Category: Technology (ISLLC 7)

A school administrator is an educational leader who understands and comprehensively applies technology to advance student achievement.

Go Live: Focus on Meaning and Positive Progress

I’ve been thinking and reflecting on digital communication a lot lately, in part because of the high volume of e-mails that I send and receive each day, and in part because of the importance I place on modeling and teaching effective digital citizenship skills and strategies to those I serve.  Most of the e-mails I get are intended to deliver information without emotion, and for my money that’s what e-mail communication should be used for.  However, occasionally people use e-mail to communicate information about emotions, either overtly or surreptitiously.

When an e-mail containing any sort of emotional undertones or overtones comes across my screen I immediately go live.  I do so, because I’ve seen too many emotional emails and e-mail chains grounded in heightened emotions perpetuate frustrated distractions and deteriorate relationships.  My standard response to an emotionally driven email is a request for a phone call (voice to voice) or a face-to-face conversation.  Again, I go live.  When done with compassion, that request has the potential to shift what might have otherwise turned into a negative situation to a constructive interaction.  It provides an opportunity to establish and enhance partnerships aimed at genuine positive progress.

No matter how intelligent, intuitive, of insightful a person is I don’t believe that anyone can truly read emotions effectively over a computer screen.  Any emotional output delivered digitally is ripe for misinterpretation.  Even emails that are not emotionally driven can often times be misinterpreted as such.  In education, because we communicate with diverse groups of stakeholders about inherently emotional content (the health, wellbeing, and achievement of our children) it couldn’t be more important that we take extreme care in developing and exercising highly effective digital communication skills.  And as we enhance our skills we must also take extreme care in helping our students, colleagues, and parent partners do the same.

For many valid reasons, it’s not always easy to be direct in telling people what we’re thinking or how we feel.  Some people respond in harsh and negative ways to straight talk, some people try to avoid hurt feelings by skirting around issues rather than facing them head on, and some situations don’t lend themselves easily to open communication.  For those and various other reasons, I would imagine that most of us receive and/or deliver suggestive or “passive-aggressive” messaging occasionally (or even regularly) in our personal and professional lives.

I prefer the term “suggestive” to the term “passive-aggressive” because I think that even through the frustrations inherent in a suggestive message it’s important to remember that there is meaning.  Again, I’ve found both at home and at work, both digitally and voice to voice or face to face, that by working through the frustrations suggestive messaging often propagates and focusing on the suggestion(s) instead, I can mold potentially negative communications into opportunities for learning and growth.  Also, the same is effective when I find myself pulled into a frustrated and frankly immature state of mind (and heart) in which I’m compelled to deliver suggestive messaging.  Focusing on the message I’m intending to deliver helps me preemptively turn to more productive methods.  It always seems to be more effective and I always feel much better about it.

In case you’re not clear on what I mean by  ‘suggestive’ I’ll elaborate.  In my experience, much of the suggestive messaging I receive comes through e-mail.  It seems to be a comfortable format for many people to be expressive in ways they otherwise might not.  For example, when I receive an e-mail laden with capital letters or riddled with extreme punctuation (like a dozen exclamation or question marks to end a sentence) I feel confident that the sender is frustrated or upset but unable to articulate that directly.  I could be wrong, but with communication we have to always remember that perception is reality.  By the way, of the hundred plus emails I receive each day, only a few of them fit this description.  Even so, I find them impactful enough to reflect on in this way.  Instead of being frustrated, which admittedly is my first instinct, I work hard to realize that there’s an opportunity in front of me.

Thoughtfully processing suggestive messaging with an open heart and an open mind, wishing the sender well, and seeking to understand the inherent suggestion helps me move forward in positive ways, and in my opinion, it serves as the likeliest way to satisfy the frustration of the sender while enhance my relationship with him/her (rather than deteriorating it by responding in kind).  It doesn’t work every time, and even when it does I don’t always know, but no matter the outcome for the sender, this strategy consistently helps me stay focused and positive, and in my opinion it enhances my ability to learn and to lead.

When you think about it life is actually relatively short.  While I don’t always get it right, I subscribe to the idea that we should each work to fill our own and each other’s with peace, joy, and opportunities positive progress.   So focus on people’s messaging through their words and through whatever energy they project, and the next time you feel pangs of frustration as a result of some suggestive messaging coming at you through a computer screen, go live…you just might like it:).

