COVA Reflection

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In addition to reading this reflection, please take a moment to view a video I created on my COVA reflections. View the video

If you are anything like me, you value education tremendously. You view education as a tool that can fix an array of problems humans face. Be those problems societal, political, medical, environmental, economic, or even personal, meaningful education can make our lives better.

But after 25 years in the public K-12 education system, I have found educators can lose sight of their purpose—their “Why,” if you will. Learning about and reflecting on the COVA approach to teaching and learning has awakened me to what we as educators should be facilitating during the seven hours a day and 180+ days per year students are in our charge…Our main purpose is not to force-feed students facts, statistics, and our own impressions. No, our sole objective should be to give students the freedom to engage in learning that is meaningful to their lives—it must be relevant—and for them to demonstrate that learning in ways of their choosing that encourages thoughtful reflection. This is how they will make new connections that will further their learning.

Early in my teaching career, before I knew the term COVA or the importance of giving my students choice, ownership and voice through authentic learning experiences, a student unwittingly introduced this concept to me. I was a ninth-grade ELA teacher dutifully trying to instill an appreciation for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Toward the end of the unit, I gave my students some choices about how they could demonstrate their learning. I believed myself to be very enlightened and cutting edge to give my students a choice between writing a paper or giving a class presentation on some element of Romeo and Juliet. One student, possibly sensing my willingness to allow him to demonstrate learning in a unique way, asked if he could write a computer program about the play. Hesitantly, I acquiesced, not knowing if his project would sufficiently regurgitate back to me all the wisdom I had imparted to the class about this drama.

What I received back blew me away. He created a 25-question trivia game about the play’s plot, literary elements, character analysis, and historical facts. The program was created in a rudimentary programming language. There were not a lot of flashy graphics (this was in the early 1990s). But the product he created made it clear to me that he was passionate about programming. He tapped into that passion to make my course (which if I’m honest with myself, I’d admit he was less passionate about) more relevant to his learning.

This was one of the proudest moments I experienced as a teacher. And really, I did nothing other than release the reigns ever so slightly and trust that he would use his choice ownership and voice to demonstrate learning.

Today, I am in a different role. I work with career and technical education teachers to ensure they have the facilities, equipment, curriculum, and industry support necessary to enable their students to enter the workforce prepared. Despite not working directly with high school students, I still have opportunities to espouse and advocate for a COVA approach to teaching and learning. It starts with personifying and setting an example of the Growth Mindset in action. When anyone—be they teachers or students—understand that through perseverance, trying new approaches, and soliciting the help of experts, we can all learn and grow.

Article for Publication Outline

Publication Outline—Drew Thurman

What is the topic of your article?
The topic of my article is the use of online tools and resources to promote the teaching of employability skills—often referred to as “soft skills”—in high school CTE classrooms. The many industry representatives I work with who sponsor and advise CTE programs within my district stress the importance of these skills for young people entering the workforce. The article’s intended audience is high school CTE instructors. Through my article, I intend to share with this audience ways they can use technology tools to equip students with these highly sought-after skills.
What is the connection to your innovation plan or initiative?
My innovation plan involves the use of 360-degree photography to create virtual fieldtrips to work sites that are impractical to visit on traditional field trips. An aspect of my innovation plan requires students to communicate and facilitate a meeting with company representatives to set up the filming of the work site. Students will be expected to demonstrate their soft skills when setting up and conducting these meetings.
How can this information help others?
More than specific industry-related skills, employers stress soft/employability skills as the most important qualities for new hires. My hope and intent is to assist teachers with finding ways to creatively and effectively impart these qualities and skills to their students. Doing so will strengthen their programs by creating students who are more ready to enter the workforce.
Lessons learned or hoped to learn?
I am convinced that the use of technology and web 2.0 tools have the potential to positively impact teaching and learning in the area of employability skills. I foresee my biggest learning opportunity to be how to pair up a specific soft skill with a technology tool that will assist students in refining that particular skill. For example, the use of web conferencing software to practice written and oral communication.
What digital resources will be included in your article?
To enrich this article, I will provide photographs of students engaged in activities. I will secure a media release form for any student pictured in the article. I will also include links to videos, student projects and my edshelf.
Journal Submission Guidelines:
I plan to submit my article to Journal of Career and Technical Education for publication. The guidelines for submission can be found at this link:


Publication: Journal of Career and Technical Education

Advancing Employability Skills Through the Use of Technology
By Drew Thurman

I. Introduction
Employers are desperate for new hires who possess strong employability skills. In this introduction, I will provide context for the importance of focused instruction on employability skills.
II. Body
The body of the article will be composed of identifying various employability skills such as critical thinking, oral and written communication, teamwork, digital technology, leadership, work ethic, and intercultural fluency. For each employability skill that I identify, I will detail why it is important to employers and provide suggestions for how to use technology tools and resources to address the skill.
III. Conclusion
I will conclude the article by restating my thesis and examine how the skills touched on are not only beneficial to employers in the context situations that arise at work, but also how they are crucial life skills for students to know and appreciate.

