Category Archives: 03 – Digital age learning environments

Coaching with TPACK and Teacher Narratives

Since the release of the National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education in 2011 and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, elementary and secondary science teachers have been in a exhilarating phase of adaptation and transition. Teachers are opening their minds to new ways of thinking about science education, and, with the right support, are in a position to revolutionize the way kids learn science in America.

Effective coaches help teachers succeed by helping them to identify their own learning goals, while honoring teacher expertise. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) propose that allowing teachers to tell their stories in the form of teacher narratives will allow coaches to uncover the teacher’s own knowledge construction following an inductive approach, while using TPACK as a reference in identifying goals for coaching.

Photo by Kamyar Adl (2007) “Hat shop” in covered market, Oxford.

Considering the innumerable roles K-12 teachers assume, or “all the different hats they wear,” on a daily basis, conjures the image above, of a person standing in a well-stocked hat shop. So, a good place to start is to categorize teachers’ areas of expertise. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), is a framework that “attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration” while recognizing that each component is situated in a unique context (, Koehler, 2012).

According to Koehler and Mishra (2009), content knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter, pedagogical knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about the methods of teaching and learning and technological knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about working with tech tools and resources. The three types of knowledge interact in seven different ways, constituting “the seven components of TPACK,” together with context, the eighth component.

As noted by Harris and Hofer (2017) in their study of the use of TPACK by schools and school districts for professional development, the construct has been appropriated, understood and enacted to serve several functions, including: a connector, a grass-roots initiative, a check-and-balance, an instructional planning tool, a technological focus, a compass and a collaborative process. Study participants reported that “the construct helped them conceptually and organizationally to both honor teachers’ professional experience… and concomitantly help teachers to further develop that knowledge and practice with well-informed, judiciously chosen digital tools and resources applied in effective ways” (p. 11).

Part of what makes the TPACK framework so useful for teachers is that it can be flexible, dynamic and adaptive, lending itself to be used in so many different ways and also to be modified. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) have adapted the model to more accurately represent the complexity of the contexts, or “scope” (p. 288) in which teachers teach. In the figure below (See Figure 1, Porras-Hernández & Salinas-Amescua, 2013), context is divided into three different levels: the macro context defined by social, political, technological and economic conditions, the meso context defined by the local community, school district, school and administrators and the micro context defined by the in-class conditions for learning. Conditions of all three context levels comprise the learning scope, and each affects how students learn in the classroom.

In a further adaptation of the TPACK construct, Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) include knowledge of the main actors in education processes, the students and of the teachers. Here, the teacher is positioned as “the active constructor of knowledge” (p. 233). Teachers should actively seek knowledge of their students’ previous knowledge, interests and attitudes, in order to plan and adapt their learning activities. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua argue, “It is not neutral knowledge that teachers build in the reflection process, but a personal posture that involves beliefs, motives, and a teacher’s raison d’être,” or reason for being (p. 233). In other words, teachers’ self-knowledge plays an integral role in understanding how they affect student learning.
The figure below (See Figure 2, Porras-Hernández & Salinas-Amescua, 2013) shows a model of TPACK that includes “Knowledge of Students” and “Teacher’s Self-knowledge.” With this more complex model, we come much closer to a complete understanding the components of teacher knowledge (narrowly avoiding the diagram becoming as complicated as the hat shop metaphor).
Finally, Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) offer a practice that would allow coaches to discover the depth of what teachers know, a concept they call “teacher savvy” and develop further into “pedagogical savvy” (p. 235-236). Many of the most effective teaching strategies are those that have been honed by teachers in classrooms over years of communicating with other teachers and from their own experience, so why not start by allowing the teacher to share what they know in the form of a “teacher narrative?” Through reflections on their daily experiences, teachers can “distance themselves from their practice and transform it” (p. 236).
As a coach, I envision this practice as a teacher journal or log, where the teacher writes about a meaningful experience along with everything that comes up for them. Then, together with the coach, the teacher can review the narrative and codify it with components of TPACK, including the three levels of context and student and teacher knowledge, looking for strengths and weaknesses. In this way, a teacher can identify their own growth goal, and take a more holistic and inductive approach to learning with the help of the TPACK construct.

Harris, J. B., & Hofer, M. J. (2017). “TPACK Stories”: Schools and School Districts Repurposing a Theoretical Construct for Technology-Related Professional Development. Journal of Research on Technology in Education49(1/2), 1–15.
Harris, J.B., Phillips, M., Koehler, M., & Rosenberg, J. (2017). TPCK/TPACK research and development: Past, present, and future directions. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology33(3), i–viii.
Koehler, M. J. (2012). TPACK Explained. Retrieved 23 October 2018 from
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Porras-Hernández, L. H., & Salinas-Amescua, B. (2013). Strengthening TPACK: A Broader Notion of Context and the Use of Teacher’s Narratives to Reveal Knowledge Construction. Journal of Educational Computing Research48(2), 223–244.

Fundamental Elements of Digital K-12 Science Instructional Materials

Digital instructional materials start to make more sense for K-12 schools as states and districts align science education practices with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and prepare students for 21st century science and engineering jobs.

In an effort to orient families, teachers, administrators and curriculum designers to the work, I’ve gathered some evaluation  tools for instructional materials from NGSS and laid out a vision of an ideal digital K-12 science curriculum that would include all of the five NGSS Innovations while addressing International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for coaches supporting teachers.

Ideally, my vision would serve as a model for digital science instruction. Instead of the current slide show plus lecture state of my presentation, I would begin with a phenomenon (e.g., the gender gap in math and science occupations), offering a range of entry points across modalities (e.g., video, graphic representation, mathematic, kinesthetic) to allow people to connect the topic to their own lives, and then provide appropriate supports for people to show what they know through multiple modes of expression, including online tools (e.g., polls, message boards, asynchronous video chat).

As it is, it is a starting point for stakeholders to hear what a middle school science teacher would need in an ideal 21st century science class, and an opportunity to preview evaluation tools used by school districts to adopt new curriculum.

To participate in this practice, family members, teachers, administrators and curriculum designers would:

  1. Read Box 11-1 on page 278 of “Chapter 11: Equity and Diversity.” How do you understand equity in education? Share with a partner.
  2. Review the NGSS Lesson Screening Tool.
  3. With equity and diversity in mind, use the “less” and “more” columns of each of the NGSS Innovations to brainstorm ways that digital technology tools could help to engage and support students.

