The tools are there; can we meet the challenge?

Posted by Susan Gilley on November 8, 2014

Do it yourself - letters with tools attached.Back in the day, when your computer was messed up, you phoned a friend or even took your machine in to a computer technician. A couple of days ago, my laptop began showing an error that the battery was not charging. I googled a little last night trying to find the solution and tried a couple of options without success. Tonight I came home and googled possibilities again. Believe it or not, the second YouTube video I watched provided the answer.

Your response may be, “OK, cool!” or perhaps it’s, “Big deal; so what?” Regardless, to me this experience emphasizes how education is changing. People now have an incredible network of options for solutions to problems. In this case, I watched a 3-minute video, performed the steps suggested in the video, and my battery is now back to charging.

Does this new abundance of learning resources replace live people in the classroom? Absolutely not! Does it allow anyone to learn about anything they want at any time? For sure! That puts a lot of educational and learning power in the hands of the learner, and challenges us all as educators.

● How do we stay current in today’s ever-changing educational landscape?
● How do we keep in tune with how our students are meeting their educational thirsts for knowledge?
● How does society blend the answers to both of these questions to enhance education?

For myself, I choose a variety of ways to stay current beyond just googling and watching YouTube videos. One way I have expanded my professional learning community is through Twitter and Google+ communities. Both of these social media outlets allow me to follow people around the globe who share the same interests as I do and choose to share more information about those interests through their Twitter feeds and Google+ communities.

My philosophy has always been, it’s not what you know, but what you share! So, I welcome your comments and discussion. Follow me on Twitter @uniqsuseq, check out the websites I have bookmarked at, or visit that hosts all of my resources. And, of course, feel free to add your thoughts right here by commenting on this post.


Magnificent Seven Websites to Support 21st Century Staff Development

Posted by Bob Blackney on September 18, 2014

Magnificent Seven movie poster
The Magnificent Seven is a classic movie released in 1960. Click the image and check it out!

I know that you have been to one, probably several.  I’m talking about a workshop focused on changing classroom instruction, using the Internet, having students use technology for learning, and changing the teaching paradigm. In an age when everyone is connected everywhere, the only place that people are not connected is the classroom. Perhaps you’ve led such a workshop. Regardless, you know the workshop.

Yet, how is this paradigm-changing message delivered? Usually it’s done by means of whole group lecture, typically with a bad slide show that does not model media literacy. This needs to change!

If we want to get workshop participants excited and motivated to change, we need our workshops to exemplify the 21st century teaching and learning that we advocate. Seeing is believing! Experiencing is understanding. Professional development needs to model 21st century teaching so teachers and staff become motivated and engaged. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you seek in the world.” It is time to walk the talk.

Here are seven websites that can be used in staff development to model 21st century teaching and learning. Each offers a free version for education, and is relatively easy to use. None require participants to have a computer and can be accessed with a smart phone. Since the vast majority of the members of every workshop have a smart phone, they can be easily integrated into a presentation.

Collaborize Classroom

This is a new website and has some great qualities that are not available in other websites. The one that I like is the “vote or suggest” option. It allows teachers or students to suggest solutions and have other participants comment on the suggested solution. Having teachers list the ways that they could use the information in their classrooms provides a number of alternatives to the other members of the group and allows the teacher who posted the idea to get feedback and ideas to improve their suggestion.

Today’s Meet

If you believe that everyone in the room has something to contribute, then using Today’s Meet is a wonderful way to put that into practice. This is a great site to use as a workshop back channel. By setting up a second projector and having it display your “Today’s Meet” page, participants can comment and ask questions as the workshop proceeds. If you need any help setting up and using this web site, watch this short video.


