Introduction by Tyler Wood

Education is old. Plain and simple. How do you take something old and update it? Look at buildings, farming, communicating, and many other things that are also old. We have managed to reimagine, refurbish, and redesign these things. Why can't we do this with education? This is not a one change revolution, but an idea that we need to think of education like anything else - able to be redesigned regularly to meet the ever-changing world. Below is a link to a great resource for thinking about design in education that helps get the ball rolling. 

I have already been working on this very idea in my school. Korea is still a very traditional place in education. Even hitting children with rulers can be found in some areas in public schools, though it has become more and more rare as I have lived in Korea. Transforming a learning experience is not on the radar for most in the education field here, as I have come to realize. However, there are some innovators out there. 

My school is a private school that promotes its use of an American curriculum. Though we use textbooks with Common Core standards, we have not altered the way in which the content is being delivered for a very long time. I have proposed a flipped classroom to the English department head who has received approval from the CEO of the school. I successfully proposing a pilot program to the principal and, with his approval, I will be building a flipped classroom based on backward design principles. I have been working on this concept for months already. We will be rolling out the concept within the entire English department throughout the year. The principal pushed for even more than I was proposing. 

I believe that blended learning (a flipped classroom in my case) is the best of both worlds. I have been working on a Schoology-based online element to my current class to test the waters. I am also, in the process, building my LMS for next year's flipped pilot program. 

The content will be an ESL immersion course in multiple disciplines based on the curriculum set up by the administration. If it goes well, I will be able to fully implement the UbD method and eliminate the textbook contraints for the backbone of the content and really utilize the backward design method. The first class must adhere to the current curriculum, however. 

I am learning mostly from innovators from America or Europe and bringing those ideas to my school. However, I have heard of a few schools dabbling in technology solutions for their classrooms, mostly International Schools. There are also a handful of Cyber Universities that have popped up recently to fill the void of online learning here. As far as I know, though, we would be the first large scale (500+ students) non-international school that would be using a flipped classroom idea. There may be smaller acadamies that use it, but I have not heard of any major schools using it. There are a few that have used certain ideas, like BYOD, or tablet learning in class. 

Currently, the entire English staff is moving forward with several technological and ideological changes for the coming year, which is starting at the beginning of March. 

Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world with the fastest internet in the world. This is very beneficial for what I am proposing here. I, thankfully, do not have some of the problems with availability or connectivity that other teachers in other countries may have, or at least, not as big of a problem. 

Below is a report on IDEO and how they use the design process to recreate something old.

Learning Management Systems (LMS) by Tyler Wood

A learning management system (LMS) is a framework for containing an online or blended learning course. In a nutshell, it is the location where the content is held online. For a more detailed explanation click the button below. 

The question is, however, do we need it? Do teachers and/or administrators need an LMS? Bill Fitzgerald answers the question in the video and I respond below. 

I think Bill Fitzgerald wasn't given enough time to really flush out his ideas for why we don't need an LMS. I agree, that we do not need to have a framework for the content we are using for teaching, as he said, learning has been happening for a long time without it. However, I would say that having an LMS is helpful if you are looking for an easy way to build a curriculum for the 21st Century. 

I find that many people that are critical of new technologies or software like this, are people who are well-versed in technology and struggle to understand what it might be like for teachers that would feel overwhelmed by new technologies. An LMS can help reduce the fear of change for those teachers. The internet and the content available there can make your head spin. Organizing that into some semblance of an online curriculum without having some framework can be daunting. Is it necessary to have an LMS to do it? No, certainly not. But I would argue that it is very helpful for many teachers and administrations. And teachers and administrations tend to be the place where advancements in learning are stuck in the pipeline and not getting to the students. We can unclog the red-tape of change to the design by helping administrations and teachers get on board with something. 

He mentions that Socrates has been teaching for millenia, so that is proof that we don't need an LMS. I think this is a weak argument, although I understand his point. His point is that we will learn anyway, we don't need it. That is true, but the rebuttel to that would be, are we trying to teach at the bare minimum possible level, or are we looking for the best way to deliver content, motivate students, offer quicker, more effective feedback, etc...? I would say, Socrates may be able to teach us still, but is he teaching us the best way possible? No. Probably not. Do his books get on the best seller list? Are philosophy classes full and hard to get into in college, not usually. It works, but so does a chimpanzee teaching his children to use a stick for ant fishing, that does not necessarily mean it is as effective as it can be. 