Digital Citizenship

This video provides an overview of the elements of digital citizenship, which, as students spend increasing amounts of time online, is imperative that they understand.

Digital Citizenship Reflective Journal

The principles, behaviors and standards of conduct necessary for a society to thrive are the same ones required of citizens in the digital realm. The more time we spend online—which increases yearly—the greater the need to establish and instill strong digital citizenship awareness among our students. In order to take advantage of all the conveniences and opportunities the internet has to offer, we must ensure that the internet is populated with people who practice kindness, are aware of dangers, and understand the eternal nature of what they post online. The best way to create such a society is to start with the young people in our schools.

Cutting someone off on the freeway or loudly playing inappropriate music in a quiet place are examples of things while not necessarily illegal, definitely demonstrate a lack of etiquette. The same holds true for our practices online. While flaming or trolling another person or group of people online may not be technically against the law, it certainly shows a lack of etiquette. It is behavior that makes the online experience particularly unpleasant—even for “bystanders” who are not the intended victims of the cyberbullying but witness it all the same. It is interesting and disappointing to witness this type of behavior online knowing that the person engaging in the cyberbullying is less likely to do it in a real-life situation. If you wouldn’t do it in real life, and you wouldn’t want your grandma to witness you doing it, you shouldn’t do it online.

Perhaps the most important aspect of being online that we must impart to young people is that dangers are very real and ever-present. Students need to know that seemingly innocuous posts that include where they attend school, where they live, and their daily schedules can be used by nefarious people to make contact with them in the physical world. These young people must understand that predators who are practiced at grooming victims lurk on social networking applications. When these predators successfully lure the unknowing young victims they have been communicating with online to meet them in the real world, the potential for unspeakable tragedy increases exponentially.

Finally, young people must be made to understand the eternal nature of the things that they post. A mean comment, a questionable photograph, a disparaging remark can have unforeseen consequences many years later. As youth grow up with social media, they don’t think twice about posting their random thoughts and observations. Unless they are instructed, they have little regard for the long-lasting “shelf-lives” of their posts. Later, when they are applying for university or seeking employment, these posts that they might not have given a second thought can have real implications on their college admittance or their candidacy for securing the job. Search engines are remarkable pieces of technology. They can dredge up artifacts from our pasts they we might prefer to leave buried. Students should understand that what they post lives on forever; so, they need to think carefully about how they present themselves online.

The need for online courtesy (etiquette), the dangers that exist online, and the eternal lifespan of our posts are important elements of strong digital citizenship instruction. We must equip or students with the knowledge of digital citizenship so that they can reap the tremendous benefits of the internet in a safe, positive way.

Ending Cyberbullying

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How do we promote kindness within a society? If we cannot encourage people to be kind, how can we at least stop them from being mean and aggressive? History and the current state of social interactions are replete with examples of people treating others badly. From murder and assault to robbery and defamation, ill will abounds. Turn on the nightly news or peruse your preferred news source on line and you will find no shortage of stories in which individuals bring harm to others. Over the last 20 years with the development of the internet and—more recently—social media, a new venue has emerged in which we can mete out harm to our fellow human beings.

The federal government website defines cyberbullying as “bullying that takes place over digital devices on online forums where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.” Anyone can be cyberbullied. Cyberbullying can occur between strangers in the comments section of a news site or through nasty tweets on Twitter. More often, though, cyberbullying happens between people who know each other. The most common and troublesome populations in which cyberbullying occurs is among school acquaintances.

In order to stem the proliferation of cyberbullying, the topic needs to be addressed head-on in the educational setting with effective digital citizenship programming. The question is what are the components of good digital citizenship curriculum that will curtail cyberbullying among students in our K-12 institutions? I believe a strong curriculum would have three objectives: 1) stress that online life is real life. There should be no distinction between our personalities and the conduct we exhibit online versus how we behave “in real life.” Our online activities are part of our “real lives.” 2) provide examples of how individuals have been harmed by cyberbullying. We are all social creatures, and when we are exposed to examples of online behavior that harms people in real devastating ways, that can be a powerful impetus for us not to engage in that kind of behavior. 3) Finally, we must devise digital citizenship curriculum that relates to students’ own lives. Through journaling, get students to share incidents in which they have either engaged in or witnessed cyberbullying. Get them to delve into how it made them feel, why it was wrong, and what they could do in the future to prevent it.

