Intro to Tango – Creating Interactive Step by Step Directions for Students and Teachers

Tango is a revolutionary Free Google Chrome Extension that automatically creates a written step-by-step guide in real-time without the need for video recording or writing down your own step-by-step guide. Tango transcribes the actions you make with your mouse, URLs, and screenshots, which can all come together to create the step-by-step guide. Ultimately, this is an easy-to-use and game-changing tool that can help you amplify how you provide written instructions for your students to come back to again and again to support them in their learning. 

Tango Interface for Viewers Seeing the Interactive Directions

Getting Started with Tango

Video Guide: How-To Video for Tango

  • Includes how to Add the Tango Google Extension
  • Provides a Step by Step Example of How a Step by Step Guide is Created. 

Tango Step by Step Direction Examples

Here are several of my Tango Interactive Step by Step Directions for you to review:

Application for Students and Instruction

There are a wide variety of applications for students in your class. They can be shared as PDFs or direct hyperlinks to students, which can be housed on Canvas or a website for students to always have access to. Below are a number of the following to think about: 

  • Tech Instructions
  • Directions for Assignments and Projects Involving Tech
  • Assignments/Project Directions
  • Finding Things Online/Research

Build Your Own Personalized Professional Learning Pathway – Individualized Learning and Growth for Educators

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

There are many ways for us to build our capacity and learn as educators. More so than ever before, we have a multitude of different opportunities and pathways to learn and grow. In my growth as an educator, I have curated many resources that have helped me grow in my practice. Having a wide range of opportunities that I can access is great to build capacity and learn something new. Additionally, I like to have options as my mood and yearning vary for a type of modality I would like my learning to look like for that day. Giving yourself options changes things up and keeps the learning fresh and motivating.

The purpose of this post is to provide thoughts and resources to help you formulate your own personalized learning professional development pathway. Throughout this guide, you will find avenues that can amplify your practice. We will be cover seven pathways you can utilize to personalize your learning: 

  1. District, County, or State PD Opportunities
  2. Adult Learning Education Resources
  3. Twitter & Twitterchats
  4. Education Blogs
  5. Podcasts
  6. YouTube
  7. Education Themed Books
  8. Education Research

Take a look at some great curated resources to help personalize your learning pathway!

  1. District, County, and State PD Opportunities

Within our local and state education districts and institutions, there are a wide variety of opportunities to grow and learn. At the district level, there are school site and district-based PD opportunities. Then, there are county-level and state-level PD opportunities. Many of which now you can select and attend online. Currently, there are more opportunities than ever before to attend a PD training to meet your specific learning interests and needs.

  • School-Based
  • District
  • County
  • State
  1. Your Current Education Niche

Each of us has our own current niche and context in education. Whether you are in elementary, secondary, higher education, adult education, Special Education, EdTech, or leadership, there are many opportunities for us to grow and learn from associations and organizations that provide PD for our specific niches.

In my case, it’s Adult Education instruction and leadership. There are a variety of resources to help support teachers in building their instructional toolkit. CalPRO provides online courses, resource guides, and teaching tool resources. OTAN is the leading adult education supporter of the effective application of technology. They give online workshops, tutorials, and the Technology and Distance Learning Symposium conference. Each of these organizations provides many opportunities to continue to grow and learn within the context of Adult Education. 

  1. Twitter & Twitterchats

Twitter is one of the best platforms where you can connect with educators from across the world to learn and grow from one another. It has been a game-changer in my career! You can not only view the stream of Tweets, but you can also follow various lists of educators who are experts in various areas (i.e., ELA, EdTech, etc.). Additionally, you can follow #hashtags related to topics and trends you may be interested in by going to https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/ to search and curate the Tweets. Last, you can participate in real-time chats with educators related to a specific topic and respond to their thoughts. 

Twitter – Getting Started with Twitter for Educators

Twitterchat – The Basics

Twitterchat – How to Participate

  1. Education Blogs

For a quick read and overview of a topic you want to learn more about, there are education blogs that are easily accessible. Blogs provide opportunities for educators to reflect, provide tutorials, put research into practice, and describe what’s working versus not working within their classrooms and schools. Included below are a number of blogs that provide a plethora of information on a wide range of topics related to instruction, leadership, EdTech, and more. 

Additionally, writing your own blogs helps you formulate the ideas you’ve digested from professional learning. It also is a way to display your learning to share with others who can learn fro your insights.

  1. Podcasts

While grading, driving, planning, or writing emails, podcasts are a great way to listen to content that you may be interested in learning and applying to your practice. From instruction, EdTech, leadership, equity, grading, to education research, there are a wide range of topics you can choose from. Find your own! Or, create your own as it’s a great way to interview and learn from educators locally as well as from across the globe. 

  1. YouTube for Tutorials and Inspiration

YouTube is a fantastic resource to look up various tutorials on how to do a specific tech technique or instructional strategy. Use the search bar and you can look up a wide range of topics that may help you. Besides tutorials, podcasts and interviews with educators are also posted, which can be nice additions to your playlists to watch to learn something new. 

  1. Books

Books are another resource and gateway to learning information that can be transformational to your practice. Education-themed books are a great avenue, but also are inspirational, motivational, and self-care books. Each and every one of these books can not only improve our practice but also us learn about other important facets that can make us better educators and people. Whether it’s a physical book or an ebook, they provide an amazing opportunity to take in and find ways to support ourselves and practice. Rowman Littlefield, DBC, EduMatch, Solution Tree, ASCD, and Corwin are some great publishers to look at for education books. 

8. Education Research

Education and neuroscience research has been a huge facet of my learning. In my capacity as a chair and committee member for doctoral students, I have to keep up to date on a wide variety of topics to support my doctoral students as they progress in their research in their dissertation. Therefore, I utilize many types of research tools and pathways to access the latest research. Google Scholar, being a Member of Two University Libraries as an Adjunct Faculty to access journal databases, and Proquest has provided me access to the latest research. Tools such as Feedly and Zotero help me curate the research to then be used for supporting my students and for my research and writing.

Create Your Own Pathway

The information and expertise are out there to grow our practices. Besides content available, it is digestible in a wide variety of modalities, which has changed the nature of professional learning and development. As a result, we truly have the ability to see what we want to learn and then find a modality that we can learn and digest the content to impact our practice.


Instructional Strategies that Can Be Used With and Without Tech

Strategies power everything we do in the classroom. Instructional strategies are the drivers of how we teach students to learn. For this post, the goal is to share a number of strategies that build our instructional toolkit. These strategies can be utilized with or without EdTech tools, which makes them great for any classroom setting. Many of these strategies may be one’s you are already familiar with and using while others maybe not. Take a look and review the strategies and think about how they can be implemented within your classroom and lessons. 

Kagan Cooperative Learning Strategies

Kagan Cooperative Learning strategies are an assortment of strategies that help engage students as well as put students in the position to collaborate. They can be used throughout your lesson plan for formative assessment, engaging students, and cooperative learning. 

Retrieved from Kagan Publishing 2009

Project Zero Thinking Routines

Besides Kagan’s Cooperative Learning strategies, I recommend checking out Harvard Project Zero’s Thinking Routines. In a similar manner, Project Zero provides us with a series of scaffolds and steps for us to direct our students to process, consume, and then produce a work product of their learning. There are about fifty strategies to review and analyze. 

Integrating Strategies with EdTech – An Example

Each of these strategies discussed can be integrated with EdTech tools to amplify student learning. Using a combination of Zoom, Canvas, Google Slides or Jamboard, we can take many of the strategies and create opportunities to use them within any classroom setting. For example, we can a strategy like Rally Robin with Google Slides. Each student pair is given a slideshow with their names labeled. Then, they have editing access to the slide. Once they have access, they can then collaborate and write down together a list of adjectives or words to describe a character, story, etc. To deploy the slides, they can be linked on Canvas, Zoom, or email for students to access. Whether you provide the instructions in-person or live synchronously online, directions can be provided for our students to engage in these strategies and EdTech tool integrations. 

One great resource to help in integrating these strategies is to use the 1200 Jamboard templates provided by TCEA. For each of the strategies provided, a template on Jamboard can be used to help facilitate the strategy within any classroom setting. 

Conclusion – Strategies Are EdTech Tool Agnostic

Instructional strategies and tool-agnostic because they are teacher-driven and the teacher can select the best tool, if needed, to amplify the strategy being used. Sometimes an EdTech tool is not needed. Sometimes it is needed. Altogether, it’s up to the teacher as they weigh factors relating to whether or not an EdTech tool is needed to further augment the strategy. 

Hopefully, this set of strategies is helpful along with the example of how the strategies can easily be integrated with EdTech tools within any classroom setting. Ultimately, our goal is to always evaluate our instructional and tech integration toolkits to see what we are doing and how we can further expand and refine our practice of strategies that help students learn!


Kagan, S. & Kagan, M. (2009). Kagan Cooperative Learning. Kagan Publishing: San Clemente, CA.


Using QR Codes and Integrating them with Strategies to Amplify Learning

QR Codes provide a signature for someone to access the content. Think of it as a shortcut to access the content. It is very similar to a hyperlink, but it can be displayed in our physical and digital worlds. It can transform physical and digital environments. In this same way, it can transform our classrooms and our instruction. There are many ways QR Codes can be integrated into our instruction to amplify student learning, which is the goal of this post. First, we will outline how to create QR Codes. Then, we will discuss how to use them. Finally, we will outline strategies in the classroom QR codes that can be utilized for and deployed. 

Retrieved from Mrs. Lau’s Blog

How to Create QR Codes

To create a QR Code, go to one of the three following websites. You will need content that the QR Code will act as a hyperlink to. Generally, a link to a Google Slideshow, document, Canvas page or assignment, PDF, or YouTube video is needed first. Once that link has been copied, you can use a QR Code generator. 

You will copy and paste the link of where you will want the QR Code to direct your students. Once you do this, click the generate button and a QR Code will appear. Once it has appeared, copy it to your clipboard and then copy and paste it into a document that you will want to print. If they are QR Codes you want to use for a long time, be sure to laminate the document they are printed on. 

Note: You can also have your QR Codes digitally and they can function in the same exact way as they would on a physical document.

Using QR Codes

To use QR Codes, you will need a mobile device with a camera. You will need to open up the camera function. Then, you will place the camera over the top of the QR Code to scan it. Once the camera has scanned the code, it will direct you with a hyperlink to the content it is a shortcut to. 

Instructional Strategies to Integrate QR Codes and Other Uses

Now, we will be discussing a number of instructional strategies as well as other uses of QR Codes by educators within our school communities. Overall, the goal of each is to amplify student learning and disseminate as much information and content as possible to augment what we are doing to do for our students. 

Vocabulary Practice – Digital/Physical Flash Cards with QR Codes 

One strategy can be the creation of flashcards with QR Codes. For multilingual students, hearing and/or seeing the vocabulary word is a great way to help them build their vocabulary and fluency when saying that word. Using vocabulary cards is what we call retrieval practice, which should be used in mass practice and then spaced out over time. Over time, students will practice less and less after a major frontloading of practice sessions. 

Read Aloud Activities

Read alouds are a powerful way students can practice listening and reading. Providing students with a piece of paper of an excerpt of the text or the entire text along with a QR Code they can scan with their phone for a read-aloud allows them to practice these skills. For in-class and asynchronous practice at home, this is possible. A recommended location to place the QR Code on your handout is at the very top of the document along with directions related to the task assigned. 

Note: If the text you are using is a novel, look up whether the novel on YouTube has a read aloud of the text available you can turn it into a QR Code. 

Free Read Alouds of Texts

QR Code Generated Digital Portfolios Using Flowcodes and Flowpages

QR Codes can be placed onto resumes, cover letters, and even on someone’s phone so they can network in addition to providing more information about themselves to share. On a digital portfolio platform like Wakelet, we can easily create a digital presence to share content on one’s self with others. The link directly to that Wakelet page can be turned into a QR Code and placed in physical and digital spaces others can scan. Another platform that does this is called Flow Pages, which allows users to build a landing page that is associated with a unique QR Code. 

Station Rotation/Scavenger Hunts

A fun and engaging strategy QR Codes can be integrated into is station rotation and scavenger hunts. A QR Code can be placed at various stations or places throughout the room where students can interact as they complete a specific task. Students scan each QR Code as they are directed to move from station to station. The QR Code directs them to the task and content they will need to complete each task. 

Retrieved from Learn.Canvas.net

In-Classroom Fieldtrips

Similar to Station Rotation and Scavenger Hunts, students can be given QR Codes taking them to places on a map. Using Google Earth on the web, we can create QR Codes taking students to specific locations on Earth. From buildings, cities, monuments, national parks, and more, the opportunities are endless. 

Share Resources with Others

Last, we can use QR Codes to share resources with others in physical or digital spaces. We can place QR Codes around our classrooms and buildings for students, faculty, and staff to scan. It can be for events, digital field trips around campus, the sharing of resources, and more. Additionally, we can place QR Codes on our digital presentations, which can be scanned by those attending in-person or online to retrieve further information and content. 


Instructional Strategies to Integrate with Google Jamboard to Amplify Learning

Google Jamboard, like Google Slides, has many opportunities to integrate various instructional strategies to amplify student learning. Google Jamboard is an interactive slide that can act as a template for many strategies and activities in your classroom (see this blog to learn about how to use it). Like slides, it has an ease of use for students and teachers alike. Coupled with the many templates we can create or add on various applications like slides, Canva, and Adobe, the opportunities are endless to set up Jamboard with instructional strategies to amplify student learning. 

The goal is to illustrate a number of instructional strategies integrated with Jamboard and provide the steps on how to implement them. They are routines and protocols to ensure that we put our students in the right positions at the right time. We will cover a number of strategies relating to the following:

  • Activating Prior Knowledge
  • Reading Comprehension
    • SWBST Chart
    • Brain Dump
    • Main, Idea, Key Detail, & Summary
  • Summarization and Reflection

Let’s dive into each of these strategies we can integrate with Google Jamboard!

Note: Thank you to TCEA for providing educators with such a resource of templates (which will be provided later) to help support the use of Google Jamboard and incorporate the strategies mentioned here.

Activating Prior Knowledge & Reflection – KWL Chart

For this strategy, you begin your lesson by asking what students know about the topic of the lesson. Then, you ask a follow-up question with what they want to know. You will then leave the Jamboard for the duration of the lesson. After the lesson is over, you will return students to the Jamboard to complete the final column relating to what they learned during the lesson. On another note, while you do each of these protocols of the strategy, you can do a think, pair, and share or a wide range of other cooperative learning strategies. 

See, Think, Wonder

Another strategy to activate prior knowledge and develop conceptual frameworks is the see, think, and wonder strategy. To begin, present students with multimedia and have students observe and analyze what’s happening. Ask students to first think and process what’s happening and then describe what they are seeing. After writing down what they see, they are then asked to think again and write down any connections they have towards what they’ve observed. Finally, students are asked to write down what they further wonder about what they have observed and discussed. Throughout each of these sequences, students can discuss what they write with pairs, groups, or even the entire class. It’s up to you as to how long you want to spend on the strategy and each stage of it. 

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Above is the SWBST Chart, which can be used by a group or pair of students to complete as they read a story or article. Students can add images, text boxes, and sticky notes as they read the story to diagnose its major elements. You can scaffold this chart if you are doing guided reading, or you can have students jigsaw the story if you want them to read it in parts. Ultimately, it depends on what you would like to do and how you want to sequence using the strategy and SWBST chart for the reading. 

The next strategy relates to brainstorming about a story or article students are reading. Each corner represents a different question relating to who, what how, where, when, and why. Students can place everything that they remember about the text through their annotations and paraphrases, which can then be dumped. This can be done individually or within pairs, groups, or the entire class for a mass brainstorming session to occur. Overall, these braindumps can help students see a variety of different perspectives and can be utilized to even predict what the text could be about if it’s not being entirely read in one lesson. 

Another strategy can involve breakdown the various elements of the story or text by having students first review the main key details of the story. Then, in this same exercise, have them identify the main idea and then write a summary of the text. A curveball you can throw to students is to write the summary of the text within a word count range, which can help them work on their summarization skills. 

Combining Multiple Reading Comprehension Jamboards

If you would like to divide up students into groups and pairs and have them utilize various strategies and graphic organizers to complete regarding the text they are reading, you certainly can do it with Jamboard. Recall, you can have multiple Jams within a Jamboard (multiple slides) where various groups of students can work together. This creates opportunities for you to differentiate among groups or jigsaw the task as alluded to earlier. 

An activity that gives students the opportunity to review multiple Jamboards created by various groups is called a Digital Gallery Walk. Students from the other Jams on the Jamboard can review the other pairs or group’s work they did for the reading comprehension activity. This can then help be utilized to propel a discussion and make connections in their comprehension. 

Summarization and Reflection Protocols

At the end of the lesson, we want our students to summarize and reflect on their learning. The strategy and protocol of “I Used to Think” and “Now I Think” provides students the opportunity to reflect and also summarize their learning. To begin, you can ask students to think about and then write down what they used to think about what they learned. Then, you can have your students discuss in pairs the bullet points they’ve written. Following this phase, you then ask students to summarize what they think about the topic now, which can also include a short pair or group discussion after students write down their thoughts to share with others in a group or to the entire class. 

Concept Mapping

Concept mapping is a strategy you can implement when you want your students to make connections related to the content they are learning. From brainstorming to summarizing key relationships of the content and skills being discussed, concept mapping can be done individually and then within pairs or small groups, which can be followed up by a whole-class discussion. Overall, concept maps can be saved and placed onto Canvas or printed out to be placed around the classroom for students to view. This can be a helpful study tool for students. 

Conclusion – These Examples Are the Tip of the Iceberg

There are many strategies we can incorporate into Google Jamboard that can further amplify student learning. Eduprotocols, cooperative learning, and thinking routines are all types of instructional strategies that can be integrated into Google Jamboard, Google Slides, Pear Deck, and Nearpod. They are all part of the interactive slide family. Additionally, they can all be utilized for formative assessment to an extent, which can help you determine where your students are at relating to what you are covering at that point in time in your class. Take a look at the templates below as well as the strategies discussed here to see how you can begin to experiment with your students in your classroom.

Templates and More

Here’s a video going through how to use Google Jamboard. Then, take a look at the Ultimate Google Jamboard Collection thanks to TCEA. This Jamboard Template collection provides you with over 1200 templates for you to make a copy of and use for your classroom instruction. 

Jamboard Templates by Matt Miller


Making Special Education Sustainable for Special Education Teachers

Special Education is a huge support for students and families within our school communities. It can provide services and supports to neurodiverse students to make socio-emotional and academic progress as well as provide the support to help students transition into life as an adult. Additionally, it gives many students the opportunity to be included with all students within inclusive general education classes. By providing these services to students, it can be game-changing for many students as it provides them opportunities to amplify their strengths to attain their goals!

Before jumping too far into this post, I wanted to disclose I was a Mild to Moderate Special Education teacher for seven years. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and working with students. However, I did not enjoy the bureaucratic systems in place, which made it very difficult for me at times. Thus, the goal of this post is to discuss the problems facing Special Educators and then propose a number of solutions that may make their job more sustainable and attractive for future and current educators to join or stay within the profession. Thank you to #edutwitter for refining the recommendations we will discuss throughout this post as this thread provided many good ideas that helped me in drafting this post!

Undoubtedly, Special Education is a great service to our students and communities. However, the topic of this blog is how it is unsustainable as currently constructed for educators, which has caused a mass exodus of teachers, which hurts not only the teachers leaving but the students and families receiving Special Education services.

Unfortunately, due to many of Special Education’s (as constructed currently) unsustainable bureaucratic structures, it requires systematic reform in order for it to become sustainable for teachers as well as to recruit and retain teachers who have the yearning to teach. It ultimately is not about whether teachers want to work with students. For most, teachers want to get into teaching to make an impact within a student’s life. Ultimately, what we are talking about is the sustainability of how teachers systematically fit into the system in which Special Education services are provided to students. Currently constructed, Special Education is unsustainable for teachers as they have to juggle many different responsibilities that go far beyond teaching and working directly with students and families.

The Problem – Too Many Hats and Responsibilities for Special Education Teachers

Currently, Special Education is unsustainable for teachers as they have to juggle many different responsibilities that go far beyond teaching and working directly with students and focusing on administrative, legal, logistics, and service compliance. Sadly, due to the way teachers are systematically being utilized in Special Education, burnout is extremely high. As a result, for many Special Education teachers, they are only in the profession for five years or less due to the pressure, stress, and job responsibilities. Ultimately, we want to allow for Special Educators to do what they love in a sustainable manner so they can be there for their students and do their job well at a high level without burning out and leaving the profession. As a result of this burnout and the massive upheaval of teachers moving in and out of the profession, students ultimately lose out. Therefore, one of the goals of this post is to provide several recommendations to make it sustainable for teachers.

Within Special Education, in many schools and districts across the U.S., Special Education teachers hold multiple hats beyond instruction that have much more of a focused magnifying glass as they have legal ramifications. Generally speaking, Special Education Teachers (also known as Ed. Specialists) are required to teach individual classes and/or co-teach along with case management. Teaching by itself can be extremely difficult in itself in our current climate. However, case management is just as difficult or even more difficult depending on the students and families they are serving because of the various needs and services that have to be provided.

Case management entails many administrative roles, which include Individualized Education Plan (IEP) drafting (one or more times a year), ensuring services are being implemented, goal progress on academic, executive functioning, and social-emotional goals, planning and holding annual IEP meetings, assessing students, and communicating with stakeholders in the student’s education such as psychologists, general education teachers, families, the principal, speech pathologists, and the student themselves. Overall, along with teaching, it is essentially carrying the job as a pseudo-administrator in many cases.

Ultimately, these two roles with high numbers of students they are serving within their classrooms (upwards of 130 students if the teacher works in a secondary setting) and having a working caseload of students they are servicing as a case manager in the mid to upper 20’s, creates a recipe for burnout because of the multi-tasking and energy it takes to ensure students are being taught as well as being serviced as a case manager. This does not take into consideration whether this is being done well or at a high level because of the many different responsibilities it takes to complete each of these tasks. Altogether, this creates a recipe for it being unsustainable for teachers, which creates a large door of teachers entering and exiting the profession without much stability for students, families, and schools.

Possible Recommendations and Solutions to Make it More Sustainable to Teach in Special Education

Below are a number of ideas to help make Special Education a more sustainable practice for teachers and schools. The goal is to ultimately simplify the responsibilities of Special Education teachers and distribute their responsibilities to other stakeholders and harness technology to make various processes required more streamlined and efficient. The thought is that many of these recommendations could help make the profession much more sustainable for teachers and create more longevity for teachers to stay in the profession.

Divide Case Managing and Teaching Responsibilities into Two Separate Jobs – Having two jobs in one is simply unsustainable. In order to increase Special Education teacher retention and allow for a more sustainable occupation, dividing the role into two would be advantageous for multiple reasons. Instruction would improve. Case management would improve. Better student outcomes. More stability for students. Higher compliance relating to services and goal progress. Also, better communication and relationships among Special Educators, the school, stakeholders, and families. Districts would have to hire more teachers to make this happen, but it would create opportunities for there to be more sustainability in terms of having highly qualified and experienced teachers completing each of these tasks. This would ultimately serve students and families better by giving teachers more to provide the services and support than having to focus on several other capacities at once.

If this cannot be done, substantial pay increases (upwards to 30% or more) would be needed. This could be a separate salary schedule, which would outline this pay increase. In addition to the increased salary scale, overtime pay could be done for work taken home; especially if it is IEP writing and goal progress related. Increased pay also should include instructional aides as they are a huge part of supporting students. Like teachers, the increased pay and providing benefits would attract and retain instructional aides to keep much more consistency and stability of having them on staff.

Reform IDEA by Simplifying IEPs and the IEP Writing Process – An IEP has many pages that outline the services it provides to students. This is likely the most controversial area since many will have different approaches to what this will look like. However, my point of view involves having several pages of the IEP consolidated to a document like an IEP At a Glance since that’s what describes the services and goals in the document. This would be the yearly document that is reviewed at the annual meeting. Then, for the triennial meetings, the longer document would be reviewed along with the most recent re-evaluation assessment data. Ultimately, the goal here is to limit the amount of paperwork for Special Education teachers, which will then open up time for directly working with students.

Creating New Technology that Consolidates Data and IEP Drafting – To streamline goal progress and IEP drafting, we need technologies to take adaptive assessment data relating to academic goal progress and overall academic progress to be taken from that tool, consolidated, and then placed into the narrative form on an IEP writing software. If we can create alignment and automation surrounding these collections of data, it will create more time for providing services versus collecting and consolidating that data and drafting the IEP itself. Additionally, it will provide data in real-time for the IEP team to make decisions and share that data directly with students and families.

Provide Further Training for General Education Teachers – General education teachers need to have more training in Special Education. This includes an understanding of IEPs, collaboration, and implementing services outlined in the IEPs as well as providing instruction in all types of learners. These training opportunities would be within teacher preparation programs and implemented within district professional learning plans. In a reform of IDEA, these types of trainings could be mandated to be part of a districts overall professional learning plan. Co-teaching, teaching reading, IEP contents, and differentiating instruction would be a number of areas that all teachers would need extensive training on Overall, with further training and collaboration, there can be a larger shared responsibility among stakeholders.

On another note, professional learning for Special Education teachers should be geared towards what they do on a daily basis. Much of the professional development sessions are geared toward general education teachers. While some of these learning opportunities may be beneficial, having targeted learning opportunities for Special Education teachers for the type of instruction they are providing, to support them in case management, and IEP writing and goal progress.

More Time & Fewer Responsibilities or Students On Caseload – Regardless of whether the Special Education teacher is both an instructor and case manager or one or the other, they need more time to prep, communicate with families, complete the responsibilities and tasks outlined in the position, and time to work with students one on one. Right now, there simply is not enough time in the day to complete all of these responsibilities. More time and fewer responsibilities must be given in order for the profession to be more sustainable for teachers. If more time and fewer responsibilities cannot be provided, then lower caseloads and class sizes significantly.

Another option is to revise the weekly schedule. Provide at least two hours of prep and case management time a day, at a minimum, or designate an entire day throughout the week for this work. A four-day instructional week would be advantageous if time cannot be afforded for enough time to prep and case manage throughout the day.

Ongoing and Long-Term Mentorship – Many teachers entering the profession do not have long-term mentors. What helps many is to have one or a core group of teachers that can help mentor and provide support. Having a mentor can go a long way if there’s a strong relationship that is built. Designing opportunities for mentorship to go beyond the first two years of teaching would provide more opportunities to grow, collaborate, support, and share experiences to amplify instructional and case management practices.

Respect and Shared Responsibility – Special Education teachers are oftentimes an afterthought. Sometimes they are may be treated as “less than” because of their role. Yet, they work with the vast majority of students and have much more contact and communication with families than general education teachers. Additionally, some school cultures put all of the pressure on the Special Education teacher to ensure the IEP is being fully implemented when in reality it is a team effort. The Special Education teacher and case manager is essentially the point guard who initiates services, checks progress, and works towards having all service providers and teachers collaborate to provide the best opportunities possible for that student to learn. The entire team needs to hold a shared responsibility and schools need to ensure their culture is clear that decisions and responsibility of implementing the IEP are on the team versus having the entire brunt being on the Special Education teacher.

Conclusion – Let’s Work Towards Making Special Education Sustainable for Teachers

The proposals discussed here are only the tip of the iceberg of what can be done to make Special Education much more sustainable for teachers. These are all proactive recommendations, which may save schools and districts money over time as services and compliance will be much more aligned and implemented more effectively. Many of these proposals require higher amounts of funding, which is critically needed in Special Education as IDEA has never been fully funded. Additionally, I believe more respect within the educational community needs to be given to Special Education teachers and service providers. They are critical for students, families, and schools. They cannot be an afterthought when developing policy or programs as they should be part of the conversation as major players. Hopefully, policymakers and education leaders can work together with Special Education teachers and service providers to collaborate and reform the profession to make it more sustainable, which would ultimately be a win for everyone!

What are your thoughts relating to this topic? How can we work together to make Special Education more sustainable for teachers? Write a comment below or continue the conversation on Twitter. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts as this is a conversation we must continue to help support the profession.


Creating Content with EdTech – Similarities with User Interfaces and Toolbars Make it Easy to Create Content as Seen on Canvas, Google, & Microsoft

Creating content on Canvas is very similar to creating content on Word or Google Docs. Many of you know to use the content toolbar to write and create content on a Word Processor. Essentially, it is very similar on Canvas! The goal is to show you the various similarities each tool uses to create content, which many of us are familiar with. This helps us with the ease of use of the EdTech tools we utilize to create content for our classroom instruction as many are very similar.

It’s all about the content creation toolbar. Let’s see some comparisons below between Word, Google Docs, and Canvas. 

Microsoft Word Content Creation Toolbar

Google Doc Content Creation Toolbar

Canvas Content Creation Toolbar

Using this content creation toolbar, you can create pages and assignments on Canvas, which are the two of the main mechanisms you can use to create instructional content for your students. The content creation toolbar does not change throughout your use of Canvas. Ultimately, the options that change are the additional content you want to add when uploading assignments through either a file or the Google LTI integration (using a document or slideshow previously made and uploading from Google Drive). Keeping the content creation tool the same on Canvas allows you to easily transition from doing various actions on the learning management system, which ultimately helps with learning the platform and its ease of use. 

Final Thoughts – Creating Content is Very Similar Across Platforms

Overall, creating content across platforms can be done in very similar ways. There may be a few steps that it takes us to open these various tools, but once we are creating the content, the toolbars have many of the same options we can choose from to create the content. I recommend taking some time to dabble and play with the content creator toolbars on Canvas. You can do just as much as you can on Google Docs and Microsoft Word, which is amazing! The more time you spend, the better you will get building out the content for your classes. Over time, you become much faster in creating the content as you are using the tool more often. 

