The Coaching Relationship ~ The Many Layers of Building Trust through Communication and Collaboration

  • ISTE-Coaching:
    • Standard 1: Visionary Leadershipd. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms
    • Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessmentf. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

Through researching and conversations with my SPU Digital Education Leadership cohort, I have found myself continually wondering how to best communicate and collaborate when starting a coaching relationship while still connecting in a way that felt organic versus clinical or predetermined.  In my own experience, why do I sometimes accept clarifying, probing and paraphrasing communication as a positive communication strategy with some people (coaches, other teachers, admin/leadership positions) yet with others I feel it is predetermined and just a sequence of steps they are applying to our conversation?  This led me to my question, What are best practices for starting to use probing and clarifying questions when you first start coaching someone and how do probing and clarifying questions strengthen trust with who you are coaching?

The most obvious answer is trust. When I am collaborating and communicating in a trusted relationship, I can let down my guard, be vulnerable and break away from my own initial thoughts or usual tendencies. But how do we gain that trust? In a coaching role, active listening inspires educators to feel truly heard through communication which is a crucial building block for trust and sets the stage for the other foundational block, compassion (I hear you, not a predetermined agenda) and commitment (I hear what you need and commit to those needs/desires/hopes first and foremost)

Peer-Ed (2018)

In the graphic above from Center for Creative Leadership, each active listening skill reinforces being heard before diving into deeper thinking. When I reflect on these skills from the perspective of being coached, I would say #6 – be attuned to and reflect feelings, #1 – be attentive and #5 – paraphrase are the skills that strengthen my relationship with the coach and results in be being more available to be coached. 

The article, Getting Better Results Through Authentically Curious Leadership, touches on how our subconscious wants to connect immediately with our past experiences which means we draw conclusions and make judgments quickly (Garrison, 2018). To be authentically curious, Garrison tells us about 3 techniques that can apply to the coaching relationship to create a fresh perspective that is ready to be built with the coaching partnership. The three techniques he describes are:

Assume a Blank Canvas: The goal is to allow the other person to “fill in” this canvas with their words, emotions and meaning. Rather than responding with phrases like, “Don’t you think … ?” (a thin disguise for trying to convince someone of their point of view), authentically curious leaders listen deeply and ask clarifying questions that begin with phrases like, “Can you tell me more about … ?” or “How do you see … ?” This allows for additional clarity and perhaps new insights. When the authentically curious leader does make a point, they invite challenges or conflicting views in a respectful and authentic manner.

Prepare For The Unexpected: The brain sees data that supports its model of the world, but this model also inhibits our ability to consider other unexpected points of view. The brain must be trained to consider all the data, especially that which does not support our current beliefs. 

Make Decisions Using Common Criteria: When a group is working to address a problem or make a decision, the authentically curious leader doesn’t debate alternatives. Instead, the leader solicits answers to the question, “How will we know a great decision when we see it?” Note that the question is not, “What’s a great outcome?” When a group can agree on common criteria for a great decision, then each member is free to explore alternatives with certainty of how each will be evaluated.

(Garrison, 2018)

Through building trust with thoughtful communication skills and coming to the table with no solution already determined, only then can collaboration occur.  Les Foltos describes in his book, Peer Coaching, Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, the importance of inquiry over advocacy.

When is the right time for advocacy? How often can [coaches] present their solutions? As I noted in earlier chapters, successful coaches feel that a little advocacy works, but only after a strong coaching relationship based on inquiry is formed. Too much advocacy, they observed, means the coach becomes the expert with the answer. Garmston and Wellman (1999) argue it is important for successful collaboration to balance advocacy and inquiry. Effective Peer Coaches emphasize inquiry over advocacy. Too much advocacy can produce learned helplessness. Inquiry builds capacity to improve teaching and learning by helping teachers to be more effective at designing and implementing learning activities that meet the needs of their students.

(Foltos, 2013)

Once a coaching relationship has been built on trust and communication skills that bring out inquiry based conversations, coaches can begin to know how to best deepen the thinking of who is being coached.  In order to achieve what Foltos and Garrison are speaking about, coaches need to understand that the questions they ask and how they ask them are critical to the relationship, especially in the beginning. In the article, The Questions Good Coaches Ask by Amy Jen Su, she reminds us that…”Asking the right coaching questions means the difference between a one-way interrogation and a dynamic learning session. Good coaching questions give someone who’s busy and competent the space in which to step back and examine herself. The right question can stop her in her tracks as she finally sees her own actions from a different perspective or envisions a new solution to an old problem. She may indeed learn to question herself so that next time she can catch herself in the act and change her actions in the moment. (2014). Once a coach has achieved showing authentic curiosity and an inquiring approach by asking opened questions and paraphrasing, they can then move into clarifying and probing questions resulting in the communication and collaboration as a dynamic partnership…and if advocacy comes into play, when it seems appropriate, it will be from all perspectives, not just the coaches. A true collaborative approach.

 Philipp Schneider (2013) Balanced Action. Sketchnote: Coaching Essentials.


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

Garrison, David W. (2018).  Forbes. Getting Better Results Through Authentically Curious Leadership. Retrieved from

Jen Su, Amy. (2014). Harvard Business Review. The Questions Good Coaches Ask. Retrieved from

Schneider, Philipp. (2013) Balanced Action. Sketchnote: Coaching Essentials. Retrieved from

Coaching All: Thinking about the whole school community – educators, parents and caregivers.

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership 

d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms 

My question: What are best practices for establishing trust with teachers and families at our school and guiding our school community towards a positive digital education perspective.  (versus just telling them the positive ways students can use digital tools in the classroom) 

Gaining the trust of the whole school community to implement educational technology in classrooms is tricky because there are many preconceived notions around screen time and a variety of perspectives and backgrounds that everyone (teachers, parents, caregivers) comes to the table with. As I prepare to lead a Digital Education Presentation for the PTA at my school, I have been looking at the ISTE Coaching Standard 1, Visionary Leadership, and more specifically the ISTE Coaching Standard 1d – Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms to better prepare for this presentation by using a coaching mindset to find best practices for gaining this invaluable trust.  

When it comes to the whole school community, there are 3 main takeaways from my research that I believe will help to alleviate some of the fear or nervousness around using digital education in the classroom. In the article, Engaging Families as Learning Partners Using Digital Tools by Matthew Lynch, there is a breakdown of how to teach families what it means to use technology in the classroom.  These same suggestions apply to fellow teachers, as well. He has 5 suggestions to engage families but the first 3 are what I am focusing on to first build the trust needed for support of digital education implementation. The first suggestion that Lynch makes is to Teach the Parents How to Use the Digital Tool.  If we take the time to give families hands on experiences with the tools and platforms students are learning, they are more likely to see the active role students have in their learning when engaged with digital tools. If teachers take on a coaching role with parents (and invite other teachers to join in on this as learners) then it moves away from the teacher trying to solely make a case for why educational technology is great and instead puts the experience directly in the hands of the adults to see for themselves.  This is more likely to shift perspective because it is a hands on experience for them versus a lecture trying to convince them.     

The second suggestion Lynch makes is to Explain the Importance of Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship. Students are growing up in a digital age and there is no getting around that. Coming at this reality with a digital citizenship focus in order to better teach how to manage our online and offline lives helps families to see that we have the chance to teach mindfulness and awareness of navigating the digital world AND how we can influence the use of digital tools as a way to enhance learning versus passive consumption.  When a student learns how to create their own digital portfolio highlighting their learning, this is powerful and stays with them as they move through their K-12 education and beyond.  

