Category Archives: Teaching Learning and Assessment

UbD Flipgrid in the Classroom

Unit by Design


For our EDCT 6102 course, we were tasked with using the Unit by Design framework (UbD) to plan a lesson or unit that incorporated digital citizenship into our classroom. UbD has you start with identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence and then planning the learning and instruction. This backwards planning is not a new concept to me. In fact, I am inherently a backward planning, big picture person. However, something I don’t do on a regular basis and what was refreshing was the process of explicitly thinking through and writing out the unit or in my case lessons, and then reflecting on them.



Sometimes as a teacher I feel as if I get caught up with a never-ending to-do list, and fall back on an already planned out curriculum guide. The UbD framework gets pushed back and I find that halfway through a unit of reading, writing, science, or whatever it may be I am left dissatisfied. I often have intentions of integrating units and/or finding ways to make them engaging, meaningful and rigorous, however, fall short on the time or energy to sustain the work. There are of course many factors that go into this. A few that have challenged me in my current role is having a team which uses many different curriculums and time limitations which make collaboration challenging.


Nonetheless, this UbD project has reminded me of the importance of taking the time to backward plan and reflect on the process. UbD emphasizes deeper understanding; I often remind myself that “mile wide inch deep” teaching risks developing disconnected superficial knowledge. I’m thankful for this project’s thoughtfulness of this depth of knowledge.


Now onto the project. For the UbD lesson, I decided to focus on using Flipgrid to help build community in our classroom. Here was my thinking:


While planning and teaching one thing I am continually pressed with is time. In my classroom, we start each day with a 20-25 minute morning meeting. However, I have not found a good time to teach word study within our day. After much debate, I feel the only way I could fit word study into our schedule is to cut back on something, and really the only time I can cut from is our morning meeting.


The downfall to this is that morning meeting builds community, trust, empathy, and collaboration. It also supports social, emotional and academic learning. So I have wanted to find a creative way to still incorporate parts of our morning meeting into everyday schedule while also allowing time to teach word study.


Our morning meeting schedule goes as follows:

Morning Message/ Schedule (3 minutes)

Greeting (2 minutes)

Sharing (10 minutes)

Activity (10 minutes)


My plan for UBD project is to take the sharing and activity portion of our morning meeting out and incorporate them into other parts of our day. For the activity, we have a 10 minute period at the end of our days when this can be done. For the sharing portion, I am my goal is to use Flipgrid for students to share, comment and ask questions on each other’s posts.

Integrating Flipgrid would also allow us the opportunity to learn and practice digital citizenship. Using Flipgrid as a means for students to share out important and meaningful stories for other students to hear and respond to was a natural way to talk about digital citizenship. As a class, we were able to make connections to values that we had when we were sharing in a face to face circle and discuss how that would look online.


Here are the essential questions that arose from planning:

  • How can we as a classroom community support each other (socially, emotionally, and academically)?

  • What values do we find important when sharing and replying to others?

  • How are our online interactions similar to real life interactions?

  • How do our choices impact those around us?

  • What can you do to make our classroom a more positive, friendly, safe place?

  • What does it mean to be a digital citizen?


I began the process of introducing digital citizenship to my 3rd-graders by using our essential questions as a guide. We discussed and recorded our ideas to the questions. I posted our responses around the room to come back too. Next, we were ready for Flipgrid. My students were familiar with Flipgrid as a means to think metacognitively and as a place to voice their ideas. Thus, we took our ideas from the essential questions and translated them into posts about ourselves that we wanted to share with our classroom community.


Here are some things that I leaned from students sharing, commenting, and questioning about their Flipgrid posts and others:




  • Students who normally choose not to share were openly and confidently speaking and sharing about themselves

  • Students were engaging with other posts, leaving comments and questions

  • Students were getting creative with their posts

  • Students were able to go back and listen or re-listen to other posts

*Post still under construction*

STEAM Education

STEAM is a term I am hearing a lot in education today. STEAM education refers to bringing the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math in a way that allows students to apply knowledge from two or more the disciplines to solve an issue or problem.

STEAM gives students a 21st-century approach at learning and aims to promote interest in the arts and sciences at a young age. It also involves creative processes and methods of inquiry and investigation. STEAM gives students opportunities to collaborate and solve real-world problems.  It also is a means in which to develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems that draw on the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions (ISTE Student Standard 5).

My own experience with STEAM as an educator was filled with teacher pay teacher purchases and some PD on the engineering design process to support a new science kit the district was rolling out. In 2014 the district I was working at converted one science kit at each grade level to incorporate STEAM. Our third-grade unit was investigating magnetism and at the end of the unit, students were assigned to create a device using magnets that could clean a fish tank without getting your hands wet. I give credit to them for jumping right in and starting the process of getting STEAM learning into the hands and minds of our students.  The district recognized STEAM’s potential but hadn’t equipped me with enough understanding of how to make STEAM a powerful learning tool. I was unclear on my understanding of how to incorporate it into my classroom, making it authentic to my students. It felt like it’s own outside course. Rather than incorporating STEAM into my teaching I was teaching it as a stand-alone.

Now, at the time this may have been okay for where I was at with my training and understanding of STEAM teaching. However, the past two years it’s haunted me as to how to really create authentic and powerful experiences with STEAM so that I can prepare my students for our 21st century world. Thus, for our module five in my Digital Education Leadership course, I wanted to answer the question: “How can elementary teachers intentionally create or integrate authentic STEAM education within the classroom?” Regardless of the mandated curriculum or other constraints. I wanted some realistic approaches that would allow me to tap into STEAM learning capabilities in an authentic way.  

What I discovered, is that I have a long way to go in conceptualizing STEAM education.

Through research, I have gleaned that I must start with a conceptual understanding of STEAM. STEAM Education: Theory and Practice written by Myint Swe Khine and Shaljan Areepattamannil acknowledges that one area of criticism for STEAM is the amount of collaboration needed. They state that “due to STEAM education being so new, teaching resources, professional development opportunities, and even trainings are difficult to come by.” (Khine, Areepattamannil, 2019, p. 147). Through their research, they found that “overwhelmingly, without conceptualization, the teachers were not able to plan transdisciplinary units or implement them.” (Khine, Areepattamannil, 2019, p. 151). Many teachers when planning on implementing STEAM instruction would fixate on a specific project. This makes STEAM learning focused on a product versus students coming up with a solution that answers a real problem and values their own ideas or innovation. Ultimately, I found out that if you are teaching STEAM education the way it is designed then you are inherently solving real-world problems, through multidisciplinary subjects in which students already have competence with. Thus, your STEAM education is authentic.

So my first recommendation if you are looking to implement STEAM education in your classroom is to do some conceptual learning of STEAM for yourself.

I found these two books good places to start my research:

  • STEAM Education: Theory and Practice by Myint Swe Khine and Shaljan Areepattamannil
  • STEM Integrations in K12: Education Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research by Margaret Honey, Greg Pearson, and Heidi Schweingruber

Another place you may want to tap into is your STEAM or STEM TOSA at your district office.

Here are some other research-based recommendations I found helpful when implementing STEAM education:

-Get stakeholders or experts involved. This may look like an expert in the field, a specialist at your school, a parent or other community members. Through Khine and Areepattamannil’s research, they found this to be especially helpful when integrating the arts into STEAM. Many teachers include art as an afterthought or as a means of presentation. They recommend working with a art teacher to find meaningful authentic ways to integrate it into your STEAM project. (Honey, Pearson, & Schweingruber,  2014).

-Use design thinking as a way to spark authenticity. DT centers on an iterative process that begins with empathy, inquiry and concept generation and ends with a product or a plan that can be presented or tested. (Cook, Bush, 2018).

Important considerations for DT in STEAM elementary settings:

  • Design constraints help students to focus on relevant aspects of the problem and move beyond familiar patterns of design (Cook, Bush, 2018).
  • Teacher support, encouragement, and formative feedback help students make meaning, collaborate and critique of multiple iterations (Cook, Bush, 2018).

“Elementary age students can learn to more deeply engage in the practices of designers when supported by a classroom environment and teachers who support the culture of design.” (Cook, Bush, 2018).

