RDC Innovator Profile: Mona Voelkel


Mona has been an educator for 22 years. She is currently a Reading Specialist with the Kensico School in Valhalla.

Title: Monthly Educational Video Challenge

Mona’s Short Story:I love the quiet moments in my classroom when we are engrossed in reading and thinking. I love the loud moments in my classroom when we get so fired up we all talk at once. I love the happy moments in my classroom when everyone is joined together by laughter.

Mona’s Idea in a Nutshell: Educators! We need you! Participate in a Monthly Video Challenge to ReDesign Education!

Mona’s Burning Question:

How do we get the decision makers to understand that this over-emphasis on testing in the public schools is not actually improving education?

Can you help Mona solve this important problem in education? Weigh in!

RDC Innovator Profile: Ashley Lamb-Sinclair

Aprofile_meshley has been an educator for 10 years. She is currently an English teacher at North Oldham High School, Oldham County Schools, Goshen, KY.

Title: Curio-ed Convos

Ashley’s Short Story: Curiosity and passion led me to becoming a teacher because I never wanted to stop learning—I never wanted to leave school. As an educator, I believe that education must be authentic, and I am in constant pursuit of that magical moment when my students can see the value in something I’ve taught. And I also believe that education should challenge thinking and forge new paths.

Ashley’s Idea in a Nutshell: Organize digital resources in a virtual notebook, and collaborate with others during the process of forming ideas for using those resources.

Ashley’s Burning Question:

How can we integrate what teachers already do to develop themselves as professionals into an organized system for collaboration?

Weigh in and help Ashley develop her unique idea!

RDC Innovator Profile: Shelia Banks

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAKlAAAAJGI5Y2M5NzJhLTU2ZGEtNGVhYi1hYTI1LTg0MWU1MmY5Mjc4ZgShelia has been an educator for 12 years. She is currently a Curriculum Coordinator for Jefferson Parish, Greater New Orleans Area

Title: Teacher Feature Network

Shelia’s Short Story: My underlying mantra is that if you provide teachers with what they need to be successful and innovative, they will follow suite. Teachers need to empower themselves and rely on their expertise and knowledge to improve teacher practice. An empowered teacher is an effective teacher.

Shelia’s Idea in a Nutshell: Think,Design,Solve! Want gratification? Take part in the TFN & improve practice.Take teaching to the next level & showcase your talents.

Shelia’s Burning Question:

How would you entice camera-shy educators to get involved in the Teacher Feature Network ?

Help Shelia develop this amazing idea!

RDC Innovator Profile: Kristin Manna

PONq-DYD_400x400Kristin is a first year educator in Northwestern High School. She teaches secondary Math.

Title: Video with Accountability

Kristin’s Short Story: I wanted to be a bio-engineer, but turned math teacher in college to fulfill my passion for building relationships with high school students to help them to succeed inside and outside the classroom. I aim to create intriguing lessons that challenge my students mathematically while pushing them to new limits. I am excited about what this second year of teaching has in store and the many challenges of teaching.

Kristin’s Story in a Nutshell: Students have great ideas that educators need to tap into, let students and educators hold one another accountable for continuous improvement.

Kristin’s Burning Question:

How do you help educators see the importance in making time to watch their own teaching and the teaching of others?

Help Kristin answer this important question. She needs your feedback!

RDC Innovator Profile: Fred Ende

455533c3a4ff90f32005a7679cf4a61c_400x400Fred Ende has been an educator for 14 years. He is currently the Assistant Director of Curriculum for Putnam Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Title: Behind Door Number 1

Fred’s Short Story: I believe in the power of educating the whole learner. My career as a teacher, a regional coordinator of science, and assistant director of curriculum has been focused on promoting relevance in learning; if we don’t care about it, then why learn it? I am a learner first, and a leader second.

Fred’s Idea in a Nutshell: Imagine if you had choice in the pathways that your virtual PD took, similar to the choice you had in a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Fred’s Burning Question:

If we know relevance is so important to learning, why do we still educate and provide professional learning, that isn’t?

Weigh in and help Fred make professional learning more relevant!

RDC Innovator Profile: Kate Fanelli

profile_katephotoKate Fanelli has been an educator for the past 15 years. She is currently a consultant with Michigan’s Integrated Mathematics Initiative.

Title: Do You See What I [Can’t] See?

Kate’s Short Story:  I enjoy looking for ways to improve my understanding of, and ability to deliver, high quality math instruction, as much as I love looking for undetected and undeveloped potential in students. Education has been instrumental in providing a fulfilling life for me; it is my desire to be part of an educational system that does that for everyone.

Kate’s Idea “In A Nutshell:” Privately post a video of yourself teaching. Ask a focus question. Get feedback from 3 people. Give feedback to 3 people.

Kate’s Burning Question:

What would attract you to, or cause you to, participate in an idea like this?

Weigh in and give Kate your feedback!

When Plain Video Is NOT Enough: How Educational Videos Fail Teachers of the DHH and their Students


Heidi Givens is a 20 year veteran teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students in Owensboro, Kentucky. She is passionate about ensuring high quality, equal education access to all students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Read more from Heidi here.

Where are the Professional Learning Videos for Teachers of DHH Students?

Use of video for professional learning is commonplace among teachers everywhere. With the focus on personalized learning, teachers are utilizing various websites and other media to find exactly what they need to grow professionally. However, as a teacher of students who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH), I often struggle to find videos that meet my needs. Sure, there are archived webinars or recordings of conference presentations specific for teachers of the DHH that appear sporadically online. However, if I wanted to learn how to teach DHH students to analyze an author’s point of view, I would be hard pressed to find a video. I do not have a one-stop shop of videos as my go-to for professional learning.

The root of the problem is not that professional learning video providers are intentionally ignoring the needs of educators of this unique population. I would argue that it is not possible for them to ignore what they do not know. The fact is my students learn differently from students who can hear. For example, DHH children have stronger visual-spatial memories than hearing students (who tend to have stronger sequential memories). Therefore, I cannot just use strategies and curriculum for hearing students and present them in American Sign Language (ASL). Also, content teachers who learn ASL but teach the same way to DHH students as they do to hearing students, without pedagogical knowledge of DHH learning, may not achieve the desired results. A perfect example of this difference is when we look at prepositional phrases. In English, we would say “The cup is on the table.” The words must fall in this sequence in order to be grammatically correct and make sense. However, now think about how you would draw this sentence; you would first draw the table then the cup on the table. You would not have the cup floating in space then a table magically appearing. This is parallel to how this sentence would be signed in ASL; you establish the presence of the table, then place the cup on the table. Without knowing the distinction between prepositional phrases in both languages, teachers would not be using the appropriate strategies needed for DHH students to fully comprehend the concept in either language. This is a problem, and it is insidious because we cannot address it if we do not know a problem exists. The average person is not aware of these specific learning needs of DHH students. Consequently, it is imperative that teachers of DHH students take the lead in educating the public and advocating for their students. The Redesign Challenge has presented me the opportunity to do just that.

It’s Not Just About Teachers of DHH Students- The Problem is Universal.

Across the U.S. approximately 80% of all DHH students are educated in public school settings, spending at least part of their time in regular education classrooms surrounded by a sea of students and teachers who can hear. These teachers are not fully equipped to properly educate DHH students; they don’t understand that merely wearing a microphone does not provide the student with equal access to instructional content. DHH students learn differently! Even more troubling is that regular education teachers typically have little to no training in strategies that work for their DHH students. They may not even be aware that their best instructional moves are ineffective, at best, for DHH students.

Clearly, there is a great need to provide support to classroom teachers so that they have the necessary tools and skills to best meet the needs of DHH students academically and socially. I have spent countless hours searching for resources to help myself. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for teachers who are not trained in educating this population to develop the competencies in working with them. Therefore, there must be an avenue for them to learn how to effectively teach DHH students; videos that can demonstrate the strategies needed to effectively transform their teaching methods to reach all children, not just those who can hear. Additionally, DHH teachers in resource or classroom settings, like I am, should also have equal opportunity to high quality videos so they too can hone their craft.

DHH teachers are not alone. This problem extends well beyond DHH contexts. There are teachers of other disability areas, related arts, world languages, early childhood, etc. that just don’t have video resources like those available to ELA and math K-12.

There is a huge push for increased professional learning videos in this country so that ALL educators are better equipped to teach today’s students. Teachers, regardless of the setting, must be provided the same opportunity and resources to learn how to best educate their students. The problem is now clear so where do we go from here?  How can the Redesign Challenge address this issue?

When I think about the lack of video resources for my own professional learning, it makes me wonder about the access to instructional content videos for my DHH students. There is a plethora of videos for students on a variety of subjects; however there again is a lack of similar resources for DHH students. Are video developers not targeting these students, or do they just not know that they should develop videos differently for them?

Video Captions Do Not Equal Access for DHH Students.

In today’s digital age, there are countless resources that focus on enhancing student learning. Classrooms around the country are transforming themselves into blended learning environments.  Teachers are creating their own videos or using ones from such places as Khan Academy or Crash Course. Students from the largest cities or the smallest rural towns can equally access all of these videos, via computers, laptops, tablets, or even smartphones.

As a teacher of DHH students, I look at all these amazing advancements in education and think to myself, “What about my students who can’t hear what is being said in these videos? How can my students who communicate in ASL and are learning English as a second language have equal access to the high quality videos that all other children can access?”

To truly personalize the blended learning environment for DHH students, there needs to be instructional content videos presented in ASL readily available for ANY teacher of DHH students to use in their classroom. These videos must be produced in a way that capitalizes on how DHH students learn best. Remember, experts in deaf education know that DHH children have stronger visual-spatial memories than hearing students (who tend to have stronger sequential memories). Using the same curriculum and strategies designed for students who can hear with DHH students may not have the desired results. Plus, closed captioning is not enough since many DHH students are not reading fluently at the speaker’s rate and do not have enough academic English vernacular to fully comprehend closed captioned messages. An entire video library would have to be created that illustrates the desired content in a way in which DHH children’s brains process information.

Having such videos could benefit ALL students in unforeseen ways:

  • Since many DHH classrooms include students from multiple grade and ability levels, the videos would allow for more individualized learning
  • Using instructional videos that are presented by fluent ASL users from around the U.S. will increase the amount of language models to which students have access
  • In regular education classrooms, DHH students can freely collaborate quickly and easily with their hearing peers, on the same video project, by EVERYONE adding closed captioning and voice-overs to each ASL video
  • Hearing peers will have opportunities to learn ASL from the videos and the DHH students to increase their English skills from viewing the captions. This could have positive outcomes of reduced social isolation of the DHH students in mainstream settings.
  • DHH students can view these at home while doing their homework for relearning of content or enrichment.
  • Parents of DHH children can use the videos as a tool to better learn how to communicate with their children

I have no doubt that teachers of world languages, early childhood, other disability areas are in the same conundrum as me. They could easily craft a similar proposal of instructional content videos for their population of students or specialty area.
The parallel problems shared by students and teachers are alarming. With the abundance of online resources available to today’s teachers, there has to be a way to make 21st century learning more available to students who find themselves “in the margins” of the mainstream public school setting. Have you found a solution in your school? If you have any ideas of how to do so, I would love to hear them.