All posts by EdTechRedefined

Adding Technology Capacity to Buildings Through Coaching

coaching terms wordle

Our district is considering adopting an Instructional Coaching Model in our elementary buildings next year to support our ELA adoption. I love the idea of having more support for teachers in the buildings in any capacity. These new coaches won’t specifically be in buildings to support technology but if we can mesh some training around ways technology can support reading, writing and language we can develop capacity in teachers and coaches to use those tools in other ways or for other purposes.

We can already leverage the technology capacity we’ve nurtured the last few years with our Future Ready Teacher cohort. There have been three groups of teachers who have spent a year of ongoing, hands on technology integration training and who have stepped up to become tech leaders in their buildings. Some of the new coaches may come from this pool of teachers and bring with them the expertise and skills they’ve acquired. In other buildings, we’ve developed the capacity for technology leadership that can help support new coaches if we consciously provide opportunities for them to work together.

The ISTE Standards for Coaches help lay out some of the essential areas of focus for Tech coaches. Coaches can be both just in time support and training resources for teachers but can also serve as a communication channel between teachers and administration and can help promote a bigger picture view of technology usage in the classroom. Many districts have successfully provided access and devices to staff and students but still struggle with getting the usage to move beyond substitution level. Coaches can bring perspective, experience and skills that busy teachers haven’t had time to acquire. They can be leaders in their buildings and help communicate a vision of a new way of thinking about instruction that is supported by technology.

It’s not easy to find amazing teachers who are strong in both their content areas and technology. I suspect we’ll find the strong content providers in our district and we’ll have to train them up to be strong tech leaders as well. The article,  How Districts Can Adopt a Tech Coaching Model (Kipp 2017) suggests that having a clear job description that spells out the expectations around technology and a systematic, ongoing training cycle can best support new coaches.

Most coaching models center around training and support for coaches as well as clear expectations for the coaching role. In Peer Coaching, Foltos (2013) suggests a written coaching plan that can help both teacher and coach stay focused on the learning targets and have clear norms and purposes for the coaching relationship. The Edutopia article, Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration (2015) highlights a high school that created a successful model using a BDA (Before, During, After) cycle. It’s easy to remember and clearly defines the working relationship around a lesson. The article does point out that successful coaching models depend on a flexible schedule for coaches so that they can move were they are needed and also have time for the informal conversations that help build solid relationships with teachers.

I like the idea of combining mentors and coaches in this model Mary Beth Hertz shares in Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration (Hertz 2011) to leverage expertise in the building and add to the tech coaches ability to meet people’s needs. If every teacher who received a cart of mobile devices also received a mentor who had used a cart in their classroom for a few years, I wonder how much faster we could be moving toward more creative uses of technology in our classrooms?

For myself, I want to see more technology coaches in action. Local conferences and users groups provide some opportunity for learning and sharing with other coaches. However, it would be interesting to set up chances to visit other districts or do a coach exchange for a day and swap places with someone to learn more about their system and they can learn about ours. More opportunities to work on coordinated projects, like EdCamps, with other districts would also benefit our teachers and new coaches by providing access to new ideas and new resources.


Bentley, K. (2017). How School Districts Can Adopt the Technology Coach Retrieved 11 December 2017, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Hertz, M. (2011). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech IntegrationEdutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from

Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration. (2015). Edutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Retrieved 11 December 2017, from


Evaluating Tech Integration

Part of the ISTE coaching standard 1:Visionary Leadership states that coaches need to “inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment. “ There are a few parts of that statement that stuck out to me this week. First, in order to implement a shared vision we need to share the same language and vocabulary. Tech integration models can serve as a common way to talk to staff about the purpose and uses of technology in their classrooms. It can be valuable for an organization to have a common model, not only to assist in implementing technology but using one that is widely used by professionals in other districts can open up opportunities for local and global PLNs and access to resources that have been vetted by others.  

The other part that stuck out to me was the idea of “supporting transformational change”. I know what the vision in my head is but it’s not always easy to guide teachers who are new to integrating technology through the process that I’ve spent years learning and experimenting with. It would be easier if we had a tool that 1) was related to our tech model, 2) would make it easier for teachers and coaches to work with and that 3)  would be, in part, a self guided way of analyzing a lesson or project to determine the presence and transformative power of technology but also it’s appropriateness and impact on students.

My district has been using the SAMR model for the last few years because it was widely used and seemed fairly easy for teachers to access. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, “What is Redefinition?”, I don’t find the model as useful as I used to.  It’s possible that it’s a good starter model for teachers who are just being introduced to technology integration but as a global model I’ve seen as many definitions of what constitutes modification and redefinition as I’ve seen presenters give examples to teachers. Honestly, I don’t know that we’ll ever really be able to redefine teaching with technology until we redefine teaching. If you start with a teacher who is unwilling to think differently about their instruction the best you’ll get is substitution and augmentation. Add it to a willing teacher’s classroom and you’ll often get modification but the only teachers I’ve seen truly start to redefine their teaching and learning using technology are the ones who are willing to rethink “normal” and “traditional” and take the risk to change instructional practices and use technology to support that change.

In Peer Coaching, Les Foltos states (Foltos, 2013) that improving learning requires two things:

  1. Helping prospective Peer Coaches develop insight into the characteristics of learning that will prepare students with 21st century skills.
  2. Using these insights and research from the learning sciences to come to agreement on a norm for effective 21st century learning.

