Digital Learning Day 2016

“Digital media enables us to build more stages for our kids to express themselves.” – Marco Torres

National Digital Learning Day 2016 (#DLDay) is February 17th, 2016. Digital Learning Day began in 2012 as a way to ensure all students have access to high-quality learning opportunities. It is not about technology; it is about learning. Digital Learning Day promotes the effective use of today’s tools/online resources/digital content to improve the learning experiences for our students. Instruction includes opportunities for learning anytime and anywhere to ensure all students reach their full potential.

Digital Learning Day site has lots of resources and ideas that you can do with your students. Here are three more:

  1. Create a class Instagram page and have students share pictures of them using technology in the classroom. Then continue to share via Instagram the rest of the year! It’s referred to as picture blogging.
  2. As a class or in small groups rewrite (lyrics) and recreate a song that represents all the great things you have done in the classroom with technology and learning. Here is one a local school did for the Carolina Panthers to wish them luck in the SuperBowl.
  3. Have students create poems reflecting on digital tools they have used in the classroom. For examples, check out these students reflections on their school year.

I would love to know what you are going to do for Digital Learning day 2016! Please share in the comments.



“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.” By Pete Carroll

Guest Blog Post from the amazing Kenny McKee

Instructional coaches are tasked with many responsibilities. Leading and developing workshops, collaborating with PLCs, facilitating school-wide assessments, organizing learning walks, analyzing student achievement data, and various other activities all contribute to positive change in schools. However, in the proceedings and productions of these large-scale activities, oftentimes, the heart of coaching, the one-on-one coaching cycle, can fall to the wayside.

Why? To some people, the coaching conversation seems so small. Facilitating workshops and school-wide activities seems important and can make the coach feel important. Activities like these might provide justification for his or her job to wary teachers and administrators.  Let’s face it — big activities look good.  Also, it feels like we are accomplishing more (faster!) when we have lots of people involved. The coaching cycle just doesn’t seem time efficient, right?

However, much of the available research about coaching suggests that change really happens one collaboration at a time, through the use of one-on-one coaching.

So, what do I mean by a coaching cycle? Although there are many interpretations of what constitutes a “cycle”, I categorize a cycle as a professional learning sequence that includes a pre-conference, classroom instruction, and a post-conference reflection.

The classroom instruction and reflection can play out in three scenarios.

  1. The coach observes the teacher teaching a lesson and provides feedback to the teacher.
  2. The coach and the teacher plan and teach a lesson together. They then reflect together.
  3. The teacher observes the coach teaching a lesson and provides feedback to the coach.

There is still much research to be done, but studies that suggest that coaching has a positive impact on student achievement describe collaborations that I would characterize as coaching cycles.

Some studies show that teachers implement more literacy strategies in their classrooms when they work with literacy coaches (Feighan & Heeren, 2009; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). Teachers especially give high praise to one-on-one coaching when compared to traditional off-site professional development (Gross, 2010; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Of all the possible ways coaches work each day, teachers report that significant coach and teacher collaborations have the most impact upon the learning in their classrooms (Campbell & Sweiss, 2010; Gross, 2010; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Most studies show that teachers report increased student engagement and on-task behavior as results of coaching collaborations (Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). Coaching cycles help teachers make changes in their instruction because coaches can tailor data collection, planning, and advice to the individual teacher’s situation and needs.

A three-year study of elementary schools tracked the amount of time spent coaching and resulting student achievement.  The researcher used alphabet letter recognition and scores on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III (PPVT-III) to measure student achievement.  A significant correlation between time spent coaching and student achievement was found in the first year, but weak correlations were found during the following two years.  The first year both coaches and teachers had a strong focus on particular content and techniques.  They also had well-defined consultative and reflective conversation cycles.  Teachers and literacy coaches had little focus and fewer structured coaching cycles in years that yielded weak correlations.  The author suggests that more time is not as important as the “type and quality of the interaction” (Shidler, 2009). Thus, the use of structured coaching cycles and a school wide focus likely explains the greater student achievement results in the first year of coaching.

In a study of four middle schools where literacy coaching was implemented for one year,  teachers reported much higher student engagement levels, and student scores made modest gains. Baselines from the state reading test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) from the prior school year were compared to scores on both assessments after the year of literacy coaching.   Classrooms with the treatment (individual literacy coaching collaborations) increased an average of five points on the state test and seven points on the ITBS (Feighan & Heeren, 2009).

According to available research, structured coaching cycles yield a significant impact on student learning.

Lasting change happens one conversation at a time. Let’s not allow the elaborate productions of meetings, workshops, and high-stakes data blind us from what we can do that really helps teachers become better for their students: one-on-one coaching.


Campbell, M. B., & Sweiss, C. I. (2010). The secondary literacy coaching model: Centrality of the  standards and emerging paradigms. Journal of Reading Education, 35(3), 39-46.

Feighan, K., & Heeren, E. (2009). She was my backbone: Measuring coaching work and its impact. CEDER Yearbook, 67-93.

Gross, P. A. (2010). Not another trend: Secondary level literacy coaching. The Clearing House, 83, 133-137.  doi:10.1080/00098651003774844

Kretlow, A. G., & Bartholomew, C. C. (2010). Using coaching to improve the fidelity of evidence-based practices: A review of studies. Teacher Education & Special Education, 33(4). 279-299. doi:10.1177/0888406410371643

Shidler, L. (2009). The impact of time spent coaching on teacher efficacy of student achievement.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(5). 453-460.

