Category Archives: Digital Teaching and Learning

Professional Learning Networks: Connect, Relate, and Create

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


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

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

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

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

A few final words of advice based on personal experience:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning, First & Digital Tools, Second

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 4 A's Visual

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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