The Blogger Challenge

The Blogger Challenge concludes today.


A challenge was issued and 18 daring educators answered the call. Some had never blogged before. A few had blogs, but had not written and reflected in a while. Others never stopped. Some of the cool things about this blogger challenge was that it was
a) voluntary
b) during the summer
c) badge related
d) cross divisional

Feedback from the Bloggers…

“What fun the blogging challenge was, it was my first time participating in an all school activity. Thank you for the opportunity it’s been fantastic!”

“What a fun ride! I am challenging myself to keep blogging regularly- if I can do it every day for this time, I certainly can do it more than I have been.”

“It’s been a fun two weeks Mount Vernon family!”

“This has been inspirational and exciting. I have enjoyed blogging and reading others. This has started quite the trend…what a great time.”

“Thanks for inspiring, challenging, and including us! I’ve been able to read bits and pieces of other blogs and enjoyed getting to “know” colleagues better.”

“Thanks for the challenge. I was skeptical but have enjoyed and really enjoyed reading what I could of others posts. The process opened my eyes to see things everywhere that could make for a potential post!”

“Thanks for this fun adventure! And making it cross divisional. I really enjoyed virtually getting to know more about my coworkers across the street!”

Thanks for participating! I’m sure we will do it again in the future.

The Power of the Scoreboard & Accountability

The Power of the Scoreboard & Accountability

Badging interest exploded with the faculty program’s initial launch in August. After months of plateauing, another spike occurred when we measured progress in December and January through a series of infographics and charts. We teased prizes, but as of yet, we have not even specified what those prizes might be. Therefore, it isn’t clear whether the hope of winning prizes has any impact. The scoreboard, and the accountability that comes with it, seems to be the driving force behind this second surge in badges earned. Perhaps accountability coupled with time of year?

Badges Jan 31, 2016
Create your own infographics

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 9.21.14 PM

The Power of Badging

The Power of Badging

Since launching our faculty badging program in August, teachers have earned over 100 badges and provided some intriguing information related to mastery and learning needs. What does this data tell you about our faculty learning and the power of badging?

The Power of Badging
Number of faculty who have earned 8 badges, 7 badges, etc.

The Power of Badging

We rocked it on Summer Learning. Folio, Drones, and Blogging are fairly strong.

Though we’ve spent several faculty meetings focused on formative assessment in recent weeks, only 1 person has applied for and earned the formative assessment badge.

Also, since receiving Clear Touches in every room, only 5 have earned that badge and only 1 faculty member has demonstrated the basics to earn a badge for innovative technology integration. Wonder what the focus of our upcoming meetings might be?

Here are the 12 badges available to faculty since August. Each one has specific criteria and evidence required to earn.

The Power of Badging

Overcoming Obstacles to ePortfolios

Overcoming Obstacles to ePortfolios

This morning’s faculty meeting saw teachers paired up with Middle School Digital Media students. Our goal was learn from students and ‘crack the code’ on how to use eportfolios more effectively. We followed up on last week’s meeting (vertical process standards/formative assessment/eportfolio demo) and last week’s conference mentor discussions (how students can take greater ownership of their learning through eportfolios).

Today’s Faculty Meeting Agenda

Essential Questions:
Based on student feedback, how can we ‘crack the code’ for how to use eportfolios more effectively both ‘for learning’ (formative/workspace) and ‘of learning’ (summative/showcase)?

Desired Outcomes:
Students and faculty collaborate to discover students’ ideas around iterating eportfolios.

Learning Opportunities:

  • Chip shares feedback from Conference Mentor meetings (~5 mins)
  • Students from Digital Media show their eportfolios to MS faculty members (~10 mins)
  • Faculty members interview students regarding eportfolios (~15 mins)
  • Faculty member partners affinity map post-it notes on small whiteboards (~3 mins)
  • Faculty member partners transfer post-it notes from each small group onto five Z-racks (~10 mins)
  • Each group shares insight with the faculty as they transfer post-it notes to Z-rack
  • Ticket Out the Door – Remember two weeks ago in vertical teams – Based on the information you now know from the students, how might you iterate what you designed for your formative assessment/eportfolio piece related to a specific vertical process standard/learning outcome?