  • Scaffolding and clear outcomes are essential in DT (Cook, Bush, 2018).
  • Planning and alignment to CCSS and school curriculum. Time and collaboration are needed to plan and align with school curriculum and standards. (Cook, Bush, 2018).
  • When students are in the Define/ Ideate Stage they are required to research the topic, thus students would need to apply research skills. (Cook, Bush, 2018).
  • Students should be able to present and seek feedback to improve design (Cook, Bush, 2018)
  • A budget is needed for design (Cook, Bush, 2018).
  • Needed technology such as computers, 3D printers or other designing software may be required. (Cook, Bush, 2018).
  • DT and STEAM challenges can range anywhere from 2-5 weeks (Cook, Bush, 2018).
  • Collaboration between specialists can be helpful (art teacher, music teacher) (Cook, Bush, 2018)

-Use STEAM as a way to extend learning after a unit. Research has shown that to benefit from integrated STEAM students need to be competent with discipline-specific representations and be able to translate between them (Honey, Pearson, & Schweingruber,  2014).

-Scaffolding and clear outcomes are essential in STEAM education. Make sure when planning to incorporate STEAM educational opportunities into your classroom that you consult the CCSS and your pacing guide. You may need to move things around and be flexible. (Khine, Areepattamannil, 2019).

-Build in time for reflection while and after implementing STEAM education. Focus on STEAM based practices to refine your teaching. (Khine, Areepattamannil, 2019).

Some next steps for myself are to further research examples of STEAM education in elementary settings to build my conceptual understanding of it. As well as, research systems that support STEAM education. Specifically framing, scaffolds, and instructional supports that could support STEAM instruction.


Design Thinking in Integrated STEAM Learning: Surveying the Landscape and Exploring Exemplars in Elementary Grades. (2018). School Science and Mathematics., 118(3), 93-103.

Honey, M., Pearson, G., & Schweingruber, H. A. (2014). STEM integration in K-12 education: Status, prospects, and an agenda for research. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. doi:

Khine, M. S., & Areepattamannil, S. (2019). STEAM EDUCATION: Theory and practice. SPRINGER. Doi: vs inauthentic STEAM problems&source=bl&ots=mggiLTYQl_&sig=ACfU3U1-RUDMZIEm8uGyionouFkVeFeZFw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwij0LuAtebgAhWMDnwKHaFHA44Q6AEwC3oECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q=authentic vs inauthentic STEAM problems&f=false  

Encouraging Creativity and Innovation in Students

“The world leaders in innovation and creativity will also be the world leaders in everything else.”
-Harold R. McAlindon.

I read this quote in the book, Nurturing Young Innovators: Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom, Home and Community by Laure McLaughlin and Stephani Buchai. It hit something deep in my teaching heart. Children are curious and naturally, have an innovative mindset which could lead them to become future innovators and leaders in our world. And what would our world be without innovators?

Do you know some of these important innovators?

  • Thomas Edison: Developed and innovated over 1,000 different ideas, better known for the light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera
  • Steve Jobs: Revolutionized personal computer devices
  • Tim Bernes- Lee: Invented the World Wide Web
  • Marie Curie: Discovered Radium and helped make use of radiation and X-rays
  • Ruth Graves Wakefield: Invented the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: Revolutionized the field of ophthalmology and is recognized as the first female African American doctor to receive a medical patent

If we can encourage children to think creatively and to innovate then we help cultivate the future leaders of the world. As a teacher or administrator are there ways to do this? Absolutely. Is there need to do this? Absolutely. ISTE standards outline such needs:

ISTE educator standard 6d emphasizes, “modeling and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.” 

ISTE student standard 4 emphasizes, “students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions

Promoting Creativity and Innovation:

In my own experience when promoting creativity and innovation in the classroom I have encountered success and challenges. I’ve (vaguely) summed them up below.


  • Problem-based learning structures
  • Design processes
  • Student choice and engagement
  • Flexible seating and learning environments
  • Celebrations and learning showcases


  • Fixed mindsets and students giving up when they get stuck
  • Collaboration challenges such as students problem solving, active listening and compromising in a respectful and effective manner
  • Students depending on the teacher for problems and solutions
  • Worry that I am not hitting all the standards students will need to be successful on their state testing
  • Incorporating creativity into the curriculum
  • Time for feedback, reflection, and refining

There are many resources and ideas out there that can help combat the challenges of innovative teaching. One tool that schools k-12 could use to overcome such challenges and promote creative and/or innovative thinking is through design thinking. 

Design Thinking In Schools:

“Design thinking is generally defined as an analytic and creative process that engages a person in opportunities to experiment, create and prototype models, gather feedback, and redesign.” (Razzouk, Shute 2012). Design thinking provides a way to think about creative work, thus could be a system that schools or classrooms take to provide opportunities to promote creativity and innovation.

Director of Technology & Innovation for Centennial School District AJ Juliani, writes about his experience with design thinking in the classroom:

“Giving my students choice and allowing them to be curious learners was hard work. In fact, sometimes I was still really ineffective at guiding the learning that was taking place in my classroom. I tried many different project-based learning frameworks, embraced the inquiry cycle, and tweaked my own idea of how to structure this type of innovative and creative work. My research (and trial and error as a teacher) led me to design thinking (most noticeably the work of Stanford and IDEO). It was through design thinking that I found a process and methodology that worked for all kinds of complex problem solving and creative work.”

Samuel Tschepe a Design Thinking Program Manager & Leadcoach at HPI Academy & HPI School of Design Thinking writes in his blog:

“Albert Einstein once said: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity and motivation play an essential role in design thinking. Design thinking encourages you to acknowledge that you may know some things, but still, there is so much to explore! In design thinking, you constantly try to adopt a beginner’s mindset and explore things from different perspectives.”

AJ and Samiel are not alone, a case study conducted at a secondary school involving 125 students and a team of 12 teachers found that “design thinking gets teachers empowered to facilitate constructivist learning in order to foster 21st-century skills.” (Scheer, Noweski, and Meinell, 2012).

Another study done with 5 suburban middle school classes found, “Design thinking serves as a creative and reflective tool for approaching teaching as both artist and designer of thinking in the classroom, for collaboration, and as a model for designing learning experiences”. And concluded that, “pedagogies that include inquiry, connection-making, and self-direction are encouraged to enhance students’ thinking skills within the context of critical, creative, and practical modalities. Design thinking is one such pedagogy.” (Vanada, 2015).

Although I believe teachers and administrators should do their own research on which design thinking methodology works best for their students there is little doubt that design thinking can spark creativity and innovation!



ISTE Standards for STUDENTS. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2019, from


ISTE Standards FOR EDUCATORS. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2019, from


Razzouk, R., & Shute, V. (2012). What Is Design\Thinking and Why Is It Important? Review of Educational Research, 82(3), 330–348.


Scheer, A., Noweski, C., & Meinel, C. (2012). Transforming Constructivist Learning into Action: Design Thinking in education. Design And Technology Education: An International Journal, 17(3). Retrieved from


The Beginner’s Guide to Design Thinking in the Classroom. (2018, October 15). Retrieved February 16, 2019, from


Tschepe, S., & Tschepe, S. (2018, May 22). How Design Thinking can benefit Education – The Startup – Medium. Retrieved February 16, 2019, from


Vanada, D. I. (2014). Practically creative: the role of design thinking as an improved paradigm for 21st century art education. Techne Series-Research in Sloyd Education and Craft Science A, 21(2).


Internet Inquiry in 3rd Grade

My journey to find strategies could be used to teach students how to effectively find and evaluate resources found online to aid their research and scaffold(s) to help students organize their research (as inspired by ISTE student standard 3).

