Putting the Practicum into Practice: Notes from Emergency Remote Learning

I have been part of the Digital Education Leadership (DEL) graduate program at Seattle Pacific University (SPU) for the last 2 years and this final quarter consists of a practicum experience. When school closures occurred, there was a sudden shift in my position and what this practicum experience would actually be. The final practicum became putting everything I had learned into practice immediately. I became a coach, a trainer, a problem solver, a leader, and an emergency remote teacher all at once. 

mentor-coaching-practicum - Mentor Coach Insights

The knowledge that I have gained from the DEL program is immeasurable and without it, the experience of school closures would have been a lot different. I went from a general education teacher interested in digital education, trying out new platforms and tools to helping support our entire school community in rapid response to emergency remote learning. It was a whirlwind of platforms, tools, teachers varying levels of experience and comfort with technology, and uncertainty about what families needed. There was no right way to do it all so the only way forward was coming together as a school community and showing patience and kindness as we all navigated this sudden and overwhelming change. I was able to put everything that I had been learning about into action. Did I do it all ‘right’, no, but did I tap into the previous 2 years of studying multiple platforms for a wide variety of situations, YES!  Most importantly, I tapped into the growth mindset around technology as an educator and member of society. Aspects of emergency remote learning that I did not know, I taught myself and reached out to the community of people that I know because of the connections I have made these last 2 years. This growth mindset helped me guide my school in using Seesaw, Microsoft Teams, and Loom to keep connections strong with our school community – our families and students. 

Seesaw | Stanmore Public School

Seesaw: Last year, I used Seesaw in my classroom and another teacher came on board after I showed it to him. This meant that we had two grade levels with students and families that were already familiar with Seesaw.  This was great!  From there, I was able to train the remaining grade levels on how to use Seesaw. We did multiple sessions over video conference where I was able to guide them on how to set up their Seesaw classroom, manage settings, connect parents, and start creating activities. For about 2-3 weeks, I was able to be a coach and trainer for any problems that arose and help my colleagues in supporting parent understanding of how the platform worked. Also, since I had done a PTA session about Seesaw earlier in the year, some parents were already familiar with the idea of the platform. The PTA session focused on parents using Seesaw as a student so they were able to understand it from the student perspective. I told myself that I would know I had been a successful trainer and coach if parents and teachers were not needing me as much in a few weeks. They are now teaching me tools from Seesaw that I had not discovered yet, so I consider this a great success!  The collaboration and growth mindset from teachers has been amazing and makes me excited for what we will accomplish as a staff while working together through this.  

Microsoft teams and waterloo photos | Mechanical and Mechatronics ...

Microsoft Teams: Being an Education Technologist at my school and for the district meant that I had been using and being trained on Microsoft Teams (MS Teams) throughout the year. In addition, we use MS Teams regularly through the DEL program. With this experience, I was able to help support teachers in setting up student meetings for Special Education and specialists, as well as general education teachers, and supporting families in how to navigate using MS Teams on a variety of devices. Through video conferencing, I was able to problem-solve issues with staff and families.

How to use Loom Video Recording – The Productive Engineer

Loom Video Recording: In order to provide content for student learning and to support families from afar, I suggested a new platform, Loom, which is a video recording platform.  I was able to teach others how to use Loom to record lessons for all academic subjects as well as for specialists such as music, PE, and library.  I was also able to record how-to videos for common technology issues, finding resources, and using a variety of new platforms.  From there, I have used Loom to show students how-to videos that support their own independence of tools within Seesaw or how to navigate a new resource online. As colleagues became more comfortable using Loom, we compiled a shared document that had how-to videos and read-alouds to share with each other. We have used these videos to connect students to staff throughout the building, the office staff, custodian, principal, and more. It has helped to maintain the strong community connections in our school between all staff and students/families. 

This unexpected and accelerated transition into a digital education leadership position has taught me a lot. In theory, I have learned a lot these last 2 years and moving from theory to practice is always a bumpy road, especially when it happens in these circumstances and at the pace it arrived at. Yet, I am proud of this experience and that my colleagues feel supported and safe coming to me to ask questions, collaborate, and share with me what they have learned so that I can learn more, too.  Next steps for me as the Educational Technologist, is to continue focusing on best practices to bring to my colleagues about how to fine-tune our understanding of how to best teach via videos. I read a wonderful article in Cult of Pedagogy, about best practices for screencasting – Everything You Need to Know About Building a Great Screencast Video, to share with colleagues as we move forward with continued student learning.

The education field will be forever changed from what we are experiencing and there is no finite answer to how long this emergency remote learning will last or in what capacity. Ultimately, we need to be better prepared for how to continue positive digital education experiences and proper training for teachers, whether this is from homes or when school resumes. All of these lessons learned the last 3 months, are relevant no matter what education looks like moving forward. I feel so fortunate to have with me the wisdom, community, and mindset that I learned from the DEL program, the professors paving the wave and the past, current and future cohorts of educators embarking on the positive ways that digital education can bridge us all – teachers, students, families, leaderships, and coaches.

Adam Geisen on Twitter: "Day 6: My go-to #edtech quote courtesy of ...

Word-Of-Mouth = Evidence-Based: Merging word of mouth momentum with evidence-based EdTech implementation

While learning more about at ISTE Standard 4b, ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation Performance Indicator B, I started to wonder about the effect word-of-mouth has on EdTech implementation, strong professional development opportunities and program evaluations by teachers in our schools.  It led me to the question, how can we move from ‘word of mouth’ technology growth within education to a technology program that provides resources for growth in all schools?  Through my research, I have also realized that word-of-mouth can be a positive way to inspire teachers to use technology in the classroom. If done thoughtfully and in collaboration with all stakeholders, applying best practices of teaching, using strong PD tactics and deep collaboration will develop programs that support technology use in all areas – from district level involvement all the way through to the classroom.

“We continue to see that word of mouth rules in education,” Tia Lendo, who oversees marketing in North America for Google Education, told a meeting for developers Monday at ISTE 2015, the nation’s largest ed-tech conference.

Molnar, Michele – Google Research Shows ‘Word of Mouth’ Fuels Ed-Tech Decisions

In a study commissioned by Google, the percentages of ‘where educators got information about digital content’ were as follows:

  • Peers in other school districts—86 percent
  • Teachers who work in my school/district—81 percent
  • Peers in my school or district—71 percent

It becomes clear through this study that it is not about moving away from word-of-mouth influence but instead trying to merge the power of word-of-mouth with evidence-based EdTech implementation.