A third suggestion from Lynch is Using Digital Tools for Communication.  Highlighting the way digital tools and platforms can strengthen home to school connections and making these connections personal and meaningful for parents and students helps teachers to build strong relationships with families. Megan Ryder writes about the importance of not just building relationships with others but also maintaining them in her blog post, Strategies for Building Relationships as an Instructional Coach.  Though she is talking specifically about relationships with staff, this is crucial for families, as well. Communication is what maintains relationships so using easy platforms to keep communication alive, relevant, timely and positive can slowly shift negative perspectives of using digital education in the classroom when parents see a benefit for themselves, as well as for their child. 

Through all of this, there will be hiccups, missteps, technology that doesn’t work like you hoped and a learning curve for how to find and use the best digital education tools and platforms in your school and classroom. Two of my favorite suggestions for building trust with those you are coaching (whole school community) was from Ashley Paschal, 5 ways to Build a Trusting Coaching Relationship.  She speaks to the importance of listening without judgment and to laugh.  Parents and other educators are looking to coaches to feel safe in how the uneasiness they may feel about the fast paced and always changing digital education world.  My own perspective has shifted immensely since staring the SPU Digital Education Leadership program but that has taken a lot of research, conversation, patience and time.  Remembering to accept where parents and educators are at in their journey with digital education and truly listening without judgement to understand where they are at in their journey (and WHY!) is the only way to start forging a pathway of trust that can enable you to guide towards a shift in perspective.  

Here is a great resource from Common Sense Media to start engaging your community! Learn how to make parents and caregivers an integral part of your digital citizenship program 


Cogswell, Ben. (July 11, 2018) Common Sense Media. Retrieved from 

Lynch, Matthew. (Feb. 8, 2019). The Tech Advocate. Retrieved from Engaging Families as Learning Partners Using Digital Tools.  

Paschal, Ashley. (Fed. 28, 2018). Education Elements. Retrieved from 5 Ways to Build a Trusting Coaching Relationship. 

Ryder, Megan. (May 8, 2017). TeachBoost. Retrieved from Strategies for Building Relationships as an Instructional Coach. 

Tech Etiquette ~ a framework for building classroom community in a technology rich environment

Before students can learn within the digital age learning environment, the environment needs to be one that is community minded, with clear expectations that students have created, agreed upon and are understood in full, with routines that are second nature and where all students have engaged in creating a safe space for all to flourish in. Tech Etiquette is critical for building and maintaining an environment that focuses on respect, learning and connecting with each other, not just the use of devices and technology.  Educators take time to create a positive, supportive and well-mannered environment within our classroom while offline and the same tenets need to apply when devices and technology are being used. This may seem obvious but I have yet to see this focused on as deeply as how students learn to log on to a device, how they carry the device, learn to type, creating digital portfolios or get to an app. Focusing on Tech Etiquette in the classroom will provide the framework needed for technology to enhance learning, collaborative relationships and a creative classroom that uses design thinking. This is important at any age.  I believe diving deeper into Tech Etiquette strongly supports ISTE Coaching Standard 3 for those reasons, at the very least.

For my graduate program, Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I have chosen to focus on creating a presentation about the importance of Tech Etiquette in classrooms. It has been an eye opening experience to think more deeply about what it means to teach students about Tech Etiquette inside and outside of the classroom because this is not an area that I have seen focused on. We often teach students about digital citizenship, how we act online and our digital footprint, but how we act with each other while using devices in the classroom is not focused on as often. There is not one right way when it comes to etiquette which is why it is important for educators to tap into what their classroom needs and what makes sense culturally, is age appropriate and what students want as part of their tech etiquette agreement. Below, is my reflection on what my presentation will look like if accepted into a conference or how I would present it as a Professional Development for other educators.


The length of my presentation or workshop will depend on the audience and location. If I was accepted to the NCCE, it would be for 10 minutes. If I were doing it as a PD for staff/families at my school, it could be up to 45 – 60 minutes. 

