Keep Climbing

“If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done”

– Thomas Jefferson

When I first moved to Colorado,  I wanted to be one of those people who had climbed a fourteener, one of the 54 mountain peaks here in CO that are above 14,000 feet.  It was something that I had never done before, an arduous climb filled with giant boulders, to the top of a windy mountain peak.  We started at the trailhead around 4:30 am and summited about 7:00 am on that same summer morning.  It was well worth it.   The 360-degree views with miles of visibility were unlike anything I had ever experienced.  The wind was blowing rigorously as it blew my hair around and filled up my clothing,  a feeling that I can go back to when I visualize the experience.  An experience that I choose to have because of something I wanted.  This climb is much like the arduous joyful climb that I am enduring in changing my classroom over to a student-led space. A choice I am making because I want my students to truly experience the joy of learning and creating.  One of the biggest changes that I am embracing in class is the idea that students can be creators of content. I decided that the topic of space rocks was a topic that I would use to encourage students to become creators of content by producing videos for youtube.

Character is grown in the climb, where the risks are taken and knowledge is gained.  Standing on the peak is easy and even though the climb may be hard, it is what matters most.  I choose to climb.

New and Better:

  1. Giving students complete control over how they presented their understanding of the different type of space rocks.  Students could use any tool to present (technology or paper and pen).
  2. The advanced (4 for standards-based grading) portion of the rubric was left blank so that students could extend their own learning above the standard in their own way.
  3. Students who want their work shared with the world had their presentations converted and uploaded onto my teacher youtube channel.


Overall, students were engaged in the task.  The project was introduced using an information graphic which ended up being one of the main sources that students used to gather information (not the richest in content). I think introducing the topics in a different way may have allowed students to create more authentic presentations of the content and used more resources. I’m not actually sure that students did, in fact, create their own content.  I did upload their videos onto youtube which had students all a buzz.  I don’t feel as if the open portion of the rubric for the advanced portion was as effective as I hoped.  Next time I offer this choice in the rubric there will be criteria regarding a reflection to be turned in with the project of how it goes above the standard.  I also felt as if I ran out of time to teach students how to convert the files over and need to make the time as its taking to much of my time to do it.


  1. Do not use the information graphic to introduce the content.  Create a slide show with the images to have a discussion beforehand, or have some sort of fun vocabulary sort to do at the beginning before having them create the projects.
  2. Teach students how to convert the presentation files to movie files on their own.
  3. The advanced portion of the rubric needs a written reflection to be turned in to justify how it is going above the standard.

I will continue to work hard and climb on from good to great!  Time to dig!

Not Giving UP Week 5 #IMMOOC

I’m not one to quit.   Here are my reflections for Week 5 of the #IMMOOC .  They are a little late, but the time I spent reflecting and thinking is helping me to grow and move forward to new and better!   I was brave, did something tough and joined the Voxer group for the book study but then didn’t have time to listen and really become engaged in the tool as a way to collaborate and share.  I will definitely be revisiting Voxer as a tool in the future.  
I don’t think that measuring the impact of innovative practices is something that can be easily measured.  There are so many variables involved and many of the effects may not be seen immediately, in a year or even for decades.   I think we need to start looking at successes of our students later in life as well as in the present moment to really see if the risks we take have a lasting effect on the students that we spend so much time with.The greatest takeaways for me are that change is slow.  I’ve come to realize that I work on a much quicker timescale than most and need to really work harder on meeting people where they are.  As I have stepped into several leadership roles in my building I have to do a better job of being a mentor and coach.

I am working towards some google educator certifications that are helping me develop some new skills for being a better leader/mentor/coach.I’ve begun the Google Trainer Course after finishing the Google Certified Educator Level 2 google educator training and have found that the units are providing many tangible and useful strategies in helping me become a better leader, mentor, and coach.  I will continue to access this resource as to move forward.   The resource is free to educators that have Google apps for education and for me has been invaluable training that I have been able to do on my own time!  I will be taking the Level 2 test soon!

I believe that I can work with my colleagues that are also participating in the digital innovations pathways program to start to ask some important questions about how our students are using the one to one resource that the district has provided them.  How are we creating an independent self-guided and motivated students?   How might it look different at different grade levels?  What standards do we believe that students need to be proficient in before moving on to high school?  Which standards do we focus on?

I am going to work hard to continue to reflect using this blog as often as I can.  I really need to create a space and time to reflect regularly so that I am keeping my thoughts organized and making sure to move forward to new and better.  I also hope to create a google +, blog or some kind of way for our building to share great ideas.

As I reflect on what this book means to me its that I really do have to be brave and continue to work towards and fight for what I believe is best for learners, all ages of learners.  Even if it means that it starts with my classroom and begins to trickle out into the spaces that surround me and inspires others to take risks to create unique and exciting learning environments for all learners!    I will continue to ask hard questions and move forward.  I will not give up.

Seeing differently…Week 4 #IMMOOC

The examples that resonate with me about strengths-based leadership is the idea that we have to do a better job reaching out to people where they are and not assuming that they are where we are.  I know the benefits of taking the time to hear someone’s story in order to understand where they are coming from and know it is critical but am beginning to see things differently.  I know I need to be more intentional in looking for strengths and help others to see the strengths others see in them and the strengths they see in themselves.   I believe it is important to ask myself, what are my strengths?  They are:  Energetic, forward thinking, highly curious, open minded to new ideas, love learning, inspire others, spontaneous, enjoy collaboration.  What traits am I lacking?  Thinking all the details through,  Organization, restraint.  How am I excluding those around me because they see it differently?

The professional learning opportunities that I am choosing to participate usually have at least one of the “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classrooms” present, however, I believe professional development needs a redesign.  Echoed by teachers I speak with everywhere is that most professional development is the sit and get type!  I am currently participating in a program that my district IT department has developed called the Digital Innovation Program.  I have grown a tremendous amount, however, am still thirsty for time to reflect and move forward by reflecting and sharing with others, but there just isn’t enough time in the day or allowed when we are at our trainings.  As a result, I have worked independently to grow through the books and connections I am making on my own.  That is why I have chosen to participate in this book study!  It has encouraged me to get my thoughts down even if only for myself!  I am realizing that I must find a way to use my time more efficiently!  Hmmmmm…What does that look like?  How can we all share how we see the world more and share the difference as we see them?

On “Powerful learning first, technology second” (

It was that time again, the annual walking field trip 8th-grade students take to a local dairy to learn about the chemical and physical changes that occur throughout the milking process. Each year 145+ students, 20+ chaperones, and 4+ teachers took the mile long trek to a local Dairy to learn about science content within the context of something that is in their community.  Students spend the day learning from professionals/professors in the dairy industry about how the animals are cared for, how the waste is managed, end products and the processes that create them, and how the animals are milked which allows them to understand what is happening there and be a little more tolerant of the smell that sometimes comes from it!   It’s a special day that ends with a picnic at a local park for lunch before students walk back to school for the end of the day!  This year I really wanted to do something different with the information students collected at the dairy so they were given the task of producing something that was able to show their understanding of chemical and physical changes occurring at the dairy which we will share on twitter and youtube as soon as I have the proper permissions.  I shared all the images (250+) that I had taken during the field trip and then they went ahead choosing different district approved tech tools, paper/marker, etc. to create their product!  I found that the powerful learning that students did with the professionals at the dairy sharing their real world knowledge and careers had an impact on the quality of output and time that students put into formalizing what they learned at the dairy!

Questions to focus on this week!

What does the astronomy look like?  What do I need to do to actually gamify the unit?  How can I tie in asking questions before our telescope night and how do I get student voice into the unit?  What if I was to survey students asking what they need to learn best and then structure this unit around those needs?  Really want to give students their own voice in how they learn and what they learn to meet the standards!

How can I start to utilize this idea of strengths-based leadership to help push those that I mentor and myself further?  What things am I looking for?





Moving forward… Week 3 #IMMOOC



In order to support innovation in my building, I am doing my best to model new and better by taking risks and trying things that will allow for more learning in my content area!  I believe that I need to show what it looks like to “do” education differently and then others who are interested in following down the same path will inquire about the changes they are seeing me make and ask how they to can use those same strategies in their learning spaces.  I have found that people are in fact taking notice and asking, “How did you do that?”  I am still hearing from staff members, “You are so creative, I could never do that.” and I respond, “This doesn’t come naturally without hard work.  I am constantly reading and collaborating in order to create the experiences that my students are talking about in the classroom.”   We have begun to do demo slams at our monthly staff meetings which consist of about a three-minute quick demonstration of a best practice.  Resources are linked to a shared space where others can use them to do similar things in their classrooms.

When I look at the school vs. learning image I feel proud that I have taken the step to create a student-centered environment in my classroom with all of those characteristics.  I’ve changed the structure of my classroom experience for students and we are all learning alongside each other!

It has been a challenging and exciting start to the year and I am excited to see what my students are capable of as we feed each other forward!

As far as reflections from last week’s questions to consider in my classroom.

What does a class meeting lo0k like?

We had our first class meeting in each of the 6 sections of science 8 that I teach and it went well!  Students were brave and had an opportunity to share a personal thing about themselves that we may not know.  We also discussed intelligence and the idea of a growth mindset!

How can I have students create something authentic using the content from the dairy?

Students created a product that had to show their proficiency for showing the difference between physical and chemical changes occurring at the dairy!  I am currently looking over student work and am excited to see what the results are!  The intention is to put them up on our youtube channel as well as tweet out some of the exemplars on twitter!  The idea of having their work seen by the world really did inspire students to produce a product they are proud of!

The questions that I am thinking about this week as I move forward are:

How do I continue to build on the mystery of using Scooby Doo in the law of conservation of mass?  What fun spin or twist can be added to the lab work we are going to do?

What tweaks do I want to put on the astronomy unit I teach?  Do I want to gamify it and how does that look?  How will I prepare students for their “telescope time” at the local university observatory?

SO FUN!!!!!


Reflections on New and Better Week 2 #IMMOOC

There are several things this year that I am working on making new and better than they were before.  Our school has a one to one program and this change gives students autonomy in how they process and master content.  It is changing the way I think about everything.  Here is a couple of examples of how I believe I am changing the way content is delivered into something better and new in my science 8 classroom!

Science Digital Interactive Notebooks:

I decided to take the interactive notebooks that we use in my science classroom from a paper notebook into a digital format.    The notebook creates easy access to resources that we use in class much like a website.  It creates a space for students to link how they are processing content in their own unique way and they can’t lose it or forget to save using Google apps for education!  I’m finding that it is easy and more efficient to communicate with students!  Both better and new because it truly does allow for individualized education and access for all students!  The first step….

Digital Late/Missing Assignment Turn in Form

I have always had a physical space in my classroom where students turn in paper assignments.  However, with the change that I’ve made moving to a digital interactive notebook and the google classroom, I found that I was unable to keep up with each google classroom, each assignment, and resubmitted assignments.  To solve the problem I created a Google form that students use to share a link to missing or resubmitted assignments so that I am able to quickly process these assignments.  This makes it easier for students to communicate when they have turned in an assignment and makes for a quicker return as I am able to do it from anywhere with an app on my phone and don’t have to remember to check the turn in box.  New and better!

Cornell Note Taking

The Cornell notes student take now have links to videos and resources students can use to help them if they choose to use it.  Because the notes are in a google document students are able to use the “Research Tool” to insert images, find videos, data and cite it as they go!  It makes it so much richer as we are able to share so many different examples visually in an instant.

Breakout EDU Syllabus/Course Content Introduction Activity

This year I decided to introduce expectations and the course topics for my science 8 class using a  Breakout EDU  activity that I created based on what I wanted students discussing to solve the puzzles!  I created my own box out of a cooler with a lock, a chain and eight different lock boxes to get out of!  I hid the 27 clues all over the room with a green dot sticker on each so they knew it was an actual clue!  The activity created a movement around the room allowing students to get to know where things were in the classroom.  Students naturally were curious about the locked box and worked together to solve the puzzles, working on one then moving to another when no good ideas came.  It allowed my students to start to build trust with one another and also sent a message that I believed they could do it and “breakout”.   Several of the class periods counted down as the timer approached 0 seconds!

Asking Students what they think

I really loved the idea presented during the youtube live session two of asking students that aren’t meeting the standards, why they think they aren’t.  This seems so simple yet I’m imagining how powerful it could be.  Give students a say in their education!  Just makes sense.  I am going to work with my team around this question and how we can get our students thoughts about the things that affect their educational experience and their learning!

As I reflect on what I have created this year I realize there is still so much more to do and what has been done is not great, yet.  It is the beginning of a new mindset!  I move forward one foot in front of the other!

As I move into this new week I am inspired and excited to continuing to create opportunities for students to learn by creating!  Opportunities continue to be created for innovation if we continue to ask questions.  So here is mine for the week:

I need to continue to ask what other parts of instruction can be changed to make them new and better?

How can I use our field trip to the dairy to create an opportunity for students to create something authentic to share what they learn there?

What does a class meeting look like?


Feedback or Feedforward?

Feed students forward.


My middle schoolers eyes widened as we began classes last year with this simple statement: We are going to try something new. Instead of saying feedback, we are going to say feedforward.  We don’t want to feed each other back as learners, we want to feed one another forward.  I wanted to work on having conversations with my students about learning and growing not memorizing and compliance.

We made a commitment as a group to use the word feedforward.  If I ever used the word feedback students were quick to correct me.  They understood the idea of changing the word meant changing the mindset.  It was important to each of them because it was about learning and growing and it meant that they mattered!   It will be a word that lives forever in any space that I am a part of!   I truly believe that this small change in language is making a difference in the relationship between me and the learners I come in contact with and is helping us to cultivate a growth mindset!

So why do we give students what is called “feedback”?  I haven’t done much research, however, I did look up the definition.

The formal definitions of feedback from Merriam – Webster dictionary online is –

  1. 1:  the return to the input of a part of the output of a machine, system, or process (as for producing changes in an electronic circuit that improve performance or in an automatic control device that provide self-corrective action)

  2. 2a :  the partial reversion of the effects of a process to its source or to a preceding stageb :  the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source; also :  the information so transmitted

  3. 3:  a rumbling, whining, or whistling sound resulting from an amplified or broadcast signal (as music or speech) that has been returned as input and retransmitted     (

This definition seems to me to be made for machines or processes, but humans are not just a set of processes.  Can we make a better definition and call it feedforward?  Feedforward is not in the dictionary.  If I were to define feedforward in my classroom it might sound like this,

Feedforward is the analysis of a work, through which areas for growth are found and communicated so the work can move ahead, better than the original.

I wonder if this leads to a more innovative mindset?

So as educators move forward into this new frontier of what is possible in education how does feedforward feel?

For me its sense of what’s possible, of what can I do to feed this forward to make it better, and what can I do to produce new and brave ideas.  That’s what I want for my students and for the world.  I’m going to continue to feed my students forward by letting them know they are receiving feedforward. I truly believe that the choice of using FORWARD or BACK can make a huge difference in the mindset of our students!  I choose feedforward!

#edfeedforward #feedforward

Diving Right in! Summer Reading Reflections

“When you stop learning, you start dying.” – Albert Einstein

I don’t know about you but I love what I do and I love to learn!  So as always, I intended to take some time off but have found myself engaged in all sorts of new experiences!

I’ve spent the summer attending training sessions and conferences, reading and developing my professional learning community on twitter (that’s right!  I’m on twitter and I LOVE IT).

I was given the opportunity to go the International Society for Educational Technology Conference in Denver through the PSD IT department and I attended google for education sessions presented by Alice Keeler ( and Kasey Bell ( ) on using google slides, google calendars, and google apps and more!  I also attended a global collaboration session through an organization called Taking it Global and will be able to continue the global efforts made last year by using this platform instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.  It was a failed attempt however the experience will help with better decision-making down the road!  Google treks were presented in my final session and I was able to see the users of google maps to engage student in and learning about the world.

During the ISTE conference a shift occurred in me.   I have been using my own interactive paper notebook for at least 6 years now for professional development.  It is what my students use and I like to practice the skill in order to create/provide/facilitate better learning in the classroom.  When Alice Keeler shared the idea that everything can be stored, “forever” in the same place I had an aha moment and decided to change things up, take a risk and tried taking my notes on the computer.  To my surprise, I was able to keep up and then when I went to process my notes I found it to be more engaging and I was still able to meet my need for color with the different colored fonts.  I then made a digital style objective log to try myself before presenting to students and have been thinking about how best to present it to and use it with students. 

Follow this link to see an example of the professional development log.

Professional Development Log

I also attended the AVID Summer Institute and Comic con in Denver.  Both of which have provided me with opportunities to learn and grow this summer!   I was the only adult in my AVID class using a computer to take notes and spent much of Comic Con on the carpet with kiddos (I didn’t realize there were other sessions)  I still got some great ideas out of Comic con for example, An idea was presented to have students create what super heroes would look like on other planets and what would their super powers be!  I will be reflecting on the application of these strategies and skills as the year progresses!

Twitter has been something that I did not expect to be so influential to my thinking.  I have participated in book chats with educators from around the world and have collected ideas and shared my own ideas.  It is so inspiring to know that others are wanting to work and develop this profession and be a life long learner while helping others on their journeys of learning!

Mathematical Mindsets, by Jo Boaler is a must read for every educator not just math teachers!  As a science teacher I know that I can apply many of the ideas presented and could not put it down!  I’ve been recommending it to anyone who I know will benefit from its message and research!  I’m excited to have a go at creating science based tasks for students to engage in!

LAUNCH:  Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juiliani has also been influential in helping me to decide how to move forward with my science classes this year and I believe it may be a great fit for a cross curricular project that the 8th graders in our school participate in!  The notes that I took are in the professional development log above and I am pumped to use the LAUNCH cycle with students!  More to come!

After reading, Innovators Mindset, by George Couros I am determined to create an innovative environment not only from my students but for the science department at WMS.  There is so much work to do but now I have a starting place!  The book provides important questions to be asking and ideas on how to create a more innovative culture and environment!  I will be referencing it as the year progresses!

In order to help students get the most out of the science classroom I have been reading, Redesigning Learning Spaces by Robert Dillon, Ben Gilpin, A.J. Juliani and Erin Klein and I am inspired to make a couple of pretty big changes to my students learning environment!  A couple of take aways so far are the idea to make whiteboards as big as the desks and put them on top of the surface.  Another idea that I am trying to figure out for my classroom is the entrance way.  Have some inspired entrance way and exit so students are inspired coming in and going out!

Another great read for me this summer that has given me insight into my teaching practice is, Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz, He describes how he has created a student centered classroom, steps/strategies you can use and examples of the ideas in action!  A couple of important things I intend on using in my classroom are, High Five being a way for anyone to interrupt class and share information/ask questions or to do a mini lesson, defining rituals and not routines, and some great language and ideas for conflict resolution!

In ended my summer reading with Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burgess!  The ideas presented will help me to make what I do more engaging and meaningful for the learners in my classroom.  An idea that I used immediately from the book was to decorate the doorway of my classroom.  I got a set of battery powered light to put around the outside door and a beaded curtain for students to walk through as they entered.  I was also inspired to launch this blog to the world and shared it on my twitter feed!  I will continue to share my blog posts as I move forward!