Category Archives: Teaching, Learning, and Assessments

Community Engagement Project: Understanding by Design Model

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

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


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

Kindergarten Concepts
-3D shapes
-Positional words

Technology Concepts
-Digital photo taking
-Creating classroom Ebook

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

Creating the Lesson

The Six Facets of Understanding

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

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

Digital Citizenship

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

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

Project Reflection

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

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


Common Core State Standards. (2019). Retrieved from

ISTE Standards for Students (2016). Retrieved from:

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

The What, Why, and How of Computational Thinking

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

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

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

What is Computational Thinking?

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

There are 4 main elements of computational thinking:

Information from Google: Computational Thinking for Educators

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

Why is Computational Thinking Important?

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

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

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

How to Introduce Computational Thinking Elements into the Classroom?


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

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

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

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

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

Pattern Recognition :

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

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


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

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

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

Algorithm design:

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

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

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

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

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

Image from Bitesize

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

Image from Bitesize

Putting it all Together

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


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

BBC. (2019). Computational Thinking. Retrieved from

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

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

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

Coding in Elementary Classrooms

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

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

Learning with Coding:

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

Playing with Code:

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

Encouraging Young Designers:

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

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

Curriculum Considerations:

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

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

Positive Technological Development (PTD) Framework:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Coding

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

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

Tools and Programs

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

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

Youngest Students:

8 and Up:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Problem-Based Learning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology Connections

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


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

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

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

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

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

Meaningful Book Reports

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

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

Meaningful & Student Centered

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

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

Showing Understanding & Competency

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISTE Standards

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

MasterTrack – looking closely at Math Data

In my school, we have started to use a program called MasterTrack. At the beginning of the year, over the course of two weeks, I gave students the benchmark tests to see where they were at with grade level standards.  Next, I took the data, entered it in to MasterTrack and quickly saw where students were at with their understanding of the mathematical standards they should be understanding at grade level.  This information has given me a very clear understanding of math content that I need to revisit, which students are needing more challenging work and – what I really have loved – is there is a setting that can provide groupings based on their scores.  This could be to pair with others who are at the same level OR to pair students who could help support and push other students thinking. Again, this is a completely new assessment technology for me – have you used this before?  Any thoughts. I will continue to give the benchmarks connected with this and monitor student growth and report back on what I am noticing and how it is (or is not) working for our classroom.  So far, one struggle I have with the program is that it does not necessarily match up with the curriculum we are using so are the benchmarks a fair assessment?  I would say no BUT the content is the same just the method of, for example, math models may not be representative to what they actually know if the curriculum has not explicitly taught that yet. More thoughts to come!

Technology Professional Development That Teachers Can Use

Many districts are seeing the value of hiring teachers with the job of helping other teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Although these positions can have many different titles (tech integration specialists, technology coach, educational technology consultant, technology coordinator, etc) and different districts use people in these roles in different capacities, having a person support and coach classroom teachers as they integrate technology into their classroom is becoming a necessity in education.  ISTE summarizes the role of these professionals in the “ISTE Standards for Coaches”. The 2nd standards reads, “Technology Coaches assist teachers in using technology effectively for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction, and providing rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning experiences for all students (ISTE, 2011). Teachers have so much to try and stay on top of these days, such as new and changing standards, standardized testing, teacher evaluations, social-emotional learning needs, and outdated curriculum that needs to be supplemented.  Integrating technology in efficient and meaningful ways can make life easier for students, teachers, and families. However, making these shifts and trying new things can be daunting when your plate is already full. Having a specialist whose job it is to help teachers make these changes by providing trainings, individualized coaching, and on-going support can have tremendous benefits to a district. But, with so many teachers on different pages as far as their experience, skill set, and comfort level with technology, it can be hard for a technology coach to provide professional development to a large group of teachers with the goal of everyone leaving feeling that their time was valued and that they now have something new they can implement in their teaching.

What do Teachers Want/Need? Just Ask!

