Failing Forward and Taking Flight

As we look into the future of education, we see a world where innovation and creativity are king and students and teachers, alike, must know the value of failing forward. As a collective learning community, it is important that we empower one another to take risks and let go of our fears of failing. As educators, we must create an environment in which students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them. Additionally, we should nurture the same type of environment for ourselves; an environment where teachers take the plunge into the use of educational technologies and learn to accept when things don’t go as planned and celebrate and share our growth through each explorational risk we take. If we want our students to spread their wings and fly with the winds of their intuitions, we must first show them that it can be done and that falling is inevitable and acceptable.

Sara Trowbridge & Shari Saddision

One of our major MAET Year 3 projects was to work in small groups to design and build a robotic sculpture that conveyed our vision of educational technology and its implications for the future of education. The image to the right is an accelerated animation of the robotic sculpture of our vision: Failing Forward and Taking Flight. In this representation, you’ll see a bird branching out from the safety of a tree and experiencing a cycle of challenges, successes and repeated efforts to take flight. We feel that this is a meaningful representation of the notion that reaching our goals takes time and although we are likely to experience setbacks throughout the process, we grow and become stronger from it.

Below, you will see images of our design and ideation process. We began by completing a rough sketch of our vision; the prototype.  We then used the Hummingbird Duo Base Kit IMG_7084to program various lights to illuminate and a servo to spin in order to put the bird into motion. After our prototype was completed and shared with our peers for feedback, we added an additional servo to enhance the experience of the little bird’s success of flying.


In conclusion, I enjoyed this project and found meaningful takeaways throughout. Not only did my partner and I create a representation with a strong, relevant message, but we actually experienced the very sentiment itself throughout the process. From start to finish, we were faced with several technical challenges we knew little about. In the end, some of our ideas were actualized, while others morphed or faded completely. Regardless, we achieved our goals and came away with a remarkable portrayal of our vision. We flapped, we flew, we fell, and we flew again!


Sharpening The Senses With Cinemagraphs

Our first big project in year 3 of the MAET program, was to use Adobe Photoshop to create cinemagraphs. For this task, we imported a video clip into Photoshop and the program converted it into a series of layered images. As the creator (and visionary), we were then challenged to choose a concentrated portion of movement to highlight, while suspending or freezing the other portions of the image. As you will see below, the effect can be very interesting to observe and sometimes even mesmerizing. As with many instances of the exploration of a new concept or tool, the process was slow, aggravating at times, but in the end, enlightening. I tackled yet another complicated task and walked away with something intriguing and a beautifully fit for the promotion of creative thinking in the classroom. The following is a commentary about my vision for the cinemagraphs I created.


I think the beauty of cinemagraphs is that they defy the ordinary. Seeing one immediately evokes a kind of shock; a recognition that what you are seeing is wrong or incorrect in some way. They arouse our senses and summon thoughts and feelings based on our experiences, our preconceived notions and our intuitions about the way things have been, are now and must be.

Throughout the chapters of Sparks of Genius, by Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein, they speak of the importance of a well-exercised mind. A mind that is practiced in seeing images and situations in many ways, real or imagined, in person or in our mind, with all of our senses attuned. Root-Bernstein and Root-Bernstein make the point that it is easy to see (or sense) what is in front of us, but it is much harder to see what is not there or missing from a situation and that the ability to perform such a task is what makes a successful innovator.

As teachers, a crucial part of our jobs must be to create environments that promote this kind of innovative thinking. We must push ourselves and our students to think creatively about how we deliver and receive information and use it to solve problems.


One of the concepts that I teach to my fourth-grade students each year is that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can be transferred in various ways between objects. In many instances, this concept can be hard for students to grasp. Initially, they may recognize that the bulbs in their simple circuits do not light from nothing. They know that there is energy flowing to them through the wire, from the battery. However, from there, they will often lose sight of the fact that the battery is not magically creating energy; that it is composed of chemically stored energy that has been derived from yet another energy source.

