Developing Human Capacity in Teacher Leaders

My question this week was about how we can develop human capacity in teachers to become technology leaders? How do we get them to step up and share what they know and teach others?

Selfishly, I took this tack at it because it gives me an opportunity to share a project I’ve been working on for the last couple of years, the Future Ready Teacher Cohort. Two years ago our district still had no mobile devices available for students and our technology PD consisted of random, district wide classes on a variety of topics. Neither the access or the training was really changing anything significantly, even with three Instructional Technology TOSAs thrown into the mix. So I did some research.

First, we had heard over and over again over the course of the first few months in our position that there was never enough time to figure out how to take what you learned in a training and really implement it in class before other demands and priorities got in the way. We also heard that they didn’t see the relevance for themselves in what they were learning. Upon more conversation it came down to an issue of confidence. Because they didn’t feel confident in being able to use the tools they couldn’t really see how it fit into their instruction. They needed ongoing support. It wasn’t enough for us to just say “call us if you need us” after a training. We needed to check back.

I started looking at professional development models and ways for teachers to self evaluate their own learning and came across the Future Ready Schools website. At the time, there was a link to a MOOC about Future Ready Schools that my colleagues and I took. We were able to take a look at some examples from other schools and do some reading and research on issues around technology and professional development that began to change our thinking.

What we developed from that was an opportunity to create teacher leaders with the capacity to teach others. We offered a cart of mobile devices as an incentive and in turn we asked the teachers for 2 full days in the summer and 6 three hour evening meetings over the course of 7 months. Each meeting had a combination of skill instruction, a new tool or website to try out, pedagogical instruction around SAMR, blended learning, etc., and collaborative work time. Our goal was to transform learning relationships in our school district. We asked the teachers to do IGNITE (20 slides and 5 minutes to tell your story) sessions at the end of the year to reflect on their learning. It was amazing to see how much they had grown over the course of a year. They were confident with trying things out and many were already offering training of their own in their buildings.

We have just completed our 2nd year which was equally promising and are getting applications ready for the upcoming school year. Some members of our first year group are going to be teaching the 2nd year group this next year so I can focus on the new group. This new group is not going to be made up of our technology pioneers however. We are now reaching the late adopter group.

I’m interested to see how I will need to shift the instruction for this group in order to get them to the same level of confidence as the first year group. I was taking a look at an interesting article by Laurie Blondy (2007) that was analyzing, and in come cases refuting, Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory. The basics of adult learning theory are these five principles:

  1. Adult learners are self directed.
  2. Adults bring experience with them to the learning environment.
  3. Adults are ready to learn to perform their role in society.
  4. Adults are problem oriented, and they seek immediate application of their new knowledge.
  5. Adults are motivated to learn by internal factors.

After years of working with adults I’ve questioned some of those principals and Blondy’s article brings up many of the same issues I have.

  1. Not all adult learners are self directed. Some are there because they have to, because they are complying with something or need to earn clock hours and, as adults, this learning time is competing with family, work and personal time and is only one of many irons teachers have in the fire. Although they don’t want to be lectured to, they also aren’t necessarily ready to create their own course of study and set their own goals. There has to be a balance between some skill based training that is offered based on their needs and some choice in where they take those skills from there. Blondy suggests that online facilitators “must encourage learners to be as self-directed as possible, allowing them to be creative with assignments and projects, encouraging their input and suggestions, while remaining available for consultation to provide guidance when needed.”
  2. Adults do bring experiences to the learning environment and that can be a huge asset if you can find ways to connect their learning to their background knowledge and they can be invaluable resources to each other. And, they can also bring a certain fixed mindset to their learning that can be hard to overcome.
  3. Adults do know their role and are generally ready to learn if you can keep it relevant to them. This is a great reason to make sure, as an instructor, that I give them time to clarify why they are there and what they are hoping to get out of the learning experience. That being said, it’s easy not to put the “hard stuff” on your list of personal learning goals. I think it has to be a balance of professional competencies that we expect teachers to know, because they need to use certain tools and teach certain standards to their students, and choices to pursue certain tools or skills in more depth. It’s the folks who reach a certain mastery that we can count on to begin teaching what they know to others.
  4. Adults are problem oriented and seek immediate application but aren’t always able to analyze what the problem is very clearly. Learning and implementing a keyboarding software with 3rd graders without addressing good writing instruction is not going to make their SBA test scores any higher. We have to be able to help them sift down to the area the students are struggling with and address the wider instructional needs which technology may or may not be able to help address.
  5. So far, my cohort members have been motivated mostly by internal interest in learning what’s best for their students, a cart of mobile devices to use in their classroom, and free dinner, but I’ve already gotten feedback that they would also like to get paid for their time. There is a certain amount of “have to attend” that is tied to training but not everyone is in it for the professional development.

The trick for me is to keep it practical, relevant, mix it up so their are some choices and to give them lots of time to talk to their peers and collaborate together. The new ESSA legislation, which I referred to in a previous post, is also asking for more personalization for teacher PD and mentions teachers being able to earn micro credentials in areas they are interested in as well. Those are also some things I’d like to experiment with next year.


Blondy, L. C. (2007). Evaluation and Application of Andragogical Assumptions to the Adult Online Learning Environment. Journal of interactive Online Learning, 6(2), 116-130. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from

Tracey, R. (2011, August 26). Adult learning shminciples. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from


What is Redefinition?

I’m not entirely sure I find the SAMR model as useful as I used to. I used it at first with teachers because it seemed simple to grasp and easy to start with. Unfortunately, that simplicity leaves many things open to interpretation that has made it more of a challenge for teachers who get hung up on the details of the differences between augmentation, modification and redefinition. I also personally believe, no personal research to back up this one yet, that audience is a vital piece of what truly redefines a student’s learning experience and it’s not clearly defined in the SAMR model.

SAMR Ladder graphic
Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.

Technology allows our students the opportunity to write, collaborate, create and publish for much bigger audiences than their teacher or class. Part of the redefinition process needs to be teaching our students the skills of putting their thinking out to the universe is safe, productive, meaningful ways. They need to learn to take criticism and feedback from complete strangers on the web and use what’s helpful, respond with dignity, or ignore it and move on. We need to give them the opportunities to share their passions, interests and expertise with others without giving away their privacy or sacrificing their digital reputation. And most of all, as good citizens, we want them to contribute to the world in positive ways, from being thoughtful before they post in social media to contributing to the larger bank of knowledge in their chosen area of expertise someday. It all starts with the experiences they have in the classroom.

We can’t do any of that without also changing the expectation of redefinition so that they are learning skills transfer to their lives outside the classroom.  We should want our students to be asking questions that are too big or complicated to answer alone, or with a simple Google search,  and need collaboration with others or an expert to help answer. We want students thinking carefully, and editing often, because they know their work will be seen, and possibly commented on, by people outside their peer group. We should want them using multiple tools to collect data, research for answers, create models and presentations and to share their learning with others.

True redefinition is not about technology at all. Its about changing our teaching practices to give agency to students to make their own meaning and share it with others. The technology just broadens the playing field and gives them more opportunities and more resources to do the learning with.

My lesson plan was about teaching my teachers about what SAMR means and begin to nudge their thinking towards new ways they can think about the technology in their classroom. As a first step, this lesson wasn’t a bad place to start. It gave them some examples to work with and some time to start making meaning of it in the context of their classroom. I can’t help but think that I am not really modeling redefinition by the way I’m teaching the SAMR model though. A “sit and get” no matter how much they get up and move around, is really not redefining this type of professional development. I will be following up this spring with the teachers to see where they might need help getting started so I still don’t have much feedback about how effective this lesson was yet but I am going to try to rethink how we are offering this PD and see if there are some ways I can start practicing what I preach a bit more!

Here’s a link to the whole lesson:

Constructing Knowledge through Curation

Triggering Question: What are ways in which students can critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others?

The key word in that statement for me is Constructing Knowledge. How can we teach students to organize and keep track of digital artifacts so that they can start to see the big picture, make connections between multiple resources and begin constructing new meaning for themselves?

As I was thinking about that, and learning more about “curation” as a skill, it dawned on me how important it is to be purposeful about the questions that you craft about your topic.  Without those purposeful questions it is easy to get distracted by what you find in a search and difficult to know how to tag and comment on the resources you do find to make sure they are relevant to your task. Part of constructing knowledge is, after all, the answering of questions and gaining enough surface knowledge in order to be able to analyze, evaluate and synthesize the information into deeper understanding.

When i first started thinking about curation, I started by learning how curation is defined. Nancy White’s wiki page, Curating Resources in Education, created a little Aha moment for me when I was reading about what she sees as the differences between Collecting and Curating. When we ask students to do research we often stop them at the collecting stage or at least that’s where we stop teaching them. If they have their three resources, regardless of whether they really learned anything useful from the website, we’ll call it good.

Curation Infographic by Nancy White
After my first post, Nancy White sent me her revised curation infographic!

What she suggests makes curating more valuable is the focus on higher level thinking skills and looking for resources with quality, rather than quantity. Also, curated resources are shared with others because they have value to both the individual and other learners. Collecting with Purpose!!!

The ISTE 3c standard states: “Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.” I read a great article by Heather Bailie on Curation as a Tool for Teaching. It has some  great research and links to other articles on curation. I liked her definition of curation “curation is locating, evaluating and selecting (usually) online content on a topic, adding value by contextualising and possibly through tagging or commenting or both; and using digital tools to provide access to the curated material,”  which I think clarifies for me the how of helping students make meaningful connections. Tagging, sharing and adding annotation or comments to online resources allows students to “add value” to the content they find online in ways that help them make their own sense of the material and begin to make connections between their questions and interests and the information they find online.

I decided to give it a little bit of a go myself. I’ve used,, and a few others before but I tried a tool called It let me tag, comment and save links to websites as well as add annotations and “post its” to pages. I haven’t done it yet but it also allows me to add documents and bookmarks to my curated library and then I can share it with others. Here’s my early first steps with Scrible, although it wouldn’t let me share with a link to my collection like Diigo does. I think that If I did it again, or with students, I’d have them create tags based on their research questions before I showed them a tool like this so they could start by sorting and tagging information that was relevant as they began their search.

Curation is becoming more and more important in the business world (Bhargava 2011) because marketers need to help their customers narrow down the firehose of information that can be found on the internet. Online tools like are used by companies as well individuals to help collect and give meaning to information in people’s interest areas. It’s still going to be important for teachers to help students understand the bias in using some of the sites that curate the “top 20 apps for doing your homework” but, like Wikipedia (another useful socially curated site) , they can be good launching places to start research as long as you know what you are looking for in the first place.


  • White, N. (2016, November 5). Curating Resources in Education. Retrieved January 17, 2017, from