Tales from a Digital Learning Coach 1 month in…

This week, we are taking a look at ISTE Coaching Standard 1: Visionary Leadership. Specifically, I am concentrating on indicator b: Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels.

I have a name plate!

Before I became a coach I was a 6th grade teacher that tried to integrate technology as much as I could. Because of my love of all things tech (and makerspaces) the district asked me to apply for the Digital Learning Coach position. I didn’t know exactly what my position would be, and to be honest, I am still learning as I go. I did have the experience of one year of my masters in Digital Ed under my belt… However, knowing about the ISTE standards and actually applying them to a real life position are two entirely different things. My district sent me to a Coaching Workshop put on by the state, where I learned a lot about active listening, paraphrasing, then and only then could I ask a question. And it had to be a clarifying or probing question.

On the first day of the new job, I got to meet the two other coaches that I would be working with. One used to have this position a few years ago and the other was a librarian for the district and all around tech goddess. So, there I was wondering what I would bring to bring to the table. Luckily, my district believes in life-long learners and they have encouraged me to attend as much as I need. Not only that, but they encourage us to spend 1-2 hours a week on a genius project. So I have had a lot of time and opportunities to learn about coaching.

Building Relationships

Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2BaGVnE

I was assigned 15 librarians to work with (yes, I am told that is a lot). The first thing I should tell you is, spend the time to build relationships. A large majority of the librarians that I work with didn’t really want to give up 2 plannings a month to meet with me at first. Also, they might have wished they had the other gal who used to be a librarian. I might also add here that the district also changed their library cataloging system and part of my new job was to help them navigate it. Did I mention the other girl, who was a librarian… I had to win some librarians over that was for sure. I found a friend in my office in charge of the new system and she was gracious enough to answer my questions quickly. But what I noticed is that instead of giving me the answer, she was guiding me to the place to find it. Oh my goodness, I was being coached!

You can’t be the Expert

And that is the second lesson I learned about coaching. You can’t be the expert. You have to build capacity in the person you are working with. Effective coaches need to remember that taking on the role of expert can create learned helplessness. (Foltos, 2014) Because my colleague introduced me to the “teams channels” that librarians were discussing issues, I was able to build my understanding in order to have a conversation with them. I still ask questions, but now I am building my capacity.

What did you say? (No, you can’t say it like that!)

Now that we are a little over a month into school, the librarians have worked out most of the kinks with the new system, they are wanting me to help them bring tech to the library. This is my HAPPY PLACE! Microcontrollers, MakerSpaces, Coding, OH MY! But wait. Coaching is not about me. The job of a coach is to support a colleague’s thinking, problem solving, and goal clarification (Lipton, 2018). This is where my coaching workshop (from the summer) skills come in! I have to actively listen to what the teacher is wanting to do. Did I understand her? Paraphrase. If she doesn’t correct me, then I am on the right track.When I feel that I am understanding the situation, I can ask her a probing question to find out her goals for student learning. Probing questions try to get the teacher to think more deeply and begin to solve the problem. (Grove and Frazer)

Putting it into action

I have a librarian that is being encouraged to teach tech in her library space. Through our conversations, I have found that she is teaching a math intervention group this quarter. Together we have talked about the students levels and what outcomes she would like for the group. She wants to connect library research skills with the math content so that students can improve their skill level. Students are going to use different media (book, video, internet) to research a topic and become a master. They are going to go a step further and find out real life applications for the concept as well. After they are ready, they are going to use a form of technology to showcase the topic in order to help teach a classmate. I am going to visit during this time and help where I can and model the technology when needed.


So that is where I am at in the Coaching Cycle. I have met with my librarians and slowly I am learning what their needs are and finding out ways that I can support them with student learning. I think that most of my librarians are not wishing that they had the tech goddess former librarian anymore because they are smiling and reaching out. I am learning it’s not about telling them what to do, its about listening, understanding, and supporting them to improve student learning. And it isn’t all bad! As a Coach, another part of my job is creating and providing Professional Development. This is a place where I get to be the Expert- where I get to bring on the Microcontrollers, Makerspaces, and Coding! Oh MY, I am enjoying this job!


  • Lipton, Laura, and Bruce M. Wellman. Mentoring Matters: a Practical Guide to Learning-Focused Relationships. MiraVia, LCC, 2018.
  • Foltos, Les. “The Secret to Great Coaching: Inquiry Method Helps Teachers Take Ownership of Their Learning.” Journal of Staff Development, vol. 35, June 2014, pp. 28–31. ERIC, https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/JSD-June-2014/the-secret-to-great-coaching.pdf.
  • Foltos, Les. Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin, 2013.
  • Gann, Kara. “ISTE Standards for Coaches 1: Visionary Leadership.” ISTE, 9 June 2014, https://www.iste.org/explore/ISTE-Standards-in-Action/ISTE-Standards-for-Coaches-1:-Visionary-leadership.
  • Pocket Guide to Probing Questions http://schoolreforminitiative.org/doc/probing_questions_guide.pdf
Community Engagement Project: Amplifying Student Voice Through Flipgrid

For my Community Engagement Project this quarter in EDTC 6104, I have chosen to focus on creating a professional development on the power of using Flipgrid in your classroom. Flipgrid is a tool that allows students to respond to prompts by recording themselves and encourages them to interact with fellow students as well as with the teacher. Earlier this year I was asked if I wanted to present on an Ed Tech Tool for my school district’s back to school conference. I had been dabbling with Flipgrid in my class and I saw how powerful it could be as an alternative way to show student thinking.

I applied to present and was accepted to teach a one hour class on Flipgrid for district teachers, librarians and paraprofessionals. I wanted to make sure that my PD was informative as well as interactive, so I decided to give an overview of the tool, showcase some student examples, give the teachers time to peruse the website and have them participate recording themselves. I wasn’t sure how I would fit it all in, but I went in with the idea that having too much is better than not having enough. Last week I presented at the Talk 2019 Conference and I am going to share my presentation with you below and let you know how things went.

This is the agenda that I made to organize my professional development.
This video showcases authentic classroom stories of amplifying student voice through Flipgrid. From highlighting the power of natural voice in elementary students to building relationships in higher education to transforming dialogue in middle school math, Flipgrid is a powerful platform that enables social learning communities in classrooms around the world.

After giving participants some overview information, I wanted to give them a chance to use the tool. I asked them to introduce themselves to our group by using Flipgrid. I gave them a prompt which you will see on the slide and passed out a page to help them navigate the website. The participants were fairly shy in the beginning and I let them know that this would be how their students might feel.

My next two slides are of student example videos. Rather than showing the two slides, I would like to share a video link of how I used Flipgrid in my class. The video will show you two ways that I have used flipgrid in my class. The examples are of students facilitating a math talk using a fraction square and a flipped learning experience on figurative language. I have received permission from the students as well as their parents to share their work on my blog and in my presentation.

These are some of the ways that I shared how Flipgrid is accessible to all students.
Conference participants were asked to “check out” the Flipgrid website, specifically the Disco Library. They were asked to search ways that they could use the tool in their classrooms based on standards, grade level, and/or subject.
After the work time, participants were asked to share another Flipgrid with us. My plan is to take these ideas and curate a list to share with our district. I will check in with the teachers and see how it went, or if they needed any additional help.
My last slide had links to all of the pages that I used during the conference as well as to some other resources that would help them to get started using Flipgrid with their students. You will find these links listed below under resources.


I had an amazing time at the conference presenting on the tech tool, Flipgrid. I had about 50 participants and the hour was plenty of time for this talk. I went into the the conference knowing that this was just the beginning. I knew I wanted to have follow up sessions where we could dive into more of Flipgrids features, such as the accessibility piece and inviting experts to flipgrid with the class. Another area that I would like to find out more about is sharing what the students are learning with parents. While the participants were worried about recording themselves in the beginning, they got used to it and learned some tricks like, putting a post-it on the camera if you didn’t want to show your face, or covering it with an emoji sticker. Some educators doubled up and recorded themselves together. Participants left excited with some ideas on how they would like to introduce this tool to their class. This was an exciting and scary experience presenting for other educators (my new boss was one of the participants). I would like to continue planning and providing PD for my district and when I feel more comfortable, I would like to apply for a regional conference.


The following are resources that I shared at my presentation.

Using EDMODO to its Fullest Potential

This week, we are focusing on ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Indicator G: Using digital communication tools to communicate locally and globally with parents, peers, and the larger community. Instead of finding a brand new shiny tech tool, I thought that I might dust off one of the ones I use already and see if it can apply to this standard. So let me begin by telling you how I have used it in the past and then follow up with how I can use it in the future.

Learned Helplessness

In my classroom, I got a lot of excuses like: I didn’t write down the homework, so I didn’t know what to do. I forgot my book at school. I didn’t have so and so’s number to work on our project. I wasn’t home to work on my project with so and so. And every time, I replied, “Did you try to solve the problem?” Usually they gave me a blank stare. Then I found Edmodo. Edmodo was a huge solution chamber created for the students to solve their problems. It was really helpful for me as well, because I wasn’t in charge of all of the information- they were.

How I Used Edmodo in My Class

Everyday, I had a student take a picture of the homework and upload it to the site. I posted digital copies of all our work books and links to audio readings of our chapter books. If students were stuck on a topic, I usually posted videos to help them and trained students to post videos that they found helpful. Students used the interface to schedule meet ups or share tips with each other. As far as creativity, the students got to create their own avatar and post about their vacations and share photos with the class. These resources seemed to help the students overcome most of their issues, when they used it. So this is how I have used Edmodo for the last few years. It has been a great tool at getting my students to be self-directed learners.

This is an example of my class folders in Edmodo for the students to click on to find information.

I have done pretty well at using this collaboration tool locally (in my classroom), but can I go globally? Let’s find out.

Global Classrooms

As an extension of the more commonly used term of digital citizenship, global citizenship is about conversations and connections that will help students and teachers collaborate on shared outcomes. (Lindsay, 2019) Teachers can connect with each other through PLN’s (Professional Learning Networks) and create a special class in Edmodo that can connect your students with another classroom. I look at this like instant pen pals. Students could be researching a topic and working with a counterpart to solve a problem. Students become aware of what life is like in other countries and cultures and find out what they have in common. This is a safe way to communicate because everything is visible by the educators. In the video below, a school in Florida was able to connect with a school from Argentina, both through Edmodo and in person.

Globally connected classroom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=190&v=17mKHFki6MY

International Book Club

Teachers and Librarians can connect with other educators and read a book together. While browsing the Edmodo blog, I found out how a librarian from Alabama was connecting her students to students in France over the love of reading. Through Edmodo, the students were able to learn about each other, practice the language, and see what real-life is like in Alabama and France, bringing them closer together.

Connect with Educators through a PLN

A lot of educators connect with each other on Edmodo. It is a great way to share content and files with like-minded individuals and meet new people. Edmodo has a “search teachers” bar where you can connect with colleagues that you have met at conferences and professional development classes. My teaching team also connects our classes together so that if a student has a question or needs to be moderated, any of us can handle that.


