Reflecting on Passion and Curiosity

Summer is the optimal time to reflect for teachers. I ask myself questions like: Was I able to teach kids the standards? Which units need tweaking? Did the lessons help kids reach their targets? Were kids engaged?

An aspect that often times gets overlooked as teachers reflect, and sadly, does not have a standard tied to it, is passion. According to Thomas Friedman, a person’s passion quotient (P.Q.) and curiosity quotient (C.Q.)will determine the winner’s of the competitive economy (2013). In an effort to reflect on how I model and foster passion and curiosity in the classroom I have created the Thinglink below.  Thinglink is a free digital tool that is an excellent medium for kids to display their own passions and curiosities.  The background of my image was taken from  The rest of the image I created using Google Draw.

As you take time to reflect this summer, be sure to think about how you share your passion and creativity with your students, and help them find value in their own!

Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. Retrieved June 26, 2016, from

M. (2009, April 15). Aqua Heart Wallpaper [Digital image]. Retrieved June 26, 2016, from


Reimagining Online Learning through Personalized Learning

Recently, Megan, Amy, and I have been researching the “wicked” problem described by the New Media Consortium as reimagining online learning.  As we trudged through the messiness of online learning we discovered what makes this such a wicked problem. As mentioned in a previous post, check out what makes this a wicked problem in the infographic below.


After much research, we pose the following solution to reimagining online learning.

Is Your Information Diet Healthy?

We’ve all been on a diet a time or two…  Eat more vegetables, less sodium, cut out carbs. What we have usually discovered is that a well-balanced diet is needed to maintain our health.  This is also true for our information diet.  According to James Paul Gee, “What if human minds are not meant to think for themselves by themselves, but, rather, to integrate with tools and other people’s minds to make a mind of minds?” (2013 p. 153). social-media-network-connection-doodles_GyHqG5uOSince Minds (capital M as Gee describes them) are made up of the thoughts and ideas of more than one mind, it is important that people take a close look at the information diet they are taking in, and be sure that it is well balanced with multiple perspectives.  Eli Pariser (2011) describes how the internet is designed in such a way that caters to our very likes and blocks out our dislikes.  This, though unintentionally, causes us to be in a filter bubble that allows us to only hear the ideas and views of people that happen to share our own.  This can cause people to think that one’s own view must be right because everyone seems to agree with it!

My current Master’s course at MSU, Applying Educational Practices to Technologies, suggests that I take a closer look at the disadvantages of staying closed up in my own comfy bubble.  The course challenges me to add new contacts, or to follow new groups, that may have views that may oppose mine, or that I don’t normally hear.  The first person I followed was AlexHernandez@thinkschools.   Alex is a partner at the Charter School Growth Fund.  It’s not that I am against charter schools- it’s more that I don’t often hear the case for them or what they are doing to provide a good learning environment for kids.  While I work for a public school, following Alex at Think Schools will help me have a healthy infodiet and see other people’s perspectives.

Another group I followed was Families4ExcSchools@Fam4ExcellentSchools.  I originally thought this would not be a new perspective for me.  I mean I am a parent of three, and I do want excellent schools.  After I followed them for awhile, however, I realized I hear things through the group from parents that are having issues with schools that I wouldn’t have thought of in my own bubble.  It is beneficial for me to be aware of these issues to help me constantly be striving for my own excellence as a teacher.

The final group I followed was NWEA The Northwest Evaluation Association.  This is a complicated follow for me.  I understand why we use it, I understand how it can be used to help kids, but I don’t always agree with how it is actually used.    Following NWEA helps me keep an open mind regarding standardized tests in the classroom.  It helps me develop an understanding of what the assessment was intended to do.

Adding some new groups to my infodiet has helped me to ensure I am taking in information in a well-balanced fashion.  In an effort to dodge a crash diet, once my one-sided diet has gotten too unhealthy, I have started to eat my vegetables now.  Don’t get trapped in your filter bubble- start a well-balanced diet!



Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Pariser, E. (2011, March). Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” [Video file]. Retrieved from

Photo from

Questioning the Institution

“In Adam’s fall, We sinned all…The idle Fool, Is whipt at school…”  This quote is taken directly from a textbook, The New England Primer, used in the 18th, and early 19th New_england_primercenturies. (n.d.)  The rhymes were used to teach children the letters of the alphabet.  This doesn’t seem too far off from some of the techniques used in the institution of schools today.  With the advancements and ever changing technologies of our society, why is it that school institutions still resemble the past?  What limitations prevent us from solving this big, complex problem smartly?

Read more as I reflect on James Paul Gee’s chapter Institutions and Frozen thought, out of his book The Anti-Education Era- Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning here.

Gee, J. (2013). Institutions and Frozen Though. The Anti-education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. (pp. 85-93). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

New England Primer, (1960), Public Domain. Retrieved from:

“The New England Primer” Digital Collection. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2016. <>.