Active and Engaged Learning:

I would like to have role playing or real life scenarios as part of the presentation.  For example, starting with everyone writing down (or using an online platform to gather these thoughts in real time) 1-2 things they notice bothers them about tech etiquette and use in the classroom, workplace or personal life or take a poll using a tool like to determine if many of the issues are similar. From there, connecting to basic manners that we expect from students (and that we give to them!) and how we need to role model for them when applying these manners in a technology rich environment – looking up from devices when someone is speaking, tone when working together, taking turns, stopping when the activity is over (no sneaking!), how to hold, handle and take care of devices, stamina when things go wrong or get confusing, awareness of surroundings and others when using a device and more. Audience members could role play these scenarios or create solutions to share with the group as a whole with small groups working together.    

Using Prezi as a way to present and interact with audience and then create an action plan using Mural so that everyone will have the ideas and work created to look back to.

Content Knowledge Needs:

Common Misconceptions: Touch on the idea of digital citizenship being not just online behavior but how we interact with those in our physical space when using digital tools and resources

Specific content standards/objectives: 

  • ISTE Coaching Standard 3 – Digital Learning Environment
  • ISTE Student Standard 2 – Digital Citizen and Standard 7 – Global Collaborator 
  • ISTE Educator Standard 3 – Citizen, Standard 5 – Designer and Standard 6 – Facilitator

Address Teacher Needs:

Make the Prezi available to all so educators can look back at it, add to it and create a community to interact with as they implement the ideas into their classroom

Educators leave with clear ideas on how to introduce, implement and maintain tech etiquette within their own classrooms. The Mural tool will keep these ideas in a collaborative space.

Provide a video of in-class examples of teaching students these tools (this would be something done at a later date when I teach my own class, video tape it and provide closed captioning for educators to review and then fine tune for their own classroom)

Anticipated FAQ:

  • Home to school connection with tech etiquette
  • Breaking bad habits that students have already learned
  • How to train student tech mentors
  • What does a tech mentorship program look like, sound like, feel like
  • Dealing with adults and friends who model behaviors that counteract what we are trying to teach them to do with tech etiquette. 
  • Growth – it takes time to learn these skills and to be aware of when we are not having tech etiquette – the point is learning these skills so focus on the skill not the ‘bad behavior’ or ‘wrong way’. Positive reinforcement and helping students learn to be aware and shift is key.

Collaborative participation:

Student input, discussions and collaborative decision making around tech etiquette in their classroom will be critical is making tech etiquette meaningful.

Collaborate with other classrooms who are embarking on this topic and connect via Skype or another platform to see how it is going, what others are doing that is successful, what is not going well, the opportunities and successes. This could be done by connecting with other educators who are a part of the presentation or having a living document that educators can go back to and update each other and reach out for support when needed. 

Students could create images, media, and more around the topic to then use to teach other students which will promote student agency, motivation and pride around being stellar tech etiquette role models for each other and outside of the classroom.  Teaching awareness around how they engage with tech is a huge part of this.

Be a Troubleshooter to Transform Your Technology Integration

ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Digital age learning environments

Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

E – Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments

Question: How can coaches best support teacher and student stamina when learning how to incorporate new technology into their classroom?

Throughout the Digital Education Leadership (DEL) program at Seattle Pacific University, I have noticed that my own learned helplessness when using new technology was much more ingrained than I had realized. When our cohort was asked to use Coggle to create a Mindmap from our readings during the first quarter, I became frustrated and told myself multiple times that I am just the type of person who is better at using pencil and paper for this task – more specifically, “that is just who I am”. The rigidity around the idea of “that is just who I am” morphed into learned helplessness that I could not do it well because it wasn’t suited to what I was already proficient at. I am incredibly thankful that throughout learning the Coggle tool and being a part of the DEL program, I realized that by tapping into a growth mindset, I eventually saw and appreciated the value of expanding my skills and not stopping as soon as I had to put effort into something new, uncomfortable and challenging. Luckily, the DEL program coached me through these challenges by having an atmosphere of support and patience with what it takes to learn these skills. This is exactly what I expect and hope my students will aspire to every day in my classroom.  How unfair not to grow with them and this had led me to expect it of myself, first and foremost.  Coaches and the educational environment we are all part of needs to have this same patience and perseverance in order to gain stamina through creativity to succeed when we get stuck on something.  