Live. Learn. Lead.


Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

Great Ideas Are All Around – Keep Your Eyes Open!

The Point: 

Collaboration is one essential key to growth and achievement.  Great ideas are all around us.  When we engage in thinking about (and working on) those great ideas with others, we enhance connected growth opportunities for ourselves, and everyone else involved.

The Story:

The wonderful Arin Kress has initiated a great collaborative learning project through her blog, and complimented the effort by engaging the Twitter-sphere with #videoblogchallenge (follow Arin of Twitter @KressClass & do yourself a favor…read her amazing blog)!  I’m extremely excited to be participating in this first challenge.  The challenge is simple:  Go to Arin’s blog, watch the video, create a blog post based on the video, and attach a link to your blog in the comment section of the #videoblogchallenge post that you’re working on.   I love this idea for several reasons.  To begin with, it’s a wonderfully creative idea for engaging multiple learners!  I happen to be a huge fan of wonderfully creative ideas, and I’m an equally huge fan of video use/production in the classroom.  Specifically, I really appreciate how effectively using and/or creating videos can engage learners in the writing process.  Through the #videoblogchallenge Arin is grabbing my attention, making participation fun, and giving me something to think about as I work to conceive of, create, revise, edit, and polish a blog post.  I’ve thought critically about blog purpose and design for some time now, spent hundreds of hours in development, and written several dozen blog posts, and I’m still a novice.  Blogs are phenomenal learning tools, however, it takes a lot of focus and motivation to create and maintain one.  Imagine how the #videoblogchallenge could work to enhance that process for you and your students.  Might you show a video to introduce the concept of blogging to a group of fifth graders this fall?  How about having rotating groups of third graders create videos each week for an ongoing digital conversation about geometry?  Where does Arin’s awesome idea take you?

Next, I believe that it’s attitudes and initiatives like Arin’s that perpetuate the most effective professional development opportunities available.  We all know that education can be a very isolating business.  There is so much to think about and do on a daily basis.  It’s easy to get stuck in a classroom or an office.  By offering the #videoblogchallenge up to her Twitter PLN Arin is rallying a community of like-minded educators around critical reflection and active learning.  What a great model to take back to each of our school communities!  When done well (and with intention), both blogging and Tweeting can bring people together and move common goals forward.  Here I am, on my own time, processing an idea that came to me through my Twitter PLN, wondering how it can positively affect growth and achievement in the community that I serve, engaging in a really fun learning activity, writing a blog post, making connections, and having an ongoing dialogue with Arin and others.  This is great PD (not to mention extremely cost effective)!  How might this model transform some of the PD in your community?  In my experience most educators would agree that interest, collaboration, fun, self-pacing, individualization, and convenience are some worthwhile components of quality learning.  Also, digital environments can be great platforms for otherwise hesitant communicators to feel comfortable expressing themselves.  This project has so many rich and effective pedagogical components.  I hope that it inspires you in the way that it’s inspired me!


So, here’s the video followed by my #videoblogchallenge post (you don’t need to watch the last 30 seconds):

It’s amazing how quickly life changes.  In one moment I’m comfortable moving along my path with every bit of confidence that things are looking up, when all of the sudden…the escalator just stops.  It’s that shift into an unexpected challenge that can throw me off.  If I took a moment to relax and think, I might realize that I could simply walk up the rest of the way to get where I’m going.  However, it’s hard to relax when things don’t go according to plan.  I have to be somewhere, do something, meet someone, finish some project, etc.  Who has time to relax and think?  So often the answers are staring me directly in the face.  An escalator is literally a moving staircase, which means that when it’s not moving…it’s literally a staircase.  If I had approached a staircase I would have simply walked up the stairs, but I didn’t, I approached an escalator – and I expected it to escalate me!  This video reminds me that life is unpredictable.  Thankfully, I’ve been alive long enough to understand that adaptability is essential.  I know that plans are frameworks we use to achieve desired outcomes.  As necessary as it is to make those plans, it’s necessary to be ready to change them.  My wife and I are constantly talking about our belief that we’re surrounded by opportunities, and that being prepared to take the ones that fit us is the best way to achieve our goals.  As a husband, a father of three, and an educational leader, adaptability is an extremely important component of that preparedness.  I love the excitement that the two stranded escalator riders expressed when the repairman came to their rescue, and the disappointment they expressed when his escalator broke down.  I wonder how this scene would have played out if the three of them put their heads together to make a new plan by which each could continue on his/her individual path, and then took collaborative action to implement that plan with a continued willingness and ability to adapt as it unfolded.  My guess is that it would have been more effective.  Great video Arin!  Thanks for the challenge:)!

