The Best AI Detector

The Best AI Detector is Right in Front of You!

AI is everywhere. It has infiltrated our schools at lightening speed. It cannot be stopped. Schools can try, but students can easily access it on their mobile devices and from home. Many schools are choosing to license AI detectors. In June, OpenAI, creator of ChatGPT, removed their AI detection software from their website because it revealed it correctly detects AI created text 21% of the time. As educators we know that this is not a very good score.

However, schools already have the best AI detectors – the teacher. Now, more than ever, we need to know our students as learners. As an English Language Arts teacher I regularly confer with my students. This means I sit beside them and we talk about their writing. The students’ writing might be a “quick write” – a 5-10 minute piece of writing they do in class or could be a longer form assignment. 

I use gotLearning with the students and we capture their writing and our communication about it – the feedback, revisions and reflections – showing their growth over time. If at some point a student submits a piece of writing that sounds like a 40 year old marketing copywriter wrote it, red flags and klaxons will surface because we both have an easy way to compare their performance and growth. 

As my first-year teaching mentor used to say, “Great teachers know their content and know their learners. And, most importantly, they have the repertoire of skills to bring the two together.” gotLearning is the perfect tool to bring the content and learners together in a way that shows their learning and growth overtime.

Mike Rutherford is the founder and CEO of gotLearning. He lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania where he teaches one middle school English Language Arts class at a local school. He has been a middle school and high school teacher, instructional technology coach, school district EdTech director, founder of the K12 group at Blackboard, Vice President of Business Development at Just ASK Publications & Professional Development, all before returning to the classroom as a 6th grade humanities teacher at International School Bangkok in Thailand where he built version 1 of gotLearning in his classroom. You can follow Mike and gotLearning at @mikerford and @growthovertime on Twitter.

Back to the Classroom

Sunday, August 27th, 2023

I started building gotLearning as a middle school humanities teacher when I found that the technology available to me did not match what was occurring in my face to face classroom. 

After using gotLearning version 1 in my classroom for a few years, I left and started gotLearning and hired an awesome team to build version 2.

Now, after three years of designing, building, testing, receiving feedback and refining gotLearning it is an amazing platform to help teachers and students in regard to learning. However, I haven’t been able to teach with version 2 of gotLearning. With the release of our newest gotLearning mobile app (especially the iPad with an Apple Pencil) I could not handle it anymore – I needed to teach with gotLearning

So, I accepted a position to teach one middle school English Language Arts class at a nearby school. This one 50 minute period three or four times a week will still allow me to be a full time CEO of gotLearning. Yes, I am highly aware that I am going to be ridiculously busier than I already was! But, my role as a teacher and as a CEO very much align here. I will experience firsthand the problems that teachers and students are having and we are helping solve. I doing this because:

1. I love teaching.

2. I want to use gotLearning in the classroom.

3. The introduction of generative AI is transformative and I want to experience this transformation first hand. 

So, I am “Going Back to the Classroom!” I am going document my experiences here regularly to show how teaching is going and how I am co-creating learning using gotLearning with my students.

Mike Rutherford is the founder and CEO of gotLearning. He lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania where he teaches one middle school English Language Arts class at a local school. He has been a teacher, instructional technology coach, school district EdTech director, founder of the K12 group at Blackboard, Vice President of Business Development at Just ASK Publications & Professional Development, all before returning to the classroom as a 6th grade humanities teacher at International School Bangkok in Thailand where he built version 1 of gotLearning in his classroom. You can follow Mike and gotLearning at @mikerford and @growthovertime on Twitter.

Snapshot vs. Photo Album

In the realm of education, the assessment of student progress and learning has evolved significantly over the years. Traditionally, assessment has often been limited to snapshots in time—single assessments that provide a brief glimpse into a student’s knowledge and abilities at a specific moment. However, the development of collaborative learning systems, such as gotLearning, offers a more comprehensive and dynamic approach akin to building a photo album rather than taking a one-time snapshot.

