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Building Online Learning Communities

By Trena Noval, Barbara Bray
Meet the Authors

"How can best practices be supported in a successful online coaching and mentoring community?"

 Understandings & Objectives


 At A Glance

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Oakland, CA 94605
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Coaching and Mentoring Models in My eCoach

Imagine the power of coming together under one roof to connect, plan and develop best teaching practices in a shared learning environment. Now think My eCoach. In this session, learn how coaching and mentoring in a safe online learning community can help to facilitate professional development and ensure sustainable and successful best practices in teaching.

This presentation will showcase some model programs, student outcomes and teacher developed curriculum and reflections.

Oakland Unified, CA

Project Overview

In this coaching program, elementary and middle school worked with My eCoach to develop collaborative projects that extend the core curriculum.

Once school site goals were determined, teachers met in small groups and individually with their eCoach to develop and plan curriculum projects working both face-to-face and online in My eCoach’s learning community. Once projects were created, teachers took them into the classroom working with their eCoach to model best practices. Teachers were then brought together to discuss the outcomes of their projects and to share student work samples both in person and online.


•   Published curriculum online for student’s use that extend the core curriculum (Language Arts, Science and History) and met California State Standards.
•    Increase in student’s research and Information literacy skills.
•    Effective use of computers in classrooms and in lab.
•    Opportunity for teachers to work together as collaborators to develop curriculum and share ideas and successes.

Curriculum Examples

Science and Math

What We Waste - Everyday we buy drinks that come in plastic bottles. What happens to those bottles after we are done with them? Where do they go? Middle School teacher Lesley Feikert was interested in having her students understand  how their own waste habits can effect the environment they live in now and in the future.

For one week she had her sixth grade science classes use the scientific process to conduct an experiment where tracked their bottle usages to gain knowledge in how to work with data and make graphs using excel that will help them to interpret scientific information.

The result was
that students gained an understanding of how to make the right decisions about what they use and what they do with it when they are done, and to help them understand how recycling and waste management can help to keep make their own home, communities and cities a better place to live.

Language Arts

Literary Review Podcasts - Looking for some good recommendations for summer reading? Two middle school Language Arts classes at Brewer Middle School created a series of audio literary reviews of books they read during this school year. Lisa Sindorf and Lourdes Bautista and a few of their seventh and eighth grade students take you on a summer reading adventure.
  • Reviewing Literature - Eight Grade Literary Audio reviews
  • Silent Reading Book Reviews - Each month, seventh graders in Ms. Sindorf’s Language Arts class complete at least one book during Silent Reading. Then, they reflect on their experiences reading the book and share their thoughts with their classmates.

Social Studies

The Gold Rush: An Exciting and Dangerous Time in History - Suan McDonnell and Jill Eccher’s 4th and 5th grade students at Jefferson Elementary School worked in teams to complete a series of activities where they became historical experts on the Gold Rush. As experts, these students taught fellow class members about the different aspects and characters of the Gold Rush by using their new gained knowledge about this important part of California history.

Visiting the Presidential Yacht, The Potomac - On April 27, 2006 Marie Stewart’s 5th grade class from Peralta Elementary School went for an educational ride on the historic presidential yacht called the Potomac. Marie used our new public blog feature to create a page for the pictures and podcast here students created on this trip.


Project Overview

Over 250 math classrooms across the state of Washington are using My eCoach as their online environment as part of the NO LIMIT EETT program. eCoaches are MIS (Math Integration Specialists) from ESDs (Educational Service Districts) around the state, consultants, and Special Education leaders. Teachers and math coaches collaborated to review how they taught specific WASL standards and participated as co-authors in investigations and designing new strategies using technology to enhance activites that better meet the standards.

Project Outcomes

My eCoach has been part of NO LIMIT for three years. eCoaches are using this last year of the EETT grant to collect data demonstrating how their math teaching practice has improved and how students have increased their understanding of math concepts.

Project Examples

Math and Architecture is a collaborative project for 5th grade students who worked in groups of three to create their own company and took on roles as architects, accountants, and
designers to design and build structures out of toothpicks using math skills. Grandview teachers Jaime Morales, Patti Coleman, Helen Andrews, Carolyn Hart, and Gerene Bodmer with the support of their eCoach, Ken Bakken, created websites using My eCoach that the companies referred to for their research. This year all of the teachers are using the new custom builder to plan together. Each topic is an activity where each teacher uses a different color text for their ideas.

eCoaches David Tucker and Jill Hallows designed a year-long program where Special Education and Math teachers developed Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) for each learning goal. Not only did the eCoaches provide comments and feedback, but vendors were invited as Guest eCoaches to give input on ILPs and forum discussions.

