Thursday, March 19, 2020

Remote Learning Challenges and solutions

Remote Learning Challenges and solutions

Remote Learning, Distance learning, Blended Learning are all buzz words being thrown about right now. With so many schools closing and so many courses being thrown online it is becoming more and more clear that we should have been farther along with elearning than we truly are. No one could have predicted the massive school closures which have occured, but we all are very well aware that we have between 1 and 10 students absent each and every day of school. The question I asked early on was “What can I do for these students who have lost a day's worth of instructions?” To combat these absences I made sure I recorded all my lessons with YouTube live. I took this recording and I put it in Edpuzzle to make sure the lesson is stopped and the most important ideas and a question is asked. I presented all my slide decks in Nearpod so I could have available the student paced slide deck with questions embedded for those who were not there in person. I made sure each student knew to check Google classroom everyday if they were absent so they would not miss a thing and finally I created a 24/7 office hour Flipgrid so students could ask me questions regardless of time or place. This type of blended learning and allowing the technology to archive information for students to later participate helped me prepare for this situation. Hopefully more and more teachers will begin to use technology on a daily basis so in the case of rolling class closures we will be a bit more prepared. But for now, here are a few solutions to problems many are sure to encounter in a remote learning environment.

Remote learning comes with many challenges. Teachers will need to have a routine to assign work, assess student learning and maintain classroom collaboration though the remote learning time frame. Students will need to be able to easily access assignments, collaborate with fellow students, and be able to reach their instructor whenever they have a question. Luckily there is technology available today which can help to overcome these challenges and make remote learning a success. Along with the technology teachers will need tools to hold students accountable for assigned work, encourage collaboration between students and the teacher, and keep learning personable by utilizing live webcam streams.Finally teacher will need to be available to be able to create an air of normalcy and to connect the class back into the community structure they had in class. If deployed successfully, students will not miss a beat of instruction during this remote learning timeframe.

One of the most difficult tasks in a remote learning setting is keeping students accountable and on task with daily activities. In order to maintain class standards and organization instructors must consistently assign and collect student work in one Learning Management System (LMS). Whether you are using Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, Canvas or another LMS, teachers must consistently check on assignment progress and completion. Teachers must utilize their LMS to communicate with students who are falling behind, not checking in, or not completing work to the best of their ability. Keeping an open communication channel is always important as well to ensure students can ask the instructor questions on assignments. While the communication channels in your LMS may meet this need, Utilizing the free application Flipgrd can enhance this communication by putting students in face to face contact with their instructors and fellow students in a nonlinear time frame. Flipgrid is also a great place for non-course communications and to allow students to see each other while they are home learning. It is very important for student to keep this connection with the class and their instructor.

Assessments can also pose a problem in a remote learning environment, but luckily there are many educational technology tools available to assist with both formative and summative assessments. Both Microsoft and Google have Forms which can be used to ask multiple types of assessment questions. These products both allow for the instructor to select an autograde option which allows teachers and students to automatically receive assessment results. There are many other tools available to allow for assessments of all types. Quizizz and Kahoot are great for formative assessments to check for understanding, but do so in a gamified fashion. Both allow student paced and/or homework options to allow students to take the assessment at different times. If you want to include the students in a distance quiz creation activity, try using the Kids Quiz creator hack I created for both Quizizz and Kahoot. In a matter of minutes the students can create and participate in a whole class created quizz. EdPuzzle is used as a great way to assess students on content related video questions and Edji helps to assess student reading comprehension for any readings in any format you have available. If you have students who need to model a mathematical equation or science concept, the use of an online whiteboard can be key. By using Microsoft Whiteboard or Google Jamboard students can ink their concept and then use Screencastify to record this thought process. Flipgrid even has a whiteboard function for quick checks for understanding. Rest assured, whatever the task, whatever the assessment there is a tool to help in your remote learning plan.

