Forgot Password? / Help



Standards vs Creativity

We just added the Common Core Standards to My eCoach. My team is trying to create a vetting process to match standards to projects and resources. After I reviewed the standards, I hit a wall. The Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts were vague in some ways and specific in other ways. I might not be clear here but I had an epiphany about the standards. Since we have all the state standards in My eCoach, I looked at correlations and saw similar issues. State standards are more specific but very little wiggle room for creativity. It is very easy for teachers to say this lesson matches to one or more standards, but this process is something teachers really never learned how to do. Some standards are very specific i.e. Social Studies, Math, and Science content where English Language Arts standards can be very broad.

For teachers’ own professional learning, they can learn how to unpack standards to make the use of standards creatively. Unpacking a standard is the process of identifying what students will know and be able to do when they have mastered the standard. Critical elements to the success of the unpacking process; identifying reliable resources for determining depth and rigor, scaffolding skills with the level above and below using clear and concise language for students.

The ELA 6th grade Common Core writing standard:
. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.

This standard covers so much and can easily be unpacked:

  • the writing process
  • how to use the Internet effectively
  • collaborating with others
  • peer-editing
  • keyboarding skills

However, how do you match to this standard when it covers so much? If you ask a teacher to match to a standard, this one standard can be at least a 6 week unit or many lessons. Parts of this standard could match almost every cross-curricular project where you ask students to write a draft or essay or script. What if a teacher has students practice their keyboarding skills each day for 20 days? Do they match to this standard?

Actually, the teacher has to be creative to figure out how to match to these standards. I browsed the math standards for a standard that would match to practical math — a project about money and life skills. Math teachers will have to be very creative to unpack a standard to find how to make Algebra or Number Sense relevant to real world activities. I’m curious how others find the Common Core Standards compared to their state standards especially math standards. The idea of national standards will help students who move from state to state and make a level playing field for students applying to college. I’m just concerned that some of these standards will be difficult for teachers to choose as an appropriate match for some of their lessons.

This could be a very interesting discussion as we develop professional development, resources, and projects matched to the standards.


Meaningful Professional Development

On Friday October 8th, I was lucky to be invited to help facilitate professional development for Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Over 120 PK-12 teachers worked side-by-side in mixed grade-level groups to experience project-based learning (PBL). This approach requires 21st-century skills: collaboration, creativity, innovation, team work, and critical thinking. 15 Teams  of 8-10 teachers each created public-service announcements (PSA) to raise awareness about Mid-Pacific Institute. Teachers put themselves in the role of learners with a facilitator guiding the process in each team. So how did they do? Read more what Elementary School Principal Edna Hussey wrote about the process.

The team I worked with consisted of MPI’s director of education technology Mark Hines, associate education technology director Bob McIntosh, the three principals, and middle school tech coordinator Brian Grantham where we collaborated several weeks prior to last Friday to  plan the project experience. A meaningful day is effective if everything is planned well. I was so impressed with how the team worked tirelessly to pull everything together. The PSA concept was developed as a project that could be completed by day’s end and which would entail the use of technology already available to the faculty. Check out the details and completed PSAs at

Teachers completed reflections as exit tickets at the end of the day.

I hope that this process will help me consider some of the challenges and rewards that come with building a project so that when I design this sort of thing for my students, I will understand what it’s like to be them.”

I hope to get a better sense of how students think about ‘open-ended’ projects. If I enter with a student’s mindset of being ‘spoon-fed’ what’s required of me, what will work to engage me in this project. Often students feel lost when they get to make too many decisions. I hope to get ideas/techniques for helping students to get engaged.”

There were 15 teams who focused on a theme and developed a driving question and supporting questions about that theme to develop the storyboard and script for the 60-90 second PSA.

“Everyone feels comfortable to share ideas and is respectful and listens to the ideas of others. We have been able to discuss differing ideas and come to consensus. Everyone is open to hearing everyone’s ideas and do what needs to be done to bring the project together. Everyone also seems to understand the importance of the process, not just completing the product.”

The group is communicating very well. I’m proud that people are constructing their ideas based on the communication of a positively critical idea, from a teachers perspective, and for the teachers as an audience, keeping the assignment in mind. When there was a difference in opinion, they chose to go with the more persuasive/engaging idea that invites the audience to think. It is going well because we are focusing on the process, even though the worries of getting the PSA done came up, we acknowledged how this might be a crossroads for students, and how should we proceed.”

We asked teams to pair with another team at the end of the day to share their PSA and reflect on the process. A spokesperson was chosen from each group to share with the whole staff. Everything was so positive. What an amazing group of teachers! Thank you Mid-Pac for including me in a very exciting professional development opportunity!


Technology and its Impact on Society

Society has always been impacted by technology. Each invention has affected how people relate to one another and how cultures have expanded or ended. Technology impacts how cities grow, where people live, and who owns what. Technologies are the reason a few people are very rich, that people are more social, and that teaching and learning is changing. We are at a crucial time in history where educators can make a difference in how our students interact with one another and make a place for themselves in society.

Historical Perspective

People developed a language so they could communicate and learn from elders through their stories. They invented tools for agriculture, to build homes, and to create weapons for hunting and protection. Civilizations have been impacted by natural disasters, encroachment from other civilizations, and from problems within their own community. Technology not only increased humans’ life span but how we live, how long we live, and how many there are of us.

[Human population growth over time]

The population doubled from 2.5 billion to 5 billion in only 40 years after 1950. The world population passed 6 billion just before the end of the 20th century. It is estimated that the population will reach 8-12 billion before the end of the 21st century. More people means more technology.

People migrated to find a better life. For most of history, only the wealthy had access to literature and a good education. The printing press allowed the masses to receive news, read books, and attend school. Inventions changed the way we worked like the cotton gin where slaves were stolen from Africa to be used as free labor with no rights, and the railroads that were built with Chinese labor who had little or no rights, no property, or a fair wage. Communities developed within large cities to protect and sustain the different cultures.

After World War II, freeway systems led to the suburbs. Public transportation changed when the automobile became part of every family. Television shows replaced dinner conversations. We saw man walk on the moon and the horrors of war in our living rooms.

So Where are We Now?

The Internet and mobile technology are changing the way people interact, work, and learn. Everyone can report the news or share a picture from their cell phone. You can produce your own music, publish your own book, blog your thoughts that you usually keep to yourself, create a website with even personal information, Twitter what you are doing right now, and talk on your cell whenever and wherever you want. We are using technology for our own use yet it infringes on others. Does this technology allow us to respect each other and value each others’ time and work or do just the opposite?

Consider these questions about today’s technology:

  • Do you answer your cell phone when you are at a party, in line for coffee, dining with friends, etc.?
  • Would your children rather text message instead of talking to your friends face-to-face?

Image from Consumerist

  • Do you post to your blog your thoughts and link to others without researching if the information is valid?
  • Do your children have a FaceBook profile with links to friends they don’t know?
  • Would you rather visit a museum in SecondLife than visit a real museum?
  • Do you believe that all music, art, and literature should be free?

Our connections seem personal, but are they? Many young people value the number of friends they have more than the quality of those friendships. The appeal of technology is real. Do you have an iPhone or a Droid? What about an iPad? Today, the arts, artists, and culture do not seem as valued as in the past. Who owns the work? How would the Beatles promote their music today? They probably would create a FaceBook site and give away samples of their work. With a Creative Commons license, they would probably allow others to use but not modify their work. How do artists make money? How does the viewer find this artist if the artist is not tech savvy? How do you know if the artist is the original artist? With the proliferation of social networking tools where everyone can share and publish on the web, artists will have to be innovative and entrepreneurial to be successful.

Web 2.0 allows us to be self-absorbed yet more connected than ever.

“The consequences of Web 2.0 are inherently dangerous for the vitality of culture and the arts. Its empowering promises play upon that legacy of the ’60s–the creeping narcissism … with its obsessive focus on the realization of the self.” . [Andrew Keen’s reference to Web 2.0]

Every day there are new Web 2.0 tools that let you create, publish, and share. This is a time in history we will look back and say either “I wish I had created my own Web 2.0 or mobile app”, “I lost everything because I gave it away” or “what is Web 2.0?”

Okay – so I twitter [], blog [], and have my own learning community []. I’m not alone. People are leaving landline phones, books, and television by the millions. They use Internet-based services like YouTube or Hulu to watch their favorite shows and Skype to virtually connect — for free. It is a generational shift with even older generations jumping on board. Companies are marketing to a new kind of multinational and navigating the digital Silk Road. The growth of technology in China and India already affects how we use technology just because of the numbers of people involved. Video games have professional leagues with international online contests and self-made celebrities [Major League Gaming:]. Digital fads that are global may work in one country and not in another. Student tutors mentor students in another country. The old hierarchical system is falling away. Textbooks are starting to become open source such as and MIT OpenCourseware. Even marketing is changing. Viral marketing launches companies like Threadless T-shirts where the consumers design what they want. Will our students design what they need to learn? Will teachers learn how to be the digital guide?

Value Arts and Culture

With more people and crowded conditions, new technologies will be necessary to support and sustain us. Let’s also make sure we use these tools to tell and protect our stories. Video, audio, images, and interactive features open doors to worlds and cultures that children could never learn in a book. We need to allow for private spaces for confidential discussions and provide guides for tentative and eager participants. It is our duty as educators to guide students and other educators as they become innovative producers, teach them to become cautious consumers, and learn how they can use these tools to reach their fullest potential. We need to support the arts and artists and value each others culture. Let’s take these next few years to design digital ways to connect us not only to each other but to promote our values, to respect each other, and to encourage innovation as we develop a place for ourselves in the 21st century!

This post was updated from the original post on Rethinking Learning September 2007


Web 2.0 Smackdown

The Internet has so much to offer and now there are thousands of new Web 2.0 tools and apps that it is difficult for users to sift through them all to find what they need. I am lucky to be on the ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education) SigILT (Special Interest Group Innovative Learning Technologies) who presented a Web 2.0 Smackdown. I co-presented with Elizabeth Hubbell with the support of an amazing board running the backchannel: Katie Christo and Adam Wendt.

Elizabeth and I practiced our Webinar using Adobe Connect that had a limit of 100 spaces. We noticed on Twitter all the interest seemed like that would not be enough spaces so we moved to GoToMeeting. Elizabeth and I were both on Macs and found we couldn’t archive and I had no access to change screen sharing. I worked blind while Elizabeth walked through my presentation. So Peggy George who was in our audience did a screen capture and uploaded the video. How is that for thinking on your feet!

“Web 2.0 Tools We Can’t Live Without” from Peggy George on Vimeo.


Why Joy Matters

Professional development does not have to be work. Same with the classroom. I hear teachers talk about their work that day or the workshop that made their brain hurt. Where’s the joy? When you teach to the test and focus on increasing scores, just watch the faces of the students. Are they engaged or motivated?

Look back at preschool and what Kindergarten used to be like. The room was set up with learning centers and students were talking and laughing together. There was learning going on. You could hear it and see it. I used to put on professional development sessions that were more like this type of Kindergarten room. I taught claymation to teachers where they worked in teams, created a storyboard together, assigned each other characters or objects to create with the clay, and so on. The giggles and laughter that ensued was pervasive. The whole room was laughing during the session. Then they would video and lay music over the video. When we were all done, we had a show… with popcorn.

Real learning by doing… and FUN!!! I miss that. There seems to be a whole generation of teachers that missed this type of professional development. For the past 8-9 years, all professional development seems to be focused on data, improving scores, and accountability. I know we need that, but here’s my take on it. The scores are based on standardized tests and our kids are not standardized. They are all different. Teachers are all different. So we use the scores to determine our improvement on AYP and the gaps. We use that data to help us design and drive the curriuclum. But what about supplementing these tests by following a student’s progress by collecting evidence of learning along with reflections in an ePortfolio? Authentic assessment where the student analyzes what they learned and now understands. Teachers could then correlate the test scores with actual evidence and share their own reflections to help the student improve.

I taught a project on advertising for multiple grade levels where I remember the kids saying to me “I didn’t know learning could be this much fun.” I loved that. Think back when you were learning something where you walked away feeling really good and it was fun. Remember that? I do. I remember making a paper maché map of the world with others students and then doing a presentation. That was hard but fun. I remember walking home feeling a joy in my heart that I did it. I know it now.  I had struggled with the concepts, but that project made it real.

We need to make the concepts real to our students and bring the joy back to learning.

What are your priorities in learning?

What do you see as the priority for learning?


Sabotaging Projects

We know better. You tell yourself you are going to exercise so many minutes a day, but something else takes priority. You do 15 minutes one day, nothing the next, and then feel bad again. You may be doing the same thing about your diet or some other behavior you want to change and you still keep going back to sabotaging yourself. Then you beat yourself up and continue this behavior over and over again.

The same thing happens to teachers with project-based learning. When a school decides to transform their traditional teaching to student-centered learning environments, it is best if the whole school buys in if it is to work. But… do the teachers say Yes and really mean Maybe?

“Maybe I’ll do the project when I have time.”

A teacher may be really excited as they design a project with other teachers, then they go back to their day-to-day grueling schedule and may never really jump head first into the projects. Excuses and questions like how do we fit a project in our schedule and meet the standards? Maybe a principal rallies behind the teachers to change teaching practice, but cannot find ways to squeeze in collaborative planning time. If everything depends on raising test scores, then the administration may prioritize direct instruction that focuses on teaching to the test. It’s very complicated. We all have good intentions but it’s all about data. Review your scores and other student information and disaggregate the data to identify which students are having problems and where there are gaps in learning. Projects don’t work if you don’t take the time to plan, review the data to determine your learning targets, and collaborate with other teachers to design a good project that will improve student achievement.

People sabotage themselves when they don’t believe they can change. It is easier to give up and go back to what they are used to. People don’t know what they don’t know. Change is not easy and for many scary. It takes initiative, time, practice, being okay about failing and trying again. A good project doesn’t always work. Teachers can learn and reflect on what works and what didn’t work and then use what they learned with the next project. Think why you might sabotage yourself or a project. Is it because you don’t believe projects will work for your students or that you are concerned about how you will develop and manage the project? Projects not only engage and motivate learners to want to learn, teachers find them rewarding. Change is tough, so take small steps and start with one project.


Transforming an Elementary School

Lucky me! I am working with Garfield Elementary school in San Leandro Unified School District. I started my career, my love of technology, in San Leandro a long time ago, so this is like coming home again. Jan Nuno, the principal, designed a creative program with her SIG (School Improvement Grant) money that involves laptops, SmartBoards, Elmos, professional development, using My eCoach for grade level websites and projects, and support on-site and online. The goal is one step at a time, and the teachers are excited about taking these steps. Garfield teachers have grown so much in a very short time: last year the worked on developing PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and CRT (Culturally Responsive Teaching). Now they want to infuse technology to not only motivate stuGarfield Elementary teachersdents to want to learn but to change the learning environment.

The tech leads are Neema McCockran and Jason Huls with a teacher leader at each grade level who we spent a whole day reviewing the technology and developing grade level websites that includes grade appropriate resources and places to collaborate with the other teachers in their grade. We made one website and then asked each teacher leader to clone and adapt it for their team. Then we returned a week later with the whole staff (30 teachers) and asked the teacher leaders to invite the other teachers in their grade level to co-author. Then Jason and Neema set up three 15 minute break out sessions  where teachers rotated to learn how to use the Elmo, set up their laptops, and how to edit in My eCoach. (whew!) It was pretty cool! I was really proud of Neema and Jason and all the work they did. Coaching is fun when you see people take the next step on their own. I felt like a proud mama.

Next steps are coaching and knocking occasionally on the teachers’ virtual door to check in and see how they’re doing.


Are we growing less creative?

Creative childrenCare2′s article Are American children growing less creative? shared Tests since 1990 show a steady decline in the creativity levels of American children, despite the fact that IQ tests indicate they are getting smarter.

The focus for the last 9 years has been on increasing student achievement based on standardized tests. Maybe our children are learning how to memorize facts and increasingly doing better on spelling tests and Jeopardy games. Even the TV show “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” encourages students to recall facts. There is no problem-solving, critical thinking or creativity involved in these activities. The 5th graders on this show are stoked when they get the answer right but there is only one right answer.

Life doesn’t always work that way. What we need are students who come up with the questions and are able to take some risks, find multiple ways to answer any of the questions or solve problems. They need to be able to think on their feet and jump in with new innovative ideas. Who knew even five years ago that people would be listening to mp3 files with an iPod or that cell phones could access the Internet. Email is old school. Now people text, use Facebook and Twitter to communicate. Traditional schools are closing because of so many reasons and, in my opinion, we need to rethink what a school is and redesign our learning environments if we want our students to be productive 21st century citizens.


Rethinking that Decision

You are a change agent and go to a school to discuss with the administrator how the teachers are going to change the way they teach. You think you and the administrator are talking the same language and design the professional development program. In reality, the change that the administrator has in mind might be completely different than what you had in mind. That administrator might have already made a decision on what they expected for their teachers — no matter what you and the administrator agreed upon. Same with the teachers. Let’s say you are a coach and set up a coaching agreement with a teacher. That teacher comes to the table with their own expectations on what they want to learn. However, they don’t express those expectations and just agree on what you decided on together.

I read Seth Godin’s blog The Decision before the Decision where he states “The decision before the decision is the box. When you think outside the box, what you’re actually doing is questioning the decision before the decision.”

Being a change agent means that you are questioning the decisions you believe have already been decided on and bring to the table strategies on why you and the administrator or teacher need to rethink those decisions.


The Power of We Think

The old business model where we own what we create is out of date and does not work anymore. That’s why social media like Facebook and Twitter are growing exponentially. Sharing ideas is powerful. You cannot own an idea. I was asked yesterday by a university if they could pay me for an article I wrote to include in a new book for principals. I thought “how cool” but then realized that the little money I would get for an article I wrote is not where I want to make any money. I want to get my ideas out there. Change is tough, takes time, and is very challenging. If we all hold on to the old paradigm of “no – you can’t have it. It’s mine” then we will never innovate and grow. As soon as I changed my mindset, things started happening for me. I encourage you to rethink your We Think possibilities.

I came across this video by Charles Leadbetter that is very interesting and talks about the importance of sharing and creativity.

We are in the middle of a revolution and many of us don’t know it. Everything is changing. Creativity will win because that is the only way we will succeed in the 21st century.