Lucky 7

8187170652_bf6e3c2463_nWe recently became premium users of Screencastify, a screencasting tool that integrates extremely well with the Google suite of products. I love using my Screencastify extension to share instructions, how-tos, and more with my students and colleagues and it saves time for work during class if I am not performing a stand and deliver with the content. The students can proceed with the task at hand and if they need to, can revisit and re-watch the videos as often as helpful. With that being said, here is a list of educational uses of Screencastify that you might want to check out.

I don’t remember how I found this next site but am very glad I did! Curriculum Pathways is research-based technology resources for K-12 educators and students and they are FREE. You can browse the resources by grade, subject, or standard. You also have the ability to filter by discipline, grade level, type of resource: tools and apps, lessons, primary sources, etc.; compatibility to device: PC/Mac, iPad, tablet, iPhone, Chromebook; and 59 categories from Art & Architecture, to Trig, Spanish to Biochemistry, Modern Europeans to American Lit, Grammar to Statistics. There is nothing that is not included here on this robust site. Sign up- it’s FREE!

There is a new update to BookCreator that now allows for collaboration! Students and teachers can create books and get feedback in real time. This is part of their paid plan. With the free plan, one teacher can invite students to create up to 40 books for the class library ranging from portrait to square and landscape and comics in those same sizes. Did I mention that this is also browser-based?!

I have written and shared resources from Robert Kaplinsky before. Today I am sharing his Depth of Knowledge Matrix for Elementary Math.

This past week the Modern Learners webinar was on Learner Agency and asked, “Why do we do what we do, and How can we make learner agency a reality on our classrooms?” These webinars are always thought-provoking and make us take a hard look at our practices. You can listen to the recording here.

George Couros’ blog posts never disappoint and this one is no different. A hint of the gist of it is below.

“the best classroom management is always excellent teaching and learning.”

What would you do for a Klondike Bar? OK, that is not really what I am asking you. What can you do with 5-minutes? If you are like me, then you like to fill free time with something of substance. Be it reading, working out, phoning/texting a friend, tossing in a load of laundry, I like to make every minute count. Well now I have something else to do with that little bit of time. Matt Miller of DitchSummit and DITCH that Textbook now has a podcast! Yes, that’s right. In just about 5 minutes a day 5 days a week you can get great tips, tidbits, and inspiration that you can take right back to your classroom. The first 5 are here and each Tuesday, a recap of the previous podcasts will be right on his blog.


When Opportunity Comes Knocking . . .


“Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself” ~Chinese Proverb


When I was trying to come up with a title for this post, I thought about what kinds of things I was sharing. I realized that much of it, while presented as tips, tools, and readings, are really opportunities. Opportunities for our own learning, opportunities for our students’ learning, and opportunities to try something new.

Opportunity #1

I am excited that the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course or #IMMOOC for short, is offering another opportunity for us to learn together as it is coming back for round 4. Whereas rounds 1-3 revolved around the reading and discussing of Couros‘ fantastic, thought-provoking book, The Innovator’s Mindset, this round includes two additional books to choose from: Katie Martin’s, Learner-Centered Innovation and A.J. Juliani and John Spencer‘s Empower. I loved participating in the previous round and looked forward to each week’s live video session as well as the weekly Twitter chat. If you would like to learn more about the previous round, you can read about it here.  This is a learning opportunity you will not want to miss.

Opportunity #2

This next opportunity is for World Language Teachers. Eric Curts always has great resources to share and this is no different. In his post, he shares 5 tools for increasing your students’ fluency with the target language including one that you probably had not thought to use this way. One of my colleagues has been using Google Hangouts with her students and she loves the authenticity of the conversations.

Opportunity #3

Equally as fantastic is this opportunity from Shake Up Learning to enhance your teaching life:  50 apps/sites that integrate with Google Classroom. As many of you know and can attest, Google Classroom makes your workflow that much smoother with your students. Having apps that integrate with Google Classroom makes using those sites even easier with their share to classroom option. I have personally used the Flipgrid, PBS Learning Media, Padlet, Nearpod,and Screencastify, as well as the Share to Google Classroom extension (which anyone who is using Classroom should immediately install) and find the integration to be seamless. It is really as easy as click, share, choose class, done!

Opportunity #4

While browsing the above post, I saw an opportunity to learn about a new resource and clicked on a site I had not heard of before– Open Ed. Open Ed is resources for teachers and students K-12 including videos, assessments, homework, lesson plans, interactives, and more. You can search by key word, grade, type of resource, standard, or school subject. Once you get your results, you can then share them with your students by printing or sharing to Google Classroom. If you create your free account, then you can create a class and assign things to your students individually, in groups, or as a whole class (similar to your options for assignments in Google Classroom). Your teacher dashboard shows you what you have assigned, what your students complete, how they did, and then offers specific additional resources for each student for each question they need more help with which you can then assign to those students. Talk about differentiation! Pop over to Open Ed to check out what they have to offer; you will not be disappointed!

Opportunity #5

This last site is an opportunity to engage your reluctant or struggling readers. A few weeks ago I heard about this next site and am excited to share it. Storyshares is a site dedicated to pairing books with struggling or disengaged readers that are compelling, age appropriate, and at the same time, are at their reading level. You can read about StoryShares here. What is great about Storyshares is it’s interactivity. You can search by interest level (late elementary through post high school), reading level (Fountas and Pinnell), or grade level (K-5). These are books written specifically to address the need for high interest and relevant books for those whose reading level is not the same as their age and maturity level. It’s really a win-win for everyone involved.

photo credit: PMillera4 Two Doors via photopin (license)

“Isolation is a choice educators make” #IMMOOC

12160694833I often start my weekly shares with my colleagues with, ” I found this on Twitter” or “I heard about this from so-and-so’s (most recently, “so-and-so” is often Alice Keeler, George Couros, or Eric Curts) post on Twitter.” I say that because at any given moment, one can learn so much so easily and without a lot of effort. Don’t get me wrong, when I say “without a lot of effort” I don’t mean that it is effort-less, I just mean that if you know what hashtags to look at (or even if you don’t and just do a search for a subject), who to follow, and then take some time to scroll through and look, you will most definitely find something new and interesting and with relative ease.

There is a quote by Steven Johnson from his TED talk, “Where Good Ideas Come From” that says, “Chance favors the connected mind.” This is one quote that I always come back to time and again and that I have written about before. I can honestly say that connecting with others via Twitter has been life changing for me as far as my professional life is concerned. Many of the books I read, things that I do with my students, and ways that I share are directly influenced by those I follow on Twitter.

In his book, Couros made a statement, “isolation is a choice educators make.” That is one decision I choose not to make.



More Highlights from The Innovator’s Mindset, Part III #IMMOOC


The last few weeks I have been a bit slow in sharing out my thoughts. To be fair, I was heading into and then out of an election and my evenings have been full. And then they were not and I was honestly just tired. But I am steadfast in my commitment to complete the book and share the highlights with those who have either read it, and can agree with me how thought-provoking and motivating it is; or who have not read it, and from these highlights will want to pick up their own copy and get reading.

Part III is no less full of quotables than Parts I and II. In fact, I had to be frugal so that there would be text left unhighlighted. With that said, the beginning of Part III is about seeing others’ strengths and dovetails nicely with the Positive Education that we are implementing here at my school. In fact I have recently watched Lea Waters TEDx talk on strengths-based parenting which speaks to parents as well as teachers about utilizing their children’s strengths and building on them as a way to maximize their potential (and moves away from a deficit model). As you read the highlights below, you will see the connection! It also addresses empowering learners (and, as you will read, we are all learners- teachers included), focusing on doing more with what you already have, and being open to sharing and learning with and from others.

Part III: Unleashing Talent

Chapter 8: Strengths-Based Leadership

  • What if we stopped operating on a deficit model that focuses on a learner’s weaknesses and started operating on a strengths-based model that builds on the learner’s strengths?
  • If we are going to empower our students, we must help them find what they love and create learning experiences that encourage them to develop their strengths.
  • Giving people license to take risks by tapping into their abilities helps create a space where innovative ideas and learning flourish.
  • By focusing on strengths first and building from there, as opposed to working from a deficit model that focuses only on where we need improvements, we create an environment where people feel they have a purpose in their classrooms and for the entire school.
  • Do we really think someone will be innovative in an area they hate?

Chapter 9: Powerful Learning First, Tech Second

  • Technology invites us to move from engaged to empowered.
  • Many technology departments, led by obsolete tech directors, are inadvertently inhibiting learning. The mantra of “lock it and block it” no longer works in a 21st-century digital learning environment.
  • What is best for kids?
  • How does this improve learning?
  • How often do we look at the possible reward associated with doing something?
  • Is this serving the few or the majority? This question is essential when we make any policies
  • Any time a new policy or procedure is presented for an entire school, we must ensure it does not punish everyone for the mistakes of the few. Innovative environments should be built on trust, not the lack of it.
  • Learners are the driver; technology is the accelerator.
  • In education, we are all learners.

