Um. Ed Tech in the classroom ain’t new.

Rolled into work this morning.  End of semester one, teachers are getting it all wrapped up and gearing up for semester two.  So I took a glance at tweetdeck and found out that Ed Tech in the classroom ain’t new (great article from Education Rickshaw). Not at all. Allow me to share and elaborate.

Here’s Skinner’s teaching machine from the 1920s. “The instructional potential of the teaching machine stemmed from several factors: it provided automatic, immediate and regular reinforcement without the use of aversive control; the material presented was coherent, yet varied and novel; the pace of learning could be adjusted to suit the individual. As a result, students were interested, attentive, and learned efficiently by producing the desired behavior, “learning by doing”.


So why didn’t it take off?  Why isn’t this very attractive box sitting in every classroom?  My guess is because it wasn’t about the machine.  Even almost 100 years ago.  It’s still about the teacher.  Was then.  Is now.  Will be tomorrow.

Here’s a graph.

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If you know about John Hattie’s work, this graph will make sense.  Basically anything north of the .40 hinge point is significant.  Collective Teacher Efficacy, for example is usually number one or two in impact.  Recently scored a whopping 1.57 in effect size.  That big time significant.  But what about technology?  In and of itself?  Not huge.  Dr. Sonny Magana reports that the 50 year average impact of technology is .34.  He says, “Perhaps the main reason for this disappointing impact is that the inclusion of technologies has done little to change the “tell and practice” approach to teaching and learning — the predominant pedagogical practice of our time. In this model, teachers tell students what knowledge is and what knowledge is worth knowing; students meanwhile invest their vast capacity for creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration by memorizing and practicing what they were told. The overarching goal of this model is simply for students to accurately repeat the information they were told.”  He continues, “If the tell and practice model of schooling does not change, then we should expect the same meager impact of new and emerging technologies on instructional quality and student achievement for the next 50 years or more. That is clearly not a desired destination.”

However…throw in a teacher and a framework for learning, and the effect size jumps to 1.6. Dr. Magana sets forward the T3 framework as a way to look at technology and learning. Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 8.02.16 AM.png

Teachers + Technology + Framework = 1.6

Ed Tech in the classroom ain’t new.  It wasn’t about the device then.  It ain’t now.  It’s what a great teacher does with it.


Leaders That Model Learning.

Earlier in the year, I came across 5 research based leadership practices that impact student learning. The book is called Intentional Interruption: Breaking Down Learning Barriers to Transform Professional Practice by Steven Katz and Lisa Ain Dack.  I sent the 5 practices out to all of our building leaders asking them to take a guess at which practice might have the most impact.  This highest impact practice has an effect size of .84.  Twice the impact of the next two practices combined.  I’ve highlighted the practice that has the most impact.  Leaders modeling and joining in on learning.  Boom!

“Robinson, Höhepa, and Lloyd (2009) conducted a comprehensive research review on the impacts of leadership on student achievement, with the goal of identifying a set of evidence-based leadership practices that ratchet up the quality of classroom and school practice and that ultimately lead to student achievement.”

They identified the most impactful leadership dimensions and quantified them by effect size. Five leadership dimensions emerged as especially powerful and significant:

  1. Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development (effect size = 0.84): Leadership that not only promotes but directly participates with teachers in formal and informal professional learning.

  2. Establishing goals and expectations (effect size = 0.42): Includes the setting, communicating, and monitoring of learning goals, standards, and expectations and the involvement of staff and others in the process so that there is clarity and consensus about goals.

  3. Planning, coordinating, and evaluating teaching and the curriculum (effect size = 0.42): Direct involvement in teaching through regular classroom visits and the provision of feedback to teachers. Direct oversight of curriculum through schoolwide coordination across classes and grades and alignment to school goals.

  4. Strategic resourcing (effect size = 0.31): Involves aligning resource selection and allocation to priority teaching goals.

  5. Ensuring an orderly and supportive environment (effect size = 0.27): Protecting time for teaching and learning by reducing external pressures and interruptions and establishing an orderly and supportive environment both inside and outside classrooms.

Great Student Interview Questions!

Reading a pretty interesting article called “The Top Behavioral Interview Questions’.  It’s focused on adults getting jobs and some questions that 1300 hiring managers have shared as their top interview questions.  They are great questions.  As I was reading them, I was was struck that, with a little tweaking, they could be very interesting questions for students to consider.

The questions focus on adaptability, culture fit, and collaboration.  Three of the most important ‘soft skills’ in hiring.

Here they are.  It would be fun to ask kids these questions!


  1.  Talk about a time you were asked to do something you had never done before.
  2.  Describe a time in which you embraced a new idea, process, or technology, at school that was a real change from how you had done things before.

Culture fit

  1. What are the three things that are most important to you as a student?
  2. Talk about a time in the last week when you’ve been satisfied, energized, and productive at school.  What were you doing?


  1.  How do you work with a person who is difficult to work with?
  2.  Talk about one of your favorite experiences working with a group and your contribution to the group.

In addition to these being great questions for kids to consider, thinking about and answering these questions is a work life skill!

Create A Professional Learning Network!

How do I create or join a PLN?

(adapted from Bold Moves for Schools: How We Create Remarkable Learning Environments by Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Marie Hubley Alcock

As our educators consider making use of twitter, here is a great, step by step, way to create a Professional Learning Network.  One of the best things about a PLN is the learning is completely focused on exactly what the learner chooses to learn!  And with a growing PLN, new ideas about areas of learning will arise!

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 8.47.49 AM

Here are five steps to building a professional learning network (PLN).  A learning network is a tool for the professional learner. It is a way to find new ideas and answers to questions quickly.  The steps below use an experienced teacher named Jasmine.  She had heard about a PLN and wondered how to create or join one.

    • Step 1: Search for resources. The first thing Jasmine did was to conduct an Internet search. She found a collection of websites with samples of digital tools and feedback on using those tools in classrooms.  She created a folder in her browser called “Curriculum21” and began marking useful sites and saving them there so she could easily check them when she needed new ideas. Jasmine also reached out using TeacherTube and YouTube, looking for how-to videos for teachers, such as those on Common Craft, an online network that provided videos explaining how to use certain tools and apply them in a classroom (
    • Step 2: Search for partners. The second thing Jasmine did was to create a Twitter account dedicated to her professional learning.  She selected Silvia Tolisano, and searching on Twitter she found that Silvia’s Twitter username was “@langwitches” (see Figure 2.8). Jasmine “followed” @langwitches and immediately went to see whom Silvia was following. Jasmine was now looking at part of Silvia’s learning network, and because she trusted Silvia, she felt confident about many of the resources there. She chose to follow ASCD, AERA, ISTE, Curriculum21, Marzano, McTighe, Kallick, Zmuda, and Fisher for starters. When she returned to her Twitter homepage, she started to see tweets from Silvia sharing links and tools she was learning about at a conference in Florida.  I would suggest @gcouros is a great place to start!
    • Step 3: Search the discussion. The third thing Jasmine did was to find a Twitter hashtag for a topic she thought was important. She searched the hashtag #education and decided to see what kind of discussion was going on there. By searching this hashtag, Jasmine was now participating in a global conversation about education.  At first, she was just listening, but when ready, she could share her questions, ideas, or images with her fellow educators around the world—without leaving her classroom.  Other great hashtags include #futuredriven #IMMOOC #TeacherLife  #EdLeadership
    • Step 4: Participate—reflect and publish.  This act of publication is a critical part of being in a learning network. All systems have give and take. What affects us is, in turn, affected by us. Learners teach, teachers learn; it is the elegance of the cycle that makes it so exciting and rewarding. No matter how small the learning, we must strive to share it, publish it, network it.
    • Step 5: Evaluate and synthesize responses. The fifth thing Jasmine did to build her learning network was to review the feedback, comments, and questions people posted about her pictures. Some people retweeted the work; some suggested how to rotate it, making it easier to view.

10 Things We Wish We Had Known When We Started Teaching….

Our Teaching-Learning-Innovation department is full of great teachers.  Former teachers. Are you ever actually a ‘former’ teacher?  We still teach.  Everyday.  And we sure continue to learn.  We have 7 former teachers, with a total of 112 years of experience. We also work with wonderful building leaders, all of whom have done a ton of teaching.

We have been sharing ideas about things we wish we had known when we started teaching.  We’ve broken them down into a list of 10.

Here they are:

  1. Not so much a technique as a deeply held belief.  I think you’ve heard me say this before but, “Always remember you are teaching someone else’s kids.”  In my mind this has elevated everything I do with students.  Somewhere there is a parent who has entrusted us with their child.  Are we treating them and teaching them the way we would want our own kid treated?  Ultimately this is a question of value, not pedagogy.   When we rightly value our students, the stage is set for meaningful academic growth. –Brian Neufeld, Assistant Principal
  2. My biggest thing is, what I could have learned by watching my colleagues across curricular areas, but most importantly across all grade levels.  It would have been great to observe elementary teachers as a high school shop teacher… Great teaching is great teaching at any level! –Mark Beddes, Principal
  3. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.  Smile and enjoy the moment. Also, join ASCD. It’s a wealth of information and resources on everything teaching related. –Ron Ness, Principal
  4. As a new teacher I wished I had fully realized the importance and potential power of relationship building with your students. My order of priorities at the beginning of my teaching career was content mastery first, relationships second. It’s so painfully obvious to me now that those needed to be completely reversed! –Keith Hannah, Instructional Technology Facilitator
  5. Never underestimate the power of the lessons learned by folks who have gone before you.  Experienced teachers, even if they have a different style or way of doing things, have often learned valuable lessons in their career.  Many of them know the power of relationships, and even better, have an idea of how to build this rapport.  Many know how to design lessons, manage a classroom, communicate with families, or foster student talk.  They also know how to balance life and career.  Each has an area of expertise or two that can inform your practice.
    Keep an eye out for this, and more importantly, consider listening first.  Learn from respected colleagues and realize that teaching is a craft that continues to evolve each year for each of us. –Mark Robinson, Principal
  6. Who you are is part of your strength as a teacher. Don’t underestimate what you bring to the table. We all have our own way of making the learning experience fun and amazing through how we ourselves learn and this IS powerful for our students to see. Shine your light in your unique way and watch magic in the classroom happen! –Teresa Sinay, ELA Instructional Facilitator
  7. “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.” Every teacher is on their own journey and will take different twists and turns along the way. With that said, find your North Stars! Your path may be unique but there are those to whom you can look up to. Follow them; learn from them; listen to them. –Elaine Smith, TLI Assistant Director
  8. Be yourself.  The best teachers are themselves inside and outside the classroom.  Kids can spot a phony a mile away. –Jeff Nelson, TLI Executive Director
  9. Play.  –Jeff Nelson, TLI Executive Director
  10. Relationships.  Most important thing 50 years ago.  And will be the most important thing 50 years from now.  –George Couros, Inspirational Guy

Nelson SLMS(Here I am, back in the 80s.  Check out the swell yellow belt.  The turned up collar.  The 80s glasses.  Yikes.  This is in my first classroom, at Surprise Lake Middle School.  Yes, that’s a chalkboard.  Yes, that’s my gradebook in my hands.  The message on the chalkboard indicates that it might be the last day of school.)