Category Archives: 03 – Digital age learning environments

Building Trust in Professional Coaching Relationships

In my current coursework for my Digital Education Leadership program we are looking at what is needed to be a successful Educational Technology coach. Using the ISTE Standards for Coaches as a framework, for this module we are looking at these standards (ISTE, 2017):

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership

b. Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels

d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

Although there are many factors and qualities of a successful coach, one that I wanted to explore this week is trust. Establishing a culture of trust is key in all relationships, and professional coaching relationships are no different. But how do you build trust professionally? Especially if the relationship is short-term or in group environment (versus 1-1 coaching). I think one of the biggest hurdles to successful coaching relationships in school is that the term “coach” is so broad. Both coaches and those being coached aren’t clear about what specific coaching role is needed in their situation. So expectations aren’t defined and often one (or both) parties feel misunderstood and that their goals aren’t being met. This is a tremendous missed opportunity and loss of valuable resources. I want to focus on exploring trust and building positive and effective coaching relationships and I believe the first step to making this happen is for coaching roles and expectations of all parties (administration, coach, teacher) to be clearly defined.

Developing a relationship based on respect and trust between coach and learning partner is nonnegotiable for successful coaching.(Foltos, 2013)

When doing my research on this I came across I read Les Foltos’ book, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. In this book “The Building Blocks of Trust” were discussed. I found this graphic and idea to be very easy to understand and it has helped me grasp both the importance of trust in coaching relationships as well as how to build this trust.

The Building Blocks of Trust are composed of 3 levels. Compassion, communication, and commitment make up the base of the pyramid. Without one of these trust cannot exist and the coaching relationship will not be as successful as it has the potential to be. Collaboration and Ability make up the middle level and integrity is at the top of the pyramid.

“Trust must be present in order to have meaningful conversations about practice. Trusting relationships among professional colleagues are often the missing ingredient needed to sustain Peer Coaching success” (Robbins, 2015). Robbins, in her book, Peer Coaching to Enrich Professional Practice,

School Culture, and Student Learning, goes on to say that many literacy and math coaches haven’t been successful in recent years because, although coaches might have a content area knowledge, without focusing on building relationships and trust coaching efforts fail.

From the reading I have done on this topic and using my own experiences of coaching and being coached I have come up with 4 “must- haves” for building trust in a professional coaching relationship.

Must-Haves for Building Trust:

1. Clarify that you are not an evaluator.

2. From the first meeting be transparent and honest about setting up expectations and norms for your meetings and work together.

3. As the coach, it is important that you have instruction and practice with communication skills and strategies. Use these.

4. Be reliable and follow through on your coaching responsibilities.


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, November 30) from:

Robbins, P. (2015). Peer Coaching to Enrich Professional Practice, School Culture, and Student Learning. Chapter 1: Establishing the Need for Peer Coaching. Found online at:

How To Ask Your Administrator For The Professional Development You Need

When it comes to professional development opportunities or technology needed for your classroom, you know best what you need and what will best serve your students. However, it can be difficult to ask for it.  Budgets are tight, you don’t want to seem greedy, you don’t want other teachers to think you are trying to “take” the limited funds, and, likely more than anything, you are just too busy and overwhelmed with the daily tasks of teaching to make time to ask. However, high-quality professional development and useful technology advancements can really transform your classroom. And sometimes you just need to ask. And know how to ask.

For my coursework in my Educational Technology Leadership class we are looking at ISTE Standards for Coaching 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation. More specifically, performance indicator B which reads “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment (ISTE, 2017).” We are guided by questions about what role administration plays in in designing professional development and how to advocate for professional learning opportunities when administrators pursue new educational technology initiatives. While considering these questions, I wanted to focus on how best to communicate teachers needs/wants with administrators as they pertain to professional learning around technology initiatives.  

There are many types of administrators. I have had at least 10 in my 14-year teaching career, so I have seen many different personalities and styles.  But, I think it is important for teachers to keep in mind that administrators have the same goals as teachers…we all want the students in our classrooms to be as successful (academically, socially, and emotionally) as they possible can.  In this age of teacher evaluations it can seem like there is this greater divide between the goals and focuses of teachers and administrators, but I don’t feel that is the case. At least it hasn’t been in my experience. The key is communication, as is the key to most all our relationships in life.  Your administrator is not going to know what you need unless you tell them.

Here are some recommendations for communicating your professional needs to an administrator:

  1. Make a list.

Get organized. Make a list of what you are requesting and why.