Let me start by first painting a scenario of a PBL project that I led my 3rd graders through last year. Based on 3rd-grade common core research standards and our NGSE science standards for plants. I began to design an authentic PBL project. My 3rd-grade classroom was conveniently located right next to our school garden. Some background on the school garden: It was not being used by the school, instead a PTA member and her family had been taking care of it out of the kindness of their hearts. A few members from the neighborhood would come by and pick some food but that was about the extent of it. Overall, the garden was in much need of some tending and planting. This presented us with a great real-life problem and it aligned directly with our learning standards. Thus, the PBL question: “How can we as 3rd-grade botanist’s develop a thriving school garden that would benefit our surrounding community?” developed. We began learning about the parts, and functions of plants and what they needed in order to survive. We then began investigating and learning about our school garden and gardens around us. We brainstormed areas of the garden that could be improved such as appearance, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and pest control. Students picked a category that they wanted to research and provide feedback on. Our cumulating presentation was a video that was to be played at a PTA meeting outlining our recommendations for improving the garden and asking for needed funds. Students began doing research in books, online and we had a botanist from Swansons come. She met with each group answering research questions and touring the garden providing ideas on how to improve the space.  In the end, students used the program WeVideo to publish their recommendations for our school garden. The videos were then sent and seen by our PTA who agreed with many of the recommendations and assured students that funds for the garden would be provided for the next spring.

Sounds like a pretty successful PBL experience, right? However, reflecting upon this experience an area I would like to improve on was my teaching of the inquiry and research portion. Many of my students had difficulty with what Kingsley and Tancock call the “four fundamental competencies that students must possess and attain to successfully complete Interner- based tasks: (1) generate high-quality inquiry topics, (2) effectively and efficiently search for information, (3) critically evaluate Internet resources, and (4) connect ideas across Internet texts.” I believe this difficulty was a result of my own lack of knowledge in these proficiencies.

Thus, I found a few resources to that outlined strategies which can be used to teach students how to effectively find and evaluate resources found online to aid their research. Below is a summary of Internet Inquiry by Tara Kinsley and Susan Tannock. I found their article most beneficial when looking for specific strategies and ideas on how to effectively find and evaluate resources that aid in research for younger learners.

The article Internet Inquiry describes 4 different competencies for internet inquiry and describes how they could be delivered in a classroom. The article focuses on strategy lessons and Internet Reciprocal Teaching model (IRT) stating: “A body of reading research shows a significant relationship between online research and comprehension instruction and student outcomes. Two general findings exist. First, specific strategy instruction led to student gains in online research and comprehension, and second, teacher modeling followed by collaborative inquiry tasks proved to be a successful instructional framework for Internet instruction (Castek, 2008; Kingsley, 2011; Leu & Reinking, 2010).” (p. 390).

Below I summarized the strategies for the 4 competencies needed for internet inquiry:

Generating Inquiry Questions Strategies:

  • Think of topic of interest and generate who, what, when, where, why questions about the topic on paper or sticky notes (p. 392).
  • Revise questions to make them more specific and delete poor questions by sorting questions into categories. Groups of questions can be representations of focus areas for student research (p. 392).
  • Provide collaboration time work with partners or groups to generate and sort questions (p. 392).

Effective and Efficiently Searching for Information Strategies:

  • Teach basic proficiencies (aka “nuts and bolts”) needed to effectively use and understand the tools available to support online research and comprehension processes. Examples include: “precursory skills, including how to open and navigate within websites, discover shortcuts, use online tools such as edit-find or copy and paste, troubleshoot issues, and understand the basic layout of a website.” (p. 393). Other nuts and bolts lessons included in the article can be found at the link:
  • Teach to search with the end goal in mind. Offer examples and/ or finished products. Teach how different end goals would warrant different information (an infographic vs. wax museum exhibit) (p. 393).
  • Determine effective keywords using a graphic organizer (ex: keywords concept map) (p. 393).  
  • Activate background knowledge to find effective keywords or use resources like an online thesaurus. “An online tool such as visuwords is effective because it depicts the relationships among the words—something a thesaurus does not do.” (p. 394).
  • Teach how to read and analyze the short descriptions and annotations under the website link, and model how to generate new keywords from them (p. 394).
  • Practice search engine skills on which has different levels of research challenges (p.394).
  • Provide guided practice and authentic opportunities to apply research searching strategies (p.394).

Determining Credibility of Internet Resources:

  • Model how to triangulate data. “Using hoax sites, such as Dog Island (see www.thedogisland. com), where dogs can “live free from the stress and hardship associated with daily life among humans,” can provide an opportunity for teachers to model the triangulation of data.” (p. 395).
  • Teach how to use Wikipedia pages as a verification page instead of a research page (p. 395).
  • Teach how to Google an expert or author for credentials and to background check (p. 395).
  • Teach what a disclaimer link is and where it can be found (use Dog Island to model) (p. 395).
  • Teach about content bias by examining potential .com commercial gains and .gov political gains (p. 396).
  • Look for mission, objective or purpose statements on websites for content bias (p. 396).
  • Determine and compare if the writing is factual based (and linked to academic and/ or legitimate organizations vs. opinion (p. 396).

Connecting Ideas Across Internet Texts Strategies:

  • Use a concept map to demonstrate how information from multiple sources comes together on one topic (p. 396).
  • Teach skimming, scanning, and note taking (p. 397).
  • Teach how to paraphrase information while noting the source (p. 397).
  • Use mind mapping to transform a concept map into an outline format (p 397).
  • Model how to take several pieces of related information form the concept map and construct meaningful thoughts around that info on mind mapping tool (p. 397).

The strategies as their pertain to the 4 competencies of internet research are a great place to start. I began “tech tips” lessons in my class to get them ready for internet research. We began by going over basic nuts and bolts needed to navigate the web, we also learned how to split screen in order to copy and paste notes digitally and learned the importance and how to give credit when we paraphrase or quote someone’s idea. At the end of every “tech tips” lesson, I have students who feel like they have mastered the internet skill (ex: copy/paste, citing sources, split screen, paraphrasing) raise their hand and I typed up their names under the skill. I then posted our tech masters list for others to see, and if they had a question about a certain skill they could go to the list and use their classmates as resources.

As a 3rd grade team (two other 3rd grade teachers and I) we blend our three third grade classes on Fridays for 1 hour. This mean that students get to learn and build community with students from other 3rd grade classes. It also allows them the opportunity to experience learning from a different teacher. Usually, the time has been spent on art and students would rotate through a different teacher each Friday and by the end of the three weeks, they would have completed 3 different art projects. For our blending moving forward I expressed interest in a new model; where students are still blended but that they stay with the teacher for 5-6 Fridays in a row and then rotate to the next teacher for next the 5-6 weeks. This would allow the teacher and students the ability to build on their learning. So, rather than be completed in one 60 minute block we would have five 60 minute blocks together.

After discussing we agreed and each picked an area to teach in which we are passionate about (that also was aligned to our 3rd grade standards). One of my co-workers will be teaching forces and motion science, the other is teaching elements of art, and I decided to teach internet inquiry.

My goal for the class is for students to pick a topic they are passionate about or want to learn more about. Then I want to guide them through the internet inquiry process using strategies and scaffolds above. One thing I will be pressed for is time. I think with 5-6 sessions I will have to be creative with what and how I teach. Below is a rough outline of my plan:

Unit Goal: Students will be able to generate high-quality inquiry questions, use the internet to find credible answers to their questions and organize their findings using a concept map.

Session 1:

Students will be able to identify what makes a responsible digital citizen.

Students will be able to generate strong inquiry questions about a topic of their choice.

Session 2:

Students will be able to paraphrase information from a website.

Students will be able to determine effective keywords (by activating background knowledge) for their research using a keywords concept map.

Session 3:

Students will be able to paraphrase information from a website.

Students will be able to use visuwords to generate effective keywords for their research and add them to their keywords concept map.

Session 4:

Students will be able to paraphrase information from a website.

Students will be able to navigate Kiddle (specifically using the description under the title to determine if it would be a helpful article)

Session 5:

Students will be able to explain how to fact check a fact or website by using triangulation.

Students will be able to find at least 1 trustworthy website that answers one of their inquiry questions.

Students will be able to give credit to at least 1 website that they found in which they plan to reference.

Session 6:

Students will be able to organize information from their website onto a concept map and group like information together.

My goal is that in 6 (short) sessions students will have a foundation for internet inquiry and when our research biography project comes up in the spring students will be able to apply their knowledge of internet inquiry to their project. I will also be working in PLC to share the strategies students are practicing, graphic organizers, and other scaffolds so other teachers can implement them in their classrooms.

ISTE student standard 3a-c laid the foundation for this research and my ideas on how to implement my learning in the classroom. I believe that through implementing the strategies from Internet Inquiry in my classroom in three different 6-week sessions I will be able to refine my teaching around ISTE student standard 3. Additionally, the 6 sessions will allow students to meet three of ISTE student standard 3 indicators below:

ISTE Student Standard 3:

Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

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

3b Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility, and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

3c Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.

