Melding Face to Face Instruction with Online Learning

Learning that combines face to face and online learning is a theory called blended learning. Blended learning is defined by the Clayton Christensen Institute as, a formal education program in which a student learns:

  1. at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
  2. at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
  3. and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”

The first step in creating the blended learning environment is to have a digital workflow. Schoology is the learning management system we use in Bellevue Public Schools which provides a consistent digital workflow for educators, students, and parents. In providing a digital workflow, teachers have the tools to design instruction that is efficient, differentiated, and private.


After being in many classrooms over the years, I know the currency of the classroom is time. Teachers are masters of time management. However, even the time efficient classrooms lose time on managing the paperwork. Handing out papers 21st century style can be done with a click of a button. To turn in assignments, students simply click submit and the work is curated and waiting for teachers to grade. Leveraging Schoology for online grading reduces the assessment feedback cycle. Students love the speedy feedback and teachers enjoy an efficient workflow with more time to invest in planning and delivering instruction.


In any given classroom, there are no two people who learn the same way at the same pace.  When courses are designed to give students control of the path and pace of their learning, differentiation occurs organically.  When students have the flexibility to interact with the material that best meets their individual learning needs, differentiation occurs and leads students to success.

One efficient blended learning strategy is called the in class flip where teachers create a short video lecture. When students access the teacher created videos, the traditional classroom workflow changes. These teacher created videos allow students the freedom to listen to a lecture at his/her own pace. This sounds like a simple concept, but this is a game changer for students. For the first time students now have the power to rewind, pause, and play their teacher delivering the content as many times as individually needed. Even better, students can control the pacing of a lecture by either decreasing or increasing the rate of speech. Many students find controlling the pacing increases their comprehension of the material and allows them to work independently at their own pace.

Another way Schoology allows teachers to differentiate is the ability to create and distribute multiple assessments so students can have the exam that meets their needs. Teachers can also allow multiple attempts on formative assessments giving students private, immediate feedback on their responses. With assessment data in hand, students can go back to course materials and continue to study and learn exactly what they need.


Do you remember the days in the classroom where you may have had a burning question, but were paralyzed to ask because you didn’t want to embarrass yourself? Or did you wish you could try a quiz again, but didn’t want anyone else to know? How about when papers were handed out and everyone could see your paper bleeding red as it was handed back to you?

When teachers leverage the assignment, assessment, and discussion features students are provided feedback privately. This happens when teachers develop their courses in Schoology and create assignments. Each assignment can be distributed to an individual, group, or the entire class. For example, one group of students may need one assignment, while another group, a different assignment. These are all pushed to students through Schoology and in such a way that Group A doesn’t know they have different materials than group B.

Another scenario that frequently occurs is the need for a student to have a test read aloud. Schoology makes this a simple workflow for both the teacher and student. For example, a teacher can make a recording of a test or quiz and record the audio in Schoology. The student accesses the audio file in Schoology which provides them the assistance they need to be successful.  

Crafting instruction that is efficient, differentiated, and private is one of the many reasons we love using Schoology as our learning management system to provide the first pillar of blended learning, a consistent digital workflow.  

Written by Ann Feldmann


Blended Learning Definitions. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2017, from

The First Game: Design and Implementation

This is the third post in a collaborative blog series telling the story of three teachers, in three different classrooms using gamification to create a more meaningful and engaging learning environment. The first and second post laid the foundation as Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, and Phillip Loomis discussed their reasons for infusing gamification into their English classrooms and how they got started. Not an English teacher, no worries! These strategies can be used in any subject or grade level.

“But what does it look like inside the classroom?” – Another random quote from the majority of teachers who hear a great strategy but have no idea where to begin.

For many teachers the key to trying something new is to first see its success in another teacher’s classroom, and that is the purpose of this post. Santha, Liz, and Phillip are going to provide you with a vision of gamification by taking you inside their classrooms.


Santha Walters (@santhawalters) – 8th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

I use a four house gamification system, therefore, each gamified class becomes an opportunity for a house to pull ahead on the leaderboard in our room. Fridays are our gamification day. On that day students enter the room, sit with their housemates, and prepare to face a non-grammar challenge. Non-Grammar challenges are my way ounnamedf spicing up the curriculum and providing an alternative motivation for students who don’t care about grades. Only students who have completed the work in the grammar game can compete in the non-grammar challenges, so it’s a good incentive for them to help out their house.  

For the non-grammar challenges, we have used variations of the Minute to Win It games. For example, we’ve stacked golf balls and we’ve kept balloons afloat in the air using just one hand. This is simply a three to five minute “brain break” and team building session.  

After the non-grammar challenge is complete, I will follow one of three lesson plans. At the beginning of a unit, I will pre-test the kids to see which concepts in the unit are tripping them up. This allows me to design grammar units for the class and only spend direct instruction time on what is absolutely needed. The pre-test for the students does NOT count as a grade. It counts as “house points.” The house with the most points at the end of the day on Friday gets special privileges the next week, so again, there is a big incentive to get the work done. This also encourages students to help each other (so that their house gets more points).  

The next Friday, we will pick up the lesson where we left off. We’ll start with a non-grammar challenge and then move to either flipped lessons or direct teaching of a grammar concept. Students can earn house points during the practice and review section. Instead of doing a worksheet, students participate in games over the concept. They work in Quizizz or Socrative to try to get the high score. I also count participation in the review games as part of their house points (participation). Usually, these points are doubled because the bulk of their review happens here.

