Category Archives: EDUU 628

Authenticity In the Exciting World of Education Technology

The design of my Demo Unit was an authentic experience because I decided to make a course for the adult professional educators whom I work with every day as part of my job. It would have been much easier for me to build a Demo Unit full of lesson resources that I have used in the past with my high school science students, but that would not have been an authentic learning experience for me, because I no longer teach high school students. In short, I decided to look forward to the future, building learning activities that I might use next year, rather than looking backward.

I think it’s important to look ahead when designing curriculum. Too often, I see teachers design activities that are primarily designed to review prior knowledge. I’m not sure this is a great way to build student motivation for learning. Especially at the secondary level, teachers often precede a key exam or quiz with one or more review days. These lessons typically include vocabulary games, Jeopardy!-style competitions, and teacher-led rehashing of previously learned (or, perhaps, previously not-learned) concepts. While many of these activities are designed with good intentions, and may help remind students what they should remember for their upcoming test, I wonder if they are very effective. When students hear that today is a review day, they may feel entitled to turn off their brains to some extent, because their teacher is basically telegraphing that nothing new will be learned today. Ideally, however, something new should be learned every day!

So I am tempted to blow up the idea of the review day. In fact, maybe we should even blow up the idea of a test or quiz as a primary summative assessment altogether. Imagine how much more engaged a student might be in a one- or two-day summative project that would require some independent research and application of key concepts to practical problem-solving. Rather than give my students a multiple-choice quiz about atomic structure, for example, why not assign them to prepare multimedia presentations about how atomic structure relates to everyday teenage problems, like crack-resistant cell phone screens or artificial sweeteners? After all, I typically put my chemistry students to sleep with even the best-designed lessons about electron orbitals, but if I taught them how those orbitals related to, say, the interaction of a drug molecule with the human brain, suddenly their interest level would increase dramatically.

Upon final reflection about our Demo Unit assignment at Brandman, one modification that could have made the learning much more authentic would have been allowing some flexibility about the platform used. Although Blackboard and CourseSites are still very good ways to structure online learning units, there are newer platforms with more reliable functionality, like Canvas. In my specific case, because I work in a district that has a 1:1 Chromebook implementation, it would have made more sense for me to structure my Demo Unit using Google Sites, Classroom, Hangouts, and other Google Apps. Of course, I can appreciate the difficulty in modifying course content to stay up to date with the latest developments in education technology.

In fact, I can foresee a time when something else may replace even Google as the predominant technology platform in my district. Both Apple and Microsoft, for example, are developing their own classroom technology environments. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see my colleagues and their students using OneDrive and/or Microsoft Classroom just a few years from now. Just don’t tell them I said that! It can be daunting enough for educators just to keep up with the amazing variety of apps and web tools that are available right now. Considering how rapidly education technology may evolve over the next five years, I think we have much to be excited–and frightened–about.


Navigating UDL and Technology In the 21st Century Classroom

In a world where Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the standard for learning is structured, there should be fewer missed opportunities to engage students. Obviously this is important so we may use modern technology to its full advantage in order to level the playing field for students with disabilities and special learning needs. If I were to encounter an administrator who was hesitant to invest funds in staff development to support UDL, I’d point out that universal design also supports students who, for a variety of reasons, don’t tend to engage well in traditional teacher-led, textbook-based learning. These reasons can include unique preferred learning styles, varying personalities, and barriers presented by differences in culture, home language, and/or socioeconomic background. Even simple technology features like the ability to pause and replay a YouTube video, or to enable subtitles with a simple mouse click, can make a tremendous difference for a student with any of the challenges listed above.

Of course, faithfully implementing UDL in all classrooms is a tall order. In addition to the obvious challenges of limited time and funding, there is also an attitude among many educators that technology is contributing to an outbreak of increased cheating, including plagiarism, students sharing answers, and erosion of the security of high-stakes tests. To teachers who are nervous about such threats to the validity of assessment, I would offer the glimmer of hope that technology may help us detect plagiarism much more quickly and objectively via such checking apps as LiveText and Turnitin. 