This leads to the importance of coming up with ways to merge word-of-mouth recommendations with technology that is research-based and includes what a school district has also purchased.  From my own experience, if it were not for being part of the Digital Education Leadership graduate program at Seattle Pacific University leading me to actively seeking out the resources available in my district, I would not be using what I am using today in my classroom and this extends to those in my school building who I have shared these resources with and what they are now using in their classroom. Most of what I use is through our district resources but not all and again, without being in a graduate program that has led me to look at what the district provides first and then supplementing, I would not have known how to go about figuring it all out. For tech novices, which I was 1 1/2 years ago, it is not easy to navigate and understand what is already provided.

Ed-tech company Glimpse K12 studied $2 billion in school spending and found that on average, 67 percent of educational software product licenses go unused. Glimpse K12 tracked 200,000 curriculum software licenses purchased by 275 schools during the 2017-2018 school year. The analysis found educational software was the biggest source of wasted spending in K-12 districts.

Michelle R. Davis of EdWeek Market Brief

There seems to be a lack of connection between what districts are purchasing for use and what teachers are gravitating towards.  Is this because there is a lack of connection and communication between district stakeholders, teachers in the field and upcoming teacher education programs? Strengthening the core knowledge of trusted teachers through targeted PD and including strong technology-based preservice teaching classes would mean that these teacher leaders would become the conduit – the word-of-mouth – that leads other teachers with less exposure towards the evidenced-based technology that is already available.  In addition, these teacher leaders could be a bridge between what teachers want and what the district supplies.

Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update – US Department of Education

Teacher-leaders and those with experience supporting learning with technology can work with administrators to determine how to share their learning with other teachers. They also can provide support to their peers by answering questions and modeling practical uses of technology to support learning.

– Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update – US Department of Education

 Connecting teachers with those in leadership who set the vision will result in districts purchasing evidence-based technology platforms and applications that will get used. Including PD that is led by these teachers with deeper training practices including follow-ups and coaching will result in more teachers available to help each other and keep EdTech growth growing.  This will encourage word-of-mouth to be aligned with evidenced-based practices which are best practices in general.  Starting this system within the preservice teacher programs is critical so that teachers coming into the field are already ahead of the game…or at the very least, starting the game with an understanding of best practices with technology use and how to successfully teach 21st century skills.

Berhane Teclehaimanot, University of Toledo and Annette Lamb, Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis wrote in their article, Technology-Rich Faculty Development for Teacher Educators: The Evolution of a Program, about the Teachers Info-Port to Technology (PT3).  In this 3-year program, The University of Toledo funded goals and objectives to:

  • Revise all College of Education undergraduate curriculum to include technology-rich teaching methods that meet, Ohio, NCATE and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards;
  • Develop resources and activities that ensure graduates use technology in their classroom;
  • Develop resources and activities to assure that the faculty members at the University of Toledo Colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences use technology in the classroom as both a model for students and a method of instruction.

Throughout the first two years of this program, they revised and improved upon the workshops that supported these goals and objectives. By the end of year 2, it was noted that the professional development workshops did help faculty to better incorporate the use of technology for future teachers through modeling and hands-on experiences.  Yet, continued support was desired from some faculty and this would echo the same sentiments we hear from teachers already in the K-12 educational field.  By the end of the 3rd year, the implications indicated below translates closely to what is needed in the K-12 education field as well:

The results of this project suggest that well-designed faculty development workshops can be effective in training teacher educators to design technology-rich university curriculum. Based on 3 years of experience designing and implementing professional development opportunities for faculty in the area of technology integration, nine elements were identified as useful in creating increasingly successful workshops.

Table 3. Nine Elements for Successful Workshops

Element Suggestions
Depth More time with fewer technologies
Build on skills over time
Hands-on practice At least 50% of workshop for practice and creation
Quality time on task with focused activities
Project-based approach Focus on practical products, templates, Web resources, and project-starters provided
Follow projects from start to finish
Modeling Use technology to teach integration
Demonstrate practical classroom applications
Examples Examples of technology use in content areas
Examples of technology integration
Web site based resources and templates
Ongoing assessment Short modules; simple products; frequent assessments
Timesavers Web page templates, logos, copyright-free visuals
PowerPoint presentation samples
Step-by-step review sheets (see http://tipt3.utoledo.edu/tools.html)
Differentiation Address individual differences in interests, speeds, ability levels
Web site based supplemental materials
One-on-one assistance: in workshop and out of workshop
Expanded Opportunities Mentoring opportunities
Sharing options
Cohort group development

 Ultimately, the answer to my question, “How can we move from ‘word of mouth’ technology growth within education to a technology program that provides resources for growth in all schools?”, is that we shouldn’t move away from it but instead embrace it.  Let’s move towards merging the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations with the best practices of using evidence-based technology by having teachers in the field be the leaders by collaborating with leadership and district stakeholders so there is better representation of what teachers want and will use.  Through these teacher leaders, word will spread and anxieties lessened.  PD around what is already available through district resources will be relevant and welcomed, especially if leaders keep in mind the nine essential elements for successful workshops and PD opportunities.  If we can merge thoughtfully, then word-of-mouth is the best chance educators have of growth toward rich professional learning programs inside and outside of the classroom.


Davis, Michelle. (2019, May 19). K-12 Districts Wasting Millions by Not Using Purchased Software, New Analysis Finds. Retrieved from https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/unused-educational-software-major-source-wasted-k-12-spending-new-analysis-finds/ 

Molnar, Michele. (2015 Jun. 29). Google Research Shows ‘Word of Mouth’ Fuels Ed-Tech Decisions.  Retrieved from https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/google_research_shows_word_of_mouth_fuels_ed-tech_decisions/

Office of Educational Technology. (2017). U.S. Department of Education. Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf  

Teclehaimanot, Berhane and Lamb, Annette. (2016).  Technology-Rich Faculty Development for Teacher Educators: The Evolution of a Program. Retrieved from https://citejournal.org/volume-5/issue-3-05/current-practice/technology-rich-faculty-development-for-teacher-educators-the-evolution-of-a-program/ 

Becoming a 21st Century Administrator

There are many ideas and conversations surrounding 21st Century Learners and 21st Century Teaching/Teachers.  While learning more about ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation - Performance Indicator B - Design, develop and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment, I wanted to extend this learning into how administrators specifically can embrace 21st Century practices.  What can administrators do to become 21st Century administrators? ISTE Administrator Standards are: 

Three of these standards – Visionary Leadership, Systematic Improvement, and Professional Practice connect deeply with ISTE Standard 4 – Professional Development and Program Evaluation.  Dan Morris and Susan Brooks-Young put forth a framework to become an effective 21st Century Administrator in their post – Becoming a 21st Century Administrator.  They ask the following questions for administrators to consider: 

  • What outcomes do we want to accomplish in the classroom?  
  • What available tools and resources can and will support teachers in helping their students meet these outcomes?  
  • What preparation do we need to ensure teachers and students appropriately utilize tools and resources?  
  • How will we measure the effectiveness of these tools to gauge how well they support and improve teaching and learning?  

With these questions guiding dialogue between administrators and educators, the next steps can focus on how to translate the answers and ideas from these questions into action plans for supporting 21st Century learning, designs, classrooms, and students.  When stakeholders are coming from similar perspectives of implementation and needs for increasing 21st Century PD, specific to roles within schools and reshaping the design of how we approach 21st Century education and skills, we are left we a comprehensive plan instead of a one-sided approach to the ever-changing environment of education.  

Morris and Brooks-Young also suggest strategies for what administrators can do specifically to shift into a 21st Century mindset: 

  • Invest in your own personal exploration and use of new tools 
  • Be sure that your technology experts interact regularly with the classroom experts in your district 
  • Provide ongoing staff development for teachers and administrators on appropriate and effective use of instructional technologies 
  • Model the use of appropriate tools and applications when working with staff 
  • Celebrate successes and build a culture where exploration and innovation are valued.

Between asking 21st Century based questions and using strategies that support 21st Century learning implementation, the framework is strong for all to continue growing professionally with 21st Century student learning at the heart of these changes.  

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) defines a 21st Century School Leader as:

“One Who Educates, Empowers, Engages and Excels through visionary leadership that inspires ALL to be intentional learners, to think critically and to work collaboratively to meet the demands of a global, digital and dynamic world.” 

The DoDEA has created a set of roles and competencies with self-assessments and reflection continuum coupled with professional learning plans to help implement changes that leaders can embark upon to shift from being a 20th Century Principal to a 21st Century Principle. The four roles that principals can follow and then assess are: 

The self-assessments and reflection continuums focus on what it takes to shift 20th Century practices into 21st Century practices and are the support administrators need to know HOW to make and sustain changes for themselves, staff and the community they serve.  Take a look at the whole report to dig deeper into the assessments and reflections. Here is one to give an idea of what can be gained from this approach and evaluation technique: 

Mr. Keenan, from the blog Developing Education, outlines 5 Traits of the 21st Century Administrator and reminds us of the holistic and soft skills that leadership can come to the table with to support a safe and open culture for conversation and collaboration between all stakeholders during such a powerful shift in education. 

Finally, I love this reminder and metaphor from Gerald Aungst – 

“In a way, the job of school district administrator is like a tugboat.  If you have ever watched a tugboat work, it appears far too small for its job of maneuvering huge ships around a crowded harbor. Yet a smart tugboat pilot knows exactly where to push or pull on that ship to ease it into the needed location. Administrators, likewise, need to lead through influence, and must choose carefully where they nudge and tug on the enormous mass of a school district organization to guide it exactly where it needs to be.”  

As an educator, I feel that educational technology advances currently rely on teacher buy-in and a desire for professional growth despite the many obstacles and personal time it takes to take on this growth without much support, if any at all.  Yet, this is such an important and large-scale change for all to take on. Leaders (principles, administration, district-level stakeholders, etc) need to be at the forefront for there to be proper training and support to help maneuver and steer this gigantic and always evolving educational shift in order to meet the needs and realities of the current educational landscape that teachers and students are part of.  

Nightman1965 – Royalty-free stock photo ID: 326359325 – Tugboats assisting container cargo ship to harbor.


Aungst, Gerald. (2012, March 26.) 21st Century Administrators: New Roles, New Responsibilities.  Retrieved from https://geraldaungst.com/2012/03/21st-century-administrators-new-roles-new-responsibilities/ 

Department of Defense Education Activity. (2014). The 21st Century Principal – 21st Century Teaching, Learning and Leading.  Retrieved from https://content.dodea.edu/teach_learn/professional_development/21/docs/principals/principal_paper_draft.pdf 

ISTE Administrators Standards. Retrieved from https://id.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_iste_standards-a_pdf.pdf 

Keenan. (2013, March 12). Developing Education. 5 Traits of the 21st Century Administrator. Retrieved from https://mrkeenan.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/181/ 

Morris, Dan and Brooks-Young, Susan.  Creative Educator. Becoming a 21st Century Administrator. Retrieved from https://creativeeducator.tech4learning.com/v08/articles/Becoming_a_21st_Century_Administrator 

Doing – The Most Important Digital Age Best Practice for PD

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”  
― Aristotle  

Student needs and outcomes should be at the heart of how educators teach and grow but how can this happen in a thoughtful way that includes how digital practices have changed the way we all (educators and students) learn, interact with and consume information?  While looking more closely at the ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation – Performance Indicator B - Design, develop and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment, this led me to my current question: How can PD use digital age best practices to showcase the positive ways technology will enhance student learning and experiences?  

What are digital age best practices? An organization called Loti, an acronym for Level of Teaching Innovation, states that digital age best practices are, “a set of research-based instructional principles that have shown a statistically-significant effect on student achievement. These practices promote college and career readiness and prepare students for success in the digital age.”  Included in this digital age best practice thinking is a strategy for educators to enact within the classroom called H.E.A.T. which stands for Higher-order thinking, Engaged learning, Authentic connections and Technology use.  While digging deeper into H.E.A.T, the part that stands out to me most is the Technology use because the H., E., and A., can be accomplished without technology.  This leads me to think more about how to use PD as a way for educators to interact with technology to then enhance their teaching and connect with student needs…and most importantly this interaction needs to be teachers doing the things the students will be doing with the technology. 

The most powerful and long-lasting PD experiences I have had were rooted in doing.  Doing an activity or lesson from start to finish, using a new technology tool by doing activities within it, doing new curriculum from a learner’s perspective, doing assessments of student work in real-time with a coach.  Yet, in my 10 years of teaching, this has been a minority approach during PD sessions.  “Sparks and Hirsh (1997) believe that a fundamental shift must occur in the way most districts think about professional development. For instance, they advocate that professional development must:  

  • Be driven by clear, coherent strategic plans   
  • Focus on student needs and learning outcomes   
  • Include multiple forms of job-embedded learning   
  • Provide opportunities for study by teachers of the teaching and learning processes   
  • Include continuous improvement in performance for everyone who affects student learning   
  • Consider professional development as an indispensable process without which schools cannot hope to prepare young people for citizenship and productive employment (12 -16).”  