Page Eraser to aid Visual Processing

According to Hulse, and Dudley, “Visual processing determines how we interpret, act and think about the world around us” (2010 p. 269).  Visual processing is a function of our brain that children use when learning.  While there are many facets to the complex process of vision and the cerebral cortex, teachers have the responsibility to respond to the need of students which have visual processing disabilities; including visual figure ground discrimination.  Visual figure ground discrimination is the ability to distinguish an object from it’s background or busy surroundings.  Students with a figure ground disability may have trouble finding their place on a page.  This can be even more prominent when students are attempting to focus on a specific area on a busy web page.  Often times web pages are inundated with sections of words, pictures, advertisements, flashing lights, banners, and so on.   This can make reading for information difficult for many people, and even more so people with a figure ground discrimination disability.  


One way that teachers can support students with visual figure ground disabilities is with the Chrome Extension Page Eraser.  Page Eraser is free and easy to use.  page eraserOnce signed into Chrome, the extension can be added through the Web Store.  This extension allows students (or teachers for the young child) to get rid of distracting unnecessary information on a webpage.  By opening the desired page and clicking on the extension icon, Page Eraser is turned on and the user can click on the specific sections that are not needed.  A helpful detail of this extension is that it is very section specific.  It is easy to pick every little detail to remove from the page, as well as leave every little detail that is important for the student to see.  When a person has poor visual efficiency skills, it can lead to confusion or a distortion of the information that the person is aiming to acquire (Hulse & Dudley, 2010). With the use of this tool, students are empowered to use the web regardless of how overwhelming web pages can be.  A specific affordance of Page Eraser that I did not find with other tools for cleaning web pages was that the user has the options of clicking exactly what they do not want on the page. However, the Chrome Extension Readability was a close runner up.  Readability offers more features, like emailing, saving pages, read now, read later, and syncing with your Kindle. Conversely, Page Eraser offers simplicity for the young students I work with that really just need to clear the page of junk.

If you have experienced this problem of practice in the classroom, and want to give Page Eraser a try, please check out this video. In it, I show how Page Eraser works and how it can benefit children with figure ground discrimination disabilities.  The extension can actually be of benefit to many children even if they do not have a disability, but rather just need assistance focusing on the reading material. Children can also practice building up their figure ground discrimination by playing games like this.  If you have any other tips for aiding children with visual figure ground discrimination disabilities, please comment below!

Hulse, P., & Dudley, L. (2010). Visual perceptual deficiencies in the brain injury population: Management from start to finish. NeuroRehabilitation, 27(3), 269-274. Retrieved from

Creating an Online Course Module

Changing how we teach.  This can be a touchy subject for some teachers.  It can feel risky, uncomfortable, and even scary.  According to a meta-analysis of empirical literature “…purely online learning has been equivalent to face-to-face instruction in effectiveness, and blended approaches have been more effective than instruction offered entirely in face-to-face mode” (Means, Toyama, Murphy, & Baki, 2013).  In elementary, specifically in my 5th-grade classroom, this is a risk I am willing to take.  It’s not that I am changing apps treeeverything, rather I am offering my students options with path, pace, and place.  I am an avid Google user.  My district is a GAFE district.  I use Hyperdocs to create lessons, and Google Forms to formatively assess.  This year I took it one step further and created a hybrid blended course.  To begin, I looked at what it is I expect my students to know at the end of the unit. That was simple enough.  Next, I needed to choose a course management system (CMS).  This would house my content and be the platform which my students would interact with.  While there are many options for a CMS, I considered cost, simplicity, and GAFE integration. After checking out some very nice options (Haiku, Schoology, and Weebly), I decided on Weebly.  Originally, I thought of Weebly as just a website host, I see now that I can use it to create an interactive module for my students.  The affordances of Weebly (the free version) are that my students do not need to login to access content, I can embed GAFE right on the site, and I can completely design the way I want the pages to be laid out.  I needed to think about if the CMS could enable me to meet the goals I have for my students.

Once I settled on the technical how for my course, I needed to think about the how for my hybrid pedagogy. I knew that I wanted the students to take an active part in learning the content.  I also wanted them to be given some choices and multiple ways to engage in the content, as well as show what they’ve learned.  I first created sort of a rough draft of a course.  Each lesson had a standard shell I wanted to follow: Engage, Explore, Apply. Then, I went in and put the student learning goals in each lesson.  I then thought about how I would be assessing them and how could I create activities that would enable my students to meet the goals I am assessing.  Based on Universal Design for Learning good teaching provides multiple modes of engagement, representation, and expression to foster individual variability (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014 p. 46).  After I created the initial course, I went through it and adjusted a few things to try to further meet the needs of my students.  I added captions to pictures, underlined hyperlinks that were initially a different color, and within my course I added primary sources in the format of pictures, readings, and audio within the social studies context.  I also added collaborative opportunities for the students via online asynchronous discussions and collaborative work via a Google Hyperdoc.  I chose tools that would enable me to create this type of environment with my students.  By utilizing Google Classroom and Google Doc’s my students will create a notebook which is one way I will be formatively assessing and giving feedback.  The document houses graphic organizers and student reflection questions.  The students will also be reflecting on their learning targets in the document. Once I was finished designing the course, I completed an alignment table to be sure my assessments matched up with my goals, and my activities matched up with my assessments.  There were some things I needed to change to make sure I am reaching the intended goals, as well as some activities that weren’t necessary to meet the goals.   