There are even more powerful tools for detecting dishonesty coming very soon. My school district, for example, has been evaluating a new form of software that allows teachers to access their students’ active browser tabs and URL histories, and even to partially control the active windows of their devices. While these functionalities give teachers a lot of exciting new ways to streamline classroom instruction, they also open the door to an unprecedented level of access to what students choose to read and watch, including what they do with their devices during non-school hours. I am concerned about potential overreach that is possible with these technologies. I recently participated in a webinar in which privacy expert Amelia Vance pointed out that all of our new and powerful forms of electronic tracking of students may contribute to a so-called surveillance effect, which may inhibit the formation of the trust between students and teachers (A. Vance, personal communication, April 5, 2017). I would hope that teachers, administrators, and parents can work together to create a new set of norms that will help us optimize the environment for student learning in ways that are equitable and motivating, while at the same time monitoring our students well enough to ensure their safety and honesty.

Perhaps the most important thing teachers can do in order to support these efforts is to design learning activities that take full advantage of the technologies currently available to their students. The SAMR conceptual framework, although far from perfect, gives teachers a useful tool they may use to evaluate the quality of technology use in their lesson designs (Dunn, 2013). My Demo Course incorporates a brief SAMR that asks teachers to reflect on which level a lesson utilizes–substitution, augmentation, modification, or re-defintion (Dunn, 2013). This tool reminds me of the Bloom’s taxonomy that I learned two decades ago when I was starting my career as a classroom teacher. In fact, Bloom’s taxonomy itself has been updated to make more explicit connections to specific measurable learning outcomes (Iowa State University of Science and Technology, 2017). I think it’s useful for teachers to consider, as they write the learning objective of a lesson, which Bloom’s level and/or SAMR category the lesson fits into. The bottom line is, it’s more difficult for students to cheat when we ask them to answer questions and solve problems that don’t have a simple, single correct answer.


Dunn, J. (2013). New pedagogy wheel helps you integrate technology using SAMR model. Retrieved from Edudemic web site:

Iowa State University of Science and Technology. (2013). Revised Bloom’s taxonomy. Retrieved from

Role Playing – Not Just for Fun & Games

Role-playing is a key skill for effective teachers, because it gives us an opportunity to contemplate how our lesson design might be received by a student. It is important to remember that there is no such thing as an average student. Rather, each student brings a unique set of experiences, abilities, and skills to class each day. One of the benefits of my 20 years of experience in education is that I can think back to some of my more memorable students and ask myself whether or not each of my lessons would allow them to be successful. Would my D/deaf student be able to understand a video I am showing the class? Would one of my many students with ADD or ADHD be able to focus on my delivery during concept development? Am I providing enough scaffolding for my students with special learning needs? Do my English learners have rich opportunities to practice their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills?

Fortunately, the tenets of UDL philosophy have encouraged me, time and again over the past several months, to keep asking such questions. This constant self-criticism and high-standards reflection hasn’t always been easy; my lesson design certainly takes more time than it did before I discovered UDL. On the other hand, this sort of role-playing creates a certain sense of satisfaction from lesson design. Even though designing learning for UDL is not a simple task, viewing lessons through the lens of a student who has a name and a story reminds me that, even though I will make mistakes and stumble along the way, at least my heart is in the right place when I try to make learning more relevant and accessible for all of my students.

The exercise of having a critical friend review my lesson design has been a valuable one. Although my classmate validated much of my Demo Course Shell, she made a couple of specific recommendations that I did incorporate into a last-minute revision. For example, she suggested that I provide my students an opportunity to discuss something they had tried during the demo course that did not work well for them. This was an interesting twist on the discussion prompts I had included, because it created a place where I could reassure my students that mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process, and that they should not be afraid to make them. For this step of the process, I think it was especially helpful that I was paired with a partner from a very different grade level, because she was able to give me valuable feedback from a very different perspective.

My Demo Course Summative Assessment: A Reflection

Whenever I work with teachers, I try to constantly reflect on my role. I might be the technology expert, but my teachers will always know more about their specific grade levels and subject areas than I do. Even within the realm of technology, I frequently run into teachers who know things that I do not, especially when they have direct experiences with resources and contexts that I lack. I often liken my role as an athletic coach. Coaches have a unique big-picture understanding of the team’s goals, points of emphasis, and strategy going into each game. But smart coaches understand that the players on the field see and understand things that cannot be perceived from the sidelines, no matter how many years the coach may have played the game. Successful coaches listen to their players constantly, and keep an open mind about changing the game plan, even while they might have to sometimes tell players things they may not want to hear. It’s an idea that makes me a little nervous sometimes, to be perfectly honest.

