Showing posts from 2011

21st Century Learning & Writing

The #elemchat on Dec. 17th, focusing on strategies and approaches for helping students become better writers, got me thinking about what writing looks like in 21st century learning.

What does 21st century learning look like?
Students engaged in authentic taskStudents are collaboratively problem solvingCollaboration -- students helping peersStudents are creating original work to represent their ideasTeacher is walking around the room facilitatingNoticeable routines and procedures for getting help and transitioning Learning is interactive and engagingStudents are on task and taking risks to learn Students are forgetting they're learningOngoing assessment/feedback/reflection All of the above can be with or without technology
What does 21st century learning sound like?
Teacher facilitating instead of directingFocused noise--it's not silent while they are on taskStudent led discussionsRespectful discussions and feedbackEnthusiastic conversations about their learningAll of the above can …

Math in One-to-One

Ever wonder what math looks like in an one-to-one environment? Is it just worksheets and math problems online, or is there an advantage to learning math in one-to-one classrooms?

Math in one-to-one

When I was in Tina Jada's class, I saw students actively engaged, engrossed in their learning the standards at a deeper level, with a context for why they were learning and when they'd use these standards in the real world.

Here's a glimpse into her 7th grade class:

Different teachers, different approaches, great learning

When I was in Valinda Wells' class, I saw more great learning. Her class started with a quick review for students to start on their own. After a short amount of time, Ms. Wells' showed a Screenr video modeling her solving the problems, her metacognition throughout, and how she deduced the correct answer. While she played the video, Wells was free to walk around to provide feedback, check for understanding, or guide learners if needed.

Next, the student…

Edublogs Awards -- Supporting AJUSD

The nominations process has closed, and we are excited to see a few of our AJUSD blogs represented on the Edublogs Awards shortlist.

Please support our AJUSD blogging community. You can vote once a day, and if you are in our AJUSD district, please vote from your home computer (our school computers will have the same IP address, so it will only get one count a day). The voting will end on December 14th.

Here's who you can support in our AJUSD blogging community:
Em's Blog for best student blogEthan's Blog for best student blogJon Castelhano's "This and That" for best administrator blogMelissa Martinez (Mrs. Martinez's 4th Grade) for best class blogTracy Watanabe for best individual blog Here's how you vote:

To vote, click on this link, then use the drop down menu to choose the category, then select who you are voting for. You'll need to go back through the process to vote for the next category.

Final remarks

All of our blogs are new, so we are honore…

Leadership, following through, professional development, & PBL

One of the lessons I've learned is a strong leader is someone who can start the momentum and will continue to carry it through. You see, just having the vision and getting it rolling is a step in the right direction, but to continue to nurture it and finish what you've started is what counts.

Professional Development and Project Based Learning

Project based learning  (PBL) and professional development (PD) require some effort to complete. I'm realizing that implementing successful PD is very much like facilitating PBL.

Each of the gears is a step in the process, and they rely on each other to be successful and complete. If you miss one of the gears, you are missing one of the essential elements in implementing PBL or PD. Furthermore, you're never really "done" with the cycle because it keeps going and keeps evolving into something better.

When the gears get jammed

Sometimes gears jam up, but don't throw it away or dismiss it when that happens. Assess the si…

Tracy's Nominations for the 2011 Edublogs Awards

I love awards because it's a chance to recognize and share those who rock my world.

Thank you Edublogs for providing this opportunity to acknowledge amazing educators around the globe, and for raising the awareness of the awesome impact social media and web 2.0 can have on our learning and our learners.

Here are my nominations for 2011-2012:

Best individual blog: Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom
Hands down, the most influential individual blog that I've learned the most from is Kathleen Morris' Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom.Her content is innovative, filled with tangible and applicable learning for every level (even if you aren't a primary teacher). She makes it super easy for a newbie to feel right at home, while being encouraged to take the next step. I appreciate how Kathleen replies to all her comments, which lets us know how much she cares and is passionate about helping others create 21st century, learner-centered classrooms.


Collaborative Writing to Develop the 21st Century Learner

Collaborative writing is strong for bringing ideas together, capitalizing on individual strengths, and building in feedback. When I walked into Mrs. Bliss' 5th grade class to work on the Student Blogging Challenge #3, "Me on the Internet," they decided to write their post collaboratively.