I look forward to trying these out in my classroom as well as reflecting upon the process. I’m sure I will have lots to share in the upcoming weeks.


ISTE Standards for STUDENTS. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2019, from

Kingsley, T., & Tancock, S. (2014). Internet Inquiry. Reading Teacher, 67(5),389–399.

EDTC 6102 Module 1 Solution

Empowered Learner

The past week in my DEL master’s program our cohort was focusing on ISTE Student Standard 1-  Empowered Learner. It states, “Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences”. This standard requires students to take an active role in first achieving competency in the learning goals and second demonstrating their competency in the goals.  

ISTE got this one right, students choosing how to show their understanding of the learning goals and moreover choosing to use technology to do so empowers student to take ownership of their learning. So, I began to think what does/ would this look like in 3rd grade. Am I as their teacher allowing them choices in how to demonstrate their understanding of the learning goals and do students know how to use the technologies I am providing? Moreover, am I empowering them to use the technologies?

I began thinking about where I offer choice (whether or not there is technology involved or not). Below I listed areas in which I offer choice in my classroom:


  • Choice on what books they are reading
  • Choice on what strategies/ goals to apply to their reading
  • Read on computers or from physical books


  • Choice on what topics they can write about
  • Choice on what strategies/ goals to apply to their writing
  • Choice of what paper to use


  • Choice on which level they want to practice individual math at (regular or challenge)
  • Choice of math project, within a standard they have a menu of choices to choose from for their math project
  • Choice on which math games to play during math rotations

Social Studies/ Science:

  • Choice on which expert groups they are most interested in


  • Flexible seating

This led me to my next thought: Are there any places where I could provide more choice specifically with an emphasis on places I could leverage technology? This wondering led me to develop the following research questions for module 1: How are other primary and/or intermediate teachers supporting students to leverage technology in their classrooms to show understanding of their learning? Is there any research or data that have been done on these technologies effects on student learning or engagement? The question focuses on ISTE indicator 1c which states, “Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.”

My hope was that by finding out what technologies teachers are leveraging and moreover if they were backed by research I could possibly integrate them into my classroom. Many times I feel like I hear or try a new or great technology (EPIC, kahoot, paddlet, flip grid, etc). However, I do not feel that I have tapped into these technologies full potential. To be used effectively and meaningfully by students they require lots of structure and feedback from me as an instructor. Especially with my 8 and 9-year-old tech newbies.

When beginning my research I ran into some difficulty. Partly due to my lack of research abilities, but ultimately because I wasn’t able to find a comprehensive list of current technologies teachers or students were using in a primary or intermediate setting that were backed by research. I think that if I were to research again I would make a list of technologies I know or have read that teachers had found meaningful in their classroom and then narrowed my research to finding data on them individually.

Nevertheless, I did find an interesting research article that answered my question with very broad categories. The articleThe Teacher Technology Integration Experience: Practice and Reflection in the Classroom answers the question: “What technology do teachers use and how do they use that technology to facilitate student learning?” The researchers Dana Ruggiero, Christofer Mong, and their team surveyed 1048 in-service teachers from across a Midwestern state in the United States. 48% of teachers were primary teachers. The researchers used online and in person surveys to answer their questions. In their research, Dana and Christopher found the following technology tools used in teachers classrooms:

The study was done in 2014 so is five years dated. Keeping that in mind I found some of the results interesting. Specifically, that online discussions had the highest percentage of “never used” answers out of all technology tools. Another was that powerpoint was used by most participants. As a 3rd-grade teacher powerpoint doesn’t stand out as a technology that I would use most often. Lastly, Dana, Christopher, and their team found one pattern which emerged was that “elementary teachers are more likely to rate interactive technology tools as ‘used most often’. I found this to be true in my own teaching as well.

Another powerful outcome of the research was the work the research team did to identify potential themes regarding in-service teacher views on pedagogical principles and technology integrations that emerged from the data. The four themes that emerged were:

  1. Defining technology integration as a process
  2. Design as a tool of technology
  3. Use of technology in the primary, middle, and secondary classroom is seen as pervasive
  4. Value of technology integration in the classroom is constantly changing

The first theme participants described technology integration as a process. Meaning, for example, the teacher creates schedules, schema, and frameworks to utilize technology in an efficient way and/ or integrates technology in natural ways to meet learning goals. This theme stood out to me because I similarly want to make sure the technology I am teaching and offering fits naturally with our learning goals. Thus, I know I need to make sure when integrating technologies I choose one that would naturally be a good fit to meet our learning objective.

The last point that I want to point out was that the research found that many teachers are still struggling to achieve meaningful technology integration within their classrooms and suggest that, “we should be exploiting the same technology tools for professional development that teachers use a daily basis. Authentic and current professional development for teachers should use blended learning, collaborative learning, and engage in the challenges of the current context.” I appreciated the research acknowledging the need to help teachers find ways to leverage meaningful technology in their classrooms.

This leads me to my final thoughts. Although the article did not spark any specific ideas of technology integration that I could take into my classroom. It did validate the steps I should take next:

1. I need to find specific technology tools that I would naturally integrate into our class.

2. I should research what technologies may best meet my students’ needs.

3. Once I have researched or found a tech tool I should reach out to others who have used the technologies to learn how I can best implement it in my classroom.

My next steps believe I could leverage technology meaningfully is writing. I have many students who are highly motivated to write on the computer or who could benefit from speech to text or other scaffolds or modifications that may be available. My students have 1:1 chrome books beginning in 3rd grade in Shoreline. In K-2 they have access to shared i-pads and a computer lab. I’ve taught my students how to use google docs to type or voice type their published writing. However, I have found that many students writing quality diminish when typing on the computer. In my experience, this is due to getting distracted or not being able to fluently type or speak effectively to use the speech to text tool. Their ability does improve with more practice but I’ve found that my third graders are more efficient and produce better quality writing when handwriting it. Handwriting also free’s me up to conference with students providing them feedback about writing rather than spending time explaining and answering questions about formatting.  Lastly, I wonder what brain research shows is developmentally appropriate specifically handwriting vs. typing or other assistive technologies.

Link to research article:

Ruggiero, D., & Mong, C. J. (2015). The Teacher Technology Integration Experience: Practice and Reflection in the Classroom. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 14, 161-178. doi:10.28945/2227

Instructional Coaching: Using Rubrics to Quantify Qualitative Data for Improved Teaching Outcomes

Feedback can be a powerful tool to improve teaching and learning. Through feedback, new perspectives can be gained as teachers begin to can acern what is working and what isn’t in current instructional methods. Feedback also offers suggestions on achieving goals and standards that drive an educator’s work. There are four different types of feedback: formative, summative, confirmative, and predictive. Formative feedback occurs before an intervention takes place, such as giving students feedback on an assignment where the feedback does not impact the final grade.  I explore the benefits of formative feedback in this post. Summative feedback occurs after an intervention, such as when students turn in an assessment and the feedback provided is in relation to the grade outcome, (Becker, 2016). Predictive feedback occurs before any instruction has ever taken place to ensure that the method will be effective while confirmative occurs well after summative feedback to ensure that the methods are still effective, (Becker, 2016).  Of the four types, formative, and summative feedback are among the most widely used evaluation in educational institutions.

At the end of each quarter,  two types of summative evaluation is collected for each of the classes I’ve taught, quantitative and qualitative data to assess my performance as a professor, and the course outcomes.   The quantitative portion uses a likert scale ranging from 1=strongly disagree to 5= strongly agree, whereas at the bottom of the evaluation form, there is a section where students can provide comments, intended to give constructive feedback for classroom improvement.  While the comments are not always written constructively (I am addressing this through a mini-module students are required to complete for all of my classes), it’s mainly the common themes that present themselves in the evaluations that are powerful influencers of improving my classes.  However, what I’ve learned is that most of the time, the summative feedback is simply too late to improve the current student experience because the issue can’t be addressed until the next time the course is offered. As a technology and instructional coach, in order to help other educators improve their teaching outcomes, more timely feedback would be required that utilized both quantitative and qualitative assessment measures. While most learning management system (LMS) platforms can offer a multitude of analytics, quantifying data such as exam scores, class averages for assignments, and average engagement time on the platform, there isn’t an explicit way to neither collect nor quantify qualitative data.

