Category Archives: Teaching, Learning, and Assessments

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such as new and changing standards, standardized testing, teacher evaluations, social-emotional learning needs, and outdated curriculum that needs to be supplemented.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:


Incorporating Technology using Backwards Design

This quarter our culminating project for course EDTC 6102 (Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 1) in the Digital Education Leadership program required us to read the text, Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and create a lesson or unit of study incorporating technology in a meaningful way using backwards design as detailed in the book. While I have created thousands of lesson plans in my teaching career, the concept of backwards design was fairly new to me.  While I like to think that most of my lessons are focused on and constructed around the learning objective, having the opportunity to really dive into the details of this concept of lesson planning and be forced to explicitly plan a lesson or unit step by step following Wiggins and McTighe’s framework was very valuable and allowed for a great deal of reflection on my own teaching practice and curriculum planning in general.  I chose to explore how our youngest students first begin to understand coding and computer programming, both how it works and why it is important. This learning experience has students using age-appropriate robots (Code-a-pillar, Bee-Bot, or Code-and-go Mouse) that must be programmed to run.  Students are required to problem solve, design, reflect, and be creative through the learning activities listed below.


Introducing Coding to Primary Students Using Robots


Learning Plan

1. Pre-Assessment. What is a robot? 

2. Group discussion:  What do you know about robots? Where have you seen one? What do they do? Can they do different things? Can they help us? Share our pre-assessments.

3. Introduce the Code-a-pillar, Bee-Bot, or Code-and-go Mouse. How is this the same or different from other robots we have seen or heard about?

4. How can we tell the robot how to move? “Let’s test it out several times in several ways!” “Will the same code always do the same thing? Test it out whole-class, then in small groups.

5. Make a plan for the Code-a-pillar. First “code” the robot, then predict where it will finish. Next choose (or have a peer choose) where the robot should stop at the end of the code and program the robot to get to that location.

6. De-bug. How can we make changes if the robot doesn’t do what we had planned for it to do?

7. Work in Small Groups (3-4) students to build an Obstacle Course for your robot.

8. Class Discussion: What you are all doing in coding. What is coding? Why is it important? Where it is used in your life?

9. Verbal/written and classroom observation Assessment :

  • Students will be able to verbally articulate what coding is (in 5-7 year old age appropriate vocabulary) when asked     ***This could be a writing prompt for 1st graders later in the school year
  • Students will be able to verbally articulate why coding is (in 5-7 year old age appropriate vocabulary) important for our society when asked    ***This could be a writing prompt for 1st graders later in the school year
  • Students will work in pairs (or small groups) with each partnership/group having a Code-a-pillar. They will be tasked with having their Code-a-pillars do the same program. Hopefully the students will realize that the Code-a-pillars need to have the same codes in the same sequence to run identical codes.

10. Self-Assessment

11. Reflection: Students will reflect on these learning experiences using a journal. Primary reflection journal from

12. Next Steps: curriculum: First,  Unplugged lessons (K Lesson  and 1st Lesson) and then Course A  (Kindergarten) and Course B (1st grade).


Digital Citizenship


ISTE Student Standard 2 is perhaps one of the most important standards for our students because with all the opportunities the digital world offers there is a great deal of potential for negative experiences and repercussions, especially when users are young and inexperienced.  This is why it is critical that we teach our students to “recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world” and ensure “they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical” (ISTE, 2017). With my lesson on using robots, the students are exposed to this standard when they begin to understand the “big picture” of code and programming. During our discussions about what coding is and why is is important to our world, students will recognize the opportunities of living, learning, and working in a interconnected digital world.


Reflection on the Backwards Design Process

This project was valuable to me because it required me to become a more reflective teacher.  Several times during this quarter when I was working on this project, I found myself going back to the beginning (or the end since I was working backwards) to look at the work I had done and make changes as I continued through the process.  I also liked how this process allowed the teacher to become the “designer” of the lesson. While the process was well structured, it also allowed for a great deal of creativity and professional judgement and preference. The most challenging phase for me was actually the first phase – Desired Results.  I think this was the case because it is often this phase of the lesson or unit that we, as educators, often just plug in from the list of standards we have be given for the grade and content area we are teaching. It is the part of the lesson or unit that it typically not given much thought or reflection.  For this project I focused mostly on one lesson, but I think in the future when I use Backwards Design I will plan for an entire unit or even use it to look at my curriculum map for the entire school year. I think this way of looking at learning activities and instruction would also be beneficial to students. It could help answer a lot of the “Why are we doing this?” type of questions and allow students to be involved of the design of their own learning experiences.