With the second step, it’s important to note that it may take more than one Friday to accomplish all the “learning” they need in order to be prepared for the formative test at the end of the unit. That’s why I use these middle lessons like shampoo–rinse and repeat.  Sometimes with more difficult concepts, we have several lesson and practice sessions to prepare for the Boss Battle—which is always the last lesson we do before changing grammar units.

During the Boss Battle, students actually put their skills against mine. I publish a test with a randomized test bank of about thirty questions. Depending on the level of the student, I then assign them a 10 or 15 question test. Students are free to practice the test all week until Friday. On Friday, they come into class and we do a non-grammar challenge. Then, I allow them some review time with their team. Finally, we either divide into houses and see who can do the test the quickest with the most accuracy OR I take on the entire class and anyone to beat me, my score and my time, get house points for their house. This is usually a really big award like 200–500 points.  

Here’s where it gets a little dicey. That boss battle (that randomized test) becomes their formative grade. However, for my SPeD population, I allow them and any student who doesn’t like their boss battle score to redo the assignment for a better grade. SPeD students are also assigned a reduced number quiz so that the formative grade adequately reflects their ability.  

This is my longest blog post.  Maybe I should try an infographic instead?


Liz Lambert (@LambertClass) – 7th/8th Grade English & Math Teacher, Lewis & Clark Middle School

The way I “gamify” my English class is pretty simple. I didn’t design my own game, but instead chose to use one already made. I modeled my grammar instruction after the board game, Pandemic. If you aren’t familiar with this game, all players work togethunnamed-1er to either all win or all lose the game. The actual game board is a picture of the world with several major cities highlighted. Each player has a specific role on a research team. The goal of the game is to contain infectious diseases before an outbreak or an epidemic occurs.

So what does that look like in my class? Well, all of my students are put on “research teams.” They all have specific jobs within the group from being the team leader to being the materials collector. Each grammar unit is a major city in the world. Each team creates a flag and goes to each city (grammar unit) to contain the diseases (grammar activities). At the start of each unit, all students will take a pretest on that unit’s concepts. My district uses the LMS, Schoology, so all of my materials are loaded in my online Schoology course. If a student scores an A on the pre-test, they can immediately start on the activities tied to that unit. If a student scores less than an A, then the student will take notes on a video that contains instruction on the major concepts in the unit. I use the “flipped classroom” model with this, as it allows the students to learn at their own pace and allows me to interact with students on a more “mentor” level. When the student finishes their video notes, they have their notes signed by the team leader. Then, that student can start on the activities.

What’s the big deal about starting the activities right away? More time to collect points! Each activity that I offer students in a unit is worth a certain amount of points. The more involved an activity is, the more points it is worth! Each student works as an individual to earn as many points as they can each grammar day. These points will go to a team total. The winning team at the end of a unit will get a special prize from me (snack, special privilege, etc).

A lot of people have asked me if I make all of my grammar activities. Honestly, no! Below is a picture of what kinds of activities I offer in a unit.Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 8.59.51 AMYou will see that I do offer some traditional book pages and worksheet options, but I also offer some very creative options like creating a how-to video using a green screen or a super slide video that explains the differences in one sentence to another. It’s all about providing students with a way to marry content with creation. Choice is EVERYTHING. I also use a few other resources like No Red Ink, Kahoot, and Quizzizz. Kids love using online games/exercises, because most give them immediate feedback. Although it does take some time at the beginning of the unit to get all of my materials ready and posted, I am saving time in the end, because I have far less students needing to do retakes on tests. The initial work is absolutely worth the reward.


Phillip Loomis (@TeachLoomis) – 7th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

Designing the first game, I used a tenet from the PBL playbook in which I gave students ‘Voice and Choice.’ This first game was housed within our LMS, Schoology. There were three different paths students could choose from to reach the end of the scenario; Riding the Rapids (web-based), Across the Desert (textbook), and Climbing the Mountain (online text).  Additionally, I added a ‘Break from the Trip’ in which students could wa8cffed134ca4f139629ae75f3f87ba25_400x400tch related Kahn Academy videos. As an added option, I had the old-standard worksheets which students could complete in lieu of one assignment within their chosen path. Overall, the work was basically the same regardless of which path students chose, accept the web-based NoRedInk ( that provided a diagnostic and leveled assignments for where the students were performing, thus providing an additional albeit manageable workload.

Throughout the design process, I carefully linked the state and district standards to the conditions to reach the end of the game. While there were different paths to get to the end of the game, the finish line was the same; a district common formative. The question then, was how to make the test part of the scenario. The answer was to tie it to classroom rewards. Student groups were formed based upon their chosen path where they played competitive group review games of Kahoot! and Quizizz to compete for numerous rewards; preferred seating, music during work-time, work with a friend, and yes, even a snack! These reviews provided an energy boost the day before the formative and regained student buy-in.

Reflecting on this unit, I realized the element of ‘play’ was missing from this ‘gamified’ unit. Additionally, while I believed students would use their imaginations to see themselves as an adventurer, there wasn’t enough within the game design for the majority of students to see themselves as such. Yes, this game flopped. Having tested the gamification waters and seeing the problems firsthand, I better understood that each of the mechanics mentioned in our earlier post was crucial. Now, after a few more games since this, I would never use (or design) a game like this again. However, the missing elements could be incorporated to make this a far more enjoyable learning experience. Maybe next year…

Want to hear about our games? Look for our June post in which we summarize the games we tried, the games we want to design, and the continued list of lessons we’re learning!

Written by Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, Phillip Loomis, & Jeffrey Bernadt


Five Creation Ideas for Your Classroom

Our challenge as educators is to craft engaging learning experiences for students. When students are given opportunities to create, the ownership of the learning shifts to the student and they become the center of the educational experience. So, the question becomes, how can I provide my students opportunities to create on a regular basis? Designing lessons that include creation opportunities moves students from passive to active learners and provides students a variety of ways to show their learning. The use of technology provides new creation opportunities for students.

Passive Active
Filling out a worksheet Investigating a topic
Reading a book Writing a book
Drill and Practice Interacting and learning with/from students around the world
Taking notes Sharing work with peers where students are learning from students

What does creation look like in the classroom? Let’s take a look at how five iPad Academy teachers in Bellevue Public Schools provide opportunities for students to create with technology.

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-2-17-01-pm1.Investigative Projects

Turn a passive lecture lesson into an active lesson filled with a classroom of creators. Brent Myers (@mrmyers1), 8th grade history teacher at Mission Middle School, redesigned his lessons on the Transcontinental Railroad and the Homestead Act. He flipped the script by giving the students a driving question for them to answer. Using resources that were both online and unplugged, students investigated the importance of these historical events and created a paper slide video to showcase their learning.

What is a super slide video? Click here to see a video on Super Slide Videos.

To see a detailed super slide lesson plan, click here

Thanks to Lisa Pack (@ilisapack) for all her work and inspiration on super slide videos.

  1.  Student Authors 

    Brittany Braasch (@brittanybraasch) and Michelle Klamm (@klammlovesmnms), 3rd grade teachers at Bellevue Elementary, have students create eBooks on Jamestown to showcase their learning. The creation of the Jamestown book fulfills an essential objective for Social Studies. The students are required to include information about leadership, reasons for settlement, geographic location, how they made their money, shelter, and interesting facts. They also have to include a personal reflection detailing their thoughts on being a child in Jamestown. Students used Popplet as a graphic organizer as they collected the information. They found their information in Schoology and the Early Jamestown app, as well as through videos that the teachers provided. The students used the Book Creator app to create the actual eBook. They used Safari and PicCollage for the pictures. As students learned the material, they used the Chatterpix app to create mini-videos to include throughout the book. It takes about three weeks of 45 minute instructional blocks to complete the project.

Here are two examples Jamestown ebooks created by 3rd graders:  Book 1    | Book 2

  1.  Creation with Green Screen Videos

Tori Parde (@TORI_Parde), 6th grade teacher at Fairview Elementary, allows students the opportunity to transport themselves and their projects to a different setting by using a green screen for student creation videos. For one of their language arts assignments focusing on communication skills, students created a movie review news segment. Students use the camera app to film, the Green Screen app by DoInk for the green screen backgrounds and layers, and iMovie to edit the finished project. Students were required to put clips from the actual motion picture trailer in their movie review segment. The only limit was the child’s imagination.

“My advice is to dive-in!” Parde said. “I see this as a way to help incite wonder in my students. I hope these experiences ignite a passion for traveling to new places, learning new things, and dreaming to be something or somewhere they never thought they could be.”

  1.  Coding

When Kathy Harms (@kathy_harms), first grade teacher at Wake Robin Elementary, described her upcoming Science Objective, EO2 Position and Motion, we asked ourselves if there was a more creative way to engage our students with this material. The objective asks students to compare relative position and motion of objects. As we discussed the lesson, we thought it would be a perfect fit for the Dash robots and Parrot minidrones.

The first day was a “show and do” format. Harms modeled how to code Dash to show the basic movements by using the Reflector app to display the iPad with a projector and showing students how to drag the coding blocks together to make Dash move. Then, students got into groups and took turns coding forward/fast. Student gathered on the rug to see a demonstration of the backward/slow blocks and returned to groups to practice. The “show and do” format was repeated four times and helped focus the students to assure they knew the directions before working independently in their groups. The other motions covered were zig zag, back and forth and round and round.

The second day students experienced a station rotation model including coding challenges with the robots. They used their science motion words of forward, backward, round and round, faster, and slower.  

“This activity took students to a new level of understanding within this objective,” Harms said. “The activities allowed students to not only learn the objective, but to transfer the learning to coding the robots. The experiential learning solidified the concept and 95% of the students earned an advanced score on the assessment, one student who earned proficient was absent Day 2. The center activities, both teacher guided and student guided, were appropriately timed so students could experience the successful completion of the activities or tasks. Applying the vocabulary as students coded or viewed Dash’s motions was a meaningful way to learn, reinforce and extend the science objective (SC2.2.2).”

Click here to see the details including videos of the lesson plan.

  1. Multimodal Summarization

Lisa Keene (@lkeene0306), 4th grade teacher at Leonard Lawrence, provides her students choice and creation in language arts. She takes advantage of the multimodal opportunities that technology brings to the classroom.  In her reading curriculum, students were studying the genre of tall tales and learning the skill of how to summarize. After class time was spent learning the skills and reading the tall tale Paul Bunyan, students were given choice and time to create video tall tale summaries. Students chose their groups, the tall tale, and the app and applied their creativity and summarization skills to retell the tall tale.

“The students really got into it,” Keene said. “They brought props from home, made props/costumes out of paper, and created their own characters in Toontastic. Writing summaries can be difficult for 4th graders sometimes, but given all the choice, creating, and knowing it was going to be seen by an audience, made it motivating to learn.

What did the students create? Projects included a green screen video, an app smash with Puppet Pals, Toontastic, and iMovie, a paper slide video.  All the students shared their creations SeeSaw app and additionally shared their projects to the class using Reflector 2 (computer) and airplay (iPad).

