Sunday, December 15, 2013

668 Final Reflection

1. What resources did I share? When looking over the course of my action research project, I think I shared a number of good resources including websites, books, and research about mentoring, technology integration, and most importantly, change.  I especially enjoyed the philosophy of adaptation assignment, as it allowed me to get back into a lot of good books I've been reading in this area lately.  I also think I shared some helpful tools via the twitter chats.

2. What did I intend to be the impact of my resources on others' learning?  I hoped that others would learn about and add to their own resources some of the new ways of thinking about teaching and learning that I have been getting into lately.  Changing the way we look at teaching in the classroom (and out), and changing the way we think about how kids learn and what they need to learn is a major shift - it's more than just adding on to the way we've always done things.  For me, it means throwing what we've done out, and starting over with a new mindset, and I've found to be a really rejuvenating way to look at the profession.

3. What actual impact could I discern?  Although I didn't get much in the way of comments on my project or presentation, it has re-affirmed for me that my partner Barbra and I are (as always) on the right track and of the same mindset regarding our project. I also thought it was nice that Courtney and a couple of others seemed to appreciate some of the resources I shared - I enjoyed my conversations with them via Twitter and the blogs. Over the course of this class you could really hear the wheels 'a turning!

4. What resources did others share that made a difference to my learning?  SO many! Overall I seemed to interact most with the blogs and work of Barbra, Courtney, Heather, and Andrea - initially because they consistently posted their blogs to Twitter and made it easy for me to find them, but then after awhile because I started to get in sync with their projects, and their thinking about the materials in this course, and it was more like an ongoing conversation. Through our Twitter chats, their blogs, and comments on my blog, I feel like this particular group really offered a lot in terms of advice, resources, and most importantly, questions that made me think about angles I had not considered before. I had some interaction with a few others in the class occasionally, and wish I had more time/opportunity to go through their work as well.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Week 12 Reflection

1. What resources did I share this week? This week I shared the data I've gathered from my mentoring project, as well as some time-tested favorites, such as the Technology Integration Matrix, my good old OPTIC observation tool, and some of the Formative Assessment Tools from the New Teacher Center.  Over the past several years, some of these frameworks have come in handy time and time again.  They give me a guideline for thinking and keeping my focus.

2. What did I intend to be the impact of my resources on others' learning? I especially like the Formative Assessment tools, such as the Meeting Log/Collaborative Log when I'm working with individual teachers over any extended period of time.  It's a great way to keep the focus and work on our goals, and a way to keep positive steps moving forward, while acknowledging and dealing with challenges that arise (clearly supported with help), and also taking a moment to celebrate the success of the progress the teacher has made.  I hope that others will use these as discussion threads when doing similar work.

3. What actual impact could I discern? Overall, I think some of my negativity about the long term effects of my efforts came through, as others expressed similar concerns with the idea that once the mentee is no longer supported on a regular basis the forward momentum may come to a slowdown or a complete halt.  One colleague took this a step further, proposing ideas for how to encourage teachers to become tech mentors for each other. In my district we do not have technology coaches, and are not likely to get one any time soon, so I think this might be a good idea to pursue.  However, she is also correct in stating that without the support of leadership for something like this, teachers would not be very motivated to add the unofficial title and duties of mentor to an already busy load of work if there was no support for such work from leadership.

4. What will I do differently next week? I need to get my head around this project in terms of how I want to frame it for research.  Reviewing my data has taken me a lot of different directions in terms of what I've learned about mentoring, technology, teacher motivation, professional development, etc. I want to find a way to prioritize my learning from this and start thinking about it from one specific purpose. Also, my final interview with my mentee is this week, so I'm sure that will add to my thinking about this.

5. What resources did others share that made a difference to my learning? Probably one of the most important things I saw was that several others in the class were using reflective logs with their mentees.  This is such a great idea (wish I'd thought of it!), as reflection is such an important aspect in our practice anyway, and writing down your thoughts about a process of learning as you experience it can be really valuable.  Being able to look back on these logs could open up so many valuable discussions - ones that would be difficult in a twice-monthly meeting where the teacher is being asked to recall all that has happened in the previous two weeks.  I'm not sure it's a practical thing to ask all the time, but when mentoring in a process that is so new to some teachers, like technology integration, it's useful to ask them to think reflectively about their practice.  I'll definitely be incorporate reflective logs in some of my future endeavors in this area - specifically technology integration!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Week 12: What are you finding as you analyze the data related to your Mentor Project?

The data I have been collecting throughout my project has taken 3 forms:
1. Meeting logs - each time I meet with my mentee, I log a 4 point discussion with her.  First, we talk about what has been working in her classroom based on the goals she has set for edtech.  This is the time we note and celebrate any successes she feels she is having.  Then we focus specifically on challenges she is having as she works toward her goals.  This could have to do with equipment issues, her own personal understandings or skills, classroom management issues, scheduling issues - anything that she feels is creating barriers to meeting her goals. After this we talk about building on the success and overcoming the challenges - she and I brainstorm ideas about some things she can do specifically to overcome a barrier, and agree that she will work specifically on these steps. Then I add a short list of things that I might also do to help her overcome these challenges.  This may mean giving her some resources, making some suggestions, modeling a lesson, or any number of things.

2. Classroom observations.  I have observed tech-specific lessons in my mentee's classroom 2 times, and once while she was in my lab teaching a lesson to her students.  During these times, we agreed that the data I would collect would have to do specifically with classroom management issues related to equipment and time, as well as her instruction to the students.

3. Interview. At the beginning of this project I sat down with my mentee for a pre-project interview.  The questions were centered around her comfort level with technology in the classroom, and her ideas about classroom management with technology (since that aspect was her biggest concern).  I intend to have a similar interview with her again soon - the post-project interview.  The questions will be mostly the same.


My mentee is a primary/early elementary teacher at my school.  I have known her for many years, and we have a good, friendly, and respectful working relationship with each other.  Her classroom has an iPad cart, which she has had for 2 years.  So far, the cart has mostly been used for free time activities or rewards.  When she approached me this year about building her class blog, I suggested she also think about making a little time to try some other things as well, with my help, and she agreed.

At the outset, my mentee expressed interest in making technology more a part of her classroom, although she only had some general ideas about how to do this.  Her biggest concerns were time, and what she perceived to be her limited skills.  She knew she wanted to create and maintain a blog for her class to build communications and connections with home, as well as to spotlight things that her students were doing.  Beyond that she was not exactly sure where or how to begin.  I see her students once a week for 30 minutes during their technology time in my classroom.  I have been doing things with the students such as building keyboard familiarity, teaching them the vocabulary of technology (desktop, dock, applications, browsers, word processing, etc), teaching them to open browsers and find a URL, and how to open applications such as Pages and PhotoBooth and work within them. Sometimes my mentee stays during this period to observe or talk with me (this is their "specials" period, which is meant to be a planning period for her).

Data Analysis:

Meeting Logs:
Over the course of the project, my mentee and I have been able to meet on 5 different occasions for the purpose of discussion of her goals and assessing her progress by completing the meeting logs. Her first goal, getting a class blog up and running, took a couple of weeks, but she eventually got it the way she liked it and found maintenance to be easy.  For her general integration goal, we had to talk a bit before we landed on an idea she liked - incorporating the iPads into her "centers" rotation during reading time.  Initially her idea was to have the students play with reading, grammar, and spelling apps during this time.  I suggested a few, and she quickly found that apps alone are only good for so long, but most are limited.  Students will become bored with them.  This then has a ripple effect on what she was most worried about in the process - classroom management of technology integration.  The meeting logs show that over the course of our mentor/mentee relationship, she was able to move to a more useful app - iTalk - which gave her and students valuable feedback about reading fluency.  Some of her anxieties about management were allayed by the implementation of checklists for students.  Overall, the meeting logs kept the goals of the project focused, and work was centered around a very specific goal and the issues that arose around that goal.

