Monday, April 9, 2018


Sketchnoting is described as a method of note-taking incorporating images and text.  It is not a new concept by any means. People have been sketchnoting, doodling, visual-note-taking for quite some time the only difference now, is there is science that supports why it is beneficial. There are a few theories out there that support the “why” of sketchnoting.  One being, The Dual Coding Theory. Psychology professor Allan Paivio proposed that verbal and nonverbal processing were necessary for learning.  “In one experiment, participants saw pairs of items that differed in roundness (e.g., tomato, goblet), and were asked to indicate which member of the pair was rounder.  The objects were presented as words, pictures, or word-picture pairs. The response times were slowest for word-word pairs, intermediate for the picture-word pairs, and fastest for the picture-picture pairs.” Another theory is that of The Drawing Effect from Wammes, Meade, and Fernandes.  This theory believes "that drawing improves memory by encouraging a seamless integration of semantic, visual, and motor aspects of a memory trace." The connecting tissue for both theories is that sketchnoting is beneficial to our brain.  
So, what exactly goes into sketchnoting? There are a few elements that one must think about and incorporate into their sketchnote, i.e. structure, icons/images, connectors, and typography are just a few of the elements. Before you even get started it is important to know that sketchnoting is personal. The elements that you pick are based on what works for you and your ability. Often times, it is the self-critiques that keep people from sketchnoting, so always keep in mind that this process is about your ability to critically think about information, and use images that are symbolic to your processing of that information. Perfection is not a target to aim towards.

To get a visual of what sketchnotes could look like here are some examples from Sylvia Duckworth.

For all Southern Nevada Ready 21 educators, please come out and get some hands-on practice with Sketchnoting on April 10th or April 11th.

Clark and Paivio:Dual coding theory and education
Wammes, Meade, and Fernandes: The drawing effect

Felicia Wilson
Las Vegas

Monday, March 26, 2018

Case Study: Peer-Reviewed Digital Notes

One of the challenges teachers face when transitioning to a 1:1 classroom is what to do with student notes. Way back in 2016 BC (Before Chromebooks), teachers lectured from PowerPoint presentations as students quickly scribbled down notes into their notebooks. But in 2018 AD (After Device), some teachers found the notebook option lacking, especially with all of the things you can do with Google Docs!

Before I became a professional development strategist for Nevada Ready 21, I worked at an AVID school and had my students use the Cornell notes method for notetaking. 

In order to take Cornell notes, students setup their notebooks by drawing a vertical line about two inches in from the left side of the notebook page. The resulting two columns have specific roles. The column on the right is for notetaking and the column on the left is used for students to write higher-order thinking questions based on their notes. The idea is that when students study, they cover up their notes and try to answer their questions. If they need a little extra help answering their questions, they can peek at their notes to find the answers.

The Cornell notes method is awesome. But right about the time when my classroom received devices, I struggled with how exactly to transition from a paper-based Cornell notes method to an online one. 

I have found that it's easier to come up with ideas for Google Doc templates when I think of it in terms of the problem I am trying to solve and the resulting solution to the problem. In that spirit, I wrote a case study narrative of a problem a teacher named Mr. Ramirez sees in his history class and how he has figured out the solution to his problem.


Over the years Mr. Ramirez has developed a version of the Cornell method of notetaking that he loves teaching to his students in his history class. When Mr. Ramirez lectures from a Slides presentation, students take notes in their notebooks using the traditional two column Cornell note set-up. Every second or third slide, he stops lecturing so his students can review and revise their notes, highlight key ideas, and collaborate with each other by sharing ideas. He even has students write their own higher-order thinking questions based on the content from their notes. Mr. Ramirez's school recently became a 1:1 Chromebook school and now he wants to update his beloved style of notetaking for the digital age.


Mr. Ramirez created a Doc template he calls his Perr-Reviewed Digital Notes template. He made it in Docs and set it up using a series of tables. One of his gripes about online worksheets made in Docs is that all of them are made in the vertical orientation even though all computer screens are horizontal. He figured switching the page setup to landscape would take advantage of the conputer screen's real estate. He created separate columns in which students could take notes, type their higher-order thinking questions, and write their note summaries.

