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.

Why is Equity Important

Equity is everything. We want to provide equal access to opportunities for all in any educational environment. Below is a short outline on how to cultivate equity within a classroom setting. We need to take much of what is discussed here and transfer it to an online setting as we will be providing A LOT of instruction online in distance and blended educational settings. 


Edtech and Equity

Edtech and equity is extremely important in the world we live in. We live in a world where information on any topic is just a click a way. But, students need to have access to it. Therefore, we need to provide our students with the hardware, software, and network access. Then, on top of the access piece, we must teach students how to best navigate and access the information found in digital environments. Much of what we do in online and blended learning settings cannot be done without these three major components in place. However, we must go beyond and discuss edtech tool equity. What is this and how does it apply to what we do as educators? 

Edtech Tool Equity

Edtech tool equity refers to creating an environment where students have access to learning the skills and content through multiple modalities. Learning modalities refer to students accessing the skills and content through listening, speaking, watching/doing, student collaboration, metacogntion practices, drawing, social emotional learning opportunities, and active overt and covert thinking. All of these modalities are key to student learning. It allows for students of all different backgrounds and learning needs access the contents and skills being taught by a teacher. It is absolutely critical that we have edtech tools in our classrooms that provide students multiple modalities of learning to access what is being taught. 


The goal of this blog series is to outline how a number of key edtech tools and platforms can provide equity to all students to access the content and skills being taught in a classroom. Each week a new tool or platform will be discussed, which will provide K-12 teachers and school leaders an opportunity to see how it provides equitable opportunities for all students to learn. This will be an exciting process and I cannot wait to analyze and review each tool to share how it can be equitable with the rest of the worldwide educational community. 

Note: To continue the conversation, please post a comment below on this post or interact with me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990.



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.


Motivating Students During the Final Weeks of Distance Learning

As we approach the final weeks of the school year, there may be days when we have to focus our efforts in motivating our students to finish out the year. This is evermore true during the final weeks of this school year as we complete our first dose of full time distance learning. We want to try and increase participation if we can during this time as the year ends because we want our students to have an opportunity to have the best impression of school before the school year is finished. Therefore, my goal is to provide 10 activities and strategies I have used in the past (and utilizing this year) and ideas I have learned from my professional learning network on Twitter to take on these final days and weeks of school. All of these activities can be employed online in either synchronous or asynchronous online class session.

When thinking of activities, we want to make sure they have value to our students. Thus, generally at the end of the year, we want to have more novel activities that can be fun, skill building, build community, and highly participatory. The following activities and strategies reflect these underlying themes. Before moving into the list of activities and strategies, I want to note that all of these activities can be employed anytime during the school year.

  • End of the Year Virtual Field Trips – For primary and secondary schools, regardless of the students grade or age, Google Earth, Google Tours, and on various museum and zoo websites, virtual tours have been created for teachers to take their students on virtual field trips. These field trips can be done either in synchronous or asynchronous class sessions. Students find these experiences to be fun and insightful. It gets them out of their house virtually to see new environments they would not normally see.
  • Daily Check-in’s During Synchronous Sessions – At the beginning of each live class session, provide opportunities to check in with your students. This can be done through Pear Deck, Poll Everywhere, the use of chat box on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, or by simply creating an open forum for your students. Generally, before my students have the floor, I try to provide my own personal reflection as the model before they have the opportunity to share.
  • Student Choice Boards – At the end of the year, classes can be more open-ended than they are during the course of the school year. Student choice boards can be utilized on a hyperslide or hyperdoc, which then can give students an avenue to drive down to complete an activity or task. Overall, student choice boards provide students with agency to do a variety of different tasks they may want to accomplish at the end of the year.
  • Bitmoji’s – Bitmoji’s of teachers provide students with some comic relief as well as with some entertainment during anytime of the year; but, they can be great to get students in the mood for summer. Bitmoji’s can be posted on daily slides, your learning management system, within emails you send to students, and on assignments and tasks you create for students. Bitmoji can be accessed by adding the extension into your Google Chrome browser.
Dr. Rhoads Class Bitmoji
  • Give Student Opportunities to Teach the Class – Provide students with an opportunity to teach something new to their classmates. By this point in time, students will have several edtech mediums to teach the class with. This could include Flipgrid, Google Slides, Docs, a storyboard, an electronic drawing on Google Draw or Canva, or the creation of a step by step YouTube video. There are so many options! Give your students a chance to teach their classmates and teacher something new.
  • Socratic Seminars – Socratic Seminar provide students a forum to have a conversation on a topic that they have previously researched. Students conduct preliminary research and develop questions they would like to ask their classmates to help answer an overarching question on a topic they can reflect upon once the seminar is over.
  • Student Self-Assessment – At the end of the school year, we want to provide our students with an opportunity to self-reflect and assess their learning that took place over the school year. Google Forms can be a good medium for students to reflect on as it provides students with a survey-like form to complete. It also provides teachers an easy to navigate interface to look at student responses. These responses can prompt further one on one conversations with students as well as class discussions on learning trends.
  • Student Assessment of Teacher – Teachers can provide students an opportunity to assess their teacher. Feedback from students is essential data teachers can use to improve their instruction for further classes. Google Forms, Flipgrid, Pear Deck, and Poll Everywhere surveys can be used as tools to conduct the student teacher assessment. By providing students with an opportunity to assess their teacher, it may motivate students to complete the remaining tasks and assignments for the end of the year. Additionally, this activity provides an opportunity for student voice.
  • Competitive Quizzes – Students like to compete from time to time. If an exam is at the end of the year, reviewing concepts on Kahoot or Quizizz provide students an opportunity to review as well as be competitive with one another. These quizzes can be completed during synchronous or asynchronous class sessions.
  • Digital or Physical Good Bye Letters/Emails – Teachers should provide their students with a farewell message regardless of whether we are in an online or in-person instructional setting. We want to personalize the letters as much as possible. Include a short story about the entire class or about an experience you have had with the student. By doing this as a good bye gesture, students will always remember your class as well as have a positive experience at the end of the class.

With these 10 activities and strategies in mind, I hope you can create engaging and meaningful experiences for your students as you end the school year. Additionally, beyond this year as you think about next year, these activities and strategies can be used at the beginning of next school year or anytime in the future to engage students and heighten their motivation. Comment below or on Twitter to add your ideas. The more the merrier!


Social Emotional Learning Utilizing Pear Deck

Social Emotional Learning Utilizing Pear Deck – Powerful Emotional Intelligence and Community Building Exercises

Every day for live synchronous sessions, I want to check in with my students and see how they are feeling. Currently, in our present reality, students have many more stressors and anxieties about the world around them. Thus, by providing students opportunities to assess, identify, and share their feelings and emotions, it is an opportunity we can work with our students emotional intelligence as well as their ability to identify and manage their emotions.

One way I like to check in to have students to assess, identify, and share their feelings with the class is through Pear Deck. Pear Deck is an add-on to Google Slides, which allows your presentation slides to become interactive through various modalities (text, illustrations, polls, multiple choice questions, etc.). At the beginning on an in-person or synchronous online class session, I provide my students with either a social emotional pre-made Pear Deck slide or create my own. When I present the slide to my class, they will have an opportunity to respond either by responding to the poll or free response question. Then, I preface to my students (the first time we do this exercise) in class that all posts are anonymous to class except for when I review them after class. Additionally, I also tell my students by sharing how others are doing in our class it will show us how everyone is doing in the class as well as let student’s know we are in this together as a classroom community. Generally, once this is completed, I will model and answer the question first to build that human to human connection with your students. I try to be honest genuine, and authentic during this process.

