Songs from 1976

Today’s my birthday and I’ve enjoyed listening to some great music from 1976. That’s right, I’m 41. I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do.

3 Tips to Take ePortfolios to the Next Level

If we expect ePortfolios to be effective tools for measuring learning…

If we expect ePortfolios to enhance (or replace) a single numerical grade on a report card as a means of monitoring progress…

…then we must continue to research, iterate, and implement them with students. Here are 3 tips to take ePortfolios to the next level of effectiveness.

1. Show Before and After

Advisors should help students design demos that show before and after. Compare two or more pieces of work over time. Don’t just upload a picture or write unbroken paragraphs of endless text. Tell a story that visibly shows growth and learning. And do so effectively,…

2. Use Media & Technology
Want an excuse to experiment with unexpected and creative forms of technology? Here you go. Text and slides are B-O-R-I-N-G! Get a drone and create a video. Use a 3-D printer or laser cutter. Learn how to create your own virtual reality content. Make your ePortfolio compelling so people will flock to discover what you’re learning. ePortfolios are meant to be shared. Don’t bore us.

3. Cross Disciplinary Lines
ePortfolio demos may be tied directly and explicitly to learning outcomes. Yet, that does not mean they must only be outcomes from one academic discipline or subject. Authentic, real-world learning occurs across disciplinary lines. Create demos that blur the lines and reflect reality.

Remember, “the real value of an ePortfolio is in the reflection and learning that is documented therein, not just the collection of work.” Utilizing these 3 tips will lead to extended reflection at each stage of the process through the student-led conference and beyond.

Celebrating iPlan17: The Mindsets

Launched in Fall 2012, Mount Vernon’s 5-year strategic iPlan17 has laid the groundwork for MVX; the new strategic plan launching in Fall 2017. This week, we look back at some of key moments in celebration some of the highlights and insights you have achieved related to the Mount Vernon Mindsets.

(Note: This is not an exhaustive history, but merely one perspective. There are many, many other contributors to this story not represented in this brief post.)

Celebrating iPlan17: The Mindsets
Our story begins with a book chosen by Dr. Jacobsen. In 2010-2011, the entire faculty read Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap, sparking discussions about 21st century skills.








That same year, the Strategic Planning Committee of 2010-2011 hosted screenings of 3 educational documentaries, capturing the questions, thoughts, and ideas of all stakeholders represented (students, parents, faculty, and trustees). (Copies exist of the documentation, though mostly in Word, Power Point, or physically printed because we had not yet converted to using Google Docs.)






The 6 MV Mindsets were created not only as a result of the feedback and conversations sparked by the Global Achievement Gap and the 3 documentaries, but also as a result of several professional learning workshops involving all faculty across Preschool through Grade 12.

Once created, it was important that the mindsets be branded and cascaded throughout the entire program, but it was more important that we made sure the experience matched the messaging. In other words, the mindsets couldn’t just be an attractive admissions insert or a poster on the classroom wall (although both looked nice!). We had to infuse the mindsets into the curriculum at the DNA level.
Teams in each division set out to clarify and quantify student progress on the mindsets by creating detailed rubrics. The rubrics were helpful in generating discussion around what the mindsets actually meant, how to infuse them, and how to measure/communicate student progress. However, they were different in each division and bulky. Teachers were encouraged to take pieces of the mindset rubric and merge them with rubrics that measured other indicators customized to whatever particular project or performance task was being designed.
On January 7, 2013 – Our team held a professional learning conference on How to Infuse the Mindsets. Teachers rotated through 6 sessions (1 for each mindset) throughout the day where they discussed ideas and received strategies for intentionally infusing mindsets with other core content learning outcomes. An early obstacle to overcome was the mindsets that said, “I’ve been teaching these my whole career.” or “This mindset is already present in what we’re doing.” It was a shift for all of us to realize that the intentional infusion, design, and assessment of the mindsets was something new. And difficult. While also fun.

(insert link to google site resources)

We designed locker magnets as a way to recognize and celebrate students who demonstrated key attributes of the mindsets. Teachers had fun discussing who demonstrated the mindsets each week and gathering the students to celebrate. #Culture

Eportfolios Built around Mindsets using Google Sites

Mindsets included in Honors Assembly

What you recognize and celebrate is what you value.

Group Work Norms Created as a model for infusing the Collaborator Mindset

Mindsets intentionally observed and measured via Instructional Rounds

Mindsets connected to the greater MV Continuum

MVIFI Summer Grants focused on Mindsets

Collider Sessions focused on Mindsets






Innovation Diploma is assessing and communicating student progress around the mindsets, specifically the 4 C’s utilizing PowerSchool capabilities and the Ed Leader 21 rubrics.

Visible Thinking Routines designed to help infuse and assess Mindsets

Badges created to differentiate and celebrate faculty efforts around 4 of the 6 Mindsets
And a fun blog post about Star Wars characters who embody the mindsets.