How can students successfully write a collaborative post (or written work)?

Build Background Knowledge (while hooking their interest)

First, we watched this video called Digital Dossier by DigitalNatives, introduced to us in Miss W's post for the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge #3. Before playing the video, we asked them to focus on two questions to discuss after the video:
What is a Digital Dossier?Why is it important to each one of us?

Following the video, we went back to our guiding questions and asked them what it was and why it's important. The students were quite involved in their discussions because of its relevance to their lives.

Introducing Tracy's Favorite Graphi…

Common core, informational text, digital literacy, & 21st century learning

Last week, I had the privilege of working with a group of educators on 21st century lessons and PBL as part of their Collaboration Coach training. One of the main topics we kept revisiting was authentic purpose and audience.

After pointing out strengths, I asked questions such as:
What real audience could the students share their learning with?What real audience would benefit from their learning/product?What real audience, community, or expert outside the classroom could provide feedback?Relating Authentic Purpose and Audience to Common Core Language Arts

Yesterday I received an email from Theresa Bartholomew, our Federal Programs Director, asking us to watch this video and reflect on these questions:
What stands out to you about this?  What potential shifts will this require in our instructional time, focus, use of curriculum programs, etc.?

Here was my quick reply to Theresa:
I'm pumped about it! I expect to see more PBL, probably thematic units, and using technology for authenti…

#Rockstar Meme: 1 Year Blogging Anniversary

I was recently invited by an amazing woman, Joan Young, to participate in the #Rockstar Meme -- How Blogging Rocked Your World. This is such an honor, and the timing couldn't be better as I celebrate my first year anniversary of blogging.

Why blogging?

Blogging helps me reflect, process, and focus, which provides clarity. I think in brainstorms, adding ideas and eliminating others as I rule them out. The process I go through to write a post helps me decipher ideas and connect new meaning, leaving me with a sense of calmness and closure.

Expected blogging benefits

It's expected to be an organized place to keep notes on my learning. Saving time is another expectation because I spend much of my time answering emails about tech integration. So, it helps to post it on my blog.

Unexpected blogging benefits

I didn't realize the connections that evolve from blogging. Until nine months ago, the only blog I followed was my best friend's. The change happened when I stumbled upo…

Creating 21st Century Classrooms

Teching it Up K-12 -- Success Stories, Part 3

In Part 2 of "Teching it Up K-12 -- Success Stories," originally presented at the Arizona CIO/CTO Forum 2011, we focused on developing a learning culture through peer coaching.  In Part 3, we focus on 21st century learning, blogging, and PLN.

Pedagogical Shift

There is a pedagogy shift happening in our district. Teachers are focusing on their learners. They are connecting beyond the four walls of their classrooms for an authentic purpose, relevant to their learners. Students are creating products as part of their learning, rather than it being just another hoop to jump through.

As our teachers become 21st century learners, they push themselves to the next step. For us, the Edublogs Teacher Challenges and Student Challenges have been catalysts in this process.

Edublogs Teacher Challenge

The Edublogs Teacher Challenges build teachers' skills in web 2.0 tools with the support of a global community working through the challenges t…

Grow a Learning Culture through Peer Coaching

Teching it Up K-12 -- Success Stories, Part 2

In Part 1 of "Teching it Up K-12 -- Success Stories," originally presented at the Arizona CIO/CTO Forum 2011, we focused on the importance of a learning-centric vision. Our focus for Part 2 was developing a learning culture through peer coaching.

Serving others through Peer Coaching

With all the professional development needed to sustain one-to-one, PBL, 21st century learning, and individualized instruction, we turned to the Microsoft Peer Coaching model developed by the Peer-Ed team.

The beauty of Peer-Ed's training modules was the adaptability to our district's vision. To highlight the "collaboration" role of peer coaches, we called them "collaboration coaches."

Collaboration Coaching, Catalyst for Culture Shift

We tapped into full time teachers as our collaboration coaches. They focused on creating a 21st century learning environment in their own classrooms, while also working with a small group …

Teching it Up K-12 -- Success Stories, Part 1

We see districts who have an established learning culture, and their classrooms are filled with authentic learning experiences. How did they get there?

