Category Archives: EDTC 6102

Community Engagement Project: Understanding by Design Model

This quarter as part of Seattle Pacific University’s MEd in Digital Education Leadership, our cohort practiced using the Understanding by Design Model of teaching. We were asked to create a lesson plan that consists of student standards, digital citizenship elements, and the use of technology however when planning the lesson we were also asked to use the backwards design process.

This blog post will showcase a Kindergarten lesson I designed for my students using the Understanding by Design Model as well as my reflection on using the backwards design process.


The activity I will be using for this project is a collaborative project in which my students and I will be building a digital classroom E book. We have recently been learning about 3D shapes and I wanted them to begin seeing these shapes in the environments around them. For this project students will take digital photographs of 3D shapes around our school and I will upload them into our classroom computer. Next, the students and I will look at the photographs we took of the 3D shapes and use positional words to make sentences for our book. For example, one page of the book might be a picture of a ball at recess. We would look at the photo and using positional words come up with a sentence like, “The ball is on the grass.”

Kindergarten Concepts
-3D shapes
-Positional words

Technology Concepts
-Digital photo taking
-Creating classroom Ebook

Digital Citizenship Opportunity
-Go over copyright. We took these images of our school and explain how it would be unfair for someone to use our images without our permission or consent. Remember that when we use images online that other people have taken that we must give credit to them.

Creating the Lesson

The Six Facets of Understanding

For my lesson shown above I showed evidence of the six facets of understanding through the following:

  • Students would be able to explain the steps and process of making a classroom E-book and understand why making an E-Book can help others in our school/community.
  • Students needed to interpret what a 3D shape is and properties of each shape to successfully find shapes around the school.
  • Students would apply their knowledge of 3D shapes and Positional Words to create a Digital Page for our Classroom E-book.
  • Students would use their perspective to chose pictures they find best represents 3D shapes as well as a picture they would be able to write a sentence using a positional word with.
  • When reflecting upon making the 3D shape E-Book, students would learn about how our E-Book could be shared with others. They would also learn how to empathize with other classrooms who do not have access to such technologies to create their own.
  • Students would also learn the importance of Copyright and how to empathize when others use their photos without giving them credit for taking them.
  • Students would provide self-knowledge about 3D shapes at the beginning of the lesson when asked to identify shapes they see around their community.

Digital Citizenship

ISTE Student Standard 2C:
Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.

In my lesson I incorporated digital citizenship using the experience of photo-taking to discuss basic copyright rules with my young learners. Most of my learners are new to technology and I wanted to find a way to relate a digital citizenship element to something they did during the lesson. I felt teaching them to give credit to photos and documents we read/use online would be a great lesson to pair with their performance task. I felt that discussing respect and rules of sharing online resources while students were feeling proud and invested in the photos they had taken would be more meaningful to the students and hopefully have a bigger impact in teaching them to be responsible digital citizens.

Project Reflection

I felt this project taught me the importance of keeping the end in mind when planning lessons. Many times it can be easy to come up with ideas and projects for students, but you can struggle to find standards or objectives that are relevant to what they should be learning. Using the backwards design ensures that the standards are being met, I am collecting appropriate assessment data, and that my lesson is relevant to what the students should be learning.

One area I would like to continue to improve on is finding age appropriate apps and programs I can use in lessons that allow my young learners to begin exploring technology and learning how to be responsible digital citizens. Luckily for me I am in a program with many voices to provide guidance and suggestions.


Common Core State Standards. (2019). Retrieved from

ISTE Standards for Students (2016). Retrieved from:

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by Design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

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.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.33.38 PM

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.


Global Collaboration: Building Diversity in the Classroom Using Skype

As part of the Teaching, Learning, and Assessment class in Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership Program, we are learning about ISTE student standard 7- Global Collaborator. For this standard I wanted to investigate what ways I can build diversity in my classroom by introducing my students to global communication and collaboration. My goal was to find programs, activities, and ideas I can use in my classroom to allow my students to connect with others from around the world as well as around their community. Through research, my focus for this investigation was to cover the following standard indicators:

7a: Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.

7b: Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.

Skype in the Classroom

Soon after beginning my research, I found that many articles and educators referred back to the communication tool known as Skype. I have heard of this application before and have even used it to make personal calls to home when on vacation, but why was this tool getting so much hype in educational blogs and research articles? I decided to change direction a bit with my research and look more into the ways Skype is being used in the classroom, and I am glad I did! Skype is a Microsoft communication application that has recently created a live opportunity of learning that they call “Skype in the Classroom” for creating global experiences for students including: “Virtual Field Trips, talks from Guest Speakers, classroom to classroom connections, and live collaboration projects. ” In this blog post I will be exploring three of the ways Skype in the Classroom can bring global communication and collaboration into your classroom.