The ISTE standard for coaching states that coaches should, “coach teachers in and model effective use of tools and resources to systematically collect  and analyze student achievement data, interpret results, and communicate findings to improve instructional practice and maximize student learning, (ISTE, 2017). If LMS can collect quantitative data that can be assessed throughout the quarter (through summative feedback), could it also be used to quantify qualitative data (i.e. comments) for improved teaching outcomes?  To answer this question,  I’d like to address it two ways:  1) Establish an understanding in the value and importance of self-reflection of assessments, and 2) Address how rubrics can help quantify qualitative data.

Importance of self-reflection.  Self-reflection can give several insights into the effectiveness of teaching.  According the Virginia Journal of Education, self reflection is a method to support current strengths and identify areas of improvement including continuing education or professional development needs. Educators may seek out self-reflection in order to review past activities, define issues that arise throughout the quarter/semester, understand how students are learning, modify a class due to unexpected circumstances, or address whether or not the teacher’s expectations have been met. Overall, self-reflection improves teacher quality, (Hindman & Stronge, n.d.)

Educators may sometimes make decisions based on emotions when deciding whether or not an element worked well in the classroom. However, without context to justify that decision, emotions are not a clear indicator of outcomes. Self reflection puts a process in place in which educators can collect, analyze, and interpret specific classroom outcomes, (Cox, n.d.).  Though there are various ways to perform self-reflection (see Figure 1.1), the most effective outcome is to ensure that the process has been thoroughly completed.

Figure on Cox's Types of Self-Reflection
Figure 1.1 Cox’s Types of Self-Reflection.

For an  instructional coach, following the proper self-reflection steps would be a great way to begin the discussion with someone wanting to improve their teaching. An instructional coach would help the educator:

  • Understand their outcome goals,
  • Choose the data collection/reflection method best suited to meet these goals,
  • Analyze the data together to identify needs,
  • Develop implementation strategies to address needs.

Because is the process is general, it can be modified and applied to various learning institutions. With my coaching background as a dietitian, similar to my clients needs for change, I would also include questions about perceived barriers to change implementation.  These questions would include a discussion on any materials, or equipment the educator would deem necessary but that may be difficult to obtain or that may require new skills sets to use fully.

Using rubrics to quantify qualitative data. Part of self-assessment includes using rubrics, in addition to analyzing data, goal setting, and reflection. According to the Utah Education Association (UEA), using a rubric helps to address the question “What do I need to reach my goals?”,  (UEA, n.d.). Rubrics present expected outcomes and expected performance, both qualitative qualities, in quantifiable terms. Good rubrics should include appropriate criteria that is definable, observable, complete, and includes a continuum of quality, (UEA, n.d.).  

If rubrics help quantify qualitative data, then how can rubrics assess reflection?  DePaul University tackled that very question, in which the response asked more questions including: what is the purpose of the reflection, will the assessment process promote reflection, and how will reflection be judged or assessed? (DePaul, n.d.).  Educational Leader, Lana Danielson remarks on the importance of reflective thinking and how technological, situational, deliberate, or dialectical thinking can influence teaching outcomes. Poor reflective outcomes, according to Danielson, is a result of not understanding why teachers do the things they do, and that great teachers are those know what needs to change and can identify reasons why, (Danielson, 2009).   Figure 1.2 describes the four types of reflective thinking in more detail.

Infographic on the four modes of reflective thinking
Figure 1.2 Grimmett’s Model of the Four Modes of Reflective Thinking

Developing rubrics based on the various types of reflective thinking will help quantify expectations and performances to frame improvement. The only issue with this model is that it is more diagnostic rather than quantifiable.  A more specific rubric model developed by Ash and Clayton in 2004, involves an eight-step prescriptive process including:

  • Identifying and analyzing the experience,
  • Identifying, articulating, and analyzing learning,
  • Undertaking  new learning experiences based on reflection outcomes, (DePaul, n.d.)

The Ash/Clayton model involves developing and refining a rubric based on learning categories related to goals.  All of the qualities related to the learning categories are defined and refined at each stage of the reflection process. More information on the eight-step process can be found here.

Regardless of the reflection assessment model used, coaches can capture enough criteria to create and use rubrics as part of the self-reflection process that can help improve teaching outcomes due to new awareness, and identified learning needs that may block improvements. Most LMS systems support rubrics as part of assessment in various capacities (some only support rubrics on designated “assignments” but not features like “discussions,” for example).  Each criteria item includes quality indicators which are also associated with a number, making the qualitative data now quantifiable similar to the way “coding” in qualitative research allows for quantifiable results. New rubric features allow for a range of quality points on common criteria and freeform responses, allowing for the possibility of modifications to the various reflection types. Because of the new functionalities and the myriad of rubric uses in LMS today, creating a good-quality rubric is now the only obstacle of rubric implementation for self reflection.


Becker, K. (2016, August 29.) Formative vs. summative vs. confirmative vs. predictive evaluation. Retrieved from:

Cox, J. (n.d). Teaching strategies: The value of self-reflection. Retrieved from:

Danielson, L. (2009). Fostering reflection. Educational Leadership. 66 (5)  [electronic copy]. Retrieved from:

DePaul University, (n.d.) Assessing reflection. Retrieved from:

Hindman, J.L., Stronge, J.H. (n.d). Reflecting on teaching: Examining your practice is one of the best ways to improve it. Retrieved from:

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaching. Retrieved from:

Utah Education Association., (n.d.) Self-Assessment: Rubrics, goal setting, and reflection. [Presenter’s notes]. Retrieved from:

Strategies for Teaching Effective Email Communication

I have a dilemma.  No one comes to my office hours anymore.  I made this realization years ago when I would find myself alone in my office, staring at the clock, waiting for my “shift” to be over or filling that time with grading and lesson planning. On average, I’d probably have 1-2 students come see me before the end of the quarter and it was usually because the situation was dire.  Later, I changed my approach to be more flexible. I didn’t have fixed office hours so that students could make appointments with me that better accommodated both schedules. Students would approach me either in class or via email to set up an appointment time. For a time, this strategy worked very well to catch struggles and issues earlier on. Despite all of these efforts to be available for students, resolving major issues, addressing prolonged absences, and discussing successful study strategies are not what the typical student emails me about. Now, students email me about anything and everything.  

It wouldn’t be too bad filtering through emails, if students also didn’t have the expectation that professors respond to any email with 48 hours, during which all of the responsibility for investigating that question gets placed on the instructor.  “I wasn’t sure what to do, I was waiting for a response from you,” is the usual response I get if I was too busy to answer a non-urgent email. It’s difficult not to become frustrated in this scenario when about 2.5 hours of my day is spent answering emails.  With work-life balance considered, that means that ¼ of my day is spent unproductively. During that time, I could have been working on assessment, lesson planning, or updating content with current research.

This is not the only email communication concern I have.  At least three times a quarter, I need to gently correct the students that choose to address me by my first name as opposed to my professional title- Professor Vlad-Ortiz.  To their merit, once corrected, students do not repeat that mistake. What happens far more often is unclear communication and informal tone. Emails starting in “I need you to…”, or “lift my registration hold…” demonstrates a misunderstanding of the formality needed to address faculty.  Rather than phrasing their request politely, it reads more like a demand. Because of the implications and expectations loaded into each of these emails, it is important to investigate and address appropriate strategies for teaching effective email communication to students.

Why is all of this important? Understanding how to properly communicate online, including email, is part of good digital citizenship. The skills of knowing email appropriateness, tone, and formality are essential to be successful in the 21st century.  Though there are several other caveats to good online communication, I’ve identified three basic email communication components to help students get started in practicing successful digital citizenship.

Graphic of email communication basics
Figure 1.1 Overview of Email Communication Basics.

