All posts by Education4Results

The First Impression of a Digital Instructional Coach

As an educator I find myself saying “In our jobs, we are never bored”. I mean this as a complement to the profession; it doesn’t matter if I am in a room full of young students, college students, or adult learners, I am never bored and plan on keeping it that way.

Often the cost of this mindset comes in the form of overwhelmed educators who mean well and do not know where to begin when they look at the changes they want to make to the instruction they are providing each day. Add in the extensive needs of students, the chaos of the world we live in and the impact this has on our students and classrooms leads educators to feel overwhelmed.

Many schools and districts are looking to the Instructional Coach to support educators and ease the pressures of the classroom and daily reality. “A Peer Coach is a teacher leader who assists a peer to improve standards-based instruction by supporting the peer’s efforts to actively engage students in 21st-century learning activities. Coaches help colleagues improve teaching and learning by assisting them to develop the necessary lesson-design skills and instructional and technology integration strategies needed to prepare their students for college and careers”(Foltos, 2013, pp. 18). How these coaches begin the relationship can be a ticket to the success of the classroom teacher application; first impressions really do matter.

Often times coaches are put in schools where the needs are so dire that school leaders do not know where to begin. I would argue that good coaching needs to happen in all school settings to set the tone and value the partnerships that are anchored in the intent of student growth and success. Digital literacy coaching is connected to this mindset. Throwing laptops and technology at a problem is not going to solve the problem and magically create 21st-century leaders and creators out of today’s students. Coaching needs to be anchored in a common pedagogical practice to support learning through practice and alignment to a set of goals; coaching is learning for the educator.

I have had the pleasure of coaching educators for several years. As a peer coach, I worked with teachers to anchor learning objectives, course practice, and assessment in a standards-based curriculum to grow students and the school as a whole.  I learned early on that in order for theses relationships to work I had to take time to anticipate what the student and the school leadership was expecting out of the partnership. The most successful coaching relationships in my experience have always been one with trust as a foundation; first impressions really do matter.
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(Hyman, 2013) illustrates how a coach can actively anticipate what the teacher is going to need. In order to support the educator the Instructional Coach must always move the mindset within the following:

Patience: With students, the teacher, the technology, and the curriculum. In short, a coach must look at what is going on in the educators’ world and be willing to make suggestions without judging. This supports the research behind peer coaching to be free of evaluation to maintain peer relationships and trust.

Observation: As humans, we experience our worlds through our lens. The does not turn off when we enter the workplace. It is important for a coach to understand that they are not there to judge a peer but rather support the inquiry needed to get to the goal. “Effective coaches try to emphasize inquiry over advocacy in their coaching work. In other words, they rely on questioning strategies rather than advocating for any particular solution to the issues facing their peers” (Foltos, 2013, pp. 18). The questions coaches can anticipate the peer needing answered should come from observation.

Awareness: I would argue that one cannot anticipate the needs of others if they are not aware of the environment the peer lives in. This mindset extends to the 21st-century skills and technologies graduates will need to master in order to demonstrate success in a rapidly changing world. Park of the trust a peer puts into a coach is to stay relevant and offer a perspective with the same goal in mind.

With digital coaching, we cannot look at the tools as shiny new toys that are to be played with for only a little bit of time before the user gets bored and moves on to something new or more tried and true. Digital coaches must observe the learning environment, while being aware of the realities and patiently allow for the peer to come to a conclusion about how a tool can support learning for students in the educational setting. The tools, apps, and websites are always going to change, but the pedagogy should consistently support the learning of the students who are living and will be working in the present.

Once a peer coaching relationship has been established it is important to plan out the discourse to maximize the growth and keep all parties on track. The Coaching Plan is driven by a SMART Goal but often the coaching needs to take other factors into account.

“The GROW Model is a coaching framework used in conversations, meetings and everyday leadership to unlock potential and possibilities. GROW was first published by our co-founder Sir John Whitmore in 1992. It has become the world’s most popular coaching model for problem-solving, goal setting and performance improvement”(GROW Model | Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Coaching Model Framework – Performance Consultants,” 2019a; Hyman, 2013).

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The realities of today’s educators are often times desperate realities. In order to grow the peer coaching relationship needs to focus on a specific goal, the realities of the environment, the realistic options, and most importantly what the individual is willing to commit towards. The GROW Model supports  ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership as it “Contribute(s) to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels” (ISTE-C 1.b), while implementing “strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms” (ISTE-C 1.d).

Now the fun can begin, with the intentions of all parties clear, the real learning and growing can start to happen. The coach and peer can explore the models of digital instructional integration, together they can discuss the current state of the learning environment, the standard and assessment realities, what they hope to see from the students while learning together, and how to utilize pedagogy like the SAMR, TPACK and The Four A’s. With the clarity of the intent, the coach can start anticipating the needs of the peer and create a positive lasting impression that will lead to first impressions that really do matter with other peers in the educational setting.