Virtual Field Trips

A Digital Alternative to Traditional Field Trips

Every teacher knows the hassle of putting together a field trip, (making sure permission slips are signed, finding chaperones, funding transportation and so on) but what if allowing students to explore their community or even the world wasn’t so difficult? These days technology has allowed us to see the world in a completely new point of view. We are able to see structures in real time and speak to experts from around the world. Companies like Skype are now encouraging an alternative to the traditional field trip design called Virtual Field Trips. Skype describes Virtual Field Trips as “live experiences that allow educators to let their students experience the world.” Skype also provides benefits to such experiences as being:

  • “Another level of connecting students to the real world.”
  • “A way to deepen students understanding and learning as they can be tied to each classroom’s curriculum. “
  • “Customized by the host so as to meet your students’ needs and your teaching goals.”
  • “The ability to travel around the world without a passport, experience different cultures, and have fun at the same time. “

Skype provides educators with a variety of resources that allow them to plan their own Virtual Field Trip and consider what it is that they want out of a Virtual Field Trip (what objectives are being met). Also on their website ( they help organize your thinking by providing an outline of what you can accomplish before, during, and after the virtual field trip.

Guest Speakers

Connecting With Experts From Around the World

Imagine doing a book study on an author, your students have questions about why the author made a certain character act the way he/she did or even what inspired the author to write the story, but these are questions that you may not have the answer to. Skype in the classroom has connected with guest speakers around the world including authors that allows your students to meet and ask questions they may have directly to the source. This experience allows students to recognize how what they are learning in the classroom connects to the world around them. Imagine the possibilities, students could meet:

  • Authors
  • Scientists
  • Game Creators
  • Programmers
  • Astronauts

Access to these types of connections can inspire students for what they want to do with their futures and being able to ask the questions they are curious about will help them gain the information they need in order to get there.

Mystery Skype

A Fun Interactive Way to Explore Different Cultures

“Mystery Skype is an educational game (invented by teachers) played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to build cultural awareness, critical thinking skills, and geography skills by guessing the location of the other classroom through a series of yes/no questions. It is suitable for all age groups, from kindergarten through university students, and can be adapted for any subject area. ” Mystery Skype also teaches other 21st century skills such as:

  • Collaboration
  • Teamwork
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Digital Literacy

To learn more about how to find another classroom and set up your first Mystery Skype you can check out Mystery Skype’s OneNote curriculum:

Connection to ISTE Standards

What Technology Skills Are Students Demonstrating When Using Skype in the Classroom?

In an article written by Matt Bower he explains the importance of collaborating in web-conferencing environments. He goes on to relate the learning students gain from these types of experiences to ISTE standard skills such as:

● “Use technology effectively and productively”
● “Communicate and collaborate”
● “Conduct research and use information”
● “Think critically, solve problems, and make decisions”
● “Demonstrate creativity and innovation”
● “Be ethical digital citizens”


Bower, M. (2011). Synchronous collaboration competencies in web‐conferencing environments – their impact on the learning process. Distance Education, 32(1), 63–83.

ISTE Standards for Students (2016). Retrieved from:

Skype in the Classroom. Retrieved from

Problem Solving: Computational​ Thinking =The New Critical Thinking

The What of the learning is found within  ISTE Standard 5c as students “break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem- solving”. This leads me to question, how can education systems intentionally teach our students to solve problems *differently* than we were taught? Barr, Harrison, and Conery state in Computational Thinking: A digital age skill for everyone:

“While the human mind is by far the most powerful problem-solving tool we have, the ability to extend the power of human thought with computers and other digital tools has become an essential part of our everyday lives and work.”

I believe humans can ‘flex’ critical thinking skill sets in preparation for careers where this level of thinking is the expected norm from a very early age. As an educator, I feel a responsibility to find new systems and resources that will guide those who learn with me.

Computational thinking (CT) is a new way of teaching students how to critically think for the world they will live and work in.  We can empower learners to build the confidence they will need to be critical thinkers within their generation. 

Building on, Growing 21st Centennial Learners: Can rubric and standards-based assessment co-exist with open-ended learning?  The How is supported by the addition of a ‘5th C’ to the common foundational practice of ‘The 4 C’s’ in  The 5th ‘C’ of 21st Century Skills? Try Computational Thinking (Not Coding) by Shuchi Grover for Ed Surge.

The power of this resource is in the examples for classroom instruction providing applicable experiences for learners to experience CT outside of a stereotypical technology environment. Jennifer Gonzalez supports the use of CT in Know Your Terms: Constructivism, by emphasizing how we can teach beyond the compliance-based learning of classrooms long ago. By growing the CT in our students, we are developing them into the critical thinkers, doers, and creators of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Trevor Muir highlights the Why in his Ted Talk: Schools should take place in the real world. He speaks to the ways educators can engage learners to break down and facilitate problem-solving (ISTE 5c) and still demonstrate success across content subjects.

Muir’s examples speak to the equity we are often lacking in our classrooms and empowered me to think about learning in a 21st-century student-centered way. My passion for instruction drives my desire to analyze these possible solutions that will prepare learners for a world based on computational thinking. Muir identifies why the mentoring of teachers and pre-professionals is important for all learners.

As coaches and instructional leaders in and outside of the classroom, it is important to remember that intentional, “byte-sized opportunities” for teachers and pre-service educators pave a path of success for our students. By introducing the ‘5th C’ and backing up the project-based, 4th Industrial Revolution learning, Computational Thinking will be successful in the content classroom of tomorrow…today! 


The What, Why, and How of Computational Thinking

As part of the Teaching, Learning, and Assessment class in Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership Program, we are learning about ISTE student standard 5- Computational Thinker. For this standard I wanted to investigate what ways I can begin introducing computational thinking in the classroom and encourage problem solving skills. To do this, I looked at what computational thinking is, why it is important, and how to introduce the elements into the classroom. Through research, my focus for this investigation was to cover the following standard indicators:

5a: Students formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models and algorithmic thinking in exploring and finding solutions.

5c: Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.

What is Computational Thinking?

For this blog post I will be referring to Computational Thinking with Jeanette Wing’s definition of “a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior by drawing on the concepts fundamental to computer science.” (Barr, 2011)

There are 4 main elements of computational thinking:

Information from Google: Computational Thinking for Educators

Computational Thinking is a problem solving process that involves skills you are most likely already practicing every day. One example of using computational thinking I found on Bitesize was the process of playing a video game:

Why is Computational Thinking Important?

“Being able to turn a complex problem into one we can easily understand is a skill that is extremely useful.” (Bitesize, 2019) How we teach students how to deal with complex problems today will determine how they will face similar problems in their future. As shown with the video game example earlier in this post, computational thinking is a skill that can be practiced everyday and shows evident problem solving abilities.

In an article written by David Barr, he states that many skills are “supported” and “enhanced” by the computational thinking mindset. The skills he mentions are:

  • Confidence in dealing with complexity
  • Persistence in working with difficult problems
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • The ability to deal with open-ended problems
  • The ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution

How to Introduce Computational Thinking Elements into the Classroom?


“Facing large, complex problems will often discourage and disengage the students who aren’t fully equipped to begin the deconstructing process. Decomposition develops the skill of breaking down complex problems into smaller and more manageable parts, thus making even the most complicated task or problem easier to understand and solve.”
(Valenzuela, 2018)

When introducing this element to your students, try to choose a simple task they do everyday such as brushing their teeth. (Bitesize, 2019) “This will help them focus more on their ability to analyze and synthesize familiar information.” (Valenzuela, 2018) To analyze the problem of how to brush their teeth, students would need to consider the following (Bitesize, 2019):

  • Which toothbrush to use
  • How long to brush for
  • How hard to press on our teeth
  • What toothpaste to use

The next step is to introduce them to a more complex and unfamiliar problem/scenario (Valenzuela, 2018) One example Bitesize recommends is solving a crime. Solving a crime would be the complex problem, but a police officer would first need to answer smaller questions to gain information about the crime. (Bitesize, 2019)

  • what crime was committed
  • when the crime was committed
  • where the crime was committed
  • what evidence there is
  • if there were any witnesses
  • if there have recently been any similar crimes

Pattern Recognition :

“Pattern recognition is a skill that involves mapping similarities and differences or patterns among small (decomposed) problems, and is essential for helping solve complex problems. Students who are able to recognize patterns can make predictions, work more efficiently and establish a strong foundation for designing algorithms.” (Valenzuela, 2018)

One way to introduce pattern recognition is to provide a slide with pictures of similar types of animals or foods. (Valenzuela, 2018) One example Bitesize provides is looking at a variety of different cats. “Next, have learners map and explain the similarities/differences or patterns.”(Valenzuela, 2018) Some similarities of the cats would be they all have eyes, nose, tail, fur, like to meow, eat fish, etc. (Bitesize, 2019) Some differences would be tails of different lengths, different colored eyes, different colored fur, etc. (Bitesize, 2019) “Then task students with either drawing or making a collage of cats using the patterns they identified to help them. ” (Valenzuela, 2018) “The primary goal here is to get them to understand that finding patterns helps simplify tasks because the same problem-solving techniques can be applied when the problems share patterns.” (Valenzuela, 2018)


“Abstraction involves filtering out — or ignoring — unimportant details, which essentially makes a problem easier to understand and solve. This enables students to develop their models, equations, an image and/or simulations to represent only the important variables.” (Valenzuela, 2018)

To introduce abstraction to your students it is best to use it along with pattern recognition. (Valenzuela, 2018) The primary focus of abstraction is to separate the general patterns from the specific details. (Bitesize, 2019) Looking back on our cat example of pattern recognition, bitesize has provided the following example of abstraction:

“The abstraction process will help them create a general idea of what a problem is and how to solve it by removing all irrelevant details and patterns “(Valenzuela, 2018)

Algorithm design:

“Algorithm design is determining appropriate steps to take and organizing them into a series of instructions (a plan) for solving a problem or completing a task correctly. Algorithms are important because they take the knowledge derived from the previous three elements for execution.”(Valenzuela, 2018)

Valenzuela recommends keeping it simple when working with algorithms and suggests starting off with problems like tying their shoes, baking a cake, or making a sandwich. “Each algorithm must have a starting point, a finishing point and a set of well-defined instructions in between.”(Valenzuela, 2018)

Bitesize explains of two main ways to represent an algorithm: Pseudocode and flowcharts. Using Pseudocode is similar to “writing in a programming language” and might look something like this:

INPUT asks a question. OUTPUT prints a message on the screen. Image from Bitesize

Flowchart on the other hand is a diagram that represents a set of instructions using standard symbols such as these:

Image from Bitesize

An example of using a flowchart would be making a program to ask people their name and age.(Bitesize, 2019)

Image from Bitesize

Putting it all Together

During my research I found this video that showed a teacher who began teaching her classroom about computational thinking without any sort of digital devices. It was an introductory lesson and you can see within the video the different elements being taught throughout the activities.


Barr, D., Harrison, J., & Conery, L. (2011). Computational thinking: A digital age skill for everyone. Learning & Leading with Technology, 38(6), 20-23.

BBC. (2019). Computational Thinking. Retrieved from

[]. (2016, March 29). Unplugged Lesson in Action – Computational Thinking. Retrieved from

Google. (2019). What is Computational Thinking. Retrieved from

Valenzuela, J. (2018, February 22). How to Develop Computational Thinkers. Retrieved from

Coding in Elementary Classrooms

As part of the Teaching, Learning, and Assessment class in Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership Program, we are learning about ISTE student standard 4- Innovative Designer. For this standard I wanted to investigate how to work with open-ended problems using coding to develop perseverance and a tolerance for ambiguity in young learners. Through research, my focus for this investigation was to cover the following standard indicator:

4d: Exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problem

Learning with Coding:

Coding is referred to as “the language of programmers” and is stated to be essential for students to be practicing regularly in today’s digital world. (Team ISTE, 2016)

Playing with Code:

Learning through play has shown time and time again to develop creativity, intelligence, imagination, and social skills. (Bers, 2018) Vygotsky theorized that “play facilitates cognitive development and that make-believe play could foster the development of symbolic thought and self-regulation.” (Bers, 2018) Allowing students to utilize apps such as Scratchjr, in which they are able to learn code concepts and skills through a play-based setting, gives them an opportunity to discover the world around them at their own pace while maintaining motivation and expressing self interest.

Encouraging Young Designers:

The goal is to encourage students to ask “big” questions and attempt to come up with their own solutions through trail and error and learning through their failures. (Bers, 2018) Students explore many powerful ideas during this process such as “sequencing, debugging, and design, which are the core concepts of computational thinking”. (Ber, 2018) These ideas stem from experiences and can be related to Early Childhood concepts and skills such as:

Information from Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom

Curriculum Considerations:

Before implementing coding into your curriculum you should review the following considerations:

  1. Pacing : Do you have a scope and sequence of activities and how long are you expecting students to reach these goals? (Ber, 2018)
  2. Types of Coding Activities: Are the activities going to be more structured or more open ended? Are students working in a group or independently?(Ber, 2018)
  3. Materials: “To code we need tools”, what types of tools do the students need to be successful? (Ber, 2018)
  4. Classroom Management: Are the expectations clear to the students for each section of the project? Are there routines they need to follow? (Ber, 2018)
  5. Group Sizes: Whole group, small group, in pairs, or individual? (Ber, 2018)
  6. Addressing state and national frameworks: Currently there is none, but this could change in the future. (Ber, 2018)
  7. Assessments: How will you assess the learning process and the learning outcomes? (Ber, 2018)

Positive Technological Development (PTD) Framework:

The PTD framework developed by Bers (2012). PTD proposes six positive behaviors (6 C’s) that should be supported by educational programs that use new educational technologies. These are: creation, creativity, communication, collaboration, community building, and choices of conduct. The third column, Program Practice, is left blank for educators to complete on their own based on their own classroom cultures, practices, and rituals.” (Bers, 2018)

Table found in Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom

Content Creation: “The design process and the computational thinking involved in programming foster competence in computer literacy and technological fluency.” (Ber, 2018)

Creativity: “As children approach solving technical problems in creative ways, they develop a sense of confidence in their learning potential.” (Ber, 2018)

Collaboration: “By engaging children in a learning environment that promotes working in teams, sharing resources, and caring about each other.” (Ber, 2018)

Communication: “Through mechanisms that promote a sense of connection between peers or with adults.” (Ber, 2018)

Community Building: “Through scaffolded opportunities to form a learning community that promotes the contribution of ideas.” (Ber, 2018)

Choices of Conduct: “Provides children with the opportunity to experiment with “what if” questions and potential consequences, and to provoke examination of values and exploration of character traits.” (Ber, 2018)

Benefits of Coding

From learning about how to code, to using code as part of a daily routine in the classroom, students gain multiple skills and knowledge about problem solving.(Team ISTE, 2016) Other benefits Team ISTE mentions of using coding in the classroom are:

  • It sparks interest.
  • It opens up a new domain of knowledge.
  • It addresses the gender gap.
  • It leverages the magical power of parents.
  • It provides momentum for CS curriculum.
  • It meet ISTE standards for students.