For my classroom observations, I used the OPTIC tool.  I have used this in tech integration-related research before, and found it to be a good general tool for classroom observation of effective technology integration.  Two of the observations took place in the mentee's classroom during language arts center time, when she had planned to utilize the iPads.  One of the observations took place in my classroom, as the teacher led the students through a lesson about editing in word processing.

At the time of my first observation, the teacher had recently added the iPads to the language arts center rotation, and was offering the students a choice of 3 apps to use during this time - Sentence Builder, Question Builder, and Story Builder.  I had recommended these three apps in particular to start with because they could be easily differentiated based on level of the student, and it was easy to get data from them.  The day I observed it was only the students' second day using these apps in the rotation, and their small groups of 4 spent 15 minutes in that part of the rotation with the iPads.  Students were still using the apps improperly, in that they were switching around between them a lot based on what their friends were using.  This was making it difficult if not impossible to collect any useful data from the app.  Also, students would often get confused in setting the levels.  The result of this was numerous interruptions for the teacher while she was trying to work one on one with other students during this time.

For the second observation, the previously mentioned apps were still in use, with somewhat better results.  She had taken time to re-teach how the apps should be used. Eventually though, she reported the students quickly became bored with the apps and interruptions would start again. She and I had discussed this, and so she had also added the iTalk app, and the expectation that the students would spend at least 5 minutes of their center rotation reading and recording a previously assigned piece, then emailing it to their teacher.  The teacher had set up 2 study carrels in the corner for this purpose, and during one rotation (4-5 students per rotation), 2 students used this app in the study carrels.  During the second rotation 3 students used it.  Interruption of the teacher from this group was minimal - only 4 interruptions during a 20 minute period, compared to 15 interruptions during my previous observation.

For the third observation, the teacher agreed to teach a whole class lesson on editing tools within pages to her students while they were in my class (computer lab).  She wanted to have some experience doing whole group instruction in technology with me there, before she attempted this in her own classroom.

Before this process began, my mentee and I sat down for a short pre-project interview.  I wanted to get an idea of her goals for the project, and also assess where she was (or felt she was) in her own level of readiness.  The questions were as follows:
1. What are your goals for this year in your classroom with technology?
2. How would you describe yourself as a "user" of technology?
3. What kinds of things do you think you need to learn in order to accomplish your goals?
4. How do you think technology can help your students learn?
5. How do you think technology can help you learn about your students?

During our initial interview, she made her goals clear (as indicated in our meeting logs), that she wanted to build and maintain a class blog, and work technology "meaningfully" into her language arts centers. As a "user" of technology, she seemed to have constructed two different selves to answer this question - herself as a personal consumer and user, and herself as a user of technology in her professional life.  She kept using the phrase "at home" to refer to the differences in how she used and felt about technology.  When "at home" she felt quite capable. She follows many blogs, subscribes to video channels, and vigorously bookmarks items of interest (in her browser).  However, at school, when using technology with students she felt very tentative and unsure, and kept returning to the idea of, "They are so much better at this stuff than I am."  In order to accomplish her goals, she believed that there was a literal laundry list of apps that she would have to learn to use and review, and she worried she would not have the time for this.  She was also worried about classroom management issues that could potentially arise during this time, as it was something new, and she really didn't have time to deal with hit.  Throughout her comments, she maintained that she firmly believed that there was a lot that students could learn by using the computers/iPads.  She connected this to herself, observing that she used technology a lot each day, and students would need to know how to do that.

I plan to conduct our final interview (same questions) early next week.