Once I share my modeled and authentic response to the prompt or poll, I provided my students a specified time block to respond to the interactive slideshow. When they are responding, on the teacher interface of Pear Deck, I can see in real-time how my students are doing; each single one of them. This will provide me with some context before our lesson together even begins on how my students are feeling collectively as well as individually, which is a extremely powerful and useful information as a teacher to continue to build relationships with your students. After the class responds, I will share the anonymous poll results or the student generated free-responses to the class. I will read them aloud for the next few minutes. Then, I offer students to an opportunity to voice how they feel by giving them an opportunity to share out to the class. Sometimes a few students respond; other times, no one responds. It depends. Responses can range from being extremely positive to very sad and difficult circumstances. Although, I can guarantee these are quite powerful experiences.

Teacher Created Pear Deck Social Emotional Interactive Slide

Through these activities, it provides students an outlet to assess, identify, and share their feelings. Additionally, it provides teachers the opportunity to gauge how their class is doing collectively as well as how students are doing on an individual level. Teachers can use this information to determine how they can approach various students throughout the time you are with them that day or week. Furthermore, it also provides students an platform to share anonymously in a reflective manner or allows them to shed their anonymity and share to a forum of their peers.

To round up this discussion, social emotional check ins provide an opportunity for students to build empathy and community together in a classroom or online setting, which is powerful to see during the times we are in today. I recommend utilizing strategies like the ones presented here to build the emotional intelligence of students and cultivate a sense of community in your classroom regardless of your grade level (I’ve done this with university students as well). Ultimately, by making this a daily routine, it can create powerful experiences for your students as well as useful data to use as a teacher to make a difference in your students lives.


IEP Meetings During Distance Learning – Tips and Tricks to Get Ready and to Conduct Effective Online IEP Meetings

For all districts around the country that did not completely close, Special Education has not stopped. Districts and Special Education teachers have scrambled to ensure students are receiving services and supports. For those that may not be involved in Special Education or how the United States provides services for students with disabilities, Individualized Education Plans (IEP) are documents that summarize a student’s Special Education services, goals, and information. Each year, annual IEP meetings must be held, which are meetings of service providers, parents, and stakeholders in a student’s education meet to determine how the student is doing and how to adjust their IEP to best facilitate their learning. There are federally mandated timelines and procedures that must take place to ensure the IEP meeting is conducted, written, and implemented. Thus, the IEP document is the basis of all K-12 education services in the United States.

Just days ago, the United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss, stated no waivers would be provided to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) during this time (Note: IDEA is the federal law that specifies federal mandates that must occur related to IEP’s in their creation and implementation). Therefore, districts still need to provide IEP services and continue holding IEP meetings as if school was being held normally. Each district has its own policies regarding IEP meetings that are extremely important to review before holding online IEP meetings. This may be intimidating at first, but they can be held like any other IEP meeting we would be holding in brick and mortar K-12 schools. Ultimately, the goal in this post is to provide several recommendations on how to get ready for an online IEP meeting in an efficient manner and then tips and tricks for holding an effective online IEP meeting. It’s also important to note that many of these tips are translatable to IEP meetings that occur in-person.

Tips for Getting Ready for an Online IEP Meeting

  1. Ensure you have a Google Drive or folder available for all documents and IEP’s relating to the student. Keep all of the documents in one place to stay organized. Digital organization is key.
  2. Utilize Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to develop a survey to ask teachers questions regarding the student’s present levels. Include questions relating to each section of the present levels page.
  3. Use the student information system your school is using to analyze the demographic data, grade book, and transcript of the student to help complete the information page, transition two, present levels, and goal progress.
  4. Gain access to view student work in their online learning management system they are using in their academic classes (i.e., Seesaw, Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, etc.). This can allow case managers to gain access to work samples of the student to help with present levels and goal progress.
  5. Email your student/parents a transition survey (if they are in high school) for them to complete to help complete transition page one.
  6. Draft the majority of the IEP and send out parts of the IEP beforehand for the parent to review (follow your district’s rules regarding drafting IEP’s before meetings).
  7. Schedule the meeting at least 2 weeks in advance, if possible. Use Google Voice, email, or use *67 to call parents/guardians to schedule the meeting.
  8. Invite the student if they are of middle school and high school age. Even though it’s an online meeting, they need to be included because it is their IEP to support them.
  9. Follow up email with pertinent documents. You will be required to send them a follow-up email after you have scheduled the IEP on the calendar with pertinent documents and a link or phone number to join the virtual meeting. Do this ahead of time.
  10. After the meeting is over, send parent the full agreed-upon IEP via email (be sure to review district protocols)
  11. Be sure to have a signature program available for e-signatures or protocols in place to obtain and document verbal and written consent.

Tips for Conducting an Online IEP Meeting

  1. Review district online IEP protocols. Some districts have a script case managers can follow.
  2. Provide an agenda to the meeting participants and the parent/guardian in separate emails before the meeting begins.
  3. Provide a start time and end time along with the agenda through the calendar invite. Ensure everyone is on the same page regarding time specifications.
  4. Be sure to order various meeting participants so they can all provide input. Provide possible time limits to ensure the meeting stays on task and on time.
  5. Before the meeting begins, the very first question is to ask parents/guardians their main concerns regarding their student. Be prepared for questions about online instruction.
  6. Case managers should share their screens throughout the virtual meeting to review pages of the IEP with the participants of the meeting. Reviewing the IEP as you go is the best method to ensure transparency.
  7. Take your time if the parent/guardian did not go through the draft IEP that was sent beforehand.
  8. Ask confirmation questions if you are unsure of the parent/guardians’ feelings/perspectives towards proposals in the IEP.
  9. Have a notes template that is flexible. Include the IEP meeting agenda as it will be much easier to fill out during and after the meeting.
  10. At the end of the meeting, be sure everyone on the IEP team is aware of the consent process (whether it’s through e-signatures of another process outlined by district protocols).


At the end of the day, we want online IEP’s for distance learning to be as smooth as possible. We know its a difficult time for families and for teachers. Therefore, we need to try and make them easy and efficient for all participants. Also, be aware that every district is different and to read thoroughly through the district’s online IEP procedures. Ask questions, if necessary on the procedures even if it is just for clarification. Hopefully, by following tips for getting prepared for IEP meetings as well as tips for the IEP meeting are helpful to K-12 Special Education teachers.

Feel free to comment on this post for more helpful suggestions for Special Education teachers to run effective online IEP meetings. Or, message me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990 and we can continue the conversation there.


Blended Learning is the Future – Types of Blended Learning Models for Fall 2020

As we continue to think about Fall 2020 for K-12, it looks like there are a variety of options on the table. Last week, I outlined a number of scenarios primary and secondary schools can consider for going back in the fall to ensure quality instruction occurs and safety protocols are in place for teachers, students, and staff. Many recommendations from County’s of Education throughout the county include easing into face to face learning, introducing social distancing protocols, staggering schedules, and continuing some form of remote learning. More than likely, face to face will be limited at first in many states when schools first open in the fall. Likely, face to face instruction may only be a couple days a week to begin with and then it may open up further if the number of COVID cases declines within the local county over time. Thus, in all likelihood, it will likely be a combination of face to face and online learning.

When speaking specifically about instruction, the learning model that can be utilized for both face to face and online learning simultaneously for a class is called blended learning. This is what we would call integration between face to face and online experiences. Blended learning has a variety of different definitions as there are several different models that can be used to implement blended learning. My goal is to outline various blended learning models as well as provide teachers with what the research states regarding best practices for their implementation. Lastly, there will be a short discussion on engagement strategies for blended learning for face to face and online sessions.

