Author Archive

Alabama lmplements Project-Based, Digital-Supported Learning

Another in an occasional series of guest posts, we are pleased to feature the work and voices of SETDA members. Today’s post comes from Dr. Shannon Parks, State Administrator for the Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX), the state’s instructional education web portal. 

The Alabama SAL_PBLtate Department of Education (ALSDE), Office of Educational Technology recently initiated a Project-Based Learning (PBL) Program to spark innovation, and bring job-embedded learning, deep engagement, and meaningful work into the classroom—all based upon the use of digital content aligned to College and Career-Ready Standards.  After evaluating the essential components for long-term, positive change, PBL seemed the way to go.

State education leaders began the program development process by determining statewide interest in PBL. During the spring of 2013, a survey was disseminated to all districts in Alabama inquiring about the level of interest for the state to provide PBL training, digital materials, and support for districts interested in pursuing innovation in their schools. Ninety-one (91) districts responded to the survey. Of these respondents, 82% (75 districts) reported that they are interested in support for PBL in their districts. Districts varied by degree of desired implementations from grade levels in schools to entire districts wishing to implement PBL. The survey data quickly pointed out which districts were further along in their PBL implementation.

Efficacy & Cost
Rather than leaving districts on their own to develop rich materials and support for creating new environments, a cost-benefit comparison analysis quickly informed our planning team that it is much more efficacious to create and provide the best materials and training modules available centrally via the state so that districts can focus upon planning and implementing PBL.

Participating in the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) PBL Seminar in California provided the state’s staff the opportunity to gather the best resources in order to return to Alabama and build a hearty curriculum. The state plans to capitalize upon the Turn-Around Training Model, to keep cost for PBL initial pilots is minimal. During the 2013-14 school year, Baldwin County “experts” developed a three-day PBL Module, responsive to the unique needs of students, in Alabama. During the summer of 2014, another cadre of four (4) school teams were trained.

Planning at the Core
PBL necessitates an ongoing planning party! The need for a comprehensive planning tool soon emerged during the pilot phase. After a year of working on a prototype with other divisions at the state department, the ALEX team developed an online, sharable, editable PBL Unit Planning tool that incorporates all the components necessary for collaboration and success. Broad and deep collaborations with all stakeholders is a must.

Commitment is a prerequisite for effectively changing learning environments. To reinforce this concept, School Leaderships Teams (SLTs) must first apply to participate in the Alabama PBL Program. Within the application, teams commit to three (3) full days of training, and 4 days of follow-up over a two (2) year period.

Examples of required SLT commitments are:

  • Application
  • 3 full days of training
  • Team Members Required
    • school administrator
    • two district administrators
    • two lead teachers (one must be technology lead educator)
  • Implement Turn Around Training
    • school of origin plus at least one partner school (preferably feeder school)
  • District Superintendent Letter of Support
  • At least 75% of teachers committed

ALSDE Commitments:

  • Free PBL & ACE Digital Training (Participants paid)
  • Training locations at state parks
  • Pre- and Post- Planning/Implementation Support
  • Funding for participation
  • All key materials needed to be successful
  • Marketing and Public Relations support that utilizes media outlets available at the state level

Teams selected to attend are greeted at the three (3) day professional learning work session by the State Superintendent of Education who emphasizes the importance of relevancy of the PBL approach to engage students and prepare them for their futures. Further, throughout the training, technology is used to support and extend the learning. In other words, deep and relevant learning is modeled. Technology is not separate – it is part and parcel.


Alabama would benefit greatly from engaging with other states with statewide PBL implementations providing helpful anecdotes and successful models. Please share your adventures with our staff.

ShannonParks100 Dr. Shannon Parks, Office of Educational Technology currently serves as the State Administrator for the Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX), the state’s instructional education award-winning web portal. She has had many leadership opportunities to both procure and manage grants that promote the creation and use of quality P-21 digital education resources and professional learning in her state. She is inspired by the belief that digitally-based education offers a learning venue like no other. In line with this conviction, by design, all professional learning projects undertaken by the ALEX Team results in teachers and administrators creating new resources and/or project-based, digital-supported learning environments for students.


Hawaii Supporting Educators through Online Professional Learning Networks

Another in an occasional series of guest posts, we are pleased to feature the work and voices of leaders in the field. Today’s post is a following up to the September 3 post Hawaii’s Access Learning 1:1 Pilot – Year One Successes providing an overview of Hawaii’s access program first year of implementation. The post was the collaborative effort of GEG Community members Chad Nacapuy, State Resource Teacher, Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Student Support, Michael Fricano II, Tech Integration Specialist, Iolani School and Linda Lindsay, School Librarian, Seabury Hall.

In July 2013, the Hawaii Department of Education launched the Access Learning 1:1 pilot program. The center of the professional development portion of the program included the requirement for teachers to develop Professional Learning Networks (PLN). PLN’s are informal, self-directed learning experiences in which teachers connect with other educators to seek input and share their ideas with others.

Hence, Access Learning sparked the launch of the Google Educator Group Hawaii (GEG Hawaii). Now, four nights a week, teachers can log on to this community to participate live in a Google hangout. All hangouts (shows) are streamed online and automatically archived so educators can view the shows and ask questions if they are unable to participate in real time.

Participation began very slowly. For a lot of the teachers, the idea of participating in an online social networking community for professional development was a new concept. Led by Hawaii’s educators from both the public and non-public schools, the group started with biweekly sessions, then weekly Mondays sessions became a forum for reminders, open discussions, and the opportunity to meet other educators. Next weekly Wednesdays meetings were added to demonstrate and share how to implement specific educational apps and tools in the classroom. Soon, other events were incorporated into the fold and now teachers can log in four nights a week to participate or watch the shows live.

As this school year progresses, we want to help connect Hawaii’s educators from school to school, island to island, and to the rest of the world. Our online PLN is going to play a major role in accomplishing that goal!

Check out the recorded sessions on Linda Lindsay and Michaal Fricano II‘s YouTube pages.

Linda_120Linda Lindsay is the librarian at Seabury Hall, a college-preparatory Gr.6-12 independent school, on the island of Maui, Hawaii. She is a Google Certified Teacher and an authorized Google Education Trainer. She is keenly interested in integration of technology in the classroom, social media best practices, digital literacy and citizenship for students, and books and reading for everyone.



MichaelFricanoII_120Michael Fricano II is a Technology Integration Specialist, authorized Google Education Trainer, and has been teaching and providing Google Apps and Apple training for students and teachers for more than 5 years. Michael enjoys interacting and connecting with like-minded individual through social media and co-hosts the Google+ Live Hangout, EdTech Mixed Plate.



chad_120Chad Nacapuy currently serves as a Technology Integration Specialist for the Office of Curriculum Instruction and Student Support for the Hawaii Department of Education. He is part of the planning and implementation team for the State’s 1:1 Common Core Digital Curriculum Initiative. He also works with various public schools across the state of Hawaii to implement technology initiatives.



Hawaii’s Access Learning 1:1 Pilot – Year One Successes

Another in an occasional series of guest posts, we are pleased to feature the work and voices of SETDA members. Today’s post comes from Stephanie Shipton, currently serving as an Institutional Analyst in the Office of Strategic Reform at the Hawaii Department of Education.

Across the country, schools are starting to implement 1:1 initiatives. In the 50th state, its 1:1 pilot program, Access Learning, is showing remarkable preliminary results.

The Hawaii State Department of Education’s (HIDOE) Access Learning pilot project focuses on providing schools with support and resources to use technology as a tool to transform teaching and learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Schools applied and were selected based on their network capacity, readiness to implement large scale school-wide change, ability to participate in professional development, identification of a school level project team, sufficient on-site technology coordinator support, and capacity to participate in the project evaluation. Ultimately, eight schools were selected: six elementary schools, one middle school, and one combined middle/high school. Schools identified their preferred devices (laptops or tablets), received one device per student and teacher, and a spare pool of equipment equivalent to six percent of their total device count.

The year one report from the Hawaii State Department of Education’s Access Learning Pilot Project showed:

  • Collaboration and communication among and across administrators, teachers, students, and parents has increased.
  • Efficiency and work quality of administrators, teachers, and students has increased.
  • Students believe their schoolwork is more relevant and engaging.
  • Parents believe public schools are now on par with private schools relative to preparing students for success.
  • Combined loss/theft rate of .089 percent.
  • 93 percent of teachers believe the technology will help them align instruction to the Common Core.

Achieving success required HIDOE leaders to work together across office lines – curriculum, technology, and policy. Work began with a comprehensive professional development plan that supported principals’ development of a school-wide vision and plan. Teachers participated in a series of professional development sessions with follow up, on-demand, small group support. School and area technology coordinators worked with the technology office and outside vendors to develop and load device images. The policy office worked with department leadership and others to coordinate and resource various aspects of the program. HIDOE also secured theft deterrent software, leading to a partnership with local police departments. The project team developed a new digital device usage policy, 1:1 change management guide, and a Google Apps for Education run book.

What was observed in classrooms?