In my experience, much of the technology we use in education has many of the same functions to create content we can use to amplify our instruction and student learning. Once you know how to use one or three content creation toolbar interfaces, you know how to create content on ten to twenty different tools. Hopefully, by looking at these various content creation toolbars shows a brief preview of this pattern we see with EdTech tools we can use in our classrooms to amplify our instruction, content, and student learning!


MOTE – A Revolutionary Audio Recording Tool for Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets

Introduction to MOTE – A Game-Changing Audio Recording Tool for Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets

Mote is a voice recording and voice player, which can be integrated into directly Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets. This is one of my favorite tools that can help improve student accessibility and differentiate instruction. It is free for 30-second recordings that can be used to play instructions and can be utilized to comment on student work to provide them voice feedback.

 Let’s discuss how to use it and how it can benefit your students. As you go through this post, watch how MOTE works by watching it in action through this video. It will help you see how each of its uses outlined throughout the post can be put into action and utilized by your students. 

Mote is a Free Audio Recording Tool for Feedback or Directions

As you can see here, MOTE allows you to comment on text and record a voice comment students can listen to when they hover over the text or comment where the recording is located. It can be utilized to provide student feedback and outline directions.  Once you go to mote.com and download the extension, you can highlight text, comment, and then provide a voice recording on Docs, Slides, and Sheets. As shown above, this is what MOTE recording looks like after it’s been recorded on a Google Doc. 

Getting Started with MOTE

To get started with MOTE, go to www.mote.com and download the extension and sign up for the free plan. Sign up and create an account, download the extension on the website, close your internet browser, and then open up a Google Doc, Slide, or Sheet. The Mote will then appear with its symbol either at the top of the application or on the comment feature.

To watch this happen in real-time, watch Getting Started with MOTE – Step by Step. 

Note: One note to make about the video, you cannot download the extension in the extension store. Rather, you need to install directly from the www.mote.com website. 

Mote on Google Slides

Mote can be directly integrated into a Google Slide. Create a Google Slide and then click on the MOTE icon above the slide. Then, record your directions or feedback directly into the slide. An audio symbol will then appear for students to click on when they want to hear the recording. Additionally, a MOTE recording can be integrated into a Google Slide by clicking on the text and recording a MOTE recording through the comment feature.  

Mote on Google Docs Beyond Comments – HyperMotes

Motes can be directly integrated into the text of a Google Doc. HyperMotes provide an opportunity for your directions to be hyperlinked directly in a text. A HyperMote can be recorded by clicking on the Hypermote icon on the Google Doc and then place directly into the text you’ve underlined. 

Conclusion – MOTE Is a Game-Changing Tool to Make Learning Accessible for All

MOTE is a great tool to help differentiate instruction and can make learning much more accessible to our learners. It can be used for any form of content within any of our classes! We hope you check it out as it can be a game-changing tool for your instruction that can help amplify student learning.


Reflecting on Educations Challenges and Opportunities of 2021 to Help Us Navigate in 2022 and Beyond

As we end 2021 and move into 2022, much has happened in the world of education that can help us navigate our present and future. This past year consisted of challenges brought upon by the pandemic, divisions in local and national politics and discourse, school culture, the realities of reacclimating students to school as well as navigating disruptions brought upon by the pandemic, and the increasing pressures on teachers and schools to provide our students beyond an education has been a monumental challenge. For many, it’s been the most challenging school year they’ve ever experienced; even beyond that of the 2020 school year. A few questions resonate:

1. How can we navigate the present and future of education in ever-changing world?

2. Where do we go next?

3. How can we work towards retrofitting education and making it sustainable for educators?

4. How can we develop the curriculum and environment where we teach our students to be lifelong learners?

Efforts have been made to navigate and weather the storm of the pandemic. Public education in the western world has received immense amounts of funding, most notably in the United States. These rescue funds were geared towards mitigation efforts, testing, technology, curriculum, social services, and more. The long-term effects of this funding and changes as a result of the pandemic are beginning to take shape. Much of the changes we are seeing in education are taking place within the 120-year structure that has been in place. Innovation has taken place in pockets and pushback towards innovation has taken hold in many places as we’ve seen schools and classrooms move towards instruction we saw prior to 2020. The notion of innovating inside the box has been resonating throughout the year. Have you seen this happen in your classroom, school, and district? Or, have you seen a regression backward?

On a positive note, technology has become more widespread and equity gaps in this area have begun to be bridged. Additionally, we are beginning to imagine and see that instruction can be delivered within any classroom setting. Instruction without boundaries will continue to gain steam as more teachers and schools will gain the skills and capacity to do this effectively as we move into the future Also, social-emotional learning (SEL) has exploded in popularity and use in K-16 education. Now, when you walk into many classrooms, you will see SEL strategies and activities integrated into the instruction throughout the day and lessons you observe. Although, there is much debate as to what’s working and not working with SEL in classrooms. In addition, there’s a glaring need for more social and psychological services within schools, which has been there since long before the pandemic. Last, there’s been a huge move in many places to change how students are assessed and graded. Formative assessment can now be conducted much more efficiently with EdTech in place. Teachers can now see each and every student’s progress multiple times throughout a lesson and make adjustments to the lesson and provide feedback to bridge gaps in understanding. Similarly, going gradeless and competency-based grading has gained more steam. Many districts have eliminated D and F grades and are moving towards skill-based competency grading scales. While this is still not completely mainstream, this movement that has been on the fringes of education is becoming more front and center than before the pandemic. What opportunities do you see with these developments?

As the year 2021 ends, we are amid the largest wave of COVID-19 we’ve seen even with widespread vaccination available to all ages beginning at age five. Unfortunately, we are far behind where we should be across North America. Several large K-12 school districts and universities are toggling online for the time being to avoid high case rates as they return in January. This has also occurred on a smaller scale when various classes or entire schools had to toggle for a week or so here and there this fall when outbreaks have occurred on campus. On a final note and on top of the toggles that are occurring this winter, we are seeing massive teacher burnout and resignations from the profession. We saw this in 2020 and beforehand. Yet, the warnings are now manifesting into major teacher shortages. Last, we are seeing students struggling with their mental health like never before. Before and during the pandemic, this has only progressively worsened.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I have tried to highlight many of the things I’ve observed and experienced in addition to dialoguing with educators locally, nationally, and globally. While there have been some positive developments, education is clearly in a crisis that has been brewing before the pandemic and has been exasperated over the last two years.

Ultimately, the goal is to highlight some of these challenges and opportunities and provide some ideas of how to move forward and navigate through the challenges we are facing in K-16 education in 2022.

Let’s begin to further dissect some major challenges and address them.

Teacher Burnout and Mass Resignations – In both of my books, especially in Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders, I outline various practices that can be done within a school system as well as on an individual basis to mitigate teacher burnout. How can we as an educational community take this on? I believe there are things we can do now that are systematic and can be done on an individual basis.

Schools can do a number of things. Schools can systematically increase planning time, increase pay, decrease meetings, personalize professional development, eliminate extra duties, more push back and support by admin to parents and students, and improve school culture through trusting and building the confidence of teachers, which can help mitigate burnout now. Some of these are building-level decisions, which can be implemented now. While some of these measures can be costly, there are several that are low cost and can happen without school board approval. Major funding policy changes occur at the state level. You can vote, advocate, and lobby policymakers locally and at the state level to push these policy changes.

On an individual basis, there are several things teachers can do to help lessen the stress on their plate. First, teachers can stop taking work home, create a not-to-do list, focus on their top three priorities, mitigate the multi-tasking, and lessen the amount of time given to grading. Beyond this, having an activity outside of school that can help you mitigate stress like working out, reading a book, and/or spending time with family and friends, can all help as well.

Continued COVID-19 Disruptions Resulting in Toggles – As we’ve seen throughout the school year. Entire classrooms, schools, and districts have had to toggle back and forth between in-person and online instruction due to outbreaks. Unfortunately, this has not improved throughout the year even with vaccines because children ages five and up have only been recently been given clearance for vaccination as well as having to navigate the overly infectious omicron variant. Going forward, more treatments will become available and, we hope, that the variant is much less deadly and serious than delta. With this said, we must be prepared to continue to toggle as well as amplify our testing at schools and vaccination programs. The only way to avoid toggles is to have a robust testing strategy in place where all students and staff (regardless of vaccination status) are tested on a regular basis. Amplified testing protocols should continue until the local test positive percentage drops below .05% for community transmission and having a school vaccination rate of 95% or above.

You can check out the MCH Strategic Data website outlining all districts in the US instructional model and COVID policies. Expect this map to change in the coming weeks to reflect the exponential case counts occurring during the 2021 holiday season. How many toggles do you believe will occur nationwide and in your community?

Immense State and Federal Funding for Education – Will it Continue? Over the course of the past year, we’ve seen unprecedented funding come from state and federal stimulus bills to help fund education. The big question is will this funding continue? As mitigation efforts need to continue to be improved and amplified along with teacher salary and working conditions, this funding will be needed moving forward. If we see any massive drop in this funding across our K-16 system, it could prove disastrous. Therefore, a huge question moving forward is will the funding continue?

In many states, funding models directly associated with attendance are proving to not be effective and handicapping schools due to the disruptions caused by COVID. When students are out for long periods of time, schools lose this funding, which is out of their control. Thus handicapping them when students are out with funding deficits. One major effort to navigate this is to provide funding as if all students enrolled were attending each day throughout the year. In California during the 2020-2021 school year, the average daily attendance (ADA) function for funding was frozen but then reinstituted for the 2021-2022 school year. As we move forward, this indicator should be eliminated from the funding mechanisms utilized to fund schools. Without this barrier, schools would be better positioned to fund programs, teachers, and mitigation efforts with more predictability at a much quicker pace to keep up with the ever-changing conditions we are facing.

A Big Snapback in the Fall and a Push Forward in the Winter – EdTech – If you walk into classrooms, many schools still have devices for each of their students that they can utilize in the classroom as well as at home. However, countless school districts have taken away student devices and limiting access to them. We’ve seen schools and teachers lose the technology-infused pedagogy they were using and observed a move back to paper, pencils, worksheets, and high-stakes testing. Unfortunately, for some educations, this may have not been by choice as the technology devices were taken out of the classroom and students hands. Also, many had to go down this path to simply survive the school year with or without using technology. This is what we call the big snapback, which was inevitable moving back from online and hybrid instruction to being fully in-person. A large snapback was expected after a year of constant change.

Much of the professional learning that took place over the past two years was not continued and not personalized to meet teachers where they are at. The best form of professional development during this time is asynchronous and then reinforced by coaching that comes directly into the classroom. Forming collaborative relationships with teachers and teaching with them while learning a new strategy and/or a tech tool will yield the best results. When done intentionally as a strategy for improving the capacity of a school, it will move schools forward rather than experience a snapback.

Looking Forward to 2022 – Some Ideas to Help Us Navigate and Move Forward into a New Year

Based on these topics, there’s much we can move forward to prepare for the future. Here is a list of things we can do now that can help prepare us for the year to come and beyond. Ultimately, the goal would be to focus on three to five of these items to begin (many already are). Then, add more over time. Navigating these challenges will be gradual. Change will not occur overnight. Yet, over time, change can occur that will be positive to teachers and students.

  • Focus on social-emotional learning and building relationships with students.
  • Advocate for funding and more testing.
  • Decrease number of meetings and additional duties.
  • Personalize PD that is asynchronous in delivery and provide coaching that goes directly into classroom. Ensure PD focuses on a learning management system and strategies that can be utilized within any classroom setting (in-person, online, blended).
  • Provide more planning time and spend less time grading. Focus on formative feedback.
  • Don’t forget about the tech. Focus on tech integrated instruction; especially for formative assessment.
  • Focus on collaboration, autonomy, and trust.
  • Connect with other educators by expanding your local and global professional learning network.
  • Focus on your school and classrooms systems. Spend time thinking about what systems are working versus what are systems that are not working or efficient is key for making organizational change. Change the systems if they are not working nor efficient.
  • Provide teachers additional resources and services for mental health.
  • Develop online academies within each district.
  • Create personalized learning pathways within schools and districts for students.
  • Change grading practices to competecy based or gradeless.

What other items would you like to add to this list? This list definitely does not encompass everything that can be done. Rather, it is a list to build upon moving forward. Please feel free to comment at the bottom of this post and share your thoughts.

Conclusion – Moving into 2022

As we progress into 2022, we have many challenges ahead yet I have optimism. As someone who has hands in K-12, Higher Education, and Adult Education, I am lucky to see a variety of different perspectives and see change already taking place. We have shifted course and the pedagogy and use of technology have significantly improved. Although, with COVID being a major challenge that does not seem to be going away as a significant challenge anytime soon, much of what we see is headlined by COVID and how it’s wrecking havoc on a system that was already in dire need of systemic change. Our course moving forward in education will be predicated much more on greater societal systemic changes. Although, I do believe at the school and classroom level, things can be done now to improve the education experience for students and teachers, which many amazing ideas are highlighted in this Twitter thread.

I believe education in our day and age should be to create lifelong learners. In 2022 and beyond, we all will have to reskill every five years as the skills today may need to be completely refined or refitted. Our goal should be to set students up with the skills to learn new skills and cultivate a mindset that yearns to learn and reskill. Personalization for teachers and students is at the forefront of my mind as I move into the next year. Many of my upcoming projects with AmpGlobalEdu and Instruction Without Boundaries all relate to creating personalized pathways for educators to teach students important lifelong learning skills in any classroom environment.

Overall, arguments have been made to either innovate inside the box or tear down the system to help mitigate many of the challenges we are experiencing. I do believe our education systems are outdated and the world we live in today does not fit our current education models. Ultimately, the world is changing faster than our institutions, not only in education but also in governance and in economics. As a culture and society, especially in North America, it comes down to building trust and esteem for the necessary reforms and the institution itself for change to occur systematically.

I hope everyone has a fantastic and safe New Year. I cannot wait to connect, learn, and collaborate with you in 2022 and beyond!


Season 1 Recap 3: Navigating Education – The Podcast

The last and final recap of Season 1 of Navigating Education – The Podcast, includes the Education Coaching Series that made a huge splash and a series of episodes relating to futuring in education, digital assessment tools, going gradeless, and how to podcast. Each of these episodes have so many nuggets that can help teachers, coaches, and school leaders navigate the present and future of education. Thank you to all of the amazing guests that made each and every episode possible! I cannot wait to get started on Season 2 in January 2022 in my new recording office. In the meantime, take a listen to all of these fantastic episodes!

Episode 35: Season 1 Podcast Summary and Reflections

Episode 34: Part 7 of the Education Coaching Series – Reflecting on Major Coaching Themes from the Series

Episode 33: Part 6 of the Education Coaching Series – Coaching with An EdTech Integration Mindset with Jake Miller

Episode 32: Part 5 of the Coaching Series – Coaching Educational Leaders with Janelle McLaughlin

Episode 31: Part 4 of the Education Coaching Series – Evolving as a Coach Over Time with Coach Todd Malecki

Episode 30: Education Futuring – What is it and How it can Benefit School Leaders and Teachers to Navigate the Present and Future with Dr. Richard Bernato

Episode 29: Part 3 of the Coaching Series – Coaching and Mentoring as an Instructional Leader with Sean Scanlon

Episode 28: Part 2 of the Education Coaching Series – Coaching and Mentoring Pre-Service Teachers with Dr. Samantha Fecich

Episode 27 – Part 1 of the Coaching Series: Beginning the School Year as an Instructional Leader/Coach with Etienne’ aka Steven Langlois

Episode 26 – Creating Opportunities to Show and Measure Qualitative Student Growth with Mike Rutherford

Episode 25 – Digital Assessment Tools with Samantha Shaffner

Episode 24 – Coworking Spaces and Canadian Education / EdTech with Robert Martellacci

Episode 23 – Going Gradeless with David Frangiosa

Episode 22 – Education Podcasts with Alfonso Mendoza

Episode 21 – How to Avoid Teacher Burnout with Kevin Leichtman Ph.D


Creating Digital Portfolios and Resumes with Wakelet – Digital Landing Pages for Students to Share With the World

Having students create an ever-changing resume and portfolio online is essential in the world we live in today. By creating a landing page all about yourself that can be shared with the world, it provides a platform to share everything we’ve created, accomplished, and experienced. For our students, this is an awesome way to help them create resumes and digital portfolios that display their knowledge and accomplishments to help with future employment or moving forward in their careers. Besides creating an online portfolio and resume, students have the ability to download and print the portfolio to use when applying for jobs outside of providing a hyperlink for employers to access at any time. 

Therefore, the goal of this post is to demonstrate how to use Wakelet as a template to create the portfolio as well as use it as an online landing page for the student to share with employers. 

Below are the steps on how to get your students started creating a resume and digital portfolio on Wakelet. Included here is a video demonstrating each of the following steps below for you to review. 

Step 1: This is the example of the Wakelet digital portfolio template (to see, join Wakelet by joining via Google) discussed within this blog. Go here and review the template. Students will need their own Wakelet accounts, which are free. They only need an email address to be able to have one. 

Step 2: On the template, share the link to your students through your Canvas, email, or Google Classroom. You can do this by clicking the share button on the top of the Wakelet. 

Step 3: Have students click on the top three buttons on top of the template to make a copy. 

Step 4: Once they have a copy, they will go to their “home” Wakelet page on their account to view the copy to then edit. 

Step 5: Students can edit the template by clicking on the edit button. Students can add text, photos, hyperlinks, assignments from their Google Drive, and videos. Be sure to have students click “done” each and every time they edit the page as it doesn’t save automatically. 

Step 6: Once students are done, they can download the PDF of the resume and portfolio. Additionally, they can share the link to the page they’ve created by clicking on the share button and copying and then pasting the link to whomever they are sharing it with. 

Overall, Wakelet is an easy-to-use platform that students can use to create portfolios and resumes over their educational careers. I recommend having students begin a portfolio at the beginning of the semester if they do not have one already. Then, for the specific class, create a page that leads to a collection of all of the learning artifacts they’ve created.

Take a shot at using this amazing tool! To learn more, see the resources below as well as our previous blog post on Wakelet to learn more about it and its uses to amplify instruction and student learning. 

More Examples

More Resources Curated on Wakelet


Navigating Education – The Podcast – Season 1 Recap: Part 3

After the first ten interviews of the podcast, interviews began being categorized into series. During Season 1 of the podcast, the Seven Part series on Coaching was produced. This series created an engaging and informational sequence of shows that were geared towards all coaches in the educational realm. Moving into Season 2 of the podcast, expect more series to be produced on a wide range of topics to help educators navigate the present and future of education.

Enjoy these final 15 episodes as they are jam-packed with information to amplify your practice! Season 2 is coming in 2022!

Episode 35: Season 1 Podcast Summary and Reflections

Episode 34: Part 7 of the Education Coaching Series – Reflecting on Major Coaching Themes from the Series

Episode 33: Part 6 of the Education Coaching Series – Coaching with An EdTech Integration Mindset with Jake Miller

Episode 32: Part 5 of the Coaching Series – Coaching Educational Leaders with Janelle McLaughlin

Episode 31: Part 4 of the Education Coaching Series – Evolving as a Coach Over Time with Coach Todd Malecki

Episode 30: Education Futuring – What is it and How it can Benefit School Leaders and Teachers to Navigate the Present and Future with Dr. Richard Bernato

Episode 29: Part 3 of the Coaching Series – Coaching and Mentoring as an Instructional Leader with Sean Scanlon

Episode 28: Part 2 of the Education Coaching Series – Coaching and Mentoring Pre-Service Teachers with Dr. Samantha Fecich

Episode 27 – Part 1 of the Coaching Series: Beginning the School Year as an Instructional Leader/Coach with Etienne’ aka Steven Langlois

Episode 26 – Creating Opportunities to Show and Measure Qualitative Student Growth with Mike Rutherford

Episode 25 – Digital Assessment Tools with Samantha Shaffner

Episode 24 – Coworking Spaces and Canadian Education / EdTech with Robert Martellacci

Episode 23 – Going Gradeless with David Frangiosa

Episode 22 – Education Podcasts with Alfonso Mendoza

Episode 21 – How to Avoid Teacher Burnout with Kevin Leichtman Ph.D


What is a Wakelet Collection?

Do you want a place to save links, social media posts, videos, and images that can be curated and interacted with by you and your students? If so, Wakelet is a great free tool where this can take place. On Wakelet, you and your students can create, curate, and organize content together to amplify the learning experience within any classroom setting. 

The goal of this post is to introduce Wakelet, its uses, and resources to help you put it into action for yourself as well as with your students. 

Ways to use Wakelet & Getting Started

Wakelet has many different uses to amplify your work and instruction with students. Take a look at them below before taking a deeper dive. 

Via Xavier University

To begin your journey using Wakelet, here is a ten minute video outlining its features and how to use them. 

Using Wakelet as an Organization and Content Curation Tool

One important way to use Wakelet for yourself is to curate and organize your content. 

  •  If you want a series of websites where they have templates you like to use, you can drop them into a collection. 
  • If you want a series of video resources, you can keep them grouped together in your collection.
  •  If there was a series of resources dropped from an educator on social media, you can include their posts on your collection too. 

Additionally, you can place the links to all of your important documents and slides you’ve created on your Google Workspace. 

Also, you can share your curated and organized work with your colleagues for collaboration, which is a really cool feature. Here’s a short two minute video showing you step by step how to share your collection. 

Using Wakelet with Students

There are many ways to utilize Wakelet with students. Present below are a number of strategies integrating this tool. 

  • Collaborative Brainstorms

A great way to collaboratively brianstorm with students is to create a new blank collection. Then, determine what you would like your students to brainstorm and collect and curate information. To do this, create a topic and then invite students to the blank Wakelet collection. You can share the link to the collection via Canvas, Zoom, or email. Provide students with about 5 minutes and you will see the collection to start exponentially having content and ideas related to that topic. 

  • Digital Portfolios/Resumes

Another fun way to use Wakelet with students is to have them create their own digital portfolio using Wakelet as the template to do so. Show your students the Wakelet Templates for digital portfolios. Students can create their own collection on Wakelet using a digital portfolio template to house their work and content for your class as well as others. 

  • Other Strategies Using Wakelet

Besides the collaborative brainstorm strategy, there are “getting to know” each other activities. Also, students can work collaboratively on a project together in the same Wakelet collection by sharing the link to each other. 

Conclusion – Many Opportunities with Wakelet!

Overall, there are many opportunities to utilize Wakelet for yourself and your students! There are endless opportunities. Take a look at more resources below to help you learn more about this free and easy to use tool!

Essential Resources

Wakelet Templates for You to Utilize

Wakelet YouTube Page


HyperDocs and HyperSlides Create UDL Lesson Opportunities

Over the last few posts, we’ve covered how to create and utilize HyperDocs and HyperSlides. These integrations with these EdTech tools are game-changing as they provide a variety of instructional options ranging from student choice, personalized learning, and the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We have already covered how they can be utilized for the purposes of implementing student choice and personalization. Now, we will focus on how they can be used to provide multiple modalities for students to receive information, engage in a task/assignment, and demonstrate their learning. This is the foundational instructional strategies and learning science that powers our use of HyperDocs and HyperSlides. 

Review HyperDocs and HyperSlides

Before jumping into discussing UDL, let’s review HyperDocs and HyperSlides. Generally, HyperDocs and Slides follow a lesson sequence where students analyze and process content and then synthesize the content they have analyzed and evaluated. The last step of this sequence is the opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning and by creating something that demonstrates that learning. Throughout this sequence, within the HyperDoc and Slide, various hyperlinks go to content they want students to analyze and assignments and tasks that ask students to synthesize and organize information and then create something that demonstrates what they’ve learned. 

A reminder before moving into UDL, HyperDocs and Slides are not just a document or slide with hyperlinks. See below that outlines these differences

Students Create to Demonstrate LearningStudents Can Collaborate While Interacting with the HyperSlides/DocsHyperDocs and Slides provide opportunities for synthesization and reflection for studentsStudents can connect what they’ve learned as well as extend their learning because activities can be embedded in HyperDocs/Slides to allow this to occur. There is no connection or extension to the lesson sequence. A link to a specific site without an opportunity for students to utilize its content. No opportunity for students to create something to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Students only consume information rather than processing, analyzing, and synthesizing. Used for navigation purposes only (helpful for navigational purposes, but not for integrating instructional strategies)

What is the Universal Design for Learning

According to CAST (2021), the Universal Design for Learning is a framework to help cultivate expert learners who are purposefully motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal directed. Additionally, by incorporating the UDL framework, we are providing access for all learners to participate in authentic, challenging, and meaningful opportunities to learn. 

The UDL framework has three major components along with three sub-components that go along with each of the three major components. Below is the UDL framework provided by CAST (2021).

CAST UDL Framework

When reviewing this framework, can you see how many of its major and sub-components may align to how we’ve been discussing HyperDocs and HyperSlides? If we look at the three major components of the framework, we can see how HyperDocs/Slides can provide multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression as they generally have multiple pieces of content that can be analyzed and evaluated followed by opportunities for students to create recognition networks of what they have analyzed by synthesizing that information and making it their own. Finally, they provide multiple means of action and expression by giving students a choice to demonstrate their learning through multiple means. Recall when we discussed how a number of choiceboard’s embedded in a HyperDoc/Slide gave students the opportunity to write an essay, record a podcast, create an infographic, or edit and record a video? This is a prime example of multiple means of representation in play. 

Example of a HyperDoc and HyperSlide that is UDL Friendly

Below are a number of examples of HyperDocs and HyperSlides that are UDL Friendly. Additionally, the examples provided in our previous blog posts 

How HyperDocs and HyperSlides Can Be Used Over and Over Again for UDL Friendly Lessons

As discussed throughout this blog post series, HyperDocs and HyperSlides can be easily changed and altered to meet future lessons. First, make a copy. Create the content (or reuse the templates for that content). Add the links. Revise the directions. Then, you are done! Once you begin using them on a regular basis, the lesson design and preparation go much quicker and become rather efficient. 

Conclusion – Now It’s Your Turn to Try Them!

HyperDocs and HyperSlides are amazing instructional tool that can help amplify student learning and make your lesson preparation more efficient. They also align with many of the components of the UDL framework. Therefore, it’s an instructional strategy that’s a win-win situation for teachers and students! I highly recommend trying it out! Also, below are some more excellent resources on HyperDocs and Slides for you to utilize.

Repositories of HyperDocs and Slides to Select and Modify for your Lessons


HyperDocs and HyperSlides Create Student Choice

HyperDocs and HyperSlides Create Student Choice

HyperDocs and HyperSlides can be utilized to create student tasks and assignments that promote choice and student agency. Additionally, they can help improve the efficiency of your lesson planning by being utilized as templates time and time again for your lessons. Last, they can boost student engagement, creativity, and innovation as it provides them with the choice to add their own elements to the final work product. 

Overall, the goal of this post is to show you how to create your own student choiceboard using Google Docs and Slides. However, before we begin, a few quick notes about choiceboards will be provided. 

First, before utilizing chocieboards, we need to teach our students how to analyze the content we provide them as well as how to take the content and create something out of it. Creation applications such as using Flipgrid for podcasts, Canva for infographics, and writing a blog post using Google Docs, must be taught over the course of the first month or so of class so students know how to use them before taking on student choice tasks. We can scaffold this over time by providing several tasks over the first month of class that require students to create their own podcast, blog post, or infographic. If this is done beforehand, we can have successful student choice tasks provided to them in a manner that can be successful. 

Second, much of the creation process requires a bit of research. For the content you want your students to evaluate first, this will take you the longest to research while setting up your choice board. For the steps relating to evaluating and synthesizing the content and creating a student work product demonstrating their learning for the final step, the same tasks students interact with can be very similar throughout the choice boards you create each semester. 

Now, let’s focus on building a choice board!

Choiceboard Using Google Docs – How-To Steps

Here are the following steps to create a choiceboard using Google Docs. Following these steps is a detailed video on how to create them using Google Docs. Let’s do this!

Step 1: Create a table with three columns. Label them Step 1, 2, and 3. Step 1 is Content, 

Step 2 is a task for students to synthesize the content they’ve analyzed, which is typically a graphic organizer, and Step 3 is a task related to students creating something that demonstrates what they’ve learned and/or a problem solving task. 

Step 3: For each column, provide two to three choices for your students.

Step 4: Hyperlink the content you would like your students to click on for the choiceboard. For Step 1, the content can be easily linked from the internet. However, for Steps 2 and 3, you must generally make an assignment on Canvas that you can then hyperlink to the choiceboard. This will help you grade student work and keep them accountable for completing the choiceboard tasks.

Step 5: Post the choice board on Canvas or send out via email or a link to your students. 

Here is an additional choicboard template you can use from EdTechPicks.org for your to create a digital choice board on Google Docs. 

Google Slide Choiceboard

In a similar manner, you can create a choiceboard using Google Slides using the same steps. Essentially, the same steps are followed, but the content of the choices presented on the choiceboard are slides embedded within the slide presentation. On each of these slides, students complete a task that is associated with the choiceboard. It may include links and instructions required for the assignment to be completed. The major area that differentiates is the hyperlinks. Instead of linking content outside of the slides to the choiceboard front page, you will hyperlink each slide, which then can be utilized as a platform to hyperlink content related to that specific task (click on the image of the Google Slide below to see an example).

Note: Click here to view the HyperSlide. Thanks for Slidemania for template!

Conclusion on Choiceboards

Choiceboards provide a great opportunity for students to analyze and synthesize content and then create something creative and innovative demonstrating what they have learned. Also, it provides teachers with an efficient and effective way to plan and deliver lessons. Additional resources have been provided regarding the choiceboards below. Check them out and please feel free to use the many templates provided throughout the article! 

