January 26, 2024

The Leap Forward is Coming

I’ve seen a lot of traction in education communities recently around the idea that the impact of Ai has been relatively small. The panic that rushed across the community in November ’22 seems to have subsided. And though there are some great time-saving ways to leverage Ai, education is still largely unchanged. I would agree.

This is the best way I can communicate why tools like SchoolAi represent such a big leap forward. I know the graphic is a bit general but it’s true. There is a feedback limitation on current tech tools like iReady, IXL, even Khan Academy (excluding KA’s Khanmigo), and that limitation is that while correct/incorrect information is helpful, it tells only a small fraction of the story of that learner. I still don’t know much about that learner’s perceptions, misconceptions, or their thought process. A savvy teacher will even recognize brilliance in a student’s wrong answer, and most of the adaptive platforms dominating education don’t position wrong answers in a way that allows a teacher to capitalize on them. SchoolAi, tuned chatbots, represent a paradigm shift in the actionable feedback provided to teachers.

And don’t be naive, as soon as iReady, IXL, or other MTSS tools can afford to leverage Ai, they will. In fact, if they don’t, they’ll go out of business. There won’t be a need for tools that have a large database of problems and questions. Ai will adjust complexity on-the-fly, per student. The detailed report sent back to the teacher will make current reports look silly.

Assessments in the future will likely be personalized to every learner, measuring knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation in a way that meets that learner where they are. Perhaps teachers are not distributing the same test to every student on test day. As we’ve seen thus far, progression will be different in each content area. Now that GPT-4.5 has vision, Ai will give actionable feedback on math work. Snorkl.ai, for example, is giving actionable feedback on student’s handwritten work and the student’s verbal explanation.

It’s important to remember that teachers will still have a critical role in the classroom moving forward. The movement towards learner-centered instructional models is certainly increasing.

January 21, 2024

Chatbots in the Classroom

I have noticed others in the education community signaling 2024 as the end of the “free era” of Ai tools for teachers. I believe they’re right, but I’m going to soak up the golden era of Ai for Education as long as possible. I’ve been quite fascinated with the direction of these tools and the role they may play moving forward. I recently discovered SchoolAi and I’ve had some amazing experiences with it so far. I was reflecting on one such experience and reminded myself that my compass needs to remain pointed at sound pedagogy and increasing the value of the teacher. I think it’s easy to lose our way in this landscape. The shiny new tool can be alluring, but I fear the time we’re saving can come at a cost. Don’t use a tool for the sake of using a tool. If the tool enhances the value of the teacher and contributes to sound instructional moves, then we should consider its place in our classrooms.

SchoolAi Teacher Dashboard

After a recent experience with SchoolAi, I came to the conclusion that Ai chatbots can provide an incredible opportunity to differentiate, promote deeper thinking, and evaluate learning at levels that previously required an immense amount of time. Perhaps my favorite part of SchoolAi are the live updating insights it provides the teacher. While the chatbot is simultaneously conversing with each student, it is also generating thoughtful insights, shedding light on student strengths and weaknesses, and conclusions it is making based on all the conversations. I was most impressed with the way the chatbot relentlessly probed student thinking with questions that encouraged the student to express their thinking in rich ways. In one experience, students were reviewing chapters 1-4 from The Hunger Games. The chatbot consistently asked students questions that required students to empathize with characters, connect events in the story to specific themes, and uncover additional themes of the story through plot details. These weren’t questions that could be asked in a multiple choice assessment.

I’ve since explored many other chatbots and applications in the classroom. I’ve determined that, when well designed, these experiences can be transformative. I’ll include some guidelines that I’ve come to value in my own experience creating these chatbots.