Now that I have added the Summative Assessment Portfolio to my Demo Shell, I feel that it is a well-designed framework for my students to demonstrate and extend their learning throughout the Demo Unit. I have carefully struck a balance between providing enough structure and guidance so everyone will know what the portfolio looks like and how to assemble it, while still trying to remain true to that coach role I would like to portray. I have still left enough open to interpretation that my teachers can fill in the blanks with artifacts that are relevant to their unique jobs. This was not an easy task, and I’m not sure it’s fully done yet.

I might decide to make further refinements, because there are still a few elements of this summative assessment that I am not completely happy with. Although I think my video clip guide to New Google Sites is helpful, I would like to provide my students with some additional static links to some more in-depth instructions about how to work with New Google Sites (Wise, 2017a). I have located one possible resource, a 17-minute video clip posted by Technology for Teachers and Students (2016). I am not sure this is the best tutorial resource, however, and am still looking for one or more tutorials to add. This is very important because New Google Sites is very different than Classic Google Sites, so most easily-found tutorials about Classic Google Sites are likely to distract and confuse my students.

Also, my static template portfolio is not at all complete, because the individual assignments in my Weekly Demo Shell are not complete either (Wise, 2017b). I’ve decided to complete these individual assignments first, so I can include sample artifacts that look consistent. I might even stop calling it a template because, as far as I know, there is no easy way to make a template New Google Site, in the way that a Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs, or Google Slides file might be shared as a template. Rather, I might call this resource a sample portfolio, rather than a template.


Technology for Teachers and Students. (2016, August 22). The NEW Google sites – 2016 tutorial [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wise, B. (2017a). How to build your media tools portfolio on new Google sites [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wise, B. (2017b). Template – media tools. Retrieved from

Reaching Out to ISTE

I am continuing to build my Demo Course, entitled “The Technology-Savvy Educator,” which is aligned to one of the ISTE Standards for Teachers (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008). Specifically, I am designing this Course as a seven-week course of study, which will be available on CourseSites, intended for teachers who would like to deepen their understanding of how to use visual media tools like G Suite for Education, YouTube, EDpuzzle, Kahoot, and Quizizz to enhance their students’ learning and creative capacity. I am imagining that this Course, or at least portions of it, will be useful for EdTech trainers, TOSAs, and, technology mentor teachers.

Although I’m building this course and its learning activities primarily for the teachers I work with in my local school district, much of the Course overlaps with the ISTE Standards. So, I am hoping to reach out to ISTE for support, partnership, and advice as I continue to develop it. I have been an active member of ISTE since I took my current job position as a District EdTech Specialist, and I attended the 2016 ISTE Conference & Expo in Denver. I am already registered to attend this June’s annual event in San Antonio (International Society for Technology in Education, 2017). Although the deadline for session presentation submissions has passed, a “New Ideas” window opens next week, and I hope to pursue the possibility of presenting my Course, which will be completed just in time, at a poster session at the conference.

I’m also excited about the possibility of meeting peers from around the world who share a similar professional interest in developing EdTech professional learning resources for teachers. Who knows, perhaps I might be able to find one or more partners, either within ISTE or among the professionals who might drop by my poster session, who might be willing to coordinate efforts to create a larger set of technology training resources. Or, conversely, maybe such a grassroots tech training project may already exist that I would like to join. It may even be possible that someone involved with either ISTE or one of its affiliate organizations may notice this very blog post and reach out to me to get the ball rolling…

If your job includes training teachers to use technology, whether formally or informally, you know it can be challenging to find colleagues with whom to partner and collaborate professionally. Teaching can already be a lonely profession because most teachers spend the bulk of their work days in classrooms full of children, with very limited opportunities to communicate with other adults. This problem is compounded for tech trainers, many of whom must split their training responsibilities with part-time or full-time teaching jobs, and/or may have no one with a similar job at their school site–or even at their entire district.

