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.

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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 Amazon.com.  (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 - https://twitter.com/justintarte/status/455014071897563137I 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 – http://returnonfocus.com

  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.

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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!

The power of the unconference

Byron Unconference

Whole group reflection after our district’s unconference

Yesterday was a great day.  Probably one of the  funnest  inservice  (oxymoron?) days I have participated in a while.   What made it fun? We decided to run the day edcamp style.  That is right.  No hired experts.  No hours of sit and get with no time to collaborate with peers. No pre-selected sessions with polished presentations.  Instead, with approximately 60-70 teachers we were able to crowdsource a schedule with 30 PD sessions in 30 minutes…  For our teachers, by our teachers.

So how did we  pull this off?  I am going to highlight some tips as well as some ideas we have already to improve our next go around.

  1. Attend an Edcamp.  A small group of Byron staff(@mr_weyers, @rockychat3, mrbernards and I) took off on a Saturday in October to attend #EdcampMSP in Osseo MN.  While our main agenda was to observe an edamp in action… we also got caught up in the learning and sharing too.  Made some great connections and made some new friends (adding to my PLN!).  What I noticed about the day was the energy and the growth mindset of every individual at the conference.  I also found it was great to observe Edcamp gurus @lisasjogren and @tombrandtt  in action and I appreciate their support (tweets, hangouts, emails) as we expanded this idea into our district.
  2. Send a video short video to staff to let them know what to expect on the edcamp day.  This was a great suggestion by Andy (@rockychat3) and I would highly recommend you do the same.  There is just something about a short video clip that can clear up any well articulated email/plan.  2 minutes or less would be good.  Here is a link to ours. http://goo.gl/IVfO3k.  (yes, its not high quality – but it did the job)
  3. The Introduction.  I think this was a critical component of the day.
    1. Intro “Teachers this is about you today.  You decide what you want to learn, you have input to what gets on the schedule”  I forewarned…this could be messy.  I don’t know what to expect.  I have no idea if this will work, but its worth a try.  (in my head….This is a risk and it may fail and I am putting myself out there in front of our teachers ).  We also introduced the 3 post-its at this time.  So people would start jotting down ideas.
    2. It was also important to highlight active participation.  If you feel you are not in the right room, move. Its ok.  .  Other ways to participate – Listen, participate in the discussion, help take notes.
    3. Presenters.  Your job – please show up at the time allotted to you.  Essentially it takes 2 or more people to get a session to go.  If some sessions only have 2 people in the room that is ok because the right people are in the room.  (idea from Osseo script)
    4. Build the schedule.  A couple of us with microphones would walk around the room to see if people would first sign up.  Later it was to engage others.  Many had post-its filled out, but wouldn’t call them out.  I could walk by and ask, what do you need and hopefully spark a session.
  4. As the date neared, the whole idea of the on the fly scheduling part scared me.  I had no idea if it would work.  What if we don’t get people to share? What if we don’t get people to make requests? What if awkward silence is what our planning session ends up being?  I must have visited the scheduling process at least a thousand times in my mind.  Should it be totally analog and then transfer it to a doc/site?  How long should sessions be?  How long in between sessions?  How many sections of sessions?
    1. Our decision – we will build it live on Gdocs, and project it for the staff  as well as provide a short URL (so staff could follow on their devices).  The doc had  a table with five 1/2 hour sessions and 7 rooms.   Collaborative notes were pre-loaded on every section.  During the event, we had 2 people man the schedule and watch for conflicts.  (like presenters who offered multiple sessions to not be scheduled at the same time)

