Archive for Randy Fairfield

How I Googled My Way to an MBA from Western Governors University… in Six Months!

by Randy Fairfield, 3/8/18

So, yeah, this happened. I’ve mostly kept quiet about my studies because I didn’t want to give off the impression that I was leaving education for business. So, here’s an interview with myself to clarify:

So why did you get an MBA in the first place?

There are a lot of reasons I decided to pursue this degree! The situation would have to be right, but I would be interested in working remotely for an edtech startup at some point, and I’m hoping that adding an MBA to my teaching experience, consulting experience, edtech certifications, and Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning will make me an attractive candidate. I love learning, and as I’ve been haphazardly picking up all kinds of business skills through my consultancy, the timing just seemed right for me to dive in and learn more!

What led you to Western Governors University?

There were a lot of things that attracted me to WGU. I loved the competency-based model, which allowed me to speed through courses I was already knowledgeable in and spend more time and energy on concepts I still needed to learn. Additionally, I’ve been working on developing online edtech courses for teachers, and I thought going through some online coursework myself would give me perspective as I try to make my courses as meaningful and accessible as possible. I also liked that WGU assessed tuition based on the amount of time spent in the program rather than charging per credit. Because I busted my butt and got all my coursework done inside of six months, my total costs for the program were just under $3,400.

Wait, you got an MBA inside of six months for $3,400? Sounds fishy.

I was admittedly suspicious when I first heard about WGU, but I did my homework and learned that WGU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation, so that put me at ease. While I was able to complete my program inside of six months, that is generally not true for most people going through the program. Having already had a strong background in academic writing as well as a schedule that permitted me to devote a sizable portion of time to my coursework helped me fast track things quite a bit.

So how exactly did you “Google your way to an MBA?”

I started with the assumption that there would be very little knowledge contained within the course materials provided by WGU that could also not be found on the web, so I set out to prove a point. Using how to search Google and make meaning of your findings is an incredibly important skill, and for the most part this skill was all I needed to help me learn the concepts I needed to demonstrate competency in. I’m amazed at how often people ask me questions that have answers that are just a Google search away, and I try to refrain from being snarky and referring them to LMGTFY. 🙂

All that said, there is value in having someone curate and organize course materials. Early on in my program, I probably spent more time than I needed to doing Google searches for content that was just a few clicks away in the course materials—but I was out to prove a point, remember! As I started to butt up against the six-month deadline, I will admit that I accessed the course materials and even reached out to a few course mentors to help accelerate my learning. Generally, though, I’m intrinsically motivated to figure stuff out and solve problems on my own, so I tried to go that route as much as possible.

I don’t know, I’m not sure I’m really buying into the whole thing, man.

I recognize that, for some, this blog post might diminish the value of the degree I just earned. If I’m an employer and someone is telling me they Googled their way to an MBA at some university I’ve never heard of, and that they did it inside of six months—well, I’m thinking diploma mill. I get it.

To that, all I can say is my program is fully accredited, I worked my butt off, and I learned a lot along the way—not just about business administration, but about myself. There are several skills and personal qualities I demonstrated throughout the course of my program that I think a potential future employer would find valuable. Believe me, what I did was no easy feat—but I’m the type of guy that likes to take on a good challenge. I have no problem setting ambitious goals and working independently to meet them. Sure, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life getting up super early and (sometimes) staying up late, but I am willing to bust my butt to meet goals and deadlines if need be.

All right, I think I get it now. Way to go, man! So now what?

To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure where all of this is leading! I know one thing is for sure: I am not going to just sit back and rest on my laurels. I expect great things of myself, and right now I am really focused on my health! I’ve lost almost twenty pounds since Thanksgiving, and I’m looking forward to losing at least that much more by June.

I might do a little job hunting here and there, but I am really intrigued by the idea of finding more ways to help educators get high quality professional development online. I am stubborn to a fault about figuring stuff out on my own, but teachers are busy, busy people, and they don’t always have the time to be messing around with stuff. When I first dove into edtech, I took a half-time contract and spent a lot of time holed up in a public library cubby just figuring stuff out. Most teachers don’t have that luxury, and most are not given nearly enough professional development to help them learn to leverage technology in ways that lead to student-centered outcomes.

In the absence of another opportunity that really blows my mind and aligns with my mission and vision, I’m going to keep plugging away at building online courses. If you’ve read this far and are interested, keep up with my progress by subscribing to my newsletter! Additionally, if you’ve got a super cool opportunity you want to share with me, feel free to reach out and let me know what you’re thinking.