Additional Resources on Creating Student Choice Boards Using Google Docs and Slides


Making Interactive Lessons Using HyperDocs and Slides Blog Series

I wanted to provide a series on HyperDocs and HyperSlides as it is the basis for creating fun, engaging, and interactive lessons for students that can take place within any classroom setting. Lets learn the basics and then expand our knowledge in this three part series!

What are HyperDocs and HyperSlides? 

HyperDocs and HyperSlides essentially can take the form of a lesson, instructional strategy, or visual interface. Generally speaking, all of these elements are combined when a teacher creates a HyperDoc or HyperSlide and delivers it to their students during a lesson. What makes them powerful is that they can take students on a creative journey and amplify the content and strategies you’re delivering to your students. HyperDocs and HyperSlides can be built within the Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 platforms. 

Throughout this blog series, there will be three posts that cover the following topics about HyperDocs and HyperSlides:

  1. What are HyperDocs and HyperSlides? How to Build HyperDocs and HyperSlides
  2. How Can Using HyperDocs and Hyper Create Student Choice
  3. HyperDocs and HyperSlides Create UDL Lesson Opportunities

Ultimately, the goal is to provide how to use these great integrations with HyperDocs and HyperSlides as well as demonstrate how you can use them to amplify student learning!

Before Building a HyperDoc or HyperSlide – Intentional Design

Before building a HyperDoc or HyperSlide, we must determine what their purpose is before building one. Are we building a lesson slideshow, choiceboard, scavenger hunt, or developing an assignment that requires students to move between multiple documents or slides? This question is important as we must determine what learning outcome we want our students to achieve as a result of designing a lesson that includes a HyperDoc or HyperSlide. 

  • Determine Intended Learning Outcome As a Result of Using a HyperDoc/Slide
  • Design HyperDoc/Slide to Meet that Learning Goal 

How To Build a HyperDoc and HyperSlide

To build a HyperDoc and HyperSlide, we must have content. Whether it’s a slideshow or multiple documents, we must have the content first before hyperlinking everything together. Therefore, first and foremost, content is the most essential piece. Once the content has been developed, we can follow several steps to make the HyperDoc and HyperSlide. 

  1. Go to the Slideshow or Document you want to part of your HyperDoc/slide
  2. Go to the “Share” Button at the top right hand corner of the screen. 
  3. Determine whether this will be a collaborative task or not, which will then determine if you will share the link to all in a viewable format or in an editable format. 
  4. Then, go to the document or slide you would like to add the hyperlink. You will either click the hyperlink icon (the paperclip icon) or use the keyboard shortcut Control + K to insert the hyperlink. 
  5. Copy and paste the link and then come up with a title for the hyperlink to be placed on either the slide or document that is being linked. 

Watch the following video of taking these steps and putting them into action. 

Developing Lessons Using HyperDocs/Slides – Begin with Templates

After knowing the basics of creating a HyperDoc or HyperSlide, we want to find an efficient way to develop our lessons and strategies using these tools. As a result, one of the easiest ways to create these lessons is to use templates already created or building your own to utilize. Once you have built two to three templates of lessons and strategies you want to use HyperDocs and HyperSlides for in your class, all you will need to do is change the links when the content changes from lesson to lesson when you want to use them. 

To build your own template, use the “Table” option for Google Docs. You can create one that looks like this depending on what your lessons goals are for your students. 

Notice WonderKnow

Generally, underneath each heading, you add links, content, videos, or articles you are hyperlinking to.

Similarly, on Google Slides you can do the same by creating Hyperlinks to various Units, Weeks, or pieces of content by using the same “create a table method.”

After templates are built, content can be linked directly to them. To reuse, all you need to do is to make a copy and change out whichever hyperlinks you would like to for the new lesson or task you will have students completing. 

Templates and More

On the website Hyperdocs.co, there is an assortment of templates for lessons and strategies that can be utilized. All you will need to do is choose the one you would like to use, make a copy, and then start adding the hyperlinked content to the template. You may have to edit a bit of the content, but much of the design has already been done, which helps you build these out for your lessons quickly and efficiently. 

Over the next few weeks, the two future posts will be on the following topics:

  • How Can Using HyperDocs and Hyper Create Student Choice
  • HyperDocs and HyperSlides Create UDL Lesson Opportunities

We can’t wait to talk about how HyperDocs and Slides can foster student choice as well as be utilized to develop lessons that are Universal Design for Learning friendly!


Season 1 Recap Part 2: Navigating Education – The Podcast

After the first ten episodes of the podcast season, we began interviewing educators from around the world. These interviews touch on many important topics to help us all gain insight into various niches in education to help us build capacity. The goal was to provide our audience with experts in a wide range of topics to help them learn more about each topic to further their practice. Each episode ranges around 30 minutes in length. As the host, it was engaging and such a learning experience to learn from each of these experts. I hope you will also learn from these educators who are doing great things in classrooms, schools, and districts! Together, we are better. Enjoy and connect with each of these educators on social media to learn more about what they are doing to further learn and amplify your practice.

First Ten Interviews of Navigating Education – The Podcast

Episode 20 – Student Engagement and ClassHook with Alexander Deeb

Episode 19 – EdTech Coaching & Making Learning Stick with Debbie Tannenbaum

Episode 18 – Rural Education and How to Best Support Rural Educators with Dr. Casey Jakubowski

Episode 17 – Restorative Justice & Teacher Trauma and Retention with Dr. Malikah Nu’Man

Episode 16 – Music, Learning, and Racial Bias Algorithms with Dr. Malik Boykin

Episode 15 – Fine Arts and Music Education with Dr. Neil Anderson

Episode 14 – Culturally Responsive and Relevant Teaching with Jasara Hines, Ph.D.

Episode 13 – EdTech Leadership: What does this look like in schools and districts with Greg Bagby

Episode 12 – Cognitive Load and its Effect on Learning with Zach Groshell

Episode 11 – Attitudes/Beliefs and Relationships as the Foundation of Technology Integration with Matthew Downing


Student Self-Reflection, Self-Assessment, and Metacognition Using Interactive Slides – Part 4

As we know, Pear Deck and Nearpod can be utilized and integrated into a wide variety of strategies. Student reflection and metacognition strategies are part of this range of strategies! In Part 4 of our Interactive Slide Blog Series, we will cover this in-depth.

Metacognition and Reflection – A Skill Set for Lifelong Learners

As educators, we want our students to be lifelong learners. However, this needs to be something we intend to put into our lessons to practice reflection and metacognition, which is the basis for becoming a lifelong learner. Through metacognition and reflection, students can assess what they learned, their strengths, areas of improvement, and next steps they need to take to extend their learning. 

We can provide these opportunities more than ever on a daily and weekly basis. Thus, what we can do is build self-assessment into all our lessons and units to practice these skills. Our goal in this post is to show you how students practice self-assessment metacognition using interactive slides. Not only does self-assessment give students an opportunity to practice metacognition skills, but it also provides teachers with a plethora of information about our students they can use to become better teachers and learn more about their students, which will bolster their relationships. Overall, the information collected can help teachers learn more about the student’s thoughts regarding what they know, where they need to go, and what areas of strength they feel like they are strong in. Ultimately, this will facilitate dialogue between teachers and students throughout the year to help monitor and adjust our instruction as well as focus on the personalizing learning of our students. 

Note: Here is a provided template for you to copy and paste these slides into your own presentations you are utilizing in your class. Use these for your reference too as you read through this blog. 

Daily Self-Assessment & Reflection

Daily self-assessment is quick, which can be employed during the closure of a lesson. Teachers can pose one to three questions regarding what was covered, student understanding, and areas of strength/improvement for students to interact with and think about. We can use Pear Deck or Nearpod for my interactive slideshows so I can have active engagement throughout my entire lesson. Ultimately, at the end of most of my lessons,  we can provide students an opportunity to think about what they have learned. This provides students an opportunity to practice metacognition and gives me quick feedback on where my students believe they are currently at on the skills or content discussed during that class period. Below, there are three examples of how you can utilize interactive slides for reflection at the end of your lesson as an exit ticket. 

Weekly Self-Assessment & Reflection

Weekly self-assessment allows students to practice metacognition skills by allowing them to summarize what they have learned throughout the week as well as narrow down areas of strength and areas of improvement. In addition, a weekly self-assessment gives students an opportunity to give themselves self-reported grades on their reading, writing, math, participation, and work completion. By providing students an opportunity to self-report their progress and grades, it can allow teachers to have a dialogue with students thereafter to facilitate conversation about their strengths and areas they can improve in. For the weekly self-assessment, we can utilize either an interactive slide or Google Forms for a weekly self-assessment because sometimes we can provide multiple choice and free response reflection questions for my students. Also, the data output from Google Forms is extremely valuable because it allows me to analyze individual and class trends over the course of a semester versus the readout from a single lesson using Pear Deck or Nearpod. Below you will see how you can use interactive slides as well as a Google Form for students to interact with while they reflect. This can be done at the end of your lesson at the end of the week. 

Conclusion – Implementing Self-Assessment & Reflection Builds Relationships

Regardless of the content you are teaching your students, provide them an opportunity to self-reflect, self-assess, and self-report grades because it gives them a multitude of opportunities throughout the year to practice metacognition and reflection. Metacognition allows our students to become lifelong learners, which builds their self-efficacy and confidence to think about or dialogue with others about their abilities and skillsets. Furthermore, we want our students to consistently look to grow and improve. By focusing on practicing metacognition throughout the year, it gives your students an opportunity to do this. On the teacher side of the equation, teachers have the opportunity to review this data and learn more about their students than ever before besides our student-to-teacher-to-student relationship, evaluating student work artifacts, and analyzing assessment scores. Evaluating the self-assessment data is critical in focusing on improving your instruction for all of your students and personalizing learning for your students by conversing with your students to work on improving gaps in their learning and making their strengths shine.


Season 1 Recap Part 1: Navigating Education – The Podcast

Season 1 of Navigating Education – The Podcast is almost over! As the season comes to an end, there will be a number of blog posts summarizing all of the great episodes from the season. The purpose of having a number of posts reviewing the season is to provide an opportunity for you to take a listen to all of the amazing content and guests. So many insightful episodes and nuggets of information all educators can take from each episode to amplify their practice!

In this post, we have our first ten episodes of the podcast as well as the twelve bonus episodes that are based on the content from the book Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders. Take a listen as each of these topics are relevant to navigating education in our ever-changing world!

First Ten Episodes

Episode 10 – Integrating Instructional Strategies with EdTech Tools: The How-to Process

Episode 9 – Developing Classroom Routines in the Modern Classroom Environments: Building Routines for Digital and In-Person Settings

Episode 8 – Special Education Case Management: Harnessing EdTech to Make Case Management Efficient and Effective

Episode 7 – Adaptive EdTech for Personalized Learning and Retrieval Practice

Episode 6 – Online & Distance Learning – What Works According to Research and Practice

Episode 5 – Blended Learning: Practical Steps to Enhance your Teaching

Episode 4 – The Age of Formative Assessment

Episode 3 Using EdTech Tools to Make Data-Driven Decisions in a Matter of Seconds or Minutes

Episode 2 – SEL Integration with EdTech Tools through App-Smashing to Build Community and Relationships with Students

Episode 1 – Introducing: Navigating Education – The Podcast

Bonus Episodes – Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders

Featured in the first 13 Bonus Episodes of Navigating Education – The Podcast are a series of interviews from the contributing authors who contributed each case study to the end of each chapter in Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders. They provide their insight as to how they are navigating education through a variety of different topics discussed in the book.

Chapter 1 – Selecting EdTech Tool with Shannon Moore (Bonus Episode 6)

Chapter 2 – EdTech Tools and Applications for Distance Learning, Blended Learning, and Traditional In-Class Settings: Teacher Narrative by Jennifer Ingold (Bonus Episode 7)

Chapter 3 – Research-Based Instructional Strategies to Integrate with EdTech Tools to Amplify Learning: Teacher Narrative by Mark Ureel (Bonus Episode 1)

Chapter 4 – Differentiating Instruction with EdTech for English Language Learners and Students with Special Needs: Teacher Narrative by Elizabeth Esposito Haupert (Bonus Episode 9)

Chapter 5 – Special Education, IEP Meetings, and Case Management During a Toggled Term: Teacher Narrative by John Maguire (Bonus Episode 12)

Chapter 6 – Student and Family Engagement During a Toggled Term: Teacher Narrative by Janet Ilko, Ed.D. (Bonus Episode 10)

Chapter 8 – Types of Blended Learning: Teacher Narrative by Victoria Lowe (Bonus Episode 8)

Chapter 10 – The Coherence Framework for the Toggled Term: School Leader Narrative by Darrin Peppard, Ed.D. (Bonus Episode 3)

Chapter 11 – Optimizing Professional Learning During a Toggled Term: Teacher Narrative By Rosalinda Avalos (Bonus Episode 4)

Chapter 12 – K-12 Educator Self-Care While Navigating the Toggled Term: Teacher Narrative 1 by Jillian DuBois / Teacher Narrative 2 by Ariel Adrian (Bonus Episodes 2 and 5)

Launch Party Audio Podcast – Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leader (Bonus Episode 13)


Student Collaboration Strategies Using Pear Deck and Nearpod – Part 3

Collaboration with Pear Deck and Nearpod can be done in a variety of ways that can amplify student learning. In this post, several strategies will be discussed to help you create these collaborative activities using interactive slides. First, we will outline several steps to think about while creating collaborative tasks and activities. Then, we will discuss three strategies that can be utilized on Pear Deck and Nearpod that can be done collaboratively by students. These strategies include Think, Write, Pair, and Share, Reciprocal Teaching, and Collaborative Bulletin Boards. 

Collaboration – Things to Think About Student Collaboration Activities

A few things to think about before student collaboration. This list will help you create collaborative groups and activities that will lead to students being successful in completing the task and getting the most learning out of it!

  • We want to keep our groups to three or four students max. 
  • We also want our groups of students to be heterogeneous, but also strategically placed. For example, in ESL, you place a student whose strength is in writing while the other two students have strengths in speaking. 
  • Also, we want to try and create roles within the group to complete the task. 
  • Last, we want to create a task that students can do in three to four steps. We do not want to overwhelm the group with too many things they are required to do. 

Collaboration Opportunities Using both Nearpod and Pear Deck and Nearpod

On either Pear Deck or Nearpod, we can create collaborative tasks using the slides. We will be discussing Think-Pair-Share and Reciprocal Teaching. 


This strategy is geared towards being collaborative. Students complete a task individually and then are paired with a partner or group to share their ideas and synthesize them. Finally, after synthesizing their ideas and writing them down together, they will have the opportunity to share them with the class. Generally, this strategy can be utilized to activate prior knowledge at the beginning of the lesson or it can be used during guided practice to further develop ideas and share insights. 

For Think, Write, Pair, and Share, you will need to develop three slides that are ordered consecutively in your slide deck for the instructional sequence of the strategy. 

  1. Think – This is a slide that has the initial prompt and visual to go along with it. 
  2. Write – This turns into an interactive text or draw slide. 
  3. Pair/Share – This is an interactive slide as it allows both students to share their responses and then write a combined response to share with the class in the last sequence. 

Generally, students are provided with a prompt. Think time is given for students to process the prompt. Then, they are asked to write their response on the following interactive slide. Three to five minutes is given for their response. Following their response, students are grouped or paired using breakout rooms or a place in the classroom. Once this has been completed. Students share their answers in the group. Then, students are asked to synthesize their answers to then be possibly shared with the class. After this has occurred, two to three groups are asked to share their responses to prompt further discussion on the topic. 

See the short sequence of slides that have been created for you using Pear Deck. You can make a copy and then utilize it for your class by adding your own content to it. Then, WATCH an explanation of the strategy with this video. 

Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal teaching provides our students with opportunities throughout an entire lesson to critically think regarding what you are teaching them. This strategy has four interactive slides sequenced at the beginning, middle, and end of the lesson. During each of these instructional sequences that make up the predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing slides, students are given opportunities to collaborate with interactive slides. 

  1. Predicting – On this slide, a prompt or phenomenon is discussed. Students are asked to predict what may happen next. This can be a text or draw interactive slide. Students can work with a partner or group to make a prediction regarding the lesson. 
  2. Questioning – Following the prediction slide or guided practice where the concept is discussed more in-depth, students can be asked to formulate several questions that can be collaboratively developed. This generally is a draw or text interactive slide. 
  3. Clarifying – Students are shown by the teacher through modeling the solution or answer several of the questions the students have provided. This is generally near the end of the lesson. This is not an interactive slide. 
  4. Summarizing – Students are paired or grouped together and are asked to summarize the lesson. Students are asked if the prediction they formulated at the beginning of the lesson was anywhere near where the lesson took them. Additionally, they can be asked if their questions were answered throughout the lesson. 

When this strategy is initiated, it is scattered throughout an entire lesson. It’s not a consecutive sequence. For the collaborative aspects of this strategy, students can be paired or grouped together within breakout rooms or in specific areas of the classroom. The groups of the students can be changed throughout the lesson or changed multiple times depending on what you would like to do. Overall, this strategy is a great way to keep students engaged and consistently collaborating throughout an entire lesson. 

See the short sequence of slides that have been created for you using Pear Deck. You can make a copy and then utilize it for your class by adding your own content to it. Then, WATCH an explanation of the strategy with this video. 

Collaboration Opportunities Using Nearpod

Specifically for Nearpod, we will be showcasing the bulletin board feature that can be turned into a collaborative activity for your students. 

Bulletin Board

On Nearpod, you can create a bulletin board where students are required to answer a prompt and answer. Then, their response appears on a digital bulletin board. To make this collaborative, you can pair students in multiple groups or in pairs. Then, in a breakout room or on a table in a classroom, they will be asked to work together to come up with a response to the prompt. Thereafter, once they have a response, the group members will be asked to respond to the other bulletin board posts and to like them. Their response can quote another group’s response and/or have the group’s names at the top of the response to signify its a response versus the first answer given. This is then followed up by a short classroom discussion on the prompt and topic. 

Collaborate with Nearpod | Nearpod, Collaboration, 100 day celebration

In Summary – Collaboration Strategies Using Interactive Slides

There is a wide range of strategies that can be configured to be done collaboratively. Jigsaw, concept mapping and sketch noting are also strategies that can be done collaboratively. Many others exist as well. We are looking forward to assisting you in integrating these strategies with EdTech to amplify the learning of your students!


Formative Assessments Using Interactive Slides Nearpod and Pear Deck – Part 2

In Part Three of our series on interactive slides, we are going to be discussing formative assessment. By the end of this post about this topic, you will have three to five go-to formative assessment strategies to try using on Pear Deck and Nearpod. These strategies will help amplify how you assess your students, provide feedback, and monitor and adjust your instruction. 

The Value of Formative Assessment - Nearpod BlogUpping the Engagement Quotient of Virtual Classes | Part 1 - Google Slides  & Pear Deck - GrayMatters Capital

What is Formative Assessment? 

Formative assessments are opportunities for you to see whether students are learning in real-time. These assessments do not have to be for a grade. They can simply be an opportunity for you to see in a short segment of time in your lesson whether individual students, groups of students, or your entire class is understanding what you are teaching them. With this data collected in real-time, you can then monitor and adjust your instruction to help and support your students. Also, you can provide feedback to your students verbally or covertly during this time. This can help point them in the right direction during and after the assessment has taken place. 

Interactive Slide Formative Assessment Strategies

There are several formative assessment strategies we will review along with a screenshot demonstrating each. Be sure to review the getting started professional development links for learning how to build Pear Deck and Nearpod slideshows in Google Slides.

Quickwrites/Free Response

Quickwrites and free response questions can be incorporated throughout your lesson to assess your students. You utilize them to activate prior knowledge and to review concepts from the previous class. Or, you can ask students throughout class open-ended questions they can respond so you can determine whether they are understanding the task ahead. Another way open-ended questions can be deployed during your lesson is at the end of the class session. You can ask students to summarize what they learned at the end of class as well as provide a question they may have and where they want to take their learning to next. 

During the time students are providing responses, you can give them overt feedback in the form of verbal responses or covertly in written text. On Pear Deck, you can provide written responses directly onto their response, which students can see immediately. 

Multiple Choice

Multiple choice can be utilized at any point in your lesson to assess your students. Multiple choice can be traditional A, B, C, D, True/Fale, or students can draw a circle around a specific answer choice. What’s great about Nearpod and Pear Deck is that they show how students are doing in real-time. You can see which students got the question correct and incorrect so once the assessment is over, you can quickly determine discrepancies in the answers provided by students. 

Nearpod Helped Make a Good Question Better | MathyCathy's Blog – Mrs. Cathy  YencaNearpod Helped Make a Good Question Better | MathyCathy's Blog – Mrs. Cathy  Yenca

Matching & Retrieval Practice with Flashcards

Matching and digital flashcards is a great form of retrieval practice, which helps our students take information from their long-term memory as they practice words and concepts they have learned. This can be a form of assessment to determine how well your students remember various terms, facts, and concepts they have learned in your class. 

There are two forms of matching and flashcards that have been provided: Nearpod Matching and Pear Deck Flashcards. Each is an interactive option on Nearpod and Pear Deck. However, the Pear Deck form of flashcards is a different avenue in the application you will have to learn versus building interactive slides. Yet, each of these activities is engaging and Universal Design for Learning friendly as it provides multiple modalities for your students to take in and process the information provided. 

Learn more about Matching on Nearpod by watching this YouTube video. 

There are two forms of matching and flashcards that have been provided: Nearpod Matching and Pear Deck Flashcards. Each is an interactive option on Nearpod and Pear Deck. However, the Pear Deck form of flashcards is a different avenue in the application you will have to learn versus building interactive slides. Yet, each of these activities is engaging and Universal Design for Learning friendly as it provides multiple modalities for your students to take in and process the information provided. Above you will see the Nearpod matching activity and below you will see the Pear Deck vocabulary flashcard activity. 

Getting Started with the Flashcard FactoryPear Deck Flashcard Factory (2019): Expor to GimKit or Print - YouTube

Learn more about setting up Flashcards on Pear Deck HERE and watch it in action HERE

Problem Solving Performance-Based Formative Assessments

The last form of formative assessment using interactive slides is problem-solving, which is a performative-based assessment. What this means is giving your students an open-ended problem or a problem that has a single solution where they must show their work and understanding as they solve the problem at hand. This can include a math problem, completing a grammar and punctuation problem, a short essay, or summarizing a task. Ultimately, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can do. Generally, when using Pear Deck or Nearpod, you create drawing slides for these performative-based assessments. These types of slides give you a multitude of options for your students to interact with the assessment question you have provided. 

Pear Deck Draggable™ Activities - HAPPINESS IS WATERMELON SHAPED!Pear Deck

Formative Assessment is a Powerful Strategy for Interactive Slides

Formative assessment is a great strategy to utilize while using interactive slides. Many options are there for you to see how your students are doing, provide feedback and use data to drive your instruction. Both Pear Deck and Nearpod provide a platform for this strategy to be amplified! Take advantage of it, experiment, and see how it can impact your instruction and the learning of your students.


Building Connection and Relationships with Students Using Interactive Slides – Part 1

For today’s post, we are focusing on how we can use interactive slides to build connections, relationships, and social-emotional learning skills for our students!  You will see examples of how to do this throughout lessons to amplify your student’s learning and your connections with them. 

Activities to Build Connection with Students

To build instant connections with students, we want to ask them about themselves as well as provide opportunities for them to share with you about themselves. As a result, two activities where you can obtain this information from students are through Quickwrites and Poll Questions. 

First, we have Quickwrites. With both Pear Deck and Nearpod, we can create open-ended questions where students write their responses. Usually, I will model my answer and then provide students to write their responses. Once students have completed, we can either cold call, call on them at random using Wheel of Names, or having volunteers. Immediately before calling on students, you can provide an overview of the responses of the students by summarizing the class’s responses. 

Second, we have polls. Both Nearpod and Pear Deck have polls and multiple-choice features that allow us to poll a class. What’s great about polling your students is that you can quickly learn about them individually as well as your entire class. This can be done to activate prior knowledge or as a way to build motivation as a hook and/or lead into a new portion of your lesson. 

Social-Emotional Learning

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is a set of strategies to help build our student’s emotional and social intelligence through teaching them a series of skills. Interactive slides are a great opportunity for your students to build these skills through active learning. Examples provided demonstrate how students can self-assess how they are feeling by interacting with a mood chart. On the mood chart, students draw circles around how they are feeling. 

Pear Deck and Nearpod both provide templates for SEL. As seen below, here are two that Pear Deck provides. These include activities on what is filling your bucket versus what’s training it. Additionally, we can use SEL strategies to help students practice metacognition as seen in the slide example of a series of questions regarding how the lesson went for the student. 

Throughout our lessons and classes, we want to build connections and relationships with our students as well as work on their SEL skills. By incorporating opportunities as discussed today with interactive slides to work in these areas throughout your lesson, active learning opportunities will yield more connections with your students as well as bolster their SEL skill set. For more information on how to do this further, check out the following webinars below. 

More Ideas on SEL – Two Videos for Further Investigation

Plain Talk: The power of human connection | TBR News Media


A Series on Active Learning Using Interactive Slides: An Introduction to Nearpod & Pear Deck

In the past, I have written on interactive slides. However, for this specific series of posts, I wanted to review some of their major instructional strengths as well as reintroduce them. You will see a number of posts relating interactive slides in a four part series, which will take you from the basics to integrating instructional strategies with these tools to amplify student learning.

Active Learning Interactive Slide Blog Series

  1. Building Connection and Relationships with Students Using Interactive Slides
  2. Formative Assessment (Quizzes, Checks for Understanding, Quickwrites, Exit Slips, etc.). 
  3. Collaborative Student Activities
  4. Student Reflection & Metacognition

What are Interactive Slides? 

What are interactive slides? They are traditional Google Slides that have a special add-on that makes them interactive for students to write and draw on them while you are presenting them in your live online or in-person classrooms. A great adaptation to interactive slides is your ability to provide students with feedback as well as see their progress as you move through your lesson. This allows you to provide active learning opportunities and feedback simultaneously, which will create a fun and engaging lesson for your students. Also, in terms of prep, it does not take long to prep your lessons as you can take your current slideshows and transform them into interactive slides!

Access to Interactive Slides

Currently, Poway has a district license for Nearpod and Vista and Escondido have a district license for Pear Deck. There are some aspects of each you can utilize for free. However, when it comes down to it, you can integrate the same strategies using the same tools. 

Strategies/Activities for Interactive Slides

You can do a wide range of strategies and activities ranging from social-emotional learning, quickwrites, drag and drop, flashcards, bulletin boards, exit slips for formative assessment, and student reflection. This is just the tip of the iceberg! Both Pear Deck and Nearpod can be used for all of these strategies and activities. 

Getting Started with Nearpod and Pear Deck

The goal here is to show how you can get started using Nearpod and Pear Deck. You will see step-by-step instructions to add both tools to your Google Slides to then be incorporated into your slideshows. 

Step 1: Open up Google Slides and create a slide. Then, click “Add-ons.”

Step 2: Click on “Get Add-ons” and add “Pear Deck” and “Nearpod.”

Step 3: Open up Pear Deck or Nearpod by clicking on Add-ons.

Part 2: Opening Nearpod and Pear Deck on Google Slides

Now, we will open up Nearpod and Pear Deck. First, we will begin with Nearpod.


Step 1: Log on through your Gmail or Office 365 account. You will have to create an account for either Nearpod or Pear Deck in order to use the add-on. 

Step 2: Now, click on the slide and turn it interactive by clicking on one of the various options provided to make it interactive. The free version of Nearpod includes Drag and Drop, Draw, Open-Ended Questions, and Poll (Multiple Choice).

Accessing Pear Deck 

Step 1: Click on the Add-on tab on Google Slides. 

Step 2: Open up Pear Deck and determine what you would like your slide to be in terms of what interactive feature you would like. Free Pear Deck includes text and multiple choice features to be added to slides. 

Hopefully after reviewing these steps, you will now be able to begin using Pear Deck or Nearpod in your classroom. Comment below to let us know how it has been going using these two tools.


Utilizing Wheel of Names: A Fun Way to Call on Students for any Classroom Setting

Have you ever wanted to randomly pick on students without using popsicle sticks? Do you want to create a fun and engaging way for students to see their names possibly being picked? This can be done in a matter of a few minutes and either online teaching synchronously or in-person. Ultimately, using a mechanism like this to call on students is a more equitable opportunity to get all of your students to participate verbally in your class. 

Go to www.wheelofnames.com to begin! You will first see below what it looks like when you access the website. Then, following the image of the wheel, there will be a set of steps and a video showing how to create a wheel and launch the wheel while in class online or in person. 

Watch the Entire Tutorial in Action! – Watch: Wheel of Names Tutorial

Steps to Creating a Wheel of Names

  1. Go to www.wheelofnames.com 
  2. Then, on the far right-hand side of the screen, type in all of your student’s names in your class. 
  3. Click Save. 
  4. Click Customize. 
    1. You can change the sound, the amount of time the spinner spins, the max number of names visible on the wheel, etc. 
  5. Once you are done customizing, click Save. 
  6. After you are done with these steps, you are ready to launch this Wheel of Names for your class. 

Watch How-To: Video of Creating Wheel of Names

Steps to Using the Wheel of Names in your Class

  1. Open up your wheel of names that you’ve created on www.wheelofnames.com. Be sure to KEEP the Wheel of Names open on your internet browser. 
  2. Open up your Zoom meeting through Zoom.us or on your calendar. 
  3. After opening up your meeting, sharing your screen. 
    1. Be sure to keep your slideshow presentation on the same line of browser tabs as your Wheel of Names tab on your internet browser.
    2. If you are in person, this is something you should do as well so you can go back and forth between your slideshow and Wheel of Names as you call on students throughout the class. 
  4. Then, as appropriate, click on the tab for the Wheel of Names and spin the wheel when you would like to call on students to provide an overt verbal response. 
  5. After you spin the wheel, you will be able to either remove students who have been called from the wheel OR keep them there. 
  6. Have fun!