All emails to educators, regardless of their title, should be formal.  The educator-student dynamic is professional in nature so communication should reflect that relationship. Addressing professors by their professional name not only establishes that formal relationship, but as Molly Worthen, Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina, explains, in a world where formality is on the decline, using a professor’s title helps to ensure respect regardless of the professor’s race, age, and gender, (Worthen, 2017).  This is particularly important considering that it is the more privileged students that tend to violate this formality, (Worthen, 2017). Along the lines of respect, the tone of the email should be polite and courteous. By sending an email, the sender is asking for the professor’s time and consideration on a particular manner. Worthen brilliantly explains that requests should not sound like a text message nor communication with a customer service representative, (Worthen, 2017).  As with my examples above, the professor doesn’t need to do anything, as in “I need you to lift a hold from my account,” or “I need to register for your class…” but rather understands that the sender is asking for a favor. As Mark Tomforde, Associate Professor at University of Houston, very accurately describes, professors are incredibly busy, so emails should truly represent issues that can’t be resolved through any other means.  Using email to request anything and everything trival is a disrespectful of the professor’s time and expertise, (Tomforde, n.d.). Emails should demonstrate that the sender has already taken several steps to solving the problem on their own and clearly defines how the reader can help resolve that problem, (Purdue, n.d.). Ideally, the issue should be quickly resolved through one email and the sender should be able to distinguish when it is appropriate to talk in person as emails should not be substitutions for real conversations, (Tomforde, n.d.).

Role of the Educator. According to the ISTE standard for educators, the role of the educator is to “…inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world,” (ISTE, 2017).  The key words in that definition are “positively contribute” and “responsibility participate”. The issues addressed above indicate that there is a weight to the actions and intentions set-forth in email and other online communication. The responsibility of the student is to create communication that is both framed positively and courteously while taking the responsibility for the resolution of the email’s request. One of the indicators for this ISTE standard charges educators to create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community, (ISTE 2017). Relationships and community rely on the actions of many in order to be successfully built.  In building a healthy online community, we can’t expect students to just know how to behave and communicate properly. Skills are not intuitive and should be taught. In order to address this ISTE indicator, I’ve compiled three solutions or strategies can be used to reverse the current culture and promote good digital citizenship for our students.

Graphic for educator strategies for online communication.
Figure 1.2 Overview of Educator Strategies for Online Communication.

1) Professor Modeling. Teaching digital citizenship is a shared responsibility, so it is important for educators to actively address and model proper practices on a regular basis, (Crompton, 2014). In addition to using good email etiquette when communicating with students, professors should give students opportunities to explore and practice good etiquette. This can be achieved through explicit learning. For specific examples, Helen Crompton provides three scenarios of how digital citizenship can be modeled by professors in the classroom.  Another example is an activity that Mrs. Jizba created in which she has students write two emails, one to their friend and one to their principle.  She engages the students in a conversation about what content, tone, and choice of words are appropriate in each scenario.  This simple activity clearly demonstrates how students establish the norms of good digital citizenship through modeling and practice.

2) Explicit language in department handbook that is then repeated in syllabi. Just as there are codes of conduct at each institution, departments should include standards of conduct for online communication.  In order for these standards to have impact, each faculty member should mirror these standards in their syllabi. Through these collaborative efforts, the message of appropriate online communication is clear and consistent. Both Worthen and Tomforde share their guidelines to help with standard development.

3) Holding students up to the expectations. Just as important as modeling and creating language in the department handbooks and syllabi, is holding students up to those expectations.  That means addressing any violations in a gentle and professional manner. For example, when students address me incorrectly, I respond back with, “We are a formal institution and ask that students address all faculty by their professional title, in my case you would address me as Professor Vlad-Ortiz.  Please know that I am telling you this not to reprimand you or make you feel bad, but simply to let you know of our institutions professional standards so that you avoid potentially offending faculty in the future.” As Worthen concludes, it’s all about treating students as adults, (Worthen, 2017). As educators, we prepare students for the real world. If we do not hold students to these expectations, they will not be successfully prepared for their future professional lives.


Crompton, H. (2014, August 28). Know the ISTE standard for teachers: Model digital citizenship. Retrieved from:

International Society for Technology in Education. (2017) ISTE Standards for Educators.  Retrieved from

Purdue Online Writing Lab, (n.d.) Email etiquette for students [powerpoint]. Retrieved from:

Tomforde, M. (n.d.) Email etiquette: Guidelines for writing to your professors. Retrieved from:

Worthen, M. (2017, May 13). U can’t talk to ur professor like this. Retrieved from:

Implementing Student-Centered Activities in Content-Intensive Courses

If you’ve ever taught a content-intensive course, you’ll know it’s like trying to finish a marathon in a sprint. In my experience, you get to the finish line, but you hardly remember the journey there. The content-intensive courses I teach are the foundational nutrition classes. Each contain at least six major learning objectives with about two sub-objectives and are designed to cover upwards of fifteen chapters of material in a ten-week quarter system. The predominant approach to these types of classes by faculty is to go broad, not deep, in learning and understanding.  I must admit this has been my approach as well, in fear that I will miss out on covering one of the learning objectives or sub-objectives. While my students tell me that the courses are interesting and engaging, I can’t help wonder if they will actually remember any content from the course or if they feel as if their brain has been put through a blender by spring break. Is the learning authentic or are they just learning for the sake of memorization to pass the final exam?

The ISTE Standards for Educators charge instructors with, “design[ing] authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability,” (ISTE, 2017).  If instructors truly wish to design their course using evidence-based practices, the focus needs to shift from covering material to student learning without compromising the learning objectives. ISTE educator standard 5b implies that technology can help marry the two concerns, “design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning,” (ISTE, 2017). This ISTE 5b standard can best be illustrated by the “genius hour” concept developed by Nicohle Carter in pursuit of developing a personalized learning environment for her students. The idea is brilliant.  Allow students one opportunity a week (or as time allows) to dive deep into a topic they are interested in and demonstrate their learning through an artifact or digital presentation. The implementation of genius hour follows a six-component design model that highlights new roles and responsibilities for teachers and students alike, (Carter, 2014). See figure 1.1 for more information on the six-component personalized learning design.

Infographic highlighting 6 essentials for personalized learning.
Figure 1.1 Nicohle Carter’s Personalized Learning Essentials.

When implemented well, intrinsic motivation for learning soars, students are engaged in the material, and teachers can meet those ever-important learning objectives without feeling like they are just shoveling materials into students’ brains, (Carter, 2014). It seems like a win-win.  However, I started thinking back on my content-intensive courses and wondered how can student-centered activities (like genius hour) be implemented in these types of courses?

As a starting place for answering my question, I revisited Kathleen McClaskey’s continuum of choice.  I find the concept interesting that developing student-centered learning/activities, it ultimately comes down to how much control the teacher wants to let go of and how much “choice” is open for the students. In traditional content-intensive courses, the teacher has all of the control, or what McClaskey would classify as teacher-centered, (McClaskey, 2005).  She/he creates the lectures that revolve around a specific chapter in a textbook, then lectures to ensure the material in covered. Students, in this model, sit and observe the lecturer in hopes of absorbing some of the materials (or in most cases, cramming the information into their brain the night before the exam) while never actually deeply engaging with the information.  Using McClaskey’s continuum of choice suggests that some activities can still be controlled while giving the students some freedom to explore topics in their own choosing, i.e. consider the participant and co-designer models, (McClaskey, 2005).

Diagram of the Continuum of Choice.
Figure 1.2 McClaskey’s Continuum of Choice. (Continuum of Choice TM by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.)

The challenging thing about the more student-centered models such as the designer or advocate from McClaskey’s continuum requires time, a luxury oftentimes not afforded in content-intensive courses, nor do they address how to implement each model topic.  However, despite these concerns, I am beginning to realize that in order to allow for more intrinsic and authentic learning, I need to let go of the desire to control all aspects of the content-intensive courses and shift my focus to what is really important, student learning.

Many of the resources similar to McClaskey, mention explicit instruction as part of a student-centered classroom. Explicit instruction provides “effective, meaningful, direct teaching…where students are active participants in the learning process,” (Shasta County, 2009). Creating an explicit learning lesson involves six guiding principles. 1) The instructor begins the class by setting the stage for learning, the learning objectives are clear and students understand their responsibility for their learning. 2) This is followed by clear, simple, and direct explanation of what the daily task is, why it is important, and how to best complete the task.  Students appreciate when tasks are broken down into smaller, logical steps. 3)The instructor models the process, including their thought process using visuals. This is important because simply explaining a concept doesn’t mean that the students will understand it or know what to do. 4) Before diving into the assignment on their own, students are given a guided activity where the instructor assesses readiness of the class. 5) Once the concept has been mastered, the students take to the task independently. 6) After the task(s) has been completed, the students are given an option for informal or formal reflection, the artifact is collected and compared to the learning objectives, (Shasta County, 2009).  Figure 1.3 provides a reference guide for these steps.