Many of the issues that surround implementing technology in the classroom result from a fixed mindset from educators, administration, district demands around testing, parent fears and students who have been exposed regularly to one ‘right way’.  When connectivity and basic hardware/software issues pop up, it is easy to sweep away what you were attempting to implement in the name of needing to teach a standard. This challenge becomes not worth the time, effort and resources. Sure, time may be spent differently than you anticipated but in the long run, you and your students will learn critical life long skills that our students need to learn for the 21st century and beyond. Our stamina around implementation of new technology, as coaches and educators, is critical to the success of these skills for our students.

When looking at the Life and Career column of these 21st century skills, these are the skills that will help all the other skills take root, grow and maintain footing in all contexts.  Each one of these has been critical in my own growth with implementing digital education and technology and to grow with my students while moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. While researching ways to inspire stamina for other educators as a coach, I came across a great article about common issues that arise when using technology.  This list can help coaches teach educators what to do with common problems while using technology in their classroom. I would also extend this idea into creating a living document (a document that is always changing, being added to and being updated) style list with the classroom community adding to it as issues arise. The classroom community, as a whole, is part of problem solving the issues that are sure to come. There have been many times that a student shows me how to solve an issue occurring in class…what an invaluable opportunity for students to become leaders and mentors and this has the opportunity to create a safe environment for solving problems and collaboration between students and adults. In addition, this can help students and teachers to move past learned helplessness and into an eagerness to solve problems as they arise.  

In the Edutopia article, Avoiding Learned Helplessness, Andrew Miller lists out ways educators can shift students into a growth mindset. Miller states, “We, as educators, are often responsible for learned helplessness, and we have a responsibility to change it. How can we empower our students to be self-directed learners?”

  • Curate and Create Learning Resources (Wakelet if a great resource for this!)
  • Using Questions to Drive Learning
  • Stop Giving Answers
  • Allow for Failure

“We need to take responsibility for empowering our students, and to scaffold the process of self-direction. Self-direction doesn’t happen overnight, especially when many of our students have been trained through specific structures of their schooling to be helpless. Although we can take steps as individual educators to avoid learned helplessness, we need to reexamine the systems of schooling, from curriculum to assessment and instruction, to allow for empowerment rather than always getting the right answer.”

~ Andrew Miller

Miller reminds us that specific structures of schooling trains students to be helpless.  In order to counter these structures, consider the idea of Productive Failure (Maun Kapur) as a way to shift from learned helplessness to seeing challenges as an opportunity for authentic learning and a more engaging learning experience that frees students up to wonder, problem solve and have multiple opportunities to try out ideas.  This applies heavily to how teachers can view troubleshooting technology issues, as well, and showcase this pedagogy to students.

“This pedagogy [Productive Failure] requires students to manage an open-ended process of challenge and exploration, so they may feel less confident in the short term. The approach helps them to become more creative and resilient over time.” “For productive failure, the order is reversed, so students try to solve ill-structured problems first, and then receive direct instruction.”
A peek into Manu Kapur speaking about Productive Failure

Throughout researching how to build stamina for teachers and students, I keep coming back to the idea that we as educators need to model a desire to approach challenges.  The more we run from using digital resources and technology because there are bound to be issues, the more we are modeling learned helplessness for our students – exactly what we are trying to steer them away from! At the heart of this ISTE 3 Coaching Standard 3E, is the word troubleshooting. The Merriam-Webster definition of a troubleshooter is:

a person skilled at solving or anticipating problems or difficulties

Coaches have the opportunity to inspire the stamina it takes to implement new ways of teaching by providing resources that give educators the skills to anticipate problems or difficulties rather than focusing on how to do it ‘right’ the first time. Solving and anticipating problems and difficulties are key aspects to be ready to grow as an educator and meet students in the educational world they are growing up in.