Just as a photo album collects and displays a collection of memories, a collaborative learning system like gotLearning aims to capture and document a student’s learning journey over time. By leveraging technology and collaborative tools, this innovative approach allows educators and students to actively engage in the learning process while receiving ongoing feedback and support.

“Teachers play a vital role in this collaborative learning process. Rather than merely grading a final product or a one-time assessment, they become facilitators and mentors, guiding students through their learning experiences.”


One of the key advantages of a collaborative learning system is that it encourages continuous learning and growth. Rather than relying on a single assessment or e-portfolio that offers a static view of a student’s abilities, a photo album-style approach allows for the accumulation of evidence and milestones of progress. Through regular interactions with teachers and peers, students can receive feedback and guidance, adapting and refining their skills as they go along.

In a collaborative learning system, students can actively participate in their own learning process, becoming co-creators of knowledge rather than passive recipients. By engaging in discussions, collaborative projects, and sharing their work with others, students gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter and develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. The ongoing feedback from teachers and peers helps students identify areas for improvement and build upon their strengths, fostering a growth mindset and a sense of ownership over their learning journey.

Teachers also play a vital role in this collaborative learning process. Rather than merely grading a final product or a one-time assessment, they become facilitators and mentors, guiding students through their learning experiences. Teachers can provide timely feedback, scaffold learning activities, and address misconceptions as they arise. This active involvement enables educators to identify individual student needs and tailor their instruction accordingly, promoting personalized learning and growth for each student.

Another advantage of a collaborative learning system is its capacity to foster a sense of community and connection among learners. By engaging in collaborative projects and interacting with peers, students develop social skills, empathy, and a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives. The photo album-like approach allows for the creation of shared experiences, shared knowledge, and shared memories—a collective learning journey that enhances the educational experience and promotes a supportive learning environment.

Furthermore, the documentation of learning over time in a collaborative learning system provides valuable insights for both students and educators. Students can reflect on their progress, recognize their achievements, and set goals for future growth. Educators can analyze patterns and trends, identifying areas where additional support or instructional adjustments may be necessary. This continuous monitoring and feedback loop ensure that learning is dynamic, responsive, and focused on individual student needs.

While e-portfolios have been used as a means of capturing student work and growth, they often fall short in terms of collaboration and ongoing feedback. E-portfolios typically provide a static snapshot of a student’s abilities at a particular point in time, limiting the scope for real-time interaction and support. In contrast, a collaborative learning system offers a dynamic and participatory experience, akin to building a rich and evolving photo album that captures the growth and development of learners.
Mike Rutherford is the founder and CEO of gotLearning. He lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He has been a teacher, instructional technology coach, school district EdTech director, founder of the K12 group at Blackboard, Vice President of Business Development at Just ASK Publications & Professional Development, all before returning to the classroom as a 6th grade humanities teacher at International School Bangkok in Thailand where he built version 1 of gotLearning in his classroom. You can follow Mike and gotLearning at @mikerford and @growthovertime on Twitter.


We know teachers have a finite amount of time every day. We created gotLearning to allow more engaging and effective collaborations, helping teachers and students capture and communicate about their learning as it is happening.

Knowing that feedback is at the heart of learning, we are ensuring our technology tools support a teacher’s ability to provide timely, effective and personalized feedback. We are proud to introduce gotFeedback, the first classroom teacher’s feedback tool built on OpenAI’s Large Language Model API. 

Introducing gotFeedback, Your New Personal Feedback Resource

gotFeedback is modeled on the research that feedback needs to be:

  • Goal-referenced
  • Tangible and Transparent
  • Actionable
  • User-Friendly
  • Timely
  • Ongoing
  • Consistent

gotFeedback‘s goal is to help teachers provide more individualized feedback to their students in a timely way. After our March 2023 beta period we will be moving our gotFeedback tool into gotLearning‘s Collaborative Learning System to seamlessly integrate this technology into our feedback structure. This will allow teachers to use AI where they deem appropriate, quickly and easily request feedback and actionable next steps for themselves and their students. All of this will be at the individual student level.

