All posts by Kelli

How Can I Make Essential Questions Matter?


For our module 4 in our EDTC 6105 class, I wanted to dive deeper into essential questions and learning targets. ISTE coaching standard 2f focuses on coaching teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences. Two practices that support students learning are essential questions and learning targets, and although I have been teaching for 6 years I still had some confusion on the difference between the two and best practices that exist when implementing them in the classroom with students. Luckily, there is a lot of information and research out there about both. After synthesizing much of the research and information I decided I should split up my blog posts. So for this blog post I will be focusing on essential questions. My goal is to create a deeper understanding of what essential questions are, how they impact learning in the classroom and how I could as a coach guide teachers in making meaningful use of them in their instruction.

What Are Essential Questions


Essential questions (EQ’s) are questions that probe for deeper understanding and inquiry. “Essential questions create a problem orientation that leads to exciting learning conversations, to creative problem solving, and to the consolidation of major concepts, connections, vocabulary, strategies, and ideas that can then be used to extend further learning and to solve problems in students’ lives and out in the world” (p. 42, Willhelm, 2014). If I were to explain essential questions to my 3rd graders I would tell them the EQ is like the grand quest in a video game- they are the “why” or the purpose for learning and drive students’ quest for knowledge. 

Crafting Essential Questions

Crafting EQ’s could be a whole other blog post, however alignment with the standards is the basic first step. After deciding on which standard(s) you want to align the EQ with you can start brainstorming. EQ’s should have the following characteristics:

  1. Is open-ended; it will not have a single correct finite response.

  2. Is intellectually engaging and sparks meaningful discussion.

  3. Taps into higher-order thinking based on DOK 2 and 3 such as analysis, inference, evaluation, prediction.

  4. Targets transferable ideas that crosscuts more than one discipline.

  5. Sparks further inquiry and thus additional debate and discussion.

  6. Requires evidence to support justification and not just a single answer with no evidence.

  7. The question is revisited throughout the unit of study time and time again. Recurring.


Helpful Resources When Crafting EQ's

Understanding by Design

Using UbD template you can backwards plan a lesson or unit. There are more resources in the book and online the UbD framework is a great place to start if you are wanting to learn more about UbD. Additionally, here are some examples of UbD templates filled out for different grade levels, which contain examples of EQ’s and the other components in the template.

Learning to Love the Question

Author and Professor Jeffrey D. Wilhelm’s article: Learning to Love the Question explores EQ’s and how they promote creativity and deep learning. He provides examples of how to create and revise EQ’s to help promote deeper learning.

Question Formulation Technique

The Question Formulation Technique protocol which I wrote about earlier (see here) piqued my interest in helping to craft essential questions. My wondering is, if you use the QFT with your class: could that lead or guide your creation of authentic EQ’s? My assumption is yes. To learn more about QTF you can head to my previous blog post or go to the Right Question Institute.

Bank of Essential Questions

If you are in need of more examples, Terry Heick created an excellent bank of essential questions.

Making Essential Questions Meaningful

The seventh characteristic of essential questions in the list posted above (about revisiting EQ’s) is one that perplexed me. Because, while you can craft a great essential question, isn’t how you use it just as important? As I was doing more research on EQ’s there weren’t many examples of how it was used or revisited. I found an article by nationally recognized educator and co-developer of Understanding by Design: Grant Wiggins, whom echoed my perplexity. He wrote, “far too often over the years I have seen plenty of good stuff posted like this – but no deep embedding of the Essential Question (EQ) into the unit design and lessons that make it up. Merely posting the EQs and occasionally reminding kids of it is pointless. Rarely is the EQ central to the assessment – in part, because all too often the EQ is too convergent and has a right answer that the teacher wants learned. Almost never does there appear to be a plan whereby the question goes from the teacher’s control to the students’ control.” He states, that the aim is to use the question to “frame specific activities, to provide perspective and focus, to prioritize the course, and to signal to students that, eventually, THEY must – on their own.” Wiggin’s wrote a book on essential questions and outlined a four phase protocol that teachers could follow to help navigate the use of EQ’s in class.

In The Essential Guide to Essential Questions. The author Lee Watanabe-Crockett provides questions that can be used to moderate or expand discussions around the EQ. I found that the questions could be helpful when first exploring the EQ and give a possible scope and sequence to students on how they will tackle it.

So How Can I Make Essential Questions Matter?

To answer my own EQ that I posed my learning during this module: How Can I Make Essential Questions Matter? Here are my answers:

  • Be mindful that the question is in essence “essential” to each one of the students. Meaning that students believe the question bears compelling reasons to investigate.

  • Create EQ’s that connect class content to important and authentic issues, promote creativity, critical thinking and encourages collaboration and communication (hello 21st-century learning skills). 

  • Use EQ’s to promote students to construct knowledge through learning, research, inquiry, feedback, and reflection and remember that EQ’s can be used over a course, unit, week or day. Often embedded within an essential question are subcategories that will generate questions that guide the learner’s inquiry.

  • Look into using UbD to design instruction remembering that the crafting of the EQ as well as, the lessons, texts, prompts, rules of engagement, and assessments provide the key elements needed for EQ to succeed.

  • I think that through UbD framework, and Wiggin’s 4 Phase Protocol for Implementing EQ’s I could begin to coach teachers and help teachers implement and reflect on their use of essential questions in the classroom.

Don’t Forget Discourse

For module 3 in our EDTC 6105 course I focused in on ISTE Coaching Standard 2f:

f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experience. 

When integrating technology into learning in the classroom there are many instructional design aspects that come into play. One such is student discourse. Creating a culture of productive student discourse and mindfully integrating it into technology-enhanced lessons provides opportunities for students to exchange ideas, ask questions, develop thinking processes, express understanding or misconceptions, and reflect on their learning. While technology like Flipgrid, Seesaw, Explain Everything, virtual field trips, pair programming are some examples of how you might use technology to elicit or enhance student discourse there are research-based elements that teachers can look for, plan for and/ or reflect on that will support students with discourse across the board. Throughout the rest of this blog post, I’ll dive deeper into elements of productive discourse as well as share strategies that technology coaches could use when working with teachers or model for teachers to use with their students. 

Hallmarks of productive discussions:

Michaels and O’Connor’s work emphasizes the ways teachers can support productive academic talk in the classroom. They outline hallmarks of productive discussions as such:

  • Everyone can hear and understand what is being said, so that every single student is part of the conversation.

  • The conversation is focused, coherent, rigorous, and leads to deep conceptual understanding.

  • Students are motivated to participate and want to go public with their thinking, feeling like they have a stake in the conversation.

  • Conversation is not just for good talkers; everyone has a right and responsibility to contribute.

  • The teacher guides students in practicing new ways of talking, reasoning, and collaborating with one another. 


Their research outlines 7 key elements of academically productive talk that makes the hallmarks listed above doable.

Elements of academically productive talk:

  1. A belief that students can do it

Establishing beliefs that all students are capable of deep understanding of concepts and that their ideas are valued is the first step in promoting productive talk. A strategy to establish and nurture these beliefs is through growth mindset discussions, activities, and reflections. This may include: learning about the importance of student discourse and how it enhances learning, building a community that values risk-taking and growth over competition, and setting and holding all students to high expectations and providing appropriate feedback, support, scaffolds or differentiation so all students are able to be successful. 


  1. Well-established ground rules

“A culture of talk is more likely to take hold when teachers develop a common set of discussion norms and limit the list to just three to five important ground rules.” (p. 6). Teachers should acknowledge the purpose of the norms and review them with the class before beginning their academic discussions. These norms can be established at the beginning of the year and evolve as the year unfolds. Anticipating norms that students may struggle with and planning time to review norms before students engage in academic discourse will help you and students keep them in mind during the discussion.


  1. Clear academic purposes

Teachers who orchestrate academically productive talk take the time to plan and prepare for discussions. Part of the planning process for a productive discussion includes teachers anticipating how the discussion might unfold. Micheal and O’Conner note that it is “helpful to articulate to yourself the key ideas you hope to bring forward” (p. 3). As well as expressing the academic purpose(s) to students verbally and visually helps them to understand the goals and direction of their learning.


  1. Deep understanding of the academic content

Facilitating productive discourse means you must be prepared, understand the concept(s), bring key ideas forward, and anticipate common misconceptions. 


  1. A framing question and follow-up questions

At the heart of productive student discourse is a “clear, open framing question, designed to spark multiple positions, perspectives, or solution paths that can be taken, explicated, and argued for with evidence” (p. 3). 


  1. An appropriate talk format

Thinking about how you want students to engage in academic discourse is also important. Different types of formats for student discourse include:

Whole group:

In this format, the entire class focuses on making sense around a shared problem or task. The teacher uses their understanding of the content and pedagogical knowledge to maintain a high level of focus and rigor. Students gather in a circle so that everyone can see everyone else to maximize listening, and make use of body language to show that they are listening (p. 7).


Small group:

In this format, students work in groups of three or four, or even partnerships of two, sharing materials and ideas and coming up with shared solutions (p. 8). Micheal’s and O’Connor state that for small group work to be productive, tasks need to be designed for group work, not tasks that can be done by one’s self. Other important elements of small group work include setting clear expectations for the intellectual work, a time limit, and an accountability piece. One strategy they shared was having the class make public what went on in each group to build a collective understanding. They also point out that you can use small group discussions to elicit ideas and thinking and then lead into a whole-class discussion. 

Partner talk:

In partner talk the discussion is usually brief (1-2 minutes) and done with a predecided talking partner. Teachers use partner talk strategically to listen in and either share out or lead into small group or whole-class discussions.

Different talk activities and strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

7. A set of strategic “talk moves”

Talk moves are general moves that can be used in any discussion, which strategically set students up to think, reason and collaborate in academically productive ways. “Research over the past 20 years and documentation of teachers who facilitate productive discussions has led to the identification of a small number of general talk moves that are remarkably helpful tools for making discussions work” (p. 10).

Talk moves teachers can use with students during discussions.

As a coach I think having these flow charts and talk moves is helpful when working with teachers and also as a tool to share with teachers and review when they are planning their lessons. Hopefully, as a technology coach I can better guide teachers on how to plan and implement student discourse into their technology lessons.

 A few interesting blog posts and resources I found around student discourse and technology:

Work Cited: 

Michaels, S. & O’Connor, C. (2012). Talk science primer. TERC. Retrievd from


Technology Coaching Guide

For module 2 in my EDTC 6105 course, I focused on indicator f in the ISTE Coaching Standard 2. The indicator focuses on coaching teachers in and modeling research-based best practices of technology integration into their planing. 

As a teacher, I’ll admit sometimes I don’t know the research behind the practices I’ve been taught or am teaching. As an elementary school teacher, I am teaching: math, science, social studies, technology, coding, engineering, reading, writing, health, social-emotional skills, art, and the list goes on. It would be overwhelming for me to try and delve into the research in each of these domains and be able to name them. As teachers, we are taught these best practices through our teacher preparation programs, through professional development, PLC’s and researched based curriculums. So I don’t discount that I have been taught these research-based strategies. What I wonder is how as a coach I can teach or model research-based best practices in technology that teachers will remember and could name. In order to achieve this, I need to ensure as a coach I have a process or procedure that includes these best practices.

Two research-based practices I know and am confident in using and modeling as a technology coach are TPACK and The Triple E Framework. If you are interested in learning more about those two frameworks and research behind them I linked a previous blog post here

In this blog post, I will share a technology guide that I created to use as a technology coach. It contains steps I may take, including the modeling and use of researched-based technology practices when I am working with teachers. The steps below have been shaped by my own experiences as a teacher working with coaches and collaborating in PLC’s and other PLN’s. I hope to use this guide as a starting point and anticipate it evolving as I continue to learn and grow.

Tech Coach Planning Guide:


Relationship Building

Check in to see how the teacher is doing as a person. 

Possible talking points:

  • How are you?
  • What’s new in your life? 
  • What’s something going well in your classroom?
  • Connect or check in on something previously shared. 

Establish/ Review Norms

Co-create norms together at the beginning of the partnership and review each time you meet.

Possible talking points:

  • Norms will help us to facilitate the work of our team and enable us to stay focused and accomplish our goals. 
  • Use the google form to co-create norms
  • As a reminder lets start with our norms. They are…


Go over the agenda.

Possible talking points:

  • Does this agenda look right? 
  • Is there anything missing?
  • Is there anything we need to prioritize?

Understanding students 

Understand class and their diverse needs? May only need to establish at the beginning of the partnership, but can check in as needed.  

Possible talking points:

  • Tell me about your class? Any learners with diverse needs?
  • How are your students doing? What are their strengths and challenges?
  • Do you have any students you are concerned about?
  • What else do you want me to know about your class? 
  • Would you feel comfortable with me coming in to observe and/or work with them? Is there anything you want me to notice?

Teacher Goals

Discuss the teacher’s goals for the coaching partnership and for their classroom. May only need to establish at the beginning of the partnership, but can check in as needed.  

Possible talking points:

  • What do you hope to accomplish working together? 
  • How can I support you? 

Digital Tools

Discuss digital tools available for integration and set a goal for use. 

Possible talking points:

  • Do you have a digital tool(s) you are wanting to integrate into your classroom or instruction?
  • What level of integration do you want in your classroom by the end of the school year? 
  • What skills are applied to nearly all tools (e.g., saving a file, naming a file, finding a file, logging in and out of accounts)? Have your students mastered these basic skills?

*Evaluating Digital Tools*

Model or practice using TPACK and Triple E Framework to evaluate the selected digital tools.

TPACK Resources

Triple E Framework Resources

Final Decision/ Check-in

Check in that the teacher is ready to begin implementing digital tools.

Possible talking points:

  • Do you have any questions or concerns about implementing this tool into your instruction?
  • What are the goals that we are established?
  • Are they realistic based on time and resources?