I’m a big picture person. If my vision is to start moving those willing teachers towards rethinking instructional practice, I need a model that includes thinking about instructional practice as well as technology and 21st century skills and, I need a formative assessment tool to help teachers, coaches and principals reflect on the learning tasks they are asking students to do and also decide how technology can help that task be transformative.

Here are some possibilities:

The Lesson Improvement Process

Foltos’ chapter on the Lesson Improvement Process includes the following areas of emphasis:

  1. Create a Task – Relevant, real-world tasks that hook the learner and stimulate interest and an essential question(s). The use of the Learning Activity Checklist can help teachers look at levels of engagement, problem based tasks.
  2. Define Standards – A lesson’s purpose should be aimed at teaching to standards but it’s important to keep the focus on a small number of standards, including the technology based ones.
  3. Learning Context – helping teachers understand the depth of learning needed to master the standard and how to scaffold the learning in order to achieve that depth of learning, including assessing the learning and understanding of the students.
  4. Student Directions – “a road map (for the student) to solve the task their teacher outlined”. Choice, engagement and clarity are important to this process.
  5. Reflection & Feedback – using collaborative communication to pre-assess whether the lesson has the potential to meet the purpose of the learning
  6. Assessment – both summative and formative assessments to track learning and provide ongoing feedback for both the teacher and the student.
  7. Resources & Information – The tools and sources of information that will be used in the lesson. This is one of the areas technology can be integrated.

I like this approach for helping teachers rethink a learning target. It puts the standards and the intended learning first before considering the technology tool. It does include a template for developing a lesson, although the intention is more for the teacher and the coach to work together on the lesson design. This does give the coach the opportunity to guide the discussion by asking questions or prodding thinking in the four areas of standards, engagement, problem based and technology. This is a good model for lesson planning and a coach using it as a tool would be able to help teachers integrate more technology into their lesson.

TRUDACOT (Technology-Rich Unit Design And Classroom Observation Template)

TRUDACOT is another tool that is meant to be a discussion protocol between teachers or with coaches to rethink lesson design that includes the integration of technology. I like the potential of this tool to give teachers entry points into redesigning a lesson. Version 2 gives teachers and coaches a way to formatively assess a lesson, either before it’s taught or as part of an observation and then use the questions to pick one or two areas to redesign. Not all of the sections are centered around technology so it does get at some of the rethinking of instructional strategies that I want to get at as well as the technology pieces. The downside is that it is fairly long, 9 sections with 3-4 questions. It would be easy for a teacher to feel overwhelmed at first if there were a lot of “nos” so it would be important to focus small and pick one area at first to make changes in and work on improvement over time. I think I’d start by having teachers use it as a way to evaluate and improve sample lessons from videos or other sources until they see how it could be used effectively.

Triple E framework

Kolb’s Triple E Framework is an interesting way to look at technology and provides both a model and a tool for reviewing a lesson and considering how technology is used as a tool. It doesn’t focus as strongly overall on lesson design or standards but as a tool to review how technology is used to support instruction it’s simple and easily understood. Level 1 is about Engaged Learning. She’s especially interested in not only how students engage with the technology but how they engage with each other to co-create learning.  She still gets at the issue of “redesigning” instructional practice in Level 2: Enhanced Learning although she uses the term “value added” and defines it as “when the tool is somehow aiding, assisting, or scaffolding learning in a way that could not easily be done with traditional methods.” In Level 3: Extended Learning the focus is on audience. I’ve always felt that truly redefined learning has to somehow include a wider audience than just the teacher so this resonates with me. I’m going to introduce this model to a group of teachers I work with and see what they think.  We’ll try using the rubrics she’s developed for lessons and for apps to practice looking at sample lessons through this lens. I’m interested to hear what my teachers think.


I do like the TPACK model because it brings together technology, pedagogical practice and the content area being taught. It is the trifecta. My frustration with it is that it’s fairly complicated for teachers who are just getting started. There has been a lot of research done on using the TPACK model to evaluate technology integrated lessons and there are rubrics available that could be used with teachers but there would be a longer learning curve with this model than with some of the others. I want to do some more work with it involving some more experienced teachers to see how they might use it.

I haven’t truly found one model and tool that gets at everything I’m looking for but it may be possible to use multiples ones. In the long run, they are all asking for the same things. How can we effectively use technology as a tool to help create relevant, real world learning for students that can’t be done in any other way?


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin.

Koehler, M. (2017). TPACK.ORG. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E Framework. Triple E Framework. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from

McLeod, S., & Graber, J. trudacot v2 annotated. Google Docs. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from

21st Century Technology Hierarchy of Needs

It’s interesting…just like the ISTE tech standards over the years have shifted from very skill based standards to much more global digital learning standards, so have the discussions around teacher tech standards. Are we getting ahead of most teachers in that discussion though? Is the reason for that shift partly because we believe everyone has got the basic standards or that we just can’t wait for everyone to catch up and need to push the conversation forward?

ISTE Coaching Standard 1d says that coaches need to “implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms.” With the speed at which technology changes, this suggests that there will always be a need for people in districts that are the innovators and early adopters and I would suggest that those people need to be in three strategic areas in order for real change to happen. First, the district leadership from Superintendent to Principal need to be on board with the possibilities that technology brings. It would be most helpful if they embrace technology use to the point that they use and model it’s use with their staff and actively expect it from their teachers. Second, there have to be classroom teachers who are innovative and stretching the district and their tech departments to think differently, try new things and use technology in creative ways that pave the way for change. Finally, I would make the case that, if there isn’t strong leadership at the principal level, there is a role for Instructional Technology coaches (or whatever they are called in your district). Coaches whose whole focus is on learning and leading around “initiating and sustaining” technology innovation can be the keys to translating technology for the teachers and administrators that aren’t on the forefront of technology.