      Edcamp Day

      Snapshot of our crowdsourced schedule

    2. Its important as you build the schedule you move down the doc and to the right.  A last minute decision.  The last room (mpr) would be an overflow room.  If the dialog was so good, that a half hour was not enough, we suggested people go into the overflow room.  We also wanted everyone to come together and reflect on the day (and take survey).  (Improvements for next year – maybe have some coaches available in the afternoon so people could actually start working through their ideas. Feedback we received also suggested that descriptions be provided on the docs.  So – maybe as we are building the schedule, once it gets placed – the facilitators could actually give a short description of what to expect when walking into a session.  Also – maybe recap the day with a smack down? Might be nice to offer a section of hour long sessions.  It might provide some depth and support)
    3. So what happened?  It took the first 1 or 2 people to make their requests and the ball got rolling.  I think this may have been one of the more intriguing parts of the day. Having input into what is being presented.  5 out of the 30 sessions were not necessarily technology related, but were very aligned to our district vision as well as other  district initiatives so they also were perfect for the day too.  Remember, this was our Teachers Day to decide.  Some sessions were demonstrations, others were conversations.
    4. A key point – administrators should make a strong effort to attend.  I absolutely loved it that our HS principal was actively learning with the rest of the teachers.   This is very VERY powerful.  If you are an administrator, and your district/building is hosting an edcamp.  Try and make an effort to participate… actively.  This is a great way to gain insight to the innovation happening in our classrooms as well as build relationships with a wide group of teachers. This one day could go a long way.  (Idea – invite board members?)
  5. Results.  It was pretty cool today when I walked into the school and I overheard teachers still talking about the event.  We tried to remember what we did the year before – nobody could remember.  So, I hope this will be memorable.  We received some great feedback and data from our survey.  This will be instrumental  in the NEXT TIME.  One note – The twitter backchannel was probably the least successful of the event.  However, I do not view it as a failure but as a benchmark to improve.  As more teachers get connected, it would be great for them to see value in tools like twitter.

Edcamp Feedback

So, was the unconference powerful?  YES.  The energy was amazing, empowering.  Everyone was an expert and many people who have never led a PD session, were leading.  Having a day to connect with other staff outside of a classroom or discipline or building was also very effective.  At the end, I shared George Couros quote from Ties 13 conference  “The smartest person in the room, is the room”.   Try and unconference/edcamp and you too will see the power of collaborative learning.

How the 140 character discussion helps me

Tonight marked the 1st #MNLEAD  twitter chat. Michelle Ament (@mlament)and Lisa Sjogren (@lisasjogren) did a fantastic job creating the discussion agenda and moderating the event.  Having the agenda ahead of time really helped me keep track of the answers to the questions and flow of the conversation.  I also appreciated learning about tweetchat – a tool specifically for twitter chats.  For those of you who have not participated in a chat before, essentially a moderator will ask a question and then you respond.  Typically you get 10 minutes to have a rapid conversation (I mean crazy-fast high-adrenaline discussions) around the ideas presented, before moving on to the next question.

Below is a sample:

My response



While what I tweeted was nothing earth shattering, it was a my statement, my thoughts and something that I could have a side twitter conversation about.  This is what  like about twitter chats.  A single tweet leads may lead to a favorite or  retweet (RT) which can lead to a reply.  The reply leads a formal twitter conversation that may include actual samples and  ideas that are being currently implemented  in districts.  That 140 character conversation leads to follow up email or in this case an invite to a  Google community #MNTransformEDU.  Follow up emails and/orconnections in Google communities can lead to longer more in depth conversations. If online discussion is not enough it may be necessary  for a phone call and my favorite – Google hangout.  I can not begin to tell you how many times a spark on Twitter has lead to some pretty significant change in my district as well as my own professional growth.  Because of that 140 character discussion cycle, I have now have a deeper connections to like-minded colleagues around the state (or world) who support me, but more importantly challenge me in my thinking.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still learned quite a bit from our chat.  I like that we had 40-50 ed leaders in MN come together to talk about leadership and what we like, what we do, and how we will follow up with what we learned.   We also have to tweet our actionable items throughout the rest of the week – (this was a nice touch!)  If you are wondering what the lollipops are about – please watch the video in the agenda.


One pondering question I have.  What if we had MORE edu leaders participate and engage in Twitter Chats.  What kind of movement would that create in MN schools? Join us Sundays at 7pm cst!

#Ties13 Sparks and Action

Part of my experience with TIES is also taking away actionable items to begin implementing right away.  Its been a great experience and I am  so fortunate to have connected and collaborated with so many new friends, old friends, colleagues, and above all my #byrondlc team.  It is leaders like these,  with their own  individual  brilliance and passion for improving our schools – that makes me love to come to work EVERY DAY.


Byron Digital Learning Coaches making last minute preso edits for Tuesday sessions

Here are a couple of my take aways from the conference.  I have many ideas, some can be implemented now, while others will take some time.  Hoping these sparks will materialize…

  • Remind staff about  iTunes U – Huge resource in Apple Distinguished Educators (Beyond campus ) as well as many other nuggets of personalized PD opportunities! (Spark via Ryan Cox )

  • Develop more Student led PD/sharing/collaboration opportunities (Spark via Ryan Cox).  Had a engaging conversation with #byrondlc team. Janelle, Katie, Matt, Josh, Josh, Andy, Amber, and Holly about this concept and I think it could very well be a game changer. Maybe even to help promote more growth mindsets! – 1st potential opportunity – Student Led Amended day based on exciting projects done in the classrooms in every building.

  • “Top Gun” training for  Innovative teacher leaders – Design a training day for very high flyer educators…  (maybe pair up with another school or two)  (Spark via Ryan Cox)  While it is important that our innovators are connected – there is something to be said bout the ability to hop in a car and be able to connect within a couple of hours.  While my virtual PLN is incredibly valuable – I find I have become to value those 1 or 2 times I get to connect with them IRL. (In real life)  There are just some things you will not (or should not) discuss online or in web conferences.  Is it possible to connect MN innovative educators via grade level/subject area? Is it needed? Stay tuned!

  • Create formal pd learning environments that are very collaborative in nature.  (21st century assessments) based on framework in which participants explore and participate together. ( Spark via Tom Brandt and Andrea Wilson Vazquez)  One of my favorite things to do is observe others present information.  Tom and Andrea did a great job facilitating a very engaging environment.  I will be honest – the 3 hours FLEW by and the conversations at my table were very rich.  Between the excellent prompts, the self paced (or group paced) activities, and the self chosen pathways… This was not your typical 3 hour PD.   I have GOT to learn how to master this type of PD.   I appreciated the loose structure, and appreciated even more – the opportunity for us to learn from each other.  (As well as from Tom and Andrea!)

  • We need to come up with a formalized mechanism to share innovation happening in our classrooms.  This is a challenge.  This year, my professional growth plan includes visiting teacher classrooms to observe technology integration in action.  Within my visits this year, I have come to  realize – we have so many teachers doing amazing things and no one knows about it.  George Couros shared at his session – to go from pockets of innovation to a culture of innovation you must have 2 things – 1) the willingness for an individual to learn and 2) mass sharing.  Even with individual learning, there has to be a growth mindset to do so and no fear of failure.   A short Tweet conversation later that night lead me to realize that many principals also have a significant role in this too.  I decided to post the question out to the #ties13 group.  Here is the twitter discussion with Farmington principal Jason Berg.

    twitter discussion image

    Twitter discussion with Jason Berg

    The problem of sharing is a problem.  The last 2 days, several of our coaches presented their experiences at TIES13 and our own staff and administrators havent even seen their work!!!  (PS they were awesome!)

    As for the “sharing” we need an intuitive system.  While this is somewhat related the idea of the  Connected Educator Academy – I think there are things we can do now that wouldn’t be too intrusive.  Google Communities has a huge potential because of its tie with Google Apps for Education.  It also has the ability to be private – to our domain only.  I like how you are notified within your email account when there is something new.  Innovation brings a special buzz…  an internal buzz is contagious.  More thoughts to come. One great idea that was shared by Kristin Daniels was an idea for Sharification.  Experience points (XP) for sharing.  We could have competitions, leaderboards, ect.  Needs to be manageable however.

  • Do a site visit to East Carver County school district.  “We will know we are successful when we no longer categorize our kids”  Have you ever went into a TIES session expecting to learn a few basics about a topic?  Well, 10 minutes into the East Carver Count personalized student learning presentation, I could hardly contain my excitement.  First of all, what they have done there has totally challenged any status quo of what we call school.  I will be honest. I am jealous.  They started this discussion in 2007.  We began our discussion last year.  In a nutshell, flexible groups, flexible grades, flexible schools.  They also differentiate teachers based on strengths.  I think what is so intriguing, is the roadblocks they have overcome and my realization of roadblocks we have yet to challenge.  I was very impressed with the openness and collaboration of the administration team.   (Spark via Brenda Vogds, June Johnson, Brian Beresford)

  • Create a virtual Digital Coach pair share  (Spark by Neil Andruschak and Casey Rutherford and #byrondlc team. Janelle Groehler, Katie Krueger, Matt Weyers, JoshBurton, Josh Bernards, Andy Pethan, Amber Aslakson, and Holly Vos)  We decided to take a break from the formal sessions and skip the Tuesday Keynote. (GASP, Its True!)  Instead, a group of us sat down and talked about coaching and the direction of PD in our schools.  Such brain power! So many of us are working on similar strategies and ideas and have overcome challenges.  We could learn from each other!  Ideas sparked about opportunities for coaches to virtual observe other coaches in PD sessions.  I also have to wonder…with 12 DLCs in my district – would it be valuable for our DLCs to observe and experiences sessions in other buildings?  I know my experience with our PK-K staff has been invaluable for me. I need to do visits in other buildings as well!  (Goal for the remainder of 2014!)

