Grand Caffeinated Adventures in Mentoring: Penn State ID-2-ID Joint Reflection

By Zach Lonsinger and Jeff Puhala

Project Deliverable for Penn State’s ID-2-ID Program

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”

– John C. Crosby

As any grand adventure, our journey began shooting for the stars. We immediately agreed on creating a presentation based around our experiences working on the Canvas Project. The goal of this presentation was to create something that could also duel as a conference proposal/presentation. This goal lasted until our first in-person meeting at Starbucks. Over two highly-caffeinated beverages, we transitioned our focus to a research project that would examine the presence of an instructional designer(s) at each Penn State college and campus. Do colleges/campuses with instructional designers experience higher faculty satisfaction compared to colleges/campuses without any instructional design support? How does this factor into course development? Student engagement? All great questions, all very time consuming research!

Well, the caffeine wore off and the holidays arrived. Before we knew it, we were coming back from holiday break. Reenergized, we were ready to tackle our little monster of a research project! However, January was full throttle for the both of us. New semester meant new courses, and new courses meant an influx in Canvas trainings and course conversions. Trainings happened and courses were converted, we drank more coffee and one of us accepted and started a new position (keep reading to find out who!), and then it was February. Whoops. What about our research project?! It’s a good thing the Horizon Report is published in February.

Zach:  “Let’s do a shared reading and blog reflection on the Horizon Report.”

Jeff:  “Great idea. We could even compare it to our current work on the Canvas Project.”

Zach:  “There’s even a section on ‘Next-Generation LMS’. Perfect.”

And now here we are, drinking what may or may not be coffee, illustrating our grand adventures through this wonderful program. So, what did we do? Here are some more over-caffeinated thoughts on our ID-2-ID experiences. Enjoy!

Our collaboration has been unique because we both worked on the Canvas Project. Jeff served as a trainer at the beginning of the mentorship program and Zach served as an instructional designer. The joint collaboration led to increased productivity in training, course conversion, and networking across Penn State.

During our mentorship experience, we met in person and talked frequently at Canvas training sessions, which Jeff led and Zach assisted, through email and on Yammer chat. During one event, we had the privilege to travel together to the Worthington-Scranton campus with a third Canvas team member for a training session. The combination of in-person and virtual conversations led to a rich experience.

Our conversations revolved around job searching and the skills and training needed by an instructional designer to successfully find a full-time position. While Zach served in a temporary role as an instructional designer, Jeff was in a temporary role as a trainer. We spoke frequently about the skills needed to transition from trainer to instructional designer. Jeff completed LDT415A through the Penn State World Campus and used Zach’s exemplar project, included in the course, to learn how to design training materials and academic courses using the Dick Carey and Carey model, or ADDIE. Jeff’s team project received a near perfect score at the end of the semester and introduced him to the development process used in the instructional design setting.

The continual conversations and mentorship paid off. Jeff applied for an instructional designer position at the College of Nursing, where Zach used to work as an instructional production specialist. Jeff was able to learn about the College of Nursing through Zach’s positive experiences as an instructional production specialist. As part of the interview process, Jeff used the LDT 415A final project as part of the requested work sample. The College of Nursing offered Jeff the position, which he accepted and now works at full-time.

Zach continued to collaborate with Jeff in his new role. The College of Nursing course conversion was underway; however, prior to Jeff’s arrival, the College of Nursing did not utilize the services of TLT where Zach served as an instructional designer. Collaboration between the TLT course conversation team and the College of Nursing is underway at the time of this writing. This collaboration went smoothly due to the relationships developed in the ID-2-ID program.

We believe the ID-2-ID program can benefit both the mentor and mentee. While Zach helped Jeff with training sessions, Zach also developed and delivered his first online and in-person training session, and his first conference presentation. Zach tapped into Jeff’s reservoir of conference experiences, as Jeff has presented at multiple conferences. Our conversations were a key element in the success of Zach’s first presentations. These experiences and conversations expanded Zach’s skillset as an instructional designer and trainer. We still plan to co-present at a future conference.

