It’s Done

My final project is done! Well, actually that is only 1/2 true. What I need to complete my video is done, but the project is ongoing and will be hopefully for years to come!

Please watch the video to learn more about my project:


My further reflection on the course, because you don’t want to have to watch a 20 min video to hear all of this, is that Redefinition is hard. It sounds easy enough, but what I kept finding was that each idea I threw out to my teaching partner was at best Modification. It was difficult to think of ideas that could be taken all of the way to Redifinition.

This project also made me realize that for many projects in Elementary school going to Modification is okay. For that project, that teacher and those kids at that time of the year, Modification is sometimes, pushing them enough. But that I, as a Tech Integrator, and the teacher should always be thinking about the next project, how can we build on their skills so that we don’t have to spend so much time skill building and can spend more time creating. How can we move other projects along the SAMR path?

Sometimes Redefinition just falls in your lap, but rarely, it takes work and planning. I was very lucky that the teacher I was working with was not only open to new things, she was open to seeing these new ideas fail and succeed. She was not afraid of a lesson completely flopping or a plan changing at the last minute. That allowed me to use my Design Thinking strategies to problem solve throughout the project. Being nimble in our planning allowed both the teacher and I to test ideas quickly. This led to some quick changes to homework sometimes even while students were working!

Now that I have completed this project with three G2 teachers, I have a better idea of the time involved for set up. This helps when I recommend it to the G3 teachers for the 2018-2019 school year. It also helps me better understand how to help the G2 teachers at the beginning of the year get their Home Learning set up. This will help them get a jumpstart on their technology learning even earlier in the year. This will allow for them to use their 1:1 iPad program more effectively in their classrooms because they can use the Home Learning to reinforce new technology skills introduced in class.

I have enjoyed working very closely with the three G2 teachers who helped me complete this project and I look forward to helping them continue to grow for the rest of the school year.

It All Takes Work

What’s a PLN you ask? Well, a Personal Learning Network is an essential part of being an educator these days, in my opinion. I can’t imagine how I would have survived the last 5.5 years without one. PLN’s allow you to connect with other educators in your field or just other like-minded educators. They are not always in similar jobs but generally have similar styles. My PLN journey started out small. A few contacts I had made through professional development (PD) that I would regularly email and ask questions. It began to grow when a Google Trainer told me this story about how to use Twitter. This started a journey that is continually developing as I wrote about in my post “It’s all about the PLN

One of my goals in that post was to become less of a lurker and participate more. I can’t say that I have made huge progress with that but I did try to make more effort during this course.

Staying involved in my PLN is what helped me complete my Course 5 project though. Without my PLN I would not have been able to move the project into Redefinition. It all started with this tweet to my PLN. This tweet resulted in two teachers working with me to help complete my project.

Another place that I am active in my PLN is Facebook. At first, Facebook was only for personal stuff. But now there are some very good PLN groups on Facebook and I find myself engaging with them more and more. For example, this one for Book Creator. Instead of traditional twitter chats, they have their chats online in a book. So instead of answering questions in posts, you answer questions by making pages in the book. Now with their new collaboration tool, it is even easier! I wasn’t going to be awake during this online discussion so I snuck in and added my answers to the book the morning before they held the chat!


I also try to share my expertise when I can through my PLN. I try helping out teachers who have questions when I can. My one caveat is that I make sure that I read the comments to see if my answer has already been stated. I hate nothing more than repeating what someone else has already said! That is what the “like” button is for!

Here are a few more examples of how I have participated in the Book Creator Facebook group.



My PLN is also a place for me to grow and develop. I learn new things every time I engage with my PLN. I am constantly forwarding myself posts to reread and review. I use Pocket to help collect articles to review at a later date or just collect ones that I may want to reference in the future.

My inbox in my school mail is full of articles that I want to re-read or share with my teachers. Sharing information with my teachers is actually one of the main reasons that I stay on top of latest changes. If I can give teachers information that will help make their lives easier than that is one of my goals!

One way that my teaching partner and I have been doing that is through interactive Google Drawings. I totally stole this idea from one of my PLN Peep Carrie Zimmer who creates Tech Tidbits. My teaching partner and I started creating our own. Here is one example, if you click on the link underneath you will be redirected to the interactive image (click around, though the cursor doesn’t change pretty much every image is a link).













Another way that I have begun to help my teachers develop their PLN skills is to create an in-house Seesaw Chat group. It is starting out with a few select teachers as a place that they can go and help themselves if needed by asking each other questions. It will also be a place where I share Seesaw information that I think they may want to see from my other sources. I think this has a lot of potential, but I will need to see where it goes in the future to see if it fully develops!

G2 Explores their Digital Agency through Paperless Homework

For my Course 5 project I have developed a unit to work with a grade 2 class and their teacher. The goal of the unit is for the students to explore and develop their digital agency by responding to set tasks with a variety of digital tools. The aims of the unit will be to help students develop their independence to transfer their digital literacy skills independently when they are at home completing tasks for homework.

One of the reasons that we choose homework is because we wanted a safe environment for the students to be able to explore and develop in. By safe, we mean a place where the stresses of needing to complete a task for a formal assessment are not an element. Many times I am called in to help a teacher use technology only just as they are about to start a summative assessment task. I was thankful when this teacher, Beth, asked me to help her create a unit around building her student’s digital literacy without the stress of an assessment looming in the background for either the teacher or the students.

It also gives me a chance to develop her student’s digital literacy in line with the digital needs of the school. Our school is 1:1 BYOD in Grade 5, 1:1 Chromebooks in Grades 3 & 4. Beth is one of the two pilot classes in Grade 2 with 1:1 iPads. She is a teacher who has consistently looked for ways to improve both her own digital knowledge and that of her students.

The development of this unit also allows me to work closely with my new teammate. Ryan is new to the role of Tech Integrationist. By going through the process of planning, creating a unit and creating the resources allows us to get on the same page with how we work with teachers. This also gives us a chance to research and develop our digital skills to find the best tools and resources to use with the students.

I am looking forward to working closely with this teacher to develop and teach this unit with her.

To answer the questions for this week:

  1. Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
    1. I think that this is a good possibility for Course 5 because this unit will allow me to help a variety of students move their digital knowledge from Substitution to Augmentation and Modification.
    2. The development of this unit will also allow the teacher to move her skills further. For many of the tasks she has moved into Augmentation, but helping her see the possibilities for moving her practice and her student’s skills into Modification in the areas that she is ready is something I am looking forward to helping her with.
  2. What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
    1. Some of my concerns is that the step to paperless digital home learning will be too much too soon for many of the students and even more of the parents.
    2. I am also concerned that we will have parents who reject this change before their child has the chance to actually truly “live” it to find out if it will work.
    3. I have to manage my desire to go “all tech, all the time”. After all, they are still in 2nd grade and need to do fine motor work!
  3. What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
    1. This does not require a major pedagogical shift for me personally. I think the largest shift will be for the parents. Seeing new ways that their children complete homework will give them yet another “eye” into their child’s classroom life.
  4. What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
    1. Digital Agency
    2. Self-Directed Learning
    3. Resilience
    4. Systems Thinking

What it Takes to Effectively Get Seesaw Up and Running in a G3 class

This week we were asked to write a post to reflect on technology use that we have done in the classroom. I have decided to share with you how I have helped a teacher introduce the behaviors and expectations around getting Seesaw ePortfolios up and running in his classroom. This is a teacher, Mr. King, who last year did use Seesaw, but by his own admission not very well and only did the minimum. This year his goal was to do it better and earlier (mainly because it was ready to go earlier).

