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My Journey to Become a Master of Digital Learning and Leading

posted Jun 27, 2017, 11:06 AM by Kathy Darling   [ updated Jul 1, 2017, 8:05 AM ]


My journey through the Lamar University’s Masters in Digital Learning and Leading Program has been one of self-discovery. When I first began imagining just what I wanted to gain as a result of my studies, I thought that I would be adding a new layer of technology integration to my curriculum. While new applications of technology was a part of the coursework, it was far from the main focus of changing the learning environment for my students.

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Change of any kind is a difficult and often painful process involving long nights of frustration, excuses, and second guessing. When I started this coursework, I had a mindset that my teaching model in the classroom was successful. I had already dabbled in redesigning the objectives for my curriculum to be project based learning but felt like I was missing something. That there had to be something more. As I traveled through these courses, I moved closer and closer to accepting that the learning environment that I felt was authentic to the learner also needed the ownership and choice for their voices to be heard.


5302 Concepts 1.jpg

 I read an article by Tom Snyder in LEARNing Landscapes that talked about his evolution as a teacher in the use of technology in the classroom. Tom Snyder said, “...we’re going to keep on collapsing back into the great teachers, the great storytellers, and what it takes to understand that space between teachers and students (Snyder, 2013). This course, and the ones that follow, is the beginning of my journey to understand the space between teachers and students.

This course is the beginning of learning to create a more significant learning environment by focusing on the use of technology literacy, digital resources and collaboration tools to create and design activities. In this course, I was asked to create a video that was a reflection of my teaching methods in the past, present, and the direction that I wanted my classroom leadership to take in the future. Concepts of Educational Technology lead me to realize that I was so busy with the now in my classroom that I didn’t take the time to reflect on the past or even think about the future.


5303 applying eportfolio.jpg

This course is centered around the design and creation of the digital platform, called an eportfolio, that will house the thoughts, designs, inspirations, and planning that will be the journey to leading educational change.

When the course first started, I had absolutely no idea what an eportfolio was or why I would want to ever have one. I thought that it was just a digital version of a tray to turn my assignments in for grading. As the course progressed, we were encouraged to share and peer review our eportfolios with each other. Each portfolio was as creative and unique as the student who created it. Eportfolios became so much more than a tool for assessment. My eportfolio became a place to promote my ideas. It became my voice.


5305 disruptive.jpg

In this course, learners examine disruptive innovation, which is a term normally reserved for the business world. The term here is used as a catalyst to bring about change in teaching and learning by creating a blended learning environment embracing current and future technologies.

I was so excited about the experience with eportfolios, that I wanted to share the experience with my students.This course is about changing the learning environment of students to make it more authentic and reflective of their learning. I was encouraged to look at my classroom, school, and district to see where I could make a difference, called an innovation plan, that would inspire learning. What better way to inspire learners than to be able to publish their own work?

I knew that this innovation plan was going to be a tough sell to the rest of my colleagues, so I got to work. I researched the benefits, designed a plan to implement eportfolios, designed a student template that was unique to my district, and created a video promoting the idea.

5304 Organizational change.jpg

In his Youtube video, Simon Sinek argues that people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it (Sinek, 2013). No matter how great my plan was or how good my reasons are, my plan will fail if I don’t reach my colleagues’ and students’ hearts. In this course, I was asked to write my why statement for changing the learning environment, what specific behaviors that needed to change, and the sources of influence that I will use to create an effective strategy for bringing the change about.


5313 CSLE.jpg

This course is all about investigating current learning theories around the learning environment. Using a theory called backward design (Wiggins,& McTighe, 2006), learners will create a unit of study starting with the desired goals and work backward to the activities that will make the unit a more significant learning environment. During this course, I was asked to set a goal. Not just any goal, A Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (Harapnuik, 2016) to be exact, and to create L. Dee Fink’s (2013) three column table as a guide to meeting it.

At the time, the content and activities in this course seemed to stray from my innovation plan implementation path. As I look back at it, however, I realize that eportfolios are useless, empty spaces on the internet without artifacts and ideas being posted to them. Fink’s three column table organizes the foundational skills, applications, integrations, the human dimension, and teaching students to learn how to learn that makes each goal more than just a proof of learning, but creates inspirational artifacts.


5314  Digital Learning in local and global context.jpg

In this course learners research and analyze the current literature as it applies to innovation plans in education. Based on the direction of my innovation plan, my literature review is the current research of the effectiveness of eportfolios.



5315 assessing.jpg

This course is designed around action research to answer the 5 Why Process. Learners will form a group collaboration to research similar initiatives in the literature and formulate a method to assess the impact of their own innovation plan.

My plan to innovate learning at the high school level is to have students create and post products of their learning to digital portfolios in order to increase student engagement in learning. To make this kind of innovative change, I need to be able to prove to my students and colleagues that posting artifacts to digital portfolios have a valuable impact. To gather the needed evidence, I will create my own version of Mertler’s (2016) action research plan and conduct a research project in my classroom.

The group collaboration to find additional resources in the literature was helpful to prove the importance of implementing eportfolios on education, but I felt that being able to point to my own successes was far more impactful with my students and colleagues.


EDLD 5388  Selected Instructional Topics Developing Effective Professional Learning.jpg

The amount that I loved this course is inversely proportional to how much I hate the way that the sit-and-get style staff development is conducted in my school district. This course offers learners the opportunity to make an impact on the delivery of professional learning in their organization. Learners will develop a plan to implement their innovation plan through effective professional development.

In this course, I looked at why professional development doesn’t work effectively and came up with my plan to improve it using McTighe’s Understanding by Design template (2005). To help facilitate my plan to improve professional development in my district, I worked collaboratively to create a presentation to share with my administrators to support my plan.


EDLD 5316 Digital Citizenship.jpg

This is an important course as it becomes easier and easier to publish your work globally. This course explores the elements of digital citizenship and its application to the classroom. Topics include plagiarism, copyright, and issues that come with using social media.

It was amazing to me to realize that none of my students have known a time without access to digital technology. They are truly digital natives. This unlimited access calls into question what our responsibilities are as teachers. During this class, I created a Cougars are Proud of Their Digital Paw Print mantra and poster to promote digital citizenship in our district, a resources link to support the teaching of digital citizenship, and a weekly reflection, including videos.


