Category Archives: Collaboration

Digitizing Your Favorite Lesson

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

black and white photo of clocks
Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

woman jumping above stairs wearing graduation gown and a hat
Photo by Matthew T Rader on


Soine, K.M. & Lumpe, A. (2014). Measuring characteristics of teacher professional development. Teacher Development: An international journal of teachers’ professional development. DOI: 10.1080/13664530.2014.911775

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

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

6104 Community Engagement Project Reflection


Our school started the 1:1 computer program ten years ago and extended to lower grades after five years of this program and initiated the digital citizenship class in the kindergarten leverage iPad as the digital tool.  I have worked as a tech teacher in kindergarten for three years. In these three years, my students experienced many Apps to create digital stories, innovative videos, and posters in collaborative groups or independence set. Their favorite learning activity is the one related to their routine life in the real world and shares their digital artifacts with parents, teachers, and peers. I started to think about to collaborate with other classrooms teachers when classroom teachers asked me how they can integrate iPad as the innovative learning part and what Apps students have learned in my tech class can be used in their classes. And also, I want to build a connection between the digital world and the real world for students to demonstrate reflections and learning outcomes of the knowledge they learned in different classes using digital tools. 

Retrieved from

About the Workshop

I have explored some digital platform for collaboration, and I want to introduce Edmodo as the recommendation in my workshop. Within this strategy, classroom teachers can provide opportunities for authentic learning for tech class; Tech class can provide support on digital tools for classroom teachers. They are going to build a reciprocal relationship through Edmodo collaboration platform to share recourses and ideas for seeking the connection between tech class and regular classrooms to help students to lead effective learning. In this workshop, I will introduce Edmodo features to audiences, including groups, small groups, library, and message. Thinking of the limited time, I will implement blended learning in which audiences will receive a concise instruction about how to join my provisional group for this workshop. We will use the group for practicing most of the features in the real-time and keep this group as a small PLN for sharing experiences for the future. At the end of the workshop, I will introduce two digital tools, which are my kindergarten students’ favorite as a reference for audiences. 


In the digital world, classrooms should be not isolated anymore. Teachers need to break the wall to collaborate and build a community to seek opportunities to enhance student motivation and engagement.

For the tech class, it will not be the learning goal for teaching digital tools and skills. Tech teachers need to provide opportunities for the student to leverage digital tools to have deep and authentic learning and gain digital competences for the 21st century needs. 

For the homeroom classes, teachers have a responsibility to provide productive technology environment for young age students to cultivate their digital competences to benefit their future life in the digital world. Teachers have limited time in the class to manage digital tools and also need technical support to encourage them to move on.

Collaboration between tech teachers and classroom teachers can be the reciprocal way to engage and motivate students to leverage the digital skills they learned in the tech class to demonstrate their learning outcomes in their home class. Students can choose different ways to use a digital tool to express themselves to different kinds of audiences to lead student-centered and culturally relevant learning. 


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

3e – Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments
3g – Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community

Inquiry Question:
What digital tools can support teachers to communicate with parents effectively?
What digital tools can support teachers to collaborate and communicate with peers?

Parent-Teacher Communication–Keep Parents In the Loop with School Learning Activities

Effective communication is essential between parents and educators for helping student learning.  In the digital world, It is a challenging task for teachers to choose the right communication tool to fit different groups of parent preference. It also overwhelmed teachers to get immersed in emails and phone calls from parents to ask about their children’s information while dealing with the full-scheduled work every day. The informative and in-time home-school communication will create a positive loop in which teachers can take more time and energy to focus on classroom learning, and parents can help their kids at home purposely. The more supportive information teachers provide, the fewer questions and concern parents will have. The positive loop will promote student learning and help them to succeed.

Retrieved from SpeakUp Research

In this survey, we can see that the most effective tools for parent communication and engagement are email and text messages. Moreover, there are no differences in parents’ interest in using text messages for communications by demographics or grade of a child in school. This result shows that parents prefer safe, immediate, and informative communications with teachers.

Remind-Provide Safe Mode Communication Between Parents and Teachers

Group set/ Private set Message

After setting up a specific class, Remind will provide default groups (teachers, parents, and students). Teachers can send messages to all parents/ all students /all teachers or the group created by different needs. Also, teachers can have private communication with one parent.

Set Time for Receiving and Sending Messages

Teachers can set work time for receiving messages within which teachers will not get interrupted from messages in personal time. Also, teachers can set a schedule to send a specific message out during the class time.

Productive Learning Evidence

Remind supports various file formats to be learning evidence for sharing with parents. Pictures, videos, or document will be productive and informative for parents to know almost everything they concern in school.

Available from Web and App

Remind is available from the website: remind.comand also can be used as the app on the mobile devices, which is handy and flexible.

 Translation feature

Remind provides translation for messages which is a crucial feature for teachers to communicate with parents whose prefer language is not English. 

Create A Thriving Digital Community From Peer-peer Communication 

Teachers always get significant influence on the profession from peers more than any other ways. “one-size-fits-all” approach of PD cannot satisfy teachers growth and different needs. Digital communities can help teachers to share experiences with peers and break the isolation to seek collaboration to enhance student engagement in learning. Edmodo is a powerful platform which can be used as a digital community for teachers locally and globally. Teachers can have a discussion and sharing resources through groups and small groups and also can communicate in time from the message. More details are provided in this blog:
Edmodo for Collaboration


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

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

Journal of Humanities, Language, Culture and Business (HLCB) Vol. 2: No. 10 (December 2018) page 26-36 | | eISSN: 01268147

Miller, A. (2015). Avoiding Learned Helplessness. Retrieved from

Designing learning with the reflection of assessment in mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Vialogues. Retrieved May 5, 2019, from

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




Curating Content to Collaborate with Colleagues

How can educators in my district collaborate with colleagues to curate and share resources with each other?

I work for a district that has 20+ elementary schools and I find that it is difficult to collaborate with other educators in my grade level across the district to share resources and ideas.

In the six years that I have worked in my district, I have gotten to visit another campus to watch another teacher teach exactly one time. It was an amazing experience. I got to see what anchor charts they were using, how they structured their learning targets, what resources they were using, how they interacted with teachers, what small groups looked like, how they set up their schedule, how they transitioned between subjects… I could go on and on. Needless to say, this interaction was completely valuable to me because I had an opportunity to compare what I was doing in my class as well as learn new strategies to improve on my practice. Unless you are a mentored new teacher or on an improvement plan, these opportunities to visit other classrooms are very rare.

Another opportunity I have to interact with colleagues is at district trainings. We are given information in the form of handouts, Powerpoints, and by OneNote. I don’t know about you, but I will get pretty excited by a new idea, strategy or resource that was shared by the trainer or expanded upon by a fellow educator. I will take notes or a photograph to remind me to implement it when I get back to the class and then life happens and I forget about it, until I remember- but by that time, it’s a distant memory. I can’t find where I wrote it down, or when searching through the 4,577 photos on my phone, I ask myself, “was that training before Christmas?” As if that would help find it’s location.

My life in pictures.

And then there is the greatest invention of them all, social media. I always find the greatest ideas, links to blogs, articles to read, and of course I don’t have time to read them just then, so I save them to my collection, where they are lost forever!

So this week, I made it my mission to come up with a solution to my problem- How can colleagues share what they are doing with others? while addressing the following criteria:

Criteria for collaboration tool. Produced by is a tool that I think could be used by educators to help us showcase what we are doing in our classrooms in order to share with others across our district.

Wakelet can be used to share curated information with others. In this post, I am going to concentrate on how teachers could use this tool to share with other educators, but please understand that it can be used as a tool for teachers to students, teachers to parents, as well as outside of the classroom between other groups.

I think teachers want the opportunity to learn from each other in a space and time that is convenient to them. Educators enjoy seeing lessons in action as well as understanding the purpose behind them. With Wakelet, educators are able to curate collections that:

  • have introductions.
  • explain the lesson and give context.
  • are organized.
  • make connections to the standards and curriculum being taught in the classroom.
  • allows its users to curate all media types: videos, links, tweets, Instagram posts, pictures, text, PDF’s, and student/teacher commentary to tell a story or show the progression of a lesson.
  • Wakelet has partnered with Flipgrid so you can reflect on the material and tell how you are using it in your class.

Below, I have curated all of the resources (videos, blogs, information) that I have used in order to prepare for this blog in Wakelet form. I am hoping that you can get a sense of how it could be used to collaborate with other educators.