Watch How-To: Video of Launching Wheel of Names During Zoom


Using the Jigsaw Strategy on Google Slides & Zoom

Jigsaw Strategy – What is it?

Jigsaw is a cooperative learning strategy that has many uses as an instructional strategy. It involves taking a task and dividing it up into small chunks so students can interact and work together in a collaborative manner to learn. Then, after the task is completed, the entire class can come together and discuss it or complete a subsequence task, assignment, or activity where everyone has background knowledge. It can be utilized in a wide variety of ways as listed below and can be used with a number of EdTech tools.

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Goal: In this post, you will learn how to implement this strategy within your instruction using Google Slides, NewsELA/Readworks, and Zoom. 

Example Video: See the Strategy in Action – Click here to see Jigsaw in Action

Instructional Uses of Jigsaw as an Instructional Strategy

  1. Student Engagement and Collaboration
  2. Building Reading Comprehension (i.e., annotation, paraphrasing, & summarizing)
  3. Differentiated Instruction & Personalized Learning
  4. Project-Based Learning

Jigsaw Strategy for Reading Comprehension (i.e., Annotation, Paraphrase, and Summary)

Today, we will be using Jigsaw as a strategy to help with reading. Jigsaw Annotation is a strategy where a teacher can have students do a similar reading, speaking, and writing task but using two or more reading levels of the same text. This creates an opportunity to differentiate your instruction but keep the content and topic the same that students will discuss. It also is a good opportunity to have students read together and collaborate by annotating and paraphrasing what the text is stating. Then, having students discuss the text in their groups and then as a whole class. By doing this activity, students can build their comprehension and speaking skills.

How to Implement this Strategy and EdTech Integration

Using Readworks or NewsELA and Google Slideshow, an article from Readworks and NewsELA can be broken down into two or more slides where a portion or the entire text from the article or story can be copied and pasted into the slideshow. Then, a set of slides is dedicated towards one reading level of a specific text and another set is dedicated towards another reading level of the same text. Sets of slides can be numbered one, two, or three so students are eventually assigned those slides to read and annotate with a group. Usually, we suggest having three levels of the same text is great to start. 

Once the slides are created, make a copy of the slides and set the link share to be “everyone with the link can edit.” You have two choices of where you would like to distribute the slides for the activity. The protocols of how this can be done will be discussed in a moment. You can either place the link to the slides as a Canvas assignment or copy and paste it directly into the Zoom chat box for students to click on. Either way works. Ultimately, it depends on what you and your students are comfortable with. 

EdTech Tools Needed

  • Google Slides
  • NewsELA/Readworks
  • Zoom
  • Canvas (Optional)

Steps to Implement Jigsaw Using Google Slides & Zoom

  1. Step 1. Log into NewsELA or Readworks and find an article. 
  2. Step 2. Determine which article you want to use and then break it down into two to three different reading levels. 
  3. Step 3. Open up Google Slides. Create two to three sides, which will make up the number of slides needed for the article. This is about 10 to 12 Google Slides when it is all said and done. 

See Steps 1-3: Video NewsELA / Readworks

  1. Step 4. As discussed above, ensure you have opened up a 10-12 Google Slides presentation. 
  2. Step 5. On the first slide, always have the title of the article. 
  3. Step 6. On the second slide, divide the slides into two to three groups. Each group is represented by a number, which represents the reading level of the article you choose. 
  4. Step 7. Then, on the slides, copy and paste the article onto two to three slides (based on the length of the article). Do this for at least two to three different reading levels. Altogether, this will be 10 to 12 slides in length. 
  5. Step 8. Last, be sure to click on the far upper right-hand side of the slide and click on “share.” To distribute the slides on Canvas or Zoom, it must be shared as an editable link for “anyone with the link.” This allows once a student access the slideshow, they can go to their assignment slides and edit that page. 

See Steps 4-8: Video Google Slides

  1. Step 9. Once ready to share, share the editable link with your students in the Zoom chat. 
  2. Step 10. After students have clicked on the link, model to students the directions of the task. You may want to model how you do it for about 3-5 minutes as an appropriate scaffold. 
  3. Step 11. Then, divide students into groups and create breakout rooms. They will then begin the jigsaw task you’ve asked them to complete. 
  4. Step 12. Provide your students with a time frame of the task completion and possibly a follow-up task thereafter.  

See Steps 9-12: Video Illustrating Jigsaw in Action Using Zoom

After follow steps 1-12, you will have implemented the Jigsaw strategy in your classroom. Let us know in the comments how it went. Additionally, see below for more information regarding the strategy.

For more information about the Jigsaw Strategy, check out the following resources.


Using Flipgrid to Get to Know Your Students: Building Community and Language Skills

Flipgrid - Home | Facebook

Flipgrid Basics and Background

Flipgrid is an interactive audio and video recording platform where students can respond to a teacher’s activity, prompt, or question as well as responses created by students. Teachers and students can add emojis, graphics, augmented reality, and more to their recorded response. Responses generally are short and last from 15 seconds to a little over a minute. Student responses can be assessed and graded by the teacher. Last, Flipgrid is very straightforward and easy to and can be shared to students quickly on Canvas, Zoom, an email, or anywhere you can send out a hyperlink. 

The goal is to demonstrate the basics of Flipgrid as well as demonstrate the instructional uses of this tool (as there are many!). After reading this post, you will know how to use it in at least eight different ways to amplify your instruction for your students within any classroom setting!

Watch to Learn More About Flipgrid: What is Flipgrid in 2 Minutes

Getting Started with Flipgrid – Build your Own Flipgrid Group and Topic!

1. Sign-up at www.flipgrid.com by using your school email. 

2. Once signed up, go to “Create a Group,” which is also known as a grid. 

  1. A “Group” is considered a “Classroom” or “Community” that can use Flipgrid by responding to a question or activity created by a teacher. 

3.  To create a “Group”, watch the following video to learn “How to Create a Group”

4. Learn to “Create a New Topic” on Flipgrid by watching the video. 

5. Once you create your own Group and Topic on Flipgrid, you can share the hyperlink for students to access the Flipgrid through email, Canvas, a Document or Slideshow, or through Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams. 

Instructional Uses

  1. Building classroom communities and learning students’ names. 
  2. Online discussion boards where students can respond to the main question posed and respond to their classmates. 
  3. Practicing language vocabulary, grammar, and phrases. 
  4. Student led podcasting. 
  5. Social-emotional learning tasks and activities
  6. Student assessment
  7. Student presentations

Above are several instructional uses of Flipgrid that you can place into your classroom. It is a great tool to integrate into your instruction and provide an opportunity for your students to use their voice in many ways to articulate what they know to you and their classroom community.


Integrating Pear Deck and Flipgrid for Warm-Ups & Activating Prior Knowledge

App-smashing is one of my favorite instructional integrations to help support students in their learning by ensuring I hit many of the elements of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) within an instructional sequence in my lesson. The goal of this post is to show this through several examples that can be quickly incorporated into your instruction and lessons using the EdTech tools of Pear Deck and Flipgrid together in an instructional sequence. These strategies will offer your students overt and covert opportunities to actively learn in any classroom setting!

Integrating Pear Deck and Flipgrid for Warm-ups/Activating Prior Knowledge

In our classes, we want our students to problem solve. Yet, we also want them to demonstrate HOW and WHY they took that course of action. Now, we have the ability to have students do both tasks within a sequence, which benefits learning. What this does is activate prior knowledge and builds conceptual frameworks. Additionally, when done in a sequence, it provides the opportunity to lessen the cognitive load on students. Last, it gives students the opportunity to complete a task that is multimodal because students complete an initial task by demonstrating a skill and then have to then transition to another task requiring a different skill to discuss the task and their problem solving verbally. 

Two examples are going to be provided of this integration: Write a Claim + Provide Evidence & Solve a Problem + Math Talks. Both of these integrations can occur at the beginning or end of a lesson for a formative assessment and as a way to activate prior knowledge. The goal here is to show the integration and demonstrate how it can be implemented step by step. 

Note: For students to maneuver between slides, you can turn on control to students on your Pear Deck slides by doing on your teacher panel. We do this so  students can review their work once they are on Flipgrid. 

Write a Claim/Answer Prompt + Provide Evidence

First, we have an example that can be used in the humanities. During a quickwrite or short writing task, we can provide our students with the opportunity to answer a writing prompt with a thesis statement relating to a text or historic event you are studying. Then, with students knowing this while they are writing their statement, they must provide evidence related to their thesis statement immediately after answering the prompt using Flipgrid for about 30-45 seconds. 

Then, on the following slide, students will then click on the link and record their evidence. You can provide prompts and sentence frames to help students think about how they will articulate evidence verbally to support their claim. 

When students are completing their Flipgrid response, you can provide feedback on their initial claims/thesis statements they have created responding to the prompt. This can be a number of students who work better with individual covert feedback or students you feel need immediate feedback. Then, once the students complete their Flipgrid response, go back to the initial claim/thesis statements students have generated. Call on two students to read their claim/thesis statement and ask them to paraphrase their Flipgrid response to the class. Additionally, if you need to make any whole class corrections or need to model to the entire class, this can be done during this time as well. 

Solve a Problem + Math Talks

Second, let’s focus on math warm ups and math talks. Essentially, in a very similar way as the first example, students complete a problem as a warm-up. Students use the drawing tool to show their work step by step. Give your students a time lapse to initially solve and then have them move onto the next sequence. If you want to add a twist, you can have students pair up in a break up room for a few minutes to compare their steps before moving on to the next step which is the verbal math talk on Flipgrid. 

Have students first solve the problem and show their work. Then, you have three options. First, send the direct link to Flipgrid in the chat box or move to a new slide after a time period has elapsed and have students click on a direct link (as seen below). Third, as mentioned above, you can turn on your Pear Deck slides to student paced, which can give them control to move back and forth between their work and the Flipgrid hyperlink slide. 

After students have completed their Flipgrid response, go back to the initial warm-up slide and ask one or two students to share how they solved the problem (you can have them share their screen or pull it up through Pear Deck). Then, model and clarify questions students may have. Additionally, be sure to provide feedback as students completed their Flipgrid response, you can provide feedback on a number of students’ Pear Deck responses covertly. Ultimately, individually and collectively, feedback can be given and students can make necessary adjustments before moving on to the next portion of the lesson. 

Other Ideas of How the Integration Can be Used

HumanitiesMath/ScienceWorld Language
1. Social-Emotional Learning
2. Similarities/Differences
Support an argument with relevant evidence
3. Making predictions and inferences
4. Review a text or piece of media
1. Social-Emotional Learning
2. Comparing/Contrast phenomenon
3. Discussing relationships among scientific concepts 
4. Math Talks and Proofs
 Constructing explanations and interpreting data  
1. Social Emotional Learning
Learning new vocabulary words
2. Response to a prompt and then further practicing the language Interpret a concept in writing and verbally 

Other Tools for this Integration and Strategy Sequence that Work!

  • Google Slides & Flipgrid
  • Nearpod & Flipgrid
  • Padlet & Flipgrid

One Month Anniversary of Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders

It’s been a month since the release of Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders. Readers from around the world have enjoyed this playbook and guide to help them prepare for the new school year as well as navigate it once the year has begun. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to amplify your leadership and teaching during this year and beyond! Read a recent review about the book here as it provides glimpse as to what you’ll learn within the book.

Take a look at the content you will be able to review in this celebration post!

  • Beyond celebrating this book’s release, you will have the opportunity listen to the book’s July launch party on Navigating Education – The Podcast.
  • Additionally, you will have the opportunity to read a short blog post about educator self-care that previews some of the book’s Chapter 12 content.

North American Retailers: Amazon.comIndie BoundWalmart

International Retailers: Amazon.com (UK/EU), Booktopia (AUS)Dymocks (AUS)Waterstones (UK)Indigo (CAN)Dussmann (GER/EU)IBS.it (ITA/EU)WHSmith (UK), Waterstones (UK)

Publisher & Direct Purchase from Publisher: Peter Lang International Academic Publishing

Special Release – Audio Podcast of the Book’s Launch Party

In the coming weeks, the video version of the book’s launch party will be released. However, with the month anniversary today, I wanted to release the audio podcast version of the launch party for those interested in taking a listen and enjoying the amazing, raw, and authentic conversation we had with many of the book’s contributing case study and foreword author’s.

Summary of the Launch Party: In the final bonus episode of the Navigating the Toggled Term series, all of the contributing authors of Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders met for a launch party to celebrate the book as well as discuss the present and future of education. The book’s contributing authors all wrote short case study’s at the end of each chapter to illustrate and provide firsthand accounts as to how the themes of the chapters are being implemented by teachers and school leaders from across North America. Perspectives from case study contributing authors provided a lens to the schools and students they serve in urban, suburban, rural, private, and public settings. Additionally, we had teachers and school leaders in varying points of their careers from a first-year teacher to veterans who have been in the educational profession for over 30 years.  

These various perspectives provided for powerful conversations and case study’s in the book as they provide diverse perspectives of how to navigate education now and in the future. The goal of the launch party’s conversations was to discuss the following five areas: 

  • 1) Instructional Innovations and EdTech Integrations
  • 2) Challenges to Future Innovations
  • 3) What have we learned in teaching and leading students and schools over the past 16 months (after March 2020) and how has that prepared us to navigate the future of education?
  • 4) How can we best support teachers and school leaders? 
  • 5) What advice would you give teachers and school leaders as they navigate the upcoming school year and the future of education.

 Overall, the conversation we had was inspiring, motivational, and empowering. If you are a teacher, school leader, parent, or a stakeholder in the educational community, this is a discussion that will inspire you along with giving you real practice strategies and advice to navigate education now and in the future.

 Slides from Launch Party: Navigating the Toggled Term Launch Party Slides

Order the Book: Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders

Blog Post: Tackling the Challenges of the Present and Future of Education – Navigating the Toggled Term

In a blog post published on Peter Lang’s Medium blog, I discuss the challenges of navigating education during this time. However, I discuss primarily how we can at the institutional and personal level create opportunities for self-care. It’s a great read for classroom and school leaders to help provide a roadmap of how to take care of ourselves during the school year. It is a bit of a preview of what you will find within Chapter 12 of the book!

Read: Tackling the Challenges of the Present and Future of Education – Navigating the Toggled Term


Navigating Education – The Newsletter: ISSUE 4 – August 2nd, 2021

I Cannot Believe It’s August 2021!

I cannot believe we are moving into August of 2021. More than half of the year is already over. It’s hard to imagine that we are also starting a new school year. Within this issue, I am providing a number of resources ranging from books, blogs, podcasts, and educational research to help teachers and school leaders prepare and start the school year! Review this newsletter and see what can help you. Then, determine how you can take action with the information you learned to help amplify your teaching and leadership!

Subscribe and Share! Be sure to ask your professional learning network and colleagues within your educational organization to subscribe to receive this newsletter, which can be done by completing this form. Also, connect with me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990 and check out more content on my website www.matthewrhoads.com. Last, if you have any content you would like amplified in future newsletters, please contact me at mattrhoads1990@gmail.com. 

Personal Career Update – I Am Now An EdTech Trainer, Integrator, and Coach!

A short personal update. I will be taking on a new position as a Technology Trainer and Coach overseeing EdTech integration among eight different schools. With a focus on Career and Technical Education along with Adult Education within online and blended learning settings, I am looking forward to working with teachers and school leaders to amplify how we can best serve their students. I can’t wait to get started in this new role!

Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders is Now Available Worldwide 

On July 15th of July 2021, it was the worldwide release of Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders. Writing this book was a labor of love with the goal of impacting teachers, school leaders, and most importantly, our students as we navigate the present and future of education during this challenging time. Overall, this book provides a playbook to how to navigate online, blended, and traditional in-person classroom settings as well as toggling between each instantaneously, integrating research-based instructional strategies with EdTech tools to amplify student learning, and a variety of other topics ranging from differentiating instruction, Special Education, communicating with the students and families, and educator self-care.

North American Retailers: Amazon.com, Books A Million, Indie Bound

International Retailers: Amazon.com (UK/EU), Booktopia (AUS), Dymocks (AUS) Waterstones (UK), Indigo (CAN), Dussmann (GER/EU), IBS.it (ITA/EU)

Order Directly from Publisher: Peter Lang International Academic Publishing

Learn more by going to the book’s landing page. Additionally, be sure to check out Bonus Episodes of Navigating Education – The Podcast that feature the contributing authors of the book who take a deeper dive into their case study’s they authored at the end of each chapter in the book. 

Featured Blog Posts to Prepare for the 2021-2022 School Year

Three Blogs from Alfonso Mendoza on Creativity, Connected Educators, and EdTech Leadership (@MyEdTechLife and @Techteacher1381)

We wanted to share three podcasts from Fonz Mendoza who has been writing extensively this summer on topics related to creativity, connected educators, and EdTech Leadership. Each of the following blogs discusses how we can exercise our creative muscles to amplify what we create as well as building your network as a connected educator followed by the four characteristics of becoming an EdTech Leader. 

Exercise Your Creative Muscle 

Within this article, seven strategies to help flex your creativity muscles are provided. After reading it, it will leave you feeling empowered to flex your creative muscle on a project!

Connected Educators

Throughout this blog post, Mr. Mendoza provides a short synopsis on what it means to be a connected educator and its power towards amplifying your work. 

4 Tips for Becoming An EdTech Leader

Mr. Mendoza provides four tips for becoming an EdTech leader. Each step acts as a foundation to help you lead your students, teachers, and school leaders in your capacity as an educator to integrate EdTech and lead. 

Technology in the 21st Century ELA Classroom: Data-Driven Instruction and Student Success by Samantha Shaffner (@samanthasaffn2)

In this article, Ms. Shaffner provides an overview of the Edulastic platform for the use of formative assessment and how to utilize it as a platform to track student data to help us drive instruction. Take a look and read the article here. 

New Podcasts to Help Build Your Teaching and Leadership Toolkit

Navigating Education – The Podcasts episodes from July 2021 to watch

In the month of July, four episodes of Navigating Education – The Podcast were released. So many important topics we discussed ranging from EdTech coaching, rural education, restorative justice, and bias within algorithms of the technology tools we utilize. Each conversation outlines great nuggets of information to build your teaching and leadership practices!

Episode 19 – EdTech Coaching & Making Learning Stick with Debbie Tannenbaum

Episode 18 – Rural Education and How to Best Support Rural Educators with Casey Jakubowski, Ph.D. 

Episode 17 – Restorative Justice & Teacher Trauma and Retention with Dr. Malikah Nu’Man

Episode 16 – Music, Learning, and Racial Bias Algorithms with Dr. Malik Boykin

Also, Navigating Education – The Podcast released eight bonus episodes related to its Navigating the Toggled Term Series. Be sure to check them out by clicking this link here. 

The Innovator’s Mindset (The Podcast)

The Biggest Barrier to Innovation – An episode on George Couros podcast, which outlines barriers to innovation. He discusses the barriers we see in education and outlines how we can overcome them. 

Edu-Cashin Podcast

Edu-Cashin – A podcast by Kevin Leichtman, Ph.D., discusses tips and tricks for educators to build their side hustles as edupreneurs. For educators interested in learning how to start their own business, this is a great podcast to begin following!

Research on Teaching and Learning

Predictive Analytics Are Coming to K-12 – Big Data on Campus Putting Predictive Analytics to the Test

Colleges and universities have invested in predictive analytic models to determine which students are most likely to complete programs of study based on a variety of different metrics. This is in its infancy in K-12 education, but it will likely be a trend that will continue to grow in the upcoming years. An article produced by Education Next outlines how colleges and universities are doing this as well as how effective the practice is in determining student success. View this thought-provoking research article here. 

Big Data on Campus Putting Predictive Analytics to the Test

Paul Kirshner’s Blog 3 Star Learning Experiences

Within this online blog that summarizes research related to teaching and learning, Paul Kirshner provides an immense number of articles summarizing the research in easy-to-read short articles. This is a blog you will have to favorite as the research and practicality of the instructional strategies associated with the research are immense. 

3 Star Learning Experiences


Navigating Education – The Newsletter ISSUE 2 – May 31st, 2021


We made it! The 2020-2021 school year is almost over. For many, the school year is about to end, which means there’s time to rest and recharge during summer. With time to rest and recharge, there may be time to spend learning at your own pace and what you want. As a result, the goal of the next few newsletters is to provide you with many options to learn new practices over the summer at your own pace to then apply to the next school year. These learning opportunities and resources include podcasts to listen to, instructional resources to store in your drive for next year, research articles to read, and voices from other educators that have amplified. 

Ultimately, the goal of this newsletter is to be a helpful resource to help you continue your learning. Be sure to ask your professional learning network and colleagues within your educational organization to subscribe to receive this newsletter, which can be done by completing this form. Also, connect with me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990 and check out more content on my website www.matthewrhoads.com 

Pre-Orders – Purchase Your Copy for a Great Summer Read Before Next School Year

As we get closer to the summer, we are closing in on the release date of Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders. Pre-order your copy of this book that will be a great playbook to navigate the present and future of education!

Pre-Order: Amazon.com 

Pre-Order: Barnes and Noble

Peter Lang International Academic Publishing

Release Date: July 20th, 2021


Frayer Vocabulary A-Z Vocabulary – How-to Video by Dr. Rhoads

Template for A-Z Vocabulary

In this video demonstration, Dr. Rhoads outlines how Frayer Vocabulary can be utilized for a collaborative class activity called A-Z vocabulary. This strategy can be employed at the beginning of a unit or at the end for review. Groups of three students are assigned a slide. For each slide, group members must complete their portion of the slide associated with the vocabulary word. Once their Frayer Vocabulary slide is completed, a gallery walk will commence and students will review the slide deck. Then, on an individual basis, the slide deck can be used by students for retrieval practice. Last, a template slide deck has been added. Please make a copy to use for your classroom!

Jigsaw Reading – How-to Video by Dr. Rhoads

Template for Jigsaw Reading & Summarization Using NewsELA Articles

In this video demonstration, Dr. Rhoads takes you through the Jigsaw Reading strategy. In a twist, passages are assigned to groups and students work together on slides as they annotate and paraphrase the slides content. Then, once each group is completed, they write a combined summary on hyperlink to a Doc attached to the end of the slideshow. Each group’s summary along with groups who may have read a higher Lexile reading rendition of the same passage will have their summaries all in the same space. 

Linking Technologies to Effective Instructional Strategies – Zach Groshell

In this article, Zach Groshell shows a number of instructional strategy integrations with EdTech tools. These instructional strategy integrations are known to help students learn. Take a moment to review this article as it shows a how mainstream EdTech tools we use everyday can be paired with strategies to help students learning.


Daniel Willingham is a famous cognitive scientist that researches and writes about learning. On Twitter, he shares many groundbreaking research articles that can impact our practice in the classroom. For this month’s education research articles to review, we have listed a number of research articles Dr. Whittingham has recommended and posted on social media. You can follow Dr. Willinnghan on Twitter @DTWillingham.

What are the Effects of Screen Time on Emotion regulation and Academic Achievements? – Luca Cerniglia, Silvia Cimino, and Massimo Ammaniti

In this study, researchers found there was a positive association with screen time starting at four years old was significantly associated with dysregulation and negatively associated with mathematics and literacy grades at 8 years of age. Researchers recommend that parental involvement, specifically mothers, is key to regulating device usage. 

Language Skills, and Not Executive Functions, Predict the Development of Reading Comprehension of Early Readers: Evidence from an Orthographically Transparent Language – Dacian Dorin Dolean, Arne Lervag, Laura Visu Petra, & Monica Melby-Lervag

In this study, researchers looked at early elementary aged children and looked at the development of reading comprehension. They found that executive functions do not have a significant direct effect on developing recording comprehension beyond fluent decoding and oral language skills. The results also showed that children who learned to decode well, their language skills and not executive functions have a strong effect on developing their reading comprehension. The authors of the study recommend interventions for reading in elementary school should stress the development of oral language skills. 


Since last month, five new episodes of Navigating Education – The Podcast have been released. Take a listen to them as they are full of best practice nuggets to help your teaching and leadership practice. Starting in June, episodes of the podcast will feature guests. Dr. Rhoads will interview educators from across the world on a number of topics ranging from assessment, feedback, cognitive load, culturally responsive teaching, fine arts education, and much more!

Episode 10 – Integrating Instructional Strategies with EdTech Tools: The How-to Process

Episode 9 – Developing Classroom Routines in the Modern Classroom Environment: Building Routines for Digital and In-Person Spaces

Episode 8 – Special Education Case Management: Harnessing EdTech to Make Case Management Efficient and Effective

Episode 7 – Adaptive Edtech for Personalized Learning and Retrieval Practice

Episode 6 – Online & Distance Learning – What works According to Research and Practice


Here are several articles and a podcast to amplify the voices of several educators. Each article and podcast can provide insight to help amplify your practice as a teacher and leader. From each of these articles, you will have a number of nuggets that you can implement immediately to amplify student learning!

Thanks, But I’ll Keep my Research – Zach Groshell

In this blogpost, Zach Groshell outlines a number of research-based instructional strategies that can help students learn. He does a great job summarizing these strategies by outlining them in a table called “How Much Would Students Learn If,” which provides a list of rhetorical questions asking ourselves as educators what teaching strategies are effective versus the ones that are not effective. 

7 Free Teaching Tools You Might Not Have Heard Of – Dr. Matthew Joseph and Shannon Moore

In this article, Dr. Matthew Joseph and Shannon Moore explore a number of free alternative web-based EdTech tools that support learning. While there are many mainstream tools we all enjoy utilizing, there are many other EdTech tools that we should take a look at for next year. When looking for new tools for next school year, this article should be one of the first places you look to see what’s out there. 

Armchair Scholars Podcast Episode 10 – Dr. Malik Boykin

In an upcoming Navigating Education – The Podcast, Dr. Rhoads will interview Dr. Malik Boykin aka Malik Starx. Before listening to the podcast that will be released in July, this is a good episode to learn more about this influential educator, scholar, and music article. 


Navigating Education – The Newsletter – Issue 1

Issue 1 – April 30th, 2021

Purpose of the Newsletter

The purpose of Navigating Education – The Newsletter is to provide all educators in K-12 and higher education with resources to help amplify their instruction and leadership. My goal as the author of this newsletter is to curate and develop a helpful resource of strategies, podcasts, blogs, research, and tips to navigate the present and future of education. Additionally, the goal of the newsletter is to amplify the voices of educators from across the United States and the world. Many educators are doing amazing work within classrooms and schools that can help us in our practice as educators whether we are in or outside of the classroom. In this newsletter, it cover the following topics: 

  • Helpful Resources form April 2021 to Help your Practice as a Teacher and Leader
  • Introducing Navigating Educating – The Podcast
  • Update: Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders – Pre-orders Now Available!
  • Amplifying the Voices of Educators

Ultimately, the goal is to have the newsletter release at the end of each month with a monthly issue. If you find this resource helpful, please be sure to ask your professional learning network and colleagues within your educational organization subscribe, which can be done by completing this form

Helpful Resources from April 2021 to Help your Practice as a Teacher and Leader

The goal of this section of the newsletter is to provide teachers and leaders with research articles and blogs that can help their practice as educators. Take a look at each resource as it’s been placed here to help amplify your practice!

Research Article: Reducing Extraneous Cognitive Overload during Learning While Using Multimedia LearningLearn about how to reduce cognitive overload during learning when multimedia is involved. Cognitive overload is an important concept as instructors to be aware of as it relates to the capacity of our working memories to take on more information to process. If our working memory is overloaded with tasks and information, it makes learning difficult. Therefore, understanding strategies that help prevent overload are imperative in our learning environments for our students to learn effectively. 

Blog Post: Teacher Feedback and Coaching During the Toggled Term: EdTech Tools to Help Teachers and School Leaders Observe Online & Blended Learning ClassroomsWithin this blog post, several strategies are discussed relating to observing teachers within online and blended learning classrooms. Additionally, EdTech tools like SIBME and Edpuzzle are discussed as tools that can be utilized to provide teachers with feedback on recorded lessons. This is a great blog for instructional leaders and coaches who want to provide feedback to teachers as well as coach teachers throughout the year to improve their instructional toolkit. 

Lectures & Panels

During March and April, I had the opportunity to host three panels sponsored by Paper learning for the Teacher Discussion Series. Themes related to the chapters in Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders, which focused on discussions centered on teaching in diverse environments and EdTech infused pedagogy from teachers around North America. Check them out by clicking on the links below. 

Teacher Discussion Series 3: Six Ways to Address Learner Variability—For “Roomies” and “Zoomies” Alike

Teacher Discussion Series 2: Enhancing instructional strategies with ed tech

Teacher Discussion Series 1: Modern instructional strategies for the “toggled” term

Introducing Navigating Education – The Podcast

In April 2021, Navigating Education – The Podcast was launched with the goal and focus on discussing relevant issues in education that help teachers, school leaders, policymakers, and community members navigate the present and future of education. The podcasts are available on all major podcast playing applications such as Anchor, Spotify, Breaker, and Google Podcasts. New episodes launch each Monday in three different formats ranging from individual bite sized professional learning monologues with the host Dr. Matt Rhoads, guest interviews, and spouse education talks featuring Dr. Matt and Alicia Rhoads. 

Check out the six episodes so far as well as the landing page for the podcast: Navigating Education – The Podcast

If you are interested in coming on as a guest to the podcast, please complete this form. Episodes in the calendar are already filling up for the late spring and summer. Fill out the podcast guest form as I am excited to have conversations from educators across the world. 