I think using Edmodo as a way for you to connect with your PLC is a great idea. You can add your administrators and support staff so that communication is seamless. Files could be stored and shared in this area for grade level teams. What is extra special about Edmodo, is that you can directly connect your Microsoft Office 365 and/or Google Classroom to the platform. What if your grade level across the school district started sharing what they are doing in the classroom? Teachers could collect and curate lesson plans. How powerful could the learning be then?

Additional Highlights

Edmodo is web-based as well as an IOS/Android mobile platform.

All users have FREE access to Microsoft office. This is great for students, many of whom do not have traditional access from home. In the past year, Edmodo has undergone a redesign and they are tackling SEL (Social Emotional Learning) using an app called Discover. The goal of discover is to empower students to be mindful as they navigate socially-connected educational games, newsfeeds, and meditation activities. Another benefit of this redesign is that parents can sign up for Edmodo easily when the students sign up and teachers are now made aware of that fact. Parents can see the folders that the teacher has created for students as well as what their child is posting.

Some examples of activities you will find on Discover. https://medium.com/edmodoblog/announcing-discover-on-edmodo-e96387a6c4fc

These are just a few ways that Edmodo could be used to collaborate globally with parents, peers and the larger community. For more ideas and resources on how you can use Edmodo in your classroom, check out the Edmodo Blog.


  • Blogger, G. (2016, August 03). How to Encourage and Model Global Citizenship in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/global_learning/2016/07/how_to_encourage_and_model_global_citizenship_in_the_classroom.html
  • Miller, A. (2015, May 11). Avoiding Learned Helplessness. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller
  • Teachers. (2019, August 13). Retrieved from https://go.edmodo.com/teachers/
  • Edmodo. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medium.com/edmodoblog
  • /@edmodo_staff. (2019, May 22). Announcing Discover on Edmodo. Retrieved from https://medium.com/edmodoblog/announcing-discover-on-edmodo-e96387a6c4fc
  • Schools, O. C. (2013, October 25). OCPS | Glenridge Goes Global. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=190&v=17mKHFki6MY
  • ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
Giving Students a Voice

ISTE Coaching Standards

Coaching Standard 3- Digital Age Learning Environments: Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students. Indicator b: Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments.

How can I help teachers maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources that help promote student voice/agency?

This quarter we are not only concentrating on the ISTE Coaching Standards, but we are looking at them through the lens of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy. The term culturally sustaining requires that our pedagogies be more than responsive of or relevant to the cultural experiences and practices of young people—it requires that they support young people in sustaining the cultural and linguistic competence of their communities while simultaneously offering access to dominant cultural competence. (Paris, 2012) To be honest, I have been struggling a bit in understanding what this looks like in the classroom. That is until I met Selvin at an engineering class I took this week.

Selvin’s Story

Selvin and his mother moved to the United States from Honduras when he was six years old. Selvin had a loving mother who worked hard to support him as best she could. She had to drop out of school at an early age and was unable to help her son with his education. Selvin grew up with modest means.

In sixth grade, Selvin’s math teacher gave the students a culminating project to show their understanding of the math vocabulary. He took his list of words home and decided that he would create a booklet of terms. Selvin looked around his house and thoughtfully used what was available to him, newspapers. He found his math words and symbols and patiently cut them out and glued them down on his notebook paper. Selvin carefully hand-wrote the what the words meant to him and he added color to the booklet with some of his colored pencils.

Selvin was very proud of his work and the effort that he put into the project. He thought for sure that he would earn a “B.” When Selvin arrived at school that morning, he was amazed at all of the projects. He saw over-sized posters, hanging mobiles, and dioramas, some were typed, all were brightly colored. Someone even brought in a cake!

Selvin turned in his project. A week later, the teacher returned their graded projects. As the teacher placed his booklet on his desk- she said to him that it didn’t look like he put much effort in the project. He was devastated with his failing grade. As he told his story, his eyes were welling up with tears. He said that it had taken him a long time to get over that experience.

As we sat their processing the story that he told us, each of us crushed that a teacher had made him feel this way, we asked him if he ever had a teacher that made him feel special? His eyes instantly lit up! Without hesitation he said my first grade teacher, Mrs. Lince. Selvin told us she was always positive and smiling great big smiles. He shared that she empathized with his situation and made him “feel level to everyone else.” Selvin is passionate about sharing his story with educators to ensure that we understand that everyone has a story and it is our job to learn them!

Danez Smith’s Story

One other story I would like to share with you is Danez Smith’s. In his TEDx Talk, he brings to life the power of a question.

To me, this concept of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy is a huge one to tackle. As I am just beginning to learn about it, I have a created a “working definition” as starting place to make a conscious change in the way I teach students. What I understand Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy to mean is that we need to encourage our students to share their cultures and let them know we value who they are and invite them to express themselves authentically. When students believe their voices matter, they are more likely to be invested and engaged in their schools. (Quaglia, 2015)

So, how do we empower our students?

In the video above, Danez gives us three age appropriate scenarios in which to draw ideas from. All of them begin with a question.

Learning that is characterized by learning agency recognizes learners as active participants in their own learning and engages them in the design of their experiences and the realization of their learning outcomes in ways appropriate for their developmental level. As such, learners have choice and voice in their educational experiences as they progress through competencies. Harnessing his or her own intrinsic motivation to learn, each learner strives to ultimately take full ownership of his or her own learning.

-Education Reimagined, 2015

In my research for this weeks blog, I have come up with a few tech tools that will help level the playing field for your students. All of the tools can work with k-12 and I have shared some example projects (from the cites) that you can use with your students to promote their voice.

