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Exploring Classroom Innovations at the AWSA/WASDA Summit for Data-Informed Leadership in Green Bay

Data is a four letter word, literally and sometimes metaphorically in education. Educators need data to drive instruction and making informed decisions about student learning. When students have information about their own learning progress, they know themselves better as learners. Yet when data does not serve an important purpose, it can also monopolize our time that is better spent teaching and learning.

I was grateful for the opportunity to speak about the challenges and promises of this topic at the Wisconsin Summit for Data-Informed Leadership this week in Green Bay. This event, co-facilitate by WASDA and AWSA, gave administrators and teachers the opportunity to develop a better understanding of data in the context of schools today.

Beyond the Gold Star: Strategies for Nurturing Self-Directed Learners

This first session guided participants to explore innovative classroom approaches that gave students more autonomy in their learning. Data in this context wasn’t necessarily a number or letter; video, audio, and images can also serve to inform teaching and learning.

Educators tried to create a story using an unknown digital tool with little direction. This activity gave participants, especially school leaders, an opportunity to experience the anxiety that teachers and students might feel working with technology. Some of our tensions are healthy, as we sometimes don’t challenge ourselves enough.

Attendees were directed to a simple Google Site with several pages devoted to innovative approaches for classroom instruction: http://bit.ly/classroominnovations. Right now it is pretty bare bones; I hope to add more ideas and resources to it as time goes by.

Digital Student Portfolios in Action

This session was much more technology-focused, around one approach to facilitating qualitative assessment. Our goal was to “rethink our plates” instead of trying to add one more thing to our busy days.

Participants had a lot of time to explore different digital portfolio tools, as well as new ways for students to represent their learning. This group already had a strong understanding that data was not limited to quantitative information. They offered smart questions and creative ideas for making their classrooms more student-centered.

Having studied and experimented with digital portfolios for students for almost five years, it was probably the most comfortable I have felt presenting on informational technology. It was a good way to prepare for my presentation on the same topic at the ASCD Convention in Anaheim on March 26.


I will be facilitating a number of workshops this summer on these two topics at CESA 3 and CESA 4. If interested in learning more about classroom innovations that work, as well as having time to effectively integrate technology into the curriculum. please reach out!

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Digital Student Portfolios: An Interview with Trevor Mattea and New Books Network

In August I spoke with Trevor Mattea about my first book on digital portfolios. Below is the summary of our conversation. Click here for a link to the podcast. Enjoy!

Most of the time, school performance is not like performance in other arenas. In music, we want people to play something for us. In sports, we want people to show us our skills. Performance in school is filtered through test scores and letter grades. When we ask students how they are doing in reading, we do not expect them to actually read to us or share their thoughts on a recent books they have finished. We expect to learn them to tell us a reading level or point to wherever they are on a rubric. But what does that mean? Have we lost sight of the actual value of the things we are attempting to measure and quantify? What if we looked at school work the way we attend practices, games, and recitals?

In Digital Student Portfolios: A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Assessment, Matt Renwick, outlines the rationale for portfolio work in the twenty first century, including how portfolios can motivate and empower students, provide evidence for report cards and school conferences, guide the instruction of teachers, and share school language with families.

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Digital Student Portfolios: Site License for Teacher Professional Development

Thinking about your school’s professional development plan? Are you looking for a focus for your grade level or department inquiry? Still searching for that textbook for a college course you are teaching on technology integration? Then consider this offer for a powerful, year long learning initiative.

Digital Student Portfolios School Site License

Possible questions:

What is a “site license”?

A site license means that a school or organization has unlimited access to an author’s content. This can be a big money saver if considering a whole staff book study. The site license would be a one time fee, no recurring subscription.

What is included in this offer?

  • Unlimited access to digital copies of my text (ePub, Kindle).
  • A PDF version of the book for printing out and reading on paper.
  • An original study guide with thought-provoking questions and links to powerful learning activities.
  • Access to our Google+ Community on digital portfolios for students, to host asynchronous discussions and to connect with over 400 other educators with similar interests.

What is the author’s background?

  • B.S. Elementary/Middle Level Education, 1-8
  • M.S. Educational Administration, PK-12
  • Licensed as a Director of Instruction, PK-12
  • Currently leading a school in a digital portfolio initiative (2011 – present)
  • Training: Online professional development, connected coaching

Sounds great! How do I sign up?

Please fill out the form below to register. If you have questions, please include them in the form.