Coaching the Community – becoming comfortable and courageous with digital education

ISTE Coaching Standard:

3a – Model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments.

3c – Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators.

Before digital tools and resources can be implemented into a classroom, trust around the use of these tools and resources needs to be established. Technology Coaches have a complex role because there are many stakeholders in the school community which results in many perspectives on technology use in the classroom. Fellow teachers, administration, district leaders, parents and caregivers within the school community are all in the same position in regards to the rapid advancement of digital tools and resources, it is fairly new to us all and there are varying levels of comfort and understanding.  It can feel overwhelming as we evaluate and create new best practices within our education system and if we are actually using digital education in the best way possible – to benefit student development, learning, collaboration and ingenuity. Since the digital education revolution began, it is natural that this new style of delivering education results in uncertainty. It is important for Technology Coaches to invite and involve all stakeholders into the conversation in order for our educational communities to grow and thrive together.  This leads me to my question surrounding the ISTE Coaching Standard 3a and 3c:  

How can I model (for other teachers) and explain (to the parent/caregivers community) how we use digital tools and resources in the classrooms at our school and lead them toward seeing the difference between passive consumption of digital tools/resources versus active learning, collaboration and real world application that students come away with after engaging with their learning in this way?

Pushback around screen time in the classroom is a common trepidation that parents and teachers experience around using digital tools and resources in school. This is a rational feeling and one that should not be dismissed but instead openly discussed and respected.  What do people mean when they say ‘screen time’? What are they visualizing? How much time are they thinking students will be looking at a screen? Does it matter if the time is broken up into small chunks and/or while collaborating with other students? Would this change how they feel? Is all screen time equal no matter what the end goal – learning from a video, passing the time watching a TV show, reading a digital book, being a penpal online to learn about another culture, doing math problems, video conferencing, researching a question one wonders about, exploring google maps, time playing Minecraft, and the list goes on.  In the article, The Problem is Wasted Time, Not Screen Time, Tom Vander Ark speaks to the importance of how a screen is used, the agency students can develop with their learning, and the important role educators have in making smart decisions when using technology in the classroom.    

“Are today’s students spending too much time in front of computer screens? The more important question is: are students engaged in powerful learning experiences and, whenever possible, given voice and choice in what, how, and when they learn? Digital technology can powerfully facilitate this process, if thoughtful adults deploy it wisely. Otherwise, it can be mind-numbing, or worse.  The emerging generation of educational technology has the power to accelerate learning productivity in ways we can scarcely imagine. If we can ensure that students are connected to it through the help of teachers, a natural balance between online and offline experiences will develop.” – Tom Vander Ark

The important role educators play in deploying digital education for students students may be why it feels unnerving for many educators to start incorporating digital education within their classroom. There is a traditional way of teaching that educators are used to – how they were taught growing up, how they learned to be teachers and how they have developed as teachers over the years.  Yet, our students backgrounds are quite different from the previous generations because of the technology revolution and this change is here to stay…and here to revolutionize teaching, if educators embrace it. With this change, there needs to be new ways for teachers to learn about and gain access to digital education professional development in order to feel comfortable and courageous. This same push toward educator understanding would also be beneficial for the parent/caregiver community to help all stakeholders understand the difference between passive consumption and active learning with the support of screen time, tools and online resources. 

Anthony Rebora wrote about a K-12 teacher survey in the article, Teachers Still Struggling to Use Tech to Transform Instruction, Survey Finds, and the survey results show that there is a struggle to find the right use, balance and purposeful application.

Lack of training and using technology regularly for drills, reviews and practice exercises shows why there is a mistrust of digital education use – it can be so much more purposeful! This hits upon the heart of what ISTE Coaching Standards 3a and 3c mean to me which is the importance of modeling how and why using digital education supports our students, educators and families, if done thoughtfully. Focusing on how to shift towards regularly using technology for collaboration, research and group projects instead of skills and drills practice. Focusing on how to move from passive to active use of tools, platforms and resources. In order to get there, trust must be established first and foremost with the school community as a whole.

Below are ideas connected to this ISTE coaching standard to help begin positive dialogue about digital education learning opportunities for all the stakeholders in the school community. 

  • Professional Development (PD) for teachers AND Community Development (CD) for families
    • Leading hands-on CD workshops for families at school – focus on having students and adults work together to learn the tools, introduce new platforms and have multiple hands-on experiences with the formats. Make a short video to send to families that cannot come to school for the workshop. Here is a resource to use to start planning these CD experiences – Technology in the Classroom: Running a Parent Class.  
    • Have students make a how-to video to share with parents about the digital technology they are using, what they enjoy about it, what they are learning from it, the collaborations and partnership work with their peers, etc.
    • As a coach, develop PD for teachers (and parent allies, PTA members, etc.) that uses suggestions from these two Cult of Pedagogy articles – Tech for Teacher Trainings and OMG, Becky PD is Getting So Much Better. 
    • Share about equity and mindfulness around digital resources and tools – it is important to remind families that their child may have screen time at home but other students may not have access in the same way. Yet, most importantly, the screen time in school is often very different than screen time at home. Focus on how students use technology to learn and explore, not as passive entertainment. 
  • Mentor not Monitor
    • Introduce the idea of the adult community being mentors for students on balancing digital use instead of monitoring use as if students can not learn to have self-control, mindfulness and balance. This is an area that adults and students need support with because with the rapid increase of technology use, the fear and monitoring can trick people into feeling that we lose control when using technology and cannot actively learn to be aware of when our use is purposeful vs passive consumption. (Here is an interesting Mentorship Manifesto to look over from a parent perspective) Older students could then become mentors to younger students as time goes on.  The younger students are when they learn this balance, the more equipped they will be when they have more unrestricted access to technology as they grow up.  
    • Educate the school community about the importance of teaching students how to be aware of their tech use – the why, when and how digital tools and resources are used and how technology can aid in peer collaboration within the classroom and in a global context.
    • Digital Etiquette – talk about what this is, how can we extend it from online etiquette to etiquette toward the world around us while we are engaging in digital education.  I have been thinking a lot about how some of the uneasiness around technology use is based on the way people tune out to the world around them…Should this be addressed as simply as how we teach basic manners to children?  How to pause your technology use when someone is talking to you, putting your device down and focusing on eye-contact, clear expectations around how to clearly disengage and reengage appropriately and with thoughtfulness in group settings.  
  • Evaluative frameworks
    • Share with stakeholders how  SAMR, TPACK or Triple E can guide teachers in the process of decision making when it comes to deciding what digital resources deepen student learning, engagement and interest. These same framework ideas can be applied to how families decide what their students engages with at home, also. Click on the links to dive into more about each framework!
  • Allies in your community
    • Find your parent community allies and work alongside them as a partnership so that many perspectives are represented and not just the teacher perspective.  Parents are looking to each other for what seems appropriate and collaborating with the PTA, room parents and any other supporters in the school can help level the playing field without it seeming like the teacher is trying to have it their way.  Most likely, an educators perspective is different from the perspective of the parents yet having many different vantage points can help ease the minds of those who feel they are totally against technology use in the classroom. 
    • Find educators in your school or district to partner with and build learning communities around digital education. Reach out and offer opportunities of observation for educators who may be hesitant to use digital tools and resources. Show them what you have learned – not just what you ‘know’ – and invite their ideas about your own use before moving into conversation around their own use. Model first, and then second and then third and on and on until they show interest in wanting to try it out themselves. Be patient, be kind and listen to what their needs are, don’t just wait to tell them what you think would be best for them to start doing with digital education.
  • Guiding Principles for Use of Technology with Early Learners
    • Incredible resource from the Office of Educational Technology to help Technologist Coaches facilitate discussion with the school community on guiding principles when looking at educational technology.  This is a key resource for understanding the balance of digital use and how to have success and purpose for all stakeholders. Highlights are:
      • Guiding Principle #1: Technology—when used appropriately—can be a tool for learning.
      • Guiding Principle #2: Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
      • Guiding Principle #3: Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children.
      • Guiding Principle #4: Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.
    • Introduce the Three C’s to your professional and school community 
      • Content—How does this help children learn, engage, express, imagine, or explore?
      • Context—What kinds of social interactions (such as conversations with parents or peers) are happening before, during, and after the use of the technology? Does it complement, and not interrupt, children’s learning experiences and natural play patterns?
      • The individual child—What does this child need right now to enhance his or her growth and development? Is this technology an appropriate match with this child’s needs, abilities, interests, and development stage?