Here are examples of tall tales. Some characters were created in  Toontastic and Puppetpals2 and the video created in iMovie. Green Screen videos were created in the Green Screen app by Doink.          Johnny Appleseed green screen          John Henry super slides (paper slides)            Pecos Bill toontastic          John Henry toontastic             Paul Bunyan green screen

As you reflect on your classroom, is creation part of your workflow? How can you redesign your lesson to include opportunities for students to create projects that show their understanding of learning objectives? Use these ideas above as a springboard to opening the doors of creation for your students.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun,” Albert Einstein

Written by Ann Feldmann @annfeldmann1

First Steps and Pitfalls: How we got started…

This is the second post in a collaborative blog series telling the story of three teachers, in three different classrooms using gamification to create a more meaningful and engaging learning environment. The first post laid the foundation as Santha Walters (@santhawalters), Liz Lambert (@LambertClass), and Phillip Loomis (@TeachLoomis) discussed their reasons for infusing gamification into their English classrooms. Not an English teacher, no worries! These strategies can be used in any subject or grade level.

“That sounds awesome, but I have no idea where to start!” – Random quote from the majority of teachers who hear a great strategy but have no idea where to begin.

Teachers often hear about great ideas and strategies to use in their classroom. However, rarely are they provided a roadmap to use as they embark on the new journey. That is the focus of the upcoming posts in this series. Providing teachers with the steps they can take to begin using gamification in their classroom, no matter what they teach. Not only are Santha, Liz and Phillip going to be providing the first steps they took in implementing gamification in their classrooms, but also some of the productive struggles they have encountered during the process.


Santha Walters (@santhawalters) – 8th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

unnamedFor me, my gamification process started with reading and a flow chart. I used Matthew Farber’s Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies) book to both understand why gamification was a sound strategy and how to go about getting started.

After pursuing several chapters, I came up with this flowchart to share with my collaborators in the gamification project to explain how I was seeing things play out.    

fullsizerenderI decided on a house system based loosely on the Harry Potter book series. The entire team of 121 students was sorted into four “houses” or teams. Dividing them equally, it ended up being approximately 30 students per house. These teams spanned the entire body of students I teach, so students in 2nd period who were in House X were also grouped with students in 3rd hour in House X and so on.   

One of my first steps in creating the teams was to build them in a way that they were of equal intellectual strength. Calling on my team of special educators, I asked them to help me uniformly distribute the kids across the four houses. After the team here at Logan identified all the students I teach with special needs (SPeD) and high ability learners (H.A.L.), we then focused on making sure that each house had the same number of SPeD and H.A.L. kids. This appears to have done the trick as the intellectual strength of each house seems fairly even.

As far as pitfalls, I think the biggest challenge has been counting up points because I provide so many different avenues for students to do the teamwork (they can make worksheets, do worksheets, create teaching videos, do quizzes online) and they are not divided by class period anymore. However, I would much rather spend this time counting all the work they have turned in than writing emails to parents about students who have not completed their grammar work. The honest truth of it is that one of the reasons this is so time consuming is because so many students are turning in and actually doing their work–which was the goal to begin with! Some say “be careful what you wish for,” but I would wish for this level of engagement a hundred times again. The raw potential in the gamification strategy is astounding.


Liz Lambert (@LambertClass) – 7th/8th Grade English & Math Teacher, Lewis & Clark Middle School

I made the decision to go “all in” with gamification after meeting with my colleagues over the summer to discuss grammar. Leaving the meeting, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t really know the ins and outs of gamification, and coming up with a whole new method ounnamed-1f delivering instruction and measuring student progress seemed completely daunting to me.

As I drove home from that meeting, I remembered this game I played with my husband called Pandemic, a strategy game where all players are given jobs and work collectively to eradicate diseases from all over the globe. A lightbulb went off. I decided to turn my grammar curriculum into a huge game of Pandemic. When I pitched the idea to my kids, they thought I had completely lost it, but after the first week, they were hooked. To help students “buy in,” each student was put into a group of “researchers,” given a job, and sent somewhere on the map that I had hanging in my classroom. Each destination on the map represented a different grammar concept. My journey into gamifying my classroom had begun!

Gamifying my class has allowed my students to learn at their own pace, to pick activities to practice each grammar concept that interests them while promoting creativity, and to collaborate with their peers. Even though this process has been wonderful for my class, we have encountered some pitfalls. As with any technology device, sometimes, things don’t work the way they are supposed to. It also has been time consuming for me as the teacher. I have spent several plan periods just counting points that each student earned on a given day for their group. However, these times are so worth it to me if it means my students are learning, growing, and are diving deeper into the content. Their assessments are showing that they are understanding the material better than ever before, so those plan periods I’m spending counting points are not as time consuming as offering test retakes and study sessions. I have simply restructured my time and how it is being used. The time is absolutely worth the reward.


Phillip Loomis (@TeachLoomis) – 7th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

Playing strategic board games and role-playing games (RPGs) was a passion for me many years ago. While only a very occasional player now, I still feel the lure these games have on me. It was this feeling that jumped out at me when Santha Walters (@sa8cffed134ca4f139629ae75f3f87ba25_400x400nthawalters) first spoke to me about gamification. How could I tie that emotion into a grammar lesson?

In order for gamification to be successful, I knew two things; first, it needed to be engaging to my students, and second, I didn’t want to add significant time to my day to run it. To do this, a little reading was needed. It began with the book, Level Up Your Classroom: The Quest to Gamify Your Lessons and Engage Your Students, by Jonathan Cassie (@joncassie). The four mechanics (Table 1) and six properties (Table 2) he outlines provided me with the vehicle for my ideas to reach the classroom. Similar to Santha, I created four houses (all with equally mixed abilities), and began designing a ‘house cup’ type of contest. I provided various ways in which students could compete through the form of work they chose, outlined ways in which both personal and house points could be earned and lost. And off we went.

The largest pitfall that I’ve subjected myself too so far was during my first game, when I rolled out a game without clear instructions about how to earn/lose points or identify specific conditions for victory. In Cassie’s book (Available through Amazon) , he specifically mentions the need to have both clearly defined rules and the conditions to win available for the students. This is where I jumped in without being adequately prepared. In my attempt to ‘feel my way through’ the first couple of days of a game to make any needed tweaks, I confused both the students, and at one point, myself. The lesson was taught, and the assignments were accomplished, but to stumble so quickly into a new game significantly decreased student buy-in. Spend the extra hour or so ensuring these aspects are set, and explained from the start. You’ll save time doing this now compared to catching up and explaining changes of the rules later, which may include the need to correct student and house points.

Table 1

Mechanics Purpose
Agen (Greek: Struggle) The skill factor of the game
Alea (Latin: dice) The chance factor of the game
Mimicry Players assume a different identity
Ilinx (Greek: whirlpool) A momentary lapse of game stability

Table 2

Fundamental Properties, Jonathan Cassie’s, Level Up Your Classroom
1. All games are in some way a combination of the four mechanics.
2. Games have strict rules that all players must follow.
3. Game-winning conditions are clearly defined.
4. There are many different ways a game can end-not just one.
5. Players try hard to win because winning is desirable.
6. Games can be played repeatedly with different outcomes.


Gamification has not only transformed the way the curriculum is being presented to students but more importantly the learning environment in these three classrooms. Students are engaged, collaborating, and completing more work than ever before!

Over the next couple of posts Santha, Liz, and Phillip will be diving deeper into how their gamified classrooms and units are setup. They will be showing examples and providing more resources and ideas! Make sure to click Follow on the right of this page so that you don’t miss any of the upcoming blog posts!

Written by Jeffrey Bernadt, Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, & Phillip Loomis

Gamifying Grammar: 3 Teachers, 3 Classrooms, 3 Styles

How can we make grammar more engaging for our students?

This was the question posed by three middle school English teachers in Bellevue Public Schools (@BellevuePublicSchools #bpsne) that resulted in the start of a journey to gamify their grammar curriculum. The goal was simple, to complete all the grammar curriculum but to do so in a way that made it more meaningful and enjoyable for both the students and teachers. Elizabeth Lambert (@LambertClass), Phillip Loomis (@TeachLoomis), and Santha Walters (@santhawalters) are all teachers in the district’s iPad Academy (#ipadacademy), which means they are teaching in a 1:1 classroom environment with iPads.

This is the story of how district curriculum meets the powerful combination of gamification and blended learning. This blog series will provide readers with an inside look into three different classrooms that are in the process of transforming their grammar curriculum.

The best part is that although these three classrooms have a number of similarities, they are all implementing gamification differently in their classrooms. Follow along the journey as each blog post will have one guiding question with three different perspectives.

This week the focus centers on why these three teachers chose to gamify their grammar!


Santha Walters – 8th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

Why did I start gamification?  unnamed

Think about this for a second. The students in my classroom are on track to be the generation that goes to Mars. Mars.  

In this day and age, worksheets hold very little fascination for our students. They are accustomed to mile a second, lightspeed paced video games which they play for hours without a tangible reward. When kids play games I see engagement–full, engrossing, exclusive engagement.

I wanted to give them something like that in the classroom. I wanted them to have a flow and a purpose beyond “well, I have to do this to get a grade” (which is what motivates most of our “traditional” students. In the classroom now, they do the work (without a good or bad grade) and earn experience points to help their team just by attempting the work. They don’t have to be proficient to earn points for their house. They don’t have to do anything but try and defeat the goal of the game.

As the world continues changes, teachers are seeing many more students who are differently motivated. I only hope that gamifying a portion of the curriculum will help these students as well as the traditionally motivated ones.  


Liz Lambert – 7th/8th Grade English & Math Teacher, Lewis & Clark Middleunnamed-1 School

Over the last several years, I have struggled teaching English to middle schoolers. It’s not that I don’t love teaching English, I do, but there was one facet of English that just never clicked with my kids- grammar. I really struggled with how I could get students to not only understand the different grammar rules, but also help them to CARE about the grammar rules enough to implement what they learn into how they write. Let’s face it, not every kid loves to diagram sentences in their free time. These were the kids that I was desperate to reach; the kids that don’t love or even like English.

When worksheets fell short, I turned to technology. I have spent hours searching for at least one app that would make grammar practice fun for the kids, but I found most of them to be completely lackluster. When some of my colleagues invited me to get together over the summer to talk about how to make grammar more engaging through gamification, I was all in. I was desperate to find a way to motivate my students, and I was willing to try anything at that point. In that meeting, it was as if the lights finally turned on. I had my ah ha moment, and things drastically changed for myself and more importantly, for my students.


Phillip Loomis – 7th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

8cffed134ca4f139629ae75f3f87ba25_400x400When I first heard about ‘gamification’ in education, honestly, I was very hesitant to even consider it. ‘How in the world could a teacher run a classroom by playing games?!? No self-respecting professional would use games to teach in a classroom.’ That is where I was less than a year ago, my friends. Now, I see a vast world of possibilities using gamification to successfully teach grammar in my English classroom – that’s right, I said it – GRAMMAR!

What changed my mind? My own kids! I listened to two of my near 30 year-old kids during a summer reunion talk about a popular first person shooter game. For over 30 minutes they shared what they had learned to defeat a scenario; how they tried over and over again until they were able to complete a mission. They weren’t satisfied with just a meager passing rating, but worked until they earned the highest rating possible. This is when it clicked! This is learning, this is persistence, this is not settling for mediocrity, this is determination, this is all FUN! And this, is what I want for and from my students each and every day. Got game? No? Well follow us into a beginner’s voyage of gamifying three different classrooms in three different ways…


And so it begins, the story of three different teachers, in three different classrooms, with three different styles, all turning to gamification to transform the teaching and learning of grammar! Now that you know the why, we will start digging into the how. Make sure to follow this blog so you can be notified when the next post drops!

Wanting more information on gamification? Below are a list of different resources Walters, Loomis, Lambert, and I have used to get started down this path of gamification.


  • Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning by Matthew Farber
  • Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners by Michael Matera
  • Level Up Your Classroom: The Quest to Gamify Your Lessons and Engage Your Students by     Jonathan Cassie

Twitter Hashtags & Chats

  • #games4ed
  • #GBL
  • #gamification
  • #XPLAP
  • #minecraftedu


Written by Jeffrey Bernadt, Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, & Phillip Loomis

Position and Motion and Robots Oh My!

When Kathy Harms (@kathy_harms), first grade teacher at Wake Robin, described her upcoming Science Objective, EO2 Position and Motion, Ann Feldmann’s (@annfeldmann1) wheels began turning. The objective has students compare relative position and motion of objects. As they discussed possible ways to integrate the iPads, Feldmann, Bellevue Public Schools Instructional Technology Specialist, thought this unit would be a perfect fit for the Dash Robots and Parrot Minidrones.

Together, Harms and Feldmann crafted the following lesson.

Before the lesson:

  • Download the Blockly App on all student iPads.
  • Reserve the robots and drone from the technology specialists.
  • Create job cards, color cards with the numbers 1-4 on them, this was the order that students took turns.
  • Charge the Dashes and Drone so they are ready for the lesson.
  • Download the Seesaw app on all student iPads.

Day 1

The first day was a “show and do” format. First up, Feldmann and Harms took turns showing the students how to code Dash to show the basic movements. They started with forward/fast by using the Reflector app to display the iPad with a projector and showing students how they dragged the coding blocks together to make Dash move. Then, the students got into their groups and took turns coding forward/fast. They gathered the students again on the rug to show the backward/slow motion and sent them in their groups again. The “show and do” format was repeated four times and helped focus the students to assure they knew the directions before working independently in their groups. The other motions covered were zig zag, back and forth and round and round. To create the movement of zig zag, we used the “Dance: Dash Confident” block that was pre programmed and had it loop. For back and forth, we coded a loop using forward and backward. The last movement created was round and round and it was programed by coding Dash to turn left 360° and loop three times.

After 40 minutes of Dash, it was time to pull out the Parrot Drone. The students experienced the up and down motion through a teacher demonstration. Harms coded and operated the Drone, while the students described the movements. They were thrilled to see the drone fly, hover, and maneuver unmanned above them.  

Day 2

Feldmann, Harms, and student teacher, Ali Saner used the station rotation model for more opportunities for hands on learning with the robots. Each station was around 10 minutes including transition time. Three of the stations were teacher led.

Materials: job cards, Dash Robots, Drone, iPads, vocabulary worksheet, motion worksheet from logbook

Center 1

Teacher coded and operated Dash through motions: forward/backward, round and round, zig zag, and back and forth. As students observed, they recorded and narrated what they saw in SeeSaw. Here is a video of the students at this station.

Materials: One Dash needed.

Center 2

Teacher coded and operated Drone. Students recorded and narrated the video describing the motions. These videos were shared in Seesaw. Here is a video of the kids at this station.

Materials: One drone needed.

Center 3

Can you find the path? This is an independent worksheet.


Center 4

Each student had a robot to code using the previously learned motions and then tested the code on the robots. (4 dash robots needed)

Center 5

Motion Vocabulary worksheet



This activity took students to a new level of understanding within this objective. The activities allowed students to not only learn the objective, but to transfer the learning to coding the robots. The experiential learning solidified the concept and 95% of the students earned an advanced score on the assessment, one student who earned Proficient was absent Day 2. The center activities, both teacher guided and student guided, were appropriately timed so students could experience the successful completion of the activities or tasks. Applying the vocabulary as students coded or viewed Dash’s motions was a meaningful way to learn, reinforce and extend the science objective (SC2.2.2).  


  • Be sure to name the robots so students join the correct robot using the Go app.
  • Make sure all robots are updated and charged.
  • Color coding the stations around the room was helpful for students.
  • Expect students to be excited.
  • It is helpful to have more than one adult in the room.


Let the students experience coding Dash by creating a course and then writing the code to move Dash through the course. This would be a fun challenge that would continue to build their coding skills and develop an increased understanding of movement.

Written by Kathy Harms (@kathy_harms) and Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1)

Blending First Grade Math: The Station Rotation Model

One of my first conversations with Cassie Raymond (@casa_ray) as we began our journey to integrate iPads into her first grade classroom centered around her math stations. It was one month into the school year and her students were well-trained in the four stations she had them going to daily during their math block. As a result, the focus of our conversation shifted to how can we take the math framework that we were going to implement and merge it with the stations that have been working so well for Raymond, her co-teacher Kayla Kill (@kaylakill123), and her students.

Image from Reading Horizons (2)

A great blended learning strategy for this situation was the Station Rotation model. According to the Clayton Christensen Institute, “The Station Rotation model differs from the Individual Rotation model because students rotate through all of the stations, not only those on their custom schedules.”1 Since Raymond and her students were already using stations we were well on our way. To transform this math instruction into a blended learning environment we needed to create a digital workflow, integrate online learning into the stations, and transfer ownership to the student.

Below is a before and after look at the math stations during the process of integrating the iPads and implementing our blended learning math framework for a 1:1 classroom.

Stations Before the iPads

Raymond’s students began their math block with their Daily Spiral Review and an introduction to the lesson before breaking off into groups to complete the four stations.

Station 1: Guided Instruction and Independent Practice with Mrs. Raymond

Station 2: Math Facts Practice (done individually or in partners)

Station 3: Math Activity/Worksheet with the Co-Teacher

Station 4: Hands-on Math (done individually or in partners)

These stations were a great combination of small group instruction with teachers, independent work for students, and collaborative work in which students were working together practicing their math.

Stations with the iPads

As iPads were integrated into Raymond’s classroom the goal was to keep the stations in place. Over the next couple of weeks the stations changed and evolved as we began taking advantage of the power of the iPads.

Students still begin their math instruction with their Daily Spiral Review, however, the introductifile_005on of the lesson is now done using Nearpod. Nearpod is a tool that allows Raymond the ability to introduce the topic through a teacher guided presentation and get real-time data on her students understanding of new concepts. She can then use this information to pull students during station work. Once Raymond is finished introducing the topic students go right into their three stations that are each approximately twenty minutes long.

Station 1: Students View Teacher Created In-Class Flip Video & Complete Seesaw Reflection (Replaces Guided Instruction & Independent Practice) – The apps used for the in-class flip include Schoology (digital workflow) and Explain Everything (to create instructional videos).file_002

Station 2: Front Row Ed App (Replaces Math Facts Practice) – Front Row allows students to do self-paced math lessons at their own individual level.

Station 3: Math Activity/Worksheet/Teacher Choice Activity with the co-teacher


One of the changes that was made over time was to cut down the stations from four rotations to three rotations allowing students more time in each station. One factor was the in-class flip. The in-class flip transfers ownership of the math instruction to the students as they are now in control of the speed of instruction by having the ability to pause, stop, and rewind their teacher as needed. Also, increasing the time of the stations allowed students to spend more time on Front Row, which is a great opportunity for them to practice math skills and concepts at their own level and pace.

The besfile_001t part of creating the blended learning environment with the iPads is that it has freed up Raymond to work and support students individually or in small groups. Kids that need more help are able to work directly with Raymond or Kill. According to Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker in their book, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, “When students receive one-on-one help from a tutor instead of mass group instruction, the results are generally far superior.”3 By implementing the Station Rotation model, Raymond and Kill are free to mentor, support, and guide students individually when needed.  

Strengths of Using the Station Rotation Model 

  1. Provides flexibility for both teachers and students.
  2. Allows teachers the opportunity to work with individual and small groups of students.
  3. Stations can be changed depending on needs, apps, and other variables.
  4. Allows students to become more independent and take control of their learning through the in-class flip and the use of the Front Row app.
  5. It is a natural fit for teachers who are in a co-teaching environment.

Written by Jeffrey Bernadt (@jeffreybernadt) and Cassie Raymond (@casa_ray)


  1. Clayton Christensen Institutue. “Blended Learning Definitions.” (accesed October 25, 2016).
  2. Reading Horizons. “The Rotation Model.”           
  3. Horn, B. Michael, Heather Staker, and Clayton M. Christensen. Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. San Francisco: Wiley, 2014.

Bellevue Public Schools #ipadacademy on Action 3 News

We are very excited and proud to share with you this KMTV Channel 3 Action News story on the Bellevue Public Schools #ipadacademy The story includes interviews with Ann Feldmann and Greg Boettger, along with a peek inside Mrs. Ellis’ 2nd grade iPad Academy classroom at Belleaire Elementary.

Click here to view the video segment.


Spanish Students Create Paper Slide Videos

I had the pleasure of working with Spanish teacher Angelica Musil and her students on a project to make writing come to life by creating paper slide videos. What is a paper slide video? It’s a video created in one take by putting the iPad on top of a wire shoe rack which creates a stage below the camera. Students slide paper puppets and creations under the camera and narrate as they move the papers to create the super slide video.  

Goals of the project:

  1. Write a paragraph in Spanish.
  2. Speak in the target language, Spanish.
  3. Create a video illustrating the paragraph and share it with the class.

Here is how the lesson developed.

Day 1: Students created a word web and from the word web wrote five simple sentences.

Day 2: With partners, they put a story in order and then wrote a second draft of their sentences adding transitional words.


Day 3:  Students worked in groups and were given a short sentence to elongate by adding details. Students revised their paragraphs by adding two details to each sentence.  

Day 4: Students wrote the final draft based on teacher critique and feedback. The script was handed in and graded by Mrs. Musil.

Day 5: Students animated their paragraphs by creating paper slide videos.

First period students created paper puppets to animate their script. Musil had pictures already printed out for students to cut apart and tape on straws to make paper puppets. They handed in the puppets for students to reuse in future class periods.  


Then, students practiced their script with the puppets. As they practiced, they added their paper puppets at the appropriate times to illustrate their sentences.

Next, using the camera app and a stand, they recorded the video as they slid the puppets under the camera. These are one take videos, so the recording time was less than a minute.


Once the video was created, students shared them in the Seesaw app where they were available immediately for the class to view.


When students finished recording and the video was uploaded to Seesaw, they deleted the video from the camera app.

Things we learned:

  • Have class in the library the entire hour. We started first period in the classroom to explain the project and then went to the library. We lost valuable class time in the transition. All subsequent classes met us in the library.
  • Put the Seesaw and camera apps on the iPad dock. This made it simple for students to find the apps needed for the project.
  • Only one iPad per station is needed. We gave an iPad to each student first hour, but found it easiest to use five iPads, one for each station.
  • Although each student recorded an individual project, many chose to work as a team moving the puppets or sliding papers for one another.
  • In the camera app, double tap for the wide screen and touch and hold to lock the zoom to prevent the camera from refocusing as each puppet is moved.
  • We started in the main area of the library, but moved the recording stations into a classroom off the library to minimize the background noise.  Students spoke louder, clearer, and with more confidence in the smaller room.
  • Make sure iPads are logged out of Seesaw at the end of the period.
  • Technology was transparent and did not get in the way of the learning goals. The camera app was simple to use and Seesaw made it simple to share the videos to the entire class.

Written by Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1)

Day 5 with iPads

As iPad coach in our Bellevue Public Schools #ipadacademy we are often asked the question, “How do you get people started with the iPads in their classrooms?” What sets our model apart from others, all of our teachers with 1:1 iPads have been through 40 hours of Apple Foundations training before they receive the devices. Then, upon receiving the devices, they also have an iPad coach to work with as they implement teaching in a blended learning environment.

Research shows that when teachers have between 31-50 hours of professional development, they are ready to start adapting the curriculum with technology (Garet et al. 2001). The solid foundation in the Apple ecosystem, accompanied by shadowing in classrooms with similar content area or grade level, and having ongoing classroom support with an iPad coach allows for a new culture of teaching and learning to emerge.  

This post is an interview with Terry Sorensen, middle school math teacher, who is in his 5th day of having iPads in the classroom at Mission Middle School.

As Sorensen started his 1:1 classroom, he spent a class period observing colleagues at Central Elementary and Bellevue East before he started integration in his classroom. He observed Meagan Cinfel, 1st grade teacher at Central Elementary and Tina Holbrook, Kendra Wisenhunt, and Chelsea Hoglund, math and special education teachers,  at Bellevue East with the blended learning in full swing. Blended learning, as defined by the the Clayton Christensen Institute, is “a formal education program in which a student learns:

  1. at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
  2. at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
  3. and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”

Sorensen observed blended learning, the in-class flip model, in all of these classrooms. “I talked with teachers, gathered ideas and it gave me a good starting point,” Sorensen said. “The chance to observe, ask questions and see what they do was invaluable.”

As Sorensen began his journey with his students last week, he felt supported and ready to begin.“The district has put the time and effort into making sure I have the hardware (iPads, projector with HDMI, and Apple TV) and they invest in my teaching skills. This shows a serious commitment on the part of Bellevue Public Schools to improve the education for their students. Bellevue has done this iPad Academy right,” Sorensen said. “I have had 40 hours of training even before I got the iPads and then there’s the gift of Ann, the gift that keeps on giving. She comes daily with ideas, answers questions, is patient. I didn’t realize how important that was. It’s incredible the ah-ha moments that occur.“

What apps has Sorensen been using in his classroom?

Classroom App

The Classroom App by Apple allows the teacher to see student screens live, open apps, lock screens, and project student work and more. This digital classroom management piece makes it easy for teachers to monitor what students are doing on their iPads and makes them more efficient with classroom management too. Sorensen’s favorite way to use this app is to project his classroom app screen so he can look up at at any time and see what every student is doing. It’s a 21st century version of the old quote that teacher have eyes in the back of their heads.



Classkick is a free app that allows teachers to create interactive slides and a two-way workflow for the student and teacher. It is an easy way to organize and deliver the curriculum content to the students.

What does a Classkick lesson look like? Here is an example of a lesson Sorensen created and how it has transformed content delivery and workflow in his math classroom.

  1. Students see the homework slide when they enter the code and join the session. Students independently grade their own homework with the key provided in Classkick.  If students need to see a problem worked out, they raise an electronic hand and Sorensen works the problem on the student screen. Students enter their homework grade on the slide 


  2. It’s quick and easy for Sorensen to see the homework grade in the far left column as he scrolls down his screen.


  3. Sorensen shares his teacher created math video lessons to students via a link in Classkick. Students watch the video lesson, take notes, and work practice problems.


  4. When students finish working the problem, students see the answer. If they are correct, they move on, if not they view the video answer key of Sorensen briefly explaining the answer.


Here is a link to the video lesson from today.

5.  Then students begin their homework.

“Mary Beth Peppers, my co-teacher, and I both login at the same time to our Classkick session. We can both see and help all the students,” Sorensen said.  “One time I literally helped students from the library when there was a sub in my room.”

Helping students in the moment is another strength of the blended learning environment. Sorensen can see all student screens all the time. In one class, he saw a student making a common error so he popped in on her slide and fixed it with her as she worked. Only she and Sorensen knew he helped her.

Here is quick question/answer with Sorensen at the end of day five.

What have kids learned in five short days?

Kids have learned self-sufficiency and accountability.

What features do you like the most?

My favorite things about all of this is I can get more individual with my students than I have. It is the cloning of myself so I can spend my time working one on one with students and catching errors that will help them be more successful, “ Sorensen said.  “I can see they have done their work and pop in and check their work. All of them.

What advice do you have for others?

If you get the chance, don’t even hesitate, do it!