Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Why in Evaluation

Description of Program
Raz Kids is a Web 2.0 tool with apps available for all mobile devices. This individualized reading program is designed to provide an affordable, engaging site/app, where students are motivated to practice and improve their reading skills, and teachers can accurately monitor student progress with detailed reports. Teachers can individualize and personalize reading levels and taylor lessons for each student.  

Benefits of an Evaluation
The benefits of an evaluation of RAZ kids is the chance to show that this program is meeting its stated objectives and to show any weaknesses of the program observed during the gathering of data.

Limitations of an Evaluation
The potential limitations of evaluating this program would be the shortness of the program being in place. The outcome of the evaluation might have be more impactful and insightful if we would have a longer time from start to finish to gather our data during this evaluation. Another limitation might be in the training of the teachers involved in implementing the program. They will receive training of the program by a qualified individual, but through formative assessment, we may find more training might need to be offered during the course of the evaluation. The infrastructures for wifi in our building has been upgraded this summer to be able to compensate for all devices, however, at this time wifi is still unavailable in the kindergarten rooms. This may impact the evaluation process for the kindergarten students using Raz Kids.  

Use of the Results of Evaluation
The evaluation results of Raz Kids possibly may show us that this program does exactly as it states and teachers find that students reading skills are improving. This would be an added benefit for students if they enjoyed the program and were motivated to read fiction as well as non-fictional stories. We may also find an added benefit that students may be motivated to learn more about a topic after reading a Raz Kid book online.

The video below was created for the following Evaluation Scenario:

Rich Kids, Poor Kids
The Maricopa Community College District (MCCD) partnered with Cashflow Technologies, Inc., to design and deliver a course in financial literacy. The course is based on the products - books, games, and videos - created and sold by the company. Components in the course include training sessions for future course instructors and seminars at which attendees play the Cashflow game. MCCD commissioned an evaluation of the program to verify its value to students and the community. In addition, Cashflow Technologies is exploring the possibility of marketing the educational program to educational institutions throughout the nation so an educational evaluation of the program should lend it credibility. Cashflow Technologies has been producing the materials for three years. The course was offered for the first time during the fall 2011 semester. No training sessions or seminars have been performed. 

The program will be evaluated by students in Educational Technology at Boise State University. The evaluators have access to sales information for the products, student performance data from the course, and contact information for the students and instructors. The budget for the evaluation is $6,000.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Project Based Learnng Project What I Learned.....

As much as we know as seasoned educators, it is always exciting learning something new.  As my experience has been with inquiry, 21st Century skills and web 2.0, now I can put all of these together using Project Based Learning.  Please feel free to look at my developed site about Financial Literacy at  There are resources galore and I would love to share with someone passionate about financial literacy and teaching it to our primary students in a meaningful way.  Please look at my previous blogs as I have grown each week within this process.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Power of The Peers....

Reviewing of a planned project or an implemented project after it has been completed is often a time educators create that “sigh of relief”.  The feeling of relief that it is over.  However, this is a crucial time to analyze and adjust your project for the… time you implement a project like this one.   Maybe you are in that one-room schoolhouse, but probably not. It’s 2014 and you probably are required to work with other educators on these projects.  Maybe it’s the librarian at your school, the tech teacher or other teachers on your team or grade level that helped you implement this project.  Regardless of who, it’s imperative that you take planning time to analyze what went well, what didn’t go well, how the student’s formative and summative assessments turned out and how the authentic audience and students evaluated themselves and the process of the project and the adjustments to make later.  This analyze and adjust phase is our learning process as educators to implement the best strategies to meet the needs of our students. 

In our class this week, we had a peer review our project, look at a rubric and give educators feedback on the understandings of the project.  This peer reviewed feedback helps us with the analyze and adjust part of our project.  This peer feedback is an instructional strategy designed to increase interaction among the students and add value to our learning process.  Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to give a peer or co-worker meaningful feedback that helps them reflect on the process and think about their own work.  Sometimes that peer or co-worker refuses to accept negative feedback as accurate.  The greatest potential benefit of peer feedback might not be receiving it, but providing it.  When you provide feedback on someone’s project or ideas, you begin to think critically of your own work and look to improve your own project as you analyze the peer’s project in a new way.

Using peer review with other educators is as important as my students using this instrutional strategy. There is a need to understand the structure of peer reviewing someone’s work or project using a rubric so that they can begin to evaluate their work differently.  My 2nd graders peer review others work a lot.  I learned last year that they are much better at finding other student’s mistakes, then finding their own.  Peer reviewing is structured so that there is accountability on both sides. Remember that peer reviewing might be more beneficial in the providing of it part because that is where we can see our students make the connection to their own work and apply their thinking. 

    Ertmer, P. A., Richardson, J. C., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., Lei, K., ... Mong, C. (January 01, 2007). Using Peer Feedback to Enhance the Quality of Student Online Postings: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 2, 78-99.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Learning is Unique for Everyone!

Teachers have the responsibility of ensuring progress in academic standards, while still protecting and addressing the individual needs of students with disabilities. There were 87,233 students serviced with learning disabilities in the 2010-11 school year in the state of Colorado from ages 3 - 21.  This number continues to increase yearly and clearly indicates that learning is unique for all students.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) seeks to improve instruction for all the needs of diverse learners by building flexibility into the curriculum.  This improved instruction includes a blend of technology capabilities that need to be readily available in schools.  Learning about the principles behind UDL and applying them can change perceptions among educators.  All students can benefit from teachers using this UDL model.  UDL training has impacted how educators viewed accommodations and their impact on all learners.  Specifically for general educators, UDL training influenced how they viewed the impact accommodations can have on all students. (Wyndham, 2011)
The technology tools available today provide a range of opportunities for teachers to meet the needs of diverse students within inclusive environments. Using the UDL framework provides students with more accessibility and opportunity for academic success. This broad framework focuses on building choice and flexibility within instructional practices that are used for all students.  Capitalizing on available current technology tools can help meet these goals.  UDL looks different in each classroom where it is implemented based on the strengths and needs of individual students. UDL is based in neuroscience and brain research and utilizes technology advances to improve instruction, but it is not a technology-only approach. Teachers without the latest technological tools in their classrooms can still embrace and apply a UDL approach.
The three key components of universal design for learning are: multiple representations of information, alternative means of expression, and varied options for engagement.
An example of using multiple representation of information would be captions on video or text for audio material as well as the use of video and animation to convey concepts. This is demonstrated in my video about getting ideas for student’s personal narratives.  I used the closed caption tool from YouTube’s editor to complete this process.  Examples of alternative means of expression include options to record oral speech, to draw, or to present ideas through a dramatic presentation. This is demonstrated in my presentation lesson of students telling of their story, retelling story and finally recording their story.  Students can be motivated if content, level of challenge, and the supported activities involve choice or can be changed. Effective feedback using formative and summative assessments can also provide multiple ways for students to see success, stay engaged and challenge their learning. Part of the lesson I developed adds the formative assessment of reflection by peers and by self to improve their story even before they begin to write.  
Universal design can enhance performance for all students in the classroom.  However, it can become a bridge for students with mild disabilities to participate on a more level playing field than peers who are more successful with printed text.  For students with severe disabilities, universally designed lessons can mean the difference between participation in the classroom setting and a pull out scenario.
    Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age:  Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Wyndham, Scott M. (2010). School faculty perceptions of the use of technology to accommodate diverse learners: a universal design for learning framework pg. 197-212
      U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, selected years, 1992 through 2006, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, retrieved May 12, 2013, from National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal

The Proof Is In The Pudding, The Planning and The Learning

Potential criticisms that may occur in implementing a Project Based Learning project might be that many may wonder whether project-based approaches can fit into an already packed curriculum and can successfully address national, state, and district standards.  Others may not understand and question how learning is somewhat dependent upon specific students, classroom and community in which the learning takes place and may wonder why your classroom activity looks unorganized and extremely active.
Addressing criticisms of PBL with excitement and enthusiasm is helpful, but giving critics data driven information should be the route to address criticism.   This data is also the rationale of why PBL involves effective instructional strategies that I will be implementing in my classroom next year.  
When addressing standards, the curriculum is just a tool for content and activities designed to meet standards. A well planned and carefully designed PBL project can meet the determined grade-level standards.  Teachers using PBL design and approaches correctly will make these projects meaningful and personal to the students.  There are connections created between project-based approaches and the world outside the walls of the classroom.  There are connections between the projects and other school lessons that integrate many other standards.  Classroom PBL design includes model listening and full group attention.  Effective approaches in collaboration requires the classroom teacher to model, support and carefully coordinate student’s collaborative groups.  These teachers incorporate the use of effective feedback and assessment for students and provide students will multiple opportunities to revise and reflect on their learning and work.  This produces significant learning gains.  Findings indicate that PBL, was superior in long-term retention, skill development and satisfaction of students and teachers.  The element of choice provides the engagement and the feedback promotes the learning.

   Duke, N. K., Brugar, K. A., Halvorsen, A.-L., Block, M. K., Strachan, S. L., Berka, M. B., & Brown, J. M. (October 22, 2012). Narrowing the achievement gap in second-grade social studies and content area literacy: The promise of a project-based approach. Theory and Research in Social Education, 40, 3, 198-229.
   Katz, L., & Chard, S. C. (Eds.). (2000). Engaging children's minds: The project approach. Stamford, CT: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It Too! Teaching Scarcity to Students

Continuing down my Project Based Learning path, proved more difficult this week.  As an educator, ideas come easy to me, but specifics don’t always flow as quickly.  In PBL, however, not planning out specifics could mean an unsuccessful unit for your students.  But also as an educator, that has been trained in the teaching-learning cycle, I know the key is to go back to the standards of what kids need to know and plan accordingly.  So that is what I did.

When revisiting the Colorado Department of Education social studies standards, I found fabulous resources that helped me tremendously.  Colorado Personal Financial Literacy Expectations put things very simply for me.  I continued from there making sure the standard was being addressed.  Changing my title of my project to: You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too! gave me the emphasis on scarcity that I needed.  Scarcity could actually be a theme for the entire year in a classroom because you can cover many standards you need to teach in science and social studies and still be incorporating the term scarcity.  Whether it’s scarcity of water, food, technology, or goods and services, it can all apply to our teachings.

The next resource that helped me was the Colorado Council for Economic Education.  This resource has many tools available for educators for all ages.  They are solid lessons and some are even interactive.  

This week, I will share my Tools and Resource page for my financial literacy PBL project as well as my Project Timeline created with lucidchart.  I'm enjoying the lucidchart chrome extension the more I use it.

mind mapping software

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Assessments Drive the Bus for PBL

From Wikimedia Commons
One of the main goals of formative assessments with Project Based Learning is to drive future learning.  The summative assessments will show understanding of content, application and new learnings.  But who drives the bus? Formative assessments drive the bus! Students participating in various forms of this type of assessments will be guided and the teachings can meet needs of the learner.  Personalizing this guided learning can be beneficial for all students.

Assessments in project based learning should include both formative and summative assessments.  Assessment formats should be varied. Self assessment/reflections and peer assessments are essential when learning to effectively work together and share learning. Also, it's imperative that students know expectations of final rubric and even more beneficial if they participate in the creation of the rubrics.

Immediate and direct feedback could be the difference between a successful journey on the bus and a project going nowhere. Improvement on work needed, additional skills needed, and additional content and direct instruction taught could be provided by the guidance of the teacher with the right formative assessment tools. Again using this feedback can drive the bus right into a successful journey.

Both formative and summative assessments should:

  • provide the opportunities for student reflection on learning
  • provide feedback from other people besides the teacher - students, other teachers, community members, and/or administration
  • occur throughout the project
  • provide clear criteria for the project before work begins
  • provide the opportunity for revision and improvement of work
  • use a variety of formats, methods, or tools for assessment
  • must test standards

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Driving question for Problem Based Learning

In the What is Project Based Learning (PBL)? article on, an essential element for Project Based Learning is the driving question.  This question will be understandable, engage the learning as well as connect to content standards.  

In the Driving Question element of the Project Design Rubric found on BIE’s website, these indicators are listed for best PBL practices in a project:
  • The driving question captures the project’s main focus.                
  • The driving question is open-ended, it allows for more than one reasonable, complex answer.
  • The driving question is understandable and inspiring to students.
  • To answer the driving question, students will need to gain the intended knowledge, skills, and understanding.
My overview of Spending, Saving and The Rainy Day explains my driving question and my subquestions.  My purpose is that the children discover an importance of financial literacy and go out into the world and share their knowledge to parents, important community members, the Rotary Club and the Colorado Department of Commerce to increase awareness.  The focus of this entire project is Financial Literacy.  The driving question should embed the focus of the project.
In my project, the essentials of PBL are incorporated within this driving question and subquestions.  There is a need to know about financial literacy and our spending and saving habits.  These are life skills.  There is a purposeful and authentic audience as I've chosen various platforms to share our PSAs.  Every year, Junior Achievement comes into our school for one day and does an incredible job in the teaching of financial literacy.  When I was thinking of our project, I wanted something that didn't just have to end.  This project could be continued at various levels depending on the opportunity the message gives these students to continue with it.  
In 2nd grade, students still need background knowledge and explicit expectations of team-work, inquiry, as well as a decision making process.  So the subquestions, or mini-lessons that I will need to teach are important in the development of our classroom community.  I believe that this project will encourage inquiry and excitement as they discover the virtual money world around them.  The 21st Century skills will go hand and hand with this project as they are researching and discovering how computers has changed the financial world.  
Here is my driving question:  Is saving money important to my future?
But I am thinking about changing it to:  What should we spend our money on?

All subquestions relate to both.  However in thinking about the students learning about production, good and services, etc... and reading an article about buying in America, made me wonder about the children. Do they need to be thinking about their spending as much as their saving.  Also, I could get into other countries when looking at production and practices, advertising, etc.  I think that there is more of a story with the 2nd question.  But I would like to keep them both.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Project Based Learning - Exploration - Financial Literacy

After the definition of PBL has been established, I found myself  practicing modified versions of this great process and missing out on some details of it.  It is important for us to teach students to  meet the standards and our approach to teaching can be enhanced using Project Based Learning.  The importance of including all the essentials of this style is equally important.  

This year when working on the social studies, Financial Literacy, I determined that this topic was quite interesting to my students and valuable to them as well.  So as I researched the PBL Units, I found lots of interesting projects that involved financial literacy in the upper grades, but few in the primary grades.  One lesson I found was how High Schoolers Teach Students How To Save and that looked like parts could be used in a great PBL project for my 2nd graders.  Edutopia’s article on Financial Literacy for Elementary Students had some valuable resources as well.

After researching many ideas across the web, I could see many included the essentials needed to complete the whole process that PBL encumbers, but I didn’t find exactly a project to fit my purpose.  We have always been a part of Junior Achievement at our school.  Their information and materials were exactly what my students needed.  I would like to develop a project that would make more impact than just one day in a classroom.  

My questions were varied and could include:  
  • What goods and services do you use?
  • How are resources used in various communities?
  • What are some ways to find out about the goods and services used in other communities?
  • How do individuals make and analyze the consequences of financial decisions?
  • How do individuals meet their short- and long-term goals?

Upon reading Making a Case for Financial Literacy, then  finding a great project design tool from, and a planning calendar, I am ready to begin my planning.

Other Instructional Resources:  Jump$tart Coalition website, Clearinghouse  National Endowment for Financial Education  Council for Economic Education  Junior Achievement  Federal Reserve ( Piggy Bank Primer)  US Dept. of Treasury/ US Financial Literacy & Edu.  US Mint  US Dept. of Labor

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Project Based Learning - What are the considerations?

As teachers are incorporating Project-Based learning instruction into their classrooms, they need to help students know and be aware of their own conceptions and help students develop learning strategies to use. Lecturing to students and stressing learning for the right answer is a simpler and more familiar process for teachers then project-based learning instruction.  

Students who will be successful in a PBL environment need to use learning, problem-solving and metacognitive strategies.  Students will also need to have an understanding of what those strategies are and when to use them.  A teacher then needs to model and scaffold this process if a students isn’t using or understanding the strategies necessary so that the PBL environment can become successful.  In turn, teachers need support in these environments in learning how students learn.  Students should have an understanding of the problem before the beginning of a project.  Knowledge of 21st century skills and knowing how to collaboratively work with others can be critical skills that influence success for PBL with students.  It is also extremely helpful if they are motivated, self-directed and an active participant in their own learning. The teacher needs to know the student’s level of understanding about the problem before the project, during the project and what the student learned as a result of the project.  Teachers need to be able to document the student’s learning informally as well as formally.

Many educators promote mastery of content instead of promoting inquiry of knowledge, which is PBL in nature.  Creating a PBL classroom environment that encourages an open-mind set, an inquiry of knowledge, and a place where mistakes are encouraged is difficult.  But risk-taking, using cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies can bring a deeper understanding of content in those PBL environments.  Learners thinking beyond one solution and beyond “the correct answer” is a PBL attribute.  Educators providing real-world connections can support these learners in this environment.

Technology plays a big role in a successful PBL classroom.  It can provide the motivation for students, give them accessibility to information needed and allow for them to authentically showcase their learning in a meaningful way.  However, the teacher again is a key factor.  The teacher needs to be able to understand the process and be able to guide the students and model their learning.  organize that process so that students understand steps necessary in their learning journey.  

Students need to be able to evaluate their own thinking, processes and products in a successful PBL environment.  Teachers then need to provide explicit support for this reflection process so that students can find their errors in the steps they followed, understand why and be able to move forward with their learning.  

Blumenfeld, P. (1991). Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting   the Learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3/4), 369.
Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension & collaboration: Inquiry circles in action.  
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Rice, Kerry. Making the move to K-12 online teaching. Pearson Education, Inc., 2012.

Teachers and Machines

TED Talk with Greg Toppo, below.

As I first noted the Ted Talk we were required to watch, I knew that it would spark some great thoughts in my mind.  I have been listening to Ted Talks when they were just “podcasts”.  I loved the quotes from history that still hold true today.  I also enjoyed the progressiveness of those innovators in the past and wonder if we as MET students are embarking just the beginning of tech integration and use.   
When visiting the Google Complex in Mountain View, CA last December, the theme for this professional development was “You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know!”  Education has always had challenges including lack of teacher training, cost, inaccessibility of equipment, and content appropriateness (Cuban, 1986), and these challenges remain.  The research on educational technology is very new and technology is changing so quickly, how can we catch up?  We must rely on proven strategies that include multiple theories that work with students and then integrate technology to help in this process. We must begin by educating ourselves and continuing to search for what we don’t know.
Before posting this response, I was very interested in everyone’s reflections and in them I linked some information that I thought others may be interested in.  One of my favorite videos on encouraging/teaching innovations is .  
Also, a post discussing the SAMR model was brought up.  Here is helpful blog and pdf that shows technology tools using the SAMR model.  

Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and machines: the classroom use of technology since 1920. New York: Teachers College Press.
Ertmer, P.A., & Newby, T.J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspectivePerformance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.
Dunn, J (2013) New Pedagogy Wheel Helps You Integrate Technology Using SAMR Model Edudemic. The Pedagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.  
Nashar, R (2012, December 9). Leading Innovation: The 3 Carriage Train.  Retrieved from
Toppo, G. (2012, September 29). A different way to think about technology in education: Greg Toppo at TEDxAshburn. Retrieved from

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Reflections on my Epistemology and Philosophy for EDU504

What new knowledge of learning theory will you take into the classroom with you, and how will that affect the implementation of technology in your instruction? 

I’ve learned the importance of theory over learning styles and how a blend of theories might offer the best practice from teachers and instructional designers. A thorough understanding of learning theories can help me implement and design instruction for my students, determine their level of competence and achieve the learning tasks in a blended learning environment for my 2nd graders.(Ertmer & Newby 1993) Applying appropriate methods for achievement and optimal growth may be influenced by different theories. Proof or evidence of effective methods need continuous study.  
Change can be shaped by goals and the context of learning.  The constructivists view of self-regulated and self-directed students in a student-centered inquiry based classroom is another piece that I would encourage in my classroom as I set up lessons that teach and embrace those beliefs. I use Raz-Kids, an individual personalized reading program, but would like to implement Khan Academy next year as part of my blended learning environment.  Using an inquiry approach to my reading groups with Inquiry Circles in Action (Loertscher, Harvey, & Daniels 2010) would allow me to  teach comprehension and collaboration together.

Two other conditions, that are more connectivist in nature, are group culture and social climate, which I find are key factors when modeling and teaching to our classroom and individual blogs. I want to incorporate my traditional role of “the teacher” to “the facilitator of learning” as then I can become a co-learner in both virtual and physical learning environments of my classroom.  (Poutanen, Parviainen, & Ã…berg 2011)  The conceptual goals for the practice of blended learning are to break ground on organizational communication and to gain knowledge of new theories and experiences of applying them. The understanding these theories will help facilitate the learning process of my students, which is a crucial part of a blended learning environment to ensure engagement and participation.   
Talk is cheap when it comes to technology integration.  Educators that are in front of this storm, need evidence to support their thinking and application.  We can't just try the newest "shiny" toy and expect results.
As I understand from the self-regulated model, goal setting, self-assessment, self-instruction and self-reinforcement are key factors.  With 2nd graders, they continue to need explicit instruction and supported development of reading strategies and comprehension skills. Through assessments (PALS, DRA or the Raz-Kid Assessment) students are placed by the teacher on their own individual level with the Raz-kids program.  They will individually listen to, read and be quizzed on the ebook stories at their level.  The teacher then helps with goal setting for each individual student, which is extremely important in self-regulation.  Raz-Kids program then lets the teacher assign specific ebooks that give additional practice to skills not met on the quizzes.   This program lets the teacher monitor progress efficiently, but puts the students in the drivers seat as they try to meet their goal at their own pace.  However, as the teacher, it is important for me to monitor and explicitly teach concepts that students are showing that they need during Raz-Kids.  Teachers can assign an assessment or running record that can be scored with student present.  All of these pieces used together will provide a solid framework to help children move into that self-regulated model that gives them the self-efficiency to accomplish their goals.  Teachers, though are an integral part of this process in 2nd grade.  
Even though I haven't started using Khan Academy with my students, I see the process similar to Raz-Kids.  Khan Academy helps you place students at their level in math and then builds from there using practice points and videos to help students move along their structured pacing. Again, with 2nd graders, teacher interaction is crucial.
 After a bit of research, I found an article that helped describe self-regulation and self-direction in a classroom using technology enhanced learning.  I would like to implement a more formal structure of goal setting, by keeping a journal of reflections of tasks they don't understand or to progress monitor themselves.  

Cemal Nat, MuesserWalker, SimonBacon, LizDastbaz, Mohammad and Flynn, Ryan (2011) Impact of metacognitive awareness on learning in technology enhanced learning environments. In: eTeaching and Learning Workshop, 1 Jun 2011, The University of Greenwich, London, UK. (In Press) 
Ertmer, P.A., & Newby, T.J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from  an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.
Loertscher, D. V., Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2010). COMPREHENSION AND COLLABORATION: INQUIRY CIRCLES IN ACTION. Teacher Librarian, 37, 4.
Poutanen, P., Parviainen, O., & Aberg, L. (2011). Conditions for self-organizing and creativity in blended learning environments. On the Horizon, 19, 4, 286-296.