Here are the post-it notes captured by teachers when interviewing students…

What I like Most…
– different from everyone else
– allowed to express learning
– everyone can see work and what we’re proud of
– better than last year (google sites), easier and more simple to figure out
– tabs arranged by classes (disciplines) vs. mindsets (2x)
– we can choose what to put
– choice
– teacher driven, but students given choice
– don’t have to get on the Google site – no searching
– helps us study for tests/quizzes
– ability to customize and autonomy
– Digital Media class really helps with ePortfolio
– future value: resume, look back at accomplishments, US can use to preview students

New Ideas to Consider
– besides Google, film, video, picture, prezi, padlet
– paper for Grandma
– add friends?
– add something I’m proud of
– would prefer to be told to upload – easy and don’t have to think about it
– use for admissions (submit when you are applying?)
– show students who are applying to MVPS
– extra points would make them upload for fun
– use QR codes
– podcasts

How to Improve
– use eportfolio as assessment – student doesn’t know how
– not motivated, don’t want to add imperfect
– benefit of reflecting? – maybe more explanation
– reflecting not fun, but sometimes necessary
– students don’t want to show off work that is bad or poor grade
– sharing study guides on eportfolio may make it more useful for students
– merge quizlet study concepts w/eportfolio
– outside of showcasing, no real use
– choosing what to upload
– pictures was easy to upload, document not so much
– more freedom on stuff to upload
– don’t like this year’s eportfolio – it’s confusing and more steps (than google sites)

Don’t Understand Yet
– adding papers and modules are confusing
– multi-step, don’t know 1/2
– easier
– how to videos help
– can see it more in high school, but not now
– if we had a class on it, we should be able to do a lot more, outside of uploading – we can’t do a whole lot
– kinda cool, but more relevant in high school

Obstacle 1: Lack of clear purpose
– why do we have to publish everything?
– Church?
– don’t know what to add for outside MVPS
– don’t do much on computer outside MVPS
– fun? expressing self
– feel like I can try something harder b/c I was successful here
– feel proud to know I can do this – Scratch
– outside of showcasing students, don’t use it for anything else
– like that it allows you to be creative but other than showcasing, no use
– students feel it is more useful for high school students b/c they can use for college applications, etc. but NOT useful in middle school
– display best work
– technology not working well. publish stuff then it says unpublished
– do you put rough draft? – no – it is ‘show off’ but could
– Google docs eportfolio was much easier
– things were not uploading when they showed it to us

Obstacle 2: Audience Too Small
– like/want to see everyone’s eportfolio
– they’d be more motivated if more people (like US students) could see
– who is audience?
– do teachers look at this? any audience?
– unsure of audience
– don’t want to upload what they did poorly
– who to see? parent, grandparent, know you better/unique views
– audience: teachers, Mr. Houston, Deans

Obstacle 3: Too Many Tech Steps
– challenging uploading for subjects that are paper-back
– refresh button hits
– improve rich text video
– tabs, I don’t get subtitles
– it broke down, buttons missing, no publish button
– tech issues (a la video), don’t like unguided reflection
– not easy to operate, reflections remain problematic
– have to publish each inc pg – annoying!
– hard to make lots of edits in many tabs b/c
– want to publish it all at once
– easy to use
– don’t know how to save from studio 7 – no picture
– process uploading isn’t bad, BUT it’s hard uploading videos
– the use of outside emails to MVPS email gets tedious
– no internet when we went to show eportfolio
– MVPS restricted youtube, need video platform that can see
– can create more than 1
– didn’t know about “outside mvps”
– add a module: hard to interpret, text, picture, etc.

Obstacle 4: Too School-Centered
– don’t want to load bad grades
– don’t like teacher determining uploads
– not in favor of wider reach
– want to upload a presentation over a lab
– more creative, more color
– teachers tell you what to do
– only posting things that are mandatory
– big question about an END OF THE YEAR reflection – they don’t want to do that
– like Digication
– don’t want to show it to college necessarily
– one wants best work
– want control over it
– is it apps for 5th graders to have it? vs. high school? vs. 8th grade?

– a lot of checking the box
– rough draft 1, shiny 2
– don’t want to post “boring” things
– people don’t think the process is interesting to look at
– looking at a picture of a lab is boring
– do not like reflecting. think it is boring and unhelpful
– grades would motivate them to put more effort in
– matters: Shows everything & you can go back and see what you’ve done
– want final product, not ‘blueprint’
– Grammar rough draft included
– takes up advisory when they want to study
– favorite types of media: google pres and a game
– why matters: to show teachers improvements, likes, enjoyments
– interactions: comments would be ok
– customization, uses mindsets, likes organization
– it’s boring
– more fun formatting
– how you felt when showing eportfolio: nervous
– reorganize categories
– upload what she wants, restricted
– purpose: simply organize work??

How to make it better?
– 7th grade feels students are afraid that they will have to do another BIG REFLECTION for eportfolio like last year – didn’t like it.
– They want an opportunity to be rewarded for eportfolio use


10 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning10 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning

In schools, the use of e-portfolios is increasing as a way to enable learning, as well as a means to measure it. See Admissions Revolution (80 colleges and universities move towards use of online portfolios). There are a variety of types and purposes of e-portfolios including workspace, showcase, academic, employment, etc. This post focuses primarily on the blog as student workspace – designed as a tool to accelerate learning at any age, as well as to build capacity for being globally competitive beyond schooling. How might e-portfolios increase learning?

1) Writing – Does the importance of writing need to be explained or defended? It’s connection and value to learning is self-evident. Blogs and online journals (via e-portfolios) are a fantastic platform for encouraging and facilitating writing for learners. Whether one is expressing ideas, posing questions, or making arguments, here are more than a dozen reasons why writing is vitally important to learning.

2) Storytelling – More than just a mode of writing, storytelling precedes writing in the history of humanity. Storytelling is a powerful connector of people. Oral stories and parables are incredibly effective modes of communicating very complex ideas in a form that is accessible to the common learner. Today, exciting possibilities exist with digital storytelling, while the classic archetypes of storytelling remain as relevant as ever. Let’s teach both to our students!

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning 3) Meta-cognition – It goes by many names. Thinking about thinking. Reflecting on learning. Self-regulation. The monitoring and control of thought. The gift that keeps giving. Despite its importance in the learning process, it is not well practiced in today’s classrooms. How can e-portfolios be used to build these muscles? Teachers can supply prompts for reflection. Students can capture their reflections in writing, in voice memo, on video, on podcast, through art, etc. All of these are ripe candidates for e-portfolio demonstrations. See these K-8 meta-cognitive strategies.

The ability to learn is not a fixed quantity (read Dweck’s ‘Mindset’). Members of our team have modeled meta-cognition through the reconfiguring of physical space, as well as the emotional environment as key elements of teaching and learning.

If we are to teach students that a growth mindset is not only possible, but desirable, then we must first embody and exemplify a growth mindset as educators. If we expect students to reflect and curate their learning, should we not also be practitioners ourselves? This is why the blog you are now reading exists.

4) Multi-media Technology – We often read about the mistakes educators make when using (or not using) technology. With e-portfolios, there is an opportunity for students (and teachers) to learn a variety of valuable skills including embedding presentations, video creation, graphic creation, font and style choice, podcasts, stop-motion video, voice memos, google hangouts – with screen capture, 3D printing, etc. What specific technologies should students be learning in schools? Why do these technologies need to be learned? How frequently does this list change as technology advances? Is it a futile effort and is time wasted learning technologies that will be obsolete in a few years? Is it more about the mindsets that are required and developed by the pursuit of learning new technologies?

5) Feedback – Here is a skill that was not formally taught when I was in school. And what a mistake it is that we don’t teach how to give and receive feedback intentionally! I highly recommend ‘Thanks for the Feedback’ for anyone interested in learning about the 3 types of feedback and how every human needs them, yet they are often as cross-purposes. With e-portfolios, students can receive feedback on their demonstrations of learning from teachers, peers, parents, and external experts. Students can learn how to deliver feedback by providing it to one another in the form of comments, uploaded directly to the e-portfolio.

