Challenge 4–Personalized Playlist

After spending some time thinking about the ways in which education is being personalized in schools across the world, I started thinking about how I might be able to incorporate a little of that in my own classroom. Although the school in which I teach is more traditional than the Danish school in our reading, I still felt as if the autonomy in educating students might be encouraging to those who excel and are ready to move at a quicker pace. Likewise, for my students who struggle, this might also afford me the opportunity to work independently with them during class time to assist them in their learning. I really appreciate Sam Peterson’s comment in his article, “4 Big Shifts That Can Personalize the Learning Journey.”  He quotes Dr. Scott McLeod when he states, “When students have ‘ownership and control of what, how, when, where, who with, and why they learn,’ the promise of relevant learning becomes real,” (Peterson 2018). This idea of autonomy in student thinking and student work is something we, as educators, work to instill in our students in efforts to prepare them for the “real world.” So, after much thought, I took a unit plan designed for my sophomore class and created a personalized playlist. My hopes were to create something meaningful that would encourage students to work in a way that truly shows their understanding and growth in each of the concepts presented.



1001 Arabian Nights

You will be given 3 weeks to complete the reading and tasks listed below.

Watch introduction video to 1001 Arabian Nights


Read chapter 1 of the novel Check in with Mrs. While
Watch video explaining what a frame tale is


Read chapters 2-5 of Sinbad the Sailor Check in with Mrs. While
Explain what lesson Shahrazad is trying to teach her husband through the story of Sinbad the Sailor. Written response should be at a least a paragraph in length
Watch the imagery powtoon. When finished, write a description of your favorite room in your house using your 5 senses in the description.


Extension activity: Use imagery to draw the giant described on page 26 Giant described on page 26
Read chapters 16-17 Check in with Mrs. While
Foreshadowing is used in chapters 16-17. Watch the powerpoint explaining what foreshadowing is and how to identify it in a text. Afterwards, identify 3 examples of foreshadowing in the text by finding 3 quotes showing foreshadowing, an explanation of how these quotes shows foreshadowing and what event is being foreshadowed.


Read chapters 23-26 Check in with Mrs. While
Watch the video describing direct and indirect characterization. When finished, select a character from chapters 23-26 and write a description of this character’s personality traits using indirect and direct characterization.


Extension Activity: Draw a picture of your character using characterization from the text.
Read chapters 33-34 Check in with Mrs. While
Symbolism is present in these final chapters. View the examples of symbolism found in movies on the video, and write a paragraph identifying 2 symbols in chapters 33-34. Explain what they symbolize and how it deepens the meaning of the story.


Read chapter 35 Check in with Mrs. While  prior to completing the final task.
Write a response to the text including the following:

·       Explain how the frame tale of King Shahryar and Queen Shahrazad ends—what foreshadowing was used to hint at this ending.

·       Create a chart showing what lessons each of the stories you’ve read teaches King Shahryar.

·       Using direct and indirect characterization, describe the King and Queen using imagery in your response.

·       Identify the symbol used in the frame tale and explain how it deepens the meaning of the text.

Submit final task on Google Classroom




After spending some time watching a number of videos pertaining to classroom collaboration, I found a few that spoke to me in different ways. I started thinking about why I wanted my students to collaborate, what they can learn from each other, and the benefits of group work. I’ve watched kids work together in my classroom and have been amazed at the ideas and insight my students have. It made me think about how hard we work in the educational field to advocate for collaboration, but do we, as professionals, collaborate with each other, either within our content area or across the curriculum as often as we should? I’m almost embarrassed to say that within my own school, we all seem fairly compartmentalized. Because of this, I looked for some ideas and found a video that shared how two schools were collaborating through a virtual reality class, connecting students and teachers in the different schools. This, I think, is pretty cool, because it gets students familiar with those kids from other schools, connects them through VR, and enhances teacher to teacher, and student to student collaboration. We learn best when we are open to learning from one another.

Likewise, I found another tool called This is a free online learning platform that allows teachers to work together across curriculums to create meaningful content for students. It serves as a way for teachers to hear every kid’s voice, by posing meaningful questions to spur on conversations, connecting learning in different content areas.