December 4, 2023

The Role of Generative Ai in the English-Language Arts Classroom

I think middle and high school English teachers are facing a moment that math teachers have faced for a number of years. Years ago, tools like PhotoMath and Wolfram Alpha became accessible for students. These tools allow students to scan math problems and it will provide them the answer with the steps worked out.
These tools have ignited calls in the math teaching community to engage in math practice that requires critical thinking and fuels sense-making, while assigning less work focused on Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs of solve, simplify, and calculate. I believe English teachers are facing the same reality right now given that students can generate text so easily with tools like ChatGPT. Will English teachers be more inclined to shift practice if the content standards update? I used to feel that may be the case, but let’s develop what’s currently happening. I think English teachers must now adapt to the ubiquity of AI-generated text. Students are using ChatGPT and similar Ai tools, whether we want them to or not. So I believe English teachers are on the cusp of being more intentional about using generative Ai to support student writing. I’m a big fan of the strategy where learners create a two-column paper and copy-paste ChatGPT’s response in one column, then the students synthesize their own response in the second column.
This strategy may become more favorable because it requires students to be open and transparent about using ChatGPT, juxtaposing Ai-generated text with their own ideas and expansions. I believe we’re nearing a moment where teachers won’t have a choice but to adopt this strategy and others. I don’t want to sound naive, either. There are plenty of teachers navigating these decisions now, but many school districts are playing catch-up with policies, while there are still concerns about student safety and compliance with FERPA and COPPA.
There have been pivotal moments throughout history where new technology was initially feared, but eventually became an accepted part of learning. Calculators in math classrooms are one such example. But we can go back even further and see that it’s fairly common for society to experience some measure of panic about new media. In 1936, St. Louis Missouri tried to ban car radios for fear that drivers would become too distracted. In 1926, The Charlotte News reported that the personal radio was keeping children up late at night and causing harm due to lack of sleep. In 1898, The New York Times panned that Thomas Edison’s phonograph would lead to fear of expression among boys. I’m not suggesting some of the recent fears around new media and technology don’t have merit, nor am I trying to minimize those pouring energy into studying the effects of new media on our young learners. Perhaps there are legitimate concerns that should be taken seriously. My point is, society has historically shifted for better or worse.
February 27, 2023
ChatGPT is like Hello Fresh, it can provide the ingredients, but the teacher is still the chef. An image of a teacher wearing a chef's hat and a sample of Hello Fresh ingredients.

Using AI Tools to Level-Up Your Teaching Game

I’ve been fascinated by the rapid growth of AI tools that support teachers. Since ChatGPT was made public back in November,  hundreds of tools have surfaced and even more ideas have been shared across social media channels. My intention is to help you sort through those tools and ideas to present to you specific ways that AI can support educators. I want to begin, though, by addressing a question that has come up frequently in my own research around this topic. Will AI replace me as a teacher? The answer, even among the most prominent voices across the landscape of education, is no. Teachers using AI tools will, no doubt, work faster and more efficient than those teachers who don’t use AI tools. That could be happening now. Charity Dodd, from Learning Innovation Catalyst (LINC), provided this illustration recently and I made it into a graphic of my own:

ChatGPT is like Hello Fresh, it can provide the ingredients, but the teacher is still the chef. An image of a teacher wearing a chef's hat and a sample of Hello Fresh ingredients.

I have previously shared my own version of 20 Ways Teachers Can Use ChatGPT to Save Time and Work Smarter and I suggest starting there if you’re still learning about ChatGPT and the kinds of prompts you can ask this AI model.

Ways Teachers Can Use ChatGPT by Derek Oldfield

Dan Fitzpatrick ran a poll on Twitter asking teachers which tasks are most likely to eat into your own personal time and the results are below.

Poll results, 250 votes, which tasks are most likely to eat into your personal time | Feedback or Grading, Planning lessons, Creating content, all of the above is highest with 38.4% of the votes
Credit to Dan for selecting these three areas of need. I support and inspire teachers primarily at the secondary level and I can echo these concerns about time spent grading or giving feedback, creating content, and planning dynamic lessons. Let’s dig into ways AI tools can support these processes.