  1. Schedule a Meeting

Don’t make your request via email or over a casual conversation in the hallway. Also, don’t have this discussion during a meeting that is scheduled for another purpose. Make your request be the purpose for the meeting.

  1. Ask

Be direct and clear. Ask for what you need. Be specific and get to the point. Caralee Adams wrote a piece I found on the Scholastic website that speaks to this. “Often teachers don’t think through how to ask for what they want, or they’re too busy to even try. That attitude can result in missed opportunities. And grumbling in the faculty lounge, rather than raising the issue with your boss, won’t get you results (Adams).”

  1. Explain what you are doing and how it’s going

Administrators have a lot on their plate and a lot of teachers/grades/subjects to keep track of. Make sure your administrator knows what you are doing in your classroom and how it’s working with the training and tools you currently have access to.

  1. Explain how you will use the PD you are requesting.

Tell your administrator what you will do with the training or tools you are requesting. How will having these help your students more successful?

  1. Have a plan.

Make sure you have done your homework. How much will this training or tech tool cost? How will the administrator go about looking how to obtain your request? The more research you do, the less they might have to do. This might increase the likelihood on it getting approved.

  1. Thank them.

Sure, it’s part of their job. But everyone likes to be thanked and appreciated. Thank your administrator for their time and for listening to your request.

  1. Follow up.

If your request is granted, follow up and tell your administrator what you learned and how you are using the training or tool in your classroom. If your request was denied, follow up and ask if there is anything you can do to help facilitate your request being granted.

So now, start reflecting and researching. What do you need? What will help your students grow and succeed as 21st century learners?  Make a list, have a plan, schedule a meeting, and ask!  


Adams, C. (publication date unknown) Scholastic website. Retrieved on 2019, February 24 from:

Gonzales, Jennifer (2017). Cult of Pedagogy Website (Retrieved on February24, 2019) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2019, February 23) from:

Differentiating Teacher PD

When planning curriculum and gathering instructional materials teachers are always looking for ways to differentiate for the diverse learners in their classrooms. As teachers we do this on a daily basis and we do it so often that most of the time we hardly realize we are doing it. It’s just a strategy we use in order to provide all our students the best opportunities for success. But what about when it’s the teachers who are the learners? Is the learning being differentiated for us? Teachers are just as diverse as our students when it comes to what we require as learners if the learning is to be beneficial and effective.

As I look most closely at ISTE Coaching Standard 4 (Professional Development and Program Evaluation), specifically Performance Indicator B (Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.) I wanted to look more closely at how our knowledge of adult learning might impact our planning on professional learning experiences.

5 Ways to Differentiate Professional Learning

for Teachers

Differentiation by grade level

What works in a 4th or 5th grade class isn’t going to necessarily apply to a Kindergarten class. I have been in some very successful professional learning sessions where information is presented whole group and then teachers are divided up by grade levels (or grade level bands…K/1, 2/3, 4/5). This type of differentiation is most applicable to elementary schools.

Differentiation by subject area

This type of differentiation would apply more to middle and high school teachers. The professional learning experience could either be something that applies to most all teachers, for example: a training on Google Classroom, and there is a whole group session at the beginning and then subject area teams split off to discuss further how this particular learning could best apply to their subject area. Another way this type of differentiation could work is just by having teachers of different subject areas be focusing on completely different types of learning experiences based on the needs of their department.

Differentiation by experience

Technology professional development is an example of an area where different learners have different experiences with the tools and programs and also have different comfort levels. Some many want help learning how to print or add bookmarks and others may be ready to create screencasts or help students create blogs.

Differentiation by interest

Teachers are unique individuals and each bring a a part of themselves into their classrooms.  Soe might have interest in incorporating yoga into their classrooms, some might add music to the curriculum, and others might enjoy cooking.  And many teachers get ideas for how to enrich their curriculum from other teachers sharing their strategies and providing training.

Plan for Differentiation Before, During, and After

I found a blog post by Jen Cirillo on the ASCD website about differentiating instruction in professional learning and she mentions some steps to take before, during, and after the learning experience. Here are some of her suggestions:

Before the Experience:

  • Know your audience
  • Plan with flexibility
  • Think about what they need to know as practitioners (Cirillo, 2015)

During the Experience:

  • Model different ways of teaching
  • Remember that how you learn best isn’t always the way everyone else learns
  • Transparent facilitation anc check-ins
  • Consider the whole learner
  • Formative assessments (Cirillo, 2015)

After the Experience:

  • Ongoing learning and differentiation through: coaching/mentoring in the classroom, online learning, access to resources, or reflection logs (Cirillo, 2015).