Innovation 1: Making Sense of Phenomena and Designing Solutions to Problems

Less: Focus on delivering disciplinary core ideas to students, neatly organized by related content topics; making sense of phenomena and designing solutions to problems are used occasionally as engagement strategies, but are not a central part of student learning.”

More: Engaging all students with phenomena and problems that are meaningful and relevant; that have intentional access points and supports for all students; and that can be explained or solved through the application of targeted grade-appropriate SEPs, CCCs, and DCIs.”

Brainstorm: Each unit of study can be presented through an engaging real-world phenomenon that encompasses the SEPs, CCCs, and DCIs. Students will engage with the phenomenon through multiple modalities including online research and digital modeling along with hands-on activities and kinesthetic learning. Student will have the opportunity to show what they know through multiple modes of expression including speaking, reading and writing, diagramming, mathematical representations and programming. Students will also have opportunities to share their learning with students in their own as well as have opportunities to share their ideas and make scientific arguments with authentic audiences.


Slides: “Fundamental elements of digital K-12 science instructional materials”

NGSS Lesson Screening Tool

NRC Framework Ch. 11: Equity and Diversity in Science and Engineering Education

Five NGSS Innovations


Khazan, O. (2018) The more gender equality, the fewer women in STEM. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

National Research Council. 2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Next Generation Science Standards. “Evaluating Instructional Materials.” Retrieved from

Remind App for Parent-Teacher Communication

A key component in the success of our students is recruiting parents as allies in the learning process. For my exploration of ISTE Coaching Standard 3G, I wanted to learn more about the most effective digital tools for communication with students and parents. The standard asks teachers to “Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community” (, 2017).

An important starting point is to consider the needs of parents. The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning polled parents and principals in 2016 to compare the communication preferences of both parties. Highlights from the study can be found below in infographic format. What stood out to me was the disconnect that existed between principals and parents. Some of this disconnect likely trickles down into the classroom as well. Two significant methods of communication that principals believed to be effective (personal phone calls and Facebook) were viewed much less favorably by parents. Parents indicated a preference for email and text message communication.

Source: School-to-Home Communications: Most effective tools for parent communications & engagement; Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning; 2016. Link.

I kept these preferences in mind as I sought out digital communication resources. In exploring Common Sense Media (a fantastic resource for teachers to use when exploring new tech tools), I found a curated list of communication tools. Common Sense Media begins their list of communication tools with a rationale for digital communication:

  • Digital communication is an easy way to keep parents informed about what is going on in class so that they can facilitate productive discussions with their children.
  • Digital communication tools allow for mass communication which saves time when compared to individual phone calls or notes.
  • Frequent digital communication increases student productivity. When teachers and parents present a united front, there is increased accountability for students. (Knutson, 2016)

Of the six tools recommended by Common Sense Media, I chose to focus on one that I felt would meet my needs as a high school teacher as well as parents’ desire to communicate via text message: Remind.

Remind is a digital communication tool that allows teachers to communicate with students and parents by sending out whole-class, group, or single messages. The great part about Remind is that you can send messages on your phone with the app while never revealing your personal phone number to parents or students. Likewise, students can send you messages and you see only their name, not their number.

Remind is an ideal communication tool because you can send messages to the entire class, a select group, or an individual student or parent. Messages can even be translated in order to facilitate communication with parents whose primary language isn’t English. I like the flexibility to communicate in these different ways within a single app. In addition to whole-class reminders, I can use the app to send resources or feedback to a group working on a project. You can even create a group message between a parent, student, and yourself. This would be ideal for detention reminders since everyone is in the loop.

I’m a believer in communicating the positives with parents and not reaching out only when there is a problem. However, it can be very time consuming to make individual phone calls and a teacher’s time is already limited. I love that I will be able to take and send a quick snapshot of a student’s work using Remind. Within the app, you have the ability to send photos, PDFs, and voice clips.

Creating an account with Remind was quick and easy. I set up two classes for the upcoming fall term. Each class has a unique URL which students and parents can navigate to in order to sign-up. Parents and students can also join by texting my class code to a Remind phone number. You also have the option to add people yourself via a phone number or email. If you log-on to the Remind website, you can generate a printable PDF that can be shared on the first day of school or Back to School night.

One concern I had with using Remind was getting messages in the middle of the night or on weekends. Using the Office Hours feature, I was able to select the days and times I can be contacted. Students and parents who send a message outside of those hours get an alert warning them that the message may not be viewed until office hours begin.

Another feature of Remind (which I hope to play around with more once school begins) is the option to integrate files from Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. If you use Quizlet, you can also integrate a link to a quiz within your Remind message.

I am looking forward to using Remind as a digital communication tool with my students and parents this fall!



Sources: (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Aug. 2018].

Knutson, J. (2016). 6 Tech Tools That Boost Teacher-Parent Communication. Retrieved from

School-to-Home Communications: Most effective tools for parent communications & engagement [Infographic]. (2016). Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning. Retrieved from

Twitter as a Tool for Personalized Professional Development


Professional Development (PD)  has changed drastically in the relatively short amount of time that I have been a teacher. PD no longer has to constitute a one-size-fits-all lecture model. Thanks to technology, teachers are empowered to take control of their learning. One of the most popular tools for teachers to communicate and collaborate in this fashion is Twitter.

“Teacher Twitter,” as some call the community, has become a valuable place to share resources and experiences. Teaching can often be a career that happens within the silo of your classroom. Twitter allows those walls to be broken down and for collaboration to occur on a global scale.

I’m not alone in my fondness for Twitter for teachers. According to MC Desrosiers, “Virtual communities make it easier for educators to engage in immediate, specific, and focused conversations with their peers” (Logan, n.d.). Not only does Twitter facilitate this focused conversation, it has allowed a much broader take on who your peers are.

In a 2014 study of 755 K-16 teachers, teachers reported their motivations for using Twitter as the immediate access to content, the personalized nature of the site, and the potential for building a positive network (Carpenter & Krutka). Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development (as assigned by school administration), Twitter allows you to interact with educators and resources that you find helpful. You might participate in a targeted chat or follow a hashtag that is of interest to you. Whether you choose to follow coworkers, authors, ed tech companies, principals, or teachers across the globe, the perspectives you see populating your feed are entirely self-selected. If someone is getting too political or no longer sharing resources you find helpful, simply unfollow and move on.

