Friday, May 6, 2016

What’s in your stash (book stash, that is)?

The stash of books I want to read keeps growing and growing. In fact, I probably have enough in my pile to last several months past summer—which is a good thing.
Some of the books I want to read are just for my own pleasure-reading. They help me “rest” and escape from the flurry of everyday work. The others are to develop my own personal skills in being a better educator. So which do I start with—professional or personal? Maybe mix it up a bit.

Why read at all? What does reading do for you? What are the benefits of reading everyday?

For one, it keeps your brain active. It provides mental stimulation. Studies have shown that staying mentally active can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and Dementia—and it may possibly help prevent them. The brain, just like any other muscle in your body, needs regular exercise to keep it strong and healthy.

Reading also provides some stress relief and may even lower your blood pressure.  A novel can transport you to a different “world”, distract you from the present, and allow you to relax. Reading also gives you new knowledge and that is always handy. The more you read the more you will expand your vocabulary. Reading to stay current with local and global issues will help you to be a better communicator when talking with colleagues and friends–.

In the last Friday Feature(April 29) I started a list of books on my “To read in the summer”. 

Here are five more I have added to that list:

Visible Learning for Teachers: maximizing impact on learning by John Hattie

“Recognizing what makes a difference enables reflection on how to do more that makes a positive difference. Reading this book should make obvious the swathes of time-consuming tasks that make no (or worse, negative) impact, making them easy to remove. It is fabulously well-researched.”
        Mary Bousted, general secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

The Smartest Kids in the World: and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley

“Amanda Ripley follows three American teenagers who each chose to spend one school year living and learning in a different country: Finland, South Korea and Poland. Through their adventures, Ripley discovers startling truths about how attitudes, parenting and rigorous teaching have revolutionized these countries’ education results. Ripley’s astonishing insights reveal how kids learn to think for themselves, and that persistence and resilience matter more to our children’s life chances than self-esteem or sports.”
Andreas Schleicher, director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD

Outliers: the story of success by Malcolm Gladwell

“This is a must-read for teaching staff. Gladwell explores why some people achieve so much more than others, and puts forward the theory that none of us is naturally talented. Rather, we become good at things by working away, for 10,000 hours, at whatever it is we want to excel in.”

Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST)

Reading Without Nonsense by Frank Smith

“As a literacy teacher for 40 years, Frank Smith continues to be the theorist who most informs my work with children. In this refreshing book, Smith rightly characterizes much reading instruction as ‘ritual and nonsense’, starting with an overreliance on systematic phonics in both the UK and US. Instead, he urges teachers to understand what skilled readers actually do and what the beginning reader is trying to do.”

Nancie Atwell, author, teacher, winner of the inaugural Global Teacher Prize and founder of the Center for Teaching and Learning

I Am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

“I suggest keeping a copy to hand and letting it inspire you on the days when the disadvantage that follows some children to school seems impossible to overcome, and when it all seems too hard. A book to remind us that education is precious, sought-after and fought for.”

Julia Gillard, chair of the board of directors, Global Partnership for Education

 Here is a link to another list of books for professional development that you may want to consider putting on your own summer reading list: Summer Reading List for Educators

Try this for fun:  

Go to the website: What should I read next 

Type in the title or author of a book you like.
The site will analyze their huge database of real readers' favorite books to provide book recommendations and suggestions for what to read next.

You may find some great choices to add to your own reading list.


Have fun composing your own summer reading list--and reading from it.

Now--back to one of my books.

Peggy Steinbronn, Ed.D.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Assessment in Online Learning

EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO) provides an ongoing series of webinars on strategies for online teaching. 

Join ETLO on Tuesday, May 3 from 2 p.m. -3 p.m. Central Time for an interactive webinar led by ETLO's Lesley Reilly. This webinar will focus on the role of assessment in the design and delivery of online learning experiences.
To access ETLO's Webinar Room for the May 3 webinar:
•   Visit: at the scheduled time.
•   Type your name in the text box and select "Enter Room". 

Pre-registration is not required for this webinar and the webinar will be recorded and posted on the ETLO Webinar Series website

You can review any previous ETLO webinar recordings at the ETLO Webinar Series website.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Looking Forward...

The spring flowers and trees are in full bloom—Spring is here (unless you look at the temperature). I love this time of year when all things feel new and fresh again after the dullness of winter. It also makes me look forward—to summer. Summer is supposed to be relaxing, full of outside activities, family reunions…

For some of us educators it means a break from the routines of the classroom, but not a break from learning. I always have a list of books I intend to read over the summer. Some are “professional” and some are just for pure fun and enjoyment. I think we need both types—to help rejuvenate our spirit and find ways to rejuvenate our teaching practices.

Here are some ideas for books that you may have not read yet:

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros ©2015

In this book teachers and administrators are encouraged to empower students “to wonder, to explore—and to become forward-thinking leaders.”

You can read more about this book (on Matt Miller’s Ditch That Textbook blog) here.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough ©2012.

This book challenges the ideas we may have about success—that it comes to those who score highest on tests. He “argues for a very different understanding of what makes a successful child. Drawing on groundbreaking research in neuroscience, economics, and psychology, Tough shows that the qualities that matter most have less to do with IQ and more to do with character: skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, ©2003

“The plot, characters, themes and perspectives that are so beautifully and movingly articulated have powerful messages for all involved in education. Importantly, Haddon has said: ‘[It is] not a book about Asperger’s…if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.’ The novel should give all who read it important insights into their students’ perspectives on the world.”  Samanthan Twiselton, director of Sheffield Institute of Education.

The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager by Andy Cope, ©2014

“Don't you want to achieve something? Get started now. The Art of Being A Brilliant Teenager helps you figure out where you want to go, and how to get there. So, whether you're an ambitious teenager, a parent or teacher desperate to turn a down-beat teenager into a ray of positivity and delight, How to Be a Brilliant Teenager is here to help.”

Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google? The essential guide to the big issues for every 21st century teacher by Ian Gilbert, © 2014

“As wide-ranging and exhaustively-researched as it is entertaining and accessible, this book is designed to challenge teachers and inform them as well as encourage them as they strive to design a twenty-first century learning experience that really does bring the best out of all young people. After all, the future of the world may just depend on it.”

That should get you started—let me know if you read any of the above books and lets get a discussion started. I will have more to add to this list in the next Friday Feature.

Peggy Steinbronn, Ed.D.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Learn and Apply: Teacher Training System and Student Personalized Learning System

There are many learning opportunities in the Teacher Training System that once you complete the learning you can find paired content to assign to students.  For example in the Teacher Training System you will see a non-credit learning opportunity as well as a credit self paced course on Digital Citizenship.  As you learn about Digital Citizenship and want to apply your knowledge with your students you could assign them content in the Student Personalized Learning System on Digital Citizenship (there are k-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 modules).  The work is already done for you!

Additional pairings between the Teacher Training System and the Student Personalized Learning system are:

  • Financial Literacy
  • Mathematics: Information Processing
  • Mathematics: Networks (vertex edge graphs) Cluster (
  • Mathematics: Mathematics of Voting Cluster
  • Digital Citizenship
Look for more to come on STEM, Agriculture and other curricula.

Video Game Design Self-paced Modules - An Interview with Dr. Marv Howard

Good things continue to come your way on the Student Personalized Learning System!

Dr. Marv Howard, the Advanced Learning Technologist for AEA PD Online, is currently working on a mini-course for secondary students in the area of video game design.  This mini-course will consist of 5 modules instructing students on programming, game design, graphics, and storytelling.  In addition, the modules give students a brief history in the early stages of video game design from the 70s and 80s.

The student learning experience consists of students re-creating the different games.  The modules help start students with some basic code and explain how to customize and construct their own additions.

While the modules are still in development, they will be available this summer on the Personalized Learning System, free for Iowa schools to use.  The modules help illustrate the nature of the system, which focuses personalized learning on deeper, inquiry- or project-based learning where students interact both with the content and an instructor.

Below is an interview with Dr. Howard, who gives us a sneak peak of the modules:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

7 Second Coach

AEA PD Online is proud to announce its partnership with 7 Second Coach.  Their quality professional development for athletic coaching is now available on our training system.  This includes a self-paced license renewal course for teachers who are athletic coaches.

For details on how to access the self-paced course, check out the video below.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Blended Learning Cohorts

AEA PD Online in conjunction with several AEAs  are offering Blending/Flipping cohorts.  These cohorts consist of 4 courses that teachers and administrators can take through out a 1 1/2 year period.  The first course is a three day face-to-face training on "Blending/Flipping your classroom 1" for one license renewal credit.  The second course is a fully online course "Blending/Flipping 2- Blended Instruction" as well as an elementary option for two credits (license renewal and graduate).  The third in the series is "Blending/Flipping Your Classroom 3: Designing Online Lessons" which will take place as a blended model with two days face-to-face and the rest online. This course is also two credits (license renewal and graduate).  Finally the fourth in this series is "Blending/Flipping 4: Assessment "which will take place as a blended model with two days face-to-face and the rest online and is also 2 credits (license renewal and graduate).  The last three courses in the series (six credits) can also be applied to the Drake Online Teacher certification for those that are interested.

Several AEAs have already scheduled these sessions: Heartland AEA, Keystone AEA, Mississippi Bend AEA, Great Prairie AEA and Green Hills AEA.   If you are interested in participating or learning more contact Denise Krefting or Melissa Wicklund at AEA PD Online or the technology consultants in those AEAs.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Thinking about Blended Learning in your Classroom?

Are you thinking about creating or enhancing the blended learning opportunities in your classroom? Learn how Clark County School District did this in the upcoming webinar from SoftChalk.  Mixing Bowl: The best ingredients for blended learning will be presented on April 19, 2016 at 11:00 am.

The Clark County School District (CCSD) set a goal of having one third of their 320,000 students in an online or blended learning environment by the 2015 year. SoftChalk was a major tool in the proverbial tech tool box that allowed us to not only meet, but exceed that goal.

Utilizing SoftChalk as a foundation, along with the Canvas Learning Management System, CCSD’s Innovative Learning Environments division has been curating a full catalog of middle school and high school courses. Schools and teachers can use this curriculum at no cost to them, in essence saving the district millions of dollars when it comes to paying outside vendors for a product that may not directly aligned directly with CCSD and Nevada State Content Standards.
Integrated components that have made this endeavor successful are SoftChalk templates based on components of an effective lesson, use of Google docs for assignments, embedded Google Slide presentation inside SoftChalk, and utilizing Subject Matter Experts as lesson idea generators and peer reviewers.  
Click this link to register. Contact AEA PD Online if you are interested in learning more about how you could use SoftChalk as a part of your blended learning efforts.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Iowa 1:1 Conference Presentation: Blending Your Professional Development

This Wednesday, the annual Iowa 1:1 conference is being held at the Iowa Events Center.  AEA PD Online will be there!  Be sure to stop by our booth to check out the new features on the Personalized Learning System and new e-curriculum offerings.  Also, if you haven't done so already, stop by and get access to your SoftChalk Cloud account (a savings of $500).

We are also leading two sessions.  At 10:15 in room 303, come find out how you can blend your professional development.  Districts across the state are looking at ways of supplementing and replacing current professional development efforts with online ones that are flexibly paced and available on that staff's terms.  This includes:

  • Locally created trainings
  • Human resource trainings
  • Front-loaded professional development for PLC work
  • Credit-bearing opportunities
  • Professional development for para-educators and other support staff
  • Reporting and data collection for compliance
  • Train-the-trainer facilitated course options
  • Online educator communities

Our slides for the presentation can be seen below (subject to updates).  Keep in mind, the slides don't tell the story of the districts who are blending their professional development for the staff.  Be sure to have someone from your team there to hear those stories first-hand!

Branching Out

I can’t believe it is April already! It seems like we are moving into the “crazy” time of the school year—too much to do, too little time left. How do teachers keep on an even keel and move learning forward for students? In the world of online learning, it seems to be “crazy town” all the time. Online students think/expect their work to be evaluated instantly, the moment they submit it; think the instructor is “online” all the time and can claim “technological difficulties” as an excuse for not doing the required assignments on time. But, as an online instructor, it is still a very rewarding way to teach. Teaching online provides flexibility of when and where you teach.

So, what characteristics do online instructors need to possess in order to be successful? In my opinion, passion for what they are doing online is essential. If you like what you do, then you will do your best for the students. It does mean being online a lot—more than you ever imagined. Online teachers need a combination of technical skills, facilitation skills, and managerial skills.  It is a 24/7 learning environment and keeping up with the technology can become frustrating.

Before you decide to become an online teacher, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will I miss having face-to-face interaction with my students?
  •  Do I have the computer skills necessary to teach an online course?
  • Am I willing to learn new teaching strategies?
  • Do I have excellent time management skills?
  • Do I have a quiet place where there is a computer to work on my class work?
  • Am I a good group facilitator?
  • Am I willing to give prompt feedback to students who are in a 24/7 class?
  • Am I willing to invest the extra time that it takes to teach an online course?

So, if you are thinking teaching online may be a good fit for you, then check out how to become an instructor for AEA PD Online. Go to our website at and click on the Instructor Toolbox tab. Read the AEA PD Online Instructor Handbook first. It outlines the policies and procedures for our online instructors.  And, send me an email or give me a call. I would be happy to talk with you and get you started.

Peggy Steinbronn, Ed.D.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Digital Citizenship 6-8 Students Learning Opportunity

Recently added to the Student Personalized Learning System is content that supports Digital Citizenship for students in grades 6-8.  The content in these Digital Citizenship modules was taken from Common Sense Media and can be used to keep your students safe and in support of your Bright Bytes data.  Teachers, administrators and counselors of school districts could assign any or all of them to their students and can check out the content by logging into the Student Personalized Learning system using the username and password that they use for the training system where they have taken mandatory trainings.

Once logged into the Student Learning system, click on Modules, Technology Literacy and look at Digital Citizenship (you will also see K-2, 3-5 and 9-12 content).  If you wish to use these with students or have any questions please contact Denise Krefting ( or Melissa Wicklund (

Here is the 6-8 module listing:
  • Digital Citizenship 6-8: Cyberbullying and Online Safety
  • Digital Citizenship 6-8: Digital Literacy
  • Digital Citizenship 6-8: Netiquette   

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mathematics of Voting Student Learning

A Mathematics of Voting module has been added to AEA PD Online's Student Personalized Learning system.  This module originally developed by Megan Balong of the University of Northern Iowa, supports the Iowa Core Math Standards. Teachers can check out the content by logging into the Student Personalized Learning system using the username and password that they use for the training system where they have taken mandatory trainings.

Once logged into the Student Learning system, click on Modules, Math and look at Mathematics of Voting.  If you wish to use these with students or have any questions please contact Denise Krefting ( or Melissa Wicklund (