The Six Facets of Understanding

In their book Wiggins and McTighe write “understanding is multidimensional and complicated.  There are different types of understanding, different methods of understanding, and conceptual overlap with other intellectual targets.” Because of this complexity, Wiggins and McTighe “developed a multifaceted view of what makes up a mature understanding, a six sided view of the concept. When we truly understand, we

  • Can explain—via generalizations or principles, providing justified and systematic accounts of phenomena, facts, and data; make insightful connections and provide illuminating examples or illustrations.
  • Can interpret—tell meaningful stories; offer apt translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make the object of understanding personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models.
  • Can apply—effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real contexts—we can “do” the subject.
  • Have perspective—see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.
  • Can empathize—find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible; perceive sensitively on the basis of prior direct experience.
  • Have self-knowledge—show metacognitive awareness; perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; are aware of what we do not understand; reflect on the meaning of learning and experience. (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005)”

When considering my lesson on using robots to introduce primary students to coding, I feel like I touch on all of these facets.  Although my students (for this lesson) are young, ages 5-7, their ability to understand really isn’t that different from an adult.  

  • When my students code their robots they can explain why they chose the codes they did.  
  • When my students create obstacle courses for their robots they can interpret what they have learned about programming these robots.   
  • When my students debug their code they can apply what they have learned to “do” the real work (makes errors and learning from those errors).
  • When my students program the robot in two different ways (code first then predict the ending point and choose the ending point and then program the robot to get there) they have perspective to see the big picture.
  • When my students discuss what they think of when they hear the word “robot” and share their ideas with their peers they can empathize by finding value in others’ understandings and experiences.
  • When my students complete their self-assessment and reflect on the learning activity in their journals they have self-knowledge on how the learning experience impacted them.


Sources: website (Retrieved on 2018, March 10)


Gonzalez, J. (2014, June 23). Understanding by Design, Introduction and Chapters 1-4. [Blog post]. Retrieved from (2017) ISTE Standards for Students. (Retrieved on 2018, March 17) from:


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Inquiry-Based Learning…not just a buzzword

Inquiry learning may have become somewhat of a an educational buzzword. However, I am here to tell you that the student learning benefits from this type of learning is real. Back in the fall, I had the opportunity to give a professional development workshop in my school district about Genius Hour (perhaps another buzzword, but a method of inquiry-based learning if you haven’t heard of it). Having experimented with successful implementation the previous school year, I have thought about this quite a bit. In fact, I have became so interested that I developed a graduate course on inquiry-based learning through Seattle Pacific University.

You can also watch my EdSurge Ignite Talk outlining my work with inquiry-based learning in my classroom here:

The following is a list of what I’ve learned about implementing inquiry-based learning in a middle school classroom, which can be adapted to any grade level.

1. Let your students pick!

Interest-driven and student-directed goes hand-in-hand with inquiry-based learning. When you’re asking students to deep dive into a topic, it only makes sense that they care about it. True interest can only be guaranteed if they’ve chosen the topic. That’s not to say there should be parameters. In my first round of inquiry-based learning, I asked students to investiagte a topic they didn’t feel they learned enough about in their social studies class. In our second round, they were asked to solve a problem in their local community. While broad, these umbrella topics allowed me to provide students with focus questions to drive their work.

2. Be flexible.

If one student is researching renewable energy legislation and another is trying to recreate a turn of the century washing machine, processes, deadlines and grading practices might need to flex to accommodate their work. If students see only one path to an A, they will be less apt to take a risk.

3. Failure is to be expected. Prepare your students for this and don’t allow it to hurt their grade.

Contacting a U.S. Representative may not happen for your students. The underwater submarine model they are building may not work. They need to know that this is okay and that the trial and error process is valuable. The confines of earning an A often limit our students. This is where we should start to revaluate how we set up projects.

4. Allow technology to support, but not dominate student learning.

If a students wants to film a commercial and you don’t have the slightest idea how to do this, that’s okay. Your students (depending on their age) have the prowess to figure this out too. It is okay to say, “Create a plan for how you’d like to do this and I’ll be here to support you.” What sounds like an edeavor far larger than you have time for might be as simple as a student recording on their phone and turning to a peer for help in learning a simple mobile editing tool. You never know until you open up this door. You might find you learn a lot yourself!