Blended Learning Models

There is a continuum of blended learning models we should consider when thinking about how to implement blended learning models in K-12 schools. There are blended learning models at each end of the spectrum that have optional online or face to face components. Yet, the blended learning models we want to look at are the models that provide required face to face and online components that are simultaneously blended together. Additionally, these blended learning models should also fit staggered scheduling options in both primary and secondary settings as a result of the implementation of social distancing protocols in schools.

Primary and Secondary Blended Learning

Primary and secondary blended learning could take shape by having students attend school one to three times a week and have the remaining portion of the class online. Or, this could also look like students attending in the morning or afternoon for face to face sessions and have the remainder of the class have an online component. Either way, the staggered scheduling for students to have face to face time will dictate how much face to face vs. online instruction time students have. In all likelihood, the flipped classroom model will be utilized for both primary and secondary classes, which we are going to cover the most in-depth. With this said, the flipped classroom model will be implemented and utilized differently for primary and secondary settings. Lastly, a short discussion of the Inside-Out and Flex models of blended learning will round out this discussion.

Flipped Classroom Model. The flipped classroom model can be utilized in two-ways for blended learning. First, it can mean the content and skills students are taught can be frontloaded either online or in the face to face sessions. Ultimately, this is predicated on whether instructional leaders believe students are best suited to take in content and skills online or face to face first.

For the face to face component of the flipped classroom model, it could provide opportunities for small group and one on one instruction for students.  When content is frontloaded online students can receive additional support and tutorials in class to practice the content and skills they are taught initially online.  Teachers can provide feedback to students in person and students can be given opportunities to demonstrate their learning with in-person assessment. Conversely, another possible avenue is frontloading the content during the face to face sessions and then providing students opportunities to practice and demonstrate their learning online through assessment. Thus, teachers would provide much of their feedback online and then re-teach content during subsequent face to face sessions.

For the online component of the flipped classroom model, content, activities/assignments, and assessments can be developed using a module-like style to organize what students need to complete chronologically. Teachers would need to ensure they can organize their learning management system (i.e., in modules, themes, units, etc.) in a way that can allow students to see a progression in content and activities they are learning. This allows for students to see what’s due and what is needed to be done before face to face sessions. For a content-heavy online component of a flipped classroom, it could include watching several lectures while taking notes that would ultimately prepare students for a face to face Socratic seminar. On the other hand, for a practice heavy online component of a flipped classroom, it could have several scaffolded assignments before students are given online assessment on the content they were taught during the face to face session.

Lastly, for the flipped classroom blended learning model, elements of project-based learning could be incorporated to allow students to collaborate with their peers and teachers online and in person to develop creative student work projects to demonstrate their learning. This is an option entire schools or teachers can utilize depending on how they would like to assess their students learning and their student population.

Other Blended Learning Options. Beyond the flipped classroom model, there are several other blended learning models that we will mention. First, the Inside-Out Model is an interesting blended learning model whereby students begin classes face to face (on one single day or a it could extend to a week long) and then complete the vast majority of the class online followed by the last day or week to be a face to face class. I have experience with this model since it was used during my doctoral work. I enjoyed building relationships in the face to face sessions that carried on online throughout the semester, which ended in a face to face session. However, this model requires a lot of intrinsic motivation to complete the coursework as there are portions of the course that are online (it was 8 weeks in between face to face sessions for my doctoral program). This model is used at the graduate school level, but the likelihood this model could be used in K-12 seems unlikely because there is too great of a distance between face to face class sessions. Realistically, the plausibility of this model being used is little; but, for Advanced Placement classes at the high school it could be a possibility.

The second additional blended learning model that can be considered much more widely in K-12 is the Flex Blended Learning model. In this blended learning model, a subject or course is based primarily online and students can complete it at their own place. Throughout the semester, students check in weekly with the teacher of record at the school site to assess their progress. Students also have the ability to schedule their own one on one tutorials with their teacher.  One can argue this is what personalized learning looks like since students/family’s are going at their own pace and utilizing support when needed. Ultimately, what this looks like is a flexible as needed basis for face to face support. Currently, many high school independent study and home schooling programs use this model of learning. It could be a plausible choice for primary and secondary schools that want to ease back in face to face learning overtime.

Blended Learning Best Practices

In order to make blended learning a success, teachers need to be trained in how to utilize this type of learning model. There are two components that will require teachers to be trained in: technical and pedagogical. Following these two components, teachers need to aware of several best practice strategies to ensure their blended learning classroom culture flourishes.

For the technical component, teachers need training in the learning management system that will be used by students for their online and face to face components of the class. This learning management system could be Google Classroom, Canvas, Blackboard, Seesaw, Powerschool, or Schoology (all major learning management systems). All content and assignments are organized on these platforms for students to access. More technical training involves being able to add further educational technology to make the online and face to face content engaging, collaborative, and interactive for students. Thus, schools should have a learning management system in mind and several additional edtech tools teachers have training in before implementing blended learning. Luckily, with online learning taking place in the spring, teachers will have much more of a technical capacity going into the fall semester.

For the pedagogical component, teachers need to work on instructional strategies that can be used during small group and one on one instruction. Small group instruction could include elements of student collaboration, activities to find/solve problems, social emotional learning, critical thinking, and student discussion. One on one instruction could include ways to provide formative feedback, social emotional learning, goal setting, organization/time management, and direct instruction tutorials. Luckily, as with the technical component, teachers already know many of these instructional components that could implement for their blended learning classrooms.

Best Practices for Blended Learning Models

Beyond the technical and pedagogical components for blended learning, several best practices must be employed to ensure classroom cultures are cultivated and expectations are set at the beginning of the course. Margolis, Porter, and Pitterle (2017) provide 10 best practices that teachers must be aware of. This is where much of the training needs to occur beyond learning the technical and pedagogical components of the blended learning model that will be implemented. Below is a list of best practices that teachers need to be sure to develop and then implement in any form of blended learning. Also, many of these best practices can also be implemented in any face to face class.

  1. Setting the Stage – Set expectations on the first day of class. Discuss the structure of course, technical components, important dates, and grading information.
  2. Consistency with Teaching – This includes communicating with students through the same medium. Teachers should only communicate with their students through one or two mediums (i.e., through email or directly through the learning management system).
  3. Timeliness – Teachers need to be sure all material is posted on time. Minimally, all materials should be posted two weeks prior to the assignments due date.
  4. Accountability – Provide credit for the majority of tasks conducted for the course (completion points, assignment points, assessment points, etc.).
  5. Structure Active Learning – Provide engaging lessons during face to face class sessions that includes active learning by students.
  6. Teacher Feedback on Student Preparation – Teachers should provide feedback for online learning assignments that lead up to the face to face class session. This includes both formative and summative feedback.
  7. Incorporate Student Feedback – Teachers should provide mechanisms to include student feedback during the course.
  8. Continue Reviewing Online and Face to Face Material Throughout the Class – Provide tutorials of how to interact with the online and face to face material. Review previous topics that connect into future topics.
  9. Technology – Be sure to choose technology that allows students and teachers a level of flexibility.

Overall, administrators and teachers need to develop the blended learning system collaboratively with the technical and pedagogical components and best practices in mind. There must be buy-in from both sides to ensure institutional coherence and transparency is established before blended learning is implemented. Also, what we must remember beyond the blended learning model, structural components within the school system will have to be completely revisited to ensure staggered schedules and social distance protocols can be enacted if the face to face component of blended learning will be implemented.

Engagement Strategies Blended Learning for Face to Face and Online Sessions

Engaging students in any learning model is vital. Luckily, for blended learning, the online and face to face components can provide teachers options to make their class engaging in multiple settings. Much of these suggestions for engagement can intermix with both online and face to face class settings.

  1. Class Public Opinion Polls
  2. Interactive Slides – Pear Deck, Google Slides, Poll Anywhere
  3. Student Collaboration Tools – G-Suite, Microsoft 365, Online Backchannels, Online Whiteboards, etc.
  4. Twitterchats
  5. Flipgrid and Online Discussion Boards
  6. Class Brainstorms
  7. Class Instagram
  8. Students Assess Peers
  9. Socratic Seminars
  10. Individual/Class Project Presentation
  11. Student Self-Assessment
  12. Social Emotional Learning Check-ins
  13. Class Made Videos Demonstrating Learning
  14. Student-Choice Projects

At the end of the day, the list of engagement strategies for blended learning can go on and on. I am sure any teacher can add a multitude of other engagement strategies to this list.


Blended learning is the future for the next 12 to 18 months. In order to ease in the reopening of schools, blended learning seems to be the way to go as it can be easily moved online if the number of COVID cases increases to a level that is dangerous to students and teachers. If even only mildly successful, blended learning will revolutionize K-12 education going forward because it will create flexibility among teachers and students in addition to personalizing learning for our students.

What are your thoughts about blended learning? Is it something you would be comfortable with going forward? Comment on this post or chat with me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990.



Fullan, M., Senge, P. M., & Corwin Press. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for
whole system reform. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for whole system reform. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity.

Margolis, A. R., Porter, A. L., & Pitterle, M. E. (2017). Best Practices for Use of Blended Learning. American journal of pharmaceutical education81(3), 49. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe81349


Reopening K-12 Schools in the Fall of 2020: Priorities to Assess, Students with Special Needs, and Staggered Schedules

Over the last week, I have seen numerous articles and points of emphasis provided by County of Education Offices regarding recommendations to re-open schools next fall. As we look at the recommendations for re-opening society and the economy proposed by the federal and state governments, it will be in phases with schools being part of the equation. Districts and schools throughout the nation need to start proactively planning for the Fall 2020 semester because the COVID crisis will likely last another 12 to 18 months based on estimations by medical researchers for the development of a vaccine and achieving herd immunity. As a result, we will not be returning to ‘normal’ upon the return to school in the fall. Thus, proactively planning now will allow schools to re-open this fall in an effective manner where students will be receiving quality instruction as well as in a safe learning environment that can adapt to changes in the number of local COVID cases.  We will be describing a number of priorities district and school leaders need to consider before thinking about developing plans to re-open. Secondly, we will briefly touch on which populations of students schools should consider re-opening to first. Then, there will be a discussion on staggered schedules for primary and secondary schools and the options that leaders could consider when developing their plans to re-open this fall.

First Priorities to Assess Before Developing a Plan to Re-Open in the Fall

After evaluating several key articles and recommendations produced by the local County of Education Offices, I have compiled a list of priorities school and district leaders should consider before developing their plan to re-open schools. There is no specific order to any of these priorities, but they all must be considered before thinking of developing a plan to re-open schools.

  • Assess how distance learning went with teachers, students, and parents. What were the areas of success and improvement? Evaluate through online instruction climate surveys to all parties, administrator observations of online synchronous and asynchronous instruction, and student participation data in each form of online instruction.
  • Communicate with the County Office of Education and collaborate with the County Health Office to determine what procedures and protocols need to be included in district/school re-opening plans.
  • Conduct a student, staff, and facility safety assessment. Assess how social distancing protocols and procedures provided by the state could affect the campus by evaluating school facilities and student enrollment.
  • Evaluate how social distancing could affect daily instructional schedules, passing periods, lunch, recess, PE, and entering/exiting campus by students and staff.
  • Assess students that are considered at-risk (Foster Youth, ELL, and low SES), students with disabilities, and students who did not participate in distance learning. Consult with the county and state regarding IEP’s and how a blended learning or distance learning model may alter Special Education Services going forward
  • Research blended learning and distance learning instructional models as well as schools that have re-opened with social distancing protocols and altered instructional models. Currently, we see schools beginning to Re-open in Denmark and Austria. We can also look to see how China re-opened their public schools to determine if any protocols they use can also be used in our school system. During this process, leaders need to assess what has been working thus far for schools that have reopened.
  • Collaborate with teachers and local teacher associations for assessing each of these priorities on how to best support them as schools re-open as well as in the development of the re-open plan.
  • Collaborate with local, state, and federal educational authorities on funding, logistics, and recommendations/guidelines for re-opening schools.

Use School Openings to Help Students Who Are Most At-Risk and Students with Disabilities

Schools and districts need to take students who are most at risk and students with disabilities into account when thinking about moving back to brick and mortar education settings. Leaders need to assess which students may be most at-risk for infection. Additionally, leaders need to assess how students more at-risk and with disabilities can attend the school facilities. For students with moderate/severe disabilities, which are not related to health (i.e., health fragility to any infection), the brick and mortar school buildings could be the best option for these students as they need additional resources and services. Typically the numbers of these students’ schools serve are low, which would allow for classrooms to have less than 12 students; an ideal environment for Specialized Academic Instruction and social distancing protocols to be simultaneously implemented.  By using the actual school facility for students with the highest need, it can accommodate their learning needs as well as provide Special Education teachers the opportunity to not have to reinvent their IEP as the services in place from the previous school year would be similar as to what they were before the crisis began.

Schools should consider first opening their door to these student populations as they are the most at-need for the services and support schools provided by Special Education teachers. By providing these students with in-person instruction, it will help the most vulnerable and the most at need have instruction, which will allow facilities to be once again occupied by students and teachers.

Staggered Days and Schedules with Social Distancing Protocols

Many proposals regarding staggering school days and schedules will help with implementing social distance policies. This would look different in primary and secondary schools, but, in theory, weeks would look like 20% to 50% of the student population attending school one to three days per week. Additionally, school days could also be cut in half, where one group of students attends in the morning while the other group of students attends in the afternoon. As stated above, this will depend on a variety of different variables. The variables that need to be taken into consideration whether this is a viable option for certain school sites includes the student population (larger schools like high schools will have a much more difficult time to implement staggered days versus small elementary schools), facility layout, how logistically the staggered schedules would be arranged (logistically, secondary class schedules will be much more difficult for staggered days), integrating social distancing protocols into every single aspect of the school’s functions (i.e., instructional settings, hallways, PE, entrances/exits, lunchroom, etc.) and, most importantly, student and teacher safety. Leaders need to take into consideration these variables as they are important in assessing whether staggering schedules is the best option for re-opening schools.

Below, I have outlined a number of scenarios that staggered schedules could be implemented in primary and secondary schools. For primary and secondary, there are three options for each to consider that seem plausible to implement. Then, there are a number of pros and cons associated with each staggered schedule option.

Primary Staggered Schedule Options

Option 1: A primary school staggered schedule could look like groups of 12 students or fewer attending in-person classes twice a week on Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday. Each group of students would receive the same instruction on the days they are scheduled to attend. Then, days each group is not in school, online instruction would supplement what students are learning in the classroom.

In this scenario, teachers would still be vulnerable to infection but the probability of infection decreases as there are fewer students per day they interact with. For instruction, students would be missing out on three days of in-person instruction that is filled with supplemental online instruction. Also, childcare could be a problem as three out of five days a week, parents will have to find childcare for their children.

Pros: Two Full Days a Week of Face to Face Instruction

Cons: Higher Probability of Contact with Others, More Days Online Than Face to Face, Childcare Issues

Option 2: A primary school’s staggered schedule could look like groups of 12 students or fewer attending in-person classes for half days. Groups of students would either attend a morning or afternoon session four to five days a week. Online instruction could then supplement the times of day students are not attending school.