Grading or Giving Feedback

ChatGPT generating a writing rubric for a grade 8 essay

You may be thinking, well can’t we just ask ChatGPT or other generative AI language models for a rubric based on our assignment? Yes, you can! I’m learning more and more about prompt engineering and that will most certainly be a skill we’re all going to sharpen the more we use AI tools. I really like Dan Fitzpatrick’s PREP model of prompt-writing. Let’s take this example of an 8th grade teacher. The prompt: Create a rubric for a grade 8 writing essay. You are an expert teacher. The essay is about song lyrics. Students are to select a song with lyrics that they can identify with. The essay should explain why they selected that song and how they identify with the song lyrics. Students should identify the theme and message of the lyrics in their essay.
The follow-up to that prompt would be to ask ChatGPT to score a student’s paper according to the rubric, but to be practical, we probably aren’t doing that with 120+ essays and unless you upgrade your ChatGPT account, I’m not sure you’re going to be granted that many prompts in a single day. But the ability is coming! It’s coming to word processors like Google Docs and Microsoft Word. In the near future I’m predicting we’ll be able to access generative AI like ChatGPT inside of Microsoft Word or Google Docs and the AI will provide feedback to written work automatically. For now, get inspiration for your own rubrics by brainstorming with ChatGPT.

Creating Content and Planning Lessons

This is probably the category in which generative AI has exploded the most in the recent months. I could never include every tool here, but I’ll include a few that have potential and certainly fall under the purpose of saving teachers time.

  • Curipod.ai Curipod will generate an entire interactive lesson from a single prompt. Curipod has already grown in its list of features. I imagine with enough funding this product will be around for a while. I’ll share a sample of my experience with Curipod, but you can access the video of my initial experience here. My opinion: this might provide ingredients, but as I often do with recipes, I would add a bit of my own spice to this lesson. Could this save time? Absolutely.Curipod is generating a lesson from the following prompt: Introduction to Photosynthesis
  • Conker.ai takes a single prompt and generates assessment questions from that prompt. The questions can then be exported into a Google form. So in a matter of seconds, teachers can have formative assessment questions in a Google form.Conker.ai generating assessment questions from a prompt: Create a quiz with 5 questions for grade 5 students about the water cycle.
  • ChatGPT can build an impressive lesson with the right prompt(s). In this sample, I take the PREP model and ask for a lesson generated from a TedTalk topic. The TedTalk is on YouTube. If a teacher was using an article or a video as the center of their lesson, ChatGPT can generate a lot of content based on that video or article. For the YouTube video, I copied the transcript of the video and pasted that into the prompt using the PREP model. My entire prompt:
    Write a lesson. You are an expert at writing quality lessons that engage students and progress their learning. Write a set of lesson objectives. Create an engaging opening task that sets the context for the lesson. Write three paragraphs based on the content. Use short sentences that are packed full of meaning and key learning content. Include a multiple choice question at the end of each paragraph that tests students learning of the paragraph. Add the answer for the teacher. Add a list of subject-specific terms and simple definitions. Write a set of questions based on the content. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy. Create a group task based on the content. This is for grade 6 students. Make the reading age 12 years old. The content: (I pasted the transcript of a YouTube video)ChatGPT generating an entire lesson using the PREP model

    This was one of my most impressive results from ChatGPT but I think it was most impressive because the prompt was of higher quality. The better the prompt, the better the result. The questions were great, the group project was good. These were good ingredients that likely would yield a palatable dining experience on their own. Would this save teachers time? Yes. 

  • Charity Dodd @CharityDodd introduced me to this idea and I think it has merit. Teachers can use ChatGPT to provide an adaptive assessment to students. I see this working most effectively as a student-led station. ChatGPT will provide questions to students and will increase or decrease the complexity of those questions based on the student response. With the right prompt, this will work.
    You will create an adaptive assessment. You will generate a reading passage for a grade 5 student. You will create a reading comprehension question. If I answer the question correctly, you will ask a harder question. If I answer the question incorrectly, you will ask an easier question.
    Obviously my prompt below was based on reading comprehension but this could be math problems, science concepts, or almost any topic you happen to be studying. The key, again, is in the prompt. What was not captured in the GIF below? I got an answer wrong just after the video cut. ChatGPT not only provided the correct response but it provided supporting details directing me to that information in the passage. That’s amazing.
    ChatGPT is creating an adaptive assessment by generating a reading passage and asking more or less complex questions about that passage based on the answer provided by the human.