  • Connect our teachers and administrators!  So this weekend I worked on mapping out The Connected Educator Academy.  I have been working on this idea for some time.  From conversations to implementation, I am looking forward to collaborating with Kasson Mantorville  Tomi Swanson and Kelly Braun and my Curriculum Director Donita Stepan to roll this out between our districts as a small pilot.  There may be other integrationalists that want to participate.  My hopes is to ramp it up by this summer if others are willing to jump in and help..  Between  conversations with Kasson, the Gamification session and 21st century learning session, and the Leader Edge Certification Course (my portfolio) – this has been on my mind for MONTHS!  Here is the map I created over the weekend….  (Still in draft mode)  Creating a map is a great step in gamifying learning!

    The Connected Educator Academy

    The Connected Educator Academy

  • Gamify 1 PD day.  – First of all. Wow.  I have never understood what gamification was.  I thought – it was how a teacher could have students create games, or play games in a classroom. But after learning from Chris Hesselbein it really is a design way of thinking in delivering your curriculum.  I was hoping to do something  Jan 20 which is right now scheduled to be an internal edcamp.  However, I may rethink this because of timing.   At any rate, here is my plan for a 1 day gamified event– ready to ready to implement.  I’d also like to  consider gamifying our entire DLC process but it would be great to have a short pilot on a 1 day PD day first to understand how to best facilitate this and how the staff react to it.  I know my reaction was very engaged.  WOW Moment.    The  #byrondlc team would need to be involved in the pilot as well as any other further development of it within the DLC process.

  • I would love to expand project based learning at BPS.  I feel pretty fortunate that I was able to spend an entire afternoon with Suzie Boss learning about Project Based learning and Technology Integration.  It was mind boggling what she has been able to observe in schools all over the world.  While we have made an initial start to introduce PBL on a district wide scale – I think it would be great to provide further training on how to do this.  Right now, there is discussion between a few DLCs and I to create a hybrid course and roll it out during our academy this summer, pilot it, fix it up – then present the training at TIES next year during a pre-conference workshop.  (Maybe even give the course away to all participants!)  One of the things I took away from the time with Suzie is that there is alot of misconceptions of what PBL is and I think if we should consider the framework that has been provided by the Buck Institute.  The concept map for this course needs to happen soon.  Before I forget everything I have been able to learn.  One last thing I need to do – check out/share  Glocalization and Quad blogging.  Cool terms. Cool global project ideas.

Quotes I heard in presentations worth mentioning

  • “We need to show reverence for the past but not live it!” – From Prensky
  • The smartest person in the room…is the room.” – Couros
  • “True change will not be top down, or bottom up. It needs to be “all hands on deck!”  – Couros
  • “Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop – Adults should not either!” –  Couros
  • “Freedom is actually a bigger game than power.  Power is control, Freedom is about what you can unleash.” – Courous
  • “Biggest shift for educators using technology is not skill set, its MINDSET” – Couros
  • “We have to start our learning with things that kids care about!   Especially problems with GLOBAL significance”  – S Boss
  • “Q) How long should PBL take?  A) Long enough – should not be rushed.!” – S Boss
  • “We will know we are successful when we no longer categorize our kids” – East Carver County Team
  • it’s complacency that is EDU’s enemy…  Hegna (My realization after all my learning)

Most awesome risk taking video EVER! 

Girl on Ski Jump


Steven Strogatz: Doing Math in Public

Dear Math picture

Image via http://shirtoid.com/23501/i-love-math-infinity/

Today I stumbled on a video Steven Stogratz – Doing Math in Public – via Cornell University. I typically don’t watch people talk about math but I find this video very interesting. I happen to be one of those people, who did fairly well in my math courses in high school and even college, but alway had a hard time understanding the application of upper level math. I could work through and solve equations, and  pass tests – but I never understood how I could actually apply it to the real world.

The video then lead me to Steven’s New York Times Blog series, The Elements of Math.  The reaction to his posts, by the public, were very supportive. There  are over 500 comments on his first post – From Fish to Infinity where he also shares why he was writing this series:

“Crazy as it sounds, over the next several weeks… I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject — but this time from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it. So, let’s begin with pre-school…”

Steven then created another 6 part series called Me, Myself, and Math. In which showcases math in real world scenarios. First post shares how math is related to  baby cowlicks and finger prints. I certainly did not understand those things had a mathematical explanation for existence, did you?

Again, the reaction to Steven’s work via blog comments and Twitter is interesting… by many people who are not mathematicians – like yours truly.  He has over 10K followers and shares many references to math in real world situations.  I am not sure where Steven’s resources could by used with K12 students. (I am not a subject matter expert in Math) but it does make  me to wonder… could some of his blog posts, scenarios, tweets lead to opportunities for real world dialog with students?  He is definitely fascinating and has one new follower! 🙂

Check out his Twitter Account – https://twitter.com/stevenstrogatz

Learn. Share. Innovate. Inspire

In Start with Why, Simon Sinek writes,

“The role of the leader is not to come up with all of the great ideas. The role of the leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” ( p. 99)

I am extremely excited to share a few components of our district’s new roadmap.  Over the past 6 months, we have been meeting and collecting feedback from our community, our staff, and our students.  We’ve heard about things we have done very well, heard about areas we need to improve, and listened to ideas that will take us into the future!  From this work, a new 5 year strategic plan has been developed.  This may be some of the MOST invigorating work I have been a part of!

Our Mission Statement:  Learn. Share. Innovate. Inspire.

I have to admit, I feel these 4 words encompass who I am and why I come to work every day.  These 4 words ARE my passion.  Yes, some days are better than others – but as I reflect on our culture at Byron – I think this statement   delivers on why we do the business we do.  In education, our main objective is our clients, our students – but I also feel these words should connect equally with our staff and our community as well.

Our Vision

By 2018, Byron Public Schools will be recognized as a leading, renowned school system in the world by:

  • Challenging the status quo and developing new norms for education
  • Leveraging real world tools & skills to develop a passion for learning
  • Developing students that demonstrate outstanding character
  • Creating a safe school environment that is happy, healthy & caring
  • Utilizing purposeful technology to develop 21st century learning and skills.

These are some very powerful statements and I believe my district can achieve all of them.  I will say, for my personal perspective that the first statement really hits the nail on the head.  We can not continue to provide traditional education in a digitized world.  It doesnt make sense.   Just today I was able to see Will Richardson’s slides from his #ISTE13 keynote presentation.  While I was not physically at ISTE this year, this slide deck certainly struck a very deep chord with me!  I believe our district is on the right track!


We also have 7 new priorities of focus.


  1. Personalize learning for all students
  2. Promote and provide applied learning experiences within the school and community
  3. Develop well-rounded students in the areas of character, community, and academics
  4. Ignite and inspire students to explore their passions and share their talents
  5. Maximize the personal and professional potential of all staff
  6. Maintain excellence in resource management


While I feel we have COLLECTIVELY created our Why in our mission and some of the What in our vision statements – Our priorities will help us develop the How.  Teams of district stakeholders will be creating action plans under each priority.  It was very difficult for me to choose what team to be on because I was inspired by so many !  In the end, I chose to partner with others and form a team  around Priority 4 – Ignite and inspire students to explore their passions and share their talents.

 A little bit about our Priority 4 journey.  It was important for our team to understand the ideas around passionate learning.  It is a concept that has recently received quite a bit of recognition – especially in the twitterverse and blogosphere.   I felt it was important to introduce the team to the concept  so I created my top 10 resource  list  for our team to review prior to our 1st meeting.