With that said, I will defend the idea that we do not need an LMS as well. I prefer to have one, but before I started using an LMS, I was building a curriculum that could have just as easily been used online without an LMS. Students can easily jump from one site to another, they do this regularly anyway. There can be a school website with links and programs, a blog, wiki, etc... all linked from a central website and used just as well as an LMS. What that lacks is the convenience of automatic grading, in some case, simplicity, and aesthetic design. Children and parents might not always be very proficient with technology, and an LMS offers a much easier interface in a central location. If we are following the UDL method, we should be considering the children with special needs. Keeping it simple is not just about efficiency for teachers or administrators, but ease of use for special needs students and technologically illiterate students and parents. However, an LMS is not necessary to fulfill all of these requirements for learning. 

Why not both? Much like many ideas we come across, one or the other are not the only two choices. Why not have an LMS (especially if it is a free one) that can be used by teachers that are comfortable with it, and the option to not use it for teachers that would prefer not to, as long as they are both meeting the standards of the school, state, country, etc...? Disregarding one way over the other seems a little myopic. Being open to adaptation would be the best stance to have, since learning and education is in a constant state of flux. We cannot know what will come in the future, but having an open mind to change will mean you will not get caught too off-guard. Many people would have never guessed we would have more computer access in our pockets now than the NSA had 40 years ago in a supercomputer. We should always be willing to try things, reevaluate, and adjust. If it means not using an LMS until it makes more sense, great. If it means using an LMS until you get the confidence to go it alone, great. Either way, the goal is educating the students. 

Web Tools: The Finding and Curation of Content by Tyler Wood

Collaboration is vital to a robust yet adaptive educational environment. If you have learned anything from my writing, it is that we need to help each other build a better learning environment for students and teachers. This means that there will be many opportunities to borrow content created by other teachers or people. We have the world's experts at our fingertips with the internet. But we know this can be a minefield of legality. What can we use and what can we not use?

I believe the idea of copyright has been severly distorted since its inception, however. The original purpose was to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts" and has since been taken over by monetary gain. I had a friend who was an IP lawyer back in Seattle that represented many large companies in his career. I had many interesting chats with him about copyright and patents and from that I have realized copyright and patents have veered way off the path of their original intent. Not for everyone, but for many. It seems patent law and copyright law have become a chess game for very large and wealthy companies to play against each other and it has pushed the 'little guy' out of the way. The idea behind copyright and patents was to give some benefits to the inventors and creators which motivated them to create with some protection that they would not have their ideas or inventions stolen from them by a person or company that could afford to steal it and make money on that idea. These days, it has completely switched (mostly). For example, Starbucks was using their powerful lawyers to bully a small business that used a logo that was somewhat similar to theirs. If the small business was intentially using that logo to benefit from the Startbucks brand and sell something that infringed on Starbucks' business interests, then it would be a reasonable problem for them. However, this business had no intention of benefiting from Starbucks because it was a business that had nothing to do with coffee or cafes or anything else. My friend told me that Starbucks actually had no legal ground for their claim of copyright infringement on their logo, but because they had so much money, they could hold the small business in court costing them money, so they would have to bow down anyway. This is what is happening with copyright and patents in America these days. Starbucks is just one example, but many, if not most, major companies are invested in protecting things, like words, that they have full-time lawyer staff. Is that what the founding fathers envisioned? 

Thankfully, the Fair Use Clause helps us educators out and many people are working hard to protect the open internet, we may see some changes in the future, but I do not think copyrights actually do what they were originally intended to do so much anymore. Sometimes, it does. But increasingly it is not. 

Below is an interesting argument defending the original purpose of the copyright law against those that have twisted it in recent history. 

This really reminds me of an undergrad course I took about the history of science. We discussed in detail the importance of the "secrets" of science how controlling information was making innovation impossible at the time. Certain people would have a technique for metallurgy, for example, and only their apprentices could even know this technique. This helped them keep their job security. However, the point of copyright was to allow that information to get out so everyone had access to it to promote innovation, whilst still allowing the creator/inventor to have some credit and job security. Places like Pinterest, as long as they are giving credit where credit is due, are simply spreading those ideas that help lead to better innovation and a better informed citizenry. I would differentiate spreading ideas while crediting the source and claiming it as your idea. Claiming it would be dishonest and immoral, but spreading the ideas would be quite beneficial to everyone. It may not lead to peak monetary gain for the inventor, but that has never been the purpose of copyright law, until recently.