Dan Fitzpatrick released this article over the weekend titled 21 Ways to be a Leader in the AI Era.

For the education system to survive and adapt to the rapidly changing world we find ourselves in, our leaders must embody courage and innovation, fearlessly taking the necessary steps to empower their students and staff to thrive in the AI revolution.

Original from The AI Educator at https://thirdbox.org/

His call is clear and powerful.

A rush of tools and ideas have surfaced since ChatGPT became public on November 30, 2022. That trend will likely continue if not increase in its potency. Districts, schools, and leaders alike will need to sort through these tools to empower their staff to get better results, save time, and improve learning. I like this matrix related to ChatGPT and pedagogy. I used this filter when deciding which tools to share in this post and I think it’s a necessary frame to keep around during this time.

A correlation matrix with quality of pedagogy on the y-axis and quality of prompt on the x-axis. The greatest quadrant in the upper right says work with AI to get better results, hours of time saved, learning is improved. That's the goal.

Original from The AI Educator at https://thirdbox.org/

May 24, 2022

The Wretched Zero

Is there a more divisive and combative conversation to have with a staff than the zero? Just ask the question, What should a student receive when they don’t submit their work? Let’s clarify, we’re talking about the zero on a traditional 100-point scale. For the purpose of this post, we’ll assume the traditional 10-point intervals in the 100-point scale. I am aware this varies wildly if you check schools, districts, or even states across the US.

I’ll begin by saying that many schools and districts have attempted to have this conversation, but some have back-pedaled when the explosion of deep emotions erupted across the school or district. The enemy here is not the zero. The enemy is the 100-point scale, and I’ll do my best to explain.

A zero on a 100-point scale is mathematically inequitable. The entire scale is too heavily weighted on the side of failure. When giving a 0, we actually give a student a score that is worse than failure.

K is for “kill grade”

If you look at the images above, you can see equal intervals between the other letter grades, but there’s this huge gap when we get to F. We could argue over what an A means, what a B means, or what a C means, but let’s hold that for another post. Whatever your descriptors are, F has to mean failure. In the traditional 100-point scale, it would appear there are degrees of failure. Take these humble descriptors as an example:

The zero has an undue deflationary effect on a student’s overall average, the same way the scale would have an undue inflationary effect if we flipped it.

I’ve never seen a teacher give a student a 140 on a test. I imagine they would look at me sideways if I asked them why. Of course, a 140 would be an inaccurate score that would inflate the average of the grade. The zero on a 100-point scale is just as inaccurate and just as deflating to that average score. Let’s do an experiment.

As you see above, the student received a zero and after 11 additional 85s in the gradebook, the student still had not raised the grade back to a B. This is an example of the hole a zero places students in, and it represents the deflationary effect a zero has on the average. The student who received a zero has little motivation moving forward because their grade has been falsified by the impact of the zero.

Let’s compare the effect of the zero versus establishing a floor of 50. Some schools or districts choose to use a 50 to represent missing work because the 50 maintains the equal intervals 100-90, 89-80, 79-70, 69-60, 59-50.

I appreciate the work of so many educators who influenced my thinking on this topic several years ago. Alexis Tamony created a wonderful YouTube video where she displays and discusses this very topic and I appreciate her influence on this post. Despite the evidence presented, I’m not naive. This is still a hard philosophical pill to swallow. I recommend schools and districts seriously consider moving to a scale where a zero makes sense. We use a 4-point scale to calculate GPA, for example. An A is worth a 4, B is a 3, C is a 2, D is a 1, and F is a 0. In this scale, educators could use zeroes that make sense. There are plenty of conversion charts out there if you feel the need to convert these to percentages. The use of percentages are primarily used to rank and sort students. Are there additional advantages to using a smaller scale? Yes! Inter-rater reliability increases dramatically when using a smaller scale. Think about it, can a human really discern learning to 101 different levels (0-100)? No. Can you really communicate the difference between a 78 and an 82?