This is not an exhaustive list of how to begin implementing ISTE Coaching Standards 3a and 3c but through my research on this topic, I feel more equipped to begin the conversation. To begin putting together a basic workshop, to begin reaching out and asking questions and helping to find answers that may put all stakeholders more at ease with our changing educational setting. Overall, I feel ready to continue the conversations, build community around this topic and be courageous enough to learn alongside my colleagues, my parent/caregiver community and my students – much like our technology revolution, more will come and there is much more for us all to learn and share. 


Gonzalez, J. (2016, March 20). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, J. (2018, March 4). OMG, Becky, PD Just Got So Much Better. Retrieved from

Hamilton, Erica R, Rosenberg, Joshua M., Akcaoglu, Mete. (2016, May 28) he Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: a Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use. Retrieved from

Heitner, Devorah, PhD. Riasing Digital Natives. The Mentorship Manifesto. Retrieved from

ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from

Murray, Jacqui. Tech Hub. Technology in the Classroom: Running a Parent Class. Retrieved from:

Office of Education Technology. Retrieved from

Rebora, Anthony. (2016, June 6) Education Week. “Teachers Still Struggling to Use Tech to Transform Instruction, Survey Finds”.

TPACK. Retrieved from

Triple E Framework. Retrieved from

ISTE Standard 2 for Coaches – Leadership, Trust and Paving the Way for All Involved

“Leadership is a choice, it is not a rank. I know many people at the senior levels of organizations who are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities and we do what they say because they have authority over us but we would not follow them and I know many people who are at the bottoms of organizations who have no authority and they are absolute leaders. This is because they have chosen to look after the person to the left of them and they have chosen to look after the person to the right of them. This is what a leader is.”

~ Simon Sinek

As I move into learning more about the ISTE Coaching Standards, the question I posed for Standard 2 is:
How can Technology Coaches support teacher implementation of technology and help the school community accept this technology as a way to support student needs and prepare students with 21st Century skills?

Technology Coaches have a very unique role.  We are at a time in education where there is fast paced change, exciting new discoveries, a plethora of choices and a growing ability to implement new ideas, structures and strategies from digital education into our classrooms and school communities. Yet, it is also a time of great uncertainty for many – teachers, students, administration, families, school community members – in what the best practices are for involving digital education within the school day. In order to have positive movement around digital education practices and implementation, it is essential for technology coaches to not dismiss the fear and uncertainty around technology use and screen time for students.  This connects to Simon Sinek’s quote above ~ remembering to look to the left and look to the right and where the people around you are coming from. The ISTE Coaching Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessments – Technology coaches assist teachers in using technology effectively for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction, and providing rigorous, relevant and engaging learning experiences for all students – I would say if we start strong with teacher implementation, it will better extend positively to the school community, parents and other stakeholders for our students.

Technology coaches help bridge the gap from where we are to where we need to be. The ISTE Standards·C describe the skills and knowledge they need to support their peers in becoming digital age educators.


A go-to resource for me around many educational topics is Cult of Pedagogy.  Her article, How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Teachers, is packed with suggestions for leading teacher tech trainings and are spot on for demystifying digital education and bringing your educational community together – starting with teaching educators how to move these ideas forward within their classrooms. Here are the key ideas she breaks down for us:


Just like knowing our students helps us teach them more effectively, knowing the skill levels, interests, and needs of the teachers will help you better customize training for them. So do whatever you can to get to know who you’re training beforehand.


A force multiplier is something that, when added to and used by a combat force, significantly increases the strength of that force and enhances the probability of a successful mission. In other words, something you add to something else that vastly increases the first thing’s capabilities. When planning a professional development session using technology, there are three ways you can add force multipliers so the impact of the training is increased exponentially.


When it comes to technology-based training, letting teachers get their hands on the tools just makes sense. Craig Badura explains it this way: “I guess my biggest piece of advice that I could offer after six years of being an integration specialist is that we need to saturate our teachers with multiple learning opportunities. I try to make anything I create for teachers—my trainings, my sessions—I try to make whatever I create relevant to them so that they can really walk away with that and use it tomorrow. Or that they might say, ‘That really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.’ So I think the sit-and-get form of PD is really useless now with teachers, so we need to start offering them different things that they can do.”


For some reason, professional development rarely gets the same treatment we give to classroom instruction. Even though the students are adults, they will still benefit from good quality instruction. So when you’re planning a tech training, consider how you can implement these good teaching principles: Differentiate and do formative assessments.


Face-to-face time is limited in any kind of training, so it’s helpful to leave something with teachers that will allow them to keep learning after your session is over. This should include the trainer’s contact information, along with links to any other resources that were shared during the training. Turner does this with a shared document: “I have a document that they can all see, that they can share, and that they can add on to for later on. And when they do that, they’re able to come back to it and to be able to have that as a resource for themselves. And I say hey, here it is, and if you don’t remember, here’s my information.”

There is another blog post from Cult of Pedagogy, 10 Ways to Truly Lead in Your Classroom,  about how to lead within your own classroom that I think applies heavily to how to be a strong technology coach.

  • 1. Lead with imperfection. Try things you’re not good at, right in front of them. Demonstrate a spirit of experimentation. Speak of your mistakes without judgment.
  • 2. Lead with assertiveness. Show them how a self-assured person says no. Show what it looks like to set firm limits, without apology and without hostility.
  • 3. Lead with relationships. Let them hear you laugh with other teachers, prioritize loved ones, and speak respectfully of your significant other. Let them see what healthy relationships look like.
  • 4. Lead with language. Use the right words to describe concepts. Avoid dumbing things down. Savor a good word when it presents itself.
  • 5. Lead with self-control. When a student makes you angry, think of how you tell students to handle their own anger. Then do that.
  • 6. Lead with manners. Say please and thank you. Avoid cutting people off mid-sentence. Have sensitive conversations in private. Respect other people’s time.
  • 7. Lead with quality. Take a few extra minutes to get something right. Do what you say you’re going to do. Proofread.
  • 8. Lead with humor. Laugh. Be silly. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Avoid mocking or ridiculing your students. Mock yourself instead.
  • 9. Lead with enthusiasm. Share your obsessions. Geek out on the things students think are uncool. Show them that it’s possible to fall in love with a forest, a perfect pizza crust, the moment when a song changes key.
  • 10. Lead with humility. When you don’t know something, say so. Allow for the possibility that you might occasionally be wrong. Check your ego. Apologize.