This is especially pertinent for educators because what we do fits squarely in the strike-zone of the purpose of the copyright law. We have the Fair Use Clause to protect us from certain litigation, but I do believe we should be allowed to do even more for the sake of teaching students. One of the major hurdles in the future of education is hacking. Click the button below for more details about how hacking and education go hand in hand for the 21st century.

How do you keep track of the content online? If you are culling content from the internet, sometimes it is not downloadable and must be saved in another way. one way to do that is to create a personal learning environment (PLE) where you can store your links for later use. Click below to visit mine.

Another way, one that can be used with the PLE, is tagging. Having a plan for tagging can help when looking up those links. Below is my plan for tagging content for my school.

Tagging Content

Instructional Design Authoring: When You Can't Find Content by Tyler Wood


“There are a million resources available on the Internet and creating more seems among the successful wastes of time in which teachers love to engage” (Hattie, 2012, p. 64).


I can understand the response by Hattie in this quote because it is true that many teachers around the world are currently engaged in creating content that already exist somewhere on the internet. I have done it myself. I was once told a saying that was attributed to the Jewish (though I have not been able to verify that) that goes something like this, "when given the choice between A and B, choose C." There is always a way around a duality of choice, I find. There is a middle ground because there are also many areas, ideas, or specifics that are not online, or at least not free. I would say that there is certainly the possibility to cull content already created to eleviate the need to make all of your class content, it is also true that there will probably be holes in the content at some point that will need plugging with created content by the teacher. 

Having said that, I would also argue that creating your own content should not be an action we do because we have to, but because we want to personalize our learning as well. Our children want to have a learning environment that caters to them. Many things can be done with content already online with that in mind, but making a few things that are more personal to the class, teacher, or student helps create the idea that they are a part of something actively, not witnessing passively. I have taken a course or two on EdX, for example, and it does feel a bit disconnected because there are no direct personal connections to me there. Of course, how can there be, they are offering free classes to millions of people, but that is the trade-off. I'm glad they do what they do, but I would like my class to feel more personal for my students, so filming myself or writing content myself can help make that connection. 

I have also found that finding content can take some time and, at least for some content, it is easier and faster to make it yourself. Maybe it is an ESL thing, but I have had so much trouble finding very basic worksheets for my students to work on for grammar. Probably because many companies make money selling grammar textbooks, but writing a grammar worksheet is as fast as typing out a few sentences with blanks and I even get to throw my students' names in for that personal touch. They always get a kick out of seeing their names in the books or on homework sheets. 

Another thing is versatility. Relying on culled content means that the content you find will shape how you create your lesson because that is the content that is available. Having the option to create content yourself leaves you open to going a new way with something. I used a Stephen Hawking documentary for my lesson on the history of the universe. It was not a documentary specifically for educators, so I had to write my own worksheets to go with the video, so I was gathering content and creating content to work symbiotically in the class. I think that is the key to content: first figure out your goals, then gather as much content you can that is made already, and then create content as companion content or content that fills in the gaps. After that, you can start creating content to make culled content better or more personal. 


Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. New York, NY: Routledge.

HTML5: Creating the Wheel by Tyler Wood


Do educators need to know code to be effective teachers?

I would have said "no" just a few weeks ago quite catagorically, but after reading about 508 compliance it seems that if we are moving into online classes, then we do seem to need some type of coding experience. I have had a lot of trouble with certain assignments because I am out of touch with computer language and technical skills. I am fully invested in technology as a tool for the future in all aspects, but I am not a very well versed computer user, in the grand scheme of things. 

I have created my entire course in an LMS partly because it is user-friendly and simple. This is helpful for teachers who are even more technically illiterate than I am, but as we move further forward I think part of the teaching profession will involve knowing how to create your own work. 

There is also the matter of what content we will be teaching in the future. Computer code is becoming more and more like English in other countries for business majors. In Korea, for example, you cannot hope to get one of the coveted jobs in this country without knowing a certain amount of English. I think the same argument can be made for learning code. This will be an important second or third language to learn for the future because we will be surrounded by technology that uses it. We are already surrounded, but we still rely on technicians. But, much like my dad used to say to me, "every man should know how to fix things around their house." He was refering to a certain level of mechanical and carpentry skills, but the future will see our houses full of technology that needs coding to fix it at times, not wrenching or hammering. We should be aware of that and be able to speak and teach in that language at some point.

Below is a New Yorker piece on the subject. 

I guess the real question for educators would be "what world are you teaching your students to be a part of?" 

