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.

My DLL Journey

The past 18 months provided excitement, inspiration, anxiety, stress, jubilation, and determination. The comic below displays my journey through each course experience in the program. The program demanded an adjustment and development of what would eventually become my innovation plan for my organization. I researched, I planned, and I developed a model. Every plan needs an outline, and every plan must have a backbone. Now that I have completed this stage in my growth as an educator, I must take what I have learned and promote it effectively throughout my organization using a new model of professional learning. My time in the Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar University may be over as a student; however, my journey will continue with my colleagues and professors by my side. Using the COVA approach to CSLE could not have resonated more with my personal philosophy and for more information please check out my reading list. A HUGE shout out to all my peers that helped me along my journey and all my professors that facilitated my learning experience while allowing me to personalize my assignments that formed my innovation plan. Stay tuned for updates on the implementation of my innovation plan and new digital tools that can be fused into a blended learning model for your classroom.


It’s All About the Timing

The Planning Stage: My attempts to implement my innovation plan demonstrate perfectly that a plan’s success determines on the timing of the plan just as much as the quality of ideas behind the plan. When I brought my innovation plan to my organization, the timing was wrong. The pieces were not in place, and the ideas had no data to back them up. I had jumped the gun. This hasty move forced me to reevaluate my innovation plan and add steps in that would need to be accomplished before I went forward. Step one to getting back on track required me to display proof that my innovation plan would benefit the students in my organization. This data would be collected using an action research plan attempting to answer the following question: “To what extent will reading using digital resources affect a 9th grade student’s reading experience compared to reading using print resources?” More information including the purpose and methods of data collection can be found in the outline for my action research plan.

The Acting Stage: In attempt to prove that I had learned from my misstep in bad timing with my innovation plan, a timeline for my action research plan was created. My timeline for my action research plan reveals that at the minimum one year of data will be collected. Data will be collected a minimum of three times during that year. If data returns inconclusive results, another year of collection will be implemented.

The Developing Stage: The data collected within my classroom will determine how digital reading affects a 9th grade student’s reading experience. This data will determine the scope of my action research plan. The research documented in my literature review foreshadows that students will display different sets of skills and opposite experiences when reading using digital and print texts. The results of my data could determine that ELA teachers need to adjust their curriculum to include the honing of each set of skills. This  will open up my research plan to include all 9th grade teachers within my organization. This will allow the students to be used as the control. Teachers can focus each of their classes on digital text comprehension through a number of lessons and print text comprehension through a series of different lessons. More data will have to be collected to determine which reading skills are growing and the rate they are growing at. This data will be collected alongside the implementation of effective professional learning of blended learning models.

The Reflecting Stage: Once the data has been analyzed and a conclusion has been drawn resulting in an answer to my research question, I will assemble a report and reflection on my action research. This report and reflection will be given to my administration. My schedule for my innovation plan, including the steps to implement effective professional learning of blended learning models, will have gained the ground needed to get back on track with support from using the station rotation model within my classroom and the data collected within my classroom.


The Research Behind the Plan

The development of my action research plan continues adapt itself as support for my innovation plan. If my innovation plan to implement the station rotation of blended learning in the classrooms of my organization, than I must collect data to support that the station rotation will be a positive impact on student learning. The aspect of the station rotation model that is essential as far as the rotation being a blended learning model demands students read using digital resources. I plan to determine if and how reading digitally will affect the reading experience of my 9th grade students. This literature review displays my research supporting my action research plan.

Plan, act, plan some more

Educators seem to have their own way of getting in their own way. Whether you are the educator that takes on every extra job possible or the educator that focuses so much on planning that the grading stacks on your desk turn into skyscrapers, we all have flaws in our practices. My flaw seems to be an insufficient amount of patience when attempting to incite culture changing practices within my organization. This can be observed in the first steps of implementing my innovation plan. I took my idea to my organization without the proper research and data; therefore, my idea was heard, addressed, and moved over. Action research provides me an opening to perform the correct research and collect the necessary data to support my innovation plan‘s implementation within my organization.

The first step in anything should be to properly plan whatever action you wish to take. The following outline displays the first plans put in place for my action research. This outline will provide me the groundwork to formulate a literature review of cases surrounding similar topics. That literature review will bring to light any changes I need to make in the planning of my action research plan.

