What I Learned At FETC

I had the privilege to be at FETC in Florida last week to release the CrossBraining App. I made sure to sneak away from the vendor booth to watch one of the best education speakers on planet Earth.

Sir Ken Robinson hit another grand slam. Educators love him for his humor and hard hitting truths about the education system around the world. I took away two very positive messages. One was that educators need to glean how successful historical social movements really work and how they change the way we think. He started by walking the audience through history pointing out various movements that made significant changes in how we think and act today. He then began talking about the recent #metoo movement. He explained that this movement certainly did not come from the movie producers but was a grassroots movement that started with the actresses who were sexually harassed, demeaned and assaulted. He made it clear that the #metoo movement was certainly not spearheaded by the government and explained that these incredible game changing movements come from the ground up.

He is a gifted storyteller so every educator was at the edge of their seats, and then he called the 5,000 + educators to ban together and start a movement that will change education. He explained that the government will not change education, it will be the teachers. I have believed this for a very long time. Technology is allowing us to stand at different corners of our country and ban together socially through networks, social media. We collectively can change education system. I started CrossBraining to do exactly this. I thought that if I could create an app that could have students make 45-second videos of the entire learning process, parents could have a window into the classroom but I also thought, if those 45-second student narrated videos were shared with other teachers and thousands of teachers shared just ONE great lesson that could be tagged, reviewed and rated like a youtube video, then collectively we would have access to thousands of great lessons and transform education now!


Capturing Performance in the Classroom

Performance: Phase 2 CrossBraining App

( If you did not get a chance to read about Planning: Phase 1, click this link to check it out. Phase 1: Planning.)


Here is a quick recap. CrossBraining helps teachers and students capture and manage four phases of a lesson and or project.  There are three leadership roles in each phase: Reflection Leader, Capture Leader and Narration Leader. The four phases are: planning, performance, iteration and final product.    


Performance Reflection

Why does CrossBraining focus so much on reflection?  Reflection is the key to learning.  In an article called What Meaningful Reflection On Student Work Can Do for Learning, Mindshift wrote “Metacognitive reflection, however, takes this process to the next level because it is concerned not with assessment, but with self-improvement: Could this be better? How? What steps should you take?” a student who has learned the value of metacognitive reflection will recognize frustration as a signal to pause and think through the situation instead of plowing ahead with the same approach or giving up entirely.”


The group has their plan and is now ready to perform. The moment the group begins, each student in the group begins thinking.


The following video shows students going through all four phases and there is a moment in the video where a student says “If...”.  When a student says, “If” it means they have reflected.  Teachers need to hear those words a lot in class.


Here is a short list of words that show that a student is reflecting:

  • If I would have…..
  • Next time I will….
  • We didn’t
  • We should have…
  • One mistake we….
  • We feel that…
  • We learned to…
  • Now that we...


The students and I review this list and brainstorm about how to respond to their reflections, in their video.  The hope is that reflection will help them continuously move forward in their learning journey.


The goal of the teacher is to nurture their thinking process and help them drive their thinking in the best direction.  Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick said, “To best guide children in the habits of reflection, teachers approach their role as that of "facilitator of meaning making."


The students in this group make a writing vending machine to sell their stories.  The whole goal of the project is to sell.  This means  the reflection should be centered around the sales.  Here are some questions that I provided the students:


  • Your craftsmanship will affect sales.  Is your vending machine made well?  Are you thinking about craftsmanship while you are cutting?
  • Are you picking colors that you like or have you researched colors on the Internet that help sell products?
  • Who is your target audience?  Will your vending machine attract this audience?
  • During the event, do you see something another group did well that helped them get sales?  Are other groups talking about ideas that you think would work for you and your vending machine?
  • Do you really care about the product that you are making?  If not, how are you going to still make a good product when you don’t really care about it?  What is going to drive you to make a great product?
  • Did you ever think about restarting the project?  What is keeping you from making it great?
  • Are you sharing some of your “ah ha” moments with another group?  Would you want another group to share their “ah ha” moments with you?