I am blessed to share an office with two of the very best EdTech Specialists anywhere who are my partners. Plus, I have dozens of other colleagues within my District Office including Instructional Coaches, Ed Services staff, and Technology staff. In fact, my two partners have helped me present one component of my new Course, the YouTube Diner, at the CUE National Conference last month in Palm Springs. They even went along with my crazy idea to wear costumes at our poster session.

Our team presenting YouTube for teachers at the CUE National Conference on March 17, 2017.

Even if you’re fortunate like me and have terrific partners to work with, we all need to reach out and build the broadest Professional Learning Network that we can. After all, our work is far too complex–and too important–to be done in isolation. The great thing about technology is that you don’t really have to travel to a faraway technology conference to connect with colleagues. All you need is an internet connection and a willingness to reach out!


International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). ISTE standards for teachers. Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education. (2017). ISTE 2017 conference & expo. Retrieved from

Making a Google Sites Portfolio Assessment More Accessible Via Screencast

Technology in education is certainly a two-edged sword. On the one hand, modern technology gives students fantastic opportunities to learn in ways that were previously difficult, expensive, or impossible for teachers to design. Teachers often appreciate new technology tools that allow them to perform many of the complex or tedious tasks of education, like correcting papers and analyzing testing data, more effectively and efficiently. Modern media tools also have the potential to convey instruction–and develop problem-solving skills–much more effectively than the overhead projectors and chalkboards I used when I started my teaching career (Net Industries, 2017, para. 11).

On the other hand, new hardware and software learning tools are being developed and modified at a rapid pace that can overwhelm even the most tech-savvy educators. Often when I show teachers a new tech tool to make their jobs easier, they will ask me how long I think it will take for this tool to be replaced by something even better. My worst fear is that education technology might turn into a sort of Red Queen’s Race, in which teachers, like Alice in Wonderland, must constantly run just to stay in the same place (Carroll, 1871).

I’m currently working on designing my Demo Course Unit, which is a mini-course for teachers who would like to integrate visual media tools into their instruction. I’d like my teachers to build an electronic portfolio as a summative assessment for this Demo Unit, so that they can collect and share several artifacts that represent what they have learned about using modern technology tools in their lesson designs. I have decided that the best way to provide structure to this rather open-ended assessment is to provide my teachers with a template they may use to construct their New Google Sites portfolios (Wise, 2017b). My template will be shared with my teachers in a way that incorporates some variation in representation, which is an important consideration of Universal Design for Learning (CAST, 2015). I will provide my teachers with both a direct link to the template site and a narrated screencast video with subtitles (Wise, 2017a).


Carroll, L. (1871). Through the looking-glass [Project Gutenberg version]. Retrieved from

CAST. (2015). About universal design for learning. Retrieved from

Net Industries. (2017). Media and learning – definitions and summary of research, do media influence the cost and access to instruction? Retrieved from State University Education Encyclopedia web site:

Wise, B. (2017a). How to build your media tools portfolio on New Google Sites [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wise, B. (2017b). Template – media tools. Retrieved from

Using Google Sites to Create a Portfolio that Teachers Will Really Use

Since I left the classroom to work as an EdTech Specialist in my district, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to design a Demo Unit based on K-12 content standards such as the Common Core or NGSS. Rather, because my students are adult teachers with students of their own, I needed to find a set of standards that address professional learning and practice for teachers using technology in their classrooms. Fortunately, such a set of standards already exists; in fact, the ISTE Standards for Teachers have been adopted and used by many educators (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008).

For the purposes of my Demo Unit, I have selected ISTE Teacher Standard 2a, which states that teachers “[d]esign or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity” (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008, p. 1). I selected this standard because I try not to dazzle my teachers with all of the latest technological tools, but rather to show them how technology tools can be thoughtfully and strategically used to support and enhance student learning. I love this particular standard because it focuses on using technology tools to support not only student learning, but also creativity. I am convinced that technology should not be used only as a substitute for traditional textbook-based instruction. Teachers should also use technology to allow their students to create meaningful products with relevance to their everyday lives.



In keeping with the spirit of 21st Century learning, this standard’s key verb is to design, which occupies perhaps the highest position on Bloom’s taxonomy (Armstrong, 2017). In my school district, we spend a lot of time and resources on thoughtful lesson design. I work in the Education Services division of my District Office, where I frequently collaborate with our twelve Instructional Coaches on lesson studies and concept-building activities with grade-level and subject-area teams of teachers. We often help teachers build complete lessons using complex templates that incorporate instructional norms including lesson objectives, content and skill development, embedded checks for understanding, relevance, and (of course) technology.


My teachers work in virtually every type of classroom imaginable, from transitional kindergarten to adult school, including both general-education and special-education settings. Thus, it is important for my summative assessment to be open-ended enough that each teacher would be able to create a practical and relevant project that could be used with his or her own students. I decided the best way to accomplish this goal was to assign my teachers to construct an online portfolio of lessons, learning activities, and assessments using the New Google Sites.

The ISTE Standard gives the option of designing or adapting lessons; therefore, it isn’t essential that the teacher personally design each item in the portfolio from scratch. In fact, teachers need to know how to efficiently and strategically adapt preexisting lesson resources to meet their students’ needs. The rubric for this portfolio won’t focus excessively on details of the artifacts themselves. Rather, I hope to focus my teachers’ attention mainly on the planning, feedback, and reflection associated with each artifact. In the end, I want my teachers to design a portfolio of technology-based lesson resources that they, their colleagues, and their students will really use.


Armstrong, P. (2017). Bloom’s taxonomy. Retrieved from Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching:

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). ISTE standards for teachers. Retrieved from

My Journey from Ed-Tech Novice to Expert

According to Herr (2007), one of the most important differences between an expert and a novice is that experts are able to recognize patterns fluently with little or no effort (para. 14). Whereas a novice might be able to mobilize good strategies in order to solve a problem, experts have the ability to take a step back and assess whether or not the problem at hand is truly the most important problem.

Early in my teaching career, I once asked my principal if she could increase my copy budget, because I didn’t have enough funds to duplicate all of the lab instruction booklets I wanted for my science students. Because the principal was an expert, her response to my request was not a simple yes or no answer. Instead, she asked me a series of reflective questions about how my lab program was structured, in order to better judge whether my lab instruction packets were the best use of limited funds. Her motivation may have been, in part, to help me find ways to stay within my copy budget (after all, principals know that money doesn’t grow on trees), but she also did something that only experts can do: She changed the conversation from a relatively minor funding request into a much more valuable reflection on what my students were expected to learn from their labs, and how I expected them to demonstrate that learning.

Fast-forward a couple of decades to the present year, and most of my colleagues regard me as an educational technology expert. One principal I recently worked for even refers to me as a technology guru. I don’t know if I can quite live up to that moniker, but as I reflect on my own learning journey through my current master’s degree program, I see that even experts can learn more. In one of my earliest posts on this blog, I wrote about technology’s potential to expand learning opportunities for students by motivating them to learn (Wise, 2016). While this is true, I didn’t mention another very important advantage of modern instructional technology: its capacity to make learning more accessible for students with different abilities and/or learning styles.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about assistive technologies and universal design. For many students with special needs, modern technology makes a tremendous difference–not only in their learning, but in their entire lives. One of my colleagues recently showed me several types of software and devices that allow moderately and severely handicapped students to communicate; such technologies, she explained, give students access to language (K. Blevins, personal communication, March 8, 2017). I hadn’t thought about this idea much, mainly because I didn’t need to. As a general-education teacher, I’d only thought about assistive technologies and universal-design philosophy when I needed to adapt my curriculum because a special-needs student was enrolled in my class. Now my perspective has changed: Universal design isn’t just for students with special needs; it can benefit all students.

Of course, one of the consequences of being labeled an expert is that people turn to me for advice and answers to their trickiest problems. I hope that, over the course of the next several months, I may gain a deep understanding of universal design, so that I may provide useful services to not only my special-education colleagues, but for general-ed teachers as well. If I can manage to pull that off, then perhaps I may be one step closer to becoming a legitimate expert.


Herr, N. (2007). How experts differ from novices. Retrieved from The Sourcebook for Teaching Science web site:

Wise, B. (2016). Three ways electronic learning will be important to the classroom of the future [Web log comment]. Retrieved from