Actionable Next Steps

Create the next steps. 

Possible talking points:

  • What are the next steps you/we need to take?
  • What specific steps must you or we need to take to achieve the goals set?
  • Do we need to communicate anything to admin or parents? 
  • Is there a planning format you would like to use?
  • When are we meeting next? What do we hope to have accomplished at this time? 
  • Would you like me to check in with you throughout the process?

Check-In/ Support

Check-in based on plan from action steps. 

  • Email, in-person formal or informal, over phone, text, etc. 


At the next meeting reflect on the action plan and how things are going. 

Possible talking points:

  • How is it going so far? Any discoveries?
  • What were some of my most challenging moments and what made them so?
  • What were some of my most powerful learning moments and what made them so?
  • Is there anything you want to problem-solve or talk about?
  • Did we accomplish our goals? Is there anything we would do differently or that went well that we want to continue to do?



ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from 

Kolb, L., Professor. (n.d.). About the Triple E Framework. Retrieved July 29, 2019, from 

Kolb, L., Professor. (n.d.). Triple E Lesson Planning. Retrieved July 29, 2019, from 

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054. Retrieved from

Coaching Teachers and Technology: Mindset Matters

ISTE Coaching Standard 1

For module 1 of our EDTC 6105 course, we are focusing on ISTE Coaching Standard 1 indicator’s b and d. The standard focuses on visionary leadership when planning, developing, communicating, implementing, sustaining, and evaluating technology in classrooms, schools and/or at the district level. As I began reflecting on this standard, the first thing that came to my mind was: mindset. 


Throughout my 6 years in teaching, I have become aware of the ever-changing landscapes within the educational field. Although not all changes have been in the realm of technology many are. Technology has impacted almost every aspect of our lives today, and education is no exception. How differs from class, school, and district, but regardless comes with benefits and challenges. Some benefits include expanded access to education, global communication and collaboration, enhanced learning environments, and new instructional methodologies, and pedagogies. 


Technology is unique in that it is always evolving. In fact, as a teacher, I often hear that we are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist using technologies that haven’t been invented; in order to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet. This makes teaching with technology or directly teaching technology to students or teachers even more important but also even more challenging. Just when you think you have masted one technology another has come and replaced it. One take away I’ve had from this reality is that my mindset matters.


What do I mean by “mindset”? I am referring to what psychologist Carol Dweck of Stanford University refers to as your beliefs. Dweck’s research on mindsets found that people hold beliefs about the world and the challenges in their lives, and suggests that most people fluctuate between a fixed or growth mindset based on messages in different contexts.  

  • Fixed Mindset: the belief that qualities are inborn, fixed, and unchangeable. 

  • Growth Mindset: the belief that abilities can be developed and strengthened by way of commitment and hard work.

You can see more about Growth Mindset from Carol Dweck’s TED Talk. 

I was just at a district-led training, where k-2 teachers were being taught how to use new iPad and Chromebook devices as well as, how to use an online learning platform that the district adopted. The climate in the room was mainly positive, and most teachers were eager to have devices and a learning platform that amplified student voice and agency. However, this does not mean things were in any way smooth or easy. No, throughout the training there were many times where teachers got lost or confused and encountered problems. One teacher eluded to the learning platform as a new language she had to learn. Even at the end of the 7 hour day, we had just scratched the surface of discovery with the new technologies. Nevertheless, teachers would soon face a new challenge. Going back and teaching or implementing it with students. This was going to require some hard work, planning, problem-solving, persistence, and some patience- all things involved in a growth mindset. 

Coaching a Growth Mindset

When embarking on a new journey it helps to have a coach, mentor or friend to motivate, encourage and help you. My role this quarter is to partner with a teacher and work as a peer coach to help them implement or enhance the learning in their classroom with technology. With the idea of mindset being the first step in tackling technology, I set out to answer the following question: 


“What are ways as a technology coach that I could foster and encourage a growth mindset in teachers who are learning new technology?”


To answer this question I went back to much of Dweck’s research. Additionally, I was fortunate to participate in a study conducted by Researchers Stephanie Fryberg at the University of Washington, Mary C. Murphy at Indiana University, and Megan Bang at Northwestern University who developed the Culturally Inclusive Growth Mindset curriculum to shape teachers’ beliefs about diverse students and teach them strategies for better engaging students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. As part of the study I participated in 5-days of professional development training that focused on giving teachers the tools they need to promote a growth mindset for all learners. So some ideas were inspired by information learned at the training or through the experience.  

Different Contexts, Different Mindsets

During the week-long training we were introduced to three contexts in which fixed mindsets tend to come up:

o   Evaluative Situations– when given negative feedback people tend to shift to a fixed mindset.

o   High Effort Situations- when praised for the effortless, efficient, and easy ways we “got things done” leads people to quit or stop working when things get hard. 

o   Success of Others- tendencies to hide mistakes and deficiencies, so you avoid challenges. 


As a coach, I thought about times when this might be true for a teacher learning or applying new technology. For example, an administrator, teacher or parent questioning the validity or impact of the technology on learning (evaluative situations). When learning new technology and running into problems and questions that require perseverance and/ or asking for help (high effort situations). Or when coworkers or students are proficient with a technology you are novice or beginning with (success of others). 


There are many other examples of situations from my own experiences and observations where a fixed mindset has come into play with technology, and I’m sure other contexts. However, I find thinking about these three contexts to be a helpful lens as a coach. As I answer my question above I will use the three contexts to frame growth mindset strategies that may combat the tendency of fixed mindset in teachers when learning or implementing new technology. 

Fostering Growth Mindset as a Coach

Evaluative Situations:

  • Provide constructive feedback 

An important component of cultivating a growth mindset is providing specific feedback (Dweck, 2006). However, when coaching adults it’s important to frame feedback in constructive ways. One way to do this is to start by asking (or providing ideas for) teachers to select the type of feedback they receive. This helps establishes a basis for supportive feedback and helps them feel comfortable taking risks. Additionally, Dweck encourages that when giving feedback to offer strategies on how to overcome difficulties or challenges. 


  • Establish trust 

Research suggests that teachers feel more comfortable and are more successful when learning or trying new things when they feel supported by a trusting coach  (Harrison & Killion, 2007; Poglinco & Bach, 2004; Taylor, 2008). When beginning to establish trust work by Bean (2004) suggests that coaches can develop trust with teachers by “initially engaging with teachers in informal, low-intensity settings, like hallway conversations, and slowly working their way up to more intense, formal interactions.” (p 63, Gaely, 2016).  


Three ways to sustain trust:

Respect privacy

Refrain from judgment

Honor shared decision making


  • Create an environment where mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities

If mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn, we can use them to reflect, set goals and grow (Dweck, 2006). Although, this can be scary for teachers it’s essential for a growth mindset. Framing new learning as a process can help foster a space where mistakes are valued and learned from (Edutopia, 2015). 


