The amazing embrace of failure

The amazing embrace of failure

This week I got to see amazing teachers in my district empower students during #CSEedweek. Our teachers spent many hours planning for the week, putting together coding activities for each grade level and ability in their Symbaloo. I saw teachers plan rotation stations in the all purpose room for students to use coding bots, and register for Skype sessions with coders and programmers to learn more about what they do in the real world. But, it was the reactions from the students that I will never forget. Specifically how they responded to failure. Failure is not typically something that is embraced and welcomed with open arm as we grow and learn. It is a mindset we must develop and understand. Growth is not perfect. During computer science week, I saw the complete opposite. Students were using the hour of code to complete activities with coding and computation thinking. When they did something wrong, when they failed, they reflected on their choices, identified which area was in need of being fixed. when they tried and tried and just couldn’t get it, they had no problem asking a peer of their teacher for assistance. This mindset was, in one word, amazing. They took failure and made it into nothing, and kept working and asking until they achieved mastery. To add icing to the cake, when they were done, not only could they explain their steps, they excitedly admitted how they reached their goal. Kudos to both the teachers and students for an amazing week. (Even though they do it every day and not just during this week) Thanks for creating a growth mindset and an understanding of computation thinking that everyone can all take with them when they leave your room and enter the next.


What’s “Old” is “New” again with Office Lens and Teams Assignments

With more than 10 years experience in the classroom as a social studies teacher, I have collected a tremendous amount of resources, but they were all analog in a digital world. For years, they became part of my class as supplements to the textbook. But I’m not the same teacher I was 10 years ago, and my classroom was going through a digital transformation. Four years ago, I enrolled in graduate school to attain a Masters in educational technology (MAEdTech) to gain a better understanding of the new paradigm shift in education and what I can do to build a 21st century classroom. As my thirst for professional growth continued, I reenrolled to attain a second Masters in educational leadership (MAEdL). During my coursework, I conducted action research and studies based on best practices in the classroom. This is where I found instructional design methods, such as SAMR (substitution, augmentation, modification, redefinition) and R2D2 (read, reflect, display, do), to assist my transition to a digital classroom. The next major transformation came when I learned more about concepts like UbD ( Understanding by Design) and UDL (Universal Design for Learning), these helped me understand and develop student centered lessons and build a learner centered environment. Post graduation, other books I read that helped my transformation were written by great educators and educational leaders. Amazing inspiration can be found in TLAP, LeadLAP, DitchBook, LastingLearning, KidsDeserveIt, and BeTheWildCard, to name a few. Through the use of MicrosoftEDU and other digital tools, I was able to maximize classroom time and empower students through active learning techniques. I had the most amazing year in my professional career last year. It was the point in which all of my learning, risks, unlearning and relearning, and methods developed an excellent learning experience for each student who entered. Learning was focused on each student, feedback was timely and efficient, student voice and choice was maximized, and one size fits all learning disappeared. Collection, curation, and distribution of materials was done in a manner that was efficient, and finally really easy.

This school year, even more changed. I moved out of the classroom and into the position of technology integration specialist. In my new position, I assist teachers with the integration of digital tools and resources. I am taking my pedagogy best practices from my MAEdTech and blending it with andragogy practices from my MAEdL. I am very fortunate to work in a district that has an amazing vision and mission for technology integration blended with an great support team, the Delta Team. (Want to know More about Delta Team, read this article written by Dr. Cascone, “Technological Confusion or Infusion: An Effective and Sustainable Procedural Framework for Digital Learning”. I am also working along side an amazing partner, Scott Titmas, aka @SDTitmas. He has created an awesome local resource for our district at Follow the hashtag, #EdTechOB, to see our district journey.