Workshop Presentation

Because of my belief in the power of Twitter to help teachers grow and become better educators, I chose to create a workshop presentation for teachers who were not yet members of the Twitter community. I submitted a proposal for the 2019 NCCE (Northwest Council for Computer Education). While I was initially focused on helping complete Twitter newbies join Twitter, I shifted the focus of my presentation to also accommodate teachers who had a Twitter but weren’t using it to the full extent possible. I am sharing my presentation here with the hope that it be useful for technology coaches and leaders hoping to harness the power of Twitter in their school or district. An editable link will be provided so that you may edit and use the presentation however you see fit.

My presentation includes a rationale for using Twitter for PD, a step-by-step guide to setting up a Twitter, components of collaboration via real-time hashtags, and a brief overview of the way teachers can tailor Twitter to suit their needs (including Lists, Likes, Polls, and Chats).

Since the nature of my project shifted, what was originally meant to be a 10-minute Ignite Session grew. If I were to present this at the NCCE conference, I would bypass the tutorial aspect and assume that audience members had a basic understanding of Twitter. If I were to use this presentation as a PD offering at my school, I would allow for 30 minutes in order to ensure that all participants could set up an account and get started. The benefit of sharing a link to your resource is that teachers can refer back to it and review anything they missed.

Meeting ISTE Coaching Standard 3

Twitter is a powerful way to connect, communicate, and collaborate with educators at your school site, district, county, state, and country. Twitter makes it easy to connect with educators across the globe if you choose. I cannot think of a better way to satisfy ISTE Coaching Standard 3 which asks technology coaches to “create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students” (, 2017). More specifically, Twitter allows teachers to meet substandard G: “Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community” (, 2017).

Meeting the Needs of Teachers

Technology coaches and leaders are wise to spend time teaching fellow teachers about the benefits of Twitter and how it can provide personalized PD. Unlike many PD sessions which offer a single strategy or tool, a session on Twitter enables teachers to access an ongoing resource that can be used again and again for ideas, collaboration, and resources.

When creating my presentation, I considered the article, 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, which I discovered through Liz Ebersole’s blog.

  • Relevant: Many teachers use social media in their personal life, but many haven’t made the jump to “teacher Twitter.” Because it’s such a familiar platform, adoption is natural. Through the use of hashtags and chats, Twitter has the ability to create a highly personalized experience for teachers.
  • Interactive: Teachers at a PD-session want the opportunity to practice the content then and there. Utilizing a document camera, coaches and leaders can walk newbies through the process of creating a Twitter account and getting started. My presentation also uses hashtags generated specifically for the presentation which allows for immediate practice and connection between participants.
  • Delivered by someone who understands their experience: As someone who is currently in the classroom, I know how valuable a teacher’s time is. There is a desperate need for PD that can be quickly and easily accessed. Twitter is the perfect tool for that. The presentation is also intentionally short and to-the-point to honor teachers’ time.
  • Sustained over time: Due to the social media element, Twitter is a constantly updating stream of information and ideas. It’s not a once and done strategy, but rather a tool that can be tapped as needed for ideas, inspiration, and collaboration. For this reason, it is very sustainable.
  • Trust teachers like professionals: This self-explanatory point is often neglected in the current PD setting. The beauty of Twitter is that you can curate lists of people and resources which result in PD that is done on your own terms.

Note on Accessibility

This quarter we also focused on accessibility and how educators can make sure their content can meet the needs of all learners. In order to demonstrate accessibility with my presentation, I’ve made the content available in a variety of ways. In addition to the presentation being projected on to the screen, the content is available online via a link. This allows participants to focus on the content and not note-taking. It also enables me to link to additional resources. Multiple printouts of the presentation are brought to the presentation to support participants with vision issues. Additionally, the video I have made of my presentation is available with Closed Captions for those who may have hearing issues.



Carpenter, J., & Krutka, D. (2014). How and Why Educators Use Twitter: A Survey of the Field. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 46(4), 414-434. doi: 10.1080/15391523.2014.925701 (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Aug. 2018].

Logan, L. 5 ways tech has changed professional development. Retrieved from

Meeting Students Where They Are with Assistive Technologies in the ELA Classroom

Meeting the needs of all learners in our classrooms can be a challenge. Students bring a wide variety of needs from learning disabilities, physical impairments, to attention issues. Fortunately, there are many assistive technology options available that can help teachers to meet these needs.

For this week’s post, I want to focus on ISTE Coaching Standard 3 which emphasizes creating digital learning environments that support the needs of all learners. Specifically, I consider substandard C: “Select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning” (, 2017). My mission was to find and test out assistive technology tools available online to support students in reading and writing.

Assistive Technology, as defined by the 2004 IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) is as follows: “Any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities.” When considering the use of the word ‘device’ in the definition, “…it is important to recognize that assistive technology devices required by students with disabilities include hardware and software as well as stand-alone devices” (“Definition of Assistive Technology”, 2014). All of the software I tested for this post is available online and all but one tool are completely free.

The reason I chose to focus on software is that it is an adaptation that can be made with relatively little cost and time investment. I wanted to explore options that teachers could implement on their own. Many teachers incorrectly view assistive technology as “an isolated, specialized factor understood and implemented by only a few specifically trained individuals” (Clifford & Reed, as cited in Connor & Beard, 2015). In other words, ‘not my problem.’ However, I hope to show that there are tools that are easy to use and that can benefit all students, not just those with barriers to learning.

Assistance with Reading

  • Rewordify
    • For: Students with reading difficulties
    • What: Rewordify has two important features. The first is that students or teachers can paste in text and have the software simplify the wording. The second feature is that many popular pieces of classic literature are already in the system. Students can access these translated versions for free. In both uses of the system, the replaced words are shown in yellow so that students can examine the original word and grow their vocabulary. While the simplifications aren’t always flawless, it’s a great starting point for students who aren’t reading at grade level.


  • Read&Write Chrome Extension
    • For: Students with visual impairments, students learning English
    • What: This extension has many features. In addition to reading either an entire webpage or just selected text, you can access both traditional and visual dictionaries and translations, making this an ideal tool for struggling readers or readers new to the English language. Another feature is the ability to simplify a webpage to remove ads and sidebars as well as change the contrast colors. Students can also use the masking feature to gray out all of the webpage except for a thin bar. The extension also allows readers to highlight any portion of the article and then generate a Google Doc with those highlighted notes. Unfortunately, all but the most basic reader features are only available at the premium level once the free trial ends. The cost for a single annual license is $145, so this may not be a great option unless you have special funds or a parent who is in a position to purchase this resource.