Identity Day

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” By Walt Disney

I am always reading, looking at twitter and being a connected educator to learn from others. This week I learned about Identity Day from George Couros and I don’t know how I missed it but it is an awesome idea!

Identity Day is day dedicated to students/teachers interests that they want to share. The students (and teachers too) create a project on themselves but there is no criteria, no grade and no set topic. It is then set up like a ‘science fair’ or museum where people can go and read/talk to others.

Sound similar to Genius Hour? I thought so too but there is two distinct differences.

  1. Students/Teachers are doing a project on themselves and what they are interested in. For example: I might do a project on my favorite author because I like to read or on Yoga as that is a hobby I enjoy verse something on education because that is my passion.
  2. It is school wide and includes teachers. This builds community and culture within the school allowing students to learn about others and their teachers outside of the typical school day topics.

It was great reading on Twitter how so many teachers learned a lot of new things about their students that they wouldn’t of typically learned about in a regular school day. Here are some Identity Day resources to get it started at your school:

A Week by Week Guide to Creating a Successful Identity Day Livebinder

Their First 15 Minutes; Identity Day

Identity Day 2012

Identity Day Prezi

I would love to hear if you have implemented Identity Day and your thoughts on it! Please share in the comment section so we can all learn from each other.

“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” By David Warlick

The Learning Counsel recently printed a special report on The 71 Characteristics of Digital Curriculum. After reading it, I felt that it was important to break it further down to the top characteristics teachers should know and be aware of. Below are the top 10 characteristics in my opinion:

  • Annotating: The ability to digitally mark up content using highlights, comments etc
  • Accessibility: On and offline access to strong digital content
  • Gambling: It is not what you are thinking – example poker  – but it is when games use coins that students can spend. (Ex. Dreambox, Zeal) You should be mindful of this because in some states it is banned.
  • Virtual Reality: artificial 3D environments that is affected by as action of a person.
  • Gating: is the ability of a teacher or adaptive learning engines incorporated into the curriculum platform to determine the progress of a student through learning.
  • Portability: The ability to access and interact with content across multiple hardware devices of different operating systems etc.
  • Coding: Computer language code or an order of logical operations are created as part of earning. (There are many coding languages such as HTML, Java, Python, C++ etc)
  • Game-Based Learning:mThe practice of and demonstrating of learning through the use of a game or game-like environment. (Leaders boards, rankings, leveling up)
  • Intelligent Learning Engines: is a capability in what is known as adaptive software. The software tracks what the student gets right or wrong and  tracks a path for them based on their needs.
  • Collaborative-Ware: software tools that allow real time collaboration (Example Google Drive, OneNote)

You can read the full special report The 71 Characteristics of Digital Curriculum by Learning Counsel.


“Learning Counsel | Special Report.” 2015. 17 Jan. 2016 <>

The Internet and Your Brain

The Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.” By Andrew Brown

One of the topics I have found interesting over the last year is neuroscience, especially with the brain and learning.

Distracted? Here is how the Internet is changing your brain!

Your Brain on the Internet

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” By E.M. Forster 

Digital Citizenship is about teaching students how to appropriately use the internet. One important lesson to teach students is how to search on the internet. Often times teachers assume students know how to do this or they don’t know how to search well so they don’t teach it. For example: If they are looking for information on ecosystems often times I watch people just type in ecosystems verse being specific on what they need. Such as: ecosystems, lesson plans, 5th grade. You get very different information and we need to teach that to students.

One of my new favorite kid-friendly web search is Kiddle powered by editors and Google safe search. I like to use this site to teach students how to search but in a safe learning environment.

Here are my top 5 reasons why:

  1. Uses safe search which means there is a filter monitoring content. When you type in inappropriate content a “robot” says “Oops, looks like your query contained some bad words. Please try again!” (see image below)
  2. Uses visual search so the students sees text along with a picture for their search. Like Google you can also search by images, videos etc.
  3. Uses large font to help the readability for kids.
  4. Does not collect personally identifiable information and logs are deleted after 24 hours.
  5. You can request additional keyword blocking or additional site blocking by using the form at the bottom of the site.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 8.53.35 AM

Other good safe search engines for kids:



2016 Resolutions

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” By Melody Beattie

It is that time of year again where I reflect on my year and make some new resolutions as I think it it important to always be improving oneself.

2015’s resolutions/evolutions with reflections:

1.  Continue focusing on helping teachers make an intentional shift to personalized learning (PL). I blogged more about PL and have growth the work not only in my district but also nationally through working with PL leaders.

2. Continue to challenge myself. I am not sure how or what I will do this year but I always do as I love to learn. I learned a lot this year through challenging myself. Some things I learned was understanding the neuroscience of learning, how to write national grants and how to lead a team through ups and downs.

3. Continue to work on balancing work and life. This will forever be a challenge but I have done much better with not working on the weekends and stop working at 7:00 at night.

2016 Resolution’s (Feels weird to write 2016!)

  1. Learn three new things well. It doesn’t have to be education related and I don’t know yet what they will be but I want to make sure I master them. 
  2. Intentional Living – life is made up of choices.
    1. Do more random acts of kindness
    2. Write more thank you’s: I did an okay job of this but it was sporadic- I want to write at least two a week.
    3. Work/Life Balance – again this will always be a work in progress. ;-)
  3. Continue to grow Personalized Learning philosophy. To do this I will continue to blog about PL, read works on PL and work with PL leaders around the world as I do believe it is what is best for all students. One day PL will be just how we do instruction for todays world.

I love also hearing your resolutions or evolutions; please share in the comments.



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