How have you lost or gained stamina when using technology in the classroom? When have you given up? When have you pushed through? Who have you seen rise to technology challenges and who has helped you to push through? Have you seen students push through issues/challenges with perseverance and stamina and what was the sequence they went through? In what ways have you been successful or not successful with teaching growth mindset to students? Have you tried approaching learning from a Productive Failure pedagogy? Learning from each other, connecting with the challenges of stamina, perseverance and growth mindset for students and ourselves and being inspired by each other is how our community can become stronger and more supportive. I would love to hear your perspective!


Diplomatic Courier. (2017, Jan. 29). Interview w. Manu Kapur at GTS 2017. Retrieved from

ISTE Coaching Standards. (2019) Retrieved from 

Kapur, Manu.  Productive Failure.  Retrieved from

Kesh, Arvind. (2017, Fe. 17th). Importance of Education Technology in Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from

Metropolitan State University of Denver. (2018, Feb. 07) SIP 6.4 Productive Failure: Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?  Retrieved from

Miller, A. (2015). Avoiding Learned Helplessness.  Edutopia blog: Teaching Strategies. Retrieved from

Murray, Jacqui. (2013) Solve Those Tricky Classroom Tech Problems. Tech Hub. Retrieved from

Famularo, Lisa. (2011, April 29). Developing 21st Century Leaders: Creating Paths to Success. National Partnership for Educational Access.  Retrieved from

National Institute of Education: Singapore. (2016) Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Exploring new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers. Retrieved from

Evaluate and Curate!

ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

B – Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments

D – Select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning

F – Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure

With so many digital tools and resources available, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones are best for all students, integrate well into standards/curriculum and are considered acceptable to use by your district and/or school.  A survey by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation revealed that teachers rely primarily on recommendations from other teachers when deciding on what technologies to incorporate into their classroom. This led me to the question:

What are evaluative practices that I can use to curate digital resources and tools and where can students and teachers access this curated list easily? 

Having a checklist of questions to guide teachers through the evaluation process for digital tools and resources is a great way to start evaluating. This Digital Tool Protocol Overview can be a starting point for how to evaluate the tool or resource you would like to use.  In addition, adding questions that focus on culturally sustaining pedagogy, culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally relevant teaching can be added in as a teacher, school community and/or district can fine tune how they want to evaluate digital tools and resources.  In the article, Building Culturally Responsive Classrooms With Digital Content, Dr. Karen Beerer states,  Cultural responsiveness through “going digital” is about being able to answer yes to these questions throughout all classrooms in your school:

  • Is instruction relevant to students’ lives and the world around them?
  • Is your teaching preparing students to be future ready?
  • Do the instructional resources enhance students’ learning?
  • Do the instructional resources reflect the students in any way?
  • How is what you’re teaching going to impact or change students’ lives?

Beerer also mentions “…seven ways educators can use digital content to implement culturally responsive teaching effectively’:

  1. Integrate digital content into your instruction.
  2. Ensure the digital content is high-quality.
  3. Use digital activities such as high-quality graphics, games, virtual labs and robust math and science challenges to motivate students.
  4. Build students’ vocabularies with a variety of different digital resources such as videos, animations, and images.
  5. Engage students in experiences, such as a virtual field trip to the North Pole, that they wouldn’t ordinarily have, or perhaps may never have, to build understanding of others.
  6. Close the “belief gap”.
  7. Know your students and the communities you serve.

Beerer goes into each of these principles in detail, explaining more in-depth how each principle connects to students and the classroom community.  Teachers can use these questions and principles as best practices to meet all students in their classrooms, including students with disabilities, under-served populations, students of color, ELL students and neurodiverse students.  Including these ideas into tech evaluations is critical to best meet your students where they are at and to make learning accessible to all.