I’m a Digital Learning Specialist in my district. We changed our name this year to what, we hoped, better reflected the focus of our work. Our goal is to help students learn with digital tools. It’s about the learning first. Unfortunately, we are still seen most of the time as “the tech people” which translates to the problem solvers and fix it people. It’s not what I want to be doing. A few years ago, when our technology just didn’t seem to be working and teachers were frustrated and ready to give up, it struck me that what was going on was similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. I developed a digital version using some thinking that I found online and I regret not keeping track of the author.

My thinking was, and still is, that some teachers are functioning at the bottom of the pyramid in basic needs and safety/security. If things don’t work, they don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to problem solve their way out and they get stuck. Innovators will find a work around or figure out how to fix it. The folks functioning at basic and safety levels will never progress beyond that level until their tech works they way they want it to work and it works reliably.

Usability comes next and is essential. There are no two ways about it, there is a certain level of skill needed to tackle technology tasks. Some folks will need to be “trained” on each new piece of technology. Others will learn technology in a more conceptual way and will be able to adapt what they learn to other digital tools. The help button question mark  is the help button in almost any program you come across now and many other icons are becoming standard across website, like the stack of three or four horizontal lines that denote a menu of choices. These however are skills. In 2005 THE Journal ran an article about the the 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have (Turner 2005) These were very skill based but I think many of them are still relevant. Downloading and installing software is becoming a thing of the past now that so many things are web based and our storage options are becoming more web based as well and you can exchange PDA knowledge with SmartPhone and you’ve got a lot of it covered.

Interestingly, they redid the survey in 2014 (Thompson 2014) and you can already see a shift away from just skills toward a change in attitude (willingness to learn), connection, collaboration, and communication. All important 21st Century Skills as defined by the P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning)

10 Skills Every Educator Should Have.

  1. Searching the web effectively
  2. Mastering Microsoft Office & Basic Word Processing
  3. Being Willing to Learn New Technology
  4. Connecting with Social Media
  5. Sharing and Collaborating via YouTube & Blogging
  6. Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Devices
  7. Reaching Out with Emails
  8. Making Your Point with Presentation Software
  9. Googling It
  10. Getting Ahead in the Cloud

These skills I believe are also a part of the upper parts of my Tech Hierarchy of Needs which come with Proficiency and allow for creativity. Until we give teachers the skills to become confident and successful with technology, some of them will have trouble reaching the newer Technology standards reflected in the ISTE Educator Standards which seem to assume that most teachers are already proficient tech users. The problem is, I don’t think that’s realistic to expect yet. It’s certainly a worthy goal and one many educators can reach but there are still teachers and students who will need help with the bottom half of the pyramid for awhile.


Turner, L. (2005). 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have — THE Journal. [online] THE Journal. Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Thompson, G. (2017). 10 Tech Skills Every Educator Should Have — THE Journal. [online] THE Journal. Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017]. (2017). Framework for 21st Century Learning – P21. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Not All Learners Want to Learn What You Have to Teach.

It’s an ongoing frustration many of us have. In spite of the amazing training opportunities we offer, online or in person, some people just don’t want to learn what we have to teach about integrating technology into their instruction. It’s not malicious, at least most of the time, but I’m beginning to believe that people only have so much capacity for change. It’s not that they wouldn’t do their best to learn and put into practice something new if they were told they had to but if it’s one of too many new things all at once, something has to give. For many teachers, the fact that technology is not a topic on the state tests keeps them from giving it much thought, although the same people will complain that the lack of keyboarding skills keeps our kids from really being evaluated on their thinking on those same tests.
Although it is a stereotype, I do hear a larger percentage of teachers over 50 tell me that they “don’t do technology”. There is some truth to the fact that that even though personal computing technology has been available to that age group for a good portion of their lives, not all of them were innovators or early adopters. Many of those folks may have become the early or late majority of adopters because of job requirements but their learning may have only been focused on the task they needed to do with technology and never really translated to their personal usage. The laggards would have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the tech age and only because Facetime is the only way they can see their grandkids regularly.

So I get it. In an article on Wild Apricot (Ibele 2011) called “Guide to Helping your Members Embrace Technology” they mention an AARP survey of retirees and what they want from their technology.

They want technology to:

  • be safe and easy to use;
  • adapt to their specific needs;
  • connect each other;
  • act as a tool not a tyrant;
  • be a force of good.

Isn’t that what we all want? I find that baby boomers are not the only age group that feels that way. I run across young teachers, fresh out of school who tell me that “they don’t do technology” and we have students in all of our classes who can snap chat with their eyes closed but will hesitate to use PowerPoint or video because “they don’t do technology” either. I worry about pigeon holing any generation as particularly more open to technology. I don’t believe in the idea of a digital native. I think that you will always have people from all generations that will fit into the curve. What we need to look at is how we can work with the late majority and laggards to bring them around to at least making the effort to use technology for our student’s sake.

I came across a post by Kerry Pinny (Pinny 2017) in which he is suggesting that we’ve been having the wrong conversations with people about technology. He mentions what many of us know, that technology is just a thing and it’s only useful if people use it but he reminds us that “If you do not consider the people in technology then you are doomed to failure.”

In the end, all the resources I looked at came down to the same thing…it’s about building relationships. We will only meet those reluctant learners when we get to know them. We need to find out what place technology could serve in their lives or their classrooms so our discussions are relevant. We need to know what their real fears are around technology use so we can help scaffold their experience or give them the support they need to give it a try. Building trust with them will allow us to have those conversations about how passionate we are about providing technology opportunities for our students, and how they can help us reach that goal, without it sounding insincere.

Pinny also suggests showing people real examples of how what technology can do and explaining the “why” to them. No one likes their time wasted. Making it relevant, easy to use and immediately applicable is important for busy teachers.

I clearly have been stuck in my office too much lately. My new goal for the rest of the year is to start getting to know more of the teachers that often close their doors and hope that technology will go away. It will take some time to build relationships but if I can leverage some of the tech leaders who are already in the buildings who already have relationships with those folks I think I can help create change, even for our most reluctant learners.



PLNs: Throwing a Stone in the Water

I recently facilitated a short after school meeting between the health teachers at 4 different schools by Skype. I’d used Skype previously to hold a meeting for 3 individuals from different buildings to plan a training. My district is pretty geographically spread out so it’s a hassle to travel for short meetings. There were a couple of things I walked away from the health meeting thinking. First, how cool was that? I had groups of three or four teachers meeting in a room at each school. They did the same brainstorming and sharing process we would have done if we’d met but they did it in their own space and used to record their thinking so we could all see it. The process didn’t really change but the tools contributed to a more efficient meeting. It also dawned on me how unusual it is for teachers in our district to talk to each other school to school like this. It’s been eye opening in many ways and some good decisions have been made about making our standards more consistent. Now the question is,  how can I encourage them to continue to talk and work together, even after our work is done this year?

The answer may lie in PLNs only on a smaller scale at first. Brianna Crowley’s article, 3 Steps for Building a Professional Learning Network, helped me think about the broader idea of PLNs.

Although technology is often the vehicle to build connections, a PLN is about relationships. To conceptualize a PLN, envision three layers like the ever-widening rings formed when a rock is dropped into still water. The smallest inner circle represents buddies and mentors; a middle ring holds niche passion groups; and the outer layer comprises professionals and rockstars. The smaller the ring, the closer that group is connected to you in your PLN. (Crowley 2014)

As with any group, the development of a PLN needs to be personal. Everyone has different interests and passions and they’ll only find a PLN useful if they are interested in what they learn through it. I do like the idea of starting with a platform that you are familiar with. It will be interesting to find out what teachers in the groups I’m already working on are using already. If they aren’t, it might be worth starting small and using a tool like Yammer. We already have it in the district. It’s easy to use and could be a good stepping stone. I also like her visual of the rings. It would be easy to help teachers pick one from each ring to start with and ask them to try it out for a month and then report back to the group about how their rings are expanding.

What I’m most interested in right now is the idea of creating a vital, passionate network of teachers across the buildings in our district. It would have to focus on learning. I wouldn’t want it to become a place for gripping or negativity. Montana state has a much more challenging geographic issue but their development of the Digital Professional Learning Network has brought educators together to learn with and from each other. They’ve helped people make connections by using tools such as webinars, video conferencing, online learning for teachers and from that have forged active online communities on Twitter.

We pride ourselves in our district on developing positive relationships and I think using tools like blogs, Skype and Yammer as well as our Kyte Learning videos and experimenting with webinars this year as a place for people to share and learn together would be a good place to get started. It would be amazing to have an active, engaged, collaborative PLN across our whole district. Even if we started with technology I think it would spread to other subjects if people saw the value in it.


Differentiating Professional Development for Teachers

I’ve been an Instructional Technology TOSA for 3 years. I love teaching teachers and sharing my passion for technology in the classroom with others. What I haven’t been fond of, is trying to find the right way to offer PD. We’ve tried the district wide invites to trainings after school and gotten 3 people to show up, we’ve done building level training by teacher request and gotten 3-5 people, we’ve modeled in classrooms, we’ve sent out newsletters, made videos, trained select teachers in the buildings, created building leaders, worked with year long cohorts to develop human capacity, etc. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made huge strides and seem to narrowing in on the things that work best for us and we continue to try to adapt and make changes to meet our teachers needs but I’m not sure we’ve hit on the answers to a few critical questions. In light of the new ESSA definition of professional development, it’s time to take a new look at answering these questions:

  1. How do we scaffold learning for teachers? – I like the idea of professional development being broken down into three phases: Knowing, Doing and Experiencing. The Knowing is understanding the why of using a tool, a instructional  strategy or process. It gets to purpose and gets teachers excited about how something can help their students or change their teaching. The Doing is the skill building, what skills does a teacher need to do that project with their students or use that strategy? If they are excited enough about the why, the hope is that there will be some motivation to learn the skills needed to successfully implement and that they’ll seek out some of that learning if you make it available to them. The Experiencing is the elusive transferability of those skills to other projects and building the confidence and automaticity with a tool or skill that will make it easier to take a risk with other tech learning.
  2. How to we make it relevant for teachers? – Large group tech trainings are almost destined for frustration on the part of some participants. Either you are moving too fast or too slow for someone and half of them know what you are covering already and are waiting for something new. How do we keep it relevant and personalized  for all learners in a training without having to do everything one-on-one.
  3. How do we make it hands on? – I think part of this is making sure that our teachers are experiencing rich, tech infused PD… as a student. They need that perspective and they need to see trainers model what it can look like to use technology to teach with all the strategies they know are best practice as well as model dealing with the occasional troubleshooting issue. We can’t have more “sit and get” sessions to teach blended learning. It just doesn’t make sense.
  4. How do we make the learning sustainable over time? I run into teachers at grade levels between 3rd and 9th grade who feel that they have to teach Powerpoint because the students “don’t know how to do it”. I’d argue that the older students probably do and just need a reminder or their friends will help them figure it out. The bigger issue is how do we help students revisit skills regularly enough that things like Powerpoint are just tools that a student pulls out of their pocket when the teacher gives them a choice of how they want to present their learning. And how do we do the same thing for teachers with our PD so that they aren’t “relearning” a tool every time they need to use it.

There is a model called H.A.C.K. Model of Innovative Instruction out of the Doceo Center  of Northwest Nazarene University. They’ve created a system for teaching using something similar to the SAMR model that stretches the Professional Development for teachers out over time and pushes them to use the same tools to provide more and more choice and sophistication for students. The short version is that they would teach teachers how to use one tool in their classroom until they were comfortable with it and then move onto another. Once they had two or three under their belt, they’d start learning to teach students to make choices between the right tools for the job and apply them to new projects. Eventually, they’d lead them to teaching the students to use the same tools to mix, remix or create their own projects. The tools don’t necessarily change a whole lot through the year but the way they are used might become more sophisticated. If we could start doing something like that with teachers and teaching them some core technology skills and tools appropriate for their grade level, maybe we could continue to encourage them to use those same tools in new ways. It’s something to think about.

Community Engagement Project – Differentiating Instruction for Teachers

The conclusion I came to after the thinking I’ve done this quarter in my Digital Education Leadership Program is that we have to find a way to start looking at how we can differentiate professional learning opportunities for teachers. I’ll acknowledge that there are differences between K-12 students and Adult Learners, although, as I posted in a previous blog post (Developing Human Capacity in Teacher Leaders) the differences aren’t as wide as you’d think. They still need choice, they would rather do than listen, they don’t want to waste their time learning something they already know or that doesn’t apply to them and they want to talk to each other, collaborate, and engage with the learning in different ways.

I choose to submit my workshop proposal (Differentiating Professional Development for Teachers)  to NCCE 2018 because it’s local and I’ve presented before. Talking to my colleagues at that conference has become part of my professional development for the year and I’d like to get more involved. I chose a 2 hour workshop model because I want to model what I’m suggesting about differentiated Professional Development. I’d like the chance for my participants to experience that kind of PD as a “student”.

I’m using Canvas because my district is using it and the “how to” videos I’m hoping to host in, which is a new video learning platform our district is beginning to use to provide on demand training for a variety of common software tools as well as custom content we’ll create for our own uses.

The topic I chose to model with is a PD around the topic of Video/Web Conferencing. I chose it because it’s applicable across grade levels and content areas. I’ll start with a discussion around the new ESSA definition of professional development. There will be lots of opportunities built in for interaction by the participants because I’m curious if their understandings of the legislation are different than my interpretation.

When we are ready to model differentiated PD the participants will have the chance to take a quick quiz which will guide them one of three pages in the Canvas course I created. The beginning group will watch some videos about the basics of video/web conferencing and how to set them up. The second group will have had some previous experience or knowledge and will spend their time with me talking more about their experiences, how to prepare students for a successful conference and they will work together to come up with some video conference ideas. The third group will hopefully have done a video/web conference before and will participate an independent group to discuss how to use video/web conferencing to redefine projects and lessons, how to get students more involved in planning and hosting them and will also work on planning some lesson ideas to share.

All the groups will be actively contributing to a shared doc where they can leave their contact information if they want to work together after the workshop to collaborate with teachers in other districts to actually put some of their ideas into practice. The ideas will also be there to look at later.

As an added bonus, we’ve been talking a lot this quarter about accessibility. I’m putting a module at the end of the course that will contain some resources for creating accessible content. It’s under construction but I did create this first video that is closed captioned.

I’m excited about the possibilities although I suspect it will a lot of work at first as I’m figuring out how to make this a reality for PD in my own district. I’m hoping that as the conference rolls around in February I’ll have a much better feel for how this actually will work and can share some of the things I learned with the workshop participants.

Teaching Technology Troubleshooting is Like Teaching Math

Teaching Technology Troubleshooting is a Lot Like Teaching Math

I was sidetracked on my way to researching how to provide teachers “preventative strategies” to make the use of video, audio and social media tools more trouble free. I came across this blog post by John Spencer. In his 11 Reasons Teachers Aren’t Using Technology he makes the point that what holds teachers back isn’t always lack of skill or motivation but “What they lacked was a belief in their own ability to create tech-integrated lessons.”  It struck me that no teacher, even a great one, who doesn’t have some confidence in their ability to create the lessons themselves will ever get past the troubleshooting phase. They may try it once or twice but but may give up once things go sideways, as they often do with technology, even if they were given a list of troubleshooting tips or some training on how to prepare for technology. I think those things are valuable but by themselves are not going to truely make someone comfortable troubleshooting technology issues.

