Virtual School Meanderings

August 13, 2019

EDTECH537 – Guest Blog Entry: Working To Measure and Improve Blended Teacher Readiness

As I mentioned in the Week 7 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course yesterday, today I wanted to post a sample of a guest blog entry.

Jered Borup is the professor-in-charge of George Mason University’s Blended and Online Learning in Schools Master’s and Certificate programs that are devoted to improving teacher practices in online and blended learning environments.  In this guest blog entry, Jered has taken the lead – along with his co-authors Charles R. Graham (Brigham Young University), Cecil Short (Brigham Young University), and Leanna Archambault (Arizona State University) – in discussing their book “K-12 Blended Teaching: A Guide to Personalized Learning and Online Integration.”

Like many familiar to you, school districts near us are adopting one-laptop-per-child initiatives. What’s less clear is how those laptops are to be used. Placing laptops in front of students will not magically improve student learning—or even change much of anything in a meaningful way. However, if leveraged correctly, the technology does provide excellent opportunities when paired with blended teaching professional development. Even when a school district is eager to provide professional development, administrators are left wondering where to focus their limited resources. Similarly, the few teacher-preparation programs that provide meaningful coursework designed to prepare students for blended teaching lack clear standards to guide their course work.

To address this need, our team worked to develop open resources that school districts and professors can freely use to guide and focus efforts to prepare teachers for the blended classroom. It was important that the resources be grounded in research. The research began with Pulham and Graham’s (2018) extensive review of existing online and blended teaching competencies. Using insights from this research, Graham, Borup, Pulham, and Larsen (2019) developed and statistically validated a survey instrument that measured teachers’ confidence completing specific blended teaching skills that were grouped into several categories. We began calling it the process model because the categories largely followed the steps teachers would take to plan, facilitate, and evaluate blended learning activities for their students. While the process model instrument made an important contribution, we found it to be too long to be used repeatedly. We came to believe that an instrument focused on pedagogy—rather than process—would be more useful. As a result, we developed a new instrument that focused on the following four sets of competencies in addition to foundational technology skills and dispositions (see Figure 1):

  • Online Integration – the ability to effectively combine online instruction with in-person instruction.
  • Data Practices – the ability to use digital tools to monitor student activity and performance in order to guide student growth.
  • Personalization – the ability to implement a learning environment that allows student customization of goals, pace, and/or learning path.
  • Online Interaction – the ability to facilitate online interactions with and between students.

You can access the survey online at: 

Figure 1. Four core competencies for effective blended teaching built on a foundation of technology skills and dispositions.

We used the pedagogical model to create an online, open textbook rich with examples, resources, and media. The book, K-12 Blended Teaching: A Guide to Personalized Learning and Online Integration, is now free to anyone to use at We believe the survey and the book combine to create an especially valuable resource. We encourage you to explore both the survey and the book and share them with anyone who would benefit from them. We also welcome your feedback and suggestions. Please send your comments to


Graham, C. R., Borup, J., Pulham, E. B., & Larsen, R. (2019). K-12 blended teaching readiness: Model and instrument development. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 51(3), 239-258. DOI: 10.1080/15391523.2019.1586601

Pulham, E. B., & Graham, C. R. (2018). Comparing k-12 online and blended teaching competencies: A literature review. Distance Education, 39(3), 411-432.

Jered Borup is the professor-in-charge of George Mason University’s Blended and Online Learning in Schools Master’s and Certificate programs. A full list of his publications can be found at  As is the pattern here at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry posted today.


August 10, 2019

Launching Our Partnership With Austin ISD

A newsletter from a US-based blended learning organization.

