Subscribe to Edtech Elixirs! Enter your email address below.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

From Soil to the Sun: CBE as a Blended Pedagogy Journey

Since arriving at Shelby County four years ago, I have been challenged in ways I did not expect.  Naturally, my role requires knowledge of blended learning best practices, and to keep up with the constantly changing world of edtech.  However, I have also learned about other pedagogies that may be enabled by technology but also exist outside of it: personalized learning, project based learning, and standards based grading, to name just three.

In the spring of 2017, Shelby County created its Profile of a Graduate with the input of our community stakeholders (parents, business owners, students, admin, and teachers).  It answers a simple sounding question:  What do we want a Shelby County graduate to be?   In short, we want them to be (clockwise from top) Critical Thinkers, Responsible Collaborators,   Lifelong Learners, Effective Communicators, Global Citizens, and Inspired Innovators.

More information about our six major competency domains is here.

By thinking through the lens of "life readiness" (which includes but goes beyond "college and career readiness"), we realized that students should demonstrate mastery of key competencies, not merely mastery of academic standards.  That's not to say academic standards are unimportant!  Rather, Core Content becomes the means to an end instead of an end in itself; true mastery can be demonstrated when the application of learned standards are effectively achieved.

Allow me a tangental metaphor.  Soon we will talk trees, but for now, let's talk cars.

Think of tires as standards.  As educators in a traditional teacher-centered system, we have become excellent tire salespeople.  We bring our customer-students into the store-school, describing the various tires in detail.  We implore to the students: Memorize the sizes!  Take note of the thread depth!   (Not very deep, truth be told.)  We obsess over the PSI as if numbers tell the entire story -- a 32 (or 100%, or an A+) is likely ideal, but truth be told, a 25 (70%, a passing grade of D-) will likely get you from point A to B, so long as you stay on the smooth roads...assuming the tires ever hit the roads, of course.

Our students may know tons of facts about tires -- and yet, because they haven't had to use the tires in any meaningful way, the knowledge is void of context or validity.  Meaningful application of knowledge is key.  When standards matter is when the rubber meets the road.  We really need all four (ELA, math, social studies, science) to make a car go -- thinking of content in silos is as useful in real life as driving with one tire.

In order to move students past being tire consumers, we need alignment.  Competencies provide this sense of purpose, a context for the standards to function inside.  Without alignment to competencies, the tires may pull the car in random directions.   If you have no standards, alignment matters little if you're sitting on just your hubcaps.  The synergy between the tires and the alignment -- the transformational relationship of standards and competencies -- is what can make competency-based education (CBE) so impactful, and therefore makes learning an act of creation instead of consumption.  Now the only thing left to do before embarking on our road trip is to have a destination.  And here is where the Profile of a Graduate's necessity emerges.  It becomes the goal we want our academic system to aspire towards.

But who is driving the car in competency based education?  The student should be, of course!  Certainly there are moments when a teacher-instructor gives tips from the shotgun seat or talks about the rules of the road, but if the student isn't ultimately driving the car, we can never truly say they have demonstrated mastery.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog entry!  With the Profile of the Graduate as our true north, our newest Strategic Leadership Plan (planned last fall, and goes into effect next school year) will focus on transforming Shelby County into a CBE system.   Luckily, we have made good learning partnerships, both outside of the state (such as Envision and EdLeader21) and within. In fact, one key Kentucky partner is Trigg County.  Trigg and Shelby County are the only two districts in the state that were recently approved for a CBE pilot:

I name dropped Envision earlier, and here is a good segue into discussing a book many leaders in Shelby are currently reading: Transforming Schools by Bob Lenz, with Justin Wells and Sally Kingston.  (Lenz is the cofounder of Envision Education and Wells was the first English teacher of its first school.)  The book, along with other professional development, is certainly helping me see how CBE is the natural culmination of our various initiatives from the last several years.  At a recent Shelby admin "lead and learn," we read the book's opening chapters and gathered in teams to ponder the question of how all of our endeavors fit together.  My group included principals Jennifer Cox and Susie Burkhardt.  Each group was handed slips of paper with various educational pedagogies, initiatives and terms.  Our goal was to organize this in a way we thought best, while also considering an analogy that creatively addressed their relationship.  Once the three of us collaborated on a hierarchal design, I suggested we called it "From Soil to the Sun."

As you can see from the image above, we started with the roots: the essentials that educators needed to learn in order for our system-tree to live.  Without a solid foundation in competency, CBE, mastery learning and personalized learning, it would be very difficult for our tree to grow!  Borrowing from the Transforming Schools book, we believe the center trunk is Envision's "Know-Do-Reflect" triangle, from where three major branches jut out:
  • "The prepared graduate knows the content and the discrete skills of her academic subjects" [acquired via self-paced learning, mastery scales that define accomplishment, and backward designed units].  
  • "She can do what typical college courses demand...using her intellectual, interpersonal, and executive skills to make things happen"  [applied knowledge via workplace learning, project based learning, performance based assessment, exhibitions, and portfolios].
  • Lastly, "she has the ability to reflect, a habit of self-awareness and revision that sets her on the path of continued growth" [as done on, or through, the 4 C's, Defense of Learning, portfolio Artifacts, and various Rubrics] (page 24).   
But at least as important as the roots, trunk and branches is where the tree is growing towards, and this ideal goal -- our system's sun -- is our Profile of a Graduate.   Note that the tree can't quite hit the sun. What makes the competencies of a Profile of a Graduate so powerful is this: while mastery of these competencies may designate completion and validity for a SCPS diploma, the competencies should continually be applied throughout the lifetime of the graduate.  We hope not only to grow graduates, but grow perpetual learners who (to quote a favorite phrase of our superintendent Dr. Neihof) are always in the act of becoming.

Certainly our group's organization and tree analogy are not meant to be the final word.  Indeed, as other groups shared their visual representations, we had some healthy debate and discussion on how they saw things differently.  What was most important to me and others was the process of reflecting on several seemingly disparate pedagogies and educational terms and seeing how well they blend into a CBE system.   Seen in this (sun)light, competency-based education becomes a natural, organic evolution of what came before, not a tree separate from the rest of the educational forest.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

OER: Gooru and Teacher Advisor with Watson

Open Education Resources (OER) have been around for several years.  What does OER mean? As defined by the Office of Educational Technology,  OER differs from materials that are simply free and available online in one key way: they are "openly licensed," which means they can be remixed, reused, and repurposed.   (For a great introduction to OER, check out the Office's launch packet and follow the hashtag #GoOpen.)

While OER could conceivably be any kind of openly licensed educational material, it is most often seen as curriculum and lesson plans.   This is the great promise of OER: what teachers used to have to pay to get can now be acquired for free and reimagined as they see best.   And yet, OER is not as pervasive as you would think.  If there is teacher reluctance to use open education resources, it's not from lack of stuff -- it's from overabundance.  You can access thousands of OER materials with a general Internet search engine query, but it's often difficult to know the wheat from the chafe, or drill down to specific parts you may need.  In an educational world where a teacher ideally tries to personalize learning for all levels of students and needs a variety of materials, OER can be a godsend, until you see it as a time consuming process with little if any assurance how it is vetted.

Ironically, there are those who saw a profitable opportunity in open education resources.  Some sites collate and organize OER into a user-friendly platform -- for a fee.  However, I want to share two sites that are curating OER at no cost which I have found very useful:  Gooru and Teacher Advisor with Watson. (No relation!)

Gooru has OER curriculum from partners such as EngageNY, Summit Public Schools and Next Gen Personal Finance, but also has vetted material submitted by individual teachers.    (I briefly talked about Summit's personalized learning platform in December 2016, but Gooru allows you access to their curriculum without having to go through their learning management system.)  Teachers and students can create accounts via their emails or through a Google account.  Teachers can then create classrooms of students to assign whole "courses" or customize their own, including adding their own content.   Yet Gooru is more than a great curation tool. It really shines in its Learning Navigator, which "offers personalized pathways to help students reach their learning goals."  This includes assessments (where teachers can see results in real time) as well as the ability for a student to self-pace.  A video overview of the Learning Navigator is below (1:41):

Teacher Advisor with Watson is powered by IBM's Watson AI, which makes searches more intuitive and powerful.  It is currently limited to K-5 math curriculum, but according to a representative, it will soon be expanding both in grade levels and content.   Unlike Gooru (with its student accounts, digital classrooms and Learning Navigator), the audience for Teacher Advisor is, as the name implies, only teachers.  It too has excellent OER material, with partners that include EngageNY and Teaching the Core.  The site is easy to navigate, and you can quickly get to specific kind of resources by type (categorized as Standards, Lessons, Activities and Strategies), including an impressive bank of instructional videos.  For any materials you download, you can find them under "My Library" in your account profile.  As Teacher Advisor incorporates a greater span of material, it will likely grow as an indispensable first stop of OER curation.  Here's a brief video overview (1:38):

The Internet was pitched to the world as a free and open marketplace of ideas and materials.  OER has much promise to fulfill the educational part of that ideal, so long as tools like Gooru and Teacher Advisor with Watson make that dream an easy to navigate reality.

Do you have a favorite OER you use?  Share in the Comments!

Sunday, March 4, 2018


Edtech can provide many opportunities for deeper learning, but there are times as a teacher that you also appreciate having effective tools for classroom management.  There are lots of useful examples out there, but they usually fall in two categories: each tool lives in a separate space, OR if you find a tool that collects them in one space, there are encumbrances (premium features cost you money, it involves installing a program, and so on).

And that is what makes ClassroomScreen pretty amazing.  Not only is it free, it is completely web based, so no programs to download.  That also makes it work on the fly anywhere -- including on Chromebooks!

How does it work?  ClassroomScreen can live inside the normal size of an open tab, but you can also make it full screen.  It is basically a suite of simple, extremely useful "widgets," including:
  • Clock (12 or 24 hour, with calendar)
  • Timer (countdown or stopwatch)
  • Traffic Light.  As the site mentions, you could use this several ways: a visual reminder of voice level expectations, whether you can ask the teacher a question, or by students to indicate their understanding of the current concept or whether they need teacher help.  (This student example shows how ClassroomScreen could be a useful student-centered tool as well!)
  • Work Symbols (quick visual of your current student expectations)
  • Text box
  • Drawing (a whiteboard-like function, available small size and full screen)
  • QR code (put in a URL, instantly ready to scan!)
  • Sound Level (set the sensitivity and acceptable classroom noise level)
  • Random Name & Dice. You can type or upload a .txt file to randomly pick from a list (of student names, terms, etc.), but be advised it forgets the list when you close the tab. The dice tool rolls one, two or three six-sided dice.
  • Background.  You can choose from several defaults or upload your own image.
ClassroomScreen has an international connection -- the inventor is Laurens Koppers, a teacher from the Netherlands -- so it's probably not a surprise that the site can be quickly changed to different languages, as shown below:

ClassroomScreen in Spanish mode, one of several dozen choices.  What a useful tool for ELL!

One thing that may not be as intuitive is how to close a widget; it's not on the pop up widget itself, but by clicking on the red X on the appropriate button in the bottom row.

You can have two of the same widget at the same time! Once one is running, click the "+1" to make two of the same widget appear on the screen; click "-1" to make one of them go away.  Clicking the red X closes both widgets.

One last widget is Exit Poll (a button in the lower right corner of the screen).  While input is anonymous, it can give you a quick emoticon-based survey of the classroom.   Note the poll input can only be done at one device (as opposed to students "voting" over the Internet); for example, students would have to walk up to their teacher's touchscreen display to vote by touching the appropriate emoticon.  You could also use this as an "entrance poll" to preassess learning, as part of a debate on a topic, or as a "catch and release" moment in workshop.

ClassroomScreen has a great video overview (2:20) of the site:

How could you use it?  While ClassroomScreen doesn't need a touchscreen display, several features like the Draw widget and Exit Poll make this a natural pairing.   

The Traffic Light example mentioned above is the start of how ClassroomScreen could become student-centered with some creativity or app smashing.  For example, via Google Casting, a student could share their Drawing or Text response to the teacher's display.  If the student publishes something with a URL, they could share the product by quickly making a QR that could be scanned by the teacher or other students who walk by his or her device.  (Remember QR Code Generator as a way of scanning QR codes without installing a program.)

Note that you can open ClassroomScreen in multiple tabs, which means you could potentially flip between tabs to give instruction for multiple groups at once.

Downsides?  It's hard to find fault with a free program with so many widgets in one convenient place.  A screen shot feature would be nice, so you could save work.  If you use the Random Name app with the same roster, it may seem annoying that the site "forgets," but I recommend keeping your .txt files in an easy to access folder on your desktop. 

Have any creative tips and tricks on how to use ClassroomScreen? Share in the Comments below!

Special thanks to Val Curtis; it was through a retweet of her first "Learning in the Loo" that I discovered ClassroomScreen!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Edtech Share Fair 2018

The fourth annual Edtech Share Fair (#SCsharefair) is in the books!  THANK YOU to all the attendees and presenters who volunteered valuable time to become learning partners.  Interestingly, while it was not the highest number of tickets "sold" compared to past Share Fairs, this year had the highest amount of people actually show up.  And what a great mix!  Not only did educators register from eight school districts outside of our own, but we also had more than a dozen future educators attend -- both college students as well as from our own Shelby high school student teacher pathway.

This was the first year we added an additional PD strand for Competency-Based Education, and those sessions were as full as our edtech ones.  Food for thought on how we will organize in 2019.

A few months ago, I received a sad notice that Storify is shuttering by the end of this school year.  So while I'll skip making a Storify for this year, I'll still share a sampling of our social media tweets below.   If you want to revisit information about this year's presenters, the Share Fair FAQ, and more, be sure to visit the event Smore.

Thanks again for making the Share Fair so memorable and successful!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Measure, Treasure, and Pleasure: Achieving Eternal Impact in Your Learning Journey

Our superintendent Dr. Neihof often reminds us to make educational leadership choices while keeping "eternal impact" in mind.  In other words, make a difference for students not just for today or this school year, but for decades into their future.  Know that you are an agent of change, and the choices you make in educational leadership are what define the legacy you leave (or create).

Not too long ago, at a district administrative meeting, we were discussing the tools of measuring what we consider important in a school environment.  Like a lightning bolt, three rhyming words popped into my brain: measure, treasure, and pleasure. **  As I reflected, the words began weaving into an axiom:

"Measure what you treasure, and don't forget your pleasure."

While it may be an oversimplification to base an entire district vision or plan on such a phrase, I think these three key words help illuminate a way a person can make an eternal impact in education.  Let's look through the lenses of administrator, teacher and student as we examine the components.


What is most important to me or us?  When thinking educationally, it might be difficult to narrow to just one "thing" and we must settle for a distilled list of bullets.  But be careful: if the list is too long, then priorities become muddled, the progress will be difficult to track, and the result will be frustration and disappointment.

Administrators may ask:   What skills, dispositions and/or knowledge do we want a graduate from our school/district to have?

Teachers may ask:  What must a student have when they leave my classroom?  After learning my content, what is the one thing I hope they will know or will be?

Students may ask:  What do I want to be when I grow up?  What am I passionate about?  What skill or knowledge gaps do I need to most "fill" by the time I graduate?


In what ways will you ensure that you are on track for achieving your treasure?  It is human nature to do what you are held accountable for, but if what you do seems to have little or no impact (lack of monitoring, no consistent feedback, expectations are unclear, etc.), you'll drop it in favor of more "important" stuff.  For example, you may see the need to examine "social and emotional learning," but by which systemic metrics must you ensure SEL is tracked and addressed?   You may value digital citizenship, but in what ways can you guarantee that stakeholders engage in maturity-appropriate high critical thinking lessons over a consistent period of time?

Administrators may ask:  In what ways am I creating a culture of compliance rather than a culture of change, and how can I reverse this?  How are my walk-through tools beneficial and timely to teachers?   Do I spend more energy on celebrating risk taking and growth opportunities, or are you more concerned about staff sticking to the rules?  Are teachers analyzing data gathered from integrated blended learning, or are they merely "using" digital tools? How are you personalizing staff learning in the same ways you hope they are doing for students?

Teachers may ask:  How do I make sure each student feels they are a valuable part of our classroom and community?   How do I know which students have "it"?  How will I help those that don't, and those that already do?  How can my assessments be for student learning as much or more than a summative declaration of their learning?  How am I allowing multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their mastery?

Students may ask:  How do I know where I am at?   In what ways will I achieve what I want?  How can I reflect on and use "artifacts" as evidence of my mastery of competencies and standards?


Last but not least, our journey must have a sense of play and joy.  Without positive encouragement of taking risks, without fostering curiosity and inquiry, and without a sense that what we do is for the betterment of self and of others, the rest becomes moot.  It is the difference between a journey of "academics" (with all the dry, stuffy connotations that word dredges up) and a journey of authentic learning.

Administrators may ask:   How do I help our staff feel fulfilled and energized?   What mechanisms makes sure teacher voices and desires are given a fair shake? How do I foster collaboration and teamwork and avoid staff feeling "silo'd"? Knowing that overwhelmed teachers may be faced with "cherish or perish," how do I celebrate them and help them avoid burnout?

Teachers may ask:  What inspired me to become a teacher (and if necessary, how do I reconnect to reignite my passion for teaching)?  How can I feed my aspirations and need for growth?  How do I find a balance of personal and professional demands?  In what ways today can I laugh and smile with my students and colleagues?   How can I allow myself to play and take risks without the pressure of perfection?  How can I bring some of this play and joy to my students?

Students may ask:   Do I have a voice and choice in personalizing my path in learning?  How is my learning relevant and authentic?  How can I make sure what I do impacts the world?  Where is the sweet spot in my learning that is between "too challenging" and "too easy"?  What are ways I can collaborate and make learning a social activity? How do I continue to grow in what I'm good at while also filling my learning gaps?

If done well, what we do in school has ramifications for years to come in ways far outside the classroom walls.  In that way, the grandest legacy of our "eternal impact" will be transforming administrators, teachers and students into lifelong learners.

**Editor's note:  while Google searches didn't turn up this idea of "measure, treasure, pleasure" in academic settings, it did reveal phraseology in a similar vein a few times in, of all things, religious reflection (such as this blog entry).   Perhaps this should not be surprising, as the secular "eternal impact" I discuss above would be analogous to the spiritual "eternal impact" of religious belief-centered choices.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Edtech Share Fair 2018 tickets now available!

Happy New Year 2018!  Although I (barely!) blogged more in 2017 than 2016, the number of entries was still lower than I had hoped it would be.  Chalk it up to busy work days and priorities.  One of my New Year resolutions is to at least average two entries a month for 2018 and get closer to the amount of blogging published when I first began Edtech Elixirs.

That aside, today's short blog entry is for promoting the fourth annual Edtech Share Fair on February 21, 2018! There are several firsts this year: the most sessions total (16), principals leading sessions for the first time, and more.   However, the most significant is adding a second strand of sessions concentrating on competency based education (CBE).  As a district, we are transitioning into just such a system, and we'd love to share what we've learned and accomplished so far.

You can read more about our presenters, their sessions, and more Share Fair information here or in the embedded Smore flyer below.     Tickets are FREE and we enthusiastically welcome educators from outside our district to attend.  The link for tickets is in the Smore, or you can go directly to our Eventbrite page here.

Hope to see you in February!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

To Tech or Not to Tech: Reflecting on Blended Learning for Young Students

The world of education is quickly becoming a digitized place, and for some, this can be unsettling. Parents, community members, teachers and even students sometimes lament the shift away from past instructional tools; recently, a high school freshman wrote an opinion piece titled "Public education should be less dependent on technology." At the end, she quips, "Technology may fail, but pencils and pens always work."

The debate is important to have for all grades, but in K-3 classrooms, this argument becomes nearly an emotional one. For our youngest students, the choice can seem agonizing. Do you fully engage them by recognizing their “real” life outside of school is constantly filtered through a digital lens, and an online workforce is their present and future?  Or do you make your classroom an analog haven where traditional materials -- actual books with paper pages, physical math manipulatives, Elmer’s Glue -- give the students a digital reprieve from hours of at-home screen time?

While I won't pretend that I can definitively solve this conundrum, I offer three steps to determine a way forward.

The first asks for hard reflection. You must consider how much bang for the buck you are currently getting for your traditional “this is the way I’ve always done it” approach.  Pencils and pens may never fail, but clearly across the United States, students do. Are your math and reading scores rising every year, or have they become stagnant or even declined?  On any given day, are students fully engaged and actively learning, or more distracted than ever and only passively receiving content?  If your current state tends toward the latter in both of those questions, recognize your present instruction is not having your expected impact, and change is necessary; you need to at least consider a different approach to teaching with additional or different (possibly digital) tools.

This is a good segue into the second step: analyze not how much you are using technology, but how you are using it. Just like any effective pedagogical tool, technology should enable students to be collaborative, creative, and critical thinkers. Two recent tweets (both of which reference TeachThought) shared to me by my colleague Lora Shields sum this point up nicely. The first uses side by side columns to show the difference between mere usage and intentional integration:

The second tweet looks at Bloom's Taxonomy verbs from a digital perspective. What are students doing with the tech? Clearly, the higher up the scale, the higher order the thinking:
The third step is to reject the either/or false dilemma nature of the question of "to tech or not to tech."  A modern classroom will likely have both digital and analog tools side by side, where technology usage is not seen as a “reward” or for a special hour on Friday.  It requires balance and moderation -- in short, a blended learning approach.  This can take time, a growth mindset, and patience.  It also requires moving the blended learning classroom from a "substitution" model -- where the pinnacle of achievement is merely digital flashcards and online dictionaries -- to a “redefinition” model where teaching is truly transformed and recentered . . . a place where students are exploring creativity, impacting their environment, and active reflectors of their own learning.

If you need to see a blended learning model, look no further than Jodie Collins and her kindergarten classroom at Wright Elementary. Ms. Collins (like all Shelby K students) has a 1:1 class set of iPads. After a recent visit, I knew she would be a great person to interview about the challenges and successes of integrating technology with our youngest students.
Ms. Collins, welcome to Edtech Elixirs!  Share your story. 
I began teaching in 2000. I taught Head Start. I finished my BA in Early Childhood Education in 2003 and continued with Head Start at Wright. In 2005 I began teaching Kindergarten here. I went to Georgetown and obtained my Masters in the Teacher Leader Program in Instructional Technology. Technology has always been a love of mine. I have always loved being innovative in my teaching. I started just by using technology in my classroom. I used to hear, “Oh, kindergarten students can’t use technology to learn.” Yes they can and they do! I do a lot of blog reading of other teachers and technology. Technology in primary is powerful and necessary considering the world our kiddos are growing up in!

How have you used your class set of iPads to create a blended learning environment in your classroom? My students use iPads for different avenues of their learning. The basic one is apps. We use apps for educational games. They also use iPads as a listening center. They scan QR codes and listen and watch stories being read to them. We have math stations during the week and students will use an iPad to access the video I make to show them how to work in their math station. They access this through a QR code I create to connect them to the video. The video helps them see and hear the rules for the station but also different ways to play the games and the learning targets they will be working on while in that station! [Editor's note: if you don't have a mobile device, you can scan QR codes with the webcam of a laptop or Chromebook using The QR Code Generator website.] I also use iPads for personalized learning in Kindergarten.

Personalized learning in kindergarten?  How do you do that?  
Yes, you heard me right! My students are on an app called Boom Learning (Boom Cards is the name in the app store). I created my free account and added my students. I am able to assign task cards to my students based on their individual needs in the areas of Math, ELA, Science and Social Studies. I can create task cards, but the website has a ton of free task cards in their store or I can purchase decks through Boom Learning and on Teachers Pay Teachers. My students are able to work on skills they need and on their level. Not only does this help the students but Boom Learning keeps reports for me to access how my students are performing on each skill. I see their accuracy, the number of times the deck was attempted, and I can even see the rate at which the student is answering or performing the skill. This helps me see if they lingering on a certain problem for a long time, and I can check in with them and pinpoint where they may be struggling and intervene to help!

Some stakeholders are concerned if we are using too much technology, especially with primary students.  What is your opinion on integrating digital tools for K-3 students?  How do you balance and manage digital tools with more traditional, analog approaches to learning? 
I think we are doing our students a disservice if we do not use technology in our classrooms. That is the nature of the beast and the world around us is filled with technology. We want our students able to use technology appropriately and efficiently. Yes, I use a lot of technology in my classroom, but I also use pencil and paper and crayons and markers. My students are well balanced in learning from both technology and traditional tools in Kindergarten. We write daily, we color daily, and we are learning to type too!

What are some of your favorite iOS apps or iPad-friendly web tools?  
Definitely Boom Learning! I love how I can differentiate with it. I have students working on addition through 20 already even though we are not to addition in our Core Content instruction yet! I found Boom Learning to be more beneficial having the iPads and also because of the reports I get from it. I also like Splash Math, ABCya, Sand Draw, Rainbow Draw, Glo Draw.  With an app called Sticky, students practice typing words. We have just started working with a few apps on coding!

What’s a new tool or digital approach you are wanting to try out for the first time?
I want to incorporate Google Classroom but we are not there yet!  Google Classroom may work better for iPads a little later in the year. I am definitely interested in coding and teaching them how to code. I am looking into some LEGO kits that do just that for the classroom!

Any advice you would like to share with other K-3 teachers wanting to integrate edtech? 
TRY IT! Yes, it can be scary and yes you are going to STRUGGLE but as [our principal] Mr. Green reminds us, it is all about the struggle! We learn when we struggle! Do not give up and be creative.  Make it work for you and your kiddos!

Thank you Ms. Collins for taking the time to interview!

In closing, here are some additional resources for blended learning and tools for elementary students: