‘Tis the season (spoilers)

The television gods have seen it fit to bog all my free time with wondering whether Jon Snow will sit on the Iron Throne just as testing season rolls in. Monday mornings have been quite groggy as I stay up past my 9 ‘o clock curfew to ensure my viewing is not ruined by any would be spoilers. Whether my students are fellow Game of Thrones enthusiasts or they are simply ready for summer remains unknown. My freshman students have been prepping for their state standardized reading test while my juniors finish their current unit with a project-based performance task.

The use of Kylene Beers and Robert Probst’s “three big questions” combined with the questions “What did you notice?” and “What did you think?” have provided the proper scaffolding necessary to work through the play “Romeo and Juliet.”

Between End of Course Exams and Cambridge testing, juniors have a steady stream of writing coming their way. My class of juniors worked their way through a multitude of texts studying how American authors used naturalism and realism to create social change. They concluded their study of The Jungle and Food Product Design by debating on whether the way America processes food has truly become safer for workers in the industry and consumers at home. Their performance task offers them five choices. They may profile themselves as a “modern muckraker,” build a photo-narrative identifying a problem in their community, write a short story that uses naturalism to depict a modern man vs nature struggle, satirize an issue of modern society in an essay, or develop their own idea to demonstrate the comprehension and mastery of skills built within the unit. I have already had one student submit an idea to create a board game titled Realism.

Testing season is upon us. We must face it together as the free men stood against the Night King. Covering classes, making positive conversation in common areas, sharing materials, and grading from the couch will all serve as strategies to maintain sanity and make sure the students we have helped grow do their best on the test. Small acts of positivity travel far and wide across the campus, and you never know who might need a smile just to get through the day. Happy Testing Season yinz!

A New Tool in the Shed

As I moved into the second semester, an opportunity presented itself in the form of another building block to my Google Classroom. The district that I work for has currently partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to provide students with a Collection of resources including a print-based textbook via the classroom, an online textbook that includes a multitude of resources to assist in writing and reading, and now, a writing platform that promotes peer collaboration in the writing process.

Writable links to both my students online textbook resource as well as my Google Classroom. Writable provides students with the prompt, writing space, and online word processing tools of a traditional online document. It also provides a side-bar of guiding tips to help students focus their writing to the task and audience. The textbook is a click away in another tab or a swipe away if accessing from a tablet or mobile device. My students got their first practice with the tool while completing the performance task to a unit on Survival.

Previous to gaining access to Writable, my students had developed a draft of their essay on a Google Doc. The next assignment would be to retype their essay into Writable, revise as they go, and submit their essay to be reviewed, anonymously, by their peers. Being that my students had moved through the planning process and rough draft process at different speeds, I was able to provide direct instruction with students that requested support. My role shifted from instructing on what components are contained in a formal, argumentative essay to a real-time reviser and editor. It must be impressed that writing independently must be the focus of this exercise. By answering questions with questions, the student must use extended thinking skills to think through their questions using my questions to focus their stream of conscience. One-by-one students finish retyping their drafts into Writable.

Each student was then be required to read, analyze, and evaluate at least three of their peers essays. Writable software provides each student a rotation of their peers’ essays without revealing the author. Students in the review portion of the assignment could not edit the text; however, they are required to use a star-scale along with comments to assist their peer in revising the essay. Writable even goes the extra mile and provides students that score a category of their peer’s essay a one or two out of three stars a list of stems to comments to guide the feedback process. Once a student has finished reviewing three peer essays, they can view what their peers provided as far as feedback on their essay. Helpful hints are liked earning the reviewer Revision Points. Editors that take advice and make appropriate changes get Editor Points. Students become rewarded for positive digital citizenship through the act of honing revision skills. After students make their revisions, they submit their Final Draft by exporting their Writable Doc straight to the Google Classroom into a Google Doc.

There was immediate, evident buy-in from the students even within the first cycle of the revision process using Writable. Using Collections paired with Writable offers my classroom the opportunity to use digital tools to catalyze the learning process. Built in Collections assignments that can be dropped into my Google Classroom cut down on the time necessary to prepare for class which rewards itself by opening up more time to provide meaningful feedback to the students that engage in the assignment. I would like to thank Lisa Davis for getting my pilot of this program up and running, and I would like to thank Marla Banks for providing an excellent webinar that guided me through the programs features.

You Don’t Know COVA, Until You Live COVA

I have viewed and shared the video RSA Animate Changing Education Paradigms so many times I can probably recite Sir Ken Robinson’s speech from memory. This video became my battle cry for my personal “why” of teaching. My problem was that I did not know how I was going to assist in changing the paradigms. COVA (Choice, Ownership, Voice, and Authentic Learning Experiences) and CSLE (Creating a Significant Learning Environment) were the concepts I needed to move my American public education system in the direction I wanted it to go. Implementing COVA and CSLE will ensure the culture needed to shake the current education trends from further use and the beginning of the education revolution in our public school system. For more on the COVA approach and CSLE please visit the Professional Learning for the Digital Age page of my site.