This scenario could be a viable option but could leave teachers and staff more vulnerable to infection as they see more students per day. On the instructional level, students would receive the most in-person instruction out of each of these three options; but childcare would have to be provided in some shape or form by families for at least half the school day when they are not attending.

Pros: Two and a Half Days of Online Instruction, Minimal Online Instruction

Cons: Higher Probability of Contact with Others, Childcare Issues

Option 3: A primary school can implement an independent study like program where very small groups of students attend various timeslots throughout the day a number of times a week to receive small group and one on one instruction from their teacher. Online supplemental instruction can be the primary mode of instruction in a flipped classroom like environment for students.

For this scenario, it would allow for the fewest number of students to be on campus at a given time. However, in this scenario, teachers would see the second most students per day depending on the time blocks given to the small groups of students for instruction. If 2 hours is given for small groups of 6 students, teachers could still see upwards to 18 or more students per day.  On an instructional level,  students would likely benefit the least as much of their work would be online and would need the most support from home to facilitate instruction.

Pros: Lower Probability of Contact with Others, Extremely Social Distance Friendly, Small Group and One on One Instruction

Cons: Instructional Limitations Face to Face with Small Groups, High Level of Support Needed From Home, Large Online Instruction Presence, Childcare Issues

Secondary Staggered Schedule Options

Option 1: A secondary school could implement a one-day in-person face to face class day for its by dividing the school population into 25% segments that would take up the days of Monday-Thursday (i.e., Group A, B, C, and D). During this day, 25% of the population there would complete a normal 5 to 7 period where students receive face to face instruction. Generally, during these days, it would provide teachers and students to connect for small group instruction as well as to receive time for in-person activities. Then, the remainder of the week, students would have supplemental online instruction.

Pros: Lower Probability of Contact with Others, Higher Student and Teacher Safety Due to Smaller Groups on Campus, and Social Distancing Friendly

Cons: Low Amount of Face to Face Instruction and Predominantly Online Instruction

In this option, students receive the least one day face to face instruction a week but have the majority of instruction online. However, students and teachers receive the least exposure to others. Additionally, this could provide large schools an option outside of alternating weeks of face to face instruction for their students like outlined in Option 3. For example, a school of 3000+ students would equate to about 750 students per day on campus, which would allow for social distance protocols to be adequately followed.

Option 2: A secondary school could implement an even and odd day block schedule for two face to face days per week. In this model, upwards to 50% of the school population would attend odd and even days on Monday-Thursday. During these block periods during odd and even days, students would receive longer instructional times with their teachers and peers for in-person activities. Then, on days students are not attending school, online instruction would supplement what they are learning in class.

Pros: High Amounts of Face to Face Instruction and Minimal Online Instruction

Cons: Higher Probability of Contact with Others, Lower Amounts of Student and Teacher Safety Due to Large Groups on Campus, Not Social Distance Friendly

In this option, secondary schools would have to ensure the school site could institute social distancing policies with 50% of students present at the school site. Instructional face to face time would be equal to Option 3, but there would be more students present in classes. This could be a viable plan if the secondary school has a smaller student population of fewer than 1200 students. It would allow students in these scenarios to adequately socially distance and receive more face to face instruction. However, for larger schools, this option may not be viable as 50% of students of a school of 3000+ would equate to almost 1500 students on campus, which would likely not be doable with social distance protocols.

Option 3: A secondary could implement rotation weeks of face to face and online instruction for different groups of students. This would consist of four groups of students amounting to 25% of the student population each. Then, two groups per week would go to school in person while the other two groups work online for the week. For example, during the first week of the month, group A would attend periods one through six on Monday and Wednesday. Then, group B could attend periods one through six on Tuesday and Thursday. The following week, groups C and D would attend in-person while groups A and B would be receiving online instruction.

Pros: High Amount of Face to Face Instruction, Lower Probability of Contact with Others, Higher Student and Teacher Safety Due to Smaller Groups on Campus, and Social Distancing Friendly

Cons: Face to Face Instructional Time Split Evening with Online Instruction

For this option of instruction, students would receive longer times of face to face instruction in addition to not being around large groups of students. Teachers would also be around a lesser number of students on a daily basis. However, with this weekly rotating schedule, there ultimately would be less face to face time for students, but almost equal to the number of face to face instruction as Option 1. For large schools with populations of students 3000+, it could be a viable option as 25% of the student would equate to fewer than 750 students at the school site. This would make it much easier to institute social distancing protocols and ensure student safety at large school sites.


More than likely student scheduling staggering options for primary and secondary school will be comprised of some of the elements I outlined in this post. The initial priorities I provided earlier in the article should be reviewed, assessed, and then developed into a plan before a school and district decide on how it should stagger student schedules to lower the probability of possible COVID infection for students and teachers.

Within these plans, schools and districts need to prepare for what has been coined the “Toggle Semester” for K-12. This means any type of staggered scheduling offered in primary and secondary school can move fully online at a moment’s notice if the number of COVID cases increases within the school and district’s jurisdiction. This is why districts and schools must be prepared to offer a blended instructional model, which incorporates face to face and online instruction as described in the primary and secondary staggered schedule options.

Next time, I will outline blended instructional models for primary and secondary schools. I will focus on how instruction can be delivered through this methodology and how it can be implemented by teachers this fall. If you have any comments about the contents of this post, please share by writing them below or by replying to me at @mattrhoads1990 on Twitter.



Teaching High School Math Using Google Classroom and Seesaw – How we Transitioned to a 100% Paperless Math Class

Transitioning from co-teaching freshmen math face to face to co-teaching the same class virtually caused my co-teacher and me to completely redesign our class. Much of our thought process was geared towards trying to emulate our original class procedures, instructional pedagogy, and supports as much as we could to provide to our general education and Special Education students in our class. We also wanted to develop an online class design that would provide an equitable approach so all of our students can access the content at their own time and pace in addition to providing access to both co-teachers for one on one support. Thus, my goal here is to provide you with insight as to how we transitioned our face to face course to a fully online math course. I am going to provide you with our thought processes, the edtech tools we used, and how we decided to deliver content to our students. Specifically, I am going to focus much of the conversation on using two separate learning management systems, Google Classroom and Seesaw, to provide the most equitable platform in tandem for our students to access the content and to receive quality instruction and feedback from us.

Before Moving the Class Online – Face to Face Class Structure of our Math Class

Our face to face class model utilized direct instruction and then scaffolded large group guided practice and then small group independent practice. This lesson trajectory allowed us as co-teachers to strategically work with students in two-ways. First, it allowed us strategically pair students together; which created peer tutoring opportunities and positive role models. Then, it provided us opportunities to work with students one on one, which allows us to target students who needed re-teaching and support to build their efficacy and bridging gaps in their understanding.

A week would generally start with learning a new concept in a scaffold approach followed by a more gradual release as we progress throughout the week. Our long block days were geared towards reinforcing concepts learned in the week by small group instruction and strategic one on one support. Then, at the end of the long block day, we would have a formative or summative assessment. To end the week, on Friday we had students catch up on their work, reflect on their learning for the week, and analyze their assessment results by breaking down their latest assessment by conducting test corrections with the help of their peers and teachers.

Before moving fully online, 90% of our work was done with paper and pencil. The vast majority of our assignments were printed worksheets with notes, graphic organizers, and problems strategically placed. We used Google Classroom to post our weekly content slides with notes, warm-ups, and other resources. Additionally, the majority of our assessments were completed using Google Forms and grade reflections were integrated into Google Classroom. This helped streamline grading and provided us opportunities to release scores to students for test correction and reflection exercises.