ISTE Standard 4 Collaborator

Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Indicator A: Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.

In this week’s post, I think that I have found a tool that could be very useful for educators in my district that would allow us to “visit” each others classrooms and collaborate with each other. I think that it addresses ISTE Standard 4 in that it allows us to learn from each other in order to improve our practice in a time that is convenient for all.

Digital Collaboration in a Pre-Service College Classroom

Paul Solarz from Learn Like a PiRATE said: “Collaboration allows us to know more than we are capable of knowing ourselves.” If we are encouraging a mindset of questioning in our students, then as teachers should we also collaborate and question ourselves and our instructional practices? (Spoiler: YES!)

My current students are service-learning tutors who work in 18 different partner schools across San Diego County. These amazing college students represent the San Diego State University, Pre-College Institute Pathways program with zest and vigor. They care deeply for the K-12 students they support and come to class each week eager to practice and reflect on the art of instruction.

As we take a look at ISTE Standard 7, I found myself thinking about my amazing pre-service learners who are testing the waters or affirming their career goals of becoming teachers through work within the Pathways Service Learning program. As we look to examples of solid teaching practices on sites like The Teaching Channel,  I wanted to take the learning to the next level by having students interact with the video in a meaningful way. If collaboration, as Solarz states, is fuel for reflection, I wonder: “How can we use digital tools with a focus on collaboration, to support learning and meaning-making while broadening our own perspective?”  

Matt Bower states in Synchronous collaboration competencies in web-conferencing environments – their impact on the learning process that  “Interactive competencies included knowing how to use the tools not only to receive and transmit information but also to collaborate and co-create.” (pg 77)

I knew my class needed more than a simple Turn and Talk to make meaning of the instructional practices we discussed in class; although they seemed to engage in the learning, it still seemed easy enough to opt out of the conversation or to go through the motion of collaborating with a partner.  Enter my latest discovery…

VideoAnt is a free tool created by the University of Minnesota- College of Education and Human Development. This tool allows users to upload YouTube videos that can be paused in particular spots to add commentary or discuss important parts of the video.

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My tutors were able to collaborate and make meaning about specific instructional moves, highlighted by guiding questions I provided ahead of time. Our conversation was rich and meaningful and my students were doing all the meaning-making.


Building on Bower’s premise that video conferencing has three distinct levels of interaction or engagement:

  • Iteration 1: instructive approaches primarily using the default interface designs of the web-conferencing system (this iteration offered a baseline for analysis).
  • Iteration 2: use of collaborative spaces to facilitate more student-centred learning, with activities and interfaces purposefully designed to engage greater student involvement (for instance, designing an interface that contained areas for groups of students to collaboratively write a computer program).
  • Iteration 3: refinements to the designs and pedagogical strategies used in iteration 2, with pervasive use of audio and more flexible adjustment of the interface to meet evolving collaborative and cognitive requirements of lessons (such as spontaneously integrating whiteboards if spatial concepts were being discussed or increasing the size of pods if they were to become the main focus of the learning episode) (pg 67).

I would argue that adding VideoAnt allows pre-service students and practicing teachers  to collaborate and reflect on instructional practice in meaningful ways.  When students voluntarily add comments in addition to responding to the guiding question, they are refining the learning from the perspective of others and for personal growth. The students are doing the ‘meaning-making’ and driving the learning which brings about a level of metacognitive-driven engagement.

ISTE 7b  sets a goal of having “students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.” Using tools like VideoAnt requires students to examine instruction together. Once the comfort level is reached the sky is truly the limit; as one tutor and I discussed, uploading a video of yourself in a classroom setting, highlighting the instructional moves you are proud of, while discussing the areas you want to grow for next time might just make for a dynamic addition to a portfolio that could set one apart during a job interview as a newly licensed teacher.

As an educator, it is a privilege to learn and grow every day alongside your students. When the technology supports the learning outside of a classroom task we are able to see  multiple opportunities, and as Solarz states, “know more than we are capable of knowing ourselves.” This is the true gift of education.