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In This Week’s Issue

  • Austin in August – launching our partnership with AISD
  • Fuse RI Summer Training recap
  • Remarks from our summer intern
  • Please vote for our SXSWedu sessions
  • The EduvateRI September 2019 calendar is here!
  • CYCLE seeking Program Associate

Launching Our Partnership with
Austin Independent School District (AISD)

This week, we were thrilled to officially kick off our work with Austin ISD, a public school district that serves more than 80,000 students across nearly 130 school communities. Our CEO Shawn Rubin delivered the opening keynote for the first ever AISDEDU Conference. In his remarks, he shared powerful lessons learned from his early years of teaching and addressed questions from the audience about connecting with students and families in order to personalize their educational experiences.

At the multi-day conference, Shawn and our Educational Strategies Specialist Vera De Jesus facilitated breakout sessions around launching a blended & personalized learning environment, using formative assessment and student reflection to drive a classroom culture of continuous improvement, and fostering self-directed learning through culturally responsive teaching practices.

After an incredible launch experience of learning and sharing with AISD teachers, building leaders, and Technology Design Team partners, we are excited to guide the district through the Pathway to Personalization framework over the next few years!

Fuse RI Training Ignites Summer Learning

Back home in Rhode Island, we held our 4th annual summer training for pilot teachers coached by Fuse Fellows. This session connected educators and Fellows from 9 Partner Districts: Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, Block Island, Exeter-West Greenwich, Johnston, Little Compton, Newport, Pawtucket, SouthSide Elementary Charter School, and Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts. The workshop included activities for reflecting on our own cultural biases and norms; planning for relationship-building in the first weeks of the new school year; and scaffolding up to selected practices from our Priority Practices Tool.

A Message from our Summer Intern, Joey Reindl

Over the past 2 months, we have been fortunate to host Joey Reindl as our intern through the Swearer Center’s iProv Summer Fellowship. In the photo above, Joey poses with his site supervisor, Danielle Blasczak, from our Impact Office.

“My favorite part about interning at Highlander Institute has been getting to know the incredible staff here. Since day one, everyone has been so welcoming and kind, and I have learned so much about personalized learning from them. This summer, I worked closely with the data team to analyze classroom walkthrough data, make reports for different stakeholders, and create an onboarding guide for future interns. As an aspiring educator, I know that I will carry what I have learned at the Institute going forward, and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity.”

Thank you for all of your hard work, Joey! We all wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Please Vote for Our SXSW EDU Sessions

Image result for sxsw edu 2020

We have submitted three exciting session ideas for the 10th annual SXSW EDU conference, but we need your help to get there. Each year, SXSW EDU utilizes PanelPicker to take public voice into consideration when designing the program of speakers. Please vote for our session ideas through the PanelPicker links below. Thank you!

From Other Organizations

September’s Education Innovation Month Calendar is Here

Plan ahead by exploring next month’s offerings from almost 20 organizations. Click on the image below for a larger PDF version or visit the EduvateRI website for more information.

Program Associate Position

We are excited to announce that CYCLE is looking for a program associate who will join our team to support and lead important work with a range of youth, parent, school, and community partners. This is a great opportunity for someone looking to join a dynamic team and growing organization. Read more about the position here.

CYCLE believes that high-quality public schools and equitable educational systems are the cornerstone of an authentic democracy and a just society. By centering and prioritizing the experiences and expertise of people most negatively impacted by racial, cultural, and class-based hierarchies, public education can be a means to achieving collective liberation through dismantling systems of oppression. Learn more about what we do to build capacity, alliances, and power through learning, relationships, and organizing at our website!

Apply Here
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ProvidenceRI 02909

August 3, 2019

August Arrives

And a newsletter from this US-based blended learning organization to finish off a day of newsletters.

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In This Week’s Issue

  • Summer Leadership Institute recap
  • #PathwaysBookChat coming up on Twitter
  • Join us at the RIASP/RIILA Conference on August 7
  • Registration now open for our 2019 iNACOL Pre-Conference Workshop
  • Opportunities with City Year & Teach Plus RI

Agents of Change Gather at Summer Leadership Institutes

On July 31 & August 1, principals, coaches, and teacher leaders from RI and MA gathered at our office for cross-district learning and deep reflection at our first-ever summer Leadership Institutes. As part of our free professional development summer series, school change agents engaged in activities around change management, design team facilitation, and family engagement. Participants spent the afternoon creating measurement plans and discussing strategies to build a culture of continuous improvement and cultivate lasting, meaningful change in schools.