Cirillo, J. (2015). ASCD website. Retrieved 2019, April 1 from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2019, March 1) from:

Asynchronous Online Teacher PD: Broadening the Options and Networks

This quarter my cohort for my Digital Education Leadership program is being asked to look closely at ISTE Standards for Coaches #4 which relates to Professional Learning and Program Evaluation. Within that standard performance indicator B looks at technology rich professional learning: “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment (ISTE, 2017).”  I wanted to explore the topic of asynchronous online teacher professional learning because I think the options and opportunities that are available in our digital world can have a tremendous impacts on teaching and student learning.

What’s a PLN?

A PLN is a Professional Learning Network.  Different from traditional in-person one-size-fits-all professional learning experiences, a professional learning network (PLN) allows teachers to personalize their learning based on their experience, needs, and interests. A PLN allows teachers to take advantage of the tremendous network on teachers online who are willing to share, learn, and build community through a digital platform.

Jeff Knutson has a article on the Common Sense Media website called, “ From PLN to Practice: Tips from 5 Educators on Personalizing your Professional Learning” (Knutson, 2017).  I found this interview and the suggestions and different perspectives these educators provided very helpful. When asked to define a PLN one educator (Lisa Dabbs) answered, “In traditional PD it’s often the case that an educator has no choice over the topic or the type of content shared. A PLN is more like a modern, 21st-century teacher’s lounge. A place where ideas can be shared, exchanged, talked about, and transformed. Ideally, a safe place where questions can be presented without judgment. A PLN is a place where an educator at any level can direct and guide their own learning. They can be their own seeker of knowledge.” (Knutson, 2017). This response really resonated with me and I like how she mentioned the lack of judgement and the power of choice in a PLN. Creating a safe learning environment and providing choice in learning activities are two of my goals for my own classroom, so it makes sense that those factors are key in adult learning.  Another interview question that was asked was how to get started with a PLN. Some suggestions were “start small”, find a PLN mentor, and “take it at your own speed”. And the final, and I believe most important, question that Knutson asked his panel was how to put what is being learning through a PLN into practice. Because the best professional learning isn’t going to have a lot of value to you unless it is put into practice. My favorite quote here is “take a chance”. It can be scary to try new things in our classroom because, like many of our students, we are afraid to fail. And failing as a teacher can often be a public fail. But what a great way for us to model to our students our own learning and risk-taking.

Why Reflection is Important

In reviewing my past blog posts, I notice that reflection is often found as an important step to a larger concept.  In general, reflection is needed to gather a baseline of current practices and informs either knowledge gained or next steps for improvement.

For educators, reflection can help guide instructional practice.  In the “Applying Formative Assessment in Professional Development” post, formative feedback  can be used a vehicle to promote both self- and peer-reflection in professional development which leads to a reduction in time, energy, and resources expended when compared to a formal, summative evaluation.  he researchers quoted in the “Peer Coaching Focus- For Teacher or Student Outcome” post, agree with the utility of reflection as one of the main indicators for continuing education success is time allotted for educators to reflect.

When reflection is offered as part of a process, an individual can also be better informed of their own learning and/or skill deficits which can help identify continued professional development needs. In “Instructional Coaching: Using Rubrics to Quantify Qualitative Data for Improved Teaching Outcomes” self-reflection occurs after reviewing compiled feedback from students on assignments and/or teaching practices. Under these circumstances, instructors can use self-reflection to gain insights in practices that are effective, define areas of improvement, understand how the students are learning, and address whether or not the instructor’s expectations of teaching and learning have been met. One of advantages of using this type of process is that the feedback is factual rather than emotional, or based off solely the educator’s experience.

Figure on Cox's Types of Self-Reflection
Figure 1.1 Cox’s Types of Self-Reflection.

Peer reflection can also be a helpful mechanism to gather insight into instructional practice. Because it is a collaborative event, it involves a social construct for learning. In the “Creating a Peer Coaching Culture” post, several key components of a successful peer coaching session identified by Dr. Gotteman involved both self and group reflection.  Reflection in this process helps to identify areas of improvement for the educator that is being coach and helps both peers establish a starting point for improvement.

Infographic summarizing the peer coaching process by Dr. Gotteman
Figure 1.1 Summary of Dr. Gotteman’s Peer Coaching Process

Les Foltos agrees with this idea as he identifies reflection as both a method to conduct peer coaching and as a part of the peer coaching cycle.  Reflection is crucial to understanding next steps when looking at the appropriate length of a peer coaching relationship. This introduces a cyclical nature to the coaching process.