  1. Instead of having your students prepare a handwritten poster, have them create an interactive one using Buncee. Buncee offers multiple ways to help students visualize, voice, and communicate their learning – helping build their confidence and engagement. Here is a link showing some ideas of how you can use Buncee in your classroom.
  2. Flipgrid gives students the opportunity to develop voice and to learn how to present themselves online and to use their voice to connect ideas to their own experiences. Here is a link to a k-12 guide on how to use Flipgrid in your classroom.
  3. The visual aspect of comics, posters, and diagrams make Storyboard That an excellent tool for all students, especially English Language Learners. As written language is often difficult for students learning English, this tool helps students master concepts in all areas by scaffolding with images!

Here are a few screen grabs of some ideas that you can use in your classroom to promote student voice/agency.

BUNCEE: For all students, young ones in particular. https://app.edu.buncee.com/ideas-lab
Using Flipgrid for middle grade and older students. https://admin.flipgrid.com/manage/discovery/11873?ns&=&subjects=17&
Storyboard That:Students can storyboard what they are thinking. https://www.storyboardthat.com/blog/e/dialogue-between-two-friends

One last idea to inspire student voice

One last idea that I came across was a film project called Student Voice where students created a short film about based on a theme, ‘Activating Change.’ This is a project that I think students could work collaboratively to produce their stories. Here are three videos created by students that I think were powerful examples of student voice.

Middle Grades Winner
Film Title: In Another’s Shoes
Filmmakers: Trinity Schley, Madison James, Caleb Rackley, Charlie Le and Quang Dinh
Honorable Mention
Film Title: In My Shoes
Filmmakers: Galen Getz, Quinn Getz and Bryce Gauthier
Honorable Mention
Film Title: Split In Two
Filmmakers: Gitanjali Mahapatra 

I imagine that if a student were able to participate using one of these tools to amplify their voice, powerful learning would be happening in your classroom.


  • Paris, D. (2012). Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy. Educational Researcher,41(3), 93-97. doi:10.3102/0013189×12441244
  • Quaglia, R. J. (2015). Student voice: Ensuring a sense of self-worth for your students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • Spencer, J., & Juliani, A. J. (2017). Empower: What happens when students own their learning. San Diego?: IMpress.
  • Stevens, K. (2016, April 22). 5-Minute Film Festival: Student Voice and Choice. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/film-fest-student-voice-agency
  • Cooper, R. (2017, November 06). How can educators best promote student agency? Retrieved from https://www.educationdive.com/news/how-can-educators-best-promote-student-agency/508050/
  • Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://studentvoice.org/
Rethinking Professional Development,

As I move into my new role as a Digital Learning Coach for my district, I am very interested in ISTE Coaching Standard 3, Indicator c. In my new role, (as I understand it) I will be working with teachers and librarians- helping them enhance the curriculum with technology as well as facilitating professional development for the district.

ISTE Coaching 3c: Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators.

My concern as I enter this new phase in my career is how will I be able to reach a diverse audience of educators and be able to provide valuable, learning-rich professional development opportunities? In this case, I’m using the word diverse to suggest that educators are different in teaching experience, grade levels, subjects, values and attitudes, and skills and abilities.

According to a 2014 study conducted by Bill and Melinda Gates and Boston Consulting Group, they found that only 29% of teachers are highly satisfied with the current professional development offerings. The article goes on to add that large majorities of teachers do not believe that professional development is helping them prepare for the changing nature of their jobs, including using technology and digital learning tools.

As I reflect on my experience with professional development, I’m discovering a lot of connections with teaching a class of students. In our classes, we need to differentiate based on abilities. At the building level, the PD wasn’t tailored to my grade level specifically, because they were trying to make it relevant to 7 grade levels and specials. This mirrors an ineffective process that happens in a classroom of students- your teaching to the middle. You are leaving out 1/2 your class. When the school divides by k-2 and 3-6 grade bands- the trainings are better- but you still have to do some work to tailor it to your classroom. Again, if you do this in your class, you will reach more students, but not all students will find success.

Students that have choice and agency will be more passionate about the learning. Isn’t that the same for educators? When I sought out professional developments that were tailored more to my needs and applied to what I wanted to do in my classroom, I found that I actually implemented them.

The more I think about it, teachers want exactly what our students want. Educators want P.D. to be relevant, interactive, delivered by someone that understands their experience, sustained over time, and to be treated like professionals. (Karen Johnson, 2016) I know that my students want to know why they are learning X, they want it to be hands-on, they appreciate when connections are made to previous learning, and #1- they enjoy knowing that you trust them to do the work.

Sketch by @sylviaduckworth

How do we Transform Professional Development?

In one of the readings this week, I came across a document created by Ellen Dorr in collaboration with a regional team of educators. The document is a great place for us to start the conversation about how different approaches can impact learning. I am attaching the document that they created here, but I think that this document can be more powerful for teams if they were to brainstorm and fill it in based on their observations and the needs of their district.

“The chart was designed to expand thinking around PD to encompass more than just an initial experience using a digital tool. By focusing on the experience, rather than mere “seat time” or training, we saw that different opportunities had power to inspire different growth–all of which is much more powerful than a training.”

Ellen Dorr, EdSurge 2015

Redefining professional development is going to be a journey. There is so much to consider when preparing for a “training”, what do teachers need to help engage students, how will this “tool” help to increase student voice and agency, and ultimately, what is the impact on learning? I end this blog with more questions to ponder. Over the summer quarter, I will be using this model and research to help focus the professional development that I will be designing for teachers in my district.


  • ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2019, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
  • Dorr, E. (2018, December 27). How Administrators Can Design the Best Learning Experiences for Teachers – EdSurge News. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-11-04-how-administrators-can-design-the-best-learning-experiences-for-teachers
  • Johnson, K. (2018, December 27). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them-If Implementation Improves – EdSurge News. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves?utm_content=bufferfa66c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Using Smarter Balanced Library:

A tool to aid teachers with formative assessments, finding quality lessons, and search out professional learning opportunities to help your practice grow

This week, I am referring to ISTE Coaching Standard 2: Teaching Learning and Assessments.

2e- Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences using differentiation, including adjusting content, process, product and learning environment based on student readiness levels, learning styles, interests and personal goals.

Last year, I took a class through SPU and was introduced to the Smarter Balanced Library. This tool really helped me understand how Formative Assessments informs your teaching practice. I used to think that you gave a mini-check up (exit tickets) on what you are teaching and then pull back small groups. While that is a part of formative assessment, I learned that to intentionally move learning forward, there are four attributes to actively consider that round out the cycle of formative assessment. Below is a video that explains the process:

Formative Assessment:

A breakdown of the cycle of Formative Assessment using the four attributes.

Step 1: Clarify Intended Learning

This step helps teachers and students understand the expectations and goals of a lesson. The learning target must focus on what they learn, and not on what they do. Success criteria are observable and measurable behaviors that let both the teacher and students know that the learning target has been met.

Step 2: Elicit Evidence

Teachers are able to elicit evidence in a variety of ways. The teacher can create questions ahead of teaching the lesson, as well as in the moment. The teacher should visit groups to listen and observe student understanding. Other ways to gather evidence is student reflection and exit tickets. These are just a few ways that teachers and students can make sure that learning is occurring.

Step 3: Interpret Evidence

This step can be done by the teacher, as well as by the individual student, or in peer groups. This step is important because you are figuring out if there is a gap in understanding, minor calculation error, or a need for additional supports. In my class, I like to engage my students in this process. Often I will team students up (after I have looked at the work) and ask them to work together to compare work and analyze their results.

Step 4: Act on Evidence

Since our goal is to move students learning forward, it is important that this step is implemented in a timely manner. The specific feedback that is provided to the student should help them develop strategies to meet their learning goals. Building of the information we learned in step 3, we need to engage in the material a new way, strengthen background knowledge, or in the case of student achievement; enrich.

To support formative assessment, the Digital Library is an online collection of high-quality instructional and professional learning resources contributed by educators for educators. These resources are aligned to college- and career-ready standards [sic] and help educators implement the formative assessment process to improve teaching and learning.


The Smarter Balance Library offers so much more!

Now that we have addressed formative assessment, I would like to show you some of my favorite features of the Smarter Balance Library that will assist you further in your teaching practice! Think of the Library as a coach at your fingertips, all you need is wi-fi and a device, although registering for an account will be necessary. (If you would like to register for a Digital Library account click here.)

The Library is made up of three parts: Instructional Resources, Professional Learning, and my personal favorite, the Playlist. All of the resources can be searched by grade level, subject, topic, standard, and by formative assessment attributes. This way you can find exactly what you need. I’m going to walk you through the library through the lens of a 6th grade teacher looking for Geometry resources:

Instructional Resources:

This content is focused on the content found on the Interim Assessment Blocks (IAB). Here is a lesson that addresses surface area and volume in finding nets. (CCSS 6-G.A 1-4) https://www.smarterbalancedlibrary.org/content/knowing-nets

This lesson follows the 6-phase Poster problem. This poster task is a collaborative problem solving experience designed to provide teachers with diagnostic evidence around student understanding of geometry and to activate students thinking about the subject and provide an anchoring experience in the content.

Summary from Smarter Balanced Library

Professional Learning:

Professional Learning is a place that teachers/and or their PLC can search for resources in order to aid them in their teaching. In this case, I have searched for geometry. I have selected a video that has been created by the Teaching Channel and curated by the library to show a CCSS lesson in action. This particular lesson is showing students learning the difference between area and perimeter. One aspect of watching a video in action is that you get to see how the students engage with each other and with the material.

This is an example of some of the resources that you will find when searching for 6th grade geometry content. (Retrieved from https://www.smarterbalancedlibrary.org/professional-learning)


The topic covered in this resource is perimeter and surface area. The students need to seat twenty-two people and find the largest and smallest area. The resource may be used as a PLCs or for an individual teacher that would like to see an example of a math Common Core lesson. (summary)

Summary from Smarter Balanced Library


The Playlists are probably one of my favorite tools in the Library. Often we have students that arrive at our class with different levels of understanding. Some are needing enrichment, others are on grade level and others can be multiple grades behind. This tool gives you a snapshot of what students are able to do at each of these stages and gives you options for resources that would be appropriate to their zone of proximal development.


6th grade geometry Playlist (Retrieved from https://www.smarterbalancedlibrary.org/content/smarter-balanced-connections-playlist-grade-6-geometry)

Connections Playlists are intended to assist educators in advancing student learning and growth. By considering interim assessment results along with other classroom assessment and professional judgment, educators can decide how to use Digital Library resources to support their instruction. Digital Library Connections provide just a small sample of educator-recommended Digital Library resources that can supplement curriculum and other classroom activities – they are not meant to replace curriculum or define an instructional sequence. Many of the resources can be implemented “as-is”; however, others will likely need to be adapted to suit unique classrooms and individual students.