Capturing Performance

This can be very fun for creative students while others might not want to pick up a camera.  Collaboration between group members helps the capture leader capture the group's performance.  The reflection leader and narration leader are continuously having conversations with the capture leader.  


These conversations will help the capture leader get great footage.  I always tell my students to do whatever they can to NOT capture group members’ faces.  The goal is to capture the lesson/project.  The group should discuss POV (point of view) and equipment they need to get good footage. Do they grab a GoPro or smartphone? What moments are taking place during the performance that show learning?  Should they be capturing measurement? Researching online for part of a lecture? Testing an idea?


You can see that what they capture is dependent on their reflection.  This will also guide the narration.  Imagine that  the lesson is about kinetic energy.  If the student is demonstrating a Hot Wheels car going around a loop da loop, shouldn’t the group have footage of the car going through the loop da loop while the narrator is explaining kinetic energy?  The team has to work cohesively to pull this off. This is a future- ready skill that all employers are looking for.


Performance Narration

Student voice is displayed in capturing moments but it really shines when a student is speaking about the learning that is taking place.  The group has reflected, talked about key moments that need to be captured; and if this is done well, the narration often spills onto the page.  The teacher will give the group a list of key terms that must be used in the narration.  Let’s take a look at the Vending Machine project.  Here is a list of a few key terms in that lesson:



  • Fiction
  • Non Fiction
  • 8x8x8 Cube
  • Light Indicator
  • Hydraulics
  • Sold
  • If we would…



Everyone in the group knows that in order to use these words in their 45-second video, they must reflect among each other and have a plan to capture these moments.  The capture leader must capture the hydraulics going up and down. Through reflection the capture leader will know exactly where to put the camera to do this.  


Some groups might decide to put the camera on the hydraulics showing the movement of going up and down.  The creativity and collaboration drive the decision making.  This also drives the personalization of the video.  No two videos are the same.  


The performance narration leader has an important role in telling the learning story.  They are storytellers of performance and it must be timed with the footage that was captured.  This narration creates an authentic moment to be fluent.  The group will practice the script that goes with the narration because fluency now has purpose.


Here is a screenshot of the beta app that shows the narration and video, side by side, with a timer that is displayed to give the narrator a time reference to guide their fluency.  If there isn’t enough video time, then the group will reflect to determine if they need more video or if they cut out words in the narration.  They all depend on each other to pull this off.

Article Why Planning is Important

Our four phase digital storytelling app  manages, captures and shares content mastery.  Every teacher has great lessons or projects and the CrossBraining App  is a tool that helps teachers manage the delivery of those lessons. In addition,  it guides students on how to capture and personalize their learning that takes place in the lesson or project.


Over the next four weeks I will be walking you through the four phases of the CrossBraining App (Plan, Perform, Change, Final Product).  I will also show you videos of students going through each phase.


Let’s jump into Planning.  Every person who has a career must plan.  Lawyers, coaches, teachers and waste management people all have a plan.  Every person performing a task has a plan (even students).   


  1. Edwards Deming created The Deming Cycle back in the 1950’s to give businesses a model on how to continually improve.  It starts with a plan.

Hoshin Kanri and Peter Drucker combined the Deming Model with a few questions.  In the planning stage they ask, “What are our objectives and what are we trying to achieve?”  These types of questions guide businesses and students into reflection.

CrossBraining believes that when students plan and think about how they will complete a lesson or project task, they will have a higher rate of success.  Metacognition is a key factor in making CrossBraining so effective. It has often been said that project planning equals project success.  

John Spencer talks about the shift from engaging students to empowering learners.  I know that he is correct when he says that the shift goes from you must learn this to what do you want to learn. I add that in order to make that shift happen, students need to have a process in place and the first step in that process is Planning.  

Movie directors go through a pre-production brainstorming phase, scientists do research in the planning phase.  If we all sit and think for a  moment, every task starts with a plan.  Once every student understands that planning is part of the process for success, they naturally adopt it into their learning.  It gives them a process that makes them successful in school and life.  The CrossBraining Phases make the student Future Ready.

Does the planning phase take place in every lesson or Project?  The answer is YES!  Let’s take a lesson that every teacher has taught.  A math story problem.  Let’s say you tell a group of three students that they will be solving a story problem together.  

When the group comes up with a plan, on paper, of how they will solve that task and come up with a final product, they will most likely be more successful than those without a plan.  Whether students work on a story problem or a month long project, they need a plan.  



Each student in the group has a leadership role.  It is very important to empower students to be actively involved in each phase.  Say goodbye to those group projects where one student does everything.

Leadership Roles in the Planning Phase:

  • Reflection Leader
  • Capture Leader
  • Narration Leader


The Planning Reflection Leader guides their group through a series of reflection questions in the planning phase that helps their fellow students handle conflict when it arises, think about coordination of the plan, who is responsible for what jobs, how to control the time it takes to carry out the plan.  

Reflection helps them control their plan so that the plan increases the effectiveness of their final product.  The teacher is now a facilitator. The students begin driving the questions that will allow them to navigate the lesson or project.  The reflection leader steers the group through questioning so that they have a plan that they think will work.


The Planning Capture Leader is in charge of capturing the planning and the plan itself:  

  • They will determine the angles and point of view they want to record.  
  • They will think through how they will capture this in 5-8 seconds.  
  • They will think about whether they need two 5-8 second clips or just one.  
  • The previous reflection will guide them on what to capture.  Some students capture the actual plan and others capture the plan with the group discussing it.
  • The leader will grab a GoPro or other device and know exactly what to capture.
  • They will upload the recording to their Chromebook or tablet and decide if it meets the groups expectations.  
  • They will work with the narration leader to see if they have enough footage for the narrator to explain this phase.  


Here is picture of narration next to video.  Notice there are 10 seconds of video.  The narration leader will need to see if they can fluently read the text they wrote out in 10 seconds.  The reflection leader will help the group think about whether they need more footage or less text.

The Planning Narration Leader’s responsibility is to look over the key terms from the Standards and make decisions on how to incorporate them into the narration.  During the planning phase, the planning narration leader words the video in a way that explains what the group is trying to accomplish and how they are going to accomplish it.  For example, they might be explaining a drawing or a list of jobs.  Plan come in various forms and this leader must coordinate with their group members so that they are fluently explaining the plan and making sure the footage and narration seamlessly work together to tell their group story.

5 Tips On Using a GoPro In the Classroom

This article is for that teacher who has been thinking about using a GoPro in the classroom but isn’t sure how it all works.  First of all, you probably picked a GoPro because:

  1. It is durable.
  2. You want your students using the GoPro Session not your Smartphone.
  3. It has better quality footage than your Chromebook
  4. You don’t want the iPad running everywhere.
  5. You want to shoot footage in the air or place the camera underwater.

All great reasons.

Here’s how to get started:

There are two buttons on both the Hero Session and the Hero5 Black.


Red to record                              Black button to get to menu

Capture learning. Turn on the GoPro camera all you have to do is press the red button on top and it starts recording.  Press it again and it stops recording.

After capturing some great learning, get your camera and the micro USB cord that came with it.   (In order for your computer/Chromebook to upload the captured footage you must have the camera ON.)   Start by plugging the micro USB cord into the camera.  Open the latch and plug it in.




Now plug in.

Next, turn the camera on by pressing the black button on the back next to the GoPro logo so the screen lights up..

The screen will light up indicating that camera is on.

Now plug it into your Chromebook.  If your camera is showing a RED light, that means your camera is charging which means you will NOT be able to get your footage.  Start over and go through the steps again.

To do this, simply plug the USB into the side of your Chromebook.  A screen will come up showing you that the computer is talking to the GoPro camera.  You can now click on the video you want to view or move the video over to your Google Drive.

Here is a screenshot of moving your video over to Google Drive


Summer EdTech Conference Choices

Summer is a great time for educators to reboot! This blog is focused on some of my favorite EdTech conferences where we can get new ideas  and meet other educators with enhanced teaching strategies and new ways to deliver engaging content. I have broken it down to National, Regional, State and Local conferences, all offering great sessions that will have an impact on your teaching and get you energized for the upcoming year.



ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education.  This one is simply amazing.  It will be held in San Antonio, Texas on July 25th-28th.  The Keynote speakers are Jad Abumrad, Jennie Mageria and Reshma Saujani.  CrossBraining had a booth alongside GoPro last year and I would have to say it was one of the coolest experiences I have had as an educator.  Educators are super excited to be there and the vibe is infectious. There are hundreds of sessions to choose from and you can’t go wrong because the speakers are some of the best educators out there.  If you attend, be sure to catch a Matt Miller session, visit the Google interactive booth, try new gadgets at the CDW-G booth and try the Breakout EDU bus that might be parked outside the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. When sessions are over, go check out the Symbaloo EdTech Karaoke contest. If you can not make it to ISTE, jump on Twitter and follow the #notatISTE to keep an eye on everything that is going on at the conference.


ISTE Karaoke                                              ISTE Booth


Regional- Ditch That Conference


Matt Miller continues his theme of Ditch That Textbook with a conference called Ditch That Conference.  This is the first time that Matt has hosted this event but not the first time where he has pulled in top notch presenters from all over the United States.  Back in December, Matt had a free online Digital Summit.  It was a nine day event where he featured a new presenter each day. Matt and the guest would talk about innovative ideas taking place in education.  I am sure that Matt will deliver the same awesome quality at his conference in September.





MACUL is hosting Michigan's is GoogleFEST in Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 8th and 9th.  This  is an event where attendees will get first-hand knowledge from Google Experts, Google Certified Instructors and Google using teachers.  GoogleFEST conferences have popped up all over the world and it is a time for educators to learn how to incorporate some of the innovative products that Google has to offer educators.


I think we will be seeing more and more of these types of conferences because technology overarches all of education and it is no longer a class at school. Teachers with Google Certifications can present at conferences like this making this type of conference very scalable because there are thousands of Google Certified teachers.


Every teacher needs to know how to use technology in their classrooms and this is a great place for all teachers regardless of their technology abilities.  I like conferences like this because the sessions are designed so the teacher can pick a beginner, novice or expert class.  I will be presenting a session called Digital Storytelling Made Easy at the GoogleFEST in Grand Rapids.  I will show attendees how their students can use the free Google Drive space to store all of their student made videos and how they can share these videos with authentic audiences.

Local- EdTech Kickoff


If you can not not make it to a national conference or don’t have the budget of time to make it to a State conference, find a way to go to a local EdTech conference.  Here is a statement on EdTech Kickoff being held in Brooklyn, Michigan this July. “This conference will showcase the great teaching, learning and innovation happening in Michigan area schools. Sessions range from Google to hands-on Makerspace activities. Your day will be filled with fun and motivation to kick-start the school year.”  These types of conferences are popping up all of the country.  It is a great way for educators to join a PLN (Personal Learning Network) so they can begin exchanging ideas with local teachers, possibly begin coordinating events with each other and to simply learn some new tricks.  I will be presenting at two sessions at this event because it is close to home and because I want to meet more teachers from my area.  Search Google using the key term EdTech Conference and see what pops up.



Attend a conference this summer and get stoked for fall 2017!

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom


We are surrounded by digital technologies, at home, at school, at work, almost everywhere.  By raising awareness of the opportunities and risks inherent in digital technologies, our students will be better prepared in how to act online to avoid inflicting harm on themselves and others. Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. This article addresses digital citizenship and how three themes can be brought together while doing engaging activities in your classroom: digital communication, digital literacy and digital etiquette.