Though this post is geared toward how to be a leader for students, I think it absolutely applies to leadership as a Technology Coach for teachers and for bringing the school community into the fold, as well.

The article, Overcoming the Obstacles to Leadership, hits on many key aspects of best practices for moving into leadership roles and how to build and continue leadership once you start. The one that hit home the most for me is working side by side with teachers.  Again, I would extend this to families and the school community as a whole. Relationships are at the heart of being trusted as a leader: moving into the unknown together, being revolutionary together, maintaining a growth mindset together, building trust together, navigating the ever changing educational landscape together. With this at the forefront, there is opportunity for everyone to build a foundation that feels safe, comfortable and innovative.  Once trust and a working relationship is established, purposeful and relevant PD and/or PLC groups can be established. A model that shows great promise is the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program discussed is the article, Teachers, Learners, Leaders.

“Part of the beauty of this professional learning structure is that it represents a successful joining of the education policy arm and teachers’ unions. The program meshes education research, education policy, and teaching practice and is a prime example of how researchers, policymakers, and practicing teachers can work together instead of pursuing conflicting agendas.”

~Ann Lieberman

This video goes into depth about TLLP and the huge potential is has for teachers becoming leaders.

It is an exciting time in digital education and with this comes great successes yet growing pains, as well.  As technology coaches become better equipped to handle the uncertainties and frustrations teachers may have around implementing technology and digital education in the classroom, then we will move forward.  Knowing the wide range of opinions out there is key. Knowing the pace at which to support teachers is key. Building trust with each other and the technology is key. Most importantly, truly listening to educators about what they need to best implement technology for better teaching, learning and assessments, is the biggest key to unlocking consistent success with digital education and technology use in our educational culture.


ISTE 3 – Citizen and ISTE 6 – Facilitator – a sequence of steps for growing a Growth Mindset

My question for the ISTE 3-Citizen: Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world and ISTE 6- Facilitator: Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students touches on the importance of a growth mindset throughout education, no matter what your age, in order to be comfortable with the unknown and to be brave enough to wonder and patient enough to learn more.  This blog post is based on my question: What is a sequence of teaching steps we can take as educators to facilitate a growth mindset for students that connects to digital platforms, the learning environment and student citizenship online and offline?

If you are unsure of what growth mindset is or even if you think you know, watch this video of Carol Dweck speaking about it:

and/or read below:

Over 30 years ago, Carol Dweck and her colleagues became interested in students’ attitudes about failure. They noticed that some students rebounded while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks. After studying the behavior of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement. (

There is so much out there about growth mindset and at times, with such an overabundance of talk about growth mindset, it can start to feel like an idea that has grown into a fade and has become misused, misunderstood and thrown around too loosely (blog post for another day around that!). Yet, at the core of this idea, it can’t be emphasized enough that if students are truly able to understand what it means to have a growth mindset and what this can mean for them as lifelong learners – wow – The possibilities are endless.  This is why I am focusing on the steps it takes to achieve a growth mindset – it is not a quick and easy bandaid or a silver bullet for success. It takes time, mindfulness, thoughtful sequencing to get students to understand and believe in it.

When looking at this infographic:

I see the infographic as the sequence of steps needed to develop a safe and secure understanding of growth mindset from a young age and the sequence takes time and a slow integration with many small steps that turn into larger steps. It is not enough to say, learning should be challenging, you will fail that is how you learn, isn’t making mistakes great so that you can learn why.  These are great beliefs for students to eventually understand but getting them there needs to be gentle. It doesn’t feel great to make mistakes or ‘fail’ (though I do not believe that the word fail is accurate for growth mindset), it feels vulnerable and scary, especially when others seem to understand more than you or are better at something more quickly. Looking at this image and after speaking with my critical friend, Kelli Carlson, this week, I realize that the most important part of growth mindset is starting exactly where this graphic does – with the brain.  Here is an idea for a flushing out this sequence of steps inspired by this infographic to better promote, celebrate and inspire a growth mindset in ourselves and our students.

Our Amazing Brain – …intelligence can be developed

First thing, start talking with students about how the brain learns and gets stronger.  How the brain grows. How connections and neurons get stronger with practice and perseverance. Go into the science of how the brain works.  Find resources that make this interesting and relevant for your students.

Resources/Ideas: (this is a paid program), There are a slew of educational Growth Mindset videos online and with a simple google search you can find one relevant for your age group, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain – read aloud,,

Challenges – …embrace challenges

Once students understand more about how the brain works and grows, they are more ready to face challenges and see them less as obstacles to growth and more as the way to grow. Presenting challenges in a thoughtful way that increases perseverance and where successes are meaningful and can be understood through the process of getting there is key to a growth mindset. If the challenge is immediately frustrating, maybe it would be better to start with activities that can show growth more immediately.  As students get more comfortable with this, then activities can increase with the time it takes to be successful with new learning. Throughout this whole process, teaching the vocabulary that goes along with growth mindset is key – this gives students a voice in what the process feels like and phrases to help propel them in order to keep moving forward.

Resources/Ideas:  Math resource –, pick something that you find is challenging and work throughout the year to explicitly show growth – one example I read about was a teacher learning hacky sack! Find the vocabulary that works best for your students and use it everyday to teach them how to speak using a growth mindset, even if they are not fully there, yet! (Yet being a key growth mindset word!),  

Obstacles – …persist in the face of setbacks

After some experience with persevering through challenges (and maybe even throughout them depending on your students) have them pinpoint what the obstacles were in their learning. Having students share where they struggled, what held them back and what they did to move through the challenge is so powerful.  Learning how to be aware of when you start backtracking into a fixed mindset is key to realizing which mindset you will decide to listen to. I think this step and the previous step may go hand in hand pretty quickly.

Resources/Ideas – hands on tangible obstacles to manipulate to demonstrate what it means to persevere through, problem solve solutions and continue on. Students could explicitly track obstacles as they arise and celebrate how many they persevere through (digital support could be really helpful with this!) Watch this inspiring video which shows students who are very aware of the obstacles and challenges they are facing and proud to share with each other!

Effort – …See effort as the path to mastery

“A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve. We also need to remember that effort is a means to an end to the goal of learning and improving. Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: “Great effort! You tried your best!” It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning. The growth-mindset approach helps children feel good in the short and long terms, by helping them thrive on challenges and setbacks on their way to learning. When they’re stuck, teachers can appreciate their work so far, but add: “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.” Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ (2015)

This is where the pieces from the previous steps in this sequence will support not accidentally turning effort into a reason to stop and be the end result – A ‘I tried so I’m done now’ mentality.

Criticism – …learn from others

The word criticism immediately makes me cringe and maybe it is meant to?! I prefer to think of this stage as feedback or ‘feedforward’ as I have heard it called. The goal for this step is for students to start feeling safe to welcome in conversation from others who disagree with them, feel they should change something, or have something to teach them.  I know in the younger grades, we often focus mostly on positive peer and adult feedback. If students are only used to getting positive returns from their work, then as they move through education and the ‘gloves come off’, they can quickly spiral into not knowing how to defend their work, talk through their process, justify their strategies, or be unwilling to learn from peers and not know how to be comfortable with constructive criticism – which is crucial as you get older whether it is in the workplace, in relationships and beyond!

…which leads us directly into….

Success of others – …find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

Whew, this is a big one. If the previous targets have been met successfully, this is a beautiful ending.  It is hard to truly feel comfortable with the success of others sometimes. Especially if you feel as though you can’t be successful because you aren’t smart enough, can’t do it, just don’t have the talent or natural ability. I like the approach of thinking of this step as finding lessons and inspirations of others to apply to your own endeavors. What a powerful feeling to bravely embrace.

Resources/Ideas: Looking at inspirational figures who have persevered and become leaders, focusing on the strategies others have used to be successful from their failures, help students become more aware of who they admire and are inspired by (often times outside their immediate world) and then translate this into their day-to-day interactions with people they engage with regularly.

With each of these steps, digital education has many resources to support each stage. A few in particular that I will be looking more closely at is YouCubed for challenging math support and Sown to Grow which supports students with goal setting, reflection and coaching.  Cult of Pedagogy has an interesting blog post about it. I have come away from deeper research into growth mindset realizing that digital platforms are plentiful for supporting this if, as always, they are incorporated thoughtfully.  Gigital Citizenship blends nicely with the criticism/feedback and success of others stages while during the challenges, obstacles and effort stages students could track their growth using digital portfolios and look back at where they first started. I think of a Kindergartner or 1st grader filming themselves doing a read aloud and then again months later and how they could see the difference.  Or doing math problems on a whiteboard and then again after they have learned new material. Though this tracking of growth would be incredible for all ages – children and adults. Here is an article that addresses using tech to develop a growth mindset that I will be looking more closely at, as well.

Digital Resources:

Having said all of this, a growth mindset at all times is a tall order.  Is it an attainable one? Carol Dweck says, “Let’s acknowledge that (1) we’re all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets,(2) we will probably always be, and (3) if we want to move closer to a growth mindset in our thoughts and practices, we need to stay in touch with our fixed-mindset thoughts and deeds.  If we “ban” the fixed mindset, we will surely create false growth-mindsets. (By the way, I also fear that if we use mindset measures for accountability, we will create false growth mindsets on an unprecedented scale.) But if we watch carefully for our fixed-mindset triggers, we can begin the true journey to a growth mindset.”


Dweck, Carol. (2015, Sept. 23) Education Week.  Retrieved From

Ferlazzo, L. (2016, September 24). Response: ‘Freedom to Fail’ Creates a Positive Learning Environment. Retrieved from

Fingal, D. (2017, December 14). Infographic: Citizenship in the digital age. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, Jennifer. (2017, April 30). Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from

Murray, Jacqui. Teach Hub Retrieved from

Schwartz, Katrina. (2015) Growth Mindset: How to Normalize Mistake Making and Struggle in Class. Retrieved from

ISTE 5 and ISTE 7 – Designer and Analyst – Is Branching Minds the puzzle piece I’ve been looking for?

The two ISTE standards we focused on the last two weeks in our DEL EDTC 6103 graduate class were ISTE Standard 5 – Designer – Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability and ISTE Standard 7 – Analyst – Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals.  After digging deeper into the Standards, the question I came away with was – How can I track student growth and have it available for families while also having the students drive the reflection and next steps piece to be active in their learning, growth and progress? There are two tools that stood out to me to try out and one article in particular that got me thinking more about the importance of student voice and perspective when designing authentic, learner-driven activities.

For the ISTE Standard 5 – Designer – the article, Using video technology to enable student voice in assessment feedback, made me reevaluate the importance of student perspective in feedback and how to give their voice and analysis as much space as the teachers voice and feedback.

“When actively engaged in the feedback process, students request feedback, question to clarify feedback, negotiate feedback, reflect on feedback and also provide feedback to themselves, their peers or the teacher. Teachers likewise ask questions, and receive and reflect on feedback from the student and adjust their feedback accordingly. For optimal engagement in feedback processes, both teachers and students need to self-regulate as active agents (Kleij, F. V., Adie, L., & Cumming, J. (2016).

When designing authentic, learner-driven activities, it is extremely important to include adequate time to converse with students about their work and their own self-assessment and then time for them to go back to their work or move on from it depending on the outcome from the joint feedback. In early elementary, there is a tendency for feedback conversations to be teacher driven. Learning how to be a facilitator in the conversation rather than the majority voice would help students become more aware of and in charge of their growth and in turn more committed to their progress.  I believe if you start this practice in early elementary, then the internal drive and perseverance when challenged will be stronger as they go into middle and high school.

One digital tool that addresses these standards is Branching Minds. I read about this tool in the article, The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom. Throughout ISTE Standard 5 (Designer) and 7 (Analyst) there are opportunities for personalized learning to be at the forefront. The video below is very informative for understanding what  Branching Minds designed to do:

Branching Minds

A key element from Branching Minds that connects the two ISTE standards is that this program takes a wide range of data and clearly shows where the student is challenged and where they excel and then matches specific learning programs/tools that support the learning style of that student which makes the learning more personalized.  The programs/tools suggested are free to use though there are some that are ones to purchase but an educator has the option to hide the suggested that cost more. It also is designed to be a tool that can be shared with families and other staff that may interact regularly with the student which helps to get the whole child perspective when collecting data.

Improve effectiveness of implementation, reduce burden of documentation.

  • Understand whole learner’s strengths and challenges: academic, cognitive, social emotional and behavioral
  • Increase collaboration amongst all stakeholders (teachers, family and student)
  • Scaffold the use of matched evidence-based interventions, best practices of RTI/MTSS and effective differentiation
  • Cut meeting and prep time in half!
  • Meet student intervention goals more frequently/quickly
  • Connect all the dots easily and visually

(Branching Minds 2019)

From there, you could incorporate another digital tool like Seesaw to post activities that facilitate multiple modes of student engagement (video, drawing, voice recording, writing, etc) that match the learning style of the students.  Seesaw is also a platform where you could record student and teacher feedback sessions so everyone (parents, students and teachers) could look back and review where they are at and see growth as the year progresses.

As educators, we are always looking for ways to improve our understanding of all of our students. Is Branching Minds a more thorough and straight forward path to curating student information to better personalize education for all students?  I can’t be sure until I have tried it first hand but learning about it has opened my mind to thinking more about how to implement assessment and data meaningfully while also connecting this assessment and data to designing more student-driven activities and with supports that make sense for the student. As educators think about how to best fit together the puzzle pieces of effective digital tools, the data that Branching Minds is focusing on bringing together makes a lot of sense and could help educators to work ‘smarter not harder’ considering we are all already working so hard every day. Now, to try out the free demo at some point to get a more hands on experience since it is not a district paid for platform…too often the downside of finding exciting new tech is the time, energy and money it takes to see if it is in fact one of the puzzle pieces in my 5,000+++ piece educator puzzle!


Branching Minds (2019). Retrieved from

Digital Promise Global. (2016). The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom. Retreived from

“ISTE Standards for Educators” Retrieved from

Kleij, F. V., Adie, L., & Cumming, J. (2016). Using video technology to enable student voice in assessment feedback. British Journal of Educational Technology,48(5), 1092-1105. doi:10.1111/bjet.12536

ISTE Standards 1 & 2 – Learn and Lead: Twitter, Wakelet, Goal Setting and How Trees Talk to Each Other Through the ‘Wood Wide Web’

During the first quarter of the Digital Education Leadership (DEL) Program, we were asked to have a Twitter account. I was not looking forward to this. I resisted this. I replayed in my mind all the negative Twitter experiences I had heard about from the news and from friends. I had decided long ago, I would never be involved with Twitter. I continued to resist it throughout the first quarter.  Then, after engaging with it more during the second quarter of the DEL program, I realized that I had it all wrong. What you experience with Twitter depends on how you choose to use it. I found that because I am using it to connect in a professional way around digital education and technology, I am learning a lot from the folks I am connected with on Twitter. I am being inspired by other educators. I am exposed to and learning about Ed Tech on a regular basis. I am sharing my own thinking. I am learning from others thinking and experiences. I am more ready and willing to be open and available to new tech. I am converted and I will continue to be.  The librarian at my school invited me to a Ed Tech PD through our school district a few weeks ago and presented about Twitter. I feel like I finally understand how Twitter can be solid support for ISTE Standard 1 – Learner: Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning and ISTE Standard 2 – Leader: Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.

Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools

What I really admire about the perspective she shared is that if used purposefully, you can be both a learner and a leader through Twitter – you will bounce between these roles regularly, as it should be. To lead well, you should be in the learning phase often. This seems especially true with educational technology since there is so much out there to be keep up with and be aware of.

After learning through a resource like Twitter, having a place to curate the many resources we learn about is an important way to maintain all the learning.  I have started to use Wakelet to keep track of the ideas and tools that I am compiling throughout the DEL program, from fellow cohort members, from PD trainings and conversations with colleagues and friends. I have heard about other curation tools but for me, this one has been the most user friendly, so far. Also, you can follow other users and learn from the resources they have collected and begin creating a network of connections. This provides an opportunity to teach others about the resources that are working well for you while simultaneously giving you the ability to learn from others about what they feel are worthwhile enough to be saving in their Wakelet. I could see this tool being a way to have far reaching collaboration locally and globally.  It makes me think of the ‘Wood Wide Web’ and network of mycorrhizal fungi. I always take comfort in the idea of connecting how we mimic our natural world. If done so thoughtfully, it could result in something almost as magical as mentioned in the video below…and how we could be more aware of what is hurting the positive way that digital education could be used within our education system.


Here is an article on the same topic, Plants Talk to Each Other Using the Internet of Fungus.

All of this has led me to thinking more about the Triple E Framework and staying on top of pushing myself as a Learner and a Leader within digital education and having a tool to monitor what I am finding and what I am seeking to find.  Having a checklist or template to review regularly to make sure I am not getting so comfortable with what I know that I lose out on staying up-to-date on new digital tools, methods, and ideas while maintaining an innovative mindset versus what is safe and familiar.  I would like to eventually combine a rubric like the Triple E Framework…

…to an accountability tool/app such as Wunderlist or Goals On Track.  I like the idea of setting a goal of seeking out X number of new digital education tools, readings or connections per month combined with a way of tracking what is discovered and determining through the Triple Framework E what is worth saving for possible implementation (you could add it to your Wakelet!) or scrap it if it is not worthwhile – which is an important part of learning when it comes to how much is out there to wade through…knowing how to best sift through the bad to get to the good.

Ultimately, to best achieve ISTE Standards 1 and 2, there needs to be a desire to both wonder about and know about what is out there. To be ready ask questions while being open to answering questions.  For myself, using Twitter as an educational and professional learning and sharing tool, Wakelet as a way to track findings while connecting with other educators/professionals and a goal setting/accountability app to track personal commitment to engaging regularly seems like a solid way to start engaging as a learner and leader consistently.  


ISTE 4 Collaborator – Moving From Ideas to Implementation

While researching around my question – How can we collaborate with others to move from talking about exciting ideas to authentic implementation regularly and with efficiency during planning time? – I reflected on how collaboration has looked for me this last decade.  I have been lucky to be at schools where there have been fellow educators who love to dream big with a desire to implement projects based on student interest.  There has always been many ideas and conversation yet we would retreat back into our separate classrooms without a clear plan to achieve these ideas.  Often, the lack of a formal structure when sharing ideas was the problem. We would share what was inspiring us but leave the conversation without a structured plan in place. In the video, Future Ready – Establishing a Professional Learning Ecosystem, there is heavy emphasis on the idea having a Professional Learning Community (PLC) and the importance of learning how to best collaborate with others in a formalized way – using an agenda, having regular meetings, tapping into the skills of coaches or other content area teachers, co-teaching and so forth.

In order for it [a professional learning community] to be effective, it has to be collegial, it has to be ongoing and it has to be job embedded.

~ Steven T. Webb, ED.D
Vancouver School District

PLC’s are at the heart of how we can combine our ideas with best practices while blending the wisdom and knowledge of those around us and sharing our own expertise.  When including digital education and tech within these PLC’s, the sky’s the limit for what educators can do, realistically, for students and school communities. Yet, there is still the lingering question, how do we regularly implement these ideas successfully after the PLC meeting. In addition, this led to a new dimension of my original question which is, How can we grow our collaboration to a local and global scale in order to broaden perspectives and meet the ISTE standards for students and educators around global collaboration?

There are two digital tools that can help with the implementation step after PLC’s meet and globally collaborate which would hit on ISTE Educator Standard 4a (Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology) and 4c (Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally).  The first collaborative tool is a planning platform that enables educators to fulfill the requirements of standards based planning while also being a living document that colleagues can use together to achieve collaboration. The tool is Planbook

I was turned on to this digital tool by the librarian at my school.  Three of us were collaborating (myself, another teacher and her) and we realized that through the process of planning together, it would be helpful to have a platform we could all use, change and share with each other which would cut down on our workload if we divided it up. This helps to move from talking about ideas into implementing ideas because we can get started together during our PLC but then work collaboratively online instead of having to sit together the whole time.  The downside of this tool is that you do have to pay to use it – $15 a year. If it does save you time, especially when needing to turn in standards based plans, etc to administrators, then is very much worth it but it is a less equitable resource because of a financial cost. Click here to read about 10 Reasons to Love Planbook to see if it could help you.

Another digital tool that can turn collaboration into global collaboration is Empatico.  

After meeting with educators in your PLC, you could use this tool to connect your classroom to classrooms around the world. Within the Empatico platform, you have access to pre-planned activities to help launch the collaboration and it is a free service to use.  Also, it is crucial to have plans available that can lessen the time and confusion of planning out a global collaboration on this scale (especially for the first time) and Empatico provides well thought out lessons to choose from. After connecting with another classroom and educator, you could work through the lessons available from Empatico and from there be in spot where you and the other educator may notice opportunities to continue collaboration in a meaningful way. Since the initial lessons provide a structured start to the collaboration, there is a higher chance of the collaboration being successful. From there, a continuing collaborative relationship could develop throughout the years even when your initial students move up to the next grade level.

Overall, the ‘movement of ideas into implementation’ conundrum that happens in schools is multifaceted but with thoughtful PLC training and practice, a digital planning tool like Planbook to keep educators on track with planning expectations and a platform like Empatico that can help you navigate the complexities of global collaboration, the chance of implementing ideas more regularly and globally has a solid foundation to grow from.  Having enough time to do all that we want to do will always be a struggle but having groundwork to grow from, it becomes less of a battle and instead an innovative collaboration on a local and global scale.


Chalk and Apples: Engaging Ideas and Resources for Upper Elementary. 10 Reasons to Love Planbook. Retrieved from

Empatico. (2019, April). Retrieved from

ISTE Standards for Educators. Retrieved from

Office of Educational Technology. Future Ready: Establishing a Professional Learning Ecosystem. (2016, April 05). Retrieved from

Planbook. (2019, April). Retrieved from

~ Understanding by Design Reflection, ISTE 2: Digital Citizen, Six Facets of Understanding ~


Creating an experience for students that gives student agency, addresses standards and has a creative approach  was my main goal in creating this Making Inferences Unit for my 2nd and 3rd grade students. This is not a unit that I have implemented in my classroom yet but through creating it, I have been reminded of the importance of the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework to ensure that the end result for my students is at the forefront of my planning. The UbD design is a strong framework that provides many opportunities for differentiation, digital education and flexibility in what a teacher incorporates.  In addition, there is the ability to have student influence on process while still maintaining the goals and standards desired which is important for the realities of what educators are expected to cover within any grade level or academic level.

I believe that a next step for this unit would be to provide a pre-unit using UbD to enable teachers to prepare their students for being successful in this Making Inferences Unit.  In addition, the pre-unit could be a beginning of the year unit so that the skills being introduced are applicable all year long. Skills would evolve from basic to deeper understanding and with increased use of digital experiences that support student learning around Common Core Standards as well as the ISTE student standards.

The day-to-day lessons within these units will be my final step to bring the unit to life in my classroom.  A resource I can use is Common Sense Media as a guide for resources to support the digital citizenship piece as well as the Flipgrid and/or Seesaw implementation.  

Digital Citizenship

Using digital tools and platforms requires a substantial amount of gradual release learning opportunities for this age in order to best implement long term and with less frustration for students and teachers. Taking the time to do this gives students the opportunity to experience 21st Century skills they will need throughout their education by teaching how to create digital portfolios and maintain them. Engaging in monitored and safe spaces for practicing digital citizenship at this age will prepare them for the daily interaction of digital experiences they will encounter as they are growing up – inside and outside of school.

“Digital citizens are PK-12 learners who proactively approach their digital access, participation, and associated rights, accountability and opportunities with empathy, ethics, and a sense of individual, social and civic responsibility.” “This level of engagement looks different in different classrooms and with children of different ages. Consider how an elementary teacher might empower his students to establish “Friend Tips” for using classroom online collaboration tools.” ~ Carolyn Sykora (2018)

ISTE Standard 2, Digital Citizenship, is a crucial part of having success with digital education and experiences like feedback for others and self-reflection are a starting point for connecting digital and real life citizenship into one idea, not two separate realities when they go hand in hand in today’s world.

Six Facets of Understanding

Using the Six Facets of Understanding as a pre and post checklist of sorts to evaluate my Making Inferences Unit, I have noticed that if I can start with a strong Explain portion – not rushing through this part – and students can deeply explain to others what it means to infer. If students can explain, then there is potential to have a domino effect for all the other facets because of the interconnected nature of each one. Having said that, this also means if each ‘domino’ is not considered when designing the unit, there is the great potential for the learning to falter or become more shallow with only single context understanding.  “…the word ‘understanding’ has various meanings, and our usage suggests that understanding is not one achievement but several and it is revealed through different kinds of evidence.” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

To better set my dominos up, I would like to use a Six Facets of Understanding Rubric to self-evaluate how I am doing guiding my students through each facet of understanding to ensure their understanding continues past this unit.

UbD Unit

Please click on the unit title to see the unit in full~ Making Inferences Unit


“ISTE Standards for Students” Retrieved from

Six Facets of Understanding – infographic. (2018). Retreived from

Sykora, Caroline (2018). A New Lens on Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

ISTE 6 and 7: Creative Communication and Global Collaboration ~ Digital Tools and Toothpaste

ISTE Student Standards 6 and 7 focuses on creative communication and global collaboration. Providing opportunities for students to engage in this can feel daunting when looking through all the available digital tools and curriculum. Since there are so many platforms available to enable creative and global collaboration, the real question comes forth, which digital tools are more apt to be used successfully?  To start using digital tools and platforms within our classrooms, we often search for what we should use and have to wade through what resources are ‘good’ and what resources are not. For myself, this often involves me going down a google search rabbit hole and emerging inspired yet confused about what to use because there is so much out there. It reminds me of how I will stand in the toothpaste aisle at the grocery store feeling overwhelmed by the choices. Even though I know what I usually buy, I look at it all and try to figure out what is the ‘best’…is there something new that is better?  Sure, I could go with what I usually get but what if there is something better to whiten my teeth or freshen my breath longer.

Much like toothpaste, there are so many digital tools to use and ideas to follow and though it may be tempting to use what you always use, it is important to be available to other options. Many digital resources are similar so deciding what to use needs to be a combination of knowing what has worked for others (safe, dependable, engaging, etc.) while still being open to trying out new technologies – even if they flop – and picking one (or many) that work for what makes sense in your classroom. Knowing what has worked but being open to what is new are important ways to stay fresh, innovative and flexible while also keeping students safe, interested and having student agency and input!

A resource that can help educators learn about the many resources out there is Teachers Guide to Global Collaboration which is an unbranded, user-driven resource for teachers looking for projects and resources to collaborate with other classes around the world.  What I like about this resource is that it gives you a starting point with the option to learn how to use the guide (with a beginners focus), connect to global projects that make sense for your goals and then search through guides, curricula, communities and organizations. This is a great resource for UbD because you can pinpoint what you want to achieve and then find the right path to get you and your students there. Educators could take an idea or project they want to implement in the classroom and then search for projects and/or resources that have been successful and then launch their own version with the tools and resources at their fingertips.

To kickstart your vision, it is always helpful to learn about classrooms that have had success and then look backwards to see how they achieved this. One resource that helped me to think about purposeful projects and how to get started was a slideshow from Channel Pro Network, 5 Examples of Collaborative Technology in K-12 Classrooms.  Each example had purpose and made sense for the classroom and community environment it was a part of.  Also, these examples reiterated the idea that creative global collaboration does not need to be cross continent or far away.  It absolutely can be, and what a wonderful cultural experience that is – the example of a North Carolina school collaborating with a Swedish school for a science project was wonderful – but it can also be what helps to connect communities that are feeling unconnected.  The example shared of schools in Kodiak, AK using digital tools to collaborate with schools on remote islands in the area meant that a communities that felt disconnected were brought together via creative communication and collaboration. Another connection I made was that it is important to use a variety of platforms and resources at times.  There may not be just one ‘thing’ that does it all. The more we are aware of and open to new technologies, the more we are able to combine what we need to implement for it to be personal, purposeful and productive – and most importantly – long lasting and creative.

I think when we connect global collaboration and creative communication together, this connection with others opens up flexibility in creative thinking for students because of different perspectives. In the Edutopia article, The Power of Digital Story, 5 factors are suggested to keep in mind when sharing stories but I believe it would work for any creative communication situation.  

The 5 factors are:

1. Create space for listening

2. Persuade with the head and the heart

3. Lead with the narrative

4. Amplify with images

4. Nurture the Process

5. Understand the tools (Dillon, 2014).

Students of all ages have a desire to communicate and storytelling is a meaningful way to share and learn from others on a variety of topics but science, math, global issues, and more benefit from these factors being kept in mind and can help influence empathy and positive communication within the global and diverse communities we interact with.

Overall, I hope from this post that you will not stand and stare at all the toothpaste in the aisle and instead grab hold of one, or two or three that could work and start brushing, see what you like best and what makes sense with the vision. Use the tools and resources mentioned to see what is out there that could work for you, your students and the goals you are all working towards.  Shift to something else if it doesn’t. Be inspired by what others have learned from and experienced, add to the resource/project page on Teachers Guide to Global Collaboration when something does work to share with fellow educators. I tend to think I want a clear path that states exactly what I should to do achieve these ISTE standards but what I have come away with is that how it becomes purposeful is that I get to decide.  Instead of blindly searching, let’s look for strong examples and guides that can lead us down the right path and then be ready to forge ahead independently where it makes sense for you and your students.

And finally, don’t forget to floss – there are a lot less choices for what floss to buy so that should be easy.  This would be the ‘do I use a computer or tablet’ question which is much easier to decide!


Channel Pro Network (2018). 5 Examples of Collaborative Technology in K-12 Classrooms. Retrieved from

Dillon, B. (2014). The power of digital story. Edutopia. Retrieved from

“ISTE Standards for Students” Retrieved from

Teachers Guide to Global Collaboration. (2019) Retrieved from

ISTE Standard 5 ~ Computational Thinking: Chapped lips and Micro-Credentials

I had a moment of clarity while learning about Computational Thinking (CT) – as an educator, a parent, a citizen and a learner, I use CT every day without realizing it.  The more I became familiar with the terminology of CT, the more I found it hard to imagine a situation where CT does not come into play at some point, every day, in everyone’s life.  Here is a video that helps simplify the CT problem solving approach and can help demystify what it is:

(I would like to acknowledge (my opinion) that though this video is a great way to simplify the CT process, a crucial next step to improve this video would be to include diversity and female presence, as well. )

hThe steps of CT are decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithmic thinking. The more I understood each step within CT, the more I noticed that everyday there were times where I use all or parts of this problem solving approach.  For example, my daughter – who is 6 years old, has a tendency to really lick her lips in the winter and she gets that red ring on above her upper lip. This leads to her lips drying out, her licking them even more and then complaining that they hurt. I realized the other day, that my response to her was CT driven without me realizing it.  Here is what happened:

Daughter: My lips hurt, this is so terrible. Why is this happening. Make it stop and go away.  (All said in a distraught and defeated tone – this felt like a really big problem to her)

Me: Well, what can we do to solve the problem. Complaining does not make your lips feel better (classic Mom response I give her). What is the problem?

Daughter: My lips are dry and I keep licking them and it makes it worse. (Decomposition)

Me: Okay, has this happened before? Why does it happen?

Daughter: Yes. It happens a lot. And it happens on the back of my knees a lot. And on my arms. (Pattern recognition)

Mom: What have you noticed when it happens?

Daughter: That when my lips or my skin get too dry it gets itchy and bumpy and cracks and then we have to put cream or vaseline on (she has eczema and we use vaseline and creams on her arms and legs so it doesn’t get really bad especially right after she gets out of the bath – she is well versed in why over the last year or so!) (Abstraction)

Me: Okay, so what are some things we know about dry skin and how to help your skin?

Daughter: That I need to put vaseline on my skin after the bath so my legs and arms don’t get so dry and that when we do it every morning and night it makes it so my skin doesn’t get itchy. And that I should not itch it with my fingernails and if it is itchy then I should put cream on it so it doesn’t get worse.

Me: Yep, are your lips skin?

Daughter: Yes? (she was pretty sure…I reassured her that yep, lips have skin)

Me: Okay, so what could you do for your lips?

Daughter: I could put vaseline or chapstick on them. In the morning and at night. And I should bring some to school.  And if my lips start to hurt, I should not lick them. I should put something on them instead. (Algorithmic Thinking)

This really happened and we go through this cycle daily around a variety of issues! The CT process we used did not involve computers or digital tools BUT the possibilities are endless in how it could! Especially as she grows up and becomes more sophisticated in her thinking and uses purposeful problem solving like CT to reach real life solutions. Sure, initially this looks like simple problem solving but from problem solving, comes the next step, computational thinking. Maybe she could track her symptoms and gather data to better understand why this happens – weather, temperature, types of cream/chapsticks that help or don’t (we were using mentholatum for awhile and that made it worse!), clothing or bedding that irritates her skin, not staying hydrated enough, and so on.  Or maybe she could research the mysteries of eczema and use a computer program to track similarities to others who deal with similar issues and what works and what doesn’t. What about steroid cream, is it worth the risk? What are the pros and cons? My hope for her, besides less skin issues, is that if she learns to analyze and understand problems rather than feel helpless or just complain about them, she will develop the desire to solve problems and apply CT to all areas of her life – School, projects, relationships, curiosities/questions, entrepreneurial ideas, world issues, and the list goes on.

So, while a future computer programmer certainly needs CT, it is not necessarily true that everyone who learns CT should go on to learn coding. Rather, as computer technology becomes more embedded into the fabric of every industry, professionals in every industry need to be able to think in ways that leverage those computers to solve the problems of the future. (Enoch, 2018)

The National Science Foundation, ISTE and Computer Science Teachers Association began a project called, Leveraging Thought Leadership for Computational Thinking PK-12, to dig deeper into how to make CT more accessible for educators (Barr, et al, 2011). The long term goal is to recommend ways that all students have the opportunity to learn these skills and to ensure that they can be transferred to different problems and used in different contexts (Barr, et al, 2011).  When I think about how to best start the process of learning CT at a younger age, this made me see that if explicitly taught in simple situations, the leap to using it more deeply will not be a leap at all, it will be a natural next step.

In Computational Thinking for a Computational World, there are 10 micro-credentials that lay out key elements and pedagogical approaches to best incorporate CT in your classroom daily as an educator.

Computational thinking:

Key elements
- Working with data. Educator supports student inquiry practices using data to investigate questions and communicate findings.
-  Creating algorithms. Educator supports students in using algorithmic thinking to formulate procedures as algorithms and compare different solutions to the same problem.
-  Understanding systems with computational models. Educator supports students in developing systemic understandings of concepts by engaging with computational models.
-  Creating computational models. Educator supports students in using computational thinking to model the behavior of a system that has interrelated parts.
-  Developing computational literacies. Educator supports students in understanding and participating in computational literacies.

Computational thinking:
Pedagogical practices
-  Creating an inclusive environment for computational thinking. Educator cultivates a learning environment that provides students opportunities to build knowledge and express themselves through computational thinking.
-  Integrating computational thinking into curriculum. Educator supports students in using computational thinking to develop understandings of ideas central to a discipline.
-  Assessing computational thinking. Educator uses assessment feedback to support student growth in computational thinking.
-  Using computers as tools for thinking. Educator documents and analyzes the ways students use computers as tools for representing their thought processes and connecting their learning to that of their peers.
-  Selecting appropriate tools for computational thinking. Educator selects computational tools that provide the appropriate support to meet computational thinking learning goals for diverse students.

My initial question about CT and ISTE Standard 5 – What does Computational Thinking look like at each grade level? – was based around wanting to see how to teach it at every grade level. After learning more about CT, I have realized it is not about having a lesson plan that teaches CT in each grade.  Instead, it is about incorporating CT within a variety of contexts so that students become naturally aware of how to use CT to solve problems and how computer technology can help them better solve problems. The micro-credentials mentioned above can grow with our computer/digital driven future.  For my 6 year old, this may involve simple data collection with a printed data sheet and stickers to indicate when she has chapped lips and to notice patterns on when they are more or less dry as the months/seasons pass. For her older self, this may involve using a computer program to input data and have the computer analyze the results to see if there are connections she has not noticed with how weather affects her skin.  But in reality, for her older self, who knows what digital tool she will use to enhance her thinking because most likely, it hasn’t been invented yet. Which is exactly why the roots of CT are so important, so she can adapt and grow with the learning world she is, and will be, a part of.


ISTE 4 – Innovative Designer

Question: What are digital tools that connect with design process frameworks that teachers and students can use to solve authentic student-led problems that will challenge students to be flexible, persevere through the unknown and find innovative solutions while still being realistic for current student standards and teacher expectations?

To better make sense of my question, I will separate my question into two parts, Tools and Implementation.

Tools ~ What are digital tools that connect with design process frameworks that teachers and students can use to solve authentic student-led problems that will challenge students to be flexible, persevere through the unknown and find innovative solutions…


Implementation ~ …while still being realistic for current student standards and teacher expectations?


Common Sense Media is a helpful resource to search for digital tools that have been vetted.  Through my research, this was my starting point for finding apps and platforms that could work to inspire students to use something new or to jumpstart students toward something they find on their own to use. Ultimately, having students embark on finding what to use and determining why certain resources best support their learning and mission is the desired outcome.  My guess is that students would quickly move from suggested tools, apps, platforms into finding new innovative tools once they are used to having the freedom to find what works best for them. This is where guided choice can be best in the beginning and then gradual release for them to explore on their own. Throughout this process of gradual release, it would be a natural time to weave in the ISTE Digital Citizenship Standards.  

When looking at specific design frameworks, there is a combination of design processes that I think would work well together depending on the age of the student and the desired outcome and each process could be tweaked by what educators feel their students are ready for.

Project Based Learning + Design Thinking = Innovative Thinking and Design

Project Based Learning: Interdisciplinary, Project Based, Student Centered


Design Thinking: A methodology for solving problems

These design processes focus on innovative thinking, multiple attempts, many possible solutions, creativity and empathy.  When students learn how to go through the process(es) comfortably, then they have a solid substructure for embarking on self-determined projects both as students in education and once they become part of the workforce and as entrepreneurs and global community citizens.


The second part of my question,…while still being realistic for current student standards and teacher expectations, brings me back to asking, how can we realistically make this happen in the day to day as public school educators?  This is where the solution to my question remains convoluted. PBL and Design Thinking need to be explicitly taught and bought into by teachers and districts.  Then, it requires time and dedication to get comfortable with it. Both processes require thoughtful implementation and for public school settings that have a strict curriculum guide to follow, this can seem daunting and even impossible at times.  BUT this is not to say it is not worthwhile to learn about, dream about and fight for implementing the digital tools and processes.  Yet, ISTE standard 4 – Innovative Designer – can still be incorporated in ways that are not solely focused on PBL and Design Thinking.

After watching the video, RSA Aminate, I was reminded of the importance of fixed vs. growth mindset (RSA, 2015).  In order to feel comfortable with the design processes mentioned above, it is crucial to have a mindset that supports those processes.   

Ranadive, 2016

Currently, there is not much room for creativity in my classroom because there is a very structured curriculum that we are expected to teach as intended BUT one way I can make a difference for my students is by focusing on how I influence their growth mindset and steer them away from a fixed mindset. With a fixed mindset, students believe that if you have ability, you shouldn’t need effort.  With a growth mindset, students believe that effort activates ability (RSA, 2015). If I choose to focus on process praise versus intelligence praise, then I can help establish the groundwork for a growth mindset that influences whether students want to genuinely learn or if they want to ‘be smart’ or pass the test.  In the documentary, Most Likely to Succeed, it was surprising when students talked about not wanting to have open-ended student-led problems to solve. They wanted to ace the test and get into college; if they forgot what they learned because they did not learn deeply, so be it (Dintersmith, Whiteley, 2015).  My goal for ISTE Standard 4 in current education position is to help my students feel comfortable with learning, not understanding the first time, having a ‘Not Yet’ approach and gaining the ability to apply knowledge in a variety of contexts, not just for the standardized test.  

Another step teachers could take without doing full PBL or design thinking, is to include performance tasks when possible.  A performance task is any learning activity or assessment that asks students to perform to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency. Performance tasks yield a tangible product and/or performance that serve as evidence of learning (  Through the performances tasks, you could begin teaching what the Design Thinking process is so that students become aware of the process.  Maybe during their middle school or high school years, they will remember these experiences and be inspired to use this process when the opportunity arises.

Once the path of education is accomplished (or not accomplished!) and students/young adults come into the workforce, this is where the soft skills, PBL and knowing how to follow design thinking will help with this transition.  This is the ultimate time in one’s life where there is a very real need to be able to follow the ISTE standard 4d – Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems (ISTE, 2018) – in a variety of situations! Whether you have your Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, PhD, left college before finishing or did not attend college at all, once you are in the working world, there is no test to ace. Instead, there are people to figure out, real problems to solve which will impact you depending on how well you solve them, relationships to navigate and failures to learn from. It can be a harrowing and confusing time OR a time to put your innovative and design thinking skills to work!


Common Sense Media. Tools for Project Based Learning. Retrieved from

Dintersmith, Ted. (Producer), Whiteley, Greg (Director). (2015) Most Likely to Succeed [Documentary] Retrieved from

“ISTE Standards for Students” Retrieved from

McTighe, J. (2015, April 10). Defined Learning: What is a Performance Task [Blog Post] Retrieved from:

Miller, B.H. (Sept., 2017). What is Design Thinking. Retrieved from

Ranadive, Ameet. (2016, March 24). Fixed V. Growth Mindset. Retrieved from

[The RSA]. (2015, December 15). RSA animate: how to help every child fulfill their potential. Retrieved from