Finally, I was inspired by a TedTalk I watched in which teacher led instruction took a back seat to student voices and ideas. The speaker is a teacher who allowed her students to take an idea posed in the classroom and run with it. What I really love about this video is how big kids think. It reminded me that as adults, we often times think too logically, putting limits or parameters on ideas because we think they can’t be done. However, this group of innovative thinkers dared to think big, and because of it, an entire school was affected by their ingenuity, drive, determination, and willingness to dream. By getting out of our students way, we may be able to see what they are capable of. Collaboration happens naturally when students are excited about their learning.



Since my pedagogical focus is primarily on collaboration inside and outside of the classroom, I focused my search on tools and applications available to assist me in livening up my curriculum. Through my research, I found mention of incorporating “peer leaders” within the school to assist students with the hurdles they may face regarding using technology. I thought this to be an interesting way to collaborate as teachers struggle with lack of class time to teach new tech tools to their students. By allowing the students themselves to mentor and teach their fellow classmates new tech tools, confidence and a commitment to one another may develop based on their willingness to learn from each other and fight through some of the struggles they face concerning technology.

Furthermore, by digging into an article on “teachthought,” I found some great suggestions for digital collaboration tools. What I liked about this article, was that the author not only introduced and explained the tech tools, but also described how he used them in his own classroom. A few tools that I thought might be useful with my students were VideoAnt and Padlet. VideoAnt allows the class to annotate Youtube videos. This way, students can collectively give input and analyze materials before they’re shown in class. Students can then view the videos and gain a deeper understanding, having a more critical eye than they may have otherwise had. Likewise, Padlet offers a more direct approach to collaboration as students can communicate directly with one another, creating new conversations and strands which increases connectivity across the class. By getting to know one another in this way, more honest and insightful communication can be had.

Yet another helpful bit of information was found on Kelly Walsh’s blog post on EmergingEdTech. Here, he simply outlined a number of collaborative tools with snippets of information about each. What caught my eye about the title of his blog is that they are free. Seeing as cost may be a barrier with administration, my attention was drawn to his listing of free tech tools. One such app that I may try is Twiddla. This is an interactive white board that allows the teacher to post images or pieces of information on the screen. Students can then log in and share the space, having the ability to all mark on the same board. Twiddla even has a chat option embedded in the program, which increases communication among classmates as well as their collaborative efforts.

Below are listed a few of the links I found to be the most insightful. Hopefully, you’ll find them to be as helpful as I did!

Challenge 3–Tech Talk with Colleagues

Hurdles Teachers Face Dealing with Technology

” There is a lack of time in the classroom to teach students new tech tools. We need professional development…much of our professional development is limited due to our current teaching climate.”

–Kim Mast, High School ELA Teacher, Clinton High School






“I use Google Slideshow, Google notes, Edpuzzle, Flipgrid, Docs, and Forms. I struggle because some of my students prefer to write, so I print things out for them. It’s tough because I feel like I’m giving too many forms; I’m trying to figure out new ways to use technology to connect my students with one another.”

“Teaching Spanish completely digitally is difficult because of the inability to use proper punctuation and accents on the computers.”

–Nicole Binder, High School Spanish Teacher, Clinton High School







“We recently upgraded our library check out system from Follet to Polaris which has been a challenge. Representatives from Polaris don’t come around and update librarians on their system like Follet did, so we are on our own to figure out and maneuver the latest uses of software.”

–Mary Kay Moore, Librarian, Clinton High School








“Working with my Smartboard is difficult to manipulate when teaching math to my Special Ed students. Much of my work becomes individual as I teach them how to use a compass or protractor…my kids struggle with the basics, so teaching them new technology skills on top of that cuts into our time teaching content.”

–Kathy Borngasser, Special Education Teacher, Clinton High School








“My big hurdle is not knowing how to use the different tech tools. I’ve found some things that are easy to use, but it costs money in order to use the cool functions. I don’t know if our district would be willing to pay for these tools.”

–Joe Gordillo, History Teacher, Clinton High School










Action Plan to Overcome Some of Those Hurdles

Speaking with some of my colleagues regarding their technology hurdles made me realize that we all have a lot in common. Most of us want to advance in the use of technology in the classroom, but either feel as if we don’t have the time, the resources, or the money to do so. Most teachers I spoke with understand the advantages of using technology, but feel somewhat burdened under the weight of our current school climate. Taking these things into consideration, I recognize the need for teachers to have the support they need to incorporate technology as a resource that can further education, and not just check the box of “tech used in the classroom.” This sentiment was reiterated in the article, “Ten reasons teachers can struggle using technology in the classroom.” The author states that, “Meaningful technology integration depends on more than device use. There are important steps to make sure integrating technology aligns with how you teach and what you are teaching.” Finding a purpose and a place for technology–justifying its use in the classroom–are important issues when addressing its implementation in curriculum.