Lastly, one of the most difficult aspects of remote learning is conducting  live classroom instruction. The difficulty lies in the fact that students may or may not show up to these live discussions and will result in many of the students not receiving the background information they will need to know to complete a task. Fortunately both Microsoft and Google have video casting and recording capabilities. In Microsoft teams and Google Hangout Meet the instructor can cast any screen to their students, have face to face conversations with the class, and record this event to be viewed later by those students who did not attend. These videos can be placed in your class LMS for easy review or turned into an Edpuzzle to help guide the students who did not attend the live sessions.The  Live classroom instruction can be enhanced with the use of collaborative slide decks such as Peardeck and Nearpod. In these decks teachers can control the pace of a slide deck, check for understanding with multiple question types, and access student data anytime during or after the session has ended. If you use Peardeck through Google Slides and have the Peardeck power-up extension installed, you can enable closed captioning during the Peardeck. This is a very sneaky hack which you can see how to do here. These slide decks can also be handed out as student paced sessions so students who did not attend the live session can still complete the slide deck assessments. If you absolutely cannot have a live session and you can keep your lessons to under five minutes, you can always used screencastify to record yourself going over the lesson and upload the video into a Flipgrid topic. Here students at any time during the week can watch and then leave their thoughts on what was shares. A great way to include a lesson while not having to worry about students making it for a live sessions.

If you have been asked to jump into this elearning experiment without any training, I know the outlook is daunting. But let's remember that the tool is not what makes a great lesson, you are what makes a great lesson. We just have to take you in person lesson plan and insert tools which will help students collaborate, communicate and create online. We just need a singular place where a teacher can distribute materials and also receive materials. Now is not the time to go crazy trying out many new tools, but now is the time to learn the basics of the tools you have available to you. You know how to get kids to think. You know how to get kids to contribute. Now you just have to do it in a different medium. If you set out with a plan, this journey will be a little less rocky. Safe Teaching!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Sons of Technology Podcast Episode 029: Embracing the Agony of Disappointment

The Sons of Technology Podcast

Episode 029: Embracing the Agony of Disappointment

Joe & Kyle sit down at the Clubhouse table IN PERSON at Lead Dog Brewing in Reno, Nevada and chat about how disappointment is inevitable but it can be a learning experience!  

Join the #EdtechArmy by completing our Flipgrid challenge at

Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeMarquez70 and Kyle @AndersonEdTech.  Visit and for more great stuff from Joe & Kyle!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Green Eggs and Ham: The Best TOSA/Coaching Handbook

Green Eggs and Ham:

The best TOSA/coaching handbook

You do not like them.
So you say. 
Tyr them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.
~ Sam I Am

I was recently reading Green Eggs and Ham with my little girls, Coletta 3 and Ellery 1. After I read any book to them I always do a short recap of the story with them and always talk about what the story means and how it could apply to us. With Green Eggs and Ham we talked about how we may like things which others may not like initially, but we also learn that we should always keep an open mind to try new things as to not miss out on new opportunities. This last time we read the book we talked about how even though others may say no the first time, if we feel others will benefit from it, we should always be persistent and find opportunities to suggested the item again. It was in this moment I had a revelation, Green Eggs and Ham is the ultimate handbook to help coaches and TOSAs encourage teachers to try new things.

So hear me out on this. “Sam I am” absolutely LOVES Green Eggs and Ham. He loves it so much it seems like all he talks about. “Guy”, never named in the book but recently named in the Netflix cartoon, wants nothing to do with Sam or his Green Eggs and Ham. No matter how cheerful or colorful Sam is in his presentation, Guy has no interest in the content of this conversation. In fact, Guy is hard pressed to even look up from his laptop, err Newspaper, while Sam is reporting how great his Green Eggs and Ham are. Sam could have cut his losses here and tried another “friend” but he knows his friend and truly believes Guy will love Green Eggs and Ham if he would just give them a shot. So instead of giving up, he looks for other instances where the Green Eggs and Ham could be tried and like by Guy. This is the persistence needed to overcome the initial rebukes.

Hey Guy, how about we try them HERE or maybe over THERE? No? What about if you try them in a box with a fox? No? Why not try them with a mouse in a house? No? Why not try them on a train in the rain? No? Why not try them on a boat with a goat? No? You see here Sam is not just pushing Guy to just try the Green Eggs and Ham, he is giving him different examples where the item might actually be useful for Guy to try. Sam truly believes Guy will benefit from his recommendation so he does not give up. Sam keeps his head up until Guy finally decides to give them a try and you know what? He likes them. He likes them so much he sees how they would be good in all the previous instances Sam recommended beforehand.

As content coaches and TOSAs, we have all given PD and presentations which we believe our fellow staff members would find useful. Some may try what you are recommending, but others may instantly rebuke your ideas and do not see how the content applies to them or how they would use it in their class. It takes persistence by us coaches to show HOW the content, tools, or applications can change their classroom. This is done by working directly with individuals and recommend where the tools and practices could easily fit in with the lessons and curriculum they are already teaching. Replace fox in a box with “Try Flipgrid, why not as the conclusion in your lab report solution” or “Why not try Nearpod for instant insights, during your Civil War discussion on those Gray vs Blue fights?” Why not… HERE… Why not THERE?

As coaches and TOSAs all we want is for our fellow teachers to give our ideas a shot. We are not offering a one size fits all solution, rather we are offering ideas that you can then mold to fit into your current content. These new ideas may be bizarre to some teachers, as off putting as Green Eggs and Ham, but if you truly believe in the effectiveness of your content, tools, abilities and workflows, then you need to be as persistent as Sam I am so that they at least take that initial taste. You never know they may say “Hey! I like Edji and the New Flipgrid Cam! I do! I do like them Sam I am! And I will use them during a lesson, and they will help with my paper congestion! Getting there may not be “over easy” but the end result is always fun when the hunger for more begins!

NOTE: If you liked this blog please listen to our Sons of Technology Podcast, Episode 028: Inspiration Through Pop Culture for more ideas of how pop culture can change your thoughts and approach to teaching and coaching.

The Sons of Technology Podcast Episode 028: Inspiration Through Pop Culture

The Sons of Technology Podcast

Episode 028: Inspiration Through Pop Culture

Published on: January 20, 2020

Joe & Kyle sit down at the Clubhouse table and chat about some ways that they have been inspired by pop culture.  Topics range from movies, television, music, and much more!  

Join the #EdtechArmy by completing our Flipgrid challenge at

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

eBinders: A Place for Collection, Reflection and Recollection

A little more than a year ago I began to focus on a single question:

“Why haven’t more teachers began to look into utilizing their student’s devices as a portfolio of work?”

Please notice I say “more” teachers, as I know there are many amazing teachers who have created or dabble in the eBinder experiment. The question began egging me on the more and more due to my particular subject, Science. In Science we utilize an Interactive Science Journal or ISN. These spiral bound notebooks are meant to collect student work, glue in labs, reflect on the essential question, and organize student thought. In class they achieved many of these purposes, but i began asking myself “We have computers, can’t all of this be collected on a computer?” I especially asked this question on binder turn in day when 150 spiral bound notebooks were turned in at once for review. Oh and don't get me started on all the pages stuck together by over gluing. Looking back, i maybe shouldn't have collected these notebooks, rather I should have had scheduled progress checks, but collect them I did. As these collections days progressed I continued to ask myself “Is this the best way.”

Now as I began to become vocal about a digital ISN, many people began to take offence to my line of questioning. Some thought I was questioning their teaching or approach, this was not at all what I was doing. I was just asking questions as any scientist does when beginning an experiment. As with any class, I did not want to take away the writing component completely (especially with rocketbook, see my post HERE), I wanted traditional writing and digital collection to have a symbiotic relationship, one in which each can benefit from one another.  I believe collecting information in the written word during class is important, but so is collecting multimedia components such as pictures, videos, and vocal components to tie into your reflection later. It just so happens the only place all of these artifacts can co exist is a digital binder.