By presenting these cinemagraphs to my students, I hope to provoke innate, instinctive reactions much like those I spoke of earlier. My thoughts are to present these images to my students at the beginning of the unit as a previewing activity and ask them to observe what is happening and reflect on what they see, what they don’t see and how the image feels to them. My prediction is that my students will recognize that the movements or motions of these images don’t make sense to them. I will encourage them to explore and expand upon that notion and challenge them to put into words why they feel the way they do. I imagine this tying nicely into discussions about examples of energy transfer that are easily observed and others that may be hidden or harder to see. In this vision, my students continue to learn with all of their senses and intuitions and grow as observers of the present, with much more consideration for the “unpresent.”

Exploring The Engineering Process

Inquiry-based learning is the future of education. It is more important than ever to provide students with opportunities to participate in hands-on learning while exploring and reassessing their own reasoning. This is why I have made it a point to incorporate the principles of the engineering process into our problem-solving endeavors in the classroom. I hope to instill the practice of setting out for a goal and learning to trust the process and understand that the solution often takes time and endurance to achieve, but that process can be enjoyable just the same.

In the clip below, you will see images of an activity in which my students were given materials to design and build a tinfoil boat and test its buoyancy by placing pennies inside of it until it began to take on water. They were so inventive and made many meaningful revisions once they were able to begin testing their designs.

Character Day

In case you haven’t heard, a worldwide event called “CharacterDay” took place today. People in schools and other organizations from around the world took time out of their days to talk with one another about character and the kinds of traits they value in themselves and in others. My class spent a great deal of our day joining in the discussion and I was blown away by the insight and thoughtfulness I observed from my students.

As a culmination piece for this day, we put together a series of messages about what each of us believes the “world needs more of” in order to nurture a more character-rich world. Enjoy! #cultivatingcharacter

Solving Problems of Practice Through TPACK

Getting to know the TPACK Framework is an essential element of our MAET Program. The framework outlines the essential instructional design elements for creating rich and meaningful learning experiences. The Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) Framework focuses on the intentional and purposeful meshing of the context in which an educator is teaching and the following three areas:

  • Content Knowledge- A teacher’s knowledge of the content they need to teach.
  • Pedagogical Knowledge- A teacher’s knowledge about the best pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning.
  • Technology Knowledge- A teacher’s knowledge and understanding about the purposeful integration of technology in education.

As an avenue to better understand this framework, we worked in partnerships to share and address some of our specific problems of practice. Each person in our partnerships shared a problem with the other that we would like to gain some insight and resources for addressing the issue. We then applied the Design Thinking Process in order to tackle the problem ourselves.

The following is a link to the document I used to plan, organize and address my partner’s problem of practice. In the end, we were both very happy with the ideas we generated and felt that our decisions were well informed. Enjoy!

Problems of Practice Process Document


Our major project for the summer was to plan and successfully run an educational technology conference. As a Year 2 cohort, we decided to approach this hefty task by dividing ourselves into committees. As part of the digital committee, I created, designed, updated and monitored our official conference website.  This consisted of creating pages and links that were critical to conveying all of the appropriate and necessary information to our public and attendees. Although it was my first attempt at creating and running a website, and there was a bit of a learning curve, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I look forward to having the skill GREAT17Conferencefor future professional development endeavors.


As if organizing and hosting a conference isn’t enough, we also planned and presented sessions at the conference. We were organized into small groups and given the task of researching a trending topic in education. My group focused on the topic of best practices in educational coaching. Together, we researched the impacts of coaching practices on schools and their implementation practices. We found that schools that approached changes in curriculum and/or other practices had much more positive outcomes than those that did not.



Further into our research, we began focussing on two main areas of coaching: instructional coaching and peer coaching. We decided to divide and conquer these two topics for our session, which would allow us to deliver more information and resources in a shorter amount of time.

For my portion of the session, I chose to highlight the importance of peer-to-peer coaching. I used Padlet to create a collaborative tool that teachers could use to share ideas and resources with their colleagues. I discussed the fact that there are many tools that can be used to achieve this and that using any of them could be a great step in the direction of implementing a peer-to-peer coaching culture.