Some Things to Consider:

1.  Finding ways to collaborate can enhance initiatives that would otherwise be developed/implemented in isolation.

2.  Keep a “Great Ideas” journal.  We are surrounded by great ideas.  When educators keep their eyes open and gather ideas for use/adaptation they enhance their abilitie to engage all learners.

3.  Read & follow Arin Kress on Twitter @KressClass…you will learn and grow!

4.  Explore video production/use for classroom instruction and professional development.  Check out some more thoughts and ideas at

5.  Expand/engage with your Twitter PLN & Blog (read and write)!


Your input is always welcome and appreciated…happy learning!



Taking Risks, Working Together, & Failing in order to Succeed


Reasonable Risks, Crossing Bridges, & Collaborations are Keys to Learning & Growth

I keep hearing about how important it is to promote the taking of “reasonable risks” in our classrooms and school communities.  The theme of “failure” as a learning opportunity is hot in the education dialogue right now…as it should be.  After all, where would any of us be without it?  Failure has arguably brought us every great innovation, idea, and achievement that we have.  It can be an incredible motivator, a wonderful teacher, and a tremendous character building resource.  No risk, no reward.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m a believer in axioms.  They generally make sense because they tend to be time tested.  I could declare that eating mashed potatoes with every meal makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.  However, it most likely would not make axiom status, in large part because it’s not true.  It doesn’t work.  As tasty as mashed potatoes are, it probably is not in anyone’s best interest to eat them with every meal (especially if you’re a butter fiend like me).  On the other hand, when people get to bed early, they set themselves up for reasonable amounts of sleep (and tend to stay out of late night trouble), and when they wake up early, they have time to get things done.  So many people have found this practice to be a good model for health, wealth, and wisdom that early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise became an axiom. I digress in an effort to illustrate that no risk, no reward holds true as well (statistically).  So, earn a penny by saving one, stick with birds whose feathers are similar to yours, keep your chin up, get out of the kitchen (if you can’t stand the heat), imitate people you wish to flatter, strive for less (it’s actually more), treat people how you want them to treat you, behold beauty in your own way, don’t try to change a leopard’s spots, if you’re looking to save nine stitches…stitch one (in time), face the music, and for goodness sake…take risks!

My two-year-old has an aptitude for risk taking.  Ironically, I frequently find myself calling after him with words like, “no,” and “stop,” and “don’t,” in a loud, sharp voice, and with a reddening face.  I don’t want the kid to get hurt.  But there in lies the art of modeling reasonable risk-taking and supporting our learners in taking reasonable risks.  It’s the reasonable part that they need to understand.  How can we help our children and our students develop the essential critical thinking skills that allow them to determine whether or not any given risk is in fact reasonable?  I would suggest that we will have done our jobs if those we raise and teach are not only able to be reflective and grounded enough to cross each bridge as they come to it, but that they will be able to evaluate how to cross, if an alternative route is called for, or if crossing is in fact not the reasonable option at all.  Then, I would like to think that they will have the courage and resourcefulness to follow through with whatever conclusion they come to.  Finally, if/when they fail…I hope that we’ve been effective enough teachers that they are able to celebrate that failure as a step on the path to success.  Truman Capote said, “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”  I like that.

After multiple previous failed attempts…

IMG_2232  IMG_2233  IMG_2234

my 2-year-old risks life and limb to successfully cross the shaky bridge at the park!