5. Praise students for their tenacity; this type of learning is not easy.

It is true. Learning in this way has many similarities to how adults work in the real world: creating a plan, learning along the way, utilizing experts around you, being flexible, etc. This may be the first time a student hasn’t been told, “This is how you earn an A” and for some this will be extremely frustrating.


You still need assignments, check-ins, deadlines, and lessons. While most of what I wrote above may sound like you will send your little chickens loose on the farm to scrounge for feed, this isn’t true. Modeling how to do online research, tools for project management, check-in deadlines and support meetings with you, as well as project proposals are all necessary and important to student success. This type of learning is ripe for direct instruction lessons and teacher modeling on all types of topics.

Contact me if you have questions or are interested in brainstorming together!


Developing Human Capacity in Teacher Leaders

My question this week was about how we can develop human capacity in teachers to become technology leaders? How do we get them to step up and share what they know and teach others?

Selfishly, I took this tack at it because it gives me an opportunity to share a project I’ve been working on for the last couple of years, the Future Ready Teacher Cohort. Two years ago our district still had no mobile devices available for students and our technology PD consisted of random, district wide classes on a variety of topics. Neither the access or the training was really changing anything significantly, even with three Instructional Technology TOSAs thrown into the mix. So I did some research.

First, we had heard over and over again over the course of the first few months in our position that there was never enough time to figure out how to take what you learned in a training and really implement it in class before other demands and priorities got in the way. We also heard that they didn’t see the relevance for themselves in what they were learning. Upon more conversation it came down to an issue of confidence. Because they didn’t feel confident in being able to use the tools they couldn’t really see how it fit into their instruction. They needed ongoing support. It wasn’t enough for us to just say “call us if you need us” after a training. We needed to check back.

I started looking at professional development models and ways for teachers to self evaluate their own learning and came across the Future Ready Schools website. At the time, there was a link to a MOOC about Future Ready Schools that my colleagues and I took. We were able to take a look at some examples from other schools and do some reading and research on issues around technology and professional development that began to change our thinking.

What we developed from that was an opportunity to create teacher leaders with the capacity to teach others. We offered a cart of mobile devices as an incentive and in turn we asked the teachers for 2 full days in the summer and 6 three hour evening meetings over the course of 7 months. Each meeting had a combination of skill instruction, a new tool or website to try out, pedagogical instruction around SAMR, blended learning, etc., and collaborative work time. Our goal was to transform learning relationships in our school district. We asked the teachers to do IGNITE (20 slides and 5 minutes to tell your story) sessions at the end of the year to reflect on their learning. It was amazing to see how much they had grown over the course of a year. They were confident with trying things out and many were already offering training of their own in their buildings.

We have just completed our 2nd year which was equally promising and are getting applications ready for the upcoming school year. Some members of our first year group are going to be teaching the 2nd year group this next year so I can focus on the new group. This new group is not going to be made up of our technology pioneers however. We are now reaching the late adopter group.

I’m interested to see how I will need to shift the instruction for this group in order to get them to the same level of confidence as the first year group. I was taking a look at an interesting article by Laurie Blondy (2007) that was analyzing, and in come cases refuting, Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory. The basics of adult learning theory are these five principles:

  1. Adult learners are self directed.
  2. Adults bring experience with them to the learning environment.
  3. Adults are ready to learn to perform their role in society.
  4. Adults are problem oriented, and they seek immediate application of their new knowledge.
  5. Adults are motivated to learn by internal factors.

After years of working with adults I’ve questioned some of those principals and Blondy’s article brings up many of the same issues I have.