I look forward to trying out the unit with my students.  The online survey that I ask my students to take when they finish the course, along with my teacher reflection, will help me reflect and adjust the unit for future use.  I will continue to take risks and try new things with my students.  How can I not when they are different every year?

Check out my unit here.unit cover page

Means, Barbara, Yukie Toyama, Robert Murphy, and Marianne Baki (2013). The Effectiveness of Online andBlended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature  Web. 24 Apr. 2016
Meyer, A., Rose, D., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice. Wakefield, MA: Cast Incorporated.

Reflecting on CEP 811

As I wrap up my Adapting Innovative Technologies to Education class at MSU, I am reflecting on what new thinking I have and how I will use that moving forward as an educator.  You will notice in my next steps, one of them is repeated.  This is not a mistake.  I believe this is an important step for me to cultivate the making learning environment.

Reflections of CEP 811

Assessing for Creativity

At a pivotal time in education, whether teachers are taking a plunge, or dipping their toes in the Maker Movement, we are inevitably thinking about assessment. Assessment is a big idea in our practice and comes from all directions.  Districts Girl in eyeglassesexpect it, parents want it, teachers need it, and most importantly our students do too!  This is not a new idea for teachers.  You start with your standards, what must our students know, you think about how will we know when they’ve got it… you plan your learning activities… and so on.  On the other hand, what about the 21st century
skills we know employers seek in our students? Specifically creativity!  Can, or better yet, should creativity be assessed?

As seen in some studies, such as this one at Green Street Academy, in spite of best practice instruction, students were still missing the critical thinking aspect of learning (Isslehardt, 2013).

This need, in order for our students to survive in a society that asks for more than low-level service work, requires creativity (Gee, 2008). Well, how do we know when a student “has it”?  As an educator charged with the assessment of student learning, I would assess creative problem solving during maker-inspired lessons by implementing the following practices in the classroom:

Grading for Impact:  This practice entails teachers and students looking at the work based on how it impacts the audience.  Content and process are still factors, yet students are thoughtful about how the student’s product impacts the intended audience and the level of engagement that will be attained.  Students engaging their audience (whether through a writing piece, presentation, video or so on) is a natural catalyst for intrinsic motivation.

Student Reflection:  The benefits of student reflection in the classroom are abundant. Using this practice for creativity will undoubtedly have the same effects.  I will go over a version of Wiggins rubric for creativity with my students and discuss what it means to them.  We will brainstorm how to achieve these types of results, and what it means to be creative.  As a class we will look at examples of creativity both teacher and student selected.  We will use the rubric to grade the examples we find, then discuss together how the examples could be modified to effectively reach the intended audience creatively.

Peer Review: Through peer review I will give my students many opportunities for revision and feedback.  When peer review is used effectively and students are given time to modify and revise work before the final performance or due date, they are more likely to make the suggested modification.  When students are given feedback only after the due date or final performance, students generally no longer have the motivation to make the adjustments.

As Wiggins points out, we are deceiving the learner if we do not address the level of engagement and creativity of their work (2012).  This may be new and uncharted territory but well worth the moments of discomfort teachers might feel.  It will take multiple attempts to find what is just right for teachers and students. Therefore yes!  Assess creativity!


Gee, J. P. [Edutopia]. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on grading with games [Video file]. Retrieved from

Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: Yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Photos from

Does Research Support Maker Education?

There is a just reason President Obama declared that the “Young people of today have something to teach us… about how to question assumptions, to wonder why something is the way it is, and how we can make it better… they remind us there is always something more to learn…”  As educators it is imperative that we give our students the opportunity to do what they do best. Question.  Create.

The Maker Movement defined as:  the growing number of people who are engaged in the creative production of artifacts in their daily lives and who find physical and digital forums to share their processes and products with others (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014, p. 496).  Sheridan and her colleagues’ recent study of 3 makerspaces in an educational setting conclude that, “Being a maker in these spaces involves participating in a space with diverse tools, materials, and processes; finding problems and projects to work on; iterating through designs; becoming a member of a community; taking on leadership and teaching roles as needed; and sharing creations and skills with a wider world.(Sheridan, Halverson, Litts, Brahms, Jacobs-Priebe, & Owen. 2014 p. 529) If that doesn’t sound like something we want for our students then I can’t imagine what is! Hover around on the Thinglink below for additional inspiration to join the Maker Movement!

Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465.

Sheridan, K. Halverson, E.R., Litts, B.K., Brahms, L, Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014) Learning in the making: A comparative case-study of three maker spaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505-565.

The White House. (2015, March 24) White House Science Fair Highlights Retrieved from: