All posts by EdTechRedefined

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


Developing Human Capacity in Teacher Leaders

My question this week was about how we can develop human capacity in teachers to become technology leaders? How do we get them to step up and share what they know and teach others?

Selfishly, I took this tack at it because it gives me an opportunity to share a project I’ve been working on for the last couple of years, the Future Ready Teacher Cohort. Two years ago our district still had no mobile devices available for students and our technology PD consisted of random, district wide classes on a variety of topics. Neither the access or the training was really changing anything significantly, even with three Instructional Technology TOSAs thrown into the mix. So I did some research.

First, we had heard over and over again over the course of the first few months in our position that there was never enough time to figure out how to take what you learned in a training and really implement it in class before other demands and priorities got in the way. We also heard that they didn’t see the relevance for themselves in what they were learning. Upon more conversation it came down to an issue of confidence. Because they didn’t feel confident in being able to use the tools they couldn’t really see how it fit into their instruction. They needed ongoing support. It wasn’t enough for us to just say “call us if you need us” after a training. We needed to check back.

I started looking at professional development models and ways for teachers to self evaluate their own learning and came across the Future Ready Schools website. At the time, there was a link to a MOOC about Future Ready Schools that my colleagues and I took. We were able to take a look at some examples from other schools and do some reading and research on issues around technology and professional development that began to change our thinking.

What we developed from that was an opportunity to create teacher leaders with the capacity to teach others. We offered a cart of mobile devices as an incentive and in turn we asked the teachers for 2 full days in the summer and 6 three hour evening meetings over the course of 7 months. Each meeting had a combination of skill instruction, a new tool or website to try out, pedagogical instruction around SAMR, blended learning, etc., and collaborative work time. Our goal was to transform learning relationships in our school district. We asked the teachers to do IGNITE (20 slides and 5 minutes to tell your story) sessions at the end of the year to reflect on their learning. It was amazing to see how much they had grown over the course of a year. They were confident with trying things out and many were already offering training of their own in their buildings.

We have just completed our 2nd year which was equally promising and are getting applications ready for the upcoming school year. Some members of our first year group are going to be teaching the 2nd year group this next year so I can focus on the new group. This new group is not going to be made up of our technology pioneers however. We are now reaching the late adopter group.

I’m interested to see how I will need to shift the instruction for this group in order to get them to the same level of confidence as the first year group. I was taking a look at an interesting article by Laurie Blondy (2007) that was analyzing, and in come cases refuting, Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory. The basics of adult learning theory are these five principles:

  1. Adult learners are self directed.
  2. Adults bring experience with them to the learning environment.
  3. Adults are ready to learn to perform their role in society.
  4. Adults are problem oriented, and they seek immediate application of their new knowledge.
  5. Adults are motivated to learn by internal factors.

After years of working with adults I’ve questioned some of those principals and Blondy’s article brings up many of the same issues I have.

  1. Not all adult learners are self directed. Some are there because they have to, because they are complying with something or need to earn clock hours and, as adults, this learning time is competing with family, work and personal time and is only one of many irons teachers have in the fire. Although they don’t want to be lectured to, they also aren’t necessarily ready to create their own course of study and set their own goals. There has to be a balance between some skill based training that is offered based on their needs and some choice in where they take those skills from there. Blondy suggests that online facilitators “must encourage learners to be as self-directed as possible, allowing them to be creative with assignments and projects, encouraging their input and suggestions, while remaining available for consultation to provide guidance when needed.”
  2. Adults do bring experiences to the learning environment and that can be a huge asset if you can find ways to connect their learning to their background knowledge and they can be invaluable resources to each other. And, they can also bring a certain fixed mindset to their learning that can be hard to overcome.
  3. Adults do know their role and are generally ready to learn if you can keep it relevant to them. This is a great reason to make sure, as an instructor, that I give them time to clarify why they are there and what they are hoping to get out of the learning experience. That being said, it’s easy not to put the “hard stuff” on your list of personal learning goals. I think it has to be a balance of professional competencies that we expect teachers to know, because they need to use certain tools and teach certain standards to their students, and choices to pursue certain tools or skills in more depth. It’s the folks who reach a certain mastery that we can count on to begin teaching what they know to others.
  4. Adults are problem oriented and seek immediate application but aren’t always able to analyze what the problem is very clearly. Learning and implementing a keyboarding software with 3rd graders without addressing good writing instruction is not going to make their SBA test scores any higher. We have to be able to help them sift down to the area the students are struggling with and address the wider instructional needs which technology may or may not be able to help address.
  5. So far, my cohort members have been motivated mostly by internal interest in learning what’s best for their students, a cart of mobile devices to use in their classroom, and free dinner, but I’ve already gotten feedback that they would also like to get paid for their time. There is a certain amount of “have to attend” that is tied to training but not everyone is in it for the professional development.

