Monday, April 28, 2014

Responsive Teaching : Implementation Challenge Showcase

CISD was challenged to Unlock their Digital Genius, and so many of our educators and administrators took on the challenge!  The feedback from the Blogposts, Twitterchats, Webinars, and Implementation Challenges has been overwhelmingly positive, and it is with great excitement we share our final Implementation Challenge on this week's blogpost.

The final Implementation Challenge offered CISD educators and administrators different ways to focus on Responsive Teaching.
This week we highlight the hard work and reflections several educators submitted.

Option 1:  
Take some time to survey your learners about their favorite project from this past year.  Be sure to give them a list of the projects you are interested in getting feedback about. After reviewing the data, take the least favorite project and think about how you may redesign it for next year.

Heather Chambers, Denton Creek
Mrs. Chambers surveyed her learners on different projects they had worked on throughout this year.  She asked about their favorite and least favorite projects.  It was clear one project stood out as a favorite, but the reasons it was a favorite varied:  

Option 2:
Design a new experience and decide what element of instruction you want to differentiate. Do you want to differentiate the Content (what they are learning), Process (how they are learning), or Product (share what they learned)? Pick one, and try something new.

Tim Wu, Austin
Mr. Wu chose to examine the PROCESS of how his learners experienced the concept of Density:
I taught a lesson about density with Nearpod. The learners were able to follow along on their I Touches as I presented the information. The presentation had pictures and captions. There were also times where learners could draw to reflect their learning and take a quiz.  I was able to teach an abstract concept in a concrete way. Instead of sitting at the computer pulling up images and pictures, I was able to create the slides beforehand. It is also better than having learners sit on the floor and watch a PowerPoint because learners were more engaged by having their own device. They were also able to leverage our flexible learning spaces within our room.  I like how Nearpod allows me to build in quick formative assessments into any part of the slide and not making me wait until the end of the slides. After using Nearpod for some other activities, I can play with the balance of when to have the presentation as whole group and when to allow learners to have an individual device to learn at their own pace.  

Alicia Deranger, CMSE
Ms. Deranger elected to examine differentiation in the PRODUCT of her activity:
Learners chose a catastrophic event and used an app of their choice to create a presentation over how their catastrophic event impacted an ecosystem. They also filled in a research guide using google docs before they started creating their presentation. We had all learners turn in their presentations using google forms and created a website where our learners went to grade other presentations and learn about the different catastrophic events.  This product made grading the project more efficient. It also allowed me to learn more about a variety of different apps. It also allowed me to see how my learners compared with other GT learners.  The learners learned from each other. It also allowed them the freedom to learn more about natural disasters they were interested in. They also learned a new way to present their knowledge, and they also got feedback from a variety of different learners.  
Natural Disaster Ports Google Form (This is where they turned in their presentations)

Zach Sherman, CHS
Mr. Sherman took on Option 2 as a Challenge to design something different for next year. His focus was on differentiating CONTENT:
This will be an independent research project and paper. It will span an entire semester, and it will be based on a totally open-ended research question. I have done this before but never for such an extended period of time. As such, the same content is not needed, though the same level of content. By that I mean each question should be academically researchable and something that can sustain extended research in an academic setting. The end product will be a 10 – 15 page paper and, possibly, a product to represent some aspect of the research. In this case, the question is entirely differentiated (something I need to do for GT kids).
Overall, my goal here is to challenge GT students with a sustained academic product, without wanting to quit my job as I lug huge paper stacks home. I think differentiating that process is absolutely vital and, I’ve found, as long as students have an initial interest they want to explore, I think that will be possible. As I reflect, the stations/ports seems, at this point, as a great way to manage work days along the way.
Maricela Garza, Denton Creek
Mrs. Garza reflected on PRODUCT through her learning experience:
We had a Writing Camp on campus with all 4th graders. Each learner was to write a letter, in Spanish, for learners in an Elementary School in Monterrey, Mexico. All learners not in the DLI program, experienced key concepts and worked with the learners of our DLI Program to finish their products. The letters were mailed and we had a Skype experience where learners in Mexico showed the letters they received and they had a conversation with their peer from another country. It help them to look at the choices of communication we had before and how we can relate to one another through technology now. This experience helped my learners expand their vocabulary, their view of school life in a different country, and learn how to connect with people in other parts of the world. Also, the benefit of working in teams to collaborate and create a unique product based in another language was beneficial for the learners outside the DLI program, as well as the learners in the program, who had the chance to be language mentors for their peers.  We have plans to expand this activity to include other Spanish speaking countries in the future.