He asked me to come in and do the first “post a picture” lesson with his students. This lesson’s focus was on setting up practices around what Seesaw is, how it will be used throughout the year, how we manage having five shared classroom iPads and 1:1 Chromebooks, and what Seesaw’s purpose is.

To fully understand the situation I will give you a bit of history on this class. There are four students from a class that used iPads, Chromebooks, and Seesaw heavily the year before. The rest of the students had some Chromebook exposure during grade two. The classroom itself has a set of 5 iPads and one Chromebook per student. Mr. King was 1:1 with Chromebooks the previous year.

The first lesson started with me explaining to the students that what we were hoping to achieve was understanding how to share iPads to take pictures and then move to Chromebooks to add comments. Mr. King wanted them to post a picture of their values poster. This was an A3 sized poster for most students. So my focus for the first part of the lesson was getting them to first take good pictures of their posters.

My second focus was getting them logged into Seesaw on the iPads. Because we only had five iPads in the room we decided to do this in phases. So after I explained all of the instructions to the students, I kept five on the carpet and the rest went to their Chromebooks to work on math practice. With the five that I kept, I sent them to take their picture then return to sit with me. We worked together to get everyone logged into Seesaw since they are using their email accounts, which they haven’t memorized yet. Once we all got logged in we all created a photo post in Seesaw. I then had them practice logging out (an essential for shared iPads) and I sent them to their seats to finish their posts on their Chromebooks.

I continued to select five students until we managed to get the whole class finished. This first lesson took nearly an hour to complete but the system of working with a few at a time was very helpful for both the students and me. It also gave Mr. King time to watch what I was managing repeatedly, so he was learning as well. The speed and the groupings worked really well for the students and allowed me to learn how fast or slow or independent different students were.

This is an example of one post. Here are the student’s own comments on this post:

“I have learned what values mean and what influence means and what values mean by doing this activity. By doing this activity ,values means what is important stuff to you”

By the next lesson, Mr. King had already had them complete another photo post as reinforcement. So they were ready for a different type of post. For this post, we video recorded each student reading their biography. I knew going into this lesson that it was going to be tricky to finish in one 1-hour session and I made sure to tell the students this so that they knew that we may not complete the task. Letting them know this up front did a lot to manage their expectations I think. Also letting them know that Mr. King and I were still testing out the best way to do things helped them relax about making mistakes. They knew that we were all still trying to work it all out and therefore things might change!

So we paired students up and had them record their videos on the iPads. This is where it got tricky because I didn’t think it was a good plan to have every student log into Drive on their iPad, save their videos, then log out then pass the iPad to their partner and repeat. So we decided to have one of the pair log in to save both videos and share it with their partner.

At this point of the lesson with the first pair, I realized a problem that was going to happen! Because of wifi issues, we have to share videos through Seesaw via a link. So the videos in Drive have to have the right sharing permissions. I could quickly see this becoming a logistics nightmare. Thankfully, by this point, my tech teaching partner, Ryan, had been hired and was in on the lesson. Mr. King and Ryan managed the students who were doing the recording, doing the saving, and also the students who were waiting to record.

I was asking the students who had uploaded their videos to come to me with their Chromebooks and was quickly making a folder in their drive that had the right permissions so that anything in the folder could be shared and viewed. I realized that I was only reaching about half of the students with this but it was the best that I could do during this lesson.

Once we got all of the permissions sorted, the student were then taught to grab the link and post it into Seesaw. This is the point where I started recruiting students to teach each other as well. With the teachers all busy problem solving I asked the students to teach each other how to grab the link and post it. This was a great confidence boost for some students as well as a reinforcement of what they had just done themselves.

By the skin of our teeth, we managed to get all but about three videos posted. But during the following week, those student experts helped their classmates finish posting the remaining videos.