I’ve also observed that troubleshooting is not just about following a list of steps. There is an understanding of how technology works  that comes partly through practice and increasing confidence. You can tell someone to check the internet connection if their web pages aren’t opening but  they won’t necessarily know why they are doing it or when looking for the wifi symbol in similar situations would be a good thing to try. It’s similar to teaching students the algorithm or the P.E.M.D.A.S mnemonic for division without them ever really grasping the conceptual knowledge behind division. It will be more of a challenge for them to transfer their division “troubleshooting” skills to dividing fractions or finding ratio and proportion without that conceptual understanding. At least not with the long term retention we’d like them to have. The same is true for troubleshooting technology. Understanding that mobile devices need wifi and what kinds of problems can be traced back to that connection can speed up the troubleshooting process.

I tried to think back to how I learned about technology in the hopes that it might give me some insight into how I learned my troubleshooting skills but that didn’t help. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. As Rogers’ work on the Diffusion of Innovation (Rogers 1971) states, the early adopters are risk takers and are willing to fail and they often have the social capital to influence others. I know who those teachers are in my district that I can hand almost any technology too and they’ll figure it out and help others get excited. We couldn’t do it without them.  They troubleshoot fairly instinctively. None of the early adopters I talked to could really pinpoint how they learned it. They just get it. I don’t know that we can always teach that.

I think we may need to take a two pronged approach to help the rest of the right side of the adoption curve:

Troubleshooting as a Hardware/Network/Software problems

Let’s face it…sometimes stuff just doesn’t work. Devices need updates, websites disappear, plug ins are out of date, someone forgot to plug in the cart last night, or there is just something weird going on. Some of those are purely in the realm of the technology department and someone needs to be called in, and others can be handled in class. I didn’t have time to create one but I can envision creating a If this…then that type of sheet or poster that could go into classrooms or be attached to our computer carts to give teachers some quick troubleshooting steps to try. I’d model it after the Problem Solving Board idea  on Jacqui Murray has created some great resources for teachers and regularly posts about new technology and how to teach any number of cool projects and basic skills.

Where we can, we need to help teachers learn to diagnose problems. Perhaps an interactive checklist of steps that we could ask teachers and students to use to identify where in the process the problem is occurring. Each question could be clicked on for troubleshooting possibilities.

For example, these 5 might be the main steps:

  1. Turn on the computer
  2. Check for wifi connection
  3. Log in with district credentials
  4. Click on the icon or tile
  5. Open the browser

If you couldn’t do one of the steps (you might have to use the list on someone else’s computer), you could click on it to get a list of options. For example:

  1. Turn on the computer
    1. Try plugging the device into the extra power supply and give it a minute or two and try turning on again.
    2. Make sure the power button on the cart was turned on.
  2. Check for wifi connection
    1. Make sure the ethernet cable is plugged into the marked port in the classroom
    2. Ensure that the cart is turned on
    3. Look for the wifi icon in the lower right of the screen
      1. If it’s not on, click on it and choose the Mobile Lab network and click Connect

I suspect, if you could get people to use it, that it wouldn’t take long for the troubleshooting steps to start making sense. Simplicity and repetition would be the key.

Troubleshooting the Human Element

I once heard about an acronym that sums up this type of problem P.B.K.C (Problem Between Keyboard and Chair). Sometimes names get misspelled or students have trouble typing an entire web address or they just don’t click on the right button.  A blog post by Scott Meech, “Scaffolding Your Lesson Plans – Lesson Learned from Traditional Teaching” brought up a very good point related to teaching with technology:

As I began to utilize technology in my classroom, the more it was apparent that I had to have a similar outlook with my non-tech experiences.  Too often I would ask students to use technology by creating a project and then not revisit those skills in some fashion.  I didn’t scaffold the learning throughout the school year and develop their skills by building upon previous activities. Students created some amazing documents, videos and podcasts, but I noticed that this didn’t always translate into long term learning with technology.

That thought gave me a little epiphany. We don’t do that with teachers either.  We offer one and done courses on technology skills that sometimes neglect to connect to relevant content in their classrooms and we don’t revisit or scaffold that learning for them. He goes on to say that teachers need to learn to use the technology well themselves if we expect them to teach students to use it.

So, what if we started by picking one program we really wanted students to learn to use and concentrated for a whole year just on that tool. We could offer various levels of PD around the tool but we’d keep coming back to it. We’d use the database of who has attended training to follow up and offer more advanced classes (both in person and online) to encourage teachers to continue learning about the tool and how it could help their students. If we modeled troubleshooting as part of that learning and revisited problems they had in class so they could share their solutions and learn from one another. Hosting troubleshooting forums in internal social media forums such as Yammer, would allow teachers to contribute when they’ve encountered a similar problem or just search on issues to see if someone has already posted a solution. This would be a great place for the early adopters to step up and monitor those forums.


Murray, J. (2015, May 23). #81: Problem Solving Board. Retrieved August 07, 2017, from

Meech, S. (2011, October 21). Scaffolding your Lesson Plans – Lessons Learned from Traditional Teaching! Retrieved August 07, 2017, from

Spencer, J. (2012, July 14). 11 Reasons Teachers Aren’t Using Technology #edchat #edtech. Retrieved August 07, 2017, from

Helping Teachers Make Digital Learning Accessible to All

Recently, many districts have faced the reality of making significant overhauls to their websites in order to be ADA compliant. Some districts have been sued by parents, like the 2014 lawsuit against Seattle Public Schools and others, like mine, have received notices about pending action if changes aren’t made. The web compliance guidelines aren’t new. The WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) have been around since 2008 and were made standard in 2012. It’s taken the threat of legal action to light a fire under most organizations to actually get their websites into compliance.

This is good news, although it’s creating a lot of work initially for district webmasters. The changes to make our websites more organized, cleaner, and more readable will benefit everyone. The next step though, will be to make our learning materials more accessible as well. I’m hoping that all the publishers of digital learning tools, learning management systems and textbook companies with online materials will take a closer look at their structures and materials and do some of the work for use, or at least provide us with the tools. In the meantime, it will be up to teachers and district content developers to make their learning content accessible for all learners. This infographic on “5 Things to Know About Your Role in Ensuring Accessibility”  can help define the responsibilities of different state, local and district leadership in addressing the issue of accessibility for all of our students.

Since my responsibilities center around teaching teachers, I chose to focus on steps teachers could take to make their classroom web content more accessible to their students. The infographic* I created shows 5 tips teachers can start with. They are also areas that I’ll concentrate on creating PD around for this upcoming year.

* One point of irony – after just about finishing creating the infographic in Pictochart I realized that it doesn’t have the capability to add alt text to graphics. I did submit a feature request to them and suggested that they add that as an option in the future.


  • 5 pro tips to make digital learning accessible to all students [VIDEO]. (2017, June 4). Retrieved July 24, 2017, from
  • TAKE A TOUR: LEARN ABOUT UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING. (2015, July 22). Retrieved July 24, 2017, from
  • WCAG 2.0 checklist – a free and simple guide to WCAG 2.0. (2011). Retrieved July 24, 2017, from
  • 5 Things to Know About Your Role in Ensuring Accessibility. (2017, May 18). Retrieved July 24, 2017, from

Building Community Online

My task this week was to answer the question: How do we design, teach and facilitate digital age learning environments for students and teachers that promote collaborative learning while maintaining effective classroom management practices?

I feel like I’m starting from scratch in my district when it comes to digital age learning environments for teachers. We don’t yet have an online PD presence so the only way we are promoting choice for technology PD is to come or not to come. I do work with a little bit of a captive audience with the Cohorts I teach, and although I feel like I’ve been able to create pockets of collaborative learning within that group, I still haven’t gotten it to extend beyond our class time.

I went to Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (Rheingold 2014) first for a definition of collaboration. “People collaborate because their coordination, sharing and attention to common goals creates something that none of the collaborating parties could have benefited from without collaboration. Collaborators develop and agree on common goals, share responsibility and work together to achieve those goals, and contribute resources to the effort.”

After doing some of the reading and research this week I think there are three areas I need to address in some more clearly defined ways in order to create collaborative digital age learning communities – the why, the what and the how…in that order.

Defining the Why

After watching Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about The Golden Circle last year, I find myself always going back to the “why”. Whether it’s designing PD or talking with a teacher about using our LMS, it’s important that I’m clearly able to define the why of what we are doing. The why sometimes shifts because of my audience but the big why always comes back to “Why is this important to our student’s success in a digital age?” I tend sometimes to not clearly articulate that to my audience. I may have thought it through but in training I jump right into what we are going to learn. According to Rheingold though, I need to spend some time having my teachers “develop and agree on common goals.” That’s trickier to do with a purely online community outside my cohort groups but I think that I can make sure to include why statements as a part of online PD as well.

Developing the How

After reading the Gates Foundation article “Teachers Know Best: Teachers Views on Professional Development” and having done some reading last quarter about the shifts in the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) around Professional Development, my new mantra for addressing the “how” is make PD “relevant, hands-on, and sustained over time” as well as “personalized”.

There has been a picture forming in my head about what this might look like. First, I believe that most teachers, if they know what they are supposed to be teaching (standards) and what the districts expectations are, can pretty much identify their own areas for growth and also know what areas they are interested in enough to become “experts”.  The trick is providing the resources for them to differentiate based on their needs.

At the basic level, we need teachers to have the skills needed to not only teach the technology related standards to their students but to show a certain level of professional competency with the tools the district expects them to use to do their jobs. Skill based training can certainly benefit from being taught in context of a persons job or content area but it’s not necessary. Our district has recently chosen KyteLearning to help us provide our staff with an alternative to face to face training. Kyte offers a growing library of video modules based on commonly used education technologies for purely skill based training. We’ll also be able to create our own videos to fill in with skill based training on more district related software.

They are also branching out into Implementation videos that will give teachers application examples and suggestions of how to integrate tools into their classrooms with student projects. This really is the stage where teachers are using the skills they learned and implementing it into the classroom. How long will a skill stay with you if you never apply it? This should promote deeper learning and provide the relevancy and part of the sustained over time criteria of good PD. For this type of learning in Kyte we will eventually be able to have teachers submit evidence of projects or build an “idea forum” where teachers can learn from each other and find others to collaborate with.

I love the idea of micro credentialing for those that want to pursue mastery or expertise in something. There is a site created by Digital Promise called #Love2Learn that offers opportunities for teachers who are ready to “prove” or provide evidence of their mastery on various topics to earn micro credentials. They are personalized, shareable and competency based.  We also want to develop human capacity in our district and encourage leadership and collaboration. The more teachers we have with skills that they are willing to share, the more support and innovation will happen at the school level. This is were I believe that the collaboration tipping point will begin to be reached at the school level and when shared technology goals will become part of every day teaching practice.

