Candace Robertson

One educator, determined to create an engaging and dynamic experience for learners of all ages.

Leave a comment

Summer Reflections…in the Fall

Every teacher knows that summer really doesn’t mean that things slow down when it comes to brainstorming, learning, gathering ideas for lessons, and professional growth.  Before we know it, the school year has started and we’re getting to know new staff, students, and setting goals for ourselves for the new year.  This summer has been one of those summers that has flown by for me due to awesome professional development opportunities, weddings, and prepping for the middle school entering the 1:1 iPad pilot (our district is now 1:1, first through fifth grade).  I’m happy to report that the iPads have been deployed, MAP testing is over for the fall, and I’m now having time to reflect on what a whirlwind it has been!  So, here come a few posts that I’ve been brainstorming all the while.

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island.  I was in the company of technology educators, advocates, classroom teachers, library specialists, higher education instructors and professors, and journalists.  Our goal was to dig into what digital literacy is and how we can support our students in becoming more literate.  Hearing from others in different areas of the field of education and from the media field helped me to see that “text” can be anything.  We read images, billboards, search results, videos, infographics, printed literature, app settings, etc. While the process in which we read, interpret, and analyze those different forms of text may be slightly different, we are still pulling meaning from and comprehending each of them.  This seems like such a basic idea, but it was one of the first times that I really had actual time to process this.

While at the institute, I had the opportunity to present a session with a Michigan State colleague, Bill Marsland.  Resources from our presentation, “Catch You On the Flip Side: How Educators can Explore Digital Literacy Through Flipped Professional Development” can be found here.

Another twist on the conference was that we all participated in an inquiry based action project.  My partner, Jeremy Hyler, and I took the time to explore grammar education in the 21st century.  How could we take grammar practice and make it more motivating and meaningful for our students?  This exploration is one that I have researched before with my MAET coursework.  Grammar instruction is typically static, rote practice.  Yes, we put a rubric with graded assignments that focuses on the application of these concepts and rules, but is the connection really there for students?  Jeremy and I determined a structure that would allow for an inquiry approach to grammar instruction utilizing blended learning.  This approach calls for student ownership and allows students to analyze how text is compared across mediums.


Grammar Smackdown Cover

Step 1.  Students view a “teaser” video that has an example of a grammar concept/rule in it and some examples and non examples of the concept/rule which can be found in current text they are reading.

Step 2:  Students are given resources to access to try and figure out what the concept/rule is.

Step 3:  Students update their grammar portfolio, or what we referred to as their “Grammar Smackdown”, which has been created in Google Presentations.  Here, they must determine how this concept/rule looks in different mediums.  Also, they will utilize the speaker notes within Google Presentations to cite their sources and to put the ideas into their own words (seen below).

Student Grammar Example

By going through this process, it challenges students to think about the differences between formal and informal communication.  It reinforces the idea of how images can represent an idea, how we should be responsible digital citizens and cite our sources, and how we communicate with different audiences.   They first take the concept/rule and input an example into the template for the research paper, they can see what is appropriate in academic writing.  By taking that same concept/rule and plugging it into the template to fake Tweet, Facebook post, Instagram post, text message, and email, they are then able to see patterns and differences that arise when writing in these different contexts.  It allows them to see what language looks like in the 21st century, across platforms.  Hopefully, inspiring them to write for the correct audience and purpose in future circumstances!

Conventions of Standard English

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Knowledge of Language

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Creative Commons License

Summer Reflections…in the Fall by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Leave a comment

iPad 201

As our district is implementing a 1:1 resource allocation for iPads next year, it has been so exciting to work with staff members and prepare them for the upcoming adventure! Some of our teachers have had access to iPads by being involved in the pilot and/or seed program. Knowing that we have staff members who have never used an iPad, to teachers who now almost solely use their iPads allows for a big span in the learning curve. So, in trying to plan professional development for all of the district staff…how could we make sure to meet their individual needs?

To insure that everyone is prepared for next year and that everyone continues to grow, we developed two main courses for staff members to participate in this summer. In addition, the district technology facilitators worked to create a “Summer Bucket List” and start-up guide to encourage exploration and use of the device in technical and FUN ways! I had the privilege to develop “iPad 201” which focuses on the educational frameworks for implementing technology integration. As we work to transform the mindset of what technology integration truly means, we wanted to model innovative integration while supporting instruction and the Common Core State Standards .  Our goal was to make the content highly accessible and highly relavant to their needs.  I considered these questions during planning:

  • What do all teachers already do?
  • What affordances can technology provide in completing these tasks/processes?
  • How can we support district initiatives to make the transition seamless?
  • How can we differentiate within the course?
  • How can we encourage exploration and play in the course?

The content covered and the way in which it was delivered in this course was all done for specific reasons.  Here is reflection on some of the choices you will notice:

  • Course Content:  The scope and sequence of this course was first developed to provide a mindset and lens for viewing technology integration.  After having an understanding of TPACK and SAMR, we can then look at our standards through a different lens to see how we can employ technology purposefully to meet the needs of our students.
  • Inclusion of CCSS shifts and best practices: To make this meaningful PD that was truly integrated, we wanted to create a connection to practices that educators are already familiar with.  Highlighting best practices (formative assessment, classroom management, differentiation, etc.) allowed us to make this connection to how we can utilize technology to assist in processes that we are already familiar with.  In terms of the CCSS shifts, our district is adopting the CCSS as our curriculum in the upcoming school year.  To allow our teachers to see the affordance of technology to addressing these shifts, this was included.
  • Use of Google Presentations for content delivery: models meaningful repurposing of technology, as it mimics an interactive ebook feel but does not require a learning curve to develop since our teachers are familiar with Google Apps.
  • Linoit board:  Formative assessment and to guide discussion, easily translated to classroom use as only 1 teacher account is needed to allow for the board and lots of collaboration and sharing!
  • Utilization of Web 2.0 tools and not apps:  Thera are a few reasons for this…1.  Teachers do not receive app codes until the first week of August, as we wait for the new fiscal year;  2.  Focus is not on apps, but on the instruction (don’t want to create an “app-slappy” climate); 3. Serves as a reminder that the devices are connected to the Internet (sounds crazy, but it’s easy to get sucked into “App Land” and forget that Web 2.0 tools still apply).

By using the forms of content delivery and the tools in which we utilize throughout the course, we work to increase the digital literacy of staff members by exposing them to the tool in a casual way- letting them get the feel for it instead introducing it by creating accounts, identifying features of the tool, etc.  Modeling the use of these tools (Google Pres., Linoit, throughout the PD creates an awareness of the tool, a comfort level with it, and sparks ideas for further use in their individual classrooms.  Teachers get to learn the features by actually using it, not by feeling pressured to keep up with directions on how to use it.  The whole feel for the course was not meant to be a “Show and Tell”, but to set the mood to “Collaborate and Create”.  We flipped this PD experience, as the learners are coming to the session, already having watched the two initial videos.  This allows us to jump directly into discussion and allows for ample time to make connections to best practices, the CCSS, explore, and create!

Creative Commons License
iPad 201 by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at