Online Course: Hapara Champion Educator Program

The Hapara Champion program is designed as a series of leveled certification courses focused on creating skilled Hapara users with a positive, transformative outlook on instructional technology.

Most of the content and activities will be asynchronous; approximately 5 hours of each course will be live, synchronous. Scheduling will be flexible to accommodate participants from around the world.

Throughout your participation in this program, you will receive 1:1 support from Hapara Certified Trainer, Randy Fairfield.

The courses are intended to be completed in order (Educator, Scholar, then Trainer). Applicants with no previous Hapara certification will only be accepted to the Champion Educator program.

The Hapara Champion program is highly-selective, and applicants are not guaranteed to be admitted, particularly at the higher levels of certification.

There is an additional $10 examination fee to be paid at the end of the course.

Educators must apply to the Hapara Champion Educator Program by 3/19/18. Applicants that are accepted and then eligible to receive clock hours in Washington State and coaching support from Randy.

Hapara Champion Educator Application link:

ESD 171 registration link (for clock hours)
pdEnroller link…


Online Course: Google for Education Level 1 Certified Educator Exam Prep

Course Description:
This course focuses on the Google Suite for Education to help teachers prepare for the Google for Education Level 1 Certified Educator exam. While most of the attention will be given to learning the tools themselves, the course will also ask teachers to reflect on pedagogical uses and best practice. The research basis for these best practices is John Hattie’s Visible Learning, which is a synthesis of 800 meta-analyses related to student achievement.4 The tutorial videos, coursework, and individualized support provided in this course are intended to supplement the fundamentals training experience that the Google for Education team has already created to prepare educators for the Google for Education Level 1 Certified Educator exam. This course can be taken at any time and can be completed at whatever pace you feel comfortable with!

Course Goal:
Teachers will be able to lead their students into transformational learning through their use of educational technology—particularly the Google Suite for Education—and will have the confidence they need to pass the Google for Education Level 1 Certified Educator exam by learning the skills specified on the skills checklist created by Google for Education Certified Trainer, Eric Curts.



Using Flipgrid and HyperDocs with Hapara Workspace

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by Randy Fairfield, 2/14/18

Ever since last spring, Flipgrid started showing up all over my Twitter feed. Prior to #FlipgridFever, it seemed like every other tweet I saw had something or other to do with HyperDocs. So what is it about Flipgrid and HyperDocs that educators find so appealing? I think the draw is that they can be used to empower students by providing them with voice and choice in the classroom which, in turn, leads to increased engagement. For teachers already using Hapara, where do tools like Flipgrid and HyperDocs fit in?

With Flipgrid, teachers add a grid (basically a class) and post some topics or questions. Students then click on a link to get to the grid and reply to the topics or questions with short video clips that are shared to the grid. If a teacher has students who are not yet comfortable with speaking up in front of the rest of the class, Flipgrid can be used as a scaffold to make sure that all student voices get heard. So, what is the best way to lead the students into Flipgrid?

Well, in Hapara Workplace, teachers can create a card in the Resources or Evidence column and include a link to the Flipgrid they’ve created for their students. Workspace gives a nice jumping off point for students to get to Flipgrid, and linking from Workspace also helps students see their Flipgrid responses in the larger context of a learning cycle that includes standards as well as a rubric for how their Flipgrid response can be assessed.

HyperDocs isn’t really a tool per say—really, it’s more of an idea; and the idea is this: teachers can facilitate learning by engaging students in the 5E’s (engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate) by providing them with links on a Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets file to all kinds of different online resources. Since teachers using Hapara Workspace can already post a variety of links to their Workspace, should they be using HyperDocs as well? Really, the answer to that question really depends on how the teacher feels the content they are linking to can best be organized to meet the needs of their students. If there’s just a few links, posting them to Workspace as resource cards would be sufficient; but as the list of resources grows, organizing them in a HyperDoc and then linking to the HyperDoc from a Workspace card might be the better option.

If you’re excited about starting to use HyperDocs and Flipgrid in your classroom as a way to give students voice and choice in your classroom, a great place to start is to consider your students’ interests. You can grab a free copy of a Google Form with a Student Interest Inventory on my website, see what your students are interested in, and then start creating some Flipgrids and/or HyperDocs that take your students’ interests into account!


Online Course: Edmodo and Google Integration (Spring 2018)

Edmodo recently launched some exciting new features on their platform which has served to tighten the integration with the Google Suite and has made the facilitation of online courses better than ever!

In tandem with these releases, Edmodo partnered with MisterEdTech last Spring to promote an interactive online course titled, “Using Edmodo and Google to Facilitate 21st Century Learning”. The course has ran twice before and was so well-received that it’s back by popular demand! The course will begin again on April 2, 2017, will last six weeks, and will cost $129 per participant. Everyone is welcome to participate, and 20 clock hour credits will be offered through ESD 171 for Washington State teachers for a cost of $40 extra to be paid directly to the ESD. These clock hours count as TPEP clock hours.

Participants will be asked to spend 3 hours and 20 minutes per week engaging in the course and will learn the baseline technological knowledge needed to integrate Edmodo and the Google Suite. The course will also focus on best practice and will ask teachers to be reflective about their pedagogical applications of these tools.

If you are interested in the course, click the “buy now” button. After you make the payment, you will be directed to an Edmodo link that will let you join the course after you log in with your Edmodo account! You can check out the course syllabus here and/or send Randy an email at if you have any questions or have difficulty joining. Hope to see you there!



Select All or Multiple Email Messages in Gmail

by Randy Fairfield, 2/2/18

It always saddens me when teachers get so bogged down with administrivia that their focus gets drawn away from their students. That’s why I love sharing little time-saving tips! I see teachers get overwhelmed with email, so I hope this helps! You can “Select All” messages in Gmail by clicking the box circled in red below:

Additionally, you can select multiple messages at one time without having to select them all! You simply need to click the box by the first email you want to select, then hold down the shift key and select another message. All the messages in between will then be selected! This can be very helpful in deleting a string of “reply all” emails that you didn’t want to be a part of. Here’s how it works:


Let Them Create!

by Randy Fairfield, 2/1/18

Kids like to make things. When I leave my kids to their own devices, my son goes off and builds stuff with Lincoln Logs and Legos, and my daughters go off and draw pictures. It’s just what they do. And of course whenever they are done making whatever it is they’ve made, the first thing they do is run up and say, “Mom! Dad! Look what I made!” Being a growth mindset conscious parent, I make sure to let them know how proud I am of all the hard work they put into their creation and then ask them reflective questions about what they thought they did well and what they thought they could make even better and so forth. Creating things and then sharing them with other people that care is a very human thing to do.

And then they get to school. And they get asked to show their learning on worksheet after worksheet and on test after standardized test. Or write papers only their teacher will ever see. And while some kids like mine are resilient enough to put up with all of these stale demonstrations of rote learning, there are a lot of kids that aren’t. And the one question just about all kids ask their teachers is this: What does this really have to do with anything? And too often the answers they get to those questions really suck. Since our assignments and tests are inauthentic and irrelevant, we have to say things like, “Stick it out and do your work to get your points so you can get good grades so you can go to college.” Why do we do this to kids?

There are a lot of things we can blame—like laws passed by politicians far-removed from the classroom and administrators handing down stale curricula and expecting it to be taught with fidelity. But for as much as teachers can control, every opportunity ought to be taken to quit “doing school” and start engaging students in meaningful learning. During my time in the classroom, the biggest challenges I faced were threefold when it came to facilitating a student-centered classroom that allowed my students to be creators of authentic content: (1) I had a hard time coming up with great ideas for projects tied to standards; (2) Coming up with a budget and the time to get materials was daunting; and (3) Finding an authentic audience for students to share their creations with was challenging. Nowadays, I don’t think any of those challenges really present much of an obstacle.

We live in an exciting age where we don’t have to recreate the wheel all the time because, guess what, there are a lot of educators out there that like to create and share stuff too. Do a Google search. Search the #pbl hashtag and follow other educators on Twitter. Check out Pinterest. There are tons of ideas and resources on Edmodo Spotlight. If your school is using Hapara, there are public Workspaces out there that teachers have spent tons of time working on that are being given away. Check out the amazing HyperDocs on “Teachers Give Teachers.” Check out Project-Based Awesome. Access to high-quality vetted content and ideas is quite literally a few searches and clicks away!

Attending a three-day Buck Institute training this past summer was also useful in helping me help teachers generate ideas for projects. There are so many different ways for students to demonstrate their learning besides worksheets and tests!!!