The Struggle of Innovation is Real

There are many reasons that a great idea can fail. A budding entrepreneur develops his or her pitch knowing the presentation will lead to the ultimate success or failure of the innovation being sold. Because even if the innovation has the ability to transcend standards set by previous sustaining innovations, if the users cannot comprehend the ability, then the innovation will not take hold and fail. My challenge to develop an innovation that would create positive impact within my organization allowed me the opportunity to electrify the current evolution of my school’s culture. This opportunity has not been squandered, although it has taken a number of detours. I found that when I unveiled my innovation plan without the proper amount of evidence and structure, I unintentionally set my project back months and possibly years. By displaying an incomplete plan without first developing evidence of success on my own, I alienated teachers that were not familiar with blended learning and I disappointed teachers that were familiar with blended learning. This negative reaction to my innovation plan does not hurt the integrity of the plan, but it does hurt the plan’s ability to succeed within my organization. A successful ICT project owes its entire life to the entity that takes the project on as its own. My ICT plan to bring the station rotation model of blended learning into my organization depends solely on my ability to motivate a vast majority of my peers to implement the model within their classrooms in an attempt to create one cohesive culture aiming at providing students an education for the 21st century.

Originally, the vision of implementing the station rotation model centered around using ICT to promote student growth. In an area that is populated primarily by youth that will need to live autonomously before they leave their teenage years, my school focuses on providing students opportunities to demonstrate skills necessary for such a lifestyle. The students at my school will be able to use ICT through the use of the station rotation model to promote ownership of education and ultimately, ownership of life. The realization of opportunity to use ICT to assist my students in their growth as positive citizens became the catalyst to develop my plan to use the station rotation model of blended learning.

The preemptive strike I took to share my innovation plan cost me credibility and time. My twenty-six-year-old ego knew that I had found the key to success for our school. I was fresh into my graduate program, and I was immersing myself in research that struck every nerve on its way to the heart of why I became a teacher. I read the material, identified the problems that I wanted to solve, determined possible routes to success, and envisioned a map of actions that would bring my organization to succeed in creating a strong, positive school culture that prepared our youth for life in the 21st century. What I didn’t do was pilot the station rotation model within my classroom to demonstrate why and how the model succeeds. I brought an idea to my peers that had little to no background knowledge of the subject and expected them to climb on board blindly. Had I taken the time to run a pilot of the model within my classroom, I would have discovered my entire plan’s timeline needed a serious revising.

On top of introducing my plan too soon, I introduced an unattainable goal to an apathetic audience. My inexperience as teacher comes through loud and clear with this mistake. My audience remained unconsidered until after the introduction of the plan. I assumed that ideas provided were judged on their merit and those with the highest merit would take hold. This assumption proves false due to the human nature to fear the unknown. The teachers that had limited knowledge of blended learning were suddenly being posed to implement concepts and pedagogy that they had neither researched properly nor planned and practiced. Of course they shirked at the idea of being asked to make immediate changes to their practices. I needed to provide opportunities for effective professional learning to take place.

My accidental discovery of the deep need for effective professional learning in my organization forced me to reevaluate the steps of my plan and the timespan allotted to each step. There were new steps that had to be taken. My colleagues displayed interest in the plan through questions and criticisms. I had the door cracked open. I took this opportunity to insert a professional learning option into the timeslot open due to our organization’s early-release Wednesday schedule. Teachers may use the time between 2:15 and 3:30 to collaborate with peers, attend professional learning breakout sessions, or take dents out of the daily workload of a classroom teacher. Beginning in the fall semester of the 2017-2018 school year, I hope to be instructing teachers on a variety of blended models of learning and observing those teachers implement the learned strategies within their classrooms. This optional professional learning will eventually be proposed to hold the primary focus of mandatory professional learning within the organization. With my teachers gaining new perspective and practice on blended learning, my innovation plan to implement the station rotation model of blended learning will push open the cracked door and proudly walk into the center of the room.

My rush to change has left me with hungry with an overflowing plate. Promoting and producing my optional professional development will serve as the first few bites of my meal, but I will need to consistently and urgently refill my spoon to clear my plate. Effective professional learning demands an on-going process that is reinforced through deliberate and extensive practice. It is possible that my professional learning plan may not become the focal point of my organization’s professional learning plan for multiple years. Until then, my cliental will be composed of teachers that volunteer to engage in my weekly professional learning and offer their classroom to be observed. These early adopters have the ability to help promote my professional learning and innovation plan, but until the early majority buys in, my innovation plan will have to wait. My responsibility to pilot the station rotation model within my own classroom weighs heavy on my shoulders. Teachers want to see success before attempting to adopt new strategies. My pilot will serve as that success and as personal practice needed to effectively coach my peers.

