Community Project – Breakout Rooms in Remote Learning Classrooms

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 – Collaborator

Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes. Coaches:

3a. Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.

3b. Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.

3c. Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.

3d. Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

Although teachers and researchers agree that heritage language learners are better served in separate courses specifically designed to address their affective and linguistic needs, in the United States most heritage speakers study their home language in mixed classes, alongside second language learners (Beaudrie 2012, Carreira 2014). Meeting the needs of heritage language learners in these mixed classes represents a major challenge for teachers at all levels. 

In February, I was honored to present as one of the panel speakers in the 2021 Heritage Language Symposium hosted by the STARTALK program from the University of Washington. This professional learning opportunity was designed for all language teachers from Kindergarten to Higher Education. 

This Professional Learning event was hosted online using the Zoom Live event in February. This symposium began with a Keynote Speaker, Olesya Kisselev, PhD who is the Assistant Professor at the University of Texas San Antonio. She addressed the environmental and cognitive processes that shape the nature of Heritage Language learners’  knowledge and discussed how to develop a theoretically-sound and research-based approach to language pedagogy that accounts for specific linguistic and cultural needs of the two populations in the modern language classroom. Her presentation was followed by me and other 3 panel speakers. My 20 minutes presentation mainly focused on the difficulties we have encountered in our mixed classes, particularly while adjusting to remote teaching during Covid-19 and shared the strategies to use breakout rooms in MS Teams to make small group teaching in the online and hybrid model that accommodates  our heritage language learners in online learning contexts. 

Before the presentation, we surveyed all the participants to have them share their questions related to teaching heritage language learners in mixed language class and challenges they encountered during remote learning. We also survey teachers to understand their experience and current challenges using educational tools like MS Teams, Zoom, Flipgrid and others. We had a question board available for participants to submit their questions during the presentation and we dedicated the last 20 minutes as a live interacted FAQ session with all the participants. 

My presentation began by sharing effective digital classroom management practices to create a respectful and responsible online learning culture. Digital classroom management practice related to breakout rooms in remote learning class focus on the digital citizenship agreement in this presentation included the following: 

1. Resource for Digital Citizenship agreement was provided to teachers in one of the slides. Digital Citizenship Primary School Agreement

2. Establish Norms for small groups by practicing good citizenship & “Make sure everyone else gets it!”

3. Assigning Roles for small group to have facilitator, note taker, presenter, checker 

4. Set Goal for each small group activities by having each group provide  evidence of productivity (notes, task result, presentation, report etc. )

5. Use Recording feature in Breakout Room

6. Assign students in the same group for at least twice in a role to build routine and team culture 

My presentation was mainly focusing on using and evaluating Microsoft Teams to create small groups for differentiation in a class to meet the needs of heritage language learners and second language learners. Therefore, Microsoft Teams is the targeted digital tool in this presentation, but all the strategies applied to Zooms, Google Meets or any remote conferencing tools that have the features to create breakout sessions. This presentation was personalized to skip the instruction of using breakout room features in Microsoft Teams because we surveyed all participants and they had  experience using MS Teams or Zooms breakout rooms features.

In this presentation, grouping strategies and samples of breakout session works were provided for educators to make adoption in their own practices. 

The workshop and all materials were recorded and continued to be available in the 2021 HERITAGE LANGUAGE SYMPOSIUM official page for participants to review and use as resources after the workshop.

I am looking forward to delivering this presentation to language teachers in my district. One adjustment I will make depending on the number of participants is to create breakout sessions for teachers who teach in a similar grade level to work on a grouping scenario by using the norms, roles and agreement I demonstrated in the presentation. I believe more interactive online workshops are more effective and engaging for participants. 

Social Media in Teaching and Learning

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Collaborator

Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes. Coaches:

b.Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.

c.Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.

Social media has become ubiquitous. Educators have been using social media in their personal lives and professional teaching. Although research has shown that social media can be used as an effective educational tool for educators to enhance educators’ network of contacts, engage students in important discussions, extend educators’ own learning and even provide a platform for students learning. How to support educators to identify and evaluate the use of social media in teaching and learning to address the concerns of privacy and safety for himself and students? 

A research from the University of Central Florida reported that electronic devices and social media create an opportunity for the students for collaborative learning and also allow the students to share the resource materials to their peers. Social media also allows the students to create, edit and share the course content

s in textual, video or audio forms. These technological innovations give birth to a new kind of learning culture, learning based on the principles of collective exploration and interaction (Ansari & Khan, 2020). While we know the effectiveness of social media in creating opportunities for learners in collaborative learning, creating and engaging the students in various activities, do most teachers agree and incorporate social media in their teaching?

Seaman and Tinti-Kane (2013) conducted a study using a representative sample of teaching faculty from across all of higher education, the study probes their use of social media, as well as what value they see in including social media sites as part of the instructional process. Research points out that ​​educators are much more willing to embrace social media in their personal lives than they are to use it for professional or teaching purposes. Use of social media for teaching purposes has increased every year. However, the number of educators who use social media in the classroom still does not represent a majority, but teaching use continues its steady year-to-year growth. Concerns about privacy, both for themselves and for their students, and about maintaining the class as a private space for free and open discussion, have been at the top of the list of concerns in all of the reports.

The result showed that faculty members have not widely or uncritically embraced social media for teaching purposes because they continue to have many concerns. Faculty with concerns about privacy were asked about five different specific privacy issues for students and faculty.

The study also pointed out that until educators feel that this issue has been addressed, the wide-scale adoption of commercial social media tools in the classroom will remain limited.

There are the Dos and Don’ts of using social media for teachers suggestions from Knoll (2017). 

