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Blended Bites Blog

Systemizing the Self-Paced Blended Classroom

Jessica Anderson

Today, I presented on Systemizing the Self-Paced Blended Classroom through the self-paced model. 

Even if you weren't able to attend, you can explore the materials and reflect on how you would design the systems in your classroom. Also, be sure to check-out the ideas participants came up with in the embedded Google Sheets in each level.




My 2016 Charge

Jessica Anderson

In 2016, I could set goals for myself, try to change habits, or learn a new set of skills; however, what I'd love to do with 2016 is to live in the moments.

My 2016 Charge

In 2016, I'll

  • remember to listen, but speak when necessary. 
  • take deep breaths.
  • use Jane Villanueva's calm technique when fear sets in.


Flowers and Summer

Photography (I took all four of these photos)


  • capture the little things that make the moment worth remembering.

This Year

2016 is the year I'll worry less about milestones and more about making life memorable


Reflections on the Year: Here's to you, 2015!

Jessica Anderson

Where do I begin? The year 2015 was full of opportunities. These opportunities have pushed me to grow as a professional and allowed me to overcome fears I've held onto personally and professionally. 

Breaking Down Barriers

I am most proud of my achievements through the BetterLesson Blended Master Teacher Project. I challenged my discomfort with cameras and tackled verbal communication while on film. In my attempts, I was able to work with the BetterLesson coaches and crew to share the strategies that make my blended classroom tick. Here's an example of one of the videos created at the end of the project; no nerves present! I am continually proud of myself for pushing past my fears to verbally communicate my craft to a global audience. Being able to describe my practice is a great skill to have and will continue to help me in my career. 

Challenges and Opportunities

My involvement in the Blended Master Teacher Project gave me the confidence to continue to share my voice. My network offered opportunities to talk with individuals from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to attend the ECET2 conference in Seattle, and to begin writing for the online and blended learning section of Teachability.  The project also gave me the confidence to apply for the PBS Digitial Innovators Program, where I am a lead digital innovator. This opportunity granted me a free trip to ISTE, as well as the chance to do some work with Nova this upcoming year. In addition to the above, I have been invited to attend and present at the 5th annual blended learning conference in Rhode Island. I'm looking forward to sharing and owning my blended voice. 

Representing the Profession


Finally, I feel incredibly blessed to have been named the 2016 Montana Teacher of the Year. The application process allowed me to reflect on my practice, as well as showcase my passion for education and my students. The finalist interview pushed me to display confidence, passion, and my drive for empowering my profession in what normally would have been a stressful moment (interviews make me nervous). And now, as the 2016 Montana Teacher of the Year, I have an opportunity to elevate and empower education in my state and country. I'm ecstatic to represent my state and profession! If you're interested in following my journey check out the Follow the Bitterroot tab, as well as Enroute Bitterroot. 




12 Days of Blended Learning: Days 11 and 12

Jessica Anderson

This is the final video in a series of twelve about blended learning. 

Days 11 and 12: Moonshots in Education and BetterLesson

After blending for several years, I discovered the book Moonshots in Education: Blended Learning in the Classroom by Esther Wojciciki and Lance Izumi. It was referred to me by my friend and BetterLesson Blended colleague Jeff Astor. After reading this book, I felt accomplished.  I had pieced together a blended classroom with little to no model, with many of the strategies referred to in the book, and it was working! As a result of this book, I reflected further on what my blended classroom looks, feels, and accomplishes for my students. It's a great read. I highly recommend it even if you've already started blending your classroom.

Another fabulous resource is the BetterLesson Blended Master Teacher Project. Yes, I may be biased, but there are amazing videos and strategies that will help you develop a blended classroom that is right for you. It's worth checking out!

Happy holidays from my blended classroom to yours!

*If you're just arriving to our blog, please check out the previous 12 days of blended learning posts. You'll find more background on why I referenced each of the resources in the video. 

12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 10

Jessica Anderson

This is the tenth video in a series of twelve on blended learning.

Day 10: Discovery Education Techbook

When I first started teaching at PCHS eight years ago, I did not have access to 1:1 devices. As a result, I used a textbook for several years. After a few years, I transitioned away from using a textbook and explored creating my own curriculum. However, now in my ninth year teaching and with access to 1:1 devices, I've transitioned to a digital Techbook. Even though Discovery Education costs money to use, I like that I have easy access to content and short clips of video. I also LOVE that my students can change the reading level, as well as highlight the text and use text-to-speech technology.

If my school did not purchase Discovery Education for the science department, I'd opt to using CK-12 in my blended classroom.using CK-12 in my blended classroom.


12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 9

Jessica Anderson

This is the ninth video in a series of twelve on blended learning.

