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Elizabeth Hubbell
Denver, CO
Educational Technology Consultant at McREL
Interests: online learning, mobile devices, instructional strategies, scenario planning
Recent Activity
Hi everyone! Thank you so much for your comments. It sounds as though this topic resonated with lots of people and that you also struggle with the "firehose" model. One recommendation we give to clients is to break up the content in a way that makes sense over the course of the school year. For example, some clients choose to learn one of the 9 CITW categories of strategies each month. Others choose to learn one of the three framework components each quarter. This helps to keep the learning manageable and set goals at each juncture. Others have engaged in peer learning/observation models, blogging/Tweeting/Google+ implementation ideas, or using something like BlendSpace for short capstone projects. What are other ideas for keeping the learning going and for keeping it manageable?
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Hi Patricia, Thank you for your comment! I loved your sports metaphor and, you're right, expecting someone to learn everything at once and then put it into practice would be silly. I can also see your point, however, about the need for focused learning and connection time away from the activity and buzz of their workplace. As long as they are allowed a process to incorporate what they've learned and are given feedback along the way, those few days can be well worth the time spent.
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Hi everyone, Thanks for such thoughtful responses! Glen, I've been a fan of Sir Ken Robinson for some time - it was nice seeing the parallels you brought out there. Sarah, I so much enjoyed reading about your epiphany! I taught 1st-3rd graders and distinctly remember that very same moment I had when I realized that I had underestimated their ability to self- and peer-teach as long as I circled back around to formatively assess and address misconceptions. Alicia & Briana, thank you for your insights! I would be interested in hearing how your grouping changes after you gather data.
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In 2005, I made a video called "1990" about how surprisingly little high schools had changed in the years since I graduated. In spite of everything I had come to know about the importance of active, student-centered learning using modern tools, in most high schools I visited, students were still, 15 years later, sitting at desks in rows and listening to their teachers, who were standing at the front of the room, the dry erase boards behind them a jarring compilation of messy, hand-written notes. But humans weren't designed to learn by sitting and listening for long periods of time. We are social creatures (even the most introverted of us) who need to move around and bounce ideas off one another in order to cement new concepts. Students, in other words, need to talk about their learning. Often. (For more on this concept, I highly recommend Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From and Chai Woodham’s article on how we are sitting ourselves to death.) When I work with teachers and school leaders on Classroom Instruction That Works and Power Walkthrough, they commonly ask, "Where should we start?" Many people are surprised when I tell them they should pay attention to how students are grouped. How is instruction primarily accessed by students? Is it by listening to a teacher give a lesson, then working alone to practice what was learned? Is it by watching a video and completing exercises? Or is it working through problems and discussions with a small... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2014 at McREL Blog
As educators around the Northern Hemisphere are returning to school campuses this month, this is a good time to think about the commitment to creating personal connections with students. We know from research that students having a strong bond with even one teacher can dramatically impact math and reading scores and can impact overall behavior and achievement as students move through their K-12 years. Yet, in spite of knowing its importance, it’s easy for us as teachers to assume that, even if we don’t have a personal connection with a student, that someone else in the building does. But how can we be sure? How can we make absolutely certain that a student doesn’t “fall through the cracks” due to a lack of having access to a trusted adult? In a new ASCD publication, 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching, Bryan Goodwin and I created a research-based list of the 12 essential daily items for effective instruction. One of the 12 is “I interact meaningfully with every student.” We illustrate this in the book with the story of how one school addressed the issue of personal connections: One group of teachers decided, before school started, to see how much their staff interacted on a personal level with students. They placed pictures of each student along a hallway and signed their names if they had a personal connection to the student. When the activity was over, they took a step back and noted those students whose pages were blank or only had... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2013 at McREL Blog