Infographic on explicit learning
Figure 1.3 Explicit Learning Reference Guide

According to the Shasta County Curriculum Lead, explicit learning is best used when there is a “well-defined body of information or skills students must master,” especially when other models such inquiry-based or project-based cannot be successfully implemented, (Shasta County, 2009).  The role of the teacher is more directed, specific, and allows students more insight and practice into the skills that they are learning. What I like about explicit learning is that the classroom activities do not have to be modified completely but the modification occurs is how the material is presented and practiced.  Students can appreciate this model because they engage in active learning but still have guidance and support from the teacher via modelling.

Through explicit learning even the content-intensive courses can have a deeper and more meaningful impact on learning. I had one class in particular in mind when considering the explicit learning/personalized learning approach. I teach a not-so-introductory nutrition class designed to meet the needs of allied health students.  All allied health students are required to take at least one nutrition class as part of their career training, and for many, this class will be the only nutrition class they will ever take. The pressure is high in terms of delivering content as it is very likely that they will not revisit this material anywhere else. While I can’t change the fact that they need to explore the chemical compositions and the processing of the nutrients in the body, I can influence how they engage with the health effects and recommendations of these nutrients, which are ever-changing anyway.  Using personalized learning and the explicit learning models, I could allot for one class time a week for the exploration of the health effects/recommendations on whatever condition, trend, or issue they wished to explore. Like the genius hour, the students could work together to investigate and create a digital artifact of their choosing that would best present their topic, and lastly to further promote collaboration, they could work together to provide feedback to one another on their topics. The students would be learning through co-learning, gaining a stronger and deeper interest into the subject matter, proving that content-intensive courses can also be student-centered.


Carter, N. (2014, August 4).Genius Hour and the 6 Essentials of Personalized Education. Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education, (2017).  The ISTE standards for educators. Retrieved from:

McClaskey, K. (2005, November 5). Continuum of choice- More than a menu of options. Retrieved from

Shasta County Curriculum Lead, (2009).  What is direct/explicit learning [Word doc]. Retrieved from

Professional Development-Improving Digital Literacy through Peer Modeling

It shouldn’t be a surprise that experts support the idea of incorporating technology into new and existing learning models to facilitate deeper and different skill sets than those taught by conventional methods today.  The biggest push for more technology adoption in education is to move the educational system away from antiquated models developed during the industrial revolution to a system that reflects today’s society and workplace. I particularly enjoy Sir Ken Robinson’s argument for changing the education system because we are living an an era where we are trying to meet the needs of the future with old methods designed for a different society than the one we live in now, (RSA, 2010).  Robinson stresses that we need to adopt new models that redefine the idea of “academic” versus “non-academic” and accept differences in thinking in regards to what it means to be “educated”. Part of the reason for this push is that today’s children are exposed to information stimuli which capture attention and change learning needs, (RSA, 2010).  

Incorporating 21st century skills requires introduction, implementation, and use of technology at all levels of education. Considering the importance of developing these skills, it is also important to understand the reasons behind creating a paradigm shift, particularly as we prepare students for the real-world in higher education. The New Media Consortium (NMC) published a report looking into the key trends that would promote and accelerate technology adoption in higher education. NMC identified and classified these trends in terms of length of time needed for implementation as well as difficulty, (NMC, 2017). Figure 1.1 summarizes the six key trends for technology adoption.

Infographic summarizing the key trends for accelerating technology adoption from NMC
Figure 1.1 NMC’s Key Trends for Accelerating Technology Adoption

What’s interesting to note about the trends above is that they not only focus on types of technology, or ways that technology is used in the classroom, but also on important skill sets and new ways of thinking that elevate technology use to a different, more meaningful level.  

Because the primary responsibility of a higher education institution should be to prepare students for the real-world, understanding the technology implications behind each of these trends call us, the professors, to reevaluate our technology use in the classroom. Despite these conversations on the need for technology adoption in higher education, several challenges continue to slow the rate of adoption.  NMC summarized six key challenges that significantly impede the process of the aforementioned trends. The challenges were classified from “solvable”, meaning the problem is well understood and solutions exist, to “wicked” where the challenges involve societal change,or,  dramatic restructuring of thinking or existing models, where solutions can’t be identified in the near future, (NMC, 2017). Figure 1.2 describes these challenges in more depth.

Infographic on the six challenges to technology adoption by NMC
Figure 1.2 Summary of the Six Challenges to Technology Adoption.

While experts look into the challenges that require more investigation and assessment of impact, I’d like to focus on one of the solvable challenges: digital literacy. Digital literacy has a broad definition which include a set of skills that “… fit the individual for living, learning, and working in a digital society,” (JISC, 2014). While mostly thought of as the ability to use different types of technology, the definition expands to include a deeper understanding of the digital environment, (NMC, 2017). Successful components of digital literacy include accessing, managing, evaluating, integrating, creating, and communicating information in all aspects of life, (UNESCO, 2011).  The UNESCO Institute for Information Technology in Education argues that digital literacy is basic skill that is equally as important as learning to read, write, and do math, (UNESCO, 2011). Interesting, when students are taught digital literacy and are allowed to use technology in learning, they grasp math and science more readily and easily than students without this skill, (UNESCO, 2011).

While it is clear that digital literacy is an important skill, during a departmental assessment conducted for another class, digital literacy was one of the biggest impediments to adopting technology. Faculty were only adopting technology only in response to industry need.  Many professors were eager to learn but not sure how to start using new technology, while others simply did not see a value in spending time and energy in implement new learning methods. Among the biggest barriers explored were time, knowledge deficit, and lack of professional development on digital literacy. Therefore, improving digital literacy will prove to be crucial to promote more tech adoption in the classroom. Professional development would need to include a conversation on what literacy looks like for each discipline and should not only include online etiquette, digital rights and responsibilities, curriculum design built around student-facing services, but also on the incorporation for the right technology for each context, (NMC, 2017).  

The ISTE standard for educators (2c) states that modelling is the, “identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning” that can be used in professional development, (ISTE, 2017). So the what are effective methods for modeling and facilitating good digital literacy as part of faculty (formal or informal) development?

Peer modeling has been suggested as an alternative to traditional professional development or inservice. Among the reasons for peer modeling success is the fact that peer modeling is personalizable and actionable.  Faculty can choose the various digital literacy topics they are personally interested in, receive one-on-one training related to their knowledge gap and needs while receiving hands-on application, (Samek, et. al, 2016).  George Fox University piloted a peer modeling project after reviewing key data related to a digital fluency mentorship program that utilized tech solutions and the pedagogy to support tech use). The program was initially developed to address faculty desire for one-on-one training.  From faculty feedback survey, the program developers learned that faculty are more likely to adopt a tech solution if they see it in action (actionable examples) and are given evidence of positive student learning outcomes. Due to the success of the program, the university has expanded its efforts to other collaborative development, (Samek, et. al. 2016).

Learning from George Fox’s example, universities could build resources to offer similar professional development on digital literacy to improve technology adoption. What I particularly like about this idea is that it is a different way to look a professional development where the mentor can be the expert but it could also later transition into a co-learning model to increase ownership and interest in technology adoption. This model goes beyond professional development to focus on the real-time needs of each faculty member and work on existing classroom components. Above all, peer modeling improves digital literacy to increase technology adoption to further develop the 21st century skills of students and teachers alike.