  • Read Aloud, A Text to Speech Voice Reader Chrome Extension
    • For: Students with visual impairments, students with hearing impairments
    • What: Of all the screen readers I tested, Read Aloud stood apart. This screen reader allows you to choose from multiple voices. The volume, pitch, and speed can also be manipulated as needed. You can choose to have the text highlighted as it is read. What set this extension apart from the others was its ability to read Google Doc files and PDFs (after uploading your file). The one downside is that it will read the captions of advertisements.

  • Google Translate
    • For: Students learning English
    • What: Anyone can use to convert text between any two languages. Students can copy and paste text into the translation box. However, an easier way to accommodate students who are new to English is by adding the Chrome Extension. This will allow students to translate an entire webpage into their primary language. The extension will also enable students to highlight any text, right click, select translate, and see a translation in any language they choose.

  • Mercury Reader Chrome Extension
    • For: Students with visual impairments; students who have trouble focusing
    • What: Mercury Reader removes all clutter from a webpage when you select the extension. This includes sidebar content, advertisements, comments, and more. Essentially you will have a clean article with only the images posted in the article and links shared within the article. Students have the option to change the contrast in case it is easier for them to read light text on a dark background. Students can also choose between a Serif and Non-Serif font and enlarge the text as needed.

Assistance with Writing

  • Speech to Text with Google or Voice In Chrome Extension
    • For: Students who struggle with fine motor skills, students with attention disorders
    • What: Within a Google Doc, there is a built-in function to convert speech to text. You can access this function under the Tools menu or by using the shortcut, Ctl+Shift+S. Students simply speak into their device’s built-in microphone and their words appear on the screen. In addition to students who have trouble typing due to motor skill problems, I have had success when allowing students with ADHD to complete work in this manner. They seem better able to focus on speaking than on typing. Just like when using the speech to text feature on a phone, editing for grammar and the occasional mistaken words is necessary.
    • What: Voice In is a Chrome Extension that will allow for dictation on any typable area of the web. This includes search boxes and forms. Anywhere you can type, you can right-click and select the option to Start Recording.

  • Grammarly
    • For: Students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia
    • What: Grammarly is a Chrome Extension that can also be downloaded to a PC and used with Microsoft Office. Grammarly is a grammar and spell-checker that not only points out the mistake but explains why their suggestion is correct. Because of this, it is a more effective tool than a traditional spell-checker which simply makes the correction for you. This is a great tool for all students–not just those with learning disabilities!


One thing to consider when implementing any form of assistive technology is that the student’s needs should come first, not the device (Connor & Beard, 2015). In other words, consider what elements a student needs to be successful with a given assignment and then find a tool that offers those elements instead of changing the assignment to fit within a particular tool.



Connor, C., & Beard, L. (2015). Increasing Meaningful Assistive Technology Use in the Classrooms. Universal Journal Of Educational Research, 3(9), 640-642. doi: 10.13189/ujer.2015.030908

Definition of Assistive Technology. (2014). Retrieved from

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (2004) (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2018].


Planning for Success with Digital Collaboration

Even before the availability of technology in the classroom, group projects have gotten a bad rap. Students worry that the work will not be shared equally or that other’s actions (or inaction) will impact their grade. Teachers likewise want to ensure that collaboration results in all students accessing the content.

The benefit of using technology to facilitate collaboration is that students’ actions can be easily quantified and qualified. Features like the Revision History within Google Apps will reveal each student’s contribution to an assignment in color-coded format. Posts on a discussion board or LMS platform also make a student’s level of participation apparent. However, what can teachers do to eliminate the need for this “got you” approach and instead be proactive about ensuring the success of digital collaboration?

Carefully and intentionally structuring courses and projects is one way that teachers can ensure students have meaningful digital collaborations, thereby satisfying ISTE Coaching Standard 3a, “Model effective…collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments” (, 2017).

The Argument for Collaboration

Though it may seem like planning for collaboration is more involved than traditional assignments, the benefits are overwhelming. Dr. Patty Shank makes the following argument for collaboration in the higher education classroom: “[S]ocial interaction can positively influence learning, motivation, and problem-solving, and can help learners gain needed support and overcome frustration” (n.d.). I put together the following infographic to highlight Shank’s rationale for incorporating collaborative learning.

Planning for Collaboration

One of my favorite sayings is ‘failing to plan results in planning to fail.’ The element of planning is vital to the success of collaboration. According to Shank, “It takes preparation and practice to design and implement good collaborative activities, and learners need preparation and practice to get the most from them” (n.d.). For guidance in what this planning might look like, I turned to an article written by Jan Engle, a coordinator of instruction development at Governors State University.

Build Collaboration into the Course

Engle suggests making your expectations regarding collaboration clear from the beginning.  In order to ensure that the responsibility for learning is shared by all students in a group, Engle makes participation in group work a grade requirement. Not adequately participating in group work results in an automatic single grade-level reduction (ie- A to B). Engle does this “because really bad group experiences and failure to participate in the online environment just decimate the sense of community we’ve worked so hard to develop up to that point” (n.d.).  

Initially Focus on Process over Product

Even adult learners may enter the classroom unprepared for successful collaboration. Instead of making assumptions about what students can or can’t accomplish as a group, Engle suggests explicitly teaching collaboration. Depending on the age group, this might involve giving students the language to disagree. When I taught English Language Learners, we used the Kate Kinsella framework to provide students with sentence frames. More advanced learners might just need guidance in developing group norms.

Engle (n.d.) asks her groups to collaboratively discuss and then respond to the following questions:

  • How are you going to divide the project so that each team member has a part?
  • Who is going to be responsible for each part?
  • How are you going to communicate during the project?
  • How will members submit their work to the group?
  • What is the deadline for the submissions of individual pieces?
  • Who is going to be responsible for putting the pieces together into one paper [or presentation]?
  • How are you going to handle final proofing?
  • What will you do it somebody does not do his or her part or does not meet deadlines?
  • How are you going to go about answering questions that group members might have about the project?

Scaffold Up to Larger Projects

Beginning the collaboration process with a low-stakes project is a great way to test out the group dynamics and work through conflict. Early in a course, Engle assigns a group project that is “relatively easy and fun in order to emphasize group processes” (n.d.). Once students have the concept down, Engle then moves on to larger collaborative projects. One example of an introductory collaborative activity is an information scavenger hunt designed to introduce students to the basic concepts of research. Engle chose this task because it was easy for students to divide the tasks, was not worth many points, and wouldn’t create much room for conflict since the answers were all either right or wrong.

Engle also suggests introducing smaller collaborative components ahead of time in order to scaffold up to the larger assessment. This might include sharing responses with a partner who is then required to report them out to the class. Or you might include Jigsaw learning where each group is responsible for reporting on a particular text or concept.

Multiple Modes of Monitoring

Peer Evaluation: While students are welcome to contact Engle at any point in time with concerns, they also have a say in their fellow teammates’ final grade. Collaborative project grades are based partly on end result and partly on peer evaluation. That peer evaluation is based on a rubric that all students review. I really appreciate the addition of a rubric component into the peer feedback process because it helps students to make quantitative evaluations and not judge based on personal chemistry or connection. An additional step that I would take is having students justify each line item response on the rubric.

Teacher Observation: Whether students are collaborating on a Google Slide, discussion board, or Wiki page, Engle requires students to give her access throughout the process. One mistake that many teachers make is being involved in the initial explanation of the assignment and then checking out until the final product is returned. By being involved every step of the way, you can head off potential inequities and disagreements. Even with this oversight, it is important to encourage a productive struggle before stepping in. Instead of simply solving the problem for students, consider how you might facilitate a resolution.

Self-Assessment: Though not mentioned by Engle as a monitoring strategy, I believe self-assessment to be a valuable tool in helping students ensure they are collaborating successfully. I have found that students are typically harder on themselves than peers (and sometimes even the teacher). Like peer evaluation, self-assessments can be based on a given rubric. In addition to the rubric reflection, I have also had success with asking students to explicitly share the contribution they made to their group on a particular day.


Just as it is essential to teach students rules and routines at the beginning of the school year, it is also essential to explicitly plan for and teach collaboration. The time investment made up front will pay off when learners are able to fairly and successfully participate in the online learning environment.


Engle, J. How to Promote Collaborative Active Online Learning . Student Collaboration In The Online Classroom, 11-12. Retrieved from (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2018].

Shank, P. Considering Collaboration. Student Collaboration In The Online Classroom, 12-13. Retrieved from

Empower Science Students through Activism

Science and technology are fundamentally interwoven with society. The benefits of science and technology are only as great as their application in society, and, inversely, the needs and interests of society are what drive advancements in science and technology. To fully understand the practice of science, students must understand its impact on society, and, in turn, an understanding of how science and technology affect them and their community will engage and empower students to take action and affect change.

Focusing science students on social and environmental justice issues, or “socio-scientific issues” (Bencze, Sperling & Carter, 2012, p. 129) is advisable in science education, in part, because of the urgency of the challenges they face. Hodson (2003) and dos Santos (2009) argue that “an orientation in school science towards encouraging and enabling students to take sociopolitical action to address socio-scientific issues seems necessary” to address severe socio-scientific issues and have hope for social and environmental sustainability (as cited in Bencze, Sperling & Carter, 2012, p. 132). We can help students prepare for life after of school by helping them think, plan and act for the future now.

Hodson (2003) offers the following schema for the emphasis on socio-scientific issues in science education (as cited in Bencze, Sperling & Carter, 2012, p. 132):

  1. Appreciating the societal impact of scientific and technological change, and recognizing that science and technology are, to some extent, culturally determined.
  2. Recognizing that decisions about scientific and technological development are taken in pursuit of particular interests, and that benefits accruing to some may be at the expense of others. Recognizing that scientific and technological development are inextricably linked with the distribution of wealth and power.
  3. Developing one’s own views and establishing one’s own underlying value positions.
  4. Preparing for and taking action.

Technology offers students resources, tools and environments that can connect them to the world outside like never before. As Stornaiuolo and Thomas (2017) argue, “one of the most powerful dimensions of social media for youth activists is its collective nature, as young people no longer need traditional gatekeepers (teachers, librarians, community organizers) to build or share knowledge, find other like-minded people, or plan and coordinate actions.” From #BlackLivesMatter to #MarchForOurLives, young activists have made their voices heard across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

News of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, only gained traction after scientists with Virginia Tech’s Flint Water Study publicized their findings through social media. “Flint residents fought to be heard, and Dr. Edwards and the Flint Water Study team helped sound the alarm” (Smith, 2016, as cited in Jahng & Lee, 2018, p. 95). This example shows how social media can be a tool for direct action in science. “When scientists are engaged in political actions, they are interested in both educating the public about their scientific research and pressuring responsible target organizations or government agencies to increase regulatory measures to protect citizens from potential harm” (McCormick, 2009, as cited in Jahng & Lee, 2018, p. 93). Students can use this model to guide their own socio-scientific activism.

Student choice is essential to fostering engagement and intellectual investment in a socio-scientific action plan. Ito, Soep, Kligler-Vilenchik, Shresthova and Zimmerman (2015) identify that “young people are often driven to act on issues of public concern when those issues are connected to their deeply felt interests, affinities, and identities (as cited in Stornaiuolo & Thomas, 2017, p. 347). So, while it is important for educators to give students access and offer initial exposure to socio-scientific issues and current events, students should be allowed the freedom to choose the cause they identify most closely with.

Activism can take many forms in the science classroom. Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) practices call for students to engage in argument from evidence (practice 7). Science teachers can use the framework of scientific argumentation to support students in activism. For example, students may decide to start an awareness campaign (make flyers, posters or share ideas online) to convince others using scientific evidence and reasoning. While the supports and teaching process behind writing a claim, with evidence and reasoning will be familiar to science teachers, the context of activism expands the range of modalities students can create as final products and extends the reach of student voice beyond the classroom.

“In an era of struggle and contestation over narrative and meaning, young people today are, in the words of literacy scholar Vivian Vasquez (2014), ‘reading and writing the self into existence,’ using digital participatory cultures to restory schooling and society by making it into their own image” (Stornaiuolo & Thomas, 2017, p. 351).

As students develop a more global perspective and understanding, they are rebuilding the stories that society has written for them as individuals and reshaping the world around them. “In our current landscape of persistent inequality, the efforts of marginalized people to author themselves in order to be heard, seen, and noticed—to assert that their lives matter—has the potential to contribute not only to a new activist imagination but also to the making of a new world” (Stornaiuolo & Thomas, 2017, p. 352) Through activism, science students will see that they have the power to shape the world as they share their knowledge and ideas with others.