Moderated AI Feedback

We are being thoughtful in how we roll out AI in our platform with our first iteration being controlled by the teachers. We believe that the best path at the moment is to have the teacher moderate the AI feedback that is provided. The teacher can use gotFeedback as a resource, choosing which elements are appropriate feedback to share with students. We believe that AI-based feedback has real-world implications in education and that is why we are embedding this technology into our platform.  

While the technology is changing rapidly, we do not believe that today’s Large Language Models (LLMs) are ready to provide feedback directly to students at this time. Many articles illustrate that LLMs can be wildly incorrect and sometimes harmful (see Will ChatGPT Supplant Us as Writers, Thinkers in the Harvard Gazette.)

Join us in trying gotFeedback. We hope you find that it can be helpful in speeding up the feedback process.

Capturing Learning as it Happens

This article was originally posted on Teachers Going Gradeless

As educators we all know how complex teaching and learning is and the many stages that happen through a typical learning cycle. We also know that at key intervals throughout the year, schools layer in formal recording and reporting structures to capture and communicate about student learning at that time. Portfolios and conferences are popular ways to report about student learning and growth. Those of you who are reading this are likely thinking about or are going gradeless in your reporting. We are going to further explore portfolios and conferences as tools for capturing learning evidence and showing growth over time. 

Portfolios are most often thought of as a collection of learning evidence that demonstrates students’ knowledge, skills, and understanding. And conferences are most often thought about as the parent-teacher-student conversations at the end of a quarter or semester. I believe that curating evidence of learning over time and partnering with the student in conferencing throughout the learning process are integral to creating a dynamic learning environment.

All of a student’s learning does not occur in the direct view of the teacher. There are a myriad of things students do as they are engaging in new learning. Students interpret new ideas, ask clarifying questions, partake in trial and error, create rough drafts, receive feedback, receive scaffolds as necessary, make revisions, engage in more trial, receive more feedback, etc. These kinds of activities continue throughout the learning cycle supporting students along the way. Usually, it is the teacher who wraps up the learning cycle and for students it results in some level of learning mastery and some artifacts that can be added to a portfolio. 

When done well, portfolios are individualized museums of student learning. These are a great way to show learning growth and when possible allow you to compare where the student started and where they ended. One challenge is that the process of curating artifacts to go into a portfolio usually occurs after the evidence has been completed and toward the end of the learning cycle. There are so many important pieces of formative learning data that are missed when the curation happens at the end.

Students and teachers should consider capturing and curating learning evidence throughout the learning cycle and as the learning is occurring. This allows both the teacher and student to use a triangulated assessment approach which includes performance observations, conversations, and physical products as learning evidence (Damien Cooper, Rebooting Assessment). This triangulated assessment approach allows teachers and students to paint a more nuanced picture of the student and their learning over time.

In the back-and-forth interactions between students and teachers that occur every day lies much of this learning evidence. This includes physical evidence, online documents/presentation, emails, texts, conversations, as well as peer and teacher feedback—to name a few. Capturing all of this formative assessment data is staggering in volume and incredibly hard to manage for both teachers and students. The average classroom size (Elementary, Middle, and High School in the U.S.) is around 24 students (NCES 2020). Multiply 24 by the typical teaching load of 5 classes and you have 120 students for whom to capture learning data. Not an easy task.

We know we can’t expect teachers to read and respond to each piece of qualitative learning evidence their students produce. It is just not humanly possible nor sustainable at a high level. We also know this is really important learning evidence. We must work smarter and not harder. If we leverage technology designed to co-create, capture and curate the learning as it is occurring, this daunting task not only becomes possible, but essential. The trick is that both students and teachers need to be involved to ensure the capturing and curation is a collaborative and communicative experience. Neither student nor the teacher should bear sole responsibility for the curation of learning evidence over time. Co-creation of learning is what technology allows us to easily accomplish. 

When teachers and students are capturing learning evidence along the way, they both have a much easier time showing growth. Thus, creating and maintaining portfolio evidence as the learning is happening results in richer, more nuanced representations of learning over time. When students and teachers capture learning as it happens—it is no longer an add-on reporting method after a performance task is completed. 