The next stage was to have the students create audio reflections on a post. Again there were three teachers in the classroom and again we used a similar method of capturing pictures as we had in the first lesson. Once the students posted the picture they moved to their Chromebooks and recorded an audio reflection for their post. Absolutely the most helpful part of this lesson was that the teacher had already prepared the students for what they were going to say by having them write out their reflection prior to our coming into the class. So there was no time wasted with students trying to remember or draft what to say while also learning how to record.

Here is an example of that lesson.

This lesson still took about an hour, but that was mostly due to everyone not recording at the same time and the sharing of the iPads. One system we have worked out with the iPads is to use the same iPad for the same students as their google logins are partially saved that way. So each iPad now has a sticky note on it with the student’s names.

By this point, we were basically finished and the class was good to go, but Mr. King knew that he was going to be out for two upcoming days and asked that we come in and do additional lessons with the students. His idea was for them to record themselves completing a Math exit slip and posting that recording. But Ryan and I emailed him and asked if we could instead try out the new Activities feature. He said “Of Course” and so we got everything ready.

We started the lesson by telling the students that they were helping us learn by testing this feature since it would be our first time. Again this helps to set up the expectations for the lesson and I feel it really makes the students less stressed about mistakes. I think this is also helpful in building the relationships with the students that Carolyn Fruin references in her post What to Do When Your Flipped Classroom Flops.

When we explained what we were going to do the students at first were a bit “Aw, but we want to do the videos” as they had already done a similar post with Mr. King. We asked them to help us try it and they finally agreed. So we gave directions and then let them loose.

Here is what they created!

What I like is that you can hear Emma go through her entire thinking process. Even though she gets distracted a few times and says a few things wrong. You can still see that she does understand and trusts that she knows that she is right. It also gives you a clear understanding of some support that Emma may need. She may need to talk through her math thinking with a peer or an adult to make sure that she is explaining her thinking clearly.

Itamar did a better job of explaining his thinking more clearly. Maybe it would be good for him and Emma to be partners so that Emma can hear an example of a good, clear explanation.

Our feedback from the students when we reflected at the end, was that they wanted more white space to write in. The problem took up too much space so they found the writing space too limited. This made me realize that the system we used for this specific problem would not always work for every type of math problem. They did admit that they liked the activity in the end and that they wanted Mr. King to do more!

Overall I have been very impressed with the work that the student’s, Mr. King, Ryan and I did during these sessions because I think it has set his students up to not only succeed at Seesaw but with anything else. I even mentioned to them that the patience and resilience that they showed when we ran into issues would help them because you always have to learn “workarounds” because you will always run into roadblocks! They seemed to take that as a compliment!

I have also received feedback from their PE teachers that when they use Seesaw in PE, Mr. King’s class is the most prepared to complete any task that the PE teachers have thrown at them.

Level 2! How do we educate others about what we are doing?

Welcome to Level 2!

You have just leveled up and earned another life!

If you read my post last week you are probably thinking, well that is a great idea but universities want transcripts, not gaming results. So how do you get people outside of your school to understand what you are doing and how it transfers to the “real world”? Also, how will students, parents, teachers know what their success points are?

This weeks post is about the future of education. I think that this entire gaming idea is a 5 year in the future projection at least. So this whole idea is part of education’s future. But there are definitely elements that will be needed to help other people understand what is happening.

I can remember back to my time in England that my school and several other IBDP schools had to fight to get UK universities to understand what IBDP scores meant and how they related to UK A level scores. I believe that any school who chooses to do something like the sort of self-directed learning I referred to in last week’s post, will have an uphill battle to get universities, parents, and communities on board. But do I think this battle is worth it, absolutely!

One of the things that we can do is to make sure that the process is public and visible along the way. One of the ways that this could be done is through Connectivism which I learned about through a workshop at Learning2 Europe last year with Madeline Brookes (@mbrookes) The 8 principles of the connectivist approach by George Siemans are one of the ways.

  1. Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  2. Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
    1. This could be done through expert mentors or MOOCs
  3. Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  4. Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  5. Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
    1. This is why teacher mentors play an important role in the scenario I am suggesting.
    2. Connections to outside of the school learning would also play an important role.
  6. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
    1. There may be a need for a sort of TOK (Theory of Knowledge) type course for all levels where the focus is to help student articulate and understand these connections.
  7. Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  8. Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
    1. My entire idea revolved around students learning how to make decisions for themselves and their learning.

Another way that we can make sure that this process is public and visible is to make sure that we are using global collaboration. Global collaboration is an idea that has been promoted by the Flat Classroom Project (now the Flat Connections project). The idea is that groups classes work together to complete a project. The advantage of an electronic platform is that not all of the teachers and/or learners need to be in the same school, city, country or planet! Students and teachers in many different locations could be in the system. The classes that teachers are teaching to students directly could also be virtual classes. So you may have 10 physically in your room students and 5 virtual students. This would widen not only your network of students but your network of teachers. This would be promoting a very similar idea to the Flat Connections project but instead of a class working with other classes, it could be done on the student level.

Students could share in the learning when experts come to a location or are electronically contacted. I am imagining something like a Google Hangout with a scientist in Antarctica, with students from several different locations watching, questioning and conversing with the scientist. Before the actual scientist call, the group could participate in a Hangout where they develop their list of questions, decide on roles they will take during the call and sketch out an order for their questions so that chaos doesn’t ensue.

Yet another thing that can help with making this process public is the use of something like badges. Badges with explicit expectations for earning them and clear definitions of what they are for. This allows the learner to fully understand what is needed to achieve a badge and to understand what workthey need to complete to earn them. These could be developed so that there would be school-wide badges, but I would imagine that they would need leveling. For example a math practice standard like “makes sense of problems and perseveres in solving them”, this standard that is in every grade scope and sequence exactly worded like this. So there would need to be a way to show that at this standard has been achieved in each phase (grade range) throughout the students learning journey.

Badges like ones developed for the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition could form the base of the badges used to start the system within the school.

There would also be a need to be badges that show growth in skills and dispositions. These would hold an equal place to the typically academic badges along the way.

Lastly, a way to make the process public is to have easy to understand visual representations of the student’s learning journey. Something like this circumplex, which would show a skill, disposition, or academic area and how the student is progressing along their journey. Like this image, the circumplex would show a child and their parent how a student is progressing towards a standard or in a subject area.

This whole idea would require lots of flexible, agile thinking both on the gaming programmers side and on the educator’s side. I don’t think this could be done effectively without a gaming designer and program being a part of the everyday development and first 2-3 years of testing. I don’t think it would be possible to build something like this without the having those two people able to quickly and easily make adjustments to the platform.

There would also be a need to have people on site who have the ability to make certain tweaks and changes to help keep the platform growing. For example, a school may discover a need for a new badge, they would not want to wait for the developer and programmer to have time to create it they should be able to do this themselves.

So connectivism, global collaboration, and badges are all ways that we could help people outside of our school understand what we are doing and how we are documenting the student’s learning journeys. As you can see this will be a very complicated but super awesome project to embark on. It will require a great deal of pre-thinking and planning, as well as a complete mind-shift in how to deliver knowledge to students. But how can you imagine how wonderful this school would be!

Congratulations! You have now Leveled up earned a new life and the Thinking Skills Badge.Thinking



Level 1: It’s all Just a Game

So at first, I wasn’t real excited about this blog post, but then last week a colleague and former COETAILer and I were having a discussion. It started around the digital curriculum, reporting, portfolio program that my school is helping develop (don’t get me started!). We have also started using Seesaw in every classroom and subject area in our Elementary school this year. Our discussion started on how to best use the systems and quickly developed into our idea around to both gamify and use game-based learning in education. After rereading the definition in the ASCD’s article The Difference Between Gamification and Game-Based Learning I realized that the idea we were talking about plays on both elements. Combined they would help create our idea.

It also started with a comment that a teacher made about how you couldn’t be self-directed and standards-based. Which we both disagree with. So, we started batting around ideas and eventually came up with something like this.

This would be for any grade level any age. Students would all have a device of some variety. Technology is a key element of being able to have this type of learning, it is non-negotiable. The students would begin each “day” by logging into their device and the platform. I say “day” because one of the advantages of this is that the school day could become something that looks nothing like what it currently does, but more on that later!

After they log in, they have a bit of a checkpoint where they would review their goals and their game statistics. They would then plan their day. This is where the “day” element would become less traditional. The scheduling options could still be done in similar ways to what we use in schools today, but the students themselves would begin to build their daily/weekly schedule independently. Obviously in PK, K and G1 there would be scaffolding with teachers to help with this. The scheduling options could also be somewhat regulated.

For example, there could be blocks of time for recess/lunch so that it wouldn’t be unsupervised free for all! But what it wouldn’t be is every 2nd and 3rd grader at recess at the same time. It would be a mix of any students who decided that a recess/lunch time worked best for them. There could be parameters in the system that required a certain number of recesses a week or a certain type of recess. For example, if a student always chooses to go to the library, once a week they would be “required/encouraged” to play outside. This could be a way for them to earn extra points of some kind, more on points later.

The same would be happening for lessons. There could, of course, be some lessons that happen virtually and this would be a great way for a student who wants to study something that is beyond the capabilities of the school to study. What we are not envisioning is that there will be no class times. What we are envisioning is that those class times will be very different than what we are used to seeing.

So for the academic element, the students would be evaluated in some way and leveled. Then they would choose what they want to work on, for example, they want to do during a math lesson. Then the platform would give them their options for math classes to attend. These would be math classes focused on the standards which student needs to achieve. They would not be age or grade based. So you would have any number of students (there would obviously be a max) of mixed ages, I will stop saying grades because this entire system would do away with the need for grades. The child would then choose the math class options, given to them by the platform, that they wanted to attend and the platform would offer them their next class option. Thus, building their schedule.

You may be saying to yourself, sounds great for teachers of young students but for older students you have just designed me out of a job. I was struck by this paragraph in the Edutopia article Three Ways to Use Game-Based Learning.

The Game Is Not the Teacher

When using games in your classroom, remember that the game is not the teacher—you are. The game is just an activity. When using games, try to avoid intervening when students are figuring something out. This affords students the opportunity to play with games as systems. And do not grade play; instead, assess the learning transfer that you facilitate from the game experience to the curriculum.

Our idea is in no way excluding the teacher, the teachers have an equal role to students in this scenario. They have their learning that they are doing by constantly having new students roll through their classes, finding new ways to deliver lessons and integrate the platform. They will also have students that they mentor along the way and develop close 1:1 relationships with. These mentorships would also not need to last for only a year. Students and teachers could decide to maintain them for several school year cycles.

Now to explain what is happening parallel to this on the teacher side. Because every child would be doing their own attendance by logging into the platform while at school there would be no need for “homerooms”. What could happen is small teams/tribes/houses/families of students who could be multi-aged, who get together throughout the year in order cover elements of PSPE (Personal, Social and Physical Education). And there will be teacher mentors who are assigned students to track and follow along with the process. This grouping would be where the typical “homeroom/advisory” class things would happen and where general school messages would come through.

Outside of that grouping, the teachers would be teaching in a variety of ways. For example, if I am a teacher who loves math then I might focus on teaching math. Instead of teaching to a grade range of standards though, I am just teaching to the entire range of standards. For example, I could review all of the Kinder-Grade 5 Common Core Math standards, choose the ones that I felt as a teacher I was best at teaching. Obviously, there will need to be moderation to make sure that all standards are covered by all teachers in the school, but you get the idea. Then about two weeks before your new class starts you would get a message from the platform saying, “Here are the students who will be coming to you” and “Here are the standards that they are aiming to cover”. You have time to plan out your math activities and engagements. Then you would let the platform know how many lessons over how much time you would need to complete the unit.

One of the advantages here is you could say to the system I need 6 lessons over 3 days, which would put you doing double lessons on those days, this would allow you to let the system know that you will need longer time slots to keep the engagement going for the unit.

This would be happening in every subject area and every teacher and student. Younger students would be building their schedules with the help of their teacher mentors. Older students could be building their schedules independently. This would mean that the platform would have to be adaptive in order to prevent scheduling black holes.

There could be game based elements that are either customized by teachers or added in similar to the games mentioned in the ISTE article Try Game-Based Learning to Teach Multiculturalism. Small mini-games embedded throughout the system could be used as another checkpoint to gather data of a student’s understanding or ability to demonstrate a skill in their learning. Games like what Jane McGonigal has developed to solve real-world problems. I recently watched her TEDx talk The Game that will give you 10 Extra Years. The game Super Better that she built could be used as a powerful way to monitor students throughout the platform.

So how will the gamification come in? Well, the whole time the student is doing this through a gaming platform that they have some control over the design of. For the younger students, it could be similar to the way Disney Infinity is set up, using popular characters as avatars or have the students be able to create their own. In order to get more options, you have to complete more challenges (academics). You would also be able to earn different elements through power-ups, these would be for elements that were based on skills, in the PYP the Transdisciplinary Skills. There would also be … for earning points based on the showing of dispositions for learning.

The whole time you would be encouraged to earn points or power-ups or complete challenges to get to the next level based on your needs. The algorithms running the system, which I realize are beginning to get super complex, would be saying things like “hmm, I see that you have done a lot of math lately. So I am going to not give you any more credits for math activities until you have completed a language challenge.” or “I see that you have done a lot of group activities lately, to get your next … you will need to do an independent activity”. The whole thing would also be monitored by the teacher mentor could force certain challenge types when needed.

So this all sounds great but how do we know how they are doing? This is why there will never not be a teacher. So the whole system would run on documentation. A student could self-assess with an image, video, audio, or text entry. This entry would go to the teacher or the teacher mentor depending on who was responsible for that standard. The teacher could also provide evidence of mastery of a standard in the say way as the student has. The parents would receive a notification as soon as a standard has been evaluated and be able to add any feedback that they would like to add as well.

What would be needed to make this work?

  • Flexible Teachers
    • Teachers willing to teach in a new understanding of time and space.
  • Flexible Buildings
    • Buildings that had a variety of spaces for different types of learning.
    • Buildings that are open in a variety of times.
  • Flexible Schedules
    • This system will remove the need for an 8:30-3:30 day.
    • Teachers could choose their office hours, students could choose their ideal day length.
    • Students who participate competitively in sports would be able to work around their training schedules.
    • Students who are ill could work at home for longer to fully recover before being worried about falling behind.

Congratulations you have earned the Resilience Badge for making it to the end of this very long post! Please leave comments below to level up. Stay tuned next week for the next level update!

PBL, CBL, PBL, PB&J What Does it all Mean?

So I decided this week to branch out and do a podcast instead of your typical post.

A couple of things I have learned!

  1. I sound very echoey
  2. I need to better annunciate (hence the reason I am also posting the script)
  3. My speed is generally okay as is my volume
  4. I want to try again at a later date with another blog post.
  5. It is hard to make edits like I have realized I want in the script (edits in bold and Italics)


Let’s start with some definitions:

The book How to Use Problem-Based Learning in the Classroom by Robert Delisle on the ASCD’s website quotes Howard Barrows’ definition of Problem Based Learning as “the learning that results from the process of working toward the understanding or resolution of a problem”

The Buck Institute defines on their website that Project Based Learning as a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.

Digital Promise defines on their website that Challenge Based Learning as learning that provides an efficient and effective framework for learning while solving real-world Challenges.

I think it is easy to see that all three of these are basically the same idea. I am sure they have small elements that are subtly different from each other but I was struck by how alike they were while I was reading about them.

Just some of the similarities are that they:

  • All mention real life preparation
  • They all revolve around students identifying a problem and working towards a solution
  • They all ask for students to explore outside the 4 classroom walls
  • They all require student-driven research
  • They all require teachers as mentors
  • They all mention the use of technology
  • They all leave space for learning from failure

This week we were asked to write a blog post on how these apply to your curricular area, grade level, and own theory on technology in the classroom. While I do not teach in one classroom I still feel that these approaches are a key element of education. Our school, in fact, has been working towards developing skills and dispositions that would be elements of all three of these theories. The most obvious of which is self-directed learning.

One of the arguments that I hear a lot around these three theories is that “they are great for middle and high school, but I just can’t see how you can do this with first graders.” I have to respectfully disagree. While I do agree that there are elements of first grade that need to be more traditionally practiced, there is a lot that can be done with PBL (I will use this for both Problem and Project) and CBL learning. Yes, it will be more guided that you may do with a high school student but it is very possible to do.

I can’t think of a more effective way to teach students the value of research than to have them state a problem that they are interested in solving and then helping them to find the research they need to understand the problem and possible solutions. I can see this as having a much more lasting impact on their learning then asking them research something that you as the teacher decided on.

I can also see that the younger grades are where we can really leverage technology to help students share their process. For many in the younger grades, writing up their research or their findings is not a realistic idea. But videoing them talking about their research or recording them in a podcast talking about their research is not only developmentally appropriate it is a very effective use of technology in an authentic way. Which is a key element of PBL and CBL.

This is where I come in my role as the integrationist could be to come in and offer Tech training and knowledge to students are the right time for when they need it. Also offering the teacher training in the technology. I also see my role in this process as mentoring the teachers in the ways in which they can manage 20 students going off doing potentially 20 different projects at the same time. Technology can help teachers manage the individual communication between the teacher and the student as well as the collection of data along checkpoints to monitor the student’s progress through a project. For example, using Google Classroom to keep track of the activities happening with a project.

I do think that to be very effective and not be completely overwhelmed by these projects, technology will need to play a huge role. Yes, you can do things with paper but imagine if you as a teacher need two days to read over students research journals. If they are doing this with only paper then the students would either need to stop researching for two days or use another journal. If the teacher used technology the students could take photos of their research journal, share those photos with their teacher and then the students could continue with their research. Also, teachers could make this a process that happens frequently throughout the research, anytime a new “chunk” of research is gathered the students could submit it for feedback, which would give the teacher smaller checkpoints to give feedback to instead of large ones.

I think that many people worry that if we have students doing PBL and CBL nearly full time then there will be no need for teachers after all the students will be deciding what they are learning, how they are learning and how they are sharing that learning all on their own. The key element that the naysayers are forgetting is that students don’t just “know” how to do this. This is where teachers come it. While doing a PBL or CBL teachers could offer mini-lessons with small groups or the whole class when needed to teach a skill right at the perfect time when those students need it.

For example, teachers could offer a how to read data lesson for students who find their research is full of data. Which could lead to a lesson on how to collect data which could then help the students towards their goal of identifying problems and identifying solutions.

So in conclusion, I think that there is a place for PBL and CBL even in our younger grades and I do not see the role of the teacher as disappearing but morphing into something more along the lines of a Teacher Mentor who swoops in to help you when you need it and leaves you to discover, fail, scramble and succeed when you thought that you wouldn’t be able to.


“What Is Project Based Learning (PBL)?” What Is PBL? | Project Based Learning | BIE, Buck Institute for Education, 2017,

Delisle, Robert. “Chapter 1. What Is Problem-Based Learning?” What Is Problem-Based Learning?, ASCD,

“Key Ideas.” Challenge Based Learning, Digital Promise,