The Mischnick Mindset

Growth. Leadership. Learning.

Creating Significant Learning Environments

My classroom is a place of learning, but is it true learning at its best? After reading, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Brown & Thomas (2011), I have realized just how far away my students are from the new culture of learning that they require. How can I move my students into the mode of learning that they need to be successful in a technology-rich world?

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I believe that as a teacher, I have enormous control over if and when my students become curious and passionate about learning. As I continue my trek through the DLL program at Lamar University, I continue to self-evaluate what I am doing in my classroom and what I can do better. This drive to become a better teacher is what will give me the urge to figure out how to provide my students with the learning environment they need to be successful in everything they do, not just what they do in the classroom.

Learning comes in many shapes and sizes. Students are the most important part of that learning and need to be the center of it going forward no matter what roadblocks come up along the way. One of the main aspects of the new culture of learning that really hit home was that learning needs to be considered an environment that includes many smaller aspects; not the old way where students are treated like machines that need to be taught how to complete tasks (Brown & Thomas, 2011). I feel that my classroom leans toward the latter and that is hurting my students. Incorporating a way to allow students to use their imagination in conjunction with the information they are taking in is a good place to start.

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Most of the time I tend to get anxious and want to implement new ideas that I learn from books, videos or basically anything that I believe will benefit my students. I began listening to Fail Until You Don’t: Fight. Grind. Repeat, by Bobby Bones on Audible recently and can’t stop finding connections to my classroom and the growth mindset that I started making my students aware of this year. He even references Dr. Carol Dweck and her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2016). This book has really helped me see some of the ways that I need to improve my willingness to push through obstacles and not be okay with not reaching a goal. If I am unwilling to push through, how can I expect my students to do it?

This talk about the mindset of my students reminds me about the example of ‘Googling the Error’ that Brown and Thomas explained. The error is the mistake a student would make in a classroom or in life and they have the ability to find a solution to that mistake without talking to anyone, especially their teacher. They can look up that error or mistake using today’s technology and find a way to correct and learn from that mistake on their own (Brown & Thomas, 2011). I want to allow for this kind of learning to happen on a daily basis in my classroom. I believe that this is the foundation of my blended learning model that I have proposed in my innovation plan.

Unfortunately, I have come across a major challenge that I will be facing in my attempt to change the way my classroom learns. The biggest challenge that many teachers face is also mine as well; state testing. Right now a classroom tends to veer toward the standards the state has provided, which forces a teacher to teach students ‘about the world’ instead of allowing for the students to learn through engagement ‘within the world’. That reminds me of the phrase so many teachers use in their classrooms; they ask their students if they ‘get it’ (Brown & Thomas, 2011). This is a reality that must be squashed.

Embracing this reality and the difference in approaches changes the entire outlook on a student’s journey through their education and points to a student learning in and out of a classroom as a part of life using the digital tools at their fingertips. Change can be scary but learning to allow this change can motivate and challenge students in their learning. I hope to instill this willingness for change in my students as a part of their personalized learning plans. Brown and Thomas also use an example of ‘how’ students learned by reading the Harry Potter books and not ‘what’ they were learning. This simple play on words reminds us of the reality of testing but helps us understand that it is not the content a student is learning, but the imagination and collaboration they use to learn. Learning is not meant to be an ‘isolated process of information absorption’ (Brown & Thomas, 2011). Following this philosophy will be a great foundation for the future of my classroom.

Change is not easy for students, but I believe that with a focus on collaboration, imagination, and play in my classroom, we can create a significant learning environment that will lead to success. The idea that students need to ‘get it’ just so they can be tested on it is a thing of the past. The new culture of learning will begin to allow students to reach limits they never thought were possible, without the worry that their passion is not on the test. Opening students minds to the possibilities to learn without the classroom and on their own is now the present, not the future.


Bones, B. (2018). Fail until you don’t: Fight. grind. repeat. New York, NY. HarperCollins.

Brown, J. S. & Thomas, D. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY. CreateSpace.

Dweck, C. (2016). Mindset: The psychology of success. New York, NY. Ballentine Books.