Educator benefits of capturing and curating learning portfolios throughout the learning process (as the student is learning) are:

  • Easily showing growth over time

  • Seeing trends in student learning across multiple students allowing for timely adjustments

  • Aiding collaboration with the full team of educators (special education, instructional coaches, and school administrators) when they can view the qualitative learning evidence of individual students in a way they could never do so before

  • Capturing learning as it happens allows for more diagnostic formative assessment. From this teachers can better meet the individual needs of each learner. The teacher can determine where students are in the learning and provide the feedback or the scaffolding to help them move forward

Student benefits of capturing and curating learning evidence throughout the learning process (not just at the end) are:

  • Engaging more fully in all parts of their learning 

  • Allowing student ownership of their learning supporting the development of student agency

  • Including reflections of what/how students learned as well as what they did to accomplish their learning

  • Including artifacts of important performance observations and reflections, teacher/peer conversations as well as physical products

Conferences are another very important part of communicating student learning and growth. When conferences are limited to the parent-teacher-student conference at specific points throughout the school year they serve the purpose of reporting. If we consider conversations we have daily with our students as conferencing (often called conferring) we have another rich data source to add to our portfolios. This process of conferring—the one-on-one conversations with each of your students throughout the week—will become one of the most powerful learning opportunities for both you and your students.

I learned firsthand the power of conferring by observing master teachers Carl Anderson, Penny Kittle, and Kelly Gallagher confer one-on-one with my students with incredible efficiency and effectiveness. I watched them masterfully partner with our students in these conferring sessions to understand where they were in their learning, to celebrate growth and to set goals for their next steps. And, the best part of this kind of conferring is that the students become the owners of their goals and next steps. 

The qualitative data that is generated daily by students is the most powerful learning evidence to tell the story of learning over time. Expanding how we are developing our portfolios and how we conference with students to more deliberately include this important qualitative evidence will strengthen the stories we ask our students to curate about their learning journey. 

Mike Rutherford is the founder and CEO of gotLearning. He lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He has been a teacher, instructional technology coach, school district EdTech director, founder of the K12 group at Blackboard, Vice President of Business Development at Just ASK Publications & Professional Development, all before returning to the classroom as a 6th grade humanities teacher at International School Bangkok in Thailand where he built version 1 of gotLearning in his classroom. You can follow Mike and gotLearning at @mikerford and @growthovertime on Twitter.

Permission is granted for reprinting and distribution of this blog post for non-commercial use only. Please include the following citation on all copies:
Rutherford, Mike. “Capturing Learning as it Happens.” Teachers Going Gradeless. Reproduced with permission of Teachers Going Gradeless. All rights reserved. Available at

2,295 Sources of Qualitative Learning Data

I was astonished. 2,295 was the total. It was 2016 and I had just calculated the total number of qualitative learning data sources that I had to manage as a classroom teacher. I consider myself fairly technical and organized but it took me so long to find things which I now realized was because I was drowning in data. 

Now, to be clear, the data that I am talking about was not my students test scores or grades. My school’s student information system took care of that data. The data I am talking about is the important, daily learning generated by my students and included the following:

Handwritten rough drafts Notes from informal conversations with students Teacher and Peer Feedback
Student self reflections Informal checks for understaning Google Docs/Microsoft Word files
FlipGrid videos Student created podcasts Presentations (videos also the slide decks) including Pear Deck
Parlay discussions/Jamboard Jams Emails Summarizers used at the nef of class about the day's learning
Test Quizzes Homework
Goal setting documents Assessment tools like continuums and roadmaps

The above shows 17 sources of data regularly generated from/for each of my students. I had 135 students. Multiply those two and the total is 2,295 sources. My experience is the daily experience of the classroom teacher; trying to manage all the disparate sources of data that are generated by students throughout the day, week or month. Teachers understand how important these qualitative data sources are as they show the complexity of learning for each of our students and show their growth over time which for some was well beyond the grade level expectations and for others was below.