Bencze, L. l., Sperling, E., & Carter, L. (2012). Students’ Research-Informed Socio-scientific Activism: Re/Visions for a Sustainable Future. Research In Science Education42(1), 129-148. doi:10.1007/s11165-011-9260-3

dos Santos, W. L. P. (2009). Scientific literacy: a Freirean perspective as a radical view of humanistic science education. Science Education, 93(2), 361382.

Hodson, D. (2003). Time for action: science education for an alternative future. International Journal of Science Education, 25(6), 645670.

Ito, M., Soep, E., Kligler-Vilenchik, N., Shresthova, S., & Zimmerman, A. (2015). Learning connected civics: Narratives, practices, infrastructures. Curriculum Inquiry, 45, 10–29. doi:10.1080/03626784.2014.995063

Jahng, M. j., & Lee, N. (2018). When Scientists Tweet for Social Changes: Dialogic Communication and Collective Mobilization Strategies by Flint Water Study Scientists on Twitter. Science Communication40(1), 89-108. doi:10.1177/1075547017751948

Stornaiuolo, A., & Thomas, E. E. (2017). Disrupting Educational Inequalities Through Youth Digital Activism. Review Of Research In Education41(1), 337-357. doi:10.3102/0091732X16687973

Vasquez, V. M. (2014, March). Critical ethnography and pedagogy: Bridging the audit trail with technology. Keynote address presented at the 35th Annual Ethnography in Education Forum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Using the NGSS EQuIP Rubric to Design Tech-Enhanced, Middle School Science Lessons

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for educators as designers calls (5b) calls for us to “design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.” Designing technology-enhanced instructional materials for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) can be a complex task, so it is best to use a guide. The makers of the NGSS designed the Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) Rubric to assess and inform the development of science lessons and units. Educators and curriculum developers can use the EQuIP Rubric criteria as a guide to enhance science instructional materials with technology where most effective.

In this post, I select EQuIP criteria from each of its three sections (I. NGSS 3D Design, II. NGSS Instructional Supports, and III. Monitoring NGSS Student Progress) to examine possible technology enhancements for science lessons or units. The EQuIP Rubric may also be used as part of the Primary Evaluation of Essential Criteria (PEEC) for NGSS Instructional Materials Design in evaluations of year-long programs or programs that span multiple grade levels. One useful aspect of the PEEC is its “less” and “more” format, which compares traditional science instruction to ideal NGSS instruction. I will borrow this format to compare how technology is often used in classroom to how it should be used within each selected .


I. NGSS 3D Design

A. Explaining Phenomena/Designing Solutions: Making sense of phenomena and/or designing solutions to a problem drive student learning. (EQuIP Version 3.0, 2016, p. 2)

Prefabricated models for students to examine without opportunities to critique the model and create their own. Some digital instructional materials for science are visually beautiful and scientifically accurate, but leave nothing for the student to create on their own (see previous post about coding science models). If our goal is to get students to think about science phenomena through modeling, we, as educators and curriculum designers, should not do all of the thinking and modeling for them, and only allow students to interact on a consumer level with our products.

Opportunities and supports for students to observe phenomena and critique and design their own models. This strategy is more effective, and often more difficult for educators to design. Technology can provide experiences for students that traditional science instruction cannot, and should be used alongside real-world observations and systems modeling. For example, using computer models to represent a phenomena that would otherwise be impossible for a middle school student to observe (e.g., the Earth, Moon, Sun system from outer space). Students should be given a variety (multiple modalities) of opportunities to make observations and design models (e.g., observing phases of the moon, creating “hands-on” models with spheres and a light source, or creating their own computer model).


II. NGSS Instructional Supports

E. Differentiated Instruction: Provides guidance for teachers to support differentiated instruction by including appropriate [supports and extensions for students.] (EQuIP Version 3.0, 2016, p. 2)

Traditional, one-size-fits all instruction in digital format, with suggested differentiation strategies.

Differentiation built into digital curriculum. Differentiation is an area where the technological potential is great, but the curriculum design and implementation lags far behind. Computer software’s great advantage over textbooks is wasted if it is not designed to be differentiated, dynamic and supportive. Ideally, multiple levels of support and extensions would be built in so that students can access them when needed.

Newsela provides a good example of how science texts can be adapted to meet the needs of students at different reading levels. Newsela also shows us that if curriculum is to be truly differentiated, then instructional materials must be designed to be far more robust. Such reading supports need to be designed and written into the curriculum before it reaches the classroom.

The same is true for supports like charts, graphs, audio narration, illustrations, animations, additional examples, and additional practice questions. A truly differentiated curriculum could be designed like a “choose-your-own-adventure” book, that offers different pathways to students to reach the same learning goal. For such a curriculum to be successful, instruction must be available for all students along the way. Here is an opportunity for “flipping the flipped classroom” (Watson, 2017), where instructional videos are available for students when they need them.

While it would be best to organize and access the instructional materials for this type of differentiated curriculum online, students’ learning experiences and the products of their learning should not all live and stay exclusively online. Online instructions should guide both online and offline learning experiences, like student-to-student dialogue  and debate (online: with students in other classrooms and offline: with students in the same classroom), hands-on science experiments, engineering challenges and outdoor learning experiences.

Admittedly, designing a curriculum with greater complexity takes more planning, design work and professional development than a traditional, one-size-fits-all curriculum. Educators, curriculum designers and school administrators should take up this challenge so we can adequately serve 21st century science students.


III. Monitoring NGSS Student Progress

F. Opportunity to Learn: Provides multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate performance of practices connected with their understanding of disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts and receive feedback. (EQuIP Version 3.0, 2016, p. 3)

Biased tasks that favor some learners over others as summative assessment. We know that students learn in different ways, but, too often, we offer only a single means (modality) by which they can demonstrate their understanding.

Variety in assessment tasks, reflecting learning experiences in multiple modalities. As we vary the learning process, we must vary the assessment process accordingly. Just as curriculum supports would need to be more robust to support both students and teachers in a curriculum with more options, so too must assessment supports be expanded and improved to facilitate the monitoring of student progress.

Adaptive learning software can help provide some of the many pathways students take. In essence, the learning software guides them on their path and can provide supports along the way. Adaptive learning software in science might present a student with an excerpt from an article, a diagram or a video clip when students need further explanation or with a supported extension when the student has demonstrated mastery of a concept. The primary limitation of adaptive learning software in NGSS classrooms would be its reliance on multiple choice questions, where the focus of NGSS is constructing sound scientific arguments and solving problems.

If students learn a chemical process like photosynthesis through physical movement, dance or song, there should be an option for students to demonstrate their knowledge of a complimentary chemical process (cellular respiration) in a similar fashion. Supports for these assessments would include rubrics, (maybe dynamic digital rubrics, where students can choose how they will demonstrate their learning, and share their proposal with teachers for review/approval) instructional supports (as mentioned before with “flipping the flipped classroom”) that are focused on the chosen medium (for example, if a student chooses to make a video, there should be video editing tutorials available for them). Allowing and supporting student choice with thoughtful and robust digital curriculum design will increase student engagement and learning.



Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) Rubric (2016) Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for educators (2018) Retrieved from

Newsela (2018) Retrieved from

Oremus, Will (2015) No more pencils, no more books: Artificially intelligent software is replacing the textbook – and reshaping American education. Slate. Retrieved from

Primary Evaluation of Essential Criteria (PEEC) for Next Generation Science Standards Instructional Materials, Version 1.1 (2017) Retrieved from

Watson, Tim (2017) Flipping the flipped classroom. Edutopia.

Personalizing and Differentiating Teaching with Playlists

ISTE Educator Standard 5a calls for teachers to “Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.” When considering which tool might best serve this purpose, my mind immediately went to Google Apps for Education. GAfE offers many features that support personalized learning such as differentiation by assignment in Google Classroom,  custom redirection based on responses in Google Forms, and utilizing the Google Classroom roster to easily BCC students who need individual attention. Not to mention the host of helpful Chrome extensions like Read&Write for text-to-speech capabilities,  Grammarly for built-in spell checking, and WolframAlpha for science and math help.

For this week’s inquiry, I initially considered spending time exploring HyperDocs which is a tool I have previously dabbled in. My students really liked the creative and digital presentation. Yet I was challenged by my professors to consider whether or not a HyperDoc is really just a glorified worksheet. I happened to be exploring one of my favorite educational blogs, Cult of Pedagogy, when I came across a post featuring a tool that was engaging like a HyperDoc, but had more potential for personalization, independence, and differentiation. That tool is called a Learning Playlist and the idea is the brainchild of teacher Tracy Enos. Jennifer Gonzalez interviews Enos and shares examples of what Learning Playlist look like in her post, “Using Playlists to Differentiate Instruction.”

Figure 1: Playlist for Argument Writing by Tracy Enos, full Google Doc available here

What is a Learning Playlist?

The most basic description of a Learning Playlist is “an individualized digital assignment chart that students work through at their own pace” (Gonzalez, 2016). Tracy Enos developed the idea for Learning Playlists when she grew frustrated with trying to meet all students’ needs with a single lesson. She’s not alone in rejecting the one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, “[N]early 50% of the students in today’s classrooms have some form of learning diversity that impacts how they learn best” (, 2016).  This diversity includes differences in background, history, culture, linguistics, and socioeconomic status (, 2016). Given these needs, it’s no wonder teachers are turning to technology to help meet students’ individual needs. Playlists are one tool that can foster independence, allow for choice, and differentiate based on need. Playlists also take the responsibility for learning and place it in the hands of students.

How is a Learning Playlist created?

Consider the many elements that go into creating a successful unit plan in any content area. There will be guiding questions, lessons, content to review, formative assessments, discussions, and perhaps articles or film clips. In a traditional classroom model, all of that learning takes place at the same time. Each student reads the same short story at the same pace. One day is dedicated to completing one set of questions. Test day is the same for everyone, regardless of need. This model typically meets the needs of those students in the middle of the spectrum while leaving some students struggling to catch up and others bored because they’ve finished early. Meanwhile all students have a low degree of choice and ownership. It’s passive learning.

What if you took the same essential elements of your unit plan and instead digitized them? Lessons could be bookmarked for review whether through a Slideshow, Screencast, or other tool. Formative assessment could occur through ActivelyLearn, EdPuzzle, or Google Forms. Discussions can still be had via Padlet, Google Groups, or Slack. Students could work at their own pace, independently. With this newfound independence, your time is freed to assist struggling learners or to conference individually with students.

It’s a pretty revolutionary way to consider teaching. Yet you can still have deadlines and require students to check-in daily or weekly. Learning can be reflected on via whole group discussion days. (I’m an enormous fan of Socratic Seminars.) Students can still work in groups to meet the learning goals. You can even opt for a blended model where some of the lessons are given whole-group, and then students work individually on a Playlist based on their needs.

How can Learning Playlists support independent learning?

Within the Playlist format, there is plenty of room to support independence and choice. Though Enos doesn’t mention the addition of student choice, I can easily see how it can be incorporated into Playlists.

  • Choice of content: have students choose their own short story to apply plot skills to or Civil War battle to research and describe.
  • Choice of task: have students choose which tool they want to use to ‘show they know;’ perhaps an Explain Everything Screencast to demonstrate the steps of an algebra problem, or using Storyboard That to create a digital story about rock cycles.
  • Choice of question: have students come up with their own essential question and use a Playlist to guide them through the inquiry model.

How can Learning Playlists support differentiation?

Differentiation within Playlists can be accomplished without drawing attention to those students who need extra help. Given the ability to individually assign work within Google Classroom, no student knows they have a different version. Another option is to provide links to the leveled Playlists and let students self-select.

  • Pacing: Students can replay or accelerate a lesson as needed.
  • Leveling: For each Playlist, you can create a Level 1, 2, and 3 Doc/Slide to better meet student needs.
  • Personal Support: Enos leaves several tasks on her students’ Playlist ‘to be determined.’ She then goes back and adds extra resources or practices as needed based on the work students submit.

Sources (2016). The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2018].

Gonzalez, J. (2016). Using Playlists to Differentiate Instruction. [online] Cult of Pedagogy. Available at: [Accessed 1 May 2018].

Make your tech-enabled science class relevant for students with culturally responsive teaching

Science educators who attempt to enhance their classrooms with technology, but fail to empower students through culturally responsive teaching (CRT), will find student engagement to be only screen deep. That is to say, technology alone may increase student engagement, but only superficially. Students must be able to see the relevance and value of science and engineering practices in their own lives if they are to invest intellectually.