And the work continues…

Introducing Faculty Badges: Winter Edition 2017

Today was the grand unveiling of the new suite of badges designed for faculty by Amy Wilkes and Katie Cain. Like a kid at Christmas, I still get excited when new badges are designed and introduced. These badges are only available through the end of April, so don’t let them pass by you.

Remember, a badge has six elements to its design. Although the artwork is often the most visible and appealing aspect of a badge, it is only 1/6 of the design. Like a quarterback who gets all the credit when a team wins, the artwork can overshadow the other 5/6 of the badge. 

There are a number of things I really like and wish to highlight about these particular badges. First, I love how we have developed specific ‘families’ of badges. For example, there are now 3 badges related to PBL (project based learning). They look very similar, yet they are distinctive. True learners and die hard badgers will collect them all.






Next, notice how the badges offered are not only highly relevant to the larger mission and work of the whole school, but also how they combine multiple school initiatives. For example, the Spotlight on the 4 C’s incorporates the wildly important Mount Vernon Mindsets (4 of the 6 21st century core competencies) AND the spotlight feature of Folio Collaborative along with the important practice of learning walks (see more on learning walks).

Finally, the Random Act of Kindness badge breaks new ground by being the first badge you cannot apply for yourself. A colleague must apply on your behalf. I’m interested to see how this one plays out in the weeks ahead.

And on a final, final note…I think my favorite ‘family’ of badges currently are the Challenge Badges. I love the colors and ‘look’ of these badges. And, I love each of the challenges associated with them. To me, they are the most ‘fun’ of all the criteria. The Blogger Challenge was an early success last summer. The Visible Thinking Routine Challenge was equally fun as teachers posted their classes in action to twitter and Ann Plumer featured the work on bulletin boards in middle school spaces on each campus. I hope our teachers will go for it with the Virtual Reality challenge. 

PBL: Measuring the Initiative

Project Based Learning is the wildly important goal for our school this year. At the mid-point, let’s take a pulse of what we have accomplished and learned in pursuit of this initiative.


Student Led Conferences – Year Two


Faculty Reflection
– 94% of families participated
– SLCs are scaling to Lower and Upper School
– I participated in 21 conferences, seeing all but 2 advisors.
– I observed teachers giving feedback on goals, badges, and student behavior.
– I learned a lot more about specific students.
– Teachers contributed to the experience in new and helpful ways.
– I saw evidence of group work, but grading on individual mastery of outcomes.

Areas for Growth
– Despite exhaustive communication, I still observed several students who had not shared “permission to view” in their google doc demonstrations.
– Similar with goals about As and Bs or Honor Roll (achievement goals) instead of Learning Goals (acquire a new skill or explore a new topic of interest)
– I saw evidence of group work and group grades.
– I saw a parent shut down a kid.
– I saw badges earned without the evidence in place.

Questions that Remain
– How will we expand the audience for eportfolios this year?
– Can Digication allow selected sharing instead of “all of nothing”?
– How will we follow up on student goal setting before the end of the semester, especially since the next SLC is not until February?

Practice Guide
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Helping Hands Day 2016

Helping Hands Day is a tradition that started at Mount Vernon in response to the terrorist attacks on the United States and its citizens on September 11, 2001. Approximately 2,977 innocent civilians were killed. Our response as a community every year since that day has been to do something productive; to help others. As we travel beyond the campuses, please keep this spirit in mind and share it with our students. All of them were born afterwards and have no memory of this day. We will remember.

Grade 7 & 8 Helping Hands Day 2016 from Katie Cain on Vimeo.


I Am Poem from Mr. Terupt – Grade 5

While on a learning walk this morning, I liked the class assignment in 5th Grade Literature so much that I decided to participate. Here is my poem.

I am someone who wants to help others and connect more deeply.
I wonder if I am living out God’s purpose for my life.
I hear music, quotes from movies, and echoes of fond childhood memories.
I see how to improve any situation I see.
I want to be recognized and appreciated and make others feel the same.
I am someone who wants to help others and connect more deeply.

I pretend I am not 40 years old, but still 29.
I feel like I would’ve made a good President of the United States.
I touch deeper parts of others’ souls in my mind, not content with surface level banter.
I worry about the pace of life, as well as evil in the world.
I cry when I read about shootings, terrorism, kidnapping, slavery, and things that still exist in the world that should not exist.
I am someone who wants to help others and connect more deeply.

I understand that there is an absolute truth beyond what each of us perceives as our personal perspective of truth through our limited senses.
I say I’ve never met a person who didn’t need the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, starting with myself.
I dream of being debt free and being able to pursue whatever I want with my time.
I try to do a good job and make things better for others.
I hope other people recognize my passion and efforts.
I am someone who wants to help others and connect more deeply.