One way in which to address some of these concerns might simply deal with attitudes towards the use of technology. The teachers I interviewed reiterated the need for further education in the area of new artifacts or tools available for use in the classroom. According to “Technology in Education: Overcoming Barriers to Success,” these needs are  addressed as the author states: “One clear benefit to teachers is a school leader who provides ongoing professional development, encourages experimentation and improvement, and grants freedom to take risks and make mistakes.” A place to start when attempting to delve into the high-tech world might be to gather information from the staff regarding the tools they are currently using and how they are using them in their classrooms. Professional development might simply start within our own school, teaching and sharing with each other ways in which we use technology already. Subsequently, collecting information from staff members as to what areas they may like to explore concerning technology–whether it be in the areas of collaboration, organization, or assessments–could be a springboard into exploring different tools to introduce through professional development offerings.

Another big issue among many staff members deals with time…something we all seem to have too little of.  However, as I spoke more deeply with those I interviewed, I understood the lack of time to also mean a lack of time figuring how to use these resources in a manner that doesn’t eat up class time. Theodore J. Kopcha supports a mentoring approach as he states, ” “mentoring and communities of practice to support teachers as they develop skills, pedagogy and beliefs needed to integrate technology in a student-centered manner…“has been found to overcome many of the common barriers to technology integration.” In other words, having a mentor come along side teachers to show them how to use these tools in a practical manner is needed to ease the tensions of teachers, and help them understand and feel comfortable incorporating new technology in the classroom. Much of this process has to do with understanding teachers’ needs and supporting them in their efforts to use technology to enhance the lessons taught to their students.

Technology in Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

The message sent to young adults reading Uglies, touches on a topic that many teens struggle with, that of outer beauty. Technology is used in the novel to turn all citizens “pretty” at the age of 16. The main character uncovers the secret that when teenagers are operated on to transform from “ugly” to “pretty,” they not only lose their individuality, but also their ability to think for themselves. Most “pretties” become puppets of the state. Technology offers the teen a way to fit in with their peers, while robbing them of their own thoughts. This creates a fear of technology and an inability to escape its grasp. As a teacher, technology is presented in my classroom as something that my students control and use to express themselves in creative ways, not something that steals their thoughts or dominates their minds. Because of the many messages we receive through movies and the media, the future of technology can become intimidating, inferring that computers and artificial intelligence will take over our lives. This is the message the reader receives as a few evil, arrogant individuals use these resources to “better the world.” However, we should be cautious of the individuals using technology, and not fear technology, itself. Recognizing some of these messages that are being transmitted to young adults is something I, myself, need to keep in mind as I introduce new tech tools to my students. I need to emphasize the positives of technology and remind my students that they can master the tech tools, rather than being intimidated by them.


In the current teaching situation I find myself in, the tech tools that would be most helpful to my students now are collaboration tools. Although I’m fortunate enough to find my masked self in the classroom with my masked students, there are so many rules regarding social distancing that I’ve quickly found a need to change the way I teach. I like getting kids out of their seats, working at the board, and collaborating together in groups. Unfortunately, I’m finding myself grappling for new ways to use technology in order to achieve at least a few of these practices.

I’ve talked to other teachers both in and out of my department, as well as a few teachers from other school districts. One colleague is using flipgrid in order to create a flipped classroom for her students. This also allows communication between and among students outside of the classroom. She likes this because, since we have shortened class periods, it allows her to expand her discussion times with her students, getting them to interact on a deeper level. This is something I do want to look into more than I already have. I know that it could offer some of my more reserved students an opportunity to express themselves without the pressure of peers sitting in the classroom.

Likewise, a number of teachers are working with Google Meets to create groups or teams of student collaborators, allowing them to do group work outside of the classroom. Much of this is being done in anticipation of a potential “shutdown.” By allowing students to become more comfortable with some of these tools, if a quarantine of some type should occur in our school district, students will be familiar with these tech tools, and more likely to use them at home.