EDLD 5317  Resources for Digital Environments.jpg

This exciting course is about expanding the learner’s sphere of influence outside their local environment. During the course, learners write and submit an article for publication. In addition to the article destined for submission, I found resources to support technology in the classroom and then my students and I created an elevator pitch video supporting the need for participating in professional learning communities.

EDLD 5318  Instructional Design in Online Learning.jpg

It was during this course that I found my next passion and what may be the focus of my future innovation plans. This course explores the world of online or hybrid learning. During this course, I developed my own online version of a curriculum that I have used for many years in a direct instruction. I chose to use a learning management system called Schoology for my Business Information Management curriculum but there are many other platforms that are available. As access to technology and demand increases for more flexible learning paths, a more varied approach to learning is inevitable.


EDLD 5320 Synthesis of Digital Learning and Leadership.jpg

This is the course has put all the pieces of educational leadership together by creating connections to all the courses into one cohesive foundation for future leadership challenges. During this course, we were asked to reflect on our innovation plan, on COVA, and create a visual representation of our entire journey through this program.

In this course, I have reflected on my successes, tried to consider the challenges as what lamar professor Dr. Tilisa Thibodeaux calls failing forward, and determine my path forward. As I finish my final assignment in this program, I feel a sense of loss of the classmates and instructors that I have come to rely on and count as friends. I also feel a sense of pride in accomplishment and excitement to turn the page from studying disruptive innovation to leading it.


Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. John Wiley & Sons.

Harapnuik, D. (2016, June 13). Why you need a BHAG to design learning environments [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?p=6414

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Mertler, C. A. (2016). Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators [Kindle] (5th ed.).

Sinek, S. (2013, September 29). Start With Why - Simon Sinek TED talk [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sioZd3AxmnE&feature=youtu.be

Snyder, T. (2013, Spring). At the Evolving Intersection of Teaching and Technology. Retrieved
January 16, 2016, from http://www.learninglandscapes.ca/images/documents/ll-no12-vfinal-lr-

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2006). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

ePortfolio Innovation Plan Update

posted Jun 23, 2017, 12:24 PM by Kathy Darling   [ updated Jun 23, 2017, 12:30 PM ]

So How Did It Go?

males Stachowiak.jpg

My innovation plan was to implement student eportfolios campus-wide by the end of the 2018 school year. I am using Google Sites as a platform for students and staff for a number of reasons. The first is student safety and privacy. We are a Google school and are becoming more and more invested in Google Drive products. Google Sites is a p

art of the student’s school     

email account associated with their Google Drive, so it has the same privacy protections that are

assigned to their school email.                                                                                        

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Second, it is free. There is not now, nor will there ever be, budget money for an eportfolio initiative and I can’t ask the parents to dip into their family budget. Third, Google’s policy of no anonymous postings prevents bullying as we exp

ect more and more student collaboration and blog responses. And finally, teachers and students are very familiar with the products in Google Drive and how these applications interact, which will cut down on the learning curve. Because the students have prior knowledge of Google Drive, I can spend more time on how to use an eportfolio and less time on how to build one.

 When I started this plan, I had the faculty in mind. I knew that demonstrating student growth was changing in Texas. According to the Texas Education Agency, it was becoming a part of a teacher’s evaluation (“Goodbye PDAS, here comes TTESS”, 2015). In the past, only tested subjects had to demonstrate growth. It changed to include all courses starting with 2017-2018. There are a couple of ways that this can happen. One was a four page PDF document, filled out and managed by the teacher, that outlines the objectives, process, an anecdotal record of instruction, and has student artifacts as proof. Alternatively, the school district could implement some sort of electronic portfolio. The requirements, or even a description of which, has never clearly been outlined by the state. I felt that student eportfolios would have a chance of meeting the spirit of the state’s plan but I no parameters to go by from my administrators. The implementation of the new requirements was still two years away, so in their view, I was borrowing trouble.

 Although I had no idea what required components went into a student portfolio, I felt it was important that, once the portfolio was initially created, the portfolio design and management be totally under the control of the student. I created a Buna High School Student template (yeah, I know: template COVA) as a practice tool to learn all the Google Sites bells and whistles. To get an idea of what was required to meet “proving student growth,” I met administrators to see what kind of parameters I needed to include in the design. Since the implementation date was two years away, they were uninterested and treated me like I was showing them my latest kindergarten finger painting.  I met with the tech guy, Chris, to see what infrastructure was needed to make maintaining a portfolio stress-free. Chris is a great tech guy, but he’s not an educator so he can only see what problems it could potentially cause for him and none of the educational benefits. Google Sites was my only option because Chris wouldn’t open any other platform’s site. I contacted the Texas Education Agency to see what they had planned. In retrospect, it turns out that contacting a state agency if you are not an administrator is a really bad idea.  In any case, TEA had not made any decisions about requirements at that time, and to my knowledge, still haven't. I took that to mean that I had a blank slate and could make it any way I wanted.


So where am I in the implementation of my innovation plan? In the Spring of 2017, I finished the beta version of the BHS Student ePortfolio and demonstrated it for my administrators. That Fall in August, I beta tested my student portfolio in only my classes. As I have said many times, the kids loved the concept but hated my beautiful, perfect, wonderful template. Why can’t we just have O. V.  A.? Is Choice really that important? After the students obliterated my template, what rose from the ashes made my template pale in comparison. Each one had been remodeled to be unique, beautiful and a reflection of its owner. The kids were really proud of their websites and proud of publishing their work to the world.


Here are a few links to some of the games that some of my students: The Dark Flash, Cactus Teeth, Soulscreamer, and BeastSAVAGE have created.

game 1.pngGame 2.pngGame 3.PNGGame 4.PNGGame 5.png


And some examples of chroma key screen video productions that my students made.

angry birds.PNGhole.PNGghost.PNG


In December of 2016, I had two major setbacks. First, I discovered that the fine folks at Google will not be supporting Google Sites any longer and we are all supposed to migrate to a new way of creating a webpage using the components in Google Drive. The second setback is Tech Guy Chris changed something with the way information is accessed through the Internet filter and the kids were not able to get to the eportfolios that they had spent so much time and effort creating. His response was that Google Sites was being phased out anyway, what is the big deal? Sigh…


I had to do something to salvage my plan. I immediately began looking at the new way that Google wants to handle their webpage, and after I calm down, I think I will like it better. Going forward it will be easier to use, because it integrates nicely with the rest of Google Drive, and the students can take ownership of their pages when they graduate. After meeting with the same administrators about parameters, I created a new and improved, bare bones Buna ISD Student template that I wouldn’t get so attached to because the kids will change it anyway. I plan to roll out my eportfolio 2.0 to my students in the Fall of 2017. We’ll see what happens.