We are thankful to have been paired together. Our skillsets were different, but complimentary. We learned from each other and advanced our careers. We are proud to have been associated with the ID-2-ID program and look forward to continued collaboration.


Strengths, Weaknesses, & Teams

Image of a chain with the quote overlaid over top of it, "You think it's a weakness? Make it a strength. It's a part of you. So use it."

Well, hi again. It’s been 11 months since we last spoke, and as you can see from my most recent blog post before this, I’m a fan of doing this. I don’t think I picked up another hobby as I mentioned previously, but I am getting married in 36 days. Two weeks before that, I’m moving into a new home. So busy busy busy.

Weakness: blogging consistently.

Strength: not hitting 1 year of no blog posts. #win

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on strengths and weaknesses, especially mine. I just graduated with my M.Ed. in Learning, Design, and Technology in May and started a new position as an Instructional Designer in February. Over the course of my graduate studies and not only starting a new position, but being a part of team inside a capital project at Penn State, it has opened my eyes even more to my strengths and weakness. Being a team player was always one of my strengths. I work well independently as well as in a team. I knew this, or did I? It wasn’t until I had to depend on other team members that I realized it’s been quite a while since I had to do this—since high school.

In high school, I ran cross country. Talk about an independent sport that required team dependence more than anything. You could individually win a race, but lose the entire meet because of your team. This required a great deal of dependence on your team to run well, too.

Fast forward 8 years, and all seems too familiar. Individually winning races does not do much for the team; it helps, but to win and be successful, a team effort is required. Sometimes we need to sacrifice our own win in lieu of helping another team member win their race. It’s been a while, but the true meaning of working together on a team is coming back to me…and it’s fantastical!


Thank You Video Games for Agency

Blogging is hard. It has to be intentional and sometimes I don’t like planning. That’s my two-sentence explanation of my two-month hiatus, which followed a 10-month hiatus. So after about a year long break, I think I’m going to come back. But who knows, I could pick up another hobby as I did Disc Golf this past summer. Wicked addicting. Okay, enough digressing and to the point.

Agency. It’s great. And I 100% contribute my agency to growing up playing video games.

People who have a high sense of agency were actually more resilience when external forces beyond their control messed up their plans.” They just started off toward their goals again undeterred, because that was the way to control their destiny.

Games teach us that different choices have different outcomes and we control the choices we make.

That’s about all I’m going to say about that. I know it’s short, but the truth is that I’ve had this post saved as a draft for about a year and I figured this would be a great starting post to kick me off…again. So have at it. Thoughts? What do you contribute your agency to? Video games? A parent?

With Or Without Technology: 25 Things That Happy People Do

Note: This is a reblog from TeachThought. I have been tweeting and Facebook sharing article that I really like for the past few months, but this article was different. I just had to share somewhere else with a few of my own thoughts.

Smiling child peeking out of hay

Image: teachthought

Second Note: So, long time no see! It’s been about 10 months since my last post (shh, don’t tell anyone). I’m going to be intentional from here on out to blog more and also to expand this blog beyond technology and edtech. This may warrant an additional blog post, but let’s start with this first.

Below are 25 things that happy people do, with or without technology. This was posted to TeachThought by Terry Heick this morning (July 23, 2015), and I absolutely fell in love with this post. I already shared this on twitter, but I wanted to share it elsewhere. I needed to share it elsewhere. So many of these ring true to my own beliefs and I usually fall short of embracing each and every one of these, but oh boy―could you imagine what your life would look like if you lived out each one of these ideals?

Here’s an experiment. Hunt down 25 index cards and write each one of these on its own card. If you’re one of these techy people, copy and paste these into your Notes app on your iPhone. If you have an Adroid, I’ll pray for you. Next, make an effort to read these at least once a day and concentrate on one or two of these each day for a month. Then rinse and repeat.

