About that Google Innovator Thing…

Dear Teachers,

Guess what? The third time really was the charm for me: I was accepted yesterday into the Google Innovator program, for my plot to take over the world CLICK project! It was a whirlwind of a day, between paying attention to all the emails from the Innovator program, the hundreds of laudatory tweets from and about my new tribe (#lon17 and #GoogleEI), and the Hangout chat that kept pinging on my phone. And oh yeah, trying to get my actual job done! I am still a bit stunned, to be honest. I feel like I’m finally in the cool kids’ club (and believe me, I’ve pretty much NEVER been in the cool kids’ club).


Each year, Google hosts no more than four cohort groups, and each cohort has only 36 people in it. Looking at the Google EduDirectory, it looks to me like there are fewer than 1000 Google Innovators worldwide, and I think I’ll be only about the 10th within 100 miles of Dallas. There is one other Texan in my #LON17 cohort, and we’ll be joined by innovative educators from New Zealand, Indonesia, Canada, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

Right now, we are all busy getting to know each other’s innovation plans and trying to arrange our travel. From what I can tell from Twitter, I think we are all feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. I know the next month will go by in a flash as we all get ready for what I’m anticipating will be an amazing experience. I’ll keep you posted as to the continuing progress of my newest (and most exciting) adventure!




Professional Learning that Teachers Won’t Hate

Dear Teachers,

This week I’ve been reflecting on creating conditions for better professional learning, and is there a teacher alive who doesn’t want THAT? It’s been pretty well established that the traditional “sit and get” style of professional learning just doesn’t make much of a difference in terms of changing a teacher’s practice or impacting student learning (Gulamhussein, 2013; Hill, 2015; Walker, 2013). Whether it’s the annual blood-borne pathogens meeting or an event featuring a flashy guest speaker, the lecture style of PD session with no follow-up is as common as it is ineffective. Even if that expensive keynoter got your attention during his or her presentation, how much of what was said actually got implemented in your classroom? Do you even remember the content a week or two later?

My team and I have been talking a lot over the past several weeks about John Hattie’s research. It’s been only fairly recently that I’ve become aware of his work, and it makes me seriously question why, because he has uncovered some great stuff! He has over 20 years of data about the things that are shown to have an effect, positive or negative, on student achievement. One of my colleagues did a presentation at TCEA last month where she spoke extensively about the two top-ranked influences that can have a positive effect on students. Those are teacher estimates of achievement and the very closely-related collective efficacy, which is the school-wide belief that teachers, working together, can make a positive difference for students that will counteract any negative impact of the student’s home or community situations.

Think about that for a minute. Teacher estimates of achievement means simply that teachers believe that their students will achieve. And collective efficacy means that when everybody believes that students will succeed – and acts as though they will – then any other negative factors in a student’s life that are adversely affecting learning can be overcome. And these two things don’t make just a little bit of difference; they make a LOT of difference.

So if it’s true, then, that teacher attitudes about their own ability to affect student learning outcomes is so important, wouldn’t it make sense to promote professional learning that fosters and develops that collective efficacy? It certainly seems that way to me. Teacher-driven and teacher-developed PD, based on what they believe their students need to succeed, would build that collective belief that they can and will make a difference.

We have a small-but-mighty Professional Learning department in my district, and they do a terrific job providing district-level learning experiences for teachers. Building-level PD is a little less consistently great. I created a “commercial” that is directed at principals to encourage them to focus their building-level PD on teacher-led experiences that will be personalized to the needs of their students. This already happens, at least in some small way, on many of the campuses, but hopefully those principals who need a gentle nudge will be encouraged to at least think about the benefits of teacher-driven professional learning.