When you are not currently teaching in a classroom position, it is hard to know what exactly teachers want or need at any particular moment.  Like with so many things in life, when you don’t know or aren’t sure, just ask! People appreciate this! This can be done in formal or informal ways.  An easy way to formally survey a group of teachers to which you will be providing upcoming training is to send out a Google Form with a variety of answer formats (multiple choice, open-ended questions, scales (1-10)). Be sure to ask a variety of questions and be specific in your requests for information from teachers (Gonzales, 2016).  Informal ways of getting to know what your audience’s preferences for a training might be to come to the school a week or two beforehand and stop in classrooms before or after school to chat. Or eat lunch in the staffroom and engage teachers in casual conversation on what they might be looking for as far as technology integration needs. Another option would be to “work the room” as teachers are arriving at the training and getting set-up. Gonzales writes in her blog about ed-tech consultant, Rodney Turner, using this strategy, “If you can’t send out a survey ahead of time, you can still get to know your audience the day of the training. Rodney Turner describes how he does this: “What I love to do is to circulate the room. I come in early, and I set my stuff up and have it done, so that way as people are coming in, I talk to them: ‘Hi, how are you doing, my name’s Rodney, where are you from, what grade, what do you teach…what do you want to learn from this session?’ And that has helped me so much in being able to reach out to people to understand where they’re coming from.” (Gonzales, 2016).

Enlist Help from the Experts

When teachers want help on how to prepare for a lesson or how to understand the curriculum, they typically walk next door or down the hall.  Note the percent of teachers who say ideas from other teachers is the most helpful when it comes to technology training in the chart below (Education Week Research Center, 2016 ).

Teachers respect other teachers and know that “they know what it’s like”.  Teachers are such an invaluable asset to each other because each and every teacher has different skill sets, different teaching styles, and different teaching experiences. You can learn something from every teacher and every teacher can learn from you.  When a technology coach is planning for a professional development training they should enlist help from the group they will be “training”. Find the “experts” in different areas of technology and use them to share examples of what they have done in their classrooms and what has worked and what hasn’t. In her blog post, Gonzales talks with tech coordinator Sarah Thomas about how she looks for teachers in the audience as a potential resource.  “Not only does this approach enhance her presentation, it also makes the training more enjoyable for the teacher who already has that knowledge. “There’s nothing worse than being at a session where you already know what’s going on and you’re just kind of being talked at, you know?” says Thomas.” (Gonzales, 2017).

Provide Options

If there are several technology coaches in your district, or if you have enlisted the help of teacher leaders (see paragraph above!), then another way to help provide staff with technology integration learning experiences that are best suited for their needs is to provide options for professional development.  This might be structured with multiple “levels” on the same topic that teachers can self select in to, or it might be that you have a larger menu of a variety of options so that teachers can choose what will be most useful for them depending on factors such as their grade level, subject area, and their experience with technology.  Another option is to make these trainings optional for teachers or offer 3 different session times and someone can attend 0, 1, 2, or 3 sessions based on their needs. The key here is to give teacher’s choice on how they spend their time. Everyone wants to feel that their time is valued, especially teachers with limited time and ever-growing demands on this time.


Receiving a lot of new and exciting information can feel both inspiring and overwhelming.  You walk out of a professional development session and you can’t wait to get back to your classroom to try out all that you have learned, but when you arrive at school the next day you are met with a long to-do list just to keep on top of your daily work routine.  Or after reflecting on the training, you have some logistical questions to figure out before you attempt implementation of what you just learned. When this happens, teachers will either struggle through and give this new skill or strategy their best shot or they will throw the towel in because they don’t have what they need to feel confident implementing what they have learned.  This is the time period when we need to “capture” these teachers and give them what they need to feel empowered to make this change in their teaching. Following up in a timely manner is key.

Be sure to send the teachers you are training away with your contact information and a digital link to any resources you shared or any resources that might help them deepen their understanding of what they have learned (Gonzales, 2016). But, as a technology coach, don’t rely on teachers to reach out to you. Technology integration, although we all know how important it is, is only one aspect on a classroom teacher’s job. Reach out to them, whether it’s individually, as a large group, online, or in-person.  Make that connection and work on building these professional relationships.  “What I have said to the teachers I work with is that the time we are together, in person, is just the start of a conversation. Because technology grows and changes so quickly, we can’t rely on traditional methods of learning to stay on top of it. We can’t wait for a textbook to be published; to really make the most of what the machines can offer us, what we ultimately need is each other, so staying connected is an essential part of any tech training. (Gonzales, 2016).”




