Making Connections


Prior to enrolling in the Creating Significant Learning Environments course, I knew that creating a classroom that fostered learning is important.  After reading, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, I realized it was more than just the classroom.  To create a significant learning environment, the learning extends passed the four walls of a classroom.  In order to create a significant learning environment, I realized that I need to support my students, by allowing them to drive the instruction and be in charge of their learning.  By giving the students this responsibility, they are able to collaborate, communicate and reflect outside the classroom.  They are able to continue to grow and make meaningful connections and have  positive attitude towards their learning.

When I was able to develop my learning philosophy, I was able to make a true connection to the creating significant learning environments.  Prior to my developing my learning philosophy I decided to look back at my learning manifesto.  When comparing the two, I was able to see my growth and understanding.  My learning manifesto seemed to be my personal thoughts without the research.  I feel that my learning philosophy was a well-informed thought on learning.  It was pretty amazing to see how it related to the learning environments.  I believe that all students can learn and that they should be lifelong learners.  Student can develop the lifelong learner mentality taking responsibility and ownership of their learning.  Making meaningful connections makes lifelong connections.

Being able to create a significant learning environment, takes strategic planning.  Throughout the course, I was able to continue to develop my innovation plan, by mapping out general plans for implementing ePortfolios in the classroom. In order to plan for the implementation of  ePorfolios in the the classroom, I first needed to look at the big picture.  After reading Fink’s, A Self-Directed Guide to Course Design , it gave me helped me create the 3 column table.  By aligning outcomes, assessments, and activities, I was able to make my innovation plan one step closer to a reality.

After getting a general plan of the implementation of ePortfolios in the classroom, I was able to get more specific.  While reading, Understanding by DesignI was able to I was able to focus on an aspect of my BHAG, and establish: a goal, what should be understood, essential questions, what students will learn, what students will be able to do, tasks, evidence and step-by-step activities.  I was able to design my own UbD plan.  Creating this plan once again got me once step closer to make my innovation plan a reality.  It was amazing to see everything start to come to life!

Throughout this course, it felt like each assignment was building off of the other and even relating to other, previous assignments.  I was given a chance to revisit my original growth mindset plan.  When reflecting on what I had written then and what I wrote on my updated growth mindset plan, I notices similarities and differences.  I noticed that allow I had some similar beliefs, they were more informed and researched.  By reading about creating significant learning environments and reflecting on making my learning environment, I realized how much the growth mindset and significant learning environments coincided.  By using the ePortfolios to assist with creating a significant learning environment it fosters the my philosophy of being lifelong learners.

Throughout this course, it felt like each assignment built off of another.  Just like my students, it was useful to see the relevancy of each assignment.  By completing each assignment, it really showcased the importance of the growth mindset and how it is the glue that holds everything together.  This course not only taught me to about the content, but it also assured with me that my belief about learning and my students is one worth fighting. Our goal as teachers is to expose them to this way of thinking, give them opportunities to explore and challenge themselves and making learning enjoyable.  By doing this we are giving our students the chance to develop into lifelong learners.


Dweck, C. (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York, NY: Random House.

Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from:

How to develop a growth mindset in schools. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design, Expanded 2nd Edition. Pearson. ISBN 0131950843

Growth Mindset Plan


When I first learned about the growth mindset and developed my original growth mindset plan , I’ll admit I was excited to take on this way of thinking.  I really wanted to incorporate this mindset into my professional and personal life.  I was sold!  From completing the readings and watching the video, it really made me believe this could spark a learning revolution.  But I did realize along the way, that my mindset needed a little work along the way.  Although I believe myself to be flexible and open-minded, I did need to adjust to the thought of change and realize it was hard or difficult but I was just “uncomfortable”.

The power of “yet”, really helped me keep going.  I didn’t understand how this one word could have so much control.  Dweck belief about the word, “yet”, really helped me in the classroom and outside of the classroom.  There were a few instances in the Digital Learning and Leading program where I thought, “I can’t complete this assignment” or ” I don’t understand what needs to be done”.  By adding the word “yet” and thinking about all the times that I’ve been weary about an event, it eventually worked out after I put forth the effort.

So when I originally wrote my growth mindset plan , I believe I virtually had the same basic ideas but I wasn’t thinking about my innovation plan .  When I created my innovation plan, I really wanted my students to be able to create a tool to be able to use in their post-secondary life.  I wanted the students to be able to learn how to use the tool prior to graduating, so they felt like they were given something of value that could be built upon in the future.  I then realized I was focusing too much on the tool and not the learner.  I had to re-imagine the ePortfolio as not something they need to know, but more as a vehicle to get them to what they need to know, the growth mindset.

