Lesson Enrichment and Lesson Extensions Open the door to Student Voice and Choice for Personalized Learning

Why is it that Lesson Enrichments and Lesson Extensions are typically reserved for the Gifted and Talented student? Perhaps I am wrong, but based on my own experience as a Classroom Teacher and as a Reading Specialist, I haven’t seen many school-aged children offered an opportunity to pick an extension or enrichment activity of their choice to work on. Doesn’t lesson enrichment and lesson extensions increase student voice and choice within their own learning? Below is the Carolyn Coil Model. This model illustrates horizontal and vertical differentiation for students. It also illustrates how lesson extensions and enrichments can enhance personalized learning for students.

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Lesson extension exercises allow students to explore topics that are in the curriculum. This is one method of providing students with a voice and a choice  in their learning. Lesson enrichment exercises, on the other hand, allow students to explore topics that are not in the curriculum. This is another method for giving students choice and voice in what they learn. Lesson enrichments tend to happen during genius hour. While lesson extensions occur within the unit of instruction.

As teachers design instruction that is personalized, they should consider including either an enrichment exercise or an extension exercise within the unit. Both are initiating methods for personalizing learning for students.

Using Computer Science Principles for Decision Making with Design-Oriented Theory

I came across Brian Christian’s and Tom Griffiths’ book entitled, Algorithms to Live By this past summer. I typically don’t read books about math and computer science, but I decided to stretch myself and read books that are outside of my comfort zone while relaxing by the pool.

Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths submit that “algorithms are a finite sequence of steps used to solve a problem” (p. 7). Christian and Griffiths definition got me to thinking, what algorithm can teachers use to solve the problem of personalizing learning for each student within a web-enhanced classroom?


I’m not a mathematician, nor statistician, nonetheless, after reading Algorithms to live by, I started to understand why mathematicians say that math is all around us. Essentially, algorithms help us to solve problems. Hence, how can we use algorithms to help us solve the problem of personalizing learning for all students within a web-enhanced classroom? What would that algorithm even look like? See my shameless attempt below.Slide1

I’m sure that my attempt at writing an algorithm that represents my problem is not the correct way, nonetheless, I still believe that I am on the right track regarding the usage of algorithms in instructional-design theory.  In any case, as I got deeper into Christian’s and Griffiths’ book, I realized that connections could be made between computer science principles and instructional-design theories for web-enhanced classrooms.

Teachers in a web-enhanced classroom using principles of instructional-design theory should consider employing the following principles from computer science for instructional decision making:

  • The optimal stopping problem – knowing when to stop analysis of information.
  • Explore/Exploit Tradeoff – Start with a period of exploration, then exploit the best options for your purpose.
  • Sorting – organization of information; making order.
  • Caching – storage of information; maintaining direct access to the most needed information.
  • Scheduling – knowing how much time should be allocated to a given task, first things first.
  • Bayes’s Rule – updating a belief about a hypothesis in light of new evidence, forecasting.
  • Overfitting – a statistical model that describes random error or noise within the data instead of an underlying relationship.
  • Relaxation – A relaxation is an approximation of a difficult problem by a nearby problem that is easier to solve. A solution of the relaxed problem provides information about the original problem.
  • Randomness – The lack of pattern or predictability in events. A random sequence of events, symbols or steps has no order and does not follow an intelligible pattern or combination.
  • Networking – making connections between sources of information.
  • Game Theory – a branch of mathematics concerned with the analysis of strategies for dealing with competitive situations where the outcome of a user’s choice of action depends critically on the actions of other users.

There is much to ponder here, and I will continue to grapple with this issue as I document this journey of helping teachers personalize learning for students within their web-enhanced classroom.

Instructional Design Models Should Enhance Student Identity, Promote Student Agency, And Provide Student Power

When designing instruction for web-enhanced classrooms, we must consider the role of student identity, student agency, and student power. Student identity is a continuous formation of the student acting as a subject within a community. In other words, student identity is the ability to be able to identify with the particular discourse or language of the community. As students learn more from the learning community, their ability to identify with the subject allows them to act as a key subject within the community.

Student agency is the making and remaking of the students’ self, the students’ identity, and the students’ relationships. When teachers promote student agency, they are allowing students to make and remake learning tools, learning resources, and learning activities. These acts lead to productive power for our learners.

Student power is cultivated on rich relationships and high quality interactions. Hence, in web-enhanced classrooms, what applications will best help to meet the learning goals while supporting the development of student power, student agency, and student identity?

white-male-1871370_1920Student productive power, is not only having skill and will to achieve goals, but also having independent thought and autonomous action towards self-regulated learning and self-directed learning. Hence, how can instructional-design models tap into student power, student agency,  and student identity? Roger Schank’s Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science can save our schools listed five issues that he claims educators are not effectively addressing. They are ability, possibility, methodology, constraints, and goal alignment.

  • Ability – whether students can learn whatever it is that you want to teach.
  • Possibility – whether what you want to teach can be taught.
  • Methodology – what method of learning actually would teach what we want to teach.
  • Constraints – whether the selected learning methodology actually will work, given the time constraints and abilities of the students, and other constraints that actually exist.
  • Goal alignment – determine a way that will make what you want to teach fit more closely with real-life goals that your students actually may have.

I’ve contoured Schank’s list of issues in order to fit them into the discourse of personalized learning.

  • Ability – what is the students learning profile?
  • Possibility – what is the students learning potential?
  • Methodology – what instructional design model should be employed?
  • Constraints – what are the limitations of the learning environment and what are the constraints for achieving the learning goal?
  • Goal alignment – what are the teacher’s goal for instruction? What are the student’s goals for learning?

Will Richardson reminds us that we should increase student agency over learning. Our current emphasis on improving teaching is not cultivating the student’s agency, the student’s identity, or the student’s productive power. In other words, we should shift from a focus on teaching practices to a focus on student-centered learning practices.


Schank, R. C. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Does Learner Variance warrant a “Learner-Designer” theory?

Learners are as unique as their fingerprints. So why isn’t their instruction just as unique? I believe it is because of curriculum-theory designs.


Curriculum-theory designs are description oriented in nature, which means that they focus on the results of any given learning event. They are also deterministic, which means that the attainment of the learning goals are assured with operant conditioning.  Thus, behaviorism is at the core of Curriculum-theory designs. In essence, Curriculum-theory designs ask “What to teach“. Furthermore, these designs are founded on standardization and conformity from the key markers of the Industrial Age.

On the other hand, Instructional-design theories are design-oriented in nature because they focus on the means to attain the given learning goals. They are probabilistic, which means that the prescribed method of instruction will increase the chances of attaining the learning goals byway of instructional conditions, desired outcomes, and the instructional components.  Thus, cognitivism combined with constructivism is at the core of  Instructional design-theories.  Fundamentally, Instructional-design theories ask “How to teach“. Moreover, these designs are founded on customization and diversity from the key markers of the Information Age. To make instruction as unique as the learner’s fingerprints, teachers will have to shift from curriculum-theory designs to instructional-design theories.

To customize instruction for our learners, teachers must first understand the role of learning profiles. Learning profiles provide an in-depth look at the learners’ abilities in various domains. Not all learners are average, and Todd Rose, the director of the Mind, Brain, & Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, highlighted that notion with his TED Talk on  the jagged learning profile. Hence, using the learning profiles of students will help teachers to shape a powerful personalized instructional-design prescription for diverse learners.

As teachers construct the learning profiles of their students, it is important that they include the student in this process. Reigeluth (1999), submitted that an instructional-design theory should allow for much greater use of the notion of “user-designers” (p. 25). User-designers are both the learners and the facilitators of learning. In other words, as students are interacting with their teacher, their peers, and the content, they are alternating between the role of a learner and that of a facilitator of learning for their peers.  As such, learners should play a major role in designing their own instruction, shifting to a “Learner-designer” theory.

Does learner variance warrant a “Learner-Designer” theory? I will let you decide the answer to that question. Nonetheless, to meet the needs of today’s learners in the conceptual age, instructional-design theories must utilize design-oriented methods that reflect the key markers of the Conceptual age, such as fostering self-regulated learning and self-directed learning, allowing shared decision making, focusing on real-world problems (holistic tasks), and building cooperative relationships through learning teams. To effectively design learning environments for the conceptual age, now more than ever, the voice of learners will have to be added to the design process.


Reigeluth, C. M. (1999). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume II. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Y Design-Oriented Models?

What do design-oriented models look like, sound like, and feel like? I’ve been contemplating the answers to those questions for about two weeks now. Richard Schank’s book, Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science can Save our Schools, as well as Katie Muhtaris and Kristen Ziemky’s book, Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom have helped me to generate a few answers to those questions.


Looks like:

  • models that support digital communities
    • user-designers, (e.g. content users help to design their learning experiences)
    • online learning and social media
    • incorporation of new literacies
    • develop digital citizens
  • models that support the cognitive process
    • making predictions
    • building models of a process
    • experimenting with information based on failure or success
    • evaluating information on many different dimensions
  • models that support the analytic process
    • making a diagnosis of a complex situation
    • constructing explanations
    • learning to plan
    • conducting needs analysis
    • goal setting
    • detecting causes of events
    • making objective judgments
  • models that support the social processes
    • creating influence within a group
    • working as a productive team member
    • handling conflict
    • practicing negotiation
    • describing problems precisely

Sounds like:

prolific language used to

  • compliment
  • question
  • coach

Feels like:

  • an emphasis on student ownership and creativity
  • student empowerment
  • interdisciplinary learning
  • personalized assessment
  • authentic assignments and projects
  • collaboration
  • abundant access to resources
  • continuous reflection
  • divergent and convergent thinking
  • envisioning, understanding, and communicating meaning
  • inquiry and problem-solving
  • content area experts

Schank reminds us that, “lifetime learning does not mean the continual acquisition of knowledge so much as it means the improvement in one’s ability to [employ cognitive] processes by means of the acquisition and analysis of experiences to draw on. Design-oriented models will help teachers to craft those experiences for their learners in a web-enhanced classroom.


Muhtaris, Katie, and Kristin Ziemke. 2015. Amplify: digital teaching and learning in the K-6 classroom.

Schank, R. C. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Four Instructional Architectures

Teachers are instructional architects for learning. Hence, understanding the learning process is crucial to building powerful learning experiences. In a web-enhanced classroom, understanding the learning process enhances the creation of learning environments that support personalized learning. Clark (2008) submitted that there are four architectures that illustrate the different models of learning. As instructional architects, teachers should be familiar with each of them. They are Receptive, Directive, Guided Discovery, and Exploratory.

The Receptive architecture is grounded in the absorption learning model. Through this lens, the learner is passive and his role is to simply receive the information. This particular architecture may be employed when the teacher chooses to use a video in the lesson for information transmission or a webinar.

The Directive architecture is grounded in the behavioral learning model. Through this lens, the learner builds knowledge by providing a response that is deemed correct based on a predetermined answer and frequent feedback. This architecture may be employed in a web-enhanced classroom when the teacher chooses to use a web-based program for instruction that is designed to support the basic acquisition of functional skills.

The Guided Discovery architecture is grounded in the cognitive learning model. Through this lens, the learner constructs his or her knowledge and skills through project based learning (PBL) or authentic learning tasks. This architecture may be employed in a web-enhanced classroom when the teacher chooses to integrate technology with PBL. This particular architecture also works well with the five learning environments identified by the TIM Matrix.

They are:

  • active learning – students are actively engaged in using technology as a tool rather than passively receiving the information from the technology.
  • collaborative learning – students use technology tools to collaborate with others rather than working individually at all times.
  • constructive learning – students use technology tools to connect new information to their prior knowledge rather than to passively receive information.
  • authentic learning – Students use technology tools to link learning activities to the world beyond the instructional setting rather than working on decontextualized assignments.
  • goal-directed learning – Students use technology tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress, and evaluate results rather than simply completing assignments without reflection.

The Exploratory architecture is grounded in the experiential learning model.  This type of learning is also known as open-ended learning. This architecture “offers the greatest amount of learner control of all the four architectures” (Clark, 2008, p.10). Through this lens, the learner takes responsibility for his or her learning, giving the learner more control.  This architecture is the ultimate form of personalized learning and it may be employed in a web-enhanced classroom when the teacher chooses to allow the students to choose their own focus for lesson extensions or to choose their own focus for lesson enrichment.

When planning for instruction, the instructional goals must be at the forefront. Depending upon the goals, teachers can choose to employ a mixture of architectures to support learning attainment or one specific architecture. “Each architecture has best applications, depending on the learners and the instructional goal” (Clark, 2008, p. 10). Clark also submits that teachers should keep these two questions in mind when designing lessons:

  • what is the background and prior knowledge of the learners?
  • what is the type of task or concept to be learned?

Architectures are usually defined during the instructional design process.


As instructional architects, teachers can not build lessons without considering the background knowledge of their students. Directive architectures work well for students with little to no prior knowledge of the content. Guided Discovery architectures work well for students with some content knowledge while Receptive architectures work well for students with adequate prior knowledge of the content. Exploratory architectures work well when students have significant prior knowledge of the content in conjunction with good metacognitive skills (Clark, 2008).

In sum, to design effective lessons for web-enhanced classrooms, teachers must:

  1. consider the standard
  2. convert the standard into workable objectives
  3. consider student prior knowledge in relation to the standard and objectives
  4. consider the concept to be learned within the standard and objectives
  5. design a task that teaches the concept and also utilizes one of the five learning environments from the TIM Matrix
  6. determine how learners will get feedback from the teacher
  7. determine how learners will give feedback to the teacher

Knowing the four architectures of learning will further strengthen lesson design add value to a web-enhanced classroom.