High Effort Situations:

  • Frame new learning challenges

During the growth mindset trainings, I was introduced to the power of framing. When introducing a new task or technology using frames such as:

“We’re going to step out of our comfort zone.”

“This will take time and practice.”

“It’s really important to support each other when we struggle.”

“This is an opportunity for new connections.”


  •  Normalize fixed mindset thoughts 

Acknowledging the fixed mindset as normal. We are a mixture of fixed and growth mindset and probably will always be. If we can acknowledge the fixed mindset thoughts and actions that arise we can use them as a reflective tool. In a follow up on Education Week Dweck acknowledged that misinterpretations of mindset lead people towards what she called, “false growth mindsets” and that in order to “help educators adopt a deeper, true growth mindset, one that will show in their classroom practices we should legitimize the fixed mindset.” (Dweck, 2015). Sharing your own learning struggles with teachers and letting them see that you have faced challenges and how you have overcome them can help foster a growth mindset. 


  • Give specific praise  

Dweck’s research on mindsets emphasizes that if we praise people on effective strategies or processes they’ve tried or used it conveys that they can develop their abilities and it suggests how this can be done. She refers to this as praising the process not product. Praising teacher’s hard work and commitment promotes a growth mindset if done so in intentional or specific ways.



Success of Others:

  • Allow time for personalized goal setting and reflection

Facilitating individualized goal setting that applies to teachers’ specific needs can help scaffold new learning and incentive the distance traveled not the end score. Also, providing a chance for teachers to reflect upon their work towards these goals and consider what they learned from the process is equally important (Dweck, 2006). 


Banks, S. (2015, February 4). A Coach’s Toolkit: Three Ways to Build Trust. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006.


Dweck, C. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from 


Galey, S. (2016). The Evolving Role of Instructional Coaches in U.S. Policy Contexts. The William & Mary Educational Review, 4(2), 54–70. Retrieved from


Harrison, C., & Killion, J. (2007). Ten roles for teacher leaders. Educational Leadership, 65(1), 74-77. 


Heggart, K. (2015, February 4). Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from


Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 33-52.


Poglinco, S. M., & Bach, A. J. (2004). The heart of the matter: Coaching as a vehicle for professional development. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(5), 398-400. 


Taylor, J. E. (2008). Instructional coaching: The state of the art. In M. M. Mangin & S. R. Stoelinga (Eds.), Effective teacher leadership: Using research to inform and reform (pp. 10-35). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


EDTC 6104 Community Engagement Project- Enhancing Student Learning with Seesaw

When I first entered into the DEL masters program I had no idea what I was getting into. Luckily for me, it’s turned out to be a mind-opening and enhancing journey. This summer our EDTC 6104 course continued to shift my perception of technologies role in the classroom. Technology has the opportunity to enhance teaching and students learning when integrated mindfully. For our community engagement project this quarter we were tasked with developing a training or workshop that we could present to a desired audience, or conference. As I began thinking of the possibilities that I could choose from I grounded my work in ISTE coaching standard 3, which revolves around creating and supporting effective digital age learning environments that maximize the learning of all students.  After some thought, I landed on Seesaw a digital learning portfolio platform that empowers students of any age to document what they are learning at school, reflect and learn from others. I felt that Seesaw was just the tool that could maximize learning of all studnets. Better yet, Seesaw was a tool that I had begun to dabble in this past school year and something that I am passionate about implementing in my classroom this year. As I began thinking about the professional development I would design I immediately thought of my school and our students. Seesaw is a supported app of our district but no one at our school is currently using it, nor am I aware of many teachers who know what it is. Thus, my goal for the PD was to educate teachers at our school of Seesaw and it’s potential impact on learning.

When beginning to plan out a professional development that I could deliver to staff at my school I began to learn like a student. I took a few preofessional development courses provided by Seesaw, called PD in your pj’s. I learned that Seesaw had many PD resources created for teachers to use and make their own. After doing some trainings and looking through many of the resources I came up with the plan to have two 45 minute hands-on blended trainings. I arose with the following objectives: 


Training 1 Enhancing Student Learning with Seesaw: Hands-On Teacher Training: 

Learning Objectives:

  1. Develop an understanding of what Seesaw is and how it can be used in the classroom to enhance student learning 

  2. Learn the logistics of Seesaw: how to use the features and navigate the app as students and teachers

  3. Gain and share ideas on how you might use Seesaw in your classroom


Training 2 Seesaw: Digging Deeper into Digital Learning Portfolios

Learning Objectives:

  1. Determine a goal or purpose for your class digital portfolios

  2. Reflect on best practices for digital portfolios 

  3. Plan an activity(s) or lesson(s) to bring back and implement in your classroom


Materials that I would use to support these objectives are linked below:

Overview Google Slides- presented at a staff meeting or sent out through email

Training 1 Google Slides- presented and sent out to staff at first training  

Training 2 Google Slides- presented and sent out to staff at first training 

Padlet Curated Seesaw Resources- to explore before or after trainings


The training’s address ISTE’s coaching standard 3 in the following ways: 

3. Digital age learning environments Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students. 


a. 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. 

  • Addressed in training #1 through modeling Seesaw as a teacher, while participants experience the platform as a student. Also, there are times in training #1 and #2 for teachers to collaborate and explore Seesaw and related resources. 


b. Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments 

  • Addressed by exploring Seesaw and its features, as well as using Padlet and Google Docs and Slides to curate resources, tutorials, and PD that support technology-rich learning environments.  


c. 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 

  • Addressed in training #1 and #2. Training #1 provides materials to do before coming to the training and uses a blended approach during the training to explore and learn about Seesaw. Additionally, between trainings teachers can practice and use Seesaw thus bringing experience, ideas, and questions to training #2 where they dig deeper into digital portfolios and create an intentional plan(s) or lesson(s) they can bring back and implement in their classroom. Both trainings also extend Seesaws professional development options and videos that teachers can use to extend learning. 


d. Select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning 

  • Addressed through training #1 and #2 which highlights how Seesaw supports student learning through:

  • Showcase student learning and voice

  • Provide formative insights

  • Authentic audience: parents, teachers, *peers

  • Family communication


e. Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments 

  • Addressed in both trainings as teachers will be working on Seesaw as a student and teacher. 


f. 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 

  • Addressed in training #2 where teachers look at evaluating the needs and learning objectives of their digital portfolios and collaborate to create an intentional plan(s) or lesson(s) to bring back and implement in their classroom. 


g. Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community

  • Addressed in both trainings where teachers will be using Seesaw, Padlet and Google Docs/ Slides to collaborate and communicate with each other, students and families.