Our overarching message, though, was that, regardless of the coaching approach each educator takes, there are common themes amongst all coaching models that make them so effective. Educators who want to “Lead the Way” in the promotion of positive professional learning communities should remember to focus on building relationships based on trust and open-communication. Only then, do we open ourselves up for transformational feedback.

Although a lot of work, the conference and our presentations were a great success and a fantastic learning opportunity. Below is our conference presentation, where you can find more details about our topic and the research that supports it. Enjoy!

Coaching for Succes Presentation


Research 101

ibAn important part of being an educator is following trends in education and, more importantly, the research that supports them. This was a big focus in our program this year. One of our assigned readings was How Can You Trust the Experts? How To Tell Good Science From Bad in Education by Daniel T. Willingham. Willingham outlines a shortcut to analyzing research to determine whether it is a reliable source of data. Familiarizing ourselves with this information was extremely useful in approaching one of our largest projects of the summer.

As a way of expanding our knowledge and understanding of various research methodologies and their validity, we designed and conducted our own research projects. In order to do this, we worked in groups to identify a trending topic in education and to formulate a research question that we could actually test with limited resources and time. As our program is an accelerated one, we had only two weeks to conceptualize and conduct our research and analyze the data. Because of this constraint, our question went through an extensive evolution until we finally came upon a question that we could actually address with our given resources and time:

What do teachers perceive as the elements that make up the ideal learning space in today’s environment?

Upon reaching a measurable question, we created a Google Forms survey asking teachers to pick the five characteristics (from a given list) that they felt were most important to creating the ideal learning space. We collected data from more than 200 teachers from around the Midwest and beyond. We then analyzed the top choices in relation to several demographics including teachers from: various types of communities, types of schools, content areas and grade levels.

Although there were many limitations to our research process and the data collected, we did, in the end, conclude that, regardless of any correlation to student achievement or school performance, there is a clear trend of learning space elements that teachers find to be important.

Screenshot 2017-07-20 at 10.42.17 AM - Edited

Here you can see the planning document we used to organize and revise our process. Our bibliography (attached to our presentation) can also be reviewed for a more in depth look at what research says about learning spaces in educational settings.

ClassDojo- Beyond Behavior Management

One trend that we like to explore in the MAET program is using Demo Slams to share ideas and promote growth among colleagues. Demo Slams consist of participants presenting on an app, website, or tool of their choosing. There’s one catch, though, each Demo Slam only last ONE minute.  Not only does the time constraint allow colleagues to share new ideas quickly and concisely, but the format creates a high energy atmosphere as well, which can be very exciting.

For my Demo Slam presentation, I highlighted my favorite features of ClassDojo. I used Screencastify to capture my Demo Slam. Enjoy!


Quickfires… I hate you! No wait, I love you?

This summer, I embarked on an exciting new journey. Not only have I been able to travel around Ireland and see some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable, but I have gained an amazing new family of friends and a wealth of insight and inspiraMichigan_State_Spartan_Helmet.svg.pngtion for my life and career.

When I heard about the Master of Arts in Education Technology overseas program through
Michigan State University, I immediately knew that it was the one for me. The graduate program consists of three summers (one month each) abroad. I couldn’t wait to start a new adventure and feed my soul the fruits of exploration and enlightenment. And let me tell you, the experience did not disappoint.

I have been pushed to my intellectual limits and I have loved every minute of it… okay, most of them anyway. Continue reading

Wicked Problems

“Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.” –Laurence J. Peter

Ever had a problem? A big problem? How about a wicked problem? In education, we deal with some very wicked problems. What exactly is a wicked problem? An organization called the New Media Consortium (NMC) researches challenges that school systems face and make determinations about what kinds of issues need to be addressed with high priority. They call these wicked problems and define them as “issues that are extremely difficult and even seemingly impossible to solve because of the complex or ever-changing environments in which they arise” (2013). Continue reading