The trick for me is to keep it practical, relevant, mix it up so their are some choices and to give them lots of time to talk to their peers and collaborate together. We’ll see where it takes us next year.


Blondy, L. C. (2007). Evaluation and Application of Andragogical Assumptions to the Adult Online Learning Environment. Journal of interactive Online Learning, 6(2), 116-130. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from

Tracey, R. (2011, August 26). Adult learning shminciples. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from


Responsible Use Policies

My original question was “How do we raise awareness in teachers about their roles and responsibilities regarding legal and ethical behavior?”  I still think it’s important but I’m not finding any good resources regarding teaching teachers about digital citizenship as professionals, it’s pretty much all about how to teach their students.

I shifted my focus toward developing Responsible Use Policies because I believe the process of developing a more positive, forward thinking policy will help us change the conversation about digital citizenship and legal and ethical behavior among teachers as well as students. It’s not going to be enough to just tell people what to do. We have to model ongoing conversations about digital citizenship and create cultures in our schools that are supportive enough that we can call each other on inappropriate digital behavior without it feeling like we are accusing or policing.

Our schools have to be learning environments where we can make and fix mistakes in a safe place and there will be a lot of learning that will need to happen. It’s not just our students generation that sees the content they find online as free and reusable. Teachers often use content without attribution, I’ve done it myself. The trick, i think, will be finding a balance and making it easier for teachers to access resources when they have questions about privacy policies on websites, fair use and copyright, and have had the chance to wrestle with and talk to their peers about ethical digital issues.   

House Bill 6273, which was recently signed into law in Washington State, requires a broad group of stakeholders (teachérs, administrators, parents, and community members) to meet regularly to review digital citizenship policies. Considering how quickly technology changes, it will make our policy more responsive. I’ve heard that WASDA is working on a template for Responsible Use Policies for districts. We should be able to use that but if it isn’t ready we will be able to use the work that Northshore School District has done to develop theirs. The ultimate goal is to shift the focus away from what we don’t want staff and students to do with technology to what we do want them to do with it. It will shift the conversation away from punishment to educating people, which is ultimately our goal. Eventually, I’d like to figure out how to translate these documents into kid friendly language (AUPs​ ​in​ ​kid​ ​Friendly​ ​Language​ ​​  ) as well so that teachers can use them with their younger students to teach them about their digital rights and responsibilities.


AUPs in kid Friendly Language

Student Centered Acceptable Use Policy

House Bill 6273


Developing Tech Fluency for Teachers

My focus is on ISTE 3a: Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations. Our teachers have been often stymied in developing true fluency in their tech skills because we’ve used a very traditional model of professional development where we’ve introduced a new tool, given them a couple of hours of ‘sit and get’ training and then sent them off on their own to figure it out. We know that training like that doesn’t work, except for the small majority of pioneer adopters who are self motivated to figure it out. We also often offer these trainings out of context with the curriculum they need to teach which causes even good PD to lack immediate relevance to their classrooms.