Overall, I have found that although on the surface, this doesn't look like much in the way of technology integration, if you look at the progress of the discussion over the course of the meeting logs, there were great strides forward in her confidence and her way of thinking about integration.  Keeping the running conversation focused on her goals and strategies to overcome barriers had the effect of greatly increasing her confidence in the process.  I believe that in the future, it is the type of thinking she will use in her approach to more integration.  It involves setting a single goal, taking steps to get started, focusing on challenges that crop up around that specific goal, and taking steps to fix them.  Part of these small successes was due to the fact that she believed that what the students were doing with the technology was worthwhile.  She believed that the data she collected from their work on the apps, and the data and feedback discussions she collected from their iTalk recordings really were great steps in improving fluency and writing. She believed that this technology component in the rotation offered the students something she would not otherwise be able to give them. In this environment, the changes were forcing her and her students to learn differently.


Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky.: CreateSpace?].

TIM: The Technology Integration Matrix | A video resource supporting the full integration of technology in Florida schools. (2011). Technology Integration Matrix. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from

NETC | Assessing Technology Integration. (2005). NETC | Assessing Technology Integration. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from

Formative Assessment and Support System. (n.d.). Formative Assessment and Support. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from

Friday, November 15, 2013

Philosophy of Adaptation

My motto for 21st century learners:
Helping children today imagine their tomorrow, and to shape the world in which they will live. 

This is a distilled version of what is more likely a vision statement: 
All children should be given the opportunity to shape their learning by communicating, creating, collaborating, thinking critically, and learning their about their place in the world as a global citizen.  These are the skills and mindsets that will prepare our children to follow their passions, and make their lives and the lives of others better in the 21st century, no matter where they are located.

This motto was influenced my my own experience and constructivist views of education and how children learn best, as well as many specific readings.  Some of the most influential readings (recently) include:

The Leader's Guide to 21st Century Education, by Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill

Change: Learn to Love It, Learn to Lead It, by Richard Gerver

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager

Why School? Why Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere, by Will Richardson

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath

Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson

Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today, by Richard Gerver and Ken Robinson

A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown

My own strategies for adapting to change really started taking shape at about the same time that I started becoming interested in educational technology.  The more I read, and the more I learned, the more I was motivated to experiment and try things in my own classroom.  Many of these new ideas were not just about technology, they were about a way of looking at teaching and learning that really solidified what my own opinions and gut feelings were, but it gave them structure and a path to move forward on. Until I opened this new door, I had felt frustrated, like my practice was stagnating.  I had a lot of ideas about education that I knew were good, but had run dry on ways to create and express these through my instruction.  The early days of building my PLN not only gave me a flood if ideas, it also opened up a collaborative world that I had been lacking.  As I learned, experimented, and taught, I found it became a never-ending spiral that continually motivated me. I'd learn something, try it out, reflect, give feedback to my PLN, deepen my thinking about the process, realize I was onto something good, and take another step. Everything I did, even the things that didn't work out so well, confirmed that overall, I was on the right path.  I was changing the way I taught.  This opened up the flood gates - it changed the way my students learned, it changed how I perceived them, it made me raise my standards for them constantly, and greatly broadened my perspectives on meaningful learning.

The great thing about this class is that it has created an opportunity for me to really focus and reflect on that aspect - change - in my own career.  Along the way, it's also allowed me the chance to have these discussions with others who are in the midst of it, or who are just beginning this journey.

How do I help my students with the concept of change? I model it for them every day. Whenever we are learning something new, I'll often thrown in a couple of new tools for them to try out that they may be unfamiliar with.  I give them a brief overview of these, with a little, "just try them out and see if you like them or can use them," encouragement.  My students trust me enough now to know that I'll have a lot of patience with a trial run, especially if it's something they think has promise - I'll respect that and give them a little extra time to learn it and work out the kinks.  They also know that when I say this there are no guarantees.  The program may not be what they need, it may be glitchy, or they may love it and it disappears next month.  This is ok, because they also know that there are probably many other, similar tools that will do the same thing.  As I keep saying, "The technology is not the thing," (maybe this should be my motto!).  One piece of software or app is not going to make or break anything - there are lots of ways of going about getting things accomplished. I try to always instill that attitude in my students, and the best way I do this is by modeling this behavior myself.  Sometimes things don't work - what can you do? Don't cry over spilt milk or end the project, simply look for something that does work. Problems like tech not working are trivial.  It doesn't change the fact that things need to get done.