As I started my  eBinder experiment I focused on one singular question “What is the purpose of any binder?” The idea behind any binder is organization, primarily collection of work, a place to reflect on their learning process, and finally recollection of what they learned for purposes of sharing or studying. This organizational structure is "Collection, Reflection and Recollection". If we focus on this as the primary goal of the binder the creation process becomes that much clearer.  
I believe one central theme of any binder is the incorporation of storytelling. As with any story there is a beginning, middle and an end. As with a story the learning process can be easily told through the eyes of one who has learned along this journey of discovery. As with every activity in the eBinder, there should also be a familiar cadence for every entry. The structure of the binder is still in need of discussion, such as how will it be broken up? Is there a separate eBinder for each class or is there a Page setup for each class? These are discussions which I believe will be an integral part of the eBinder discussion during the strand, as it is possible different districts or sites might want to adjust their own structure that works best for them.  
Regardless of the structure, each post in the binder must reflect a single activity or task. If this task is part of a greater picture or lesson we can adjust the structure accordingly. For the purposes of this example I will use a eBinder created for a science class called the Digital Science Notebook (DSN) example HERE. This notebook was purposely separated  by units, which all have their own overarching theme. Each unit is then separated by a task (which is a lab or activity) which has a 3 tired cadence:  

  • Essential Question/Guiding Question 
    • What do I already know about this topic 
    • What do I hope to learn 
  • Learning Artifacts 
    • Handouts completed 
    • Pictures taken during activity 
    • Google Slides/Powerpoints used/created/annotated on for the activity 
    • A short description and explanation of each artifact for learning 
  • Learning Blog 
    • What was your aha moment? 
    • What do you know now that you did not before 
    • What was the most challenging part of the task? 
    • What guidance would you give to another student just starting this task? 
    • What questions do you still have about the task? 
Video entry (can be a Flipgrid or WebVideo)You may be wondering what constitutes a Learning Artifact, please see below: (A SlideSnap is a great way for students to create a learning artifact in an easy to use template, get the template HERE)

A learning artifact (or educational artifact) is an object created by students during the course of instruction. To be considered an artifact, an object needs to be lasting, durable, public, and materially present. The concept of making knowledge visible is a central component. The creation and display of these artifacts allow students opportunities for engagement, revision and feedback, all hallmarks of quality learning design.

While the questions may differ based on teacher preference or activity, the task section should always remain the same. Teachers may use digital guides through Google Slides (Slide Guides) or PowerPoint as a map to task completion. These guides may include digital breadcrumbs for understanding such as hyperlinks to activities, embedded videos, and Slide Snapshots of Learning or SlideSnaps (example HERE). These guides may also include some of the questions above to ensure students are thinking about the questions prior to finalizing them on the ebinder entry.  

When created with care, and executed with purpose, an eBinder can change the way students implement “Collection, Reflection and Recollection” of their daily work.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


One of the most important things aspects of being an educator is having a growth mindset, being one of these early adopters who gravitate towards the technology or a new idea because it provides a meaningful experience for our kids.  Even if we're not those early adopters, we at least need to have that mindset of being the part of the early majority who are going to really tip that new technology on its head to make sure it's meaningful and and beneficial to all students.  I was an early adopter of Google Glass, don’t judge me. I didn't buy Google glass to be like “WooHoo it's the new fancy thing and I want it!” No, I had an idea behind that purchase and the idea was to utilize the Google Glass as a back channel into the mind of my students while we are discussing a topic during class. I was always finding that I had many students who would not raise their hand to ask a question or I had a lot of students who were just passively listening, but they were not being part of the discussion in any way. I knew I had many learners  who wanted to ask a question but they were fearful to talk because of their accent or that they didn't have the best grasp of the English language to string together a sentence that they felt they share to the class. So what I actually did was I took those Google glass and I attached them to a Twitter feed for my students, #MarquezScience, and we started to do something called Twitter in the classroom. The feed actually went through my eyepiece and so when a student had a question instead of raising their hand they would tweet at me and I would see their question in real-time and I would be able to answer it in real-time without them feeling like they were being singled out. I was uncertain if this idea would work, but i knew i had to give it a try.
This is the kind of idea that I'm looking for with early adopters. Innovating with new technology to find a way to best fit the needs of our students. It's that innovation that excites me. Innovation that challenges my teaching norms and forces me to transform my classroom to meet the needs of all my students. I always find myself asking this question “Would my students still be in my classroom if they didn't have to be there if after attendance was taken? If there was no repercussions of getting up and leaving how many students would still stay because they found it meaningful to them?”  I always fashioned my lessons towards with these questions in mind. Because there's no one-size-fits-all in teaching, we have to find and utilize technology that's so malleable, so that you can embed things into it that is that truly meets the needs of all types of learners. Visual learners, auditory learners , tactile learners. All these different kinds of learners have to be thought about when creating a lesson, no matter if you're an English teacher, a science teacher, a social studies teacher or PE teacher. All of our lessons need to be accessible to the students so they have a pathway to have their voice heard and learning amplified.
When I start looking in all this tools that are available to teachers today, I get excited! In fact, I actually heard a term a while back called TAMASHA which helped me to understand why i was so excited to be a teacher today. I heard this term in one of the most unlikely places, it was a documentary for cricket. Don't ask me how I started watching this documentary on cricket, lets just say it was a long layover at an airport one night. In the documentary  I found out that India wanted to find a way to take this British game and make it their own. Take this British game that could last up to five days and and truly make it a faster paced game where a younger generation could enjoy it. They transformed the old outdated game, into something similar but new called T20 cricket, a fast paced game with a Bollywood style atmosphere, they said the game was now TAMASHA. They say now it is called TAMASHA because cricket in India is fun, exciting and important but also uncertain with an outcome that they don’t know.  

