Showing Our Learning

Due in no small part to earning my master’s degree in ADL at Lamar University, I started a new position at my school this year as an Instructional Technology Coach. I am so excited to put into action what I’ve learned about learning, and excited every day about what there is for ME to learn. If Moore’s Law is true, I want my mind set towards learning to mirror it. No matter what I learn, I will need to have an attitude of continual and exponential growth in that learning.

One of those areas for me currently is Asset Management on my campus. Fortunately I’m an organized person naturally, but this (and the outdated software associated with it) was not on my radar! 🙂

A few things that I’m VERY excited about is that in addition to coaching the teachers in our building on effective use of technology to drive instruction, I also am priveleged to to teach every student in our building! Each Social Studies teacher will bring her class to me once a quarter, so by the end of the school year I will have taught all 1200 students four times. Our first rotation just concluded, and now our Mitchell Mustangs all have an introduction to keyboarding, and have been taught the basics of file management. Every student’s Google Drive is organized in the same way, with the same language.

For our teachers, I am working with our principal on awarding teachers micro-credentials towards professional learning. Referencing this article on preparing teachers for deeper learning, we are planning ways to incentivise and acknowledge staff members for professional learning. The article speaks on demonstrating competency with artifacts, and when an artifact is created that serves as a competency, the teacher earns either a digital or physcial “badge” to display.

Not only will they earn PD hours, they can do so at their own pace. They will also earn a sense of pride when they receive their badge, and other educators will then know who they might collaborate with when they seek their micro-credential.

While not an ePortfolio, micro-credentials are an excellent way to educators to show what they are learning, and to learn by doing. This practice also supports Allison Gulamhessein’s research on effective professional learning because it will unfold over a school year (or more), providing a longer duration of learning. Teachers working together and with a technology coach provides support and modeling. Because the learning will be done in a blended format after making their own choices, learners will remain engaged.

The Year of Learning to Teach

This year, Sam Houston State University piloted a year-long residency program for their student teachers. Rather than spend a few weeks on their assigned campus, student teachers spend their entire last year in one classroom, working through coaching cycles with their mentor teachers. When I agreed to mentor Christian Soto, I had no idea how much I would also learn in the process.

Simultaneously, I was invited to participate in Conroe ISD’s “Aspire to Lead” year-long professional learning initiative. This experience would have been valuable regardless, but to learn…then share and walk out my learning on a regular basis was priceless, especially the sessions on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and coaching cycles.

In the early days, when Mr. Soto was observing and building relationships with the students, I had to admit to myself that his new presence in my class was a bit of a disruption. To be the person someone else is watching caused me to watch myself in a new way.

Then we pivoted to co-teaching. After reviewing my lesson plan, I would teach the first block (sometimes two), modeling the lesson. A very brief conversation would follow, with me encouraging Mr. Soto to name something specific to focus on. He would then follow through with his practice, and we ended our days with feedback and reflection.

Of course he grew as a teacher. He received feedback openly, and as our mutual trust grew, so did his confidence. His transition to taking over the class was seamless, and I’m immensely proud of the educator he has become.

Perhaps surprisingly was my growth as an educator as well. We are all familiar with the research on the efficacy of reflection. In “The Benefits of Developing a Reflective Routine”, Megan Collins writes for Edutopia that “The autobiographical lens, or self-reflection, requires teachers to stand back from an experience and view it more objectively. This lens allows teachers to become aware of aspects of their pedagogy that are effective or that may need adjustment or strengthening.”

Through this year of continual reflection on my own practice while mentoring Mr. Soto, I have been able to look at my pedagogy and make adjustments based on what I see through his eyes, and what I see by practicing objectivity.

The best educators I’ve known have seen themselves primarily as learners. I hope that is what Mr. Soto remembers from his year here at Mitchell Intermediate. He has become a better teacher, but I have too, as we’ve learned from and with each other.

School Year Podium: Tech Top Three

When I think about using technology in my classroom, I never want the chromebook to be an expensive pencil. How can I help my students experience collaborative learning that gives them a voice, and is authentic? How can I help them own their learning, and to think more deeply in more complex ways?

This year we began by organizing our Google drive into folders for long-term success in CISD. Over the course of the year we used many technology tools to leverage our learning, including Google Slides and Canva to create Word Study presentations, JamBoard to record stop & jots during reading, and the Clips app to create videos for our drama unit, bring their scriptwriting to life. We also used Book Creator in an unconventional way to write and produce book club podcasts, and Flip to prepare for STAAR academic vocabulary.

Effective digital learning is not determined by how the teacher uses technology, but how the learners use technology. These are our top three we used to learn:


Clips is an app found in the Apple store, so we used our campus iPad cart for this assignment. Working in groups, students chose a scene from our Read Aloud and converted the scene to script form. They were given 5 days of class time to write and record their scene. Once they began, they realized very quickly that if they wanted their work to match their imaginations, they would need to make costumes and props at home. This extra work I was delighted to see without any ‘homework’ assigned from school. Any extra editing they also completed at home on their own devices. We enjoyed watching our book come to life, and we loved seeing our peers on the big screen! Writing can be powerful and fun!


Flip was probably the kids’ favorite. Out of almost fifty STAAR commonly used vocabulary words, each student was assigned 2 or 3 to teach any way they wanted using Flip. They posted their word onto their class Flip page, and it then became their responsibility to watch their classmates’ posts and take notes on the remaining 40+ words they were not assigned. After watching a few that were very well made, some students opted to re-do their work.

I’m glad they enjoyed the assignment, and it definitely made a boring topic more exciting. But on the teacher side, it was a little more time consuming than I planned. I needed to watch every video/lesson for accuracy (but also to ensure they were all appropriate). Next time I might disable comments.


Aren’t the best discoveries sometimes accidents? After attending the campus Technology Coach training where we were introduced to Book Creator, I immediately saw what it could offer with its audio capabilities. At the time, I was brainstorming how best to set up podcasting for one hundred 5th graders. I loved how all the viewer initially sees on this app is the book cover. What if my book clubs created their cover, but then instead of creating a book…they recorded their conversations about the book?

It worked great! The app is very intuitive, and each book club was able to shelve their recording with the others in their class. Every 5th grader had access to each shelf, so each class could see everyone else’s work in our LC. I think this added to overall quality, as they knew they would be watched by their peers. Hands down, my favorite way we used technology this year!

Professional Learning, continued

I’m at the tail end of reading Katie Martin’s Learner Centered Innovation. It’s amazing to hear so many of the same ideas and research voiced by someone new (to me), but to experience everything sort of sticking because it all lines up with the work I’ve being doing.

In the tacit space between my course work and Martin’s publication, I’m realizing that out here in the real world I should be synthesizing the professional learning I’m involved in this summer. I should be applying that learning to this created space! I want to practice and become ever more comfortable in the ecosystem where I want my learners to live.

Creating Canvas Assignments and Providing Meaningful Feedback

I feel like I am never as comfortable with Canvas as I want to be. There is so much to understand! This training with Instructional Technology coaches from our district was super informative. We walked through different ways to communicate with learners within Canvas including offering video feedback.

Inspire Creativity with Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Adobe tools allow for students’ voice and choice to communicate and think creatively while learning and applying digital skills. We explored and learned the basics of the interface through creating as well as discussing curriculum integration ideas.

Graphic Design Made Easy with Canva

While Adobe Creative Cloud is a great application for students to use, Canva has been my go-to tool for a while when it comes to creating digital content. I learned so much more in this session, including how to determine size of images regarding pixels and translating that into banners, buttons, and tile cards for Canvas. We also played around with creating slide decks with audio and video. Best one second tip: eyedropper!

My favorite thing about technology professional development opportunities is that we, as learners, always have time to PLAY! We can ask each other questions and solve problems and learn by doing.