I just had an article published in Middle Ground magazine, Creating Your Own Destiny: Teaching the Importance of Effort. This article talks about the importance helping students to understand the relationship between effort and their success. Have you had a student like Lynn as described in the article? What strategies worked for you? Elizabeth Ross Hubbell is a consultant at McREL. Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2013 at McREL Blog
In McREL’s Power Walkthrough® training, we teach school leaders how to capture key instructional indicators in the classroom, such as what strategies are utilized, how to determine if the students are learning, and how students are grouped. Around this time every year, we examine our Power Walkthrough data from K–12 classrooms all over the world and in a variety of school settings (e.g., urban, rural, public, independent) to see the emerging trends and patterns in the collected data. This year, we noticed an interesting trend when we looked at the student “grouping” data. In this portion of Power Walkthrough, the observer notes whether students are all focused on one source of instruction (whole group), if they are working alone (individual), if they are working with one other person (pairs), if they are working in informal groups of three to five (small group), or if they are working in highly organized groups with individual roles and responsibilities (cooperative group). While individual, small group, pairs, and cooperative groups have fluctuated or have only changed incrementally, it seems that Power Walkthrough users are recording an increase in whole group instruction over the past two years. This is surprising given that so much of “21st century” or “student-centered” learning touts reducing whole group instruction. Below are two comparison charts that show these data that are based on 99,136 walkthroughs in 2010–2012. 2010 2011 2012 cooperative 3.80% 2.30% 2.30% individual 27.40% 19.20% 21% pair 3.70% 4.85% 4% small 13.70% 21.30% 15.50% whole 51.50% 52.30% 57.20%... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2012 at McREL Blog
On occasion, we come across mentions of our work that let us know how our work impacts educational leaders, teachers, and students. We were especially thrilled when The 21st Century Principal blogged about the 2nd edition of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works. We thank blogger J. Robinson, former teacher and administrator, for recommending our work to his readers: "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works is not a "how-to" book when it comes to employing technology in the engagement of instruction. Rather, it is a ‘big-picture’ book that surveys the field of technological tools and helps the teacher connect with the kinds of technology she might wish to use in the classroom.” Check out Robinson’s blog or follow him @21stprincipal on Twitter to read more of his ideas and musings as he grapples with an ever-shifting learning environment. Elizabeth Ross Hubbell is co-author of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd edition. Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2012 at McREL Blog
Good thoughts, Nancy. If Clay Christensen is right, it will be less about the current system preparing for this future...more about students opting for alternatives for education and giving the Industrial Age model little choice than to evolve or lose their "client base." Those systems who HAVE figured out how to think differently - Adams 50 and SLA being among them - offer a more attractive future (at least to me) and give hope that a 150-year-old industry can indeed change with the times. I think to do that successfully, all the "cogs" in the wheel, from national, state, local, and university levels, are going to have to stop thinking about how to prepare students for the next step in an old system and instead start thinking as museums are doing - "How can we remain relevant once the majority of students have other options for their education?" I still love David Warlick's quote: "No generation in history has ever been so thoroughly prepared for the industrial age." I look forward to attending the CoLearning webinar.