AVID CENTER. (n.d.). AVID’s Digital Learning Framework. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

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

GROW Model | Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Coaching Model Framework – Performance Consultants. (2019a, October 11). Retrieved October 11, 2019, from
Hyman, A. (2013, April 25). the-art-of-technology-anticipation [Blog post]. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

Hyman, A. (2013, April 25). the-art-of-technology-anticipation [Blog post]. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

ISTE | ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

Koehler, M. (2012, September 12). TPACK.ORG. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from

ProTips. (n.d.). SAMR Model: A Practical Guide for EdTech Integration. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from

Yourcoach. (n.d.). S.M.A.R.T. goal setting | SMART | Coaching tools | YourCoach Gent. Retrieved October 14, 2019, from


Digitizing Your Favorite Lesson

I hear from educators all the time that they cannot find the time to practice using all the new technology tools available, let alone collaborate around ways to utilize these tools in the learning environments they support.

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As educators, we are masters at making the most out of  ‘our 24’, but for time and sometimes sanity we revert back to using the same lesson we know works year after year. Yes, we want to use the new technology, yes, we know it will help our learners prepare for the 21st-century workplace, no, we aren’t out of touch with the realities of the digital revolution. Educators I know you are all planning, grading, coaching, teaching, communicating, for your students each and every day. I designed my 90-minute workshop for The ISTE 2020 EdTech conference with you in mind.

New systems, tools, and strategies of education have always excited me. I remember when a math teacher once shared with me how she removed all her desks and chairs. Students had to move around the room and work out math problems on dry erase boards. At first, the students gave her a piece (or two) of their minds when the test scores came back no one questioned her system. Her students were doing all the work in the math class, they were moving bodies and brains and guess what, the math stuck.  I love when a teacher comes back to me after trying a new strategy or tool with a sparkle in their eye. I have been known to literally jump with joy when a flipped classroom brought about deep student engagement others through would never happen. The digital tools in my workshop are meant to engage and support learners authentically. The digital tools in Engaging Your Learners Through Digital Tools  (YouTube video submission link) is designed to support teachers as they facilitate learners to collaborate, communicate, and create within learning communities.

This submission is designed around the ISTE Coaching Standard 3a-3g Digital Age Learning Environments. These standards are specifically connected to the learning in the workshop by:

  • 3a: Model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments.
  • 3b: Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments.
  • 3d: Select, evaluate and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning.
  • 3f: Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure.
  • 3g: Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers and the larger community.
    • During the workshop, all participants will be exploring and practicing with different digital tools. They will collaborate in Face-to-Face and digital format to expand the learning while taking into account the learners they have in each unique setting. Digital communication and collaboration outside of the 90-minute workshop will be encouraged. 
  • 3c: Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators.
  • 3e: Troubleshoot basic software, hardware and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments. 
    • As the facilitator, I will be focusing on the coaching of teachers to use digital tools as a way to maximize the learning objectives for all learners. By anticipating the common problems of a digital environment and communicating how these problems can be solved with ease,  I will empower teachers to take risks and use these powerful tools. 

Participants will move to between three stations in 15 minutes increments to foster engagement while taking on a collaborative learner role.  

Soine and Lumpe (2014) provided a researched anchor in Characteristics of Effective Professional Development that grounded the creation of this workshop.

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This workshop supports active and engaged learning that can support the assessment of student learning. The tools support students who learn content in different ways; student choice opens up when these tools are used. By providing time to get your hands dirty during the workshop educators are able to start connecting the tool to lessons quickly. To meet the teachers’ needs and circumstances, time is spent on the exploration and application of the tool, not listening to how someone else used it. Collective participation is at the heart of this learning opportunity. Participants will collaborate with each other in stations as well as intentionally during reflection. The duration of the 90-minute workshop can be replicated with different tools and learning objectives during short and longer professional development opportunities. This workshop system is easy to replicate at other locations and with different digital tools to maximize the learning of educators at the workshop and beyond.

In short, your time is valuable. Trust me when I say that we appreciate a polite group who pretends to be listening at yet another conference. Thesparticipantsts are comfortable clapping politely and leave with a kind smile but I would rather you make a connection to the learners you support today and give you some time to practice using the tools we all know are important. I promise to jump for joy when you share how the shift towards using digital tools engaged your students and flipped your classroom.

woman jumping above stairs wearing graduation gown and a hat
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Soine, K.M. & Lumpe, A. (2014). Measuring characteristics of teacher professional development. Teacher Development: An international journal of teachers’ professional development. DOI: 10.1080/13664530.2014.911775

Tools Used in the 2020 ISTE Submission as of September 2019*

*modifications will be made to this workshop to meet the needs of digital educational support as technology tools emerge and evolve.

Professional Learning Networks: Connect, Relate, and Create

The digital world offers many ways of connecting with fellow professionals beyond your typical day and location. Instead of waiting for the weekly professional development meeting or your planning period to connect with your school bestie, educators can access Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) and get suggestions, answers and numerous perspectives within a few minutes. Innovating Pedogogy (2016) states, “Where the pedagogy is successful, social media can give learners reliable and interesting content, as well as opportunities to access expert advice, to encounter challenges, to defend their views and to amend their ideas in the face of criticism”. Within the PLN we connect, relate, and create at any hour and within the constraints of school and district guidelines. How does this way of learning support our students and our practice?


