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 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 a 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 it 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

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