Blogfolios: The Glue that Can Hold it All Together in Learning

Digital Portfolios are so much more than a digital versions of a paper portfolio, a folder sent home at the end of the week, semester or year or an online version of someone’s writing journal. In addition, I am talking about Blogfolios, which are digital portfolios on a blogging platform. These blogfolios are:

  • not behind a password protected wall to encourage authentic feedback and a global audience
  • not only sharing the “best” work of someone, but the process of learning that it took to get to the “best” work in this moment in time
  • the platform to allow open discussion to have one’s work be critiqued, influenced, re-mixed and built upon by others

If I had to create a “pitch” for Blogfolios, I would say:

Blogfolios are the glue that can hold it all together!

Blogfolios are a pedagogical tool/platform for the teacher to facilitate learning and at at the same time can become in critical component for a heutagogical (self-directed/ self-motivated) process for the learner. Blogfolios are the glue that can hold all curricular content, goals and objectives as well as support school initiatives, observations, assessment and accountability requirements or personal passions, interest and projects together… you can insert other education related programs, theories, taxonomies, methods, etc. and we can find connections HOW blogfolios could help support it.


media-literacyWe know that the notion of literacy, reading and writing in order to communicate in our day and age has expanded from traditional reading and writing via text and analog paper sources. The world around us has significantly and is continuing to change exponentially. We read and need to comprehend multimedia messages, follow hyperlinked, non-linear content and need to be able to write on different platforms. We need to know how to take into consideration their collaborative and connected nature and a potential global audience. How do we take advantage of different media and platforms to effectively address copyright considerations and requirements, search engine algorithms and network characteristics to engage potential readers, collaborators, curators and thought partners? To be considered literate, we need skills beyond basic reading and writing and extend into the world of “reading and writing” in a networked, global and different types of media environment with the ability to not only consume information, but find, evaluate, analyze, curate, remix, and create new types of information.

…Blogfolios can be the platform to expose learners to the skills, dispositions and habits of mind to amplify basic reading and writing into the world of an extended notion of literacy. Blogfolios give learners the chance to not just hear about these new literacies, but they are actively experiencing and working with new skills to become fluent in them.


self-drivenPedagogy is about the techniques, methods and strategies teachers use to facilitate learning for their students. Heutagogy is centered around self-motivated and self-directed learning. Webucation is about taking advantage of the fact that anyone with access to the internet and a device is capable to access information, tutorials, mentors, coaches, materials, videos, text, images in order to literally learn anything they wish to learn. The only thing that is required to bring is the MOTIVATION to learn the skills to find, evaluate and use what is available for their own learning. There is a shift away from learning for grades, credentials and other extrinsic factors towards learning for the desire to learn and intrinsic motivation.

self-motivated… Blogfolios can support learning and teaching ourselves. Blogfolios should not belong to a particular teacher, professor or the school, but to the learners themselves. Taking ownership of their blogfolios is crucial versus having entries to the blogfolio be by assignments and deadlines only. Blogfolios are not strictly meant to be for “school work”, but should include documentation of any learning (in and outside of school).

Documenting Learning

documentDocumenting our learning serves as a heutagogical tool. Capturing artifacts that demonstrate the process of learning as well as a product, need to be able to be stored, archived and displayed somewhere. Blogfolios give the self-directed learner a hub to document their learning and to make it visible for others. Where have they been? What steps did they take along the way? How are these learning artifacts connected with each other? Documentation OF learning can grown into documenting FOR learning and documenting AS learning, when strategically embedded into the learning process.

…A blogfolio allows for all types of media (text, images, video, audio) to be inserted and embeded into a post. Through linking of blog posts or individual artifacts, a timeline of the learning process can be created and reflected upon. When documentation happens over a period of time, the blog with its chronological postings facilitates a timeline of the learning process. The blogfolio becomes the showcase to use documentation FOR learning (our own as well as the learning of others who visit and engage in our blogfolio. When we use documentation as a vehicle of learning, the blogfolio becomes the tool and the process at the same time.

Reflection & Metacognition

reflection Reflection is not an add-on to the learning process, but a critical component. Thinking about your thinking (metacognition) reflecting on one’s own cognitive processes and stresses the awareness and flow of our thinking as well as strategies that help us learn. We can, of course, reflect and think about our thinking in paper journals, in verbal conversations, in our own heads, but there is a depth to our learning added when we reflection in public and in writing (not only in text necessarily). Jackie Gerstein says “If we don’t create a process of reflecting and framing them, then we are leaving learning up to chance,”

metacognition…A blogfolio allows for the support of that framing of reflection and metacognition. Activities, projects, curriculum units, assessments, etc, don’t stand on their own, in isolation, but they become part of a process. How can I tell the story of my learning? What does my learning mean to me and to the world around me? Why is my work important and how is it related to other people and other work? How is it related to my own word from last week, from last month/year and to my other areas of interest? What are cross-curricular relationships, patterns? Where do trends in my knowledge, learning emerge?

Student (and Teacher) Led Conferences

student-led-conferencesMany schools are embracing student-led conference to give students a voice and ownership when reporting on their process and progress. Why should teachers and parents talk ABOUT the student? Why shouldn’t the student take ownership, know what the goals are, how to accomplish them and how to articulate the journey and process towards these goals. In addition, Andrea Hernandez asks why not teacher-led conferences as the next step to complement or replace teacher high-stakes, model lesson observations?

…A blogfolio allows for students and teachers (“the learners”) to collect and demonstrate over time their goals, process and growth towards these goals and other objectives. The ownership rests with the learner to present evidence of steps towards and accomplishments of their goals. The ownership of looking for this evidence does not lie with the teacher or supervisor.


assessmentAs educators, we are responsible to assess our students’ learning. We assess to fulfill requirements of accountability and we assess to tell us, as teachers, more about our students. We assess to know what our students know, what they have learned and how that will affect what we will and how to teach next.

…A blogfolio can give us insight HOW we and our students are learning (if properly framed to embed reflection and metacognition), not just WHAT was learned. We learn how students will use what they learned and apply it in authentic situations. We could replace weekly spelling tests of 10 random words or grammar quizzes and see how students are USING the assigned words and grammatical forms in authentic context in a blog post.


differentiateWe don’t all learn the same way. We don’t all come with the same background content knowledge nor the same abilities and skills to make sense of the content we are presented with. In Wikipedia, differentiation is described as “a framework or philosophy for effective teaching that involves providing different students with different avenues to learning (often in the same classroom) in terms of: acquiring content; processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and developing teaching materials and assessment measures so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability.” John Spencer asks himself: What happens when students have choice in the way they learn and show evidence of their learning?

…A blogfolio supports choices for learners. Blogfolios are not prescribed, with a one-size-fits-all appearance, matching content, assignments, and media format. Learners are to take responsibility and creativity to show evidence of their learning. Ron Ritchard worries about how too much instructions can inhibit genuine thinking in students. Blogfolios are a platform and a framework that encourage learners to make their own thinking and learning visible on their own terms.

Project/Inquiry/Problem Based Learning

inquiry No matter if you are implementing project based, inquiry based or problem based learning with your students, all stress the importance of the thinking process and the cognitive awareness of the learner.

project-based…A blogfolio supports that process of inquiry/project/problem based learning by encouraging documentation and reflection. The inherent chronological sequencing of a blogfolio adds to a timeline for unpacking content/learning/phases/results. The ability to hyperlink different posts/content and documentation artifacts on your blogfolio encourages the creation of connections on multiple levels. Blogfolios also strengthens the learner’s capacities to articulate, visualize and present their thinking, reasoning and decision making skills behind their work.

Digital Identity

footprintOur Digital Identities are becoming increasingly more important in our digital world! Our digital identity is our online that we claim in cyberspace. Digital identities are not reserved for companies or organizations, but are increasingly important for individuals as well. It is a fallacy to believe that, if we choose to NOT be online and worry about building and growing a digital identity consciously, that we do not have a digital identity. Not finding a digital footprint of a person online speaks volumes about the “lack of the work” that their are sharing and contributing to the field. Also, even though someone might choose not to create a digital footprint, others might/will for them. Will Richardson in his book “Why School?” challenges every school: “How can we make sure that every student who walks on graduation day is well Googled by his or her full name?”

