~ 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 www.iste.org/

Six Facets of Understanding – infographic. (2018). Retreived from http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/lessons-from-the-six-facets-of-understanding-and-backward-design-process/

Sykora, Caroline (2018). A New Lens on Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/Empowered-Learner/A-new-lens-on-digital-citizenship

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 https://www.channelpronetwork.com/slideshow/5-examples-collaborative-technology-k-12-classrooms?page=1

Dillon, B. (2014). The power of digital story. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-power-of-digital-story-bob-dillon

“ISTE Standards for Students” Retrieved from www.iste.org/

Teachers Guide to Global Collaboration. (2019) Retrieved from https://www.globaledguide.org

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 (https://blog.performancetask.com).  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 https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/tools-for-project-based-learning

Dintersmith, Ted. (Producer), Whiteley, Greg (Director). (2015) Most Likely to Succeed [Documentary] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE5XRrfetu4

“ISTE Standards for Students” Retrieved from www.iste.org/

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

Miller, B.H. (Sept., 2017). What is Design Thinking. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@bhmiller0712/what-is-design-thinking-and-what-are-the-5-stages-associated-with-it-d628152cf220

Ranadive, Ameet. (2016, March 24). Fixed V. Growth Mindset. Retrieved from https://medium.com/leadership-motivation-and-impact/fixed-v-growth-mindset-902e7d0081b3

[The RSA]. (2015, December 15). RSA animate: how to help every child fulfill their potential. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl9TVbAal5s

ISTE 3 – Knowledge Constructor

Question: As we educate students to use the internet to gain knowledge, develop ideas from this new knowledge and work collaboratively with others, how do we ensure they maintain a diligent mind that questions the primary source of where this found knowledge began? And only after that, should they feel comfortable contributing to the learning of others.

Educating students toward understanding, applying and keeping up with information literacy as they navigate finding and gaining knowledge throughout their lives – from early education, higher education, workplace applications and their day-to-day lives – will be a lifelong learning endeavor.  


Even with students who have an increased interaction with digital landscapes, we must never assume these fundamental skills of information literacy have been fully developed because with the digital landscape rapidly changing, there are always literacy skills that need to be refreshed and questioned for fluency.  The article, Establishing Twenty-first Century Information Fluency, states, “Perpetual commentary of the tech savviness of today’s students creates a misperception that they also possess high information fluency competencies to function in today’s information environment.” (O’Connor, L., & Sharkey, J. (2013)).  When it comes to educating students on how to find and gain knowledge using information found online, we must first explicitly teach them how to find knowledge worth consuming and that comes from trusted and reliable primary sources and WHY that is so important. An element of skeptical, yet open, questioning can enable students to steer themselves away from the overload of surface level information and fake news.  There is a three-part process of searching for knowledge – grazing, a deep-dive, and a feedback loop. (O’Connor, L., & Sharkey, J. (2013)). Many students are stalling out at the grazing stage or stopping at the deep-dive phase which does not lead them to interpreting, synthesizing and constructing new concepts from their findings which is the feedback loop that can give new voice to a topic thus becoming a knowledge constructor. (O’Connor, L., & Sharkey, J. (2013)). 

In order to grow from simply grazing to deep-diving and into feedback loop during and after research, it is essential to gain competency with some key researching skills.  The article, Internet Inquiry: Fundamental competencies for Online Comprehension, speaks to the need for students to be able to successfully complete Internet based tasks by: (1) generating high-quality inquiry topics, (2) effectively and efficiently search for information, (3) critically evaluating Internet resources, and (4) connecting ideas across Internet texts. (Kingsley, T., & Tancock, S. (2014)).  Generating high-quality inquiry topics is essential but my question focuses on the competencies that follow after students determine their topic.  

Students need to learn how to search efficiently and deeply for sources that will help them to gain and construct new knowledge.  Kathleen Morris’ blog has a very informative post called, Five Tips for Teaching Students How to Research and Filter Information, that breaks down the importance of teaching students how to research and how search engines work to bring you the knowledge it thinks you want. This would be an excellent blog post to explicitly walk students through to understand the intricacies of what it means to use the internet to find information. Below is an excerpt from her blog that beautifully describes what needs to go into teaching students to be information literate. (Morris, 2018).

Students (and teachers) need to navigate:_

  • What search terms to put into Google or other search engines
  • What search results to click on and read through (while avoiding inappropriate sites!)
  • How to determine what information is credible
  • How to process, synthesize, evaluate, and present the information
  • How to back up research by combining multiple sources of information
  • How to cite sources correctly

In addition, if we can start teaching strong information literacy skills at a young age and purposefully build upon these skills age appropriately, then students are bound to move into upper grades, college levels classes with a natural ability to apply these skills as adults with a framework that is rooted in gaining and sharing knowledge in a healthy, safe and productive way. Below is Morris’ ideas of how to get there:

The topic of researching and filtering information can be broken down in so many ways but I believe the best approach involves:

  • Starting young and building on skills
  • Embedding explicit teaching and mini-lessons regularly
  • Providing lots of opportunity for practice and feedback
  • Teachers seeking to improve their own skills (it’s easy to stick with old habits!)

Finally, Morris mentions a clear 5-step process that can help students start learning how to search for resources: 

I found checkology.org to be an excellent tool for students to check the validity and relevance of resource materials. Checkology can be a starting point for educators on guiding students toward assessing their resources in order to determine this higher-level thinking and go beyond the grazing stage of research (O’Connor, L., & Sharkey, J. (2013)). Educators can use this tool to teach students how to:

  • Categorize information
  • Make and critique news judgments
  • Explore how the press and citizens can each act as watchdogs
  • Detect and categorize misinformation
  • Interpret and apply the First Amendment
  • Compare the ways that different countries protect or restrict press freedom
  • Identify logical fallacies and evaluate arguments
  • Investigate the impact of personalization algorithms
  • Evaluate bias and learn about confirmation bias

The ISTE Standard 3 which focuses on Knowledge Constructor has 4 indicators: (ISTE, 2019)

3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

3c: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.

3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

If educators and students gain mastery in the 3a and 3b indicators, they can then grow into the following indicators, 3c and 3d. I see each of these indicators as steps of a staircase toward information literacy because in order to curate, learn from and create new ideas and theories from resources, students must first be able to find information that is relevant and reliable in order to piece together knowledge for movement toward new ideas and conclusions and, even more exciting, asking new questions to explore. 

This is where the heart of my question, maintaining a diligent mind, comes into play.  If students can gain mastery of knowledge construction, then instead of thinking of information gathering skills as a list to check off for each resources, they will use these skills in a variety of contexts – face-to-face discussions and debates, papers being written, analyzing information (books, peer papers, scholarly articles, etc) they are reading, classroom discussion, social media commentary, global perspectives and local conversations will start to be examined more methodically.  “…an information fluent individual (is) one who can function with ease in a changing environment of information and technologies.” (O’Connor, L., & Sharkey, J. (2013))

If my goal as an educator is to foster diligent, digital mindfulness in students then I must be explicitly teaching them HOW to have a diligent mind – what it should look and sound like as a learner is gaining new knowledge or fact checking knowledge that they are being asked to consume. As a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher, this would be practicing research skills and learning sentence stems that encourage asking questions about what they are learning. In addition, having students practice noticing the strength of sources by using the Media Bias chart and learning how to find biases and perspective markers that can sway a reader into believing one thing over another and trying to be aware of perspectives that they may hold and challenging their knee-jerk reactions to information they don’t agree with immediately.  All of these observations are relevant in the younger years and can be taught with simpler subjects by asking questions that are relevant to their interests and ages. For example, are zoos good or bad? Asking this question to elementary school students inspires a very emotional and invested answer, I have done it first hand! This is the kind of launching point that can inspire students to dig deep into research, perspective and challenging one’s initial thinking when gaining new information and if educators are ready to teach students some of the skills mentioned above, watch out world, we will have information literate citizens ready to construct their own critical thinking and arguments within many contexts! 