Hegna’s top 10 resources to support Passion Based Learning

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jZHNjc4Xk0  (Watch the student Valedictorian speech)

  2. Hack Schooling – 13 year old Ted Talk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=h11u3vtcpaY

  3. Guidelines for Passion Based Learning – http://www.angelamaiers.com/2011/07/guidelines-of-passion-based-learning.html by Angela Maiers

  4. 20% Classroom (Video) by Kevin Brookhouser

  5. User Generated Education by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

  6. Stillwater Public Schools – Thttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbUkkJ-8hNU&feature=youtu.behe Need for Passion

  7. Edutopia Passion Based Learning http://www.edutopia.org/blog/passion-based-learning-ainissa-ramirez by Aisissa Ramirez

  8. Stop Stealing Dreams – Seth Godin Ted Talk –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&list=PLNcDI8gzH0SpU4j8xJ3hY9aWRfko-LBr1&v=sXpbONjV1Jc#t=904s

  9. Gallup Results – Student engagement decreases with each year http://thegallupblog.gallup.com/2013/01/the-school-cliff-student-engagement.html

  10. Washington Post – If Students designed their own school it would look like this http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/20/if-students-designed-their-own-school-it-would-look-like-this/?tid=pm_local_pop

We had great discussions and really had to stretch our minds.  Since then, some of our “blue sky” ideas have   formulated into action steps and measures.   We are almost there!  I am so excited!  With any change (especially in edu) there will be  roadblocks we will have to conquer.    We WILL FAIL.  But we will also WIN.  I can not wait to begin to walk the talk.  We have had a tremendous amount of planning, planning, planning.  But now  Its GO TIME!

Walk the Talk

Image Credit = www.purdue.edu

Expanding 1:1 iPads in our district

I am very excited to announce that our school board has formally approved our plan to expand our 1:1 iPad (Project Bears21) initiative to include grades 7-12 for the Fall of 2013.  While 1:1’s are popping up all over the place – I feel there are 2 unique components to our plan that may differ from others and would love your feedback.

Financing 1:1. 

We have decided to blend our 1:1 with several options for parents.  Below are the options that parents will have. While we will have some record keeping to do (thinking of tracking through either our helpdesk system (asset management) or our SIS – Infinite Campus).

Cost of the iPad

  • iPad 2 – $380
  • Case – $40 – Case is the ruggedized Griffin Survivor Case.
  • Apps – $50 – The district will purchase the apps, but will be “owned” by the family.
  • Total cost = $470
 Options for parents
  • Option 1 – Leasing Directly with Apple. (Grade 7-12) –  In this option, the district would sign up for the lease and make payments on an annual basis.  The district would require a $40 yearly insurance fee from parents ($35 for those eligible for reduced lunch, $30 for those eligible for free lunch) per student/device with a family cap of $120 per year.  Parents would be responsible to pay the district for this option. At the end of the lease the district would essentially own the device but would turn the devices back to the company for a $100 trade up.
  • Option 2 – Invest for Learning. (Grade 7-11) – In this option the district would partner 50/50 with the parents.  Parents would be required to pay the leasing company their share of the lease (could be yearly, quarterly, monthly).  Total cost to parents would be approximately $121/year/device.  At the end of the lease, the parent could buy out the lease (for each device) for $20. The iPad would then be owned by the parent.
  • Option 3 – Bring Your Own iPad2 (BYOi) (iPad2 or better). (Grades 9-12)  – In this option, the parent already owns the device.  The district would provide approximately $50 in apps per student.  The parent must agree to enroll the device into the district’s mobile device manager (This is how we will provide the student with paid apps).  The parent assumes all insurance/maintenance of the device.

Professional Development to support 1:1.

It was a plan by 1:1 plan by Northfield Public Schools (pdf) that really captured our eye.  They included 4 year staff development plan based on the SAMR model of technology integration by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura.  We have adapted that idea and created our own model.    While I feel we have quite a few teacher that will blow past the SAM levels of the SAMR in year 1- we need to recognize that not all our teachers are at the same skillset.  This plan looks at ensuring classroom transformation in ALL classrooms within 3 years.  Sometimes, you have to go slow to go fast and we do not want to leave any classroom behind!

Below is a video that highlights our plan for PD in preparation for implementation this fall. We also will be developing /providing plans for job embedded PD for the school year as well.  Again, would love to hear your feedback!

Currently we have approximately 155 iPads for grade 7 students.  Since we want all devices to be on the same schedule, we are going to take those ipads, as well as other “loose” ipads in our high school and expand more mobile carts for teachers in grade K-6.  This is an interim plan to build the skillset and capacity within our teachers as we look to expand the 1:1 concept in the lower grade levels as well.

More information coming soon!