Update: Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders – Release Date in July 2020

As we get closer to the summer, we are closing in on the release date of Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders. We’ve had some early reviews of the book, which are detailed further on the books landing page at matthewrhoads.com. This book is a playbook for the present and future of K-12 education from the instructional and leadership lens as it’s practical, filled with research and how-to integrate instructional models and EdTech,  and provides perspectives in the form of case studies from educators throughout the country on how to navigate our current times in education. 


“The Teacher Training Manual for Post-Pandemic Teaching” – Phillip Culter, CEO Paper

“An Essential Resource to Navigate Our Changing Education Landscape” – Alfonso Mendonza Jr. Host of MyEdTech Life, District EdTech Coordinator, & Google Innovator

Pre-Orders – Purchase Your Copy for a Great Summer Read Before Next School Year

Pre-Order: Amazon.com 

Pre-Order: Barnes and Noble

Peter Lang International Academic Publishing

Release Date: July 20th, 2021

Amplifying the Voices of Educators

In this segment of the newsletter, the goal is to provide recommendations regarding blogs, podcasts, and resources educators from around the world are producing. 

Blogs: This month I recommend the following blogs to check out: 

Dr. Catlin TuckerIn Dr. Tucker’s blog, you will see a wide variety of articles related to blended learning and technology infused instruction. In each post, she provides easy access to free resources that can help your instruction. 

Dr. Janet Ilko – In Dr. Ilko has been in education for many years and has experience teaching almost every single grade level K-12 education. She is an advocate for student voice and agency, which is expressed in her blog. As a member of the National Writing Project and the San Diego Writing project, Dr. Ilko reflects in her blog relating to student agency, writing strategies, and amplifying the voices of her students. 

Podcasts: For podcasts, I recommend:

3 Caffeinated Coaches – This podcast aims to enhance the practice of instructional coaches, educators, and leaders by discussing research, interviewing experts in the field, sharing experiences, and engaging in unique book study experiences. The hosts Shannon, Becky, and Georgina provide a diverse range of expertise ranging from coaching, instruction, and research, which provide educators opportunities to always learn new practices to help amplify their instruction, coaching, and leadership. I highly recommend this podcast as the dialogue between each host is entertaining and insightful, which makes for engaging episodes. 

Dr. Will Podcast – This podcast aims to provide Edupreneurs and entrepreneurs a forum to discuss their business and ventures within K-12 education. Dr. Will Deyamport is the host who is also an Edupreneur in his own right, sits down and meets with a diverse set of edupreneurs who are making waves in education. From authors to consultants, each episode provides an excellent summary of their ventures and how they are conducting their business. Episodes are informative and can help any educator wanting to get involved in setting up their own education related businesses or building their business. I highly recommend it!


Collecting and Exporting Data from EdTech Tools to Make Decisions & Conduct Research Lecture

In September 2021, I had the opportunity to lecture doctoral students at Concordia University, Irvine (my alma mater) on how we can collect and export data from our EdTech tools we use in our classrooms and schools to make instructional decisions as well as utilize it for research projects.

Within this hour long lecturer, I discuss how we can export data from mainstream EdTech tools to be employed in our instructional decision-making and in our research. Currently, we are collecting and harvesting vast amounts of data, which can be utilized to help amplify our instruction, programs, and research to enhance student learning and outcomes. This thought is the theme for the lecture.

Overall, if you are a teacher, school leader, district leader, or an EdTech company, much of what I discuss is extremely relevant to modern schools and the direction we need to go to enhance what we do in our classrooms and schools. I encourage everyone to view this lecture and think about how this can affect your practices in the classroom and in schools.

Thank you to Dr. Belinda Karge and Concordia University, Irvine for the opportunity! I cannot wait to be back in the future to support educators in your School of Education programs.


The Teacher Discussion Series – EdTech Strategies and Integrations to Incorporate into your Classroom Instruction

Throughout the months of March and April, Paper tutoring sponsored their Teacher Discussion Series, which discuss how K-12 teachers provide several strategies and tools to take charge in tech-fused classrooms. Each discussion theme for the series was derived from my new upcoming book Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders. Each discussion was so enriching and we learned so much about integrating EdTech to support and amplify the learning of our students. Thank you to Paper for providing the platform to inspire and moderate these conversations!

Teacher Discussion Series 1: Modern Instructional Strategies for the “Toggled Term”
Teacher Discussion Series 2: Enhancing Instructional Strategies with EdTech
Teacher Discussion Series 3: Tech Tools and Strategies to Address Learner Variability

Full articles about each of the three discussions from the Teacher Discussion Series can be found in the following links below.

Teacher Discussion Series 3: Six Ways to Address Learner Variability—For “Roomies” and “Zoomies” Alike

Teacher Discussion Series 2: Enhancing instructional strategies with ed tech

Teacher Discussion Series 1: Modern instructional strategies for the “toggled” term


Launching Navigating Education – The Podcast

Today, I am launching my first podcast: Navigating Education – The Podcast. It has been a goal of mine to start a podcast to broadcast my thoughts, but to also amplify the voices of others in education. This has been such a fun process that I am excited to continue to learn more about and improve the content I am delivering to support other educators in the field.

Additionally, I have included information on two of my book projects in addition to content related to the Paper Teacher Discussion Series I recently moderated. Take a look and enjoy the content as much more is coming in the near future!

Purpose of the Podcast and Formats

Navigating Education – The Podcast’s main mission is to help all stakeholders in education amplify learning for students in the present and the future. In the podcast, we discuss relevant topics in education as well as education research and instructional practices that can be infused with educational technology to amplify learning for use in classrooms around the world. Dr. Matt Rhoads is the host and moderator of the podcasts and it has three distinct formats. First, there are short ten-minute solo episodes where Dr. Rhoads provides a monologue on a specific education topic. The second type of episode format is where Dr. Rhoads collaborates with his wife and fellow educator Alicia Rhoads to discuss relevant teaching practices and topics in education, which lasts about twenty-minutes. The third and final format is where Dr. Rhoads brings on guests from all walks of life and roles within education to hear about new innovations, perspectives, practices, research, books, and to simply connect and learn. Ultimately, through each of these various avenues, the hope of this podcast is to help you navigate the present and future of education.

Where to Find the Podcast?

Episodes can be found on various streaming platforms and YouTube (for live episodes). New episodes are released weekly on Monday’s with bonus content appearing randomly during the week. In addition to new episodes being released, a short blog post will accompany each episode to describe and further extend the episode by providing additional resources for viewers. Episodes will be on all major podcast applications such as SpotifyAnchorRadioPublicBreaker, and Apple.

Other Important Announcements, events, and content to share

New Book: Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders

Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders is launching in June 2021. A landing page on my website at www.matthewrhoads.com has been created for the book, which outlines all of its contents, early reviews, endorsements, and information about our case study contributing authors. I am super excited about this book and cannot wait to discuss more details with you as more promotions and content relating to its upcoming release will be coming out soon! You can pre-order a copy at the following links.

Pre-Order: Amazon.com

Pre-Order: Barnes and Noble

Peter Lang International Academic Publishing

Release Date: June 30th, 2021

Signed with EduMatch: Amplifying Learning – A Global Collaborative

In late March, my co-editor Becky Lim and I signed with EduMatch Publishing for our upcoming book that is projected to release late 2021 or early 2022. This book is focused on amplifying the voices of educators throughout the world as well as discussing how they are integrating instructional strategies with EdTech tools. Each chapter is research-based and provides practical applications that any educator can pick up and integrate into their classroom. More information relating to this book will be out in the coming months. We are thankful for such an amazing group of contributing authors sharing their expertise and experiences.

Moderating Paper Tutorings Teacher Discussion Series

Throughout the months of March and April, Paper tutoring sponsored their Teacher Discussion Series, which discuss how K-12 teachers provide a number of strategies and tools to take charge in tech-fused classrooms. All of these discussions were derived from themes from Navigating the Toggled Term: A Guide for K-12 Classroom and School Leaders. Each discussion was so enriching and we learned so much about integrating EdTech to support and amplify the learning of our students.

Teacher Discussion Series 3: Tech Tools and Strategies to Address Learner Variability
Teacher Discussion Series 2: Enhancing Instructional Strategies with EdTech
Teacher Discussion Series 1: Modern Instructional Strategies for the “Toggled Term”

Full articles about each of the Teacher Discussion Series can be found in the following links below.

Teacher Discussion Series 3: Six Ways to Address Learner Variability—For “Roomies” and “Zoomies” Alike

Teacher Discussion Series 2: Enhancing instructional strategies with ed tech

Teacher Discussion Series 1: Modern instructional strategies for the “toggled” term


2021 Projections for K-12 Education

As we begin 2021 in K-12 education, we see ourselves with COVID-19 at its worse across North America. For many who already were not in teaching online, immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday, we saw many school districts move to online instruction due to holiday surges. However, these toggles from hybrid to online instruction mostly took place urban and suburban locations while the remainder of the country in rural areas kept up hybrid in-person instruction.

With many uncertainties going forward, we do have hope that educators will begin receiving vaccinations and inoculations will only ramp up as we move into the spring and summer. Therefore, as we progress throughout the year, the hope is that we will see many toggles back to in-person learning when COVID spikes decrease in addition to having a teaching workforce that is vaccinated.

Ultimately, trends in K-12 education this year will ultimately reflect the tug and pull of toggles, the pandemic, and creating deliverable content students can access at all times that is instructionally sound. Additionally, underlining all of these trends discussed in this post is social-emotional learning. Social-emotional learning will be centerstage and we also must remember that social-emotional learning important for students, teachers, school leaders, and all school personnel. Thus, we will focus on social-emotional learning, the toggled term, integration of instructional strategies with edtech tools, on-demand learning, and educational support systems (i.e., online tutoring). Each of these trends will undoubtedly have a major impact this year on K-12 education and will have many implications going forward into the future.

Social Emotional Learning remains a top priority

Social-emotional learning came into its own in 2020.. Now, to begin 2021, it will only become an even more meaningful part of everyday lessons and curriculum within K-12 schools. All integrations of social-emotional learning will hopefully be implemented further to reflect CASEL’s SEL framework.

(CASEL, 2017)

Each element of the CASEL SEL framework needs to be integrated within K-12 schools and districts. Luckily, all of its elements can be interwoven into curriculum and lessons and can be amplified by instructional strategies as well as edtech tools. Moving forward into 2021, schools and districts will invest heavily in making this happen as social-emotional learning is critical for everyone within school communities to navigate our ever-changing world.

The Toggled Term Continues

The toggled term continues. Due to rising COVID-19 numbers, we will see toggles occur at increasing rates leading up to spring and during the spring. As cases lower when warmer temperatures begin as well as further vaccinations of teachers, we will see many toggles back to in-person hybrid instructional settings. However, as the year progresses, there will be toggles back and forth between online only and hybrid in-person instruction. This will occur until the entire teaching force is fully vaccinated as well as the vast majority of students. As more and more vaccination occurs, we will see less full and lite toggles (i.e., a complete in-person instruction closure and move to online learning/move from online learning to some form of in-person learning; teachers and/or students quarantining due to exposure or infections for one or more classrooms), but this will not likely occur until sometime during the of Fall 2021. Even during the fall and moving into the winter, full and lite toggles will still occur, but at lower rates than earlier in the year and during 2020.

Real quickly, lets see the toggles that took place between November 18th, 2020 and January 8th, 2020. This interactive photo illustrates the toggles that took place across the United States when COVID spiked due to holiday gatherings. Ultimately, we can expect toggles to occur throughout 2021 and beyond. You can continue to see these instructional trends in real-time by watching the interactive map on MCH Strategic Data.

MCH Strategic Data Teaching Method Time Lapse

Another major development is that many districts and schools throughout North America believe online remote learning and hybrid/blended learning education is the future. Once the pandemic is under control, the lasting effects could result in multiple types of instructional settings within a district/school that they could provide students. There could be the traditional model option, online option, and hybrid/blended learning option available for students to enroll in for a school year. Schools and districts should invest heavily in these options as this will be the future of K-12 education moving forward even beyond the pandemic.

Further Edtech Integration with Instructional Strategies

Now more than ever, educators have a grasp on how to use edtech tools as the entire educational landscape was thrusted into using them on a mass scale in 2020. Teachers now can use many of the edtech tools within online and hybrid/blended classroom settings. The interfaces of the tools can be navigated and implemented to varying degrees, which is a huge development. However, more work needs to be done. We now must now focus on integrating instructional strategies with the edtech we are using at higher rates to enhance our instruction and amplify learning. With strategies we know through research that amplify learning, we can use them strategically within the context of our lessons using edtech tools to deliver the instruction to students.

One quick example of this is taking a strategy like think-pair-share and digitizing it within a lesson using Zoom and Pear Deck. The Pear Deck acts as the element where students interact with content and the strategy is sequenced. Zoom then acts as the means to create pairs or small groups, which is then interwoven into the sequence of the slides. As a result, in just five minutes, its possible to integrate an instructional strategy.

Think-pair-share is one of hundreds of strategies that can be integrated using edtech tools we have at our disposal to deliver instruction to our students. Harvard’s Project Zero is a great place to start to look for instructional strategies that can be integrated with the edtech tools utilized in any classroom setting. For 2021 and beyond, this is the future of edtech as it must be pedagogically driven strategically by teachers. Professional development for the future must focus instructional integration with edtech tools to further innovate and push the envelop for amplifying learning. The implications of these integrations will amplify learning and will make instruction within online, blended, and traditional in-person classrooms more effective across the board.

On-Demand k-12 Education Grows

On Demand education is growing in prominence by the day. Everyday, a new asynchronous class appears online created by an expert in a field. Major platforms these courses appear on are MasterClass, Coursera, Teachable, and Udemy. Eventually, this will move into K-12 education; especially secondary school and possibly even middle school. Elevate K-12 is a platform making waves as the Peloton of online on-demand synchronous courses.

While this can create adaptive pathways to learning, the by product could create a consolidation in education. If a quality product that is interactive can be on-demand supported by 24/7 tutoring and support staff, it could cut costs significantly. The worrisome ramifications of this is that online options provided by local districts would have to compete with this platform, which could ultimately cut jobs over time.

In practice with the infrastructure and tools I have available, I can essentially do this for my students, which could then be reproduced at a massive scale. For example, within my online classroom for Algebra 1, my goal moving forward is to record all of the synchronous sessions as well as make all of the interactive capabilities to students available if they are not able to attend the live synchronous class. My interactive slides will always be available and can be sequenced simultaneously with the recorded synchronous lesson. Additionally, I can use a product like Paper Learning as my 24/7 tutoring and support tool for students. Therefore, essentially what this will look like is making all synchronous classes on-demand asynchronously. However, admittedly, the on-demand version of the class will not have as many collaborative elements available. Yet, over time, new ways of instruction and the appropriate implementation of HyFlex instruction can alleviate this issue when an entire course is built before it begins.

Availability of Digital Education Support Systems (Tutoring)

There have been ideas circulating regarding creating national tutoring programs to support learning and help students make up learning loss resulting from the pandemic. Research has shown that the effect size of tutoring on student achievement is .37, which is substantial to learning outcomes (Nickow, Oreopoulos, & Quan, 2020). To make tutoring available on-demand to every single student in the United States would be an unprecedented step to making education more equitable for our students.

Companies such as Paper, TutorMem, and Chegg Tutors provide on-demand tutoring options for K-12 students. However, the pricing and usage of the service differ as they can either be curated for individual students who pay per use or for entire schools and districts for unlimited use. If a national program is in reach, we must find ways to create unlimited access for students within schools to access a tutor whenever they need additional support. As a result, this would help increase equity and opportunity for all of our students to receive the support they need to succeed.

Last, to make on-demand tutoring better and more effective, increasing investment into innovative strategies for synchronous user engagement and gamification will help with motivating students, increasing memory retention, productivity, and engagement. Overall, with improvements and the mass distribution of widespread tutoring, it could greatly impact K-12 education within the United States.


Many trends were highlighted within this post that will impact K-12 education throughout 2021 and beyond. Beyond what we discussed in this post, there are several other important trends we suggest to keep track of, which include: K-12 education funding, the United States new Secretary of Education, edtech company buy-outs/consolidations, increasing online connectivity for students, social-media infused pedagogy and microlearning, school leadership, and teacher shortages. Throughout the 2021 this blog will feature articles on each of these trends. It will focus on the practical implication of each of these topics for teachers, principals, schools, districts, and policymakers. Ultimately, the goal will be to bring forth new research and their practical implications for implementation within K-12 schools and districts.

What are your thoughts? What trends do you believe will greatly impact education in 2021? Continue the conversation here or on Twitter.


Digital and Data Literacy: Two Essential Skills for Educators to Teach our Students in 2021 and Beyond

As we move into 2021, we have seen K-12 education get turned upside down throughout 2020. The use of educational technology (edtech) has taken hold across K-12 education like never before in the history of education, which means educators must be able to adapt to the the ever-changing tools and how to integrate instructional strategies with the tools within classroom settings. Beyond this notion of being able to utilize various edtech tools and integrate them with instructional strategies to amplify learning, we must also take into account the use of massive amounts of data that are collected as a result of their use to our advantage. Therefore, as we move into the 2020’s, two essential skills K-12 educators must learn, practice, master, and teach to our students as innovation continues at an ever-increasing rate is both digital and data literacy. These two foundational skills will be needed to navigate K-12 classrooms in the present and well into the future as they will be some of the pillars of learning moving forward.

Luckily, many K-12 teachers are teaching these skills at ever-increasing rates. However, as we discuss throughout this article, we believe both digital and data literacy need to be implemented as a cornerstone of our curriculum we teach our students in addition to increasing our skills as educators to teach these concepts and skills to our students. As we move through this article, we will focus on defining digital and data literacy, outlining why it is imperative to teach these skills to our students, mechanisms for delivering these skills and content to our students, and provide lesson plans and resources we can utilize and build into our curriculum and daily lesson plans.

What is Digital and Data Literacy?

First, let us begin by defining each of these terms. Digital literacy is defined as the “ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills” (American Library Association, 2020). Data literacy is the ability to collect, transform, evaluate/analyze, and communicate the results to others (Guler, 2019). Both definitions of each of these terms are interconnected. Any digital interface we interact with to create, evaluate, and select content produces data that can be collected, transformed, evaluated, and communicated to others. Therefore, when thinking about digital and data literacy, try to visualize them together as they interact together seamlessly and concurrently. Below, we see each of the digital and data literacy competencies broken down to see all of their components.

Why do Schools and Teachers Need to Teach Digital and Data Literacy

As our world continues to change, more and more of what we do will be done digitally. As a result, there are major ramifications for our students and the future of our society. There are consequences of how we interact with others as well as content. We have seen a rise in disinformation in the form of news stories synthesized with data to create civil unrest that has threatened democratic institutions. Therefore, as with reading, writing, and mathematic literacy we provide our students within our K-12 education systems, digital and data literacy must be included. Without building important digital and data literacy skills, we are taking a major risk with our future as we will be neglecting educating a populace who does not have foundational digital and data literacy to distinguish between real and fake content found online.

We must invest in infusing pedagogy into teaching digital and data literacy skills. Within current professional development programs and university teacher preparation programs, digital and data literacy must be taught together in tandem. New curriculum also must include digital and data literacy components. An example of digital literacy can take place while teaching students how to read and write. We must teach them how to annotate on paper and digital source. In addition, we must teach them how to curate content by teaching the over time what makes content credible versus not credible. Also, we must teach students how to use their writing to create social media posts, infographs, digital portfolios, and stories on platforms like Instagram and Tiktok. For data literacy, within a math or social science curriculum, we can teach our students to collect data, organize, transform, and communicate that data. Students can create their own data to be collected in a lesson and the end goal of the lesson is to create data visualizations of the classes data.

Ultimately, these are just a few examples of how we can integrate these skills across the curriculum. This can be done gradually as more capacity is built by educators to teach these skills. The expectation is for gradual change, which puts our focus on intertwining these digital and data literacy with reading, writing, and math from kindergarten and onwards throughout a students educational journey. By the time students graduate from high school school, they will be able to navigate all forms of media, select content to view, create content, understand the notion of digital and data privacy, transform data to make decisions, report disinformation, and be aware of our digital footprints.

Instructional Delivery of Digital and Data Literacy

Let’s talk about delivery of teaching our students digital and data literacy skills. Then, we will discuss a few instructional applications and lessons of digital and data literacy teachers can utilize. First, there are a number of instructional delivery mechanisms teachers can use to help students learn these skills in modern day classrooms. Microlearning, social learning, adaptive learning, virtual/augmented reality, and cloud-based learning management systems synthesized together strategically and pragmatically, which will allow teachers to teach these skills within online and blended learning classrooms.

Microlearning: Focus on chunking learning into small short bursts that are bit-sized in nature. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, and Instagram are great examples of how this can take place.

Social Learning: Focus on providing a collaborative newsfeeds, RSS feeds, videos, and podcasts for students.

Adaptive Learning: Software programs based on a students ability level to help them learn how to navigate interactive interfaces, solving problems through a modular setup, and providing a scaffolded approach to frontload content or create opportunities to practice specific skills.

Virtual/Augmented Reality: Provide opportunities for students to navigate real-world digital and data literacy skill building experiences. Phet simulations are some of the easiest virtual/augmented reality experiences we can deploy.

Cloud-Based Learning Management Systems: Students must understand how to navigate and utilize a cloud-based platform to communicate with others, submit evidence of learning, and curate content.

Overall, each of these mechanisms for instructional delivery can be intertwined to deliver instruction to students in any classroom setting and at any time. The lesson plans and ideas discussed within the next section can be utilized with the tools outlined above to deliver instruction on digital and data literacy to students.

Lesson Plans for Digital and Data Literacy

Now, lets focus on providing a number of lessons on digital and data literacy. Outlined below are several resources to help you begin planning lessons intertwining digital and data literacy skills within the broader scope of your curriculum.

The Basics of Digital Citizenship by Nearpod: Nearpod provides a five day digital literacy unit, which focuses on the elements of digital citizenship, navigating tech applications and the internet, boosting keyboard skills, balancing media literacy, and coding and problem solving.

Digital Literacy/Citizenship Curriculum by Common Sense Education: Common Sense Education provides a series of lesson plans on digital literacy for grades K-12. Each grades lesson focuses on different topics ranging from navigating clickbait to the health effects of screen time. This is an all encompassing curriculum that is the tip of the iceberg to teach these important digital literacy concepts to our students.

Lessons for Teaching Data Literacy by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Within eight lessons, data literacy is taught intertwined with economics and mathematic concepts. Included within these lessons are interactive data visualizations and graphics to help students see the data in action and how it impacts our daily lives as citizens and consumers participating in our global economy. Each of these lessons can be adopted, transformed, and implemented using a wide variety of tools.

Module Planning for Data Literacy by Tuva: Tuva’s teacher’s guide to create a unit on data literacy includes how to structure four modules relating to foundational data literacy concepts.


Digital and data literacy are essential skills we must incorporate into our daily lessons and curriculum as our students navigate digital interfaces and content that produce data. Even more important, provide our students with frameworks that help them curate content they see within digital spaces online like social media. Ultimately, digital and data literacy is needed to be an active and responsible citizen within our current world. As discussed earlier, we will be taking a major risk if digital and data literacy are not a cornerstone of our curriculum and taught within teacher professional development and preparation programs moving forward.

The underlining goal here and future posts is to provide a sense of urgency as well as provide resources to help build and deliver lessons on digital and data literacy. Ultimately, the end goal is to create a curriculum both teachers and school leaders can learn to navigate our digital world and use the massive amounts of data we are collecting to inform and drive our decisions. As we begin the year 2021, let’s focus on integrating elements of digital and data literacy into our curriculum and daily lessons. Our students will benefit greatly as we will be giving our students life long skills to help them navigate and adapt to the ever-changing world and technology we use in our work and play.

Additional Resources on Digital and Data Literacy

For more information on implementing data literacy curriculum and building the data literacy of teachers within K-12 schools and classrooms, check out https://dataqualitycampaign.org/resource/data-literacy-101/.

For more information on implementing digital literacy curriculum and building the digital literacy of teachers within K-12 schools and classrooms, check out https://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/ten-digital-literacy-resources-teachers.shtml.


Teacher Feedback and Coaching during the Toggled Term: Edtech Tools to Help Teachers and School Leaders Observe Online & Blended Learning Classrooms

Teacher feedback, self-efficacy, and collective self-efficacy is critical towards creating and refining 21st-century learning learning environments for students (Hattie, 2012). Teachers learn best from watching other teachers. Teachers also learn best from receiving feedback and coaching from their colleagues and school leaders. Furthermore, as we progress through a toggled term, we want to help our colleagues by providing and receiving feedback as well as emulating specific practices and strategies into to our instruction. However, teaching in online and blended learning settings (which may even include HyFlex instruction), observing teachers and providing feedback in traditional ways is almost impossible. Therefore, we have to be inventive and innovative on how we provide feedback for informal and formal observations.

There are a few ways to make observations in online and blended learning settings easy to access for all teachers and school leaders. We will be focusing on how to do this so that teachers can receive feedback from their colleagues efficiently and transparently. Our first focus will be observing classrooms in an online or blended setting. Then, we will focus on why feedback is needed and can be utilized as we navigate these educational settings. Last, three edtech tools and strategies will be unveiled on how teachers and school leaders can create lesson videos of an online or blended classroom to receive instructional feedback. Several of the tools are free, which is game changing. Also, we will shortly discuss how we can make online repositories of recorded lessons that are private so teachers and school leaders can view throughout the year without compromising student privacy.

Lesson Observation in Distance and Blended Learning Settings

For online learning, there are a multitude of different ways to observe a synchronous and asynchronous lessons. There are three ways this can take place. First, there is an option of attending a live synchronous lesson as a student or observer. Second, the observer can view student activity on an application like ClassRelay or Blocksi, in addition to, being an observer in the synchronous class. Third, an observer can review a recorded synchronous class session from either the students interface, teachers interface, or both. Each form of observation provides the observer with several different perspectives of how the lesson is going, student engagement/participation, and the effectiveness of the integration of edtech tools and instructional strategies has on student learning.

Live Synchronous Sessions

Entering a Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams and observing a live synchronous class is one option for teachers and school leaders wanting to observe an online class. In this first scenario the observer plays the role as a student and participates as much as they can in the lesson. If there are interactive edtech tools, the observer, if possible, should try and engage in the lesson to see how the teacher utilizes instructional strategies while observing how students interact with each other and the edtech during the lesson.

Another methodology of observing an online synchronous class session is observing as a non-participant in the learning. Ensure the teacher is sharing their screen so that you can observe what tools they are utilizing during the lesson. Observe the student video visuals (if applicable), the chat box conversation, and breakout room conversations utilized in the lesson for student conversation. Observers can also see how the teacher interacts with students during direct instruction, modeling, and how they facilitate collaborative conversations (teacher vs. student and student vs. student).

Observing Two Interfaces for a Live Synchronous Session

The third method of observing a live synchronous class is through a recording of the teacher’s interface, the students interface, or both. Having one or both interfaces recorded can show the observer how the teacher is managing their interface to create an engaging lesson for their students. On the other hand, if the opportunity presents itself to record a students screen (which could be the observer participating in the lesson), then there could be the ability to see what teacher actions are leading to student engagement and learning opportunities. Thus, when providing feedback to the teacher, the observer can see from the teacher’s and student’s perspective in relation to the technology interfaces they are using for the lesson. Feedback can be given regarding their lesson design, tool use, opportunities to engage students in learning, real-time feedback, and monitoring and adjusting the lesson based on student data.

The last method is to observe a teacher in a blended in-person synchronous class session, but also have the teacher record their screen. Therefore, we can see instruction not only in-person, but also digitally, which can be viewed later after the lesson. Or, the observer can log into the edtech tools being utilized for the lesson and participate as a student while observing the in-person non-virtual instruction while also observing the edtech integration with instructional strategies take place. As a result, we have the opportunity to see instruction and student engagement take place in-person and digitally simultaneously. We can provide feedback for their in-person instruction, use of digital interfaces, integration of instructional strategies with edtech, classroom climate, and assessing student engagement during the lesson with the edtech being used.

Tools to Use for Lesson Observations in Online and Blended Learning Settings

SIBME + Huddle

SIBME is a coaching application where a user records or uploads a live recording to a collaborative Huddle where the observee and observe interact. Inside the Huddle, the observer can comment on the video recorded or uploaded by the observee. They can comment via text or voice throughout the video so that the observee can review their feedback and coaching. The observee can also provide feedback on the video and respond to the comments provided by the observer, which gives each the opportunity for dialogue back and forth regarding the lesson.

SIBME is a great tool because of its ease of use. All one must do is open up the application a web browser, log in, and either record a lesson or provide feedback on one stored within a Huddle. Within two to three minutes, videos can be created, uploaded, and feedback can be given. Although, the major draw back that it is not free. However, our second option of Loom/Edpuzzle is free, which is a game-changer for conducting observations and providing feedback.

How to Use SIBME


With the combination of Edpuzzle and Loom, schools and districts can use two free tools to as a means to providing teacher feedback and using both as a coaching platform. There are a number of steps that need to be done to make this happen. First, a private YouTube or Edpuzzle lesson observation page for the school or district needs to be created. Videos that are created on Loom can be uploaded to directly to Edpuzzle itself, which then can be edited by Edpuzzle editing and commenting features. Loom essentially allows teachers to screen cast their screen for free for up to 45 minutes. Then, it can be downloaded and then uploaded to Edpuzzle.

As a result of integrating Loom and Edpuzzle, teachers, school leaders, and district leaders can create, observe, provide feedback, and assess teacher understanding. This can help facilitate coaching, mentoring, professional learning, and also act as a repository for teachers and school leaders to observe lessons.