Day 9: Spotify Brain Music

When students are working, one of their first requests is to listen to music. Most students like to listen to Pandora or Spotify; therefore, as I was exploring Spotify I found that it has a Focus station. This station is full of playlists like deep focus, intense studying, electronic study music, as well as many more. I did a personal test of the productive morning playlist and found that I really did get more done. I'm not sure if it was the tunes or the title of the playlist, but it worked for me!  I'd encourage you to try one of the stations with your students. 

12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 8

Jessica Anderson

This is the eighth video in a series of twelve about blended learning.

Day 8: Google Products

One of the biggest game changers was when my school adopted GAFE and gave students e-mail privileges. Now, my blended classroom has the capabilities of students' working collaboratively, responding to e-mails, turning in work to Google Classroom, and using Chrome extensions. We love it!

12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 7

Jessica Anderson

This is the seventh video in a series of twelve on blended learning.

Day 7: Freshgrade

In a self-paced blended classroom, it's often difficult to keep track of what each student is working on. However, by using a tracker, you'll have an easier time visualizing who is on-track, and who is off-track. A tracker, like the one on Freshgrade, can help you keep students progressing, and identify challenges and areas of concern for each of your students.

A student portfolio is an added benefit of Freshgrade. Once students have mastered an activity, they can take a picture of the activity, write a sentence on what they've learned, and share it with their teacher and parents. It's awesome!

12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 6

Jessica Anderson

This is the sixth video in a series of twelve on blended learning. 

Day 6: Headphones

When you have a blended classroom, there are bound to be videos to watch. It will be important to make sure your students have access to headphones. This year, instead of students bringing in headphones, I put together a project to fund them. These headphones stay in my room and can be used by students during my classes.

12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 5

Jessica Anderson

This is the fifth post in a series of twelve on blended learning.

Day 5: Gamification

One of the hardest parts about a self-paced, blended learning classroom is motivating students to continue working. One of the ways I motivate my students is by using gamification. Gamification is the process of making an environment that is not typically a game into a game by adding game elements to everyday tasks.

To gamify, I use the website  This site makes it VERY easy to gamify a class without the teaching having to worry about designing all the components of the game. If you're curious check out the following blog posts to learn more:

1) 5 Ways to Gamify Your Blended Classroom to Motivate the Unmotivated 

2) Classcraft blog post 

3) BetterLesson: Classcraft Strategy

4) Building a Culture of Self-Management in the Blended Classroom 

5) 7 Steps to Start Blending Your Classroom 

12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 4

Jessica Anderson

This is the fourth video in a series of 12 videos on blended learning.

Day 4: Content Manager

If you're going to blend, one of the first things you need to decide is how your students are going to navigate the content. You might ask yourself:

1) Does my school have a designated content manager site?

2) If not, what content managers are out there?

3) What should my content manager to do for my classroom?

Unfortunately, not one content manager is going to do everything you want it to do. Just do your best to find one that will meet most of your needs and supplement as you need to.

12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 3

Jessica Anderson

This is the third in a series of 12 videos.

Day 3: Bandwidth

In order for a blended classroom to be successful, you must have a decent amount of bandwidth. Currently, my school is running on 30 MBPS; however, we are finding this is not enough. Soon, we  will have access to 100 MBPS, which should help eliminate our WiFi issues.


Blended classrooms need bandwidth in order to stream YouTube videos, and in my case, videos from Students also need to be able to navigate to and log into web sites quickly. Students will be doing much of their own exploring when questions arise, so the internet bandwidth needs to be ready to support this type of learning. 

12 Days of Blended Learning: Day 2

Jessica Anderson

This is the second video in a series of 12. 

Day 2: Flexible Environment

When creating a blended environment, the goal is for students to have freedom of choice in their physical environment, as well as their learning. Creating a flexible environment is one way to help your students feel like they have some choice.

When I first moved my classroom to blended learning, I had tables. The tables allowed for flexibility in seating; however, I found that in order to make my classroom truly blended it had to look and feel like the students weren't at school. I replaced three of my tables with bean bags, couches, and bungee chairs. This allowed for students to not only choose their seats, but their location. It's been great! 

12 Days of Blended Learning

Jessica Anderson

Today, we'll start our 12 Days of Blended Learning series to give you a snapshot of some of the most important components of a blended classroom.

Day 1: Mobile Devices

It's difficult to embed a classroom of students in the blended learning methodology if you don't have a class set of devices. Yes, you can do it with a few stationary or mobile devices, but it's not as effective as if you had 1:1 devices in your classroom. 

Our tip: If you are planning to blend, get your hands on a class set of devices!



Strategizing: It's Not Just For Chess Players

Jessica Anderson

At the beginning of every class, students enter the classroom, open up their HP Streams, and complete their goal sheets on Classcraft. During this time, a 4-minute clip of B-Film's Didge plays in the background. The ending of this music indicates that it's time to clamshell devices, which you can hear uttered from my mouth daily. Students immediately half-close their devices and bring their attention to the front of the room. It's during this structured portion of the period that we complete our class event (a random event; adding an element of chance to the game), review students' goal sheets and the class timeline, and discuss strategies to use in the blended classroom.

Our strategy discussion, in my opinion, is one of the most important parts of this portion of the day. In the self-paced blended classroom, strategy discussions center around progression, overcoming challenges, and collaboration. For example, the other day we talked about using experts in our class to help when met with a challenging activity. We focused on how to go about finding the experts in the class, like individuals who had already mastered the activity and content, and how to ask for help. Discussions like these, although a simple reminder of discussions at the beginning of the year, remind students how to be successful blended students. 

What conversations surrounding strategies do you have with your students? 

Moving Beyond the Honor Roll Sheet

Jessica Anderson

Today, Powell County High School staff tried something different. We recognized honor roll students with more than their name on a sheet of paper or picture in the paper. We took the time to celebrate their hard work, their accomplishment of being one of 103 students on the honor roll. Today, as a collective group of educators, we threw them lunch (Honor "Lunch" Roll)!


If I've learned one thing during my last nine years of teaching, it's that recognition for hard work, whether a thank you or a simple positive comment while passing each other in the hallway, goes a long way! Our students are humans too. They like positive recognition. They want to know that someone cares enough to recognize the hard work they put into their jobs as students. It's important, and a step towards building the culture we want to develop at Powell County High School.

Today, it's important to recognize that the Bitterroot and 5Es are not just for colleagues or members of the education profession. If we truly want to make a change to the stigmas surrounding education, we must work to empower and elevate our students.

Our students are the future. 

Interested in following my journey as the 2016 Teacher of the Year, check out Follow the Bitterroot. 

Build the Culture and the Culture Will Come

Jessica Anderson

Self-management is a huge part of the blended classroom. Students who self-manage decide daily how, what, and where they are going to learn. Along with making these decisions, they also verbalize why they are doing what they are doing and how it helps them as learners. 

Today, at the beginning of class, I had a group of girls waiting for feedback on their final project for level 3. Even though I wanted to give them the valuable feedback they deserved, I was inundated with helping other students understand the content. As I verbalized this to the girls, they said, "it's okay Mrs. Anderson, we'll begin reading the book for level 4."

As I helped my other students, I noticed movement happening. The girls each grabbed a book and moved bean bags into the lab. From a teaching perspective, I wondered what they were thinking. However, I didn't say anything. I've worked hard to build a culture of self-management and this was one of those moments I needed to trust. 

Once my other students were settled and working successfully on their assignments, I popped my head in the lab. What I saw made my blended learning heart melt; three ladies taking turns reading the book A Long Walk to Water aloud. I was so impressed I had to capture the moment:


It may have taken three long months to build the culture, but build the culture and the culture will come. 


Is a Self-Paced Classroom Right For You?

Jessica Anderson

Teaching in a self-paced learning environment isn’t for everyone. It takes a growth mindset and a flexible personality willing to take risks, and put relationships at the forefront of learning.  Is this you?

Even if this isn’t you, it’s important to recognize the importance of self-paced learning in the classroom.

Self-paced learning puts students at the center. Learning becomes their responsibility; their job in the classroom.  In the classroom, it opens up the opportunity for students to learn not only the content, but to self-manage their learning and positively collaborate with their peers.

As an instructor, you must redefine your role. If you’re a sage on the stage, you must immediately stop what you’re doing. Being a sage on the stage is counterproductive in a self-paced environment. How students demonstrate their learning and how they learn in the classroom is up to them, not you. A guide on the side is an improvement, as it puts learning into the hands of students, but the teacher still has a prominent role in the classroom. However, if you want to be most effective as a self-paced instructor, you have to hang up your teacher hat and start becoming comfortable with the highest seat in the bleachers. Up in the nosebleeds, you have the opportunity to cheer on your students as they navigate the slippery success and failure slope. However, you are close enough that you can swoop down and help them navigate the slope if necessary.

Self-paced teaching and learning isn’t easy. It takes a lot of patience on both the teacher and student’s part. However, it opens up the doors to building a classroom culture where learning is key.

Perspectives: The Driver of Movements

Jessica Anderson

Perspective is challenging, especially if the point of view does not match your own. However, what perspective brings to the table is the chance to make an impactful movement.