This rich learning data was individual to each student, helped me understand where students were in the moment, where I needed to take them and it told the story of my students’ learning. As important as that data is for teachers, how are we supposed to capture and manage all it especially when our current systems aren’t designed for this?

I was so troubled by this conundrum but my students just kept generating. They generated work through email, Google Docs/Slides/Sheets and the entire Microsoft Office Suite. They used NoRedInk, Khan Academy, TedTalks, Newsela, Kahoot, YouTube videos and my school’s Learning Management System (LMS).  The students were creating learning evidence on their phones, their laptops, on paper, with art, on the whiteboard, on post it notes, conversing with one another, conversing with me, self reflecting and the list goes on and on. It was wonderful because it showed the students learning in real time but it was overwhelming to manage.

I could not possibly capture and manage all of that learning data, but I thought…what if I had a platform that could capture a lot of it and, most importantly, it was a platform that the students and teachers co-created to communicate about their learning. Instead of using teacher-led platforms like the LMS, what if I could partner with the students to capture this rich learning data, put it in a longitudinal timeline, showing the students different iterations of their learning and growth and make it easily searchable like Google? What if I created a platform where students were at the center and helped manage their learning and growth?

So I set out a pretty wide search. The LMS was completely teacher-led and focused on the entire class – not individual students. However, the LMS does a great job of providing content and organizing assignments. I was looking for something that helped after the the initial learning activity occurred.  I couldn’t find anything designed with the students at the center and as co-creators. So, to make a long story short. I built one using business tools while teaching 6th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies. I refined it over a few years. I eventually left the classroom, ditched the business tools and built gotLearning version 2 from scratch – both a web version and mobile apps. With students as partners in capturing and communicating about their learning I now can manage all 2,295 sources of qualitative data to more robustly tell the story of their learning – and so can you. 


If you want to learn more do not hesitate to visit our main webpage or contact us

Classroom Platforms – CLS vs. LMS vs. SIS

In the education sector, we are seeing the increased interest and broader implementation of competency-based learning, personalized learning, standards-based grading, teaching soft-skills and building student agency among other things. Twenty months into the pandemic schools are forced to reflect on some of their long held practices that were upended due to virtual learning and to devise ways to partner with students and their families in more student focused ways than ever before. 

While these student-focused methods are shifting our educational approaches, we are trying to implement these shifts with tools that were designed for more typical, teacher focused school structures. Take for instance the Learning Management System (LMS). SoftArc was the first to arrive in K12 education in 1990, followed at a wider scale by Blackboard in 1999 (note: I started the K12 group at Blackboard.) Currently, the K12 market is dominated by PowerSchool’s Schoology, Instructure’s Canvas and Moodle. Each of these is true to the LMS name – managing a classroom using the traditional teacher/class/student design. The LMS is a great tool for a teacher to share class information online. However, education is much more than sharing content with students.

John Hattie in his book Visible Learning states:

“The act of teaching reaches its epitome of success after the lesson has been structured, after the content has been delivered, and after the classroom has been organized. The art of teaching, and its major successes, relate to ‘what happens next’”.

The LMS focuses on structuring the lesson, organizing the online classroom and delivering content, but what go-to platform do we have for the most important part of learning “what happens next?” We have so much data generated from our classrooms; it’s like the wild west. No platform exists (until now) to help teachers and students navigate the “what happens next?”.

Consider this scenario, a teacher shares an assignment in their LMS, a student generates a rough draft in google docs, they conduct peer discussions in Parlay while editing in their google docs. The teacher then asks the students to reflect on their thinking in FlipGrid and submit their final work in an online portfolio. Take that scenario and layer on the typical teacher load of 100-125 students and you can see how hard it is to manage so many disparate sources of data. 

Teachers are setting up systems in online drives, storing videos in online video systems, storing data in instructional sites (like NoRedInk, Khan Academy, Algebra Nation), and this doesn’t even include the student constructed, non-digital work. Yet, we haven’t had one place to capture this important work, nor have we organized it according to the student and the duration of their experience (over the year or many years). We need one place to capture/link to this qualitative learning data that tells the story of a student’s learning and it needs to be focused around the student. Enter the Collaborative Learning System (CLS). 

The important and missing element from a teacher’s EdTech arsenal is the ability to capture the back and forth conversations about learning between a student and their teacher. Educators know these conversations are where so much learning occurs and as John Hattie states – “what happens next” is what matters. By having the right tools to personalize learning for each student a teacher can not only meet their needs but show growth over time using qualitative learning evidence. We designed the Collaborative Learning System (CLS) out of necessity and implemented in the classroom to capture this qualitative data. This platform makes it easy for both the student and teacher to add, communicate and revise work all the while incorporating self, peer and teacher feedback and reflection. Through the CLS, students are partners in co-creating their learning story and showing growth all while developing student agency.

We designed the CLS to be built around how a school pedagogically operates. Foremost, we put students at the center with a focus on the qualitative data that tells the story of learning overtime. Secondly, we designed it around how contemporary schools and classrooms operate including the partnerships with the special educators, instructional coaches, teaching assistants, emerging language learning educators, counselors, psychologists, school administrators, parents, etc. We designed gotLearning’s CLS to ensure the particular nuances of these roles are addressed. For instance, a special education teacher may be a co-teacher in one class, teach multiple self-contained classes of their own and also need to support students in other classes. We have designed a way for the special educators to manage their student support under those different structures in partnership with other team members and with a focus on students. School administrators, as the instructional leaders, need to quickly understand how students are doing beyond attendance or grades. Our CLS allows administrators and specialists to see the student level qualitative learning data in real time across their entire school. The CLS supports a whole child approach allowing easy collaboration and support, student by student. 

We also knew that the CLS needed to integrate with education systems world wide. It is purpose built for the contemporary classroom focusing on the student but designed to be  flexible. Our CLS is technology agnostic allowing teachers and students to use the technologies that they already know. Content agnostic allowing teachers and students to choose their own illustrative content. And process agnostic allowing users to organize and communicate how they want to communicate. Finally, there is a platform designed with students truly at the center, allowing them to partner in their learning, easily communicate with others and demonstrate growth overtime. 

If you want to learn more do not hesitate to visit our main webpage or contact us.

The Collaborative Learning System: Telling the Story of Learning

gotLearning announces the first Collaborative Learning System (CLS) that is a purpose-built platform for schools that focuses on the most fundamental elements of student learning – feedback and growth over time. gotLearning’s CLS is structured around the learning conversation and captures the back and forth dialogue between students, teachers and peers about their learning. The learning conversations structure focuses on the qualitative evidence from the student’s own work and mirrors what happens every day in classrooms around the world. 

gotLearning was born in the classroom to meet specific pedagogical needs. The importance and amount of qualitative data available to today’s teachers and students is enormous. Teachers world wide know that the daily conversations about learning, the daily work produced and the feedback provided is where the learning occurs. Both the students and teacher now have one place to share student work, give/receive feedback, make revisions all in the service of supporting and demonstrating the student’s growth over time. 

The CLS allows teachers and students to hold the many and varied sources of qualitative data all in one place. Before our CLS, teachers had to design their own systems for managing the daily sources of learning evidence and spent a lot of time searching in student notebooks, online folders, video sharing services, EdTech apps as well as many communication platforms to locate and review the qualitative student learning data. No longer do teachers or students need to search for where the learning evidence or feedback is located because the CLS provides a tool for teachers and students to capture and manage this crucially important learning process. 

For Students
The gotLearning CLS provides one place for students to capture and communicate about their learning journey empowering students to influence their own path to mastery. gotLearning’s unconstrained conversation tool provides students voice and choice regarding how to communicate their learning empowering students as partners in the process. 

For Teachers
gotLearning enables teachers to easily monitor student progress, provide direct and targeted feedback and make course corrections as needed. A teacher can get a sense of their class as a whole in order to make broad adjustments or to see the experiences of their individual students to provide personalized feedback. Additionally, teachers can see how their students are doing in other classes to seek patterns of performance in order to more holistically support students and their learning. 