PLNs are different than the yearly Professional Learning Community (PLC) teachers often participate in for one main reason; they expand beyond a community and are accessible by an often uncontrolled group of professionals who vary in buy-in from curiosity to experts. We are now connected to each other by our professional digital identity.  The theory of connectivism explains this new way of learning. According to (Mattar, 2018), “Connectivism or distributed learning is proposed as a theory more adequate to the digital age, when action is needed without personal learning, using information outside of our primary knowledge”. Within the PLN teachers are able to access knowledge that from educators who have similar questions, roles, and hopefully answers regarding what you want to learn about. You can read more about how PLNs can be supported by PLCs in Vicki Davis’s Modern Professional Learning: Connecting PLCs With PLNs

ISTE Coaching Standard 3.G states that coaches should focus on the “Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community”. The PLN is a prime example of The Tripple E in action. “The Triple E Framework, developed in 2011 by Professor Liz Kolb at the University of Michigan, School of Education, was created to address the desire for K-12 educators to bridge research on education technologies and teaching practice in the classroom”.  Educators are able to extend their own learning, enhance the experiences of students through the shared perspectives of others while engaging with like-minded professionals from all over the world. 

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So just how should we use digital communication and collaborative technologies in professional learning? It is as simple as joining and responding to the Facebook group, or as complicated as participating in the live Twitter Feed discussion. These experiences are better when they have someone to set the tone of the collaboration, monitor and manage the material posted when conversations get heated and play digital housekeeping from time to time.  

“In a recent survey, Teachers Network found that 80 percent of teachers said network participation encouraged them to remain in the classroom, while 90 percent said that networking improved their teaching practice”. Edutopia expands on the PLN possibilities in Resources for Growing Your Professional Learning Network. These opportunities have been around for years are full of knowledge if you know how to access it. PLNs have the power to support you and your school bestie as you design that next unit, or offer support as you take a big risk by using new technology to support the learning in your classrooms. The power will feel endless; I encourage you to experience some of the positive consequences of this digital world we live in.

A few final words of advice based on personal experience:

  1. The power is in the collaboration, and quality collaboration is based on respect. 
  2. Ask clear questions so others can help you find quality answers and solutions.
  3. Do not judge someone who takes a moment to vent, instead offer solutions and perspective. Kindness always wins and sometimes it is easier to turn to a social network platform than people you have to work with every day.
  4. 4. Give back! Take a few moments to share your thinking when someone reaches out. It is important to fill the bucket that you are willing to take from.

Enjoy the endless opportunity to Connect, Relate, and Create.


Creative Commons. (n.d.). Triple E Framework. Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

Davis, V. (2015, November 11). Modern Professional Learning: Connecting PLCs With PLNs. Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

ISTE | ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

Mattar, J. (2018). Constructivism and connectivism in education technology: Active, situated, authentic, experiential, and anchored learning. RIED. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación a Distancia, 21(2), 201.

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi, C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

Teachers Network – Free Lesson Plans, Educational Resources & Videos for Teachers, Educators & Instructors. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

Curating, Managing, & Selecting Digital Tools to Support ALL Learners.

“Instruction should have clear goals that are separate from the means for completing the task, and these goals also should be thoroughly understood by the teacher and clearly communicated to students” (Basham & Marino, n.d., pp.11). This is what we hope for daily. We spend hours designing lessons, reviewing curriculum and examining formative assessments to support the clear goals that will propel our students to the finish line of learning. If our students learned the same way, we would be able to formalize this process within a cookie-cutter approach; our students may enjoy a cookie but they are not cut from the same mold.

Baham and Marino continue to anchor us in the educational needs of our students with the statement “Instruction should be intentionally planned so that it is personally challenging for all learners” (Basham & Marino, n.d.). Educators will wax and wane about the time it takes to create learning experiences like this; when the topic of a lesson plan enters the conversation they get tight-lipped about sharing a comment along the lines of knowing material and content, to a level that a lesson plan can not match. In short,  a teacher’s brainpower and instinctive understanding of what their students need to master the learning outcome should not be challenged but rather built upon.

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Facilitating learning takes time, and yes even the teacher who chooses to not plan may have a wonderful day or two in the classroom. But our learners are complex human beings with needs to be met. As educational settings and the workplace require complex thinking skill sets, we can no longer assume students have learned the material by grading a vocabulary test. In the spirit of a creative, student learning-centered classroom out compliance-based lessons will no longer cut it.

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 speaks to the instructional planning needed to support our diverse student populations within the Digital Age Learning Environments that mirror the working lives they will lead. 

  • 3B – Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments.
  • 3D – Select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning.
  • 3F – Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure.

A theme emerges within these standards. Teachers are given the control to manage, evaluate, and select the proper tools to support today’s student. How do we go about doing this if the technology is changing at such a rapid pace?