Tools and Programs

There are many coding programs and apps for kids of varying ages. During my research I found coding programs that were developmentally appropriate for children and allowed them to creatively make sequencing stories and express themselves through programming. One of these programs that I referenced during this post and one I am going to try with my own classroom is called ScratchJr. Here is a video that explains a bit more about the program and shows you examples of young children actively participating with the app:

I also found this list of resources on Edutopia written by Vicki Davis that provides multiple age appropriate coding apps/programs for students:

Youngest Students:

8 and Up:


[MIT Media Lab]. (2014, March 18). ScratchJr. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Davis, Vicki. (2016, November 18). 15+ Ways of Teaching Every Student to Code (Even Without a Computer). Retrieved from

Team ISTE. (2018, August 28). 6 reasons for coding in K-5 classrooms. Retrieved from

Team ISTE. (2016, January 19). Here’s how you teach innovative thinking. Retrieved from

Bers, Marina. Umaschi. (2018). Coding as a Playground, Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom. New York. NY: Routledge.

Growing 21stCentennial Learners: Can rubric and standards-based assessment co-exist with open-ended learning?

I recently had an opportunity to evaluate my belief that compliance-based learning is often perceived as the death of critical thinking skills while evaluating ISTE Standard 4 (Innovative Designer).  I wonder, can the educational standards-based culture support innovative thinking as our students “exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems” (ISTE 4d) in learning environments that are heavily standardized?

Team ISTE stated, “In order to thrive in a more complicated world, students will need to understand how to work collaboratively with collective intelligence. Collaboration necessitates communication. Solutions require tenacity, creativity, and critical thinking. While students need to possess core knowledge and skills, they must be adroit with technology and prepared for the demands of the Innovation Age”. It is impossible to be a gatekeeper of the technology that our students naturally gravitate towards. As members of the Centennials, our scholars continue to evolve and change with every new technological innovation being created by the young, for the young. I believe that we are doing our students a foundational dis-service by requiring learning to live within a set of standards supported by a rigid rubric.

I argue that rubrics should create meaningful learning opportunities by articulating what the intent or a learning goal is. This can be standards-based and should be an opportunity to construct knowledge through the creation of a meaningful product versus a task to complete for a letter grade. The Cult of Pedagogy’s Single Point Rubric has changed the way I think about assessing my students as they progress towards mastery. The single point rubric allows the instructor to break down the feedback in a flexible, learning-centered model.

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Concerns- Areas that Need Work: When a student needs targeted support the ‘needs improvement-Concerns’ column can be utilized for coaching and guided questioning to support the processing and Growth Mindset our students need to be innovative members of their society.

Criteria- Standards for This Performance: Students can organically demonstrate the ‘meeting of the standard’ while creating an authentic opportunity to persevere through open-ended learning.

Advanced- Evidence of Exceeding Standards: Opening the learning product up for unique demonstration, supports the 21st-century learning we value.  Students share their innovative thinking that leads to and supports open-ended problem solving they will encounter outside of the classroom.

Our classrooms can support innovative and creative learning while still meeting the standards we have in place to measure and benchmark the targeted learning needs.

You may find yourself wondering how to build in the 21stcentury skills our students will need to support the innovation we are encouraging within a single point rubric grading system. One of the researched solutions can be found in The National Education Organization ( NEA) The Four C’s. “We interviewed leaders of all kinds to determine which of the 21st-century skills were the most important for K-12 education. There was near unanimity that four specific skills were the most important. They became known as the ‘Four Cs’— critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.”

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If Battelle for Kids- The 4 C’s support the way the students interact with and learn from the material, will the learning products we assess create solutions to authentic, open-ended problems?

With a deeper appreciation for open-ended learning products supported by The Four C’s, I wondered about how I could empower my students to use the educational technology tools they gravitate towards.  The SAMR Model would give the students control over the tools they use to demonstrate the learning.

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 8.02.40 PM

My final A-ha moment came with the realization that I can support the students as they select technologies to demonstrate and/or create the learning process and learning product, aligned to the standards criteria. As a 21st century educator, I am not expected to know all the tools that my students could use to demonstrate learning; there is a place in the learning for enhancement and transformation, and I need to give up some of my educator control as the beauty of learning is captivated.  When I step back and learn about the tools with my students, maybe they will be re-writing the exact standards they are mastering, because they were given the freedom to exceed beyond a rigid rubric.