As I begin to reflect on the process, my first thoughts go back to the missteps I took. Classes I saw as strewn individual puzzle pieces were completed sufficiently, and classes that I placed connections between earned a deeper engagement. Being focused primarily on the happenings of daily life as a classroom teacher, I compartmentalized my graduate work as separate from practices within school. However, it was not until last week that my eyes finally adjusted and saw the complete puzzle together. This happened when I was building a set of Google classrooms to be used for a “New Teacher Orientation” professional learning day. While beginning to start my last classroom, I realized that I had found a way to bring my innovation plan to my school. In the whirlwind, I could only focus on what was directly impacting my life: the resistance directly coming from within my organization. Without even knowing it, this program provided me the time and resources to build my innovation plan outside of the whirlwind. As I moved through the beginning stages of the process I took a mindset that I was accomplishing practice for later, now I realize the design ensures that my “practice” is directly influencing the work I am doing within my organization. The weekly artifacts completed within the courses provided me the stepping stones to the knowledge and the leadership skills I would need to influence my colleagues into giving my innovation plan a thought.

The COVA approach was a great fit for me and allowed me the freedom and opportunity to advance myself as an educator. The significant learning environment created through the LMS Blackboard structured my growth and ensured direction. There were times when I felt like my innovation plan was becoming spread too thin and was heading in differing directions. Without the structure of the program, my ambition would have pressed me to try and accomplish too broad a spectrum of goals within my innovation plan. The combination of the significant learning environment and the COVA approach fit perfectly into my philosophy of teaching. This gave the program credibility in my eyes and motivated me to continue my work. This also built support that my graduate work was my career work. Alas, I continued the separation of graduate and career work under the preconception that school and work were separate entities. Once I realized that this was not the case and that the two were indefinitely intertwined, I acknowledged my project I was building “for my university” was also the project I was building “for my organization.”

The COVA approach provides a label for my teaching philosophy I have been honing since my undergraduate work. Learning how to create significant learning environments was the skill I needed to bring COVA to my organization. I will be implementing the station rotation model in my classroom using Google classrooms paired with my online textbook. I must maintain my practices involving teaching the state standards through the district mandated curriculum. However, novel-studies and research projects will find life in Google classrooms that students participate in using the station rotation model. Students will choose which novel they will be studying and what topic they will be researching from a curated list. They will engage in discussion boards and reflect on assignments by blogging alongside daily grammar, vocabulary, and writing lessons. Students will be provided a pacing guideline, but will need to take ownership of their time management because the deadline for work to be completed will be the at the conclusion of the unit. As students create their own voice through the authentic learning opportunities within the blended unit, discussion boards, blog posts, Socratic seminars, in-class debates, and a concluding performance task, they will rise to the challenge of becoming self-directed learners.

My students will live the COVA approach throughout the year in my classroom. Being that self-discovery is so key when instilling life-long skills and mental approachs, I will not introduce the COVA model to my students until the conclusion of the year when they can reflect on whether they actively chose to be a part of the model or not. This method will allow for more genuine practice during the year from my students and myself. I believe piloting this model of blended learning will hone my facilitating skills, collect the data necessary to spread the model through my school and write a 1:1 grant for my school. My learners will face the challenge of seeing this model solely in my classroom. It will be my responsibility as a coach to inspire them to make the choice to take ownership of their education, find their unique voice, and engage in authentic learning experiences.


A New Era Deserves a New Education

There can be no denying the transition to a digital age in America. Over the past two decades, Americans have seen the birth and growth of the internet along with adaptations to technology aimed at inclusion of the “online experience” in all tools available to the average American. Americans have seen the introduction of “smart” phones, cars, refrigerators, watches, etc. If our culture continues to move forward into this digital age, then it seems appropriate that our schools do the same. The book Teaching in a Digital Age supports this idea, “Technology is leading to massive changes in the economy, in the way we communicate and relate to each other, and increasingly in the way we learn. Yet our educational institutions were built largely for another age, based around an industrial rather than a digital era” (Bates).  Creation of online and blended learning programs is the first step in achieving an education system that parallels the job market in the digital age. According to (Standards for Professional Learning), the creation of an online course must address all needs of a student’s learning process: knowledge and skill acquisition, reflection, refinement, assessment and evaluation. Educators must aim to achieve success in each part of the process as well as create an engaging atmosphere that inspires action.

The four learning theories; behaviorism, cognitivism, contructivism, and connectivism; must each be addressed in the learning process. If the argument that knowledge has evolved out from limitations of the past, it is fair to deduce that behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and connectivism evolved out of each other. Therefore, it is imperative to include each learning theory in each student’s academic growth. The use of a LMS facilitates the learning process by allowing the opportunity to move through each step of the learning process at a personalized pace with guidance from their teacher. The use of a LMS will also provide the platform to create a learning community that uses collaboration to promote learning gains. In all online courses, educators must comprehend that they creating a learning community through the use of a virtual classroom/course (Morrison). Students will be able to view materials, complete assignments, collaborate with peers, gain insight and advice from their teacher, and create meaningful learning gains through the use of the LMS schoology when completing the course designed by myself. For more information on the development of my course please view EDLD 5318.