…A blogfolio allows us and our students to build an academic digital footprint. It gives us the space to upload, store and archive our work to build content that will develop and become part of our footprint and seed, grow and maintain our digital footprint. Through blogfolios, we can take advantage of opportunities that develop skills to strengthen our identity, connect our content to an audience and become aware of the interconnections and flow of networks. Blogfolios give learners an opportunity to create (positive) content, attached to their name, that when someone googles them, they will be found among the search results. It becomes part of our digital identity to strategically be search engine friendly (keywords) and create content that will associate ourselves within a desired content area.


accessibilityThe traditional school system can be very rigid. There is a daily school schedule to follow that dictates us when to be in class and with a certain time for a specific subject area. Teachers and students are siloed within the school and from the outside world. Parents are dependent on phone calls or annual parent/teacher conferences to learn more about what is academically going on in the lives of their children. Teachers, who teach the same students, usually have no access and insight to the work and thinking of their students in other academic areas, unless they schedule specific meeting times with their colleagues. Professional Development opportunities offered at the school are scheduled for specific days and times and conferences or workshops are in different locations.

…A blogfolio removes many of the barriers to accessibility. Student blogfolios give parents and teachers a view of learning anytime and anywhere. Parents don’t have to wait until a teacher calls them or invites them to a conference meeting. They can review blogfolio entries with their child, deepening the conversation and going beyond the typical interaction of “What did you do in school?”… “Nothing”. Teachers will gain valuable insight into their current students’ thinking and learning outside of their own classrooms and times together as well as future students at the start of a new school year. When educators share their own thinking and learning, their experiences and best practices, blogfolios become a rich source of professional development for other educators around the world. No longer do we have to wait to go to a conference or workshop, but we are able to access new learning opportunities 24/7.

How do you see blogfolios as the glue that can hold all the puzzle pieces together? What are some of your puzzle pieces and how are/can blogfolios support them?

Announcing edJEWcon’s Blogging Challenge


edJEWcon’s 18 Days of Blogging Challenge: Over the next few weeks edJEWcon will publish 18 Blogging Challenges to support you in becoming a blogger helping to transform Jewish Day School education ONE blog at a time. We encourage you to participate as part of becoming a connected Jewish Day School educator & administrator as well as reflective, 21st century learner.


Why does education need transformation?
The short answer is this: in a rapidly changing world, what worked 10 years ago, last year, even last month, may not be sufficient to meet the need to prepare students for the world of now and tomorrow. We must address problems that we’re only beginning to understand and teach skills for careers that haven’t yet been invented. There is an urgency to adjust the rate of change in education to the rate of change in our outside world.  “If a teacher is ONLY using the same resources and teaching the same skills they were using five years ago, they are guilty of educational malpractice.” Suan Yeo, Google Education Evangelist.

Why blogs as the vehicle for transformation? 
Blogs, depending on the needs, interests, voice, skills and situation of each unique blog owner, aid in personal reflection as well as being the vehicle to be exposed to and gaining skills and confidence in ALL modern litearcies (global, media, network, information & digital citizenship). Blogs also, whether being specifically used as portfolios or not, share best and innovative practices, document growth over time, become a landing page for our (professional) identities as learners to connect with a global audience and provide a place to curate and house resources for the use of oneself and others.


The challenges are strategically designed to help you get acquainted with the basics of blogging (creating pages and posts, process of writing and publishing text, images, audio and video, linking, reflecting and experimenting with different topics and styles of blogging).

The challenge rules are flexible. There are 18 days of challenges. Feel free to do one challenge a day or one challenge a week in order to complete the entire challenge. There is a strategic sequence to the challenges, but feel free to skip around. You could complete Challenge 16 before you do Challenge 4.

Please leave your Blog address (URL) in the comment section below to let us know you are participating in the challenge. Contact us, if you are in need of creating your own blog or need access to your school’s blog on edJEWcon.

The Challenge:

Each Challenge, as it is uploaded, will be linked from this post. You can also find all the posted challenges via the Blogging Challenge Category.

edJEWcon blogging Challenge.001

Challenge 1Write an About Me page

Challenge 2Your Blog’s Name & Tagline

Challenge 3- Hyperlink It

Challenge 4Categorize It

Challenge 51 Day Blue Challenge

Challenge 6Copyright & Creative Commons

Challenge 7Professional Goals

Challenge 8Quote

Challenge 9 Life as a Reader

Challenge 10Wild Card

Challenge 11Classroom/ Workspace

Challenge 12Book Review

Challenge 1330 Second Video Journal

Challenge 14A Day in your Life

Challenge 15Learn-Reflect-Share

Challenge 165 Favorite Blogs

Challenge 17 Amplify Reflection

Challenge 18Future Blog Posts


Top 10 Innovation & Collaboration Thoughts

A buzzword is a word, that is frequently used and fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context. Currently, innovation seems to be such word in the educational arena.

Let’s take a closer look at what some are saying about INNOVATION.

Guy Kawasaki, in a TED Talk, shares a Top Ten list of the The Art of Innovation in order to change the world.

1. Make Meaning in order to change the world (not making money)
2. Make a Mantra, why you should exist (not a mission statement)
3. Matter of perspective, jump curves. (Don’t define yourself with what you do, but what benefits you provide)
4. Roll the Dicee (deep, intelligent, complete, empowering, elegant)
5. Don’t worry, be crappy (don’t wait to the perfect world, ship things that take your best might have an element of imperfection)
6. Let a hundred flowers blossom (You might know what you want your brand to stand for, but your consumers will ultimately decide)
7. Polarize people
8. Churn, Baby Churn (make version 1, then 1.1, then 1.2….1.9, then 2.0. Ignore people who tell you it can’t be done. keep changing and evolving your product
9. Niche thyself (uniqueness and value)
10. Perfect your Pitch (customize your introduction)

Kim Bhasin in the Business Insider shares the following definition of Innovation (in comparison with Invention)

Innovation happens when someone “improves on or makes a significant contribution” to something that has already been invented.

Don Wettrick in his book Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level

“Innovation brings new solutions to problems that arise in a changing environment”.

George Couros in The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity defines Innovation

as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” ,a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new” and better”, it is not innovative.

Innovation and Collaboration

The three quotes above from Bhasin, Wettrick and Couros, from their respective books, made sense as an overall definition of innovation, but  Walter Isaacson in The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution makes a vital connection to collaboration. Collaboration has always existed, but when we take advantage of the power of technology and the Internet, that we can truly collaborate in “new and better” ways … and that changes everything… that is what can make it transformative. It is about taking collaboration beyond working in groups in our classrooms, teams, subject areas or school silos. It is about using the technology at our disposal to connect, collaborate and learn in order to change the world.

Isaacson stresses that when innovators collaborate and with the “ability to work as a team, made them even more creative. […] It’s when innovators turn disruptive ideas into realities“.

Digging deeper into the other books, collaboration seems to be emerging as a common thread.

Couros’ makes being networked part of his eight characteristics of an innovator’s mindset. He uses the word “crucial” to emphasize its importance.

Innovation (and enjoyment) flourishes when teachers collaborate to learn and practice new strategies. Isolation is often the enemy of innovation.

Wettrick, dedicates an entire chapter to collaboration with experts from around the world and helping his students amplify their message via social media. He calls “Collaboration: The Name of the New Game” and at “the heart of why we need an Innovation Class model”. Wettrick shares Six Building Blocks of Innovative Learning. Collaboration is the first building block on his list- ” Look farther than the person beside you”.

Collaboration should include networking with real-world experts, as well as other students.

Isaacson also concludes

that innovation is usually a group effort, involving collaboration between visionaries and engineers, and that creativity comes from drawing on many sources.

but he calls the following revolutionary

The Internet facilitated collaboration not only within teams, but also among crowds of people who didn’t know each other. This is the advance that is closest to being revolutionary. Networks for collaboration have existed since the Persians an Assyrians invented postal systems. But never before has it been easily to solicit and collate contributions from thousands or millions of unknown collaborators.