One of the most exciting parts of using digital tools and resources in a classroom is the chance for students to take agency over their own learning. I found this video very inspiring as a reminder of how to tap into the curiosity, creativity, diversity, culture and heart of every student.

Brian Lozenski states, “Diversify the avenues that we offer for students to participate.” I really connected with Lozenski’s idea of ‘reversing the poles’ by focusing on ways of participating versus knowledge acquisition instead of the other way around. It made me reflect on how digital tools and resources could be used to inspire “ways of participating” in education not “just acquiring the knowledge”. A digital tool or resource could help to open a pathway of inquiry, connection to self and environment and in turn, lead to more student driven learning and excitement. 

After teachers evaluate the digital tools and resources they want to use, implementation is next. It is important for teachers to give themselves and students time to become familiar with the tool.  Re-evaluate the tools and resources as time goes on to determine if what is being used is, in fact, best for students. I like the idea of SELFIE, a digital technology feedback tool that has been put out by the European Commission.  Schools can use SELFIE to get feedback from students, teachers and staff about how digital tools and resources are working well or not working.  Also, it is anonymous and free making it available to all and participants can feel safe in knowing that they can give an honest opinion.

Then what? If educators generally look to others in the field of education for resources, tools, ideas and insight, how can we broaden the community educators have to draw from in order to start or improve their digital age learning environment?  Digital education coaches and educators who are using technology regularly could curate a list of resources to share with other educators – locally and globally. A resource that I have found very helpful this year is Wakelet

A bulleted list of digital tools and resources is often overwhelming (and boring!).  Educators are busy and need a place to go to easily find a tool or resource that works for a specific grade or subject matter. With Wakelet, the curated list can include videos, photos, written descriptions and be broken down into categories that then have multiple resources. This makes the experience more inviting and engaging for those interacting with the content curated.  There is also opportunity for students to interact with the tools and resources a teacher has compiled. This opens the possibilities for students to choose what they would like to use which supports student choice and interest. I highly recommend this digital tool because it is easy to use, the opportunity for connecting with others and it is free!

In order to get to the evaluation and curation stage of digital tools and resources, finding the best ones to look more closely at is another task in and of itself.  Here are a few starting points so you can start evaluating and curating!


Beerer, Karen. (2017, Feb. 20) Building Culturally Responsive Classrooms with Digital Content. Retrieved from

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2015). Teachers Know Best. What Educators Want From Digital Education Tools. Retrieved from

Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Dynamic Learning Project. Retrieved from

European Commission. SELFIE. Retrieved from

Feedspot. (2019, July 5). Top 75 Educational Technology Blogs and Websites for Educators. Retrieved from

Lozenski, Brian. (2012). Bringing Cultural Context and Self-Identity into Education: Brian Lozenski. Retrieved from

Johnson, Karen. (2016, March 15). Resources to Help You Choose the Digital Tools Your Classroom Needs. Retrieved from

Wakelet. Retrieved from Waklet –

Coaching the Community – becoming comfortable and courageous with digital education

ISTE Coaching Standard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from

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

Office of Education Technology. Retrieved from

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

TPACK. Retrieved from

Triple E Framework. Retrieved from

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

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

~ Simon Sinek

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

~Ann Lieberman

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

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


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

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

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

and/or read below:

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

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

When looking at this infographic:

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

Our Amazing Brain – …intelligence can be developed

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

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

Challenges – …embrace challenges

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

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

Obstacles – …persist in the face of setbacks

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

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

Effort – …See effort as the path to mastery

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

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

Criticism – …learn from others

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

…which leads us directly into….

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

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

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

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

Digital Resources:

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


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

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

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

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

Murray, Jacqui. Teach Hub Retrieved from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Branching Minds

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

Improve effectiveness of implementation, reduce burden of documentation.

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

(Branching Minds 2019)

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

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


Branching Minds (2019). Retrieved from

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

“ISTE Standards for Educators” Retrieved from

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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