When revisiting the plan, I thought about my 3 Column Table and BHAG and how I was able to set up a broad mapping of instruction and then getting really specific when I developed my UbD .  In the beginning of my growth mindset plan, I would start with a hook.  I would like to draw them in with the videos, John Legend: Success Through Effort and The Power of Believing that you can Improve .  I think this would be a great mix of accounts from professionals, one that they are familiar with and another they may not be so familiar with that are both enforcing the same idea.  I would then follow up with a class discussion about the growth mindset.  This would really support the idea of “yet” and that if an individual doesn’t understand something in the movement, it doesn’t mean that will never understand or learn that particular concept or skills.

The class would look into growth mindset and fixed mindset definitions and share their findings.  I would then follow up with a classroom discussion about the growth mindset, what it is, and how they perceive things.  After compiling a list with students, we would then shift gears to the fixed mindset, what it is and how they perceive things.  After have a discussion, we would check what we believe compared to the fixed mindset vs. growth mindset infographic .

In my original growth mindset plan, I stated that I would go over the four steps to change a fixed mindset to a growth mindset .  I believe that I would like to do the same.  In the beginning of my Digital Learning and Leading journey, I really benefited from this.  I’ll admit then prior reading about the growth mindset I thought I was closer to a growth mindset than to a fixed mindset.  I was wrong with after reading more about this way of thinking and this helped me to shift and put my fixed mindset in check, so to speak.  I saw this fixed mindset voice as my “anxiety voice”.  It’s something that I’ve always struggled with and this helped me to actual deal with the doubt.  Because of this personal benefit, I really believe this would help my students.

As students work on their ePortfolio, they will need to remind themselves of these steps.  I personally did and I feel it really helped with my persevering  through the challenging assignments.  I believe as a teacher, modeling these beliefs and mindsets,  students are more inclined to believe that the growth mindset will help them to be successful throughout their learning process.  The learning process can be challenging especially when introducing something foreign to the student.  The growth mindset will change the way my students are able to tackle a new assignment, learn how to effectively collaborate with others, communicate with others and reflect in a way that is meaningful to the students.

Like my original plan, I would address the growth mindset formally and informally.  During my innovation plan of implementing ePortfolios in the classroom, their needs to be a set plan of how the growth mindset would be taught and practiced.  But I feel that the informal piece is equally as important.  If students are working in class, during the designated ePortfolio day and they made a comment that was either categorized a a fixed mindset or growth mindset, I believe it should be addressed immediately.  If students makes a comment that come from a growth mindset, it should be praised.  If a student makes a comment that come from a fixed mindset, it should be addressed.

The growth mindset is going to be necessary for any students that are developing an ePortfolio, in my innovation plan.  Students are going to need to drive their learning process.  This can be challenging for some students because it not the standard way of learning.  The students are going to need to accept the challenge and be motivated by this obstacle.  Students are also going to have to be able to collaborate, communicate and reflect.  This may be”uncharted territory” for some students should want to learn about these new concepts.  Whether it’s a new reflecting or have difficulty with formatting the ePortfolio platform, the students will need to persist and keep trying.  Using the ePortfolios, students will need to shift gears from being grade driven to driven by evidence of learning progress.  Students will need to be accepting of criticism and learn from others.  When students participate in the ePortfolio process, they be able to practice and develop a true growth mindset.


Dweck, C. (2006) How Can You Change from a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset?. Retrieved from

Dweck, C. (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York, NY: Random House.

Dweck, C. (2016, January 11) Recognizing and Overcoming False Growth Mindset [Web log post]. Retrieved July 29 2018, from

Fixed mindset vs. Growth mindset by mikaylar – Infogram. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Guido, M. (2016, December 22) 10 Ways Teachers Can Instill a Growth Mindset in Students [Web log post]. Retrieved July 29 2018, from

Khan Academy. (2014, August 16). John Legend: Success Through Effort. Retrieved from

Lu, J. (2017, May 20). Four Steps to a Growth Mindset. Retrieved from

The power of believing that you can improve – Carol Dweck. (2014, December 17). Retrieved from


Power of Growth Mindset

To get students to understand and develop the growth mindset, teachers need to model this mindset. In order for students to buy into this mindset, they need to see that the teacher truly believe in it and practice it on a daily basis.  I believe that the teacher needs to focus on the important “stuff” like the learning process rather than the grade.  If the teacher is able to get the message across, students wouldn’t be hyper focused and have anxiety about grades.  I believe that having the students be in charge or their learning and the teacher taking the facilitator role, in the lessons would also help develop the growth mindset.  With students being in charge of their learning they are able to challenge themselves, take risks  and reflect on what might have worked and what didn’t work.  By students taking charge of their learning, they would develop a sense of accomplishment, pride and ownership about what they learned.  It becomes more personal to them.  Learning would be a more enjoyable process for the student.

“Yet” could be modeled formally and informally, in the classroom.  Teachers could model or share personal experiences of when they used the power of “yet”.  Teachers could also informally address a situation, if a students was feeling defeated or negative about learning a certain concept or skill.

I feel that the growth mindset would definitely change the acceptance of feedback.  Students or anyone for that matter have a tendency to feel a little to a lot defensive.  By accepting challenges and the focus being on growth, students want and welcome feedback because the goal is to grow and learn more.  In regards to rate of cheating, I feel that this would decrease dramatically.  Because  the learning process is highly valued, the grade is no longer desirable to the student.