Summary from Smarter Balanced Library

The Smarter Balanced Library is a digital tool that applies directly to the ISTE Coaching Standard that asks coaches and teachers to use “technology-enhanced learning experiences” that provides a “learning environment based on student readiness levels, learning styles, interests and personal goals.” (ISTE Coaching Standard 2)


  • ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
  • Time-saving, teacher-created tools. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.smarterbalancedlibrary.org/
  • Smarter, A. (2013, September 09). The Four Attributes of the Formative Assessment Process. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=ccr8eT2Q98A
  • (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://math.serpmedia.org/poster_problems/curriculum.html
Design Thinking

This week I will be focusing on ISTE Educator Standard #6 Facilitator, indicator 6c.

  • How can educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement?
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.

The end of the year, (usually after testing), is a time that I am able to have a bit of freedom teaching my students. This is a great time to to take what we have learned throughout the year and apply it to a project using design thinking.

Retrieved from

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a mindset and approach to learning, collaboration, and creative problem solving. (Teaching and Learning Lab, Harvard.edu) It is a way to get students engaged in the learning process. Below is a video created by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani that explains how they took the concept of design thinking and put it into student friendly framework in what they call the Launch Cycle.


Using the LAUNCH CYCLE in my class

Although design thinking is not meant to be a culminating project (Spencer, Juliani p. 219), I find that it is a great way to integrate concepts that we have learned throughout the year.

A project that I use to get students excited about design thinking is The Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Challenge (LEAF STEM Challenge). It is an inquiry-based project that challenges students to design, build, and fly an electric tethered airplane that carries the most cargo. The project takes about a month to complete.

Phase 1: Look, Listen, and Learn

In the beginning, students are introduced to basic aviation principles such as parts of a plane, forces of flight, and Bernoulli’s Principle. Students visit the Museum of Flight to participate in the Aviation Learning Center. (here is a link to the curriculum and extension activities associated with this field trip.) At the Museum, students are introduced to different types of planes, attend ground school, participate in a specialized lab learning about the science of flight, and fly in a simulator.

The Museum showcases all types of planes. Students come here and get an idea of what different aircraft can look like.
Ground School: Students are planning their flight from Seattle to Everett.
Students flying in the Flight Simulator.

Phase 2: Ask Lots of Questions

It is during this phase that students will begin to ask questions about the problem that they are trying to solve. How do airplanes achieve lift? What is an airfoil? What is high and low pressure? What kind of wingspan will be best for my plane? These questions will help them focus on what they need to research.

Phase 3: Understand the Process or Problem

In the research phase students will study how the shape of airfoils, wingspans, and wing shapes will impact the success of their tethered flight. We will study how the angle of attack is related to the stalling of an airplane. This phase will help them gather valuable information that will inform how they design the wings. They will research real-life aircraft and consider how it’s design might translate to theirs.

Students learn about airfoils and angle attack.

Phase 4: Navigate Ideas

In this step, Students will brainstorm possible solutions, generate ideas, explore possibilities, and design their wing. The key parameters to be considered are:

  • Wing span (no longer than 36″), the distance from tip to tip
  • Planform shape (rectangle, ellipse, trapezoid, or some combination or other shape)
  • Chord, the distance from the leading edge to the trailing edge (nose to tail)
  • Airfoil shape
  • Materials and construction method
Using ratios to make a scale model of the wing and empennage.

Phase 5: Create

Students will have made a sketch of their design, where they have identified the span and the chord. Having calculated the area (S) and the aspect ratio (A), students are now ready to put their plan into action. They will build a model. The process for building the model is:

  • Construct the main wing (draw design, cut, and sand according to airfoil shape chosen)
  • Construct their fuselage, landing gear, and empennage
  • Solder 18″ leads to the motor
  • Attach the propeller to the motor
  • Mount the motor to the fuselage
Students are sanding their wings in order to achieve their airfoil and optimal wing shape.
Students are soldering their motors to the leads.

Phase 6: Highlight and Revise

In this phase, students will determine what works and doesn’t work (Spencer, Juliani p 58). They are assessing their work in flight trials. They will collect data on how their plane flies, and how much cargo it can carry. It may be now that they realize that the wing is to too thick in front and they might need to go back and sand some more off. Maybe the balance is off and they need to make adjustments to the wing or landing gear. Maybe they want to add flaps or redesign the wing. This is the time to revise their model. Students will collect all of the data and write a summary of the process they took in creating their plane. Once they are satisfied with the results, it will be competition ready.

Students are testing their planes.
Adding cargo to increase the weight

Phase 7: It’s Launch Time

This is the final phase. Students will not only prepare to fly their plane, but they will be preparing for their presentations to people in the aerospace or engineering field. They will need to explain the process they took as well as defend the choices they made along the way. All of their work culminates in a grade level competition we have deemed, Flight Night. Students will showcase their work, their learning, and their passion for this project.

Flight Night

This culminating project engages students in the Design Process. It not only gets them excited about making something, but they get to apply what we have learned all year in a real-world situation. (Attached are the Standards associated with this project) We revisit ratios and proportions when creating the wingspan and the empennage, geometry when calculating the wing area, engineering and design principles, and anchor standards in writing and speaking and listening when preparing for their presentations.


If you are interested in finding out more about the LEAF STEM Project, they offer an educator’s workshop for you to attend this summer in the Seattle area.

  • Spencer, J., & Juliani, A. (n.d.). LAUNCH: Using design thinking to boost creativity and bring out the maker in every student.
  • LEAF STEM Challenge. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.leafchallenge.com/
  • Design Thinking Master Course. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blendeducation.org/p/designthinking
  • Spencer, J. (2016, February 14). The LAUNCH Cycle: A Design Thinking Framework for Education. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhQWrHQwYTk
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Design Thinking in the Classroom. (2018, October 15). Retrieved from http://ajjuliani.com/the-beginners-guide-to-design-thinking-in-the-classroom/
  • Exploring Design Thinking in the Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tll.gse.harvard.edu/blog/exploring-design-thinking-classroom
  • Lang, M. (2017, June 11). How Hip-Hop Led Me to Design Thinking…and Got My Students to Think Bigger – EdSurge News. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-06-11-how-hip-hop-led-me-to-design-thinking-and-got-my-students-to-think-bigger
Thinking about Thinking

For this cycle, I have taken a look at ISTE standards 5 (Designer) and 7 (Analyst) for Educators. I have decided to concentrate on #7, Indicator 7a-Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.