Flanigan, R. (2016). Education Week (35, 35), pp. 31-32. Ed-Tech Coaches Becoming Steadier Fixture in Classrooms


Gonzales, Jennifer (2016). Cult of Pedagogy Website (Retrieved on May 24, 2018) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, May 30) from:


Digital Citizenship for Elementary Students

Just when elementary teachers thought they couldn’t possibly have anything else stacked on their plate, teaching digital citizenship has been added to their load. However, when a district or school has a intentional, well-organized, and comprehensive plan in place, digital citizenship does not have to seem like another chore or standard to check off.  Digital citizenship can be woven into what is already being taught in the classroom and should not be the responsibility of just one person or position. Digital citizenship should become a way of life in the classroom. Children often learn as much, or more, from adults modeling behavior than by adults expliciting teaching skills and behaviors. Crompton (2014) summarizes this well in her blog post on the ISTE website: “Students are much more likely to understand good digital citizenship — the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use — when teachers model it on a regular basis. It is also important for all educators to spend time directly teaching and actively promoting digital citizenship. And keep in mind that it’s not just one person’s job to teach digital citizenship in a school, but everyone’s shared responsibility.”


Curriculum: A Place to Start


Common Sense Media is a tremendous resource for digital citizenship lessons. These lessons address students K-12 and cover all aspects of digital citizenship such as: internet safety, privacy and security, relationships and communication, cyberbullying and digital drama, digital footprint and reputation, self-image and identity, information literacy, and creative credit and copyright.  I have taught many of these lessons K-5 and was impressed by the ease of use for teachers, engagement for students, and quality and quantity of material covered. There is even a brief tutorial for teachers to introduce them to digital citizenship instruction and this suite of free products.  Some of my favorite features of this resource are the “family tip sheet” and the videos. I also like how the lessons are interactive for the students and build upon each other throughout the grades.  You can teach just one lesson or use every lesson in the curriculum, it’s really up to you to customize what is best for your school or classroom. If you are new to teaching digital citizenship, I recommend Common Sense Media as a good place to start!


Why Digital Citizenship


There have been many years where in my elementary classroom I had only 3 simple “rules” for students to follow: Be safe, be respectful, and participate as best as you can.   Diana Fingal, in her article “Infographic: Citizenship in the Digital Age” from the ISTE website describes the elements of digital citizenship in similar terms. “The elements of digital citizenship, it turns out, are not so different from the basic tenets of traditional citizenship: Be kind, respectful and responsible, and participate in activities that make the world a better place. (Fingal, 2017)”.  Below is the infographic Fingal shared in her article:

Inforgraphic from:


Our students are using technology at skyrocketing rates both in the classroom and at home. Most of them enter Kindergarten well versed in how to navigate their way around a phone or tablet and able to manipulate websites and digital cameras. School is a place where we encourage our students to “make mistakes”. We want them to try new things, take risks, and step out of their comfort zones in order to develop and grow as life-long learners and citizens.  We want them to makes mistakes when the stakes are low and when they are well-supported by adults they trust. It is imperative that we teach our students how to become responsible, respectful, and valuable digital citizens when they are in our classrooms. This is not a skill set they come with and although this generation of digital natives may seem to have this all ingrained into them, they do not and this is a teaching opportunity, we (as educators) cannot miss. Crompton and Fingal both agree.

“Contrary to popular belief, however, digital natives don’t pick up these skills through osmosis. It falls on parents and educators to teach them how. Just as a teacher would talk to students about etiquette and safety before they enter a public place on a school trip, so must they remind students of what’s expected of them online.” (Crompton, 2014).


Just as all kids throughout the centuries have needed help from their parents, teachers and mentors along the path to becoming good citizens, our digital natives need guidance as they learn how to apply the elements of citizenship to the realities they encounter in a connected world.” (Fingal, 2017).