JISC, (2014, Dec. 16). Developing digital literacy. [website]. Available from:

New Media Consortium, (2017). Horizon report: 2017 Higher Education. [pdf].  Available from:

RSA, (2010, Oct 14).  Changing educational paradigms [Youtube Video]. Available from:

Samek, L., Ashford, R.M., Doherty, G., Espinor, D., Barardi, A.A., (2016). A peer training model to promote digital fluency among university faculty: Program component and initial efficacy data. Faculty Publications, School of Education. Paper 144.  Available from:

UNESCO Institute for Information Technology in Education, (2011, May). Policy brief. [pdf]. Available from:

Co-learning, Co-teaching, and Cogenerative Dialogues to Improve Learning and Teaching Outcomes

What happens when you allow two people with seemingly different backgrounds to work together?  Great collaboration! This is true of a program co-sponsored by the Center for Educational Equity and Big Brother/ Big Sister that paired 9-14 year old girls with adult women to learn about computers.  The little and big sisters would meet to solve computer problems through a software program called SISCOM, (Wolman, 1986). Together they would dive deep into discussion, take turns leading and learning, helping each other problem solve through a process that provided 20 hours of computer basics instruction, (Wolman, 1986). Not only did the pairs work together to solve their shared problem but institutions worked together to provide the necessary resources.  This story highlights the successes of Co-Learning.

Traditional learning environments are generally set up to rely on one “expert” or teacher to lead and the remaining participants as the learners.  The teacher chooses what material to cover and to what extent the participants engage in the material. While this system works on the surface level, one of the major problems is that the teacher and students do not interact,“…when teachers and students do not interact successfully, contradictions occur,” (Tobin & Roth, 2005). This leads to the development of negative emotions that can manifest as disinterest, disappointment, frustration for the students, and job dissatisfaction for the teachers, (Tobin & Roth, 2005). According to Rheingold, one of the appeals of co-learning is that it levels out the hierarchy of the classroom.  When Rheingold engages in co-learning, he has everyone sit in a circle because then everyone is visible and everyone has an equal voice, (Rheingold, 2018). Co-learning assumes that teacher isn’t the gatekeeper nor the expert in all subjects and that all participants have something valuable to share and teach about a given concept. Just like in the Big Brother/Big Sister example above, neither the little nor big sister had an advantage over the learning and teaching of the SISCOM program. Both partners took equal interest and value in what the other knew, shared, and did. Because of the flattened hierarchy, it increased motivation, engagement, and excitement about learning/teaching, thereby improving learning outcome and attitudes towards learning, (Tobin, 2014).

One of the coveats of co-learning is co-teaching. While co-learning gives all participants an equal voice in learning together, co-teaching takes this a step further by inviting participants to also engage in all phases of the teaching process, (Tobin and Roth, 2005).  When implemented, co-teaching occurs between two or more teachers where one teacher may take on a mentor role. The most important factor of co-teaching is that it is not a mere division of tasks, but rather that teachers participate in the creation of all tasks.  Because some of the learning that occurs is subconscious, following through on process of co-teaching is important, (Tobin & Roth, 2005).

Diagram of the Co-teaching summary
Figure 1.1 Co-Teaching Summary

I’d also like to make a small mention about cogenerative dialogues. Tobin defines cogenerative dialogues as a side-component of co-teaching though it may also be used seperately.  Cogenerative dialogues involves small groups of about 5 individuals representing stakeholders (or demographics) that discuss specific incidences in class including reflection on lessons, (Tobin, 2014). Initially, these discussions can explore what works and what doesn’t in class lessons, but the discussions can also be expanded to roles of students/teachers, classroom rules, and how to use resources, (Tobin, 2014).  The benefit of these independent discussions that that all views and understandings are valued and all explanations are co-generated. It helps to ease communications among all cultural, socioeconomic boundaries by identifying (and acting upon) contradictions and later improving the quality of teaching and learning (Tobin & Roth, 2005).

Diagram of summary of cogenerative dialogue theory
Figure 1.2 Summary of Cogenerative Dialogue Theory

Despite the benefits of co-learning, several barriers should be addressed. Rheingold hypothesizes that teachers may be adverse to adopting co-learning because of the high level of trial and error that goes along with it, (Rheingold, 2018).  Teachers must give up a certain level of control and understand that outcomes will vary from classroom to classroom. While Rheingold is sympathetic to these barriers, he argues that trial and error also offers real-time modeling of problem solving and troubleshooting.  The key is to show students how to reflect upon a problem, re-examine, and adjust to the situation as necessary, (Rheingold, 2018).

Co-learning with a tech twist.  The ISTE standard for educators (4b in particular) indicates that teachers “collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues”, (ISTE, 2017).  In short, the standard places importance on the principles of co-learning addressed by Tobin and Roth, in addition to the modeling Rheingold stresses as a key factor to co-learning by focusing on how technology can foster collaboration while improving troubleshooting skills.  I had a particular problem in mind when I chose to explore this ISTE standard 4 component.  In my human nutrition class, students conduct a dietary analysis on their own diet.  The main features of this assignment is that students must accurately track their intake over the course of three days then input the data into an analysis program, later analyzing the findings in comparison to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The analysis program I had selected for this assignment, SuperTracker (, will be discontinued at the end of this academic year for undisclosed reasons.  While the program was not without its faults, I supported the use of SuperTracker due to the fact that it is a free program easily accessible to anyone with internet, and it relied on the USDA database, an accurate and reliable set of nutrition data. I am now facing the challenge of reviewing apps and websites for SuperTracker’s replacement. However, the assignment would take a whole new meaning for students if they were allowed to co-learn from the start to finish of this project. In order for this project idea to be successful, it is important to consider how  nutrition-related apps can be leveraged to facilitate co-learning among students and professors regarding modes of nutrition education.

Addressing the ISTE Standard. As I started my search of nutrition-related apps and their feasibility for co-learning, I determined that credibility of app information should be a top priority. One of the challenges my students face is finding credible information to further their understanding.  For as long as I’ve been a professor, we’ve always looked at articles and websites and discussed the importance of reviewing these for credibility. However, information is now found in a variety of different mediums not limited to digital articles. Students are now using apps, videos, and other multimedia to gather information.  Understanding where that medium sourced their information is key to determining credibility. By examining and evaluating credibility for each app, all members involved in the use of this app would participate in troubleshooting and problem solving, a key caveat of the ISTE standard.

 The sheer amount of nutrition apps is staggering so I decided to narrow my search by starting with a credible source that provided a curated list, the Apps Review section of the Food and Nutrition Magazine. Food and Nutrition Magazine is a publication of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).  Where AND publishes research through the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics, the magazine is often viewed as the “lighter” side or the “practical” side of the dietetics world. Food and Nutrition Magazine features new products, recipes, research highlights, in short, ways to keep updated in the food and nutrition world. The curated list of apps ( contains reviews of new and upcoming apps by the editors.  Those that are deemed reliable, credible, and useful, make the app list. The apps featured on the list explore a variety of nutrition topics that may have a nutrition education focus including food safety, physical activity, dining out, meal planning, in addition to apps that may be used by professionals in a variety of different capacities, such as video recording.

The list could serve as a good starting point for facilitating co-learning of the human nutrition dietary analysis project.  Having students further explore these apps in pairs (or small groups of three) in relation to assignment parameters can help facilitate collaboration and co-learning.  Adding a presentation element where these pairs teach the class on the usability of their chosen app may invoke the principles of co-learning. Finally, placing students in small, diverse groups and allowing them to reflect on the assignment makes their viewpoints heard as they embark in cogenerative dialogues.

While I initially had my sights set on this curated list for my human nutrition class, some of these apps may help facilitate student-professor collaboration, while others help foster practitioner-patient collaboration, making the possibility for implementing this list in other co-learning scenarios very feasible.  When both parties are able to contribute to how and why an app is used for various purposes, the co-learning is maximized.


ISTE. (2017).  ISTE standards for educators. Available at:

Rheingold, H. (2018). Co-learning: Modeling cooperative-collaborative learning [blog]. Available at:

Tobin, K. (2014). Twenty questions about cogenerative dialogues. In book: Transforming urban education: Collaborating to produce success in science, mathematics and technology education, Chapter 11, Publisher: Sense Netherlands, Editors: Kenneth Tobin, Ashraf Shady, pgs.181-190 DOI: 10.1007/978-94-6209-563-2_11

Tobin, K., Roth, W.M. (2005). Implementing coteaching and cogenerative dialoguing in urban science education. School of Science and Mathematics, 105 (5): 313-21.

Wolman, J. (1986). Co-learning about computers. Educational Leadership, 43 (6), pg. 42.