Becoming a Conductor of Knowledge: Guiding Students through Real-World Problems

As part of the Teaching, Learning, and Assessment class in Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership Program, we are learning about ISTE student standard 3- Knowledge Constructor. For this standard I wanted to investigate a learning model that allows students to identify a real-world problem, collaboratively collect resources, and create a solution to share with others. Through research, my focus for this investigation was to cover the following standard indicators:

3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

What is Problem-Based Learning?

Cindy Hmelo-Silver describes Problem-Based Learning as, “An instructional method in which students learn through facilitated problem solving that centers on a complex problem that does now have a single correct answer”.(Savery, 2006) This learning model is based upon John Dewey’s belief of adapting lessons based on what interests and engages students as well as demonstrates their investigative and creative instincts. (Delisle, 1997)

In the first phase of problem-based learning, teachers provide students with a problem that they will need to work collaboratively to solve. When designing a problem for the students to research, teachers need to make sure the problem “should be complex, ill-structured and encompass authentic, discipline-based content.” (Ertmer, 2006) In other words, the problem should not have one simple answer and should target a variety of subjects such as language arts, math, science, and so on. Teachers are also encouraged to be the “curriculum designer” where they will need to look at their school’s curriculum and find the best places to implement problem-based learning activities. (Delisle, 1997) One way to do this is to “identify areas in the curriculum that already have problems/issues embedded within them.” (Ertmer, 2006) An ideal problem is able to “capture students’ attention because it is current, real, and relevant to their lives or the lives of people they know as well as incorporate learning of grade-level topics.” (Delisle, 1997) Teachers should also be aware of the age level of the students they are working with, and may want to start small with younger grades such as providing them problems that are based around the school and work up to world-wide problems as they grow older. (Edutopia, 2016)

In order for students to develop a plan they must first identify what they already know about the problem. (Edutopia, 2016) During this phase students are encouraged to make a list of facts based on their prior knowledge of the subject. (Delisle, 1997) Once the group analyzes what they already know about the problem, they then need to consider what they need to know in order to solve the problem. (Edutopia, 2016) Students are then able to divide the work among each other and determine what elements need to be investigated and how to investigate it. (Delisle, 1997) Students are engaged in the act of discovery while they are examining the problem and researching its background. (Delisle, 1997) Throughout the course of this phase teachers are able to provide scaffolds and establish what ideas the students have to solve the problem. (Edutopia, 2016) In my research I have found the importance of scaffolding in problem-based learning to “increase the potential for successful implementation and completion of the learning process”. (Ertmer, 2006) It has also been shown that “students perform better, achieve more, and transfer problem-solving strategies more effectively when their inquiry is supported through scaffolding.”(Ertmer, 2006) During this time the teacher is, “guiding students through the process of developing possible solutions, determining what they know and what they must find out, and deciding how they could answer their own questions.”(Delisle, 1997) For many this can become a difficult task to “guide without leading” and “assist without directing”. (Delisle, 1997)

At this phase of the Problem-Based Learning Model students are analyzing possible solutions, developing a proposal, and determining an answer to the question. (Delisle, 1997) After researching independently the different elements of the question, students are then able to come together and revisit the problem. (Delisle, 1997) Savery states that it is “essential that each individual share coherently what he or she has learned and how that information might impact on developing a solution to the problem.” (Savery, 2006) As a group, students now have a chance to share additional questions or ideas they have based on the new information shared through the research done. (Delisle, 1997) At this time, it is important for the teacher to help students “make links between claims and evidence, questions and information, and project design and learning goals”. (Ertmer, 2006) Students would then evaluate the research they discovered and agree on a proposed solution that “had the most information showing it would work, or that is true to their principles or beliefs.” (Delisle, 1997) However, keep in mind that “the real goal for problem-based learning is not an answer to the problem, but instead the actual learning that takes place through the process of thinking through the steps, researching the issues, and developing an answer.” (Delisle, 1997)

In the last phase of the Problem-Based Learning Model it is important to evaluate the student’s performance, the teacher’s performance, and the problem. (Delisle, 1997) Students should be encouraged to evaluate themselves, their groups performance, and the quality of the problem itself. (Delisle, 1997) Students reflection is critical to help them deepen their understanding and make sense of the key principals of the experience. (Ertmer, 2006) Some examples of reflective strategies for students would be journaling, self-evaluation, and group debriefing. (Ertmer, 2006) Teacher’s should also reflect upon their scaffolding skills throughout the unit. Was the teacher able to recognize those students who needed more guidance? Do they need more practice guiding the students instead of directing the students? (Delisle, 1997) Lastly teachers should “reexamine the effectiveness of the problem itself” and determine what areas the problem they would have liked to change to better plan for their next PBL unit. (Delisle, 1997)

Figures from How to use Problem-Based Learning in the Classroom

Technology Connections

In many parts of the Problem-Based Learning Model you can find opportunities to integrate technology into the learning process. I have listed a couple of ideas below:


Delisle, R., & Staff, Association for Supervision Curriculum Development. (1997). How to Use Problem-Based Learning in the Classroom. Alexandria: ASCD

Edutopia. (2016, November 1). Solving real-world problems through problem-based learning. Edutopia. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A. , & Simons, K. D. (2006). Jumping the PBL Implementation Hurdle: Supporting the Efforts of K–12 Teachers. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(1).

Spencer, John [John Spencer]. (2017, November 12th). What is Problem Based Learning. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Savery, J. R. (2006). Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(1). 

Media Bias and Peer Review: Helping students verify resources in the digital information world


Growing our students into “Knowledge Constructors” is a goal that cannot be reached in one or two classroom lessons; it is grown through interaction and critical thinking about fact and opinion within the subjects taught in the K-16 experience.  

Relating this to ITSE Standard 3b which states that Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources” (ITSE 3b), I would argue that bias can affect the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of digital information sources.  

One way academia has tried to establish accuracy and credibility in its publications is the process of “Peer Review.”  Articles submitted for publication in professional journals are subjected to editorial preview by trusted experts in the related field of study. Those articles that “pass” this evaluation are considered significantly relevant to the field, and are therefore generally accepted as evidence in support of arguments.  

This process seems reasonable, but it presents an important question: Does peer review address the concern of bias in how information is ultimately presented?

The Common Core State of California Standards expects students to demonstrate the ability to present knowledge in written form, supported by multiple sources.

Screen Shot 2019-02-03 at 6.43.56 PM

As we dig deeper into the expectations for writing and research for our students, let us take a look at the standard for our 6th, 7th and 8th grade students:

Screen Shot 2019-02-03 at 6.48.38 PMScreen Shot 2019-02-03 at 6.43.21 PMNotice how our students must be able to “Conduct short research projects” (CCSS W.6.7/W.7.7/W.8.7) to respond to and build on questions and eventually use this knowledge for future investigation. ITSE Standard 3.b supports CCSS writing standard 8 because it requires our students to look at each source, before using it to support individual thinking and learning.

This is all wonderful, in theory. One may look at this blog and say that educators who use these standards are doing a superb job of preparing our scholars to interact with the material they have at their fingertips across digital resources, Yay Teachers! I would argue that the connection of the ITSE standard to support the CCSS is only the tip of the instructional iceberg. How do we support our students as they look at sources and question them for bias as they argue their perspective?

One tool that is helpful for all learners regardless of age, is the Media Bias Chart, produced by Ad Fontes Media, Inc. (

Here is the latest version of the chart:


This chart plots popular media sources horizontally from “Most Extreme Left” (liberal) to “Most Extreme Right” (conservative) with “Neutral, minimal or balanced bias” directly in the middle. The vertical alignment indicates the accuracy of the information provided by the source, from “Contains Inaccurate/Fabricated Info” (mostly fake), to “Original Fact Reporting” (verifiably true). In the middle of the Y axis is  “Analysis” or “Opinion Writing” rating further delineating the difference between verity and personal point of view.

This chart is helpful and eye-opening to anyone who prides themselves on being literate about how we understand the current events in our world.  Our students will certainly gravitate to the most popular sources, but they might also stumble across one or more of these lesser-known websites. Some may even recall hearing adults (parents, teachers, mentors, etc.) refer to some of these sources through social media, on the television, or during conversation.  Understanding where these sources base their perspectives can greatly clarify how they present their interpretation of current events.

The use of this chart to delineate bias is only one step of the process. It also supports O’Connor and Sharkey’s statement regarding the feedback loop of research within our classrooms and the steps we want our students to follow when researching materials to make meaning of material to prove a point or present facts.  “The first two components (grazing and deep-dive) are what instructors and librarians would label as background research and higher-level research” (Establishing Twenty-First-Century Information
Fluency O’Connor, L., & Sharkey, J..pp 34). 

If the most regularly visited sources provide knowledge without peer review, are we not contributing to the problem? One of the foundations of the Seattle Pacific Digital Education Leadership MEd Program, is to “Articulate key philosophies, theories, concepts, values, principles, and facts, and demonstrate the essential skills that underlie the content of the professional discipline and vocational goal for which you are being prepared.” If we are facilitating the research in our classrooms at a surface level I would argue that we are not demonstrating the essential skills of research our learners must practice to prepare them for success in a world that will need to be driven by critical thinking and communicating.

I argue that in order to prepare students for success as they seek out resources in the complex and often deceiving digital world, we must design and practice more peer review strategies like those found within the ERIC system.

Screen Shot 2019-02-03 at 8.04.43 PM

By studying the process ERIC uses to peer review source articles, our students can look for the bias they will find in an article. Through the exploration of the ERIC database our students will also become comfortable with sources outside of the typical media sites found in the Media Bias Chart.