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning 6) Assessment of Learning – If your goal is to expand the ways in which you measure student learning beyond numerical, quantitative grades, you should take a good, long look at e-portfolios. They provide a qualitative, longitudinal measure. Students can post a writing sample from September next to one written in November and we should be able to visibly see the progression of learning. If we don’t, then the measure is still helpful because it tells us where the student stands in relation to learning outcomes. E-portfolios can be the perfect platform for displaying digital badges earned for demonstrating specific knowledge, skills, or transfer of skills. Badging is yet another fantastic measure of learning that can accomplish the same, if not much more, than a numerical grade.

7) Choice & Ownership – When designed properly, students can pursue their own topics of interest and curiosity through e-portfolios. They can share their learning with others. E-portfolios allow students a much greater audience for their learning which in turn generates a stronger sense of ownership and urgency. We all want to ‘be seen’ – acknowledged and appreciated by others. Students should have the freedom to add their own demonstrations, in addition to being assigned demonstrations by teachers. It is not an ‘either or’ proposition. Students should ‘have permission’ to customize the look of their e-portfolios and include demos that may not be related to school.

8) Digital Citizenship – As the author of one’s own blog, website, or e-portfolio, students learn the importance of ethical decision making and wise choices. See the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship as food for thought.

9) Graphic Organizer(s) – There is no shortage of graphic organizers available online. Can teachers use e-portfolio assignments as advance organizers? How might this increase the mastery and measurement of specific learning outcomes in a school? How might graphic organizers be used with e-portfolios to introduce new concepts? Or to formatively assess student learning via entry, transfer, and exit tickets?

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning10) Communications/Branding – At least one school I know has explicitly written into their mission statement the goal to prepare students to be globally competitive and engaged citizen leaders, though I assume a lot of schools would say they aspire to do the same. In the age of the internet and marketing, being savvy with one’s web presence, branding, and social media strategy seems like an important set of skills to begin ‘baking in’ early in our students formal educational journey. Experience curating one’s own e-portfolio can position students much further along than their global competitors. Conversely, it can leave them at a great disadvantage if these skills and mindsets are missing.

What other ways do you see e-portfolios can increase learning?

For more on e-portfolios, read these posts and resources.

Thanks for the Feedback

Thanks for the Feedback

Thanks for the Feedback

Our team has recently discovered this fabulous book, recommended by Meredith Monk from Folio Collaborative. The authors outline the 3 types of feedback we all need and receive as human beings: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation.

None of these concepts are new, but the clarification of each one, as well as the interconnectedness of them are providing important insights for us. Just the summary from Chapter 1 alone has given us great fodder for discussion and reflection.

“Feedback” is really three different things, with different purposes:

Appreciation – motivates and encourages.
Coaching – helps increase knowledge, skill, ability, capability, growth, or raises feelings in the relationship.
Evaluation – tells you where you stand, aligns expectations, and informs decision making.

We need all three, but often talk at cross-purposes.

Evaluation is the loudest and can drown out the other two. (And all coaching includes a bit of evaluation.)

Be thoughtful about what you need and what you’re being offered, and get aligned.

MVIFI Introduces Collider Conference

Collider ConferenceMVIFI Introduces Collider Conference

Yesterday, Mount Vernon spent a half day introducing a new, in-house approach to professional learning: Collider. The new MVIFI nucleus team, wearing their sweet new ‘mechanic’ shirts, led the charge.

More personal reflections coming soon. Meanwhile, here is a list of all sessions/topics and Jim Tiffin’s storify of major tweets and insights…

List of Workshops and Sessions/Topics

Jim Tiffin highlights the key moments via twitter via Storify

I am proud of the Middle School teachers who led several sessions and took an active role as participants.







The Nucleus

Implementing Instructional Rounds

Implementing Instructional Rounds

Recently, the idea was posed to us about how to implement instructional rounds. I’m so excited at the prospect of sharing this valuable practice with other educators, that my mind began racing. Hundreds of thoughts all crashing together in my mind at the same instant.

Pulling out a trusty, white legal pad, I began to scribble down questions. Ah, start with questions. It’s embedded in my DNA.