Classflow is a new web-based product from Promethean, the interactive white board maker. To use Classflow you do not have to use an interactive white board, a projector will work just fine. The presenter should plan to download the free App for their smart phone. It is available from the iTunes Store or Google Play. The app allows the presenter to take a picture on their smart phone or tablet and immediately post it for all to see on the projector. This replaces the old process of having groups work on chart paper and then post the charts. In a workshop, a group can work on a problem, list solutions, or draw a picture on a sheet of paper and the presenter can snap a quick picture and show the group. Additionally, you can use all the tools of an interactive whiteboard to annotate or add ideas to the picture from the computer that is attached to the projector. There is much more to this website, but I will leave you to discover it yourself. There are many support videos and resources on the website, but here is a video on getting the Classflow teacher app.


This is a website and an app combo that is used to create a high-tech scavenger hunt, or “GooseChase.” You use the website to devise tasks for the teams of GooseChasers to compete. Teams of GooseChasers use the smartphone app to take photos documenting their accomplishment of a task. These tasks can be silly, or they can be attached to workshop material. For example, you might ask teams to take a photo of their team each holding a fifth grade Common Core writing standard, or take a photo of the entire team next to a classroom poster of PBIS guidelines. The goal of the teams is not to do everything on the task list, but to pick tasks they can do in the time provided. Generally, you do not give them enough time to complete all the tasks. They select tasks from the list and each task has a different point value. The team with the most points wins, but everyone has a great time and reviews the material, skills or content that was included in the workshop.

Infuse Learning

Infuse Learning allows you to construct quizzes that participants can take on their smart phones. You can select from multiple choice, fill in, open answer, sort in order, numeric and Likert Scale. There are other programs that do this also, but what I like about Infuse is that there is an option for drawing your answer. This allows you to ask workshop participants to represent their learning in a diagram showing the interrelationship of ideas. This is a great summative activity! Another feature that I really like is the ability to give the quiz takers immediate feedback on how they did. I frequently use this as a pre-test to open a professional development session. This does two things. First, participants are given information that they do not have all the answers on this topic and secondly, it piques their interest in the correct answers that show up during the training.


This is very similar to Infuse Learning above, but they do a nice job with pictures. I have made quizzes that are nothing but pictures from around the training area. I break up the group into teams and they use their smart phone to find the area that is shown in the picture. When they find it, I have hidden a QR code there. After viewing or reading the resource accessed by the QR code, they must answer a question from that resource before they get another picture. Kahoot allows you to mix up the questions for each team, which is important so they don’t all go to the same spot at once. This gets teams active and engaged in the content in a fun way.

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is great and has been used for some time. This is a polling resource that allows you to display the participants’ responses in real time. Participants use their cell phones to text their answers to true/false, multiple choice, order and open-ended questions. Recently they have added a real time word cloud feature that is great. Ask participants for three words that describe anything, from the skills they will need to develop or the differences between traditional math and Common Core math. In real time the text messages of their three words will be constructed into a word cloud that will clearly display the needs or priorities of the group.


Formative and Summative Assessment

Posted by Jenna Mittleman on August 3, 2014

Cartoon of king speaking to subjects from balcony: Try to see things from my point of view.
© Baloo, Used by permission.

A recent exercise in my Leading Edge Certification for the Administrator course gave me a chance to reflect on the topic of formative and summative assessment. I read an elementary school scenario in which Antonio Roberts, a teacher on the school’s staff, was eagerly awaiting a meeting with Mary Brown, his assistant principal, who had done an observation in his classroom the previous day. To me, the scenario provided a good example of how important it is to recognize the projected outcome of each participant.

There needs to be an intentional connection

Mrs. Brown seemed most interested in providing feedback to Antonio about his students’ progress following implementation of the new reading program. After the observation, Antonio was asked to reflect on student engagement in his class. He expressed his concerns about his ability to differentiate curriculum to best meet student needs. This is a classic example of what I personally experienced with several teachers this past year. There needs to be an intentional connection to the agreed upon standards in pre- and post-observation meetings. Historically, teacher evaluations at my site have not been entirely meaningful. Sadly, I’m able to say this as I was a teacher at my site for over 11 years. Teachers have typically chosen two CSTPs as a focus in the beginning of the year and the follow-through & accountability to monitor and assess hasn’t been fluid between administrators and teachers.