How to Use Loom

How to Use Edpuzzle

Private YouTube Channel and Wakelet Collections

Besides using tools like SIBME, Loom, and Edpuzzle, we can also use YouTube and Wakelet Collections as mechanisms to create private channels teachers and school leaders can view lessons. On Edpuzzle, schools and districts can create repositories of videos that have been uploaded and edited. However, for lessons to be categorized and accessible to a broader audience within the school, creating a private YouTube and Wakelet Collection can be a solution. Videos can be uploaded to a private YouTube and then hyperlinked to private collaborative Wakelet Collection where other important professional development information can be placed. Therefore, over time, large repositories of lessons selected by teachers and school leaders can be always available to view. Ultimately, this can help with coaching, mentoring, and providing teachers an opportunity to observe their colleagues.


We now have more tools than ever before to help facilitate providing teacher feedback relating to their instruction. These tools can be collaborative in nature, which can help with teachers developing individual self-efficacy to improve their practice. Additionally, it will help school and teacher leaders build repositories of best practice lessons for their colleagues to review throughout the year. This can help build collective self-efficacy over time as teachers will be able to observe, refine their instruction, seek feedback, and reflect. As a result, instruction will likely improve. Also, two of the major tools to do this are free for use, which is game-changing. Ultimately, we want continuous feedback and coaching to amplify and improve our instruction. Regardless of our classroom setting, it is now doable. Additionally, we can see the various interfaces teachers and students view and interact with, which can now be reviewed and assessed to improve instruction.


Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning.


Navigating the Toggled Term: Looking at the Present and Thinking Forward into the Future for K-12 Education

As the first few months of school has passed in the 2020-2021 school year, I wanted to take a moment to discuss a few reflections and thoughts then project into the future. After writing “Navigating the Toggled Term,” I am beginning to focus on writing the second edition. The thoughts compiled within this post provide some insight as to what I plan on incorporating into the second book.

Currently, we see many schools across the U.S. started school either fully online or in hybrid blended learning settings. Although, there are several states (mostly in the Southern U.S.) where schools have completely opened fully with COVID-19 safety protocols. Regardless of whether the schools started in a hybrid or more traditional setting with COVID-19 safety protocols, we have seen many temporary closures to move online or have implemented temporary quarantine procedures to isolate students, teachers, and staff. Additionally, we have on a few occasions schools start online and then move into hybrid blended learning. Consequently, we have see schools start online, move to hybrid learning, and then have to move back to online instruction.

Ultimately, we are in a toggled term. Depending on the geographical location, political atmosphere of where the school is located, and local health conditions have determined many policies regarding the instructional mode of delivery. There has been many instances of when instructional and organizational toggles have occurred to change the mode of instructional delivery as well as the place where instruction occurs. This demonstrates there has been significant movement among districts and schools to adapt to the ever changing conditions and challenges presented by this pandemic.

A number of trends I have researched and personally observed are quite evidence across the board. These trends will be outlined as they are important as we project into the future. Before some major trends are outlined regarding what’s happening instructionally, there will be a summary of how the toggled term is turning out around the world and then in the U.S.

COVID-19 Policy Trends & Data Breakdown

School Closures Worldwide

As we can see below, schools around the world are either partially open, fully open, and closed. Countries with policies to better handle the virus (there are minor exceptions) have their schools fully open. Generally, as we look at the map, countries that have not handled the virus well either have schools only partially open or they are completely closed. Also, another trend is looking at the global south. The global south has the most schools still closed because of the pandemic. Most of South America, parts of Africa, and India have schools closed while the global north is open or partially opened schools.

Figure 1. Schools around the World as of September 22nd, 2020

Source: UNESCO COVID-19 Pandemic Data

US School Districts COVID-19 Learning Models and Policies

Across the U.S. we see a variety of different instructional models schools and districts are utilizing to navigate the fall of 2020 and beyond. Primarily, across the board, hybrid blended learning is the most utilized instructional model. Then, we have in-person learning with the entire student population on the schools premises with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Lastly, we have schools employing online learning as their instructional model. Notice that online learning is being mostly utilized in highly populated areas specifically on the west coast. There are pockets of online learning centered around large cities on the east coast, but it seems like it is primarily being used out west and is being used the least in the Midwest.

Orange: Districts in online only learning

Red: On premises in full numbers with COVID-19 safety protocols

Blue: Hybrid

Figure 2. Instructional Models being Used in the U.S. Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic as of September 22nd, 2020

Source: MCH Strategic Data

School and District COVID-19 Safety Policies

Schools and districts have been surveyed regarding their COVID-19 safety protocols as well as what instructional models they are utilizing this fall. When we look at the data, some trends stick out. First, only 44% of high schools require masks on school premises. This is quite alarming given that COVID-19 is an airborne virus. Second, 64% of all districts require all students to wear masks. Still, 36% of districts do not require all students to wear mask. Third, districts have increased investment significantly into online learning and educational technology. This has resulted in options for students and families to opt to alternative learning options (i.e., online learning for the year). Fourth, so far 73% of districts have a reopening plan in place. Still, 27% of districts do not have one that is in place. Last, 83% of all districts require teachers and administrators to wear masks at all times. This is the highest percentage on this survey result, which is promising, but also surprising because the health experts state masks should always be worn in public locations by everyone to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Figure 3. Breakdown at School and District COVID-19 Policy Breakdown

Mask Policies and Temporary School Shutdowns

Below is a depiction in Figure 4, which outlines the mask policies districts currently have in place, in addition to, school temporary shutdowns caused because of COVID-19. The student and staff mask policies represents the first two tables. As we can see, the vast majority of districts require students and staff to wear masks. But, we still have districts who do not mandate masks for staff and students. Additionally, we see the temporary school shut down. Many schools technically did not close because they toggled immediately to an alternative form of instruction like online learning. However, we see instances of schools closing for 1-5 days and 6-14 days, which may represent situations where positive cases were found and cleaning, contact tracing, and quarantining occurred. Interestingly, we do see schools that closed indefinitely. Could this make up private schools or charter schools who were not prepared or did not have the financial flexibility to put in place COVID-19 safety protocols as well as provide alternative options for instruction?

Figure 4. Mask Policies in Place and Temporary Shutdowns to Either Toggle or Clean/Quarantine

Source: MCH Strategic Data

Reported COVID-19 Cases at U.S. Schools and Campuses

As we can see in Figure 5, we can see a breakdown of reported COVID-19 cases among U.S. schools and campuses. We can see the number of schools, cases, and deaths as a result of COVID-19. In addition, we can see how the cases are categorized per state and broken down by school district. This is a valuable resource as we can track where the largest outbreaks have occurred.

Figure 5. COVID-19 Cases at U.S. Schools and Campuses

Source: Tracking Cases Across the U.S. – NEA COVID-19 Case Data by State (Note: By going to this website, you can view school and district COVID-19 cases by state, district, and school)

The Overall Big Picture of the Toggled Term

The amount of data we have is extremely important as it provides us with an overall picture of what’s going on in the U.S. regarding how schools and districts are navigating the pandemic on an instructional and safety level. The data we have been able to collect is invaluable for predicting outbreaks and developing policies that will help provide safe school environments for students, teachers, school leaders, and the greater community. We need to develop and assess our current safety policies to ensure all personnel is safe so we can mitigate cases and outbreaks. Additionally, it is important to track instructional models used to deliver instruction and how they change over time. Having this information is key for us to help continue developing instructional and organizational frameworks to help schools and districts shift instruction as they navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic.

There is also a resource available to report and track reported positive COVID-19 cases in schools and districts across the U.S. A reporting website sponsored by the National Educators Association (NEA) has been developed to report and track COVID-19 cases in schools and districts across the U.S. If you are a teacher, parent, school leader, staff member, or community member who would like to report a case, the link above provides the opportunity to report cases to add to a database the public can view. Moderators look to confirm the reports for accuracy. Reports like this can help us stop outbreaks and contact trace.

Toggled Term Trends

Outside of the big picture, there are a number of trends that occurring this school year as a result of the pandemic. Several major trends are discussed in-depth as they illustrate what’s going on in the world of K-1 education. These trends are discussed and then utilized to predict future trends in education as we project into the future.

Physical Safety Concerns: As described in the news as well as with the data the physical safety and well-being of students, teachers, staff, school leaders, and the greater community. As we all know with COVID-19, not only can the person infected be harmed, but others around them. This remains one of the major concerns regarding in-person schooling. In locations with a lower daily positive testing percentage harbors safer environments to learn. Much of Europe is using a very low positivity rate as the benchmark for in-person school learning.

In the U.S., schools need additional funding to buy PPE and to ramp up testing capacities and contact tracing. Unfortunately, we need to do this in addition to our communities following social distancing and mask wearing protocols as it drops the local counties positive testing percentage. If two of these facets are done in tandem along with further treatments developed down the line for COVID-19, we will see more schools move towards in-person instruction nationwide.

Socioemotional Learning and Mental Health: Socioemotional learning is as prominent and important as ever for all students, teachers, and school leaders. All of the educational community is facing a large mental health hurdle throughout this pandemic. Socioemotional emotional is taking hold within the curriculum and be utilized across K-12. This is a bright silver lining. However, it’s not enough. The gravity of the pandemic, economic conditions, and racial and political divisions has caused an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety. This has caused instability in many households due to job loss or economic instability.

Ultimately, we need to re-up our efforts for socioemotional learning and mental health. It impacts our students achievement! We need to include all of the education community in working on socioemotional learning and mental health. We need to provide community mental health and SEL programs, online webinars, and increase our funding for psychological services in addition to working on SEL in the classroom.

Zoom Fatigue: Zoom fatigue is real. Spending close to 3 to 6 hours a day on Zoom for both teachers and students takes a lot of energy. Synchronous live instruction seems to either be mandated all day long or in smaller chunked out amounts for K-12. Asynchronous seems to be chunked within a lesson or conducted every other day (depending on either if its an online or hybrid setting). Our focus needs to be on chunking synchronous instruction with asynchronous instruction during a lesson or focusing on the hybrid blended learning models of utilizing it every other day.

Student Blank Screens: As with last semester, students seem to be not sharing their video screens with their teachers during distance learning. While this does not happen everywhere, we have seen trends of this occurring. Teachers have noted this being difficult to understand. Students tend to share their video while in breakout rooms and during collaborative work activities.

Work Completion?: Teachers have noted there has been a big work completion gap between students who have home support versus students who do not. Many teachers have noted students seem overwhelmed at times with the amount of work they are receiving. Ultimately, there is an equity gap that exists. Even within a hybrid blended learning model when students attending either half day, every other day, or selected days throughout the week, there still is more of an asynchronous instruction component that exists. Last, many districts and schools had a do not harm grading policy last year as shutdowns occurred throughout the nation. This policy ensured students would not be penalized if they did not complete work or performed below standard. This policy may have caused students to not be used to the rigor we had while in session pre-pandemic.

Educator Fatigue/Stress: There has been a high amount of educator fatigue and stress regardless of whichever instructional model being employed. More time has been devoted to content creation, planning, and using edtech along with the stress of either having to battle health fears or balancing family responsibilities at home while teaching online. Burn out is real and happening. We have seen teachers quit the profession and teachers retire early. The impending teacher shortage looks to only increase in rural and low income areas.

Instructional Flexibility and Freedom: School leaders who have given teachers the instructional flexibility and freedom to innovate. Teachers have incorporated edtech tools and their instructional applications to online, hybrid, and traditional classroom settings. We have seen an acceleration of innovation, which is in-part because of the uncharted waters we are in, but also because school leaders have given teachers the instructional freedom to experiment and innovate the nature of how they instruct students.

The Use of the HyFlex Instructional Model: Before COVID-19 this instructional model was only used at the university level. Now, many districts and schools have adopted this instructional model when students and/or teachers are quarantined. This allows students to be in-person as well as online in two separate settings receiving similar instruction from their teacher. In addition, the HyFlex is employed in some instances when schools offer an in-person and online option but they are offered simaltaneously. Many teachers have noted this is increasingly difficult model to provide instruction as well as one that may not be sustainable over the course of the entire school year.

Projecting into the Future

As we move into the winter and spring of the 2020-2021 school year, we must begin thinking about trends in K-12 education that affect our immediate future. This pandemic is here to stay until at least late-2021 and into mid-2022. We will probably not be returning to normal soon. Thus, the rate of instructional innovation will continue to hold true as K-12 education is in the midst a transition we have not seen since the late 1800s. As a result, a number of trends will likely occur, which will revolutionize education as we know it in many places around the U.S.

Teacher Shortage: The pandemic has only exasperated the teacher shortage many states and regions are dealing with. For example, in Arizona, since August 31, 2020, 751 teachers have quit, 1,728 teacher positions remain vacant (28.1%), and 3,079 teacher positions have been filled used alternative methods. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

COVID-19 is Here to Stay: According the WHO chief scientist, we are looking until at least 2022 until precautions such as face masks and social distancing will be lifted. The implications of this on K-12 education will be immense as districts and schools will have to adapt to toggling between hybrid blended learning and online learning. Also, without major future investment in education K-12 education by the federal government, we will see massive inequities continue to be exasperated. In addition, the safety of schools will be compromised as a supply chain of PPE and site based testing will be a necessity to ensure the safety of teachers, students, school leaders, and staff.

Adapting or Failing: District and schools have a choice. Adapt or fail. As discussed earlier, this pandemic is not going away anytime soon. If districts and schools do not adapt to having to toggle instructionally and organizationally as we as provide alternative education options that are viable, we will many students leave traditional schools to alternative education options (Charters, Online Charter Schools, Private Schools, Private Pods, etc).

School Choice: With many schools and districts failing to adapt to the instructional realities of the pandemic, there will be a rise of online charter and private schools. As a result, education enrollment may not be as localized as it once was prior to the pandemic. Rather, families may have the choice of selecting educational institutions, teachers, and classes via an online choice board whereby they select the best option for their student and family. If local districts and schools fail to provide viable educational options, this school choice methodology could begin becoming mainstream.

The Nature Instruction is Improving: Instruction is innovating at an accelerated rate due to edtech integration in all educational settings. With good instruction and edtech integration, we are seeing instruction take place across the board to the masses that was only taking place to a small segment of the student population before the pandemic. We must always remember that good pedagogy drives instruction. Future professional development should focus on further integrating instructional strategies to be used to drive the use of edtech.

Teachers and Educational Institutions Show how Valuable they are to Society: Having over 50 million students still learning from home, the perception of teachers and their value to society has been mixed. On one end, teachers are doing such an amazing job and their job is increasingly difficult. As a result, there has been high praise in terms of their value. On the other hand, we have seen teachers being called dispensable as well as emergency workers. However, from what we have seen in this pandemic is that teachers are a center piece to our society. Without teachers, the economic engine of our society cannot be maximized. Ultimately, the longer the pandemic lasts, this will become even more evident.

Teachers need to continue to advocate for maximum funding and support from the community. If funding and the greater community adheres to COVID-19 safety protocols, our schools will remain open longer for in-person instruction and our economy will improve. We need funding to ensure schools are safe and support from the community to play by the rules. If communities do not provide this for schools, expect more toggles between online and in-person instruction to continue as well as further economic instability.

Teacher Education – A Revolution: Now more than ever it has become evident that new teachers need to be able to teach in online and in-person settings to be proficient educators. As a result, teacher preparation programs have begun shifting to provide additional instruction to help new teachers learn how to teach online in addition to in-person instruction. As with many of the other future trends, this will only become more evident as the need will continue to exist long after the pandemic is over since education will be reshaped. Teacher preparation programs that provide additional instruction and begin refocusing their efforts to help teachers integrate edtech tools aligned with instructional strategies within their programs, it will provide the framework for teacher preparation evaluation standards and procedures to change to align with our current and future educational landscape.


The future of K-12 education rests upon additional safety funding, support from the greater community, and strategic leadership. We have not seen such an upheaval in K-12 education like we have now in the past 100 years. Immense change is on our doorstep. With positive collaboration between all the stakeholders in our local communities, our schools can thrive as the nature of instruction is improving at an immense rate. Inevitable change like the diversification of instructional models and the choice of schools for families and students will only continue to accelerate. With large upskilling and investment in edtech, the boundaries of traditional brick and mortar schools are eroding. K-12 education is transforming into instruction that can occur anywhere and at anytime and increasingly personalized to meet each students learning needs.

Note: Continue the conversation on Twitter or place a comment below! This is an on-going conversation that is evolving. Many of these predictions about the future are based on trends seen throughout the education landscape as well as conversations with educators across North America.


Edtech & Equity and Engagement Series – Part 4: Paper Learning – An Edtech Tool & Service that Bridges Equity Gaps for all Students

Welcome back to Part 4 of the Edtech Equity and Engagement Blog Series. As with the previous three blogs that are a part of this series, the purpose of this series is that we are looking at various educational technology tools and services and evaluating how they are engaging and equitable for all students. This week we are focusing on a game changing edtech service that provides opportunities for student’s grade four through twelve to receive one-on-one on demand tutoring support from a college-educated tutor at anytime and anywhere. Right now as much of North America is engaging in either online or blended learning settings, Paper Learning is trying to help schools and districts support students beyond the brick and mortar confines of traditional tutoring. This could be a major game changer moving forward as education continues to innovate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Paper Learning? On Demand 24/7 Tutoring Services

Paper Learning is an on-demand one-on-one tutoring and essay review service that can be accessed through computers, tablets, and smartphones. Its primary purpose is to support students in their learning and help their teachers meet the needs of all of their students. Many teachers, especially middle school and high school teachers, have over 100 students each. With many schools in distance learning or blended instructional settings, it’s impossible for them to meet with every student on a consistent basis to receive additional help and support. In addition, after-school programs are generally not as available as they once were for students to receive tutoring services from teachers or local college students. However, with the help of Paper Learning, students can now receive that support on any subject and at any time if their district has subscribed to their services.

Paper Learning works by having a student log into a user interface that allows them to openly communicate with a tutor via a live text chat stream. Students can type in the problem or can upload a snippet or image of the task/assignment they are working on. Also, students can upload a writing sample that can be assessed for grammar, punctuation, and relevance to the essay prompt and then delivered back o students with feedback to help them edit/revise their writing sample. Tutors use the Socratic method of teaching to help lead a student to the answer without giving them the answer. By giving them clues along the way, they will lead the students in the right direction to problem solve.

Paper Learning allows teachers to monitor student and tutor conversations. Teachers can monitor the student and tutor conversations to see what they are working on and see how they are doing. This is powerful to first see which students are accessing the tutoring services, in addition to, what they are asking for help on. Teachers can strategically use this to focus their efforts on re-teaching concepts and targeting students who they may need to meet with based on their analysis on the student/tutor conversations to further support them.

A Summary of the Services Provided by Paper Learning
How Teachers can use Paper Learning
How Students can Access Paper Learning

Implementing Paper Learning

Paper Learning is very easy to set up in any learning management system. Teachers should provide a bulletin that can be easily accessed within their learning management system that includes the link to the Paper application and step-by-step instructions of how to use it. Then, teachers should provide a video of how students can interact with Paper as a resource they can look at for to review how to use the resource. Also, teachers can screencast a video of how a teacher logs in as a student and interacts with a tutor to model how to have a productive conversation with a tutor. With this sin place for students, students will have the ability to access the application and understand how it is used.

To fully introduce Paper outside of posting it on the learning management system, teachers need to introduce it multiple times and mention it throughout the week. For example, at the beginning of the semester, send emails out to parents and students on what Paper is and how it’s used. Then, in class, model how it’s used and show examples of how it can help your students in the context of the class you are teaching because students will now know how to interact with applications interface and the tutors. Ultimately, this will ensure students have a framework of when and how Paper can be utilized to its fullest extent to help as many students as possible in your classroom.

Math Class, Advisory Class, & Special Education Caseload

In terms of its implementation in my classrooms and Special Education caseload, I created this bulletin in my Google Classroom for students to access Paper. I have modeled how to use it for my Algebra 1 and Advisory classes and taught students how to use it in the context of the class. I plan on providing practice and challenge problems for students to take to the tutors if they need additional practice.

For students on my Special Education caseload, I have sent my students and families emails and a video tutorial of how to use Paper. For several of my students, I met with them individually on Zoom (sometimes with their parents) to show them how to use Paper and show parents how to support their student while they are using Paper. I plan on continuing to meet with students and families as well as reiterate Papers use in Individual Education Plan annual meetings and in meetings/emails I meet with students on my caseload to check in with them as they navigate distance learning.

Paper Information and Links on a Math Class Google Classroom

Why Paper Learning is Bridging the Equity Gap

Paper learning provides students with opportunities to receive support when their teacher is not available. Also, students can receive help whenever they want and for as long as they need help. Here are two examples of how Paper Learning is equitable for general education and Special Education students.

General Education: General Education students have the ability to seek help on almost any topic at any time. This is so powerful as private tutors and after school tutoring programs generally were the only options for students to receive tutoring outside of teacher’s office hours. Now, students who belong to a district who has purchased this service, can receive help 24/7, which means student support is not bound to school hours. Rather, it is asynchronous in nature, which creates equitable opportunities for students to learn when they can, anywhere with an internet connection, and at their own pace.

Special Education: Paper Learning provides one-on-one support for students with special needs at any time. While the platform has no way of allowing the tutors to identify students with special needs, it provides the opportunity for them to easily communicate with the tutors with the chat and whiteboard feature. In creating successful opportunities for students with special needs to access Paper Learning, create opportunities to model conversations with tutors as well as how to navigate the Paper Learning student interface. This includes showing students step by step how to upload images and snippets from the assignment/task they need help in with the tutor. Once the initial modeling of how to use Paper Learning occurs, students are using the service from my math courses as well as my Special Education caseload to receive extra help and support.

New Features & Updates it Needs

Ultimately, Paper Learning needs to provide several updates to make it more friendly to students with special needs and English Language Learner students. A speech to text feature needs to be added as an option to communicate for students to use, in addition to, allowing the whiteboard feature to be collaborative and interactive between the tutor and the student in real-time. These new additional features would be game changers for all students; especially students with special needs and English Language Learners.

Paper has several updates coming. A new update involving having the ability to access Spanish speaking tutors will make it much more accessible and user friendly to English Language learners whose primary language is Spanish. Also, Paper CEO Phillip Cutler has told us that Paper is planning on coming out with a new pod feature, which allows students to collaborate in groups in a collaborative interface on their application. During times of group collaboration, students can call in a tutor, when needed, to receive additional support while collaborating. Thus, I believe these new updates along with further improvements to its platform will continue to improve the service; especially, when honing in on areas that make it more equitable for all students.


Districts who can afford and implement Paper are providing equitable opportunities for students to receive on demand support in their classes. This is powerful as private tutoring is expensive and can only be afforded by families who have the means to hire one. Therefore, Paper truly is a game changer because those services are available to the masses when districts subscribes to their services. Nothing like this has been offered in K-12 education, which will make it an intriguing educational technology company to follow in the coming year. Furthermore, I recommend districts and schools across North America to look to invest in their service because it not only helps students. It also helps teachers support their students much more strategically than they could in the past and can improve their ability to provided needed interventions to students on a 24/7 basis.

For more information on Paper Learning and their services, you can access their website at www.paper.co. Also, continue the conversation below or on Twitter by tagging me in the post @mattrhoads1990. Does your district subscribe to Paper? How’s it going for you? Do you think districts and schools should prioritize funds for this service?


Edtech Equity and Engagement Blog Series: Part 3 of 4 – Collaboration Edtech Tools & Instruction

In any educational setting, regardless of whether it’s a distance, blended, or traditional setting, student collaboration should be one of the major focal points in a classroom. As we continue to move forward in the 21st-century students will not only have build collaborative skills with one another in-person, they will also have to collaborate through a variety of different mediums. Thus, to be 21st-century ready and a lifelong learner, teachers need to provide students with opportunities to collaborate with others in an assortment of different ways.

As we see an assortment of edtech tools that offer collaborative applications, we need to be sure to select the one’s that best meet our instructional and student needs. Throughout this post, we will first go through the process of selecting collaborative edtech tools as there are many to choose from. Then, we will align research-based instructional strategies with the use of collaborative edtech tools. Lastly, we will discuss how using collaborative edtech tools create an equitable and engaging experience for students.

Major Mainstream Collaborative Edtech Tools & Selecting Collaborative Tools for Classrooms

There are many major collaborative edtech tools available. They take many shapes and forms, but many have several key common components: a digital bulletin board/whiteboard feature, more than one user can edit content and/or provide commentary, and the ability to incorporate different types of multi-media that students post and interact with together. Our goal here to list many of the mainstream collaborative edtech tools available. Then, we will go through a selection process of how the tool can be best utilized in your classroom.

  1. G-Suite: Almost every major application in G-Suite has the ability to be edited and commented by multiple users at once. Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Draw, and Classroom all have that main feature. Google Jamboard is the one application in G-Suite that acts as a whiteboard that can be written on by multiple users at once.
  2. Microsoft 365: Like G-Suite, Microsoft 365 has the ability for more than one user to collaborative on Word, Excel, Power Point, and OneNote. OneNote can be compared to Jamboard, but provides
  3. Padlet: Padlet is one of the most popular online bulletin boards. Students can post many different types of bulletin posts/sticky notes on the digital board and can embed a multitude of different multimedia to share with the group.
  4. Flipgrid: Flipgrid allows teachers and students alike to record video and/or voice recordings. Flipgrid can create collaborative conversations on a given topic in a discussion board like format where students and teachers can respond to one another to further a conversation.
  5. Nearpod: Nearpod provides an option for a collaborative bulletin board where students can post sticky notes addressing a topic or theme. Students can post more than one sticky note. Multi-media can be attached to the sticky notes to create more engaging bulletin boards.
  6. Buncee: Buncee is an interactive presentation tool. Within these presentations is the ability to create collaborative digital bulletin boards. With these bulletin boards, students can be work on multiple students in pairs or within groups.
  7. Pear Deck: Pear Deck is an online student engagement presentation tool. When students respond to a slide, their responses are recorded individually as well as together in an entire group. When student responses are shown together when a teacher flips the slide over so students can see, a bulletin board appears with all of the students’ anonymous responses to the prompt or question.
  8. WeVideo: WeVideo is a video recording and editing software. What sets WeVideo apart from other video editing software is the ability to have more than one user record and edit portions of the video.
  9. Wakelet: Wakelet is an online storage repository that allows for users to post many different forms of multi-media that can be stored to view by others. More than one user can collaborate to build collections of multi-media or research content related to a theme others can view.
  10. Yoteach!: Yoteach! is a back channel where students can have an ongoing conversation with many contributors to the conversation. In addition, students can post multi-media of any change into the chat. Teams of students or entire classes of students can interact in these digital spaces to talk about a topic at hand, problem solve, research, or work on a project.
  11. Twitter: Twitter is a social media platform where users post what’s on their mind. Topics are categorized via hashtags. Students and teachers can collaborate using Twitter to connect with students and teachers from around the world. Also, they can engage in Twitterchats on a topic at hand to further refine ideas in addition to learning something new from the collective participants.

Note: There are many more collaboration tools available. Be sure to list them in the comment section of this post after its conclusion.

When it comes to selecting these collaboration edtech tools, there are a number of things to keep in mind. Each teacher may have a different methodology of selecting these tools because what they are doing in their classrooms will be distinctively different. However, these criteria are important to consider in that decision making process as they will help teachers plan effective uses of the collaborative tool as well as facilitate meaningful collaboration among students.

  1. Accessibility of the tool and simplicity of the user interface: This means students can access the tool in a series of clicks to access the collaborative tool. Once there, students have five to six options maximum of how they interact with the collaborative space. These options may include 100’s of different applications, but do not overwhelm students when they work together in the collaborative space.
  2. What type of collaborative space do you want your students to engage in? From creating a video or engaging on a bulletin board or whiteboard to editing/revising a document, there are many types of collaborative spaces student can work together in. Therefore, teachers must decide what options they may want to give students regarding what collaborative spaces they want them to work in. Remember, each collaborative space relates to what specific tool they are using and its applications.
  3. Instructional goals: When utilizing a collaborative edtech tool, we must have an instructional goal in mind as to what the students are doing, the end product they creating, and why they are engaging in collaborative sense. Instructional goals relate to a greater objective students are trying to achieve and what types of skills they will have to utilize in order for them to achieve that overarching goal.
  4. Think less is more: As an instructor, we must think less is more with any edtech tool we decide to utilize. We cannot overwhelm our students. Therefore, when introducing a tool or thinking about the outcomes of using the tool, keep it simple to start and then over time build from a solid foundation.

Aligning Collaborative Instructional Strategies with the Edtech Tools

After selecting a collaborative edtech tool, we must now apply and align effective instructional strategies to help our students get the most out of the collaborative experience. All the collaborative instructional strategies mentioned can be used in online, blended, and traditional classroom settings.

Walk and Talk: Walk and talk is a strategy where two or three students or a teacher pose one or two questions that they must try to answer.

Integration with Edtech Collaboration Tools: Flipgrid can be used for a walk and talk. A teacher or student poses a question and each student within the walk and talk group must respond 2 to 3 times. One interesting integration of walk and talk can be utilized through Wakelet. A question is posed by a teacher or student and students provide an assortment of multimedia within a Wakelet grid that can be used to answer the question. Lastly, online back-channels such as YoTeach! or even a discussion board can act as a platform for a digital walk and talk.

Gallery Walk: Students walk around and read work created by their peers and they take specific notes or leave comments on the work.

Integration with Edtech Collaboration Tools: There are many options to turn gallery walks into digitally gallery walks with an assortment of tools. Google Slides can be edited by 75 students at once. A Padlet or Wakelet can be edited by entire classes. Therefore, what this means is that teachers can have all students add a work product or resource to be viewed by the rest of the class in the digital gallery. Teachers can assign notes or ask students to like or write comments within the gallery so individual students have an opportunity to see student or teacher feedback.

Student Editors: Student editors is a strategy where repositories of written work and created content can be given feedback by peers or their teacher. Writing and math created content is displayed and comments/feedback are given. Then, students take the comments/feedback and make changes to make their work product better.

Integration with Edtech Collaboration Tools: There are several tools where editing and feedback can be given. All of Microsoft 365 and Google G-Suite have this ability for peer editing to take place. Online bulletin boards like Padlet and resource repositories like Wakelet can be used as collaborative editing databases for students to post their work.

Partner Think-Pair and Share: Think, pair, and share is a common strategy that can be used in live class sessions in-person or in online live synchronous class sessions. It is where students have an opportunity to pause, think, pair with another student or two to have a quick conversation, and then a forum to share with other groups or the rest of the class.

Integration with Edtech Collaboration Tools: Think, pair, and share can be utilized with G-Suite or Microsoft 365 and a virtual live online meeting tool. A simple graphic organizer divided up in three parts (i.e., my thoughts, my groups thoughts, and my classes thoughts) can be utilized as a mechanism to keep the conversation recorded. To do this online, breakout rooms on Zoom can pair students in small groups and then can be used again to create bigger groups. Once the breakout rooms are done, there can be several opportunities through a student cold calling name randomizer (like Groupmaker) to share summarized remarks to the class.

More Strategies to Think About: Socratic Seminars, Project-Based Learning, Collaborative Modeling via Video, Collaborative Notice, Wonder, and KWL Charts

Overall, there are numerous instructional strategies that can be incorporated in a collaborative setting. Ultimately, in a similar manner as the number of edtech tools you will need, have a ‘think less is more’ mindset in regard to the number of instructional strategies you want to incorporate in a classroom. We want the strategies and edtech tool usage to be solid and routinized within classrooms so students can become comfortable working collaboratively together as well as with using the tools.

Why Are These Tools Equitable?

Edtech tools with the ability for students to collaborate are equitable because it gives students an opportunity to not only share their insights, but to also work with the ability to lend their strengths to the discussion or the project. There are now so many opportunities to create and share multimedia, which truly provides opportunities for students to share who they are and something that can be genuinely unique voice and expertise. Lastly, now more than ever before, there are so many modalities and opportunities for student voice. In the past, students could not share what they can today. There is a vast array of opportunities to share something no one has seen before!

Why Are These Tools Engaging?

Edtech tools that have collaborative applications are engaging because students can work together with their colleagues in ways students throughout history would have dreamed of. Students can share all forms of multimedia on many of the tools available. In addition, students can interact in ways that are unique, which allows students to communicate in creative ways with the vast repository of the internet being their database. The thought of sharing new insights from research to multimedia that we may have never seen before is an exciting new development in education we are just entering!


As we move forward in education, there are many edtech tools available that provide collaborative applications for teachers to provide for their students. Ultimately, they provide engaging and equitable opportunities for learning to take place regardless of whether it’s in an online, blended, or traditional educational setting. At the end of the day, a teacher only needs Microsoft 365 or G-Suite and one or two additional collaborative edtech tools to create a plethora of opportunities for student to student and teacher to student collaboration to take place.

Note: Continue the conversation in the comments section below or on Twitter by tagging me @mattrhoads1990 in your post. I look forward to continuing this conversation on collaborative edtech tools.


Edtech Equity and Engagement Blog Series: Part 2 of 4 – Pear Deck and Nearpod Interactive Slides

Welcome back to the Edtech Equity and Engagement Blog Series! For the second part of this blog series, we are going to evaluate the equity and engagement of interactive slideshow edtech tools. Interactive slideshows are slideshows built into Google Slides and PowerPoint, which allow students to interact in a multitude of ways with what’s being presented by the teacher in synchronous or asynchronous settings. Students can interact with the slides by answering multiple-choice questions, polls, and writing prompts, drawing, matching terms/vocabulary, and collaborating on bulletin boards/whiteboards. These interactive slides have the ability to heighten student engagement and provide opportunities for active overt and covert learning.

Introducing Pear Deck and Nearpod

Two of the most popular interactive slide edtech tools on the market are currently Pear Deck and Nearpod. Many educators are aware of them because of their explosion in popularity and use over the past six months. For those who need a refresher or may not know how each of these tools work, two video tutorials show you the student and teacher interface for both tools. Each video shows how to set up the presentations as well as some of their major features teachers can utilize in their classrooms.

Why are Interactive Slides Equitable

Interactive slides are equitable because they provide opportunities for students to learn at their own pace. Also, both Pear Deck and Nearpod allow teachers to differentiate the modalities students can interact with content as well as build skills. Listening, speaking, drawing, and writing are all ways students can interact with the slides so all learners can engage in the learning.

How Interactive Slides are Engaging/Instruction Integration

Interactive slides are engaging because they allow students to engage in overt and covert learning. There are a number of instructional strategies that can be done on both Pear Deck and Nearpod to allow this to happen.

  1. Socioemotional Learning – With the ability to draw, answer check in questions, and opportunities to collaborate, there are so many options to engage your students in socioemotional learning. By either creating your own SEL lessons or by using the already pre-made slides, interactive slides provide an avenue to work on SEL and building classroom community.
  2. Quickwrites/Bell Ringers – At the beginning of class, Nearpod and Pear Deck slides can be used for quickwrites and bell ringers, which are practice problems teachers can evaluate. Pear Deck has an amazing feature of allowing teachers to provide immediate individual feedback during this activity as well as for each slide the student interacted with.
  3. Collaboration – Digital bulletin boards, ,word walls, word webs, and idea generation through written responses can be utilized by all students during a Pear Deck or Nearpod synchronous or asynchronous presentation.
  4. Metacognition, Reflection, and Self-Assessment – Written short responses, likert style survey questions, and opportunities to draw what they have observed/learned. For each of these purposes, the types of questions shown above can be ways students interact with these concepts.
  5. The Use of Simulations and Fieldtrips to Demonstrate Concepts – Nearpod provides the opportunity for virtual field trips and simulations. In addition, they provide several interactive diagrams to students can engage for Math and Science.
  6. Interactive Vocabulary Slide Decks – On Pear Deck, students can collaborate on vocabulary slide decks in a synchronous setting. During this activity, a teacher can then work with an entire class or small group and determine whether the vocabulary drawing or personal definition best fits the concept/word.
  7. Use of Manipulatives for Mathematics – Manipulatives on Pear Deck can be generated by utilizing dots that represent values (a key can be provided on the slide that is color coded).
  8. Formative Assessment – Students can answer multiple choice, free response, and conduct performance-based assessments on Pear Deck and Nearpod.
  9. Socratic Seminars – Socratic Seminars can be utilized on both Pear Deck and Nearpod as places for students to respond to student generated questions as well as teacher generated questions in real time. Teachers have the ability to share student responses in real-time.
  10. Read-Alouds – Teachers can either place recorded audio or use an immersive reader add on (Pear Deck). What this does is allows students to have all text read aloud to them when they access and engage with slides.
  11. Paraphrasing, Annotating, and Summarizing Slides – On both Pear Deck and Nearpod, teachers can have their students annoatate text with the drawing feature as well as paraphrase and summarize slides with embedded text passages through the written response features.
  12. Modeling – Along with Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, teachers can model a concept and then have students on Pear Deck or Nearpod demonstrate the concept that was modeled or discuss through drawing, recorded audio, or writing their thinking.
  13. Think-Aloud – On Nearpod, students can record their voice or integrate Flipgrid to the slidedeck so students can access a Flipgrid grid to respond to a prompt to demonstrate their reasoning.
  14. Student Goal Setting – A teacher can provide a lesson objective and students can write success skills or ‘goals’ to reach the lessons objective.
  15. So Many More Ideas to Integrate Instructional Strategies to Pear Deck and Nearpod!– Click here to look at a large list of instructional strategies. Many from this list can be integrated on interactive slides like Pear Deck or Nearpod.

Data Reports

Each interactive slideshow tool has data reports to see how many students engaged with the slides as well as their work they completed during a synchronous or asynchronous slideshow. All of their activity can be viewed on a graphical interface to show student progress and their responses. Also, there is the ability to export that data onto a spreadsheet (especially if you utilized the slides for assessment). This data can be used for analysis to drive instructional decision-making as well as log into a gradebook.

In addition, student responses on Pear Deck can be sent back to students once they’ve interacted with the slides either synchronously or asynchronously. These responses of how the student interacted with slides can be emailed automatically to them to review. Take a look below on how you can send your students their responses from interacting with the Pear Deck slides to review for later.

Feedback in Realtime on Pear Deck

Each interactive slide tool has the ability to provide students feedback. One major difference between Pear Deck and Nearpod is for real-time feedback. Pear Deck has the most user friendly interface on the “teacher dashboard” to view student slide interaction in real time and give them feedback. Below is a great example of how teachers can provide students feedback in real-time or at a later time.


Besides Pear Deck and Nearpod, there are several other edtech tools that act as interactive slides. Some of those tools include Poll Everywhere and Mentimeter, which also have many functions similiar to Pear Deck and Nearpod that make lessons engaging and equitable to all of their students.

Overall, interactive slides allow for engaging and equitable instruction to take place synchronously and asynchronously. Students of all ability levels and every grade levels can interact and engage in these slides to learn content and skills. These edtech tools can be a foundational tool along with your learning management system to deliver instruction in online, blended, and traditional classroom settings. There are endless applications to provide instruction for your students! Look to see how you can incorporate interactive slides in your classroom this school as it will revolutionize your instruction.

Continuing the Conversation

If you would like to continue the conversation to share more applications and features of interactiveslides, please write them in the comment below. Or, if you would like continue the conversation on Twitter, respond to the post or contact me directly @mattrhoads1990. I would look forward to learning more from you!


Podcast Interview: MindShare Learning Report – Reopening Schools and “Navigating the Toggled Term.”

Today, I was interviewed on the MindShare Learning Report Podcast on reopening schools and my new book “Navigating the Toggled Term.” Robert, the host of the show, provided some engaging questions related to engaging students in online and blended learning settings and safely reopening schools for blended learning. In addition, we discussed the online instructional infrastructure as well as the notion of toggling between online, blended, and traditional educational settings so learning can be continuous for students. Thank you, Robert and MindShare Learning for the opportunity!

Podcast Info and Link

Take a look by pressing the hyperlink below for the podcast!

Here is the link to the August 6th MindShare Podcast.

More Information

For more MindShare Learning Podcasts, check them out at www.mindsharelearning.ca

For more information on “Navigating the Toggled Term,” click the link here: amazon.com/dp/B08CP93DGX


Edtech Equity & Engagement Blog Series: Part 1 of 4 – Intro

Throughout the year as we experience distance and blended learning settings, we will be using educational technology to build our online instructional infrastructure. This will allow teachers to teach in both of these settings interchangeably and continuously as we have to navigate the instructional challenges due to the pandemic. This will be a challenge, but introducing teachers to equitable edtech tools, strategies, and lessons will provide a resource in addition to engaging ways to get students of all ages engaged in learning.

Ultimately, the goal of this blog series is to outline multiple edtech tools and platforms that teachers and schools can utilize to create equitable classrooms regardless of their educational setting. Furthermore, this blog series will go over multiple types edtech tools and platforms that provide equitable opportunities by providing several learning modalities for students to be engaged in learning to access the content and skills being taught. An analysis of how the tool is equitable will be discussed in addition to how instructional strategies can be aligned with the tool. Explanations will be provide when and why the tool is incorporated into different segments of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, which can fit any grade level or content.



Using Data to Make Data-Driven Instructional Decisions: Part 4 of 4 – Taking Newfound Knowledge from our Data and Making a Decision

Over the course of the last four week in the “Using Data to Make Data-Driven Instructional Decisions” series, we have outlined how to collect data, clean/organize data, and conduct univariate and multivariate statistical analysis on the data to transform it into newfound knowledge that can be used to make a decision. While this sounds like an extensive process, in practice, it is not extensive as it seems as seen in Part 1-3 of this blog series. It’s completely doable process that every K-12 educator and administrator can do in their capacity as an educator. As we progress through this process, it is now time to take that transformed data to use to make a decision.

Decision-Making Framework

Now, we are focusing on what do we do with the newfound knowledge we have been able to capture after we have transformed our data using statistics. Ultimately, there are many different avenues we can use the knowledge to make instructional decisions to help our students. However, to use this data effectively, there is a six step decision-making framework you can use to use the data to drive instructional decisions within a classroom, school site, or district. As a result, this six-step decision-making framework includes the following steps:

  1. Identifying the Problem by Analyzing Collected and Cleaned Student Data
  2. Involvement of Stakeholders, if applicable/needed
  3. Transforming the Data Using Statistics
  4. Summarize the Statistical Findings, Prioritize Specific Findings, and then Take Knowledge to Solve Problem
  5. Develop a Strategic Action Plan and Include the New Knowledge
  6. Monitor the Action Plan

By following the six-step decision-making framework, we can use data we collect and transform to solve many of the instructional challenges teachers and administrators face within classrooms and school sites because this new knowledge derived from the data can be used to connect our problems we encounter with solutions. When we first think about Action Plans, they seem to be very detailed. However, when it comes down to it, an Action Plan using this six-step decision-making framework does not have to be a challenge nor take long to create.

The goal of Part 4 of this blog series is to show you how you can use this six-step decision-making process to create instructional Action Plans to use the data you have collected and transformed as knowledge to solve instructional challenges in your classroom, school, or district.

Action Plans

Within an Action Plan, it has five components: 1) A problem with a baseline, 2) the Plan, 3) the goal(s) that can be monitored, 4) monitoring period(s) & data collection, and 5) conclusion. These five components do not need to be incredibly detailed. We want to ensure Action Plans are direct and easy to follow. Below is an example of an Action Plan a teacher can focus on for their students reading comprehension for the entire school year.

Problem: The incoming fourth grade class of 200 students has 120 students below the Lexile reading level of 500L (4.0 GE). Of those students, 80 of the students are scoring under 50% on questions asking them to find key details.
The Plan: Improve the Lexile level of the 200 forth grade class by 175L (1.25 GE) and improve students answering reading comprehension questions that require students to find the key details by 25%.

We fill focus on improving Lexile levels of all students by focusing our instructional strategies focused on helping students annotate, paraphrase, and share key details of the text collaborative and during independent practice.
1) Increase Lexile level of 200 fourth graders by 175L
2) Improve student reading comprehension questions that require students to find the key details by 25%.
Monitoring Period & Data Collection
How is Data Collected?:
Data on goals is collected through MobyMax that is then exported to the an Excel or Sheets spreadsheet for data analysis.
Monitoring: Data will be collected twice throughout the school year at the end of the first semester and before spring break.
1. Semester 1 Data Collection Summary: December 2020
We found an improvement in average scores by 95L. When we saw how students were doing on reading comprehension questions when students used annotations on the passage, a regression was ran and it predicted that when students annotated the passage before answering key detailed questions, they would get key detailed questions correct by 25% more than students who did not annotate.
2. Semester 2 Data Collection Summary: April 2021
Conclusion: During the first collection of data, we found that annotating the passage students were working on demonstrated a higher predicted level of accuracy of students answer reading comprehension questions measuring their ability to find key details in the passage.
Action Plan – Longitudinal

This can be an Action Plan that will need to be completed throughout the school year. It does not take an extensive amount of time to set it up and to begin collecting, cleaning, and analyzing data during the monitoring period. Ultimately, Action Plans can also be used for the short term. Let’s see what that could look like with formative assessment data.

Problem: On a recent Algebra formative assessment, students scored 75% average as a class on problems related to using the distributive property. However, students scored 50% average as a class on problems that require three or more steps to solve and require students to utilize PEMDAS to solve equations.
The Plan: Provide instruction based on using PEMDAS to solve equations. By the end of the week on a formative assessment, students will be scoring above 70% on solving equations that require three or more steps to solve and utilize PEMDAS.

Review PEMDAS and provide multiple activities to help students see how PEMDAS works after the distributive property is utilized to simplify equations.
Goals: Improve the overall class average to 70% or higher in one week on solving equations that require three or more steps as well as require how to use PEMDAS to solve.
Monitoring Period: In one week data will be collected on students solving equations that require 3 or more steps and know-how of PEMDAS.
Conclusion: After a week of implementing the Action Plan, the class average increased 20% to 80% overall average on solving equations requiring 3 or more steps and PEMDAS.
Action Plan – Short Term

As we can see with the Action Plan above, it is very simple and be written in the matter of minutes. These types of Action Plans can be built using this template provided above for all age levels. Now, let’s focus on more ways to utilize the transformed data and the knowledge we gain from it.

Plugging in Knowledge into Instruction

When we transform student data using univariate and multivariate statistics, we can do many things in the classroom. First, for univariate statistics, assessment applications like Google Forms, GoFormative, and b.Socrativ provide teachers with a dashboard of information for them to view how well students performed. Data visualizations are already provided to teachers once the data has been collected by the students and automatically cleaned. What this does is provide a read out of the classes performance as well as the individual student performance as well as class and student performance for each question the assessment. Teachers can immediately use these data visualizations to see where gaps in student learning took place and then can quickly provide additional instruction and interventions to selected students. For both formative and summative assessments, this can take place.

Beyond data visualization, this analysis can take place on a spreadsheet. All types of edtech tools provide the opportunity to export data onto a spreadsheet as discussed in Part 1 of this blog series. As a result, teachers and school leaders can conduct the same univariate analysis as the automatic data visualizations. However, using many of the statistical formulas provided in Part 3 of this blog series, teachers can conduct a far more extensive analysis, which includes multivariate statistical analysis.

Within a multivariate statistical analysis, we can take grade equivalent Lexile reading levels of students and run a correlation with the their overall scores on a recent exam measuring their ability to synthesize key details from a story to create inferences and conclusions. What we can evaluate when the correlation is computed is to determine whether there is a statistically significant relationship between the students grade equivalent reading level and their overall performance on the assessment. The results of the correlation may tell us there may be a positive relationship between the students reading levels and the exam scores. However, the results could also state there is a negative relationship between reading levels and the exam score. Each scenario provides teachers with two important pieces of information. First, if there was a positive relationship between reading levels and exam scores, then there is a possibility the exam matched the students reading ability and their performance. This means the exam was aligned with their current reading skills. On the other hand, if a negative relationship existed, one possibility is that the exam did not match the students reading levels, which could mean the exam was not a good measure of their current reading level or their current reading level did not match the difficulty or types of skills measured on the exam. Using this information is helpful in determining whether the reading levels of students relates with the difficulty of the exam. To dig deeper, we could also run the same correlations for different segments of the class as well as the equation types presented on the exam. This information can tell us how students with higher or lower reading levels may relate to their higher or lower score on the exam. In addition, we can also see if the reading level of students had any relation with their performance on types of inferential and conclusion forming reading comprehension questions posed on the exam.

Note: When we discuss multivariate statistics, I will always say possibility and statistical significance because we can never prove causation. Even with a very large sample size, there will always be the possibility of intervening variables or the results of the calculated statistic are not statistically significant (which means the conversion rates between a given variation and the baseline is due to random chance; read more about the null hypothesis here). Ultimately, for each multivariate statistic calculation the p-value, which represents statistical significance must be less than or equal to .05 for the calculation to be statistically significant.

Other Considerations & Conclusion

What we discussed today is the tip of the iceberg in regards to what teachers and school leaders can do with the knowledge they have been able to gain from transforming the data they have collected and cleaned using statistics to make a decision. You have seen the power of Action Plans as well as how teachers can use the data they have transformed into powerful instructional knowledge to help them try and determine how their students are doing and what to do about it to bridge gaps in learning and instruction.

Beyond the classroom settings, what we have done throughout this blog series can be conducted at the grade level, school level, and district level. It can even get more complex by looking at specific demographics, question types, and standards. It can be increasingly complex. Currently in K-12 schools, there is an astronomical amount of data that can be utilized to make data-driven decisions to improve instructional and student outcomes. We, as educators, must collect that data do something with it. Too much of this data is wasted because it is not looked at further.

Hopefully from what you have seen in this blog series demonstrates there is a set of skills required to become data literate. At the same time, I hope you have seen how powerful transformed data can be to gain new insights on your students and instruction that you cannot see without collecting and analyzing the data. It is revolutionary. Think if all K-12 educators and school leaders had the data literacy skills to be able to use data on a daily basis to make efficient and effective decisions? What outcomes could there be for all students as well as the system of K-12 education?

Ultimately, there is much work to be done. This blog series was a preview of the curriculum required to for educators to become data literate, which is the ability to collect data, compile/clean data, conduct statistical analysis on the data, and to use the new knowledge gained from data to make effective decisions. We have seen major gains in becoming technologically literate. Now, we must become data literate to revolutionize how we teach and use our educational technology. It’s time all teacher and administrative preparation programs and districts to focus on curriculum to help build this capacity. This will be the new frontier as we progress through the next few years. It’s time for all educators to become data literate!

Thank you for reading this blog series on Using Data to Make Data-Driven Decisions. To review all of the previous posts, they are hyperlinked below. In addition, if you have any comments, please comment below or interact with me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990. I look forward to discussing with you these topics and concepts.

Using Data to Make Data-Driven Decisions Blog Series Parts

Part 1: Introduction & Collecting and Exporting Student Data from Edtech Tools

Part 2: Cleaning Data

Part 3: Using Statistics to Transform Data into Knowledge


Using Data to Make Data-Driven Instructional Decisions: Part 3 of 4 – Using Statistics to Transform Data into Knowledge

Welcome to Part 3 of 4 of the Using Data to Make Data-Driven Instructional Decisions Blog Series! Today, in Part 3, we are going to focus on using statistics to transform our data into knowledge. Statistical analysis on a data set allows educators to essentially mine information from the data. What this does is provide us with newfound information we did not have before that is derived from the data. This new information and knowledge can then be used to make strategic decisions. In online, in-person, and blended classroom and school settings, it is our job as educators to make decisions grounded in evidence. Ultimately, the data set were able to statistically analyze becomes the needed evidence to support our decision. Furthermore, the purpose of this post of this blog series is to provide K-12 educators with a blueprint of how to conduct basic univariate and multivariate statistical analysis by teaching them how to use statistical formula’s on the data they collect in their classrooms and schools so they can transform that data into knowledge to make critical and strategic instructional decisions.

Univariate (Descriptive) Statistics

Univariate statistical, also known as descriptive statistics, involves a single variable of analysis. For example, say we were working with a classes recent overall scores of a math test. Through univariate statistics, we are able to summarize those scores and see how those scores breakdown to illustrate how all of the students did on the math test. This is how the word “descriptive” comes into play because the statistical outputs describe what is happening throughout the data set of math test scores.

Univariate statistics describes the frequency of values, which refers to how many times a data point from a data set can be grouped or categorized together. When we think of the average (i.e., mean), this is describing the central tendency of the values of the data set. The mean, median, and mode are all univariate statistical calculations that relate to the distribution of data found within a data set. All of these univariate formulas can help a teacher or school leader see beyond just the initial math scores of the students to group and categorize various groups of students based on their performance.

What can we do with this new information derived from these univariate statistical formulas? We can see how many students fell close to the overall mean score of the math test as well as group students who exceeded the mean score and those who did not exceed the mean score. Beyond just looking at the overall test score, we can look at the questions on the exam and conduct the same statistical calculations. This can allow teachers to see which students need more support in mastering a concept in addition to students who will need more enrichment since they already mastered the concept assessed. In addition, we want to note that you can do this for formative and summative assessments, which allows us to make strategic decisions quickly and efficiently, if needed.

Ultimately, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with univariate statistics and the student data we collect. What’s great about univariate statistics is that the data visualizations in the form of graphs you can create can help with interpreting the data trends found within a data set. Once the initial univariate data analysis is conducted, it’s always a good idea to create data visualizations to further analyze trends. These same visualizations can be used at a later time, if needed, to articulate the newfound knowledge and trends to stakeholders.

Multivariate Statistics

Beyond univariate statistics, we also want to conduct statistical analysis on data to see whether relationships exist multiple variables. For example, one variable could be the final math assessment scores from your class and the other variable could be the number of days students were absent throughout the semester. We can use statistics to determine whether a relationship exists between two or more variables. There are many types of multivariate statistical formulas that can be computed to determine whether relationships exist between multiple variables. Generally, correlations, t-tests, ANOVA’s, and regressions are common basic multivariate statistical calculations that can be performed on a data set.

One example of how conducting a multivariate statistical formula like a correlation can help K-12 educators is in determining a whether a relationship exists between the reading levels of a class or grade level and their performance on the end of the year state assessment. With a correlation, we can see if there is a significant positive or negative relationship exists relationship between the student reading levels and assessment. Furthermore, we can conduct this same calculation across all groups of students, grade levels, and schools. Thus, we can see whether statistical relationships exists among different sets of data to help inform our instruction. What this does is provide us with a guide to further investigate what’s happening with students taking the assessment as well as what reading skills may be required for students to learn to do well on the assessment. This is powerful as it can help us focus our curriculum and instruction on essential skills to help students do better on the assessment in the future.

Note: For the purposes of this post, p-value, variables, and types of data are not discussed. These are all essential to multivariate statistics, but require much more of an explanation. My goal is to show how to conduct these calculations instead of providing the full Statistics 101 explanation.

Common Univariate and Multivariate Statistical Formulas – Excel and Sheets

Statistical formulas on Excel and Sheets allow us to perform a statistical analysis on a data set. Before getting into the formula’s, there are several steps that are required in order for them to be computed properly without producing an error. Before getting into the three steps of inputting formula’s and the data into them, there are a number of univariate and multivariate statistical formula’s on both Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets that all educators should know about so they can conduct statistical analysis on their collected data.

Statistical Function FormulaWhat does it do? 
=COUNT(value1, [value2],…)  Counts the numeric values supplied in a data set. An example of this would be counting the number of times 10 comes up within a data set. 
=COUNTA(value1, [value2],…) or COUNTA(“education”, A10:A20)Counts all of the numeric values or text of non-blanks within a data set.
=FREQUENCY(data_array, bins_array) Note: data_array is the original values for the frequency that is about to be calculated. Then, bins_arrary is the value that sets the limits of ranges to be split into. Determines the frequency of value(s) within a data set. 
=AVERAGE(number 1, number 2) Determines the mean within a data set. An example of how this can be represented using a data set is =AVERAGE(A1:A300). 
=MIN(number 1, number 2) Determines the minimum value (i.e., smallest value) within a data set. 
=MAX(number 1, number 2) Determines the highest value (i.e., largest value) within a data set. 
=MEDIAN(number 1, number 2) Determines the median within a data set.
=MODE(number 1, number 2) Determines the mode within a data set. 
=SUM(number 1, number 2) Determines the sum of multiple values within a data set. 
=STDEV.P(number 1, number 2) Calculates the standard deviation of an entire population (i.e., A2:A300). 
=IF(logical_test[value_if_true], [value_if_false]) If, then conditional statement. This allows for the identification of pieces of data based on a condition (i.e., =IF(B2<60, “Fail”,”Pass”)).
=CORREL(column 1, column 2) Calculates a Pearson’s r that represents a possible correlational relationship between two different data sets (i.e.,=CORREL(a2:a100, b2:b100). 
=T.TEST(column 1) or =T.TEST(column 1, column 2)Calculates the p-value of a single set or multiple data sets. 
Common Statistical Formula’s on Both Excel and Google Sheets

Conducting Statistical Analysis Steps on Excel and Sheets & Video Demonstrations

As promised above, with the statistical formula’s that have been given, follow this three step process in conducting the univariate or multivariate statistical data analysis with the data collected in your classroom or school. After review steps one through three, take a look at each video posted on computing univariate and multivariate statistical analysis for an in-depth look at how it is done.

Step 1: In a Data Cell, Type Out the Statistical Formula

Step 2: Select the Range of Data for the Calculation and Place into Formula

Step 3: Click “Enter” to Calculate the Inputted Data into the Formula

Once these steps are performed on the selected data, there will be a solution output within the cell you typed in your statistical formula. This solution from the statistical formula is the newfound knowledge that has been calculated from your data. Now think about these three steps as you watch the two videos below.

Univariate Statistics: A Video Demonstration

Univariate Statistical Analysis

Multivariate Statistics: Correlation & Regression Demonstration

Multivariate Statistical Analysis: Correlation and Regression

In the video demonstrating the correlation and regression, think about if you replaced height and weight with the variables of reading levels (i.e., Lexile, DRA, etc.), grade point average, or test scores. In the same manner, we can use the same methodology to compute correlations and regressions on Excel and Sheets.


Now that we have seen how to conduct some basic univariate and multivariate statistical analysis, we will cover next week in Part 4 of the blog series is on how this newfound knowledge from the statistical analysis can be put into decision-making frameworks and action plans to help teachers and school leaders make instructional decisions. My hope is that you have an idea of how to take some of the data you collect in your classroom and transform it into useful knowledge to help you as an instructor or leader help put your students in the best instructional position to succeed and learn.

Ultimately, what we covered in this post is the tip of the iceberg. What we discussed here are some of the basic. Some important details about p-values, variables, and the types of data were left out. However, the purpose for this post is to show how to conduct some basic calculations instead of taking a Statistics 101 course. What we have done here takes practice, but it’s completely doable. Also, it can be done quite quickly if you have clean data. I suggest taking a look back at Part 1 and 2 of this blog series to review once again after reading through today’s post.

If you have any questions or comments about today’s post, please make sure you leave one below or on Twitter!


Using Data to Make Data-Driven Decisions in K-12 Education: Part 2 – Cleaning Data

Building data literacy to make data-driven decisions takes several steps. It does not simply just happen. But with practice, we can conduct data-driven decision-making seamlessly throughout the school day. Last week for Part 1 of this blog series, we focused on collecting student data and understanding there’s plenty of it to be collected in K-12 schools for us to use in making instructional data-driven decisions in classroom and school/district wide settings. In Part 2 of this 4 part blog series on data literacy and data driven decision-making, we are going to focus our attention today on cleaning data.