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Blended Learning: Changing the Classroom For The Better


The role of the teacher has changed because of the integration of technology in the classroom (Horn, 2015). This change has started a new revolution called blended learning. Blended learning is not a new term and is defined in many ways. Most would describe blended learning as the combination of face to face instruction and student-paced technology-based instruction. It must also include the student being in charge of the time, place and location of their learning (Maxwell, 2016). There are many forms and models of blended learning being used in education today, although I will not be discussing all the different models in this review. I will be focusing on the individual rotation model that I plan to implement in my classroom. The rotation model that I have chosen provides multiple opportunities for students to learn at their own pace, while also offering collaboration opportunities. Students will be given control of their own learning and provided with differentiated instruction as a part of their own personalized learning path. The combination of choice and ownership will provide for a stimulating learning environment that will lead to increased student achievement and successes.

Why Blended Learning?

Many confuse a technology-rich classroom with blended learning. One main difference is that blended learning has made technology an integrated component and not a support tool. We have the opportunity to move away from the ‘one size fits all’ model toward a truly blended learning approach (Lautzenheiser & Hochleitner, 2014). Many descriptions of blended learning are too basic and should emphasize the enormous change in how students learn when it’s implemented (Maxwell, 2016). This change has been linked to blended learning, as it has allowed students the freedom to have a choice in when, where and how they receive the information to learn (Johnson, 2011). Students have been asking for this change for years now, as they show interest in having both online and in person instruction (Smith, 2009; Dahlstrom, 2014). Students also have shown to be more eager to learn, and an increased motivation for tough to reach students (Ark, 2013). Another benefit of the online side of blended learning is providing students unlimited resources at their fingertips (Singh, 2003). The benefits are not just for the students though; the ‘organization’s bottom line’ also improves. A slow and steady implementation can ensure that all involved will have a smooth transition to blended learning as well (Driscoll, n.d.).

The Individual Rotation Model

Many classrooms around the country use blended learning models. The individual rotation model allows students to rotate according to a schedule for one of their subjects (Graham, Henrie & Gibbons, 2014). Each student will have a specific playlist, and they do not always rotate to all the stations. This personalization of different schedules which “enables teachers to match the right student with the right content at the right time” is true differentiation at its best (Darrow, Ed.D., Friend, & Powell, Ed.D., 2013). Students will have a certain comfort level has already experienced a similar non-blended model of stations in the past (Thompson, 2017).

Implementation Strategies

The most important thing to remember is to always start small when starting a blended model. Make sure to try one piece of technology that will help streamline your classroom. Patience is necessary as well, and the ability to learn from your mistakes to improve the model every chance possible (ASCD, 2013). Implementation over a three-year period is the normal timeline for an elementary school. A school should always know the needs of their school first. Does the school need to reach students who are below grade level or are a lot of students transient (Ark, 2013)? Recently, there have been many comparisons between the business world and education as they both have used blended learning effectively. The ease of access to learning materials online has helped to accelerate the many instances of blended learning (Bonk, 2003).

Implementation Timeline and Steps

Creating a timeline before starting an implementation should be a priority and have built-in checkpoints to check for roadblocks along the way. Starting a blended learning program at any school requires at least a small group of teachers to have complete buy-in. In addition, the number one need for a successful implementation is leadership. Without this, the blended learning model may not develop as it should. There quite a few important questions to ask when it comes to the school leadership during the planning stages. The most important question is ‘what are the year to year measurable goals of the program?’

Another important step is to implement continuous professional development for all staff involved. Schools must ask themselves what type and how professional development may take shape for teachers and administrators alike. Teachers need to believe in the model and the change that occurs in the classroom. Teachers need to be aware of this change and what the student is going to experience when this takes place. The platform and technology used during the implementation is also an integral part. The collection and analyzing of data will occur to allow for improvements when needed. How will all these changes affect the assessment requirements at the school and district level? That question may bring up some critical conversations.

Schools must also communicate with parents about the program and how it will affect their children in the classroom. The online content that students will be using is also an important piece of the puzzle. Content alignment to the required state standards is necessary as well. They also must provide guidance or possibly training for teachers in the creating or acquisition of this content. And of course, a reliable technology set up is necessary for the model to be successful and show real growth in student learning. What resources are available to teachers and students already and will there be a need for more? The answer to that question will possibly lead to issues about funding of the program (Darrow, Ed.D., Friend, & Powell, Ed.D., 2013).

Positive Results and Case Studies

There is minimal research on blended learning designs, but Stanford University and the University of Tennessee have concluded that blended learning is more effective than the traditional classroom (Singh, 2003). A promising case of the rotational model has occurred at Empower Academy (KIPP) in Los Angeles, where the students have shown a 69% increase in the percent of students that are proficient or advanced on the STEP Literacy Assessment during the first year of the program (Staker, 2011).

A case study at the New York Randolph Central School District found that the schools used online formative assessment data to place students in “fluid ability groups” in each classroom. Another study at Spring City Elementary Hybrid Learning School found that they use the station rotation model of blended learning. This model led to the percentage of students who reached the proficient and advanced level on the state assessment increase across the board; reading went up 19%, Math went up 24% and Science went up 27%. At Nolan Elementary-Middle School students work at their own pace and support the learning of their peers as well as themselves. Students take assessments four times a year and based on readiness, not their grade level they begin in separate groups. The student choice in their learning path increased engagement, and a greater understanding of the subject matter as well (Darrow, Ed.D., Friend, & Powell, Ed.D., 2013).

Personalized Blended Learning Model

Using station rotations in the classroom is not a new concept for many students; although blended learning would be a new endeavor. Some goals that should be put in place before implementation are as follows. A school culture that strives for continuous improvement and a clear goal of helping all students become owners of their learning is a very important trait. The sharing of best practices among teachers and the opportunity for professional development will be important. Data usage is one of the keys to giving students the correct learning path for them to reach mastery (Darrow, Ed.D., Friend, & Powell, Ed.D., 2013). The data from such programs as Education Galaxy allows teachers to guide students to their own personal learning playlist. This will give students guidance, but at the same time allow them to have a choice in their learning.


While blended learning is not a new concept, it is still in its infant stages of bringing true innovation and change in how the classroom functions. Technology allows for so much freedom for teachers and students and using in a productive way is necessary. Schools must always be aware of the hurdles they will run into during the start and always have a growth mindset when problems arise. This philosophy is true of many of the educational endeavors over the years. We will hope blended learning does not meet the fate of those innovative ideas that fizzled out. We must remember that blended learning is not about the technology, it is the change to personalized learning for students. The use of technology as blended learning should be transformative (Darrow, Ed.D., Friend, & Powell, Ed.D., 2013). With that being said, implementing this model has a huge upside for our students and their learning which makes it more than worth the effort of implementation.



Ark, T. (2013, September 05). Blended learning can improve working conditions, teaching & learning – Getting Smart by Tom Vander Ark – Blended learning, Online Learning. Retrieved October 28, 2018, from can-improve-working-conditions-teaching-learning/

ASCD. (2013, March). The basics of blended instruction. Retrieved October 28, 2018, from

Bonk, C. J. (2007). The handbook of blended learning: global perspectives, local designs. San Francisco, CA. Pfeiffer.

Dahlstrom, Eden, & Bichsel, J. (2014) ECAR Study of undergraduate students and information technology: Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2014. Available from Retrieved from: /2014/10/2014-student-and-faculty-technology-research-studies

Darrow, Ed.D., R., Friend, B., & Powell, Ed.D., A. (2013, October). A Roadmap for implementation of blended learning at the school level. Retrieved from

Driscoll, M. (n.d.). Blended learning: Let’s get beyond the hype. Retrieved from http://www-07.IBMcom/services/pdf/blended_learning.pdf

Graham, C.R., Henrie, C.R., & Gibbons, A.S. (2014). Developing models and theory for blended learning research. In A.G. Picciano, C.D. Dziuban, & C.R. Graham (Eds.), Blended learning: Research perspectives (Vol. 2, pp. 13-33). New York, NY: Routledge.

Horn, M. B., Staker, H., & Christensen, C. M. (2017). Blended: using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Haywood, K., (2011). NMC Horizon report: 2011 K-12 edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from: /publication/nmc-horizon-report-2011-k-12-edition/

Lautzenheiser, D., & Hochleitner, T. (2014, January). Blended learning in DC public schools: How one district is reinventing its classrooms. Retrieved from wp-content/uploads/2014/01/-blended-learning-in-dc-public-schools_084713921628.pdf

Maxwell, C. (2016) What blended learning is – and isn’t. Retrieved from https://www.blended

Singh, H. (2003). Building effective blended learning programs. Retrieved October 28, 2018, from %20B%20-%20blended-learning.pdf

Smith, S. D., Salaway, G. Borreson Caruso, J. &, by Katz, R.N. (2009). The ECAR Study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2009. Volume 6. Retrieved from:

Staker, H. (2011, May). The rise of K–12 blended learning. Retrieved from https://www.christe

Thompson, J. (2017, August 23). 6 Blended learning models: When blended learning is what’s up for successful students. Retrieved from /6-blended-learning-models-blended-learning-successful-students

Blended Learning or Bust?

Blended Learning has so many facets and possibilities, yet there are so many schools that are not attempting to implement it. Well, I plan to change that at least at the school that I can control. I have created an innovation proposal to show my principal and hopefully will be the first step to a blended learning model coming to a classroom that I teach in!

Dear Ms. Turner,

I see an unbelievable opportunity to level up in my classroom and I would like to share it with you. I believe that the level of student engagement and the need for students below grade level to receive more individualized instruction to help them reach their goals is a great reason to start this initiative. Using the current technology in our classrooms, we have a chance to make strides with many of the students that have always been harder to reach in the past using more personalized learning.

I would like to propose a new blended learning model (individual rotation) that I will pilot in my classroom starting in August 2019. This model will include the following:

  • Students will be given a personalized learning plan in Math that they can follow at their own pace (using Education Galaxy).
  • Students will be pulled for small group instruction when needed for current content and previous content they may have struggled on.
  • Students will reflect and give feedback on a daily basis to record their accomplishments, goals met and also things they may need help on (using provided Google Form).
  • Students will also track their goals and mastered skills at least once a week in their Leadership folder or digitally (student choice).

Students are already using Liftoff/Education Galaxy so this part of the model will not be a huge adjustment for students or teachers. Students will be provided with some guidance of the topics and areas they need to master. They will then choose which skills to work on first and chart their progress using the reflection time and Leadership folders. The small group instruction time will be adjusted to allow for students to be pulled as needed or by request from them. At the end of each day, students will fill in the Google Form with information such as what skills they may have mastered during their personalized learning or struggles they have had on skills. The information from the Google Form will be used to adjust a student’s personalized learning plan and also if a student needs more small group instruction time. I believe that this reflection time will make tracking student goals and data a more seamless and less stressful process. It will also provide students with more frequent feedback of what they have mastered and what they need to continue to work on.

To prepare for this pilot, I will be implementing some of the parts individually this school year to work out any issues and also get student feedback to help improve its efficiency for next school year. More detailed research and information about the implementation of this model can be found here. Thank you for your time and consideration for this proposal.


Brent Mischnick

Choosing an Innovation Plan

This may be the first indecision that I have had in my first three courses during my DLL journey. I know that this innovation plan does not need to be started now and this is just the beginning of a long process to implement and refine my plan, but I still am showing some anxiety as I go through the decision process. After reading Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools by Horn & Staker I believe I may have come to some conclusions. My school has been blessed with 1 to 1 Chromebooks in fourth and fifth grade, but are they really being used the proper or most effective way?

My innovation plan would leverage the use of these devices to allow for a more personalized learning. I plan to implement a type of blended learning model that includes a personalized learning plan for each student, small group instruction to help students when they need direction or guidance, and a daily reflection/accomplishments time for students to focus on what they may have mastered that day and what they may need to practice more. The results of this reflection time will provide the information needed to update a student’s learning plan and also determine what students may need more help or guidance the next day. This will provide students with their own personal data to record and track in order to build confidence and student ownership of their learning.

I have decided not to be too ambitious and set a goal to implement the pilot in my classroom next school year. Although, I will be trying a few of the components out this school year to get student feedback and reactions. This feedback will allow me to make the set up of these components more efficient and effective for all of my students next school year. If my innovation proposal is approved by my principal, then the following school year I hope to help the other fifth grade teachers on my campus to implement this blended learning model as well. So after over a week of reading and reflecting and organizing my thoughts, I have finally decided on a plan and now it is time to be the ‘change’ needed in our current education system.



Horn, M. B., Staker, H., & Christensen, C. M. (2017). Blended: using disruptive innovation to improve schools. Jossey-Bass.

The Journey Continues…

I began my next course in my DLL journey this past week and find myself overwhelmed with ideas for my upcoming innovation plan. I keep asking myself, what do I want to accomplish in my classroom, school or district that can disrupt the traditional model that I get frustrated with on a daily basis? I just want to try to implement so many ideas and I need to get a better focus on what my direction should be to best help, my students. Being that my classroom is 1 to 1 with Chromebooks and having access to a school license of Education Galaxy; I feel like this could help me create an innovation plan that can benefit not only my students but all of the students in my school. Where do I begin though?

As I learn about blended learning and some of the best practices that are used in other classrooms, I find myself getting excited and nervous at the same time. Which direction would be the best fit for my classroom, and can I pull this off in the middle of the school year? This will be one of my challenges during the creating of the innovation plan. I will need to be patient and methodical during this decision process. I believe the best course of action and the first step will be to implement a small part of my innovation plan with my current students to work out any issues that arise and adjust the plan to work as efficient as possible.

My initial idea for my classroom stems from what my classroom looked like last year. I used centers in both Math & Science to give students opportunities to learn in different ways. I feel like that was a small baby step toward what I plan to implement as a part of my innovation plan. I can pull from my experience though, and make sure that I reflect on what worked and did not work previously. I believe that the example that intrigued me the most was from Acton Academy, where students are free to move at their own pace and students are not bound by grade levels, but by mastery of the content (Horn, Staker, Christensen 2017). There are so many schools that have moved toward blended learning models, and that inspires me to try it as well.


Horn, M. B., Staker, H., & Christensen, C. M. (2017). Blended: using disruptive innovation to improve schools. Jossey-Bass.

My DLL Journey…

Can it really be the end of the second course already in my DLL journey? I reflect on what I have experienced so far and sometimes it is just a blur. Then I really reflect by writing a blog post on here and realize what the beginning of this journey has meant to me so far. It has given me direction in my classroom and the guts to try new things with my students (like introducing the growth mindset). I know that I have a long way to go before I can say that my classroom is a COVA model, but I know I am going to try anything and everything I can. I think that in the back of my mind, I was going to just flip a switch and implement COVA in my classroom with no issues. Then reality sets in and I wonder if I can pull it off. This quote really got my attention though and helped me understand what is happening,

“The DLL program shows you where to look, but does not tell you what to see.” – Brandi Collins (Harapunik, Thibodeaux, Collins, 2018)

I would say that this program has really opened my mind and given me the stability I needed to make wholesale changes to my classroom environment. The growth mindset has helped a few of my students already that normally would be so quick to just give up. One of my students stated, “I pretty much give up most of the time, Mr. Mischnick.” And I was quick to remind him that I would be there to help him to stretch his brain and keep trying no matter what. It is these moments that have already made this program a difference maker. I have always been aware of how difficult it is to get many of my students to care about their own learning; I know now that I must “help the learner take responsibility for that ownership” (Harapunik, Thibodeaux, Collins, 2018). Another important fact that I did not really understand before is looking at the learner individually to “consider what character, ability, or skill they need to develop to meet the challenge of the authentic learning opportunity (Harapunik, Thibodeaux, Collins, 2018). I always knew my students were all different, but I don’t think I truly thought about that when trying to help them.


TeroVesalainen / Pixabay

My students have been using digital portfolios for a couple of years, and I know that they still they do not understand what it means to use their own ‘voice’ when blogging or showing off their creations in those portfolios. I have not been a good guide in that process either. I know that I need to help my students reflect more often and with more quality in order to find their true ‘authentic voice’ (Harapunik, Thibodeaux, Collins, 2018). The traditional educational system that I teach in has really warped what I believe my students are doing in my classroom. I have been a big part of their continued process of making them give me what I want to show their learning. This has hindered so many of my students, and I continue to reflect on ways to change that this school year.


As I finish up my reflection on the beginning of my journey and continue to wrap my brain around the COVA model in my classroom; I now understand how much I have benefitted from all of the collaboration so far. I would not be in this frame of mind without the discussions that I continue to have with my classmates. This is just the start, but I know that the future is going to bring more brain stretching as I continue to reach for the best of myself every day.



Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux, T., & Cummings, C. (2018). Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning. Retrieved from

Is this thing on?

qimono / Pixabay

Sometimes I wonder whether it is truly on; or in other words, is anyone listening to what I am saying? If you walk into my classroom, that may or may not be evident, some days more than others, but overall I would hope that my students are listening when I am talking. Do I really want them to though? Shouldn’t I be pushing them to create and explore in their own way? They should only need to listen to me when they are asking for guidance or clarification or maybe some help with finding their path. I think about the way that sounds and it makes me a little uneasy, to say the least. I know I have tried over the last few years to improve on giving up control and letting my students spread their wings, but I still wonder how much freedom can a fifth grader handle? If you asked me this question during the last few weeks, I would probably say ‘very little’.

As my students progress through the school year; I keep wondering if I am selling them short. Could they handle more freedom and be given true ‘authentic learning opportunities’ n a daily basis? I know my students need to make more meaningful connections in my classroom otherwise I am going to lose them. Their motivation will be fueled when they are about to use their new knowledge to connect to what they have already learned (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, & Cummings, 2018). This is where my growth mindset kicks and helps me see that I have to try to see what happens. I know it will be a process and sometimes that is more important than the results. As I continue to reflect on the learning that is going on my classroom, I think about how I can change things to be more authentic. How can I let go and still make sure my students are meeting their goals of understanding the standards they are tested on? That may be the hardest question that I have ever tried to answer. It is not going to happen overnight and I know it might be a slow and painful process, but I am ready for that challenge. 

If my students haven’t been listening so far, they will when they see the choices they have to make for their own learning. I plan to continue reflecting on this switch to COVA that I am going to slowly implement. Maybe I will be writing a few weeks from now with amazing results to report? Come back here to find out!


Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux, T., & Cummings, C. (2018). Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning. Retrieved from

How Is That Going To Work?

Spencer, J. (2016) retrieved from

Reflecting on some of the reading I have done over the past week has me really wondering ‘how’? How will I get started with implementing the COVA approach in my classroom? What can I really expect my fifth-graders to accomplish? How do I get my students to take initiative and make choices for their own learning? As you can see I have a lot of questions going through my head right now. I know there are more questions that I want to be answered as well, but I don’t think my brain will allow me to ask them yet since I still am confused on the first few that I just listed. I think what the COVA is and needs to be, and wonder how to start using it in the middle of the school year. My students are so used to the ‘traditional classroom model’ and so am I for that matter. I am willing to make the leap, but I know that it will be a huge challenge to get most of my students to be willing to take the plunge with me.

I find myself getting frustrated on a daily basis on the way my students perform or should I say lack of performing. I know I need to be a motivator for them, but how do you motivate a student that doesn’t want to be motivated? In the past, I have attempted to provide choice to my students in the form of choice menus. As I read more about choice as a part of the COVA approach, I realize that I did not really give them much choice at all (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, Cummings 2018). So what is my first step? I guess I will practice what I preach to my students and just ‘try my best’ and we will see what happens. I mean can it really be worse than continuing down the traditional approach and hindering my students’ opportunities to experience ‘authentic learning opportunities’ (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, Cummings 2018)? I think it is worth the risk, and I recall that being similar to one of the signs I hung up in my house to remind myself how to stay in the growth mindset. It is actually hanging on my bathroom mirror right now.

The introduction of ‘choice’ to my students will make or break this implementation. It is important to allow for autonomy, mastery, and purpose so that it can drive the motivation of my students (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, Cummings 2018). Although as a teacher I can help a student with their process, it is the student that ‘must do the learning’ in the end. Finding true ‘authentic projects’ for my students to show their learning is going to be imperative (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, Cummings 2018). Even after learning so much from the COVA ebook, I still find myself unsure of what it would truly look like in my classroom to unleash my students. So I return to my original question of ‘How’?


Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux, T., & Cummings, C. (2018). Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning. Retrieved from

COVA or Not to COVA…

I continue to wonder about my abilities to implement a true COVA environment in my fifth-grade classroom. I know that I believe in the COVA model and the philosophy behind it. I know that if my students “aren’t thinking about the learning process, we must ask if they are really learning?” (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, Cummings 2018). Fighting with my fixed mindset about this is becoming a daily grind for me, and starting to really be frustrating, but I know that I cannot give up for the sake of my students. I used Choice menus last school year in my classroom and thought I was providing “choice” for my students. Now that I started reading about the COVA model, I realize I was so mistaken and really was not even close to providing true choice in my classroom. My students deserve to be given true “authentic learning opportunities” to allow for their growth and learning (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, Cummings 2018).

As I contemplate the next step in the sequence of bringing my classroom closer to the COVA model, I keep hitting the obstacle of the “test” and how I can make sure that these authentic learning opportunities help students prepare for the test they must take in fifth grade. Making fifth-graders “pass” (I use that term

Harapunik, D. (n.d.) COVA logo [Infographic] retrieved from

cautiously as the “passing” rate of 47% is not a passing grade in any classroom in the world) a test that does not provide anything other than a fake sense of accomplishment can only be considered as a weak attempt at making people think our students are ready for their futures. Why can’t we be allowed to provide a real COVA model in our classrooms and let students “be” students and learn on their own terms? Dr.Harapnuik has stated that “learning is the responsibility of the learner and the teachers are not able to make a student learn” and this is just another reason we need to let go of this complete control we try to have over our classrooms and let our students have choice, ownership, voice and authentic learning opportunities (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, Cummings 2018).

One of my goals as a teacher this school year has been to try to provide the “why” for my students, so they have more understanding of the ultimate goal of why we are learning what we are in class. If students do not understand the “why” and are “told what to do, when to do it, without really knowing why they are doing it or why it is even useful” can we really blame them when they tell us they are bored or do not want to do the work (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, Cummings 2018). I think that this concept of not knowing why we do something has spilled into our everyday lives as well and “we must start with why and lead from the inside out (Sinek 2011). This will not be an easy journey by any means and I plan to continue to update my progress in my efforts to help my students understand the why in their learning and beyond. Check back as the school year progresses to see what is happening!



Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux, T., & Cummings, C. (2018). Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning. Retrieved from

Sinek, S. (2011). Start with why how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. Portfolio Penguin.


Do My Students ‘Own’ Their Digital Portfolios?

Queen’s University (n.d.) ePortfolio graphic [infographic] retrieved from

To answer this question, I believe you have to ask yourself, Can the students truly take their portfolio with them wherever they go? What if a student leaves a school district? Can they continue building that portfolio to show off their learning? What if they can’t take it with them? Then what? All of these questions need to be considered if we are truly going to understand if we are giving our students a true choice in their learning. My students have their own digital portfolios on Weebly as soon as they start third grade. These websites are created and controlled by the school district and the students only have access while they are in our district. So what do I tell a student who wants to take his or her proof of learning with them? I think that is a question that I would need to find the answer to. I believe that all students should be able to take their website with them because we are in the business of helping students prepare for the future and not just while they are in our school district. As I read the article, The Web We Need to Give Students, I find myself wanting my students to have the opportunity to have their ‘own’ domain for a truly creative experience in their learning. This also solves the ‘take it with you’ problem as well. This freedom can be scary for a lot of educators and school districts, but is it alright to let that fear hinder our students’ ability to have a creative canvas for all to see? I think the question we should be asking is, Can we find a way to make this domain ownership as safe as possible? While we contemplate this, there are at least ‘…170 bills proposed so far this year that would regulate it’ (Watters 2015, July 15). Is this the correct path to the learning freedom we desire for our students? I guess only time will tell.


Watters, Audrey. (2015, July 15). The Web We Need to Give Students – BRIGHT Magazine. Retrieved from

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