A final crucial piece of digital citizenship instruction must be to reinforce to students that we all have a role to play in calling it out. Whether they witness cyberbullying being committed against themselves or another student, they must share that information with a trusted adult. The victim’s life could depend on it.


What Is Cyberbullying? (2019). Retrieved from:


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As educators, we desire to instill ethics in students that will guide them on a path to good, appropriate behavior and propel them to be upstanding members of society. With such a great percentage of students’ lives spent online, strong digital citizenship instruction is crucial; it is how we address ethical behavior as it pertains to students’ online activity. Sometimes mere guidelines and principles are not enough. Sometimes the force of law is required to ensure members of society do the right thing.

The creation of the internet and the digitization of so much intellectual content such as books, music, software, movies and images make the need for strong copyright laws more important now than ever. In three clicks (right click, copy, paste) I can steal someone’s intellectual property that might have taken him or her a lot of money, time, and effort to create.

We see the importance of copyright of intellectual property playing out in geopolitics today. The president of the United States has engaged the country in a trade war against China. In addition to currency manipulation, one of the strongest reasons this administration provides for levying tariffs is China’s flouting of copyright laws. It puts the United States at an unfair disadvantage and robs the original creators of the intellectual property when Chinese companies—owned and run by the Chinese government—ignore copyright and patents to create their own products using the intellectual property created by U.S. companies.

What’s the big deal? So what if I use an image, a song, or a clip of a movie to enhance a piece of multimedia without getting permission, paying a royalty, or providing proper attribution to the original creators? How is that harmful? I think we can all agree that intellectual property has value (otherwise, why else would someone want to use it?), and that property required time, effort, and money to create. Without protections for these types of property, there would be no motivation for artists, musicians, directors, or anyone else creating intellectual property to create it.

Back in 1999, a college student by the name of Sean Parker created a peer-to-peer file sharing application that within a couple short years would completely upend the music industry. The program—called Napster—allowed anyone in the world with internet access and the program installed on their computer to share music files with each other. Now, instead of the old practice of copying a cassette tape from a friend or burning a copy of a CD, you had “peers” all over the world with whom you could share or copy their files to your own computer. In essence, this “file sharing” was music stealing in that it deprived musicians (and record companies) access to royalties based on the sale of those music files.

Napster is a perfect example of how new technology can make it easy to circumvent copyright laws. Sadly, appealing to people’s sense of fairness did not tamp down on the practice of sharing files in this manner. It was through the use of copyright laws and record companies demanding the assistance of internet service providers to identify and send cease and desist orders to individuals engaging in the practice to make it stop. In time, legitimate companies such as Apple capitalized on the distribution problem Napster solved, but set up a clearinghouse in which the creators of intellectual property could be properly compensated.



Copyright and Fair Use. Common Sense Education. (September 2014). YouTube URL:

Transformations Brought on By Technology and How They Impact Us

tech transformation
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If, in the year 2000, you were to have told me that in 19 years that 67 percent of human beings would walk around with access to all the world’s knowledge in their pocket or purse? Need to know how to prepare lobster bisque? Pull out your web-enabled device, input a brief search phrase, and, voila! You have countless recipes from which to choose to impress your dinner guests. Need to settle an argument about who won the 1976 World Series? The answer is a few clicks away. Can’t figure out how to replace the windshield wipers on your specific make and model automobile? Guess what. You can pull up a video that provides step-by-step instructions. Access to information is just the beginning of how the world has changed so profoundly within the last 20 years. Who fully appreciated that banking, mapping destinations, viewing, creating, and sharing video content, calculators, flashlights, file storage, music players, social networks, ride-hailing services, and on and on would all be contained within a device that virtually everyone uses? It’s mind boggling. I feel like how my grandparents must have felt seeing automobiles revolutionize the world.

Yet with all this magnificent technology, I worry about the impact on young people of being constantly connected through such a device. I’m the father of an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old. Their phones are their lifelines to their friends, their entertainment and in some cases, their academic lives. It’s the social implements of the phone that concern me. I worry what the constant bombardment of peers posting glimpses of their “best lives” does to all members of their social network. The pressure kids must feel to project happiness—even when you’re not feeling especially happy—must be unrelenting. As an old codger, if I’m honest with myself, I feel hints of these pressures, and I don’t have a tenth of the social pressures a high schooler has these days.

