My Digital Learning Journey

When I began the Digital Learning/Digital Leading program I was already an experienced user of technology.  Having completed Lamar’s Educational Technology Leadership (ETL) program in April of 2014, I was fully aware of the advantages to using technology to design authentic projects. I enjoyed pushing the boundaries of technology as an educational tool and wanted to influence others to do the same.

My first real challenge was creating an e-portfolio that would be used to track my professional development work. My former (ETL) portfolio resides on a Google site, which was perfect for the collaborative educational works I created throughout that program. But for this program, I decided to bring an old blog I had created back to life. This decision required me to view WordPress from a new perspective, as an e-portfolio instead of just a blog. It took a lot of time to organize my thoughts and ideas in a way that made my portfolio easy to use. But through the process, I learned enough about the customization and editing capabilities that when it came time to design a webpage for my new business, WordPress was an obvious choice. is a site that I can manage personally, saving my business the cost of a web page designer.

I learned a lot from my research throughout this program. Most significantly, it confirmed to me that (1) Teachers need to be trained effectively before they can be expected to change the way they do things, and (2) professional development is typically ineffective. It really got me thinking about how we could better prepare our teachers for creating learning environments that included both traditional and innovative learning strategies. My first literature review ultimately led me to my innovation plan, which I named MoBLE, which stands for Motivating Blended Learning Environments.

As I reflected on my own learning philosophy, I realized that significant learning environments have long been at the heart of every educational decision I’ve made. I also realized how similar my learning philosophy is to that of John Dewey, whose constructivist theory focused on an emphasis of real problems as opposed to theoretical ones. Like Dewey, I consider education to be an active and constructive process.

I was asked to create a big, hair, ambitious goal” (BHAG) and then create a significant learning plan that would help me to achieve it. I used Dee Fink’s three-column table (Fink, 2003), which became the template for my technology department’s UBD’s.

Recognizing the vital behaviors of the people I work with, and who I could rely on to help me make change was essential for the success of my innovation plan. As I considered the Six Sources of Influence (I targeted Social Motivation as the key to my creating blended learning classrooms and innovative change. I am convinced that it is the most important source of influence, at least in my profession.

In the Spring of 2017, I focused on the outline for my innovation plan, Motivating a Blended Learning Environment (MoBLE),  creating my call to action, including learning activities, my timeline, and even my video pitch. EDLD 5388 was about developing effective professional learning, a topic about which I’ve come to be quite passionate. Because professional learning is at the heart of my innovation plan, I conducted a lot of research that convinced me that the way it was approached in my current position was not only ineffective, but contradictory to what I was asking the teachers to do with their students. I was determined to break the mold. I began thinking of ways that I could model blended learning as I promoted the concept to my colleagues.

In April, 2017 I published The Importance of Blended Learning in Professional Developmentwhich included studies of how professional development is approached from a variety of industries around the world, and what was working effectively. EDLD 5314 called for a study of digital learning in a local and global context. Evidence pointed to successes around the world, where professional learning included innovative, blended strategies. My literature review was summarized with a call to model the change we want to influence. I decided that my innovation plan would have to include more integrative activities and stations in which students collaborated and worked independently.

In June, EDLD 5315 focused on assessing digital learning instruction, and I was asked to create my action research outline, providing strategies for connecting and communicating ideas in my presentations to my co-workers. Determining what evidence I would be looking for, and how I would measure it was challenging, and deciding what kind of research I would need to support my plan required a lot of reflection and serious thought. But it helped me to narrow down what exactly I needed to do, making the research process much more efficient.

EDLD 5318 called for a design of the instructional materials I planned to use with my Innovation Plan. I chose to use Schoology as my primary online instruction resource, and designed my course to include five units, during which videos, shared (collaborative) documents and shared media albums would be used by teachers in my building as blended learning tools. All of this served as examples for how innovation (technology) could be used in the classroom to individualize and personalize learning.

The timing of EDLD 5316 could not have been more appropriate for what I was doing in my classroom. Every school year, my first unit is based on digital citizenship, and safety is significant part of that unit. Approaching digital citizenship as having nine general areas of behavior made the process of planning my lessons a bit easier. Targeting each of the nine essential areas of digital citizenship – etiquette, communication, education, access, commerce, responsibility, rights, safety and security allowed me to create lessons that provided a comprehensive unit with my students (Ribble, 2015). It was also in this course that I realized the value of PowToon as an instructional tool for K-5. I created a video about digital citizenship that I am comfortable sharing with my students, and plan to use the online application for future lessons as well.

This program has helped me to realize that I’m passionate about using technology not as a subject, but as an educational tool. I’ve spent much of the past five years studying the professional uses of technology, and integrating it into the curriculum at my schools. My professional goal is to influence change in how teachers present their lessons, and to encourage them to use technology to personalize, authenticate, and get kids excited about learning. In my mind, no concept at school should be taught as a “subject” but rather as useful information that will help us solve problems in the future. We need today’s youth to grow up to solve problems on their own, without having to be told how to do it. My mantra in any classroom has been “there’s more than one way to do anything” and it makes sense to me that we allow our students to figure out what way works for them, by challenging them with real world problems that they have to find solutions for. This philosophy became the topic for an article I wrote and submitted to Educational Leadership magazine. The article, titled Creating Interdisciplinary Authentic Learning with Technology, fulfilled an assignment requirement for EDLD 5317 and at the same time allowed me to take action toward making the change I seek.

As I complete my Digital Learning, Digital Leading program, I am pleased to look back at what I’ve learned, and to know that I’ve been able to apply my new knowledge to help others, students and teachers alike. While I would love to be more active online leading change in PLN’s and educational forums, I tend to focus on improving my own practice, and that of my colleagues. I’m hoping that I can find a position that allows me to help other teachers to blend their learning strategies, and become more innovative. Our kids deserve that.Page Break




Collins, J., & Porras, J. (2004). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (3rd ed.). New York: HarperCollins.

Fink, L. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools (3rd ed.). International Society for Technology in Education.



DLL Capstone Media Project

Below is a summary of my Digital Learning and Leading experience. Links are provided within the video and will take you to the various posts in my e-portfolio.

I chose to use PowToons, because I’ve grown familiar with the tool through this program, and because I’ve found it to be a simple and user-friendly application.

Journal Entry

As a technology teacher for more than ten years, I’ve been teaching the topic of digital citizenship for quite some time. More recently, I began addressing it from the perspective of an elementary teacher instead the secondary teacher I was during my last graduate program. The timing of this course was consistent with my digital citizenship unit at school this year, which made the experience much more effective.

I learned something about the history of copyright laws that I found to be interesting enough to do more research on my own. I felt very accomplished in integrating technology with history in a lesson plan that included discussion about the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress. I think my 4th and 5th-grade students found it cool that the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and holds original copies of so many published works.

I also realized during class one day that crediting our sources gives them actual credibility. I posted a sentence on my board this past week that read “There are over 20,000 species, or types of bee”. When I asked my students if they thought that statement was true, a majority didn’t believe it. But when I showed them the citation for that information, they were amazed to see I had learned it on Encyclopedia Britannica.

My biggest challenge throughout this course was learning a new presentation application, which turned out to be really fun. The possibilities in PowToon are endless, and I plan to use it again for lessons at school, and possibly a business that I own. I am even considering purchasing the professional version.

Learning about the 9 categories of digital citizenship made it easy for me to break it down for my students in a more effective way. While my unit at school doesn’t last 9 weeks, the topic is one that will be revisited throughout the year as students conduct online research. I am also sharing these categories with my co-workers so that their students can be consistent in how they regard copyright.

If I could change any one of the activities I created, it would likely be my final presentation. I really had a lot to say, and wish I’d chosen a presentation method that provided me more than 5 minutes. On the bright side, it was designed as something I could share with my students at school, and anything longer than five minutes may have been too much. The process took me about five days. I didn’t realize until three minutes through the production that my voiceover had just stopped. I had to re-record the entire script, which forced me to adjust the timing of everything I had done.

I would say that this course forced me to examine how I use tools online. I’m making a much more conscious effort to credit my sources in the classroom.

Expect the Unexpected

Narrowing down the focus of my innovation project was a process in itself. As an instructor of technology, I could think of so many changes I’d like to make at my school, but ultimately, it was classroom innovation that I considered to be the biggest concern. The truth is that teachers in my building have ready access to the digital tools they need, but they haven’t been motivated to use them more effectively. I decided that I would focus my innovation plan on motivating change.  My literature review included much evidence that professional development alone wouldn’t change how we teach. It’s time and continuous support that need to be the focus, and neither are easily accessible in the world of public K-12 education. It became clear to me that I could potentially make the change I wanted if I approached professional development differently, in a way that would motivate. My plan was to create blended learning environments throughout my building – classrooms in which teachers would use technology tools to combine their traditional teaching strategies with more innovative processes. When I decided to focus on creating blended learning environments, I had the power to scope out apps to any iPads in the building, providing whatever tools our teachers might need and suggesting new ones that they may not have used before. I had the ability to model the use of the devices, so that my colleagues could see innovation in action. If I could provide evidence that it’s effective, and that it’s worth their time, they would be more willing to try something new.

TECH NEWS 2017 - week 22-23
TECH NEWS, February 2017, Rhonda Kinstner

In the fall of 2016, I began hanging TECH NEWS posters in the faculty bathrooms at school, where I knew that people would read them. The newsletter shared information about the tools students were using in the lab, and included suggestions about recommended apps, and how iPads could be used creatively in the classroom. The publication got people talking. Some asked for me to share it with them digitally, and others took advantage of the information and asked me for help using technology in their rooms. I began to push in to their classrooms to assist them with introducing new technology tools to their students.

I believe that social influence is perhaps the biggest of the six main sources of influence (Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler, 2013). Based on my experience, nothing compares to observation of those around us as a way of making change. The teachers I worked with talked to other teachers, and I realized we were on to something. I began team teaching with willing participants in my building. We planned lessons together, combining their traditional strategies with my more innovative tools, and we created activities that allowed students to approach learning from a different perspective. During the spring semester, I pushed in to the classrooms, gradually releasing the instruction and lesson to the teachers.

The push-in was successful, and student results were great. The teachers I worked with shared their experiences with other teachers in their grade levels, which encouraged them to try some new tools as well. By May, the push-in had generated quite a buzz, and changes were visible. Then, I found out that my two most innovative volunteers were being transferred to another, more innovative school. It was disappointing to lose two of my biggest influencers.

I planned my  call to action  to start officially during the fall of 2017, knowing that the loss of my innovative trendsetters would mean I’d be essentially starting over. My principal had been very supportive, and welcomed my leadership in staff meetings, when time was allowed. So I designed my plan to include scheduled staff meeting instruction, combined with push-in team teaching. I would share a participation chart in the lounge, and gather feedback from every teacher I worked with throughout the semester. I was actually excited about making change.

Then, I returned to school in August to a new principal, new staff meeting scheduling, and new job responsibilities that no longer included iPad app management. Not only did I no longer have access to purchasing apps and scoping them out to the iPad carts; I couldn’t even see what apps had been provided to which classrooms in my building. Teachers were just as upset to learn that they would have to put in IT request tickets for any changes they needed made to iPads. That changed everything. It added more tasks to my co-workers’ already unforgiving schedules. It communicated to me that it’s not my job to manage apps or how they’re used. Adding to the disruption was the fact that my new principal, who is awesome and extremely supportive by the way, had higher priorities for building improvement. She welcomed my participation in team teaching and pushing in, but there just hasn’t been time for me to provide instruction during staff meetings this year, which is a result of district mandated presentations and building improvements. That’s understandable. And the fact that our meetings were scheduled differently this year changed my entire schedule and plan, anyway.

In a nutshell, I have seen some great success in innovation at my school, despite the fact that my plan hasn’t been executed like I’d hoped. I am still available to willing teachers, and I continue to post my TECH NEWS, but getting the group together for instruction and discussion just isn’t an option at this point of time. That doesn’t mean I stop trying to make change. It just means it’s time for Plan B.


Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The          new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.  

COVA Reflection

As an art teacher, choice, ownership, voice and authentic learning were always a primary focus in my classroom. While I’d not heard of COVA as a concept until years later, I knew that the relevance and personalization of an artist’s works are what makes them successful. Art is a form of self-expression and that makes the concept of COVA an obvious one where art instruction is concerned. As I grew to become a technology teacher, that concept carried into my technology-based lesson designs. In my mind, there’s no reason for learning anything unless it’s for authentic purposes. It was important to me for students to know when to use what technology tools to complete a task or solve a problem.

COVA typically eliminates right and wrong answers, so my assignments have always been rubric-based and focused on a clear and strategically placed set of objectives. The creation of meaningful COVA based projects could be time consuming. Giving student projects the time and attention they deserved required a serious time investment as well. Choice, ownership, voice and authentic learning allowed me to learn about not only what my students understood, but their interests and philosophies as well. It allowed me to personalize the learning experience and get to know my students as individuals rather than consumers of information. That’s something that worksheets and handouts just don’t do.

The fact that I was a self-taught user of technology inspired me to encourage my students to become self-learners as well. I can’t remember the first time I was given the freedom and responsibility to take ownership of my learning. But I can remember being intimidated by it for the first time in my college art course. I didn’t know what my professor expected of me, and I didn’t want to disappoint him. But I became so comfortable with my own ideas and processes, because I was in an area where my choices weren’t judged. I enjoyed learning that way. And it prepared me for learning about technology. At the time computers were becoming readily available in schools and homes, there wasn’t anyone around to show me how to use one. So I taught myself how to do what I needed to do. I wasn’t afraid to try anything on a computer. And I think that’s what made technology so fun for me. I was learning how to do things that applied to me, and that helped me accomplish personal goals and solve real problems. I became an advanced user of Adobe Creative Suite with no training, and taught it in a course I created on my own. I became a certified Microsoft expert, without having taken one technology course. My love and enthusiasm for technology is what led me to Lamar’s ETL program, and now my second master’s degree. And honestly, if my online courses didn’t encourage COVA, I would have dropped the program(s) a long time ago.

I enjoy pushing the boundaries of technology, and decided in 2011 that I wanted to promote change in education. I completed Lamar’s ETL program, and earned my general administration certification, with a Technology Specialist endorsement. Throughout this program, I’ve learned a lot more about how social influence and ongoing support can make a difference in creating the change we need. I created an innovation plan inspired by problems I’ve seen in my public-school district, which include technology-based decision making by administrators who don’t have experience in educational technology. I was determined to influence my co-workers to create significant learning environments that employ technology and blend traditional learning strategies with more innovative ones. My goal was to officially roll out my innovation plan this fall, at which time I would model the use of iPad apps as interdisciplinary learning tools and push in to classrooms to assist in creating blended learning. The kink that stopped me was another frustrating district decision – that building technology specialists would no longer have the power to manage iPads or apps in our buildings. It was a surprise to all of us when we arrived in August and were blocked out of using Jamf, our remote management system. Instead, the role was given to our district IT department, requiring classroom teachers to submit “HELP TICKETS” to get the apps they want on the iPads they want. This was a huge step backward for all of us, adding yet another responsibility to our teachers’ already overworked schedules.

My review of literature throughout this program has taught me that the biggest hurdle to a teacher’s innovative development is time, and sadly, our district chose to raise that hurdle. As a result of the decision, the iPads are considered by many teachers to be more trouble than they’re worth. If the expertise of the educational technologists in our district were considered in the technology decisions being made, I can’t help but believe we’d be much more effective educators as a district.

I still try to push the limits of technology in my technology lessons. I’m constantly reminding my students that there’s more than one way to accomplish anything on a computer, and I encourage them to figure out which way works best for them. My projects engage them, while requiring them to think. We spent our class time just before Thanksgiving playing a game that required them to locate and view Plymouth Rock using Google (satellite, street view). It required students to understand where the pilgrims landed in America as they sailed from Plymouth, New England on the Mayflower. I rewarded the first student to find it with a set of earbuds. Then, I challenged the group a second time to find the statue of William Bradford in Plymouth. They learned about why he was significant to the pilgrims by zooming in on the plaque under his statue. The experience was one in which I facilitated independent learning instead of giving them the information I wanted them to know. I consider my lab a significant learning environment because I provide my students with opportunities to discover things for themselves, using digital tools. I hope that I can influence other educators to do the same.