Reflecting on what we do helps us to think critically about the experience and helps us discover strategies to improve how we do it. “Reflection is a combination of retrieval practice and an elaboration that adds layers to learning and strengthening skills.” (Brown, Roediger, McDaniel 2014) Reflecting on our learning helps us make connections between what we know and what we are learning.

I have been asking my students to reflect on their learning process for the past few years. Getting my students to reflect on their learning can be a difficult process. I have tried journal reflections, self-assessment rubrics, and a pretty lengthy reflection form after tests. I don’t always get a response that shows me that my students know where they are, where they need to be, and how they are going to get there. And I am wondering if the singular structure of writing is getting in the way of students being able to share how they learn.

Writing takes a lot of effort and time trying to put into words their thoughts and feelings. A majority of my students treat reflection sheets as just another thing to do, not something that is intended to grow their learning. I want my students to be active and strategic about the way they learn.

So, this got me to thinking, how could I integrate technology into student reflections and make it available to not only me, but to classmates and parents as well!

That is where Flipgrid comes in. Flipgrid is an app that is becoming quite popular in classrooms that allows students to respond to prompts by recording short videos. Classmates and teachers can respond back to the student’s video. Flipgrid can be used for virtually anything, but I thought that the format would be a great way to achieve student reflection. (introduction to flipgrid video below)


In the book, Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning, (Brown, Roediger, and Mc Daniel 2014) reflecting on learning is a learning strategy that they encourage to grow. Some Reflection Starters they suggest are:

What went well in today’s lesson?

What could have gone better?

What other knowledge or experience does it remind you of?

What might you need to learn for better mastery?

What strategies might you use the next time to get better results?

page 209

I think that getting my students excited and engaged in the reflection process would be enhanced with Flipgrid. I can just imagine all of the rich learning opportunities between students and student engaged in the process of reflection.


  • Moss, C. M., & Brookhart, S. M. (2016). Learning targets: Helping students aim for understanding in today’s lesson. Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.
  • BROWN, P. C. (2018). MAKE IT STICK: The science of successful learning. Place of publication not identified: BELKNAP HARVARD.
  • Flipgrid. Ignite Classroom Discussion. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://flipgrid.com/
Identifying the Right Tool for the Job

This week’s blog post will center on ISTE Standards for Educators #2 Leader: Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning. More Specifically indicator 2c: Educators will be able to model for colleagues new digital resources and tools for learning through:

  • Identification
  • Exploration
  • Evaluation
  • Curation
  • Adoption


This year, my grade level has noticed a significant deficit in the vocabulary skills of our students compared in district testing. Our curriculum (in my opinion), doesn’t plan for our students to have intentional vocabulary practice built into our learning block. This brought on a search for a tool that would be able to strengthen our students vocabulary while being synced with our classroom reading.

Academic Vocabulary is located in the second tier. These words are most often found in texts. This type of vocabulary is critical to college and career readiness. (Developed by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan in Bringing Words to Life)


At the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) that took place in Seattle, I attended a workshop by Vocabulary.com. It was here that I was introduced to a tool that I thought could help my students out. One of the features that sold me on Vocabulary.com was the fact that I could upload the text or words from the text that my students were reading in order to create a set of words that my students could study “in context.” Vocabulary.com offers a free option for teachers and students to utilize the cite. The free option allows you to create a class, assign words for practice and students can participate in a interactive vocabulary jam, where students participate in timed activities.

Vocabulary.com offers educators a 30-day free trial of the full cite. With this access to the whole cite, teachers are able to access all of the free options mentioned above. In addition, teachers can track their student’s growth and progress in what they are learning. Teachers are able to assign quizzes and students can practice their spelling with the spelling bee. After the free trial, if you would like to have full access, charges will apply.

Students playing Vocabulary Jam (Photo used with permission of parents.)

What my students think:

We have been using Vocabulary.com for 3 weeks now. The majority of my students enjoy using the cite to learn new words. The program motivates students because they earn points and can compete against their classmates. I load about 15 words a week for students to practice. First thing in the morning, students come in to class and spend 20 minutes on practicing the vocabulary. They will write the words in a journal to help them with the different meanings. As we are reading, my students will point out vocabulary words that they found in the text. Students are using the vocabulary in their daily speech. (A parent reported that a student called her older brother insolent for talking back to his mother.) All of my students love playing the Vocabulary Jam. The class is split into 2, 3, or 4 random teams where they compete individually as well as a group to answer the vocabulary questions correctly the fastest. This is a fast-paced, high excitement activity that gets them ready for the quiz.

Here is a parent’s response to the program:

“My daughter has always struggled with vocabulary so the vocabulary.com program has been great. I’ve noticed her getting excited to learn new words.  She is using them at home and even quizzes her brother to see if he knows what they mean. It’s a fun way for her to learn new things and I appreciate it.” -a sixth grade parent

Two of my students talking about Vocabulary.com (Used with permission from the parents.)