Another way our attachment to our devices is could be construed as negative is that our reliance on them can result in minimizing real face-to-face interactions with people in the physical world as opposed to interactions that occur on a digital screen. Have you observed a group of teenagers lately? It is not uncommon to see them all sitting in close proximity to one another not saying a word and completely engrossed with what is on their devices. This situation is so common it’s a cliché image today. In 2011, CNN reported that one third of Americans prefer texts to voice calls. That percentage is certain to have increased drastically since then. We can speculate why texting would be preferred—it doesn’t require an immediate reply; you can formulate your thoughts before replying—but whatever the reason, it is indicative of a diminishment of real-time human interaction.

For these reasons and myriad others, strong digital citizenship education is so crucial. And the time to implement this education with young people about what it means to be a good digital citizen and to be mindful of their digital footprint is now. We need to instill in our children and our students that what we post online is with us forever. Now, when they are young and the slate is clean, is the time for them to appreciate the implications of their online activity—to be intentional about their digital footprint.

We must encourage thought-provoking, kind, goal-oriented, helpful posts that add value to their social networks. Posts that contribute to the knowledge base and extend comfort to their group, all the while encouraging them that it is still fun and appropriate to communicate in person.


Lenhart, A. (2015). Teen, social media and technology overview 2015. The Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Digital Citizenship

digital citizenship
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With new knowledge, comes a responsibility to change our thinking and assess what we teach the new generation so that they can be safe and productive and further advance knowledge for humankind.

When Galileo proved that Earth was not the center of the known universe–that the earth, in fact, revolved around the sun–it was, quite literally, a cosmic shift in thinking that required looking at the heavens in an entirely new way. When automobiles began to grow in popularity, the rules of the road for horse and buggy had to be revisited and overhauled to take into account the enhanced functionality of this new mode of transportation. Every day, advancements in science and medicine force doctors and researchers to reevaluate their methods and align them with the new knowledge they possess.

Now, as technology aids in the ever-accelerating development of all these fields—astronomy, transportation, and medicine—astronomers, logisticians, and doctors all must be willing and inclined to embrace change and adapt to it. We in education are not immune to the changes brought on by new technology. And like the aforementioned professions, we must be willing to change, too. This need to carefully examine how we prepare students to become good digital citizens is perhaps one of the most pressing changes educators face.

As an educator in his late 40s, I remember clearly when students did not have access to an online environment. Using cutting-edge technology meant utilizing a transparency overhead projector, or CD player or television or word processor. Web 2.0 tools that would soon unleash the possibilities for communication, research, and demonstration of learning were still non-existent. As these resources slowly developed, it forced educators, thinkers and futurists to assess and prescribe rules and standards by which to operate.

Few would argue that technological advancements have changed the world profoundly over the last 25 years (since I began my career in education). What you might get some disagreement about is the need for educators to teach digital citizenship so that the new generation is equipped to operate effectively and honorably in this relatively new environment.

Thanks to the work of scholars such as Mike Ribble, educators have a map for charting a course for digital citizenship instruction. Ribble defines digital citizenship as “the continuously developing norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use.” Ribble identifies nine areas that comprise a digital citizenry. Briefly, they are as follows:

  1. Digital Access—Stresses the importance for each member of a digital society have a baseline of access to digital resources, with the goal being full access.
  2. Digital Commerce—With the ubiquity of the online world, it is only natural that more and more business will be conducted online. Digital citizens need to be adept at buying and selling in an online environment.
  3. Digital Communication—Be it via email, text message, message boards, video conferencing, Skype calling, etc., digital citizens must know how to effectively communicate online.
  4. Digital Literacy—As new technologies emerge, digital citizens must be aware of how these changes impact their lives online. From communication to banking to entertainment to education, the digital world changes fast. We have to keep up.
  5. Digital Etiquette—Etiquette speaks to expectations for living in a respectful, productive society. Just because something is not against the law, doesn’t mean it’s okay to do. This is true not only in the physical world, but online as well.
  6. Digital Law—There are ways to break the law online. Digital citizens need to be aware of the laws, particularly in the realm of copyright, to avoid breaking them.
  7. Digital Rights and Responsibilities—This area of digital citizenship reinforces the previous two—law and etiquette. It is important to know what can and cannot be done to you, just as you must know what you are legally permitted to do and not do; additionally, know what you should and should not do.
  8. Digital Health and Wellness—Just as with any activity, being online comes with physical and psychological concerns. Ergonomics, eye strain, social isolation are just a few examples of how we should concern ourselves with our digital health and wellness.
  9. Digital Security—At the end of the day, not everyone online is practicing good digital citizenship. Therefore, we must be vigilant about protecting our data and valuable information online.

Each of these areas address an important principle relevant to citizenship in general and applicable to digital citizenship: Respect for yourself and others; educate yourself and connect with others; protect yourself and protect others.

As computers and technology play more roles in our lives and we spend more time online, we must instruct students to be cognizant and good practitioners of digital citizenship.


Marshall, T.H. (1950). Citizenship and social class: and other essays. Cambridge, MA: University Press.

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community: Digital Citizen. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education

On-line Course Reflection

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Course 5318 of Lamar University’s Digital Learning and Leading program provided me with an opportunity to create an online course. This course augmented the innovation plan I devised early in the program. My innovation plan involves leveraging new technology tools and software to create virtual work-place environments and 360-degree tours for students in Career and Technical Education courses.

In designing this course, I relied on the Constructivist learning theory, which is to say learners construct meaning from their experiences. The activities built into my course required the learner to perform tasks and then reflect on what they had done. I tried to inject an element of social accountability through discussion boards and gave learners leeway with regard to the subject of their virtual tours.

I have thought about and designed lessons—primarily for professional development—with a UbD mindset for so long now, it is second nature to me to begin with the end in mind. From the first unit of this course, I laid out what the end goal is: create a library of virtual worksite tours. The lessons that follow are designed backward to take the learner to that eventual outcome.

It is clear that online learning will only grow exponentially. The freedom it offers in terms of scheduling make it a much more flexible format for delivering instruction. As teachers at heart, we wonder will the lack of face-to-face interaction with learners detract substantially from the course? After taking this course, and building my own online course, I can honestly say that with the technology available to conduct courses on line, little is lost by not being in an in-person environment. From web-conferencing software to conduct synchronous meetings with learners, to web 2.0 tools learners can use to demonstrate their learning, I am astounded by the benefits to online learning. The Bates text and the OSCQR standards have been invaluable resources.

Seeing all the criteria for a well-developed course laid out in one document causes one to realize just how much goes into creating an on-line course. Having conducted this self-assessment, it is clear how lacking my course is. I think I’ve done a decent job introducing my course and its purpose. I also provided a variety of activities for learners to demonstrate their learning. I really need to go back an beef up elements of accessibility and feedback.

Bates, T. (2015) Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for Designing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from

Standards for Professional Learning. (2015) Retrieved from

Online Course Development

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My most recent course in the Digital Learning and Leading program that my cohort is rapidly moving through has us developing online courses in a Learning Management System. The online course that I am developing coincides with my Innovation Plan, which involves using new technology to create virtual work site tours for Career and Technical Education students. In the course, I take the learner through the process of creating a virtual tour Please take a look at my Schoology online course. You can register as a student and take the course here. When prompted, use access code: 3736-V4ZX-6F46Q. I’d love to receive your feedback in the comments.

Online Course Transformations

I work in the Career and Technical Education department in the district office. Our department creates many professional development sessions for CTE instructors. Two PD courses that stand out to me as having great potential of being effective in an online setting are CTE 101 and CTSOs and Work-based Learning.

These professional development CTE courses have several objectives:

  • Getting teachers to understand the importance of career exploration before students are thrust into the world without having given any focused thought to the matter. “Careers by Choice, not Chance,” as a colleague of mine likes to call it.
  • Reviewing instructional best practices—particularly important for new teachers who have great industry experience but often little to no classroom experience
  • Safety and Classroom Management
  • Earning Industry-Based Certifications.
  • Compliance Issues—Because CTE is a federally funded program, there are compliance issues all teachers and administrators need to be aware of, i.e. seat time requirements, and teacher certification.
  • What is a recognized Career and Technical Student Organization, and how does one sponsor a chapter on a campus?
  • Work-Based Learning (WBL) has the potential to transform students’ lives by allowing them to see, first-hand, what work in a particular industry involves. There are many rules and regulations that govern WBL.

Learning around all these issues and others are well suited to be delivered in an online format.



Action Research

eye_searchAction Research is a methodical process that requires planning, acting, developing and reflecting. When done thoughtfully and with attention to detail, it greatly increases the likelihood of successfully implementing an innovation plan. My Innovation Proposal seeks to employ new, affordable technology to create virtual job site experiences in the Career and Technical Education classroom, but how do I know that this is a plan worth pursuing? I had to research, more specifically, I had to do action research. Action research forces the practitioner to be clear about his/her focus, the purpose of the research, and the specific research question one is trying to answer. It mandates that thought be given to research design, the data to be collected, the measurement instrument used to assess the data, and what the focus of the literature one seeks out should be. You can review the process I engaged in to plan the implementation of my innovation proposal and how I intend to examine my results by viewing the following three documents:

Action Research Outline
Literature Review
Action Research Plan