One of the pieces of “how” is even more truly process oriented and that is the development of common norms around sharing, collaboration and digital citizenship as part of our digital learning environment. One place I can start with again is my cohort groups. Modeling the development of clear digital norms for the group, coming to agreements around online behavior and expectations, discussing classroom management around technology and reinforcing digital responsibility and ethics need to become parts that are not just modeled but explicitly labeled and discussed with the group about how they can adapt the topics to their own teaching style and classrooms. It’s not always enough to model if you no one recognizes that you are modeling with a purpose.

Defining the What

It’s becoming clearer in my head how all the pieces I’ve been learning, researching, and talking about with colleagues is coming together into something coherent. What it’s going to take now to make it a reality is a lot of work. I need to still define the “what” of technology use in our district for people. What will their classroom look like if they are using technology to engage their students, manage their workflow, provide rich learning opportunities that are available 24/7 for students. It’s going to be about getting them to see what our new way of educating students will look like and how they can get there based on where they are starting from. All we are asking for is growth and that teachers move from their point A to their point B in terms of learning this year.

It’s going to take a lot of work to pull this together but I at least feel like I’m on a clearer path than I was and I’m grateful that I’m part of a collaborative community of  like-minded folks in our area that I can call on for ideas and support.


Rheingold, H. (2014). Net smart: how to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. doi:

Sinek, S. (2009, September). Retrieved July 10, 2017, from

Teachers Know Best: Teacher’s Views on Professional Development (pp. 1-20, Rep.). (2014). Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. doi:


Local Collaboration: The Landmark Games

Part of my final project for EDTC 6103 this quarter was to create and implement a Global Collaboration Project. I love the idea of collaborating with others. When I was in the classroom I did video conferences with NASA and the Alaska Sea Life Center and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Ontario, CA. I also helped 4th grade classes at my school participate in Where in Washington? which was a great project put on by OSPI for a number of years that brought together classes from all over the state.

I put the word out to some of the teachers I worked with and gave them some options to choose from to see what kind of project they might be interested in. Some were ones from the above list and one was a version of The Landmark Games. My class had participated one year in Terry Smith’s Landmark Games and we had a lot of fun with it. There was no direct video conferencing with the participants because they were from all over the globe and the time zone issue would have made it impossible. I figured we could create a version of the game to play locally.

Our 6th grade classes studied Ancient Civilizations for the first time this year and when I had a handful of 6th grade teachers from three different schools volunteer to help me we set off to create and Landmark Games of our own.

The initial plan was to meet three times by Skype in one day. Once in the morning so each class could introduce themselves and they could read the three clues to their landmark. We’d meet mid day so each class could ask 5 clarifying questions and then once at the end of the day to reveal the answers. I had decided that we would use a shared doc that each class would have access too so that the initial clues and their questions for each other (and the answers) could be public for all four classes and they wouldn’t have to take as many notes individually to speed up the process.

The four teachers and I met by Skype to do our planning because that was the way we were going to interact. It was good practice. We decided to do it over two days instead of one and narrowed it down to 2 Skype sessions instead of three. Finding two days was the tricky part since it was the end of the year but we managed. It was important that the teachers be involved in this process, not only to ask questions but to help make sure that the process was reasonable in terms of their time and energy a couple of weeks before school was out and to make sure that we were able to talk about roles, norms and the process.

On the first day, we met and the students shared their Landmark clues. The only criteria for the clues were that they had to include: 1) one coordinate (latitude or longitude), 2) at least 1 relevant associated historical date from the time period the ancient landmark was built, 3) hemisphere related clue. All four classes also had a student type these clues into the shared doc to make sure we weren’t slowed down by having to repeat the clues for everyone to write them down.

The students went back and had a chance to research. They could ask a total of 5 questions of the other three classes but they could distribute those any way they wanted to. We ended up just having them type them into the shared doc and then the class who was asked responded the same way with an answer.

We ended up having two days in between because of scheduling issues but we met the next day to reveal the Landmark. Each class had to tell us a little bit about the history of the landmark, why they chose it and why it was significant to history.

The feedback we got was great. One teacher said:

Yesterday we were going through the clues that you all gave, and your answers to the questions, and the class was spread out and working on all three at the same time. They were using the laptops mostly, but also atlases, the world maps, and even the globe! They were so engaged trying to figure out the clues, and every time they would find an answer, the class was immediately engaged in “fact checking” each other, and comparing clue answers with other clue answers. They’d get excited when they thought they had the answer, but were equally happy to prove an answer wrong, if that makes sense? This went on for about an hour solid, until I asked for consensus on our answers.

I asked the teachers to give a quick survey to the students afterwards. Here’s a quick snapshot:

It shouldn’t be surprising that the students loved talking to students from other schools and using Skype the best. It motivates them in ways that doing a similar project with another class in their own school doesn’t. I believe that having some accountability to strangers, i.e. changing your audience, can change the engagement not only in a social sense but in the amount of effort a student is willing to put into something.

I think the teachers who were involved have gotten a taste for how students can participate with each other using Skype and they’ve seen an example of how they can use it to do something purposeful. I’m going to make sure they have links to Mystery Skypes next year and I’m considering trying to put some sort of database or shared doc together that teachers from other districts could also use to find teachers who’d like to do similar projects.


Here’s the link to my reflection paper on the whole experience.

Smith, T. (1990). Global Landmark Games. Retrieved June 01, 2017, from