Bates, A.W. (2015) Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning (Chapters 1 & 2). Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/

Morrison, D. (2013, May 7). Why Online Courses [Really] Need an Instructional Design Strategy. Retrieved from https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/why-online-courses-really-need-an-instructional-design-strategy/

Standards for Professional Learning. (2015) Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/standards/learning-designs#.VzHxq2MWVlI

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

There can be no rest in the process of change. Innovation does not take a break; therefore, neither can those attempting to stay on pace with the innovations and changes in their field. While it is important to recognize success, it is more important to stay hungry and maintain sights on the top of the never-ending staircase. Complacency will result in stagnation of yourself and, possibly, your organization. Agents of change continue to grow their learning networks, revise the projects created, and develop new projects that they share throughout their learning networks. As an agent of change, I must continue to use all modes of communication, digital and traditional, to reinforce my practices and allow others to learn from my victories and failures. Through the use of an eportfolio, I can share reading materials, videos, lessons, and projects that my colleagues can analyze and evaluate. Collaboration between myself and my colleagues will result in the synthesis of my ideas with their ideas to create new material that transforms our organization for the betterment of every member.

The continuation of my plan for my organization will take multiple years. The problems I have recognized, attendance and student engagement, are not problems that can be fixed in a short span of time. These are problems with the culture of the school. Culture is not easily transform or maintained. Results will only be seen organization-wide once the entire organization buys in. My proposal to implement the station rotation model, learning eportfolios, and a fusion pedagogy is a heavy hand to deal. Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, I will start implementing the station rotation model and the learning eportfolios in my classroom as a pilot. Students will create their own learning portfolio through WordPress and then use their site to display evidence of their learning, revise assignments, and communicate with peers to develop deeper understandings of the content they are exploring. I will also be using time given to teachers for collaboration to introduce my methods to the other teachers in the ELA department. This will result in department-wide implementation of the eportfolio in the 2017-2018 year. Teachers will be encouraged to join in using the station rotation model under the assumption that results are hard to ignore and teachers will gravitate toward a model that has been proven successful within their clientele. A timeline of the proposed implementations will help develop the scale of this impact. My role in this change is more than testing and introducing the blended model and the learning eportfolio. I must constantly communicate new readings, case studies, and relevant data throughout my organization. With the help of my assistant principal, I will develop the credibility needed to sway even the most “set-in-their-ways” teachers to acknowledge and attempt new practices that will develop the positive school culture desired by each member of the organization.

The search for new knowledge is part of the “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” attitude that must be adhered to in order to be an agent of change. Two books I will be reading to reinforce my understanding of blended learning are “Navigating the Digital Shift: Implementation Strategies for Blended and Online Learning” by John Bailey and Carri Schneider and “Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator” by Dave Burgess. I will continue to participate in my online learning network. I will also be attending a conference that will provide me the opportunity to learn about innovations within my district and network with similar minded agents of change in my district. Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” This concept is vital to understand when attempting to create positive innovations within an organization. Complacency must always be seen as the enemy, and the can’t stop, won’t attitude will take over and bring your innovations to life.

Do You

The single most valuable opportunity in creating an eportfolio is the ability to “do you.” There are various platforms that can be used in creation of the eportfolio, but each allows you the freedom to creatively assemble the portfolio to reflect your persona and philosophy. The eportfolio creater and manager must take full advantage of this ability to personalize. The job market for educators is continually growing more competitive. What better way to set yourself apart from the competition by developing your own personal eportfolio. I recommend not only adding your personal experiences, creations, and ideas, but format the page to represent yourself. Add color, pictures, videos, and any other visual displays that can connect the viewer to who you are as an educator and citizen. The eportfolio also offers the ease of a digital platform. Your eportfolio should grow, adapt, and evolve along with you. Long gone are the days of the porfolio that becomes out-dated and stored on a shelf collecting dust. The eportfolio offers the creator creative freedom, convenience and ease in maintenance, and a platform that allows it to be viewed from any computer with internet access. So as fellow educator, I urge you to create your eportfolio and most importantly DO YOU!

Who Owns This Eportfolio?

After reading the article found here, I am still undecided on who owns the eportfolio. Today’s current state of pedagogy and practice would lean towards teacher or professor ownership. The student creates the portfolio for the teacher or professor; therefore, the portfolio is a replication of what the teacher or professor wants. This is the type of the ownership is what should occur in high schools across the nation. High school students need the structure and discipline of creating for another before they can create for themselves. High school students should be given the opportunity to create an eportfolio and manage that eportfolio over the course of their high school career. This will result in the product being used as a collector of data, assignments, projects, and essays. While this practice is not using the eportfolio to its full potential, it is a place to start for students that will need direction and practice before having the ability to create and own for themselves.

Once the high school student becomes the college student or the working citizen, ownership should transfer. Now that the basics have been learned and a structure is apparent, the eportfolio can be altered to fit the unique persona of the creator. The manager of the eportfolio has the knowledge and ability to transform what was a display into a constantly changing, adaptable, and digital extension of themselves. The manager of the eportfolio can now make those deep and meaningful connections between the assignments of the past and present to instill a deeper learning within themselves. It is within this time that the manager can master their skills and continue their digital growth.