Common Sense Media website (Retrieved on May 17, 2018) form:


Crompton, H. (2014). website (Retrieved on May 20, 2018) from:


Fingal, D. (2017). website (Retrieved on May 20, 2018) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Educators. (Retrieved on 2018, April 30) from:

Krueger, N. (2014). website (Retrieved on May 20, 2018) from:

Animation in the Elementary Classroom

Many children’s first experience with technology is animation.  So it makes sense that animation can have a valuable and influential impact in the classroom. Currently in my coursework we are looking at ISTE Standards for Educators, specifically Standard 5: Designer- Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability. (ISTE, 2017).  One of the three indicators for this standard reads “Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.” (ISTE, 2017)  One way I have used technology to personalize learning experiences for students is through animation. Through animation I have been able to differentiate my instruction, engage my students, and help all learners make connections to the real world.  


Using Animation to Hook Students and Create Connections


As I mentioned in the previous paragraph many children’s first experience with screens is with animation. Cartoons have an ability to hook very young children (which can be viewed as positive or negative) and also have the ability for toddler and preschool age children to begin to form connections to “people” outside of their family.  In a blog post on ASCD, Janelle Vargo writes about “10 Reasons to Use Animation in the Classroom” (Vargo, 2017). She discusses how she has seen her students adjust their behavior due to the positive influences of animated characters and videos.  Of Vargo’s 10 Reasons, I have chosen the 5 that I agree with the most and have experienced in my personal and professional life. Here are my “top picks” from Vargo’s list (Vargo, 2017):


  1. “Students in K-2 Classrooms Relate to Animated Characters”
  2. “Animated Stories Can Teach Empathy”
  3. “Student’s Imitate the Character’s Behavior”
  4. “Animated Stories are an Effective Way to Convey Information”
  5. “Stories Create a Shared Viewing Experience”


Students come to us with social-emotional needs that, when not addressed, can hinder their learning experiences in our classrooms.  Animation is a tool that can be used to help address these needs and create a classroom community based on common language, relatable character “friends”,  and shared experiences.


The Art of Creating Animation


Most things that we enjoy watching or experiencing, we are bound to want to try out. How is that done? Can I do that? Creating animation in the classroom can be multidisciplinary, is learner-driven, and can be adapted to accommodate a variety of learning styles and skill sets. Animation can be a very authentic learning experience for a variety of subject areas. In my classroom I have had students create animated stories with no guidelines just to introduce them to the process. Other times I have given a specific assignment (example: create an animated video on how you got to school this morning) and/or given them instructions for features I wanted them to use or the length of their animated story.  In my experience, students approached creating the animations in very different ways. It allowed for me to see the diversity in my students’ creativities and how they worked through the design process in different ways. One thing that all students had in common was that they wanted an audience for their animations; they wanted to share their story with their peers and with me. This is what I want for my students. I want them to want to share their stories and to be comfortable and confident sharing their thinking and their creativity.


Best Programs for Elementary Students is a website that I use frequently in my classroom. I like the variety and value of the programs on the website and I appreciate that the programs are free. (There is a fee to go ad-free and for use on tablets and phone.) One of the digital tools on that I have used for my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students is Animate. I found the Animate Tutorial, which is only a couple minutes long, to be a great resource and I have shown this to each class when I introduced the program. The students found it very helpful and at times I saw them revisiting the tutorial on their own.  Animate seems best for upper elementary students who have had no or limited experience creating animation. There is an option to export an animation as a GIF file, although I have yet to do this with my students. Here are some of my favorite features on Animate:

  1. Copy Frame– I like the ability to copy each frame and how this is really emphasized in the tutorial video.
  2. Images– There are numerous images students can choose from when creating their animation. This takes away the pressure to create original drawing for those students who choose not to or have limited time.
  3. Edit Background– There are 7 backgrounds to choose from as well as the option to create your own or upload an image.
  4. Frame Rate– Students can view their animation in slow, medium, or fast speed and choose to play it in a loop as well.

While there are many other options for creating animation in the classroom, I have found success in terms of student engagement, ease of use, and the ability to accomodate for all learners with using Animate from  I especially like that it is a free program. Most other programs had costs involved in the purchase of the apps and/or weren’t compatible for the platforms I use in my classroom. If interested in other options, I encourage you to visit Common Sense Media’s blog for “16 Websites and Apps for Making Videos and Animation”. I found several apps on this list that seem to be good options when I am ready to take animation to the next level in my classroom.