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

Individual Project Lesson: Modeling and Understanding Chemical Reactions in Middle School Science

This year, our middle school has taken part in an amazing opportunity to pilot a new, web-based science curriculum that incorporates digital simulations and hands-on learning experiences in an immersive learning environment. As a school, we are teaching the curriculum with as much fidelity as possible in order to be able to provide useful feedback to teachers around the district and to the curriculum developers.

In my Individual Project lesson, I stuck close to the original plan in our curriculum, with the exception of two technology additions: 1.) an online collaborative element using Nearpod and 2.) a feedback poll asking students to reflect on the modeling tools used throughout the unit.

The lesson is part of a unit about chemical reactions in which students experience chemical reactions in the context of a fictional town where people discover an unknown substance in their water, and through three different methods: 1.) an online simulation of a laboratory where students can choose chemicals from a stockroom to virtually mix together and then watch animated groups of atoms interact with each other, 2.) a traditional, hands-on chemical reaction demonstration in class and 3.) rearranging color tokens to represent groups of atoms in chemical reactions.

Wiggins and McTighe (2005) present six facets of understanding, in which students who understand 1.) can explain, 2.) can interpret, 3.) can apply, 4.) have perspective, 5.) can empathize and 6.) have self-knowledge.

The chemical reactions unit offers students plenty of opportunities to explain what they understand, but usually only with one partner or directly with the teacher in written form. Nearpod’s “Collaborate” feature allowed our students to explain chemical reactions to each other in a low-pressure, social format. The students were presented with a question and a virtual board on which to post their answers. This also allowed my students to practice responsible digital citizenship skills while posting something that would be made immediately visible to everyone in the class.

Screenshot from‘s collaborate feature.

Two aspects of this collaborative activity proved to encourage student engagement and participation. First, students can see each other’s responses as they come in, and can see how I respond to those posts in real time. Peer responses offer a helpful scaffold for students who need help getting started. Secondly, students can give each other “likes” in the form of small heart icons under each post, which brings a fun and positive social aspect to the activity.

In order to provide students an opportunity to show metacognitive awareness, or self-knowledge, I asked them a survey question using Nearpod’s polling feature. I wondered out of the three forms of modeling and demonstrating chemical reactions, which activity helped students the most in understanding how chemical reactions work. I posed the question to two class groups and received surprisingly balanced results:

Nearpod poll for Group 1 (top) and Group 2 (bottom).

While Group 2 showed a preference for the online simulation as the most helpful activity, there was a solid balance between the three activities overall, which shows that our efforts to differentiate instruction modalities are not in vain. Students were receptive and aware of the pros and cons of the different activities they participated in.

In general, the fictional scenario of the town with polluted water keeps students engaged, but I think that making a connection to students’ own communities and even giving them a chance to test their own water or interact with water utility or water treatment officials would help students develop a broader perspective and to develop further empathy. If I could do this project again, I would focus on ways to use the fictional scenario presented in the unit as a springboard to engage students with own community around the topics of chemistry and water resources.


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by design: Expanded 2nd edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

EDTC 6106 Module 5: Extending Tech PD Beyond Educators to Support Wider School Community

As I reflect on this quarter of my Masters in Digital Education Leadership, I feel I’ve truly come to question more behind the scenes operations of Professional Development in my district and become more inquisitive to answer questions not only for myself, but also for colleagues and our school community.  For my final blogpost this quarter, I again look at ISTE Coaching Standard 4b:

“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”

This quarter has led me to consider not only how I can contribute to creating more meaningful PD for educators, but has led me to question how to improve collaboration with our community as well.

How do we move beyond school-based PD to engage local stakeholders and increase on-going opportunities to explore tech tools as a school-wide community?

What can we do?

As mentioned in my previous post, admin can create a tech team within the school.  This team may begin with the educators who actively use tech, but then should also include other interested stakeholders such as volunteers, parents, and community members (could be from tutoring or after school programs).  This also involves assessing what software is being paid for by the district and which licenses are being funded through the school budget. By having the tech team assess which software is being used, by whom, and the frequency, they can help administration make budgeting decisions for the upcoming school year and reassess future tech needs, PD for teachers, and support for families.

Collaborating with Parents and Community

Once schools have a clear picture of which teachers are using specific educational programs, the time comes to invite parents and community members to learn about how they can further support their children.  Creating a collaborative partnership with other stakeholders who work with our children not only reinforces the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, but it also provides multiple opportunities for discussion.