I’m currently engaged in an exciting project with two incredible educators who I recently met on Twitter.  Together with Ashlee Logan (@logan_ashlee) and Aaron Koleda (@aaroNKoleda) I’m co-founding and co-moderating a Twitter chat focused on ways that educators can use videos and video production for best practice instruction in their classrooms and school communities.  The idea was born out of an informal conversation about Ted Talks, a combined love of collaborative learning, and a collective desire to grow by taking reasonable risks!  Given that we each live and work hundreds of miles apart, the three of us would have little chance to know each other if not for our individual efforts to reach out (a reasonable risk).  I’m relatively new to Twitter, but I’m quickly finding that the magic isn’t in having access to the limitless flow of ideas and resources.  Rather, it’s in the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, connect, and engage in relationships that extend past one hundred and forty characters.  Ashlee, Aaron, and I met recently for the first time in a Google “Hang Out.”  It was awesome! Having bounced our ideas and enthusiasm back and forth on Twitter for a few weeks it was wonderful to be face-to-face (to-face), even through a video chat.  The next step is continuing to develop our #vidEDchat concept.

We’ve set up a blog and a Twitter account, we’re collectively brainstorming format, guiding topics, logo design, and connected resources, and we’re actively communicating the upcoming maiden voyage of #vidEDchat to our respective PLNs (August 14th from 9-10am).  Our intention is to recruit as many collaborators as possible to join in on our journey to explore how videos and video production can enhance learning.  We hope to enlist experts like Brad Waid (@Techbradwaid) & Drew Minock (@TechMinock) from to join when we discuss augmented reality, Todd Neslony (@TechNinjaTodd) at to help us explore how videos and video production play into flipped instruction and project based learning, and chat pros like Michele Corbat (@MicheleCorbat ) & Victoria Olson (@MsVictoriaOlson – to provide feedback as we work to develop the concept.  One of the most important aspects of this effort to each of us is that it’s a shared effort.  I’ve not met anyone on Twitter who isn’t there to connect.  The collaborative energy is outstanding.  My incredible #vidEDchat partners and I are more than ready to cross the bridge from shooting off and reading Tweets to building authentic relationships by which we can perpetuate ongoing and meaningful collaborative learning.  We’re excited at the prospect of joining forces with as many others as are so moved to join us!  Two of the axioms at play here are no risk, no reward & the more the merrier.  The reasonable risk is that we’re putting ourselves out there, exposed in the Twitter-sphere, ready to push through the roadblocks in developing an idea we believe in.  The hope is that others find our collective work as meaningful as we have, and that by growing this chat we’ll be exposed to learning that will take everyone involved to places we couldn’t have otherwise imagined!  As educators we will continue to practice and model this type of action and learning, not only for our children and our students…but for ourselves!

Blog Gone Effective: Using Digital Environments to Foster Collaborative Learning

Blog Gone Effective!

Using Digital Environments To Foster Collaborative Learning


In my experience, blogs are great tools for perpetuating cultures of collaboration.  Digital environments seem to be extremely comfortable spaces for sharing.  We see it daily as our otherwise reserved friends and family update their social media pages.  In education, I’ve found that people are less inhibited and more willing to offer a peek into their thoughts, ideas, and practices when they’re given the opportunity to do so by way of a thoughtful and positive blog post as opposed to a live presentation or a classroom visit.  I do know educators who thrive in classroom visit and live presentation scenarios.  However, a truly collaborative culture is all-inclusive.  I’ve experienced learning communities in which those who are comfortable with live sharing become the only ones to share.  Conversely, in communities facing that challenge, those who are not comfortable sharing tend to sit in the back, isolate themselves in their classrooms, and avoid opportunities for collaboration.

It’s important to understand that these are not hard and fast rules, only possibilities to consider.  In considering all relevant possibilities education leaders can work to break barriers that might otherwise encumber the collaborative learning cultures they strive for.  It does take a village to raise a child, and two heads really are better than one.  We so frequently insist on these collaboration axioms because they’re true.  After much critical thought, related data collection and analysis, and ongoing reflective practice, I would assert that blogging is one viable option for bringing communities together in purposeful collaboration, and perpetuating cultures by which otherwise unlikely contributors feel comfortable enthusiastically showcasing their work to the benefit of all stakeholders.  As educators, our collective goal is to enhance student achievement and attitudes toward learning so that the students we serve are prepared to meet and exceed their potential as contributing members of an increasingly complex global community.  When we share, we expand our ability to meet that goal.

Conveniently, there are multiple free and cost effective hosting services like Weebly and Edublogs that are extremely easy to use, both for strategic classroom instruction and professional learning.  To begin with, consider purpose.  Who is your audience?  What are your targeted short and long-term goals?  While perpetuating collaborative learning is the overarching theme that I’m suggesting, what will your path to that end look like?  Will teachers be blog managers or strictly contributors?  Will you involve students as contributors?  What other roles might they play? How about parents and other critical partners?  My learning blog (Berg’s Eye View) is designed to showcase the incredible ideas and practices of my colleagues so that they are increasingly aware of each other’s expertise.  The lens through which I attempt to reveal those ideas and practices (along with my own personal and professional experiences) is my authentic perspective.  The intention is to connect individuals who would be interested in expanding on that perspective, and integrating those ideas and practices into their paradigm through collaborative reflection, planning, and implementation.  Learning and connecting with learning partners is my primary purpose.  The authentic expression and modeling of that purpose is key to the effectiveness of my blogging efforts.  What is your purpose?  How will you reveal that purpose to your audience?  How will you develop it into share objectives and actions with those who would be your partners in learning and growth?

As you contemplate these questions in the development of your blog, carefully consider the structure and the procedures that you intend to put in place for its effectiveness and sustainability.  One of the most important things that I’ve learned so far on my blogging adventure is that blogs need proper feeding and care.  It takes a focused effort, a significant time commitment, and a passion for digital collaboration to manage a blog with any degree of success.  A blog is a tool, and like any other tool its effectiveness is dependent on its user.  Blogs can be used to communicate content, expectations, resources, calendar events, etc., individuals or communities of contributors can manage them, they can provide real time access to developmental artifacts for reflective processing and adaptation, they can be literary or graphic, they can be whimsical or academic, most importantly however, they can be highly effective in perpetuating learning and growth.  After spending this past year using a reflective learning blog to support and encourage collaboration in the communities I serve, I can confidently assert that the time and effort I invested have been returned exponentially in the progress I’ve been a part of.  I will continue to work at developing my site and my skills, and I strongly encourage other educators to get on the blogging bandwagon.  If you’re already an education blogger, if you are considering it, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me for collaboration…I’m always looking for new learning partners!

Project Based Learning: Some Great Things Happening At Harlan!

Project Based Learning (PBL) is an effective instructional strategy for capturing students’ imaginations and helping them become truly involved in their own learning. I’m particularly excited about the level of student engagement and ownership that can be generated when students are involved in relevant and meaningful projects.  Documenting students in action reminds me just how effective well-implemented PBL can be.  There are many wonderful examples of how teachers at Harlan Elementary are using this strategy in their classrooms.  A few are showcased below.

Ten lessons I’ve learned about PBL from the incredible experts at Harlan:

1)   Student choice helps generate interest, excitement, and engagement.

2)   Scaffolding projects with effective instruction in scientific exploration and research is key to student success.

3)   Modeling, support, and guidance during the research process helps students stay on track and allows for a smooth release of responsibility within any given year and across grade levels.

4)   Partnerships enhance instruction.  Ask your media specialist how he/she can help kids learn about key word searching and using databases.

5)   Stretching across the curriculum can make for rich projects and the development of connected skills.

6)   Finding ways to help students figure out how their projects can be relevant and impactful in and outside of makes learning real.

7)   Enlist other teachers, administrators, and parents to provide an authentic audience for your students.

8)   Capping off a project with a fun, social, showcase event can help motivate your group to focus on quality.

9)   Celebrate the progress and outcomes.  Highlighting parts of the process as important landmarks can help students understand the their value.

10)  Authentic enthusiasm is contagious.  When teachers are excited and involved, student learning is enhanced!


A Few Examples:

Karen Abels introduced a Michigan project by allowing her 3rd graders to choose their course of study.  Incorporating student choice helped generate interest and excitement. Mrs. Abels gave her students some suggestions as to what might be important to study about their great state, she supported them in researching the topics, and she guided them in a collaborative effort to narrow those topics down.  After some initial learning (both of content and research skills) the group chose to move forward with “invasive species” as their focus.  It’s important to point out that Mrs. Abels enlisted the help of Mrs. Stayer, the incredible Harlan Media Specialist, to co-teach throughout the project.  Critical partnerships can be extremely effective!

Candi Gorski put together an incredible cross curricular project for her 1st graders that got them thinking about ways in which they can be impactful in their community.  Mrs. Gorski read an amazing true story about a boy in Africa who designed and built a windmill to help his village generate much needed energy, eventually leading to cleaner water and other key resources that improved lives and inspired others with hope.  After sharing the story she facilitated critical processing, helping her students make connections to their own lives.  The students were charged with designing contraptions that could help keep people stay safe during in extreme weather conditions.  These 1st graders were given a license to be creative in exploring the finer points of their science study while considering social studies concepts and using important reading and writing skills.  Mrs. Gorski did an incredible joy implementing this cross-curricular model of learning.  They were invited to be innovative and suspend disbelief, effectively giving them the sense that they are able to make a difference through research, understanding, creativity, and action.

Karen Hasler engaged her 5th graders in a design project that had them working with faculty members as architectural clients.  The students used their math skills along with drafting technology to design homes for their clients.  Mrs. Hasler organized a design expo to culminate the project, effectively extending an authentic audience for her group.  Parent and teachers gathered in the media center to see the designs and speak with young architects.  I was amazed with the enthusiasm that the students presented their work with.  Not only were they proud of the outcomes, they were also excited to go into detail about the process.  Students, dressed to the nines, stood by their finished designs posing for pictures and pictures and answering questions.

Each of the above projects is similar in that the students involved were actively engaged and excited about the work they were doing.  From 1st graders to 5th graders, they were collaborating with one another, being creative, thinking critically about their work, and being concerned about the outcomes that they were working toward.  There are many other incredible PBL efforts happening at Harlan and around the district.  Whether you’re working to plan for the final month of this year or preparing for the fall, get in touch with a colleague who you know has an interest in PBL, put your heads together, and make some plans.  Let me know if I can help!

Ready…Tech…Go!: Scaffolding Tech Integration


An Early Start & Vertical Integration of K-12 Tech Skills & Understandings







I was thrilled to walk into the computer lab last Friday to find Mrs. Fishers’ kindergarteners developing their understanding of technology tools while exercising their creativity and working on reading comprehension. These kids are five and six-years-old and they’re already very independent when it comes to many basic technology tasks.  It led me to think about my three-year-old who thinks that our T.V. is broken because it’s not touch screen sensitive.  Occasionally I find him tapping on it in consternation, confused about why no menu is appearing.  Given the dizzying rate of technological innovation, imagine what his kids will be confused about, “Why won’t this hologram answer me?!”  The point is that technology has become very much an essential part of today’s students’ daily life from a very young age.

I’m fortunate to be able to spend my time planning, working, and talking with k-12 teachers at all grade levels.  This work has afforded me a deepened understanding of vertical integration.  In most content areas progressive instruction is overt.  We learn to read so that we are eventually able to read to learn.  We scaffold mathematical problem solving with basic math skills.  Social Studies becomes a study of global issues out of critical thinking about our families, our homes, and our neighborhoods.  While we do have guidelines for technology learning across the grades, I wonder if the fast passed evolution of incredible tech resources sometimes deters us from our developmental course.  Do basic tech skills have to be learned in order, or are these digital natives better of weathering the ongoing storm of innovation as it comes?

As I joined Mrs. Fisher’s students in their work I saw some cool stuff.  Some of them were working in a program called KidPix (  They were creating some wonderfully expressive art, and they loved every minute of it.  When I talked to Mrs. Fisher I learned that her primary interest in using the program was to help student become familiar with, and comfortable using the navigation menu.  How cool (not to mention brilliant).  She had them engaged work that they loved, and unbeknownst to them, they were practicing essential tech skills. It makes sense that kindergarteners should build proficiency by having lots of practice working with menus so that it becomes natural and commonplace.  How much time will they be spending navigating through menus as they move forward with their academic, work, and social lives?  Lots.