Now that we are back to school and I’m in this new position, I wanted to make sure that I assist teachers to match their needs and meet the goals of the district. We are a Microsoft EDU district and focus on the use of MS Teams and OneNote. Teachers are looking for a starting point to go digital, as well as a way to bring their supplemental materials back to life. This week I showed them the marriage of Teams Assignments and Office Lens. Each response to it was, “Oh! It’s that simple!”. Office Lens takes a picture of any resource, converts it to fit needs, and puts a copy right into your OneDrive for you. When you click Teams assignments, you add it as a resource along with your assignment. Distribute to individual students, a group, the whole class, or all of your classes with ease. It’s puts the assignment right into the conversation space and onto the assignments calendar view, and done. Building assignments takes no time and the turn in and review process is only a click away. After adding a showing on learning tools and accessibility, the response was “WOW!” every time. This is just the beginning of my new journey as a tech specialist, and i am excited to wake up every day and grow along with everyone

NearPod and ScreenBeam

NearPod and ScreenBeam

When I need an exciting, interactive lesson that engages my students and promotes active learning, NearPod is my go-to tool.  Students are able to use devices to learn new material and complete assignments.  Since every student logs in and completes assignments independently, this is a great way to assess students learning and hold students accountable. 

NearPod in the classroom.

One of the greatest features of NearPod is the ability to make your lesson teacher guided or student paced.  When a teacher is guiding a lesson, it can connect to a projector to display the lesson for all students to see.  I have used the teacher-led feature in endless ways.  It is great when you want to show a video on one display, scroll through and explain websites, go through information on a Sway, discuss images, and model writing prompts. The drawback to this was that my device needed to connect to the HDMI cord, which connected to a projector.  This restricted my movement around the classroom and tethered me to my device and projector.   I like to be mobile in the classroom, because I believe the teacher is an integral part in making lessons engaging and fun.  

NearPod and ScreenBeam (FINDING A SOLUTION!)

I was ecstatic when I learned about Actiontec ScreenBeam.  ScreenBeam connects to my projector and then I use the connection from my device so I can display content from my screen for the entire class to see.  This allowed me to walk around my classroom with my device in hand and be with my students.  By combining NearPod and Screen Beam, I was able to guide my students as they explored content.  If we were ready to go on to the next slide in Sway, it was just an easy click on my device, instead of having to return to my device in the front of the room.  As my students were working on an assignment, I could walk around and help, and decide to use Nearpod’s Share feature for the entire class to see other students’ responses.  Using NearPod and ScreenBeam together saved me time and allowed me to be part of the student’s responses.  ScreenBeam is the device that untethered me during these amazing, interactive lessons. 

Want to learn more about ScreenBeam? Contact the ScreenBeam team.

#NearPod #ScreenBeam #Actiontec #ScreenBeamExpert #UntetheredLife #Microsoft #MicrosoftEdu #MIEExpert #EdTech #EdTechOB

Up and about with purpose

Today I asked my Ss a question, “If you were Thomas Jefferson, would you have declared war on England?” This is easily a yes/no question with a short response that I would usually follow up with a turn and talk. However, I wanted to make a positive change and add to my formative assessment toolbox. I have been reading on how much movement increases retention and improves classroom climate, so I went for it. I have had them move around and choose small groups before, but I wanted to see how well they could handle larger groups and stay out of seats and on their feet. I made all the ‘yes’ answers stand up and go to one side and the ‘no’ to the other. In every class, my Ss were really excited to get up and move around and get into a large group of their peers. I then had them come up with a one collaborative good reason why on each side. I knew this was a bit of a risk to have just two large groups, however, they were really engaged and right to discussing great points and having conversations about what would be not only the best answer, but one that the other side would want to agree with to change their mind. After letting this go for a few minutes, I started with the no side, then without comment, to the yes side. I let each side come up with a reason they had a better stance and both sides developed a second point to try to persuade the others. They were all moving around taking to each other, discussing facts, hypothetical situations, analyzing the rebuttals, and so much more. What was most important, they were learning. Learning not only content, but collaboration and conversation skills. To close the lesson, I said “in the end, the ‘no’ side was what Jefferson did, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out why the ‘yes’ side was not completely wrong”. (Jefferson didn’t want war, but Madison will. War of 1812) Like in show business, always leave them wanting more. This is an approach to formative assessment that I’m definitely going to keep in constant rotation.