Why We Clean Data?

We clean data for a variety of reasons. It is a step that must be taken because its a process of identifying and correcting pieces of data within a data set that may be corrupt or inaccurate. Usually, when you export and import data into Excel or Sheets from elsewhere, there could be some inconsistencies and errors present since its coming from a different database. Furthermore, cleaning data helps ensure these possible inconsistencies and errors are not littered throughout a data set. Ultimately, inconsistencies and errors found within the data result in errors when a statistical analysis of the data occurs. So, it is vital our data is clean before we can move on to conducting any form of statistical analysis to derive any newfound knowledge from the data to be used in making an instruction decision.

Basic How-To’s for Cleaning Data

To clean data effectively, there is a step by step process you can follow to ensure your data is clean and ready for statistical analysis. This step by step process to clean data incorporates six major steps. Depending on the step, it could take 30 seconds to 5 minutes to complete the step. It all depends on the data set you are working with as well as how efficient you are with each step to clean the data set.

Step 1: Eliminate the Extra Space by Trimming Them

Sometimes when you export and import data from another database into Excel and Sheets, an additional space is found within the data cell. There could be one or many additional spaces throughout your data cell. If a space is present, a statistical formula utilized on the data will not work. One way to get around this is to to use the the =TRIM(cell#:cell#) function to erase any extra space present in the data set. This function can be used on each column of data spaces appear within your data cells.

Step 2: Get rid of Blank Cells and Decide What to Do

If there are blank cells present within a numeric data set, then we have a problem. When there is not a value in a data cell within a cell, we must figure out a way either to delete the cell, fill the cell in with a 0, or conduct a mean replacement, which means filling the empty cell with the overall average found in that column of numeric data. Once a decision has been made, we must do this for the entire data set. A shortcut instead of manually putting in the value for the cell is to press “F5” on your keyboard, which opens up a dialogue box. Inside this box, click on the “Special” box at the bottom left hand side of the box. Go down to the menu and click on “blanks.” After clicking “OK”, it will automatically select each and every cell that is blank in the data set. Now, it will go much faster and you will be able to fill in the blanks in no time.

Step 3: Delete Duplicates within your Data Set

Within a data set there could be a number of duplicate pieces of data. Generally within a data set, it is very rare to find duplicate pieces of data. When duplicates arise, they can throw off statistical calculations so we have to make sure whether the duplicates found are legitimate duplicates or duplicates we must eliminate from the data set. For Excel and Sheets, there are two different ways of doing this. Therefore, explanations for both will be provided.

First, for Excel, click and highlight your entire data set  you are cleaning followed by pressing the “Conditional Formatting” option at the top of Excel’s interface. Once this option is pressed, click “Highlight Cells Rules” followed by “Duplicate Values,” which should be an additional drop-down tab given on the interface. Once you press “Duplicate Values,” Excel will have each individual header of your columns provided on the box that appears on your screen. This will ultimately give you the option to determine which columns you want Excel to target duplicate data. After you make your decision of what columns you want to be cleaned for duplicates, click “OK” at the bottom of the box. This will clean the selected columns of duplicates for Excel. 

Next, for Sheets, you must begin by selecting the data set you want duplicates removed from in addition to clicking the “Data” tab at the top of the Sheets interface. Then, near the bottom of the drop down tap that appears, you will see the option to “Remove Duplicates.” After you have clicked this option, it is extremely similar to how it is conducted on Excel because a box appears with each column of the selected data set appearing for you to determine which columns you want duplicates removed from your data set. Click the columns you want this to occur to and then press “Remove Duplicates.” On Sheets, it will provide a box of the total number of duplicates removed from your data set. This signifies you are done and ready to move on to the next step.

Step 4: All Text Must Match – Watch Out for Case Sensitivity and Spelling

Now, we must determine if all of data within the data set is in the right case as well as whether it is spelled correctly. There may be times in Excel or Sheets where textual errors appear in capitalization of names, titles, or places. Usually, this occurs when the data is imported onto a spreadsheet. When this occurs, it can be difficult to mine the text and conduct statistical analysis. An easy way to ensure all of your data is in the proper case is to insert one of the following functions: =LOWER(cell#:cell#), UPPER(cell#:cell#), and PROPER(cell#:cell#). By having all of the textual data within the same case makes it so much easier to mine the data.

Besides looking at case sensitivity when looking at the data, spelling should also be looked at because if some of the textual data is spelled incorrectly, it will be difficult to mine the textual data for patterns. An quick and easy way to do a quick run down of the data is to click on “File” for both Excel and Sheets and then “Check Spelling & Grammar.” A quick run through with the spelling and grammar will ensure uniformity throughout your data set.

Step 5: Split and Merge Data Columns, as Needed

When you import data into Excel or Sheets from an external data source, the data can be merged into two or more columns or even can split one column into a multitude of different columns. This sometimes is a huge mess that will need to be cleaned up. One common example of this occurring is that the data imported on the spreadsheet will separate first and last names. Therefore, you must be sure to analyze your data set and see whether the data that has been imported has been successfully merged into the proper data cells. If not, you must either manually do this by reorganizing the data by highlight data and merging/splitting data cells or use the =CONCATENATE function so that you can join two or more strings of text into one string.  To do this, type =CONCATENATE into a blank cell on Excel or Sheets and type in within its first range the first text (i.e., “text1”) you want to string to an adjoining text (i.e., “text2”). Furthermore, an example of this formula in action would look like =CONCATENATE(cell#, “lastname” cell#, “firstname). Ultimately, Excel and Sheets will conduct is to string together the last and first name onto one cell by combining the data together in one single string. Also, note that this same function can be used to combine data on a data set that was not originally together.

Step 6: Conduct Error Analysis and Review

You are almost there. This our last step. You have completed much of the required data cleaning up to this point. Now, to be one hundred percent ready to conduct statistical data analysis on your data set, the last step that needs to be done is error analysis on the data set to be sure its error-free. Errors in the data will cause your statistical formulas to not properly compute the data. Ultimately, error analysis looks different on Excel and Sheets. As a result,  discussions on error analysis of your data set will be outlined for both Excel and Sheets.

On Excel, error analysis relates directly to the conditional formatting feature you can access at the top of its interface. Before doing this make sure you have highlighted the data set you would like to conduct the error analysis on. Once you click on “Conditional Formatting,” you will press “New Formatting Rule” at the bottom of the tab. Within the formatting box appears, click on the option that states “Format only cells that contain.” After this has been selected, be sure to look at the “Edit the Rule Description” option below and select “Format only cells with errors.” Lastly, select “OK” at the bottom of the box and Excel will conduct error analysis on the datasheet. It will highlight areas on the datasheet that have errors, which you then can pinpoint and fix. Remember, also take note that within the “Conditional Formatting” options, you have an option to develop rules based on what you want to specifically format in your data. This can range from duplicates to numbers greater than or less than a certain value; there are many rules you can sort through or even create, which makes it a great tool to complete your data cleaning process. 

For Sheets, error analysis takes a few different forms because there are no specific functions that relate to computing an all-encompassing error analysis. Rather, there are several specific options you can utilize to conduct an error analysis, but note that it is not as systematic as Excel’s error analysis. To start, highlight the data set you want to conduct error analysis on and then click on “Format” at the top of Sheets interface. Then, underneath this tab, select “Conditional Formatting.” After this has been selected, a box to your right will appear that provides conditional formatting rules for you to apply to your data set. Within the pre-set options, you will notice “error” does not exist as an option for you to select. However, you can format the data in the same manner as you would conducting error analysis on Excel by developing multiple rules that Sheets will then format the data. This option is at the bottom of the interface on the right-hand side of Sheets that will allow you to create as many rules as you would like to format on the data set you have selected. 

At the end of the day, Sheets allows you to conduct error analysis in a very customizable matter. On the other hand, Excel allows you to do it in a systematic swipe but it is much more difficult to customize your conditional formatting when compared to Sheets. With this said, whichever software you decide to conduct your data analysis, error analysis should take place before moving on before inputting statistical functions and formulas on Excel and Sheets. 

Cleaning Data in Action

To illustrate how many of the techniques explained above are put into action, two video demonstrations are embedded in this blog for you to view. I recommend watching the first and second video in order as they provide valuable step by step processes of how to import data from other sources and then clean the data.

The first video explanation is valuable because it shows how to export and obtain data (like we talked about in Part 1 of this blog series) and clean the data. It shows the step by step process of exporting the data by either copying and pasting the data OR downloading and uploading a .CSV file to Sheets.

In the second video explanation, it demonstrates 10 valuable tips in cleaning data on Excel. Many of these same tips of how to clean data can also be used on Sheets. We see here how raw text and numeric data can be cleaned with ten

Next Step: The Data is Ready for Statistical AnalysisBut Review Once Again Before Moving On

After cleaning your data, it is time for statistical analysis. However, before moving on, make sure to review the data set multiple times to ensure its ready. We all will make some mistakes throughout this process. Therefore, the review will catch these mistakes so they will not come up while you are conducting statistical analysis.


Cleaning data is one of the most monotonous and toughest parts of the data driven decision-making process. It is not fun to clean data. It can be challenging. But, it does not have to take a long time if each of the steps discussed today are put into action every single time you interact with a new set of data. With practice, it will become second nature.

Ultimately, once you are done cleaning data, you are a ready to conduct statistical analysis. This is the most fun and engaging part of data-driven decision-making because we are transforming data into newfound knowledge that we can use to make an impact. Part 3 of this blog series will cover many of the basic descriptive and multivariate formulas you can use on Excel and Sheets to conduct statistical analysis. In addition, Part 3 will illustrate step by step tutorials on how to use the formulas while working with data you can collect in a K-12 setting.

Note: I recommend reviewing this post and the videos presented before moving onto to Part 3 next week. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out. See you next week!


Book Release – “Navigating the Toggled Term: Preparing Secondary Educators for Fall 2020 and Beyond”

Amazon Paperback: Available Now – Click Here!

Amazon Kindle – Coming Soon!

When schools shut down in mid-March, there were so many questions we had to begin to address as our country and world dealt with the onset of challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, these challenges completely uplifted K-12 education in the spring and caused the shift to emergency Distance Learning. Even during the early weeks of Distance Learning, reopening schools and navigating the 2020-2021 school year and beyond began to circulate in education circles and professional communities across the world. Many of these questions included how to initially reopen schools in addition to how we can maintain continuous learning if our schools will have to close down once again. How were we going to be able to do this successfully?

Conversations about the very future of education prompted me to write this book. I wanted to write a book to help teachers and school leaders navigate the instructional and organizational challenges presented by COVID-19. I am a firm believer we can overcome many of the challenges we face such as social distancing, staggered scheduling, hyper hygienic practices, the wearing of face masks and shields, and the logistics of having to be prepared at both the organizational and instructional level to move back and forth between online Distance Learning and some form of a face to face blended/hybrid instructional model. Thus, within this book, I have developed instructional and organizational frameworks that allow teachers and school leaders in schools build an online instructional infrastructure to allow them to deliver instruction continuously and seamlessly regardless of whether they are in an online, blended/hybrid, or a traditional educational setting.

The purpose of this instructional framework is to allow teachers and schools leaders essentially “toggle” their instruction between educational settings depending on the local health conditions. For example, the first four weeks of school may be in a blended/hybrid learning model and then after a case is found within the school, the school may have to move online for one to two weeks while the school is cleaned and contact tracing occurs. Then, schools will reopen once again after the initial reopening and subsequent closure. Ultimately, this could happen countless times throughout the 2020-2021 school year, which makes the Toggled Term Instructional Model outlined in Chapter 12 a very durable model that can help solve this challenge.

Furthermore, as the book progresses, it provides an organizational framework in its conclusion to help schools plan for the 2020-2021 school year as well as refine their plans as they navigate the next 12 to 18 months of challenges they will have to face. By focusing on the major pillars of this organizational framework, schools will be able to ensure their plans remain fluid and flexible but also consistent and transparent to put teachers and students in the best positions to succeed. Essentially, in the same manner as the instructional toggle, schools that use this framework will be in the position to organizationally toggle back and forth between online, blended/hybrid learning, and traditional learning models seamlessly and continuously.

Beyond the two major frameworks outlined in this book to “Navigate the Toggled Term,” there are many conversations about developing an online instructional infrastructure using educational technology and selecting the appropriate tools to best support your students. In addition, other important topics such as differentiating instruction using edtech, Special Education online IEP meetings and case management, blended learning models, how to navigate the initial reopening of schools, and professional development are provided. Ultimately, all of these topics touched on in the book are all areas teachers and school leaders should have an idea on how to navigate so their classrooms and schools can create solutions to the many challenges presented by COVID-19.

Get prepared before the school year starts as well as have a guide to help you, your colleagues, and professional learning network “Navigate the Toggled Term” over the next 12 to 18 months to ensure your students are in the best position to learn continuously throughout the school year! Purchase your copy today so you can “Navigate the Toggled Term!”

Stay connected and up to date at www.matthewrhoads.com and Twitter (@mattrhoads1990) for more updates on this book!


Using Data to Drive Instructional Decision Making in K-12 Education: Part 1 of 4 – Introduction & Collecting and Exporting Student Data from Edtech Tools

We live in a world where we are able to collect vast amounts of data because of the educational technology we use in our classrooms and schools. Think about it – every time a student logs onto an edtech tool you use in your classroom, data is logged of their interaction with the software tool. What this means is that when we have our students engage in lessons where edtech tools are a mechanism to deliver instruction and to assess student learning, we are collecting A LOT of student data. Unfortunately, this data is not always used to make instructional decisions. Now, with the advent of edtech being in the majority of all classrooms over the last five to ten years, teachers now have the opportunity to learn how to collect and analyze the data to help them monitor and adjust their instruction to make instructional decisions to meet their students where they are at in regard to their learning.

Unfortunately, the data literacy of teachers and school leaders to do this is not where it needs to be. Data literacy is one’s ability to collect, compile, and clean data in addition to conducting a statistical analysis to derive new knowledge from in order to make a decision (Mandinach, 2012; Mandinach & Gummer, 2016). My research has shown me the efficacy to utilize various data practices is high, but in reality, the true ability to use data to drive instructional decisions is low (Rhoads, 2019). Therefore, one of my major goals is to teach data literacy so teachers and school leaders can make data-driven decisions to improve instruction and student outcomes. Since there’s such a need in K-12 education to learn data literacy skills, I am going to create a four part blog series where I am going to show teachers and school leaders how to build their data literacy skills so they can make data-driven decisions on consistent basis.

For Part 1 of this blog series on data literacy and data driven decision-making, I am going to go step by step to show you how you can collect data from various edtech tools teachers use everyday in their classrooms. In addition, I am going to briefly go through the process of exporting the data to an Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet. Part 2 of the blog series will cover how to clean and organize the data on a spreadsheet. Then, Part 3 will cover how to conduct basic descriptive statistics on the cleaned data to gain newfound knowledge. Finally, Part 4 of this series will cover how we can use this new knowledge to monitor and adjust and drive instruction so we can make strategic and powerful data-driven decisions.

Part 1 begins today with collecting and exporting data. Let’s get started!

Collecting Data in a Classroom

The first step is collecting student data. We collect data as teachers all of the time. First, we collect data to assess student learning. We also collect data to see our students strengths and areas of improvement. In addition to student learning data, we also collect data on their social-emotional status’s to see how we can best support our students socially emotionally. Ultimately, with this collected data, we use this data to determine how we monitor and adjust our instruction and supports as a teacher to put our students in the best positions to succeed.

Note: There are many data types that I did not mention here that we collect in schools. For the purposes of this blog, I am only discussing some of the major types of data we can collect in classrooms.

Luckily, collecting data is not difficult. Even if you do not use edtech tech, you are collecting data when you input grades into a grade book. When utilizing any edtech tool, student data is collect by using the tool. The data is logged and stored within the program when a student interacts with the software. On many edtech tools such as Pear Deck, GoFormative, Google Forms, b.socrativ, and MobyMax, collected student data can be easily collected and then exported onto a Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet. All teachers must do is build an assessment, lesson, or a set of tasks student must complete on an edtech tool in order to collect the data. Below are two examples of how teachers can build mechanisms to collect data using Google Forms and Pear Deck. Once the infrastructure of these edtech tools is developed, student data can be easily collected once students begin working with the tool.

Here is a tutorial on how to build an assessment on Google Forms
Here is a quick tutorial on how to build a Pear Deck Presentation

Exporting the Data

Now, once the data is collected, something has to be done with it in order to begin making it useful. This brings us to exporting the student data. Exporting the data takes several steps. Generally, in many edtech tools, there are areas within the teacher interface where they can access the visualization of data in the form of graphs and tables to evaluate the activity of their students on the edtech tool. For example, when using a Google Form as an assessment or GoFormative, once the assessment is completed, there is an interface teachers can view which shows them the visualization of how students did on an assessment. In regard to an edtech tool like Pear Deck, teachers can review the Pear Deck presentation and see the student responses to the questions posed. This is another example of a data visualization within an edtech tool. After seeing the visualization of the collected student data, there is an option in many edtech tools to export the data onto a spreadsheet. Once this option is selected, a Sheet or Excel spreadsheet is downloaded for you to view and then interact with.

Google Forms Export to Spreadsheet
Pear Deck Export to Spreadsheet


Each edtech tool you use in a classroom collects student data. This data is collected and should be used to help improve instructional decision-making for K-12 teachers and school leaders. While exporting the data to Excel or Sheet spreadsheets may vary among various edtech tools, the option is available on most of the tools you will encounter. Many may say to just stay with the data visualization interface teachers are have the ability to interact with on these tool. This is a good start – but it is not enough. You will see if you take the time to go through the process of collecting, cleaning, conducting statistical analysis, and then using that new knowledge to make a decision, you will catch all of various nuances in the data that the data visualization features miss. In addition, there is so much more you can do when you can conduct your own statistics on the data you collect. You will see this soon!

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of this blog series as we look at cleaning and organizing the data you collect and export from your edtech tools. See you then!


Rhoads, M. (2019). Educational leadership efficacy: The relationship between data use, data use confidence, leadership efficacy, and student achievement. Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global database. (Accession Order No. ATT 22624797).

Mandinach, E. B. (2012). A perfect time for data use: Using data-driven decision making to inform practice. Educational psychologist, 47(2), 71-85.

Mandinach, E. B., & Gummer, E. S. (2013). A systemic view of implementing data literacy in educator preparation. Educational Researcher, 42(1), 30–37.http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0013189X12459803

Mandinach, E.B., & Gummer, E. S. (2016). What does it mean for teachers to be data literate: Laying out the skills, knowledge, and dispositions. Teaching and Teacher Education. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.07.011


The Power of Student Feedback: How to Collect Student Feedback at the End of the Year

As the year comes to an end, it is a time for your students reflect on their learning that took place over the course of the school year. Additionally, during this time teachers, regardless of what grade level they teach, should ask some form feedback regarding their teaching from their students. Along with performance evaluations, student assessment scores, and personal reflection, student feedback can be another powerful variable teachers can consider as they seek to improve their practice.

Since I teach at the secondary level, the easiest way the collect this important feedback data, I utilize a Google Forms survey to collect this data. I personally ask students to give me a letter grade and then provide rationale for the grade they gave me. I provide two questions for students to do this. This includes whether they understood what we were doing in class, were the skills relevant and applicable to their lives, was I organized, was I able to motivate them, and did I communicate with students on a consistent basis. Following these questions, I ask students directly: “Please explain HOW Dr. Rhoads can improve as a teacher.” In this instance, they have the floor to provide me with their direct feedback and opinion on how I can improve as a teacher.

Dr. Rhoads Grade and Student Open-Ended Feedback Questions

Then, after asking students to provide open-ended responses for direct feedback. I provide multiple questions that are either yes or no relating to communication and whether the student felt like they improved as a student over the course of the school year in my classroom. To round out this section of the survey, I gave students a Likert Scale question relating to how engaging my class was throughout the school year.

Yes or No & Likert Scale Questions

For the last portion of the survey, I asked my students to give me feedback regarding whether they preferred in-person learning or Distance Learning. This is something new that I have added from years past since this school year has been unique and challenging.

Distance Learning Questions

Google Forms is a great way to collect feedback from your students if you have multiple questions to ask them or to provide feedback over a long period of time. For more instant feedback, I have also used Pear Deck for my secondary students and for my university students for feedback during my university lectures. Ultimately, I believe Pear Deck can be used for any age group of students to solicit quick and instant feedback after a lesson from students. Pear Deck can even for younger students who are in primary school. Arguably, Google Forms can be used for upper elementary as well.

Ultimately, through exercises like this, its another avenue teachers can take to receive feedback to help develop their practice as an educator; especially right before summer. I look forward to seeing the results in the next day or so. In a few days, I plan on writing a post that is reflective based on the feedback I have received from my students in addition to what I learned this school year. Once the feedback has been evaluated and self-reflection takes place, it will be time to narrow in on how to improve as a teacher for a very unique and challenging opportunity that presents us all for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

Feel free to comment on this post or Twitter on how you ask for feedback from your students and how you use their feedback to improve as an educator.


The Power of Student Self-Assessment and Metacognition

As the school year comes to a close, it is a time to put a lot of emphasis on reflection and self-assessment. We want our students to reflect on what they have learned, evaluate the skills they’ve improved in, and assess which areas they need to focus on continued improvement for next school year and beyond. However, self-evaluation and reflection is a skill that needs to be consistently reinforced throughout the school year as it provides students the opportunity to practice metacognition. Regardless of whether we are in a face to face or online setting, metacognition is an effective active learning strategy that gives students the ability to be self-aware of their own thinking (Flavell, 1976; Hartman, 2001). Ultimately, through practicing metacognition, it allows students to self-assess and monitor how they are thinking, the information they have taken in and consumed, what information they need, and determine whether their line of thinking and reasoning will allow them to solve the the problems they face (Kluger & DeNisi, 1992). All of this is nothing new in regards to the research.

As teachers, we want our students to be life long learners. As a result, we can provide these opportunities more than ever on a daily, weekly, semesterly, and yearly basis. Thus, we need to build self-assessment into all our lessons and units. Thus, throughout the school year, I have students practice self-assessment on a daily basis, weekly, at the end of the semester, and at the end of the year. My goal is to show you how I have my students practice self-assessment metacognition at the secondary level. Not only does self-assessment give students an opportunity to practice metacognition skills, it also provides teachers with a plethora of information about our students they can use to become better teachers. This information can help teachers learn more about the students thoughts regarding what they know, where they need to go, and what areas of strength they feel like they are strong in. Ultimately, this facilitates dialogue between teachers and students throughout the year to help monitor and adjust our instruction as well as focus on the personalizing learning of our students.

Daily Self-Assessment

Daily self-assessment is quick, which can be an employed during the closure of a lesson. Teachers can pose one to three questions regarding what was covered, student understanding, and areas of strength/improvement for students to interact with and think about. I like to use Pear Deck for my interactive slideshows so I can have active engagement throughout my entire lesson. Ultimately, at the end of most of my lessons, I provide students an opportunity to think about what they have learned. This provides students an opportunity to practice metacognition and gives me quick feedback on where my students believe they are currently at on the skills or content discussed during that class period.

Weekly Self-Assessment

Weekly self-assessment allows students to practice metacognition skills by allowing them to summarize what they have learned throughout the week as well as narrow down areas of strength and areas improvement. In addition, a weekly self-assessment gives students an opportunity give themselves self-reported grades on their reading, writing, math, participation, and work completion. By providing students an opportunity to self-report their progress and grades, it can allow teachers to have a dialogue with students thereafter to facilitate conversation about their strengths and areas they can to improve in. For the weekly self-assessment, I utilize a Google Forms for a weekly self-assessment because I provide multiple choice and free response reflection questions for my students. Also, the data output from Google Forms is extremely valuable because it allows me to analyze individual and class trends over the course of a semester.

Weekly Self-Assessment Using Google Forms

Semester Self-Assessment

Like weekly self-assessments, the end of the semester self-assessment provides students an opportunity think about their progress throughout the entire semester and provides an opportunity self-reflect, self-report grades, and formulate goals for the second half of the year. In a similar manner as the daily and weekly self-assessment, a semester self-assessment creates an opportunity for dialogue and student centered goal assessment and creation. For the semester self-assessment, I use a Google Form for the same reasons I use it for the weekly self-assessment. Overall, the major distinction between the weekly self-assessment the semester self-assessment are the questions the reflection form asks students. For the weekly self-assessment, the questions focus on what we have learned on a weekly basis. For the end of the semester self-assessment, the questions focus on asking our students to take the themes out of what they have learned as well as their abilities.

Year in Review Self-Assessment

Similar to the semester self-assessment, the year in review self-assessment focuses on reflecting on major themes students have learned throughout the semester The questions on each survey are the same, which allows teachers to see the difference in student self-reflection and self-reported grades from the mid-year and at the end of the year. Additionally, this end of the year self-assessment provides students a more in-depth opportunity to write about the skills they have learned and where they may need to improve as well as note their strengths. Lastly, it provides students an opportunity self-report their grades in a multitude of different areas. Teachers can decide whether to incorporate the self-reported grades into their overall grade or use this data as information to help students determine whether they have reached their goals for the school year. Google Forms is used to see trends for the classes I teach so I can see how far my students have come as well as where I need to improve my instruction for next school year.

Year in Review Self-Assessment Using Google Forms


Regardless of your students grade or ability level, provide them an opportunity self-reflect, self-assess, and self-report grades because it gives them a multitude of opportunities throughout the year to practice metacognition. Metacognition allows our students to become life long learners, which gives them the efficacy and confidence to think about or dialogue with others about their abilities and skill sets. Furthermore, we want our students to consistently look to grow and improve. By focusing on practicing metacognition throughout the year, it gives your students an opportunity to do this. On the teacher side of the equation, teachers have the opportunity to review this data and learn more about their students than ever before besides our student to teacher to student relationship, evaluating student work artifacts, and analyzing assessment scores. Evaluating the self-assessment data is critical in focusing on improving your instruction for all of your students and personalizing learning for your students by conversing with your students to work on improving gaps in their learning and making their strengths shine.


Flavell, J. H. (1976) Metacognitive aspects of problem solving. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.), The nature of intelligence
(pp. 231–236). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hartman, H. J. (2001). Metacognition in Learning and Instruction: Theory, Research and Practice. Dordrecht: Kluwer
Academic Publishers.

Kluger, A.N. & DeNisi, A. The effects of feedback intervention on performance: a historical review, a meta-analysis, and
a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Pyschological Bulletin, 199(2), 254-284.

Google Jamboard – An Easy to Access and Learn Tool that Can Amplify Student Learning

What is Google Jamboard

Google Jamboard is an interactive template where students and teachers can interact individually as well as collaboratively within in-person and online classroom settings that can be either synchronously or asynchronously. The best way to think of Jamboard is that of a board game where you can move game pieces. However, on Jamboard, you are able to write sticky notes, create text boxes, add pictures from the internet or uploaded from the computer, and freehand draw to interact and create content. 

What’s amazing about Jamboard is that you can create templates on Google Slides or Canva and copy it onto a blank Jamboard. This allows us to incorporate many strategies such as Venn Diagrams, KWL Charts, A-Z Vocabulary, Brain Dumps, I Used to Think – Now I Think, and much more. Check out this fantastic setup Jamboard Templates by TCEA that provide the very templates for these strategies to happen. 

Sharing Jamboards for Student Access

Just like Google Slides and Docs, Jamboard can be shared to students through the share button on the far right hand side of the screen (see below; 4 steps are outlined). Be sure to ensure students have editing access and the link is available to be shared to anyone with a link. Additionally, you can post Jamboard assignments on Canvas by using the template you’ve created and sharing the link as a hyperlink when you create an assignment so students can access it. You can make multiple copies of the Jamboard within the same Jamboard template, which is great so you can see how multiple students or groups of students are doing on the task you’ve assigned. 

Adding Contact on a Jamboard

There are a number of things students and teachers can do to add content onto a Jamboard individually or collaboratively. There are two toolbars that allow you to create content and navigate the Jamboard. See below as they have been provided to illustrate what they look like.

Top Toolbar. On the top toolbar on Jamboard, there are a number of options available for you to use.  To edit, you can use the undo arrow or redo arrow to make corrections. There is a magnifying tool where you can zoom in and out of the Jamboard, a set background option, and a clear frame option that allows you to erase the Jamboard. Last, in the very center, you will see two slides side by side. This can be clicked on and allows you to add additional Jamboard slides for students to interact with. 

Left Hand Toolbar. On the toolbar to the left-hand side of the Jamboard, you have the options to draw, erase, add a sticky note, add a sticky note, add a photo, add a shape, add a textbook, and utilize a laser pointer to highlight various. 

Creating Templates for Jamboard

Creating templates for Jamboard can be done on Google Slides and Canva. Using their design features, you can create graphic organizers and designs on them. You can download the designs you’ve created from each platform and upload them on Jamboard as the background image, which cannot be erased when you click on the “clear frame” option on the top toolbar. Ultimately, with the use of these backgrounds, there are endless possibilities of the strategies and uses various strategies for your students to learn skills and content. 

Templates and More

Here’s a video going through how to use Google Jamboard. Then, take a look at the Ultimate Google Jamboard Collection. This Jamboard Template collection provides you with over 1200 templates for you to make a copy of and use for your classroom instruction. 

Jamboard Templates by Matt Miller

Conclusion – Google Jamboard

Google Jamboard is a very easy-to-use tool that can be used in any classroom setting. It provides opportunities for many instructional strategies to be utilized with the tool, which will be discussed in the next post regarding this EdTech tool. Go ahead and try this fantastic tool as it is a fun, engaging, and collaborative tool that can help facilitate and amplify student learning without much legwork upfront in regard to planning and setting up using Jamboard for students. 

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