 A study was done in 2005 by Lawerence Ingvarson focusing on teachers using student performance data to guide teaching. “One of the key ingredients that the Ingvarson study found in effective professional development was follow-up and coaching after the training as the teacher attempted to apply this new knowledge to practice.” (Holloway, 2006).  The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) also provides principles that can help to support deeper and more relevant professional growth and learning if: 

  1. The school recognizes a critical factor in technology integration is the teacher’s sustained professional growth by creating a culture of continuous growth and adequate support for innovation and learning. 
  2. School leadership encourages educators to seek out opportunities to build learning networks and to explore and evaluate digital tools. 
  3. The school includes technology integration as an essential component of its professional development, provides the necessary time and resources for it, and ensures that educators acquire and demonstrate essential technology skills and proficiencies. T
  4. Teachers’ use of technology for teaching and learning is included in the school’s teacher evaluation process, as appropriate for the school’s mission and philosophy.  (Principles of Good Practice – Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Both of these resources focus on giving educators adequate and continued time, multiple experiences and support as a resource to learn new practices in a meaningful way that inspires implementation. 

In order for digital/technology-based PD to be efficient and result in actual teacher implementation, finding out what teachers need support with is key. In the article, To Bring Learning into the Digital Age, We Must Empower Teachers, Bev Perdue states that, “A 2016 survey of 1,327 teachers revealed that 85 percent “believe digital tools that provide immediate, ongoing information about student understanding will increase learning.” Unfortunately, most teachers also said they feel they lack the skills and knowledge they need to effectively incorporate digital tools and personalized learning practices in their classrooms.”   Do educators need to learn how to use a specific tool, how to teach students how to use a tool, how to navigate a platform, how to blend technology into the current curriculum, etc.  Once this is known (and it is clearly recognized that not all educators are starting from the same perspective and ability level) PD can be crafted intentionally for the audience attending it. From there, PD should be hands-on.  Have educators do the digital work or use the technology tools that will be asked of from their students.  This could be practicing teaching each other how to use a tool or getting on an app/platform like Seesaw, Skype, Adobe Spark, etc.  It cannot be a ‘sit and get’ style PD when it comes to interacting with digital tools and digital education.  

Faith Plunkett did just this and it is incredibly inspiring to read her article, This Teacher Started a Hands-On PD Lab That’s Sparking Change Across the District.  (Read the whole article if you have time…make time!) 

After sending out a PD survey with almost 3,000 educators taking part in it, she launched a space called Spark Lab that offers: 

  1. Weekly PD Sessions: There are several PD opportunities each week such as book studies, one-hour sessions, half-day sessions on coding concepts or specific tools such as Makey Makey and Seesaw. 
  2. Full Faculty Activities: Some schools opt to bring their entire faculty to the lab for a full day of PD. Sometimes they lead this work and other times I run whole-group activities like a Breakout EDU game where teachers learn to use different STEM materials and practice innovative teaching strategies. 
  3. Open Playground: Teachers can come on their own to explore, ask about different ways they can use specific tools or get advice about how to teach specific CS or STEM-related standards.

Plunkett recognizes that in order for this lab to be effective, it will have to continually change and keep up with the progress of technology.  She also hits on the heart of great PD when she acknowledges, “…we must continue to build relationships with teachers, help them realize the need for innovation in the classroom and continue to support them to reach each and every student.”  What an amazing opportunity a lab like this would for all educators.  Once educators get their hands on the tools and practice using different digital education platforms and resources, they will experience firsthand the positives that come along with technology and be ready to bring this learning to their students in a productive and student-focused manner. 

Sign me up, hire me please, I graduate from the DEL program in June and would love to be a part of this starting up in Seattle and beyond! 


Bergin, Mike. (2019, March 4.) Chariot Learning. Production Effect: Learning by Doing. Retrieved from https://chariotlearning.com/production-effect-learning-by-doing/

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. 

Holloway, John H. (2006).  Connecting Professional Development to Student Learning Gains. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ773253.pdf 

Hooper, Nicole. (2018). NTEN. Using Adult Learning Principles in Technology Trainings. Retrieved from https://www.nten.org/article/using-adult-learning-principles-in-technology-trainings/

LoTi.  Digital Age Best Practices. Retrieved from https://www.loticonnection.com/digital-age-best-practices 

NAIS.  Principles of Good Practice – Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. Retrieved from https://www.nais.org/learn/principles-of-good-practice/teaching-and-learning-in-the-digital-age/ 

Perdue, Bev. (2018, June 3). Getting Smart.  To Bring Learning into the Digital Age, We Must Empower Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.gettingsmart.com/2018/06/to-bring-learning-into-the-digital-age-we-must-empower-teachers/ 

Plunkett, Faith. (2019, April 8). This Teacher Started a Hands-On PD Lab That’s Sparking Change Across the District.  Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-04-08-this-teacher-started-a-hands-on-pd-lab-that-s-sparking-change-across-the-district 

Best Practices for Adult Learners When Designing Professional Development

In order to determine what best practices are for designing Professional Development (PD) for adult learners, I first had to learn about and understand what adult learning principles are.  Looking at Androgyny, defined as the method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education, there are six basic principles and eight design elements of Andragogy (Park, Sunyoung; Robinson, Petra; and Bates, Reid (2016)).  The tables below explain in detail the six principle and eight design elements based off of Knowles research and findings: 

(Park, Sunyoung; Robinson, Petra; and Bates, Reid (2016)) 
(Park, Sunyoung; Robinson, Petra; and Bates, Reid (2016)) 

From here, it becomes clear that one of the most important principles of adult learning is that new learning has direct meaning and relevance to the learner.  Adults come to educational PD with background knowledge, experiences and their own ideas for how to move forward.  When designing PD for adult learners, giving them the opportunity to interact with the learning outcomes beforehand gives them ownership over their learning and helps it to become a collaborative experience – learner led – versus a top down experience.  This leads me to my question – What are best practices for incorporating adult learning principles into PD? 

Patricia Lawler shares 6 adult learning principles to guide professional developers and each one seems to hit on the idea of best practices when designing, implementing and deciding on PD for adult learners and incorporating adult learning principles.   

  • Create a Climate of Respect –  “…start where the learner is by taking into consideration the characteristics, values, and educational goals the teacher of adults brings to the professional development activity.” 
  • Encourage Active Participation – “Being respectful of their professional expertise by inviting their participation and collaboration encourages learning.” 
  • Build On Experience – “Professional developers working with teachers of adults can take advantage of these factors and build on the experience for positive transfer of learning.” 
  • Employ Collaborative Inquiry  “…collaborative inquiry can be an effective tool for enhancing their motivation for professional development.”  
  • Learn for Action – “To learn for action means to be guided for application, to understand the connections between content and application, and to have opportunities in the professional development setting and afterward to take action on learning.” 
  • Empower the Participants – “If the goals of adult education and professional development are change and growth, then opportunities and strategies that empower the learner are essential.” 