Zang Bop Kiddly Pow

Zang Bop Kiddly Pow

These four words started it all. Every night I read books to my daughter before bed. But one night, my daughter read the dinosaur dance book to me. She’s only 1, and didn’t really “read” it, but said every word on every page verbatim. This was exciting for me, but also made me think. Is this what I want to see in the classroom? Is having the ability to say everything word for word back to me really showing understanding? Like my daughter, Ss may be good at memorization. Knowing what to say when we expect them to say it. But, the next part changed everything. She did the shimmy shimmy with the stegosaurus and the stomp stomp stomp with the T-Rex. Now, this is different. She is still not just going through the words, but creating an understanding by acting out the book as well. This is what I want my classroom to look like. Not Ss stomping around like dinosaurs, but making a learning experience where they can create, show, and connect what they learned in more than just stating facts.

My ahhhh moment (the post ah-ha)

My ahhhh moment (the post ah-ha)

Today I had a good feeling and my day ended with a huge smile. A feeling that all my risks, failures, and achievements are finally where I want them to be, behind me as a learning experience. Ah-ha moment after ah-ha moment has brought me to developing a student centered lesson that finally went just as I thought it would. I developed a lesson today based on the Preamble of the Constitution and the goals set within. For years I delivered a PowerPoint with lecture and notes. I obsessed over methods that were more about content and presentation than relevance and engagement. I was not going to let that be the case anymore. Today, my Ss were guided to a OneNote collaboration page. The title page had the Preamble, the second page had the activity, and the other pages were broken into the goals. Each goal was assigned to a small group to interpret. They were given a link to a site with examples and history behind the goals. They were tasked with creating a student friendly explanation as a group. Next, they had to complete an individual part in which they chose an online image they felt best represented the goal and added an explanation. Within 15 minutes, the groups completed the tasks. The final task was presenting the material to their peers. This is the point it went from engaging them to empowering them. They presented their material to the class through my notebook and owned it. At the end of the day, all I can do was exhale a good Ahhhhhhhh. There are still some aspects I would like to work on, but I feel I have finally crossed the teacher centered to student centered line. I can’t wait until Monday when we work on the principles of the constitution.


Grappling is an important part of learning in many ways. First, it is the balance that students must undergo every day in the classroom. They have to balance the gaining of content with civil behavior. “Grappling is necessarily a balancing act. One tries to do what one has never done before and learns more about what one wants to do (Ornstein, Pajak, & Ornstein, 2015).” Next, grappling is part of curriculum development. We need to create a design that is not too far out of reach, but can engage the students and not “sell them short”. Classroom discussions are another aspect of grappling and learning. Students need to learn how to present material and also share their thoughts and opinions. When grappling in the minds of students allow them to take their learning into other experiences, which is one of the most important aspects of a well-developed education. One final aspect of grappling in education is allowing the students to think further beyond the classroom and continue learning. Students should be able to fully grasp the information presented, unfortunately this is rarely performed due to time constraints of curriculum.

Technology and the increase of student achievement is a movement toward a digital frontier in the classroom and how it is embraced for overall student performance. A survey conducted showed that 97% of teachers used some type of digital device. “The most commonly cited benefit of technology-enhanced instruction was improved student engagement, at 60 percent. Better student access to instructional content, at 55 percent, and improved ability to provide individualized instruction, at 48 percent, rounded out the top three”. (Bolkan, 2015) This study provided information about how technology has allowed teachers to increase performance, which helps students increase performance.

“This data shows that the environment for educators is visibly challenging, with new standards and technology driving both anxiety and optimism,” said HMH Chief Content Officer Mary Cullinane in a prepared statement. “It is our job to help teachers grappling with these changes; we need to create digital solutions that are designed with simplicity and engagement in mind. That, together with effective technology training and meaningful opportunities to collaborate, can help reduce anxiety and support teachers’ confidence as a whole.” (Bolkan, 2015)