  • Do stay in contact with your students through the power of texts.
  • Don’t connect directly with students.
  • Do follow colleagues you know, respect and like.
  • Don’t follow colleagues you don’t know, don’t respect or don’t like.
  • Do show what you are proud of.
  • Don’t share personal pictures or tag other teachers.
  • Do encourage students to make the most of their social media accounts.
  • Don’t use social media to tell stories that don’t reflect well on you or your profession.
  • Do talk to your students about the ramifications of their social posting.
  • Don’t post during school hours.

It can be a challenge to incorporate social media into lessons. There are many gray areas for teachers to navigate, like setting guidelines, accessibility at school, and student safety. Here are some helpful resources for four popular networks, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for teachers (Davis, 2013). 

Guild to Use Twitter in Your Teaching Practice 

Facebook Guide for Teachers 

The Educator’s Guide to Instagram and Other Photo Apps

40 Ways Teachers Can Use Pinterest In The Classroom

According to Magid and Gallagher(2015), social media is part of the world we live in and, even if you don’t use it, chances are that it affects you simply because many of the people around you – including students, colleagues and parents – are using it. When used thoughtfully, social media can enhance educators’ network of contacts, engage students in important discussions, extend educators’ own learning and even provide a platform for class projects. Social media services and apps can also be used as educational tools, but there are important issues to consider including privacy, appropriate content, security and educators’ comfort level with the apps and services.


Ansari, J.A.N., Khan, N.A. (2020), Exploring the Role of Social Media in Collaborative Learning the New Domain of Learning. Smart Learn. Retrieved August 14th from

Seaman, J., Tinti-Kane, H., (2013), Social Media for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved August 14th from file:///Users/vivili/Downloads/social-media-for-teaching-and-learning-2013-report.pdf

Knoll, K., (2017), The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media for Teachers. Retrieved from August 14th from

Davis, M., (2013), Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas. Retrieved from August 14th from

Magid, L., and Gallagher, K.(2015), The Educator’s Guide to Social Media. Retrieved from August 14th from

Differentiated Technology Integration PD for Educators

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Collaborator

Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes. Coaches:

d.Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

While teachers are expected to differentiate their instruction to meet their students’ needs, too often we treat professional learning differently than we treat student learning. Differentiation has not been modeled well in most of the professional developments for educators, especially in technology integration professional developments. How to ensure coaches and leaders differentiate and personalize educators’ training and professional developments in learning technology to meet the needs of educators with different knowledge and backgrounds in technology?

According to Randi and Zeichner (2005), the current emphasis on accountability for student performance on national and state tests has been directing some schools to select particular curriculum interventions and research-based practices they deem most likely to improve instruction and increase student achievement and then design staff development programs around the content of those interventions. In order to “demonstrate immediate results, schools may pay more attention to “what works” in the short term than to research findings about

how best to design and sustain teacher professional learning opportunities for the continuing growth of both teachers and students” (Randi & Zeichner, 2005, p180). 

Randi and Zeichner argued that although focused staff development activities designed to introduce or sustain the implementation of a common curriculum may build organizational capacity and unite teachers around the shared visions of the organization, they provide teachers little choice about their own professional learning and little autonomy in instructional decisions, which limits teachers’ choices about their own learning and limits their access to knowledge and may leave them with an insufficient knowledge (Randi & Zeichner, 2005, p194)

According to the Center for Public Education’s Teaching the Teachers report, almost all teachers participate in PD throughout the year. However, a majority of those teachers find the PD in which they participate ineffective.Therefore, Zdonek(2016) suggested that the following simple but effective strategies to improve teacher professional development sessions through differentiation:

1. Gauge teachers’ readiness by taking a survey of teachers to see what they know about a professional development topic, and how skilled they consider themselves in that area. This information will also allow you to tailor the PD session to meet teacher needs, designing smaller group sessions with flexible groupings to instruct teachers at their varying readiness levels.

2. Utilize teachers’ interests by taking some time to figure out what teachers themselves want to improve upon. When they work on areas of their interest, they’re more likely to be engaged, making the work more productive — just like with students.

3. Get teachers involved by allowing teachers that have skills or experience to run smaller group sessions. It provides leadership opportunities for teachers and develops a sense of ownership over the school improvement process.

4. Provide opportunities for continual assessment by providing time for teachers to discuss and reflect on how they are incorporating the given area of development into their classroom practice. Have opportunities for feedback, allow teachers to set goals, provide continuous support, and assess progress toward the goals they’ve set.

In addition to these general PD strategies, we might also want to look specifically into professional development focusing on technology integration for educators. The goal of successful technology professional development is its integration into teaching to impact student learning. Teachers are participating in technology learning professional development with different readiness and background.

Professional development provides educators the opportunity to understand new advancements and adapt their teaching styles and pedagogy to make effective use of available educational enhancements. How to ensure these PDs are customized to meet educators’ needs? Moynihan (2014) recommended the following 7 tips for integrating technology professional development. 

  • Provide ongoing support by delivering immediately usable solutions to the daily challenges that teachers will face when making major curricular changes in their subject areas.
  • Promote understanding of technology pedagogical practices by providing extensive training in both pedagogy and technology.
  • Encourage teacher participation because teachers who participate in a PD program that includes coaching or mentoring are more likely to implement new instructional methods.
  • Adopt a learner‐centered pedagogy because technology is less effective when used to support traditional “teacher‐centered” pedagogies, which tend to use technology as a supplement rather than as a core element of instruction.
  • Provide access to online information repositories that offer teachers continuous and convenient access to relevant teaching resources.
  • School structure should be “policies, practices, culture, and funding” to facilitate the integration of educational technology.
  • Make use of the technologies that teachers will be using. The ISTE notes that “learning with technology is more important than learning about technology.” Teachers benefit by seeing what and how they can learn through available technological tools.