Adult Learning Model for Faculty Development 

“This model incorporates both the principles of adult learning and well-grounded adult education program-planning concepts. The four stages of the model—preplanning, planning, delivery, and follow-up—are interrelated and dynamic. At each stage, we ask how the activities and proposed learning objectives are compatible with the adult learning principles. (Lawler, Patricia A. 2003) 

It is important to note how the Adult Learning Model takes into account that at each stage – preplanning, planning, delivery and follow up – the person creating the adult learning program makes sure the learning will be meaningful and relevant to the participant. 

The image below touches on educational strategies for adult learners.  I see this as a checklist to evaluate if educational strategies are being incorporated in the PD being designed.   

Dustin, Emily (2017, July 12)

Overall, the answer to my question of what best practices are for creating adult learner PD would be practices that take into account information obtained about what participants are wanting and how what is being taught will directly and positively provide growth and change in real time for desired outcomes.  That is a tall order and the very first best practice would be direct communication with the participants to find out more.  Sheryl Chard says it beautifully in the video below as she reiterates how important it is that PD focuses heavily on what the audience is wanting and needing as well as PD being a professional learning community having discussions and learning from each other.  “Let’s make Professional Development the home ground of collective inquiry, shared expertise and inspired conversation among professionals.” ~ Sheryl Chard

Chard, Sheryl (2014)


Chard, Sheryl (2014). No More Bad Coffee: Professional Development That Honors Teachers.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiW0s6_83dw 

Dustin, Emily (2017, July 12) Challenges, Opportunities, and Growth: Understanding Adult Learners. Retrieved from https://motivislearning.com/insights/supporting-adult-learners-through-challenges-and-opportunities/ 

Lawler, Patricia A (2003). EBSCO. Teachers as Adult Learners: A New Perspective. 

Park, Sunyoung; Robinson, Petra; and Bates, Reid (2016). “Adult Learning Principles and Processes and Their Relationships with Learner Satisfaction: Validation of the Andragogy in Practice Inventory (API) in the Jordanian Context,” Adult Education Research Conference. https://newprairiepress.org/aerc/2016/ papers/28 

Revamping Professional Development Using Ed Tech Tools

Educators attend Professional Development (PD) for a variety of reasons which span from personal interests to clock hour requirements to required attendance from district or administration. No matter what the reason is for why educators are in attendance at a PD, the hope is that knowledge will be shared, gained and then brought to life within work environments. Some PD hits home and is motivating and inspiring and some PD falls flat and is merely a box checked and then forgotten about. My question, “What types of presentation platforms provide engaging and interactive Professional Development for teachers and staff?”, focuses on ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation – Performance Indicator B: Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning program that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning and assessment. In addition, I would like to focus on PD presentation platforms that could also transfer to students using the same platforms to share their learning, much like how the adults giving the PD are sharing their learning.

Jennifer Gonzalez, creator of Cult of Pedagogy, wrote a great blog post, Let’s Make Better Slideshows that has great tips and reminders of what to do and not do when preparing PD. This is a list to look over before you even begin designing your presentation. I suggest looking over the article in full but here is a snapshot of her suggestions:

  • Always be in presentation mode – seems obvious, but always a good reminder
  • Cut way back on your text – Key words and ideas but not every word you are also planning on saying out loud
  • Update your assets – be up-to-date with fonts, styles, images, etc
  • Create previews and signposts – this was a new idea for me.  Letting your audience know in full what you will be sharing about can help them focus on your content instead of their minds wandering and wondering how much is going to be shared.
  • Go light on animations – this is a great reminder considering all the bells and whistles presentation platforms have now. It can be overwhelming to the audience if too much is happening on the screen and distract them from what you are verbally trying to emphasize as you talk through your presentation.
  • Keep things consistent – This connects with not overusing animations. Be consistent with the fonts you use, color choices and style in which you have designed your presentation. This helps your audience to, again, focus on your message.
  • Proofread…out loud – practice, practice, practice. PowerPoint even has a coach feature now that can listen to you and give tips on how to improve the delivery of your verbal content in connection with your written word.

Reviewing and remembering these tips before you even begin creating your PD will help lay a strong foundation as you start designing your presentation.  Then, it is about picking your platform…your delivery system.

The most tried and true platform for PD presentations is PowerPoint. Since this is a more known platform, I am instead trying to challenge myself to look at some newer technologies. From the Hongkiat blog, Ashutosh KS wrote an article, 10 Presentation Tools to Win Over Your Audience,  there is a great list of new platforms that can be used to freshen up and help make a PD presentation more interesting.  Platforms include Prezi, Visme, Emaze, Canva, Piktochart, Genial.ly, Haiku Deck and more.  To dig deeper into what each of these platforms have to offer, follow the link to the article.  Yet, the biggest difference within all these platforms is the variety/styles of the visuals which keeps me wondering about how to make PD presentations more engaging via interaction…not just more visually interesting.  Visuals do make a big impression on your audience and are important but how can presenters make sure they are creating PD that will include the audience in an interactive and meaningful way. 

In order to truly engage your audience, using interactive tools such as Poll Everywhere, Kahoot, Plickers, Padlet, Buncee and more could be a great way to engage adults while you are presenting.  This also touches on the part of my question how presenters can showcase tools that can be transferred into educators’ classrooms.  Using interactive tech tools is a way for PD presenters to provide both insight into tech tools as well as engagement with the PD topic – fill two needs with one deed!  Once educators have experienced tech tools themselves within their own learning, they are more apt to have an ahh-ha moment and think of ways they can implement it purposefully. 

Overall, to answer my question, What types of presentation platforms provide engaging and interactive Professional Development for teachers and staff?, I have come to this conclusion – switching up platforms will help to keep visuals interesting and professional but also using interactive tools as a way to showcase ed tech tools and keep your audience engaged is the best way to transform your presentation into a collaborative, engaging and meaningful experience.

