My CTA (Call to Action) 15 minute reflection each day

My Call to Action - Reflection Last week after our #mnlead chat, I publicly promised (via Twitter) that I would try to carve at least 15 minutes each day to reflect on my learning as well as successes, challenges, and needs.   While it didn’t quite work out to reflect each day – I decided to compile a weeks worth of learning in several posts.

Each day, I highlighted my thinking, challenges, successes, or new things I am learning.   I have found it extremely valuable to think about my thinking and my own personal growth.   I would like to try and keep this up on at least a weekly basis.  Hope I can commit!

Keep learning… Geographic Information Systems

GIS - Designing for our Future

Image Credit – ESRI.Com

Did you know that schools in the state of MN can get a FREE site license for ESRI ArcGIS?  Today  (Friday) a couple of my teachers and I sat down with a rep from MDE and a GIS Analyst to discuss how we can adopt GIS (Geographic Information Systems) into our classrooms.  I never realized how powerful mapping can be and how applicable it is across the disciplines!  Check out this website ( to learn more how  teachers and students are utlizing the tool!  And they even have an iPad version/apps to support learning on the GO!  You can also visit MDE’s website to learn more about the initiative.

Celebrating #EduWins with #Edtech

Communicating Globally in Special Ed – Thursday was such a fun day.  @amberaslakson invited me into her classroom to observe her kids interviewing kids from Canada via Skype.  They are doing a book study with the canadians with the book  The 14th Goldfish.  They have been collaborating with kids via Edmodo and were ready to go live with a skype convo.  Something happened and the skype never occurred but I did enjoy my time interviewing the kids.  They were incredibly excited to share and my favorite moment was when one 6th grade student piped up and said – “Blog, I love to Blog. Its my favorite thing to do.”  These kids have had numerous skype discussions with kids all over the globe in @amberaslakson class and it shows.  I observed these kids had a deep understanding in communication etiquette in technology communication (whether online discussion board, responses to blogs, or skyping live).  This skill is incredibly invinvaluabled will take the a long way!!! Way to go!

Drawing by Byron MS Student

Not your Momma’s PE Class – Our HS PE class was  recognized for  innovating and personalizing physical education when our local news crew (KTTC) came for a 1 hour observation/interview.   This is a teacher led initiative and I am amazed at how far they have come in just 2 years.  Please take some time to watch the video – its just one way they are transforming PE.  I have also learned they are integrating iPads and ePortfolios as new forms of assessment.

One thing that resonated with me after a 1:1 conversation with a PE teacher,  was how our district’s vision set the stage for these teachers taking it upon themselves to innovate in their program. They also took action when our superintendent stood up in front of the entire staff and said we should not be afraid of failure.  So many things are unknown when you begin to transform your classroom, school, district.  I am so thankful they took some risks as it is benefiting our students! THANK YOU!

Kttc Story - PE

Observing iPad use in classrooms – Next Tuesday, Nov 18, teachers from Rochester Public Schools will be coming over to Byron to observe the integration of iPads to support learning and teaching in our MS/HS classrooms.  I sent out an All Call for teachers to sign up for the event.  Boy – did my teachers represent! Here is our list.    Our teachers definitely doing some amazing things…and this is a great opportunity for me to learn from them.   My take away – I think I will take this opportunity and go on a tour of these classrooms as well.  CANT WAIT!

Thinking about leadership and my own professional growth

I have been doing some soul searching on my own leadership qualities to better understand how I can improve.  Our district leadership team did a StrengthsFinder assessment several months ago.  Its amazing how a self assessment can tell you a little about yourself.  Below are my findings. In my mind, it pretty much nailed who I am.

MY TOP 5 STRENGTHS (my report – pdf)
1 Futuristic
2 Strategic
3 Ideation
4 Self-Assurance
5 Arranger

I also completed a Meyers Briggs Self Assessment via and again… similar themes came out.  After taking the assessment twice  – my personality type did not change. I am considered an ENTP.  I enjoyed reading what an ENTP’s strengths and weaknesses.  And, frankly that is me in a nutshell.  Tonight I did a little more research on ENTP’s and this wikipedia reference really resonated with me… “ENTPs are quick to see complex interrelationships between people, things, and ideas.”  I really enjoy listening and learning about new topics/ideas and seeing how they relate to my work….

However, this week I am struggling a bit.  Our district recently switched to the Marzano Framework for Teaching/Learning (Pdf of the criteria).  I will admit.  When I look at the teacher side of the framework – I can see exactly where technology has a role.  There isnt a single domain, element that is not relevant to edtech and I can easily provide samples/examples where edtech has a place for each!

BUT, this year, I am being assessed on the Marzano District Leadership Framework (learning map – PDF). This is where I struggle.  Usually I can see relationships of ideas/content to my role and edtech. But I am having a difficult time relating the leadership elements to myself. It is  very frustrating that I can not see the link!  I took the self assessment in iObservation and found that I could barely relate to the scales and wound up in the “Developing” mark in many of the elements.    This assessment does not correlate to my StrengthsFinder assessment or my MeyersBriggs self assessment.   I can look at our strategic plan – and immediately relate to what I can do to improve myself and my department to support our organization.  But, it is not very clear with the Marzano side.  This is a time where I would LOVE to communicate with people like me.  Tech Directors who are using and being evaluated on this same framework.  Know of any?

While I share frustration – my growth mindset says – keep moving forward.  Eventually it will make sense.  I hope I can look at this blog post 6mos and realize where I went wrong in my thinking. Can’t wait for that lightbulb moment!

Thinking about online learning and Web 2.0

I had an aha moment on Tuesday.  I am about mid way through facilitating my eLearning Certification course and realized my course needed updating… again.   I have revised this course numerous times and have come to realize – course revision is never done.

1st Revision – Throughout my course  I have flipped learning resources, I have online resources (for fully oll classes) but I do not have hybrid resources. Everyone who attends my course come for different reasons and  hybrid learning is a becoming a high demand, at least in our high school.  While many of the resources for fully OLL apply to hybrid learning – I do feel, I need to provide options for educators.  That way they can choose their own path.  (Speaking of choosing their own path – I always encourage educators to bring their own research and resources to the table for discussion).

Its time to do some weeding.  I  recognize that some of my resources – are 10-12 years old. Are they still applicable?  Maybe yes.   Maybe no.  Its time to review my resources so that my course is fresh and more importantly – relevant.

2nd Revision – I had a Google Hangout with Dave Eisenmann (@DaveEisenmann) regarding  a presentation we are doing at the Ties Conference this December – 1:1 Implementation: Professional Development Beyond Year One.  It’s been a while since I have reflected on all of the ways we try to provide staff opportunities to receive PD/Coaching to support their integration.  One of the goals we have, is to increase the transformative learning opportunities in our classrooms.  This is based on the SAMR model.  I reflected again on my eLearning certification course.  No mention of SAMR and very little reference to Apps.  I have oodles of Web 2.0 options – but in a 1:1 iPad district – it sure would make sense to reference learning/assessment opportunities with iPad apps.

I made a few minor adjustments now and intend to make a major one after I am done facilitating this course..  In my Assessment Unit, teachers create activities/assessments based on learning objectives and upper level Blooms Taxonomy in Moodle.  We have a couple of other activities that build up to this moment so  I added the following resources to support those activities.  I scoured the Internet to find the perfect resource.  So many app resources (like the top 1000 apps for schools- YIKES) but settled on finding resources that were more specific to my unit.  I eventually will generate my own  list – but was satisfied with the links/resources below.

Below is a graphic that I saw a few weeks ago… another resource for my course!  I always try to blend resources to include images, videos, text, podcasts, ect and this infographic is perfect for what I hope to accomplish in my course.

Using iPad apps for real world learning epxperiences

Image Credit – Ipad 4 Schools –

 3rd Revision (possibly) – I am wondering if the word Online Learning and Web2.0 should be eliminated from my course.  They seem to be some what dated.  I remember reading a tweet – “Can we stop calling it Online Learning – and just call it learning?”  (No reference).  I think that goes the same with Web 2.0.   Web 2.0 sites and Apps are just learning tools.  Maybe its time to stop segregating technology tools with analog tools.  What do you think?