The “character profile” of CRT, as described by Gay (2018), is validating, comprehensive and inclusive, multidimensional, empowering, transformative, emancipatory, humanistic, normative and ethical (p. 36-45). If technology-enhanced science teaching is to be effective, it ought to share all of these characteristics.

In Brown’s (2017) metasynthesis study, we can find many examples of complementarity between Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) science and engineering practices and CRT. Here, using Brown’s study as a guide, I offer ideas about how technology might be used to facilitate culturally responsive science education.

ISTE standard for educators 1: Learner calls on educators to “continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.” As teachers, our most insightful and effective collaborators are our students. We should be continually integrating what students know and want to know into our instruction.

Part 1c of the Learner standard asserts that we should stay current with research that supports improved learning outcomes. In turn, the research suggests that, in order to improve learning outcomes, we should stay current with our students through culturally responsive science instruction. Brown (2017) cites several studies showing “the benefits of culturally responsive science instruction for students of color, such as, positive science identities, scientific literacy, and content knowledge” (p. 1144). Students can take ownership of the science learning process if they feel included and supported.

For students, science should not feel like an unsolvable mystery or an exclusive club. Science should feel like a new way of thinking and a useful set of tools that empowers students. Similarly, when enhancing science classrooms with technology, the technology should not feel like something the students the students need to fit into. The technology should be something tailored for each student, that fits them like a glove, grants them access to new learning experiences and empowers them to take on new challenges.

Empowerment within the classroom should lead to empowerment outside of it as well. When students feel that they are capable to tackle real world problems in school, they will be better prepared to face them outside of school. Brown (2017) argues, “Engaging students in examining community-based issues and injustice in light of available evidence while working toward the most credible explanations is necessary to develop not only critical thinking skills but also critical consciousness” (p. 1166).

Brown analyzed 52 studies including case studies, surveys and experiments involving science instruction in levels K-12, and coded for instances of inquiry-based science instruction in conjunction with CRT, or instances of complementarity. These instances provide a snapshot of areas in science education that may be most (and least) likely to hold culturally relevance for students, examples of culturally responsive science instruction and starting points for progress.

Taken all together, Brown’s data shows that much complementarity exists between NGSS science and engineering practices and CRT. In order to code for CRT in the study, Brown used the Culturally Responsive Instruction Observation Protocol (CRIOP) (Powell et al., 2012), a protocol that operationalizes CRT over seven pillars.

The table below (Table 1) (Brown, 2017, p. 1152) describes each CRIOP Pillar:

Table 1, descriptions of each CRIOP Pillar (as cited in Brown, 2017, p. 1152).

The graphic below (Fig. 1) shows all instances of complementarity coded in Brown’s study, represented by lines connecting the NGSS Practices to each CRIOP Pillar. The weight of each line represents the frequency of complementarity and dashed lines represent situations where no complementarity was found. In this view, we can see that the CRIOP Pillar “Pedagogy / Instruction” showed the most complementarity across NGSS Practices and Assessment “Assessment” showed the least.

Fig. 1, all instances of complementarity found by Brown (2017) between NGSS Practices and CRIOP Pillars (weight of each line represents the frequency of complementarity).

A CRIOP Pillar that showed low complementary with NGSS Practices across the board was Assessment (as denoted by thin and dashed yellow lines in Fig. 1). Luckily, assessment is one of the areas with the most potential for technological enhancement. Online assessment tools can help to differentiate assessments for students, and digital tools can offer students more ways to demonstrate knowledge.

If we isolate two of the NGSS practices, we can analyze the data more precisely and determine whether technology may be able to facilitate CRT in certain areas of science instruction.

Brown (2017) reports that Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information was the NGSS Practice most often intersected with clear, observatble CRT practices (please see Fig. 2 below). “In such instances, there was evidence of meaningful learning opportunities that drew directly upon students’ experiences where students were encouraged to pose questions, investigate answers to those questions, and develop scientific literacy through activities” (p. 1157). Here, technologies like a classroom discussion board and a research database can help to field questions and provide resources for research.

Fig. 2,  instances of complementarity found by Brown (2017) for NGSS Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information (weight of each line represents the frequency of complementarity).

One example in Brown’s (2017) analysis was a lesson where students helped each other compare fast food restaurants using data tables including nutrition facts from different menus. The classroom environment reflected a “collectivist orientation, where students were accountable for one another’s success,” which reflects the CRIOP Pillars Classroom Relationships, Pedagogy / Instruction and Sociopolitical Consciousness. Students were willing and able to help one another, the lesson built on students’ existing cultural knowledge, and raised sociopolitical issues such as inequitable access to dietary options and food security (p. 1159).

In order to construct learning environments and plan lessons that are culturally responsive, teachers need to meet their students where they are – to know their students and where they come from. This knowledge is most likely to come from positive face-to-face interactions with students and families, and may be facilitated with technologies like survey tools (e.g., online forms) and data analysis tools (e.g., spreadsheets and graphs).

Fig 3, instances of complementarity found by Brown (2017) for NGSS Practice 5: Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (weight of each line represents the frequency of complementarity).

The NGSS Practice least frequently encountered alongside a CRIOP Pillar was Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, which points to an area of improvement. Brown (2017) points out an example of a math activity that included data from student food logs, which may be problematic in that they require students to share and compare what they eat each day, but connects math to students’ everyday lives and makes it relevant to them. In a previous post, I detailed how student agency and choice has been built into computational thinking (CT) activities.

We have examples of NGSS Practices being taught alongside CRIOP Pillars, leading to valuable learning opportunities for students. Moving forward, educators can use the framework provided by the CRIOP Pillars to help guide planning and create more culturally responsive, technology enhanced science classrooms.


Brown, J. C. (2017). A metasynthesis of the complementarity of culturally responsive and inquiry-based science education in K-12 settings: Implications for advancing equitable science teaching and learning. Journal Of Research In Science Teaching, 54(9), 1143-1173. doi:10.1002/tea.21401

Gay,G. (2018). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice (3rd ed.). NewYork,NY: Teachers College Press.

Powell, R., Cantrell, S., Gallardo Carter, Y., Cox, A., Powers, S., Rightmyer, E. C., . . . Wheeler, T. (2012). Culturally Responsive Instruction Observation Protocol (revised). Lexington, KY: Collaborative Center for LiteracyDevelopment.