Holderman, E. (2014). Common Sense Media website (Retrieved on May 1, 2018) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Educators. (Retrieved on 2018, April 30) from:

Vargo, J. (2017). ASCD Website (Retrieved on May 1, 2018) from:



How can teachers best collaborate asynchronously using technology?


For my current course (Teaching, Learning, and Assessment II) in my Digital Education Leadership Program at Seattle Pacific University, we are looking at the ISTE Standards for Educators. These standards are fairly new, having been “refreshed” in 2017.  For this first module in this course, we are looking at Standard 4 – Collaborator: Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.  For my work I have chosen to look more closely at the first indicator for this standards: Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology (ISTE, 2017).  

Teacher Collaboration


I wanted to focus on collaboration among teachers because I see how valuable and effective collaboration can be and the positive effects it can have on teachers, students, and entire school community.  Teaching can be an isolating profession, even when you are constantly in a room with 20+ students most of the day and collaboration is a way for teachers to feel connected and supported. All teachers bring such different skill sets, interests, experiences, and knowledge, and when we find a way to share and utilize all the amazing things that are happening in classrooms down the hall, everyone benefits.  While in-person synchronous collaboration certainly has been the preferred (and often only) mode of collaboration in the past, time and physical constraints make finding time to collaborate difficult and sometimes exclude teachers whose schedules don’t work for the collaboration times or teachers who didn’t have similar subject colleagues at the same location. One way to alleviate these issues is by utilizing technology tools so that teachers can collaborate asynchronously at any time or location that works for their schedule. There are technology tools out there that will allow for asynchronous teacher collaboration to be  as, if not more, valuable as traditional synchronous in-person collaboration.


Asynchronous Collaboration Benefits


Asynchronous, technology-driven teacher collaboration can have many benefits:

  1. Collaborative products/resources are easy to access and available by all members of the group at any time

      2. Collaborative work can be created/edited/shared by multiple authors

       3. More equitable opportunities for participation by all members


Different Tech Tool Options to be Used for Collaboration


When researching this topic, I came upon a “top picks” list on Common Sense Education for “Student Collaboration Tools”.  I use Common Sense resources quite a bit in my professionally and have found their “top picks” lists very useful.  Although this list is geared more towards student collaboration, I felt that student collaboration (especially in high school) is not that much different than teacher collaboration; a group of people working together to create or plan something that is hopefully a better product that it would be if done individually.  Another goal is a more time-efficient product, especially for teachers who are often stretched thin on time. In this video from Vancouver Public Schools, it is mentioned that “learning together” and collaboration are key pieces of developing a professional learning ecosystem.

My district uses the Google Apps for Education and I have found this a very good platform for asynchronous teacher collaboration. However, I was curious as to what else was out there.  Besides the Google tools (Hangouts and Drive), I have not used the tools listed below but I hope to in the near future as I dive deeper into asynchronous teacher collaboration.

All of the tools I have listed below are included on Common Sense Education’s “Top Picks” Best Student Collaboration Tools.


  1. Google Hangouts- “Google Hangouts is a Google-based service that allows you to communicate through text or video with anyone in your network. Hangouts can also be recorded and archived if you ever want to revisit a conversation or lesson.”
  2. Google Drive- “Originally called Google Docs, Google Drive is a combo online-productivity software suite and cloud-based, file-synchronizing service. Basically, it does everything and lets you put everything somewhere.”
  3. Chalk-Up– “Chalkup is a learning management system (LMS) focused on two things: (1) providing seamless transition from school to home to bus/car rides to extra-curricular events and (2) fostering discussion and collaboration.” This seems very similar to Google Classroom and was recently acquired by Microsoft.
  4. Mural– “MURAL is a website where kids can save text, video, and images to a virtual corkboard to share or catalog them for future use. It functions as a social bookmarking aid and brainstorming tool by making idea sharing and presentation a simple, visual process. Text elements function like notes and can be moved and revised by one or more users.”


*descriptions of above listed tech tools from Common Sense Media




Chalkup (Retrieved on 2018, April 6)from: Top Picks for Student Collaboration Tools (Retrieved on 2018, April 6) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Educators. (Retrieved on 2018, April 6) from:


Mural (Retrieved on 2018, April 6) from:


Office of Educational Technology. Future Ready: Establishing a Professional Learning Ecosystem. (2016, April 05). Retrieved from: