Veteran’s Day, Sharing Stories, Tattoos and Librarians

warinkI was interested to read this news article about how tattoos tell stories, especially among U.S. service men and women. Various libraries are promoting the online exhibit entitled “War Ink“. Veteran’s Day is a good day to talk about veterans and their service. I did not realize how tattoos could tell stories, especially in relation to war and peace.

Check it out for yourself, but one of the opening quotes from the exhibit by David Cascante is particularly poignant:

It’s my own memorial for those that do pay that price, willingly, because of their love for America.

Celebrating and remembering.

Struggling with #digitallearning rather than #onlinelearning and #blendedlearning in 2014 Keeping Pace Report

I have to admit that I am a strong believer in the power of online learning for K-12 students. I have read the research, contributed a bit to the research, and experienced the power of online learning first-hand as an online charter high school principal. When the term blended learning came upon the landscape, I was worried it would water down what true and effective online learning was. However, I have come to realize that to have effective blended learning teaching, that there had to be effective online learning tools and programs first. I also know that as a researcher it is important to have clear definitions in order to study teaching and learning, as well as teach others what it means.

I am struggling with the latest Keeping Pace Report, now titled “Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning” rather than “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning” or “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning,” because of the term digital learning. In the executive summary of the report, the authors explain the reasons for the shift to the term digital learning. But I am concerned that this term waters down what effective blended and online learning really is. I was part of a one-to-one laptop program in a school district and middle school over 15 years ago. By the definitions in the current Keeping Pace report, this district and school – as well as many others – were doing digital learning long ago. It seems that this shift in terms is suggesting that whenever a teacher uses a website or posts a lesson online or use a cell phone for polling or assigns a YouTube video for homework that they are doing digital learning. But, it seems like in those early days, most teachers were simply substituting digital tools for print tools and the teaching did not change.

The conclusion in the opening of the report states:

  • “At a very high level we believe the following two points, which may appear contradictory at first glance, describe the current state of digital learning in K–12 education:
  • 1. More students have access to more types of digital learning than ever before. Digital learning options are available to many students in a rapidly expanding range of forms, including online courses from multiple sources, dedicated schools built around aggressive digital instruction models, and many digital learning opportunities in traditional school settings.
  • 2. Wide gaps remain in the availability of digital learning. There are still vast differences among schools in the availability of technology, data communications capabilities, and digital content and tools. In addition, limitations placed on schools and students vary by local and state policies, and in decisions made by districts….
  • We are continuing to expand our research and reporting in new and exciting directions, and we are committed to reporting on access, activity, and—to the extent possible—outcomes.”

No doubt that access, activity and outcomes are important. But how is that any different than what is measured in traditional education? Measuring policy and activity is a challenge … and then even when policies have been passed, how they are implemented to improve learning is another matter.

For now, I’m holding onto what I know has made a difference in student learning from the fields of online and blended learning, including the Christensen Institute definition of blended learning. The field continues to grow and change … and I wonder how long we will remain in the “nascent” stages of blended and online and digital learning or if we will be in a perpetual nascent stage?

Perhaps the term digital learning will cause more schools and teachers to better understand the importance of providing options for students that better engage learning, no matter what the term is called.

Overall, I do believe there needs to be a continued shift in education to a more blended learning environment that leads to more engaged learners, greater student achievement and more career and college-ready students. I think these attributes best describe the shift that should occur – no matter what term is used:

  • Shift in teaching pedagogy that is more student centric and collaborative with colleagues and students
  • Data driven instruction and assessments that leads to more personalized learning
  • Empowered learning that is iterative and innovative that better engages teachers and students
  • Use of gaming to engage learners
  • Learning that can occur anytime, anywhere and from any device
  • Increased access for all students to learning in many formats (print, video, audio, simulations, games, etc.)
  • Daily use of digital curriculum, resources and systems that provide real time data for students, teachers and parents so students understand their progress towards mastering key concepts
  • Curricular and instructional goals should drive the technology

Do read the report to learn about the changing landscape of blended, online and digital learning to become more informed about the changing field of education in America and join in the conversation. The end result is what we all desire: more students graduating from high school who are engaged in learning and are career and/or college ready that lead to productive and happy lives. 


Have you voted all you #onlinelearning #blendedlearning and #ce14 peeps?

As many of you know, I am the oldest of 5 kids who grew up in Santa Cruz, Ca. I cannot remember a time when either our mom or dad sat us down and said, “these are our family values!” However there were many family values that were modeled for us that have been gradually revealed over time. One of those values was the importance of voting!

i-votedMy mom would always make a big deal about voting day – whether it was the primary election or the general election. She spent much of her time being a mom and shuttling all of us around to the variety of activities we were involved in. As we got older and could transport ourselves, she became involved in other civic related organizations. For as long as I can remember, my mom was a member of the League of Women Voters (LWV) and she often worked at the polls as an election day volunteer. At the dinner table she might bring up the latest discussion topic or issue from the last LWV meeting. Those dinner table conversations in November would always come around to the importance of voting, some times discussions about people running for office, and often about the different propositions on the ballot – either regarding state or local issues.

As we grew up, one of the first things my mom would ask us when we turned 18 was if we had registered to vote. It didn’t matter which political party we registered for (my mom was a democrat and my dad was a republican), but it was important to register to vote and then vote.

I can remember one rainy October evening when my mom had received a request to register a blind lady whose house was in the Santa Cruz mountains. I can’t remember how many of us kids went along on that ride, but I was one of them. I can remember driving up into the mountains – at least 30 minutes from where we lived – to find this lady’s house around one of the many winding roads off the Highway 17 freeway. In those days, one could only register to vote on paper. After arriving, my mom pulled out the printed forms and began asking the lady her name and the related questions in order that she could be registered to vote. From what I can remember, this lady was well past the age of 60, but lived in a nice cozy home in the Santa Cruz mountains and had never been registered to vote. Those of us who were along for the ride were probably a bit irritated about having to spend our time driving with my mom to accomplish this important civic task. However, the lady got registered to vote. Now, almost every time I drive past that turn off on Highway 17 – it’s the Laurel Road turn off on the freeway (right where the freeway curves) – I think about the time I went with my mom to get this blind lady registered to vote.

My daughter and I spent time last night talking about who and what to vote for and then both completed our ballots for today.

I hope you exercise your democratic right and vote today!

#ce14 #blendedlearning strand Archives, Recordings and Reflections

Connected Educator Month (October) is coming to a close but the learning continues. First, the Connected Educator Month Town Hall meeting will take place on Monday, Nov. 3 (3:30 EST / 12:30 PST).


Second, it was a pleasure to host the blended learning strand on behalf of CUE. Some of the blended learning insights that were shared included:

  • The blended learning definition is normative and continues to be refined based on changing technologies.
  • To continue to learn about blended learning it is important to identify ways to measure blended learning progress.
  • One way to identify how blended learning is being used is by putting together a survey such as the eLearning Census in California
  • Blended learning allows students to better have a seat at the “learning” table and become more engaged in their learning in a way that has not been possible in the past
  • Blended learning can lead to and facilitate personalized learning
  • With open educational resources, content is much easier to find for teachers now to use in blended learning classrooms
  • Blended learning is more than simply a tech rich classroom
  • Using data to inform instruction for the teacher is a key part of being a blended learning teacher
  • Blended learning should be more of a “verb” than a “noun”

Listed below are the archives of the blended learning webinars:

Blended Learning Panel 1: What is Blended Learning and What are the Best Implementation Strategies? (Oct. 6, 2014)

  • Discussed the ongoing definition of blended learning and implementation strategies.
  • Panel Members Heather Staker, Christensen Institute; Allison Powell, iNACOL; Mike Lawrence, CUE; and Rob Darrow, Blended Teacher Network
  • Recording Here. *** Slide deck here.

Blended Learning Panel 2: Blended Learning and Teaching. What does it take to be an effective blended teacher? (Oct. 13)

  • Discussed what it means to be a blended learning teacher.
  • Panel: Blended Learning Teachers: Meghan Jacquot, English teacher,Fusion Academy, California; Haley Hart, Science teacher, EAA, Detroit, Michigan; Jeff Gerlach, 7th Grade Social Studies / Instructional Designer, Michigan Virtual University, Detroit, Michigan; Brian Thornley, Algebra II Honors teacher, Huntley, Illinois; Lesley Farmer, Professor, Librarianship, California State University, Long Beach, California;
  •  Recording   *** Slide Deck

Blended Learning Panel 3: Blended Learning and Leadership. What are the best ways for administrators to support blended learning? (Oct. 20)

  • Discussed barriers and solutions to blended learning leadership.
  • Panel: Blended Learning Leaders, Administrators and Support Teachers: Anna Gu, Research Assistant, Christensen Institute, California; Anne Pasco, Blended Learning/Ed Tech Department Chair, Huntley High School, Huntley, Illinois; Brian Bridges, Coordinator eLearning Strategies Symposium; California eLearning Census; Travis Phelps, St. Justin Catholic School, San Jose, California.
  • Recording *** Slide Deck

Blended Learning Panel 4: Reflections and Insights about Blended Learning. (Oct. 27, 2014)

  • Discussed key aspects of blended learning including the importance of professional development, and how we need to talk about verbs rather than nouns to better engage learners.
  • Panel: Andrea Ferrero, Manager, Blended Learning, CFY, NY.;  Tina Silverstein, Instructional Designer, Alameda County Office of Education, Ca.;  Lee Collver-Richards, Teacher, Los Angeles USD, Ca.;  Adina Sullivan, Education Technology Coordinator, San Marcos Unified, San Marcos, Ca. ; Rob Darrow, CUE / Blended Teacher Network, Ca.
  • Recording *** Slides


See the archives from the Fall CUE conference (Oct. 24 and 25) that included blended learning related sessions including:

  • Keynote by Lucien Vattel: The Importance of Game Based Learning
  • Keynote by Diana Laufenberg: Creating the Classrooms We Need
  • The Great iPad vs. Chomebook Showdown 2014
  • Launching and Maintaining a Blended Learning Program
  • How Good Ideas Spread
  • YouTube – Engage, Educate and Inspire Your Students with Powerful Video
  • Creating Spoken Word Poetry to Inspire Social Change
  • Minecraft Projects for Every Classroom
  • Level Up! Classroom Gamification for Even the Non-Gamer

Lessons Learned about #Blendedlearning implementation at #FallCUE

The panel discussion at Fall CUE about blended learning implementation provided some wonderful insights. The resources from the session can be found here. The assembled panel of Barbara Bray, Diane Darrow, Randy Kolset, Elizabeth Calhoon-Brumbaugh and Susan Stewart focused on the importance of professional development as teachers implement blended learning and the importance of coaching, nudging and encouraging.

The tweets below provide some of the insights shared:

#FALLCue Live! #BlendedLearning and #CE14 Join Us from a Distance!

Slide1Connected Educator Month continues through the end of October. If you have not yet checked it out, see the calendar here and type in “blended learning” in the search and you’ll find all of the blended learning related session in the next week.

In support of Connected Educator Month, CUE is making a number of their Fall CUE keynotes and selected sessions live streamed for anyone to join on October 24 and 25 2014. If you join, please use the hashtags #FallCUE and #ce14 via Twitter to ask questions via the back channel.

All of the info about registering and joining the live streamed events can be found here or here.

Of special interest may be the Blended Learning Panel entitled “Launching and Maintaining a Blended Learning Program” that will discuss personalized learning and implementation of blended learning activities. This session will take place on Friday, October 24, 2014 at 1:15 EST / 10:15 PST. More information on this specific session can be found here. Participants from a distance can be part of this session and the conversation by logging into the session’s Today’s Meet to share ideas and ask questions.

The keynotes include presentations from Lucien Vattel and Diana Laufenberg.

Friday, October 24, 4:00 pm PST / 7:00 EST: Lucien Vattel. We Learn Best When We Experience, Interact and Connect

As an education trailblazer and game development visionary, Vattel is at the forefront of a nationwide crusade to revolutionize learning in the classroom and beyond. Vattel is the CEO of GameDesk, the Los Angeles-based interactive curriculum creator and digital publisher, which is transforming the traditional school model into a hands-on, digitally-charged ecosystem for students to discover and nourish their greatest gifts all while embracing STEM skills through game-based learning. Building on this methodology, Vattel founded and is Co-Director of PlayMaker, a next-generation, choose-your-own adventure middle school program designed to help teachers and students transcend the confines of textbooks and chalkboards. After securing the largest contribution in AT&T history, Vattel currently leads the design and development of a Los Angeles-based digital learning center and fully comprehensive online portal for educators.

Saturday, October 25, 3:30 pm PST / 6:30 EST: Diana Laufenberg. Creating the Classrooms We Need
Her keynote, ‘Creating the Classrooms We Need’ will discuss how our schools hold immense potential for authentic and experience-based learning in this age of information surplus. Since educators are teaching and students are learning in a landscape where students no longer have to come to school to get their information, never have educators had such amazing opportunities to think creatively about their practice. Never has it been so important for educators to provide students with innovative and dynamic learning. Laufenberg’s keynote will provide practical classroom examples of activities and assessments and will challenge audience members’ thinking on what it means to teach and learn in today’s schools.

The topics of other concurrent sessions being streamed include:

  • The Great iPad vs. Chomebook Showdown 2014
  • Launching and Maintaining a Blended Learning Program
  • How Good Ideas Spread
  • YouTube – Engage, Educate and Inspire Your Students with Powerful Video
  • Creating Spoken Word Poetry to Inspire Social Change
  • Minecraft Projects for Every Classroom
  • Going 1-to-1 with Chromebooks
  • Level Up! Classroom Gamification for Even the Non-Gamer

Looking forward to seeing you online or via Twitter with #FallCUE and #CE14 hashtag.

Common Core leads to #blendedlearning teaching at #FallCue

Whether your state has adopted the Common Core or not (or adopted it and then changed its mind), the national conversation about common standards across the U.S. continues. This 3 minute video provides some quick rationale for some of the many reasons for the adoption and implementation of Common Core standards.

The Common Core Assessments have been piloted and in spring 2015, students will be taking the common core assessments for the first time “for real”. This image below shows how common core assessments and the use of technology will provide ongoing measures that can better guide teachers in their instruction. I particularly appreciate the content and delivery rows that show the shift into more authentic assessments for students.


The shift to common core assessments is similar to the shift in teachers moving to becoming blended learning teachers. And the reasons to do so are the same.

  • Effective blended teaching uses ongoing data to inform teacher instruction to better personalize learning, while common core assessment data will also better inform instruction and provide teachers with more granular feedback.
  • Effective blended teaching utilizes technology to engage learners, while the common core assessments utilize technology to provide complex tasks utilizing multimedia and interactivity to provide more authentic assessments.
  • Effective blended teaching empowers a more student centered classroom with students taking on more control of their own learning, while the common core assessments engage learners while taking the assessment to better challenge their thinking beyond rote memorization of facts.

After thinking about the importance of blended learning for several years, I’ve come to realize that the goals of the common core assessments are the same – to engage learners, to better personalize learning, and to provide ongoing data for teachers and students that cause students to be more college and career ready.

There are several Fall CUE sessions that will address both blended learning and the common core as it applies to a math classroom. First this blended learning panel will address the implementation of blended learning. Then, this session about blended learning and the common core, co-presented with my sister who is a fifth grade teacher, will explore the importance of common core and blended teaching in the math classroom.

Overall, blended learning, like the common core implementation is a journey that causes all educators and students to better understand teaching and learning so that students leave high school more prepared for college and the work force.

Rob’s Tweets

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