Making sure that the focus for California Standards for the Teaching Profession are selected in a meaningful way pending the teacher’s strengths and needed improvement is critical.  To help create this alignment, using a Google document would be beneficial in providing the expanded version of each standard which could potentially be highlighted in a Google doc as a reflection or post observation practice by the teacher. Considering the traditional methods of pen and paper reflections that my teachers currently use, this would be a giant step in the right direction. Allowing the evaluator and the evaluatee to share a living document that is specifically created to provide clarity about strengths and weaknesses would be a valuable tool.  This is the type of collaboration that must take place regularly throughout the year and feedback should be given in a timely manner that can be revisited regularly. In order to ensure significance of formative teacher assessments and summative evaluations…all assessments matter. Formal and informal evaluations are key elements in making employment decisions about teachers. The implementation of this process must be considered because the success of the students and the teachers greatly correspond.

The importance of collecting data

Last year, I used a tool on my iPad, “Classroom Walk-Through.”  This allowed me to provide teachers a quick snapshot providing feedback about lesson delivery, differentiation, resources, class environment and assessments. I loved that it allowed me to insert comments and email a PDF directly to the teacher and copy myself afterwards.  While I did find this to be a useful tool, I struggled with the time it took to complete as a minimum of 20–30 minutes was usually needed. Also, this was another email for the teacher and myself to receive and it required additional time to look up the CSTPs the teachers were focusing on to ensure alignment.

A more meaningful conversation with Antonio and Mrs. Brown could have occurred if student data was discussed.  Asking teachers to collect student data and create a portfolio to present is another idea. Also, using a web tool such as Mindomo to create a mind map can help teachers create a visual of how they can best meet the needs of their students and explicitly list the differentiation activities to be used in a given unit for specific students.

When discussing student achievement and characteristics of formative and summative assessment and teacher evaluations, the two words that surface for me are expectations and rigor.  If formative assessments with students are to be collaborative, while discussing strengths and setting goals, teacher evaluations should shadow this informal and conversational method.  Moving from poorly constructed expectations for students or teachers to clear and rigorous expectations helps transition from teacher centered to student entered and from administrator centered to teacher centered.  Furthermore, moving from general practice to specific practice is a must-do. Let’s practice as administrators what we expect of teachers.  Teachers, like students, should never be surprised of their summative evaluations if this process is completed properly.


The Beatles Nailed IT

Posted by George Lieux on June 9, 2014

The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
Leads me to your door

Technology was probably not on the Beatles’ minds when they composed “The Long and Winding Road.” As a technology coach focused on maximizing learning, my job is a long and winding adventure. It’s long because technology is constantly changing. It’s winding because I keep searching around for new and better ways to provide meaningful professional development.

One useful discovery on my winding path is Ruben R. Puentedura’s “SAMR” model. The relatively simple terms—substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition—seem to resonate with administrators and teachers.

SAMR Model
SAMR model. Click photo for explanation by Dr. Puentedura.

The simple explanations of each level provide opportunities for discussing why certain technology tools can or should be used. The references to enhancement and transformation keep the focus on learning content, not just learning technology. As Bill Ferriter writes in his blog The Tempered Radical, “Technology is a Tool, not a Learning Outcome.”

Poster of
Copyright 2013 by Bill Ferriter. Used by permission.

Taking another curve along my path, I participated in a “coaching cycle” with two high school instructional facilitators. In this approach, one or more teachers work together with an academic coach to create a plan for teaching a unit, concept or standard(s). The important twist here is that I provided ideas for using technology only after the goals and objectives of the learning were in place.  Two good resources on coaching are Jim Knight’s book Instructional Coaching and Diane Sweeny’s books and materials on student-centered coaching. Another excellent resource in this work is the TPACK model which maps the “complex interplay” of content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technology knowledge.