He noticed students just copied his notes verbatim from the slides so when he digitized his notetaking process, he left another column where he could copy and paste the words from his slides into the Doc. This way students can concentrate on writing their own notes. The awesome thing about giving his notes to his students is that they have to use their critical thinking skills to synthesize new information based on the initial notes he provides. He figured students could also add images they found online to their notes as he lectured.

Mr. Ramirez wanted to increase collaboration amongst his students, which is one of the skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills as important for today's students to master. To get students to collaborate with on eanother, he paired students up and made them both peer-reviewers. Students were to share their notes with their collaborative peer reviewer and help one another come up with annotations, ideas for questions, and a review of summaries.

Download the Doc Template from this Case Study: Peer-Reviewed Digital Notes

Give the "eCornell notes method" a try and let me know how it goes!

Las Vegas

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Beating the Implementation Dip: How to Maintain Momentum

Heather Crawford-Ferre, Ph.D.

Many Nevada Ready 21 schools are in their second year of one-to-one instruction and have experienced many successes, but also encountered challenges. If you work in these schools you might report “implementation dip”. Educational researcher Michael Fullen (2001) coined this term to describe the dip in performance and confidence as one encounters an innovation that requires new skills and understandings.

(Graphic from the Center for Public Education)

 Consider this story about the implementation dip from Sue Chapman (2017):

A couple of months ago, my 90-year-old mother bought her first smart phone. Mom was excited about all she could do with this new tool and wanted to become proficient. But she struggled to remember the steps she needed to follow. She did not yet know how to swipe and tap proficiently. As she experimented, she would accidentally change settings and move apps to places where she could no longer find them. Eventually, my mother stopped using her smart phone. It was just easier to call family members on her traditional phone rather than trying to send a text. It had been fun to take photos with the phone but it was hard to remember how to share them. When mom needed to look u a phone number or make an appointment or check the weather, by habit she went to her Rolodex, or the calendar on her desk or the thermometer on the wall (p. 1).  (Click here to see a picture of her mom with her new phone

This dip is a normal part of any learning experience and research indicates that nearly all teachers experience an implementation dip during the early stages of change (Fullen, 1999), but “here’s the danger of the implementation dip – it’s the point in learning where there is the greatest chance that a learner will give up” (Chapman, 2017, p. 1).

This all might leave you wondering – how do I maintain momentum or help my teachers maintain their momentum? Research calls attention to the important role of the instructional coach. A coach can help teachers push through the implementation dip by modeling best practices and providing feedback and support as teachers try new practices. Additionally, coaches can support teachers in developing a growth mindset about their own failures. Remember that the NR21 team is here to help if you need a nudge through your own implementation dip! For a positive message about seeking happy failure and learning through the implementation dip watch this TedTalk from Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek (

Remember, what you are doing is messy and challenging. There will be days with failure, but those might be the days that you learn the most!


Chapman, S. (2017). Coaching: The answer to the implementation dip. Retrieved from

Fullen, M., & Smith, G. (1999). Technology and the problem of change. Retrieved from

Fullen, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Fransisco, Jossey-Bassy.




Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Drab to FAB... How to Make the Peer-Reviewed Bell Ringer Doc

I am facilitating my Leveraging Online Tools course offered through the Nevada Ready 21 grant and one of the assignments is to create a dynamic Doc teachers can use with their students to increase the collaboration in daily lessons. As an example of what I'd like my participants to create, I turned a drab Doc into a FAB one with a few simple design tricks and tips I've learned over the years.

Before we get to how to improve the design of digital handouts, read through the problem I am trying to solve in my classroom and the Doc solution to my problem.

Problem: During the first 5 minutes of every period, students are expected to access my Slide deck where I house the prompt to the daily bell ringer. Students copy and paste the prompt into a Doc then proceed to answer the question. Every Friday, students turn that Doc in to me through a Google Classroom assignment and I grade their responses and input the grade to my gradebook. I use the grade from my bell ringer activity as a participation grade in my gradebook. The problem with my setup is that it takes too long to grade their response and it's almost not worth all the effort for a participation grade that is only worth 5% of the total grade. It can take up to an hour to get through it all! I'd like to create a system in which students can review the work of their peers, use a rubric to grade responses, and input grades to a form so I can easily transfer the grades to my gradebook.