So, what does all of this mean in terms of for schools, administrators, teachers and students?

Let’s use the Top 10 Innovation & Collaboration Thoughts as a starting point.  What skills need to be in place? How do we move a collaborative and innovative reality in our schools forward?


  1. Re-define Collaboration
    Redefine what “collaboration” means in today’s world. Taking all the technological advancements into consideration and being aware of their constantly evolving capabilities, are we taking advantage of the transformative possibilities of collaborating globally, asynchronously and exponential connections? How do we make sure we are not talking at cross purposes with each other and our stakeholders about what collaboration signifies in the second decade of the 21st century?
  2. Understand the Change in Communication Skills
    The skill to communicate is basic, but at the same time, has changed drastically and exponentially. Being able to read and write on an analog platform, is no longer the only relevant platform and is fast becoming the least relevant form of communicating in every day life. Schools, curriculum plans, articulated learning skills need to reflect that change. Being capable to communicate through a variety of multimedia and platforms is more important than ever to share and collaborate beyond our local comfort zone, specific audiences, across time zones, geographic boundaries, cultures and languages.
  3. Take Advantage of Crowdsourcing
    Let’s embed crowdsourcing opportunities as an integral part of our learning process. How do we learn the skills to solicit, connect, collect, evaluate, learn from different global perspectives and create something “new and better” out of the contributions from people we don’t even know?
  4. Develop A Sharing Culture
    In order to collaborate, there has to be a culture of sharing in place. No collaboration is possible, if no one is willing or capable of sharing. How do we nurture the disposition of a sharing culture in our schools and learners? How do we encourage this sharing disposition in order to foster collaboration and innovation when it collides with competitiveness that might be otherwise (consciously or unconsciously) present? The term sharing also needs to be re-defined in order to include the openly and transparent sharing on a global forum such as social media platforms, blogs, websites and wikis.
  5. Just do it- Be Concrete
    Find concrete ways to amplify (beyond the person next to you) collaboration for learners. Let’s not talk about the big picture of what needs to happen in order to be innovative. Let’s design, prototype, fail and be continuously in a beta version. These opportunities can’t only focus on amplify for student learning, but need to include educators and administrators as learners, collaborators and innovators.
  6. Become Network Literate
    To be able to connect with experts and peers from around the world in order to collaborate, we need to have the skills to understand, value, create, maintain and grow a network. Network literacy includes the understanding of network intelligence and the ability to take advantage of different network platforms and capabilities. Becoming network literate is as important for administrators as it is for educators and students. This puts everyone on the same playing field to connect and collaborate.
  7. Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone
    We know that very little or no learning occurs in our so called comfort zone. It is imperative to push ourselves or allow others to push us outside of that zone in order to enter a learning zone . This applies also to pushing ourselves out of our field of expertise and learn to connect Information from different fields. Innovation is when we use something and Remember what happens to companies, like Blockbuster or Kodak, who were too comfortable in their zone to catch the warning signs of change to their “expertise”.
  8. Stand Up, Move On and Push Past Nay Sayers
    Develop a thicker skin to be able to withstand the powers who are against change, always find a reason why this or that won’t work or not capable of seeing success past a beta version. Innovators become leaders who model for others, support and promote their first followers and scale this support by enabling their first followers to become leaders.
  9. Make the World a Better Place
    One purpose of learning is /should be making the world a better place. Let’s embed that principal in our reflective and metacognitive practices. How can we take what we know and then make something new and better out of it? How can we add more “what action will you take”? to our instructional designing and curriculum planning? How can collaboration add value by adding perspectives (desperately needed in order to not just make it a better place for a specific group of people) from around the world ?
  10. Give Edupreneurship a Chance
    Edupreneurship is the educational methodology based on innovation and entrepreneurship. How can we embed this methodology to teach/learn real world skills? Let’s give learners authentic opportunities to be exposed to non-simulated experiences, receive authentic feedback and assessment. Let’s all become action researchers to better the field of education or in our area of passion. Let’s not just do projects in or for our schools that are confined to a simulated environment, but serve a real world audience.

How do you define innovation and collaboration at your school? How is innovation and collaboration encouraged within and outside of your physical school building? How can we promote an innovative culture as we collaborate among Jewish Day Schools?

Beyond Pockets of Excellence in Blogging With Students

There are many, many pockets of excellence in classroom/student blogging out there. These blogs are driven, coached and nurtured by educators who “get it”. They get how blogging can make a difference in student learning, give them real world skills, support 21st century learning skills and literacies and at the same time basic reading and writing skills.


[insert a screeching sound of breaks] …then it STOPS!… Why?

The students move on from those teachers’ classes to the next grade level or school with a teacher who:

  • has never heard of blogs (hence does not use them)
  • sees blogs as an add on and too much work (Who has time to moderate and comment on so much student writing???)
  • uses blog posts as a digital space to collect typed up homework assignments (Instead of a new writing genre, capable of multi-layers, higher order thinking/writing skills and multi-dimensional)

You can visibly see the engagement, ownership and learning curve when you look at pockets of excellence, such as Linda Yollis’ 2nd/3rd grade blog or Kathy Cassidy’s 1st grade classroom and student blogs. We can assess the learning taking place of a set of students (during one grade level) with a committed-to-quality-blogging teacher.

What we CAN’T do with pockets of excellence is to track and identify LONG TERM gains in blogging as a LEARNING PLATFORM.  We need to find a way to create a school culture that values documentation, reflection sharing learning OVER TIME.

How are they:

  • coordinating efforts across grade levels to help teachers and students BUILD ON skills (ex. hyperlinked writing)
  • continuing to weave a thread that CONNECTS reflections (ex. self-portraits art pieces with a reflective text/audio/video piece attached)
  • giving evidence of learning at one particular moment in time and show growth ACROSS TIME (ex. presentation skills, math number sense, gross-motor skills, etc.)

Let’s look at a framework for teachers from Kindergarten to 8th grade, to make my own thinking visible in regards to classroom blogs and student blogfolios.


Each page addresses one grade level. Each grade level is divided into 2 main sections with the following subsections:

  • classroom blog
    1. teacher responsibilities
    2. student responsibilities (on classroom blog)
  • student blogfolios
    1. skills (new skills introduced at particular grade levels are highlighted in green)
    2. categories (trying to standardize categories to be used across grade levels. Ex. writing, reading, presentation, Science, Math, etc.)
    3. Reflection (examples of media that could be used to create a reflection in response to learning artifact)
    4. Examples of learning artifacts (Ex. Science fair presentation, About Me page, Self-portrait art work, visible thinking of solving a Math problem, etc.)

This framework was not created to be written in stone, but as a starting point for teachers to refer to, as they students are building skills of writing in digital spaces, become reflective learners and establish a positive digital footprint. It is meant to allow a progression of learning artifacts coupled with reflection paint a picture of each student’s learning journey throughout their school years. The framework is to guide teachers in providing a smooth transition from one grade level to another and ensure a continuation AND growth in skills.

You can also download the Blogfolios Framework as a PDF file.










Blogging Through the Lens of SAMR

A blog used as a platform can serve many purposes. It can be the platform :

  • for a simple and static website, where information is  being shared out periodically
  • to replace a traditional newsletter that serves as a school/home communication
  • that serves as a hub for a local classroom learning community
  • that can become a global communication hub, where students and teachers connect, communicate and collaborate with the world



In order to use a blog to its full potential, it serves to take a closer look at the SAMR model by Ruben Puentedura as well as Alan November’s ideas around the stages of automating and informating.

SAMR model

Automating and Informating

I have learned about two ways to think about technology: one is called automating, the other is called informating. One will give you incremental improvement; the other will give you big improvement. Unfortunately schools and technology planning tend to focus on automating. This means that you bolt technology on top of what you’re already doing. Most of the investment in education is automating. We have kids write a five-paragraph essay with a $2,000 pencil in a word processing lab. The best improvement you can hope for if you automate is incremental. For example, if we automate report cards, the result is we have prettier report cards, but we don’t improve learning.You get very different results when you informate. The real revolution is information and communication, not technology. Let go of the word technology. If you focus on it, then you’ll just do what you’re already doing. The trick in planning as we move forward is to think about information systems, whole systems of the flow of information and communication.

