Making Online Learning Brain Friendly: Artifacts of Competency
The purpose of this site is to provide examples of proficiency in each competency. It should be noted that these samples are merely that, samples.
Please be encouraged to use your creativity and design "know-how" to express proficiency in a way that meets your needs or context.

Rubric for All Artifacts

Remember, a single rubric is used to evaluate all artifacts in the course. This is because there are singular elements which will make you effective at implementing the practices.
It also helps you to better track your progress within each competency.

Collaboration Beyond the Discussion Board

Sample Artifact:
GCT Reboot Twitter Conversation

Reflection and Justification:
This artifact demonstrates evidence of my ability to build collaboration beyond the discussion board. I hosted a discussion using Twitter, a microblogging service. Participants were not provided with a specific prompt, but they were instead told to put questions, musings, and interesting facts in the online discussion. This was done purposefully to reduce the fear of the participants and create a safe environment for sharing. A hashtag was used by participants to help them organize the stream of the discussion. People were encouraged not to read every tweet, but instead to "jump in" when they could, again in another attempt to lower the entry barriers. While the artifact above (created using Storify) primarily documents exchanges between people participating in the event, several people following the stream (and not physically present) offered their insights and ideas relative to the conversation. This was important to the selection of the service. Because all postings on Twitter are public, it allowed many different people not present in the learning to benefit and enrich the discussion. Our students are used to "anytime, anywhere" learning, and this tool strategy encourages that!

Twitter honors the "brain friendly tenet" of collaboration beyond the discussion board because it offers quick feedback, incorporates a global audience, and facilitates follow up conversations. First, the service Twitter offers quick feedback to participants because it is available on mobile phones or any web browser. Participants can easily receive notifications of the discussion and offer quick thoughts. The brief nature of Twitter also encourages multiple exchanges between participants instead of single, long discussion board posts in more traditional online environments. John Medina and John Hattie both remind us that the brain thrives on constant feedback and brief exchanges, so this feature of Twitter is highly "brain friendly." Many Twitter uses have even described Twitter as "addictive," and a recent survey conducted by Chicago University argues that Twitter is harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol. So, be careful when using this tool. You just might get your students hooked on learning!

Feedback Via Multimedia

Sample Artifact:
Reflection and Justification:
This artifact demonstrates my ability to provide online students with lots of nonverbal cues as I explain weekly assignments via a video blog. The videos were created weekly, providing students with information that was thoughtfully based on their current work. A YouTube channel was used to organize the videos, and the video playlist was embedded within the course LMS on BlackBoard. (This was a course taught for a different university.) Students could "go back in time" and watch older videos at any time. I think this was a very successful strategy based on student feedback. After this (completely asynchronous) course was over, many students commented that they felt like they "really knew me" as an instructor. They also stated that they felt very comfortable reaching out to me and asking questions. One thing I would change if I used this strategy in the future would be to provide an opportunity for students to interact with each other via video so that they felt the same strong connections with their classmates that they felt with me.

Nonverbal cues make up a substantial part of our communication, and "text only" environments can often make students feel uncomfortable or unsure about their performance. Also, interactive styles of feedback are more effective than "static forms" according to the report How People Learn. A video blog honors both the students' needs for continuous feedback as well as anytime/anywhere learning. Video blogs are an effective way to make learners feel comfortable with their tasks and their learning.

Sample Artifact:
Reflection and Justification:
This artifact demonstrates my ability to give an adult clear feedback even while working at a distance. For this project, I was working with a teacher who lived several states away. Although I had met her a few times, I was unable to be onsite to provide her with continuous feedback about the development of her unit. To solve this problem, she would email me her unit and I would create a brief screen cast for her to watch. Following the screencast we usually exchanged several messages via email. However, since the screencast was so specific and it also included visual and auditory cues, the need for follow up conversation was greatly diminished. The teacher "got it" with this type of feedback much more quickly. It was also satisfying for her to see a log of her feedback because it clearly documented progress over time. All in all, I think the strategy was a success.

John Medina reminds us that any type of information that is presented using multiple sensory modes is much more likely to be processed as a long term memory. To this end, the teacher was better able to recall my recommendations and provide quality revisions to her work. Narciss and Huth also cite the qualities of effective feedback, and they believe it should provide "next steps" for the learner. These strategies were both honored by the artifact above, and this is a powerful method to use with students and peers.

Aiding Metacognition

Sample Artifact:
Google Lesson Plan on Reading Predictions Using Google Moderator

Reflection and Justification:
This lesson plan was designed to promote metacognitive thinking during a reading lesson with young children. Students had to either create a new prediction or vote for another prediction that they perceived as "likely" or "highly likely" for a shared reading text. A Google Moderator site was set up for this. Students used a single class log in to facilitate ease of use and password management. As students read, they continued to monitor their thinking and constantly refer to the collaborative voting system. This worked very well because students had to stop and think (about thinking) very often throughout the chapter. Many students were able to successfully analyze and retell the chapter after this activity, so I believe it had the designed effect.

"Thinking about thinking" or "self-grading" are some of the most powerful instructional strategies teachers can use, according to John Hattie. John Medina reminds us that our brain processes long term memory for weeks and years. The greater the rehearsal of our understandings and thoughts, the greater the retention. This can easily be facilitated by thoughtful teachers. If I had done this lesson again, I would also use an online journal to have students reflect on their reading in writing FIRST, then move to the Google Moderator site. This would not only give them 2 opportunities to reflect, but it would also likely improve the quality of the suggestions posted to the moderator page.