Solution: My "Peer-Reviewed Bell Ringer" Doc will give my students an area to copy and paste the daily bell ringer prompt into a cell of a table for each day of the week. On Fridays, I will use this Random Group Generator to randomly assign students a peer-reviewer. Each student will type their name and the name of their peer-reviewer into the Doc. As a class we will go over each question and the peer-reviewers will provide feedback in the appropriate cell. I created a Form that I have linked to on the bell ringer Doc where students can input the participation grade along with the link to their peer's Doc (I want to include this so that I can keep everybody honest!) My Doc will help my students practice their collaboration skills because the peer reviewers provide feedback weekly to peers in their class. Since this peer review process requires a little "hand holding" at first, I plan to do some "think-alouds" with my students in which I tell my students my thinking process as I grade another student's work. I think that with a lot of practice, my students will be able to provide meaningful feedback to their peers!

I created a screencast tutorial on how I formatted my finished Doc. If you would like to learn my tips and tricks of how I turn a drab Doc into a FAB one, make a copy of the drab Doc to your Drive, watch the embedded video below, and follow along!

(Don't want to follow along to create the FAB version of my Peer-Reviewed Bell Ringer Doc on your own? Make a copy of the finished Doc to your Drive with this link.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Spatial Reasoning: How to Build It and Why it’s Important

Spatial Reasoning: How to Build it and Why it’s Important
Heather Crawford-Ferre, Ph.D.

Spatial thinking includes the positions of objects and shapes and how they relate to each other.  Linn and Petersen (1985) define spatial sense as the “mental process used to perceive, store, recall, create, edit and communicate spatial images” (p. 1479). Spatial reasoning includes all of these definitions, but also decides how efficiently you pack your suitcase or load your dishwasher!

 Below is an example that requires spatial reasoning.

Using any combination of the pattern blocks above, determine the greatest and fewest number of pattern blocks possible to fill the figure.

Spatial reasoning skills are vitally important. Students with strong spatial reasoning skills are more likely to be successful in STEM disciplines (Hutton & Taylor, 2013), including medicine, architecture, graphic design, and geography. Additionally, research indicates that improving students’ spatial skills also leads to improved achievement in problem solving, critical thinking and mathematics.

Spatial visualization is not intuitive. Students do not automatically grow in spatial reasoning, but rather through experience and practice (Clements, Samara & Wilson, 2004). Many students in the United States lack the experiences to build spatial reasoning skills. This is particularly true to females, whose toys are less likely to require spatial skill for play. Fortunately, research indicates that through carefully selected activities, students can improve their spatial reasoning (Casey, Andrews, Schiendler, Kersh, Samper & Copley, 2008).

Spatial Reasoning Activities for your Chromebook

1.      Use Google Maps to investigate location, magnitude, and relative distance and directions. Try this lesson plan from National Geographic Education Collection. (

2.      Use Google Draw to explore Tangrams and investigate moving, rotating and translating shapes. After solving some puzzles encourage students to design puzzles to challenge other students. Try these puzzles to get you started. (

3.      Have students explore photography and videography. This provides the opportunity for students to experiment with different angles and senses of scale. This is a great chance to try WeVideo (It’s included for Nevada Ready 21 schools). (

4.      Try Desmos (It’s included for Nevada Ready 21 schools) to investigate surface area and nets. Try this multi-day lesson plan from a Google Certified Educator (

5.      Learn to play music. Many researchers have found that playing music increases spatial skills. Have you tried Noteflight yet? It’s included for Nevada Ready 21 schools).  (

6.      Make time for (carefully chosen) video games. Research shows that games where the individual is playing in “first person” significantly increases the likelihood of visualizing movement. You might also try the classic video game Tetris which significantly increases spatial rotation skills!


Casey, B. M., Andrews, N., Schindler, H., Kersh, J. E., Samper, A. and Copley, J. (2008). The development of spatial skills through interventions involving block-building activities’. Cognition and Instruction, 26(3), 269–309.

 Clements, D. H., Wilson, D. C. and Sarama, J. (2004). Young children’s composition of geometric figures: A learning trajectory. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 6(2), 163–184.

Hutton, A., & Taylor, H. A. (2013). Training spatial thinking fundamental to STEM education. Cognitive Processing, 31(4), 434–455

Linn, M. C., & Petersen, A. C. (1985). Emergence and characterization of sex differences in spatial ability: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 56(6), 1479-1498.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Eastern Nevada Digital Learning Summit

  The Summit is coming!!!!  The question is Are You Ready?  The Nevada Ready 21 team is proud to announce the Eastern Nevada Digital Learning Summit is happening on Saturday, February 10, 2018, at Adobe Middle School in Elko, Nevada.  So, mark it on your calendars, buy your ticket(s), get ready to learn some new information and while you're at it earn a .5 CEU!
     This year's topics range from Making the Best of Google Docs: Google Keep to NearPod to Formative Assessment Tools in the Digital Age.  I am personally excited to present Everybody was Google Drawing and Podcast in the Classroom, so if those topics have your teacher senses tingling make sure to be there.  
Information is posted on the flyers below.  I hope to see you there!

Felicia Wilson
Las Vegas

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Increase Learning with InsertLearning

Install this new Chrome extension and easily turn any webpage into an interactive lesson.

InsertLearning can help you deliver digital content to your students and also provide data to help you guide instruction.I believe InsertLearning will be a game-changer in digital and blended learning!

The extension allows anyone to take any online content (including content that you might have on a published Google Doc) and insert annotations, sticky notes, open-ended or multiple choice questions, and discussion forums. The best part about this new extension is its seamless integration with Google Classroom. That's right, you can build an entire online lesson in minutes and assign it to your students enrolled in your various Classrooms!

How can I get started?

If you have not already done so, sign-up for a free account and install the InsertLearning extension with this link. Use your G Suite account when you sign up and don't forget to indicate that you are a teacher!

In order for the extension to work properly, all of your students will also need a free account. When they sign up with their G Suite accounts, they will have to indicate that they are students.

This is a "freemium" product. This means that you will be able to create 5 lessons using the extension. If you want to create more, the cost is $40 for the year.  You can earn free months by sharing a link with your colleagues. As they sign up, you and your colleagues will receive free months.

After you have signed up and properly installed the extension, navigate to any webpage then click on the InsertLearning extension button from your browser. The toolbar pictured on the left will show up on webpage you navigated to.

What can I do with it?

The InsertLearning toolbar will let you "insert learning" onto any webpage to make it more interactive. Before you assign anything to your students, however, you do need to put in a little elbow grease to increase the interactivity.

You can direct your students' attention to a specific passage in a reading and even add your own commentary with the pen highlight tool. To show you how easy it is to use this tool, I created a simple lesson using a Nevada Ready 21 blog post. Take a look at the looping gif below to see how to highlight text and create an annotated note using InsertLearning.

Imagine being able to direct your students' focus to another resource not originally linked to in the webpage. InsertLearning allows you to insert links to related resources. You can even embed YouTube videos directly into the webpage itself! Take a look at the looping gif below to see how to integrate a YouTube video into a blog post article.

Maybe I am burying the lede here, but InsertLearning's true potential comes through with the next two features. With InsertLearning you can collect formative assessment data directly from the webpage you are using to teach the content by inserting an open-ended or multiple choice question directly into the webpage! What's more, students can answer the question on the webpage without having to go to submit a Form or navigating back to Google Classroom! How wild is that?!

Remember, these elements inserted into the webpage will only be viewable to your students with the extension installed, so don't think that you are changing the actual code of the original webpage. Rather, you are creating a transformative resource that you can use to drive your instruction. Take a look at the looping gif below to see how easy it is to insert an open-ended question into a webpage.

InsertLearning's last feature is the most interesting, in my opinion. One of the ways we can encourage dialogue in an online environment is through discussion forums. InsertLearning allows you to insert a discussion forum into a webpage! Just like with the question feature, the discussion forum does not require a student to navigate anywhere else. They will be able to include their post directly from the webpage. Think about the power of this feature. Students can have their source in front of them as they think about and type out their response to the prompt. How cool is that?! The looping gif below shows just how easy it is to insert a discussion post.

What else?

Whether you are creating your own lessons or using one of the lessons another teacher created on the platform, you can blend instruction easily and effectively. Give it a try today!

Chris Justus
Las Vegas