Infographic describing the four steps to peer coaching facilitation.
Figure 1.1 Peer Coaching Facilitation

Students benefit from the reflection process similarly. Reflection can not only give students insights and help track progress of their own learning, but according to the “Co-learning, Co-Teaching, and Cogenerative Dialogues to Improve Learning and Teaching Outcomes” post, when students are empowered to share their voice for the entire teaching-learning dynamic, it become key in identifying areas where students still need help through cogenerative dialogues.

Figure 1.2 Summary of Cogenerative Dialogue Theory

One way to teach students how to give good constructive feedback is by using models that require reflection as part of the process. The RISE Model provide students the opportunity to reflect before any additional feedback can be given.  By reflecting first and commenting second, students can build a bigger picture and better understanding of the works that they are evaluating.  The RISE model can also be used to guide self-reflection of student’s own works to inform an improved process.

When implemented on a regular basis, reflection can help  both students and educators gain deeper understanding of the learning process.  Reflection brings to light crucial information that guides a process and builds a pathway for continued success.

Design Thinking

LEAF STEM Challenge

The end of the year, (usually after testing), is a time that I am able to have a bit of freedom teaching my students. This is a great time to to take what we have learned throughout the year and apply it to a project using design thinking.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a mindset and approach to learning, collaboration, and creative problem solving. (Teaching and Learning Lab, It is a way to get students engaged in the learning process. Below is a video created by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani that explains how they took the concept of design thinking and put it into student friendly framework in what they call the Launch Cycle.

Using the LAUNCH CYCLE in my class

Although design thinking is not meant to be a culminating project (Spencer, Juliani p. 219), I find that it is a great way to integrate concepts that we have learned throughout the year.

A project that I use to get students excited about design thinking is The Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Challenge (LEAF STEM Challenge). It is an inquiry-based project that challenges students to design, build, and fly an electric tethered airplane that carries the most cargo. The project takes a month to complete.

Phase 1: Look, Listen, and Learn

In the beginning, students are introduced to basic aviation principles such as parts of a plane, forces of flight, and Bernoulli’s Principle. Students visit the Museum of Flight to participate in the Aviation Learning Center. (here is a link to the curriculum and extension activities associated with this field trip.) At the Museum, students are introduced to different types of planes, attend ground school, participate in a specialized lab learning about the science of flight, and fly in a simulator.

Phase 2: Ask Lots of Questions

It is during this phase that students will begin to ask questions about the problem that they are trying to solve. How do airplanes achieve lift? What is an airfoil? What is high and low pressure? What kind of wingspan will be best for my plane? These questions will help them focus on what they need to research.

Phase 3: Understand the Process or Problem

In the research phase students will study how the shape of airfoils, wingspans, and wing shapes will impact the success of their tethered flight. This phase will help them gather valuable information that will inform how they design the wings. They will research real-life aircraft and consider how it’s design might translate to theirs.

Phase 4: Navigate Ideas

Phase 5: Create

Phase 6: Highlight and Revise

Phase 7: It’s Launch Time

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 10.20.26 PM

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







Physical Computing

Physical computing – programming small microcomputers and combining them with electrical and non-electrical materials – engages students in ways that coding alone doesn’t. Intangible onscreen code suddenly makes something happen in the real world: a wheel turns, a light goes on, a point is scored and displayed above the soccer game you’ve built. In the … Continue reading "Physical Computing"

Cultural Responsive Pedagogy: Transforming Learning

This week as part of Seattle Pacific University’s EDTC 6103 Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 2 class, we were asked to investigate the following ISTE Educator Standards:

ISTE 3-Citizen: Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world.

ISTE 6- Facilitator:Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students.

While researching these standards I decided to focus my attention on Culturally Responsive Teaching and learn how to transform my mindset to be more responsive in the classroom. This blog post will serve as a way for me to demonstrate my learning and share the research I have found on how to become a responsive teacher as well as address the following standard indicators within my program:

3b: Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.

6d: Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.

How is it different than multiculturalism?

Many people (myself included) have confused Cultural Responsive Teaching with multiculturalism. While multiculturalism is important element to bring into the classroom, here are the main differences between the two:

Zaretta Hammond: Dimensions of Equity

Zaretta Hammond explains that the purpose of Culturally Responsive Teaching is, “to help traditionally marginalized and under-served students become empowered, independent learners. ” She also suggests beginning with the responsive part of the pedagogy and try “building rapport, getting to know students as people.” To do this you must “first humanize your interactions with diverse students who are struggling or feel like school is a hostile place.” (Hammond, 2018)

Where to begin?

One place to begin is to look at your current classroom structure. Zaretta Hammond has created an observation guide with thought provoking questions to help scaffold you in the right direction.

Hammond: A Quick and Easy School Visit Observation Guide

Another way to begin is to consider how you are already incorporating this pedagogy into your teaching already? Geneva Gay has created a leveled chart to help you determine where you are first starting out:

Level 0

  • No culturally or linguistically relevant materials were included in my class.

Level 1: Contributions Approach

Heroes, holidays, historical events, & discrete cultural elements are incorporated into class lessons.

  • I linguistically code switch to establish rapport.
  • I linguistically code switch, as needed, to facilitate understanding.
  • I include major figures, contributors, or historical events from cultures other than the dominant culture into the lesson.
  • I include cultural or artistic works (literature, music, visual and performing arts/artists) from cultures other than the dominant culture into the lesson.
  • I include research contributions from cultures other than the dominant cultures into my lessons.

Level 2: Additive Approach

Multicultural content, concepts, themes are incorporated to the lesson from multi-cultural students’ perspectives.

  • I include resources and texts that (e.g., reading, film, etc.) present multicultural perspectives in the lesson.
  • I include lectures/discussions that present multi-cultural perspectives my lessons.
  • I teach a unit that presents multi-cultural perspectives into my curricula.

Level 3: Transformation Approach

The structure of the curriculum enables students to view concepts, issues, events & themes from the perspectives of diverse ethnic, racial, & cultural groups.

  • I provide resources and instruction that enables students to view concepts, issues, themes and problems from several multi-cultural perspectives.
  • I provide resources and instruction that enables students to view class concepts being studied from multiple perspectives, frames of references from various groups and various individuals within those groups.
  • I infuse multiple perspectives, frames of references, and content from various groups and perspectives to extend students’ understandings of the nature, development, and complexity of the society in which they live.
  • I introduce the “canons” of my discipline and augment them to reflect the complex synthesis and interaction of the diverse racial/ethnic/religious/cultural elements that comprise our society.

Level 4: Social Action Approach

Students make decisions on important social issues & take action to help solve them.

  • My teaching encourages students to identify existing social problems or issues from multi-cultural perspectives.
  • My lessons and assignments encourage students to gather pertinent data from multicultural perspectives on existing social problems or issues.
  • My teaching encourages students to clarify their values and make decisions about existing social problems using multi-cultural perspectives.
  • My teaching encourages students to take reflective actions to help resolve social problems.

Is there a Framework?

Yes! Zaretta Hammond created a framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching:

Hammond: Ready for Rigor

My Takeaways

Through my research I learned about what Cultural Responsive Teaching is, how it differs from multiculturalism, and ways I can begin recognizing how responsive I am in the classroom. I also found many great resources and strategies to try in the classroom such as:

  • “Building Authentic Relationships”
  • ” Using the brain’s memory systems for deeper learning” ( Connecting new content through music, movement, and visuals strengthens the neural pathways for comprehension )
  • ” Acknowledging diverse students’ stress response from everyday micro-aggressions”
  • ” Using ritual, recitation, repetition, and rhythm as content processing power tools. “
  • ” Creating a community of learners by building on students’ values of collaboration and connection”


Hammond, Zaretta. (2018, February 7). Culturally Responsive Teaching: It Begins with Responsiveness. Retrieved from

Hammond, Zaretta. (2017). Dimensions of Equity. Retrieved from

Hammond, Zaretta. (2013). Ready for Rigor: A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching. Retrieved from

Hammond, Zaretta. (2013). A Quick and Easy School Visit Observation Guide. Retrieved from

Hammond, Zaretta. (2013). Five Key Culturally Responsive Teaching Moves. Retrieved from

Re-Imagining Migration. (2019). Culturally Responsive Teaching Checklist. Retrieved from

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

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

Agosto, D. E., & Abbas, J. (2016). Simple Tips for Helping Students Become Safer, Smarter Social Media Users. Knowledge Quest, 44(4), 42–47. Retrieved from

Common Sense Parent Census Infographic | Common Sense Media. (2016, December 6). Retrieved May 19, 2019, from

ISTE Standards for Educators. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2019, from

Knorr, C. (2018, March 14). 5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from

Knorr, C. (2015, January 13). 5 Myths and Truths About Kids’ Internet Safety. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from

Miller, B. (2016). Can I Use This App or Website for My Class? What to Know about Instructing Teachers and Students on Digital Citizenship, Digital Footprints, and Cybersafety. Knowledge Quest, 44(4), 22–29. Retrieved from

The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens 2016 | Common Sense Media. (2016, December 06). Retrieved May 19, 2019, from