A Stride in the Right Direction

Throughout the Digital Learning and Leadership program at Lamar University. I have been introduced to the idea that the end product, vital behaviors, or BHAG will only be reached if that final output receives first priority in all circumstances. The presentation that will follow, as my “What,” combined with a teacher leader presenter, will move educators within the entirety of academia to the agreement that Professional Learning must evolve with the coming of the Digital Age. We have also been instructed to develop our projects in the hopes that we will use what we are learning within our organizations. This simultaneous advancement and employment of teacher leaders across the country will expedite our field’s move to the Common Core Standards. I, originally, had my sights set on a near-unreachable goal. Once I realized I did not have to bound through my career, I adjusted my stride to accomplish a necessary step within my current organization. This presentation aims to inspire questions throughout its audience. This presentation finds its “What” in a hopeful pursuit to create the urge in teachers to take back the power of being a life-long-learner. The survey titled “How Do You Want to Learn?” will act as radar for which teachers will be enlisted to assist in spreading interest and which teachers will be targeted to develop new interest.

A Blended Approach to Professional Learning

How Do You Want to Learn?

The “How” of the presentation defines itself as all great ideas do: a collaboration of a few good ideas and less bad ideas. After viewing How Presentation Zen Fixed My Bad Powerpoints and How to Avoid Death by Powerpoint, I took to my Microsoft Office with tenacity and determination. I had my BHAG; I was going to join the worlds of K-12 public education and the world of higher education. Districts would pair with online graduate programs to provide teachers with courses aligned to eventually earn a Master’s Degree in focuses such as Educational Leadership, Digital Learning and Leadership, Special Education, Teaching English as a Second Language, and more. Great ideas also need the counseling of an outside source. After consulting with my professors, I decided that it was best to focus my presentation on achieving the goals I had set out for with my innovation plan. An upcoming outline will determine my agenda for enlisting the peers of my organization to ensure my organization takes the steps needed to implement my innovation plan and more importantly, save teachers from out-dated, ill-used professional development.

Even good plans can change

In EDLD 5305, I was asked to develop an innovation and an outline for that innovation to be implemented. My Outline for Proposal to Adopt Blended Learning Program was more than I could handle. The plan was not received well in my organization, and I knew that I needed to re-prioritize my goals to achieve the original innovation plan down the road. I aimed my sights at something more manageable. I observed that even though the bellwork plan at our school had created growth in student achievement, the bellwork plan was not working to its full potential. This led me to develop a a new innovation plan. I followed this innovation plan by developing a 4DX model of implementation. I believe that achieving this WIG foremost will provide me with the credibility within my organization to revisit my original innovation plan to incorporate a station rotation model of blended learning in my organization.

Let’s Bring Departments Together

A major reason for the lack of collaboration in my organization is the psychological separation between departments. Not only do departments section themselves off during faculty meetings, celebrations, PD, etc. they separate themselves by their content areas to the students. My goal is to role-model collaboration to the students by increasing collaboration between departments. Observation Games outlines my proposal to change the way bellwork is being observed at Heritage High School. I would like to change the amount of observations and the way observations take place. My experience with bellwork observations is as follows: an administrator arrives in your room unannounced, observes your bellwork exercise, and places the rubric in your mailbox with a few points circled and maybe a sentence of feedback. I aim to change this practice of  observation using the six sources of influence.

1) Personal motivation: Currently in our district, teachers may earn an infinite amount of compensatory time, but can only use 16 hours over the course of the year, 8 in the first semester and 8 in the second. For a teacher to observe a peer they must give up their valued planning period, so why should they not receive comp time for their efforts to collaborate with their peers? However, the ability to earn comp time does not translate into motivation to earn that time if you cannot use the hours you earn. Therefore, I move that teachers be allowed to use 16 hours of comp time a semester to motivate teachers to complete their observations and participate in the other various methods of earning comp time: chaperoning after-school functions, teacher-parent conference nights, etc.