  • Kindergarteners filming each other reading out loud to provide feedback on pronunciation.
  • Fourth graders conducting a live virtual field trip to a volcano crater to teach their peers around the world about volcanic flora and fauna.
  • Middle schoolers researching band compositions and better understanding sheet music.
  • High schoolers using technology to collaborate on documents and presentations.

What did we learn?

  • Success requires visionary school leadership. The principals in the Access Learning schools set the tone for implementation and modeled strategies for using technology.
  • Access to sufficient network bandwidth can make or break a 1:1 project. This is more than just bandwidth – check your access points and infrastructure.
  • Teachers need to be empowered with professional development tailored to their needs. This means school-by-school professional development sessions and opportunities for peer-to-peer support. For example, curriculum office staff on campus to provide teachers the opportunity to schedule time for individual support.
  • Parents and communities are allies and partners – bring them in to the fold. Schools conducted parent nights, put up anti-theft posters at local businesses, spread the word to prevent theft, and partnered with local businesses to identify areas where students could access Wi-Fi if they did not have home access.

With the first year of implementation under HIDOE’s belt, the lessons learned provide meaningful next steps as the Department moves forward. For more information, visit: and for project resources visit:


shiptonStephanie Shipton is currently an Institutional Analyst at the Hawaii Department of Education in the Office of Strategic Reform. In this role, she is responsible for oversight and management of Race to the Top reforms on standards, assessments, and network upgrades. In addition to overseeing portions of the state’s Race to the Top grant and providing strategic policy support. Ms. Shipton also oversees the Department’s Access Learning Pilot Project – an $8.2 million 1:1 pilot in 8 schools across the state. Prior to her role at the Hawaii Department of Education, Ms. Shipton served as a policy analyst with the National Governors Association (NGA), where she led strategic consulting services to the nation’s governors on education policy efforts related to charter schools, the Common Core State Standards, and supporting learning outside of the school day. Ms. Shipton also worked on early warning indicator, adolescent literacy, and graduation rate policy and research for the Alliance for Excellent Education and has held roles at Capital Partners, Inc; and on the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions for Senator Kennedy.

Idaho Technology Pilot Project

Another in an occasional series of guest posts, we are pleased to feature the work and voices of SETDA members. Today’s post comes from Alex MacDonald currently serving educators across Idaho as the Director of Instructional Technology at the Idaho State Department of Education.

Over the past two years, the Idaho Legislature  has appropriated $6 million to be made available to schools across Idaho for technology pilot projects. The pilot projects, which run for up to two years, are designed to improve student academic growth as well as financial efficiencies through a full integration technology model.

The intent of this grant program is to focus on technology implementation at a single school building that will be scalable to other schools and sustainable statewide after the pilot period. In many situations across Idaho, the state recognizes that school buildings are severely lacking in technology that enhances and maximizes learning opportunities for students and changes instructional practices for educators. In the 21st Century, every student and teacher in every school in Idaho should have access to the necessary technology, tools, and knowledge to create a Next Generation Learning Environment (NxGLE).

Many educators and policy makers struggle with what the NxGLE looks like. This is typically because they are in search of one-size fits all approach, trying to standardize technology integration and searching for a silver bullet. It has become very evident through the 26 pilot projects  that local autonomy is paramount. Educational leaders need to look at the students’ levels to define not what an NxGLE looks like, but what it does. What are the planned knowledge, skills, and learning outcomes?

The first step our pilot school leaders took was to look at the Idaho Core Standards. With this guidance, administrators and teachers worked hand in hand with students, to clearly understand what students need to accomplish learning outcomes, a truly collaborative process. This has sparked a transition over the last few years of teachers becoming facilitators of learning and has enabled them to use of technology to coordinate personalized learning for students. Here are some key phrases of NxGLE descriptions taken from the project proposals, with key ideas bolded.

  • Outstanding knowledge and skills required for success in a globalized working and learning environment.
  • Authentic student voice, which is the deep engagement of students in directing and owning their individual learning.
  • A focus on collaborative learning and critical thinking. Our classrooms will be student-centered, mobile and flexible learning environments focused on academic achievement and social interaction.
  • Students are put at the center of the learning process and are engaged in constructive learning experiences, lessons are vigorous and relevant to the real world and reflect the knowledge and skills needed for success in a post-secondary education or career.
  • Their student-centered inquiries will combine discipline knowledge and research techniques to solve problems, pursue new knowledge, build, and create.