There also seems to be this fear among some educators that if we establish a floor of 50, some students might do nothing until the end of the grading period where they turn in 2-3 assignments and suddenly they have a passing grade. Here’s an example:

The student had ten scores during the grading period and seven of those were a 50 for missing or deficient work. You see the student submitted three assignments and scored an 85 on those three, which has raised the average to a 60.5, barely a passing score (D) on the traditional 10-point intervals. This leads us to my final consideration. Measuring and communicating learning is very much a human act requiring professional judgment. Educators dismiss this act far too often by allowing computers and phony math to place the final declaration of learning on a student’s grade. As professionals, we should be using professional judgment anytime we place a grade. What would you do in this situation?

February 18, 2022

Reflections from PETE&C – Taking Notes

*Cough *Cough *Brush the dust off this blog.

*Clears throat. I had the great pleasure of attending PETE&C last week, the statewide educational technology conference in Pennsylvania. Where we live in WV, the conference is about 90 minutes away and always provides a quality experience for educators. I was part of a number of teachers, technology integration specialists, and district-level instructional technology staff that attended from my district. Before we left, my team and I shared a OneNote Notebook with those attending from our district and challenged them to create new pages in the notebook and capture some of their learning during or after the sessions they attended.

Screenshot of a section in the notebook

We returned from the conference Thursday February 10. On that day, Matt Miller at DitchThatTextbook released a blog post titled Is Student Note-Taking Relevant in Classes Today. It’s an incredible post and you should check it out. Matt’s post caused me to reflect on the reasons why myself and others in my team engaged in note-taking during PETE&C.

When we consider the value of note-taking for today’s students, I think we’re sometimes guilty of imposing our own history of schooling and what worked for us, on the learners in our classes today. I find myself doing that in other circumstances as well, but we need exercise caution because today’s students are growing up in and preparing for a world vastly different than the one we experienced in school. One idea Matt posed in his blog post was this understanding that educators attended college and received a degree, so we have a tendency to lean on the “note-taking prepares students for college” reason for copious note-taking in our classrooms. But college isn’t for everyone and college courses can sometimes represent the worst in pedagogical practices. When I think back to my own college courses and the ones that stuck with me. They included hands-on labs, field experiences, observations, and clinical work. I recall sitting in a lecture hall with 200 other students in Biology 101, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing I learned in there.

I think we owe our students rich opportunities to activate the brain in complex ways during class. This can include forms of note-taking. I also think we owe ourselves the chance to step back and reflect on how our students take notes, the reasons why we’re taking them, and if there’s any value in that experience.

February 9, 2021

Blended Learning Playlists

playlist is a sequence of resources or activities for a student to complete. I’ve been experimenting with the notion of learning pathways or learning playlists for a few years now. Unbeknownst to me, a pandemic would strike in the spring of 2020 and this pedagogical concept would become an easier embrace during this challenging time for teachers. I admit, it’s a paradigm shift, but bare with me through this post.

The image above represents a playlist for students in a high school geometry course. As you can see, the playlist begins by clearly stated learning targets derived from content standards. Choosing the targets, the end destination, is the first order of business when designing your own playlist. The teacher will need to consider the length of time required for students to acquire the concepts included in those targets. Is there a specific length of time that works better than others? In my experience, the longer the playlist, the more likely it is for students to lose their location or their purpose. You’ll have a better understanding of what that means in just a moment. I typically shoot for 10 instructional days.

First, let’s take a look at the research that serves as the foundation for this pedagogical shift.