  1. They connect meaningfully with other living things.
  2. They are playful–in whatever form they choose, they create and take advantage of opportunities for “Deep Play” (see Diane Ackerman).
  3. They control their thinking. Thoughts become beliefs, and beliefs lead to behavior. Beliefs also lead you to seek specific data that that fits your beliefs. In that way, you literally construct your own reality–and thus happiness or suffering.
  4. They see like a scientist (with an open mind and objective analysis), think like a farmer (with reverence and interdependence), and behave like an artist (with creativity and disavowment of convention).
  5. They know that happiness is a muscle. Neurology shows us that thinking patterns lead to more of the same, so establish that neural pathway. Flex your happy muscle even if you’re not feeling it at the moment. You won’t smile if you’re not happy; you can’t be happy if you don’t smile.
  6. They practice visualizing the things they want to achieve (as a teacher–delivering a lesson, collaborating with another teacher, talking with an administrator or parent, etc.) The law of attraction makes sense. See different, seek different, attain difference.
  7. They find comfort in new experiences and ideas. They don’t just accept them, but see them as opportunities (usually out of their control anyway).
  8. They find value in substance, and whimsy in recreation. That is, purpose and meaning can drive their behavior, but their soul is still playful with the universe around it.
  9. They are brutally honest with themselves and those around them. (That said, they also know the difference between honesty and insecurity.)
  10. They adapt their thinking and behavior to an elegant and sustainable scale. Not too humble (which sparks nothing), not too broad (which burns recklessly).
  11. They embrace ambiguity. There is no one way to see, understand, or do anything.
  12. They accept that the world, while flawed, is likely ‘better’ than it’s ever been. This is hugely debatable and another post of its own, but this is a thought that keeps creeping up on me recently. Yes, we have a long way to go, but the modern focus on equality and acceptance and social justice, while insufficient, is a trend whose value can’t be overstated.
  13. They trust others. Yes, people let you down sometimes; yes, people hurt you, but there is joy in human connections that can’t be found anywhere else in the universe. (See #1.)
  14. They serve others, and love ‘differences.’ Diversity. Change. They honor fear and (mild) anxiety, but understand that a fundamental law of the nature of all things is change.
  15. They believe in their own ability to positively impact their environment.
  16. They eat well–food that nourishes their bodies, and reflects their respect for the earth, and their own future.
  17. They exert themselves physically, whether through work, exercise, yoga, sports, etc.
  18. They honor the complexity of things. They assume that they don’t understand. When you assume that you do, you’ll lean towards judgment. When you assume that you don’t, you’ll lean towards analysis. One leads to suffering, one leads to something closer to wisdom.
  19. They make things–and wildly original things. There can be joy in execution (other people’s ideas), but creating something out of nothing is a uniquely human–and humanizing–concept. The more fully human you are, the more of an opportunity you’ll have for contentment, happiness, and joy.
  20. They restore things.
  21. They know that living is in the moment–everything else is an illusion. (And even living in the moment is problematic depending on how you’re constructing that moment through your own perceptions–see #2.) So find the texture in each moment. Within that texture is design, nuance, purity, and love.
  22. They grasp the various legacies they are a part of, and the ecologies that need their sense of living citizenship.
  23. They stop seeking and start accepting. Then, from a position of acceptance, they begin to see what they really need.
  24. They embrace the journey, not the triumph and suffering that happen along the way.
  25. They don’t seek happiness. They know that happiness is not a cause or condition, but an effect–the resonance of an alignment between your behavior and your belief system as a human being.

Younger than 25, but older than 20…and I Approve this Article!