Recognising the importance of collaboration in my own building, after recently hosting an event for ELL parents on technology, our initial focus was sharing how to log in to free district resources as well as academic programs teachers are wanting students to use at home.  With 17 parents attending our first session, they all had questions. With three staff members available for translation, we provided each family with a laptop, pulled their children in to show their parents what they know, and provided handouts on how to access resources again from home.  None of these parents had accessed the free district resources before, nor did they know some could be translated into their primary language. Having parents practice logging in with staff support was critical. In addition, a member from an after school tutoring program (outside of district) also attended.  She was ecstatic to learn which reading programs were available online for our students to use after school and wanted to also learn which resources she could recommend to families in our district.

Understanding that teachers may only meet with parents once or twice a year, but many of our families receive outside services, there’s work to be done to increase our partnerships to support student learning.  Recently I attended a conference with parents where we questioned if the student’s lack of oral expression is due to comprehension or language acquisition, we had a team of six people all wanting to see this young girl succeed.  In attendance were her parents (non-English speaking, but literate in Spanish), her tutor from an after school program who works as a liaison with many of our Spanish speaking families, a bilingual assistant from our building, her classroom teacher and myself. I came prepared with resources in Spanish that the parents could use at home to reinforce the reading questions we ask at school as well as made sure they know how to have their children log in to a reading program when away from school.  I quickly became aware that I need to work on collaboration when both the tutor and our bilingual assistant asked for copies of the resources and log in information to share with our other Spanish speaking families.  After our meeting, they both expressed how much it helped watching me model how to log in and how to use questioning at home.  It was a great reminder that simply sending resources home is not enough.

One strategy that is gaining momentum with Tech PD is micro-credentialing.   As districts use badging to encourage educators to take on more personalized learning, this provides another opportunity to review what tech is being used, it’s relevance, and how to share it’s value with stakeholders. Micro-credentialing also works as evidence for evaluations, which many educators are striving to identify each year. This is where administrators can also remind staff about family engagement and support.

How to Engage Stakeholders

In Saomya Saxena’s post, How to Involve Various Educational Stakeholders in Education Improvement, she refers to a 2008 policy brief released by National Education Association (NEA).  These recommendations really rang true for me as reminders of what we need to do beyond staff collaboration and PD.

 What’s Next…

Looking ahead to next year, I see several ways that the partnerships in my school can be enhanced in order to better align how we are serving our students.  I feel fortunate to work in a community that truly values diversity and that we have so many bilingual support staff available to translate.  After looking at a software analysis this Spring and what tech support our ELL families expressed wanting to learn, I feel my building is moving forward to meet more of the recommendations listed above.


Saxena, S. (2014, January 29). How to Involve Various Educational Stakeholders in Education Improvement? Retrieved March 10, 2018, from

Snyder, J. (2018, March 09). Software Asset Management Helps IT Pros Get the Most from Their Software Licenses. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from

“3 Steps to Revamping K–12 Professional Development” (2017, December 01). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from

Van Roekel, D. (2008). Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education. NEA Education Policy and Practice Department. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from

Administrators Role In Tech Integration

This quarter in my Masters in Digital Education program, I’ve truly begun to question decision making behind the scenes and how those decisions are both shared and acted upon by district staff.  Continuing to look to ISTE Standards around Professional Development and Program Evaluation, I further wanted to explore how administrators advocated for technology needs in their building and create opportunities for all staff to actively participate in Tech PD.

A recent study conducted by SAM Labs surveyed 250 teachers in the United States and concluded that 78% felt they lacked adequate training needed to meet the demands of technology in their classrooms effectively (Bolkan, 2017). Of those surveyed, 82% felt classroom technology helps prepare students for future careers.  However, only 37% surveyed claimed to learn how to use technology during their free time.  This means that 63% of the teachers surveyed rely on Professional Development opportunities and coaching to explore how to effectively implement new technology in their classroom.

Administration Retention

A study shared by The School Leaders Network, found that principal retention is a national concern.  Their 2014 survey found that 1 out of 4 administrators leave their schools each year (Cohen & Pearson, 2018).  In addition, 50% of new principals quit during their third year.  With these trends, it’s easy to see how teachers are left waiting for strong leadership, or someone to advocate for what their building needs.