With an established vision of the NxGLE, instructional leaders are ready to implement different technologies and tools that support the learning outcomes, objectives, and higher order skills that are paramount for students. Though the Idaho Technology Pilot is not complete, leaders have solidified key philosophies and learned about essential elements within the paradigm shift. Below are several of these general findings:

  • Leadership and fortitude is paramount in success
  • Projects need focused and scaled deployment plan
  • High speed broadband is essential to maximizing the devices and learning resources
  • Technology integration paradigm shift takes several years, not just a summer
  • Technology integration coaches or specialists for job embedded professional development are valuable
  • Recurring teacher collaboration time (weekly or monthly) is essential
  • Successful deployments use a technology integration model, such as the SAMR or TPACK
  • Interoperability with applications and resources is important.
  • Students as support” model for Tier 1 support and training is effective

NxGLE has opened learning opportunities; learning is no longer confined to the four walls of the classroom or the hours of the school day. With technology as the support mechanism of learning and NOT the focal point and teachers facilitating learning, students across Idaho are engaged to excel, similar to other students across the country. How are your districts and teachers enabling the Next Generation Learning Environment?


Macdonald_1201Alex Macdonald is currently serving educators across Idaho as the Director of Instructional Technology at the Idaho State Department of Education, where he was previously the Education Technology Coordinator. Having started out as a Mathematics and computer applications teacher, he quickly recognized the benefit of effective technology integration, and worked diligently to research best practices to meet the needs of students. His past experience also includes being an online teacher, technology coordinator, testing coordinator, and an administrator, where he implemented and conducted professional development opportunities in technology integration for teachers. Through his current work at the Idaho State Department of Education, Alex and his team has created and implemented an integrated approach to professional development that encompasses the transition to the Common Core, integrating Smarter Balanced Assessments, incorporating Digital Content, and how these are supported by Data Driven Instructional Practices. Alex holds a B.S. in Mathematics Education from Boise State University, a M.A. Ed. in Curriculum & Technology from the University of Phoenix, and a M.A. Ed. in Educational Leadership from Northwest Nazarene University. But most importantly, he is a husband to a wonderful wife, and father to three exceptional children.


Indiana’s Summer of eLearning

“I have attended three Summer of eLearning conferences and have expanded my knowledge and my professional learning network each and every time. I am rejuvenated ~ bring on the next school year!”

-2013 Summer of eLearning Participant

“We have used precious professional development money to cover the registration for teachers that want to attend. The quality of the conferences have been excellent and not once have we been disappointed or felt like it was not worth it.”

-Indiana school district superintendent commenting on Summer of eLearning 2013


First in an occasional series of guest posts, we are pleased to feature the work and voices of SETDA members. Today’s post comes from Candice Dodson, Director of eLearning at the Indiana Department of Education.

During the past few years, Indiana school districts have started to transform learning from traditional environments to digital environments through 1:1 implementations. This move to digital covers every area of the state, impacting learning from small rural districts to large urban ones as seen in this self-reporting 1:1 map from the Indiana DOE Office of eLearning. Of course, it is not the devices, the shift to digital content or the lack of traditional textbooks alone making the difference, it is a shift in the mindset of our educators, students, parents and community members as to learning in the digital age. Making that shift isn’t easy. Finding the resources, skills, examples, and time needed for change is something each district struggles to provide.

Hoping to connect districts and help meet these needs, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) launched the Summer of eLearning grant program in 2012. This competitive grant program is open to any Indiana school district willing to host a professional development conference focused on teaching and learning with technology for their own educators and for educators from across the state. The $15,000 grants fund amazing conferences to showcase the expertise of local educators and to bring in world-renowned, educational technology thought leaders from across the globe. Educational partners representing hardware, software, applications and service companies join the conferences to showcase new technologies through information booths and workshops at the conferences. To extend the learning beyond the physical conferences, IDOE  provides virtual, on-going professional development opportunities including webinars, hosting a website and The eLearning Pulse blog and by participating on Twitter via the hashtag #INeLearn.

In 2013, nearly 6,000 educators representing more than 240 Indiana school districts, including 75 higher education participants from 17 colleges and universities participated in 17 summer conferences. Some of the most powerful and valued moments came not only in the formal sessions but also in the relationships built between educators from neighboring communities and across the state who share the same passions and classroom challenges.

This summer, the grant program has expanded to fund 19 conference sites that will open their doors between June 2nd and August 6th with the possibility of connecting over 9,000 educators face-to-face with new ideas, applications and tools for learning in the digital age.

If you find yourself in Indiana this summer, join us!



Candice Dodson serves as the Director of eLearning for the Indiana Department of Education where she is focusing on advancing and expanding Indiana’s efforts to take advantage of technology to improve student outcomes. She and her eLearning team are working to boost the state’s efforts to connect Indiana to great ideas in educational technology, virtual and online learning, new learning models and instructional practices.

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