Wakelet is a free digital tool that supports the curation of tools for use tomorrow, next week or next year. Instead of trying to file the ideas away in our head we can now organize our resources, articles, and tools to support today and tomorrows student. The lesson plan may not always work but Wakelet provides flexibility and categorization that teachers can easily ” maintain and manage” (ISTE 3B), evaluate and make not of how to use the tools (ISTE 3D), and finally, collaborate with other educators to “enhance teaching and learning”(ISTE 3F). The values of Wakelet support the students we are growing in our classrooms; empowering readiness behaviors that will create and  empower the future leaders and creators we facilitate.

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If Wakelet is going to organize the tools for us, how do we know the tools will support our students?

The Tripple E Framework provides a model to intentionally support teachers as they look at tools for the classrooms they teach. One tool may not work year after year, as different learners need different supports in order to be empowered to grow outside the mold of compliance.

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The framework model can be applied through the use of a rubric to check the applicable practice for your current students through a stop light rubric assessment.

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The intentional assessment of  tools coupled with a formative assessment of student learning has the possibility to maximize student-centered learning opportunities we know engages all of our learners. The Triple E Framework Rubric, is supportive of the teacher who works from instinct and data to support the learning.

If I could turn back the clock and utilize these tools with the teachers I have coached I would do so in a heartbeat. The use of The Triple E Framework combined with Wakelet and the anchoring ISTE Coaching 3 Standard, provides a rich learning opportunity with check points that will enhance your lesson plan.  May we all be empowered to grow within the digital world and utilize theses tools in the classroom.

Learning, First & Digital Tools, Second

Teachers are experts. We work on our craft, we study our content in depth,  and many of us are fortunate enough to teach the same grade or class year after year, perfecting the content lessons with care and detail. Within the current learning realities we need to move past the ‘on the page’ learning to support and propel our students for the world they will live and work in. 

TPACK  speaks to the merger of the Technical Knowledge, Content Knowledge and Pedagogical Knowlege. When all of these converge you have a learning environment that supports the 21st-century learner. 

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As educators, our new goal should be to focus on the learning first and the digital tools that are going to get our students through and to the learning second. This type of thinking will require us to think differently about our perfected curriculum and instead encourage us to apply some flexibility in our classroom and learning management systems (LMS) used to facilitate learning. 

ISTE specifically addresses these needs in Coaching Standard 3: Digital Age Learning Enviroments.3a: “Model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments”, giving teachers the control over how to manage the classroom environments within the complexities of the school resources and outside digital world realities.    

Professional development (PD) is paramount to the success of our educators in this ever-changing environment. Could PD be designed to support teachers as they evolve within the rapid changes of learning that often feel impossible to keep up with?

AVID Center has presented a Digital Integration focus on the instruction of learning. The Digital Teaching and Learning (DTL) Strand/Path to Schoolwide training addresses these very issues while focusing on the 4 A’s of Learning First and Digital Tools Second.

The 4 A's Visual

I am fortunate to be one of the staff developers who will support the learning of educators this summer during AVID Summer Insitute. ISTE coaching standard 3c builds on the realities of today’s classrooms by explicitly asking that we  “Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators”. This is what I hope to do for all my learners this summer. 

What do teachers want from professional development? (K. Johnson, 2016) states, “A growing body of research is singling out two kinds of PD with the potential to check all these boxes and impact student achievement: coaching and collaborations”. The reality is that in order for the PD to be meaningful it must have more structure than teachers sitting around dreaming about what digital tool they could use or worse hearing a horror story of the one time a colleague used a digital tool only to have the entire lesson fail due to lack of resources or ability to meet the digital glitches that often come with the risk-taking. When this happens, teachers often go back to the lesson plan they polished through years of hard work and leave the technology integration for the next guy.

The 4 A’s is not a continuum, instead, it is a pedological focus that meets students and teachers within the specific realities of the classroom and LMS environments. The DTL  course design embeds opportunities to experience and supports the premise of a focus on consistent and constant learning instead of always knowing the one and only answer that students will come to after memorizing a lecture or reading a chapter. Yes, this takes away some of the ‘expertise’ we love to own as a teacher but I hope it engages and empowers future thinkers to design and test solutions to the problems we continue to experience through the freedom to become an expert as a student. 

No one can say that they will be an expert in all areas of the digital world of education. Instead, educators should approach the facilitation of their learners as co-creators and learners. When teachers build on what has worked in past learning environments with the freedom to modify to meet the needs of the current learners the end learning goal remains the same while the path towards success is ever changing. Over the next two weeks, I hope I am able to coach my learners to use the 4 A’s in their classrooms. May the have a lightbulb moment for the students who they couldn’t seem to reach last year. May they find a digital tool that can propel the learning beyond the objective. May we all learn and grow together and come back energized and excited for what lies ahead during this time of rapid and exhilarating change. 


Digital Integration / Instructional Educational Technology | AVID. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2019, from

ISTE. (n.d.). ISTE | Standards For Coaches. Retrieved July 10th, 2019, from

Johnson, K. (2016, December 27). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them—If Implementation Improves. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from

TPACK.ORG. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2019, from



Coaching & The Cycle of Learning: How Learning Should Out Weigh The Shiny Digital Tools.

Instructional coaching takes investment on many levels. Katarina Schwartz (2019), talks about how to support teachers as they maximize the use of technology in classrooms and how coaches can support the teacher through the process in Coaching Teachers To Become Powerful Users of Classroom Tech.

 The success of a coaching relationship is built on relationships and trust (Shwarz 2019). “Great coaches are often insiders. This is related to building relationships because someone who comes from inside the school knows its culture, their colleagues, and the students more intimately than someone coming from the outside. They can gain trust faster and make an impact on teaching and learning more quickly”

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I recently had the opportunity to train in a Digital Training Foundations summer course for elementary and secondary educators. The pedagogy for the three-day training is focused on “Learning First, Tools Second”. I am making very clear connections between the coaching standards for ISTE 2e & 2h  with the training that supports teachers in the implementation of digital tools that will support students based on where they are in the learning (ISTE Coaching 2E), while modeling “effective use of technology tools and resources to systematically collect and analyze student achievement data, interpret results, and communicate findings to improve instructional practice and maximize student learning”(ISTE Coaching 2E). If we focus on the new shiny tool instead of the learning we want to ignite, explore, and support than we will not be able to push our students to be the creators and innovators of the future. I would argue that our future is dependent on creators and innovators who will propel us to the next level of awareness who will lead our world to better realities. 

When educators are focused on maximizing student learning each and every day we can take the focus one step further and facilitate the learning for the world our students will live in. This means that our young creative innovators who try to sit still in class really need to have their thinking and application valued by teachers.  How do we coach teachers to embrace the innovations that are at their fingertips and can encourage engagement for the students of the 21st-century? How do we build on the ‘good teaching’ we have had, we see, and we want, using the innovations to drive and grow the learning experience for our diverse learners? What does “Learning First, Tools Second”. look like for the tech-savvy student who needs to be engaged in a different way?

As an instructional coach, My question stems from the need to support teachers and foster the confidence they need to try new things. Teachers are perfectionists, instead, we need to be learners who can take a setback in stride; because that is what we are teaching our students to do.  It takes a great deal of reflection, practice, planning, reflection, more practice and planning to design a learning opportunity that is ‘just right’. Once this happens teachers can hold tight to the lesson or unit, they will tell you how much work they put into the learning, how great last years students did on the assignment and lament about the group 5 years ago who really knocked the unit assessment out of the ballpark.

If we are maximizing student learning why are we trying to facilitate the learning of today’s students with tools and lessons plans from 5 years ago? How do we coach teachers to embrace the innovations that are at their fingertips and can encourage engagement for the students of the 21st-century? How do we build on the ‘good teaching’ we have had, we see, and we want, using the innovations to drive and grow the learning experience for our diverse learners? What does Learning First, and Tools second look like for the tech-savvy student who needs to be engaged in a different way?

In order to focus on the learning first and the tools second, the feedback during coaching sessions needs to be focused on the needs of the school, the classroom, and each student.  As a coach it is common to think we know the answer, we may have an inkling about possible next steps but then no one would be learning, and voice would not be honored.

I believe that as a coach we must be confident in our own ability to always learn first, tools will just keep coming. When coaches model this for fellow educators they are demonstrating what it means to be a life long learner. Kelly Coons shares her experience as a coach working with teachers in an eight-week cycle. “Coons said she has teachers working on very different focus areas in their classrooms. Some are just dipping their toe into using technology to give students a choice in how they express their learning, while others know far more about technology than Coons”.

This article connects to the Dynamic Learning: Digital Learning Project (DLP). Liz Anderson -Head of Social Impact Programs at Google for Education states  “We believe in the power of educators. Technology is just a tool; it can only be transformative when it’s in the hands of an educator who uses it to create meaningful experiences for students” on the DLP website. In order to focus on the learning first and the tools second, the feedback during coaching sessions needs to be focused on the needs of the school, the classroom, and each student. As a coach it is common to think we know the answer, we may have an inkling about possible next steps but then no one would be learning, and voice would not be honored.

“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.” —Patanjali

By focusing on a strategy area of ideal growth the teacher can hone in on the skill set they want to grow in. the coaching cycle can support this goal. With focus and ownership growth in facilitation skills and student engagement is often represented.  

I believe that as coaches when we have confidence in our own ability to always learn first, tools will just keep coming. By putting the learning first and the tools second we are allowing for the growth within this digital revolution to continue to grow within our realities. Whether we are dipping our toes into the water by trying a tool or better yet refining our practice by reflecting on how students responded to the activities and the tools instructional coaches and teachers can work together to collaborate and refine the process.



Digital Promise. (n.d.). Dynamic Learning Project. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from

Schwartz, k. (2019, January 11). Coaching Teachers To Become Powerful Users of Classroom Tech. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from

(n.d.). ISTE Standards for Educators | ISTE. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from


Facilitate Failure to Allow For Creation

How many times did the technological ‘Founding Fathers’ have to fail in order to create something our world could not live without? When I think about it, all of our founding fathers in American history, focused on citizenship at a deep level, they created, they failed, they redesigned, and they worked at the idea again and again until something bigger than themselves was created to impact society. In a sense, the Founding Fathers facilitated the creation of something beyond the imagination of many.  If we want to continue to support, mold, and grow great thinkers and designers, the education system must get past the easy learning and start facilitating learning that requires risk-taking for the good of the unique, meaningful, and dynamic learning product.

Larry Ferlazzo (2016, September 24) talks about failure through his experience and the examples of peers in Response: ‘Freedom to Fail’ Creates a Positive Learning Environment. In the article, Amber Chandler (2016) discusses her learning opportunity for students that made failure an acceptable product of learning. Chandler intentionally graded students on risk-taking. She upped the rigor of the learning by asking students to reflect on the learning process.

I find that the reflection of learning is often the most important part of the path towards mastery because it allows students to make connections through other perspectives. We do not reflect enough in my opinion. “The most amazing conversations occurred around our reflection process because students were complementing one another on risk-taking–an under-appreciated mindset. Until we recognize that academic risk-taking is, for the most part, discouraged, and intentionally normalize it, we will continue to create safe, but stymied students”Chandler recalls her students’ experience with the reflection of the risk-taking process while creating a safe space for her students to fail. In my opinion, if students are comfortable with failure and take time to reflect and connect to the learning process they will grow into confident learners who can anticipate the next steps needed to be successful on the next try.

Okay, teachers, I can already hear your feedback. “This is great Liz, very ‘eyes on the learning prize’ of you to suggest that we make space for failure in our classroom, but how do we do this within our current realities”? I think the answer has been in front of us the whole time. Yes, we want our students to use the most cutting edge technology to learn and they can still do this every day in preparation for life outside of our classrooms, but in all honesty, we can design our e-learning environments around an educational foundation to maximize the deep learning we want to see in our future leaders and change makers.

Check out E-Learning with  Bloom’s Taxonomy! Jason Johnson does a thorough job of explaining Bloom’s through the cognitive learning perspective to encourage and support educators as they facilitate the learning of students within the analyzing, evaluating, and creating higher levels of thinking. Johnson pushes the educator to own that students need to ‘understand’ before they ‘create’. When the creation does not work they often will need to go back to the understand phase of learning to apply the knowledge to the failure of the project and then try again with a healthy dose of new learning.

A short video explains the application of e-learning, regardless of learning and content management systems.

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Johnson also provides in-depth and revised set of question and project stems for teachers to  ‘model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections” (ISTE Standard for Educators 6) within the foundational Bloom’s Taxonomy.

It is important that our learners are comfortable and confident as they take ownership of learning, especially within the 21st-century digital world. The intent of the e-learning should be to “establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency”(ISTE Standard for Educators 3). The intent of all learning can be in more than just the application of facts on a test or in a paper, but the analyzation and evaluation that leads to dynamic and meaningful creations. For the Founding Fathers of our country and the Digital Revolution, failure was part of learning. Educators can facilitate a risk-taking environment for students if they are brave enough to focus on the learning rather than the imparting of facts delivered as the ‘sage on the stage’ who takes the easy way out.


Chandler, A. (2016). The Flexible ELA Classroom: Practical Tools for Differentiated Instruction in Grades 4-8. Routledge.

Ferlazzo, L. (2016, September 24). Response: ‘Freedom to Fail’ Creates a Positive Learning Environment. Retrieved from

(n.d.). ISTE Standards for Educators | ISTE. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from

Johnson, J. (2016, September 26). [Blog post]. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from

Johnson, J. (2016, September 27). Using Bloom’s Taxonomy in E-Learning – Higher E-Learning. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from

Mashable. (2018, July 4). Who tech founders would be if they were America’s Founding Fathers. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from







Designing learning with the reflection of assessment in mind.

How many of us have looked at a lesson after one of those days in the classroom only to wonder why it was so difficult to get the students to engage in the learning?

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I can think of several lessons that I thought would be engaging and exciting for my learners and felt the let down at the end of a long day. My students did not share in my enthusiasm for the content or the learning and I did not understand why. As I take a deeper look at what motivates learners, I wish I could jump back in time and redesign those lessons for my students in different ways.

If we are going to be learner-centered we need to design the learning and analysis of learning through the experience of each learner. This experience should be rich with the reflection that leads to self-motivation and discovery by the student. As I interact with ISTE Educator standard 5 (Designer) and 6 (Analyst) I found myself wondering

“How can I use assessments as a tool that honors and communicates the next steps and plans for the “authentic learning activities” (ISTE Educator 5b) for the learner, while using “technology to design and implement a variety of formative and summative assessments that accommodate learner needs, provide timely feedback to students and inform instruction” (ISTE Educator 7b)?

In my quest to empower learners to engage and collaborate with learning, I continue to feel a pull towards using video to support content delivery and student reflection of learning. Vialogues allows for the teacher to upload videos from YouTube and post guiding questions within the video. This could be used to evaluate the content or a reflective conversation between the learner and facilitator about the learning that is occurring. Van der Kleij, Adie, & Cumming, (2016) evaluated the feedback about learning and found that when questions were intentionally designed “the students’ stops were more focussed on reviewing the teachers’ feedback with commentary on the content they need to learn, strategies for improvement, and the teacher’s style of feedback” (pp.1099). This drives home the importance of learning first and tools second for our digital generation learners. We cannot post a video and think that we are creating cutting edge classrooms because we are ‘using’ technology. The learning experiences continue to only be as rich as the feedback and formative assessments we use to drive the next steps of learning driving students towards mastery of learning objectives. Students can also benefit from watching video posts from their peers to deepen learning. Jeffrey Young (2018) found that “Students report that being able to watch videos of their peers makes them feel more connected to their fellow learners”. Using video allows students to interact with each other in an approachable way. The quiet student in the back can now interact as much as the eager collaborator.

It would be interesting to pair the use of video engagement and questioning with formative assessment tools like those found on GoFormative. This web-based tool allows students and teachers to interact in real-time learning that will propel learning to the next level. GoFormative can be used to assess content and students reflection of learning. Results can be exported into a spreadsheet that can be used to track assessment data. Students are able to reflect on the learning to move the focus from compliance based responses to metacognitive connection to learning that allows for application past the unit test or semester final. This short video from Common Sense Education found on the GoFormative site gives some tips on how to push assessment past the multiple choice question.

By coupling the interaction of learning and reflection within videos with real-time assessments students can grow within a learning system that is centered around their own pace and growth. A word to the wise, compliance learning does not go away with personalization driven by a tech-savvy tool. Educators need to have a clear vision and path towards learning goals that will motivate and encourage students along the way. When a teacher couples clear learning objectives with learning that is designed and assessed for unique learning perspectives and understanding in mind the sky is truly the limit.


Common Sense Education. (2016, July 12). YouTube [YouTube]. Retrieved May 4, 2019, from

Formative. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2019, from

Kleij, F. V., Adie, L., & Cumming, J. (2016). Using video technology to enable student voice in assessment feedback. British Journal of Educational Technology,48(5), 1092-1105. doi:10.1111/bjet.12536

Vialogues. Retrieved May 5, 2019, from

Young, J. (2018, December 27). For Online Class Discussions, Instructors Move From Text to Video. Retrieved May 6, 2019, from




Learners = Leaders & Leaders= Learners​

Is compliance the death of autonomy? Is autonomy the key to building our leaders through a sense of constant and meaningful leadership?

I recently sat down with my mom who happens to be a career and management coach. People employ her to gain and share perspective on how they can grow as professionals within numerous fields; I am blessed to have her expertise at every Sunday night dinner and Friday night walk. Recently she called me on the carpet…”It is okay to be in a space of discovery” she said. What I realized she was saying is that if I sell myself out of the opportunity to learn I was never going to be a good leader.

My leadership cannot be supported by compliance but rather the risk to ask for and build on the autonomy I am privileged to work within. I connected her feedback and suggestions to my current growth as an opportunity to focus more on being a learner in order to grow as a leader. I have always gravitated toward leadership roles. On the playground, I was ‘managing’ the other students during role play antics. During the group project, I would make suggestions about who should take on what task before others had a chance to finish reading and connecting to the objectives. I am a ‘get it done’ kind of gal who isn’t afraid to pull her own weight towards a collective product. I realize that in all my focus towards ‘getting the job done’ I am selling myself and others short on the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience instead of a presented product.

Ruben Puentadura elaborates on how learning can impact leaders in his SMAR approach to supporting the learners with his supportive structure that supports from the lens of Substitution, Argumentation, Modification, and Redefinition. If leaders are built by learning than embracing the SAMR will support our growth while we nurture the minds of others.
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ISTE Educator Standard 2c states that guides need to “Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation, and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning”, how can we do this if we are not open to discovery within the unknown?

Instructional leads can create and advocate for classroom environments that support the learning that is happening today; to grow the learners and leaders of tomorrow. In conjunction , the ISTE Educator standard 1c implies that educators who “Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences” will poise our learners to be the leaders of tomorrow. The idea that ‘Active Learning’ can support the learning and leadership we want to nurture stems directly from how we change our pedagogical approach to the actual environment that fosters intellectual growth.

Chris Hayhurst elaborates on how  active learning is at the heart of the expertise we want to develop in our future leaders. Hayhurst elaborates on how educational institutions like the one found at the University of California Irvine builds the learner into a leader and the leader into a learner. “We’re a university that prides itself on the fact that half of our students are the first in their families to go to college,” says Michael Dennin, UCI’s vice provost of teaching and learning. “If you look at the evidence, you see that learning improves for anyone participating in an active-learning environment, but it especially improves for those first-generation students”. The actual space is fluid and allows for instant application and connection. This level of trained innovation supports students as they make meaning of the course work they are experiencing versus the complicity of a lecture-based classroom environment that often does not work for our first-generation college students.

This leaves me to my own self realization. Leaders are always learners, and learners do not always have an answer ready before the objective has been read and interpreted. In today’s world, the collaboration we experience in our learning environments will directly impact the ‘Modification’ and ‘Redefinition’ is more powerful when we allow for a space of learning together within environments that promote the active learning we will experience in the workplace.

I appreciate my mom for taking time to coach others, I appreciate how she gives so freely of her expertise to her community and loved ones. I am glad I stopped myself from defending my rapid progression to an end I had not completely defined or discovered and listened to her remind me that it is important to discover myself and nuture my foundation as a learner.



ISTE. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Educators | ISTE. Retrieved April 22, 2019, from

Hayhurst, C. (2019, February 18). Active-Learning Buildings Showcase New Teaching Philosophies. Retrieved April 14, 2019, from

Co-Learning & Collaboration Builds Collegial Experiences


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What would happen if instructional leaders treated the professional learning of our teachers as the most important and engaging project-based lesson we were fortunate to facilitate?

What would happen if the accountability of this learning was anchored in the intentional collaboration with colleagues that resulted in authentic learning experiences (ISTE 4a)?

If we want to prepare our learners for the working world why are we stifling the innovation and creativity that our students are wired for based on the experience of learning in the digital age?

When learning communities build on the ideal learning environment and welcomes technology that supports the meaning-making we are living solutions from a 21st-century perspective that will propel our students and instruction into the next level of skills employers require. In order to make this happen, I feel we must treat professional development like a professional project.

My need for appropriate and meaningful professional learning is anchored in my own experience as a creator and receiver of professional development. I have had countless hours of PowerPoint slide shows that fostered nothing more than a polite smile from me at the end of a long day of co-learning with students. I played by the rules and focused on the tidbits of knowledge I could take back to my classroom. What I learned to be true after many hours of this ‘sit and get’ instruction, is that professional development has to give time and space for everyone involved to foster deep connectedness in the learning and practice of the skill sets discussed. As an architect of professional development, I quickly realized that when the PD I facilitated was flexible to encourage connection and growth for all the engagement of the teachers I supported grew, the questions started flowing, and the application of learning became a classroom norm. Professional Learning Networks  (PLN’s) became a reality that allowed for organic experiences with lasting impact.

My current professional role at San Diego State University- College of Education, requires me to develop systems that will support the learning of 100+ service- learning college-age tutors. Within the Pre-College Institute Pathways Service Learning program, I support the program needs and instructional coaching of the professionals. My goal is to support my tutors as they interact with the principles of service- learning and support the instruction of the K-12 students they mentor.  My tutors are diverse and spectacularly complex thinkers that come ready to support students in communities with numerous needs. As I look at the time these college leaders have to spend learning and doing, I see a need to create opportunities for the PCI Pathways team co-learn within a digital tool rich culture to support engaging learning for everyone on our Pathways Tutoring program team. 

(Trust, Krutka, & Carpenter, 2016) state that “considering the diverse means for utilizing PLNs evident in our findings, we propose the following revised definition: PLNs are uniquely personalized, complex systems of interactions consisting of people, resources, and digital tools that support ongoing learning and professional growth”(pp 28). When I am confident in my ability to create clear learning outcomes for my tutors within our SDSU classroom,  I am able to offer opportunities to illustrate learning beyond the task-based products we often complete with frustration and little connection. My goal is to see my learners using the theories, systems, and strategies we talk about in the K-12 classroom. From day one, The Pathways Tutors are able to learn in the field and treated like professionals. When these tutors are able to make connections with ease everything goes swimmingly. But what about when the commitment and collaboration are still not present? How should I utilize the PLN to foster the engagement of that tutor I can’t seem to reach? 

I believe that in today’s world engagement and ownership of learning often grows for students and teachers when collaboration extends beyond the classroom.

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Universal Design for Learning. supports “Learning for All ” by facilitating learning through:

  • Representation: demonstrating the learning in different ways.
  • Action and Expression: all the approach to and demonstration of learning to happen in different ways.
  • Engagement: Ofer multiple options for projects that spur interest in learning.

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You can read and watch more about Universal Design for Learning via CAST.

Service learning requires our students to naturally work outside of the college setting. Utilizing Universal Design for Learning has the ability to build on and expand collaboration in unique ways. This is especially true when educators require the use of digital tools to support learning a classroom goal. For the Pathways Tutors, UDL would build collegial experiences beyond the SDSU campus and San Diego community.  

All professional learning requires an element of accountability. In order for my ‘dream’ PLN to happen within the service-learning classroom, we have to be willing to show vulnerability and observe each other as professional practitioners. In 2018, Requard illustrates how observations can be meaningful elements of daily learning. This level of humility is especially important when we build new professional skills. My ideal PLN service-learning course would have to have clear expectations for course outcomes, opportunities to build and foster trust between learners and require students to unpack their growth-mindset. Setting up an observation system that builds on and supports the professional goals of each tutor as they identify what the students in the classroom needs for instructional growth providing true reciprocity

When my tutors are able to identify ways they can support the learning in classrooms through the 21st- century skills our society values, they can collaborate and hold each other accountable in meaningful ways.   Stay tuned, I hope this will allow us to grow our Pathways Tutoring program in ways that creates limitless connections and application for San Diego State University and the San Diego community. 




CAST. (2018, August 31). CAST: About Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from

Requard, A. (2018, February 12). #ObserveMe: Improving Our Practice as Professionals. Retrieved from

Trust, T., Krutka, D. G., & Carpenter, J. P. (2016). “Together we are better”: Professional learning networks for teachers. Computers & Education, 102, 15–34.