Category Archives: Empowered Learner

6102 Module 1 Empowered Learner

For this module we were tasked with investigating ISTE Student Standard 1: Empowered Learner – “Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences”. Looking at the all the components for this standard, two jumped out at me-1a Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes and 1c-Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. These two components lead me to ask the following question-

How can students use technology to achieve and reflect on goals?

To help answer this question I turned to research and suggestions from professors. This lead to the discovery of the website Seesaw ( Seesaw is a technology tool that empowers students to capture their learning in any form. Students can independently document their learning by using photos, videos, drawings, texts, PDFs, and links. Each student has their own digital portfolio which allows for them to share their understanding. Seesaw helps capture the learning process, not just the end result. Students can use Seesaw’s built-in audio recording, drawing and caption tools to reflect on what they’ve learned or explain how they got their answer.

Seesaw for teachers- Seesaw is not just a great tool for students but its a great monitoring tool for teachers. With this program teachers can create specific skills/goals for students making each students experience with Seesaw differentiated. Once a new skill is created it can be tagged to one or multiple students.After skills have been created for students the teacher can monitor the students progress in mastering that specific skill. Teachers can use Seesaw for formative assessment and can tag their students’ posts with their own set of skills or standards! Optionally, teachers can assign a simple 1-4 star rating to student work to get a real-time understanding of how students are progressing towards key curriculum objectives, inform instruction, and save time on reporting. Skills and ratings are only visible to teachers, and are fully customizable to the learning goals your class is working towards.Once students have submitted a piece of work to their portfolio the teacher can add a comment or feedback to their post by either typing or using a recording. This allows for students to improve their practice and to gather important feedback.


Metacognition with Seesaw

“Metacognitive practices help students become aware of their strengths and weaknesses as learners, writers, readers, test-takers, group members, etc.  A key element is recognizing the limit of one’s knowledge or ability and then figuring out how to expand that knowledge or extend the ability. Those who know their strengths and weaknesses in these areas will be more likely to “actively monitor their learning strategies and resources and assess their readiness for particular tasks and performances” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, p. 67). Seesaw allows for students to use metacognitive practices with their digital portfolios. Students who are not naturally inclined to stop and think need explicit practices to nudge themselves toward quality reflection—and digital tools to make it easier. Keeping a log of tasks and habits, for example, gives students a rich source of data to mine when reflecting on their progress, and there are many apps that will collect and aggregate this information in accessible and attractive ways. The myriad of daily journals, goal-setting programs, and “productivity” apps help to create a regular time and place for reflection, which students can use toward academic or personal projects (Mindshift, 2014)

Using Seesaw in the Classroom

In order of this program to work effectively and for students to began to add to their digital portfolio, time needs to be set aside for students. For a primary classroom, this program could be used first thing in the morning as morning work, a learning center, during Daily 5 time, it is really is up to the teacher to find the right time for students to use this technology. However, I do think students need to be able to add to this regularly in order for them to have multiple opportunities to show understanding of a skill or goal. Plus, with more data the students have more information to share with their teachers and parents. Only using this program a few times doesn’t allow for students to show growth toward a specific skill/goal.

Student Led Conferences

Today many schools participate in student-led conferences where teachers, students, and parents discuss student goals and progress. By students having a digital portfolio through Seesaw, they feel motivated because they are sharing their real work with teachers and parents. Students can show their parents what they have done, their and how they are working toward that goal. A benefit in having a program like Seesaw is that the prep time for conferences is cut down. Students can simply log into their portfolio and have all of their evidence of learning at their fingertips.

Why It’s Worth It

Although setting up individual digital portfolios for your entire class might seem daunting, once you get started it becomes an easy way to collect student data without multiple checklists or portfolio binders. Seesaw is also a really good way to see a child’s complete learning process and allows for students to show you that process in different formats. Having students be able to choose how they show their understanding doesn’t confine their learning into a one size fits all box.




  • Bransford, John D., Brown Ann L., and Cocking Rodney R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  • (2017). ISTE Standards For Students. [online] Available at:
  • MindShift. (2014). What Meaningful Reflection On Student Work Can Do for Learning. [online] Available at:
  • Student Driven Digital Portfolios. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from



Empowering Students through Individualized Keyboarding Goals

Formal keyboarding is now being taught in many elementary schools, sometimes beginning in Kindergarten.  One of the main reasons for teaching typing this young is the standardized tests that are now taken on computers.  As educators, we want our students focused on answering the question, not spending their precious time and mental energy struggling with the typing, looking for keys, and typing so slowly that they lose their train of thought.  In an article by Anne Trubek (2011) she explains this thinking, “Touch typing allows us to write without thinking about how we are writing, freeing us to focus on what we are writing, on our ideas. Touch typing is an example of cognitive automaticity, the ability to do things without conscious attention or awareness. Automaticity takes a burden off our working memory, allowing us more space for higher-order thinking.”


ISTE standard #1 for students is: “Empowered Learner- Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences”.  Keyboarding is an area that is not typically thought of as having a lot of student-centered learning. Motivation, especially intrinsic motivation, can be hard to come by in a keyboarding class. However, by empowering students to direct their own learning and set goals based on their knowledge of themselves as individual learners, keyboarding can become a class that encourages active learners to demonstrate competency that fits their typing strengths and needs.


In my classroom, I have three main goals for my students with regard to keyboarding: speed, accuracy, and technique.  Many others who teach keyboarding have the same three goals. Dr. Z, a leading researcher in keyboarding, agrees. In his blog,,  he writes “ the need for accuracy goes without discussion” and speed is key because we want typing to keep up with our students’ thinking. Interestingly, he also discusses how typing in the past was primarily used to type what someone else had written, but today it is the writer doing the typing. So matching our typing speed to our thoughts is much more important today.   Lastly,  Dr. Z states, “Technique involves the methods that keyboarders should use to optimize their speed and the ergonomics that will lessen physical injuries.”  In my classroom, technique is also using all the fingers to type and using the “correct” finger to tap the corresponding key.


Many typing programs use speed and accuracy as a cumulative score/goal. While this is motivating for some students, it is frustrating for many others.  When I have emphasized technique and told my students to not worry about their speed, some lost motivation because the speed goal was their motivation. When I shared this frustration, a fellow teacher suggested that I have students choose their own goal from the three keyboarding areas.  I love this idea because, when it was suggested to me, I immediately thought of my students and could predict which students which choose which keyboarding area to focus on.  Student autonomy and giving students the power to reflect on themselves as learners and use that reflection to guide their goal setting can drastically increase intrinsic motivation.  In his blog,, Maurice Elias writes about this, “Many empirical studies have shown that excessive control from strict, negative rules and punishments and extrinsic rewards for doing the “right thing” can achieve short-term compliance. But there are costs: it undermines intrinsic motivation, it decreases the overall quality of performance, and it connects continued performance to the availability and delivery of rewards.”


Giving students an option on what area of keyboarding to focus on requires them to consider which goal would be the best fit for them. It calls for reflection and considering themselves as a unique learner. It also allows for differentiation and unhindered growth because, within each area students can identify their own specific goal and once they meet these goals, then can increase their goal in that area (if applicable) or chose another area of keyboarding to focus on.  As teacher who is delivering keyboarding instruction, my main goal is that my students are confident typers. Giving students choice on their focus area allows them to achieve confidence in that area and, once confidence is gained, it is much harder to lose.  




Elias, M. (2016, February 15). Student autonomy, compliance and intrinsic motivation. Edutopia. Retrieved  on (2018, January 21) from (2017) ISTE Standards for Students. (Retrieved on 2018, January 21) from:


Trubek, A. (2011, August 15). Out of Touch with Typing. (Retrieved on 2018, January 21) from:


Zeitz, L. (2010, May 15).  It’s about Accuracy, Speed, and Technique. (Retrieved  on 2018, January 21) from:

Community Engagement Project – EDTC 6104

Increasing Family Engagement Through Digital Portfolios

This summer I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone.  In my own building, I worked as the Site Coordinator for summer school, my first time truly managing other staff and being in charge of a building.  With my Masters program through SPU, I’ve submitted my first proposal to a conference.  While this has been daunting, I have enjoyed both challenges.  Having taught ELL for seven years, I’ve taught summer school, both initiated and led before and after school programs, and attended workshops, but have never sought out a leadership role.  This summer has shifted my own perception of what I’m capable of and how I can contribute to others.

Trying New Strategies to Engage ELL Families

One of my greatest challenges as an educator and coach has been communication with families.  Working in schools where the majority of the parents are not native English speakers, communication is often limited, lost in translation, and we frequently rely on students to be the translator to get messages through to families. Based on my own experience in Title 1 schools in two different states, ELL families are less likely to initiate communication with teachers and less likely to use email as a frequent communication tool. Numerous studies agree that in general, low-income and/or ethnic/racial minority families are less likely to participate in school events and certain aspects of the children’s education. (Dong-shin Shin and Wendy Seger 2016). Many of these same families have limited access to technology and less exposure to 21st century skills.  Therefore, I feel it is important for teachers to not only introduce 21st century skills to students, but also help coach their families in how to use technology as a communication tool, professionally, and share their funds of knowledge.

What do we know about family involvement in Title 1 schools?

The most extensive research comes from the Hoover-Demspey and Sandler study known as the HDS Model.  Their findings claim parent involvement is based on these key factors:

The Parent Institute, 2012

This chart supports evidence that parents who do not speak English or were not educated in the American education system are more likely to find it difficult to participate at the school site. Furthermore, these families may have varying cultural views on what parent involvement entails based on their own cultural experiences. Particularly in low-income/immigrant families, parents may be limited in time by constraints related to their occupation, caring for other family members, or cultural commitments. So how can I connect families to what’s happening in the classroom when they are unable to attend our events? How do we support our illiterate parents?

This past year I’ve been searching for digital tools that help connect with families and offer translation.  Partially motivated by several great digital programs students have used for projects without a common way to share their work with families. I was fortunate enough to attend the International TESOL Convention to learn more about what other teachers are doing around the world and what I might be able to apply in my own building. These challenges inspired my quest for a better system to increase parent engagement, empower students, while still meeting performance standards.

My search led me to discovering digital portfolios.  With the intention of supporting students and increasing family engagement, the platform I am most eager to explore at this time is Seesaw.  

Digital Portfolios – Empower Students and Engage Families

My Proposal

Searching for conferences to submit proposals to was a foreign concept to me.  After looking at larger conferences, I decided to do some google searching of my own and happened upon the WAESOL (Washington Association for the Education of Speakers of Other Languages) website.  I was so excited to see that they were accepting proposals for their 2017 conference to be held this upcoming October.  My greatest challenge was the deadline to apply, in July.  I had anticipated having all summer to explore apps, compare, and learn.

The 2017 WAESOL Conference will take place in October in Des Moines, WA.  My proposal was for a Teacher Demonstration session which is 45 minutes.  Knowing the conference targets ELL teachers, I feel I have a fair understanding of the participants who attend these workshops. Also, knowing the state standards we all address, I felt I could really streamline how digital portfolios can support teachers, students, and families.

How can I encourage others to buy in to using digital portfolios?

When thinking about how to get others excited, I thought back to various workshops I attended at the TESOL convention.  How did speakers get and maintain my attention? Beyond teachers wanting to learn about the topic, I want them to understand I am like them.  I am currently teaching, at times overwhelmed feeling I can’t take on anything else, yet wanting to serve our population and advocate for the ELL families in our state.

With attendees coming from around the state, we share the same teaching standards, evaluation systems, language barriers, gaps in formal education, as well as successes and challenges.  Rather than simply digitizing portfolios, this platform allows us to record students speaking and reading which is critical in their language development.  Students can monitor their own progress as well as have some control over the work they choose to publish.  Parents will have the opportunity to become involved digitally without needing to come to the school.  

In lieu of adding to the work day, digital portfolios can create a classroom system where students become more actively involved in their published work with the awareness of an authentic audience. Attendees will be able to make connections between digital tools and what they are already doing in the classroom. How can I achieve this in just 45 minutes?

Below is a mini-version of my slide presentation.  Starting with questions to gauge the audience, I might modify the direction of the workshop.  My intent is to truly highlight strengths of Seesaw and how it aligns well to tools and standards already utilised in K-12 classrooms. Again, by addressing the standards met and how teachers can use digital portfolios as evidence of their own professional growth, it is simply modifying how teachers capture the work already taking place.

After sharing how Seesaw can work for students, teachers, and parents, attendees will have the opportunity to explore Seesaw or another platform on a personal or shared device. Attendees will log in to a mock class as a student and be asked to upload photos, record audio, and take notes.  The audio and note-taking questions will align with teacher background which in turn will give me a better understanding of the who’s in attendance. If teachers prefer another platform, I’d like to hear about it and why it works for them.

Why Seesaw?  

So Why Seesaw?  Yes, there are other great platforms out there, however at this time, I am choosing to implement and promote Seesaw.  As mentioned in previous posts, many of our ELL students come from high poverty families without internet access, consistent working phones, first generation to have formal education.  Seesaw does not require an app like some other platforms. At this time, Seesaw allows teachers to assess reading, writing, and speaking, which all ELL teachers do anyway, now they can simply store data in one location. Seesaw offers voice messaging, which most platforms do not.

For example, we’ll look at one of my students from Guatemala.  He speaks Spanish. Great! We have Spanish support in my building so easy solution is send home all information in Spanish.  However, neither of his parents had more than 4 years of school.  His mother struggles to read in Spanish and his dad works long hours.  Who will translate? His mom does however have a phone and they frequently go to a coffee shop where she can access free wi-fi to chat with family back home.  How can I utilize this knowledge to support the family?  His mother can use the QR code to access Seesaw and look up his published work while she’s at the coffee shop and leave him voice messages.  

How else can Seesaw help?  Parents can give access to other family members.  We have many students who go to outside agencies for after school tutoring.  Those agencies then contact us wanting progress reports.  To eliminate this step, we could simply give the access to Seesaw and they can log in on their own to see how the students are performing as well as give feedback.  It’s another way to show students we all work as a team to support their academic growth and language development.

How does Seesaw support teachers in the classroom?  In my limited experience (one month) Seesaw has great support for teachers using the platform.  Through frequent email updates, I’ve learned about free webinars, updates to the system, Facebook groups to join that are grade level or content specific, and have joined a new group of educators who vary in experience. This is one of the driving reasons why I feel I can recommend Seesaw to others.  I may not know the answer to a question, but I feel I now have a support network I can quickly turn to and be directed to the person who has the answer.


The Parent Institute (2012) Why is parent involvement important? Retrieved from

Park, S. S., & Holloway, S. D. (2012, November 30). No Parent Left Behind: Predicting Parental Involvement in Adolescents’ Education within a Sociodemographically Diverse Population. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from

Shin, D., & Seger, W. (2016, January 13). Web 2.0 Technologies and Parent Involvement of ELL Students: An Ecological Perspective. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from

Empowering Learners to Define Mastery

Technology has allowed everyone with internet to have access to high quality, often free, learning opportunities on almost any subject they are interested in. MOOC’s, OERs (open educational resources) and even YouTube make learning possible anywhere, anytime and on any device. But who decides what mastery in a subject looks like? Each institution has it’s own measures and accepts a variety of different forms of evidence to show that a student has completed the necessary work to have achieved mastery, but does that mean every student across the world who is learning about Ethics, Digital Education, Engineering or basket weaving has the same set of skills and understandings at the same level of mastery? As our students become more and more autonomous in the choices they can make about their education it’s imperative that they feel they are empowered to also make choices about how they reach their goals, how they measure their own success and how they participate with others in their learning and possibly how they measure their own mastery of a subject.

My initial trigger question related to the ISTE Standard of the student as an Empowered Learner (2016) was “How can we help students (at HS level especially) recognize what “competency” or “mastery” looks like and how to help them identify what evidence will demonstrate competency in their learning goals?”. My research lead me to a few articles on mastery which made it clear to me that even adults can’t agree on one particular definition or what evidence would look like so I turned to something closer to the classroom which was involving students in the process of creating project rubrics to evaluate their evidence.

When you read the ISTE standards, the first indicator, 1a, states that students can “articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on their learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.” There is a definite qualitative feel to that statement and they could be done quite differently, be defined quite differently and require very different evidence from classroom to classroom. It’s not realistic to expect all teachers to teach these standards in the same way but I believe that what is important is that we come to common agreements with our students in our classrooms about what they mean. One way to do that is to involve them in the process of defining what mastery means and what evidence would be acceptable to show their learning. Kivunja’s (2014) article on supporting autonomy in the classroom also points out that “cognitive autonomy support may have more long-lasting effects on engagement and motivation” and thinking about what mastery looks like is cognitive work worth doing with students.

The article “The Power of Student Built Rubrics” did a good job of introducing the idea of rubrics to students. The author, Liz Prather, explained how she realized why it was important to include students in the process and talked about how she went about teaching her students to build them. She included some very insightful responses from students after going through the process that reminded me that there will always be a lot of subjectivity to the evaluation of written work especially. A concept like ‘style’ in writing could mean slightly different things to different people. It’s the act of joining in a dialogue with her students about what quality work looks like that ultimately can help her students decide what competency or mastery will look like for themselves.


Empowered Learner – ISTE Standard #1

“Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.” – ISTE Student Standard #1 Given the topic this week and the triggering event question being asked – dealing with how students can leverage technology to take an active role in learning, … Continue reading "Empowered Learner – ISTE Standard #1"