Attendees ended the day with a closing circle, where they shared their takeaways from the session. One educator remarked: “I used to think that leading change in my school was an overwhelming and impossible endeavor with old-school mindsets, but now knowing that I can focus on pilot teachers and people who are willing and then get mindsets to change later on makes it much easier.”

Join Us at the RIASP/RIILA Conference Next Week

The RI Association of School Principals (RIASP) & RI Instructional Leadership Academy (RIILA) present their 2019 Annual Summer Conference next Wednesday, August 7 from 8:00AM-4:00PM at University of Rhode Island. This year’s theme is Leading, Learning, & Building Culture. Make sure to swing by our breakout session if you’re planning to attend this event.

Breakout Session on August 7 from 2:25-3:40PM
Bringing Personalization (or any large initiative) to Scale
 – Kristen Danusis, Principal, Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School & Cathy Sanford, Director of Research & Communications, Highlander Institute

More Information Here

Register Today for Our iNACOL Pre-Conference Workshop

Registration is now open for the 2019 iNACOL Symposium Pre-Conference Workshops. These workshops offer highly interactive, focused sessions for administrators, educators and policymakers for personalized, competency-based learning. These sessions can be added when registering for the Symposium for an additional fee. Read more about the workshop Shawn Rubin & Cathy Sanford from our team will be delivering below:

Pre-Conference Workshop on October 28 from 8:00-11:00AM
Pathways to Personalization: A Framework Approach to Designing and Scaling Blended and Personalized Learning

Everyone wants to rethink schools right now. The movement toward increased personalization and student-centered learning is gaining momentum nationally, but many leaders don’t know where to begin, how to scale practices beyond early pilots, or how to start with more than a handful of willing teachers. In order to build momentum for whole-school change, stakeholders must be brought together as change agents to collaboratively define goals and create actionable steps. Join us as we dive deeper into the five phases of our Pathway to Personalization framework. This hands-on workshop will place attendees into simulated design teams working to drive school change. Leaders will have the chance to feel what it’s like to design and implement a grassroots change initiative in order to decide firsthand whether this approach would make sense in their own local contexts.

Register Here

From Other Organizations

City Year Providence Seeking Applicants

City Year Providence is currently looking for candidates, ages 18-25, who are interested in supporting local schools for the 2019-2020 school year. City Year is a unique opportunity to work with amazing students in Providence, gain experience working on teams, and develop networks and plans for future career opportunities. Some of the benefits of serving a year with City Year include:
  • A bi-weekly living stipend
  • Health insurance
  • Education Award (valued at $6,095) at the completion of your service year, which can be used to pursue education or to pay off existing, qualified student loans
  • Scholarships to more than 120 leading colleges and universities (graduate and undergraduate programs)
  • 11-months of professional development and leadership training
For more information, materials, or to request a classroom presentation, please contact Leah Morrison, our Local Recruitment Manager, at
Interest Form

TeachPlus Teaching Policy Fellowship

Teach Plus Rhode Island  is thrilled to announce that we are accepting applications for the next cohort of the Teaching Policy Fellowship. This fellowship provides an engaging opportunity for teachers across the state of Rhode Island to create a strong professional network, collaborate on education policy and research projects, and become part of a larger movement of teacher leadership focused on creating excellent and equitable education experiences for all students

This year, we are seeking new fellows and alumni to engage in the education community around topics such as continuing to advocate for student-centered learning, working with decision-makers around diversifying the teacher workforce, developing high quality culturally competent curriculum, and engaging teachers in school turnaround and redesign.

If you are interested or know a colleague who might be, you may apply using the link below or nominate a teacher. Please reach out to Paul Toner with any questions.

Apply Here
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July 27, 2019

Our Leadership Institutes Are Next Week!

A newsletter from a blended learning organization.

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In This Week’s Issue

  • July 31 Leadership Institute SOLD OUT but spots still available on August 1
  • Watch our latest webinar recording on school change, hosted by Transcend Education
  • Computational thinking workshop & stipend opportunity for 3rd-6th grade teachers on August 23-24
  • Share your content & events for the EduvateRI September Calendar

Last Spots Remaining: August 1 Leadership Institute

While our July 31 Leadership Institute is officially sold out, there is still a chance to grab your free spot at our August 1 training next week. Learn from members from our research and coaching teams as they share insights and ideas for leading strong change efforts at the school level. This training is open to anyone – regardless of role – who is passionate about personalization, building momentum, and creating sustainable change for school communities. Sign up below!

RSVP for Free

Watch Our Latest Webinar, Hosted by Transcend Education

Co-authors Cathy Sanford and Shawn Rubin showcased the Pathway to Personalization framework and walked participants through the change management process in their newest webinar with the Yellow Hats League, a diverse and influential community of individuals from organizations who inform, design, and spread innovative learning environments. Check out the video to learn about the 6 key lessons that are informing our work around school change and redesign.
Learn More about Yellow Hats League

From Other Organizations

Stipended Professional Learning Opportunity: QUEST CT Workshop at Barrington High School

Calling all teachers of grades 3-6! You’re invited to a workshop to learn about exemplary lessons created and field-tested by teachers from QUEST CT, a project funded by the National Science Foundation. Teachers will be engaged in hands-on activities to explore strategies for leveraging computational thinking (CT) to increase student problem-solving skills and knowledge. These lessons bring exciting experiences in science, language arts, social science, and math. Example topics include: CT in Maker Space, Using CT through Data Investigations, Learning CT through Simulations and Digital Models, Abstraction and Problem Decomposition applied to Language Arts.
The workshop will take place on August 23 (4:30-8:00PM) and August 24 (8:00AM-3:30PM) at Barrington High School (220 Lincoln Ave, Barrington, RI). Attendance includes free meals and a $250 stipend. Please email Kate McBride if interested.

Final Call for Events: Education Innovation Month Calendar

Once again, EduvateRI is branding September as Education Innovation Month! For the past three years, partners across the state of Rhode Island have come together to celebrate and showcase the many diverse examples of education innovation taking place here. If you are hosting an event in September, planning to host one, or have an idea for one, PLEASE tell the EduvateRI team about it by filling out this form to let us know the where, when, who, and what of your events. EduvateRI will create a clean and pretty calendar, print and share across the state, publish it in local papers, Providence Monthly, and other venues, and use an electronic calendar, links to registration pages, and a social media campaign (#edinnomonth) to further spread the word.
Complete the Form by August 1
Please feel free to contact us directly, visit our website, or connect with us on social media!
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Copyright © 2019 Highlander Institute, All rights reserved.
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Our mailing address is:

Highlander Institute

166 Valley Street
Building 3L, Suite 101

ProvidenceRI 02909

July 23, 2019

EDTECH537 – Guest Blog Entry: Technology Powered With Purpose -The Tech Tools Of Personalized Learning

As I mentioned in the Week 4 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course yesterday, today I wanted to post a sample of a guest blog entry.

Anissa Vega is an Associate Professor of Instructional Technology in the Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University.  She also holds the responsible of Online Teaching Endorsement/Certificate Coordinator at KSU.  In 2017, Anissa was the recipient of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Award for Online Teaching for her work with both credit and noncredit courses (such as the K-12 Blended & Online Learning MOOC).