Overall, I am really happy with how the training objectives and supporting material turned out and am eager to see which teachers are interested in learning more about using Seesaw to enhance learning in their classrooms. To learn more about my presentations and plans please watch this condensed summary video:

Building Collaboration, Communication and Independence with Padlet

For the final module of our summer EDTC 6104 course, we were focusing on ISTE coaching standard 3. More specifically performance indicators e and g:


E – Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments

G – Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community


As a teacher, a goal I have is to empower my scholars with strategies they can use to solve their problems. Not only does this help things run smoothly in the classroom but it also lets scholars know they are in control of their choices, and learning. Performance indicator G emphasizes using digital communication and collaboration tools to do some of this work. I began thinking in terms of my own experience in the classroom and how digital communication and collaboration tools empower scholars. There are many tools designed to do such things. Some I use are Flipgrid, SeeSaw, and Google Classroom. One tool that I have dabbled in is Padlet. While working with another 3rd-grade teacher in Pennsylvania on a collaboration this upcoming year for Global Read Aloud we were discussing which digital platform to use. She has been doing the GRA for a couple of years and mentioned that Padlet had seemed to work the best for her scholars; stating that is was organized, easy to use and understand by 3rd graders, and had many options for how students could enter the conversation or add to other’s thinking.

Introduction to Padlet

Padlet is an online virtual “bulletin” board, where scholars and teachers can collaborate, reflect, share links, videos, pictures, and ideas in a secure location. Teachers and scholars can use Padlet in a variety of ways. One way I want to explore Padlet is as a curation tool, which can then also lend itself as a collaboration and communication tool to be used within the classroom and with families. 

Padlet for Curation

As I began exploring more of the capabilities of Padlet my ideas shifted more from collaboration globally and thinking about it also in terms of our classroom. Specifically, as a way for scholars to access resources or ask for/ share help with others. 


As a teacher, you could use Padlet to post pictures of anchor charts from your room, helpful videos, links, documents, and other resources. You could have the Padlet link available for kids or print off a QR code for students to scan and pull up the resources. For example, here is a Padlet you could use if scholars are doing a research project on animals or this resource you could use to send home to families to support multiplication. Another advantage of using Padlet to curate resources is that you can also share these boards with families and keep them as reference for upcoming units or years. 


To shift the focus on scholars’ taking ownership of their own learning you could also embed an area on your Padlet for scholars to post their names when they feel they have mastered the learning objective and are willing to help or answer questions from others. Additionally, you could have a Padlet or place on the Padlet for scholars to post questions or think about embedding Classroom Q.


Padlet could solve another problem I have been grappling with which is limited physical space. This past year in class I had a scholar who expressed to me that too much visual stimulation in the room distracted him from his learning. My classroom is pretty well organized and I try to keep only relevant anchor charts up around the room. However, at times I felt like there just wasn’t enough wall space in my classroom for the material we were covering and all the student work. This made me wonder if what I thought was helping my scholars (anchor charts + student work) was instead be having other more negative effects. 


Edutopia’s article: Dos and Don’ts of Classroom Decorations cites research suggesting that, “Classroom walls should feel warm and lively but not overcrowded—keep 20 to 50 percent of the wall space clear, and fill the rest with student work, inspiring pictures, and learning aids.”  When thinking about the pace of which teaching and learning occur if I were trying to abide by the 20-50% rule this means that anchor charts or other visual stimuli would be constantly changing. For scholars who need review or who may need further assistance, it would be helpful to have a place to go to.


Keeping in mind the research suggesting that classroom stimuli can become distracting, I believe the same can apply on a Padlet board. Michael Hubenthal and Thomas O’Brien in their research Revisiting Your Classroom’s Walls: The Pedagogical Power of Posters found that “the visual complexity caused by an abundance of text and small images can set up an overwhelming visual/verbal competition between text and graphics for which students must gain control in order to give meaning to information.” (2009). Thus, if applying this research when creating your Padlet board, being mindful about what and how you organize/ present the information or resources is important. 


Additionally if using Padlet as a tool to bridge independence and facilitate independent learning remembering to balance it with teacher support is important. Clear modeling, guidance, and in-class support will enhance student independent learning (Hocking et al., 2018). Research, also showed that when working on building students autonomous learning scholars preferred, “dependency ‘weening’” meaning that teachers start the year with clear, structured and direct approaches and as the curriculum or year continues the scaffolds and support begin to lessen (Hocking et al., 2018).


Whether or not you are using Padlet to curate resources to share with scholars and families or using it to collaborate with scholars from around the world Padlet has the potential to shape and maximize the learning of our scholars. If you are looking for some ways to try Padlet out in your classroom these blogs are some helpful places to start:


20 ways to use Padlet in your class now

30 Ways to use Padlet in the classroom

Using Padlet in the classroom

Educational ways to use Padlet 



Hockings, C., Thomas, L., Ottaway, J., & Jones, R. (2018). Independent Learning–What We Do When You’re Not There. Teaching in Higher Education, 23(2), 145–161. Retrieved from 


Hubenthal, M., O’Brien, T., (2009). Revisiting
 Posters, 1-8. Retrieved from


Terada, Y. (2018, October 24). Dos and Don’ts of Classroom Decorations. Retrieved August 15, 2019, from 


Evaluating Digital Tools

Our DEL 6104 class’s objective this module was to come up with a question based off ISTE coaching standard 3 performance indicators b, d, and f. The standard states, “Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students” (ISTE, 2014). The indicators d, and f focus on evaluating digital tools to enhance teaching and support student learning. 

My inquiry for this module focused on finding ways to evaluate digital tools to enhance teaching and learning. What I’ve learned from my research is that there are many common technology integration frameworks that are used to help teachers better understand the process and objectives of technology integration. However, it may not be as simple as it sounds. There is no one straight forward answer in how to evaluate your teaching and/or tech integration.

In the remainder of this post, I provide an overview of two frameworks that I feel are a good starting point.  In understanding these two frameworks (and others that exist) it’s important to create your own understanding of the research behind them and explore their strengths and weaknesses or limitations. It’s my goal that the overviews provide a basis for teachers to continue investigating, build on their understanding and begin thinking or using the frameworks to integrate technology in meaningful ways in their classrooms.


The TPACK framework was introduced by Punya Mishra and Matthew J. Koehler of Michigan State University in 2006. It focuses on three primary forms of knowledge: Content Knowledge (CK), Pedagogical Knowledge (PK), and Technological Knowledge (TK). Mishra and Koehler acknowledged that there has been a tendency to look at the technology and not how it is used. The TPACK framework works to combine the three forms of knowledge teachers need for successful technology integration. 

Source: Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

TPACK layers the content, pedagogy, and technology and helps relay the importance of all three for successful integration. It shows us that there’s a relationship between them and that the purposeful blending of them is key. Also, TPACK assumes that when you look at content and pedagogy that you will then think about the technology that supports it. 

Mishra and Koehler’s research showed that “given opportunities to thoughtfully engage in the design of educational technology, teachers showed tremendous growth in their sensitivity to the complex interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology, thus developing their TPCK.” (p. 1046). You can use the TPACK framework to look at all three parts and analyze, reflect or plan meaningful learning with technology integration, and also can apply the framework when planning PD around technology. I find that the framework is a great place to start building an understanding of the importance of all three components. The Triple E which is explained below can be used with the TPACK to further develop strategies to successfully blend content, pedagogy, and technology.