Diagram of TPACK Model
Image © 2012 by Reproduced by permission.

I am convinced that teachers, specialists and administrators can work with the SMAR and TPACK models along with coaching cycles to provide rigorous and engaging teaching and learning. That’s the plan I have for enjoying the challenge found in the “Long and Winding Road” of Ed Tech in the 21st Century.


Revisit Our Assumptions About “Digital Natives?”

Posted by Phoebe Bailey on May 8, 2014

I am not an avid subscriber to YouTube channels, but I do have a favorite—TheFineBros.  I love their series Kids React.  Created in 2010, it features Fine brothers Benny and Rafi off camera showing kids, ages 5 to 14, videos or introducing topics for discussion. New clips are released weekly.

Black rotary dial telephone with red indicator light
The rotary telephone – a spiffy model with red indicator light.

In the last month, two clips made me laugh and feel old! The content of the first video dealt with how kids reacted to rotary phones. The second looked at their response to a Walkman. In the discussion of phones, kids were presented a rotary phone. The question was, “Where have you seen this?” Answers ranged from in the movies to reading about it in a history lesson. Most admitted they had no idea how to work the phone and did not know how to dial. It was quickly agreed they would not want to use it because it would take too long. When asked what a “busy signal” meant, one boy suggested it meant something was “loading.” All agreed they wanted to keep their iPhones.

A fan of the classics

As the Fine brothers debriefed, some kids reflected on how technology has advanced. They wanted to know if you could text with a rotary phone, and they felt using one would make it harder to call each other because both parties had to be home. However, one boy did say he liked rotary phones and stated, “I’m a fan of classics!”

Watching the clip, I realized most children have had no exposure to the phone I grew up using. They see the symbol of a handset on their iPhone but do not make the connection of where that icon originated. Yet It was only about 20 years ago that land lines were the standard, because cell phones were too expensive and impractical. DSL or cable Internet was something only the rich families had, so most computers connected to the internet using the same phone line that you needed in order to make calls.

Sony Walkman cassette player with earphones
The Sony Walkman was introduced in 1979.

The Walkman clip was just as funny—and just as depressing! When presented with a Walkman, initial comments included, “What is this, a walkie-talkie?” and, “What do I do?” One girl knew it was a cassette player but needed help to find the on button. They were told they needed a cassette tape but they did not know what that was. When given a cassette, they asked how to put it in. A few of the children stated they were not going to give up but felt it was “so hard.”

You have to do stuff!

After pressing play they were frustrated because they couldn’t hear any sound. They tried to solve the problem by turning up volume but were told they had to have headphones. When given headphones, one girl stated that her grandpa had them. When they finally got the player going, one girl said she felt “so accomplished” but another said it took forever and was too complicated. One of the more telling statements was when a girl said she felt “lazy” saying so, “but you have to do stuff.” One boy remarked that he “could not imagine living in your day.” Others said they “felt bad” for people living in the 90s.

After watching these videos, I thought about the generalizations adults, especially educators, make about “digital natives.” We assume all technology is easy for students to learn since they were born into a technology-focused society. Yet, if we assume students know everything about technology, aren’t we limiting their opportunities to learn and ask questions?

Experience not age?

Maybe it’s time we look at basing the terms digital native and digital immigrant on experience rather than age. Some users over 30 are very technology savvy while we have students that lack tech skills due to lack of exposure in their educational settings or lack of access at home. Educators need to remember everyone has their own skill set and comfort level with technology. We need to be able to meet the learning needs of all. Don’t be afraid to teach technology skills when needed or pair students up for peer tutoring. Perhaps most important of all, make your professional growth goal to become a digital native yourself to better enable you to convert those immigrants in your classroom! While you’re at it, check out Kids React and the other series on TheFineBros.