This past Thursday and Friday, I left my classroom to help inform science instruction in Montana. Although I didn't make the connection at the time, the work of our science group will not only impact my current and future students but my own children. Not only does this realization make the process of writing science standards more authentic, but it drives me to consider the impact of these potential standards on students and teachers all across the state.


Leo Byrd, of the Browning School District, shares his perspective on IEFA in Montana science standards. He's a passionate and inspiring educator; a true Bitterroot.

Leo Byrd, of the Browning School District, shares his perspective on IEFA in Montana science standards. He's a passionate and inspiring educator; a true Bitterroot.

When a group of passionate educators with a variety of backgrounds and goals comes together, there's bound to be deep and meaningful conversations. These conversations, like how Indian Education For All (IEFA) should look in science or whether the word "predict" bridges the gap between education and industry are all important stepping stones to ensure Montana science students are life-ready. Conversations based on perspectives that push boundaries help ensure that new doors are opened; doors that will positively impact what happens in Montana schools.


Some of the most impactful changes throughout history, like the industrial revolution and the Apollo missions, came as a result of the dreams and persistence of individuals and groups. These individuals pushed against traditional ideas and mindsets to drive a movement.  I believe, as educators, it's our responsibility to drive with an innovator's mindset. When we challenge, push boundaries, and try new and innovative approaches, we see our profession and students through a whole new lens. 

As our MT science standard writing team moves through the process of standard adoption, I hope that our conversations will help bridge the gap between perspective and a movement. In return, I hope that our conversations make it possible for MT educators to think about and teach science differently, causing a movement across our state. 

2016: the Year of Ambassadors, 5Es, and Bitterroots

Jessica Anderson

On September 27th, as the clock ticked closer to 8:00 p.m. MDT, I could feel my heart elevate. I was seriously popping Tums like they were going out of style; thank goodness for Costco sized containers! I'd also developed a strange cough, which my husband later informed me was due to stress.

It was in these final minutes of not knowing that I began to prep myself for remaining a finalist and what I would say and feel in response to hearing so. Now, don't get me wrong, I continually told myself that I would be happy either way. There are amazing perks for being a finalist and for being Teacher of the Year. Both are an opportunity to celebrate the profession of education and recognize the great work done in education every day. However, since my very first teaching interview at Gold Creek, MT when I was asked, "what is one thing you want to accomplish before you retire?" I've wanted to be Teacher of the Year. 

It was 8:00 p.m. when my phone rang. At the other end of the call was a familiar voice, Craig Beals the 2015 Montana Teacher of the Year. I remember asking him how are you, and him saying something along the lines of not as good as you're about to be. After that, I don't remember much except for the feeling of excitement and giving my husband a big thumbs up when he popped his head out the door. 

Even though I couldn't tell anyone the news until 2:40 p.m. the next day, I did take a couple of selfie videos and photos so I could remember the moment. I totally can't believe I'm sharing this...


Now that the shock has worn off and the Montana Teacher of the Year banquet is a memory, I'm excited for the adventure to begin. 

The year 2016 is about becoming Montana Ambassadors of Education. When we choose to take on this role, we choose to embrace and promote the 5 Es. No, I'm not referring to the 5 E model of instruction, but to a mindset focused on positively contributing to our profession. Below are the 5 Es I choose to promote and share this year as Montana Teacher of the Year: 

I choose to...

(1) Empower teachers in our schools, communities, state, and nation. To empower teachers means to help them define their teaching vision, collaboratively work together to reach goals, and grow as professionals. 

(2) Eliminate and Extinguish the negative rhetoric surrounding teaching by celebrating and exposing the awesome things we do as educators. This means we have to share; share a lot!

(3) Exceed the expectations we've set for ourselves as teachers by not being afraid to take risks, innovate, or fail forward, but to do the best we can for our students.

(4) Elevate our profession. When someone asks what we do, we must move beyond the statement of I'm just a teacher. We need to promote and share what we are doing with our students. We need to demonstrate to our country that we are not just teachers, we are professionals with the goal of helping our students become not perfect, but awesome citizens. 

As Montana Ambassadors of Education, it's our responsibility to live, breath, and share how we live, breath, and do education in the 21st century. 

As we embark on this journey, let's remember that we can't do this alone. We need to seek out our bitterroots; those individuals who encourage, support, and nurture us as Montana educators. These individuals will help us remember our goal of promoting and celebrating our profession with the 5 Es in order to continue to enrich our profession and the lives of our students. 

I hope you'll join me!

The Bitterroot makes its 1st stop, Wyoming

The Bitterroot makes its 1st stop, Wyoming


Follow the journey on Twitter at #enroutebitterroot and #MTTOY2016