Checkology (2019). Retrieved from https://checkology.org

“ISTE Standards for Students” Retrieved from www.iste.org/

Kingsley, T., & Tancock, S. (2014). Internet inquiry. The Reading Teacher, 67(5), 389-399.

Longley, D. (2010) Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/danahlongley/4472897115

Morris, K. (2018). 5 Tips for Teaching Students How to Research and Filter Information. Retrieved from http://www.kathleenamorris.com/2018/02/23/research-filter/

O’Connor, L., & Sharkey, J. (2013). Establishing twenty-first-century information fluency. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(1), 33–39.

Empowering Learners

Q: What are tools, technology and curriculum that we can use to teach K-5 students how to use, understand and leverage technology to set goals, monitor and reflect on their learning in a way that makes sense for them developmentally?

One digital platform that I had heard about and then researched further in order to answer this question was Seesaw – a student driven digital portfolio. In an article I read from TechCrunch, “How Seesaw Accidentally Became a Teacher’s Pet at ¼ of U.S. Schools”, it became clear that Seesaw could be a great way to ease students into using technology to learn goal setting, share and reflect on their work and others, and that this could be done with students in the early grades.  Some key details that got me initially excited about Seesaw were that students can use a QR code to sign in easily, it is free (a paid subscription is available), it connects families to the classroom and can be a way for shy students to showcase their learning in a more comfortable way (Constine, 2016). There is also a potential for connecting Social/Emotional Learning curriculum within it also.    

One frustration that I have had as an educator is that many of the digital education platforms being used in education are too complex for the younger years and so they are not getting familiar with technology early on in an educational way. Instead, they are often using technology purely for games which can lead to not taking tools and technology seriously as a learning platform. In the article, “Supporting Autonomy in the Classroom: Ways Teachers Encourage Student Decision Making and Ownership”, they talk about the idea of ‘Catch’ and ‘Hold’.  Catch is the bells and whistles in instruction used to attract attention and the hold is where we can then engage students in meaningful academic tasks (Stefanou, Candice R., Perencevich, Kathleen C., DiCintio, Matthew, & Turner, Julianne C., 2004, p.105). Often, technology platforms excel in the ‘Catch’ portion of this but the ‘Hold’ is sacrificed because it becomes a game to students instead of a tool for learning. When I connect this to the ISTE standard around Digital Citizenship, this is a key area where digital education leaders can think about better serving students by explicitly teaching them at a young age that learning is happening on these tools and goal setting, reflections and seeing their growth and peers growth is a fantastic way to do this. With Seesaw, the simplicity of the design and input from students, allows students and educators to focus on the ‘Hold’ not the ‘Catch’ of winning tokens, currency, points, stickers or the many ways that apps and platforms ‘catch’ young learners.

Finally, Seesaw connects to the importance of high cognitive autonomy being the essential ingredient in which motivation and engagement can be maximized (Stefanou, et a.l (2004)).  When we choose to use platforms that ask students to take the time to think deeply about their learning, what they are doing and, even more essential, WHY they are doing it, the connection to autonomy is greater. It is not about autonomy based on the choice of organization or procedures within learning but instead active engagement in better understanding of how to explain their own learning, misunderstandings and how/why they think what they think. If students can start engaging with digital technologies in this way early on, just imagine how they may approach learning later on in middle and high school settings!  Instead of compliance around doing what the teacher says, they can be interacting with educators and education in a way that transfers to all content, contexts and disciplines every step of the way from elementary school to college to real life situations.