Mazzella(2011) suggested technology can make a difference in supporting student learning, however, this cannot happen by merely providing classrooms with the latest equipment. Instructional technology integration will occur across all grade levels and in all content areas when it is supported by professional development that is differentiated and sustained over time.


Randi, J. and Zeichner, K. (2005). New Visions of Teacher Professional Development. 

Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education 103(1):180 – 227. Retrieved July, 28th, 2021 from

Zdonek, P. (2016). Why Don’t We Differentiate Professional Development?. Retrieved July, 28th, 2021 from

Moynihan, A. (2014) 7 PD tips for your instructional technology integration plan. Retrieved July, 28th, 2021 from

Mazzella, N, (2011). What are We Learning About Technology Integration and Professional Development? Retrieved July, 28th, 2021 from

Teacher Coach Relationship-Building Alliances with Effective Feedback

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Collaborator

Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes.

3a. Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.

Feedback is a critical element in a coaching relationship and it is an important part of respectful relationship building between coaches and teachers. What strategies are most effective to help coaches to provide feedback and build alliances with teachers and lead to improved their teaching instruction and practices? 

According to Hatties and Timperley(2007), feedback is conceptualized as information provided by an agent regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding, and feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative. They also believed that there is a clear distinction between providing instruction and providing feedback. “Feedback needs to provide information specifically relating to the task or process of learning that fills a gap between what is understood and what is aimed to be understood (P82).” 

How can coaches make feedback effective? According to Finley (2017), most coaches understand that feedback should be timely, actionable, specific, and related to agreed-upon learning outcomes. But even when it meets those criteria, feedback can still backfire when unsuccessfully calibrated to a teacher’s abilities. It is important to determine when to use four main types of feedback and with whom:

1. Diagnostic feedback describes why a lesson has not succeeded and clarifies the teaching principles that will support improvement. Best for teachers lacking key concepts that would help them understand why a lesson hasn’t worked. It helps teachers understand more fully the reason for their struggle and clarifies for them the expectations for their future performance and core principles that should guide their work. 

2. Prescriptive feedback provides specific directions about what to do differently. This kind of feedback helps teachers understand what options they have to improve and what they should do next. Thus, it’s best suited for those who have tried something unsuccessfully and need specific help or direction to improve.

3. Descriptive feedback narrates the teaching performance in detail, including what did and didn’t work. Best for teachers who reflect effectively and deeply understand fundamental elements of instruction. However, this feedback will not be as effective for those who are still struggling to understand or implement the basics or for those who are not reflective.

4. Micro-feedback adjusts or “tweaks” successful lessons. It works best with teachers who have already demonstrated a degree of expertise. Micro-feedback provides small nuances, tweaks, and minor adjustments that will significantly improve an already good performance. This kind of feedback not only adds value to effective teachers’ performance but also keeps those teachers consistently improving and growing.

According to the National Center for Systemic Improvement(2005), after learning how to choose the right kind of feedback to inspire and motivate teachers to improve, coaches should be clear that critical coaching practice includes the development of a trusting and respectful teacher–coach relationship, also referred to as alliance. Strong alliance between teachers and coaches establishes a solid foundation for subsequent work between the dyad. 

Table 1 from Effective Coaching: Improving Teacher Practice and Outcomes for All Learners (2005) summarizes critical coaching practices and offers suggestions for when these practices can be used by coaches and Table 2 summarizes the strategies correspond to three primary factors of alliance that coaches can use to build alliance with teachers. 

Many schools and districts implement coaching as a method for improving teacher practice and learner outcomes. It is important to ensure that coaching consists of effective coaching practices to produce powerful changes in teaching and learning-educators. 


Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.

Finley, T.(2007). Feedback Strategies for Coaches and Administrators. Retrieved from

Effective Coaching: Improving Teacher Practice and Outcomes for All Learners (2005). National Center for Systemic Improvement, Retrieved from

Human Social Connection in Digital Age

How Does the Internet Bring People Together? | SWG, Inc.

In order to address the importance of partnering with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology, we must understand the impact of technology in human social connections. 

We always know that humans are profoundly social species, we want to connect with others since we were born as we want to have connection with our parents and throughout our lives as adults. When I think of connection, it means the feeling of knowing, belonging, trusting, and respecting. As technology is becoming part of our life , I am reaching for an understanding of what impact technology brings into human social connections and how to ensure social connection in virtual interaction are meaningful? 

In the article of “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World,” Janna and Lee argued that technology has brought more positive impact to human connection than negative impact because “digital life links people to people, knowledge, education and entertainment anywhere globally at any time in an affordable, nearly frictionless manner”. According to the interviewer in their research, Daniel Weitzner who is a principal research scientist and founding director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative shared his idea that internet is the ultimate connection machine to fulfill the need of connection for human as “internet connect people with meaningful and rewarding information and relationships.”  

Although I personally benefited from technology to stay connected with family and friends in other countries, it seems too ideal that technology only brings positive impact to our social connection. The article “The Digital Age: Are We Losing Human Connection?” argued that virtual connection in the form of cyber bulling, trolls and grooming can result in rejection which leads to a significant effect on individual resilience and perception of self in young children, and it can carry over into adulthood. It listed examples of people feeling rejected in virtual society: 

  • Social media enables and promotes social comparison to others and create a feeling of “I am not good enough”.  
  • The rise of the fear of missing out and lost the membership in a group occurs when people don’t tune in and keep up to date in social media.  
  • People lacking social skills to make friends on-line potentially leading to more isolation  
  • Constant checking, and interrupting ‘in the moment’ social interactions not only perpetuates immediate gratification for the user but can have a negative impact on others present.  

We all understand that digital evolution continues to happen regardless we are positive or denial about it. When we are aware of how our social connection is changing around using technology, we also need to be aware of the relationship between us and our digital devices. As educator and parent, I am reflecting on the suggestions given by Lisa Jones (2018):  

  1. We must be aware of how technology is changing our behavior and think about our relationship to our devices. 
  1. As adults we model our behavior to young people. Let’s be aware of our relationship with technology and model respectful and restrained usage rather than dependence, by promoting positive social skills and body language in our interactions with others, despite the temptation to check our devices. 
  1. Take responsibility for our actions because our actions have implications. Be aware that we can implicitly communicating the message that the device is more important than the person you use deice during face-to-face interaction with others.  
  1. Do not separate technology from well-being and resilience. The connection between digital world and real world is important.  
  1. Encourage parents to read terms and conditions that are associated with online activities including social media to teach the knowledge of privacy and identity in digital use.  
  1. Educators should be aware of how much technology is being consumed in student learning and ask question as “is it essential to use technology in every class? Or can we empower teachers to step away from their white board from time to time?”  

The urgency of helping our younger children to learn the skills to make connection in the digital world should be addressed. According to the article “3 Strategies to Foster Sociability”, educators should focus on teaching social skills early, creating shared social norms, and engaging students in cooperative learning to prepare students’s skill in social connection. However, it will be my next journey to explore the strategies to transfer or apply these skills into the digital world in young children.

The goal to foster a culture of respectful online interactions should be built upon the foundation of positive social connections in the digital world. While technology truly bring the convenience to connect more people in more places, the social connection we make through technology should always be reflected on its quality.   


Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie, “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World,” Pew Research Center, April 17, 2018 

Jones, L. (2018). “The Digital Age: Are We Losing Human Connection?” Retrieved from

Price-Mitchell, M. (2015) “3 Strategies to Foster Sociability” Retrieved from

Accountability of Online Schools

Monday's big online return to Georgia schools needed tech support - Georgia  Recorder

Despite the fear from Merton (2012) that technology was becoming an autonomous and destructive force, technology has implemented a new form of learning in education and online school has become a choice for many districts and students. While families and students make their decision to enroll into online school, accountability has been my concern in this new wave. While my earliest focus about accountability was developed around how students are held accountable for their engagement and participation in digital education, I began to reflect on the accountability of schools in providing and implementing quality online education to students from K-12. Therefore, I decided to investigate accountability system and measurement of online schools for K-12 students. 

Online learning requires teacher deliver content and instruction through the internet and students learn and demonstrate their academic performance through internet. According to the research from the National Charter School Resource Center, there are 32 states in the U.S offers fully online school which students are not required to attend classes in physical space in 2012-2013 serving an estimated 310,000 students. Some schools offer partial online supplemental program for enrichment purpose or blended-learning model to combine online and face-to-face instruction mixed.  

Watson and Pape (2015) raised the concerns that online schools are held accountable for students learning outcome and being measured based of grade-level proficiency in reading and math and graduation rates in the state accountability system like traditional schools without taking their high mobility student population into account.  

Watson and Pape (2015) argued that online learning and online schools represent as an alternative way for many students due to its flexible nature. Students who chose to attend online schools are accelerated students, at-risk students, students with extenuating life circumstances, students with medical issue, previously homeschooled students, or students who are seeking additional program with dual enrollment. High percentage of family consider online school as short-term plan. Many students transfer back to traditional school as soon as their life situation get resolved. The belief that “learning by apprenticeship can work only in the nearness of classroom and laboratory; never in cyberspace” (Dreyfus, 2014, p646) plays an important role in many families’ decision to go back to traditional school. These student population contributed a high mobility rate for online schools.  

Why Families Choose Online School

However, state accountability system does not address the reality of situation. For example, students who enrolled in online school but leaves prior to graduating. Watson and Pape (2015) recommended to create a different framework can align with online schools and reflect the students they sever. Measuring online school accountability should focus on student growth during online school enrollment to ensure that schools are held accountable for advancing students during their time at the school, even though it is a very short stop along their educational path. 

The research clearly shows that the current accountability system does not acknowledge or track student mobility nor reflect the quality of student learning experience. While many schools are currently moving to online learning or a blended model with a portion of face to face instruction due to pandemic, should leaders and policy makers review and facilitate change to our current accountability system for schools with remote learning? Without an effective accountability measurement system for schools, it is challenging for educators to set expectation and hold students accountable in online learning.  


Albert Borgmann, “Contemplation in a Technological Era: Learning from Thomas Merton,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 64:1 (2012): 3-10. Retrieved from

Locke, G., Ableidinger, J,. Hassel, B., Barrett, S., (2014) “Virtual Schools: Assessing Progress and Accountability Final Report of Study Findings” American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

Hubert Dreyfus, “Anonymity versus Commitment: The Dangers of Education on the Internet,” Philosophy of Technology, 641-47. Retrieved from

Watson, J., Pape, L. (2015). School Accountability in the Digital Age. Retrieved from

Teaching Empathy in Digital Learning Environment

STE Standards for Educators

3 – Citizen – Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world.

3a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.

When students and teachers are bewildered by the endless mass of streaming content, the average person spends upwards of 10.5 hours a day in front of a screen instead of socializing in person. How can educators help students develop empathy in the digital learning environment and are there any digital tools available for educators to use in teaching empathy? 

What is Empathy? 

Empathy can be divided into two parts with different meanings. Emotional empathy is the natural ability to share how another person is feeling. For example, we get happy when a friend shares her recent engagement, or feel sad when others are crying. Cognitive empathy, on the other hand, takes more conscious effort. It’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, or understanding why someone is feeling sad without yourself feeling the same way(Noonoo, 2019).

Both empathy and cognitive empathy increase a person’ ability to communicate a relationship and help people to cultivate shared experiences and bring essential understanding to our differences, such as kindness, helpfulness, collaboration, authentic connection, happiness and joy are all byproducts of empathy expression. (Howell, 2017)

Teaching Empathy in Digital Learning Environment 

According to Howell(2017), research has shown digital stimulation associated with screen time can damage an area of the brain called the insula. This area is directly related to empathy development along with other brain activities such as executive functioning. All of this is hugely important to the brain functions and happiness of our students. He also believes that empathy requires time and attention to active listening and thoughtful speaking, empathy development is deep and sustained eye contact, especially in times of conversational discomfort, and it cannot exist without vulnerability either.

In order to understand what others are feeling, one must first find that experience within himself/herself and have the cognitive and emotional ability to bridge that feeling and enter a relationship to access empathy (Howell, 2017). Can these learned skills be taught virtually? 

Virtual reality has been used successfully in exposure therapy, a psychotherapy approach that systematically introduces triggers to help overcome phobias and trauma. Can virtual simulations teach a human skill like empathy which requires understanding and sympathizing with real people? 

“When virtual simulations attempt to build more empathy, they do it by presenting scenarios that are often emotionally fraught, stressful or challenging—and maybe a little dramatic. The goal is to provoke an emotional response in participants and give them a taste of what that situation can feel like from someone else’s perspective”(Noonoo, 2019). A simulation software from a company called Kognito, which specializes in creating one-on-one virtual conversations, and they believe that virtual humans dynamically react to individual choices in simulation will remember those dialogue choices going forward. In addition, when a digital character has a memory, they start to feel more alive, and create a better opportunity to practice empathy skills. (Zeiger, 2019)

In addition to using virtual simulations, there are steps to teach empathy in our digital learning community according to Stanfield (2019). 

Step 1: Assess your Student’s Empathy Skills

• Emotional sharing

• Empathic concern

• Perspective-taking

Step 2: Teach the Language of Empathy

Step 3: Teach the Skills

• Self-Regulation

• Connecting with Others

• Sympathy for Others

• Cognitive Empathy & Perspective Taking

• Reading Faces, Tone, and Other Communication Subtleties:

Step 4: Put it in Context, one example is having the variety of guest speakers that are available remotely. Kids can meet people from different backgrounds that they might not otherwise be able to meet and see new perspectives.

Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect by helping kids get a chance to feel what it is like to be in situations they haven’t yet encountered by using virtual reality. 

However, Noonoo(2019) also points out that simulations are also an imperfect substitute for in-person interaction, because when people are talking with each other, behavior can change. The confidence we feel in a controlled scenario might not carry over to a real life situation.


Noonoo, S., (2019). Can Virtual Simulations Teach a Human Skill Like Empathy? EdSurge.

Howell, M., (2017). Developing Empathy in the Digital Age. edCircuit

Zeiger, B., (2019). Strengthening Empathy Skills: From Digital to Reality. Kognito.

Stanfield, J., (2019). How to Use Technology to Help Students Develop Empathy. James Stanfield.

How Can We Make Virtual Conference Work for Everyone?

ISTE Standards for Educators

5 – Designer – Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability.

5a. Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Educators have been using virtual conferences technologies to create and deliver content and social emotional learning experiences to students due to the pandemic remote learning. While all teachers are using virtual conference tools like Zoom and Teams with their students, how do these virtual conference tools accommodate learner differences and needs? In this post, I am going to compare Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet accommodation to users with disabilities. I will also explore virtual meeting engagement strategies and practices that meet learners with different learning styles. 

Learners/ Presenters with Disabilities

(Wetherbee & Caruthers, 2020)
MS Teams 
(Nopanen, 2019)
Google Meet
(Wetherbee & Caruthers, 2020)
-Keyboard Navigation
-Screen Reader Support
-Live Closed Captioning by Human
-Automated Live Closed Captioning
-Low Vision Support
-Transcription of Recording
-Live Captions
-Translation feature in chat
-Zoom feature
-Zooming presented content
-Dark mode or high contrast mode
-Immersive reader
-Voice message on mobile device
-Shortcut keys
-Focus time and notification settings
-Voicemail: speech to text
-Speaker Attribution (adding speakers’ names to captions)
-Automated Live Closed Captioning
-Compatible with magnifiers and screen readers
-Limited Keyboard Navigation
-Spoken feedback

Among the three popular virtual conferencing tools, Microsoft Teams has invested heavily in its user accessibility. However, according to the article “Hosting Accessible Online Meetings” from the University of Washington, the most effective strategies to ensure online meetings are accessible are not technical strategies. They involve the following practices:

  • Distribute slides and all other materials to attendees in advance.
  • Clearly state the meeting agenda up-front, including which features of the meeting tool will be used.
  • Ask meeting participants to state their name each time they speak.
  • Create pauses during and between activities, so students who are taking notes, students with slow Internet bandwidth, or students using captions or sign language interpreters can catch up.
  • Don’t say “click here” if demoing something on the shared screen. Not everyone can see what you’re referring to. Students might be blind or have low vision, writing notes, looking at the textbook or dealing with a notification that popped up that they haven’t figured out how to turn off. Instead, specifically identify what you are clicking on.
  • All meeting participants can benefit from captions, both of live meetings and recorded meetings.

Learner Engagement in Virtual Meetings 

An engaged virtual meeting for students includes dynamic, interactive communication and the ability to create shared experiences together. Spencer(2020) recommended the following strategies to boost engagement in a virtual meeting. 