Clark, R. C. (2008). Building expertise: Cognitive methods for training and performance improvement.

Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (n.d.). The Technology Integration Matrix. Retrieved from https://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/TIM_Summary_Descriptors.pdf

Teacher A.D.D.I.E. is in Town

Directed Teaching Activities (DTAs) were the tried and true method for providing explicit direct instruction to students who are expected to master the objective with 80 percent proficiency. DTAs required that the teacher identified the lesson objective, the teaching activity, and the assessment. However, with web-enhanced instruction on the rise, where does the DTA fit for twenty first century lesson planning? DTAs assume that the learning environment is the traditional classroom, however, thanks to web-enhanced learning, classroom learning environments are no longer static. Move over DTA. Here comes ADDIE.

Instructional lesson planning with web-enhanced learning may need to incorporate some of the principles of instructional design. The field of Instructional Design deliberately factors in web-enhanced learning because Instructional Designers use a systematic design process for online teaching and learning.

With twelve years of instructional design experience, I personally subscribe to the ADDIE Model.

ADDIE stands for:

  • Analysis – Here the lesson designer considers learner variability, resources needed for teaching and learning, and the learning environment itself (e.g., active learning, collaborative learning, constructive learning, authentic learning, or goal-oriented learning).
  • Design – Here the lesson designer focuses on the learning goals and standards that must be met, as well as the scope and sequence of the module design.
  • Development – Here the lesson designer develops the content for the learning module, and loads the content onto a website or into the learning management system.
  • Implementation – Here,  the lesson designer deploys the learning modules.
  • Evaluation – Here, the lesson designer assesses the success of the learner. The lesson designer may collect feedback from the learner, or the lesson designer may use data from tests that were delivered during the learning module. This collected data is used to identify areas that require improvements.


DTAs put teachers at the center of learning while ADDIE puts the students at the center. DTAs support behaviorism whereas ADDIE supports constructivism. DTAs rely on the traditional static classroom model. ADDIE relies on nontraditional unfixed web-enhanced learning. To my knowledge, the ADDIE model of Instructional Design has not been used with school-aged children. Nonetheless, as classrooms become more web-enhanced, perhaps teachers will have to become more savvy with planning web-enhanced lessons by way of ADDIE.


Lesson designing with instructional technology in mind

In many districts, classroom teachers are expected to be using instructional technology to enhance learning experiences for students. So how comfortable are teachers with using instructional technology? Some are at the entry level of technology integration, while others are at the transformative level. Still, no matter where the teacher lies on this continuum, the most important question that needs to be asked is what type of learning experiences are being created for students? In this regard, teachers now have to wear the hat of an instructional designer for web-enhanced learning.

one to one

Instructional designers apply a systematic methodology based on instructional theory to create content for learning events.” Source: www.eng.wayne.edu There are many prescribed instructional design models that instructional designers employ, but classroom teachers are not necessarily trained on instructional design models. Hence, teachers will need support with developing “systematic processes that can be employed to develop [web-enhanced] learning environments in a consistent and reliable fashion” (Reiser, Dempsey, 2007).

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) lists five possible learning environments that are suitable for powerful learning experiences for students. They are:

  • active learning – students are actively engaged in using technology as a tool rather than passively receiving the information from the technology.
  • collaborative learning – students use technology tools to collaborate with others rather than working individually at all times.
  • constructive learning – students use technology tools to connect new information to their prior knowledge rather than to passively receive information.
  • authentic learning – Students use technology tools to link learning activities to the world beyond the instructional setting rather than working on decontextualized assignments.
  • goal-directed learning – Students use technology tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress, and evaluate results rather than simply completing assignments without reflection.

When designing lessons, teachers must always consider the instructional objective that they are trying to achieve which should be aligned with State Standards. Teachers should then think about the five learning environments, and which one will get them the closest to their learning objective. The environment will govern which instructional technology application will be chosen for use within the lesson. Then the lesson’s procedures and assessments can be constructed. Click here for a copy of a lesson plan framework based on the TIM Matrix that I created. This framework helps me to change paper based lessons into digital lessons.

Using the TIM Matrix has helped me to move from entry level technology integration to the adoption level. Now, to move towards my goal of transformational teaching.


Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (n.d.). The Technology Integration Matrix. Retrieved from https://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/TIM_Summary_Descriptors.pdf

Robert A. Reiser and John V. Dempsey, trends and issues in instructional design and technology (2nd ed.). Merrill Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2006,


Visual Literacy and Google Slides

I recently took a course on Visual Literacy and its importance. I learned that Visual Literacy is one approach that teaches children how to make meaning from information with images that contextualize various subject matters. “Young people learn more than half of what they know from visual information, but few schools have an explicit curriculum to show students how to think critically about visual data” (McKenzie, 1998). Hence, it is my belief that Visual Literacy is a necessary component of Pre-K/12 curriculum.  McKenzie (1998) submitted that, “schools must show students how to look beyond the surface to understand deeper levels of meaning and tactics employed to sway their thinking.” This means that the curriculum should contain opportunities to teach students how to “interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information that is presented in the form of an image”, film, or logo (Wikipedia, 2017). McKenzie submitted further that, “there is a danger that …images will serve as decoration rather than information unless we show [students] how to interpret (or make meaning of) the data (1998).

Based on what I learned in the course, I decided to incorporate some of the principles of Visual Literacy with a stamp lesson.  I based the lesson on Dr. Temple Grandin since my students had been studying her. I posed the following questions to them: What is a stamp? What are the informative parts of a stamp? How and when did stamps come into use? Why are there pictures or images on postage stamps? It was the picture part that I wanted to focus on since pictures convey information.


I explained to my students that stamps, although they are very small, have pictures or images that have meaning. I told the students that making images meaningful has three components. The first is making ideas clear by visualizing them. The second is making them interactive, and the third is making them persistent (Eisner, 2017). In other words, when using images to support the message, the image must clearly make the idea visible. The image should also engage the audience, making them think deeply about the ideas. Lastly, the image must make the ideas persistent or relevant over time with different audiences. This is quite a hard task for third graders, but I wanted to challenge my students.

I gave them an empty slide template where they would place one or more images on the template that visually represented an idea about Dr. Temple Grandin, that was engaging to the audience and would stand the test of time by being persistent. For further information on how to implement this lesson, click here.

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I was pleased with what they came up with. If you want to try it with your students, click here to make a copy.

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In sum, it is important for a teacher to understand how to effectively use visuals in the classroom because these visuals will not only enhance comprehension, but they will also support a student’s ability to use visual thinking skills that will deepen student understanding and sustain recall and memory over time. It is also important for a teacher to understand why our students need to be visually literate because Visual Literacy will allow our students to elect alternative methods for sharing information in order to make their ideas clearer to their audience.  


Elliot Eisner. (2017, June 21). Retrieved September 16, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliot_Eisner

McKenzie, J. (1998). Visual Literacy. Retrieved July 03, 2017, from http://fno.org/PL/vislit.htmVisual Literacy. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 3, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_literacy_in_education


Good bye SAMR. Hello TIM!

I was recently introduced to TIM, a Technology Integration Matrix (TIM).  Prior to learning about TIM, I used SAMR to assist me with developing robust learning experiences for my students. However, TIM does a more in-depth job of merging the five levels of technology integration with the five meaningful learning environments. Apparently, TIM has been around since 2011 and I am just getting acquainted with it. Like SAMR’s ladder of questions, TIM offers an instructional planning model that allows teachers and administrators to consider curriculum demands, student needs, and available technology. Below is a figure that illustrates the TIM instructional planning model.


SAMR’s ladder of questions focuses on the technology that will enhance the task; while the TIM instructional planning model focuses on student needs and curricular demands in conjunction with the technology and tasks. Below is a list of questions housed within the TIM instructional planning model that I will use to develop digital tools for the classroom.

Curriculum Demands

  • Is this a new concept for my students?
  • What standards apply?
  • What curriculum applies?

Student Needs

  • What helps my students learn?
  • How can I individualize instruction?
  • Is this a new technology for my students?

Available Technology

  • What technologies are available to me?
  • What are their affordances and limitations?
  • How do these technologies relate to others we’ve used?

Because the TIM matrix encompasses more, I’m saying good bye to SAMR. See for yourself what the official TIM site has to offer for teachers and administrators alike.


Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (n.d.). The Technology Integration Matrix. Retrieved from https://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/TIM_Summary_Descriptors.pdf

Harmes, J. C., Welsh, J. L., & Winkelman, R. J. (2016). A framework for defining and evaluating technology integration in the instruction of real-world skills. In S. Ferrara, Y. Rosen, & M. Tager (Eds.), Handbook of research on technology tools for real-world skill development (pp. 137-162). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Welsh, J. L., Harmes, J. C., & Winkelman, R. (2011). Tech tips: Florida’s Technology Integration Matrix. Principal Leadership, 12(2), 69-71. PDF of the article available from SEDTA