Fourth Grade Bridge Systems, Graphs, and PlaceValue by Mike Meade with the help from his eCoach David Tucker asked the question: How can I use my problem solving, group work, math and information gathering skills to build a great bridge? Students to learn bridge basics, took a virtual bridge field trip with links on a WRL, use the West Point Bridge software to build a virtual bridge, and then compete in teams of 3-4 in the Great Bridge Challenge to build a bridge with straws, clay, and thread; or newspaper rolls and tape; or toothpicks and marshmallows, or popsicle sticks with holes in the ends and brass fasteners. 

CESAs 10 and 12, WI

Project Overview

Located in Wisconsin, Cooperative Educational Services (CESA 10 and 12) is a nonprofit government agency serving public school districts. Their mission is to offer cooperative educational services that help school districts meet the needs of their local communities.

They have been working with My eCoach for the past year to develop and publish standards based curriculum, collaborate, create dialogue and track Individual Learning Plans (ILP’s). See some projects listed below, but to see more go to the CESA 12
Enhancing Education Through Techonlogy page.

Project Outcomes

Curriculum Examples

Cross Curriculum

Chocolate Covered Learning - Yumm! Sonja Rodgers and Susan Hall took their seventh grade students on the thrilling adventure of the study of Chocolate! This cross curricular project was taught by teachers from the different curricular areas and tied the study fo chocolate into the appropirate places in each curriculum area. The end result: students working together to make chocolate blugill shaped candy that they will sell as part of creating their own buisness.

Limerick USA - The preservation of constitutional rights is a very hot topic current news stories this year. With the Patriot Act and other governmental policies, it’s critically important that students understand what their constitutional rights are, so they can determine whether those rights are being threatened. After studying the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution, Rick Olson’s  seventh grade students created PowerPoint presentations that illustrated how one of the provisions from the Bill’s applies to individual freedoms today in limerick format. 

Earn While You Learn, CA

Project Overview

The Foothill College Krause Center for Innovation Earn While You Learn and Earn (EWYL) provide K-12 teachers with the opportunity to engage in yearlong technology integration staff development. EWYL Fellows are highly trained technology using teachers who are embarking on the "next step" of integrating technology into their curriculum. This step involves doing collaborative, multi-classroom multi-media projects that are standards-based, have a clear, real-world connection, have multiple formative and summative assessment strategies, use a new or emerging hand-held technology tool, and foster higher-order thinking skills. The EWYL program has been using My eCoach as  place to plan, develop, collborate and share for the past three years.

Project Outcomes

  • EWYL Fellows use My eCoach to create collaborative, multi-classroom projects that are posted for online for others to share.
  • EWYL Fellows use a handheld technology device (Palm, PDA, cell phone) in the classroom and document it’s use to support curriculum and learning.
  • EWYL Fellows students’ collaborate to explore the curriculum projects developed during this fellowship.

Curriculum Examples

Language Arts

From Dusk to Dawn: Elders Share Their Stories With Middle School Students - Through writing that has been collected by the teacher from a Senior Citizen activity center, Terry Roberts middle school students were assigned to recreate these stories from one of the elder. After writing a rough draft and peer and self-edits, each student put his or her writing into a PowerPoint presentation using appropriate illustrations for the slides which they will gather through clip art, animation, pictures and more. These stories were then copied onto a CDs and given as gifts to the senior they worked with.


Environmental Concerns in the Community - Students from three schools in grades four, five, and eight collaborated to answer the essential question: How do we become aware of local environmental concerns and what can we do to make a difference?

Each class contributed a key component to be shared by all. Fourth graders collected water quality data from a local creek while fifth and eighth graders researched wetland and other environmental problems and wrote persuasive essays that advocate action toward correcting them. Eighth graders composed poems and newspaper articles as well. As the culminating project, the fifth graders will use information from the other two classes to produce radio public service announcements that promote environmental awareness and protection. See some of the student outcomes here


The SVHS Little Theater is the most interesting building at Sonoma Valley High School in Sonoma, California in terms of its geometry. The walls consist of non-rectangular polygons that rarely meet at right angles. Ken Bystrom asked his 8th, 9th, and 10th grade students "How do you find the surface area and volume of this building?"

Geometry of the SVHS Little Theater custom project asks students to work collaboratively and create a scale model of the building, find the surface area and volume of the building and create a multimedia presentation that documents their methods and solutions. What is unique about this project is how he uploaded every resource that his students needed to do the work.