Testing and promoting our makerspace green screen

My HS Media Specialist has been working on creating a HS Makerspace in our media center.  We actually have a small room, right next to our library that is the perfect space.  She recently installed a mobile green screen.  (green fabric and a curtain rod).  The room is great for video recording as you can shut the door to get better audio quality.  We also purchased an iPad/tablet mount for a tripod and 2 external microphones (lavalier and handheld) for better sound quality.  The app of choice  – TouchCast.

On Monday, we decided to test it.  So much fun!  Literally in 30 seconds I had a video of myself, on a beach.  The video – could definitely use some work and we need to play around with lighting and settings of the app.  BUT, even though the quality was not there,  I couldn’t resist and  sent the video out to our entire HS staff.  This immediately sparked teacher interest.  I look forward to this technology getting in the hands of our students and watching them creatively make their video artifacts  more interactive and engaging. So much fun!

Observing Gamification

I recently was invited to an Advanced Health Classroom to observe a gamified lesson in action developed by teacher, Aaron Murray.  While I will not go full detail into what gamification is – I wanted to take some time and reflect on what I saw.

2014-09-22 08.34.37

1. Tasks were chunked and divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced  type challenges. Students had to participate in all challenges.  As the student progressed, the challenges would become more difficult and would require more applied learning, decision making, and creativity.  In this lesson, I noticed every Blooms Taxonomy level was represented.  At first, students would INDEPENDENTLY Define, List, Search for info on key vocab terms, related health, on their iPads.   I seen students demonstrating exercises and stretches that could prove beneficial to their health. I heard student give their opinions on what exercise is better than the other…and why.  The final challenge include the creation of a self reflective health video. (Hope I can get a sample to share!)  Students could determine how far they wanted to take the challenge and could decide to select an advanced challenge vs. a beginner challenge.  However, the greater the challenge, the more experience points  (XP) they would receive.

2. XP was collected and accumulated into levels.  This unit had 10 levels and students would receive certain incentives once they accomplished a level.  (Very clever – lowest level was a “limp noodle” and the reward was encouragement – while the mastery level was  “Super Saiyan” and the reward was leaving class a minute early on Mondays and Fridays.)

2. Once students believed they completed a challenge, they would verify with their teacher.  The teacher would provide them with a  badge based on their completion of that challenge or would provide them feedback on what they had to do to better complete the challenge.  This is KEY.  The teacher was able to have many many opportunities to provide personalized feedback to all of his students.

3. There was was numerous opportunities for STUDENT choice and voice. While each student had to go through every challenge, they had the opportunity to select how deep into the challenge they would go.  They received personalized feedback from their instructor on how well they did.  There was quite a bit of energy in this  classroom and I did not see students off task.  Some students working independently – others collaborating.

What a fun way to learn about health!

The class of 2020 goes to college

It was the turn of the century.  After schools  thankfully survived  Y2K, many of us  turned to visioning 21st century instruction.  And the class of 2020, was considered to be a monumental milestone on the 21st century edu timeline.

Fast forward to last Friday, April 24, 2014.

Friday was a good day. Wait, Friday was a GREAT day!  Matt Weyers (blog, twitter) and I had the opportunity to go and present Divergent Teaching: 21st century strategies for education to teacher candidates at Winona State University.  We also brought 5 co-presenters from Mr Weyer’s 6th grade class …which happens to be the class of 2020.

Photo Collage from WSU visit

This was a great experience to co present with students.  Each student shared how, within Mr. Weyers classroom, they had created their own online TV series via YouTube,  created a survival guide for the city of Byron in the event of a zombie apocalypse, (Mr Weyers shared that the majority of his students self chose to turn in 10+ page plans and it was some of the best writing he had ever seen) and published their very own book on  (See student explain the project below) 

 In our small group discussions, students also shared how they had frequent skypes to Argentina, created roller coasters out of paper, and are currently collaborating with their art teacher to create works of art that will be on display in various businesses in Byron.  (works of art will also be based on businesses and the goods/service they supply)

Its was very obvious that learning in Mr. Weyers classroom is fun but more importantly relevant and memorable.  Kids shared how they loved to write and create.

As I reflect on this class of 2020, these are exactly the type of experiences that I would hope they would have.  In these learning environments, kids do not question their teacher “why do we have to learn this?” because their work is authentic. Their audience – authentic.

I decided to ask a few of the teacher candidates, “Are you being prepared to develop learning experiences like this?”  They shared that they have their devices (each is issued a laptop and an iPad)  and  they have a breakout technology class in which they are learning how to use SMART boards and other technologies.  But they had not heard of back channels, Google forms, Google Communities, hangouts, and twitter chats.  All of the teachers at my table knew what  flipped learning was and how it worked, but did not know how to design or apply those types of experiences.

Twitter post via Justin Tarte - also understood that an invitation went out to almost 200 candidates as well as their professors.  We had 8 or 9 teacher candidates attend.  These were an awesome group of individuals and shared with them that THEY were the teachers we were looking for.  They are not waiting to learn  in a “required” 3 hour workshop or class.  We need teachers who have a growth mindset, who learn from failures to improve their practice. We are looking for teachers who challenge the status quo.  One great way for teachers to learn how to do this is to develop their personal learning network (Sample from Kathy Shrock) and observe and collaborate with teacher leaders  across the state/nation!

Here are 2 blog posts, I stumbled on tonight, by educators who have found value in developing their PLN.


If these soon to be teachers are not learning how to develop these learning environments in college – what about student teaching?  Again, each had varying experiences (most did not have any) in designing and applying 21st century instruction due to  the differences in the  schools they were selected to serve.

And finally, I reflected on our own induction of new teachers into the Byron school system.  If new teachers are not prepared for 1:1 iPads, Flipped/hybrid learning, Google Apps for Education, Project-Based Learning, and our new 21st century  strategic plan – how will we do a better job in preparing them to create authentic learning opportunities with these technologies?  It must be incredibly overwhelming for a new teachers to enter into our school system if they have not had formal training in 21st century learning design.   This has really got me thinking and I think there are opportunities…but that will be for a later post.

All in all, I could not express how proud I was of these 6th grade students and of course their teacher – Mr Weyers.  They absolutely loved their experience in this workshop and the overall experience at WSU. The learning opportunity was fantastic  – again –  writing and speaking in front of an authentic audience.  (College cafeteria food was also a big hit!) They were very proud of themselves and could not wait to share with their families and friends what happened that day. It would be great to connect with these students and I have to wonder, 6 years from now, when they are preparing to graduate from Byron if the paths they have chosen were at all shaped by experiences they had in this 6th grade classroom.

We had a few minutes to spare so I asked the students what they learned that day.  They all had varying responses and are going to create a reflective video for me about their experience.  But one student comment really resonated when he responded, “I learned that teaching was a hard job”.  Yes it is. Yes it is!

Whats your Status Quo of EDU?

One of my district’s vision statements is to “Create new norms in education that challenge the status quo”.  I thought it might be helpful to actually define some areas of the status quo that we should be challenging.  Here is my list:

Don't Change - Stay Put

Image credit –

  1.  Good tests scores = good schools
  2. Good test scores = prepared students
  3. Good grades = prepared students
  4. Report cards
  5. Grade levels
  6. Bells/schedules
  7. School calendar – Starts in September, ends in May/early June
  8. Teacher – center of instruction
  9. Learning = classroom seat time
  10. Learning = sit and get instruction
  11. Teacher designs/facilitates student learning experiences
  12. One teacher, one subject, one at a time
  13. Teacher learning = seat time
  14. College ready trumps career ready
  15. Technology is add-on, or breakout class
  16. Decisions are made top down
  17. School = Academics only
  18. What am I missing? Please share your ideas!!!

Personalizing PD with digital learning coaches

Situation: Effective use of technology is essential for teaching and learning in a global, digital age.
Problem: Many teachers do not know how to design and support technology-rich learning environments.
Solution: Coaching, combined with communities of learning, is a highly effective job-embedded PD model.

(ISTE, Technology Coaching and Community June 2012 –pdf)


Byron Public Schools had a problem.  Most technology integration professional development at BPS was organized around the preparation or introduction of a technology.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 10.28.42 AM.png

The district had been very good at introducing technology opportunities.  The majority of these “opportunities” were either shared as a “How to use this technology” or “Look at what happened in my classroom because of technology” in a one-size fits all workshop or assembly.  So many times our teachers were excited and eager to try something new – but by the time they got back to their classrooms, the realities set in, and the time to focus on the new idea was gone. Some teachers also had difficulties in aligning and integrating technology to support and enhance current student learning objectives. After the workshop was done, there was no support available for teachers throughout the integration process.  While some teachers were able to take the tech idea and do amazing things, the majority of the teachers were left to their own resources and the gap between transformative learning environments and the traditional learning environments were widening at a very rapid pace.We needed to transform the current model of tech PD to not only support the preparation of technology integration, but the active implementation and evaluation phases as well.

We also desired to develop new teacher leadership models in Byron.  Feedback from our 2011 Baldridge feedback report indicated that this was one of our SIGNIFICANT areas of improvement:

Alignment of Workforce Development. While the district encourages workforce development and allows staff to attend training sessions and suggests training topics, there is not a systematic process to ensure that workforce and leadership development is fully aligned with the district’s core competencies, Aims, and Goals. (2011 Minnesota Quality Award – Feedback Report for Byron Public Schools)

Many districts had begun to hire full time or part time integrationalists to help with the tech integration challenges.  There clearly are benefits to this, but Byron also wanted the ability to spread this leadership around and have edtech leaders available and present in each of our buildings. (PK, ES, MS, HS)  Fiscally, for a district our size, full time integrationalists in each of our buildings was not doable.  We already had pockets of innovators/early adopters in our district. Was it possible to capture and utilize the strengths of our current staff to:

  • Support the needs of technology integration/PD in our district?

  • Develop edtech leaders at a district level to provide input/feedback into district level decisions relating to edtech goals, purchases, and support systems?

  • Develop edtech leaders at a regional/state/global level to learn and share from others to bring fresh ideas back to the district while sharing great transformations in our own classrooms?

It seemed if there was a way to harness the talent we had, it could really prove to be a win win for all.  And so, a plan was formulated to develop a cohort of Byron leaders…called the Digital Learning Coaches (DLCs).

 Digital Learning Coach Skill Requirements – Several skills became apparent as a need.  We needed coaches who were tech savvy, or even more importantly, had already taken risks with new ideas in their classrooms.  Teachers who displayed a passion around technology and learning were a plus as they were already self motivated to engage their learners and transform their classrooms.

We needed coaches who were empathetic. Empathy was an extremely important skill as these were going to be coaches who would need to recognize and celebrate the wins of our staff no matter how big or small the effort.   This leadership role was not to build up the leaders while leaving the rest behind.  This role was to build leaders who will help inspire and support other teachers to take risks in transforming learning in their classrooms.

And finally, we needed coaches to have a deep understanding of the teaching and learning process (pedagogy).  It was critical that we have coaches that understand the purposeful use of technology – not to try new things for the sake of the technology, but to understand when and where technology could have a significant impact on instruction.

 After coaching skills were identified, and discussions with district administration about the initial process was approved the all call to district staff went out.  (Please note –  this concept was not accepted the first time it was shared.  It had to go back to the drawing board several times over several months before receiving administrative approval)

Coaches were selected in a partnership with district principals.  Then, we needed time to learn and develop the process as a DLC cohort.  The first item on the agenda was to develop and align coaches to the ISTE Coach standards,  and the second item was to  develop a process for all Byron teachers.   A 2 day retreat in August was created and the district was fortunate to be to collaborate with  Stillwater tech integrationalists Kristin Daniels and Wayne Feller and learn about coaching as well as the the flipped PD process they had developed in their school district.  The final process was to share with district administration to ensure 100% participation in the process.

Benefits for coaches include:

  • $1500 yearly stipend

  • DLCs generally are the first to get/try/review new gadgets.

  • 2 days to the TIES conference  – Please note, while this was originally thought of as a great place to go and learn from others – we soon realized this was a great RETREAT for the DLC cohort to connect and gather ideas to implement in the district.  This is an invaluable time together for team building as well as strategic visioning for the district!

The coaching process

 DLCs visited and presented the process to each building (as a team) to discuss the process and answer questions.  Time was allotted by building administrators during opening workshops.