The new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) legislation is offers a slightly new definition for Professional Development that may help districts shift their thinking around how we provide PD for staff and allow them to focus on helping teachers develop the fluency they need to truly support student’s work with technology as well as increasing their own willingness to adapt to the challenges that technology brings. Some of the main shifts are a move toward Professional Development that are personalized and evidence based learning for teachers. They also define PD as being “sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day or short term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven and classroom focused.”

These changes have caused me to take a closer look at our own PD thinking, especially around technology. One of the ways we can begin to personalize and provide evidence based training is to use the idea of microcredentialing for teachers. Once we define professional competencies for teachers, based on what students need to be able to know and be able to do, we can develop a variety of PD options that will allow teachers to make choices about the what they focus on, how they go about learning or showing evidence of their learning.

We recently chose a platform called Kyte Learning to help us with this goal. Kyte is a professional learning system that has skill and pedagogically based training available for many of the most widely used software for education (Google, Office365, LMS systems, Formative Assessment tools, and more). Each module is crafted using videos for learning that are no longer than 3 minutes long. They are in well organized sequences that allow teachers to choose the pieces they need to learn. They are not tied to having to complete sections that are not relevant to their learning. Each course has a section on basic how tos and then move on to uses in the classroom for the tool. We will be able to create our own modules as well and may consider having different levels of mastery for modules (beginner, intermediate and advanced). Each module has an assessment with it but we’ll also be able to require evidence (screen shots, documents, links, etc.) so that teachers have options when giving us evidence. They have the option of skipping to the assessment or evidence submission directly so that teachers who come with the skills can earn the badges without sitting through the whole module. A mastery module, for example, would require student evidence and some reflection of how they used it with students in their classroom.

Our goal is to offer our PD in three ways: 1) in person training (group or individually), 2) Kyte Video Training, 3) Direct submission of evidence. This will allow teachers to personalize their path, show mastery in the competencies, offer choice and at the same time give the district a way to help hold staff accountable to using the skill. The fluency will be built by regularly encouraging teachers to increase their level of credentials each year and purposefully labeling transfer skills and where they can be applied. It will take a while to develop and add our own content but it’s a step in the right direction.


Definition of Professional Development. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2017, from

Pierce, D. (2016, May 24). ESSA Redefines Professional Development for Teachers. Are You Ready for This Shift? Retrieved May 02, 2017, from


Technology Can Make Learning Personal

As I was trying to develop a question about ISTE Teacher Standard 2 I read it over a number of times. At one point it dawned on me that the standard was really about making learning personal for students. There is a lot of confusion out there about what that means. The terms differentiated, individualized and personalized learning are tossed around interchangeably but do they really mean the same thing? What are the differences between the terms and what does that mean in terms of choosing the right tool to help teachers make learning personal for their students?

I found a great article helpfully called Personalized vs. differentiated vs. individualized learning (Basye 2016) that was originally posted through ISTE. The author defines each area and I was intrigued to see that each of the standards in ISTE Teacher Standard 2 seem to be related. Perhaps purposefully, since the author also recently coauthored a book with Peggy Grant  called Personalized Learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology.

The author defines Differentiated Learning as “a type of learning where instruction is tailored to meet the learning needs, preferences, and goals of individual students.” The overall goals for students in the classroom are the same but how a teacher adapts lessons or projects to help a student reach that goal is flexible. This seems to most closely related to Standard 2a: “Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.”  Digital tools make it easier for teachers to adapt due dates, rubrics, directions, and resources to respond to unique student needs without materially changing the overall project or outcomes for the whole class.

Individualized learning, on the other hand, is related to pacing. The goals for all students are the same but students have the ability to move through the learning at their own pace. This can be valuable to students on the ends of the learning spectrum who either work quickly and need enrichment or acceleration or for those who need to work more slowly through a task and need the ability to go back to structures like video or written instructions to revisit the learning as needed. Standard 2b: “Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress” seems to fit most closely with Individualized learning. Gamification and the plethora of online, adaptive curriculum available to teach students skills at their own pace show that this a area of huge growth in the education market right now. It’s hard to keep up with what’s new and dig down to find what really works.