Understanding by Design


Think about the big picture. That’s what I tell my students, on a daily basis.  Teaching both regular education and special education, I encounter struggling learners.  I have students that act in the now and don’t think how it will impact their future or “big picture” goal.  In my everyday life, I need to constantly think about the big picture.  Whether it was selling my house and buying a new house or planning to get my second master’s degree in Digital Learning and Leading, planning backwards is what I’ve done to accomplish my goals.  There are so many situations in life, that thinking backwards helps but it needs to be a fully followed through process.

By completing my 3 Column Table, it gave me a look at backwards design.  Prior to completing this assignment, I thought that they were the same but after reading and exploring I was able to find out the difference.  The 3 Column Table, is a broad overview of how I’d like to incorporate ePortfolios in the classroom.  By using the Understanding by Design Template, I realized that it’s specific lesson that is encompassed by the 3 Column table.

So the question is, would I use this in my classroom? Yes, I think that this is a great way to keep organized.  It would help me to focus on the big picture and plan to get to the big picture. How would I use these organizational tools in my classroom?  I think that I would use the 3 Column table, when planning a unit.  I would use the Understanding by Design Template for the lessons that go with that specific unit.

These tools help teachers to think of the big picture and create a plan, in order to take the appropriate steps for the big picture to become a reality.


Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from:

Kurt, S. (2016, January 27). Backward design. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design, Expanded 2nd Edition. Pearson. ISBN 0131950843

Embracing Change


In the video, What 60 Schools Can Tell Us About Teaching 21st Century Skills, Grant Lichtman spoke about the difference between what’s difficult verses what’s uncomfortable in regards to change.  I really enjoyed when he was giving examples of what’s hard, shutting down the idea of change being “hard”.  Change can be uncomfortable, but it being difficult isn’t what’s getting in the way it’s us.  We are so use to routine and doing what we thought worked when we were in school.  If we as teachers are able past it, we can change and meet the needs of the students we have now.

So the question is, where do we want to be? Lichtman had one word on the screen, in his video, Dewey.  Dewey stated, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” We need to teach them to be prepared for their future.  We need to teach them to be self-evolving learners, because we can’t actually predict the future.  But to teach them to be self-evolving learners, we need to do the same.  We need to set an example.  We need to embrace change.  We need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Coming up with a plan for change is great, but useless if not acted upon.  Brace yourself and bring on the learning revolution.  Prepare your students for a successful future.

Aligning Outcomes, Assessment and Activities

After reading Fink’s, A Self-Directed Guide to Course Design , it helped to make my innovation plan get one step closer to a reality.  In my innovation plan, I plan to implement the use of ePortfolios in the classroom.  Although I went through the step by step process of this initiative, in the implementation plan outline  ,  it was broad description of what would be taking place.  It gave the detail of the initiative such as: a half year of getting feedback and thoughts on the use of ePortfolios, a full piloting year and then followed up with school-wide ePortfolio use.  By following Fink’s course design, I was able to align outcomes, assessment and activites, with the “Backward Design” (Fink, 4) in mind.  I asked myself, “What will students do to demonstrate they have achieved the Learning Goals we set for the course?”(Fink, 4).  The answer to that question, drove me to think about my actual goal.

By first creating my BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal, I was able to look at where I want my students to be and what I want them to learn.  With my goal being so student focused, it allowed me to align the assessments and and activities to be student focused as well.  My end goal is to prepare students for post-secondary life, no matter what path, and to feel confidence about learning so they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives’.  I want my students to be successful after they leave high school and by implementing this plan and BHAG, I believe this is all possible!

L. Dee Fink Creating significant learning experiences. Jossey-Bass.



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Connect, Not Collect

Prior to reading about Jim Collin’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal, I had no clue what it was.  BHAG is a great way to create a purpose for a course, because the educator lets the students know their ultimate destination in their learning journey.  The awesome part about this goal, is that it take the emotions of the learner into account.  The fact that this goal addresses why the student will want to going on this learning journey is great.  Students need to know that they are taken into account with the learning process or journey to be fully invested.

I believe that every educator truly believes that to make meaningful connections, it better to focus on connecting dots rather than collecting dots.  I hate to keep harping on it, but with state assessments really hinder educators from acting on our beliefs.  We are told that we MUST all of the skills and concepts on the test.  So rather than having mastery and understanding guide the flow of the class, it’s touching on all of the concepts whether or not it is fully mastered.  I think that having the list of skills and concepts  are  a good resource, but it shouldn’t be a rigid list that runs the classroom.

I’m currently “in progress” on my learning journey.  I feel that with each class I learn more and more.  I think that my learning correlates with my students learning.  As I’m learning, I’m using what I learn in my classroom.  I think that just life myself, my students will continue to grow.  It’s new and different.  We are loving the change!


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