I teach a graduate class about personalized learning, where I engage in a one-on-one video-chat conversation with each student 4-5 times throughout the semester, also referred to as co-planning conversations. Through over-150 hours of these conversations over the past 14 months, I have noticed a pattern in how my students, mostly K-12 teachers, perceive technology uses for personalized learning. Initially, many confuse either technology integration or blended learning as synonymous with technology for personalized learning. We often talk out the overlap and try to open our minds to the vast variety of possible classroom systems that could support learner agency and individual pacing. Then, we discuss what systems are needed, and how our purposes for the technology dictate the technology selected. Across these conversations, we have collectively come up with five common reasons to use technology for personalized learning. It has been a while since I we have added any items to this list, so I would like to expand the conversation with the online community. So far, our Kennesaw State University community of learners, comprising of over 120 educators, has identified the following five uses of technology for personalized learning:

  1. To present and organize content for individual pacing: This is often the first purpose my students identify. Tool types that fit in here typically support blended or online learning as a means for introducing and explaining new concepts or processes to learners. They include adaptive learning software (iReady, Newslea, ALEKS, etc.), LMS and video recording software combinations used to “flip” direct instruction (Canvas, itsLearning, YouTube, OneNote, Khan Academy, etc.) and comprehensive e-learning packages (Fuel Education, Edison Learning, or Edgenuity).
  2. To track individual growth: Assessment and data tools help to generate formative student data that can inform the teacher and parents of a student’s progress in learning and if they have additional needs moving forward. Tools that fit this purpose include adaptive testing tools (MAP Assessment, iReady, USATestprep, etc.), quizzing tools (Quizziz, Kahoot, Socrative, etc.), and survey tools (Google Forms, PollEverywhere, etc.).
  3. To organize and communicate complex knowledge: Websites (Weebly, GoogleSites, etc.), blogs (Edublogs, Blogger, etc.), or digital portfolios (Seesaw, WeLearnedIt, etc.) can all serve to organize and share the products and evidence of student learning that was acquired through student-centered activity such as service learning, project-based learning, or problem-based learning. The evidence housed in these tools may be organized by a timeline, curriculum standard, or competencies.
  4. To establish student self-management behaviors: Without students managing their own behaviors and co-designing their learning experiences, personalized learning that incorporates student-centered pedagogies can be overwhelming and unsustainable. Learners need to have the skills to self-manage throughout the day in a personalized setting. Tools that might be used for this purpose include ClassDojo or RedCritter. Additionally, students might reflect on how their time was spent each day and set new short term goals using a blogging (Edublogs, Blogger, etc.) or journaling (OneNote, Google Word, etc.) tool to support time management and self-starting behaviors.
  5. To offer student choice in demonstration of mastery: Personalized learning requires learners to employ agency in their learning experience, and choice in mastery demonstration is one way agency may be practiced. The tools that fit here are too many to count, because the teacher will not make this selection for the learner. For younger learners, s/he may provide a limited selection of choices on a “choiceboard” with tool or activity options such as Flipgrid, Popplet, Kidblog, etc. In other scenarios, a teacher may leave the choices open and primarily up to the learner. Student choices might include anything from websites, screencasts, or infographics, to traditional papers.

Some models of personalized learning focus heavily on the first use that focuses in on individual pacing as seen in schools supported by Fuel Education or the Summit Curriculum. However, other models of personalized learning also employ student-centered pedagogies with project-based learning as seen in Fulton County Schools. Given these five purposes of technology, do you see any gaps? How are you using technology to support a model of personalized learning? Comment and share below.

Author note: The references to specific software tools in this blogpost are not an endorsement or evaluative statement of these tools by the author. They are only included for illustrative purposes and other tools of varying quality are also available beyond those mentioned here. For evaluative information on any tools mentioned here or alternatives, visit

Anissa Vega is an Associate Professor of Instructional Technology at Kennesaw State University. She regularly teaches KSU’s K-12 Blended & Online Learning MOOC.  As is the pattern here at Virtual School Meanderings, there will be no additional entries posted today.

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