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Elizabeth Hubbell is now following Seth Godin
Feb 28, 2012
When the first edition of Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (CITW) was published in 2001, it gave the educational world unprecedented guidance for using research-based strategies in a practical way. Free from any one particular philosophy or program, this was one of the first books for educators that very simply said, “This is what works.” McREL's continued requests for training, services, and products based on this seminal work are indicative of its lasting relevance in the field. Yet, what a difference a decade can make! Since that initial publication, our profession has been enlightened by the works of Carol Dweck, John J. Medina, Linda Darling-Hammond, Nancy Frey, and many others. We know more now about student motivation, providing feedback, the power of multimedia and images, and scaffolding learning that we ever did before. While we have been humbled by the success of the first edition of CITW, it became more and more apparent that the work was in need of an update as we helped educators learn the nuances of the nine categories of effective strategies. In addition to including emerging research in the field, we felt the need to make correlations with dynamic developments in educational technology and an increased focus on 21st century skills. Perhaps our biggest incentive for rewriting the book came from our experiences in working with thousands of schools and districts on learning CITW. As we talked with educators and school or district leaders, we realized that there were parts... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2012 at McREL Blog
Learning with computers isn’t what it used to be. Most of us knew them as a classroom tool; now, they are the classroom. A total of 1,500,000 K−12 students enrolled in online courses in 2009, almost double the number in 2006, according to the International Association for K−12 Online Learning. Alabama, Michigan, and Florida require online learning for students to graduate, and others, like Idaho and Utah, are considering similar changes. Students, parents, and teachers alike appear to be embracing online learning. In a fall 2011 EducationNext article, students report better engagement when learning is differentiated and accessible through multiple venues, and teachers often report better relationships with students and the ability to provide one-on-one guidance that face-to-face classrooms cannot afford (“The Highs and Lows of Virtual School: One Teacher’s View”). But knowing how to instruct online effectively is not automatic. The first time I delivered professional development virtually, in spite of knowing better, I lectured more, used fewer multimedia resources, and did not provide ample time for participants to interact with one another. It seemed that all the lessons I had mastered in face-to-face instruction suddenly had to be relearned in an online environment. I didn’t have the physical cues (e.g., eye contact, facial expressions, off-task conversations) to help me adjust my lessons accordingly. So I went back to the nine research-based strategies of Classroom Instruction that Works (CITW) that I know so well and realized that, tweaked for virtual application, they still provide the framework I need for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2011 at McREL Blog
Hi Mark, Yes, indeed, we are planning on a second edition of this book. The second edition of Classroom Instruction that Works will be coming out in January of 2012. The technology book should follow later that year or early 2013. We're so glad that you enjoyed the first edition! Elizabeth
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What does "school reform" mean to you? To some, it means complete reinvention of our school system; to others, it means taking what already works and building on that. What will actually unfold in the coming years is one of the "critical uncertainties" of the future of education, as Principal Consultant Elizabeth Hubbell, co-author of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works and The Future of Schooling, explained to Solution Tree at the ISTE Conference in June. The Future of Schooling looks at four possible scenarios for education in 2020, including school reform and the role of standards, and how those scenarios affect the role of teachers. Here, as part of Solution Tree's AuthorSpeak series, Hubbell talks about the book and how McREL first became interested in scenario planning. Get more information on The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020. Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2011 at McREL Blog
We've had several questions about implementing this idea in elementary. I've seen lots of exciting examples at the elementary level, many of them utilizing tools such as VoiceThread ( for the teacher to create tutorials or using pre-made video resources such as BrainPOP, BrainPOP, Jr., etc. One tool that I'm experimenting with right now is an iPad app called ShowMe ( If students had access to iPads or iPod touches, I as the teacher could create brief introductory lessons or quick "how-to" reminders so that students could listen at anytime and as often as they needed. Other ideas I've seen are on Apple's website here:
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Last year, McREL released The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020 (Solution Tree, 2010), which looked at four possible scenarios of education. Our scenarios were dependent upon known certainties, such as advances in technology and changes in populations, while also looking at how critical uncertainties could impact education. One scenario, Who Killed Buster the Bearcat?, highlighted student and teacher use of a tool known as "uber-ubis," or tools that were uber-ubiquitous in this particular world. These tools served as e-readers, Internet browsers, video conferencing devices, and numerous other applications. When the authors wrote these scenarios in the fall of 2009, the iPad was unheard of for most of the population. And yet... Now we have a device that does indeed serve as an e-reader. It's a device that can be used to regularly look up information, read and answer e-mails, video conference using Facetime, keep track of travel, and organize calendars. Educational apps such as eClicker are beginning to serve as quick assessment tools for teachers. Hundreds of educational games have emerged to help students practice basic skills as well as apps that allow the user to create movies, drawings, music, and pictures. Is the iPad (or similar device) the uber-ubi? Time will tell, but it certainly seems as though it is headed in that direction. Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2011 at McREL Blog