Not wanting to get too much into why this is an issue, I would like to add that our nation’s largest district, in New York City, has taken action to better support administrators.  Starting in 2014, they created a program that makes leaders out of veteran principals who take a year leave from their building to serve as a coach for other new administrators in their district. Each coach provides 8 hours of support per new administrator each month. This strategy not only offers support to the new administrators but allows the veterans to experience what is happening in other buildings as well.  In their first year of the program, they were able to raise retention of third year administrators to 75% returning for the fourth year ((Cohen & Pearson, 2018).

Again, this scenario of coaching administrators, is not necessarily happening nationwide.  Therefore it is important to understand that many districts still have high turnover, or frequent shifting of administrators from one building to the next.  This creates barriers for teachers feeling supported with new curriculum, tech integration, and the sense that someone is advocating on their behalf.

What can administrators do to better support their staff’s needs?

Given the data from NYC, administrators who feel supported are more likely to remain on the job.  Districts need to provide professional development opportunities for administrators in order for them to become or remain effective leaders. Administrators need to understand how to empower their staff to take risks and explore new ways of thinking and teaching.  Eric Patnoudes, a former teacher and instructional technologist, states that districts must have a unified vision for technology use that is explicitly shared with administrators and educators.  In his post Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers, he raises three questions for administrators:

  1. Are teachers required to integrate technology during classroom observations/evaluations?
  2. When we say “paperless classroom”, what is the actual goal?
  3. How should a district define student engagement, and can it be observed?

(Patnoudes, 2016)

Now assuming districts are offering Tech PD to administrators, how can they further support their staff? Edtech Magazine shared 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Although this article was published more than a decade ago, the data above indicates we need administrators to offer more Tech support to staff.

Six great tips towards a shared vision of tech integration:

  1. Establish the Team – principal identifies teachers who are pro-tech and creates a tech leadership team to serve the school
  2. Assess Facility’s Needs –  Create a needs assessment for the school to guide the direction of the tech leadership team for Professional Development (working on this through a needs assessment right now with Instructional Assistants in my building.)
  3. Model Tech Use and Practices Principals can use PD sessions to model technology use (the article recommends admin model effective tech use on a daily basis)
  4. Recognise Effective I.T. Use Reminder that technology use should enhance student learning and is simply a tool.  Tech integration needs to connect to the student learning outcomes and be seen as a way for students to express their understanding in a way that would not be possible without the tool.
  5. Encouraging Excellence Admin should encourage tech use and promote best practices through having teachers share lesson ideas or create a video of what they’re doing. Some schools offer other incentives for best practices as well.
  6. Provide Support and Training Admin need to ensure staff feel fully supported with tech changes being placed on them.  Training needs to be on-going and provide multiple opportunities for staff to feel technology is effectively working for them, not just adding to their work day.

Looking Ahead

Administrators have such an important role in the climate of the school. For staff to take chances and be motivated to try new technology, they need to feel supported by admin.  In turn, admin need to feel supported by their district.  The stakeholders, whose tax dollars often fund technology, need to be part of the vision of the future.  Most importantly decisions need to be made in the best interest of the the student learners, how will technology enhance/support their learning in a new way.

When districts support administrators with opportunities to learn from each other, they can in turn model technology use for their staff and share the district’s vision for tech integration.  If needs are not being met, it requires administrators to speak up and advocate for change, to seek out alternatives that may better suit their student population. Too often technology is introduced through an email or one day PD session.  As PD becomes more personalized, staff need to feel their administrators are approachable and available for further training and support.  We know technology is not leaving the classroom any time soon.  It’s time for districts to be transparent with their vision of technology and encourage more collaboration around effective integration and support.


Bolkan, J. (2017, October 26). Most Teachers Say Classroom Tech Helps Students, but Teachers Need More Training. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from

Camera, L. (2017, December 20). Educators: We Need More From Education Technology … Retrieved February 24, 2018, from

Cohen, E. D., & Pearson, M. (2018, February 19). Heeding the voice of school experience. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from

Morrison B. (2006, October 31). 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from

Patnoudes, E. (2016, July 07). Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from

Starr, L. (2009, September 23). The Administrator’s Role in Technology Integration. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from