Author of the book Drive, Dan Pink describes intrinsic motivation as motivation 3.0. This notion is developed from bodies of research around motivation. Dan uncovers several studies that reveal the dangers of if-then rewards, or carrots and sticks. It turns out, carrots and sticks can do serious harm to a student’s desire or motivation to learn. This seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? Education has been employing carrots and sticks for years. Wasn’t Pavlov’s dog offered a reward for behavior? Dan breaks down motivation into extrinsic and intrinsic. One such study including MIT students reveals some truth around carrots and sticks. A group of students were given some games, complex games that involved creativity, concentration, and motor skills. Their performance was incentivized based on three levels of performance. The highest performers would receive the greatest reward. The results were clear. Incentives worked as expected for tasks that required purely mechanical skill. Once the task involved any amount of creativity or critical thinking, rewards led to poorer performance. This study was repeated over and over, even in contexts where monetary rewards would mean more, but the results were the same. Carrots and sticks work for low level tasks that don’t require much thought. But if the task increases in complexity, rewards actually damage performance. As Edward Deci, Richard Ryan, and Richard Koestner explain, ‘Rewards do not undermine people’s intrinsic motivation for dull tasks because there is little or no intrinsic motivation to be undermined.’

Dan uncovers three primary drivers to amplify intrinsic motivation – autonomy, mastery, and purpose. You’ll see these drivers threaded throughout the learning playlists. It’s a misconception to think we design these playlists and set students off on an independent journey hoping they make it to the end. That is not the case. The playlists do involve a healthy measure of autonomy as we allow students to navigate through the playlist at their own place. Whole-group activities are done together as a class. Students have little say in when those are completed, but they do have some control over their independent work. In a traditional model of schooling, there are a number of constants in the learning equation. Time, practice, and assignments are all constants defined by the teacher and applied equally to the students. The teacher decides what assignments to complete, when they are due, the numbers of problems, and more. Learning is the variable in this model. Some students learn it all, some students learn parts of it, some students learn very little. The blended learning playlist flips the script. Time, practice, and assignments become a variable, and learning becomes the constant.

Checkpoints or progress checks are critical to the success of the playlists. If students are never asked for check their progress against a formative assessment, they are never informed of their location, their success, or their next steps in the journey. As you can see, the playlists offer strategically placed checkpoints that are designed to inform students about whether to move forward in the playlist, backward, or stay put. The majority of the independent work in the playlist is computer adaptive, meaning the software adjusts inputs based on student outputs. There is constant feedback provided to the learner. What might take me 18 problems to demonstrate proficiency, might take another learner 12 problems. That personalization is allowed within the system.

John Hattie’s meta-analysis of over 1200 bodies of research on instructional practices is fascinating. This blog isn’t about his research but you can read about how he determined the hinge-point for effect sizes. According to Hattie, 0.40 represents a year’s worth of achievement for a year’s input using that specific strategy. Any strategy with an effective size greater than 0.40 has an influence greater than a year’s worth of growth. 0.80 would represent a strategy that yield’s two year’s worth of growth. 1.20 would represent three years of growth, an incredible influence on student achievement.

Self-assessment and self-efficacy are among the highest influences when it comes to strategies that yield high achievement. Self-assessment is threaded throughout the playlist. Putting students in control of their pace by informing them of their progress through feedback becomes a powerful influence fueling intrinsic motivation. Self-efficacy refers to one’s confidence to complete tasks or exert control over their motivation. Students are in control of their own mastery inside the playlist. They can complete independent work until they demonstrate proficiency. They can retake progress checks, and they get at least two takes on the summative assessment at the end. The clear learning targets, the map of the journey, and the pursuit of mastery all contribute to a greater purpose. Learners become involved in the process advancing towards a specific goal.

What does the teacher do? It’s a mistake to think the teacher sits at the desk with his/her feet up. The teacher is furiously referencing the feedback provided by the adaptive platforms students utilize for independent work. The teacher is also diagnosing misunderstanding or misconceptions provided during whole-group experiences. The teacher uses this information to make decisions about small groups and seating arrangements. The teacher spends a considerable amount of time on a knee or seated at a desk beside students asking questions and listening to gauge understanding.

