on education

thoughts from a graduate student at the university of mary washington

to flip? or… not to flip? week six.


This concept is brand-spankin’ new to me. I’d never heard of it, I’d never seen it done. I even did an internet search for it after viewing all of the resources in this week’s module just to see if I could get any more information about it. I can’t say that I have any definitive conclusion about it, honestly. Definitely on the fence. I’m not even sure that this phenomenon deserves to really be called something special. It really sounds to me like exactly what we’re learning to do anyway, when you make it as simple as it’s stated on the infographic we saw: teachers move from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.” Isn’t that what we’re doing with 21st century learning/skills, anyway?

I guess the best way for me to hash it out is just to give a pros and cons list, you know?


  • It frees up class time for students to explore the content in a space where they can get help and instant feedback should they require it.
  • The academic results seem to be worth it — it looks statistically like students do better when the classrooms are flipped
  • It proves opportunity for inquiry learning, project-based learning, experiential learning…
  • It allows for differentiated learning
  • Bottom line, it’s moving in the right direction away from a teacher-centered classroom


  • It looks to me like the majority of classrooms using this model are middle and high school classrooms. I’m not sold that it can work with an elementary class, and in fact, when I tried to look it up, a lot of teachers said they tried it and it just didn’t work out. The biggest problem? The students had no idea how to manage their time and/or self pace, which seems to be a large component of this flipped classroom model.
  • I plan on teaching in the lower grades, and I really don’t see how my posting a video online is going to teach kindergarteners what they need to know. Younger children need instructional time, and it’s not just for learning the curriculum. They need to be able to look at an adult role model to learn all kinds of things – social cues, how we interact with people, etc.
  • Again, I’m just not sold that this isn’t part and parcel of a 21st century classroom model, anyway, and it’s just one adaptation of it.

Personally, I don’t think it would be worth trying in my classroom (unless I had 5th or 6th grade students, but even then, we’d have to spend a lot of time talking about time management and self-discipline). I’d say that 90% of what I’ve read about it defines classroom flipping as the teacher delivering the content in a 5-10 minute video seen outside of class and then allowing for practice in the classroom. I have a few problems with this, especially with the smaller kids. First, how are they supposed to get to that content? It would require that an adult is willing to turn on the computer, get to the internet, and supervise the child. In a perfect world? Sure. In the real world? Yeah, right. You’d be shocked at how many parents are completely hands-off when it comes to their child’s education. What about kids who don’t have a computer or internet access at home, or kids whose parents won’t allow them to do it at home? Sure, they can view it at school. But when? When you’re talking about a 6 or 7 year old kid, who’s going to be responsible for getting them to school early? Or picking them up if they stay late when they usually ride the bus home or to an after school care facility? Am I going to cut into their practice time by sending them to the library or computer lab to view the video? 10 minutes for the video, 5 minutes to get there and 5 minutes to get back? By then, the allotted time for that subject area might be close to done! I don’t know, I’m just not sold on it. Good in theory, and definitely doable with older kids who already have a solid grip on the basics and foundations of their education, but when I’m literally just introducing them to the basics? I think face-to-face instruction is way more important. If you know how to manage your own time, you can also provide ample time for classroom practice, experiential learning, and problem-based activities.

Here, watch this:

What do you think?

Again, I think that what this teacher is doing is more just incorporating 21st century tools and activities and not really flipping the classroom per se. I can definitely see the benefit of recording the lesson for lower-achieving students to keep coming back to. But not everyone learns that way. I don’t learn that way. I need somebody in front of my face; I need to be in a group. Let’s not forget about those kinds of learners. I also like the idea of having the content available for the parents. For the ones that DO care, it’s a big help — we definitely don’t teach our students now the way that I was taught, and I’m not even that old (hey! I turned 29 yesterday!). And I don’t really like her attitude of, “yeah, you know, I’ve put in a good 8 hours for each math unit.. but next year? No way! I’m good to go!” NO YOU’RE NOT! You should always be adjusting your lessons, reviewing and renewing them, tweaking them, updating content. You can’t just say it’s good enough and let it be, especially with technology. It changes and the content available for you to use to teach students changes and expands every, I don’t know, 8 seconds. You know what I’m saying?

See? On the fence. I think I’ll pull pieces of it, but I’m not thinking the model will fully work with young kids.

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creating a video. week five.


I guess I got ahead of myself in week 4, because I not only worked myself to the bone making that silly scratch video, but I signed up for all of the things that we were supposed to be doing this week. Hmm.

I’ve been using Twitter steadily for about a week now. I’ve got a LinkedIn page, but I don’t really understand it. All I know is that Jordan wants to be my colleague (yay!). To be honest, I’m not really sure what that’s all about and how it will help me as an educator.


I can’t believe I’m saying this… I really like Twitter. Every single day, I’m bombarded (overwhelmed?) by information from literally around the globe as it relates to education, and not surprisingly, educational technology. I think it’s a fantastic tool to stay abreast of what’s happening in education and the latest inventions and ideas. I’m still trying to get the hang of the Classroom 2.0 page. I’ve already gotten a couple of “friends” on there, and I can already see that you can throw out questions or problems you’re having and people are really eager to help you figure it out. It’s a nice way to have a sense of community outside of your immediate school environment, and a great way to get fresh ideas.

Now. The music video.

I am HAPPY to report that I did not spend 12 hours working on this. I actually really loved this. I had very little technical difficulty, and when I did, I figured out what I needed to do very quickly without needing any guides or tutorials or anything like that. The most tedious part for me was going through and putting all of the photographs into an APA formatted credits page. It was challenging (in a good way) to figure out how to whittle away everything I WANTED to say into something that would just get the students’ feet wet with the information. I took a minute to look at the Virginia SOLs and chose 3rd grade since it’s basically in the middle of my certification area (PK-6). I chose Civics since that’s near and dear to my heart.

Can I stop and tell you a story? I love telling stories.

(First off, this just reminded me that I turn 29 next week. Breathe. Breathe.) So. When I was very young, I figured out that I was born on George Washington’s birthday. And this was enough to catapult me into learning everything I could about him. Everything. As I got older, that extended into learning about everything he had a hand in, whether directly or no. It is no mistake that I graduated from college with a degree in history, specializing in early and colonial America. Through a way-too-random-to-just-be-lucky (fate? maybe?) process, we ended up coming to Virginia. But not just any place in Virginia, oh no. Just minutes from George Washington’s boyhood home. I study at, where now?, The University of Mary Washington. Just today we discovered the Washington family cemetery. So cool.

Anyway. So. When I saw that there was an SOL (3.11, thank you) relating to George Washington, I said, yes please!

And thus, my video was born:

Have a looksie.

The music I chose to use feels like it’s on the verge of something, you know? Like a Revolution. It makes me feel like I’m about to be part of something extraordinary. And of course, to my geeky self, this part of history is more than extraordinary. And the “Fireworks” theme I chose speaks directly to the forming of this country and the cannon fire of war and the Star-Spangled Banner and all of that. Nothing is by accident in this video.

Now, you can’t really see the credits pages very well thanks to the particular theme I chose for my video, so I’m including it below. You know, for reference.

I am going to use this all. of. the. time. I mean, I won’t kill it or anything, but, this was so easy to do and it’s really engaging. At least I think it is. I wish I had stuff like this to ease me into lessons when I was in school. All I had was a textbook whose binding was coming loose and was held together by old gum (that’s actually true).

credits for animoto video:

cliff1066. (Photographer). (2009). Thomas jefferson. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/3311609515/

JamesDeMers. (Photographer). (2012). Monticello. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/monticello-dome-museum-house-home-59152/

Michiel2005. (Photographer). (2008). Schatzkammer of the hofburg. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-3043399119

Morville, P. (Photographer). (n.d.). Declaration of independence. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/morville/84894984/lightbox/

PublicDomainPictures. (Photographer). (2012). Washington monument. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/washington-monument-tree-cherry-18052/

Seibert, F. (Photographer). (2008). American flag. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://fickr.com/photos/84568447@N00/2611749203

SheilaCameron. (Photographer). (2004). Jefferson memorial. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/fasterthanhotcakes/1443193618/

wallyg. (Photographer). (2009). George washington. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-2227423560/slideshow

wallyg. (Photographer). (2008). The signing of the constitution. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/2975282470/

WikiImages. (Photographer). (2012). Constitution, united states. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/constitution-united-states-usa-62943/

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literacy and creativity. week four.


You know, I’m gonna get to gettin’ (that’s a Texasism, y’all) here in a second, but first, I want to tell you a little story.

March 31, 2012.

My husband and I are at the Volvo dealership here in Fredericksburg looking for a new sedan. Truth be told, I already knew exactly what I wanted, I was just poking around to see if they had it there. I’m a pretty simple person, really. The saleswoman asked me what I was interested in, I said I’d like a red one with light brown leather and a moonroof, please and thank you. Oh, but did you know that we have this and that option and hey! these little blinkie lights tell you if somebody’s in your blind spot and did you know…

Red one. Light brown leather. Moonroof. Thanks.

And then my husband chimes in, and I have to entertain him since he’s the one with the cash, if you know what I’m saying. My husband? He’s a techie geek. I repel it.

So, I got my red one with light brown leather and a moonroof. But it also has bells and whistles I can’t even remember and certainly will never use. But when he drives the car, he geeks out about it completely. There is literally nothing else that they could have put into this car; it’s got everything. Why?! Why.

Enter this week’s big assignment — the programing on scratch. I feel the same way about it — WHY?! WHY. My husband saw what I was trying to do and got all warm and fuzzy inside and was already dreaming up ways in which he can use this nifty little program. I literally cursed at my computer. Repeatedly. I am a digital immigrant, to be sure. Nevermind that I’m 28. This is not second nature to me! Things like this are so far over my head. I wasn’t kidding in my intro video when I said that technology is my weakest area. I watched the videos for how to use it. I read the guides. I still didn’t get it. I tried to start very simple, and I just could not understand what to do. I struggled with the ideas I wanted to work with because I couldn’t figure out how to make them work. Then I decided to try to make a fish eat another fish. That’s a process, right? The food chain, and all that. As I tried and tried to work with it, I just started putting in whatever I thought would make a fish move across the screen. My husband stood behind me for nearly this entire process (which spanned HOURS), laughing at me and my ridiculous fish. At one point, the fish was swimming across the screen and somehow I wrote a code to make it flip over and sink to the bottom. We both laughed pretty hard at that. I said “That’s it! I’m done! The life cycle. Right there.” My husband just had to ruin it for me kindly reminded me that I needed two sprites and 10 lines of coding each. Oh yeah, great. Fine. Get out of my office and go feed the children. Thanks. 

I spent all night trying to figure out why my fish weren’t doing what I wanted them to do. Why my music wasn’t working. Why my starfish wouldn’t skeedaddle. By the time I finally managed to get something together, it was 12:30am. 12 hours I spent working on a 20 second clip!

I think I honestly have to say that this is not one of my favorite things. I try to embrace new stuff — I’ve been tweeting like a fool. I joined Classroom 2.0. I’ve got a LinkedIn page and I even set up a google reader account. And setting up my own custom search engine was really neat. But this? This was torturous for me! It was funny in the end, but I don’t think I could repeatedly spend several hours for something so small. I bet my students would like to use it, but somebody else would have to explain it to them! There are technology teachers in schools, right?! That’s how I see using this program going down — I probably won’t use it myself, but I could see encouraging my students to try and use it. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be modeling these things for them. But you can’t win them all, and this one I lost. Horribly. I’ll also never understand algebra. I accept these things as fact and move on!

I coded my shark to swim and bounce just like the fish, and I still can’t figure out why he swims backwards. When I checked it before uploading it, he was swimming along just fine. I’m honestly afraid to go back and try to fix it because I don’t want to ruin the whole thing! Check it out — the ocean food chain:

Scratch | Project | oceanfoodchain.

Clink on the link above to see my project.

Here’s a screenshot preview:

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 4.09.12 PM

The end lesson here is that even though I didn’t like using this tool, I still tried my hardest to make something fun. And even though it’s not perfect, it’s the best that I have. And I think that’s a good reminder for what we’ll get from our students sometimes — and we need to remember that sometimes, it’s going to turn out a little wonky. But they’ve no doubt learned things in the process even if their project or paper or assignment isn’t quite right. That’s okay by me.

I learned how to make a custom search engine, which is going to be very useful in an elementary classroom. I thought that was really neat. I’m just starting to explore what Classroom 2.0 has to offer, but it seems like a great place to get ideas from other educators. Maybe one of them is an expert at scratch.


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copyrights. week three.


So, this week’s task was probably made just for me. I’m pretty sure.

Grabbing the first Google image that fits what I need with no regard to who owns it or whether or not I can use it?


At least I say my source though, right? internet-25516_640

(Hi! I’m copyright friendly!)


This week’s practice was good for me, albeit frustrating. Old dogs and new tricks, and all that. Our assignment was to find a photo online that was safe for us to use, meaning it has no legal or ethical issues surrounding it, like copyright issues. I know that I’m going to ask my students to do this time and time again, and I honestly probably wouldn’t have thought very much about whether or not it had any copyright issues because it’s being used by a bunch of 2nd graders. I guess that makes me a big, fat fibber!

I’m a huge fan of using images I find online from various sources to analyze information or simply gain more information about a subject. The use of images in our instruction is crucial, especially when we’re teaching kids who are immersed in media. “Students must learn how to create meaning and communicate with visual tools. They can create digital media projects using video clips, video podcasting, and screencasting. Teachers can use images and visual presentations in the curriculum and encourage students to create presentations that develop skills of inquiry, creativity, and higher-order thinking” (Solomon & Schrum, 2010, p. 102).

So, basically… pictures are everywhere. In everything. All the time. I do need to model the best practices for my students, which means getting used to searching for images using the resources we’ve been given this week to ensure the images I do choose are free to use and share with no issues. I certainly don’t want to get into hot water for copyright infringement, and I certainly don’t want to put my students or my school in that position, either. There are still millions of photos to be found online that have licenses allowing you to share them freely. Some have stipulations, and some do not.

I chose to find a picture of a famous building in Washington, D.C (the Smithsonian Castle). I also chose not to use Google image search since that’s the one I’m used to using. Instead, I used the Flickr Creative Commons Search. I searched by filtering for “attribution,” meaning I can use the image as long as I give credit to the original owner.

I couldn’t get it off of the Flickr site and onto my blog directly, but I used the information that Dr. Coffman gave us this week on capturing screen shots to get it for you here:

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 10.23.02 AM

This photo belongs to Mike Nelson on Flickr.



Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2010). web 2.0 how-to for educators. (1st ed.). Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education.

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21st century skills vs. core knowledge. week two.


I’d like to start out this week by saying that this particular sided argument is interesting for me. I don’t view this as a one or the other, all or nothing kind of debate. My own personal approach to teaching is definitely a mix between 21st century skills and core knowledge.

I very much so value inquiry learning, as we learned about in chapter one of Using Inquiry in the Classroom. I definitely feel like this is crucial to the learning process and fits very well with my hybridization of 21st century skills and core knowledge approach to the classroom. I believe that there is a set of information that everyone should know, but beyond that I also believe that students won’t value their education and won’t be present in it if they’re not engaged and it doesn’t apply to them directly. “Inquiry ensures that students are not only memorizing required factual information, but are also applying the facts to the development of meaningful questions and their own understanding” (Coffman, 2013, p. 1). I found the Verbs and Inquiry chart on page 5 to be particularly useful for writing objectives in lesson plans. The verbs you choose really do matter. If you don’t know exactly what you want your students to do, how can they possibly know what’s expected of them? Perhaps I like inquiry learning so much because I actually come from a science background. I spent most of my time in high school and college on the pre-med track, and actually entered college as a human biology major, which I was for 3/4 of my time at Texas. Just a little tidbit, there. Coffman tells us that “the inquiry approach to learning originates in science education, where students create and test a hypothesis…” (Coffman, 2013, p. 1). You stick with what you know, right?

