Category Archives: ISTE Coaching Standard 3

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

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

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

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

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

Assistance with Reading

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


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

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

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

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

Assistance with Writing

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

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


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



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

Definition of Assistive Technology. (2014). Retrieved from

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


Planning for Success with Digital Collaboration

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

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

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

The Argument for Collaboration

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

Planning for Collaboration

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

Build Collaboration into the Course

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

Initially Focus on Process over Product

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

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

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

Scaffold Up to Larger Projects

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

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

Multiple Modes of Monitoring

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

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

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


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


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

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

EDTC 6104: Conference Proposal – Integrating Digital Citizenship: It’s Common Sense!

This quarter, for my Seattle Pacific Digital Education Leadership Master's Degree coursework, I was asked to develop a proposal for a session or workshop at a professional learning event. I was given free choice for both topic and learning event. It did not take long for me to settle on a topic:

It’s Common Sense



This quarter, our cohort was asked to individually create professional project proposals that would be submitted to the conference of our choice. When I first saw this, I felt intimidated. Not only had I never presented at a conference, but at first I felt unsure about what I could possibly be knowledgeable enough about to share with others. However, if I have come to any conclusion in this program, it is the roll with the unsure. Upon some more reflection, I gave myself a little more credit.There’s already so much I have learned in the DEL program at SPU. Among all of them, I feel the most passionate about Digital Citizenship.

I have spent the past year becoming familiar with Common Sense Media’s digital citizenship curriculum, completing their certification and integrating digital citizenship lessons into a kindergarten classroom. It has been an amazing learning experience for me as a teacher, but even more amazing to see what my students can do even at such a young age. It is crucial to mold well rounded digital citizens in our classrooms, and even more so to begin building the foundation at an early age. I am a strong advocate for this, and will take any opportunity to educate others.

As I started to create a project proposal about Common Sense Media and it’s digital citizenship lessons, I realized that another person in my cohort, Liz Ebersole, was developing something really similar. She had designed a workshop for her school that helped teachers integrate common sense curriculum into existing academic curriculum. I thought this was a really great component that I hadn’t thought to touch on. I connected with her, and we realized that we would work really well together. We plan to submit out workshop proposal to the NCCE conference in March.

Check out the link below to our project proposal: Integrating Digital Citizenship: It’s Common Sense!

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 10.06.56 PM

After we had constructed and revised all three phases of our project, it was time to reflect. During the quarter one of our readings was an EdSurge article about the 5 things teachers are looking to get out of a PD. We connected our reflection to these 5 components. Please enjoy the video below!

So far this has been a really great learning experience. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with an amazing peer to create something that we both strongly believe in. If our workshop gets accepted, we are both excited to get the chance to present in the future. We look forward to adding a follow up reflection in addition to what we have created!

EDTC 6104: ISTE Coaching Standard 3 e & g – Digital Age Learning Environments

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 provides seven benchmarks for creating and supporting effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students. My focus is on benchmarks e & g:

e. Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments

g. Use digital

Helping Teachers Increase Technology Fluency

What can digital learning coaches do to help teachers increase technology fluency while reducing anxiety associated with learning the technology? This past week I began the transition to a new position in a new school district. The changes are immense and plentiful. Big changes: Learning a new-to-me computer operating system; getting used to sharing a small office from […]

DOs and DON’Ts of Skype in the Classroom


skype2 picture by:

Skype is a great way to remove walls in the classroom and reach collaborative destinations never imagined previously. Field trips across the country are now as close as a video connection. Classrooms connect with other classrooms across the world. Students connect with experts, guest speakers and others who add authenticity and excitement to learning. How do you make this as seamless as possible? What factors are the most important to keep in mind? Where do you start? These are questions I find myself asking when I begin to plan out a collaborative project that involves connecting with digital tools.

In the article “Dos and Don’t for Skype in the Classroom,” I found several important key pieces that are very relevant to creating a high quality Skype chat with your classroom and whoever you choose to connect with. It addresses many components that I had never thought about before I started my class collaboration in the past, and many issues that I did encounter. Although this article is tailored to Skype, I do believe the tips can apply to many emerging technologies when collaborating digitally in the classroom.

Below is an infographic made with, that displays the dos and don’ts of Skype in the classroom. The article above describes these components in more depth, but these are the main ideas to keep in mind. Typically I would create an infographic on Piktochart, but I decided to try a new tool. was very simple to use and navigate, but I found its options for graphics and text to not be quite as vast as Piktochart, but hey I tried something new right? Even with these few flawed features, I would continue to explore it in the future.

Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners

ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Digital age learning environments proposes that technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students. This module focused on performance indicators: B – Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments D […]

Selecting Digital Tools for Your Classroom



There are so many technology resources available for educators to use in the classroom that it can be overwhelming to select the appropriate one that is the right fit for you, your purpose and your class.

According to the Ed Surge article “Resources to Help You Choose the Digital Tools Your Classroom Needs, nationwide, 51 percent of teachers select up to half of the education technology they use. With such a large number of teachers selecting most of their own digital tools, the need for a good resource to aid them becomes really important. The article goes on to say that “More than half of the teachers we surveyed said they rely primarily on recommendations from other teachers to choose technology.” Experience and advice from colleagues can be valuable and helpful, but how do we make sure that we are exposed to the best options and resources out there? The articles says, that fewer than 2 in 10 teachers currently use educator-specific online resources to learn about digital products. There are many online communities that are focused on rating digital tools and creating valuable reviews that can assist educators while selecting tools for their classroom. 

I wanted to take a look into these online resources and evaluate which one I thought would be the most effective for teachers to use. The four online resources listed in the article were Ed Surge Product Index, Common Sense Graphite, Learn Trials and Learning Assembly. I began to search through them and their reviews and descriptions, and get the general feel of navigated the websites.

I began to think of the components that were important to me when navigating these resources. I settled on four main components that I look for: Ease of Use, Up to Date information, Quality of the Descriptions and Reviews and Ease of Access. I then used the online tool iRubric to create my own rubric I could evaluate these resources with

I knew from exploring the resources that two of them were a better fit for me. I decided to evaluate the Ed Surge Product Index and Common Sense Media’s Graphite.

Ed Surge Product Index:


Ease of Use: 3. I thought that this resource was easy to use and categorized in a way that was concise and pleasing to the eye. It was easy to go in and look up a digital tool based on what need you have in your classroom.

Up to Date: 2. Most of the resources seemed up to date, but some of the reviews were over a year ago, with little action since.

Descriptions and Reviews: 2. There were good reviews on some products, but others didn’t have a description or review. I think it is valuable that the reviews are submitted by educators, but it would be helpful if there was an initial review. If there was no review submitted, then some of the tools had no information. However, Ed Surge does have Ed Tech Concierge which would be a very valuable tool that can be catered specifically to your school’s need. I did feel like this was a feature that would mostly be used by tech leaders or administration.

Ease of Access: 3. The Product Index was easy to access, and you can look up any information without logging in or creating a member account. This was important for me because it makes access and use so much more efficient.



Ease of Use:  3. Graphite was extremely easy to access. The organization was very pleasing to the eye. Each product is displayed on a thumbnail with a graphic of the app and summary presented. There are also many different ways the tools can be categorized and looked up.

Up to Date:  3. All of the tools, descriptions and reviews seemed to be very up to date. It also appeared that Graphite titles the recent reviews and descriptions by season and year.

Descriptions and Reviews: 3. The description and reviews are very high quality. There is a separate review from Common Sense and from Educators, so I think you get two different perspectives.There are also tons of other resources like video links and related resources, even recommended ways to use the tool.

Ease of Access: 3. Graphite is very easy to access and you don’t have to be logged in to view information on tools and products. Although, you get the best access to Common Sense Media in general when you are logged in with your account.


Overall, Graphite is the resource I would choose and recommend to others to use when selecting digital tools for a classroom. It is concise, easily organized, pleasing to the eye with valuable reviews and extra features.

EDTC 6104: ISTE Coaching Standard 3 b, d & f – Digital Age Learning Environments

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 provides seven benchmarks for creating and supporting effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students. My focus is on benchmarks b, d & f:

b. Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in