Finally, the author makes the case that Personalized learning is really a combination of both. He defines it as “learning that is tailored to the preferences and interests of various learners, as well as instruction that is paced to a student’s unique needs.” Personalized learning also involves the student as an active participant in creating their learning. It brings together the best of what motivates and excites students with the teacher helping them learn how to get there. Standard 2c: “Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources” most closely speaks to personalized learning. This is a harder area to find pre-packaged technology for and relies more heavily on teacher created material.

There are a lot of possible tools, and more being added each day to personalize learning. They seem to come in categories:

Teacher Constructed through Learning Management Systems (Canvas, Schoology, Haiku, D2L, Google Classroom, 3D GameLab, etc.) that allow teachers to customize assignments, assign different due dates, allow for choice, host individual paths (modules), and offer opportunities for badging and game based elements. These tools allow for the most flexibility for a teacher that knows their students well enough to customize based on ability, interest and needs but they are the most time consuming for the teacher. They are not terribly student based unless a teacher builds in the flexibility for a student to make choices about learning paths or content. It’s not impossible to build in, just a lot of work. They do all allow for assessment to be built in that will give students either immediate feedback or robust feedback from peers or teachers.

Teacher Constructed through other digital  tools (Actively Learn, EdPuzzle, OwlEyes, Nearpod, NextLesson, SMART Lab, Kahoot, Desmos, etc.) There are far too many tools in this category to name here. These tools are kind of a hybrid. The structure is there but the content is created, or edited, by the teacher. It allow teachers to create content students can move through at their own pace but also to collect data about student’s knowledge. Teachers can customize with their own questions, insert supporting materials into reading passages or video or engage students in various tasks.These are still very teacher directed tools but could be used to support self paced learning and.

Video Based Learning (Lynda, Kyte, AdobeTV, Atomic Learning, YouTube,, etc) These tools are generally skill based, online, video based tutorials. You can chose as much or as little as you need to learn, can test out and show mastery, provides choice and ability to customize. For purely individualized learning they are invaluable. Most of us already use YouTube to teach us many things but the rest of  these tools are curated, organized and updated regularly and can be used for students, and teachers, who are ready to learn on their own based on their own passions or interests.

Adaptive Content Based Learning (Dreambox, TenMarks, RazKids, Khan Academy, iReady, etc.) provide responsive, need based content, pretests, provide tutorials and hints, are algorithmic based and differentiated, provide data tracking, and adjusts to the learner or can be assigned by teacher. It seems to be the fastest growing market in education. The data can be invaluable to a classroom teacher but we can’t rely on these programs to do all the teaching. It should be used to support, individualize and help fill in gaps but not all students will learn well this way and teachers need to continually monitor the student’s growth and be responsive when students are struggling. This kind of learning also needs to be liberally mixed with real, collaborative, hands on projects that allow students to develop deeper learning and transfer their skills. Mixed with reflection and goal setting and regular problem based application they can be useful tools.

The final part of the ISTE Standard 2 “Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching” need to be woven through any kind of learning, differentiated, individualized or personalized. Without data, neither students nor teachers have a way of measuring success or determining growth. It’s vital that ongoing assessment be a part of any learning.

This may have clarified some of the differences between differentiated, individualized and personalized  for me but it may be harder to explain to teachers. Many use tools with students without any real purpose. I’ve seen students on multiplication practice websites long after they’ve mastered the skills either because the teacher doesn’t have a clear idea of the student’s capabilities, because they don’t know what should be next for the student or they haven’t really thought about the purpose of the tool and where it’s appropriateness lies in their instruction. I put together this infographic as a way to start the conversations about the differences but defining the purpose of the tools may be a more challenging conversation.



Basye, D. (2016, October 23). Personalized vs. differentiated vs. indivdualized learning. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from