  • Do a social / emotional check-in
  • Incorporate movement
  • Use the Q&A feature
  • Use polls
  • Allow students to show off their pets
  • Use the chat function
  • Make use of hand-gestures
  • Incorporate silence
  • Integrate other platforms into the virtual meeting
  • Use breakout rooms strategically
  • Use hands-on learning to take it off-screen

Spencer(2020) also stated there is limitation to use virtual meetings for direct instruction, larger group discussion, and class presentation. He suggested if a prerecorded option is available for certain activities then pre recording might be a better option because class video conferences should be highly interactive and centered on deeper, free-flowing discussions, or to clarify ideas or make decisions together as a group.

Learners with DIfferent Learning Styles in Virtual Meetings 

Researchers recognized that different learners had different cognitive styles and habitual information-processing strategies that determine a learner’s typical mode of perceiving, remembering, thinking, and problem solving(Zapalska & Brozik, 2006).

According to Zapalska & Brozik (2006), Kinesthetic learning focuses on active participation in the learning experience. Unlike visual, auditory, read/write learners who are comfortable watching videos or reading textbooks, kinesthetic learners prefer to be in motion and engage all their senses. The article “Kinesthetic Learning in an Online Learning Environment” suggested the following strategies to meet our kinesthetic learners need in virtual meeting:

  • Enhancements to lectures such as including pictures or sound effects can help remind kinesthetic learners of the real-life situations that the material is related to and can thus increase retention.
  • Keep lectures short and novel and include interactive elements.
  • Send students on virtual field trips.
  • Remind students to take a break and walk around.
  • Help students visualize complex processes.

Teachers must understand how students learn, how they perceive, and how they process information. Learning styles of online students must be identified so that the instructor can plan appropriate teaching strategies to accommodate individual strengths and needs during virtual meetings. 

Regardless which virtual conference tool educators choose, the most effective strategies to ensure online meetings are accessible, engaging, and accommodating learner differences and needs are not technical features or strategies, educators need to incorporate meaningful practices to make learning and teaching effective.  


Hosting Accessible Online Meetings. Retrieved May 13, 2021, from

Nopanen, V. (2019). Microsoft Teams is also about inclusivity and accessibility. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

Wetherbee, J., & Caruthers, B. (2020). UNC Charlotte. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

Spencer, J. (2020). How to make virtual meetings more interactive for students. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

Zapalska, A. & Brozik, D. (2006). Learning Styles and Online Education. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

Kinesthetic Learning in an Online Learning Environment. Center for teaching and learning: Wiley education services. (2020). Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

Digital Portfolio for Educators

ISTE Standards

2 – Leader – Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and improve teaching and learning.

2c. Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.

A digital portfolio is a collection of digital works, they can be essays, posters, images, videos, and artwork. It can be different aspects of one’s life and interest, for example, work experience, employment history and other professional or personal related experience. Centre for Teaching Excellence suggests that a good digital portfolio should be more than just a collection of products, a good ePortfolio is both about being a product (a digital collection of artifacts) and a process (of reflecting on those artifacts and what they represent) (2017). According to Basken (2008) in the article “ePortfolios Explained: Theory and Practice”, ePortfolios “are a way to generate learning as well as document learning”.

Digital portfolios can be used by students to put together portfolios for capstone or research projects. Teachers can use a digital portfolio to create a professional portfolio or gather items around areas they would like to explore. According to Kilbane and Milman, research studies focusing on portfolios in teacher education have centered on preservice and not inservice teachers (2017). How can inservice teachers use digital portfolios as a tool to assess student learning and use as self reflection to demonstrate and improve teaching practices?

Kilbane and Milmant conducted a study with the purpose to examine high school teachers’ perceived impact on their teaching and their students’ learning resulting from the creation of digital portfolios by both the teachers and their own students. The result of study demonstrated that digital portfolio creation resulted in increased teacher learning about technology, a reexamination of their pedagogy, better comprehension of their students’ learning, reflective processes, and assessment, and reciprocal learning between teachers and students (Kilbane and Milmant, 2017). 

  • Teachers in the study indicated that using digital portfolios required a greater amount of time, challenged them to rethink existing planning and teaching practices, made teaching and students’ products more interesting, engaged students more in their own learning, incorporated more 21st century skills, and fostered a teaching and learning environment. 
  • The development of digital portfolios promoted increased use and integration of technology in teaching. 
  • Through the creation of their digital portfolios, teachers and students engaged in a reciprocal process of learning, in which teachers and students alike “struggled together to learn and create”.
  • Reflection, understanding (learning), and standards were all a part of the process for students to create their own digital portfolios. 
  • The development of digital portfolios changed not only how teachers planned, but also how they assessed or intended to assess their students, including how they viewed assessment.
Your Teacher Portfolio

There are many digital portfolio tools available for educators and students to choose from. I am investigating Bulb as a digital portfolio tool in this post to examine its usage in self reflection and demonstrate and improve teaching practices for educators.

According to Karlin, Bulb is a web based platform where students and educators can curate, create, share, and showcase works. The main goal of this platform is to provide a space where students and teachers can evaluate and share the meaningful works they have created. 

Currently, bulb has three plans to choose from:

When users first sign into the bulb, the main dashboard will show up and that is where users can create a Page or a Collection of pages. The free plan only allows 10 portfolio pages while the paid plan offers unlimited pages. One of the features for a paid plan is to create groups. It is beneficial for teachers when we want to add in groups for different classes and add students to groups. In the paid plans, Bulb can work in conjunction with learning platforms, with teachers sending out assignment details through their district required learning platform, and students submitting their work through a Bulb Page. Another feature of bulk is users can keep the portfolio even if they stop paying for it. They’ll get downgraded to the free plan after one year if they don’t renew their plan, but they won’t lose any of their pages. 