For teachers, curation can be a powerful tool to organize and share resources with students and colleagues, or to fuel a professional learning practice (2019, Common Sense Media). When curating new tools, it is best practice to analyze the digital tool to see how it benefits the learning in your class room. Two tools that are especially helpful for teachers to find the value in new tools are Common Sense Media and the Triple E Framework.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is a great website that helps parents and educators evaluate ed-tech and helps teach digital citizenship. Common Sense Media is a non-profit company that uses a 15 point rubric to determine the learning potential of the tool.

Here is how Vocabulary.com checks out according to Common Sense Media https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/vocabularycom

Triple E Framework

The Triple E framework was developed by Liz Kolb, professor at the University of Michigan, to measure how the technology of the lesson is aiding the students grasp of the learning goals. The framework is based on three components (image above), How does the tool engage the learning targets, Enhance the learning targets, and extend the learning targets. Educators use fill out the measuring tool (scoring rubric) to find out if it is meeting all of the components on the rubric. Here is how I scored Vocabulary.com:

Vocabulary.com scored using the Triple E measuring tool. (Kolb, 2011)

I scored Vocabulary.com 16/18 which means it has exceptional potential to connect the learning through the technology tool. In two categories, I had to give only 1 point out of two. For time on task, students can get distracted especially because their is a competitive aspect to the program. Sometimes, students are more interested in earning the most points, rather than realizing they are learning words that they can make connections with and use in their daily speech and writing. Another area that scored 1/2 is that students could use traditional tools to help with vocabulary acquisition, however, I think that this format is engaging especially the competitive nature. The competitive part can be both a plus and a minus, however the rest of the program definitely has potential to help my students increase their tier 2 vocabulary.

Here is a link to the Triple E Measuring Tool PDF that you can use when evaluating a tool to use in your classroom.


As I mentioned above, my free trial is nearly coming to an end. I would like to continue using Vocabulary.com until the end of the year. To continue, it would cost me $36.00 to use the full version of this website for the next two months. I would like to use this time to see if the vocabulary is transferring in my students writing and daily speech. At the end of the year, I would like to check-in with my students to see if they found value in the program before I present it to my principal as an option to enhance our ELA curriculum.


  • Thinkmap, Inc. (n.d.). Find out how strong your vocabulary is and learn new words at Vocabulary.com. Retrieved April 21, 2019, from https://www.vocabulary.com/
  • Triple E Framework. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2019, from https://www.tripleeframework.com/
  • ISTE Standards for Educators. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2019, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
  • Common Sense. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2019, from https://www.commonsense.org/
  • Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Kucan, L. (2013). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Dean, C. B., & Marzano, R. J. (2013). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Curating Content to Collaborate with Colleagues

How can educators in my district collaborate with colleagues to curate and share resources with each other?

I work for a district that has 20+ elementary schools and I find that it is difficult to collaborate with other educators in my grade level across the district to share resources and ideas.

In the six years that I have worked in my district, I have gotten to visit another campus to watch another teacher teach exactly one time. It was an amazing experience. I got to see what anchor charts they were using, how they structured their learning targets, what resources they were using, how they interacted with teachers, what small groups looked like, how they set up their schedule, how they transitioned between subjects… I could go on and on. Needless to say, this interaction was completely valuable to me because I had an opportunity to compare what I was doing in my class as well as learn new strategies to improve on my practice. Unless you are a mentored new teacher or on an improvement plan, these opportunities to visit other classrooms are very rare.

Another opportunity I have to interact with colleagues is at district trainings. We are given information in the form of handouts, Powerpoints, and by OneNote. I don’t know about you, but I will get pretty excited by a new idea, strategy or resource that was shared by the trainer or expanded upon by a fellow educator. I will take notes or a photograph to remind me to implement it when I get back to the class and then life happens and I forget about it, until I remember- but by that time, it’s a distant memory. I can’t find where I wrote it down, or when searching through the 4,577 photos on my phone, I ask myself, “was that training before Christmas?” As if that would help find it’s location.

My life in pictures.

And then there is the greatest invention of them all, social media. I always find the greatest ideas, links to blogs, articles to read, and of course I don’t have time to read them just then, so I save them to my collection, where they are lost forever!

So this week, I made it my mission to come up with a solution to my problem- How can colleagues share what they are doing with others? while addressing the following criteria:

Criteria for collaboration tool. Produced by wordcloud.com

Wakelet.com is a tool that I think could be used by educators to help us showcase what we are doing in our classrooms in order to share with others across our district.

Wakelet can be used to share curated information with others. In this post, I am going to concentrate on how teachers could use this tool to share with other educators, but please understand that it can be used as a tool for teachers to students, teachers to parents, as well as outside of the classroom between other groups.

I think teachers want the opportunity to learn from each other in a space and time that is convenient to them. Educators enjoy seeing lessons in action as well as understanding the purpose behind them. With Wakelet, educators are able to curate collections that:

  • have introductions.
  • explain the lesson and give context.
  • are organized.
  • make connections to the standards and curriculum being taught in the classroom.
  • allows its users to curate all media types: videos, links, tweets, Instagram posts, pictures, text, PDF’s, and student/teacher commentary to tell a story or show the progression of a lesson.
  • Wakelet has partnered with Flipgrid so you can reflect on the material and tell how you are using it in your class.

Below, I have curated all of the resources (videos, blogs, information) that I have used in order to prepare for this blog in Wakelet form. I am hoping that you can get a sense of how it could be used to collaborate with other educators.

ISTE 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. Indicator A: Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.

In this week’s post, I think that I have found a tool that could be very useful for educators in my district that would allow us to “visit” each others classrooms and collaborate with each other. I think that it addresses ISTE Standard 4 in that it allows us to learn from each other in order to improve our practice in a time that is convenient for all.