Digital Communication


When students work in groups to complete an engaging task we need to first explain to them why we are even doing the task.  Most teachers spend some time going over  the skills and standards that need to be addressed to pull off the task.  Then the teacher has them apply those skills to complete an engaging task so the students can see how and why those skills and standards are important to their life.  What often is missed is giving the students an authentic audience to share the work they completed.  For example,It could be as simple as sharing their work with their parents or extreme as showing students in another country.  When we start asking our students to share what they have learned to audiences outside the classroom it requires students to be completely aware of the decisions they make while on the computer.  This is an excellent time to help them think about communication avenues.  There are choices like SeeSaw, Google Classroom, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the list grows monthly.  Students are already making these choices on their own everyday at home often with our guidance.  Helping students learn proper channels is our responsibility and if we allow them to explain the choices they make in class to sharing their learning, they will more than likely be excited about the conversation and have plenty to say.  


Digital Literacy


When students are given an opportunity to share their learning they have an awesome opportunity to explore digital literacy.  Imagine if we asked our student to Screencastify their 3D modeling design on Tinkercad and they incorporated Explain Everything to share what they had done?  What if they wanted to narrate what they were doing (with the microphone on their computer by using the Tab Resize app in Chromestore) so they could split screen their narration and pull up Explain Everything App up right next to it, so they could read it fluently?  This is definitely App Smashing; but it is also giving students a safe place to learn about and use digital tools to show their knowledge and show their proficiency.


Digital Etiquette


I bring up Digital Etiquette a lot in my class.  It comes up because my students are using so many forms of communication tools and often combining them to show their proficiency.  This is such a great time to discuss the importance of their digital footprint along with having great conversations about why so many schools decide to ban things.  The students need to know the power of the Internet and they need to be in a safe place like a classroom to explore communication options and how to explore the responsibility associated with such an amazing tool like the internet.  A great place to find resources is Common Sense education.

When students are so close to technology and the digital world, they must know or know how to examine the impact of their online activities. Teachers must model ethical technology use for their students on a daily basis, and they must include conversations about it whenever technology is part of their lesson plan (everyday).

Three Ways Digital Storytelling Supports Formative Assessment

Three Ways Digital Storytelling Supports Formative Assessment


Here are three ways that digital storytelling supports formative assessment:


  • Digital Media/Snapshots of student learning, while they are learning.
  • Reflections that help students pivot and make new iterations.
  • Summarizes the experience to help students review and see their growth.


Digital Media/Snapshots

I have students take small video recordings (5-8 seconds) of moments they deem important.  I emphasize “deem important” because this forces them to reflect on what they are doing and how they are going to do it.  I then have them make a plan on what they will take snapshots of.  They can use a GoPro, smartphone, tablet or their Chromebook camera.  Next they should  capture those key moments in the lesson and think about how they are going to explain them.  When they see their product, work, collaboration, or lack thereof, they realize that the truth is staring right at them.  They have a visual artifact of what they did while they were doing it.  They are observing themselves.  This certainly supports the purpose of improving their learning.



Rusul Alrubail made a list of the benefits of student reflection.  I think in order to believe that reflection can help improve student learning, it is important to see its benefits.  When students are given a guide/template on how to reflect on their learning, it becomes the center of their learning.  Eric Patnoudes says students begin seeing the difference between “good” and “good enough”.  They are forced to be truthful with themselves.  Reflection templates help them analyze all of their decisions.  These reflections should be written out or narrated alongside a video so that that their group members, parents and teacher can give feedback on their learning.  This helps them improve on what they are doing.



After every game, a coach has to think about what they are going to say to their team, win or lose.  A great coach lets their players have a voice during this time.  Education is no different.  If teachers give their students the opportunity and time to summarize the learning that just took place it gives other students an insight to what other students are thinking.  Many students will say things like this, “I never thought of that” or “I was thinking the same thing”.  When students summarize, they are owning their learning.  


Adding It All Together

Teachers that have their students take snapshots of their learning, reflect on that learning and then summarize it, they are creating an artifact of their learning.  They are telling a story of what and how they learned.  The student can now use that artifact to see their growth over time.  They can “SEE” their growth and they can make iterations along the way.  The digital portfolio supports formative assessment because when you implement these three suggestions, it WILL improve student learning.

Three Reasons Digital Portfolios are Important



Today there are emerging technologies that make it very easy for students to tell their story.  Students have access to devices; and video editing tools like GoPro Splice are abundant.  There are speech-to-text apps to help students who struggle with writing. Storing data on Google Drive for students is unlimited.  With so many digital tools available, it is easy to create a digital portfolio of their learning. Here are three reasons why digital portfolios are important:  


  • Standardized tests to do not tell the whole story.
  • Students can look back and reflect on their learning which helps them own it.
  • Sharing their story with an authentic audience results in more learning.


Many teachers and parents are frustrated with standardized tests.  I have taught for twenty years and I have mixed feelings. Many of my students perform very well on standardized tests; and I do think they have value.  There are students who are good at recalling information and answering questions with paper and pencil; and I do believe that there are wonderful careers for students that have these skills.  


Teachers, including me, get frustrated because we know that a standardized test doesn’t give all students a chance to show their proficiency.   Many of the students who don’t perform well on standardized tests have beautiful, curious  minds, ask thought provoking questions, are brave and courageous risk takers, and just need an alternative way to demonstrate their learning.

What if students were allowed to “show” their learning? What if students could demonstrate their proficiency using a digital portfolio by defending what they have learned?  The Coalition of Essential Schools points out that some states are beginning to do this. “Portfolios are gaining currency as an assessment alternative to report cards and transcripts; numbers of schools, and even entire states -- notably Kentucky and Vermont -- are using portfolios to get a more accurate description of a student's capabilities.”  With digital learning on the rise and states beginning to look closely at portfolios as an assessment alternative, we are entering a time where all students can show their proficiency.  


Digital Portfolios set the stage for student reflection. Reflection is often overlooked in the classroom yet it is an essential ingredient to student learning.  Beth Holland wrote an article called Digital Portfolios: The Art of Reflection.  She said, “through the act of collecting learning artifacts and compiling them into portfolios, students should have an opportunity to reflect upon their experiences and see their own growth.”  I agree with Beth.  Digital Portfolios offer an amazing opportunity for students to reflect on their learning. Students need teachers and parents to teach them how to reflect.  I have found that students love reflecting and that makes them very cognitive about their thinking which amplifies metacognition. I read an article by Karen Barnstable  called Four Dimensions of Reflective Learning and I adapted it to share with my students.  I explain to them that there are four types of reflection: inward, outward, forward and backward.  Here is something I write on my whiteboard:


Backward- Does your work and video tell a story of your learning?

Inward- What are your standards?  Are you meeting them?

Outward- Did you do your work as well as the others in your group?

Foreward- Was there a character trait from another student that you want to copy or emulate during your next task?


This reflection guides the students toward capturing the right artifacts and thoughts that should be included in their digital portfolio.  This is valuable because students can look back and see how they were thinking.  Looking back on a document, video, picture or drawing is good, but looking back on how they reflected helps the student see what they learned and how they were thinking.


Digital Portfolios offer students the opportunity to share their work with authentic audiences.  Monica Burns simply states in her article The Value of an Authentic Audience why students should have authentic audiences. “When we establish authentic audiences for students, they can see the purpose for their work.” The magic happens when students have purpose.  I explain to my students that the videos that they put in their digital portfolios are for parents, other teachers, students from other schools and the list can be long.  I also explain that when you show others how you did something, you have become part of the learning system.  You are now a contributor.  Students watch Youtube videos to absorb something and I explain to them that you can’t always be the person who absorbs, you also have to give back to that system.  When students add videos to their digital portfolios, they are creating a learning journal of what they did and can contribute it to system.  I love analogies and I feel students need to take care of their portfolios like a garden.  They need to water them, take the weeds out, and share the crop when it grows.  Students take better care of their digital portfolio because there is purpose.  This past fall I had the privilege to listen to Eric Patnoudes run a session at the Fall CUE conference in Napa Valley.  Eric showed this video with teachers to show them the power of giving your students an authentic audience. Check out what the students and teacher say about authentic audiences at the six minute mark.
Have your students start creating a digital portfolio and guide them on how to take care of it. Explain why they are important and have them begin reflecting on their learning!