  1. Not all adult learners are self directed. Some are there because they have to, because they are complying with something or need to earn clock hours and, as adults, this learning time is competing with family, work and personal time and is only one of many irons teachers have in the fire. Although they don’t want to be lectured to, they also aren’t necessarily ready to create their own course of study and set their own goals. There has to be a balance between some skill based training that is offered based on their needs and some choice in where they take those skills from there. Blondy suggests that online facilitators “must encourage learners to be as self-directed as possible, allowing them to be creative with assignments and projects, encouraging their input and suggestions, while remaining available for consultation to provide guidance when needed.”
  2. Adults do bring experiences to the learning environment and that can be a huge asset if you can find ways to connect their learning to their background knowledge and they can be invaluable resources to each other. And, they can also bring a certain fixed mindset to their learning that can be hard to overcome.
  3. Adults do know their role and are generally ready to learn if you can keep it relevant to them. This is a great reason to make sure, as an instructor, that I give them time to clarify why they are there and what they are hoping to get out of the learning experience. That being said, it’s easy not to put the “hard stuff” on your list of personal learning goals. I think it has to be a balance of professional competencies that we expect teachers to know, because they need to use certain tools and teach certain standards to their students, and choices to pursue certain tools or skills in more depth. It’s the folks who reach a certain mastery that we can count on to begin teaching what they know to others.
  4. Adults are problem oriented and seek immediate application but aren’t always able to analyze what the problem is very clearly. Learning and implementing a keyboarding software with 3rd graders without addressing good writing instruction is not going to make their SBA test scores any higher. We have to be able to help them sift down to the area the students are struggling with and address the wider instructional needs which technology may or may not be able to help address.
  5. So far, my cohort members have been motivated mostly by internal interest in learning what’s best for their students, a cart of mobile devices to use in their classroom, and free dinner, but I’ve already gotten feedback that they would also like to get paid for their time. There is a certain amount of “have to attend” that is tied to training but not everyone is in it for the professional development.

The trick for me is to keep it practical, relevant, mix it up so their are some choices and to give them lots of time to talk to their peers and collaborate together. We’ll see where it takes us next year.


Blondy, L. C. (2007). Evaluation and Application of Andragogical Assumptions to the Adult Online Learning Environment. Journal of interactive Online Learning, 6(2), 116-130. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from

Tracey, R. (2011, August 26). Adult learning shminciples. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from


Responsible Use Policies

My original question was “How do we raise awareness in teachers about their roles and responsibilities regarding legal and ethical behavior?”  I still think it’s important but I’m not finding any good resources regarding teaching teachers about digital citizenship as professionals, it’s pretty much all about how to teach their students.

I shifted my focus toward developing Responsible Use Policies because I believe the process of developing a more positive, forward thinking policy will help us change the conversation about digital citizenship and legal and ethical behavior among teachers as well as students. It’s not going to be enough to just tell people what to do. We have to model ongoing conversations about digital citizenship and create cultures in our schools that are supportive enough that we can call each other on inappropriate digital behavior without it feeling like we are accusing or policing.

Our schools have to be learning environments where we can make and fix mistakes in a safe place and there will be a lot of learning that will need to happen. It’s not just our students generation that sees the content they find online as free and reusable. Teachers often use content without attribution, I’ve done it myself. The trick, i think, will be finding a balance and making it easier for teachers to access resources when they have questions about privacy policies on websites, fair use and copyright, and have had the chance to wrestle with and talk to their peers about ethical digital issues.   

House Bill 6273, which was recently signed into law in Washington State, requires a broad group of stakeholders (teachérs, administrators, parents, and community members) to meet regularly to review digital citizenship policies. Considering how quickly technology changes, it will make our policy more responsive. I’ve heard that WASDA is working on a template for Responsible Use Policies for districts. We should be able to use that but if it isn’t ready we will be able to use the work that Northshore School District has done to develop theirs. The ultimate goal is to shift the focus away from what we don’t want staff and students to do with technology to what we do want them to do with it. It will shift the conversation away from punishment to educating people, which is ultimately our goal. Eventually, I’d like to figure out how to translate these documents into kid friendly language (AUPs​ ​in​ ​kid​ ​Friendly​ ​Language​ ​​  ) as well so that teachers can use them with their younger students to teach them about their digital rights and responsibilities.


AUPs in kid Friendly Language

Student Centered Acceptable Use Policy

House Bill 6273


Developing Tech Fluency for Teachers

My focus is on ISTE 3a: Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations. Our teachers have been often stymied in developing true fluency in their tech skills because we’ve used a very traditional model of professional development where we’ve introduced a new tool, given them a couple of hours of ‘sit and get’ training and then sent them off on their own to figure it out. We know that training like that doesn’t work, except for the small majority of pioneer adopters who are self motivated to figure it out. We also often offer these trainings out of context with the curriculum they need to teach which causes even good PD to lack immediate relevance to their classrooms.

