Category Archives: Seattle Pacific University

Professional Learning Networks: Connect, Relate, and Create

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


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

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

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

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

A few final words of advice based on personal experience:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Co-Learning & Collaboration Builds Collegial Experiences


five person sitting front of conference table with laptop computers
Photo by on

What would happen if instructional leaders treated the professional learning of our teachers as the most important and engaging project-based lesson we were fortunate to facilitate?

What would happen if the accountability of this learning was anchored in the intentional collaboration with colleagues that resulted in authentic learning experiences (ISTE 4a)?

If we want to prepare our learners for the working world why are we stifling the innovation and creativity that our students are wired for based on the experience of learning in the digital age?

When learning communities build on the ideal learning environment and welcomes technology that supports the meaning-making we are living solutions from a 21st-century perspective that will propel our students and instruction into the next level of skills employers require. In order to make this happen, I feel we must treat professional development like a professional project.

My need for appropriate and meaningful professional learning is anchored in my own experience as a creator and receiver of professional development. I have had countless hours of PowerPoint slide shows that fostered nothing more than a polite smile from me at the end of a long day of co-learning with students. I played by the rules and focused on the tidbits of knowledge I could take back to my classroom. What I learned to be true after many hours of this ‘sit and get’ instruction, is that professional development has to give time and space for everyone involved to foster deep connectedness in the learning and practice of the skill sets discussed. As an architect of professional development, I quickly realized that when the PD I facilitated was flexible to encourage connection and growth for all the engagement of the teachers I supported grew, the questions started flowing, and the application of learning became a classroom norm. Professional Learning Networks  (PLN’s) became a reality that allowed for organic experiences with lasting impact.

My current professional role at San Diego State University- College of Education, requires me to develop systems that will support the learning of 100+ service- learning college-age tutors. Within the Pre-College Institute Pathways Service Learning program, I support the program needs and instructional coaching of the professionals. My goal is to support my tutors as they interact with the principles of service- learning and support the instruction of the K-12 students they mentor.  My tutors are diverse and spectacularly complex thinkers that come ready to support students in communities with numerous needs. As I look at the time these college leaders have to spend learning and doing, I see a need to create opportunities for the PCI Pathways team co-learn within a digital tool rich culture to support engaging learning for everyone on our Pathways Tutoring program team. 

(Trust, Krutka, & Carpenter, 2016) state that “considering the diverse means for utilizing PLNs evident in our findings, we propose the following revised definition: PLNs are uniquely personalized, complex systems of interactions consisting of people, resources, and digital tools that support ongoing learning and professional growth”(pp 28). When I am confident in my ability to create clear learning outcomes for my tutors within our SDSU classroom,  I am able to offer opportunities to illustrate learning beyond the task-based products we often complete with frustration and little connection. My goal is to see my learners using the theories, systems, and strategies we talk about in the K-12 classroom. From day one, The Pathways Tutors are able to learn in the field and treated like professionals. When these tutors are able to make connections with ease everything goes swimmingly. But what about when the commitment and collaboration are still not present? How should I utilize the PLN to foster the engagement of that tutor I can’t seem to reach? 

I believe that in today’s world engagement and ownership of learning often grows for students and teachers when collaboration extends beyond the classroom.

two women looking and pointing at macbook laptop
Photo by mentatdgt on


Universal Design for Learning. supports “Learning for All ” by facilitating learning through:

  • Representation: demonstrating the learning in different ways.
  • Action and Expression: all the approach to and demonstration of learning to happen in different ways.
  • Engagement: Ofer multiple options for projects that spur interest in learning.

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You can read and watch more about Universal Design for Learning via CAST.

Service learning requires our students to naturally work outside of the college setting. Utilizing Universal Design for Learning has the ability to build on and expand collaboration in unique ways. This is especially true when educators require the use of digital tools to support learning a classroom goal. For the Pathways Tutors, UDL would build collegial experiences beyond the SDSU campus and San Diego community.  

All professional learning requires an element of accountability. In order for my ‘dream’ PLN to happen within the service-learning classroom, we have to be willing to show vulnerability and observe each other as professional practitioners. In 2018, Requard illustrates how observations can be meaningful elements of daily learning. This level of humility is especially important when we build new professional skills. My ideal PLN service-learning course would have to have clear expectations for course outcomes, opportunities to build and foster trust between learners and require students to unpack their growth-mindset. Setting up an observation system that builds on and supports the professional goals of each tutor as they identify what the students in the classroom needs for instructional growth providing true reciprocity

When my tutors are able to identify ways they can support the learning in classrooms through the 21st- century skills our society values, they can collaborate and hold each other accountable in meaningful ways.   Stay tuned, I hope this will allow us to grow our Pathways Tutoring program in ways that creates limitless connections and application for San Diego State University and the San Diego community. 




CAST. (2018, August 31). CAST: About Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from

Requard, A. (2018, February 12). #ObserveMe: Improving Our Practice as Professionals. Retrieved from

Trust, T., Krutka, D. G., & Carpenter, J. P. (2016). “Together we are better”: Professional learning networks for teachers. Computers & Education, 102, 15–34.


Digital Collaboration in a Pre-Service College Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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.

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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.



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.

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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.

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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.


Adult Learning Principles and PD

ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation

b.Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

photo credit:

As a teacher, even in four short years, I have taken part in too many  professional developments to count. It is hard for me to think of another career that dedicates so much time and effort to continuing education and an ever adapting growth mindset. That is powerful. However, PD does not always impact its adult learners in a meaningful way. If I look back at all of those sessions I attended, there are only a handful I could still tell you about. This module has been a new focus for me personally. I have never thought about how adult learning principles play into the effectiveness of a PD session. As a cohort, we explored the essential question of what role adult learning principles play in planning educational technology professional development. With that in mind,I then posed the question: “What practices can help develop differentiated PD that appeals to multiple learning styles?”

The first thing that stood out to me when I began to find resources that addressed my essential question was the need to address the differences between child learners and adult learners. Although it makes sense to me, I had never really thought about it much. The online article “Professional Development and Adult Learning Theory,” states:

The real issue lies in the vast differences between child learners and adult learners.  That should be obvious, but the execution of most professional development illustrates that the differences have not been fully considered. When professional development providers deliver PDs by lecturing, for example, the delivery method itself works against the very principles of how adults learn (Prather, 2015).

The article then introduces andragogy, a learning theory developed by Dr. Malcolm Knowles. Knowles introduced four principles that should be considered when designing and implementing learning experiences for adults. These principles, adapted by the article, are:

Adults Must be Involved in the Planning of Their Learning

Teachers should have input during the planning of  PD. This planning could be pre assessments or focus groups. The online article “3 Ways to Create a Differentiated PD menu,” mentions that before we start to plan PD for the year, perhaps we should find out:

  • What teachers know
  • What they are really interested in learning
  • How they learn

These thinking points could really be valuable when beginning to frame your mindset around planning PD.

Experience Provides the Basis for the Learning Activity

Adult learners bring so much to the table when the come into a PD. They bring prior knowledge, background and personal experiences that should all be taken into consideration. Every educator, new or veteran, has different strengths to contribute and a PD facilitator/teacher leaders should be aware of their audience.

The Professional Development Must Have Immediate Relevance and Impact on Teachers’ Lives

This is a really important component to PD. Teachers have so much on their plates, that when they sit down after a long day with hundreds of other things on their minds, a PD needs to be relevant and something they can apply immediately. As “Professional Development and the Adult Learner” puts it,  

A professional development session at the end of a long day of teaching about some abstract theory or philosophical framework will not go over well.  But offer a PD to your staff about how to cut their workload in half by using Google docs, you’ve got a blockbuster (Prather, 2015).

I think we can all relate to that.

Adult Learning is Problem-Centered

Adult learners should have time to analyze, think, reflect and apply what the knowledge they gain from a PD session. If it is applicable and hands on, the learning is the most beneficial. “Adults prefer to process information by doing something with it.” (Prather, 2015.) The “Main Dish” of the “3 Ways to Create a differentiated PD menu” mentions that adult learners should have different ways to engage in their learning:

  • listening/watching presentations
  • tweeting exchanges to share gems of the experience
  • engaging in either the active usage or documentation of the material

Allowing for these paths, or like variations, within every tech training is essential because it allows for learners to engage in the way best suited for them. Some may only listen and take notes on a notepad, but others might form a Pinterest Board on DI as the presenter talks, and others might just start constructing within the new tech platform, learning as they go (Teach on the Edge).

After exploration, I have learned that several things are relevant when taking adult learning principles into consideration while designing effective PD. Acknowledging that adults learn differently than children is the first principle that should affect thinking. Recognizing that adults bring background knowledge and personal and professional experiences into PD is important. And finally, adults should be learning knowledge that is applicable to real life and can be applied almost immediately. They should have time to learn, analyze, reflect and apply the knowledge from PD. All of these components together help address all adult learning styles and help ensure that PD is and remains relevant long after it is over.


3 Ways To Create a Differentiated Learning PD Menu. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from

Prather. (2015, November 12). Professional Development and Adult Learning Theory. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from

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.

From dipping a toe in, to full on cannonball: A reflection of my learning

I refer to “dipping” my toe in the water above, because to me this is what my first few days of this spring quarter felt like. As usual, I was a little unsure of my actions and slightly doubtful of my skills and abilities. But, just like a lake that hasn’t quite had the chance to warm up yet in the beginning of the summer, I was willing to test out the waters with the knowledge that I would soon be flopping in with the full intention of submersion.If there is one huge takeaway that I could pull from the large group of “positives” I have encountered since beginning my journey into the DEL program at SPU, it would be that I have learned to acknowledge being uncomfortable, accept it and roll with it. It is such a liberating feeling at the end of a project that I began feeling slightly overwhelmed, to look at the product I created and say to myself “Hmm, that wasn’t so bad.”

A couple of months ago, I came in with two quarters of new knowledge and I was excited for more. My strengths were that I was willing to try anything, and that I was always open to suggestions, collaboration and help. As a cohort, we continued to follow a format of learning that we were familiar with. We investigated ISTE standards, developed our own triggering question, searched for a resource to help answer the question, shared the resource amongst our peers and finally developed a resolution. This is the area where I sense the most personal growth. When we submitted triggering questions during the previous quarter, I lacked confidence and I was worried about what I produced and whether it was what my professors and peers for looking for. I ended this quarter feeling more confident posing triggering questions that really applied to what I was doing professionally and learning educationally. I could honestly research a resource and implement it the next day in the classroom, and there were a few instances where I did. My technological talents grew immensely by producing module resolutions through different resources. I searched for different and new ways to showcase my knowledge. At first it felt like I was taking on way too much, but in the end I was always happy with what I had created.

Right away, I can identify the area where I intend on improving in the quarters to come. I need to be better at managing my resources. So far, I have not attempted to save, organize or import the articles and readings we are using into one accessible source. I have created many accounts in order to produce resolutions, but I haven’t had the time to record that information (i.e. logins, passwords, etc.) or save and collect my finish products. I intend to find a good resource to begin storing articles. I know that my peers have mentioned some in the past, but I haven’t come away with any. I also need to create some sort of spreadsheet to keeps logins straight, and create a file of finished resolution products.I look forward to having all of these things easily at my disposal someday soon!
ISTE coaching standard two emphasizes that coaches will help assist teachers effectively create student learning experiences using technology. This includes engagement, differentiation and assessment. Keeping this in mind, I intend to empower my peers and colleagues the best way that I know how at this point, through advocacy and promotion. I intend to advocate the resources I am discovering, and those that my peers are discovering, to my colleagues. I will constantly promote the importance of what we are doing. Most importantly, I will model this. I will jump at any chance I have to share my learning with others. For some people that is all they need. When they see something that seems scary modeled to them in real time, it suddenly seems very realistic and possible. Overall, I will continue to build my knowledge, take advantage of any and all opportunities to learn, grow and model and I will keep adding valuable tools and resources to my ever growing digital “tool belt.” I can’t wait to see what that looks like.