This article just came out in the June/July issue of Learning and Leading with Technology. Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2010 at McREL Blog
by Elizabeth Hubbell, Educational Technology Consultant at McREL, and Allisyn Levy, Director of BrainPOP Educators (*Note: this post is the second of a series of collaborative posts between BrainPOP Educators and McREL's Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. These articles will be cross-posted on the McREL Blog and on BrainPOP Educators Blog.) Think back to your K-12 years. Did someone actually teach you how to take notes? If so, in which grade were you? My earliest memory of actually being taught how to take useful notes (formal outlining aside) was in my biology class in high school. Our teacher had her trusty overhead projector and would stop during her lecture to capture key points of what she had just said. She didn't use Roman numerals or capital letters, but rather a series of bullet points, arrows, stars, etc. She would ask us to jot down these items along with her and to draw small sketches out to the side to help us remember processes and concepts. I remember her stating at the end of the lecture, "By the end of this unit, I don't want your notes to look just as they do now. I want to see underlines, highlights, arrows...I want to know that you actually used them to help you study." Little did she realize that she was following the classroom recommendations that would eventually be published in Classroom Instruction that Works: 1. Give students teacher-prepared notes. 2. Teach students a variety of note-taking formats. (She demonstrated... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2010 at McREL Blog
by Elizabeth Hubbell, Educational Technology Consultant at McREL, and Allisyn Levy, Director of BrainPOP Educators (*Note: this post is the first of a series of collaborative posts between BrainPOP Educators and McREL's Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. These articles will be cross-posted on the McREL Blog and on BrainPOP Educators Blog.) One of the most effective strategies that teachers can employ when first starting a unit is to use advance organizers to help students activate background knowledge and organize potentially confusing new information. Advance organizers can take many forms, including graphic organizers, skimming, narratives, and simply giving an overview of the content (expository advance organizers). They are given to students in advance of the learning activities to help scaffold their learning. This "front-loading" before new material is presented increases opportunities for student success as they're able to connect to prior knowledge and organize new information more easily. For example, a middle school teacher is beginning a unit on forces and motion, with an emphasis on types of bridges and forces that act upon a bridge. He knows that his students have studied some of these concepts before and wants to remind them of their background knowledge on the subject as well as get students personally interested. In order to do this, the teacher will utilize several types of advance organizers as his kickoff activity. He begins by creating a graphic organizer to help students organize the new terms and definitions they will be learning. This also serves the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2009 at McREL Blog
Kathy, I so much appreciate your taking the time to give us yet another teacher's perspective on how this tool has impacted your teaching. I agree with you: you have to see how the tool is used in the classroom to really get an understanding. Before my visit, I was skeptical of how an IWB could really impact instruction and learning other than to simply make the classroom seem more modern. Thanks for your reply, Elizabeth
Toggle Commented Jul 27, 2009 on Do IWBs Change Instruction? at McREL Blog
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Theron, Thanks for an insightful post from beyond the education realm. I, too, had a recent experience as an adult in which we were in a meeting and were handed a series of questions- (I think about American history.) I answered what I knew off the top of my head, but then immediately started looking things up on my laptop. I was surprised when several people sitting next to me let me know that they thought this was cheating. I love your statement that "problem-solving is cheat-proof." I believe that we absolutely need to teach basic concepts, but then quickly move on to using tools at hand in order to more quickly get to that problem-solving level. Thanks for your post.
Toggle Commented Jul 23, 2009 on What is cheating? at McREL Blog
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Michael, Thank you for this response! I always enjoy hearing another point of view. I started blogging several years ago, and I have to admit, I just wasn’t the most prolific blogger. Sometimes I had time to sit and write a long and thoughtful post, but more often than not, I simply wanted to bounce ideas off people or direct them to a recent article and get various points of view. When Twitter came along, I welcomed it with open arms because I at last had a tool that more closely resembled dialogue and conversation. I still blog (on the McREL site) and use this venue for more complete pieces; but very often, these posts are the result of many conversations that have taken place on Twitter. Not all tools work for all people in all situations. I think the best thing we can do is make sure that our students are taught to use a wide variety of tools to access and communicate with people outside of their geographical and cultural circles. Thanks again for your post!
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