For Educational Specialists
Using gotLearning’s Collaborative Learning System, educational specialists are able to develop their own classes in addition to seeing how the individual students they are supporting are doing across all of their classes. Educational Specialists can easily examine the qualitative feedback and learning evidence from all of the teachers for each student they support.

For School Administrators
A school administrator can easily monitor student progress across their whole school as well as examine and/or participate in learning conversations with any of their students They can also follow individual students that may need a little extra attention when needed. 

Professional Conversations
Another key element of gotLearning are the professional conversations. Using the same toolset that is used for students and teachers to communicate – professional conversations captures feedback and learning evidence between the teachers, educational specialists and school administrators. These conversations can be through one on one discussions, small group discussions or even the entire school. Professional conversations are perfect for professional learning networks (PLNs) or Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

Articles, Books and Research That Guide Us

As teachers we have all had those moments that have greatly influenced us. This post shares a few of the articles and books that have guided the educators at gotLearning.

Carl Anderson’s book

How’s it Going?

The question “How’s it Going?” is so incredibly powerful when you use it with a student. I was lucky enough to watch Carl work with students in my classroom! He truly used the phrase “How’s it Going?” with the students. What happened next was 10 minutes of masterful conferring with 4 students during a writing lesson. The learning conversations he had with them provided incredible feedback that was goal-referenced and actionable. This experience with Carl and the book solidified for me that the conversations with students about their thinking/work is where so much learning occurs.

Available from the publisher’s website.

Grant Wiggin’s article

“Seven Keys to Effective Feedback“

Grant Wiggin’s article “Seven Keys to Effective Feedback” is pure gold in regard to what feedback is and what it is not. My favorite part of the article:

Feedback Essentials:
Whether feedback is just there to be grasped or is provided by another person, helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.”

This is a worthy read for all educators, coaches and anyone else who gives feedback to others. There are also great examples of each of the feedback essentials. Available on the ASCD website.

Paula Rutherford’s

Instruction for All Students

Besides this being written by my first year mentor teacher, this is my go to “If I was teaching on a desert island what book would you bring?” answer. One of my favorite quotes is:

“A wise educator said: We will conduct all of our interactions with students based on the most current data, research and current thinking in our field. When this information changes we will change our practice.” Paula continues with “I do not believe that this statement in any way implies that we should continue to hop from bandwagon to bandwagon looking for materials and programs that will ensure quick fixes or successes. Quite the contrary. It means that we must constantly reach out to analyze, reflect on and react to the massive body of research on teaching and learning that comes not only from those doing formal research, but also from those of us working directly with students.”

This book is dog-eared, coffee stained and been referenced more than any other book I own.

For more information visit the Just ASK Publications & Professional Development website.

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s

Understanding by Design

Over 20 years later, Understanding by Design (UbD) is still influencing the thinking and planning of educators worldwide. The premise is simple in process but profound in its impact. Plan backwards from your goals and base your goals on transferable performances of understanding. Assess student performance against the goals throughout the learning process and use feedback to help students as they learn and grow. UbD’s “think like an assessor” is fundamental to the development of gotLearning and educators who are familiar with the tenets of UbD will comfortably incorporate this platform into their educational practice.

The clarity and simplicity of the backward design process and the corresponding UbD template allows educators worldwide to use this thinking in their context and adjust the process to their needs. gotLearning’s platform is designed with the same idea, create a clear and elegant process, laser focused on the essential elements of how classroom conversations work, allowing educators worldwide to use this platform in their context. 

Bruce Oliver’s article

“Growth-Producing Feedback”

Bruce Oliver’s wife Nancy was my 8th grade counselor – she was (and still is amazing). When I was a K12 technology training specialist I was lucky enough to work with Bruce when he was a middle school principal. His article “Growth Producing Feedback” is a must read for all teachers. While there are a multitude of resources (including research) explaining the importance of feedback, this article is the perfect spark for a teacher to immediately change and improve their practice. The best part is the Growth-Producing Feedback Discussion Tool that you can use with your colleagues to talk about what is and is not growth-producing. In my teaching and athletic coaching I consistently refer back to the phrase “Growth-Producing Feedback” to make sure the feedback I am providing is goal-oriented, emphasizing progress, timely.