Gamification: What about badges? by Tyler Wood

My Gamification Plan


One of the tenets of gamification is using badges to motivate students. Badges are not a new concept. I am reminded of Boy Scouts when I think of badges. When I was in Scouts, I earned badges after completing some form of challenge or performance of mastery of a skill. Thinking of that experience teaches me a few things that might change if we adopted this approach fully into a public education.

Photo courtesy Orange County Archives

1. Kids will have more fun. Most children I can remember in Scouts were there, and stayed there, because they wanted to keep learning and participating. There may have been a few parents pushing their son into it, but I do not remember a single boy I talked to that did not want to be there every week for our meetings. It was fun, and not just because the activities were different than school. It was not graded, it was useful (and we understood that), and it was encouraging. If we can change the way we offer education and assessment to align more with this approach, it will be more interesting and fun for kids.

2. Learning a skill meant something. In school when I learned a skill, I do not remember any fanfare or even much idea as to how to use that skill later. In Scouts, the usefulness of these skills was apparent and we had some ceremony for each badge that was given out. We felt proud of the accomplishment. Those badges made us feel confident about what we knew, rather than always feeling like we were going up a steep hill we could never see the end of.

3. Customized learning. Scouts would work on projects together and earn badges together, but many of the badges we earned were of our own choice. We would do or make something and we would all be getting different badges at different times. I understand that the scout leader was not meeting us everyday like a teacher, but they had just as many or more children they were responsible for. Offering badges means opening up the option of self-directed learning, which would cause more students to feel some autonomy in their learning. The classroom could be more of a hangout area where students are busy working on their projects together or individually while the teacher (like the scout leader) walks around helping. Sometimes scout leaders would have instructions for all the students, but it was never long. It was broken up into manageable chucks, that way the scout could get back to trying. This fits well with project learning, of course. 

4. Parents were always involved. This might be a harder one to transfer into public school for many reasons, but scouts were active and their parents were generally active, too. This has something to do with who joins scouts, but it shows a model that works. The parents were very accomidating with each other as well, many became friends. Having an environment where sharing and collaboration within the parent group might help parents get involved or help students whose parents are busy earn their badges together with the help of another parent. It may not be a perfect solution, but it can be an aspiration at least. 

5. Learning through activity. The reason I eventually quit Boy Scouts was because the leadership changed and we were doing too many meetings where we learned simple things, or were being talked to too much. It started to feel like school after school. I would rather school start to feel like the scouts instead. When my older brother was a scout, they would go on treks and camping excursions pretty often, which is why I wanted to join. That dwindled. I know that field trips can be hard to organize, but having students visit places as homework is less so. Especially, if some days off were offered to accomplish this mission, or we are designing a blended learning or online learning course. Restructuring time in a class would be great. Building an online class makes this a little easier because there is no class time, but even a traditional class could open up to the idea of opening the door more often. Children can earn different badges based on outside the school activities because badges can be earned from organizations the school trusts, like museums, where they know they had to do something do get that badge. 

There will be those parents and students who complain about this transition. There are parents and students who complain about any transition, so that is par for the course. Many students will complain about the changes we are making in my school as well, because certain students get comfortable being "good" students because they figured out the system, not the skills. Those students will get tested in a different way they might struggle with at first. They may not be able to accept failure as well, but over time, even those students will start to feel proud of badges. Parents may not like getting rid of the easy to understand grades they are used to. Much like the standards based report cards, it will take some time to get used to not having an overall number to attach to the student on how good they are. 

Another issue is that this could be the laser disk of education. If it is not adopted widely enough it may fail because it will not connect to the wider community well enough. If there is no pay-off for students and teachers in the expansion of it, any optimism for this project could ruin it. When people set up a certain idea in their head about the possibilities of some trend or change and it does not live up to that completely, it can falter and lose steam. 

I am going to try and adopt this idea into my class this year to create a more gamified feel in the class. Last year, it was points and prizes, but this year I am going to try and tap more into the intrinsic motivation of my students and see how that goes. However, it will not be the basis of assessment alone. 

My Badge Experience

Designing with your End User in Mind by Tyler Wood

One of the pitfalls of designing a course is that the designer does not consider the user into the plans, or thinks they know better than the user.

I have had trouble in the past with this issue. My circumstance was such that it lended itself to that very attitude. I was teaching very young students (Kindergarten in Korea - age 5-6), and I was teaching students a second language that happens to be my native tongue. It is hard to accept that very young children speaking a second language you grew up speaking have much to offer in the way of helping you design lessons and content. However, much like 'satisfying the cat', I still had to make them learn and happy. I am seeing that more clearly now. The only feedback I generally used was how engaged the students were and their facial expressions. I am now teaching older students and redesigning the class I am teaching, so it has been thrust upon me how important good learner feedback is. Especially now that we are scaling it up to more classes. 

I generally use quite a bit of verbal interaction for feedback. I ask the students as much as I can what they thought of certain things. I have done that a lot this year in regards to the online environment I have been trying out. I realize that is not enough though. First, many students are too shy or not interested enough to offer a response. This means I could be missing a large percentage of my students' voices that might disagree with the students who are talking to me. Secondly, I am trusting their honesty when they speak to me directly. Some students will likely exaggerate one way or another based on my presence. They know I am looking and listening to them, and that can alter the feedback for better or worse. And finally, they are put on the spot because I ask them when I have time, not necessarily when they are ready to answer. I have a schedule to follow and meet, so I cannot accept responses on their terms. In other words, even when trying to avoid this pitfall, I am still not getting the whole picture.

This year, I am planning on creating many opportunities for students to offer feedback, so I can get the best possible information. I will still ask, but I will also have surveys and discussion options for students. The surveys offer anonymity and the discussions offer flexibility. 

The final pitfall is how to use the feedback. I think some teachers that collect good data might still fall into the cherry-picking pitfall. Getting good feedback from your users does not work well if the only feedback addressed is what fits with what you wanted to fix anyway. This is a common problem for people and data/statistics in the first place. I will try and be as objective about the feedback as possible and accept that there might be things I will not be comfortable with that still need to be done. I am not talking about unacceptable things the students request, but a style of teaching I am not comfortable with or lessons, games, or materials I am not used to using. 

I think the best way to avoid these pitfalls is to accept that everything we design to teach with is a river that is temporary. If we can accept that, we just might not hold on to certain aspects of our instruction too hard and we will be able to change with the feedback and times. 

I find it funny that I keep coming back to a quote (though unconfirmed) by Coco Chanel, "Get dressed, then take one thing off." She was speaking of women's habits of over-accessorizing, but I feel it can apply to almost anything. Design something, then be prepared to throw some of it out, or change some of it without being too attached. This is the way design will work best. 

The Start-up Culture and The Future of Design by Tyler Wood

Predicting the future would surely help me retire quickly, but in education it seems much easier simply because of the bureaucracies that hold teachers back. Basically, we are looking at the technology right now that we will see in schools in five years because it takes that long to implement any kind of change in education, sadly. I have the same frustration with the overly optimistic future worlds in movies. Can we really tear down the whole city and rebuild it with floating highways in 30 years? No. I wish, but no. Sorry, Back to the Future. 

The death of email is inevitable. I barely use it already, mostly with my parents and junk mail, just like snail mail. It is old and outdated and that is fine. I am blocked at my school from gmail anyway, so our school has been using dropbox and apps for communication for awhile. Implementing the LMS will only increase that. As for wearable tech, I was just reading an article in Wired about virtual reality.

Much like Blu-ray and VHS, once the adult industry signs on the tech will take off, and the reason it hasn't taken off is that the quality is not quite there yet. That will be an additional technology that can be integrated into the classroom environment, or home, quite well (the VR, not the porn). Students could 'visit' different times and places, including places we cannot go to like the cellular level. 

As for the general future of education, I really wish for open classes that are free to take world-wide that come with certificates that transfer for job-applicants. Teachers will be focusing on critical thinking skills in classrooms and much of the content will be learned online wherever the student wants whenever they want. However, the pragmatic side of my brain is well aware that the future of education will always be tied to the future of the political world in America. There are plenty of politicians trying to put their hands into education for better or worse, and that will have consequences. Having those free online classes can also create a bigger gap in education because of certain political or religious groups pulling out of the public schools and only offering the education they want for their children. Unfortunately, our designs of easy access to education anywhere can have negative consequences for society and there could be a backlash that puts children back in classrooms. No matter what, the learning will be happening via the internet in some capacity. It is really hard to say where it will go, but so far I am cautiously optimistic about education in the future. There are many schools and teachers trying new things now, certainly more than when I was in K-12, so that should bring about some good data and feedback that we can use to make new changes in the future.

What about children with learning disabilities?

Is the start-up culture and design ignoring the students that need extra assistance? I would argue that the technology being added to our world have been the most impressive on this very subject, in fact. Many of the latest advancements that we sometimes take for granted, or are even bothered by, are helping students that have learning disabilities the most. Click the button below for a look into what the education system is now and could be in the future for special education.