A Foray Into Coaching ~

I recently read an article about coaching with the title, Instructional Coaching – A Springboard not a Scarlet Letter, and this phrase has stuck with me.  While practicing coaching skills with a teacher at my school, I quickly realized that because we have a strong foundation of trust built, the conversation focused on how to deepen student learning and choice in a meaningful way.  While researching how to best coach him, the resources I read kept coming back to the foundations of trust leading the way. I have come away with understanding that the springboard is trust and the wings that keep ideas from crashing are the questioning techniques that deepen the thinking for both the coach and who is being coached.  Throughout our conversations, trust was at the heart of the conversation and collaborative conversations were made possible by a collective perspective that our partnership would strengthen ideas and strategies for deeper student experiences.  Though I did not gain this trust from a coaching relationship, it still drove home the importance of this trust being the backbone of collaboration and     

Right away, we took the time to align our perspectives on technology use in the classroom and strengthening student voice and choice which resulted in the coaching sessions to focus on using Seesaw as an assessment tool for student understanding. Throughout our first coaching session, I quickly realized that one of the hardest habits for me to break was to just give ideas and advice outright.  We have spent the last year just swapping ideas, collaborating on class projects, and giving each other advice.  I realized after that session, that I needed to brush up on practicing my questioning skills and deepen my understanding of how to ask thoughtful clarifying questions, probing question, paraphrasing, etc.  Another task that I cavalierly brushed past was establishing norms and procedures which would have helped me to slow down and truly coach versus just giving advice and ideas. 

Our continuing coaching sessions focused on student reflection and what was working and not working when using Seesaw.  Throughout these sessions, I realized that my focus on using questioning techniques more deliberately helped me to watch his own shift in thinking and that I could help guide his own ideas into fruition – and he said as much!  Once I slowed down and didn’t focus on trying to solve a ‘problem’ he was having, he was able to talk through his own noticing and wonderings and from there conclude what his next step should be.  It was very beneficial for me to explicitly practice active listening and focus on questioning in order to watch the process unfold into a solution that was fresh to both of us. It was an important reminder that as a coach, coming into the conversation without preconceived ideas for solutions is what leads to a solution that truly makes sense for the teacher and students, not the coaches imagined scenario that is not based on real situation within an educator’s classroom. 

During our final session, he was moving the project into the next stage of student research.  As he explained some difficulties he was coming up against, he specifically asked for additional instructional technologies that could support student learning. Since I was working through a class about accessibility and inclusion, I was able to coach him through using Immersive Reader as a way to have better student access to research resources for the variety of reading levels within his classroom.  This was an interesting shift in the coaching relationship because throughout the previous sessions I was training myself to take an approach that was not telling him specific solutions but because this was what he was specifically asking for, it seemed appropriate. It made me think more about when to give advice outright and when to focus on helping to guide. It seems this is a delicate balance for a coach and reminds me that coaches need to be tuned in to the variety of needs for each relationship and how flexible and adaptable coaches need to be.  The questions it leaves me with are when should coaches give advice and when should they refrain from advice?  My guess is that there is no clear answer but instead is the intuition that is gained from practice in the field.  

The biggest takeaways from this coaching experience and learning about the ISTE Coaching Standards was the importance of trust, collaboration and how students should be at the center of the work between coaches and educators. When trying to shift negative teacher perspectives on what having a coach means, the idea of a coach trying to ‘fix’ a teacher seems like the biggest obstacle to overcome. Since this experience had the safety net of me being a teacher not an official coach within our building, this is an area that I did not get practice in.  The resistance of being coached will be one that I could come across if I choose to pursue coaching.  Where I have experienced this is with technology integration so one way that I can help to lessen technology resistance would be to apply the coaching skills from this experience.  

How Culture Creates Room for Coaching and Collaboration (or… Culture – it’s what’s for breakfast!)

ISTE-Coaching Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 

f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences 

Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth 

b. Engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice 

c. Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology-enhanced learning experiences

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. To be clear he didn’t mean that strategy was unimportant – rather that a powerful and empowering culture was a surer route to organisational success. ~Ross Bernard

While learning about and researching the ISTE Coaching Standards and how to be an effective and meaningful coach throughout this quarter, building trust and authentic relationships with teachers around student learning and educational practices has been at the forefront.  Drawing on my own personal experience as an educator, I realize every day that there is more to learn, do and adjust as a teacher when striving to keep student learning and success moving. Yet, I must admit, I know that for myself and fellow teachers I work with, there is a twinge of uneasiness and uncomfortable vulnerability if assigned a coach. Reflecting on my own knee-jerk reaction, I have come to realize that this is because coaching is not currently the norm within the overall education setting. When it is present, coaching tends to focus on new teachers or teachers whose evaluation marks are low. (Please note that this is my opinion and experience, and I do not believe everyone feels this way and it is not viewed like this at all schools, thank goodness!) When this is the current culture around coaching, educators see coaching as someone trying to fix them rather than an opportunity for authentic growth, collaboration and student-centered reflection – something everyone in the education field would benefit being a part of – from principals to teachers to specialists to instructional assistants, etc. 

In the article, The Instructional Coach: A Springboard, Not a Scarlet Letter, Jensen writes, “…how can schools pull back the curtain on teaching and turn it into a team sport, complete with a coach for every teacher?” In order to pull back the curtain, Jensen suggests 4 ways that schools, especially leaders and coaches within our education system, can help educators feel more comfortable with coaching. 

  • Spotlight Strengths – focus on the strengths that all the teachers in the building already have.  Have them reflect on their own strengths and each others strengths – at my school, we do shout-outs at the beginning of every staff meeting and having this occur within a coaching session could be really helpful for building trust. “Acknowledging that the building is full of capable and competent educators goes a long way in shifting the culture toward accepting coaching.”  
  • Team Up for Growth – From the starting point of strengths, educators are more likely to be ready to focus on areas of growth.  When teachers determine how they want to grow, the door is open for collaboration, rather than dreading the knock from the outside.  When coaches provide support in the self-identified areas for growth, we honor the expertise of the teacher and position ourselves as a springboard for growth rather than a scarlet letter.”
  • Be Flexible – Coaches need to be flexible and adapt to the educators schedule, timing and the busy nature of education. “Finally, part of every school leaders’ responsibility in building staff capacity includes making coaching accessible.”
  • Spread the Word – If a school is lucky enough to have the resources to have coaches, starting with the teachers who are willing and experienced could go a long way when trickling down to teachers who may be uneasy about coaching.  When the vocal teacher leaders within a staff have a positive experience with coaching, they will become your greatest asset as they spread the word that coaching works, it is worth the time, and everyone needs a coach.”

Bernard Ross, an internationally regarded expert in strategic thinking, organizational change and personal effectiveness with The Management Centre, lays out 5 steps to change and align culture. Below is an excerpt from his article, Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast – I highly suggest reading the article in full but for the purposes of this blog post and focusing on changing culture, these steps seem critical and I have left in the descriptions that seem relevant to the educational system since he focuses more on organizations and companies. 

Understanding culture is not enough. The point is to change it. And to do this you need to follow five steps.”

1. Analyse culture as it is now (and be honest!)

Job one is to sit down and work out accurately what the culture is now. There are a number of ways to do this.[. . .] Focus groups, especially externally facilitated ones, can be a great way to get a real handle on this. You also might want to run an anonymous survey monkey study.

