Blog 10: Differentiation, Project-based & functional assessments – Possibilities?

Instructional Coach Lisa Westman’s note on Myth#4 “One way to differentiate is giving high-achieving students more work and low-achieving students less”, is one that resonated with me.

I believe that this in actuality is traceable from individual IEP analysis. Many, many students have IEP’s that state, “150% more time, 75% fewer questions etc.” leading teachers to arrive at the simplistic solution to differentiation: reduce work, add time. While I believe that many students require both of those adaptations in order to achieve success, I have also arrived at the conclusion that forcing students and teachers to meet the lowest bar, does the student and the teacher a huge disservice. Students then are never forced to think deeply about a topic or content, and teachers are just meeting barest minimum of the academic differentiation – often because they have to, based on time limitations and the demands of many other students. 

The system has created this dilemma. Getting teachers to think beyond what the IEP states, is now extremely challenging. 

Capper and Frattura (2009, p. 90) refer to the work of Darling-Hammond and Falk (1997, p.193) in addressing this issue, “Offer students challenging, interesting activities and rich materials for learning that foster thinking, creativity, and production.”  and, “Make available a variety of pathways that accommodate different intelligences, and learning experiences.”

As a principal, this approach would be on the very top of my differentiation list.  Focussing on instructional approaches is the key, in my view. Teachers need to know that they are trusted to make decisions regarding process, given time to discuss accommodations with critical thinking and hands-on learning in mind, and then given the tools and time to administer their plans.

Finally, allowing student work to shine as part of school culture, is key to completing the circle. Performance-based assessments and functional assessments are appropriate for both highly driven and gifted learners, as well as students with severe intellectual disabilities. I would support teacher driven development of individualized performance based assessments for all learners. Gifted learners could develop and portfolio of projects, just as students at the other end of the academic spectrum, could .

Capper and Frattura (2009, p. 101) refer to Person and Neill (1999, p.4 ). “…the evaluation is based on a wide range of student work done over a long period of time, rather than a single paper-and-pencil taken over a few hours…It encourages districts to invest in the professional development of teachers, and it pushes teachers to reflect more consistently on the quality of student work in their classroom. 

Moving toward project-based assessment and functional examination of skills serves the learner by helping the student to understand their capabilities and to continue to develop their skills sets. This serves society by bringing learning full circle: students with active skills sets, who understand their strengths and learning gaps, who have learned to present their skills as functional additions to society, will continue to want to learn and to become productive members of their communities. 

Finland (International Educational News)

Blog 8 Thoughts, History & Social Justice

Daring Thoughts on Critical Digital Citizenship: Promoting Empathy and Social Justice Online & Three Models of Digital Literacy :

In my world, everything is linked, doubling back on itself, picking up information, shared history, linked languages, linked thoughts. I see no concrete lines between subject matter, literacies, histories, topics, languages. Everything is linked by history. I teach a World Language and Humanities, but my people? Historians.

History links people. History links subject matter. History links US as global citizens, across geography and across cultures and political divides.

In the same interconnected and interconnecting manner, creative literacy, universal literacy and literacy across disciplines link, define and are defined by each other. The definitions offered by Three Models of Literacy offer a way to understand and apply literacy across disciplines of 450 surveyed teachers.

Universal Literacy is understood as digital and tech savvy: the skills necessary to navigate life within the digital society. Information literacy is thought of as digital skills that a person will need to allow him or her to participate as a citizen of tech society.

Creative Literacy practices are those that engage the creator and the designer of UX or user experience. These skills are not everyone’s forte and the idea is that the producer or maker is involved in creative design, interface design, code design or another area that will impact the end user.

Finally, Literacy across Disciplines is the practice of literacies, specific to disciplines. Medicine requires its own set of tech and media literacy fluencies, just as education requires knowledge and ability to practically model and engage learners.

Maha Bali talks about the role of critical thinking and refers to Paulo Freire’s work, Freire writes, “The end goal of critical thinking is to challenge the status quo in order to achieve social justice, collectively raising consciousness of conditions promoting oppression in order to achieve liberation.”

Maha Bali writes about her belief in the “potential of the digital in promoting empathetic and social justice-oriented critical citizenship, rather than digital citizenship in general.” Critical Digital Citizenship, dml central, June 30, 2016

Her basic premise is that it is possible to foster and develop critical digital citizenship.

Empathy and social justice must be the focus and remain at the center of the desire to become a critically responsible digital citizen.

As we examine the Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship:

  1. Digital Access or full electronic participation in society.
  2. Digital Commerce – electronic buying and selling.
  3. Digital Communication – electronic exchange of information.
  4. Digital Literacy – process of teaching and learning about technology and its proper use and application.
  5. Digital Etiquette – electronic standards of conduct or procedure.
  6. Digital Law – electronic responsibility for actions and deeds.
  7. Digital Rights and Responsibilities.
  8. Digital Health and Wellness – physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.
  9. Digital Security – electronic precautions to guarantee safety.

As we compare both sets of themes. it becomes clear that there is a connectedness and overlay between the definitions and Themes of Digital Citizenship and the Three Models of Literacy .

Concluding questions: What is the link? What connects them? The technology? Or the ethical and empathetic use of it? What can drive ethical use? How do we teach critical digital citizenship? How do we model critical digital citizenship?

I assert that understanding the history, our history as humans, as cultures, the “connects”, the “disconnects” and the story between critical digital citizenship and understanding our obligations and responsibilities in technology’s ethical use: only in expanding our understanding of all of these will we be able to promote Social Justice online, across cultures and political boundaries.  Do we dare?

Blog 7 Reflection on Learning Facilitation: New Media Literacies


A small reflection on a challenging and rewarding process…

…I learned a great deal during the project construction. Putting Belshaw’s Essentials into an internal intellectual place was a useful exercise.

In conclusion, I was able to make an intellectual and emotional leap to a different level of understanding in the process of creating a constructive online community: Building respect, honesty, and openness within the online classroom, places demands on the instructor that require the development of special sets of skills. The construction of Module 8 in New Media Literacies, #CI5323, assisted me in taking another step toward becoming a competent online facilitator.


Blog 6: New Media Literacy, Martin Luther & Technology? What?

Change the world?  Can you? 


One dude did. A monk named Martin Luther (1483-1586) did, with the help of German printers and the new technology of the day: the printing press.

Check it out at the Minneapolis Art Institute . “As an entrepreneurial venture, they (the printers) set the 95 Theses into type, printed them and reproduced them,” says MIA Art Curator Tom Rassieur,”When they saw how rapidly they were selling, they made copies and copies and copies. It went viral.” (Via @NPR: How Technology Helped Martin Luther Change Christianity  – Martin Luther, New Technologies .)

Wait. This was not the first time that a literacy technology transformed the world.              New literacy technologies used in the transformation of history is traceable to the 1st Century. (Kurt Weitzmann’s, Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination. 1977, George Braziller, Inc., New York, NY.)

Codex – the book form still in use today – was introduced and slowly replaced the scroll. Scrolls were as long as 35 feet and were bulky, prone to breakage and deterioration.

Get this: Codex did not fully replace scrolls until the 4th Century. (The Transition from the Roll to the Codex: Technological and Cultural Implications: Transitional phases in the formation of the book.)

400 years. Whoa. A good thing to remember when we argue with students about the use of their phones, rail against faulty internet, dispute with colleagues about new media, technology transformation and it’s ethical use and question the practical approach of Open Scholarship (Blog 5):

Books: the technology that we depend on today took 400 years to adapt and adopt.  

Adapt and Adopt.  Hmm.  Think about that when you seek to link ideas for change to students using #AdventureLearning and WeExplore  to global issues or when you try to  change the social recycling patterns of your community.  400 years.  Adapt & Adopt. Are you willing to try some patience?  Are you willing to question? Are you willing to adapt and adopt?

Blog 5: Open Scholarship – The Ultimate Online Community?

A Reflection: A Community of Learning

The Open Scholarship Initiative


I am deeply motivated by the idea of community as a learning tool and interface. The idea is so natural and instinctual and yet how our patterns, systems and habits of learning have transformed into a rather selfish enterprise: guarding the resources, protecting the process, calling the finished product “Mine” or “Yours” without an intent to recognize the role of the community that assisted in the development of the thinker.

“Our communities of practice then become resources for organizing our learning as well as context in which to manifest our learning through an identity of participation. What is crucial about this kind of engagement as an educational experience is that identity and learning serve each other.” (Wenger, Chapter 12, p.272)

My engagement in a reflective teaching practice has morphed into a life of engaged and reflective facilitation and learning.  My citizenship in an online community devoted to learning as a lifestyle has become not only the tool to help me facilitate that which I wish to master, but it has begun to develop my identity as a student of everything.  My identity as a lifelong learner supports my identity as a teacher devoted to a life of inter-connectedness, learning and growth.

I have been amused and chagrined at how much this idea makes intuitive sense and yet runs counter to the way I was educated: we were taught that in academia, resources should be protected and not shared – at least not easily – and open forums were seen as scary places where bad intellectual ideas might happen. Scary learning indeed!

What happens if we exam the exponential growth of information and expansion of knowledge from a different perspective? What would happen if we, as a global community, decided to collectively become smarter, and collaborate as a rhizome, rather than operate and grow as a single tree? Check it out: The Open Scholarship Initiative .

Blog 4: Do you understand how you learn? Really?

What if we drew a line from the idea of practicing Critical Pedagogy (Maha Bali, 2014) to Connie Yowell’s assertion that the process of engaging the learner – the context – has to matter more than linking teaching subject matter to “Desired Outcomes” and test scores. Critical pedagogy is essentially: “Learning habits (reading, writing, discourse) that intentionally question.” (This my own one-sentence summary – you may feel free to disagree.)  What if, we link a community of practice, or a practice of learning to… learning how we learn? The Art & Science of learning everything…. by @TFerris

If we, as teachers, are engaged in the practice of critical pedagogy (or a reflective practice) … then, in theory, we should be deeply intrigued and invested in, learner engagement. Except: we are not. I would assert that even the most critically engaged teacher, enthralled with the process of engaging the learner and trying to remain deeply committed to the idea of learning contextual process, may return to their default setting: measuring learner outcomes. The reason that we may be inclined to return to the default setting is: this is the modus operandi, if you will, or the way that we were educated. Annoyingly, as in parenting, we return to what we know, even if we don’t like it, ourselves, or what it does to our classrooms and the learners in it.

I posit that, critically, if we are to emerge on the other side of the “new” online educational reality with a new paradigm, we need to fully engage in the process of re-creating the learning space. And we need to be thoughtfully, wholly and reflectively and critically cognizant of the process, our role within the process and how we can facilitate a learning environment that can creatively take on the process together. “The development of community as a part of the learning process helps create a learning experience that is empowering and rich. It is essential to impart the importance of this process to faculty in order to maximize the use of the online medium in education. Without it, we are simply recreating our tried and true educational model and calling it innovative,” without fully exploring the potential the online medium holds.” (Pallof & Pratt, 2007.)

I think Yowell’s assertion is pertinent. And I believe that the idea of focusing on the learner process vs. learner outcome, is possible in all content areas.

In conclusion: Does anyone agree or disagree with the idea that we are on the cusp of a new paradigm in education, as we make over our online classrooms into critically engaged learning spaces? What could be an unintended down side? What if we remained life-long learners, engaged in learning and maker-spaces that connected us socially, intellectually and emotionally so that all participants emerged richer for the experience and devoted to the ideas of cultural, class and societal change on a global level? What then?

Blog 3: What now?

As I scan through my Twitter account, it occurs to me that it be beneficial to have a separate Twitter account for just my #edtech #interwebs feed.  My love of theater, of faraway market places in my favorite city, and my intentional searches for issues dealing with global warming and the environment are definitely getting in the way of looking for more #medialiteracy links. @olsen738

Blog 2: 8 Maps Show Plastics’ Global Ocean Impact


8 Maps Show Plastics’ Global Impact

How do we impulse students to become curious about a world they have not seen or cannot imagine?  Educational Technology can ensure that we take our jobs as “Global Connectors” seriously, that we strive to connect our #students to the #GreaterGood (whatever that really means)!  Images, maps, photos, videos, Instagram, Twitter all of these #edtech tools can support that #BigPicture.  Seriously, have you ever discussed the impact of the use of plastic on the world’s oceans and water sources?  Take a look at:  A Plastic Ocean


And where can we go from there?  Use the #online community you create to discuss and link your students to this crucial issue.  The amazing map resource offered by 8 Maps  can be used to link your classroom to the #BigIssue, create experiments in plastic types and whether they sink or float and start #OnlineCommunities that become #AdventureLearning projects that morph into #CommunityProjects. screenshot-2016-09-28-20-57-18

Think I’m crazy?  I have been accused of worse and lived to tell the tale. Gotta start somewhere and linking your classroom to the classroom across the city via #GoogleHangouts or in your #Schoology classroom in order to solve your city’s plastic problem?  Why not try it?  And then, link to a classroom in Spain, or in Peru, or in Guam or in Puerto Rico…and do it again. I dare you.



First blog post & 6-step strategies…

So now what? I started a blog. Hmm-mph. I said I would never do this. And…here I am, writing about stuff connected to #edtech, the internet (the “Interwebs”), online communities and connecting classroom and teachers.

I started this blog as part of a class assignment. Maybe the practice will teach me a thing or two? Connect me to teachers who want a forum for connecting classrooms, or create online communities linking classrooms to the greater world, or who just want a place to talk about ‘Really Important Stuff.’  Like this: or explore Six-step strategies that can help one identify the veracity of a website. Well, thanks, then. Glad there is such a thing, now that it has been drilled into every student that they MUSN’T touch wikipedia!  Instead of training students to drink from the pitcher, they just tell them not to be thirsty!  Does it ever occur to anyone to teach students how to properly use wikipedia instead of steering them away? So much good stuff there, (in Wiki, I mean), now …if I just knew how to extract it. Try the lemon press? Cheers.