In addition to the pride in accomplishment that the students felt when they created and added artifacts to their portfolios, I found a side benefit of bringing in crucial conversations to this process. By publishing things to the world, my students and I had to discuss the power of words. Publishing brought in discussions about plagiarism, copyright, and the application of digital citizenship in general.


I plan to promote my ePortfolio plan by continuing to implement it in my classes, using my version of Grenny’s six sources of influence (Grenny, 2013) to continue to reach my colleagues, and taking it on the road. I have talked to my administration until they run away when the see me. I have connected with my campus colleagues to discuss the advantages and, as yet, met resistance. I also have an opportunity to be a presenter. I have a friend at the Regional Educational Service Center in Beaumont that has shown some interest in my doing some ePortfolio presentations for them.


The next innovation project, assuming I live through this one, is to promote hybrid learning or an online curriculum. I see a need for students who for a variety of reasons are unable to be successful in the traditional classroom setting. I really enjoyed EDLD 5318 Designing Online Learning. I feel that I can really make a difference in the lives of students and the teachers who serve them. I will use a learning management system similar to the Schoology course I designed for my Business Information 1 students seen in the image below.




 So what have I learned? I learned that school is about the learner and not about the teacher. I learned that I have to reach people’s passions to tap into their cooperation. I learned that leading people is a lot harder than telling people. I found out that innovation is as exciting as it is frustrating. And, finally, I learned that I must add choice, ownership, and voice to my authentic learning in the classroom.





Goodbye PDAS, here comes TTESS. (2015, Winter). The Classroom Teacher.



Grenny, J. (2013). Leadership is influence. In Influencer: the new science of change [Kindle Cloud Reader] (2nd ed., p. 28-34).


Stachowiak, K. (2017). Males [JPEG]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/males-plan-a-b-successful-group-2046564/


Keep Moving Forward

posted Jun 12, 2017, 6:45 AM by Kathy Darling   [ updated Jun 12, 2017, 10:24 AM ]

Quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What a journey this has been. When I first started this course of study, I had a vision of what digital learning and leading was going to be about. I thought it was about different technologies in the classroom to enhance learning and a nod and wink to the leadership part. And it started out that way with Dr. T assigning project ideas that had to be created using a different kind of technology for each one. Ahhhhhh...the good ole days. Then came the leadership expectations. I thought that leadership in my classroom must be what the instructors were talking about because they surely were not thinking that a nobody like me could influence an entire campus?  

Then the COVA model hit the fan. I am used to being large and in charge in my classroom and COVA upset my apple cart. In fact, I remember my initial reaction to the suggestion that the COVA  approach was a better way to teach, as a personal attack on my teaching skills.


Our instructors gave me an assignment and said: “just make it yours.” I remember thinking “what the devil does that mean?”  Of course, it's mine, it has my name on it. I would pour over the instructions looking for clues as to what I was supposed to be doing. I joined a VOXER group trying to find safety in numbers. I would start an email storm with instructors that usually ended up in a Skype conference to calm frayed nerves. I remember saying “Just tell me what you want!” “Give me an example to go by or something.” That went nowhere. I first realized that we genuinely had choice with the selection of my innovation plan.  Again I was frustrated with having to make it fit my organization so I went to my “go-to guy”, Chad. He said for me to call and talk to Dr. H and explain my reasoning for using Google Sites for my eportfolio innovation plan, of which Dr. H was somewhat less than a fan. He wanted me to let the kids choose their own platform. Wait...what?  Let the kids choose? …..Nope.


I hid my control issues in the excuse that I had specific reasons why I wanted that platform and after I explained myself, Dr. H, while on board would be too generous, was at least less against the idea. He said that it was my project (ownership), but I needed to be certain that the students had as much choice as I did in creating their portfolio. You can imagine how excited he was about the idea of a Buna ISD template. Putting screen doors on submarines are a better idea than using a template with the COVA model.

I reassured him that the template was only a place to start and that the students will make it theirs,

which is exactly what they did. Not a one of those knot-heads liked my beautiful, perfect, wonderful template. They changed EVERYTHING. I emailed my complaint to Dr. H blaming him completely for the annihilation of my eportfolio project. “What did you expect?” was his reply.  

I thought that I had a pretty good handle on COVA because I have used project-based learning in my classroom for decades. I would let the students create a project the way I told them to. See….COVA. It turns out that project-based learning is only the A in the COVA approach.  It is like choosing your meal from a McDonald’s menu as opposed to making a meal in the kitchen. There is a certain amount of choice, but no ownership or voice.


When I was studying backwards design, I realized the importance of communicating expectations. Adjusting to using the COVA model puts a great deal of pressure on the instructors to be very clear in their.expectations. The most important change I made in my approach to my classroom is learning the difference between writing down clear instructions and writing down clear expectations. I am a wiz at writing instructions. Each of my projects has copious notes, colored arrows, and screenshots of exactly what I want the kids to do. And the project turns out perfectly every time. Perfect little cookie cutter projects, all just like I like them.


Writing expectations starts with communicating a  clearly defined purpose for what you want the project to do. When you start looking at a project’s purpose and not just the project, it allows the C, O, and V letters to enter the learning environment. The project is still perfect and unique to the learner. A good example is the elevator pitch. The project itself was not discussed, only the purpose of an elevator pitch. Some loose parameters were set like “Sell your idea for your innovation plan in less than 2 minutes.”


My initial reaction to learning under the COVA approach was confusion, uncertainty, skepticism, and in a word….upsetting. Specific instructions for an assignment bring me comfort. If there is an example attached, my heart sings with joy. As it turned out that is very unCOVA. Choosing to follow the instructions, putting your name on it, and turning in the project is not Choice, Ownership, Voice, or Authentic learning.  I learned to depend on two things, feedback from my classmates and connecting with my instructors for the hand-holding guidance I thought I needed. The turning point for me was getting a handle on the Voice part of the COVA model. I decided that the Voice that I was supposed to use was to speak up for the needs of the students and staff on my campus. We have a lot of great teaching going on at Big Blue. To use my voice, I had to take a hard look at where we can improve, the half-empty part of the glass. This is a tricky thing to do without insulting veteran teachers and ending up stuck with the worst parking place out in the rain.