As students become more familiar with tools that can support the application of research in their writing, they will grow confident in using professional journals and other sources outside of the mainstream media. And by acknowledging the existence of bias, they will be better prepared to recognize the bias in any information source. By teaching our students to use critical reading and researching methods, we are preparing them to  question and make meaning of the information that they are flooded with. It is my hope that the process of peer review continues to be refined and practiced to support society as we make sense of this complex world we live and learn in.


Meaningful Book Reports

Every year we ask students to create book reports that reflect their learning of comprehension skills and demonstrates their public speaking abilities. In the past I have seen students freeze in the spotlight or bring in a poster in which they didn’t understand what was being displayed on it. They are unable to share with their peers what they have learned, and in turn, have wasted time and resources trying to complete what is now a meaningless task. In my Kindergarten class I sought to find a way to change this routine; a way to bring empowerment and creativity to my young students. To help guide my research I came up with the following question:

Q: Using technology, how can students create meaningful student-centered book reports to show understanding and competency of comprehension skills?

Meaningful & Student Centered

At first my journey lead me to focus on the meaningful and student-centered part of my question. My goal was to allow students to center their book report on a book/story that was meaningful to them. This could represent books that incorporated a hobby or interest that the child may have such as trains or soccer. However, the book could also be meaningful in a different way such as their favorite bedtime story or a story their grandparents read them while growing up. Through my own experience, I always felt more empowered when I was able to learn something that I was passionate about rather than being assigned to read a book that didn’t spark my interest. As an educator it was important for me to allow my students to have a voice in this project; to allow them to have a choice in what type of book they wanted to do the report on.

After reading the article, “The Top 5 Reasons We Love Giving Students Choice in Reading” I knew I was headed in the right direction. The article provides multiple reasons on the importance of allowing students to choose the types of books they read. One reason the article provides, is that allowing students this choice empowers them and makes them feel that their voice is important. (Skeeters, 2016) The article states, “Empowering students to choose in these early experiences sets them up for success as lifelong readers.” (Skeeters, 2016) After reading this article and doing more research on how to encourage empowerment in the classroom, I also came across this engaging video that shows you “7 things that can happen when your students own their learning” (Spencer, 2017):

Showing Understanding & Competency

Once I answered the “why” portion of my question, my next step was to look at the “how”. I knew why it was important for me to make these book reports meaningful, but how to do it took me more time to try to figure out. I sorted this section into two different parts: “How do I make sure they are showing understanding of comprehension skills?”, and “How do they use technology to present their information?”.

  • Q: How do I make sure they are showing understanding of comprehension skills?

A: Each book report would ask the students to focus on one to two comprehension skills. For example, one book report might ask students to focus on the main characters in the story. To show competency, students could pretend to interview one of the characters or possibly retell the story from another character’s point of view. (Lexia, 2016) Through this process, students would have a goal, take actions to achieve/ show understanding of the goal, and receive goal-related feedback from me to help guide them on the right track. (Wiggins, 2012)

  • Q: How do they use technology to present this information?

A: There are many answers to this question. I have gathered a variety of apps/technologies that students could use to video their reports, but many are aimed at grade levels 2nd and above. One article provided me with an idea on making book trailers and allowing students to have a “Viewing Day” where they are able to view one another’s book trailers and reflect on their work. (Ferrell, 2014) I liked this idea and the article provided me with several digital tools, but it seemed a bit intimidating with my young group of students. My goal is to test some of these apps out with my students to see their capabilities and do a possible pilot in class before assigning this as a take home assignment.

Digital Tools Suggested/Found: iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, flickerCC, Popplet, Stop Motion, ChatterPix Kids, Adobe Spark

ISTE Standards

After doing research, I feel the following ISTE student standards fit with my idea of creating digital book reports:

1b: Build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.

By allowing students to view one another’s book reports, I am building a classroom community/network within my school. By allowing choices and encouraging empowerment within my classroom, I am customizing an environment of trust and creativity. I am also supporting the learning process by providing effective feedback to my students to help scaffold their learning.

1c: Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

By providing my students with goal referenced feedback, I am supporting their learning needs in a personal and customized way. I am able to see where they need assistance and help guide them on the right track to showing competency in comprehension skills. Students will also get to meet with me one-on-one to discuss ways/ideas they have to demonstrate competency with specific comprehension skills.


Ferrell, Keith. (2014, December 8th). A Book Report Your Students Will Love. Retrieved from

Creative Alternatives to Book Reports (2016, November 10th) Retrieved from

Skeeters “et al”. (2016, February) The Top Five Reasons We Love Giving Students Choice In Reading. Retrieved from

Spencer, John [John Spencer]. (2017, June 17th). 7 Things That Happen When Students Own Their Learning. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, Grant (2012, September) 7 Keys to Effective Feedback. Educational Leadership. Pp. 11-16