Moving Fully Online with Google Classroom and Seesaw

When we were told we had to move to online instruction, our first thought was to think about how we were going to provide students with assignments in an equitable manner. Also, concurrently, we wanted to keep Google Classroom pretty much in-tact like we had it before moving fully online to ensure students did not have to re-learn learned routines over the last 7 months of school. We knew Google Classroom also had limitations in terms of allowing students an easy way to submit assignments in a multitude of different ways (i.e., file upload, writing on documents directly [does not exist]). Overall, I felt Google Classroom had a cumbersome file uploading interface for students, which required several steps we felt like our students may have difficulty in doing. Thus, we decided to only integrate a few more features into Google Classroom for online learning like integrating Google Meet for live class sessions, Calendly office hour links (I’ve written another post on how to do this), and providing videos on our weekly content slideshows.  As a result, Google Classroom for our online freshmen math class includes the following features. Note: Features in bold were added as a result of moving fully online.

  1. Using the Tab Feature to Create Weekly Modules
  2. Weekly Slideshows Containing Notes, Integrated Videos and Screencasts, and Assignment Directions
  3. Creating and Assigning Math Formative/Summative Assessments on Google Forms and Student Reflection Forms
  4. Interface for Hosting Google Meet Meetings (Google Meets is fully Integrated into Google Classroom)
  5. Access to Important Documents and Resources (i.e., Syllabus Addendum, District Online Learning Documents)
  6. Linking Calendly Office Hour Sign-Up Document for Students to Access


Now, let’s discuss our move to Seesaw as our second online platform for the class. We felt that since our class comprised of 90% paper assignments before moving online, we needed a learning management system that provided students an opportunity to write digitally onto our posted assignment, print out the assignment and then submit the work by taking a picture of it, or by copying the assignment onto a scratch piece of paper and submit the work by taking a picture of it. Additionally, we wanted a platform we could provide written digital feedback on student’s assigned work. After research and looking at how my wife uses Seesaw for her second-grade class (who’s also a Seesaw Ambassador; she has a YouTube Page dedicated to learning Seesaw), we decided to use Seesaw as the second learning management system for our class because it had all the features we felt were needed for our students to access and interact with our classwork. For the Seesaw component of our online class, we utilize it for the following features:

  1. Assigning Weekly Classwork for Students
  2. Provide Additional “How-to” Videos on Math Concepts with Posted Assignments
  3. Provide Formative Feedback by Digitally Writing or Commenting on Turned in Assignments
  4. Assess Student Written Work to be Graded for the Gradebook

seesaw interface

As a result of using Seesaw, we were now 100% paperless and had the same capacities as we had during our face to face class to grade and provide feedback on student work! The student interface of assignments on Seesaw demonstrate this. See how students can interact with the content we post below.

seesaw student inferece

Synthesizing Google Classroom and Seesaw Together & Content Delivery Model 

During our first week of online instruction, we knew we had to teach our students new class routines using Google Classroom and an entirely new platform in Seesaw. To ensure we taught them how to incorporate both platforms, we provided instructions of how to integrate Seesaw and Google Classroom in two ways. First, we sent an email to our students before our online class launched with their Seesaw remote learning code and a link to Seesaw. Then, we posted our first module in Google Classroom that included two “how-to” videos of how to access Seesaw, learn its interface, and interact with the content we have posted as well as turn in the work that is assigned on the platform. Lastly, during our first live online learning session, at the beginning of the first few classes we had, we provided a tutorial of how to access our content on Google Classroom and Seesaw. Ultimately, this helped the majority of our students learn the classroom routines. We further reinforced these routines during our following live class sessions to ensure students were on the same page with us.

Now, let me talk about how content is delivered using both Google Classroom and Seesaw as shown in the diagram below (which is from our online syllabus). We wanted to frontload content on each platform to allow students two full days to interact with the notes and tutorial content videos at their own pace before these directions and concepts were reinforced and re-taught in our live class sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays. During the live class sessions, we use an online whiteboard (Here’s a post on co-teaching math online using Whiteboardfox) and ask students to follow along on a scratch piece of paper as we model how to complete the work. Additionally, students get an opportunity for Q/A session throughout various points of the hour-long live class. Then, on Thursday, on our last self-paced student day, we post our four-question formative assessment Google Form on Google Classroom to help us inform our instruction for Friday based on student performance (not all students complete it; but, we get a good sample size on what to focus on). We suggest students complete the four question assessment before our Friday live class session. However, students have until Sunday evening at 11:59 pm to turn in all of the work for the week. Yet, as we all know, deadlines with distance learning can be extended to each student based on their own schedule and flexibility.



Much of what we conducted in our face to face class has been moved online. Overall, we feel like this interface allows students to access our content in the most equitable fashion as possible. This is not to say there were several technical glitches and spending a number of hours helping a number of students access content. But, overall, we feel like it has been successful. More challenges still await us. We continue to struggle with how to make our class more collaborative. We are continuing to brainstorm how to develop more student to student interaction. We’ve integrated Flipgrid once a week for student check-ins and we may expand its use for students to explain how they solved particular problems we assigned throughout the week.

At the end of the day, I hope this post has been informative. I hope this motivates you to think outside of the box and think about how students can interact with math content online. You can integrate more than one learning management system to successfully teach math online. I recommend utilizing this multi-platform methodology to teach any level of mathematics from the middle school level all the way through the college level. If you have any questions or thoughts, please contact me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990 or comment on this post. I hope your final takeaway is that you can go paperless with math instruction online and be equitable at the same time to provide your students with quality online instruction.


EdTech Tools to Get You Started With Your Online Teaching! Start Now!

As classrooms in K-12 schools and university’s move online, there a many Edtech tools available to use. My district is beginning to implement online learning this week so I wanted to share some of the Edtech tools I have some expertise in teaching at the secondary level in English, Social Sciences, and Math. Here is the list of EdTech Tools I use often in my face to face classroom that can be also used in an online fashion for remote learning. Within this list, I define the Edtech tool and its uses in an online and face to face classroom. Additionally, I provide links to a resource that further discusses each Edtech tool discussed on this list. Lastly, I am developing videos right now for each of these tools on my YouTube Channel.

My hope is to continue creating content on YouTube to help facilitate this learning as we all continue to move towards online learning. Right now, try to find at least THREE Edtech tools you would like to check out and integrate into your lessons. Do not go overboard. Start simply and then expand over time. Each of these tools has many uses; think about all of the instructional strategies you use in your classroom! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me and we can further discuss each of these tools you can use in your own online classroom.

EdTech ToolApplication/Uses

Google Classroom: An online learning management system, allows the instructor to post and grade assignments, organizes student work, online grade book, and student/family communication tool. Assessments can be posted and graded, writing rubrics can be developed on the platform, videos can be linked to assignments, etc.

Google Forms: Formative and summative assessments creation, climate surveys (i.e., student, parent, teachers, etc.), and student metacognition (i.e., self-assessment) surveys. There is a multitude of different question types that range from multiple-choice, Likert scale, to free-response that Google Forms can utilize. Images and videos can also be attached to each question or to various areas of the survey or assessment. Google Forms can be posted on any learning management system as it only needs student email addresses to track the data entered on the survey or teacher-created assessment.

Google Drive: Online data storage cloud that allows you to save G-Suite files, videos, images, PDF’s and more as well as organize your files in various folders. Files can be uploaded and downloaded from Google Drive. Additionally, Google Drive can be integrated with your Google Classroom or any other learning management software. Be aware to modify your sharing settings when this occurs as you will want to determine who has access to the online folders.