Our story

Jon Castelhano and I have the privilege of presenting at the Arizona CIO/CTO Forum 2011 on October 6th. We are going to share how our district closed the door on the 20th century and opened 21st century student-centered classrooms. Our district started teching up the classrooms with engaging, standards-based, student-centered learning, despite the financial climate we are in.

The next three posts will share about our journey, and some of the key game-changers for us.

The focus and the vision

Our district focuses on our learners. We ask, what's good for our learners? What do they want? What can we do to improve their education? If you listen to their answers, they will tell you about our vision.


Those in leadership roles in the district believe in building relationships as the foundation for working together towar…

Our first Web 2.0 Smackdown

After experiencing the EdubloggerCon ISTE 2011Web 2.0 Smackdown, I knew I wanted to see this in our district during professional development.

To add to that idea, I read a post by Patrick Larkin, Burlington High School Principal, about their flipping the Smackdown to the beginning of their Professional Development as a preview for their breakout sessions.

Our Collaboration Coaches, are just the people to introduce this idea to. They are passionate learners, collaborators, and focus on creating student-centered classrooms.

Our version of a Web 2.0 Smackdown

Any participants could share whatever tools/resources connecting to lesson improvement, coaching skills, or tech integration. The process:
Submit topic and link to your visuals before we meet (collected in a Google Form).On the day we meet, present for 2 minutes live or show a recorded "trailer" for us.After smackdown, we'll vote for one to learn more about. Tools and Resources

Here's what they shared:
MuseumBox,  a …

Bloom's Taxonomy and a Praying Mantis

Several mentioned that even though they knew Bloom's Taxonomy, they hadn't put a Bloom's microscope to their lessons until designing PBL. Once they designed a PBL, they realized a rigor boost in Bloom's Taxonomy was needed.

Bloom's Taxonomy and a Praying Mantis

About ten years ago, I had a third grade student bring a praying mantis to our class, and we placed it in a terrarium. The students were fascinated with it.

To capitalize on their interest, I introduced Bloom's Taxonomy for writing research questions about our praying mantis.

I gave a simple explanation, then they worked together in small groups to write questions based on Bloom's Taxonomy. They also had some great insight about each level:

Knowledge: These are facts that we could just look up and memorize. They used the least amount of "brain-power" on Bloom's Taxonomy.
What is a praying mantis? What does a praying mantis look like? What does a praying mantis eat?The students noticed that…

Introducing Your Class to Your Blog

Blogging is a fabulous way to connect with an authentic audience. Like everything else, there is a transition process for learning how.

Foundations for Blogging

Houses need a sturdy foundation to remain standing. Likewise, blogging needs a sturdy foundation of digital citizenship and quality commenting.

Digital Citizenship

Introducing your class to digital citizenship is the first step. They will learn most of this in the context of blogging. However, setting guidelines is important for safety and netiquette expectations.



When it comes to learning about quality commenting, I turn to Linda Yollis. She teaches us to break commenting into two parts: the content and the editing. Here is a summary of some of their tips:
Start with a compliment.Add new information, especially facts.Connect with a personal story of how it's relevant to you.End with a question.Proofread.
Comment Prompt Starters

During one of our Edublogs Blogging Professional Development Classes*, Sandy Ro…

Essential Questions

In my last post, I reflected on a conversation that clarified PBL. When we crafted the Driving Question or Essential Question, the teachers became comfortable with their PBL.

What is an Essential Question?

The purpose of an essential question is to connect relevance of the main concept or big idea back to the learner. It focuses the learner on what's important. Essential questions are:
Thought-provoking, higher level thinking questions, and complicated with more than one answer. Open-ended, interesting, engaging, and focused on the key concepts.
What are Driving Questions?

I view them as essential questions that drive the PBL, containing the purpose for learning it and the project in one question. I honestly use "Essential Question" as a synonym for "Driving Question" depending on my audience.

To set driving questions aside from essential questions, I ask:
What real audience could benefit from the solution or answer to the question? How can I phrase the question a…