Here are five things this Mrs. Fisher’s wonderful lesson helped me think about:

  1. Tech doesn’t teach.  So, teachers have to know tech, stay current with Ed. Tech innovations, and understand what is developmentally appropriate for the age groups with whom they work.
  2. Great teachers are meticulous about purpose.  Deciding what tools to use, and why, is an essential aspect of lesson design.
  3. Cross-curricular learning is important.  It makes sense to practice reading comprehension skills while collaborating on a social studies project.  How about math and science?  Or art?  Where can we help students think critically about connections?
  4. There are lots of great tools that can simulate relevant situations while minimizing exposure and risk.  Second graders can practice digital citizenship skills on a password protected Moodle course.  Seven year olds can learn about digital communication without having a Facebook page.  What are we doing to scaffold essential Digital Age skills?
  5. When students love what they’re working on they tend to be engaged in it.  What are you’re students interested in?  What tools to they like to work with?


Digital Backpacks: From Learning Experiences to Experiencing Learning

Last week my partner Joan Roettenberger and I facilitated a workshop focused on DIGITAL BACKPACKS (DBs) or e-portfolios.  We worked with an incredible group of k12 teachers who came with a variety of backgrounds, and who are currently teaching in a range of classroom situations.  The session was structured around building a group DB of our own to illustrate its potential for learning and give participants a sense of what students experience when working with this engaging tool.  I was thrilled with the result.  More importantly, I was thrilled with the process and our ability to think critically about it…before, during, and after.  Check out some of our learning artifacts from the 2 ½ hour session at

Using DPs allows learners to chart their progress over time.  One of the key concepts that came out of the great article we picked apart at the workshop (linked to our DB under “3 Exploring Some Info”) was assessment of learning vs. assessment for learning.  Thanks to Brad Wilson (@dreambition on Twitter) for tipping me of to the article and a bunch of the other great resources listed on the wiki space linked above (see “Resource Links” in the menu on the left).  Traditionally, learning is assessed at the “end.”  DBs allow teachers and students to think critically about the learning before they engage in it, at all stages of development, and as they deal with outcomes.  They are also great for engaging parents and other critical learning partners in the process as well.

ONE REALLY COOL APPLICATION:  Laurie Cooper and Patty Solomon, two of the incredible teachers I collaborate with sent home QR code refrigerator magnets that link directly to each student’s DB.  Parents can scan the code at their convenience.  It allows them to view their student’s developmental artifacts at they’re posted.  It has parents asking their students about that development at home.  It encourages families to play active roles in the curriculum.  It gives them an invitation into their child’s daily life at school and opens pathways to enhanced learning.  Visit the site, check out our session and the resources, and let me know if you have questions, further input and examples, or want to collaborate on some DB developmental work…it’s something I’m excited to continue exploring!

So Cool: Tech Tools Drive Cultural Exploration

Something Cool I Saw Today

[Using Tech Tools to Explore Folklore Through a Lens of Cultural Connections]

My favorite part:  This group of second graders is totally engaged and owning their learning…So Cool!

These students are working with the wonderful Mrs. Stayer to explore folklore. They began by looking at communities around the world with some virtual travel via GOOGLE EARTH. As they traveled they made connections by learning that each of the places they visited has some folklore associate with it.  They read and discussed the folklore.  In these pictures they’re using CUTUREGRAM to explore further. According to Mrs. Stayer CULTUREGRAM is INCREDIBLE!  It’s a database that you can get to through the Michigan e-library ( in which you will find all kinds of incredible information and artifacts about the world that you and your students live in.  You can view flags, hear national anthems, find out about natural resources and commerce, check out pop culture, and much more.  Mrs. Stayer thinks that any teacher who goes to the database will immediately think of 10 great ideas for incorporating it into his/her instructional plan.  If you’d like to discuss it further you can always contact Mrs. Stayer at – she loves to collaborate!

Again, the thing that I really appreciated about the learning that I saw taking place today is that the students were totally engaged.  As you can see in the pictures above, some students were at the computers engaged in ongoing explorations and others were working on various components of the project around the media center.  Mrs. Stayer is an incredibly intentional planner.  Her front-loading with information, tools, activities, and expectations really goes a long way to get her students authentically excited and engaged.  This example is a testament to the fact that 21st century teaching and learning is not simply the integration of new technologies but the purposeful planning of lessons, activities, projects, and outcomes that include relevant and connected content, strategies, and tools.  Way to go Mrs. Stayer – So Cool!