  1. Teachers would self create goals using a template via Google Docs. (year 1, year 2)  Year 1 we focused on several key areas – Online Learning, Digital Devices, Global Views, Communication and Collaboration, Year 2 we focused on 21st Century Pedagogy.Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 4.54.06 PM.png

  2. Teachers would meet with DLCs for approx 1.5 hours each month.  This time would be used to provide coaching on their goals.  If teachers did not need coaching, this was time that was given for teachers to further develop and work on their goals.  Subs would be hired to allow the DLC to come out of the classroom for the entire day AND allow teachers to come out of their classrooms to receive coaching.  Subs for teachers would be rotated through the system so that every 1.5-2 hours a new small group of teachers to come out and receive coaching or work on goals.  This allowed DLCs to differentiate teachers by task, by skill, or by subject area.  (we have tried all)

  3. We wanted this process to be very reflective.  Both for the coach as well as the teachers.  The learning plan docs had a space for teacher reflection after each coaching session.  For coaches we wanted a reflective process for each to reflect about the coaching process after each monthly meeting.  These reflections could be then discussed with each other during monthly DLC cohort meetings.  This was also a great way to learn from each other and determine potential needs/roadblocks to the district.


#1 challenge = TIME.   The biggest problem we is the amount of time DLCs spend outside of the classroom to coach teachers.  In the 2013-14 school year, we added more coaches to increase support in our districts 1:1 while hopefully decreasing the amount of time coaches spend outside of the classroom.  An idea I have heard from other districts to  fix the issue:

  • Principals/counselors take group of students outside of classroom on a regular basis (Might do a unit of learning about digital citizenship or  digital footprint)  This would eliminate the need for coaches AND teachers having to create “sub plans”.

  • An idea that has been tossed around is further partnering with local universities so that new teacher interns could come in to allow the digital coach more time to go out of the classroom.  The challenge with this is that they are new teacher candidates.  Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not.  Is it possible to always get the “good” ones?

  • Is there some flexible scheduling opportunities we have not tapped into?

  • Evaluate teacher leader model vs. full or even part time tech integrationalists.  As I said before, the thing I love about or model is that it spreads the leadership around.  These teachers also have quite a bit of respect by other teachers as they are all still in the teaching  trenches as their peers. Yet, if our coaches had more time, they would be able to develop more flipped resources and digital learning opportunities to companion face to face opportunities. (blended learning)

  • Other – What is working for you???  Ideas very welcome!

#2 Further personalize PD for teachers – How do we maximize learners of all levels?  Right now we require 100% participation in the program.  Some of our staff may not need coaching as they are already are very savvy, make the time to learn how to integrate tech / transform learning opportunities.  Some of our staff may need more coaching opportunities.  How do we better personalize learnings based on needs?

  • I believe more blended opportunities can help suffice these needs.  Little Falls schools has created PD opportunities in which teachers have approximately 15 minutes of online review and reading they do before meeting with their coach at 7:30 to further discuss.  Check out their Teacher Led – Learner Driven series currently underway in their district! (you should check out their learning walks too)

  • Osseo public schools (@lisasjorgen, @tombrandt) shared a couple of interesting opportunities they have created in their district.  Tap into Tech gives credit for participation in workshop sessions, but gives further credit of learning for reflective work.  (2-8 credits).   They also have developed another option in which their teachers. C4 Training differentiates the learning of their participates based on ISTE standards.

  • EDcamp.  Our staff loved our unconference this year.  Are there ways to create similar learning opportunities more often?

  • Does gamification have a role in professional development?  For some, it could.
  • Universal Design for Learning – I have been investigating this framework for some time in looking at better how we can better personalize learning for students.  I have to think – the same guidelines would work for teachers as well?


  • What is currently working for you?

Feedback from Staff – At our last district wide PD day a short survey was sent out to all teachers further asking questions on how the DLC process could better serve their needs.  We also asked them how we could better utilize the time during DLC meetings.  Below is the results of that survey.  Please note the survey asked for them to select all that apply.

How can we improve the DLC process to better support your needs? Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 8.25.56 PM.png

How could we make the DLC coach time more effective? Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 8.27.20 PM.png


Thanks to our DLCs! I can not express how proud I am of these individuals (we have 12!) and the work they do for our district.  I look forward to our retreat this summer as we consider all of these opportunities to better improve our process for next year.  I also look forward to learning from others how they further improve and personalize learning for all staff. This has been an awesome journey and I look forward to continuing it in the years to come!