2. Imagine the culture as you want it to be

[. . .] think about how you want your culture to work, if everything was correctly aligned. To make it concrete we often then list the key stakeholders and describe how things will be better for them in the new culture. These stakeholders could include: staff, beneficiaries, service users, donors and others.

3. Map the differences between the two

Now compare your two cultural web diagrams, and identify the differences between them. [. . .]

4. Make an action plan

You need an action plan to make sure that the culture change actually takes place. [. . .] This plan should ideally be published and available to everyone. (Provided transparency is a part of your culture!)

5. Measure differences over time

You need track that your approach was actually implemented and that it has had the desired effect. [. . .]

Ross also explains in his article how to map out current cultural desires using specific questions that can help guide coaches and leaders in determining what is creating the current culture – positively and what opportunities are available to shift. 

One of the deepest takeaways that I have had when looking at how to establish a positive coaching culture is the importance of starting at the top and having the positive outcomes filter down throughout the school. Magdalena Mook speaks to the importance of starting at the top in her article, How to Create a Coaching Culture

1. Start from the top, but include everyone

Typically, coaching takes hold in organizations where a well-respected senior leader is engaged in a coaching relationship and can promote its benefits across the company. While buy-in and strong support are very important at this rank, ultimately, coaching should be made available across each level of an organization, to professionals of all ages and levels of experience. This is crucial for a lasting, enterprise-wide impact.

I have noticed in education, coaching tends to focus solely on teachers. It would be interesting to see if not only investment from administration but also participation in being coached, helped to lessen anxiety and/or hesitation for a teacher who is offered coaching..especially if it was being offered to all teachers, as well.  But that is another topic for another time!  

Finally, here is an interesting video that gives a unique perspective of having a coaching mindset. These ideas translate into the education realm…which makes sense considering coaching is adaptable to all professions and focuses on growth for who is being coached and those who they interact with, especially.


Gawande, Atul. (Jan. 30, 2018). Want to Get Good at Something? Get a Coach. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHDq1PcYkT4

Jensen, Sydney Clark. (Jan. 3, 2019). The Instructional Coach: A Springboard, Not a Scarlet Letter. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol14/num13/instructional-coaches-a-springboard-not-a-scarlet-letter.aspx?fbclid=IwAR1PmF0lge4tIB_dmDaGB0Xozgic5dcSb9-UGKqbB_tc1YDV0uommOqJ71Q

Kobulnicky, Ben. Does Culture Really Eat Strategy for breakfast. Retrieved from https://medium.com/startup-grind/does-culture-really-eat-strategy-a3172df58912

Mook, Magdalena. (Jan.11, 2017) How to Create a Coaching Culture. Retrieved from https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2016/01/how-to-create-a-coaching-culture.htm

Ross, Bernard. Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast. Retrieved from https://www.managementcentre.co.uk/culture-eats-strategy-for-breakfast/

The Coaching Cycle and Time Management

Establishing trust when starting a coaching relationship is key before all else but once this trust has been built and the framework is sturdy, what does the cycle of implementation and learning look like as well as the wrap up and reflection? Diane Sweeney has created the Results Based Coaching Tool (click link to have access to the template!) to help educators and coaches plan the cycle of learning from a student based perspective.  Key elements of this cycle are:

  • Pre and Post Assess to Identify Growth Across a Coaching Cycle
  • Understand How the Teacher and Coach Grew by using Exit Questions
  • Plan for Students Who Didn’t Meet the Goal

Using the Results Based Coaching Tool combined with the general cycle framework provided by Corwin, can help give the educator and coach a sequence of steps to follow to help stay on track.  In addition, providing time for the coach and teacher to reflect before they start the next cycle with the new learning and ideas they gained together will help to deepen the coaching relationship and in turn deepen student learning – especially for teachers who are new to having a coach and for a coach that is new to coaching.

Corwin – A Sage Publishing Group
Example of coaching cycle – Corwin – A Sage Publish Group 

While researching this topic, there was a variety of ideas of how long coaching cycles generally are. Of course, this depends on the goals, desired outcomes and bumps along the way.  This led me to think more about the time management skills that are necessary for coaches to set up a successful coaching cycle and for the cycle to be implemented in full. Time is of the essence when it comes to anything in education because a lack of time (and efficiency) can quickly erode good intentions and exciting ideas and instead, cause a break down between the planning process and actual implementation. A key digital tool that seemed to be important is an easy to use online/collaborative calendar to help all parties plan accordingly with the hectic schedules that are part of teaching and coaching. Nicole Turner maps out a way to manage time more efficiently in her blog post, Time Management for Instructional Coaches ~ What Should I be doing?. Big takes aways she mentions are:

  • Weekly reflections and goal setting
  • Making a calendar and schedule that takes into account all parties and easy access
  • Staying organized – using tracker sheets to organize who you meet with, what you talk about and the many notes you gather as a coach

These may seem like simple steps but coaches can quickly get overwhelmed, especially when they are meeting with multiple teachers or teams. Thinking through HOW you will do the steps above before starting the coaching relationship will help a coach be ready from day one and builds trust right away with who you are working with by showing them you are on top of the logistics so they do not have to be. 

Having a clear cycle explicitly in place and a time management system planned out, will help coaches to better meet ISTE Standard 2f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences because everyone will be starting the coaching relationship from a clear and concise starting point.  This seems especially important when working with teachers who may be resistant to coaching. If the cycle and planning of time is a framework that takes into account the life of a teacher being coached, then the teacher will feel understood and be able to have input where they want but not have to be heavily involved in the logistics, which can result in ‘just another thing I don’t have time to do’. From this established starting point, the coaching sessions have the opportunity to dig into revising and strengthening lessons so that planning can be innovative and student-based…and realistic and doable! 