All of the above connects deeply to ISTE Student Standards 1a and 1c because of the focus on student involvement in both use of the platform and personal articulation being documented on Seesaw.  If we as educators want student commitment, involvement and autonomy which provides a motivation for taking hold of their own learning, then so far, it seems as if Seesaw could be a solution to starting this process in the early years for our youngest learners. Yet, since I have not personally tried Seesaw, I leave many questions on the table still around equity, engagement, and reality of ‘boots on the ground’ when using this technology in the classroom and with the school community (parents, administration, etc). I look forward to reporting back here to reflect on my own learning after I launch into using it.  


Digital Learning Mission Statement

To holistically merge digital and real life experiences through education by promoting digital citizenship with an awareness of individual agency, ethics, mindfulness and digital wisdom.

As a Digital Education Leader, my mission is bridge how we learn to merge our digital lives with our real lives. To do this, I want to approach digital citizenship with a holistic, global and creative educational framework.  My goal as a digital education leader would be to model and teach mindfulness in determining the appropriate context for the application of the digital tools we are working with. This framework would then help inform best practices regarding the use of technology for our students, ourselves and our community.    

Guiding Principles Post:

3 Values that will shape my practice as a digital education leader

Principle #1: Attention to Use, Agency and Balance

ISTE 5a ~ Model and promote strategies for achieving equitable access to digital tools and resources and technology-related best practices for all students and teachers.

Technology related best practices in response to digital tools and resources has changed drastically since 2000 and continues to change at a rapid pace with access meaning different things depending on perspective (Marshall Jones and Rebecca Bridges, 2016).  There is a difference between ‘access to information vs. access to devices’ and fortunately, the access to devices has increased remarkably. Yet, this increase in access has not always led to an increase in how to best access the information these tools provide us with. As a digital education leader, I would like to focus on how to provide equitable access in learning HOW to maintain balance and individual agency as we sift through the overwhelming amount of information out there to find the best way to improve our capabilities as human beings.  Digital tools and resources have the capability of enhancing and extending our innate abilities (Prensky, 2013). Yet, effective deployment and use of tech can compensate for unequal access and bridge the gap when we are talking about the digital divide and how to overcome it. (Marshall Jones and Rebecca Bridges, 2016). I believe there will always be an issue around access and equity but that striving toward bridging it falls on better use of the access that is provided.

In order to best harness this collaboration between humans and technology, it is important to learn strategies to help us interrupt reflexive responses to stimuli and maintain a higher level of attention toward the purpose of why and how we are participating in using technology and digital resources. (Paulus, 2018). This connection to mindfulness gives me hope in that if explicitly taught, this strategy will help create and inspire equitable access for students, teachers and society. Instead of the tool being used as a way to commodify attention, society will demand that developers create platforms that build this collaboration instead of creating distance between society. Individual Agency and reflection on tempering our own negatives tendencies when it comes to balance of technology is essential in moving toward equitable use when it comes to access – using it to deepen knowledge not waste time. “Control is not just time spent online but rather mastery of an ethical space, of the way we live within our socio-technological environment.” (Ticona and Wellmon, 2015)

While attending an EDCamp conference, there was a lot of discussion about how intermediate students will come into an education setting seeming to know so much about technology and the digital world. They quickly know how to use a tool, an app, a game but can not do basic word documents or know how to best seek out information they need for a research paper efficiently, patiently and with awareness of what is a good source. Educating students (everyone, really) to dismiss the distractions of the digital world and instead knowing how to be purposeful, productive and engaged with the information being gathering and applied means even if you have less access, you will have better use of the access you have.

Principle #2: Merging online and offline morality and ethics

ISTE 5b ~ Model and facilitate safe, healthy, legal and ethical uses of digital information and technologies.