There is a noteworthy connection between the tasks a teacher chooses to include in the playlist and Bloom’s taxonomy. Computer adaptive platforms have their place in blended learning, but as long as teachers understand their limitations. My whole-group experiences are rich and require intellectual agility in order to complete. These tasks require students to analyze, compare strategies, evaluate work, and create.

The most common concern at this point becomes “do students navigate all playlists at their pace? How do you manage the chaos when students are working on different playlists?” Students move to the next playlist together with their classmates. I never have more than one active playlist at a time. In my experience, this is the best way to do it. What if students aren’t ready to move on? Believe it or not, that rarely happens. Why? The classroom culture transforms to a degree that classmates just don’t allow other classmates to fall behind. If I’m doing my job, analyzing the feedback, and making informed decisions about who to spend time with, and what seating arrangements would maximize students’ strengths, then the gap between the first student and the last student never grows too wide. I’ve done this in the secondary classroom with over 100 students and I’ve never felt bad about moving to the next playlist.

In conclusion, I want to wrap this up with the best representation of equality vs equity that I’ve ever seen. This is relevant to learning playlists because I hope you can see the value in giving students what they need to succeed. This is a theme throughout the playlist. Students are provided what they need to succeed, not equal portions of time, practice, and assignments.

Image Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

July 24, 2020

Power-Up Your Course Organization and Lesson Planning

One of the many lessons learned during the last quarter of the 19-20 school year was how critically important it is to organize your course in a student and family friendly manner. We were all caught off guard by how suddenly we were tossed into an entirely new model of schooling. For many, there just wasn’t enough time to refine course layout, reconsider our folder structures, etc. I hope this post provides you with some inspirational ways to layout your course content this upcoming school year. Let’s not kid ourselves either, reorganizing our courses will only enhance the student experience even if we find ourselves back in a face-face model of schooling.

I really like these samples from two fabulous teachers at Mill Creek Intermediate – Joanna Smith & Tiffany Quade. I used the drop-down to display the inside sections of one of the folders.

Joanna Smith


Tiffany Quade

Need to know what you missed on Tuesday April 28? ☑️

What are we doing this Friday? ☑️

Where do I find the assignment we did last week? ☑️

Want an easy-to-read overview of the week? ☑️

Are there embedded videos showing me how to do this work? ☑️

What are the learning goals for my child this week? ☑️

Continue reading

June 28, 2020

What I Hope Teachers Learn From Our Summer PL Courses

As I imagine many school districts were doing this summer, my district, Berkeley County Schools (WV), unleashed a robust series of courses for teachers to complete over the summer. I had the fortune of being on a small team of three that designed and is currently facilitating the learning. The courses were voluntary. Given the experience everyone was thrust into suddenly last spring, high quality professional learning was a critical priority for BCS this summer. Even though no one knew what to expect for the 20-21 school year, we decided to prioritize a learning experience that would immerse teachers in a model that they could transfer no matter what the 20-21 school year looks like.

We use Schoology in our district so we facilitated the teacher courses through that LMS. We created three courses, beginnerintermediateadvanced. The first task for our teachers was to create a sandbox course they would use to produce the content they would need to complete the assignments in the PD courses. We designed our courses with assignments that required teachers to create, organize, share, capture, and submit evidence in order to receive credit for the assignments. We partnered with Shepherd University to offer our teachers 3-hours of graduate credit for completing all three courses.

According to my count, we have about 30 assignments that are required in order to receive credit for completing all three courses. There are certainly some very explicit outcomes throughout the courses. Several assignments required our teachers to create video content and embed it in their sandbox course. Other assignments required our teachers to create tech-enhanced questions using Schoology’s assessment creator. Our teachers were required to submit evidence of their ability to generate a Microsoft Teams Meeting, invite their students, record a mini lesson, and post the link to that recording in their sandbox course. These are just a few of the explicit outcomes that appeared throughout the course.

There are also a number of implied outcomes that I hope our teachers are aware of as they complete these courses.

At this point, three educators are facilitating learning for over 500 educators. There’s no way we could successfully do this by replicating the traditional face-face model of schooling (or sit-n-get PD) that we have known for over a century. At the end of each course, our teachers are required to submit to a discussion communicating what they learned in the course and how they intend to use what they learned. It’s also an opportunity for our teachers to provide feedback about the course. The response we’ve received so far is overwhelmingly positive, but the most common piece of feedback we receive is in reference to the instructional design.

I hope our teachers recognize the value in outsourcing the transfer of information. Sharon Dove, Sharon Collins and I outsourced the majority of our content by utilizing Youtube videos, Help Support in our various platforms, and we created our own instructional content in video/screencasts. This alone allowed us to personalize path, place, and pace for every participant. The result is each participant’s experience becomes unique. This new model of education will place a new premium on face-face time, it’s important that we reevaluate what we do during that time.



I use this image as part of a presentation on healthy and effective grading practices, but it applies here. The outcomes for the course are the same for everyone, but the experience, the paths to mastery, and even the evidence submitted can involve choices.




I really like this graphic from George Couros:

From George Couros


It makes so many connections to the overall experience our learners have had during these courses. There are many school contexts represented in our courses, spanning from Prek-12.






I hope teachers realize the pedagogical connections to their own courses. Many teachers commented about the value of utilizing video or audio in directions, for example. Multimodal directions must become routine for all educators. It reminded me of Holly Clark’s new post at The Infused Classroom




I hope teachers recognize what they could do with face-face time. For example, we chose to outsource the bulk of our instruction or the transfer of information. For the purposes of our courses, we didn’t have to include any whole-group experiences, though our teachers will certainly want to do that to some degree. I hope they realize what they could do during that time if they were liberated from delivering content or providing instruction. During the summer courses for teachers, my face-face time with learners has been spent diagnosing misunderstandings, brainstorming practical applications to their specific school contexts, and giving feedback on work submitted by our learners. That’s purposeful use of the most valuable time we have with our learners, and that represents a learner-centered step in instructional innovation.

Leave a comment if this has stirred some thought about the pedagogical impacts of this new model of schooling.

Posted with permission

Posted with permission

Posted with permission

One of the assignments in the course was to use a multimedia tool we have available to us through MyVRSpot, and create a class newsletter to keep families up to date on what’s happening. I loved this example and received permission to share.

June 4, 2020

Developing Metacognition & Executive Functioning

I completely agree with Tiffany Wycoff’s recent response in tweet:

This is the perfect moment to leap forward and I believe teachers have acquired a tremendous amount of new skill that may serve them well as they move towards a learner-centered model. Let us be careful to provide support, not just technical support, but pedagogical support as we navigate these new waters.

As teachers begin to shift the ways they lay out content, provide instruction, curate student work, provide feedback, and measure learning, it is ever more important to be intentional about the ways in which we develop metacognition and executive functioning skills.

“The ability to think about what we are learning, how we are learning, what we want to learn in the future are important skills that must be explicitly taught in classrooms.” – Catlin Tucker
How can teachers incorporate intentional opportunities for kids to reflect on and monitor metacognition and executive functioning skills? If schools begin in a remote setting, it’s going to be critical that we provide our students real opportunities to talk about, reflect on, monitor, and track progress across skills like time management, task initiation, persistence, and more. 
*Flipgrid – Include a weekly topic designed to allow students an honest place to reflect on how they’re learning, whether their phone was a distraction, how they mitigated distractions, the role their earbuds play in learning, etc.
*A simple page in a notebook designed to allow students to place a point on a number line tracking progress across any skill.
*A correlation chart
*A discussion post – collect video or audio responses
*SMART Goal Setting
*End of the week exit ticket (Google Form, Microsoft Form, etc)
*Self-assessment doc
Click here for a Word version of the template below. Click here for a Google Doc version of the template below.
I think you’ll like this Powerpoint/Slides/Keynote template. I created templates for the six middle schools, but they can be easily edited to reflect any of the BCS schools. Click here to download the Powerpoint templates yourself.