Corwin. Coaching Cycle, What Does It Look Like? Retrieved from https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/coaching-cycle-what-does-it-look-like 

Sweeney, Diane. (Oct. 28, 2018). Measuring the Impact of Coaching Cycles. Retrieved from https://dianesweeney.com/measuring-the-impact-of-coaching-cycles/

Turner, Nicole (Feb. 19, 2019). Simply Coaching and Teaching. Time Management for Instructional Coaches –  What should I be doing?. Retrieved from https://simplycoachingandteaching.com/blog/2019/2/19/time-management-for-instructional-coaches-what-should-i-be-doing

A Pinch, a Dash and a Smidgen ~ Blending 21st Century Skills with Proven Practices

I tend to be a simple cook.  Generally, I make what I am familiar with, either from what I grew up eating or what I figured out how to make when I first lived on my own.  I attempt to branch out but it takes extra time, focus and effort and life can feel too busy to try and find new ingredients at the store or to figure out if a cooking gadget I have will work instead of the fancy gadget the recipe says to use but I don’t own. I do try to mix it up though because it is boring to eat the same things over and over.  Last week, I tried a new recipe. It always feels a bit overwhelming at first yet the anticipation of having something new is exciting – for me and my family.  Once the meal is on the table, the dinner conversation tends to revolve around me giving disclaimers to my family (If it’s terrible, we can pop that frozen pizza in!).  We all eat the first few bites thoughtfully and talk about what we are tasting.  I reflect throughout the meal about what I will do differently next time while my husband and kids reassure me that it is good and that they really do like it.  Then, if it was actually good, I fine tune the recipe the next time I make it and as I make it more often, it becomes easier each time.  Eventually, the recipe is not in front of me but instead, a part of what I know.   

In reality, I already know how to do the most important parts of every new recipe, the basic cooking steps, it is just getting comfortable with the new ingredients, sequence or cooking style. I have also realized that each time I ventured out of my cooking comfort zone, I become more comfortable. This process and awareness of learning applies to how 21st Century skills can enrich prior teaching practices. The basic skills educators have gained throughout their careers do not become null and void just because there are new skills to fine tune and try out with. As a coach, I hope to inspire who I am working with to add a pinch of this, a dash of that and a smidgen of something new until they are using these skills more naturally in how they approach teaching.  Shifting one’s educational philosophy and pedagogy is not about changing everything at once but to instead mix new ways of thinking in to find the right teaching recipe that works for the them and the learners they are working with, which remains a tried and true pedagogical practice just with a 21st Century perspective thoughtfully added. This leads me to my question, how do 21st century skills influence the changing criteria for effective learning and technology integration? 

(Let’s look more closely with the idea of a recipe in mind)

21st Century Skills and 21st Century Learning 

(These are the basic cooking steps that we don’t have to relearn with every new recipe but are reimagined in a new way when new ingredients are added!) 

Educators have always had to keep up with the changing landscape of the world that they and their students interact with and live in. When thinking about how 21st Century Skills influence effective learning environments and pedagogical approach, there seems to be the theme of focusing on an updated process of learning rather than just the outcome of facts, data and what students know or do not know through summative assessments.  The National Education Association (NEA) goes beyond just the skills and talks about the elements of 21st Century Learning as: 

  • Emphasize core subjects 
  • Emphasize learning skills 
  • Use 21st century tools to develop learning skills 
  • Teach and learn in a 21st century context 
  • Teach and learn new 21st century content 
  • Use 21st century assessments that measure core subjects and 21st century skills 

I appreciate the distinction NEA has made between 21st Century Skills (often talked about as the 4 C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) and 21st Century Learning which encompasses the 4 C’s but also includes the elements listed above to reflect the technology, learning environment and content/context changes that connect past and present approaches. 

Learning Progressions 

(This is the time where you learn a new sequence of steps to blend with your prior knowledge of cooking that is required for your new recipe!)

In the article, Learning Progressions: Road Maps for 21st-Century Students—and Teachers, we are reminded that the pedagogical shift of 21st Century is about the progression of learning.  “…The focus should be on Learning progressions—the journeys that students take as they move toward mastering skills in specific areas or disciplines—rather than on outcomes in the form of scores on standardized tests “(Kim, H. & Scoular C., 2017).  Kim and Scoular focus on the idea of moving learners from novices to experts and that learning progressions emphasize how students move through the learning of the core subjects. 

“Tried-and-true progressions exist for those subjects [literacy, science numeracy], and we know they work. We can thus use this established approach to benefit our understanding of more complex skills—not just of the skills themselves, but also of how students demonstrate them at various levels.”  

(Kim, H. & Scoular C., 2017)

Building a Bridge Together 

(This is the part of the recipe where you are taking a risk and trying out the new and some unfamiliar ingredients, steps and/or cooking style to see how this influences the meal in a new and exciting way!) 

In the book, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, Foltos reminds us that, “Educators and the Peer Coaches that work with them find it easy to talk about 21st-century skills but much more difficult to turn abstract ideas like critical thinking, analyzing and synthesizing information, transference, information literacy, and creativity into practical classroom learning activities.”  This is where coaches and educators benefit from strong collaboration and take the learning activities they are already familiar with and reimagine them by tweaking the process and end result to be more student centered and fine tune what they already have instead of reinventing the wheel.  Using a process such as the Learning Design Matrix (Peer Coaching, 2018) below can help to inspire rethinking and focus on the teaching, learning environment and desired outcome. 

21st Century Pedagogy  

(This is the part of the recipe that once everything is mixed in and cooked, you must finalize the meal with the last critical step – putting it on the plate.) 

While thinking about bridging the old with the new, it is important to realize how intertwined the new and old ideas, philosophies and approaches already are. It benefits all stakeholders to remember that focusing on teaching styles, learner centered instruction and 21st Century ways to showcase deeper learning is key to not becoming overwhelmed with thinking everything around education is new. Like always, each aspect relies on the other. Much like how basic salt and pepper, turning on the stove and trying out new recipes and tools enhances our basic ability to cook and better feed ourselves and each other.  

Below is an example of a new pedagogical approach: 

Context matters, and the diagram from edorigami captures this, though not from the perspective of the student and content knowledge, but the teacher and various pedagogical components themselves, including Higher-Order Thinking SkillsPeer Collaboration, and Media Fluency. (TeachThought Staff, 2018)

And finally… 

I thought this was an interesting way of thinking about past versus present – this was not how every classroom always was in the past or how it currently is for every classroom  in the present but elements of each ring true and what an exciting time this is for education and the changing landscape within and outside of the classroom. The powerful connection between school and real life…considering school is real life and learning forever embedded in the lives of the generations we are teaching today – 21st Century and beyond.  

Follow this link to see page 2 of the document: http://www.21stcenturyschools.com/20th-vs-21st-century-classroom.html


21st Century Schools. 20th Century Classroom vs. the 21st Century Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.21stcenturyschools.com/20th-vs-21st-century-classroom.html.

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. 

Kim, H. & Scoular C. (April 24,2017). Learning Progressions: Road Maps for 21st-Century Students—and Teachers. Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/learning_progressions_for_students_and_teachers# 

McAlpin, Renee. (2017) Brookings Institute. Skills for a changing world: The global movement to prepare students for the 21st century. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2017/04/24/skills-for-a-changing-world-the-global-movement-to-prepare-students-for-the-21st-century/ 

National Education Association. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/34888.htm 

Peer Coaching. (2018). Learning Design Matrix.