Opening students eyes to the realities – both positive and negative – of using digital information and technologies throughout our daily lives is crucial to providing a safe space for use.  The ethical foundations of who we are in real life and online life need to be taught as coinciding narratives. The ‘thinking gaps’ that Carrie James discussed in her book, Disconnected: Youth, the New Media, and the Ethics Gaps, bring a stark reality to the blindspots and disconnects that can occur when people treat online morality and ethics differently than in real life.  How we engage in using technology and the behaviors and choices that are made result in a direct statement about who we are as a whole person in this information age.  It is imperative that we teach and model using digital platforms in a safe, healthy, legal and ethical way so that we do not turn into the detached spectators that can result from having access to everything but committing to nothing. (Dryfus, 1999).

Modeling is an essential first step as an educator, parent and adult because this is where the youngest students/kids first see others using digital tools and resources.  This then becomes how they first experience and try out becoming digital citizens and consumers. Moral development starts in the lives of children immediately and digital morality development needs to be now thought of as an essential development phase in a child’s life. As a digital educator, my goal is to provide strong identity growth that naturally morphs into our interconnected digital and real lives so that students inherently know that there is no longer a separation of who you represent yourself as within our local and global community and our digital communities.  There is currently a mentorship gap because of how technology has developed so quickly and educating ALL in a way that does not incite fear and judgment but instead cultivates conscientious connectivity (James, 2014).

Principle #3: Importance of being Digitally wise and reflecting on the global possibilities of our digital world

ISTE 5c ~ Model and promote diversity, cultural understanding and global awareness by using digital age communication and collaboration tools to interact locally and globally with students, peers, parents and the larger community.

Diversity, cultural understanding and global awareness are positive outcomes of living in a technology driven age.  The ability to engage in far-reaching communication deepens our understanding and appreciation for others. Digital wisdom supports a global vision and the more we teach about mindfulness, awareness, reflection and temperance the closer we get to seeing our digital selves as part of the global digital community.   

One of the most concrete ways that would inspire growth in a global community is to have the ISTE standards be taught right along side core curriculum in schools.  The REP (Respect, Educate, Protect) protocol and guidelines coupled with the C4 model of learning (Collaboration, Creativity, Communication, Transformative Content) gives a pathway to achieving success despite the multi-faceted perspectives that can sometimes confuse and distract us from modeling empathy, connection and purpose. (Mike Ribble and Tessa Northern Miller, 2013) With resources such as Open Educational Resources (OER) and Common Sense Media, we can better collaborate and connect with a wide variety of people and perspectives as well as learn about tools and programs that have been successful in meeting educational technology standards.  Using the resources mentioned, the connections are endless – from a neighborhood across town to a country across the world.

Yet, being digitally wise is crucial to understanding global awareness and different perspectives and approaches. It means making wiser decisions by using enhanced technology but distinguishing between real and ethical issues versus preferences or prejudices. (Prensky, 2013)  As digital educators, if we can bridge the ethical/empathetic gap between our physical and digital selves then we have made great progress toward a more compassionate global society.

Brainstormed list of possible ways to start accomplishing these ideas:

  • Innovative Professional Development for educators
  • School community and public classes around a holistic approach that focuses on the fundamentals of awareness and mindfulness – balance.
  • Creating relationships between developers, educators and consumers
  • Having conversations about mindfulness and attention with the people around us to have these ideas branch out and inspire more discussions about digital addiction and positive use of digital platforms and tools
  • Computer science focus – the creation and bones of the tools and programs we use
  • Combining the ‘old way’ with the ‘new way’ – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
  • Mentorship programs for youth and adults to help spread the word on healthy and safe technology use
  • Digital Citizenship programs – certificates you can earn that focus on creating global citizen ambassadors
  • K-12 digital education curriculum and funding for digital education leaders in every school – cross pollination with core curriculum
  • and more…the ideas are exciting and endless…now, to sift out what is best for our global  society and to grow and learn with all the new tools and resources being developed!


James, C. (2014). Disconnected: Youth, the new media, and the ethics gap. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Hubert Dreyfus, “Anonymity versus Commitment: The Dangers of Education on the Internet,” Philosophy of Technology, 641-47

ISTE Standards for coaches. ISTE. Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches.

Julia Ticona and Chad Wellmon, “Uneasy in Digital Zion,” The Hedgehog Review 17:1 (2015): 58-71

Marc Prensky, “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom,” in From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin, 2013), 201-15

Marshall Jones and Rebecca Bridges, “Equity, Access, and the Digital Divide in Learning Technologies: Historical Antecedents, Current Issues, and Future Trends,” in The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology, 327-47

Michael Paulus, “Attention, Reality, and Truth,” Patheos, March 21, 2018

Mike Ribble and Teresa Northern Miller, “Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically,” Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17:1 (2013): 137-45

Digital Readiness Project

For my Digital Readiness Project through the SPU Digital Education Leadership (DEL) program, I was able to connect and collaborate with the librarian and digital leader at the school I work with.  I proposed a set of questions for her to answer and then communicated my thinking in response to her answers. From there, we used a new digital platform for both of us as a way to house our thoughts and continue our reflections as the school year progress.  Throughout this project, it became very clear that this was a collaboration that will continue from this year and beyond.  She is a digital education leader in training for the school district and after connecting over this project, she invited me to a Professional Development Training later in the year.  This has been a unique and special opportunity to connect in a way that would not have occurred as quickly considering I am new at the school and she is only there part-time.  This project initiated an opportunity to have conversation around a topic we are both passionate about and very much aligned with in regards to philosophy and vision yet may not have had the time to discover as early on with the hectic nature of public school education. Below you will see the image I created that shows the ideas we fill most important as digital educators and future leaders. In addition, there is a picture of our on-going collaboration via the stormboard tool that is available online.

It is very exciting to know that this project will live on in a very real and collaborative way as I continue my journey into learning about about digital education and having a collaborative partner within my school environment will be inspiring and motiving.

MasterTrack – looking closely at Math Data

In my school, we have started to use a program called MasterTrack. At the beginning of the year, over the course of two weeks, I gave students the benchmark tests to see where they were at with grade level standards.  Next, I took the data, entered it in to MasterTrack and quickly saw where students were at with their understanding of the mathematical standards they should be understanding at grade level.  This information has given me a very clear understanding of math content that I need to revisit, which students are needing more challenging work and – what I really have loved – is there is a setting that can provide groupings based on their scores.  This could be to pair with others who are at the same level OR to pair students who could help support and push other students thinking. Again, this is a completely new assessment technology for me – have you used this before?  Any thoughts. I will continue to give the benchmarks connected with this and monitor student growth and report back on what I am noticing and how it is (or is not) working for our classroom.  So far, one struggle I have with the program is that it does not necessarily match up with the curriculum we are using so are the benchmarks a fair assessment?  I would say no BUT the content is the same just the method of, for example, math models may not be representative to what they actually know if the curriculum has not explicitly taught that yet. More thoughts to come!

Class Dojo

I have started to use ClassDojo as my main communication platform with families and to personalize the school to home connection.  I know that I am using it very simply right now and that there are many bells and whistles that I have not yet utilized.  What I am enjoying so far is that I can quickly contact families, easily share pictures straight from my phone and have more of a real time update about what is going on in our classroom.  I am also really liking that it takes less time to do than a more typical newsletter but has a more personal touch with meaningful connections for the families of the students in my class. So far, the main downside is that not all families have connected to it so I am only connecting with about 80% of my families.  I am still sending out a newsletter every two weeks or so but I notice that it feels more archaic and has the pace of snail mail compared to the instant and more easy to use Class Dojo platform.  I will update this page when I get a sense of how families are feeling about it and the new ways I am using it as the months go on. One goal for this webpage is to give an authentic glimpse into how teachers try to use new technologies, the ways it works well, the frustrations when it does not and everything in between!  If anyone has used ClassDojo – let me know your thoughts!ClassDojo