Learning under the COVA model and applying it to my classroom was only the beginning of the leadership expectations of the Digital Learning and Leading (DLL) program. I, a nobody, was expected to provide leadership for my campus or even the whole district. Even though I could see where I could make a difference in the learning environment, I really didn’t want to park in the rain. The faculty that I work with are smart, dedicated teachers who are proud of their work in their classrooms. I needed a way to lead without bullying. I found my way with Covey’s 4 Disciplines of Execution, or 4DX (Covey, McChesney, Huling, 2012). I relied heavily on Sean Covey’s (2012) 4DX model and it’s four stages starting with setting the eportfolio goal that I identified.


I identified, what I feel is a really authentic innovation plan, which came from an article in The Classroom Teacher (2015) that discussed some new Texas Education Agency changes that were going to be implemented during the next few years. According to the article, TEA has decided that students of courses that are not state tested must also show growth (“Goodbye PDAS, here comes TTESS”, 2015). I felt that my leadership could come from designing and piloting a student digital portfolio initiative. I planned to revise and edit my plan with my administrators and a small group of students in my classes and then expand the project to other classes as my colleagues came on board.


Although it is necessary for developing a basic set of skills, I have always felt that a significant learning environment is more than recall.  Learning has taken place when students can synthesize and solve problems with new skills.  For true learning to take place the student must make an investment. The issue for teachers then becomes how to motivate students to make the investment in a particular curriculum. John Kotter’s video The Heart of Change provides insight into motivating human behavior. Kotter’s theory states that you have to “win over the hearts” not just the minds (Kotter, 2011). I feel that in order to get students to make the investment in their own learning, teachers must reach their heart by acting as a guide and allowing their students the freedom to apply knowledge in a way that is meaningful to the student. Allowing students to experience learning using the COVA model encourages curiosity, creative self-expression, and collaboration that are the ingredients for a significant learning environment.


As I complete these courses, I look back on how I have changed the way that I teach. I thought that there was one absolute truth about being a good teacher. No matter what you teach, good teachers had absolute classroom control. I had to control the curriculum implementation all the way down to how the students sat in their chairs.  Basically, I felt that the classroom should follow a set order, start day one with page one and the last day ended with the last page. I had to know everything about everything and pray the kids didn’t ask something I didn’t know. I had the Sage on the Stage thing down pat! My discipline referral forms yellowed with age. I was a good teacher! Then a certain instructor from the North told me that I had to let go of Darling the Sage and let the kids direct their learning. Ridiculous! Chaos will run rampant. I fought the idea for months inching ever forward to giving it a try. Finally, I gave in and tried it. My students had learned a set of skills and, acting as their supervisor at KDIW Video Game Design Company, I gave a purpose for a project and a timeline for completion. Wonder of wonders, it worked. The one thing that I have learned is that I can have classroom control and still have a significant learning environment using the COVA model.  


The success that I have had creating a more significant learning environment using the COVA has made me want to spread this learning model to the rest of the school. The key to getting my colleagues to try this innovative approach to learning is two-fold. Since I have no authority I will have to use my influence to reach my colleagues.  I will start with demonstrating and modeling “backwards design” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). This process begins by looking at those skills and concepts that students will learn by the end of the unit, and then work backward to where most teachers start and incorporate engaging class activities along the way. In conjunction with modeling the backward design, I will use Joseph Grenny’s 6 Sources of Influence (Grenny, 2013) as a guide to finding the critical conversations and the personal, social, and structural motivations that will inspire my colleagues to incorporate the COVA model to creating a more significant learning environment in their classrooms.


As for my own classroom, I will have to rewrite the approach to all the unit plans I have relied on over the years. I have always believed in making the learning authentic. The issue I have discovered with my perfectly designed projects is that they were authentic to me and not to the learner. I had all the choice, ownership, and voice to make the learning authentic, rather than allowing the students the freedom to direct their own learning. The lessons will have to be redesigned to reflect the project’s intent or purpose with more project parameters instead of the checklists that bring me so much comfort.


Using the COVA model in my Video Game Design class came about by accident. I didn’t have the first clue what I was doing. I used to say that I could teach anything that had a Teacher’s Edition textbook and a student workbook. This curriculum had neither. To make matters worse the students knew infinitely more about the curriculum than I ever wanted to. I play Solitaire. That makes it really hard to be a video game sage. My principal’s encouragement that I would be fine because I knew a lot about computers and the kids like me did not help. I did try to fake it. That lasted about ten seconds into the first class period. I lucked into finding some great platforms and actually found excitement in encouraging the creative outlet for my students. I was surprised to find out that COVA takes more classroom control than a traditional approach.


Dr. Thibodeaux came to visit my class and taught me a valuable COVA implementation tool. My kids were so excited to show her their games and the beginnings of their eportfolios. Like every time I have a guest in my class, I watched their interactions carefully. She listened intently to the kids brag about their projects. Dr. Thibodeaux didn’t ask them how they did things, she asked them what their purpose was for doing it that way. She asked them their “why.” Watching that interaction was a revelation. The kids didn’t say because Mrs. Darling said so, or because it was a grade. The kids said it was because it makes it more fun for the user to play the game.



I can already see some roadblocks to implementing COVA on our campus. There will be growing pains involved. Rewriting all the projects I have used successfully for years to reflect the COVA model will be time-consuming and stressful. I predict that my colleagues will feel the same way about the curriculum that they designed and be reluctant to come on board.  I need to show them that the same choice, ownership, voice, and authentic learning that they had the freedom to use in developing and implementing their curriculum needs to extend to their students. In August, our principal sets the goals for the campus at the welcome back staff meeting. It is clear that, with administrative support and the collaboration of colleagues, it is up to the faculty to find a way to meet those expectations by the end of the year.


As I move forward, I think that it will be all too easy to fall back into the old habit of the Sage on the Stage approach to learning in my classroom. It is a comfortable and safe way for me to facilitate learning. What it isn’t is a significant learning environment, and that is unacceptable. While there will be a number of obstacles in my path to implementing the COVA model completely, I will move toward that end, one lesson at a time. In a previous class, I was asked to come up with a mantra. I found a new one that fits with my future journey in education. It comes from a speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave at Spelman College in 1960. Dr. King said in part “If you can’t fly, then run, If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, don’t stop moving forward” (King, 1960).

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.





Covey, S., McChesney, C., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 disciplines of execution: achieving your wildly important goals [Kindle version].


Goodbye PDAS, here comes TTESS. (2015, Winter). The Classroom Teacher.



Grenny, J. (2013). Leadership is influence. In Influencer: the new science of change [Kindle Cloud Reader] (2nd ed., p. 28-34).


King, M. L., Jr. (1960, April 10). Keep Moving from This Mountain. Speech presented at Keep Moving from This Mountain in Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia.


King, M. L. (2017, March 17). If you can't run then walk - Martin Luther [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFOFs0iAwDg


Kotter, J. (2011, March 23). John Kotter - The Heart of Change [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NKti9MyAAw&feature=youtu.be


Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2006). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Professional Learning Communities Elevator Pitch

posted May 3, 2017, 1:26 PM by Kathy Darling   [ updated May 3, 2017, 1:28 PM ]


Technology is Everywhere

posted Apr 13, 2017, 7:23 AM by Kathy Darling   [ updated Apr 14, 2017, 9:25 AM ]

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

With the advances in technology through the past few years, the Internet seems like a magical place. The use of technology has made the creation and access to resources literally at our fingertips. The ease of information access through the Internet has created an “I want it now” society. Therefore, the biggest change in my life is the methods and immediacy of communication. Not only can I talk to my granddaughter in Florida, but with the aid of video conferencing technology, I can also see her beautiful face, go outside with her to see the ducks, and occasionally end up on the floor looking at the ceiling, too. On the other hand, my answering machine (yes, I have a house phone) hasn’t blinked in months.

Technology also has changed the way I consume entertainment. In the past, if I wanted to see a film, I went to the movies. Now there are many on demand movie subscription services like Netflix. In the past, if I enjoyed a particular television show and was not home, I just missed it. Now, I can watch it on-demand with a cable subscription. Furthermore, I enjoy listening to and singing along with music. I used to have to punch the buttons to find a station that was playing the kind of music I like and hope my favorite song came on. Now I have playlists through I Heart Radio that only play the songs I like and in the order that I like them.

Many teachers, just like I do, get bored with the way we taught last year and are always experimenting to find new and better ways to reach students and help them be more successful than previous classes (Pennington, 2009). It makes educational practices seem like fads. Teachers often try something and modify it if it doesn’t work or abandon the practice altogether and move on to the next idea. In 2013, President Obama started a program called ConnectedED that would ensure broadband Internet access to 99% of American students within five years. That would be five years in the making (Office of the Press Secretary, 2013). President Obama felt that in order for American students to be successful in a world economy, they have to grow up with and learn to use technology competently (Office of the Press Secretary, 2013). And according to Maurice Elias (2017), President Obama is correct. Elias’ article makes the claim that over 60% of today’s elementary school students will be employed in jobs that do not exist today (Elias, 2017).

I can send a quick text message to a colleague to get input without relying on waiting until my conference period to use the sneaker-net to walk down the hall and talk to them. Even the way I communicate with students has changed. A student that is out of the classroom can send me an email or share a document with me asking for clarification. That way I do not have to unteach something to a frustrated student after the student returns to class.


In my school life, the biggest change is the wide variety of options for the creation of project-based learning opportunities. There is so many applications, websites, and open source programs available that almost all of the technology that I use for learning is free. I want my students to be able to transfer the skills learned in my classroom to their life outside the school without adding the burden of asking them to purchase something. Elias, (2017) makes the point that students need more than a traditional education to be competitive in a world economy. He says that students have to learn collaboration, communication, and problem-solving (Elias, 2017). In the past, posters were made out of book covers, glue, construction paper, colored pencils and lots and lots of glitter. Now, the same project can be created with, Google Drawings, Prezi, Google Slides, Powtoons, infographic, and a multitude of other products that allows learning to be more authentic, students to have more choice and ownership, and the creation process to be relevant to the student’s future learning. The curriculum objectives are the same, but nearly every day I find a new and better way to demonstrate mastery. 

CollaborationFurthermore, it is important to remember that time is precious in the classroom. Everything that teachers do has to be directly related to learning. Teachers must stay current with technology and carefully select the resources, materials, and technology used in their classroom. An article by Beth Holland (2017) warns that technology tools have to have a specific purpose 
and not merely digitize existing content and classroom procedures. Google Classroom is more than an electronic inbox. Smartboards are supposed to be interactive with the students and not a really expensive projector screen. When I evaluate a 
new technology application that might be used in my classroom, I have a mental checklist to evaluate it. First, it has to be something that allows my students to become creators of knowledge and give students some control over the outcome (Holland, 2017). Second, it has to be something that has application to future authentic learning outside my classroom. And finally, it has to be worth the cost in class time and money. 

The way that I stay current with technology applications is by
looking over the shoulder of other educators. What I depend on is belonging to several Professional Learning Networks. I am a member of TCEA, which has a conference every year and a monthly magazine with lots of great articles and suggestions. In addition, I follow


  Richard Byrne’s (2017) daily blog called Freetech4teachers.com and I love it. However, he has so many great ideas for resources that I can’t keep track of them or pass them on to my colleagues. Recently I found a new way to organize them with a website called
Edshelf. This is a free site that operates similarly to Pinterest’s boards, which Edshelf calls shelves. This site is searchable by price, platform, subject, topic, and grade level. Edshelf provides a How-to video and a link to the site. Using this app, I can easily retrieve apps that I have found or find new ones and then can organize the apps by creating a shelf and assigning the app to a shelf with similar products.


Using technology is all about collaboration and sharing ideas. Currently, I feel like I am more of a consumer of technology that other people have suggested than a contributor, especially as a contributor to my professional learning networks. I feel that I just don’t measure up to their standards. However, I do contribute to my local network as a presenter at the yearly technology conference held at our district. Additionally, I try to pass it along technology that may be useful in my colleagues’ classrooms by meeting one on one with them or students if I discover something new. 

What I have learned from the digital learning coursework so far is that there is so much more to discover. I want to find more learning opportunities that create more authentic learning environments for my students. I want to build an atmosphere of confidence to expand the comfort zone around the faculty so that they have the courage to try new tools without fear of failure. I want to as Captain Kirk says in the opening narration of Star Trek “explore strange new worlds and boldy go where no man has gone before” (Course Hero, 2016).


Altmann, G. (2016). Social-Media [JPEG]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/social-media-interaction-abstract-1233873/

Byrne, R. (2017, April 12). “Free Technology for Teachers “[Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/

Course Hero. (2016, November 28). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/

Edshelf. (2017, April 12). edshelf. Retrieved from https://edshelf.com/

Elias, M. (2017, January 6). “How gaming connects to SEL and career readiness.” Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/how-gaming-connects-sel-and-career-readiness-maurice-elias

Holland, B. (2017, February 22). “Are we innovating, or just digitizing traditional teaching?” Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/are-we-innovating-or-just-digitizing-traditional-teaching-beth-holland

Office of the Press Secretary. (2013). President Obama Unveils ConnectED Initiative to Bring America’s Students into Digital Age | whitehouse.gov. Retrieved from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/06/president-obama-unveils-connected-initiative-bring-america-s-students-di

Pennjington, M. (2009, October 11). Educational fads: what goes a comes around [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/educational-fads-what-goes-around-comes-around/

Texas Computer Education Association. (2017, April 12). TCEA | Professional Development | Technology Education |. Retrieved from https://www.tcea.org/

The Components of Digital Citizenship and its Application to Education

posted Mar 29, 2017, 7:21 AM by Kathy Darling   [ updated Mar 29, 2017, 7:24 AM ]

The presence of digital citizenship in education has become a necessity due to the prevalence of electronic devices and their beneficial uses in the teaching process. Ribble defines digital citizenship from the user’s point of view as “the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use” (Ribble, 2015). Ribble’s definition seems to be the standard that many sites use. Melissa Davis has the same point of view in her definition when she states that individuals should “use technology appropriately and be a responsible, safe, digital citizen on the internet” (Davis, 2016). In addition, Terry Heick’s definition of digital citizenship definition looks at it from the effect one’s actions have on the community. Terry Heick makes the definition more complex by adding “the quality of an individual’s response to membership in a community” (Heick, 2013). This addition does not just cover the use of technology, also but how that use affects the rest of the community, including schools.

While most general definitions of digital citizenship agree, for the most part, Ribble (2015) further breaks down the meaning of digital citizenship into nine interconnected components called areas that are organized into three categories. The first category of digital citizenship identified by Ribble (2015) are areas that directly affect learning. These areas include full and equal access to technology, staying current with the changes in digital literacy, and mastering the multitude of communication formats available (Ribble, 2015). The second category focuses on areas that have an effect on the overall learning environment (Ribble, 2015). These areas include learning and using appropriate etiquette in a digital world, knowing the rights and responsibilities of technology users, and being able to safely access information online (Ribble, 2015). The final category covers the areas that affect the life of a learner outside of the school day (Ribble, 2015). These areas include wisely shopping, buying, and selling on the Internet, carefully protecting physical and mental health and wellness, and lawfully interacting with technology and the Internet (Ribble, 2015).

An understanding of digital citizenship also requires an understanding of its components. To break this down further, within Ribble’s three categories, he has identified nine elements that make up digital citizenship (Ribble, 2015) These nine elements are not isolated, but instead are interconnected. The first element identified by Ribble (2015) is digital access. While it seems simplistic, what Ribble (2015) means is that the goal of citizenship should be full and equal access for all citizens. According to the article “Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor” (Soltan, n.d.), 56% of teachers who work with low-income students say that the absence of technology access at home has become a significant barrier to using technology to enhance learning in the classroom.

Another element of digital citizenship is taking action to protect private information online, or what Ribble (2015) calls digital security. 93% of adults say that being in control of who they share personal information with is important to them (Madden, 2015). Is keeping private information private a possibility in a mass surveillance age? A digital footprint is a combination of all the “digital activities, actions, and communications that leave a data trace on the Internet” (Dictionary.com, n.d.) or all the information there is out there (Ryan, 2011). It is important that schools emphasize the effect of our student’s digital footprint because “90 percent of all recruiters and 50 percent of all employers perform Web searches before making a hiring decision” (Ryan, 2011). Furthermore, Ryan (2011) suggests that the goal to strive for if students want to leave a digital footprint that they can be proud of is to be sure that there is no “digital dirt or negative unprofessional content about you and, above all, never assume that anything you write or post online is anonymous.”

Privacy in this day and age is a difficult topic which is becoming more difficult as technology changes. The CNN political article “Dilemmas of the Internet Age: Privacy vs. Security” reminds us that we live in a world filled with pocket size technology, the Internet is no longer limited to the privacy of your computer desktop in the privacy of your home; it follows you no matter where you may go (Zaru, 2014). We live in an era of mass surveillance where many companies are collecting personal information about users with tracking cookies and spyware on a massive scale which has led to a debate between privacy concerns and the infringement on the free and open access involved in name of cyber security (Zaru). In the article “An Introduction to Net Neutrality: What It Is, What It Means for You, and What You Can Do About It,” Net Neutrality supporters argue for free and open access to the Internet regardless of the risk to privacy (Marshall Data Systems, 2014). Proponents of Net Neutrality voice the concern that Internet Service Providers would have too much power over the flow of information (Marshall Data Systems, 2014). Those against Net Neutrality, usually the Internet service Providers, argue that the services that they have developed and provide are at great cost to their company; therefore, should have the right to make decisions that benefit their investors in a free market economy.

Ribble’s next element of digital citizenship is digital literacy. “Digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet” (Heick, 2013). Within this element, schools must be able to protect their students and teach them to comply with the laws and etiquette of the digital world, as well as how to exercise their digital rights. In order to do this successfully, teachers have to stay current with Internet trends, jargon, and applications of emerging technology (Ribble, 2015).

Protecting students starts with guiding student in the appropriate use of the various forms of electronic exchange of information, or what Ribble (2015) calls digital communication. Today’s technology supplies the convenience and constant access to student communication provided by improved access to mobile devices, especially smartphones. Furthermore, over 90% of teens report going online daily (Lenhart, 2015). Although Teens use a variety of social networking sites to communicate, such as Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, by far the most used social media site used by teens is Facebook at 71% (Lenhart, 2015).

Teens reaching out to each other through messages and social media can have serious repercussions in the form of cyberbullying. Hinduja and Patchin (2015) define cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (p. 11). Cyberbullying is pervasive. According to cyberbullying statistics, 95% of teens have seen mean or cruel behavior and then decided to ignore bullying on social media (“Enough Is Enough”, n.d.). Ignoring bullying, cyber or any other kind, is a sign that this kind of harassment is becoming acceptable behavior in our society (The View, 2017). According to Hinduja and Patchin (2015), in order for cyberbullying to occur, it has to have three elements: teens, technology, and trouble. A fourth component that is often overlooked is anonymity. In one of the segments of the television show, The View, the commentators discuss Twitter’s attempt to stop anonymous postings, called eggs, by blocking them (The View, 2017).

Since teens are at a critical point in developing their personalities, cyberbullying is a nightmare that can result in mental health issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, as well as depression and suicidal tendencies (Davison & Stein, 2014). It’s clear that being the object of bullying is a far too easy, dangerous, humiliating, lonely, life to live. The question that authority figures often struggle with is what role does the school play in protecting and educating students about the dangers involved in these activities. A Scholastic article written by Caralee Adams pointed out that school is the center of kids' lives. And that, while the harassment takes place for the most part after they leave campus, the effects of the fallout is often seen at school and is detrimental to the learning environment (Adams, n.d.).

Another issue with online access concerns the importance of copyright. It is just as important to teach students to treat other people’s intellectual property with respect, as it is to teach students to protect their own online information. Ribble (2015) refers to this important lesson as an Internet user's digital rights and responsibilities. This element includes teaching respect for artists, authors, inventors, and the products that are created as a result of their talents as well as the that the classroom plays in teaching ethics that people, especially teachers, need to follow and model. Correctly using the copyright rules requires additions to the vocabulary. Several of the readings dealt with defining the terms involved in copyright. These terms included plagiarism, copyright infringement, attribution, and a derivative copy used under the Creative Commons license.

Plagiarism can be defined “most broadly, ...as taking the original work or works of another and presenting it as your own” which is an ethical, as opposed to a legal, violation (Plagiarism Today, 2013). Copyright infringement “is simply any infringement upon the rights of a copyright holder” that violates the law (Plagiarism Today, 2013). Transformation, sometimes referred to as a derivative copy, is a Creative Commons license that lets others “remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms” (Creative Commons, n.d.). For example, this term includes students who use the images from Pixabay.com and edit them in Paint.NET to create an entirely new project.

What digital citizenship boils down to is demanding and giving respect. Digital citizenship must be infused into every curriculum. Teachers need to have, model, and demand respect for their digital footprint by being proud of what is posted by, and cognizant of, what is posted. Teachers need to teach their students to be proud of the artifacts they create and respect the intellectual property of others. And finally, students need to learn empathy so that they can have respect for those who are being victimized by being a social media upstander and not a bystander to online bullying.



Adams, C. (n.d.). “Cyberbullying: What Teachers and Schools Can Do.” Scholastic. Retrieved fromhttps://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/cyberbullying-what-teachers-and-schools-can-do/

“An Introduction to Net Neutrality: What It Is, What It Means for You, and What You Can Do About It.” (2014). Marshal Data Systems. Retrieved from http://www.marshalldata.com/2014/05/an-introduction-to-net-neutrality-what-it-is-what-it-means-for-you-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/

Creative Commons. (n.d.). About The Licenses. Retrieved from https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

Davis, M. (2016, June 16). “What is Digital Citizenship?” edtechdigest.com. Retrieved from https://edtechdigest.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/what-is-digital-citizenship/

Davison, C. B., & Stein, C. H. (2014). “The dangers of cyberbullying.” North American Journal of Psychology, 16(3), 595.

“Digital footprint.” (n.d.). Dictionary.com Retrieved from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/digital-footprint

“Enough Is Enough.” (n.d.). Enough Is Enough: Cyberbullying. Retrieved from http://enough.org/stats_cyberbullying

Gorodyansky, D. (n.d.). “Internet Privacy and Security: A Shared Responsibility.” WIRED. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/insights/2013/10/internet-privacy-and-security-a-shared-responsibility/

Heick, T. (2013, May 2). “Definition Of Digital Citizenship.” Teach Thought. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/digital-citizenship-the-future-of-learning/the-definition-of-digital-citzenship

Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyberbullying. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lenhart, A. (2015, April 9). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015 | Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/

Madden Mary, R. L. (2015). “Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance.” Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/05/20/americans-attitudes-about-privacy-security-and-surveillance/

“Plagiarism.” (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved March 13, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/plagiarism

“The Difference Between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism.” Plagiarism Today. (2013, October 7). Retrieved from https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2013/10/07/difference-copyright-infringement-plagiarism/

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society of Technology in Education.

Ryan, B. (2011, August 26). “Regulating your digital footprint.” New Hampshire Business Review, 33(18), 23. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GPS&sw=w&u=j121903001&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA267202060&asid=827c536c2f65a8eeab282b2b988351fe

Soltan, L. (n.d.). “Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor.” Digital Responsibility. Retrieved from http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/digital-divide-the-technology-gap-between-rich-and-poor/

“Twitter and facebook create new ways to prevent cyberbullying [Video file].” (2017, March 2). The View. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXJ3FP7htAk

Zaru, D. (2014, March 29). “Dilemmas of the internet age: privacy vs. security.” CNN Retrieved fromhttp://www.cnn.com/2015/02/04/politics/deena-zaru-internet-privacy-security-al-franken/

ePortfolio Action Research Plan

posted Dec 15, 2016, 5:22 AM by Kathy Darling   [ updated Dec 15, 2016, 6:27 AM ]

                                                                                                                                                                Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

If the use of e-portfolios creates a learning environment that encourages deeper learning, I should see a significant increase in the frequency in the number of times the portfolio has artifacts posted to it, increase in the number of times the portfolio is accessed for evaluation, and an increase in collaboration among the students.

The question that I am trying to answer is whether or not my portfolio implementation plan is worth the struggle.  Will the learning environment for students change enough toward a deeper level of learning to justify the instruction time that is given up , the effort it takes to implement the e-portfolio, and the additional training and planning time to create a project-based aspect to curriculum?

So far I have deployed the portfolio in two of my classes. It was great at first, like a shiny new toy. I have used a project based learning platform for many years, but I am now having to factor in the extra time to have the kids post the artifacts to their portfolios. The kids still enjoy seeing their  projects posted to their portfolios, but I forget to remind them to post. From the teacher’s point of view, it seems like it almost an afterthought which will defeat the purpose. Moving forward, I will have to include posting the artifact to their portfolio as a part of the rubric..

The type of data I will collect will be in the form of observation of student interaction, anecdotal records, project examples, student surveys and discussion feedback, some statistical data in the form of changes in class grade point averages and website analytics, and classroom observation during project creation.

Sharing the results with my administrators will be crucial to the success of the plan. Without their backing the plan will end up an interesting idea that goes nowhere. First, I will share the student e-portfolio with my administrators. They can see how creatively our students and teachers approach a project and master curriculum.  Then I will discuss the data that I have collected and outline any improvements to portfolio implementation and staff training that the data suggests.  

With the administration on board, phase II can begin with introducing the portfolio to the rest of the staff and begin preparing them for implementation with their students. During the year of ongoing supported implementation, more data will be collected and analysed so that the portfolio can be further refined. It will also tell us where the holes in staff training are and how to eliminate them. This process will repeat year after year.

Below is my e-portfolio action research plan.

Action Research Literature Review

posted Dec 11, 2016, 5:30 PM by Kathy Darling

Action Research Plan for Student Portfolio Initiative

posted Nov 27, 2016, 3:28 PM by Kathy Darling

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
My plan to innovate learning at the high school level is to have students create and post products of their learning to digital portfolios in order to increase student engagement in learning. To make this kind of innovative change, I have to know that posting artifacts digital portfolios has a valuable impact. To gather the needed evidence, I will conduct action research in my classroom. The book Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators (2016) explains action research is different than traditional research in that it is not done by scientists or university professors who are trained in research methodology. The research is carried out by the practitioners, regular classroom teachers, as they go about teaching their classes. (Mertler, 2016)

To conduct a research plan that answers a specific question takes careful deliberation and planning. The use of digital portfolios in the classroom is a broad topic. The first thing I had to do was decide what I wanted to know about the topic of digital portfolios and why I am spending the time researching it.
  • What is the topic of my action research?
I know that I cannot implement digital portfolios, campus wide, without the support of my colleagues. My colleague’s singular focus is on student achievement. If I cannot directly connect digital portfolios to student achievement my innovation plan will not be successful. My topic is to find out the effect that digital portfolios have on student mastery of their learning objectives in my career and technology classes.
  • What is the purpose of my study?
I have used project based learning for several years. I feel that project based learning creates a connection between a group of individual curriculum objectives and the deeper meaning of application for students. I initiate a project with related objectives, then the students create and turn in their vision of the project based on a rubric outline. The evaluative process is a peer review compared to the rubric expectations. The difference this year will be the projects having a final step of students posting the artifacts to their portfolio. I am hoping that posting the project (artifacts) in a permanent, public forum like a portfolio will bring a sense of pride and commitment to excellence in my students and significantly reduce the “what does it take to pass” attitude.
  • What is my fundamental research question?
During the past year I have been creating my own digital portfolio and building the template for students. I have found that it takes a attention to detail and a lot of valuable class time. If my innovation plan is to be a success across the curriculum at the high school level, I want to know, and be able to convince my colleagues, is that implementing e-portfolios is worth the effort it will take and expenditure of valuable class time because it increases student engagement. With that in mind, my fundamental research question is: To what extent will posting artifacts to digital portfolios positively impact student engagement of high school level students in career and technology classes?
  • What is your research design? Qualitative, quantitative both (mixed-methods) Why?
Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators (Mertler, 2016) describes several types of research conducted by educators. In the book, Mertler (2016) provided a table in chapter four that provides guiding questions that help researchers choose a quantitative or qualitative research design. After looking at my research question and the nature of my innovation plan and comparing it to the table it fits the qualitative approach because it is unstructured, uses inductive reasoning, will take place over a year long period, and broad in scope (Mertler, 2016) Since I am teaching the class and designing the projects, the best way for me to find the answer to my question is to take a qualitative approach and act as what Mertler (2016) describes as a full participant.
  • What is the most appropriate type of data to collect?
The type of data I will collect will be in the form of observation of student interaction, anecdotal records, project examples, student surveys and discussion feedback, and some statistical data in the form of changes in class grade point averages. 

This kind of question may cause problems in measurement. How do I measure intangibles like pride, commitment to excellence, and student engagement? The study has to be designed so that the use of portfolios is the only change in the way that the assignments are handled. The projects I will use are the same as other years, so the only variable is posting artifacts to their portfolios. If that one change makes a difference, I should see a rise in the class grade point average, project completion rate, an increase in the length of time to complete a project, more detailed peer review, an increase in the collaboration between students, and a decrease in off-task behavior.
  • What types of measurement instruments will you use?
Looking ahead to my data collection phase, I will need to collect the data in a variety of ways. I will use peer review feedback from the assessment stage of the projects, classroom observations, averages grades from rubrics, feedback from students, teachers, and administrators in the form of surveys and class discussion postings, and project completion timelines and discipline referral rates compared to previous years.

The difficulty will be selecting questions for the surveys. I will have to learn how to craft a survey instrument using Google Forms that asks questions that measure only portfolio effectiveness on student engagement.
  • What is the focus of your literature review?
Although there is limited evidence from the literature about the use of portfolios to increase student engagement, there is literature about innovative implementation of the use of technology on learning. My literature review focuses on the experiences of other classroom teachers that have incorporated the artifacts that are used to create the e-portfolios in their curriculum. I want to find out from their research what approaches worked in their schools, the reasons why particular approaches didn’t work, and what I need to change to make my innovation plan successful.

The next stage of my action research plan is to implement the student portfolio on a small scale in a controlled setting and begin to collect the data about it’s effect on student engagement. As I encounter the unexpected, I will focus on being open to the students taking an active role and flexible enough to be able to learn from my experience.


Mags, M. (2016). Science [JPEG]. Retrieved fromhttps://pixabay.com/en/science-technology-education-1182713/

Mertler, C. A. (2016). Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators [Kindle] (5th ed.).

Literature Review

posted Oct 28, 2016, 12:28 PM by Kathy Darling   [ updated Nov 2, 2016, 8:37 AM ]

EDLD 5314 Assignment 2 – Literature Review Darling K.docx

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