I teach the little ones. Like it or not, there are things they just have to memorize. Like their ABCs. And multiplication tables. The knowledge they will gain as they go throughout their schooling is based on this information readily available in their brains. That being said, there is no way that that’s all an elementary classroom should be. These kids are absolutely digitally entrenched, and it’s foolish not to use new and innovative technologies to engage them in the learning process once that factual information is in place. As much as I love a core knowledge classroom (and I really do, isn’t that weird?), we can’t let the one institution that brings children up to be gainfully employed, productive citizens be irrelevant. As educators, we simply are not doing these kids any justice by holding them in the past just because that’s the way it’s always been. You’ve had those teachers, haven’t you? The ones that teach The Iliad every year because that’s just what you do. I remember in my 9th grade English Honors class, we thought it was just the cat’s pajamas that we got to learn about archetypes by watching the Star Wars movies on grainy VHS tapes!

The rainbow you see on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website really does a pretty nice job of summing up how I feel about education. You see the core knowledge in there, but it’s infused with all of the other categories. “While the graphic represents each element distinctly for descriptive purposes, the Partnership views all the components as fully interconnected in the process of 21st century teaching and learning” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011). For example, it’s quite possible to teach your students how to dissect media while reading newspaper articles from the Civil War era. It’s equally possible to teach them this using photographic images from the same era (they’re media, are they not?). Not only are they learning the facts about the Civil War, they’re learning how people felt about it, the propaganda that surrounded it, and they’re internalizing that it’s important to possess these critical thinking and analytical skills in our own time, for our own media. How many extensions can come of out of that lesson that invite inquiry and experiential learning?! Our own media shapes the way we view the world around us, and as the Partnership points out, we need to teach kids that they are global citizens. How can you be a true global citizen if you only pay attention to Fox News or MSNBC? What about BBC? Al Jazeera? Le Monde? With iPads and COWS in schools, our students have access to all of these news outlets. The world is literally at their fingertips, and what a shame it would be for them to spend their technology time playing typing games or Oregon Trail.

It is as Marvin Gaye said: Mercy, mercy me. Things ain’t what they used to be.

So why keep education the same?


And without the proper tools prevalent in 21st century learning goals, would your students know that this song is actually social, cultural, and ecological commentary? Or would they just jam out to Marvin Gaye? Would they even have an opportunity to hear this song in a core knowledge classroom? Of course not! There’s no time for such ridiculous fluff.

I kind of love this video! Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner








Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom. (2 ed.). New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2011). Framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/overview/skills-framework

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the technology integration matrix. week one.


Here we are, starting a brand new semester with a brand new class. This time, I’m enrolled in an Instructional Technologies course. I’ll be blogging mostly about things that fall under this realm. Happy to have you along for the ride. Without further ado, here we go:

This week, we’ve been asked to look at the Technology Integration Matrix, which is a matrix invented by some folks at the University of South Florida. It was originally designed in 2005, and has been updated since. It’s goal is to “illustrate how teachers can use technology to enhance learning for K-12 students” (Florida Center for Instructional Technology). You can view the matrix here. I strongly suggest that you go ahead and take a look at it if you aren’t familiar with it, or the rest of this blog won’t make a lick of sense to you. The goal for this week’s blog is to find an example on the matrix that I think works very well, as well as one that seems sketchy. (For the record, my endorsement area is PreK – 6, so these are the grade levels that I’m going to be concerned with.) In addition, I will supply my own example of technology use the classroom and try to fit it into one of the matrix’s 25 cells.

compelling example: 

I chose a 5th grade science example off of the matrix. Its classifiers are Collaborative Learning, Adoption Level. In the example, the students are using a white board to learn the states of matter (you know, solid, liquid, and gas?). In addition to the super-cool white board, they all have interactive clickers that they can use to answer yes/no, true/false questions. They get immediate feedback! The teacher can immediately tell if her students are having a problem with a concept, and the entire class can participate in getting to the right place.

I really love this for a lot of reasons. First, you can tell that the students are really familiar with the technology and that they love using it. In the student interviews, they all seem really excited about it and they specifically address how cool it is that they can figure out if they’re wrong right then and there instead of waiting for the teacher to grade a paper or come around to their desks. This seems like a wonderful way to put technology into the classroom that allows students to interact and engage with each other and the teacher in a non-threatening way that really gets them thinking.

sketchy example:

I had to click around for a while before I found an example that seemed like a waste to me, but it was there! I chose a 3rd-5th grade level keyboarding assignment. Its classifiers are Active, Entry. In this example, a teacher has her students do keyboarding work every single morning in hopes that when they do actual assignments using the computer, they won’t take as long typing because they’ll be all speedy-gonzales about it thanks to the daily keyboarding tasks.

First of all, 3rd through 5th grade?! I can think of so many other things to have them do for daily morning work. Typing words that pop up on a 2D shark doesn’t really make it that high on my priority list. In my opinion, the students will get the practice they  need with on the job training, so to speak. Sure, they might start out a little slowly, but they’ll get the hang of it without wasting that precious morning time on something like beefing up their words per minute. I can’t imagine that typing quickly is a part of the curriculum, anyway. According to the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, the “active” level has students discovering, processing, and applying their learning; engagement is also a key part of this level. “Entry” has teachers delivering curriculum content to students, and this level typically is designed to build fluency with drill and practice routines (n.d.). I’d give it the second half of that, but again, the teacher’s stated goal of just wanting her students to be faster typists doesn’t really match up to delivering curriculum content to me.

my own example, defined:

I’ll use a lesson that I actually did while I was student teaching in college several years ago. I was in an 11th grade history class in a suburb of Austin, Texas. I was actually specifically supposed to do a technology lesson, and my mentor teacher told me that they had a smart board in the library I could use. She hadn’t had much training on it, and I had never heard of a smart board before. But, I gave it a try. I took the class to the library and we set up in the computer lab, which is where the smart board was located. The goal of my lesson was multi-faceted: I wanted to teach them about immigration, and also about primary sources. Oh, and also about using technology. I used the smart board to introduce them to Ellis Island (yay, virtual tours!) and we listened to some stories from immigrants read by actors. I also used the board to navigate to the Library of Congress website, where I showed them how to look for primary sources. Once I gave them a run down, I turned them loose in groups on their computers and their assignment was to go on an online scavenger hunt for information on a specific immigrant I’d picked out and assigned to their groups at random (I made sure that there were primary sources to be found beforehand). They got to come up to the smart board in their groups to show us the things they found on their computers relating to their assignment.

This was a little tricky for me to figure out, but I’m pretty sure that this fits into collaborative learning since we all worked together and then they worked in groups, but then I also feel like it might fit into the authentic learning environment because they were learning about the real world and real people in it instead of abstract dates and facts about immigrants. I think that my lesson’s second classifier would be adaptation because the students explored and worked independently using the computers/internet and smart board.  


Here’s a photo I found online — to me, it illustrates a use of technology that’s super cool and super pointless all at one time:

(image source: http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/technology-turns-the-classroom-upside-down/nR995/)

Learning to write on a tablet? Cool! Learning to write on a tablet with your pointer finger instead of a stylus to mimic pencil-holding? Pointless. This seems to me like it should fit in the active, entry cell of the matrix.




Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (n.d.). The technology integration matrix. Retrieved from http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/index.php


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group project reflection. week sixteen.


We’re done!

The culminating project for this course was to design a 21st century school from the ground up. Decide the learning environment, funding, professional development, curriculum, assessment.. you name it. For those on the outside looking in (hi, nameless individuals out there in cyberspace), I should tell you that our class was really small. There were six of us. So, we busted into two groups, and so we had just two different approaches to this project. My group chose to design an elementary school, the other group designed a high school.

There were a few overarching similarities in our presentations. Our groups took the opportunity to move away from teacher-centered, static learning environments. We came up with schools that used progressive ideas like experiential learning and authentic assessment. We all agreed that technology would play a major role in our schools. The world is based on technology, and it’s important for our students to be well-versed in how to use it and apply it to their lives, jobs, and communities. Our ideas on professional development flowed in the same vein as well, but there were some key differences. Our group stressed the importance of ongoing, continuing education for educators, to include seminars, inservice training, and graduate level coursework. The other group really focused on assessment of teachers and how to use that to make them better at their jobs. It’s tough to compare our ideas on curriculum because of the vast difference of our school demographics, but one thing that both of our groups said would be key to a student’s success is project-based learning, specifically within the community.

After watching the other group’s presentation and listening to the input of our professor, I realized that we didn’t think enough about funding our school. And you can’t do much if you don’t have the money, right?! Our supposition was that we wouldn’t need a lot of it because of our innovative ways of using renewable resources to cut down on costs that can normally cripple a school. I suppose that relying on a lot of free money maybe isn’t the best option, though, especially when the population served is pre-k through 5th grade. In order to have the kind of community support our budget was counting on, we’d first need to have the community involvement that would come with our curriculum. Cart before the horse is what happened there, I think. I had a lot of fun watching the other group’s presentation, and it definitely gave me some ideas.

Here’s our presentation:

We did it on a free iPad app, so, excuse the volume issues and the crazy scribbling from my group mate, Cassie. 🙂

What do you think? Are we crazy? Overall, our goal is community-oriented. We wanted to involve and invest the community in our school, while using it to teach our students about the world in which they’ll be living and participating before they know it. We really took our renewable resources and sustainability seriously; we feel that it’s a key component of twenty-first century living. Our schooling has to mean something and be relevant to our students, or it’s not worth a dime. “Unquestionably, the goals of education must be relevant to the times. If the schools cannot adapt to changing conditions and social forces, how can they expect to produce people who do?” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011).



Ornstein, A., Levine, D., & Gutek, G. (2011). Foundations of education. (11 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning


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curriculum and instruction. week thirteen.


This week, we’ve been asked to consider curriculum and instruction and where it’s headed as we step firmly into the twenty-first century. As a general rule, I believe that the first step to a successful curriculum and instruction plan is to keep it local. Let the teachers and schools decide what their students need; let them tailor it to their communities. But how does it work? Let’s take a look.

what do students learn in schools?

Unfortunately, I have to say that most students in school today are learning to take multiple choice tests and pass them. They’re learning testing strategies and copious amounts of boring and irrelevant information that they never apply outside the scope of their high stakes exams. Knowing things is great, but creating things out of that knowledge is even better. I found this video (and the music might put you to sleep – sorry about that) and I think it’s got some good information and ideas in it. Nevermind what students ARE learning, what should they learn? How should they learn? How should our curriculum and instruction methods change to meet their needs?


current trends in curriculum development

As we push toward all of these 21st century goals, I would say that the theme of curriculum reform is moving away from teaching “the 3 Rs” – reading, writing, arithmetic to Robert Sternberg’s “other 3 R’s” — reasoning, resilience, and responsibility. These days, most educators aim to have their curriculum blend critical thinking skills and creativity with core subject content. There is a large push for overall community literacy, which is leading to more problem-based learning and real-world applications. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, instruction should be research-based, student-centered, and include modern technology (2007). And of course, technology should be integrated across the board.

how teachers plan and deliver instruction

Planning instruction can be overwhelming unless you have a plan. I surfed around online, and I found a website that gives a pretty good one. I found it on About.com. I’ve adapted it here for my blog to fit how I would personally organize my planning, so if you’re curious about all of the steps, you should check out the website listed in the references.

  1. Look over state and local standards, as well as textbooks. Create a plan of study.
  2. Create a lesson plan calendar.
  3. Plan units.
  4. Plan lessons within units.
  5. Create or get whatever you need. Now. Before you forget. Because you will forget. Handouts, paperclips, food dye, whatever it is. Get it and have it.

These steps are courtesy of Melissa Kelly, again, adapted by me.

I also found a great website that talks about delivering instruction — edutopia.org. Earlier this year, they had a 5-part series and part 3 dealt with delivery of instruction. They used a guest blogger – a 4th grade teacher with 36 years experience, Paula Naugle. I feel like maybe we should listen to what she has to say. These are her suggestions:

  • Decide on delivery method (teacher-led, group, etc).
  • Hook your students.
  • Give clear directions.
  • Question, but allow time for them to think. *Randomly select students to answer questions* (I personally don’t always feel like this a great option — it really depends on your classroom climate. It’s okay, Paula, agree to disagree).
  • Pacing! Pace yourself! Don’t talk too fast, and don’t you dare talk too slow.
  • Use formative assessments for evaluation and reflection.

models of direct instruction

Direct Instruction is explicitly teaching your students content and strategies. It was developed by Englemann in the 60s and is widely used and sworn by across the country as a very effective teaching model. The key to direct instruction is scaffolding. There are 5 phases of direct instruction:

  1. Orientation
    This is where the teacher activates a student’s prior knowledge and connects it to the new concept or strategy being taught. The purpose of the lesson is usually very explicitly (yes, explicitly, this word is very important) given to students.
  2. Presentation
    In this phase, the teacher basically models for the students what she wants them to do. A specific, (anyone?) explicit strategy is used in the lesson’s objective.
  3. Structured Practice
    Structured support is given to students — training wheels, if you like. Students are given tools to never crash into the bushes, like graphic organizers or something. This is where the teacher starts to relinquish a little bit and let the students take over learning.
  4. Guided Practice
    This phase involves structured response techniques and moves students toward more independence. You can think of this as the work students do in class with you, the teacher’s, help and guidance.
  5. Independent Practice
    Well, I mean… yeah. So, this is where students work independently with the concept or strategy that’s been introduced to them to make sure they get it. They should be able to apply it to new situations.

This is my one citation for that entire blurb: (Moore). You can find him down below, hanging out in the references. Smart guy.

In Texas, this is how they teach you to teach. All — and I mean every. last. one. — of my lesson plans were written in this style. There’s even somebody who made it up! It’s the Madeline Hunter format. I have it memorized. Wanna see?

  • Objective.
  • Anticipatory Set.
  • Objectives/Standards Addressed.
  • Input/Modeling.
  • Checking for Understanding.
  • Guided Practice.
  • Independent Practice.

You can check out this website if you think I’m fibbing.

models of indirect instruction

Indirect instruction is basically the exact opposite of direct instruction. It uses concepts and abstract ideas taught within the context of strategies that stress concept learning, inquiry, and problem solving. You can almost think of it as assimilation and accommodation in response to a stimulus.

Some examples:

  • Generalization – the student would respond in a similar way to a variety of different stimuli
  • Discrimination – the student would “selectively restrict” information in response to stimuli

More importantly, here are some instructional strategies for indirect instruction courtesy of Pearson (the textbook people):

  • advance organizers – conceptual previews
  • conceptual movement — induction and deduction
  • examples and non examples — basically sorting out relevant information
  • using questions that guide discovery
  • using student ideas
  • self-reflection
  • group discussions

how teachers facilitate thinking and problem-solving skills

According to Robert Keller and Thomas Concannon of UNC-Chapel Hill, there are some things teachers can do to facilitate problem solving. Their argument is that students aren’t good at it because of emotional and psychological factors, so it’s up to the teacher to help them out. “To develop better problem-solvers, instructors must help students overcome both emotional and cognitive barriers to learning effective problem-solving skills” (1998). They bust it up into two main strategies: pedagogical (or teacher-centered) and methodological (student-centered). From a pedagogical standpoint, teachers should create a comfortable learning environment where students don’t feel threatened or afraid to make mistakes. Class discussions should be used and teachers should take care to address several different learning strategies. The methodological strategies are slightly more complex:

  1. algorithmic procedure
    These are limited to low-level tasks and are very specific to a domain. It’s a step-by-step instruction manual for students to solve problems. Think of “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” for math class. That’s an algorithmic problem-solving procedure that teachers use.
  2. heuristic methods
    These are general schemes used to derive solutions to problems. Keller & Concannon use the example of IDEAL (which I’ve actually never heard of, and for the record, I think I’m an okay problem solver. Soo… there.)
  • Identify the problem
  • Define and represent the problem
  • Explore possible solution strategies
  • Act on the strategies
  • Look back and evaluate

They also talk about some Generalization and Group/Independent Practice  methods, too. It sounds remarkably like the direct instruction I talked about above. Anyway, I liked what they had to say.

brainstorming: authentic assessment tools for my general education PK-5 classroom

So, how will I assess whether or not my students are learning anything? Authentic assessment is a great way. (Pssst — that means  asking students to do real-world things that show they can apply what they’ve learned). Here are a few ideas:

  • Create propaganda (perhaps for a World War unit).
  • Studying the contents of a garbage can at school to learn how to reduce waste (science! yay!) and give a presentation to their fellow students on waste reduction.
  • A sorting task for young children that gets them to sort various objects by multiple criteria, making up rules for their categories and then explaining them. Then they could graph and analyze their data.



Madeline hunter’s itip model. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hope.edu/academic/education/wessman/2block/unit4/hunter2.htm

Dabbs, L. (2012, 01 31). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/new-teacher-delivery-instruction-lisa-dabbs

Keller, R., & Concannon, T. (1998). Teaching problem solving skills. For Your Consideration: Suggestions and Reflections on Teaching and Learning20, Retrieved from http://cfe.unc.edu/pdfs/FYC20.pdf

Kelly, M. (n.d.). Planning instruction. Retrieved from http://712educators.about.com/od/techingstrategies/a/planning_task.htm

Moore, D. (n.d.). Direct instruction: targeted strategies for student success. Retrieved from http://www.ngsp.net/Portals/0/Downloads/HBNETDownloads/SEB21_0414A.pdf

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2007). 21st century curriculum and instruction. Retrieved from http://www.vtsbdc.org/assets/files/21st_century_skills_curriculum_and_instruction.pdf

Pearson. (2010). Chapter overview: teaching strategies for indirect instruction. Retrieved from http:wps.prenhall.com/chet_borich_effective_6/48/12538/3209831.cw/-/3209833/index.html



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the changing purposes of american education. week twelve.


A blog that I recently read used this example to illustrate education in the 21st century.

This is a (probably overused) example of a student’s answer on a math exam. While the answer is technically correct, it’s not relevant. And within the context of what’s being asked of them, it’s just plain wrong. The author of the blog, Sam Gliksman, goes on to say that the education we’re giving our students right now is irrelevant. It doesn’t prepare them for the context they’re being raised in and around. He argues that life outside of school is vastly different than what happens on the inside, and “the more that life in, and outside of school, starts diverging, the less relevant institutional education becomes for our students (Gliksman, 2011). He gives some really interesting statistics on the use of technology in the world today — for example, 85% of children aged 7 to 16 have a cell phone, but only 72% of children in that same age group have a book at home. Most of our students have instant access to up-to-the-minute information, and we’re teaching them with 5 or even 10 year old textbooks. That doesn’t entirely seem logical or relevant to me, a lot like circling “X” on a math exam asking you to give a mathematical analysis. Mr. Gliksman also points out a valid criticism of the way in which schools are using technology. A lot of schools now have white boards (or smart boards) in their libraries or classrooms. However, teachers are still approaching their classrooms and lessons the same way despite this awesome technology. They’re standing in the front of the room, magic pen in hand, and lecturing to their classes. Who cares if you have technology if you’re still standing up there, blabbing at your students and not engaging them, right? RIGHT!

The world we live in today demands that we change the way we think about teaching our students. The transition from school to the real world should be seamless. We need to incorporate social media, web 2.0, and the technologies that our students have access to on a daily basis into our curriculum. Beyond that, we need to change the way that teaching happens inside the classroom. No more talking at our students, imparting static information. Students have to take charge of their education and build their own knowledge. Make their own experiments. Solve real-world problems. We can’t expect them to be an engaged and active citizenry if we don’t teach them how to do it. “Unquestionably, the goals of education must be relevant to the times. If the schools cannot adapt to the changing conditions and social forces, how can they expect to produce people who do? (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011, p.429). Part and parcel of reforming the way we educate is involving the community and parents in education. The saying that it takes a village has truth in it. It only works – really works – if everyone takes action together. “Many people throughout society refuse to admit their own responsibility for helping children develop and learn…Without significant cooperation from parents and community members, schools are likely to struggle, and reform efforts are  likely to be frustrated. (Ornstein, et al., 2011, p. 429).


This video is quick, but what I love about it is how the students interviewed are excited about going to this teacher’s class because of the way that he approaches education. And they’re only referring to one tool in his class — YouTube. Notice how he also says he’s able to move around his classroom more. He’s not just standing up there, watching them watch YouTube. I love it!



YES! Look at what happens when students take charge of their learning!



Gliksman, S. (2011, 02 04). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://ipadeducators.ning.com/profiles/blogs/are-schools-struggling-to

Ornstein, A., Levine, D., & Gutek, G. (2011). Foundations of education. (11 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning


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EEO. week eleven.


As we inch closer to being thrust into our own classrooms, there is much for us to consider and prepare for. Far beyond what color paper we’ll use on our bulletin boards or what the class theme will be, there are pressing issues that we, as educators, need to have a plan for. Because of budget cuts, schools are moving away from separate classes for gifted students. That means they’re in a general ed classroom. Because we want students to be in the least restrictive environment, students with disabilities are being mainstreamed into general education classrooms. Add everyone together, and what do you get? The reality for a teacher in the 21st century – an inclusion room with as many types of learners as there are students in your class.

We will be faced with a conglomeration of learning styles and abilities and it will be up to us to decide how best to approach our students’ needs. That’s why we’re here, right? So, let’s get crackin’.


curriculum and instruction for gifted students

According to Joyce VanTassel-Baska, founder of the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary, there have historically been 3 effective models for gifted and talented curriculum and instruction: the content mastery model, the process/product research model, and the epistemological model.

In the content model, “gifted students are encouraged to move as rapidly through the content area and possible and thus content acceleration in some mode tends to dominate the application of this model in practice” (VanTassel-Baska, 1986). This particular method isn’t widely used because it requires individualization for each student and a very competent teacher implementing the curriculum. The students are pre-tested and then given materials to master the content. Teachers don’t tend to like using this model because it uses the same curriculum, but accelerates the rate at which students learn.

The process/product model “places heavy emphasis on learning investigatory skills, both scientific and social, that allow students to develop a high quality product” (VanTassel-Baska, 1986). The key to this particular model is a very collaborative set-up, with the teacher and the student being more like a team. It uses a lot of independent work, specifically with the scientific method, in exploring topics. The end goal of the process/product model is to engage students in finding problems and then solving them with adult experts in the area. Summer enrichment activities are common, where students participate with adult practitioners in coming up with a research topic and then seeing that experimental process through. “The process/product model for curriculum and instruction of the gifted differs from the content mastery model in that content is viewed as less important and rarely acts as the organizer for this type of curriculum” (VanTassel-Baska, 1986).

The epistemological model “…reflects a concern for exposing students to key ideas, themes, and principles within and across domains of knowledge so that schemata are internalized for amplification by new examples in the future” (VanTassel-Baska, 1986). It seems that this is by far the most effective model for curriculum and instruction for gifted students. Because they tend to be very good at seeing and understanding interrelationships, the conceptual nature of this model sits well with them. It’s a very enrichment-heavy model and typically exposes students to many things that don’t exist is normal curriculum. It involves a strong aesthetic appreciation, which we heard about in our in-class video this last week. Unlike the previous two models, this one seems to be used across the board in both elementary and secondary schools. I like this one the best, though VanTassel-Baska suggests that the three models need to be synthesized for “clear and meaningful curriculum work” (1986).


students with disabilities

The Educational Policy Reform Research Institute at the University of Maryland came out with a report in 2003 on how to prepare educators to teach students with disabilities in an age of accountability and and standards-based reform. I have to say, the list I came up with as I was preparing this blog was not nearly as long as their list is! To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about it. There is so much that I don’t know about disabilities. I rely heavily, actually, on my best friend for information in this arena. She’s been teaching special ed since we graduated from college (and has a degree in Applied Learning and Development, aka Special Education) and always provides me with so much insight. I feel like this is one of the things that’s key in preparing to teach students with disabilities. Latch on to somebody who really knows what they’re doing and exhaust their knowledge base. Rule number one. Number two on my list is becoming well versed in the laws dealing with this subject. Number three for me is to make sure your classroom environment will support learning for all students, especially those with disabilities.

The Educational Policy Reform Research Institute’s report can be found here, and the list of things teachers should know/do to prepare for students with disabilities can be found on page 19. In-depth explanations follow. PS – it’s a doozie, like 75 pages. Sorry about that.


professional collaboration and the inclusive classroom

In the report Collaboration: A Must for Teachers in Inclusive Educational Settings, author Hwa Lee says, “Through collaboration, ideas can be shared, new and better strategies can be developed, problems can be solved, students’ progress can be better monitored, and their outcomes are evaluated effectively. True collaboration will enhance an effective inclusive education and will be beneficial for all the individuals involved in the child’s education, including parents.”

I actually can’t think of a better way to say that, so, there you have it. I completely agree. Don’t worry – Dr. Lee is legit — (s)he is a professor of education at Seton Hall. (Dr. Lee, if you’re out there, it drives me a little nuts that you don’t date your articles or reports. Just FYI.)


resources for effective, inclusive teaching 

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. God bless the British. They’ve got a really great website for parents, teachers, anyone really, working with inclusion classrooms. It actually links to a variety of resources, all of them FREE!

More? Okay.

  • http://aasep.org/professional-resources/profession-specific-resources/inclusion-teachers/index.html
  • http://www.teachervision.fen.com/special-education/resource/5346.html
  • http://nichcy.org/schoolage/placement/inclusion
  • http://www.people.vcu.edu/~bhammel/special/intro/inclusion.htm
  • This article is actually really great for ideas on managing an inclusive classroom. It directly addresses that Sweet Jesus, you want me to do what? kind of attitude that a lot of teachers have about inclusive classrooms and turns fear into F.E.A.R. (You’ll like it. I promise.)





This video deals with inclusion of kids with disabilities.



This one deals with gifted students in a general ed classroom! I think there are videos that follow it, this is just the intro to get you started.



Lee, H. (n.d.). Collaboration: A must for teachers in inclusive educational settings. Retrieved from http://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/infoBriefs_local/shure/collaboration.pdf

Thompson, S., Lazarus, S., & Thurlow, M. (2003). Preparing educators to teach students with disabilities in an era of standards-based reform and accountability . Educational Policy Reform research Institute, Retrieved from http://www.cehd.umn.edu/NCEO/onlinepubs/eprri/EPRRITR5.pdf

VanTassel-Baska, J. (1986). Effective curriculum and instruction models for talented students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 30(4), 164-169. Retrieved from http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/7158_tassel_ch_1.pdf


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