TPACK Resources

TPACK Lesson Planning Template 

Examples/ Possibilities for Technology Use (based on the types of learning activities that each digital tool or resource best supports)

Example of 7th Grade ELA Lesson using TPACK

Triple E Framework

Triple E Framework was developed in 2011 by Professor Liz Kolb at the University of Michigan, School of Education. It focuses on analyzing how technology can help scholars achieve the learning goals and is based on what research has shown to be best practices when integrating technology. The framework is broken down into the three E’s: Engage, Enhance, and Extend and explained in the image below.

Source: Triple E Framework by

What I like about incorporating the Triple E framework into your planning or reflection is that it can be a tool used in conjunction with TPACK. The framework is very user-friendly and simplifies the way to assess your technology integration by asking reflective questions that can help guide you to its effectiveness (or its strengths and weaknesses). The Triple E website and planning templates also offer instructional strategies to enhance or strengthen areas of weakness.

Triple E Framework Resources

Acknowledging Complex Learning Environments “ecosystems” and Limitations within Frameworks

While TPACK and Tripple E Frameworks work as tools to simplify how to “effectively” integrate or assess your integration of technology in the classroom they also have their limitations. The models work well as straightforward, starting points. However, do not provide a holistic picture of our classroom environments. For example, in 2016 research done by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) looking at how can technologies and digital learning experiences be used to support underserved, under-resourced, and underprepared students, found that learning outcomes are “often narrowly conceived in terms of academic achievement, but our analyses have indicated that this idea is somewhat shallow. Instead of solely academic outcomes, research indicates that learners‘ experience results fall across four domains: affective, behavioral, skill-based, and cognitive.” (p. 7). They also found that “the context for learning is equally relevant (to technology and learning outcomes) and thus constitutes the other major sphere of influence in the Digital Learning Ecosystem.” (p. 8). The context is subdivided into three categories: the learning community, the goals, and objectives for learning, and the actual activities that learners engage in as they are using the digital tools. This framework breaks down digital learning environments more complexly, broadens the factors contributing to scholars success towards the learning goals and provides yet another lens to reflect on effective technology integration.

Digital Learning Ecosystem Explained 

Source: © 2015, Molly B. Zielezinski, Stanford University Graduate School of Education

Acknowledging that your classroom or “ecosystem” is complex and that using one model or framework to assess your teaching or learning does not provide you with a holistic picture allows you to challenge the way you talk about, understand or imagine your classroom, as Zielezinski and Darling-Hammond from SCOPE state:

“There is utility in knowing what are widely considered to be promising practices, but these are only the starting point. The end point is when you find what works for your students in your school(s) with your technology today—especially if what is working today is preparing your students for the world they will encounter tomorrow and the day after, let alone the world they will inherit in the years to come.” (p. 27). 


ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from 

Kolb, L., Professor. (n.d.). About the Triple E Framework. Retrieved July 29, 2019, from 

Kolb, L., Professor. (n.d.). Triple E Lesson Planning. Retrieved July 29, 2019, from 

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054. Retrieved from 

Zielezinski, M. B., Darling-Hammond, L., & Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE). (2016). Promising Practices: A Literature Review of Technology Use by Underserved Students. Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. Retrieved from

Culturally Responsive Teaching, Art, and Digital Learning Environments

Our first module for EDTC 6104 was anchored around ISTE coaching standard 3, which states, “Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.” After doing some of the required readings I wanted to focus on the “all” in the standard. Specifically, how culturally responsive teaching could guide my work supporting all scholars.

 “Culturally Responsive Teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning” (Landson-Billings, 1994).

I’ve come to understand culturally responsive teaching as mindset, a way of being or thinking; a foundation that guides our practice and manifests itself into doing. This understanding brought me back to the ISTE coaching standard 3; I wondered how culturally responsive teaching and digital age environments intertwined and how I could model or coach others in creating digital learning environments that nurture scholars culture, potentials, and abilities?  Approaching culturally responsive teaching in terms of a mindset, it can not be boiled down to a specific list of strategies, lesson plans or curriculum due to the individuality and diversity of each classroom. It can, however, ground our teaching and learning environments digitally (or not). Art is one grounding approach that can meet culturally responsive teachings goals.

“Arts education is one way to provide a culturally relevant experience for students because the arts allow individuality to flourish (Acuff et. al, 2012). Further, the arts provide an avenue for expression that moves beyond the realm of the written word, thus potentially allowing for complicated themes related to race and culture to be addressed. Reif and Grant (2010) state that the benefit of employing the arts to make meaning in classrooms is clear, and that overall, students who engage deeply with the arts have, “better reading and language skills, mathematics skills, thinking skills, social skills, motivation to learn, and a positive school environment” (p. 102).” (McCarther, Davis, 2017, p. 110).

Modeling or Coaching Art and Digital Learning Environments

There are many approaches to art that can be used to honor scholars’ voices and expressions. For the duration of this blog post, I will share ways you could model or coach teachers on infusing art and the digital world, and provide some ways to do so through a culturally responsive teaching lens. 

Blended Learning and Art

Blended learning and art complement each other very well. For the matter of understanding blended learning, because I have found there are many different interpretations of it, I broadly define it as an educational program in which scholars learn in some part through online learning. Art through blended learning can take on many forms, and there are many avenues that you could take. Learning from teachers or coaches who have implemented blended learning into their art instruction may help you visualize and plan how it could be used to support scholars in your classroom. 

Watching Instructional Videos

Through this approach, students watch directions, methods, etc. presented and are able to self-pace and review or reflect on such. If you are creating the video yourself ScreenCastify is a great application to explore. There are also many blogs and videos already created, it may be worth taking a look before you create your own. 

4th grade students using I-pads to watch art instructions and practices. (Codilla, 2016).

Online Formative Quizzes

Depending on your learning goals you could use a blended approach to assess whether students have a foundational understanding of the material before beginning the art assignment or project. See here for an abundance of online formative assessment tools you could use. 

Middle school teacher uses online formative assessments before her students begin working on art (The Arts, 2018).

With Technology Possibilities are Endless

Scholars can also use technology to read about, observe, study or analyze: art, artists, methods or literature before during or after working on an art project. Some examples include: 

  • Scholars choose an artist or method to study that can be as simple as introducing to them to selected artists or as in-depth as unit studies based on specific artists or methods. There are many resources for such work, Emily’s blog post on the Ultimate Guide to Home School Artist Study has some resources that could get you started. 

  • Many museums also offer virtual viewing options. Here are some museums that have digital showcases, lesson plans, and so many possibilities. 

  • National Gallary of Art

  • 10 Amazing Virtual Museum Tours

  • Virtual field trips and skype- Microsoft in Education Skype in the Classroom has virtual field trips, guest speakers and resources to connect you with artists and more virtually. 

Curated Youtube video playlist of famous artists biography and artwork (Free School, 2014).