The full article is available from Just ASK Publications & Professional Development’s website

John Hattie’s book

Visible Learning

Hatties research synthesis highlights the importance of feedback. Feedback is central to my teaching, empowers students and is exactly why I built gotLearning in the first place. Hattie refers to the “what happens next” phase of learning and describes it as follows in his book. 

“As will be argued throughout this book, the act of teaching reaches its epitome of success after the lesson has been structured, after the content has been delivered, and after the classroom has been organized. The art of teaching, and its major successes, relate to “what happens next” – the manner in which the teacher reacts to how the student interprets, accommodates, rejects, and/or reinvents the content and skills, how the student relates and applies the content to other tasks, and how the student reacts in light of success or failure apropos the content and the methods that the teacher has taught.

This perfectly describes the importance of the learning conversation. The back and forth between the student and teacher(s) is the “what happens next” – the “art of teaching and its major successes”. This sums up why I built the first version of gotLearning as a middle school teacher.

John Hattie’s Visible Learning is available from his website.

The Importance of Learning Conversations

What is a Learning Conversation?

Learning is complex. It all starts with learning goals and student outcomes. Typically, it starts with a learning engagement (activity) to provide an introduction to a concept. Students participate in a trial and error phase that includes feedback from peers and from their teacher. The student reflects upon this information. The student may implement corrective actions and request additional feedback. Many call this a feedback loop. Re-teaching may may need to occur.

Each of these interactions with students is different. Student learning is individualistic. The teacher works with each student to meet their diverse learning needs. This requires the teacher and the student to remember where the conversation left off from the previous interaction whether face-to-face or asynchronous via an email, message or written feedback on paper. The sheer number of students and the multiple conversations per student along with the sources of where qualitative learning data may reside (notebook, papers, posters, cloud based applications, videos, emails, EdTech learning tools etc.) is Herculean organizational task for any teacher. On the student side, in the middle school and high school models, they have to manage seven to eight classes and the learning conversations they have with their teachers. Also, quite an organizational task.

In 2016, I had come to the realization that I was spending nearly half of my time searching for elements of these conversations. For example, in a lesson where students were to determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details can be incredibly hard to organizationally manage let alone provide individual feedback to students. In this particular lesson students had already been through a class example and were attempting to determine the theme or central idea on the novel that they were reading. With over 100 students, this is 100 different texts and 100 different sets of feedback. Did the students write their thoughts in their notebooks or in an online document? The feedback that I provided each of them is individualized and incredibly important. Will I remember in a week what that feedback was? Has the student shown growth from that feedback or do I need to reteach?

As John Hattie states in his book Visible Learning, “the act of teaching reaches its epitome of success after the lesson has been structured, after the content has been delivered, and after the classroom has been organized. The art of teaching and major successes relate to ‘what happens next’”.

The “next” referenced above is the learning conversation.

As a classroom teacher, over a couple of school years, I refined what I and my fellow teachers and our students needed for our learning conversations. This is how gotLearning was born and matured. It allowed a teacher to manage individual student learning journeys. During this time a couple of really cool things happened. We realized how much more time we had to focus on student learning instead of searching for where an online word processing document was stored (google Docs, Microsoft Word, Apple Pages) only to realize the student had turned it in hand-written on paper.

The more we used this new tool, the more valuable it became. As a teacher I was able to review feedback that I had previously given to a student. Feedback and reflections were no longer only in one place. I now had a copy of it and so did the student. We both could refer back to it and build upon it. At parent-teacher conferences we were able to show a student’s growth from August to October. We did this by showing qualitative evidence.

View a Learning Conversation in gotLearning.

Cited Works:

Hattie, John. Visible Learning: a Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Routledge, 2010.