Category Archives: Innovative Learning Designs

Possible: Kids Get It

My last post Possible: A Frame of Mind touched on how we as educators need to shift our mind sets to context in order to inspire change in the system. We must understand our “why” and encourage others to find theirs before we ask teachers to change their practice.

Last week, I had an awesome conversation with my students. I asked them what they liked about our class and what they would like to change about school. Here are some of their responses…


Photo Credit: Nanagyei via Compfight cc

I think teachers should be closer with their students. It makes it so much easier to learn when you are connected with your teacher.

I really like how we have a lot of freedom and choice in our class. I’ve never really had this much freedom in school before.

I really like how we learn in different ways like in Math we use manipulatives and whiteboards and iPads. Math is more fun and easy to understand with manipulatives and it’s so much easier to show my thinking on an iPad than on paper.

Sometimes I think teachers forget what it’s like to be a kid. School is so much more fun when your teacher gets to know you and understand you.

I think more teachers should think about the physical space in their classrooms. How a room is set up makes a big difference in how I feel at school and having different spaces to learn is really helpful.

Honestly, I wish I had recorded the conversation because my kids were SO insightful! Their ideas were extremely well articulated and more powerful than I expected. Everyone was engaged in the discussion and wanted to contribute. We talked about making a video this year to share our experiences and what changes we would like to see in education moving forward. It was a very exciting day for me as an educator and a very powerful group activity. They have since asked if we can have awesome conversations every Thursday.


Photo Credit: Leonard John Matthews via Compfight cc

We can’t be afraid to have these conversations with our kids. There is so much we can learn from them.

Kids get it. As long as their voices are valued, they will always see what’s possible.

Reflecting On Innovative Learning Designs

This year, my school has participated in our district’s Innovative Learning Designs inquiry project. We were awarded a grant at the end of last year which we used to equip our school with new technology such as iPads, document cameras, and Apple TV.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to share our learning with one of our other team members Krista Stoklossa (@KStoklossa) as well as many other schools from across the district. What an inspiration! Educators in our district are doing so many amazing things: blogging, creating eBooks and ePortfolios, holding digital playgrounds as pro-d and developing digital citizenship programs. It is always so much fun to hear about what’s happening in other schools!

Below is a simple Haiku Deck we shared to summarize our school’s experience this past year.

However, the experience also allowed me to reflect on my own learning journey this past year. Here are a few key things I have learned…

1. Sharing

This has come up over and over again. From our Digital Learner Series to ILD to ConnectEd, everyone is talking about how sharing is no longer an option. How else do we learn and improve? How else do we create change? Whether you are on Twitter, blogging, offering pro-d or simply walking across the hallway to share with another classroom, you are headed in the right direction. We all want what’s best for kids but to achieve that, we need to share what is working. Thanks @shareski for giving me the kick in the butt I needed earlier this year to begin sharing. Now I can’t help myself!


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2. Growth Mindset

Not everyone is at the same place with their learning. For many different reasons, some people make more time for learning than others or have different priorities, and that’s ok. We need to meet people where they are and help them move from their point A to their point B (thanks for the quote @gcouros!) One year ago, I think I would have shared some apps with my staff and called it a day. I did not yet feel proud of what I was doing in my own classroom. When I was, on occasion, proud, I thought that everyone should be doing the same great things or using the same amazing tools. Now I know that we can all work toward a common goal from different places and at different speeds, as long as we’re all moving forward.

3. Collaboration

This is one area that both Krista and I felt we would like to improve for next year. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been on Twitter for a year, because I seriously could not imagine teaching without it anymore. I’ve taken a ride on the Twitter roller coaster this year ranging from lost to overwhelmed, from disconnected to obsessive compulsive. It’s been such a powerful tool in my learning. However, I think in all of my personal learning endeavors this year, I actually isolated myself from some pretty amazing staff within my own school. I know there are a lot who would say that this is a terrible thing, but I do think there is something to be said for learning and reflecting individually before we are ready to put ourselves out there. I am naturally an introvert and need a lot of time for reflection. I know that I have come a long way this year because of this critical reflection and now I will be better equipped to share openly on a regular basis without judgment in the future. I’m now excited about the thought of collaborating with my staff rather than afraid or self-conscious.

4. Inspiration

This is something that everyone needs in life, period.

Dee Reiter (@deereiter) has been a huge influence on my growth as an educator this past year. She came to us as principal last January and I have not stopped learning ever since! She has made me feel valued, respected, and supported. She has inspired me to truly be the best that I can be.

Elisa Carlson (@EMSCarlson) is someone who I have only met on a few occasions but who has inspired me not to give up on my dream of creating change. She aims to transform education, and I believe she is doing just that by supporting and empowering educators in our district and around the world.


Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

We all need people close by to whom we can look up and who will support our “crazy” ideas. Without them, nothing seems quite as possible… We would say “yeah but” instead of “yeah and…” There a million people through whom I have found great inspiration this year and I could never thank any of them enough. The only way I see fit to share my gratitude is by seeking others who need inspiration and paying it forward. After my learning journey this past year, I feel that I am ready to start doing that.

I know the power of this past year – the inspiration, the opportunities, the confidence I’ve gained – will remain a part of me for years to come. I am forever changed as a learner, and I’m sure that without even realizing it, the Innovative Learning Designs project has a lot to do with that awesomeness.

How have you grown as a learner recently?

I Am a Failure

I am a failure.

I have failed my students time and time again this year because of lack of planning, because I get in over my head, and because I want to be great at too many things. I fail them when I am sick and impatient, when I can’t find any more ways to help them understand, when I don’t provide constructive feedback, and when I forget to follow up on how they are feeling.

I have failed so many times as a teacher. We all have.

What we don’t do very often is admit it.

I recently shared this video with my students about failure…

I was hoping the video would inspire my students to take risks. However, if I’m honest, I think I loved it much more than they did. We all make so many mistakes and yet we spend so much time talking about success. You know what I mean… Who hasn’t ever felt inadequate in a room full of amazing people?

There are many reasons that we fail as educators: stress, lack of sleep, lack of time, lack of planning, and the simple fact that our job is very emotionally draining. It is natural for us to take on others’ problems and want to “fix” them. In doing so, we make others’ failures our own as well. We are embarrassed of the failures that begin piling up over time… but it is our failures that make us human.

We teach our students to make mistakes, but it’s so easy to forget that we have the right to make mistakes ourselves. It’s so easy to forget to take care of ourselves. It’s so easy to focus on those who are more experienced, more amazing than us. But we have to stop treating failure as a bad word. We have to stop brushing it under the rug. There is absolutely nothing wrong with failure. We all have bad days, bad weeks, bad experiences, bad ideas… The important thing is that we admit it, reflect upon it, and then use it to help us move on to greater things. Failure is not a means to success; admitting failure is.

We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.
– John Dewey

I think I’ve been unable to blog recently because I was afraid of failing here too. It’s so easy to fall into that trap. It’s so easy to think we’re not good enough and to wallow in our own shortcomings. But today, I choose not to wallow. I choose to reflect upon my failures and to develop new ideas because of them. I choose to accept myself for who I am, which includes my mistakes and my failures.

I really do love this quote from Thomas Edison:


cc flickr photo shared by Regina Hackenburg

However, I also think that Tara and Niha from the video have a point. Sometimes, we jump too quickly to label our failure as success. We look for the silver lining before we’ve had time to grieve the failure. I think we need to accept failure for what it is rather than immediately labeling it as success. There doesn’t always have to be a bright side… At least not right away. It’s when we reflect upon the not-so-bright side that we can create change.

3 Things I Learned at ILD EdCamp

This post was started nearly two weeks ago… Life got in the way, but my new motto seems to be “better late than never!”


cc Flickr photo by Mark Brannan

On February 8th, I had the opportunity to attend my school district’s Innovative Learning Designs EdCamp. Although I had never attended an EdCamp myself, I was familiar with the concept of participant driven learning and the expectation that participants would share with each other. I wouldn’t say that I learned a lot of concrete things in my two sessions (i.e. the proverbial “something I can use tomorrow morning”) but I definitely came away with lots of reminders and lots to think about.

1. Sharing is Key!

I have been reflecting so much on this concept for the past several months thanks to Dean Shareski and #ETMOOC. It is so important that we be willing, as educators, to share our ideas, our efforts, and our experiences. If we don’t share with each other, how will we ever learn to be better? There was a lot of awkward silence at my first session, and that’s ok, and partly to be expected for a bunch of EdCamp newbies… but I think we need to be willing to just jump in and share! Tam Manery from Bear Creek (@TManery) did just that, and her sharing helped me to clarify in my mind what personalized learning could look like in Math. A topic and subject area that, quite frankly, I used to love but haven’t been loving so much this year, was rejuvenated! That’s the power of sharing. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Risk Taking Is Essential for Learning

It’s ok (and I would even say necessary) to take risks and to experience a sense of failure. I think that too often, we want to wait until we have “mastered” a concept before we try it out in our classrooms. However, I really do think there is something to be said for diving in head first! I have learned so much more by simply trying something than I ever could by planning and thinking about it. If things go miserably wrong, I have learned a valuable lesson about what does not work. If we expect our students to take risks in learning, we have to model this ourselves. We  worry that students may not be “ready” for things like passion and inquiry based learning. My question is: How will we ever truly know unless we give them the opportunity? Mistakes are inevitable, but they are incredibly valuable learning opportunities.


cc Flickr photo by pcgn7

3. Technology is Not Innovation

It is not about the technology, it is about transforming the way we approach teaching and learning. Technology should be second nature, invisible, embedded into everything that we do… NOT because it is cool and fun (which it is) but because it provides students with amazing opportunities to create and to share their learning. We must always remember this!

The day was a great reminder of what “Innovative Learning Designs” really means.

What have you shared or tried lately that was innovative?