Showcasing and Interacting with Art

Using technology to showcase and interact with artwork opens the door to possibilities of honoring scholars voices, interpretations, and ideas. It allows windows and mirrors into scholars lives, it also provides a place for students to interact and reflect on their own and others art and interpretations. Common Sense Media has compiled reviews of digital portfolios in which you could research and find one(s) that best meet the needs of your class: Student Portfolio Apps and Websites

High school teacher and students use Artsonia to showcase their artwork (Millis High School, 2019). See more on her blog post Digital Art Snapshot

Involve Families in Learning

Involving families in their child’s learning is a core part of almost any culturally-responsive teaching approach. Parents act as the main educators in many societies and can provide cultural context. (Guido, 2017)

Using a class website, Seesaw, Flipgrid, Class Dojo, Google Classroom or any other online platform (it could be the platform you chose as a digital portfolio) that showcases scholars artwork encourages family engagement. This opens the door to family participation and features voices from scholars lives’ outside of the classroom. 


Learning First, Technology Second

Research shows that technology has more impact on K-12 student learning when it supports student learning goals (Tamim, Bernard, Borokhovski, Abrami, & Schmid, 2011). Another point supporting this claim found in a research article examining the role of technology in preservice teachers art education found, “Students achieved success when they learned the technology specifically to enable them to develop their artistic projects in creative, diverse ways.” (Black, Browning, 2011). Blending technology into your art education can have many benifits, but remember to first begin with compelling, imaginative and conceptual ideas to create your learning goals and drive instruction, then infusing technology to support the learning second. 


Culturally Responsive Teaching Art Integration

There are many art projects and ideas out there which align with the goals of culturally responsive teaching. Deirdre Moore’s blog post, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Arts explains four strategies for culturally responsive arts integration in the classroom:

  1. Connect through story

  2. Highlight art and artists from various cultures

  3. Ask questions (and listen deeply)

  4. Create to learn


Additionally, if you’re wanting to try integrating arts, blended learning (or both) into your classroom or school talk to your colleagues, coaches, district professionals and most importantly get to know your students: their culture and their wants, needs, and goals.



Black, J., & Browning, K. (2011). Creativity in Digital Art Education Teaching Practices. Art Education,64(5), 19-34. doi:10.1080/00043125.2011.11519140


Blended Learning: Art Teacher JoAnne Vogel Creates Classroom Clarity. (2018, January 19). Retrieved July 15, 2019, from


Codilla, W. [Wil Codilla]. (2016, November 4). Blended Learning in the Art Room [Video file]. Retrieved from 


Free School. (2014, November 10). Vincent van Gogh for Children: Biography for Kids [Video File]. Retrieved from


Guido, M. (2019, May 06). 15 Culturally-Responsive Teaching Strategies. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from


Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishing Co.


McCarther, S. M., & Davis, D. M. (2017). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy Twenty-Plus Years Later: How an Arts Approach to Teaching and Learning Can Keep the Dream Alive. American Educational History Journal, 44(2), 103–113. Retrieved from


Millis High School. (2019). Retrieved July 15, 2019, from 


Tamim, R. M., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Abrami, P. C., & Schmid, R. F. (2011). What Forty Years of Research Says about the Impact of Technology on Learning: A Second-Order Meta-Analysis and Validation Study. Review of Educational Research, 81(1), 4–28. Retrieved from

Math and Technology

This year I have been reflecting on my math instruction. My class this year is unique in that I have about 50% of students preforming below standard and about 25% preforming two grade levels below standard. Additionally, this year I am pressed for time and find with time restraints and a classroom of diverse needs teaching math can be very challenging. Thus, for this module I want to learn about ways technology could help to meet the needs of all my students. I am going to specifically, focus in on the areas of: strategy development, fluency and automaticity with in computational skills (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). I decided to focus on this area as research has shown that students who fail to develop these foundational skills are more likely to experience difficulties in math curriculum later (Miller, Stringfellow, Kaffar, Ferreira, & Mancl, 2011).

Number Talks

Research has show that student’s conceptual understanding aids their development in building their fluency and automaticity (Kling and Bay-Williams, 2015). According to Kling, fluency is developed when students have the opportunity to deliberately and explicitly move through three developmental phases by building reasoning strategies. Kling finds that children generally begin solving math facts through counting (Phase 1), progress to using reasoning strategies to derive unknown facts (Phase 2), and finally, develop mastery with their facts (Phase 3). If students simply memorize math facts as rote facts, they might fail to develop important conceptual understandings, which puts them at a disadvantage when attempting to engage in more advanced math work (Kling & Bay-Williams 2015). I found the analogy below helpful in illustrating the importance of student’s development of strategies and reasoning. Learning Scientist Claire Cook states:

Math is not about memorization per se —  “just as a master chef doesn’t go about selecting the right ingredients in the right amounts because he’s memorized recipes, but rather because he knows what he’s doing at that level without thinking about it too hard or too explicitly.” (McGraw Hill, 2019).

Number Talks are one avenue to build students conceptual understandings. They build students number sense and focus on student’s understandings of math strategies and abilities to reason when solving problems. Students just like the master chef from the analogy above do not solve math problems based on memorization but instead draw from a repertoire of strategies and reasoning.

How to use Flipgrid for Number Talks

With all that being said, Number Talks do not entail technology. Nonetheless, I feel that you could integrate technology into your Number Talks meaningfully into your classroom.  Using Flipgrid you could pose a number talk to students. Students then have the ability to listen to, process and formulate a strategy to solve the posed problem. After having formulated a strategy students can record and justify their reasoning on the Flipgrid. Students could also listen, interact, and critique other student’s responses. When thinking about implementing Flipgrid in this way I think that as a teacher you would have to be intentional about when you choose to use it and how you will address misconceptions and give timely feedback.

When’s a meaningful time for Flipgrid?

After having a whole class or small group Number Talk around a concept (eg., addition) students could go back and apply their new learning on a Flipgrid which may have a new related Number Talk or ask students to reflect or analyze the strategies they just covered. This offers students a chance to apply and reflect on their learning and allows teachers the ability to formatively assess what students know and which strategies or misconceptions students may have.

Addressing Misconception and Timely Feedback

If students are interacting or learning from others Flipgrid posts I think it is important for the teacher to give timely feedback to students. Especially in cases which students have misconceptions that may be perpetuated on the grid. However you decided to give feedback I think it would be powerful for students to then go back to their original post and address their misconception and/or add on new learning. This shows other students that making mistakes is part of learning and that as a class community we value growth mindset.

Other Online Programs

There are many types of programs out there (Prodigy, Front Row, Xtra Math, Khan Academy, Dreambox) that could provide students with practice and/or where students can apply strategies they have learned. Many online programs are adaptive, provide instant feedback and tend to have incentives or awards built in. These options may be helpful for students who struggle with math and could increase motivation and confidence (Outhwaite, Gulliford, and Pitchford, 2017). Additionally, these programs may provide the teacher with information and can be used a progress monitoring tool. Teachers can use the data from the programs to address misconceptions, review or teach strategies or concepts and set goals with students.

