lot older than I thought. I thought it was more contemporary – since women’s lib /rights, etc. became prominent. Love the CS Lewis. Very good article you have written.

In this comment, the reader reflected that she had not only read my blog post, but she was also moved by it. The reader shared points that impressed her as well as her overall impression from the post. Sometimes a blog post can make you think of how it applies to you personally and inspire you to relate to the author. Take the following comment for example:

Much wisdom here. I think your prayers in the previous relationship were answered for your best good. The one who needed space was not the one for you. The breakup hurt, of course, but it ultimately made room for someone better. I remember needing time to work on my relationship with Jesus before I’d be ready for a healthy relationship. I didn’t realize that at the time, but God knew.

In this comment, the reader was relating with the author about what they were sharing about relationships. In both of these examples, the readers were interacting with the blogger through what I like to call “meaningful comments”.

What are meaningful comments?

Meaningful comments express how the reader is learning from the blogger and, in some ways, they reach out relationally to them. In these examples, the comments were encouraging the blogger and praising their work. However, not all meaningful comments are sharing praise. Take the following comment for example:

The part that stands out to me about the title of the blog is where it talks about how all the history of New Bern has basically been unchanged. I don’t know much about New Bern so everything it talks about is something new I’m learning about it. I like the fact that it tells you about all the old shops that are still in business. I wouldn’t mind visiting it, and trying out the Pepsi shop they have there. I can tell that the author seems to have been there before from the information I read. I would have probably talked about festivals or activities they have down there, so in that case more people would want to visit New Bern. You can probably get brochures and compare the information between the blog and the brochures. But the best person to talk to about it would more then likely be a tour guide because they’ve probably lived there their whole life.

In this comment, the reader seems a bit disconnected. His sentences are choppy and written more like he is talking to a wall than a real person. However, he does bring out some good critical points where the blogger could have done a better job with her post. Amidst his praise for the post, he was also offering constructive criticism about how it could be better. Though not all comments need to do this, it is especially helpful to a blogger when a reader does have insights like this to share because it gives the blogger something to better themselves in.

Occasionally, a blog post will end with questions. Those questions are an invitation to the reader to answer the questions in the comments and thereby continue the conversation. Questions can often be a good way to spark comments and they are intended to do just that.

Generally speaking, you should comment on blogs in complete sentences. Occasionally it is okay to include phrases in your response to a blog post. Before you press the send button, however, make sure you have not left out any words or misspelled anything; you want your meaning to be clear.