According to the CommonSense website review,  teachers can create their own Bulb collections and pages to share content for a unit or lesson. Assemble a series of primary-source images or articles as pages in a collection, and encourage students to review the pages and respond to them in writing or discussion. Each student also might contribute a page to a teacher-created collection. Students can submit responses that other students can then review and comment on. Alternatively, teachers can ask students to create their own pages or collections. Students can also use their Bulb collection as a place to show off their work over the course of the year or assemble a series of articles or images on a related topic. 

Teachers can use Bulk to track their professional development and demonstrate their growth.  Here’s an English teacher’s example from bulb’s website, which includes pages with professional evaluation, lesson plans, and samples of work that the teacher has created. 

Jessa Jones | bulb

However, the CommonSense website also points out that it lacks some of the assessment features that distinguish other portfolio tools available. Teachers and students can comment on each other’s pages, but there aren’t extensive features for tracking students’ submissions or offering ongoing feedback or formative assessment. 

In addition to all the reviews about Bulb, I also reflected on a comment made by my peer, Joey Halbert, on how technology tools for education should have low barriers for educators and students entry. The low barriers should meet the following criteria: No extra account creation, works on any device, low bandwidth, versatile, and free. While Bulk offers teachers a free upgrade to Bulb+ which include unlimited portfolio pages and storage, I highly hope they can consider this upgrade to students as well.


EPortfolios Explained: Theory and Practice. (2019, March 04). Retrieved April 30, 2021, from

Karlin, M., (2017, January 28). Bulb: Digital Portfolios for Students and Teachers. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from

Kilbane, C., Milman, N., (2017). Examining the Impact of the Creation of Digital Portfolios by High School Teachers and Their Students on Teaching and Learning. International Journal of ePorfolio.

Kievlan, P. (2021, April 06). Bulb review for teachers. Retrieved May 01, 2021, from

How to Demonstrate Cultural Competence in Your Class Blog or Website?

ISTE Standards for Educators 4B: Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.

Due to the global pandemic, many educators have been teaching remotely and using a virtual space to replace physical classrooms. For most educators, an online platform is a place where we can assign student learning tasks, share resources, and gather feedback. As mandated from school districts, many educators have chosen applications like Google Classroom, Schoology, and Canvas. However, a class website or blog for a teacher can be another effective and creative option. The difference between blogs and websites is that all blogs are websites, but not all websites are blogs. A blog is just a website with a standard set of tools for organization of content built right in – called posts, which can be further organized using tags and categories(Burt & Morris, 2020). Blogs are made to deal with information that changes frequently while a website is great for things we want to leave up for a while. It is not well suited to daily changes.

Blog has been preferred by many educators because it comes with an interface that will allow teachers to easily attach keywords to each post, or automatically format the date and title of each post. It also provides a way for readers to leave comments on each post which website doesn’t. Regardless of choosing a website or blog for our class, how do teachers demonstrate cultural competency when using class blogs and websites communicating and interacting with students, parents, and colleagues? 

Cultural competence is the ability of a person to effectively interact, work, and develop meaningful relationships with people of various cultural backgrounds which can include the beliefs, customs, and practices in daily life (Rosario et al, 2016). According to research from the U.S Department of Education in 2010, 45% of students were from culturally diverse families. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2043, the U.S. will become a “majority minority” country. Therefore, educators working with students and families need to pay attention to culture which is one of the foundations of effective teaching and learning (Pang et al, 2011). 

While educators are using virtual environments like blogs and websites, they need to be culturally inclusive which means mutual respect, effective relationships, clear communication, explicit understandings about expectations and critical self-reflection.According to the article “Culturally inclusive environment”, in an inclusive environment, people of all cultural orientations can

  • freely express who they are, their own opinions and points of view
  • fully participate in teaching, learning, work and social activities
  • feel safe from abuse, harassment or unfair criticism

Culture is also a key factor in human growth and development, and the creation of effective

conditions for learning (Pang, 2010). One of the strategies for creating a culturally inclusive website or blog is choosing culturally responsive images to connect with students (Aguirre, 2020). Being intentional about the images we use in our blog and website has a profound impact on classroom culture because when students see themselves reflected in our virtual environment, they are more invested in what they are learning. Therefore, images we choose to use in my blog or website should reflect the students and families in our community, as well as those across the country.

Although the following strategies from “Promoting Culturally Competent Teaching” are not specifically for building class blogs and websites to demonstrate cultural competency, I find them share the same goal to promote a culturally competent environment for students and families. 

1. Recognize personal biases and how they may impact their expectations of students and families. Teachers can engage in readings and discussions about privilege or teachers can write personal identity stories that reflect on how their own identities are socially constructed.

2. Expand on teacher knowledge of their students’ cultural backgrounds. 

3. Include multiple cultural perspectives. 

4. Weave students’ own cultural backgrounds into curriculum through student-powered activities. 

5. Confront and engage in controversial topics. 

6. Engage parents and families by sending out regular communications and provide tools to translate information into different languages. 

Regardless of physical or virtual learning space, blogs or websites, our goal is to create a welcoming environment and establish the appreciation of similarities and differences among cultures.


Rosario T. de Guzman, M., Durden, T., Taylor, S., Guzman, J., & Potthoff, K. (2016, February). Cultural Competence: An Important Skill Set for the 21st Century. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

Pang, V., Stein, R., Gomez, M., Matas, A. & Shimogori, Y., (2011, January). 

Cultural Competencies: Essential Elements of Caring-Centered Multicultural Education. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

Burt, R., & Morris, K. (2020, May). Best Best Teacher Websites In This Time Of Remote Learning. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

Culturally Inclusive Environment. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

Aguirre, L., (2020, October). Choosing Culturally Responsive Images to Connect With Students.Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

Promoting Culturally Competent Teaching. (2017, August). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

Reflect and Redesign by Using the Understanding by Design Model


In this project, my goal is to create a lesson with technology-enhanced instruction by using the Understanding by Design Model. The UbD model is also commonly referred to as backwards design because the lesson plan begins by determining the outcome of the activity, or rather the learning objective that will be mastered by students. 