When choosing an online program do your research and be intentional. Using the SMAR model you could assess how to purposefully integrate the programs to meet your students needs. Additionally, if using the program as an intervention the National Research Council, has outlined many helpful components and states that math interventions be highly and correctly targeted to be effective (Burns, VanDerHeyden, and Boice, 2008).

How do you use online math programs or technology in your classroom? Do you have any programs that you’ve found beneficial to your students learning? Leave a comment below.

Digital Safety

This week in my DEL class I took on the task of researching “best digital safety practices” for educators. I felt really vulnerable on this topic. In my five years as a teacher and my 14+ as a consumer and producer on the Internet, I had relatively little knowledge on the subject. ISTE Educator Standard 3 emphasizes digital security highlighting it in indicator 3c and 3d:

3c Mentor students in safe, legal and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property.

3d Model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy.

Below I synthesized my findings for best digital safety practices for educators. They include:

  1. Explicitly teaching digital safety
  2. Approaching digital safety in a thoughtful manner
  3. Creating digital norms
  4. Building strong relationships
  5. Doing your research (5 places to check to ensure student safety)

Teach Digital Safety

You don’t know what you don’t know. I found it interesting that in the United States, about half of kids have some form of social media by age 12, according to Common Sense Media census report released in 2016. Additionally, research is beginning to debunk some fears around social media (5 reasons you don’t need to worry about kids and social media and 5 myths and truths about kids internet safety). Increase personal use coupled with a rise of educators using social media and other educational apps in school, and 1:1 computer programs leads me to the first and foremost best practice for digital safety: Explicitly teaching digital safety in your classroom and preparing students to become responsible digital citizens. Many platforms have provided curriculum you can use to teach digital safety such as:

Approach Matters

Additionally, when approaching the topic of digital security it may be helpful to have some guidelines. Denise E. Agosto and June Abbas research led them to, sets of guidelines for helping school librarians, teachers, and other concerned adults teach students how to become safer social media users. Here are some they discovered:

Teach Teens about Risk-Benefit Analysis

The authors noted that “the risks of social media use are about equal to the risks of most offline public activities, such as going to the mall.” (p. 3).  Thus, emphasize that we should treat and teach social media or the internet as we would in real life and approach it with a balanced thoughtful perspective.

Offer Hands-On Lab Sessions and Live Demonstrations

Instead of teaching digital security lessons in isolation, try doing so through authentic means, like using a classroom website, app or social media platform your class or students are using. Encourage students to interact and investigate with their devices as well.

Avoid Scare Tactics

Agosto and Abbas state, “Students tend to react negatively to scare tactics and threats and to perceive negative framing as school administrators’ efforts to protect themselves from lawsuits and other possible negative ramifications of students’ risky behaviors.” (p. 3). Instead, frame messages and lessons about digital security in a positive genuine concern.

Use Personal Examples

Speak about personal stories or have guest speakers or teachers from your school share stories with students about experiences or challenges they’ve had in the digital world.

Take Advantage of Teachable Moments

This one reminded me of restorative justice vs. punishment. On my districts Student & Staff Access and Use of Networked Information Resources and Communications the last point that’s listed reads:

“Violation of any of the conditions of use explained in the User Consent Form, Electronic Resources Policy or in these procedures by students could be cause for disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion from school and suspension or revocation of network and computer access privileges.”

I understand the legality reasons behind this statement but Agosto and Abbas remind us that if we are going straight to punishments we may be missing out on valuable teaching opportunities as well as opportunities to promote community healing (p. 4).

Create Digital Norms

As you are teaching digital safety your class can create norms that as a group you agree are important to follow. These norms can be revisited and modeled throughout the year. Some norms I imagine my third graders creating might be:

  • We are respectful to others online
  • We THINK before we post
  • We don’t share personal information online
  • We ask for help when we need it
  • We learn from our mistakes

Build Strong Relationships

This one is simple and yet so important. Students learn best from adults they trust, especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as online privacy and safety. If your librarian or technology teacher is teaching your students digital citizenship or privacy lessons consider coteaching or collaborating with them so you can also support your students on these topics.  

Do Your Research

Research, this is an area I was lacking. It’s true many teachers already have full plates and doing the research does not ease any burden. In fact, I found it fairly difficult to find and understand information pertaining to what is allowed and what is not allowed in my own district. One place to start your research is Beth Miller’s article, Can I use This App or Website for my Class: This article addresses the question of what app or website is appropriate for teachers to use for classroom instruction. The abstract reads:

“While most school districts have safety policies related to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) implemented by means of software and district firewalls, this questions is not an easy question to answer, and it’s answered slightly differently depending on grade levels, student ages, and website/app restrictions.”

Additionally, here are five places to check to ensure student safety online:

1. Check your school or district’s procedures. After about 10 minutes of searching, and finally resorting to google search I was able to find my districts Student & Staff Access and Use of Networked Information Resources and Communications. This document outlined much of what I was searching for and address how to go about making decisions on what is appropriate to use in your classroom. Depending on your district or school the procedures will look different.

2. Check the privacy statements on websites, platforms, apps, or technology you plan to use with your students. Privacy statements are located at the bottom of the website and in the fine print of apps and programs.

3. Check with companies like Clever, IKeepSafe, Common Sense Media, and Google Apps for Education who offer information and reviews about most digital tools. Keep in mind that each organization also has its own agenda. In I Agree but do I Know, Privacy and Student Data, Rigele and Debbie Abilock remind us that, “It’s unlikely that a single system for managing and securing applications can serve as a one-size-fits-all solution for a school’s unique blend of teaching styles, curriculum, culture, and community values.” (p. 18).

4. Check with your librarian, administration, technology TOSA or district for any clarification. I found asking for help or checking with others most reassuring. With confusing lingo and acronyms like those listed below, it can get confusing to whether or not it is a reliable or safe platform. So checking with someone else is always a safe route.

  • ToS- Terms of Service
  • FERPA- Family Educational Rights and Privacy
  • PPRA- Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment
  • Fair Use Doctrine of the United States Copyright Law
  • CIPA- Children’s Internet Protection Act
  • COPPA- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

5. Check with families. Be prepared to articulate the learning benefits and quality of online product choices to your community. Parental consent should be informed consent, not an empty formality (Abilock, 2016, p.18). Many websites like Classroom Dojo, Seesaw, Prodigy (these are some I’ve used) have letters already made that you can tailor and send to parents about the safety and use of their platform. Additionally, it would be even more beneficial to communicate what you are working on in class around digital safety and provide resources that parents can use at home to reinforce or support their children as well.

Finally, I am left with these questions after my research:

  • How can we better support our teachers to teach and guide students to be responsible digital citizens?
  • How can we better inform all teachers about district policies and the importance of digital security?
  • How can we make consent, information, and resources around digital safety available to ALL families through an equity lens?


Abilock, R., & Abilock, D. (2016). I Agree, but Do I Know? Privacy and Student Data. Knowledge Quest, 44(4), 10–21. Retrieved from

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