Kimberly Moore, CHS
Ms. Moore focused on ways to respond to learners through the PROCESS of their learning experience:
Last year, I designed Learning Stations for a unit on Victor Hugo's Les Miserables for my 3rd year French learners. This year, I decided to let the learners design the stations, based on criteria they created.
They determined that they would need background information in the following areas in order to effectively study the novel: Setting, Conflict, Characters, Author, and Versions of the Story.  By having the learners help generate the criteria for the stations, and do the creation of the stations, it allowed me to see which tools they preferred to use, as well as they ways they preferred to see as a presentation.  It helped the learner to take responsibility for their own learning, and participate in the creative process. They will have long-term comprehension of the information because they created the outcome for themselves.  Moving forward, I will definitely have the learners design the stations, as opposed to designing them myself. Next time, I will help them fine tune the formative assessments they created to help them better gauge their peers' comprehension of the project.

Option 3:
Explore a design consideration (listed below) you have not addressed in the past (or very little) to focus on and make an effort to address it in an upcoming activity/experience.
  • Learner Outcomes
  • Future Ready Outcomes
  • Data
  • Gender
  • Culture
  • Interests and Passion
After the learning experience, gather learner feedback.  

Jennifer Furnish, CHS
Ms. Furnish challenged herself to examine multiple design considerations through her activity:

My juniors always want their work to look "professional." They want assignments that result in products that could be seen in the business world. I had every learner create a Google Site and then discussed with them how to build their websites. In the end, they chose to embed S'More directly onto the Google Site tabs because they believe that S'More looks "professional." When I asked what they meant by "professional," they pointed out that there were specific categories, consistent formatting, organized layout, etc... S'More also gave them the option to embed videos, images, text, quotes, etc…
My learners really love this! They take pride in their sites and LOVE being able to go back and view all the work they have completed.
Looking ahead, I would give learners options on what web-based medium to use. It took so long to get everyone's Google Site up and there was some confusion over compatability that everyone just agreed to use S'More. If I had introduced other options earlier in the year, learners would have felt more comfortable.
Here are some examples from my freshman:



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Digital Learning Environment

The Digital Learning Environment is a topic that has been examined quite a bit in CISD over the past few years.  During the first module of the Digital Genius Challenge, it was explored in depth with great response from educators all over our district.  Responding to our learners' needs through the transformation of their learning environments has been embraced all across our district! 

Learning is so much more than what happens in between those four walls of your classroom.  We believe that learning environments should be varied and collaborative. They should allow for learner’s voice and choice. They should be global as well as local, digital as well as physical.”
Educators have the responsibility to provide a variety of spaces from which learners are able to collaborate, construct knowledge and meaning, and contribute to others. Through the design of the physical "classroom", educators either contribute to or take away from learners' abilities to reach their fullest potential.”
With instant access to so much information online, organizing your digital learning environment can be quite a challenge!  As we explore creating digital learning environments for our learners, we need to keep organization in mind as well. There are tons of online productivity tools to help keep you, your learners, and digital information organized.”

In a time where we are struggling to meet all of our learners’ needs, we need to find ways to work smarter. Teachers need to step away from thinking that they have to create or find everything for the classroom. Education is no longer a one way path; embracing education as a learner/educator model and realizing that our students are wanting ‘buy-in’ to the process and have much to bring to the table is a paradigm shift that is happening and should happen in schools.”

Given the thoughts above, what reflections on your own learning environment (digital, virtual, physical) have you had this year? What types of considerations are you planning to make next year with new learners?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Using Data to Respond to Learner Needs

This week we will be revisiting Data through the lens of responsive teaching.  Two of our CISD educators, Kim Wootton, Malachi Ewbank and Kat Julian share how they are using data to drive instruction:

As our year winds down, much has been shared about formative and summative assessment driving instruction and the design of learning experiences. After reflecting on your year, what has been an “ah-ha” moment in regard to leveraging data to drive your instructional designs?  
Is there a new scaffolding activity you have implemented based on learner data this year?  
What role has technology played in either gathering your data, or in implementing change based on data?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Passion Driven Classrooms

This week we are focusing on passion-driven classrooms and instruction.  Watch the video below as CISD's own Kayla Brown shares her thoughts on passion-based instruction.

Kayla Brown - Associate Principal @ CHS
Angela Maiers is also a vocal advocate for this individualized approach to designing learning experiences.  Maiers often talks about "Genius Hour."  Several CISD campuses have implemented Genius Hour.  CHS STEM Academy educator, Travis Washmon, has celebrated Genius Hour this year in his classroom:
"Annie R., Amela P., Anna K., and Erin D. started a business that makes cell phone cases.  However, after deliberation and discussion, the group decided that they would rather start a Non-Profit Organization that fights cancer.  Their organization is called “Cases for Cancer.”  These girls have researched, designed, marketed, and created cell phone cases for sale.  Each Fall, the girls will take orders for custom cases and design new stock cases.  In the Spring, the girls will sell the cases and collect money for the Cases for Cancer Relay for Life Team.  They will then set up a table at RFL to sell of the remaining inventory for donation.  You can also donate directly to their RFL team on their website.  Here is their website:
If you would like to place an order for a custom case or would like to buy a stock case, please email Erin ( Anna ( 

Angela Maiers Blog (3 great posts to take a look at):
Three Ways to Create a Digital Classroom Library
Passion Driven or Project Driven: There is a Difference
The 5 C's of Passion Driven Leadership
Download her free book: Passion Matters!

Below is a link to an interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, another great advocate for passion-based learning and the role of technology and instruction.
Click here to read the interview with Nussbaum-Beach.
What are the benefits of weaving learner passions into the learning experience? What role does technology play in supporting your goals for incorporating individual learner interests in the learning process?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Growth Mindset and Learner Motivation

 “Students may know how to study, but won’t want to if they believe their efforts are futile. If you target that belief, you can see more benefit than you have any reason to hope for.” (Dweck, 2007).

This week we will be focused on leveraging what we know about brain-based instructional strategies to respond to learners’ needs.  

Watch the video and look at the image below. Reflecting on how your own mindset, and the mindset of your learners can affect instruction in your classroom.

The video discussed very quick ways to capitalize on growth mindset when providing feedback to learners. The examples are all verbal. When providing feedback that supports growth mindset, what are your thoughts on virtual vs. face-to-face? What is an example of a question or statement you use that supports growth mindset?

The image breaks down the differences in the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Think about your mindset when it comes to using technology in your experiences. What type of mindset do you think is needed when it comes to your technology proficiency and the proficiency of your learners? What types of risks are you willing to take in your classroom?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Cultural Perspective

Our team read an article a couple weeks ago on culture in education.  We found the perspective very interesting and wanted to share the article with you.  It's very long and takes a while to read so we thought we would pull out a few quotes to share some ideas.

When you think of culture, what are you picturing?

"Cultural preferences are strongly embedded because humans are highly social creatures with strong needs to fit within our groups. There are many layers of culture, from work and family cultures to community and regional cultures up to national and even international cultures based on shared heritage and language. Culture is learned but is also constrained by human nature."

Our Own Cultural Perspective

"Cultural sensitivity is not just one-way, however. Instructional providers should be acutely aware of their own culture because their world views cannot be separated from the training that they develop (Thomas, Mitchell, & Joseph, 2002). They should become cognizant of how their own cultural perspectives are represented in the design decisions they make. Furthermore, instructional providers should examine the assumptions they hold about how learners will and should respond, keeping an open mind for potentially unexpected responses. Moreover, they must balance the need to help students adapt to specific professional, academic, and mainstream cultures (which instructors, by proxy, represent) and the need to embrace the culture in which the student is embedded (Henderson, 1996). This is no small challenge."

We thought it was interesting to think about how our own culture effects how we teach or what we value as important.  As educators using differentiation in our lessons we think about our kid's needs and perspectives. What about our cultural perspectives?

The Culture of Technology Use

Another point that was brought up in the article is the culture of technology use. When it comes to technology use, we grew up in a vastly different era than the learners of today. Does this play a part in a cultural divide between learners and educators? What does that mean in the classroom? Does this change the way you design your experiences?

Here is the full article:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Responsive Teaching = Successful Learning

We are excited to continue our Professional Learning Challenge as we move into the fourth and final module of  “Unlock Your Digital Genius”.  

Over the past year we have been diving into different avenues for designing learning experiences. We began with the digital learning environment, then examined assessing for learning, and finally explored scaffolding activities.  We will combine all of the skills we acquired in the past modules to respond to our learner's needs.

The goal of teaching is successful learning. Responsive teaching means that an educator establishes a positive relationship with each learner in order to understand the background experiences, learning preferences, interests, culture and supports needed to ensure successful learning. Just as all learners are not the same, a one-size-fits-all approach does not meet the needs of all learners.

Responsive educators:
  • employ multiple learning strategies 
  • incorporate content literacy strategies
  • design engaging lessons
  • facilitate inquiry
  • differentiate according to interest, culture, and readiness
  • make the content relevant
  • maintain high expectations for all learners
  • design learning experiences to intentionally embrace diversity
  • create personalized learning pathways for all learners
  • establish a safe learning environment​

During the last module, we will look at different ways digital tools can be leveraged to respond to learners’ individual needs.



So what can you to do to participate? 

Check out the activities below.  

Each one is optional.  
Participate, share, lurk--however you choose to partake know that you won't regret it!  

Responsive Teaching EdCamp Session- (flex credit available for this session)
March 25th, 2014 @ 3:30-5:30
Sign up here

Twitter Chat
#cisdchat: April 9 @7pm 

Webinar - (flex credit available for this session)
April 16th, 2014  @ 7pm
Sign up here

The Implementation Challenge - (flex credit available for participation)
due by April 18th, 2014 @ 4pm
Click for Details
Sign up here


What's one thing you learned this year that you can use to respond to your learners??

Monday, March 3, 2014

Scaffolding Reflection

Throughout the past 7 weeks we have been looking at scaffolding and how to best meet your learners needs. We have learned that good scaffolding begins with your design considerations, whether it be learning outcomes, future ready outcomes, learning styles, ability and readiness, culture (background and needs), what resources you have available, voice and choice or brain based. With these design considerations in mind we shifted the learning to choosing the best scaffolding experiences for learners. Each week we spotlighted a different scaffolding experience, from menus, ports, stations, workshops and digital learning environments.  

Several CISD educators have participated in the implementation challenge for Module 3. Check out some of their reflections on using scaffolding activities in their classroom.

Are you wanting to see some examples of scaffolding activities? We have added new examples from those who took part in our implementation challenge. Visit our website full of examples.

In the comments section, use the sentence stem below to reflect on your understanding of scaffolding.

  • I used to think….  now I know…

We are coming to a close in learning all about scaffolding, but module 4 is about to roll out and there are some GREAT things planned.  Next week module 4 begins and it is all about responsive teaching.  Stay tuned for our weekly blogposts, twitter chats, webinar, implementation challenge and face-to-face sessions.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Digital Learning Environments

“The more the [learner] becomes the [educator] and the more the [educator] becomes the [learner], then the more successful are the outcomes.” - John Hattie

What are digital learning environments?

Three types of digital learning environments are Blended Learning, Flipped Classroom, and Virtual Learning.  These can be used to offer voice and choice to learners through technology.  Learners access the learning activities they need virtually using a variety of technology tools.

Let’s look at how some of our fantastic CISD educators are using digital learning environments. Our first guest blogger is Lisa Timmerman, GTi educator at Lakeside Elementary.

The main method I use to scaffold the learning within my curriculum is by flipping the workshops based on skill, interest, or classroom structure on Edmodo. Because I’m a mainly a pull-out teacher, and only sees the kids once or twice a week, it’s vital that I use the majority of our face-to-face time for other learning experiences. I use Google Chrome App Store frequently, because I also like to give options for each platform/skill. For example, our curriculum needed a scale model of our classroom.  So, I posted several options for how to create one on Edmodo the week before we were going to measure the room: Floorplanner App- Chrome, and Room Sketcher-website.  I also gave the option of using graph paper for students without a strong technology base. I mean some kids just like craft-type stuff, and aren’t always given the opportunity to create stuff that communicates their learning, other than tech-based products. The students that explored the options discussed the one they preferred on Edmodo, and came to their own consensus before our class time. Learners who participated in the flipped lesson had a head-start on the “Architect workshop” when they came to class.

I also scaffold using Snapguide and YouTube videos. Many of my GT learners would prefer to have a visual guide for how to make things, or watch a video they can pause at will rather than sit in a whole class lesson in the computer lab on “How to Create a Google Form”. It’s been my experience that scaffolding skills like these are most successful in a flipped format.  

The attached pictures are screenshots from my Edmodo postings about their #Learning Environment PBL flipped workshops by skill/interest.
The Learning Environment workshops were: architect, accountant, media specialist, and project manager.

The Perot/E-Luminate PBL workshops screenshots from my Edmodo postings about (one of) their whole class workshops on locating deep and complex (but useful) resources for the research part of this PBL. The Perot/E-Luminate PBL workshops were: locating deep/complex/useful resources, parts of a book, using pictures to support vs. distract, and proofreading.

Let’s look at how Jennifer Greever from NTH@C is using a digital learning environment with her learners.  

For freshman enrolled in Virtual Business, we use a Digital Learning Environment for scaffolding in many ways. Learners learn programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and Photoshop. Along with live classroom workshops, I create skill tutorials using QuickTime Media Player and upload them to YouTube. This allows learners who need to move at a slower pace, were absent, or just need more practice, to watch them on their own time.

I have found that by offering the live tutorials and the videos via YouTube, learners with all types of learning styles are benefited. Some need to see actual examples, while others can just listen and work while my voice is in the background. Learners who need the one on one tutoring or slower pace benefit greatly by watching the tutorials before the live in class workshop.

I have also found a way to utilize the YouTube tutorials for learners at different levels. I allow learners who already have skills in programs to create their own tutorials that cover skills we are not addressing specifically in classroom workshops. This allows them to teach their peers and for their peers to learn even more. I also open this opportunity up to learners who may have just learned the program, but spend their own time diving deeper.

Having done this for the past two years, I can say that it has allowed me much more time to spend on other areas of project planning. I can easily share the tutorials with learners who were absent or need more help instead of having to plan times for tutoring before or after school. This also helps our learners to be more flexible since so many are involved in extracurricular activities and have a hard time fitting everything in their schedule.

Are you wanting to see some examples of scaffolding activities? Visit our website full of examples.

Reflect on the example above. How could you implement a digital learning environment  in classroom? Is there one thing that really stands out from this example that you could implement in your classroom? If you’re already taking advantage of a digital learning environment, tell us about your experiences!