The new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) legislation is offers a slightly new definition for Professional Development that may help districts shift their thinking around how we provide PD for staff and allow them to focus on helping teachers develop the fluency they need to truly support student’s work with technology as well as increasing their own willingness to adapt to the challenges that technology brings. Some of the main shifts are a move toward Professional Development that are personalized and evidence based learning for teachers. They also define PD as being “sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day or short term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven and classroom focused.”

These changes have caused me to take a closer look at our own PD thinking, especially around technology. One of the ways we can begin to personalize and provide evidence based training is to use the idea of microcredentialing for teachers. Once we define professional competencies for teachers, based on what students need to be able to know and be able to do, we can develop a variety of PD options that will allow teachers to make choices about the what they focus on, how they go about learning or showing evidence of their learning.

We recently chose a platform called Kyte Learning to help us with this goal. Kyte is a professional learning system that has skill and pedagogically based training available for many of the most widely used software for education (Google, Office365, LMS systems, Formative Assessment tools, and more). Each module is crafted using videos for learning that are no longer than 3 minutes long. They are in well organized sequences that allow teachers to choose the pieces they need to learn. They are not tied to having to complete sections that are not relevant to their learning. Each course has a section on basic how tos and then move on to uses in the classroom for the tool. We will be able to create our own modules as well and may consider having different levels of mastery for modules (beginner, intermediate and advanced). Each module has an assessment with it but we’ll also be able to require evidence (screen shots, documents, links, etc.) so that teachers have options when giving us evidence. They have the option of skipping to the assessment or evidence submission directly so that teachers who come with the skills can earn the badges without sitting through the whole module. A mastery module, for example, would require student evidence and some reflection of how they used it with students in their classroom.

Our goal is to offer our PD in three ways: 1) in person training (group or individually), 2) Kyte Video Training, 3) Direct submission of evidence. This will allow teachers to personalize their path, show mastery in the competencies, offer choice and at the same time give the district a way to help hold staff accountable to using the skill. The fluency will be built by regularly encouraging teachers to increase their level of credentials each year and purposefully labeling transfer skills and where they can be applied. It will take a while to develop and add our own content but it’s a step in the right direction.


Definition of Professional Development. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2017, from

Pierce, D. (2016, May 24). ESSA Redefines Professional Development for Teachers. Are You Ready for This Shift? Retrieved May 02, 2017, from


Visual Literacy: Analyzing Infographics with Students

In my last post, I wrote about the use of infographics in the classroom. Their creation can be a powerful exercise in both visual literacy and graphic design. A far cry from the poster projects of my youth, infographics call on students to synthesize information and think thematically. Just because you present students with a great online infographic creation tool (Piktochart, Visme, etc.) doesn’t mean they are ready to create one. Many students are not even familiar with the term infographic (informative graphic). I start any lesson on the topic by asking students to analyze the work of others. This extra step yields far better results in students’ final work.

Questions to Ask Students

  • How do you read this image? From left to right?

  • How does the organization of information/text structure help an author and a reader establish important themes?

  • What do you see first? Why?

  • What stands out to you at second glance? Why?

  • Where does your eye travel?

  • What relationship is shown in this infographic? How do you know? What choices did the designer make to ensure this was clear, even from afar? How does this help you to read this information?

  • How is color used? What is bright and what is dull in color? Why do you think the creator chose to do this?

Students are amazed to realize that these design decisions are not haphazard, but purposefully considered by the author. 

"Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities" by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

“Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities” by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

For example, consider the infographic above. A quick “read” yields some clear key aspects of this infographic’s design. Thematic imagery is used to convey the larger message (farm-to table practices are present in some U.S. schools). Even a cursory glance suggests that numbers and statistics are a focus. Color and font size also draw attention to these statistics. This infographic is designed to highlight the successes of current farm-to-table eating in schools, rather than challenges. One may even notice that the sizes of the grocery bags decrease to coincide with the percentages represented on them. While this is far from a complex infographic, it is successful in presenting synthesized information about the topic. It is  also clear that graphic design elements are purposeful and on-message. You may think these simple elements are innately obvious, but it is useful to model your thinking and work with students to unpack these design choices as they relate to theme and message. Finally, I encourage teachers to survey students for topics of interest before choosing an infographic to study together. This will create further engagement and interest with students.