In addition to promoting the idea of the importance of collective efficacy, I think this approach to Professional Learning also addresses all five of the key principles of effective PD (Gulamhussein, 2013):

  1. The duration of professional learning must be significant and ongoing to allow time for teachers to learn a new strategy and grapple with the implementation problem. 
    The collective efficacy approach to professional learning by nature is an ongoing commitment and mindset.
  2. There must be support for teachers during the implementation stage that addresses the specific challenges of changing classroom practice.
    The collective efficacy approach to professional learning provides support at every stage because it is ongoing and addresses the teachers’ specific needs.
  3. Teachers’ initial exposure to a concept should not be passive, but rather should engage teachers through varied approaches so they can participate actively in making sense of a new practice.
    The collective efficacy approach to professional learning means that all educators are actively involved in the process of continual improvement.
  4. Modeling has been found to be highly effective in helping teachers understand a new practice.
    The collective efficacy approach to professional learning invites educators to model for each other what works best and to coach each other into better practice.
  5. The content presented to teachers shouldn’t be generic, but instead specific to the discipline (for middle school and high school teachers) or grade-level (for elementary school teachers).
    The collective efficacy approach to professional learning is designed to be specific to the unique needs of each teacher on the campus.

It’s my hope that my little commercial will encourage principals who want to make a change in their campus professional learning initiatives to give teacher-driven PD a chance. Principals who support their teachers as they work to design the solutions that will benefit their students the most will likely be pleased with the resulting improvements in student achievement. It will likely be trial-and-error in some cases; principals will need to encourage risk-taking and trust the process. I’ve seen this approach work, and I’d like to see it in action on more campuses!


I often get asked how I create the videos I’ve gotten fond of making lately. I figured that my current favorite (FREE!) video creation tool, Adobe Spark, would work well to create this commercial because I knew the message I wanted to convey and the images I needed to use to support that message. Fortunately I had been poring over pictures from some of our previous department-led PL sessions just last week so I knew just where to go to retrieve the images! Adobe Spark works on a desktop or with the app on a mobile device and syncs in the cloud, so it doesn’t matter where your pictures are saved. You can edit the project from any device. Each scene has its own narration, so if when you stumble on your words, you can re-record only the portion where you messed up instead of having to do the whole thing over again. It’s nice being able to do the recording in small bites.

With Adobe Spark, you select the images you’d like to use and decide on the best layout for each slide. When an image is selected from the timeline at the bottom, it appears in the middle of the screen. To add narration to that image, just press and hold the microphone as you speak (don’t forget to allow use of your camera and microphone, if prompted), then release it when you’re done.


You can also select the Theme that works best for your presentation.


Everything saves in real time in Spark (my undying gratitude to Google for making this the industry standard!), and you can save it to your device or share it in lots of other ways when you’re done. I save my creations to my iPad and then upload to my YouTube account. Pretty fun time we live in to be able to do all that with just a few taps and clicks!



Donohoo, J. (2016, July). Fostering collective teacher efficacy: Three enabling conditions. CorwinConnect. Retrieved from http://corwin-connect.com/2016/07/fostering-collective-teacher-efficacy-three-enabling-conditions/
Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the Teachers Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Teaching-the-Teachers-Effective-Professional-Development-in-an-Era-of-High-Stakes-Accountability/Teaching-the-Teachers-Full-Report.pdf
Hill, H. (2015). Review of The Mirage: Confronting the Hard Truth about Our Quest for Teacher Development. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved from http://www.greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Hill-TNTP.pdf
Lynch, A. (Photographer). (2009, Feb.) Desk nap. [digital image]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/adamjlynch/3275087576
Waack, S. (2014). Hattie ranking: 195 influences and effect sizes related to student achievement. Visible Learning. Retrieved from https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/
Walker, T. (2013, April). No more sit and get: Rebooting teacher professional development. NEA Today. Retrieved from http://neatoday.org/2013/04/29/no-more-sit-and-get-rebooting-teacher-professional-development/

Digital Citizenship as Standard Operating Procedure

Dear Teachers,

I was working with my friend Julie Paddock today on our presentation for NCCE in a couple of weeks. I say “our” presentation, but it is really going to be all Julie; although I had originally hoped to be heading to Portland to co-present with her, it didn’t work out that way. So I’ll be Skyping in (barring any technology failures) and moderating the Padlet that Julie will be using for the backchannel chat. (Aside: honestly, how cool is that, that I’ll be able to participate in a conference in the Pacific Northwest from down here in Texas? It’s such a fun time to be in Education!)

So anyway, “we” have this presentation – which we’ll actually BOTH be doing at ISTE in June – about Cultivating a #DigCit State of Mind. Julie and I are of one mind about the uselessness of stand-alone digital citizenship curricula or “special weeks” dedicated to digital citizenship awareness, so our focus is on the daily work of digital citizenship education, done in micro-lessons. At some point during our conversation today, something Julie said leaped out at me and my Inner Voice yelled at me: STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE. *THAT* is what Digital Citizenship should be!

So many things in our lives have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Going to a ballgame. Grocery shopping. Taking public transportation. Attending a cultural event. Most of these things, we learned because we grew up watching them, or maybe made an effort to learn by observing others. There wasn’t a formal class on “how to buy vegetables” or “being quiet during the movie”; there were just the cultural norms and expectations that we absorbed from our experiences. We learned the Standard Operating Procedures of each of those very normal life experiences from what we observed and what we were shown.

How is one’s behavior different at a baseball game different from what it might be at an opera? How is buying vegetables at a Farmer’s Market different from making a purchase at a Wal-Mart? How does someone learn which fork or spoon to use at a formal dining event? Maybe we get explicit directions from someone more experienced, or maybe we figure it out from observation, but somebody has to show us what the norm is: the Standard Operating Procedure.

Back in December, I spoke to several AVID classes at one of our senior high schools. I got the best quote ever, from a young lady named Naj:

Screenshot 2017-03-08 at 7.23.19 PM

Wow! She articulated in two sentences what I’d been trying to put into words for months! Showing kids what to do and how to act should be our Standard Operating Procedure when it comes to Digital Citizenship. We need to be able to show our students what the norms are.

Teaching students at an early age to be the same online as they are in real life should be SOP.

Celebrating others publicly should be SOP.

Guiding students to use social media for social good: SOP.

Mentoring students into positions of digital leadership: SOP.

Giving students opportunities to make positive contributions to the digital landscape (for example, with projects like CLICK*): SOP.

Talking aloud about what is on your smart phone and explaining what you decided to include (or not) in a Tweet or Facebook post: SOP.

Showing students how to use their devices for learning, instead of just entertainment: SOP.

Getting your students to determine the norms for their online behavior, and then revisiting those norms frequently, could become your SOP. Co-creating, with your students, the Standard Operating Procedures for digital citizenship allow positive norms to develop organically and naturally, with new students learning by observation what those norms and expectations are.

One thing I know for sure, things don’t become “Standard Operating Procedure” from a one-time conversation, one pre-packaged lesson, or a single “digital citizenship event.” It is the constant small doses of SOP, repeated frequently over a student’s entire school career, that ingrains the values and the lessons that we hope they take with them. What is your current Standard Operating Procedure for digital citizenship? What are the cultural norms for social media use in your situation? If they’re not as positive as what you might like, what can you do to tweak your SOP?

I can’t wait to hear back from you on how you’re becoming a digital culture change agent.




*shameless self-promotion


Numbers 36, 37, and 38 in My Plot to Take Over the World

Dear Teachers,

CLICK has gotten three submissions in the past two days, bumping up the number of student-created tech tips from 35 to 38. One is a graphic about coloring a folder by a 4th grader, and you can find that one here. You can find some tips on Keyboard Commands, also by a 4th grader, on this page. And if you have ever wondered about the Rules of Texting, check out the suggestions by two middle schoolers here.

I am enjoying the creativity and variety of the submissions that these kids are putting together for CLICK and can’t wait to see how the site continues to develop! Thanks to all of my committed teacher and librarian friends who are helping to make this project come to life.



On Being an Innovator

Dear Teachers,

I’ve applied (again) to the Google Innovator program. This will be the third time I’ve applied to be an Innovator, although I don’t feel like my first attempt should really even count. My submission that time wasn’t especially innovative, and my dream has evolved quite a bit since that first try. When I submitted the second time, I thought at the time that my application was pretty solid, but in retrospect I can see where there were some big problems with my approach. On that try, I kept everything to myself and didn’t tell anyone I was applying, nor did I ask for any feedback. In hindsight that was a big mistake.

This time I’ve asked for feedback.Although I love it when people just say, “I love your project!” I have to say I most appreciate the people who had gentle suggestions for me, because it’s those suggestions that have helped me make my submission much better than it would have been. The application deadline is March 6, but I started my 9th grad school class today so in the interest of time management I got the application submitted yesterday. My fingers and toes are all crossed because I’d really really REALLY like to go to London in April!

CLICK is my plan to take over the world project for improving digital literacy through student-created content, and is the project I’ve submitted to the Innovator program. Based on my anecdotal observations and my research, I am convinced that digital literacy is an important topic and one that deserves attention. Do your students possess the digital literacy skills and dispositions that they’ll need in the next couple of decades? Do YOU? If you as a teacher don’t know or teach those skills, and the kids don’t have tech-savvy parents, where will they go to learn those digital skills? I’m hoping that CLICK will provide at least a partial solution to that problem.

Here’s the video I submitted:


And here’s the Slide Deck.

If you care to cross your fingers and toes on my behalf, I’d be most appreciative. 🙂



Developing an Online Course, Part 5 (and Beyond!)

Dear Teachers,

I’m coming to the end of the 8th course in my Master’s program, and this one has proven to be among my favorites. It’s been all about building online courses, and everything I’ve learned and created has been very practical and directly applicable to my position. I’ve loved being (ahem) forced to create an online course on digital literacy; those of you who know me, know that the subject is my passion. But I needed the impetus to Just Do It. Which, to my great delight, I did! I’m continuing my progress toward my plot to take over the world plan to improve digital literacy for everyone, in whatever ways I can. The course for adults I’ve created goes along nicely with my passion project, CLICK.

In the inscrutable Timing of the Universe, I got an incredible opportunity just yesterday to apply my new knowledge when I was asked to help co-create a Professional Learning course on ISTE’s Digital Citizen student standard! I am so excited to help shape the digital citizenship conversation through a professional development course that will be viewed by an international audience. And I’m only a teensy bit intimidated by that prospect. Reflecting on what I’ve learned in my class has taken on a new depth of meaning as I consider how I might bring my learning to this new opportunity with ISTE. One of my main takeaways is that it’s all about design. From that bastion of Internet knowledge known as Wikipedia (n.d.), the definition of Instructional Design is the practice of creating “instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.” And when I think about what I’ve learned in the past month, it’s definitely all about using design thinking to create excellent learning experiences for the end user.

I like starting a course of any kind with the Understanding by Design framework (Wiggins, G., and McTighe, J., 2011). We use this model for all the curriculum development in my district, and we’ve found it to be equally effective in planning Professional Learning experiences. I found myself returning over and over again to the question, “What do you want learners to be able to know and do at the end of your course” when I was planning my digital literacy course, and I expect I will continue to rely on that very effective framework for other courses in the future.

Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, especially as they apply to online learning, help to shape the trajectory of an online course (Pappas, 2015). From creating an attention-grabbing introduction through goal-centered content, assessments, and knowledge transfer, these components align nicely with the UbD framework. The ADDIE model of online instruction and the Dick & Carey model are other design tools (Morrison, 2013) that reflect the iterative, continuous improvement nature of creating and modifying online courses.

In addition to effective design theory, standards for online and blended learning and for professional development in general have played a big part in my growing understanding about what makes a successful online learning experience. The goal for each and every professional learning standard as outlined by Learning Forward (2015) is “increased educator effectiveness and results for all students.” If an online course does not lead to deeper understanding and the ability to transfer knowledge, there is no point in participating in it. It’s my hope that I have addressed – and will address in future courses I develop – standards for quality online courses by addressing the numerous elements of content, instructional design, student assessment, technology, and course evaluation and support that have been outlined by INACOL (2011).

I think that the course on Digital Literacy I created reflects my constructivist leanings, and I expect that I will continue to infuse that kind of constructivist thinking in future course development. Educators who enroll in my Digital Literacy course will have an opportunity, as I have had, to create materials that will be useful to them in their own situations, based on the information that they learn and reflect on. I definitely believe that this kind of learn-apply-reflect style of teaching and learning is what will most benefit the smart, dedicated teachers who work in my district. Additionally, it models for them what they should be doing with their students! That has been another important takeaway from all of the classes I’ve been enrolled in so far; I guess we pay forward what we have experienced ourselves. Should you be interested in taking a look at the Digital Literacy course, hop on over to schoology.com and create yourself an account. The code for my class is XMWSG-QTZKJ.

I’m not yet convinced that online learning in and of itself would be a viable way for all of our students to learn, because I believe so strongly in the importance of social learning and relationships. Those things are a little harder to pull off for the littles in an online environment. However, older students could really benefit from the self-pacing and personalization potential of online courses. The asynchronous nature of many online courses along with choices in assessing what has been learned make online learning a great fit for many kinds of students today. I think that online courses have a lot of appeal for adult learners as well. People are busy, and just the time factor alone is enough to make an online course appealing.

In my evolution as an instructional designer (Hey! Another skill I can add to my resume!), the enduring understandings that I will take with me from this class are:

  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Attend to design principles and standards: design matters!
  • Make frequent modifications in the interest of iterating towards deeper learning for all course participants.

Fondly yours in constant iteration,



Instructional design (n.d.). From Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructional_design
Morrison, D. (2013, December). How to design an excellent online course. Retrieved from https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/how-to-design-an-excellent-online-course/
National Standards for Quality Online Learning. (October 2011). Retrieved from http://www.inacol.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/national-standards-for-quality-online-courses-v2.pdf
Pappas, C. (2015, November). Applying Gagne’s 9 events of instruction in eLearning. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/how-to-apply-gagnes-9-events-of-instruction-in-elearning
Standards for Professional Learning. (2015) Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/standards
Wiggins, G., and McTighe, J. (2011). The understanding by design guide to creating high-quality units. ASCD.

Developing an Online Course, Part 4

Dear Teachers,

It was such a short time ago that I knew absolutely nothing about putting together an online course, and after the past four weeks, I can definitely say that I now know somewhat more than nothing! So that’s a win. My classmates and I agree that this has been our favorite class in the Master’s program so far. We’ve been able to design a course that meets OUR particular needs, and it’s been really fun to see how not only my class has shaped up, but also the course that my classmates have been developing.

Now that I have my first online course set up and ready to go, I’ve started to think about what other courses I could put online. The first one that sprang to mind was the Google classes we teach. We tend to get the same questions over and over when we introduce Google Docs, Forms, Classroom, etc. So it would be an easy thing to create a course with one module per Google App, where participants went through the material on their own. We could provide  screencasts of how to get around in each app, our training documentation, and our contact information, and that course could probably run itself asynchronously for any teacher in our district who might want to learn the ins and outs of Google-iciousness. My wheels are spinning!

The other course that I think would be super helpful is one for new teachers focusing on the technology that our district offers. My department gets to spend an hour or so at the beginning of each school year working with the new crop of teachers, but honestly they get so much information from so many people in such a short period of time, I think a course they could refer back to in the first few weeks of the new school year would be inordinately helpful. We have moved some components of New Teacher training online; it would be an obvious next step to package all the information they need in an online course. I definitely need to share my newfound enthusiasm for online courses with my coworkers!

I have one more week in this class, and then I will be two-thirds of the way to my second Master’s degree! Thanks as always for your interest in my journey.