The best part is students are increasingly getting regular access to technology in the classroom, which gives them the ability to create stuff without the teacher having to scramble for resources. The web also gives students access to a global audience for their work! It’s far more exciting to share with the world than it is to share with just your teacher and classmates. Students can use the Google Suite almost exclusively to produce and share most of the projects listed above, and there are free web-based applications for video, photo, and audio editing that just a few years ago cost hundreds of dollars! Yet far too often, Chromebooks are used for little more than testing and Google Classroom is used for little more than digitally reproducing and distributing of the same old worksheets. Google Classroom is great and can be used for more of course, but I think the robust features offered by Hapara’s Workspace and Edmodo are a lot more conducive to the deeper learning I’m interested helping educators facilitate, which is why I’m always championing their platforms. As educators, we have a duty to prepare our students for the world they are in and are going into, and this is what the world is asking today’s students be capable of:

I like to create and share stuff with people too, which is why I just wrote this blog post, why there will be plenty more posts laden with ideas, and why there’s already a bunch of stuff I’ve already shared here on my website. Take a gander if you’re so inclined! I also really like leading professional development to help teachers help students become creators rather than consumers of content. Reach out if you’re ever interested in having me come out to your site! Have passport, will travel. 🙂


Tips and Tricks for Providing Formative Feedback in Your Digital Classroom

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by Randy Fairfield, 1/8/18

Providing quick and meaningful feedback is one of the most important strategies teachers can leverage to propel student learning. One of the most powerful examples of the role that constructive criticism can play as a feedback tool in improving student outcomes can be seen here in “Austin’s Butterfly.”

It’s easy to be enamored by the transformation of the butterfly, but think for just a moment about how Ron Berger used the example of Austin’s Butterfly to build a classroom culture of learning, based on the giving and receiving of critique. Students must be in a place where they truly understand what it means to have a growth mindset towards failure before they are ready to receive and grow from formative feedback—yet far too often, we as educators are quick to apply the red pen without doing the necessary work of framing the way students receive our feedback.

Another fantastic video for helping students understand what a growth mindset looks like is Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap video. If you’re feeling like your feedback is falling on deaf ears, hit the reset button and show these videos to your students at the start of next semester!

But you might be wondering—what are some effective twenty-first century formative feedback strategies that do not involve butterflies and monster traps? I’m glad you asked! If you are fortunate enough to work in a school that has adopted the G Suite for Education and Hapara, here are some ways you can provide students with helpful and timely feedback:

Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets Comments:
You may already know that you can highlight and comment on learners’ work in Docs, Slides and Sheets, but did you know that students will get an email notification if you type the “+” button in the comments and add the student’s email address? This is a great way to make sure your students receive your feedback in a timely manner.

Suggesting Mode:
Sometimes a comment is useful for giving students feedback that is just vague enough that they need to figure out their mistake for themselves. But, when that kind of feedback is not enough Suggesting Mode allows you to explicitly show your students what they ought to do to move forward.

Video Feedback
With the Screencastify Chrome Extension, teachers can quickly and easily take a video of what their screens look like and include a voice-over as they review student work. Once the teacher is done recording, the video goes straight to Google Drive, and the teacher can quickly share the feedback with the student by adding a direct link to the video as a comment inside the Doc, Slide or Sheet the teacher is reviewing.

Hapara Dashboard
While Dashboard itself is not a feedback tool, it is incredibly helpful in providing teachers with a quick and easy way to access students’ files in Google Drive. Instead of spending time looking for files, teachers can spend their time giving students meaningful feedback on their work!

Hapara Highlights
Highlights provides similar visibility into student work and can be used to see what browser tabs students currently have open. If a student or group of students are working in Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets, the teacher can jump into the mix and provide real-time feedback using some of the methods shown above!

Highlights also has its own feedback tools built in and enables teachers to send messages to students that appear right in their Chrome browsers. Whether you notice a student is struggling, off task, or you just want to offer some encouragement, Highlights messages can be used to send in the moment feedback that students can incorporate into their learning.

Want to learn more about providing timely, effective digital feedback? Sign up for my live webinar next Tuesday (1/16/18) at 4:00 PM PST / 7:00 PM EST!


Changing the Rules of the Game

by Randy Fairfield, 1/4/18

Middle school and high school was just a game to be won for me, with the end goal of getting the highest possible GPA. Each teacher’s class had different rules, and I took the easiest possible path to manipulate them to end up with the lowest possible “A”. I thought things like, “I already have a 96% in math and the teacher said the final can’t hurt my grade, so I guess I’ll just skip these last few homework assignments.” The only purpose learning about quadratic equations served was to help me get that “A.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t until halfway through my senior year that my mindset started to change. Yet given the rules of the game and how the adults in my life framed “winning,” my mindset and corresponding behavior was completely rational.

All things considered, the game ended up working out pretty well for me. After all, I did end up learning about quadratic equations, I got into college, and as I matured I began to understand that there is more to life than having a good grade point average. However, I also noticed that a lot of marginalized students seemed to just disappear during the course of the game. I wouldn’t see somebody for a few months and would think, “Oh, wow… I wonder what happened to so-and-so.” And for many of them, I’d never see them again. For far too many students, the rules of the game were preventing them from feeling like they had a chance to win, and so they decided to quit playing. Can we blame them? Too often we do because it means we don’t have to change.

Change is uncomfortable. It’s hard. Most people do not like change, even when it serves to make things better for themselves and for everyone else. A perfect example of a rule change that most people hate is, “no trade, reverse robber” in Settlers of Catan. This rule change makes the game become far more strategic and largely prevents people like Cody (see below) from going on suicide missions to take out the best player. Please be gentle, it was my first of many embarrassing attempts to go viral…

Rule changes aren’t always for the better. A teacher I once worked with made participation a full fifty percent of his students’ grades so that, and I quote, “If they’re acting like little s***s in my class I can just fail them.” True story.

I can’t help but consider: What “rules” can we change to make our schools and classrooms better, and how can we frame the conditions for winning in a different way so that everyone feels like they have a chance? I think I’m better at asking questions than I am at giving answers, but as a recovering video gamer and current board game enthusiast, this is one I have some unique insight into. I’ve been working on a keynote titled, “What Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers” that I’m dying to give. Dee Lanier (@deelanier) has some pretty awesome thoughts on “hacking learning” too. I’d also love to hear some of your thoughts on Twitter if you’re open to sharing! Just tweet me at @RandyFairfield and you’re sure to get a reply.


Balancing Pedagogy and Andragogy

by Randy Fairfield, 12/11/17

Nobody wants to be told what to do. I don’t, you don’t, and—guess what—your students don’t either. Yet if you were to spend a day in the life of the average student, you would likely find that most of your school day was spent being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Perhaps this is because we as educators know a lot about pedagogy and perhaps not enough about andragogy.

The word pedagogy literally means “leading children” and came before the lesser known term andragogy, which means “leading adults.” An adult educator named Malcolm Knowles theorized nearly forty years ago that, as learners, adults have different characteristics than children do. As such, Knowles believed adult educators should take these differences into account when designing learning activities:

  • Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  • Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
  • Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
  • Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented. (Kearsley, 2010)
  • Yet as I look at that list, I can’t help but see a number of lesson design principles that I wish were more evident at the elementary level and especially at the secondary level. Why shouldn’t students be involved in the planning of their instruction to increase their level of buy-in? Why shouldn’t students’ experiences (including mistakes) provide the basis for learning activities? Why shouldn’t students be learning about subjects that have immediate relevance to their personal lives? Why shouldn’t students be learning content in the context of real-world problems? Do you see what I mean?

    Particularly as students emerge into adulthood, their learning needs demand that educators adopt lesson design principles that strike a balance between pedagogy and andragogy. It is true that students often don’t have the necessary experience to draw from to form the basis of some learning activities. Sometimes they need to hear the message that what they are learning about today might not now be immediately applicable to their lives. And, yes, there are times where students need to be explicitly led—but we also need to teach them to lead as well. What I’m advocating for here is for educators to strike a developmentally appropriate balance.

    Given the name of this website, at this point you might be wondering what this kind of reflection has to do with educational technology. Frankly, I am too as this blog post went a much different direction than I originally intended! I guess all that to say that to me the Chromebook represents an opportunity for educators to shift up as they find balance between pedagogy and andragogy. Though Chromebooks are not required, there are countless ways in which they can be leveraged to help educators plan learning activities that give students a bit more ownership over what, when, and how they learn and demonstrate their learning. Two of my favorite books from educators that embrace what I’m talking about are Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie (@trev_mackenzie) and The HyperDoc Handbook by Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill). And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t make any money if you click on their links and buy their books—I just think they’re worth taking a look at if you haven’t yet already! 🙂

    Source: Kearsley, G. (2010). Andragogy (M.Knowles). The theory into practice database. Retrieved from