Google Slides: Google Slides is the PowerPoint of G-Suite. It allows users to build slideshows with information and resources embedded within them. Teachers can use Google Slides for oral/visual presentations, poster boards, online gallery walk, a-z vocabulary, and can be used to create individual and collaborative projects. Google Slides can be posted on Google Classroom, Canvas, Blackboard, and Schoology for students to either view or interact with directly for an individual or collaborative assignment.

Google Docs: Google Docs is the Microsoft Word of Google. For classroom or online use, Docs can be used to create digital reading passages where students can read/annotate, graphic organizers, essays, poems, and short works. Google Docs can be collaborative where multiple students can work on it at once by modifying the sharing options of the document. Also, Google Docs can be commented on by different users who do not have privileges to edit the document, which can be used for editing/revising pieces of writing. Teachers can use Google Docs as the main EdTech Tool for reading/writing assignments that can be added to either Google Classroom or any other online learning management system (i.e., Canvas, blackboard, and Schoology).

Google Draw: Google Draw allows users to develop pictures and graphics that can be placed on Google Docs, Slides, Sites, etc. Teachers can utilize Google Draw to have students develop graphic organizers, digital poster boards, infographics, and more. Google Draw can be posted on any learning management system.

Google Sheets: Google Sheets is the Microsoft Excel of G-Suite. Data can be recorded in an organized manner (this includes both text and numeric data). Teachers can use Google Sheets in Math and Science classes to help students learn how to analyze data, develop graphs, and conduct statistical analysis.

Google Sites: Google Sites is a platform where users can build an entire functioning website. It provides a platform for users to place text, audio, video, graphics, and more. Teachers can use Google Sites as a platform for students to obtain resources/assignments, an assignment where students develop their own website/blog, and much more.

Pear Deck: Pear Deck is an add-on to Google Slides which allows for students to actively participate during a Google Slides presentation. Multiple choice, free response, word webs/mind maps, formative assessment multiple-choice questions, and more can be used to facilitate student active participation. Further, Pear Deck allows the teacher to see overall student participation and responses to make data-driven decisions regarding the focus of the presentation/content based on student responses.

Flipgrid: Flipgrid is a student video/audio recording software that allows a teacher to pose a question online that students must respond to via audio and video. Students have the ability to see the question presented by the teacher in addition to other student responses. Assessment rubrics can be built in Flipgrid to assess student responses. This can be used for an in-class and online instructional setting.

Screencasting: Screencasting is the ability to record the video and audio of a user’s computer screen and/or a video of themselves. By capturing a computer’s video and audio, viewers can watch the video as a tutorial to help them learn the directions of how to do something. Teachers can utilize screencasts as a way to frontload content, model instruction, formative/summative assessment, and provide additional resources to their students.

Kahoot /Quizizz: Kahoot and Quizizz are two online formative assessment tools. Teachers have the ability to create a wide range of questions students can answer via a Chromebook or Smartphone. Data from student answers are given to teachers thereafter to determine how students did on the assessment. Kahoot and Quizizz can be linked to any online learning management system.

Khan Academy: Khan Academy is a free online class resource and tutorial where students can watch videos and complete practice problems on major subjects ranging from World History, Algebra 2, Biology, and ACT/SAT prep. Teachers can use Khan Academy as an additional enrichment tool or even as a differentiation tool for students who may need additional reinforcement of concepts covered in class. Khanacademy can be linked to any online learning management system.

EdPuzzle: Edpuzzle is a free online resource where teachers can utilize one of its many videos and assess student comprehension of the content being presented in the video. Teachers can use Edpuzzle as a tutorial to reinforce a concept, frontloading information, and as an option to assess student progress. Edpuzzle can be easily integrated into several Learning Management Systems, including Google Classroom.

Padlet: Padlet allows users to build online poster boards, documents, and webpages. It can also allow users to collaboratively work together on projects. Teachers can use Padlet for students to create infographics, websites, and graphics relating to the content being discussed in class. Padlet can be linked to any online learning management system.

Readtheory: Readtheory is a free online reading comprehension practice tool for students of all grade levels and reading levels. Students initially take a pre-test and then Readtheory adapts its passages and questions to their Lexile level from their score on the pre-test. From there, the passages and questions increase in their difficulty as students progress in their reading ability. On the teacher interface, teachers can see student progress overtime by seeing their current Lexile level, Lexile growth, and the types of questions students do well on versus questions students need improvement in.

Common Lit: CommonLit is a free online reading passage generator for students grades 3-12. Students receive a passage where they can read/annotate. Once they are done, they must answer a variety of question types ranging from multiple choice to short answer; many of which are CAASPP like. Teachers can set the passage provided to students in relation to the content they are learning in their class. In addition, teachers can see student growth over time in terms of their reading ability. Lastly, CommonLit can be linked to any learning management system.

YoTeach!: YoTeach! is an online collaborative chatroom that is developed for your class. Once the room is developed, students will always have access to the room through a password created. Within the chatroom, it functions as a place where content can be presented visually and through audio/video. Teachers can use this to tool to deliver content, use it as a mean to have student active participation, and it can be utilized for students to work together collaboratively in class and outside of class.

b.Scorative: B.socrative is an online formative and summative assessment tool. Teachers can develop their own assessments or choose from many different types of prebuilt assessments in all subject areas to give to their students. Students can complete the assessment on a computer or mobile phone. b.socrative provides real-time data to determine where your students are at on the content in a seamless and efficient manner. Teachers can export the data onto an Excel spreadsheet to be placed in their grade book.

Wiki’s: Wiki’s are an online information resource that students can develop individually or in a collaborative matter. We all know what Wikipedia is – Wiki’s are very familiar, in terms of their format and use. Teachers can develop Wiki’s for their class; students can develop Wikis for individual and collaborative projects. Wiki’s can be linked in any online learning management system.

GroupMaker: Groupmaker is a free online program that allows teachers to randomize groups on the fly in their classes as well as randomize cold calling on students in a class.

WhiteBoard Fox: White Board Fox is an online collaborative chatroom where students can enter and teachers/students can present content. Teachers can use this tool for active participation and groups/class collaboration. The link to the Whiteboard can be posted on any learning management system.

Geoguesser: Geoguesser is an online context clue guessing game. It utilizes Google Earth and Street to place the user on a random street somewhere in the world. The student must use context clues such as language, the side of the streetcars are going, the landscape, and more to guess where in the world the street view is located. This can be linked to any learning management system.


Maximizing Live Synchronous Class Sessions and Google Meet – Strategies to Help Bolster Your Students Online Learning

As our transition to online learning has gone on, the platform my district has been utilizing is Google Meet for live synchronous class sessions. Google Meet is a platform offered through Googles G-Suite, which allows for live video conferencing of up to 200 people. After a number of class sessions using this platform teaching K-12 students along with my experience teaching university students online, I am going to provide a number of additional extensions to use Google Meet to its full potential as well as outline several strategies to heighten student engagement and participation in live online synchronous class sessions (that can be used on any online video conferencing software).

Integration of Google Meet with Classroom and Needed Extensions

Recently, Google Meet has been integrated into Google Classroom. This is a great development as it makes it a very quick and efficient process of launching a live Google Meet link from the Google Classroom interface. The settings to do this can be found in the settings toolbox once you have entered your designated classroom. Once this has been activated, a link appears in the Google Classroom’s heading with the Meet link students can click, which brings them directly to the online class session.

Beyond Google Classroom, there are two extensions teachers and students need to download to fully maximize Google Meet’s potential for live class sessions. First, teachers and students need to add the extension of “Google Meet Grid View,” which allows both teachers and students to see everyone’s video image in the live class session. Each student is shown within a grid when it’s been added as an extension. Without this extension, a grid view of an entire class is not possible so teachers cannot see everyone’s video image at once while class is being conducted. Second, teachers and students need to add the extension “Nod – Reactions for Google Meet,” which allows both teachers and students to raise a virtual hand as well as display various emojis such as a thumbs up or thumbs down to the entire live class session. This provides the teacher as well as their students with silent feedback and allows for active participation covertly by students in the lesson.

Ultimately, with the new development of integrating Google Meet to Google Classroom as well as adding the Grid View and Nod Reactions to Google Meet, it is an effective platform to conduct online meetings. With these two extensions in place, teachers can see their students as well as see non-verbal feedback while they are presenting content to their students during screen sharing mode. Be sure to remind your students to download the “Nod” during one of your first online sessions. This will ensure they can participate using the Nod Reactions for the non-verbal feedback you will want to receive from them while presenting content.

Online Strategies to Maximize Your Time on Google Meet Live Synchronous Sessions

When conducting live online class sessions through Google Meet (or Microsoft Team or Zoom), there are a number of strategies to maximize your class time and student learning. Below, I have provided a list to breakdown 10 successful strategies to help bolster your students learning and make your time with them during live sessions worth every minute!

  1. Microphones: Ask students to mute their microphones once the meeting begins. Having background noise can be distracting to the teacher as well as students. By ensuring this is a clear expectation from the beginning will help mitigate unnecessary background noises.
  2. Agenda/Goals: Provide an agenda and learning goals on the first slide you are sharing to the class. Then, review it with your students before jumping into the full lesson. This provides structure and allows your students to know what you will be covering during this live class session and learning throughout the week.
  3. Etiquette Online: Review online class etiquette. For example, what are the procedures for raising your virtual hand or providing insight either in the chatbox or by explaining their thoughts using their voice. Lastly, be sure to note that the chatbox is being logged so students need to be appropriate in their use of language and interactions with students.
  4. Check-in with your Students: When checking in with your students, you can either ask them to write a number out of ten representing how they feel. Teachers can also ask them to use an emoji to illustrate how they are doing. Then, teachers can call on two to three students virtually after they have initially checked in with the entire class to give these students an opportunity to share their thoughts with their voice to the rest of the class. Be sure to have your students raise their virtual hand to volunteer while in your online class.
  5. Early in the Week Live Class Sessions: For sessions at the beginning of the week, go over the content you have posted online and review the instructions. Frontload as much as possible. Lastly, ask students multiple times if they have any questions and remind them about signing up for office hours throughout the week.
  6. Later in the Week Live Class Sessions: For sessions at the end of the week, review content and re-teach as needed. During these sessions, it’s best to review what has been covered as well as see how your students are doing. If an assessment has occurred, go over the problems that students had the most trouble on and answer any questions regarding their confusion to bridge their understanding.
  7. Online Lectures/Direct Instruction: For sessions that may involve a lecture, use interactive slides like Pear Deck or Polleverywhere extensions to your Google Slideshows to actively engage your students. By providing live opinion polls, formative assessment questions, and interactive visuals, it helps maintain student engagement during a live online lecture as similar tools and strategies would be used during a face to face session.
  8. Office Hours: Always remind your students about virtual office hours and how to sign up for them. This is huge as many students may want one on one support or may not want to ask questions in a whole group setting regarding the content they are learning in your class. Also, office hours provide a medium to build relationships with students online as it gives you and the student time to work together and collaborate on their learning.
  9. Take Virtual Attendance: Have a Google Form or Doc to track your student’s attendance. On the Form or Doc have the date, class period, number of students missing, and the names of the students missing. This will allow you to contact students who have missed one or more live class sessions to check-in and see how they are doing.
  10. Be Engaging and Have Fun: While presenting to your students, have some energy in your voice. By having excitement and zest in your voice will allow your students to become more engaged in the live lesson. With anything in life, the energy that you are expressing through your voice and actions will help create more energy for the class session.


Online synchronous classes are much different than face to face. But, teachers can make these live class sessions effective by using the strategies I have provided above to create engaging experiences for their students. Be aware that throughout this process, it will take practice. We are all improving in conducting online lessons; I am sure they will get better as we continue practicing them more and more over time. Also, know that some lessons will go better than others. That’s the nature of teaching. As we continue with more online lessons this next month, I will post my reflections and more strategies we can utilize to make them more engaging for our students so they can get the most out of the time they spend with us synchronously online.

Note: Please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990 or by email if you would like to share your experiences with teaching online during this time. I’d enjoy hearing from you.


Scheduling Online Office Hours Using Edtech – Calendly and Google Appointment Slots

As we continue to transition to online learning, we all now have office hours to logistically schedule and make accessible to our students. Students need additional support for one on one or small group support. Therefore, creating an easy mechanism for you and your students to schedule office hours is critical to ensuring office hours are being utilized by your students.

There are two Edtech tools I recommend for logistically scheduling office hours online with your students: Calendly and Google Appointment Slots. Each Edtech tool provides teachers a mechanism to select time slots in their schedules and then create an interface where students have the ability to schedule meetings with their teacher for office hours, which then automatically blocks out the time in both the student and teacher’s online calendar for the planned meeting. What this looks like is that teachers and students both get a calendar event filled within their calendar with the meeting details to ensure the future event is on the books. Here, I have provided the Calendly graphic students are taken to when linked from your learning management system (Google Classroom, Schoology, Seesaw, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.) to see when their teachers are available for office hours and to select a meeting time. In this visual, students can see daily, weekly, and monthly availability, which allows them to schedule in advance, if necessary, depending on their teacher’s availability.


Tips to Get Started with Calendly and Google Appointment Slots

To get started for Calendly and Google Appointments Slots, I suggest doing the following. First, make sure you have your live class times blocked off in your calendar. Second, also have your off-hours blocked off in your calendar so not meeting times can appear after contract hours. Third, block off days or times in your calendar when you have faculty, content/department, IEP, and grade-level meetings. Ultimately, after doing this within your online calendar, Calendly and Google Appointment Slots can easily be set up because you will have designated times for when your office hours can occur.

Once those times are designated for live class times and meetings, Calendly and Google Appointment Slots will give you an option to determine the length of time slots for student meeting times during office hours. I selected 15 minutes per meeting to start as I teach secondary because I have over 100+ students. I wanted to ensure as much equity and access to office hours as possible because of the number of students I work with. However, as time progresses, I will determine if the 15-minute time blocks are working or whether more time will be needed for my office hour meeting time blocks for my students. Before setting up your calendar, be sure to take the number of students you have into consideration as that will likely dictate how much time you can dedicate for one on one student office hour sessions.

Setting up Calendly and Google Appointment Slots

Below, I provided two tutorials for how to set up each Edtech tool. In all likelihood, it should not take you longer than 10 to 15 minutes to set up your office hour appointments. Take a look and see how choosing one of these Edtech tools can help you logistically set up your office hours.

Calendly Tutorial 


Google Appointment Slots Tutorial


I ultimately decided to use Calendly because it can integrate into my Google Calendar (also I want to add it can integrate with most mainstream online calendars) and utilize its various functionalities to set my office hours for my students.  I personally liked the interface of Calendly better than Google Appointment Slots because I believe it’s much easier to navigate for students to see when time slots are available for office hours on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

At the end of the day, making your office hours accessible is key so your students can access their teachers when time is available for additional support beyond the synchronous live sessions and asynchronous content provided fort hem. Also, making it logistically simple on your calendar as well as ensuring scheduling time slots are accessible to your students is key. By doing both this, your students will want to participate and engage in your office hours, which will ultimately help them navigate your online course and the content they are learning.

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