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted a very interesting article in their Wired Campus tech blog a few days ago on Snapchat. What is Snapchat you ask? Ask a teenager, and they’ll tell you that you send photos that disappear after 10 or less seconds. Ask anyone above 25, and it’s that app with a little ghost. Ask Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and it’s a punch in the face.snapchat-vs-facebook Just last year (November 2013), Zuckerberg offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat, which was turned down. I know, right!? Who would turn down $3 billion? Especially with the founders being 23 and 25 at the time! But, they believe their product, Snapchat, has way more potential than $3 billion, and so do all the teenagers running from Facebook to Snapchat. Check out this pie graph of how many photos are shared daily on Snapchat compared to Facebook and Instagram…Screen-Shot-2013-11-22-at-07.07.38I do not blame the University of Houston for adopting Snapchat as a medium for reaching their current and prospective students. It just makes sense. Teenagers and young adults are using less of Facebook, and more of Snapchat to communicate. So why not go to them? Like I said, I’m fresh out of undergrad and currently working on my master’s degreeI’m a millennial. If Snapchat was around when I was searching for colleges, I would definitely be drawn to a school that was sending me snaps. That would tell me that this university understands me, understands my generation…and this would be a place that I would be understood. After all, that’s all kids want nowadays, to be understood.

Four Skills to Teach Students In the First Five Days of School

I read a great article last week from MindShift. It was titled the same as this blog post. I decided to summarize it here, and cover four of the main points. Please feel free to check out the whole article! It’s amazing.


  1. Power Researching
    • “My job used to be to give you the information, now my job is to teach you how to find the information.” –Alan November
  2. Meaningful Contributions
    • “You can make meaningful contributions to the world, no matter how old you are.” –Katrina Schwartz
    • “The best teachers were kids who had really struggled with the material and really understand what it’s like to learn…Sometimes teachers suffer from knowing too much. The material they teach is easy to them and it can be hard to empathize with the stumbles of a new learner. Kids who have struggled with the material understand the pitfalls and can often explain them in ways other kids will understand.” –Alan November
  3. Ask Them About Their Passions
    • In a computer science class November taught, the most resistant student ended up building a massive database of resources for people with disabilities in her town. She couldn’t finish it by the end of the year, so she came in during the summer to complete the work. “That’s the difference when students define their own problems with intrinsic motivation,” November said. They care so much they’re begging for the computer lab to stay open during the summer.
  4. Build A Learning Ecology
    • “I think teachers should demonstrate how they learn in the first five days,” November said. Typically we demonstrate what we already know and have learned. That has to change. We have to teach students to learn to learn.”
    • If Twitter is such an important tool for educators, why keep it from students who also want to know how to connect and build a network? “We should teach them to follow the best minds in the world on whatever their passion is,” November said.


Is it the Age of The Netflix Generation?

I’ve heard many names for my generation: Generation Y, which I think is boring; Millennials, getting a little more interesting; Net Generation; Echo Boomers; Generation Next; and so on. But my favorite, and what I think describes Millennials better is the ‘Netflix Generation’. You could also call it the ‘Netflix Age’ as Generation Z will also be lumped into having instant access and gratification of streaming videos. I read a very interesting article last month on how to engage the Netflix Generation: 5 Strategies For Engaging The Netflix Generation.


Number 2 on Beloit’s Class of 2018 List says, “Since [students from the Class of 2018] binge-watch their favorite TV shows, they might like to binge-watch the video portions of their courses too.” And Netflix is largely to thank for this. I just read an extremely interesting and exciting article just last week from Netflix Hack Week. Netflix made an awesome virtual reality interface for the Oculus Rift.

I consider myself part of the Netflix Generation. I love watching and consuming video, especially from Netflix. Also from my iPhone thanks to YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s always there. I can always find a really engaging video to explain something or a great story to get lost in. And that’s how education needs to be. These students need to get lost in the videos of lectures. Educational videos need to be engaging, creative, and “binge-capable”. It used to be students would “cram” the night before a big test. Maybe the future is that students will “binge watch” their class videos the night before a big test. This may not be the education we need, but it’s a step toward a 21st century education.

Google Upping the Ante in Online Education with Google Classroom

Google-ClassroomGoogle +, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Hangouts, Google Communities — Which of these savvy, trendy Google tools do you use in your classroom? I have become somewhat of a fan boy of Google for Education (don’t tell my iPhone, or iPad…or MacBook Pro). These tools provide easy collaboration and friendly, intuitive design interfaces, both on the computer and mobile. And now, Google is introducing Classroom, coming in August 2014!!

Daily Genius just published a sneak peek at the new Google Classroom. And it looks awesome! Google basically designed a virtual classroom for teachers and their students to digitally gather in one place and use all of those awesome Google tools in “one cohesive online environment”. I am excited about this.

Here’s to hoping one of my future graduate classes (in educational technology) experiments and uses Google Classroom!


Personal Learning Philosophy 2.0 (The Global One-Room Schoolhouse from J. Seely Brown)

My learning philosophy from 10 weeks ago hasn’t changed much. I chose to begin my video with a quote from Williams Butler Yeats, which also happens to be the first thing I wrote in my Personal Learning Philosophy v1. “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This idea is extremely important to me and resonates with me on many levels. I mentioned before that my early educational experiences were mainly “filling of a pail”. Pretty boring. It almost feels like a chore. “Son, go and fetch some water!” No thanks. But when that switch turned, and I became excited about learning, something sparked inside of me. From that moment on, I was all about feeding my fire of learning. I started with this because it takes passion and excitement to get to this point where learning becomes fuel to your fire. When you can infuse excitement, passion, and relevancy into education, that is how you create engagement in learners.

I would have to say that my ideas around learning and education are in perfect alignment with John Seely Brown’s “The Global One-Room Schoolhouse” Vimeo video from his “Entrepreneurial Learner” keynote at DML2012. He talks about play as a “kind of a permission to fail, fail, fail, again and get it right.” I feel that this is incredibly important to give students a permission to fail, to give them an environment where they feel safe to question the status quo or even the teacher’s expertise. He later says in the video that “the key part of play is a space of safety and permission.” Brown also talks about epiphanies.

If we can create one epiphany for one child, that epiphany lasts for life for that kid. Brilliant teachers are brilliant in being able to create epiphanies for kids. How do we think about that? And how do we use play as a way to amplify the chance for that to happen.

What if every teacher’s goal was to create an epiphany for each one of their students? Maybe some teachers do strive for this. But I’m willing to be that this isn’t even on the radar of the majority of teachers. I want to cover two last quotes from Brown in his video:

In a world of constant change, if you don’t feel comfortable tinkering, you’re going to feel an amazing state of anxiety.

I love this idea because it’s so true. Everything around us is in a constant state of flux, and if you can’t adapt and be able to tinker with new technologies, it’s going to be a tough world. If we are teaching our students to tinker, to play, to be curious, we are teaching them to adapt to change. I wrote about the PlayMaker School in LA in a recent post. This is a great school that is really pushing the boundaries of what education is and how kids learn. If you haven’t heard about it, check it out!

And to close, Brown’s idea of taking the one-room schoolhouse idea of yesterday and mixing it with today’s classroom and technology to get the “global one-room schoolhouse” where “the teacher [isn’t] transferring knowledge, but the teacher [will act] as a coach, a will turn around and also teach the younger younger kids.” This is how the one-room schoolhouse operated. Why couldn’t we have a global one-room schoolhouse today? With social media and web 2.0 tools, this is absolutely feasible.

What will tomorrow’s classroom look like? How will it operate? What if tomorrow’s classroom partnered with a classroom from the other side of the world, every day? Now that would be cool.


Podcast – Practitioner Interview of Web 2.0 Tools in the Classroom with Brittany Spayd

This week I sat down with a practitioner of Web 2.0 tools in education. I interviewed Brittany Spayd, a 10th grade English teacher at Central Cambria High School. I was very curious when initially speaking with Brittany because she uses several web 2.0 tools for her personal educational planning, however, her students do not use web 2.0 tools as much as she would like in the classroom due to barriers from the school being old. We dive into this issue more in the podcast. Enjoy and please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!


*I used a program called Soundtrack Pro to record and edit this podcast.