Another way I feel I can help my students is by watching them, listening to them, and learning from them.  Really paying attention to how they solve problems is very revealing.  It's particularly revealing if you've given them a task that they want to do in the first place.  If they are all committed to that task because it's meaningful, really interesting, or just fun, then they are automatically committed to solving any problems that crop up along the way - they want to see it through, so stopping work is simply not an option that's even discussed. I think that this is key in teaching our kids the habits of mind they'll need to adapt to change.  We need to give them meaningful tasks and interesting problems.  If we do this, and also set our own minds to being flexible in allowing them to attack and solve them, we'll have the benefit of seeing them do some pretty incredible things to reach their goal. Having the opportunities to do this on a regular basis changes the habits of mind of our kids.  They begin to feel as though they are in charge of their learning, and they take that responsibility seriously. They are not doing this for the grade, but because they really want to know - it's a worthwhile challenge to them. Thinking and operating this way naturally makes anyone, us and our students, more readily adapt to changes.  Students know that if the goal is a worthwhile and interesting pursuit, they will have to deal with obstacles that come up along the way.

Planning for teaching this way is not always easy - we often have to do a lot of learning ourselves, and we also have to let go of some of the notions we have (get ready for some heresy) about the importance of sticking to that curriculum. On the up side, by doing this, we are often taking our students far beyond the curriculum.


Kay, K., & Greenhill, V. (2013). The leader's guide to 21st century education: 7 steps for schools and districts. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc..

Gerver, R. (2013). Change: learn to love it, learn to lead it. London, England: Penguin.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky.: CreateSpace?].

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week 10 Reflection

1. What resources did I share this week? I shared my gamer interviews, as well as some pretty good resources on perspectives in gaming in education - including one more from one of my favorites, Seymour Papert.  I also shared plenty of (probably unsolicited) opinions of my own about games thinking, student-driven curriculum, collaboration, and leadership. I guess I was feeling more opinionated than usual this week.

2. What did I intend to be the impact of my resources on others' learning? I hoped to get across the idea that not all games are created equal.  Carse's thinking on this in his book Finite and Infinite Games really nails the difference.  Even as sophisticated and engaging as most games are today, I really don't think all produce the same levels of thinking that we know are most beneficial in real life.  It's the infinite games, those that allow the user to create their own environments and challenges, and to work with groups to enrich the process that are really the gems in the bunch. I hope I communicated my thoughts on that.

3. What actual impact could I discern? I think people are interested in the Minecraft phenomenon - expect to see lots of Minecraft sessions at ASTE this year! I think teachers specifically are interested in how this could potentially impact education, because there is definitely something worthwhile going on there.  The comments on my post all echoed this idea.

4. What will I do differently next week? Since I have had a little more time this weekend (other class finished, class I'm teaching finished, son gone on basketball trip), I took more time to respond to comments on my own blog - something I'm not always good about.  I know that engaging in a conversation that I started is really beneficial, and it feels good to get back into those discussions.  I'm definitely going to continue to do that, not only on my own blog, but others' as well - so look out everyone - I'm feelin' chatty!

5. What resources did others share that made a difference to my learning? Amber shared a good article about a guy who explained some of the leadership skills he got from playing games (pointing out that we may not only be talking about computer games here - good to remember). That was an interesting perspective because he talked about personal skills, like prioritizing and focusing, but those translate into good leadership skills as well. Leadership is about more than the ability to simply motivate a group.  Also, everyone's interviews with gamers were interesting too - I saw some similarities with my own interviews, and also some responses that made me think about other ways my students game.  Barbra got me to thinking about how gaming skills translate.  I could think of some definite ways, but also that there is a difference between the types of games and the skills they teach - they don't all translate into valuable thinking skills outside of the game environment.  Infinite games seem to have a higher degree of transferable skills than finite ones do.