Part 4: Frameworks and Follow-up

During my first year of teaching after a career-switch, my county assigned me a mentor. I was just starting on my required coursework for certification, and this retired teacher observed my classes periodically and helped me navigate my new profession. She helped me out tremendously. However, there is one meeting I remember especially well because, for once, she asked me to do something that made teaching harder rather than easier. She suggested that I should start and end feedback on students’ projects with positive comments to “cushion” the tougher criticism in the middle. I had always praised students’ efforts, but…


Part 3: Scheduling for Growth

Formative feedback in project-based learning should be like a visit to the doctor rather than an autopsy. The point is to help the patient live a better life, not determine what went wrong once the patient is already dead. When scheduling, that means you’ll have to build in time to review the projects and provide formative feedback and also provide time for students to receive that feedback, ask any questions they might have about it, and incorporate it in revising and iterating their projects. …


Part 2: Setting Goals

Thinking back to my time in the classroom both as a teacher and as a student, my most salient memories are of times when projects were in progress. I might remember some because they were fun, or because the product turned out great, or even because everything went wrong. In every case, I remember more about what we learned during those times (again, both as a teacher and as a student) than everything else that might have happened in the classroom at any other time.

In the business world, projects have a definite beginning and an end, have an agreed-upon…


Part 1: What is “Formative Assessment”?

One of the most difficult issues to pin down when planning a long-term project is the grading process. For as long as I’ve been collaborating with teachers, this issue has continued to crop up, so I finally decided to collect my arguments and advice into a single resource. A conference proposal seemed like the perfect way to ensure I actually did the work I’d planned. After all, once you submit your proposal, you know you’ll have to have it all pulled together for the audience when the time comes. This past week I shared my thoughts about feedback during the…


While working as an instructional technology coach, one of the duties that has been important to me is helping school communities navigate the complexities of respecting the ownership of digital goods. Whether we are talking about text, sounds, or images, digital goods are easily moved, copied, and mass-distributed. For a long time I taught the ideas of Fair Use etc. with conviction, but also with a high degree of detachment. I followed the rules myself, but had no skin in the game.

On May 20, 1918, I went to the woods behind my house as I do almost every day…


One of the most interesting conversations I had during the #gettingUnstuck event last summer was about the idea of combining art and coding to give projects a unique aesthetic. The teachers participating in the conversation lamented the fact that most teachers, when working with students on a coding project, focus on very serious stuff. Even when we add that little extra A to STEM and make it STEAM, the “art” part is secondary and expendable.

If this pushing aside of art has been true all along, how much worse is it during the pandemic? I can’t help but think…


One of my favorite reasons for working in Scratch is that I can see, very clearly, how my code works. I see immediate results and can iterate based on what I see. That makes following my “what if…?” ideas easy and usually leads to even more learning and discovery. Designing activities that encourage these explorations helps students further their understanding of computational thinking concepts and practices.

Here is a fun Scratch art project I created recently that teachers could use with their students, whether they are meeting in person or remotely. It’s a project that could be used in an art…


Sometimes using the wrong search terms takes us on interesting journeys. Today, while looking for research on note-taking and fMRI results, I landed on this post on the BrainFacts website. The TL;DR version of the BrainFacts post: reading comprehension on screens is inferior to reading comprehension on paper because “research.” Of course, as a technology advocate and someone who has read pretty much exclusively on screens for the past decade or so, I had to dig deeper. TL;DR version of my take: Please don’t believe everything you read, even if it is on a .org website.

Reading is very different…


Encouraging Computational Thinking in Professional Development

Do you ever see something and can’t leave it alone until you figure out how it was made? It happens to me often. In fact, it happened just the other day. I’ve made a ‘spirograph’ application on Scratch, and I was looking at how other Scratchers have coded similar projects. I ran across one in particular that had a beautiful introductory scene. I watched it a few times from the project page before looking behind the scenes in the code.

The animation is composed of layers. The top layer is white rectangle that has cutout letters on it. The bottom…


Ditch the worksheet

What happens when you take one step, turn one degree, take one step, turn one degree, and continue doing that a total of 360 times? You will walk in a circle — or more accurately, you’ll walk along a 360-sided shape with each side measuring one step. You can split this shape into 360 congruent triangles with internal angles measuring 1º at the pointy centers and 89.5º at the corners on each side of your foot.

This may not be news to you, and you may have an easy time understanding this description and imagining the process and shapes I’m…

Bea Leiderman

Instructional coach, technology enthusiast, macro photographer always looking for new things to learn.

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