Questions for Schools to Discuss Before IR

  • Can you describe your school’s current model for observation? Current evaluation model? Feedback model?
  • Is there any peer to peer observation happening in your school?
  • If you were to start with a small, pilot group, who are the people who will observe? What training do they need?
  • Who will be observed? What training or information will they need?
  • Are the right conditions of trust in place? Or do they need to be developed before beginning IR?
  • What tool will you use during the observations to capture what you see? What are the key elements or problems of practice you will focus on during your rounds?
  • How will you structure your debriefs? What formal or procedure will you use? How will you prepare people for the debrief to get the most out of it?
  • Logistically, when and how will you schedule the rounds and debriefs?
  • instructional rounds
    The Science Vertical Team debriefs after an observation. Trust is key to a successful conversation. The focus is growth not evaluation.

    instructional rounds
    Bo Adams shares about how MVPS approaches instructional rounds.

A Brief History of Social Science R & D

A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS

For five years, I have had the privilege of co-chairing the Social Science Research & Design Team at Mount Vernon with Head of Lower School Shelley Clifford. We have worked alongside the incredible teachers from Preschool through Upper School to create, iterate, and reimagine learning outcomes, as well as innovative instructional and assessment strategies. Here is a succinct outline of the highlights of our team’s efforts…

– Audit of current learning outcome practices
– Compare/contrast MVPS learning outcomes to Georgia Performance Standards
– Compare/contrast MVPS learning outcomes to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and others (no common core for social studies)
– Creation of World Impact Curriculum
A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS

– Read “Being Global”
– Applied to 3 components of the School’s mission statement (college ready, globally competitive, engaged citizen leader)
– Discussed utility and significance of our learning outcomes (and overall program)
– Teachers shared strategies for infusing “globally competitive” into all classes
A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS Screen Shot 2015-09-08 A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS 10.52.05 AM2013-2014
– Reimagined what R & D could and should be at a school
– Middle School created and implemented two themed courses (Freedom & Conflict)

A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS 2014-2015
– Split PS/LS and MS/US
– MS/US focused on defining units (UbD), simplifying outcomes and attaching essential questions to each unit
– All MS classes are themed (Pioneer Course and Passport/Human Geography)
A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS 2015-2016
– Stepping back from learning outcomes to clarify overall Social Studies philosophy at MVPS
– more TBD…

There are 4 over-arching goals or purposes for All R & D Teams at MVPS…

  • Foster a deeper, shared understanding and continued iteration of learning outcomes
  • Design and curate demonstrations of learning and evidence of understanding
  • Explore paths of implementation within respective discipline and make connections across disciplines
  • Utilize the Design Principles & Practice (Learning Essentials) from MV Continuum

How Are Mistakes and Failures Embraced?

Teachers participated in a visible thinking routine called “Think, Pair, Share” today. They asked, “How are mistakes and failures embraced as opportunities to grow and learn?” Specifically, they applied this question to 3 key initiatives: Assessments, ePortfolios, and Student Led Conferences.Professional LearningToday’s Agenda – Middle School Faculty Meeting

Desired Outcomes:
Expand our ability to utilize assessment in new and more effective ways
Advance ePortfolios by incorporating more storytelling
Collaborate with vertical teams to grow in our practice

Essential Questions:
How are mistakes and failures embraced as opportunities to grow and learn?
How are students “storytelling” their learning with ePortfolios?

Learning Activities: Think, Pair, Share within Vertical Teams
“Mistakes and failures are embraced as opportunities to grow and learn.”
What does this look/sound like in your classroom practice regarding assessment?

“Mistakes and failures are embraced as opportunities to grow and learn.”
What does this look/sound like in a student led conference?

professional learning
The math vertical team discusses ideas with members of the advancement team.
professional learning
Modeling our group work norms, several team members volunteer for specific roles. Emma made a unique “alarm” sound every time.
professional learning
Each vertical team shared their “pieces of gold” for how to embrace mistakes and failures as opportunities to learn and grow.
professional learning
Social Studies vertical team pairs and shares what a student led conference looks like when “mistakes and failures are embraced as opportunities to learn.”
professional learning
Think, Pair, Share with science team.
professional learning
How are students “storytelling” their learning with ePortfolios?

“Mistakes and failures are embraced as opportunities to grow and learn.”
What does this look like in students’ eportfolios?
What is the story that students are telling/showing? How are they telling/showing it?

This is a MUST READ…
A Guide to Producing Student Digital Storytellers