When I heard this story it deeply resonated with me. It reminded me of my desire to take the older methods of teaching and mash them together with something new and innovative. This is the way teaching needs to be transformed in a manner that fun, exciting, important and uncertain. TAMASHA is Teacher. As a teacher you have to have fun while you are teaching. That doesn't mean every day you're gonna walk in and be the super excited teacher,  it would be awesome if you were. I mean there's gonna be times you're like “It's many more days until the weekend?”, which by the way the answer to that question is always five, there are always five days until the weekend if it's Monday. You just need to have that air of fun inside you, no matter what, because if you're not having fun, if you're not happy to be there, if you're not excited that you have an opportunity to change the world on a daily basis,  if that's not you, then maybe you should look for something else than being a teacher. TAMASHA also says you have to bring excitement into the classroom. Excitement doesn't mean you have to jump on your desk and and scream at the top of your lungs or or be this entertainer. Excitement means that you're making learning meaningful to the students. It means your learning, as Dave Burgess says, has a hook to draw your learners into your story. This is where you have to ask yourself, is my lesson exciting enough to keep them on the edge of their seats? For the students to want to hear more about our topic? What excitement also means is you have to make sure your lesson is important to them now, today. I remember when I was in my seventh grade math class and I was asking my teacher  “why do we have to know this?” and I was told “In 20 years you're gonna…” Students don't care about “in 20 years” They want to hear it now how is this affecting them now. Finally, and I think this is one of the most important aspects about TAMSAHA, uncertainty. As a teacher you don't have to be certain your lesson is going to work. You don't have to be certain that you know how to use a tool 100% perfectly. You don't have to be certain at all, you just have to be willing to try new things. I think a having a portion of uncertainty in any lesson is incredibly important when you're looking at teaching in the classroom, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact I always emphasize a great teacher doesn't mean perfect teaching, right? A great teacher is somebody that loves what they're doing, makes the learning meaningful and important to their students and tries new things to make it relevant for them. That's it. That’s TAMASHA. How are you going to embody TAMSAHA in your classroom?

Save the Mavericks

This past week I had a great chat with my lifelong friend Ron Severson. We were discussing the need for difference makers in our society, individuals who look at their profession differently. Individuals and leaders who are willing to buck the system and differentiate from the status quo. My friend Matt Miller would call these individuals Mavericks. A week later Ron forwarded me a letter from his Navy Commander with a very specific message on this exact same subject. Here is an excerpt from this letter:

"I heard a great story while in San Diego  and there's a lesson in this for
all of us.  Many years ago, behavioral scientists put five monkeys in a
glass living enclosure, hung bananas from the ceiling and provided a ladder.
The monkeys, of course, quickly figured out how to move the ladder under the
bananas.  However, when they got about 2/3 of the way to the top they got
sprayed with cold water.  All five monkey quickly figured out not to go up
the ladder because they didn't want to get sprayed with the water.  Then
they started replacing the original five monkeys one at a time.  The new
monkey would almost immediately start to climb the ladder before he/she was
tackled by the other four monkeys who knew what was going to happen next.
Eventually, all the monkeys who were sprayed with the water originally were
replaced and what they found was that any new monkey who tried to climb the
ladder was tackled even though no one in the group had ever been sprayed
with water.  Why did they do that?  Because they were afraid of getting
sprayed with water?  No. It's because that's what they were taught to do.
How many things do we do each and every day because that's what we we've
been taught to do even though we have no idea why that's the rule or policy?
I need us all to challenge the status quo when it doesn't make sense or when
we have no idea why we do it that way.   It's the only real way to get
meaningful change that will truly move the needle.  

This leads to the topic of mavericks (not the
Top Gun version) and the value they can provide to an organization and is
right in line with my consistent message that we've got to think differently
about things if we're going to get the 5X even 10X improvements we'll need
to continue to expand the advantage."

Quote:  "As we continue on this change journey and particularly as we try
and scale it, one of the key actions we all need to do is to protect our
mavericks.  They are essential to moving the organizational forward and
enabling us to get jumps in improvement, not just little steps.
Unfortunately, they can also cause internal friction and quickly excite the
auto-immune system within our organization, which acts quickly to root them
out and kill them. I see this as a particular risk in the DoN culture.

That is where I need you to ensure we are not killing them off individually
or systemically. That is an essential part of leadership I am expecting out
of each one of you

As leaders, we must protect (and attract) mavericks or we will
sub-optimize for the sake of conformity and pleasantry - that is exactly what
our enemies want.

I am expecting you to step up and give your mavericks space to operate and
organizational cover for mavericks to challenge assumptions, drive change,
and enable us to compete and win."  

This message fits right in with what can happen in an educational system which is not challenged by new ideas and fresh eyes. How the norm can become the norm, not because it is right, but because it is the way that has always existed. This happens when a new educator is given material and told here you go, no need to reinvent the wheel.  When this norm is challenged, the change makers or MAVERICKS may become chastised or criticized for rocking the boat. Sure there may be newer teachers who will gravitate towards these new pedagogies and applications of skill, but there may be others, the old guard, who may not want to see this change take place. Why such resistance? It may be a simple FEAR of technology. FEAR of the unknown. FEAR of losing relevance. FEAR of becoming obsolete. These FEARs can lead to excuses and excuses are the enemies of innovation.

This blogs hits deep in my heart as I have worked hard at becoming a lifelong learner and changemaker on my campus. The need for change was not just to better myself, it was a  necessity to create important change to my student’s learning environment. I needed to include new skills and communication techniques my students were already using in their personal lives. I needed to bring in these changes not to change the way I could teach my kids, rather it was to create a new way to REACH my kids. My success in the classroom allowed for others on my campus to follow suit and I was asked to become a 7-12 TOSA in my district.

Unfortunately, they can also cause internal friction and quickly excite the auto-immune system within our organization, which acts quickly to root them out and kill them.”

After years in this position i was told by the new high school principal I would not be returning the following year in my TOSA role. The reason, he told me, was that I knew too much and the teachers were afraid I would make them change as much as my Jr. High teachers had. I was told my forward thinking ideas intimidated the staff so i needed to be removed. I was rooted out, but i refused to be killed. My innovative spirit will never die.

“I need us all to challenge the status quo when it doesn't make sense or when we have no idea why we do it that way.”

I will never stop being a forward thinker and I will always strive to be the best I can be to change the lives of as many students I can reach. I strive to meet, converse and befriend as many educators I can to collaborate on their journey to change the world. I truly believe if we walk with the wise, we will become wise. Let’s continue our walk together. Let’s keep our innovative spirits alive no matter how many hits we take. It is our time to save the Mavericks and root out the true destroyer of education, monotony. Lastly let us remember, a great teacher is not a perfect teacher. A great teacher is a teacher who is willing to take risks and try something new to impact their students education journey. That’s it.

“It's the only real way to get meaningful change that will truly move the needle.”