How can we use the blog as a platform to TRANSFORM teaching and learning and not only SUBSTITUTE activities and tasks that we have done in the past without a blogging platform?


The step from using a static website or emails as a mean to share announcements or calendar items to sharing the same type of items on a blogging platform is not far nor a steep step. But the ultimate goal for using a classroom blog or student blogfolios though, is that of creating transformative teaching and learning opportunities, not to have a platform that substitutes a composition book or paper journal. 

First let’s look at  a Classroom Blog  through the lens of SAMR

Substitution– technology acts as a direct substitute for the task

  • The classroom blog is used as a tool to substitute a handwritten/typed and printed newsletter.
  • The teacher shares announcements and communicates important classroom/school related information with parents. the blog might also get updated with weekly homework assignments or lesson plans.
  • The content is mainly in a text format and gets updated on a once-a-week or monthly basis.

Augmentation– technology acts as a direct tool substitution with functional improvement

  • The classroom blog is used as an online static website to communicate classroom happenings, calendar items and homework assignments.
  • Teacher creates items for students and parents to view.
  • These might include images, video and audio.
  • The blogs gets updated more frequently.
  • Readers can subscribe via RSS or via email to updates published by the teacher.


Modification– technology allows for significant task redesign

  • The classroom blog is used by teachers and students to create and reflect around learning in the classroom.
  • Students post to the blog via guest posts about topics of their interest and passion.
  • They contribute multimedia artifacts or collaborate by publishing and sharing their classroom notes.
  • Students leave comments  to add value, meaning, perspective or additional resources to posts created by their teacher and/or peers.
  • Content gets labeled/ categorized to make searching for specific items, previously posted, easier.

Redefinition– technology allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable

  • The classroom blog has become the central hub for documenting learning, sharing of resources and multimedia created by teacher and students.
  • The teacher actively and strategically connects students to experts and peers from around the world via the hub to connect, communicate and collaborate on topics of study and interests.
  • An avid conversation is unfolding via blog authors and commenters from around the world.


What about Student Blogs?

Substitution– technology acts as a direct substitute for the task

  • A student uses the blog as a tool to substitute a handwritten/typed and printed assignment.
  • The student copies and pastes a Google Doc or other file from a word processing program into a blog post.
  • The comments on the blog are closed or not being utilized.
  • Students might upload a scanned image of an analog test score, worksheet or other analog artifact.
  • Students might answer a prompt or question posed by teacher to the entire class.
  • There is no added value to the learning process versus the analog task.

Augmentation– technology acts as a direct tool substitution with functional improvement

  • Students use their blog as a platform to publish assignments (research papers, essays, responses) for their teacher to see.
  • The blog is a place to push out information, possibly for Student Led Conferences or a showcase/process portfolio.
  • They insert or embed images, videos, presentations or audio to support their written text.
  • They possibly insert hyperlinks to additional resources.
  • Students tag and categorize their posts with searchable labels.
  • The blog platform becomes a digital organization of students’ online learning records, which is centralized, archived and searchable.
  • Teachers use the comment section to give feedback to their students about their performance.
  • Classmates read each other’s papers and leave comments.


Modification– technology allows for significant task redesign

  • Students use hyperlinked writing as part of digital writing process to show and connect their thinking to topics, influences, relationships and process between previously published content and external resources.
  • Students communicate beyond the written word, in multimedia and transmedia ways.
  • It is evident in their work that they are writing with a global audience in mind and their work encourages conversation, invites multiple perspectives to add and influence their work.
  • Students receive constructive feedback from peers as part of the writing process.
  • Comments inform students’ writing and original task of “paper” extends and “spills over” into the comment section, altering form of writing piece as well notion of “completion” of paper.
  • Students are demonstrating writing skills for digital spaces, by observing digital citizenship, hyperlinked, networked, peer- connected and non- linear writing.

Redefinition– technology allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable

  • The student blog becomes an embedded part of the process and a natural extension of communication and learning cycle by documenting evidence of learning, reflecting, sharing and receiving feedback in order to consider revision.
  • Teachers and students actively and strategically disseminate and connect the blogs to a learning network for feedback and resources.
  • The blog archives artifacts, reflections and connects learning over time.
  • The blog becomes a natural extension beyond assigned academic work and is being used as a hub to document students’ learning, demonstrating self-directed and self-motivated lifelong learning habits as they are organizing, building and maintaining their own online learning records, a growing academic digital footprint and develop their personal brand as well as personal learning networks.



Where does your current classroom blog or your students’ blogs fall when looking through the lens of SAMR?

Transforming Jewish Education ONE BLOG at a Time

We’ve been working on clarifying our communication about who we are and what we do. The biggest challenge of edJEWcon has been explaining edJEWcon. edJEWcon began as a school-based conference. We invited other Jewish educators to see and experience what was happening at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville where we were experimenting with ideas and openly reflecting on the process. edJEWcon itself, as an innovative organization, has had to experiment and reflect, grow and adapt as we’ve evolved from conference to coaching and thought leadership, one school to many schools. Through this process, what has always remained constant has been the commitment to our vision and core values.


Jewish day schools have the unique capacity to transform teaching and learning in alignment with new standards and pedagogies.

Core Values:

We’ve recognized the need to hone in on a clear and concise mission that answers the question in a way that everyone can clearly understand. And we’re excited to share it with you:

edJEWcon: Transforming Jewish education one blog at a time


In the past, we’ve shied away from embracing a particular tool or a platform, preferring to keep focused on the big ideas and mindset of learning in the modern age. After all, tools change. However, blogs (and blogfolios: blogs that are used as digital portfolios) have proven to be THE platform that provides the perfect framework to support ALL of edJEWcon’s core values and advance them from ideas to realities.

How does introducing blogs to teachers and schools transform education through edJEWcon’s core values? And why does education need to be transformed?

Let’s answer the second question first.

Why does education need transformation?
The short answer is this: in a rapidly changing world, what worked 10 years ago, last year, even last month, may not be sufficient to meet the need to prepare students for the world of now and tomorrow. We must address problems that we’re only beginning to understand and teach skills for careers that haven’t yet been invented.

Why blogs as the vehicle for transformation? 
Blogs are a blank slate, a seed that can be grown into any kind of fruit or flower depending on the needs, interests, voice, skills and situation of each unique blog “owner.” Blogs also, whether being specifically used as portfolios or not, document growth over time and provide a place to house resources for the use of oneself and others.

Let’s look at edJEWcon’s core values and the connection to blogs as a platform for their actualization.


Transparency: an openness to sharing our process of thinking, trying, and learning, including any mistakes or missteps, as well as how we addressed issues and moved forward.

Risk-taking: “Most of the things that we do have two possible outcomes: they might work or they might not. Being able to live with the possibility of either is essential if we’re going to move forward.” –Seth Godin

Innovation: to stay up to date with the latest educational technology and literacy skills. Innovation happens through learning, researching, communicating, and creating with 21st century tools.

Reflection: “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.”- John Dewey
“If you are not thinking about what you are learning, you probably are not learning.” –Jim Knight

Sharing: a habit of mind that the work we do belongs to the collective, that our piece is one part of a larger puzzle that is lacking without our contribution of our work, thoughts, process, ideas, and products. According to Dean Shareski, teachers have a moral imperative to share.

Collaboration: We live in a connected world and must work, often and well, with others. The sum is greater than the whole of its parts.

When we think about these values, how to live our experience them and where to show our evidence of that experience, the blog is the platform. Using the blog to document our process of taking risks and trying new things, sharing our learning and experiences and reflecting openly, is the definition of transparency. The kinds of skills and literacies we need to blog are the same ones usually referred to as “21st century” skills and literacies. By sharing our work, we invite connection and collaboration from colleagues far beyond our four-walled structures.