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Besides using 8th grade Middle School Social Studies Civic Standards from OSPI, another focus in my lesson is to incorporate ISTE Student Standard 2 – Digital Citizen. This standard asks students to recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

In this post, I will be sharing the outline and my reflection of my lesson using the Understanding by Design Model to focus on Middle School Social Studies Civic Standards and ISTE Student Standards. 


While having the intention to redesign a lesson that previously was unsuccessful, I immediately thought of my 8th grade U.S history class. U.S government is a lesson I was not satisfied with in my time management, activities, and student engagement in the past. I am often struggling with the balance of the amount of content needed to be taught and the amount of time to let students explore and participate in activities. I believe this will be a great opportunity for me to reflect, revisit and redesign by using the Understanding by Design Model. 

5 Ways To Use Digital Resources to Teach Social Studies » Britannica

Outline of Lesson

Rubric for Performance Task: 


Understanding by Design is helpful for me to reflect and revisit the learning process and experience from my students point of view. My Reflection on the Six Facets of Understanding (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005) emphasized on to apply” which asks students to effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real contexts—we can “do” the subject, and “have perspective” which asks students to see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.

During this lesson, students will be able to explain the structure and powers of the three government branches by examining their rights and responsibilities through a real world situation which involves banning their favorite social media app TikTok. It interests students to investigate the process to make laws, carry out laws and review laws in our government. It connects back to the essential question to understand how power and responsibility is distributed, shared, and limited in the government. Students can apply this knowledge to take perspective in real world situations when they encounter policy change in the society and participate in civic movement to advocate through legal channels. 

While technology is integrated purposefully into the lesson, the following ISTE Standards are also weaved into the unit:

ISTE 2b. Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices. This standard is addressed in activities of Padlet post board, class discussion posts and responses to peers with expectation of responsible and respectful online behavior and language use. 

ISTE 2c. Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property. This standard is explained and included into the performance task to have students referencing and citing two credible sources. 

ISTE 3b. Evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources will also be addressed by engaging in fact checking activities. This standard takes part in our class as regular practice when we use digital resources as reference. 

Throughout this project, I feel thankful for the opportunity to redesign my lesson by using the Understanding by Design framework. I will continue to remind myself to be a learner before being an educator. Best teaching practices and strategies should be reflected and refreshed constantly and intentionally.   


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 

Gonzalez, J. (2014, June 23). Understanding by Design, Introduction and Chapters 1-4. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Technology in Global Education

According to ISTE standard 7, students will use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning, and explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions. Global citizenship is defined as awareness, caring, and embracing cultural diversity while promoting social justice and sustainability, coupled with a sense of responsibility to act(Reysen, & Katzarska-Miller, 2013). Global education allows students to appreciate diverse perspectives, understand the connections they have to the wider world, respectively and effectively communicate and collaborate across cultures and countries, and use disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge to investigate and take action on issues that matter to them and the wider world. I remember 10 years ago when I collaborated with a teacher in China and had our students in two countries working on a project about school lunch around the world. We encountered many challenges due to time zone differences, language barriers, and communication efficiency. Incorporating more advanced technology in our education today, what role technology plays in fostering students global awareness and engagement in global citizenship? 

The article Fostering Students’ Global Awareness: Technology Applications in Social Studies Teaching and Learning stated that global awareness enhances students’ abilities to work collaboratively with persons of diverse backgrounds, to understand and seek solutions to global issues, and to acquire 21st century skills to participate in global society, and global education helps students to develop self-awareness of their identity, culture, beliefs and understand how those connect with others in the world. Crawford and Kirby (2008) introduced a model called  “the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge”. The TPCK model offers a conceptual framework interrelated components of teachers’ knowledge in three areas: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge. Technological knowledge entails knowledge of and the ability to use both non-digital tools and equipment, and digital tools. It requires educators to have the knowledge of how various technologies may be applied during specific aspects of teaching and learning, the knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technologies can help redress some of the problems that students face, and the knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge and to develop new strengthen old one. This framework can serve as a conceptual foundation for teachers to foster students’ global awareness in teaching and learning(Crawford and Kirby, 2008).

Global Issues Network is a great example of how educators use technologies to bring projects and opportunities for students to engage and participate in global learning. 

One of our international schools in our district has been hosting WA global Issues Network, the WAGIN, in the past several years and students have demonstrated skills and passion in participating in projects with teams across the country and the world during the event. The network features cooperation and collaboration through the use of  technologies to empower students leadership to develop sustainable solutions to address global problems and to implement their ideas with the support of the network created locally or globally through technology. It was unfortunate that the event in WA was canceled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, my students were able to collaborate with students in China on a sustainable goals project to learn global issues related to the 17 sustainable development goals in the U.S and China and how our current political relationship and issues impact the goals and solutions. During the project, students were able to utilize online meeting tools like Zoom, recording tools like the flipgrid to minimize the time zone challenges and online documents shared editing features to enhance the collaboration and communication with students in China. 

In conclusion, global education should not be represented as a one time project or only part of the students population can have access to it. The infusion of global education through the appropriate and effective use of various technologies is essential for preparing students to participate and engage as global citizens(Crawford and Kirby, 2008). 


Reysen, S. & Katzarska-Miller, I (2013) A model of global citizenship: Antecedents and outcomes, International Journal of Psychology, 48:5, 858-870,


Crawford, E. and Kirby, M. (2008). Fostering Students’ Global Awareness: Technology Application in Social Studies Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from

Global Issues Network. (2020). Retrieved February 27, 2021, Retrieved from