2) Personal ability: Observations are of no use if they are not done properly. A teacher that views checked boxes of a vague and confusing rubric to receive feedback on their performance may hear the wrong message or feel they were observed unfairly or unjustly. Observations need to incorporate deliberate practice. Teachers should discuss what the observer will be observing in detail (this could happen face-to-face or through email), record meaningful feedback to give back to the observee, and feedback should be discussed between the two teachers and if possible an administrator/3rd party. Teachers will need to know what this practice looks like; therefore, it could be modeled during a pre-planning day or in-service day. Teachers will then have the proper skills to observe each other displayed for them.

3) Social Motivation: This proposal asks teachers to complete more work in an already busy school-year. There will no doubt be an enormous amount of resistance to the idea of more observations and observations of other department members. The way to combat this is to gain support from the teacher leaders within the school. These are not necessarily the department heads. Teachers that are respected within the school must be part of teaching observation skills, and the professional development sessions must include as many teachers as possible to reinforce skills taught and learned. Endorsement of observations by the teacher leaders wipes the dirt off what is an obvious way to better personal skill within the classroom.

4) Social Ability: This is where observation of different department members comes into play. I would argue social ability is the reason teachers stick to their own departments rather than the departments not getting along. It is much more comfortable to socialize with peers that have commonalities through content area, than trying to empathize with peers outside of your content area. Teachers that observe classes outside of their department will come face-to-face with the goings-on of the teachers in their school and build relationships between their peers through noticing similarities and differences that each content area poses. This strengthens the bonds between the teachers and promotes further collaboration.

5) Structural Motivation: Why will teachers want to perform proper observations if improper observations are accepted? My organization uses the professional development platform ProGoe to document peer and administrative observations. This allows the observer to simply check a few boxes, click submit, and move on to the next task. This is an efficient way to document the observations but not necessarily meaningful. While there is a place to write in feedback, I have noticed that many teachers “pride themselves” in accomplishing their observations as quick as possible; therefore, I’m assuming checking boxes is the most used practice. I propose a mandatory write-in piece of feedback for at least one aspect of each of the five dimensions included within the observation.

6) Structural Ability: If teachers are going to be mandated to give written feedback, then they better know how to give proper feedback. The collaboration that happens during the reading or listening of feedback by the observee is arguably the most crucial point of the observation. I, personally, was lost for a week or two after my principal threw me through a loop by giving me feedback for my lesson planning when he only saw the implementation of the plan. Teachers must be instructed on what proper feedback looks like and sounds like. Teachers must also be instructed on how to respond to feedback. This is something that I believe can be accomplished by demonstrations by the teacher leaders during a pre-planning day or in-service day. Teachers are tired of seeing the same PD slideshows every year anyways.

This is going to be a mountain of a hike to accomplish, but by arranging support in the right places and dedicated work it is attainable. Teachers will not easily see the obvious opportunity to better their practices and their peer practices. However, by using crucial moments to demonstrate proper skills and value of observations, teacher leaders to create a bandwagon, and speaking up against those that aim to devalue the change, schools will build a strong culture of inclusiveness and collaboration starting with the teachers and ending with the students.

A Push for Student Growth creates Urgency for Change

The first step in creating change is identifying and outlining the purpose of your change. You must develop a “why,” a “how,” and a “what.” The order that these three stipulations are prioritized can make or break an innovation plan. The most effective plans for change begin with the “why” statement. Members of an organization are more likely to assist in your plan if they believe and support your “why” statement. Therefore, discover why you are attempting to create change and then move to the how and what.

Why = We believe that digital tools and cooperative learning provide an essential element to the learning experience of each student in our school.

How = The educators at our school use 21st century methodology and pedagogy to ensure the students receive the proper tools and opportunities to succeed in their communities after graduating.

What = Our students receive instruction on how to use the tools at their disposal to work through their assignments within the school and the issues that encompass their community.

These three statements come together to clearly describe the school’s mindset for developing positive, progressive citizens. However, these statements cannot be upheld without changes to the school. This creates an urgency to acquire the necessary digital tools for a 21st century classroom, instructional coaches that guide teachers on how to properly use new tools and techniques, and administration that holds each member of the school accountable to the standards set. Each statement is aimed at the hearts of all members of the organization. The statements, together, imply that the school culture is centered around student growth, and, that, is something that reaches every educators heart and personal “why.” Whether  the goal is for test scores to be higher, for the graduation rate to be higher, or the number of graduates attending higher education to be higher, student achievement and growth is at the core of the mission.