Digital Portfolios: Blogs VS. Seesaw

In my recent visit to Melbourne, Australia , I had the opportunity to chat with Edna Sackson (Teaching and Learning Coordinator) and Linda Wollan (e-Learning Coordinator) at Mount Scopus Memorial College about their work around using digital portfolios on a blogging platform (blogfolios) , such as edublogs and on the Seesaw platform.
This conversation came about as the school was/is trying to decide to put their efforts into using one platform over the other or if they would use both for different purposes. I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that these types of decisions were taken to the faculty to involve them into the decision making process.
Edna shares:
According to Silvia it’s not all that common for teachers for be involved in decision making. To us it’s imperative. We met during Silvia’s visit to clarify the purpose of blogs as compared with Seesaw, so that we could add her voice to the other perspectives. Each team discussed and recorded their views on the advantages and disadvantages of blogs and Seesaw, the digital portfolio app we’ve been exploring this year. As always, we will use the data gathered from the teams to decide how to proceed.
I also invited Edna and Linda to collaborate on this blog post with me in order to share out a snapshot of the discussion as well as a summary of the collaborative brainstorming session around the following:
  • purposes of each platform
    do we need one or the other or do we need both platforms?
  • advantages of each platform
    what does one platform allow us to do that the other one might not?
  • disadvantages of each platform

Having been a blogger for the past 10 years, I am very familiar with the blogging platform such as edublogs which is based on wordpress. Just recently, I started learning about the Seesaw platform by attending several workshops at different conferences and by creating a “family classroom” which I share with my daughter and son-in-law to document and keep track of my grandchildren’s growth and learning.

Below you will find my preliminary thoughts about the platform’s individual purpose for the Pre K-6 context.


Listen in on the faculty meeting sharing out their experience and points of view from different grade levels and subject areas.



image credit: Edna Sackson


image credit: Edna Sackson


image credit: Edna Sackson


image credit: Edna Sackson


image credit: Edna Sackson

Edna and Linda, collected the large pieces of paper created by individual groups and unpacked the content, summarizing the purpose, advantages and disadvantages of each platform in their school context. You can find their summary in the two tables below.

blogs-vs-seesaw.001 blogs-vs-seesaw.002

Further Questions to ponder?

  • Might Seesaw be a great way of introducing students to the world of digital portfolios and blogging? K-2 Seesaw, then students graduate firstly to posting on a class blog (names used as categories), then to their own blogfolios?
  • How is each platform used to “do something” with the documentation artifacts? On teacher side? On student side?

Have you looked into or are using Seesaw? Has or is your school contemplating moving from blogs to Seesaw or have you decided to stick with the blogging platform? We would love to hear from you. Please add your perspective to the conversation.

5 Opportunities to Amplify Your Writing and Rethink Writing Instruction


Writing has changed throughout history. Technology of the times has had an impact HOW, WHAT, and for WHOM we write. Nichole Pinkard affirms in a video by Edutopia’s Big Thinkers’ Series, that “Literacy has always been defined by technology”.


The realization, that most of our daily reading happens in digital spaces when our (and our students’) writing continues to be primarily focused on analog writing, continues to baffle me. Our writing habits, as well as our teaching of writing have not kept up with our rapidly changing culture of communication outside of the walls of the classrooms. There are plenty of writers out there wrapping their minds around what does it mean to write in the 21st century and in digital platforms, ex. Teaching the New Writing, A Better Pencil, Writing on the Wall, Because Digital Writing Matters

Much digital writing in education (students, educators, blogs, websites, social media platforms, shared documents, etc.) seems to merely substituting analog writing (think SAMR model- no functional improvement). The writer does not show awareness of the digital writing genre, including its anatomy, syntax, grammar nor the taxonomy of digital writing.


It is not that easy to simply transfer an analog text from paper to a screen. While the transfer is possible, the now digital writing piece is not living up to its potential. Even more, the now digital writing is out of place, due to the lack of adaptations to its environment and readers’ expectations. [Who has not wished to click on an underlined word or phrase on their screen only to find out that the authored did not link, but “only formatted” the word with underlining?]

Digital writing allows a writer to re-think writing and reading experiences, choose from multiple possibilities of communicating and opportunities to to amplify their thoughts, ideas, connections, references, train of thought, and their audience.

Here are 5 opportunities to amplify your writing when using a digital platform.


Hyperlinked writing

Take advantage of adding links to individual words or phrased in order to add depth to your writing. A link takes your reader to another Internet address. Hyperlinking goes well beyond simply adding “clickable words” to an otherwise static, unilateral, linear, one dimensional and disconnected text. Critical thinking and strategy skills are needed to include “higher order hyperlinks. A digital writer can

  • emphasize (point their readers) to a virtual place or connect them to a specific idea and concept by choosing what kind of link to place in their hyperlinked text.
  • mix form and content to open up different dimensions, making their writing non-linear, multi-layered and connected.
  • use the hyperlink as a medium to convey her/his own train of thought

One of the faux pas, I often see in hyperlinked writing, are “grammatical and syntax” errors in expressing a well formed sentence while including hyperlinks.

Think about the following taxonomy of hyperlinked writing:
  • Link doesn’t or hardly connects to Text Content (Lower Level)
  • Link connects to Definitions, a Person’s Web Presence, or to Citation Source Link connects to Example(s), Illustrating Content, from Theory to Practice (adding value to text)
  • Link Choice Shows Evidence of Research & Organization of Background Information (Contextual) (Higher Level)
  • Link connects Content/Theme/Topic to Author’s own previous writing or supports/brings in Perspective from Others, Adding Value, Variety & Depth to Text (Higher Level)


Visual writing

There is no doubt that generation Y & Z are a much more visual generation than than generation X or Baby Boomers. As a writer, we need to take our audience into consideration and adapt a more visual writing style to:

  • support the content
  • catch the attention of our potential readers
  • connect readers to other resources
  • use the power of a visual that is worth a thousand words
  • allow other areas of the brain to be activated
  • serve as a prompt to ignite the readers’ imagination
  • immerse our readers with more senses


Social Writing

Social media platforms invite the writer to amplify their reach, connect and interact with an exponential amount of potential readers and join a conversation about topics they care about.

Social media writing is evolving as social media platforms:

  • add different types of labels, such as #hashtags and @mentions to make finding users, posts, messages or contributions easier
  • allow media beyond text to be posted, inserted and embedded
  • curate information to share with your network
  • add value to resources by adding your perspective, connections, opinion, voice
  • support collaborative writing efforts


Headline Writing

We are being bombarded with information. Email newsletters, articles, blog posts, etc. are begging us to click here and to click there. How do we help our content to stand out? How do we help potential readers to make the commitment to click through and read our writing? It all starts with a headline. You have one second to hook a potential reader before they move on. Of course, the content that you are writing and sharing online has to be of quality as well, otherwise your readers will never return and you want to entice them to return to your site to read your future writing as well.

Most of the readers of your online writing will not purposefully decide to go and visit your writing space, they might have subscribed via an RSS feed, you might pop up in their news feed of social media followers. The first thing, and sometimes only piece of writing, they will see is your headline. It is then when you need to convince them to click on that link, expand the article or click on the “read more”. Once there have read your piece, you will need to convince them to return.


Keyword Writing

Our culture’s reading habits have changed, so must our writing habits adapt. We are reading more in a non-linear fashion, skim more, frequently jump from one reading to the next and have overall less attention span when looking for information. This directly connects and should affect our writing style. Writers must take into consideration keywords that support:

  • curation (filter, select & present according to keywords)
  • ability to archive according to categories, tags or labels
  • ability to search and find archived material
  • connect keywords from a variety of sources and platforms
  • hook potential readers with a single keyword of interest
  • content with precision and brevity


cross posted to the Langwitches Blog by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano





Don’t Just Display

Donna Miller Fry in a post Where is the Beef? speaks directly to my own thinking when she asks:

When we talk about “Visible Learning” and “Visible Thinking”, can we now focus more on the Thinking and Learning than on the Visible?

I am thrilled that more and more educators are aware of the power of visible thinking in the learning process and even choose to snap an image, record a short video and/or write about the great things that are happening in their schools and their classrooms and then SHARE them via Twitter or their blogs.


I can’t help but being unsatisfied most of the time and am reminded of a quote from the book “Visible Learners by Krechevsky, Mardell, Rivard and Wilson:

Interpreting documentation is essential to the practice of documentation and what it distinguishes it from display. IMG_4081

I would classify most of the “documentation” media I see being shared as a display! Mostly these images show a group of students “doing something”. It is a display of WHAT WAS DONE.

ipad center

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of these documentation images of my own and they serve different purposes (memory trigger, timeline, moment in time), but to be able to use these media artifacts as something beyond “documentation OF learning”, we need to add value to these images, videos, audio or text artifacts to move to the level of “documentation FOR and AS learning”.

I have finally launched my Langwitches Instagram feed, dedicated to #document4learning. I want to make documentation visible at the FOR learning and AS learning level.


Simply by looking at the image or video, you might not see the documentation strategy that elevates the artifact as a strategic element of the learning process.

The annotation of the artifact or the description is what makes the documentation strategy (ex. using slow motion video), tool (ex. Post-It App to capture, organize and share analog artifacts) or the thinking / learning visible (ex. using speech bubbles to capture a thought).instagram2 instagram3



Be aware of the difference of making thinking and learning visible by placing emphasis on the THINKING and LEARNING part, not just the display of what was done.


I challenge you to contribute to #document4learning on Twitter and Instagram by adding the hashtag #document4learning to your posts, so we can all learn with each other about quality documentation OF and FOR learning!

  1. Look for learning
  2. Capture learning (image, video, text, audio)
  3. Reflect on learning (add annotation, description)
  4. Share learning ( add #document4learning hashtag and post to Twitter or Instagram)

edJEWcon visits Charles E Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland


edJEWcon is grateful to have opportunities to visit many Jewish Day Schools across North America.  We use these opportunities to learn about day-to-day operations, programs, pedagogies, activities, as well as outstanding educators and administrators who are making a difference in their Jewish Day School community and world.

edJEWcon’s mantra is “Learn, Reflect, Share.” Andrea Hernandez & Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, co-founders and co-directors of edJEWcon, practice what they preach. As we learn from these opportunities, we document these visits in order to reflect and share their learning with the wider Jewish Day School community and educators.

We capture and document our visits, not only to allow others to catch a glimpse of Jewish Day Schools’ campuses, but also to shine a spotlight on unique and innovative programs these schools are contemplating and implementing. We create documentation through the lens of learning. We look for learning in the context of the schools we visit and through  students and adults we meet. We strive to make it visible through a variety of media, highlighting programs that are just getting started, tried-and-tested programs, action research, and schools and educators who are leaders and pioneers in the Jewish Day School world. It is a unique opportunity to make learning visible to others and connect educators and schools via the edJEWcon platform. We have much to learn from each other as we forge forward in learning how to learn, communicate and collaborate in uncharted territory of preparing our students for a future we cannot yet predict.

edJEWcon believes in pedagogical documentation, documentation that serves, in itself, as a method or technique to facilitate learning. We agree with the authors’ of “Visible Learners” (Krechevsky, Mardell, Rivards & Wilson) definition:

“documentation as the practice of observing, recording, interpreting, and sharing through a variety of media the processes and products of learning in order to deepen and extend learning… These physical traces allow others to revisit, interpret, reinterpret, and even re-create an experience.”

Documentation OF learning focuses on a product and mostly answers the question of “What did we do?”
Documentation FOR learning is concerned with our interpretation, supports reflective practices and strives to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”
Documentation AS learning is part of the process of learning, is metacognitive and is concerned with thinking about one’s own thinking to answer the question “How do we learn?”


In the following documentation of our visit to Charles E Smith Jewish Day School, we strove to incorporate all three types of documentation (of, for, as) as we learned about the school, reflected on the visit and its meaning and are now sharing our learning.


We were invited to visit Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School by Dr. Alexis Soffler, who is head of the school’s STEM program which was the primary focus of our visit. During the day, we used our phones to capture images and videos documenting the STEM program, as well as the campus and learning in general. See if you can “read” these annotated images that give you a look into our one-day visit through the filters of our eyes and ears.






IMG_3659 2 IMG_3660 2 IMG_3661 2 IMG_3662 IMG_3663 IMG_3664

In addition to the images, we captured videos to document different facets of our experience.

Discover CESJDS’ campus via our eyes.

The one-word video is a compilation of one-word responses by students, teachers, administrators and parents to the question, “What does STEM mean to you?

The video STEM at CESJDS gives you an even closer look at how STEM is visible and being implemented at the school.

Dr. Alexis Soffler shared with us her favorite question she reminds students and teachers of as they embark on a learning journey that embeds STEM

What happened that you were not expecting?



Two 6th graders, Ariana & Julia,  also shared their favorite quote by Thomas Edison, that seem to embody their experience in STEM.



We were privileged to be able to observe Sarah Andrea’s 3rd grade classroom, as they embarked on an hour of coding. Dr. Alexis Soffler had provided screencast tutorials to support her teachers in facilitating the coding hour.


We observed and were able to capture many moments of learning.

IMG_3599 IMG_3611

IMG_3627 IMG_3620

Revisiting the definition of documentation by Krechevsky, Mardell, Rivards & Wilson, we shared at the beginning of this post, we invite you to watch the video below of the 3rd grade Coding Hour and to be able to revisit, interpret and reinterpret and possibly re-create such an experience in your own classroom or school.

“documentation as the practice of observing, recording, interpreting, and sharing through a variety of media the processes and products of learning in order to deepen and extend learning… These physical traces allow others to revisit, interpret, reinterpret, and even re-create an experience.”


How does documentation extend our learning?


Our visit to the school began at 8 am and ended at 4:30 pm. During those hours, we met and spoke with many people and saw learning happening in classroom after classroom. It was a long and highly stimulating day. I absolutely need the time to reflect and process such an experience in order to make meaning from it. Otherwise, everything starts to blend and it becomes difficult to remember what I saw, who said what and how it all related. I feel that, at times, taking constant photos and video can be distracting or even obnoxious, but it is simpler and more direct than taking notes and more efficient than trying to remember everything.
Often I allow myself to become lazy, leaving the photos on my phone or computer, never reviewing them or using them to create an edited, annotated, reflective piece of documentation. This is an example of documentation OF learning and, while it is part of the overall process, it is incomplete. It is only when I take the time to review the media and create something communicative and coherent, that the documentation becomes part of my learning process. When creating the Looking for STEM video, I used the STEM brochure produced by the school to annotate the media Silvia and I had captured. It helped me create context and understanding between what I saw and experienced and the larger goals of the program.


To me, documentation OF learning (taking pictures, recording videos or writing and account of “What happened” is being extended as we are practice documentation FOR learning and AS learning. Documentation is embedded in the learning process. We not only took pictures or videos, we strategically used them, organized them, edited them, discarded them, and rearranged them to tell a specific story, to look through a specific lens, to share with a specific audience. Documentation also serves the purpose of bringing  in more than one perspective, when multiple eyes capture what seems to be one and the same scenario. We bring different perspectives, experiences, agendas and expertises with us to make our point of view visible to others.
Documentation is divided into three stages:

  1. Stage1: Thinking about what is to be documented?
    It helps when one sets a specific criteria to be documented versus trying to capture a bigger umbrella of ideas. In the case of our visit to CESJDS, we looked at learning through the lens of STEM.

  2. Stage 2: Documenting the moment
    The actual moment of documentation changes one’s perspective when one is cognizant of the task to later reflect and share on that same moment. One does not just glance over moments, but strategically becomes aware of documentation opportunities that later on will help tell the story. The eye becomes more honed to be aware, filter and discern opportunities to capture learning. What was occurring or what was not occurring? In the case of our visit to CESJDS, we specifically set our task to look for learning in the context of STEM.

  3. Stage 3: What do you do with the documentation?
    Organizing, editing, connecting, reflecting, creating and sharing are not add-ons, but become an important component of the learning process . In the case of our visit to CESJDS, we sifted through hundreds of images and videos, filtered, selected and connected strategically the ones that would support our storytelling, annotated specific ones to make observations, quotes, learning visible to be able to share with others. The task amplified the thinking, meta-cognition and overall learning.


What did you learn from our documentation of CESJDS’ STEM program? Are you developing your own STEM program at your school? Are you interested in learning more about the program? Can you share your experience and expertise to grow together? Are you interested in learning more about documenting of/for/as learning or for edJEWcon to come to your school to share your learning initiatives with a larger audience?

3 Reasons Why You Should Share and 3 Things You can Do to Start Sharing

cross posted to the Langwitches Blog


I am back on my soapbox…

  • …because I continue to see great things happening in classrooms, but get blank stares, when I ask, if these things are being shared beyond the school building.
  • …because I watch as administrators feel the need to “protect” their faculty from “one more thing to do”.
  • …because I continue to hear fear of transparency, competition, privacy and technology skills and tech phobia.

share4 Setting up my soapbox to raise awareness of the “moral imperative of sharing” for teachers (Dean Shareski) goes back to his keynote in 2010 at the K-12 Online Conference. Since then I have stepped on that soapbox via my blog and at conferences advocating for the IMPORTANCE and NECESSITY of sharing.

George Couros, recently published 4 Reasons People Don’t Blog, which are in essence the same reasons why people don’t share (just substitute “blogging” for “sharing”)

  1. Blogging is useless
  2. I have no time
  3. I’m a private person
  4. No one cares what I have to say

He closes his blog post by pointing out the importance of sharing as an integral component of learning as well as underline “the willingness of others”

I have learned a ton not only from my own blog, but from benefitting from others that have been willing to share their teaching and learning with me, and because of that, as Dean Shareski stated, I am better off for the willingness of others to share.

shareI DO want to understand WHY it seems so hard for some many educators to share…but only in order to build an airtight argument that SHARING best practices, reflections and documentation of learning is the essential fabric of education and the building block of networking, growing and moving forward.


We need to stop looking at all the reasons why educators DON’T SHARE and start looking at and DOING all the things WHY we NEED TO SHARE.

So here is my list: 3 Things Why You (as an Educator) Should Share

3why-sharing1. The shift of a culture of consumers to producers is built on sharing and disseminating.
Our world, and in particular the world of our students, is build on the culture of sharing. Ex. Sharing your status on facebook, adding a book review on Amazon, leaving a comment on a product you purchased online, photos on Instagram and videos on Snapchat and YouTube. Educators need to acknowledge the shift outside of the classroom and take advantage of the shift for learning with our students.

2. Painting the picture of teaching and learning in your school
Too many other people (non-educators, policy makers, politicians, media, etc.) are painting a grim picture of the teaching profession, teaching in general, schools and student learning. It is time to become our own storytellers. Sharing student successes and teachers’ professional and continuous learning MUST overshadow and outnumber the negative press and reputation that has been building up.

3. The future of learning is social and build on and around Professional Learning Networks.
Networking is built on a concept of sharing. Networking is defined by the Merriam_Webster dictionary as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions”. In order for an exchange to take place, someone has to step up to SHARE. Without sharing there is no network. Someone has to give and someone has to take, without giving the machinery of how a network works will not function. In our Information Age, where information is being generated at exponential speed, we need to rely on a network to filter quality and relevant information for us. It is our responsibility to be the filter and curator for others as well.

sharingSo from 3 reasons WHY you should share… on to 3 Things you can do to start sharing…

share63 Things What You (as an Educator) Can Do to Start Sharing

3 whys-steps to sharing.0021. Stop resisting change
We need educators, in particular administrators, to stop resisting change, take a deeper look at the world around them and LEAD by modeling! Sharing is and needs to be a method, a strategy and a technique to improve teaching and learning practices, benefiting an entire school learning community.

2. Create a workflow to document teaching and learning
Great things are happening in your classroom and in your schools. Learn to embed documenting best practices, student learning and action research in a digital form to be able to easily disseminate via a blog, twitter, photo or video sharing site.

3. Start small.
Add a comment on a blog you read, share a resource, a link, a book or an article you have learned from on Twitter. Let students take over in documenting learning in their classroom. Use your cell phone to take photos of learning in action, write a descriptive comment under the photo and share on a blog, Instagram, a classroom site, blog, Twitter or Facebook account.

share3You can start sharing right here by adding your reasons WHY educators should share and WHAT you can DO to start sharing?

edJEWcon Visits Gray Academy


edJEWcon’s team, consisting of Andrea Hernandez and Silvia Tolisano, had the great pleasure of visiting Gray Academy of Jewish Education in Winnipeg, Canada in October 2015. We were warmly welcomed by Lori Binder, Head of School and  Rob Dalgliesh, Gray Academy’s Director of Teaching & Learning.


A school visit brings many opportunities with it.


From a physical tour to seeing the the campus, the architecture of the buildings, the classrooms…



… to something more beneath the visible surface of a school.
The edJEWcon team set out to document the visit with images, videos, sketchnotes, conversations, listening to leadership, teachers and students…


…getting a feel for the school community…


We had the opportunity to spend quality time with Rob in his role of a newly created position as director of teaching & learning. We discussed possibilities of supporting a school culture of self-directed and self-motivated learners. What types of professional development opportunities would be the most successful? How could life-long learning skills and 21st century literacies be embedded for faculty in order to allow them to experience themselves the type of learning that would prepare their students for the future?


We had the opportunity to visit several classrooms… to see teachers and students go about their daily routine…






We saw visible, displayed student work…


We had the opportunity to meet and connect with students…



The leadership team invited us to listen and document their team meeting, a reflection on a recent PD day at their school.



Leadership Meeting Sketchnotes

We noticed and observed….

…students displaying information literacy by jumping in for impromptu research to support learning in the classroom…


…teachers bringing in outside experts to allow students to learn from people… off the pages of a book…



…we noticed collaboration and meeting spaces…





Let edJEWcon give you a glimpse of the school through two video perspectives.

Andrea and Silvia created a photo challenge for themselves in order to deepen their observation skills and to document their visit through the lens of

A photo challenge consists of selecting a list of keywords to be captured during a pre-determined time period (1 day/1 week/1 month). A great challenge for anyone, wishing to capture their perspective when visiting or touring a school and for a school to see themselves through different eyes. Such a photo challenge can become a critical component when “looking for learning”, conducting observations, walk-throughs, audits, or documenting coaching cycles, etc.  Imagine asking parents, community members or students to capture visuals of teaching & learning, 21st century skills and literacies, applied pedagogies, best practices, dispositions, values, traits, trends, patterns, etc.

Andrea and Silvia set out to capture images that visually represented the following keywords:

  • Feedback
  • Student Ownership
  • Classroom Displays
  • Classroom Design
  • Happiness
  • Kindness
  • Collaboration
  • Student Reflection
  • Visual Communication
  • Community
  • Literacy
  • Learning








FREE, High-Quality Professional Development for Schechter Schools

We are excited to share with you a fantastic, free-of-cost opportunity for summer and year-long professional development. Schechter Network is offering high-quality, self-directed courses designed specifically for Jewish Day School educators. These “learning paths” include content that is relevant to both Jewish and general studies and are open to any interested faculty member at any Schechter school. They are completed online, asynchronously for your convenience.

Silvia Tolisano and Andrea Hernandez,  edJEWcon co-founders and directors will be presenting a webinar on Thursday, June 12th at 11 AM ET to provide an overview of the rich PD opportunities that are available to you as a member of the Schechter Institute on eduplanet 21.

Please share this information with anyone at your schools who may be interested.

Email to sign up.

We hope to see you there!

Andrea and Silvia

ReFraming Jewish Education in Supplementary Schools

There is so much innovation happening right now in Jewish education. A revolution is taking place, and Jewish educators are striving to find what works. Our two edJEWcons, in 2012 and 2013, at MJGDS were a great success. In 2014, LA and South Florida hosted regional “mini” edJEWcons. We are working (and playing) with ideas for the future of edJEWcon, wondering how to be use and direct the exciting energy in Jewish educational circles.

As the edJEWcon website is a hub for learning and reflection, we occasionally receive requests to feature posts from organizations whose missions are of like mind. One of these is ReFrame, a project of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Davidson School of Education. Through ReFrame, JTS guides Jewish educational leaders to plan new learning models that draw on the best of camps, Israel trips, and other immersive experiences. Similar to edJEWcon, ReFrame hopes to transform Jewish school experiences into dynamic 21st century learning environments.

Check out the Reframe website and watch the Camp + Hebrew School at the Drawing Board video to learn more about ReFrame.

ReFrame | William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education

DSLTI Presents: EdCamp 2013!


DSLTI Presents: EdCamp 2013
April 30 – May 1

It is our hope that after this year’s edJEWcon, you will have been inspired by many exciting opportunities to bring back to your school.

How do you prioritize what you most want to achieve  and what is the process for implementation?
Our DSLTI “add-on” days will provide an opportunity to discuss some implementation models, work with case studies and apply your learning to your home school community.

 Featuring Jonathan Cannon“21st Century Learning: Leading Cultural Change”

Who: All DSLTIers (even those who are not able to attend EdJEWcon) are encouraged to attend and bring colleagues. This topic has relevance for multiple people and situations.

When: Tuesday, April 30th 2:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Wednesday, May 1st 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Where: Hampton Inn and Suites (13950 Village Lake Circle, Jacksonville FL)

Cost: Free to attend

Participants will be responsible for travel costs and for making hotel accommodations. Hotel will be reimbursed for DSLTI alumni. Meals will be provided.

For questions or to register, email Jane Cohen


Registration for edJEWcon 5773.1 Now Open

edJEWcon is a teaching and learning institute, a leadership conference, for Jewish educators.
It is a conference about schools, not individuals. We are building a learning community beyond the physical days of attendance in April 2013. The imperative of sharing in the 21st century takes on a myriad of forms. Participating on the edJEWcon’s blogs, leading a conversation at the conference or facilitating a webinar are just a few.

If edJEWcon 5772.0 was an indication, we are anticipating filling all the available spots for school teams for edJEWcon5773.1. Returning school teams to edJEWcon, will receive priority registration.

General registration is now open, spots will be filled on a first come first serve basis. Once registration has reached its maximum participants, schools will be placed on a waiting list. To ensure your school team’s participation at edJEWcon 5773.1, it is imperative to complete the registration process as soon as possible.

What will you get?

  • Networking opportunities with other Jewish educators
  • A professional learning hub, hosted on edJEWcon, for your entire faculty to reflect, connect and collaborate
  • New school teams who bring an administrator/change agent as part of their team: one iPad
  • Returning school teams with an accepted proposal to lead a conversation: one iPad Mini
  • Opportunity to win an iPad Mini as part of a Hatzatah presentation contest
  • “We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on the experience” John Dewey.
    edJEWcon has built-in reflection time
  • It takes a team to improve education, so edJEWcon has built-in team time

The conference consists of two half days and a full day of keynotes, hands-on workshops and conversations. We are encouraging all attendees to submit a proposal to lead a conversation and share their learning journey.

Chris Lehmann’s Keynote: Building School 2.0: Creating the Schools We Need


What is School 2.0? What are the pedagogical ideas that form it? Examine ideas of constructivist pedagogy and the use of 21st Century tools to create schools that are engaging, caring, and relevant places of learning for everyone involved.

The history of the formation of the Science Leadership Academy will form the backdrop for this conversation.

NOW is the Time to Prepare to Participate in edJEWcon 2.0 Style

The leitmotif of learning in the 21st century (the time we happen to live in!)  …is being self-directed and self-motivated learning.

There is an opportunity, as a professionals, to put exactly these two skills into action.

edJEWcon 5773.1 will physically take place on April 28-30, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.

While there will be educators physically traveling to Florida, there will be the ones who will attend virtually THROUGH those attending face to face (f2f).

It is a tremendous opportunity to gain perspective, network and possibly kick start further networking and collaboration as a professional, but also for the students in your charge. It does not matter if you will be part of  team traveling to Florida or not, YOU can be part of a Jewish network of educators and participate in the conversation to re-invent Jewish education and  professional development.

In order for learning across distances to be  possible, a symbiotic relationship between the physical and virtual attendees has to be in place.

If  in-person attendees are not opening their conference walls and sharing with the outside, the online participants will not be able to connect, add, reflect, ask questions, contribute perspective or curate resources generated by the community physically present.

If the online participants are not visually participating in the conference platform ( , using backchannel venues, blogs, twitter hashtags or other collaborative tools and social media platforms to connect their experience, the in-person attendees cannot actively amplify and connect their learning, their connections & perspectives to theirs.

Both kinds of attendees (physical & virtual) of the conference have to posses the following requirements:

  • a desire to connect with other educators from around the world and grow their professional learning network
  • an ability to use technology tools that allow for synchronous and asynchronous communication and collaboration
  • a wish to be part of a group of “pioneers” who are exploring new forms of learning
  • a disposition of being a reflective practitioner, not afraid of being transparent
  • an ambition of overcoming obstacles and “making it work for YOU”
  • a resourcefulness to overcoming obstacles, such as time zones and geographic boundaries
  • an understanding of having to experience and experiment with global connectedness, collaboration and learning before you can bring that experience to your students
  • a love of sharing
  • the power of ACTING on this call to participate :)

It is up to you (physical & virtual attendees) to make it happen. Self directed and self-motivated learning is what sets 21st century educators apart from others.

Physical Attendees:

This is a call to in-person participants to make a commitment to:

  • share openly and connect your learning experience at the conference to a larger global audience BEYOND the other f2f attendees
  • be transparent and reflective in your own learning.
  • find ways to summarize, synthesize, curate and document ideas, learning, projects, concepts, etc.
  • choose one or more platforms to share
  • make a concerted effort to include and make the virtual attendees feel PART OF a learning community
  • become a buddy/mentor to someone who is not physically attending.
  • volunteer to a be the “online moderator” of a backchannel during a live presentation/workshop/keynote
  • approach someone at your school in your network and ask them to experience a conference together IN NEW FORMS.

Virtual Participants:

No travel costs are involved, NO registration fees are required. Make a commitment to:

  • mark your calendar to be able to participate. April 28-30, 2013
  • find a dedicated “conference attendance” time. Use that time to read through the Twitter stream/hashtag, Ning activities generated through the conference, resources being shared.
  • ACTIVELY participate versus PASSIVELY consuming information. Contribute resources, your own perspective, thoughts and experience.
  • make strategic connections with physical attendees. Connect with them even beforehand via the edJEWcon site, on Twitter or via a blog. Leave a comment, @mention someone in a Tweet, use the conference hashtag to connect your voice to the conversation.

Take it from… I always wanted to… and…What an incredible opportunity… to…I can make this happen!… I can experiment with learning in new ways…

Here are some tips/steps to take for the active collaborative connected conference attendee:

  1. Make a commitment to attend virtually (add it to your calendar/block a time off)
  2. Participate in the conference Backchannel
    Follow the Twitter hashtag (#edJEWcon)
  3. Become a member of the edJEWcon site
    Fill out your profile, say hello and introduce yourself, join groups, blog, post valuable resources
  4. Join the Twitter List  (edJEWcon) with Tweeps participating (virtually & physically)
    Being part of the list will give everyone an idea who will be joining f2f and from afar.
  5. Find a Buddy, someone who will be physically at the conference
    Discuss before hand how your can help each other

Learning in the 21st century has taken on new shapes and forms. Professional Development can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from all corners of the globe. It is critical for educators to develop the skills and capacities to be able to ACTIVELY participate by connecting, communicating and collaborating virtually .

Just do it!

Step forward, out of the shadows of being a “lurker” in order to take your learning in your own hands. Let  SELF-MOTIVATED and SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING become your mantra as an educator.



Download the “ Attending a Conference 2.0 Style” Guide as a pdf file.