Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Word Change (Quick, Find the Exit!)

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board Member Josh Long  provides ideas for implementing personalized learning. 

Changing the way we teach is a difficult task. Asking anyone to change something they have been doing for a long period of time creates tension and stress. I think of a quote I saw from Woodrow Wilson; "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Nothing can be truer than the changing environments of our classroom. I am currently in a district that is going through this change as we speak. It's a great change as we shift and dive our focus onto a focus of student learning. It is a philosophy that I embrace, it's good teaching, and it hits on everything that one of our previous bloggers touched on, which is personalized learning and personal learning. It is difficult trying not to be that person on the stage anymore giving all of the answers and all of the clues out to scholars. So how do you begin to let your scholars begin their journey on personalized learning and personal learning?

Here are my thoughts, take them with a grain of salt, as I am not an Orator… I am just a teacher of 16 years who believes that if you change the way you teach, it will benefit the scholars and practitioners around you.

  1. Know that personalized learning when it comes down to it is just good teaching practice…it is not something new; it is a change from the norm.
  2. Trust yourself to take on this change. You are good at what you do or you would not be in this position.
  3. Go in knowing that it is going to take time to change, it isn't something that is going to happen overnight, just like we can't expect scholars to change their way of learning overnight
  4. It is no secret that we are no longer teaching students for factory-based jobs. We are in the time of tailoring scholars for jobs that require global communication and understanding of different cultures. In most classrooms I observe, students are in rows, talking is done by the leader in the front, and time for discussion is held to a minimum... (If it's not broke don't fix it right?) The problem with that I believe is that we don't see the problems yet, but we will in the future.
  5. Understand that personalized learning isn't chaos in the is just another way of students learning, in the manner that is best suited for them. This gives the practitioner a great vantage point of seeing and knowing how all of our scholars use to learn. In fact it most likely will be less chaotic in the room as students will be doing something that is meaningful to them which means they will be engaged in their own learning and not their neighbors.
  6. Personalized learning to me also doesn’t mean putting them in front of a device and expecting them to learn everything from the computer or a piece of software. Communication is the key, I believe, to good personalized learning. That may occur with a Skype call to an expert in the field, or seeing a scientist working with animals in their respective field.
  7. Lean on your peers for help. Working together to come up with lessons that will inspire your scholars to dive deeper into their learning will make it shine on how much they have actually gained and learned through their unit of inquiry.
  8. Lesson plans are a one way street sometimes. Through personalized learning there are many ways to get to the end of the road, with frequent stops along the way to help gain further and deeper understanding of a topic or thought (Understand though that I’m not saying a lesson plan can’t do that…many times in my class we would wander off the beaten path to discuss something related to the topic at hand.)

I hope that you too can find the way to change the way you reach out to your scholars, and know that yes, it really does look a lot different now than when we were sitting in those chairs those many years ago.

Josh Long is the Supervisor of Technology for Fredericksburg City Schools.

Heather Hurley

Heather Hurley
Personalized Learning Supervisor
Arlington Public Schools



Educational Leadership Experience

I currently serve as a Supervisor in the Department of Instruction where I oversee the district’s personalized learning program. I was an elementary Assistant Principal at an Apple distinguished school, where I assisted in the management of an instructional program that included the successful integration of a 1:1 iPad and STEAM program. As an Instructional Technology Coordinator and Staff Development Director, I collaborated with various stakeholders on the integration of instructional technology. Additionally, I was the VSTE Conference Presentations Chair and I’ve been a board member for Learning Forward Virginia and Massachusetts ASCD organizations.

Vision for VSTE

The new Profile of a Virginia Graduate has been developed to describe the knowledge, skills, competencies, and experiences students should have in order to align with the expectations of higher education and businesses. Areas of focus include: emphasizing critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship. I believe these skills are improved when a students’ learning environment becomes more personalized. There are many Virginia districts who are beginning the journey towards personalized learning. I would love for VSTE to begin looking at how technology supports the new Profile of a Virginia Graduate through the lens of personalized learning environments.

Biographical Sketch

I began my career as a classroom teacher in first and third grades, where my passion was to encourage every one of my students to love the process of learning. I am a graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s program in Educational Supervision and Administration; earned a M.Ed. in educational technology from Lesley University in Massachusetts, and a B.S. in education from Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. I am a SMART Exemplary Educator, a STAR Discovery Educator, a member of the Discovery Educator Network Leadership Council, a Google Certified Innovator and a BrainPop Educator. In my free time, I enjoy photography, all things Marvel, cooking, wine and BACON!

Big Deal Book, April 3, 2017

VSTE partners with Big Deal Media to bring you the best in online resources for digital learning and professional development plus grant and competition opportunities and more. In this edition, you can Combine Learning with Playing, Collaborate Across Cultures & More.

Here are a few of our favorites from this sure to check the full Big Deal Book for more great resources!

Mobile Poetry Library

With The Poetry Foundation’s POETRY mobile app for iOS and Android, students can take hundreds of poems by classic and contemporary poets with them wherever they go.

Activities in Celebration of Reading

“Drop Everything and Read” (D.E.A.R.) is a national month-long celebration designed to remind people of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives.

Weekly STEM Podcasts

Covering the outer reaches of space to the tiniest microbes in our bodies, Science Friday is the source for entertaining and educational stories about science, technology, and other cool stuff.

Big Deal Book, April 3, 2017

Not everything in the Book is time sensitive so be sure to check out the archives.

In Memoriam: Robert Matthew Poole

 mattpooleIt is with sorrow and regret we share the loss of pioneering virtual educator Matt Poole who passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, June 5. A memorial service will be held on VSTE Island in Second Life on Monday, June 20, 5 PM SLT (8 PM RLT). Use this link to get to the island. 
As an early adopter and a docent on ISTE Island, he was a mentor to many of us as we began in Second Life. He was instrumental in celebrating the opening of our own sim, VSTE Island, in 2009 and continued to be an active member through tours of science, art, and historical builds. An explorer at heart, Matt founded Expedition Central in Second Life, where he curated numerous landmarks for avatars wishing to find interesting, educational, or beautiful sims to tour.
cyrushushMatt co-presented and supported the VSTE Virtual Environment PLN at VSTE Conferences in Virginia Beach and Roanoke and supported us in all our sessions. He was bright, friendly, and patient in helping new users grasp this innovative social network.
Matt was a professor at American National University (ANU) in Roanoke where he especially enjoyed teaching Environmental Science online. He dreamed of getting a PhD and teaching at a public university.
On Monday, June 6, members and friends met to comfort each other on VSTE Island, and twenty-five or so people from all over Virginia and the country came to share their memories of this incredibly smart and kind man. Whether they knew Matt in the physical world or only virtually, to know him was to like him. He had a great sense of humor and entertained us often with his quick switching of avatars from the humanoid to the bizarre creations he found and enjoyed.
On behalf of the VSTE family and all educators, we express our great sympathy to all who knew and loved Matt Poole.  He was a valued member of our community, admired and enjoyed for his humor and intelligence.
Kim Harrison, VSTE VE PLN Chairperson

Googlepalooza Tidewater 2016


Googlepalooza Tidewater
June 23, 2016, 9 AM - 4 PM
Jones Magnet Middle School
1819 Nickerson Blvd
Hampton, Virginia

All things Google! A day of Google-related workshops as well as the chance to network with others around GAFE and Chromebooks.  Check out the schedule here.



VA General Assembly Update

The 2015 Virginia legislative session begins Wednesday, January 14. VSTE is working with the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (VAASCD) to become better advocates for education at the state level.

IMPORTANT UPDATE January 28, 2015

As you know the General Assembly is in session. There seems to be renewed interest in keeping the A-F rating system for schools, even though we expected it to be repealed this year. In order to move forward towards a better accountability system, we really need A-F to be repealed.  There are two versions of bills circulating right now. Both acknowledge that we are working to redesign the accreditation system; one includes a specific repeal of A-F and one does not.

These bills are still in Committee right now; if your legislator is on one of the education committees, now is a very important time to drive this message home. If your legislator is not on one of the committees, it’s still worth it to make a call or send an email, and we will ask you to do so again later when the bill comes before the full House and Senate. When you make your call, reference House Bill 1672 or Senate Bill 727.

Important Points To Make In Your Call:
- the Innovation Committee and the Board of Education agree that the accreditation system should be revised to include additional levels.
- these groups are working now to determine what these levels should be; VASCD, our partner, supports a “ladder-like” system that will not only show the rating of a school, but also trends (progress measures), areas of strength and areas for improvement.
- assigning a single letter grade as a school’s accreditation rating defeats these moves toward a better system before they have even had time to be developed.

There is momentum across Virginia to develop alternative assessments that provide a variety of ways for students to demonstrate what they know and can do. House Bill 1675 provides an option (this would be decided and approved at the division level) for students to earn verified credits under certain circumstances with less than 140 clock hours of instruction or by demonstrating mastery of SOL content and skills using an alternative assessment. This bill grew out of a recommendation of the Innovation Committee, and this morning even a legislator who is a member of that committee expressed concern about letting local divisions substitute alternate assessments for SOLs.  VASCD supports this proposal, which did pass out of Committee this morning after a nail-biter of a debate!  Please ask your House member to support this bill, understanding that the state will have guidelines to ensure the quality of the alternate assessments. Basically, our position is that once students can demonstrate the skills and are solid on the content of a course, they should not be prevented from moving on to more challenging, interesting, or relevant material while they mark time and wait for the test date to arrive. Again, under this legislation this would be a local option, not a requirement.

You can find information about how to contact your legislator on the Advocacy page.