Chapter 10: Less Is More

  • When educators and organizations feel overwhelmed by the number of requirements they have to meet, the focus in classrooms tends to be on covering curriculum, rather than focusing on the learning and exploring concepts in depth.
  • Living in a world with so much choice can make us miserable
  • In all aspects of education, what we learn is not as important as what we create from what we learn.
  • In education, understanding the community we serve is critical and necessary for innovation to flourish in each of our unique communities.
  • The basics are crucial, but they cannot be the only things we teach our students/
  • “‘Reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling'” ~Yong Zhao
  • As a school or system, when we limit our initiatives, tools, or techniques, we give ourselves time to discover what deep learning can really look and feel like.

Chapter 11: Embracing an Open Culture

  • Today, isolation is a choice educators make
  • It isn’t how much you know that matters. What matters is how much access you have to what other people know.
  • How do we make great learning go viral?
  • Social media is not meant to be another form of email, but, as my brother would say more like dipping your cup into a stream of information.
  • What really pushes our thinking is not consuming information, but reflecting, creating, and sharing our ideas with the understanding that others will read it.
  • Our world today is participatory; sharing should not be the exception in education but the rule.

Chapter 12: Creating Meaningful Learning Experiences for Educators

  • We often create what we experience, which means that to change what happens in schools, the experiences we create in our professional learning must first change.
  • How many of us purposefully and explicitly model the learning process for our children? ~Scott McLeod
  • How many of us purposefully and explicitly show our students what it means to struggle with learning, overcome obstacles, and emerge on the other side more skilled and more knowledgeable than we were before? ~Scott McLeod
  • Understanding the learning opportunities that we would like to create for our students begins by immersing ourselves in similar learning experiences.
  • “‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called  stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.'” ~Simon Sinek
  • If schools are ever to be truly innovative, leadership must be open to having people question, even challenge, current practices.
  • Challenge the notion of “we have always done it this way” by starting with the prompt, “why do we . . .?” 
  • “‘Does the process of school impede deep learning?'”

photo credit: ShellyS IMG_6668 via photopin (license)

Highlights from The Innovator’s Mindset Chapters 6 & 7 #IMMOOC


We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. ~John Dewey

This week I am sharing my highlights from the chapters 6 & 7 of The Innovator’s Mindset. These chapters focused on learning, particularly engagement vs. empowerment and solidifying learning through reflecting.

Some things resonated for me, specifically the quote from Bill Ferriter about empowerment, and the pages in which Couros juxtaposed School vs. Learning.

At first thought, engagement is something I believe we as teachers look for in our students- we want them to be engaged in the content, engaged in our class, actively doing; engagement is a good thing, right? Reflecting on Ferriter’s quote though, makes engagement more something we are doing to our students to get them to want to learn what we have to teach them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as Couros said, something we as teachers should keep in mind when our students are with us. Perhaps we can have both. Perhaps our students can be engaged and empowered at the same time- they can engage with our content and be empowered with choice to use their strengths and passions to share their learning, pursue their questions, and learn more.

I’ll leave you with these highlights.

Chapter 6

  • It is imperative that we teach learners how to be self-directed and guide their own learning, rather than rely on others to simply engage them
  • “Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula.” Empowering students “means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future.” ~Bill Ferriter
  • If you had to choose between compliant, engaged, or empowered, which word would you want to define your students?
  • “Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.” ~Harriet Rubin
  • Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them.
  • We need to create the same opportunities for our students as those we would want for ourselves.
  • Innovation cannot be relegated to a one-off event.
  • The shift in our thinking must focus on what learning truly can be, not what is has been.
  • School is scheduled at certain times. Learning can happen any time, all of the time.
  • School is standardized. Learning is personal.
  • School often isolates. Learning is often social.
  • School promotes developing your own questions and finding answers.
  • Thinking you already know the answer can keep you from exploring new options.

Chapter 7

  • Before we decide how best to communicate our vision, we have to establish one; we have to articulate the desired characteristics of our learners and the optimal learning environment.
  • The people who help set the vision and mission are most likely to embrace it.
  • If we want innovative students, we need to be innovative leaders and educators. If we want to create a culture of innovation  we must first focus on furthering our own learning and growth.
  • Providing choice allows students to build on strengths and interests to make learning relevant and fulfilling.
  • DEAR time should be an opportunity not only for reading, but to also “Drop Everything And Reflect.”
  • It is important that “innovation” does not become an event for our students but the norm.
  • Let’s start asking kids to find problems and give them a sense of purpose in solving something authentic.
  • Teaching students how to assess themselves, rather than just do it for them, provides another opportunity for reflection.
  • Portfolios are a great way for learners to share their knowledge and document the learning process.
  • Looking back helps students develop their own understanding of where they have been, where they are, and where they are going.
  • What if we recognized and built on learners’ strengths?
  • Dreaming is important, but until we create the conditions where innovation in education flourishes, those dreams will not become reality.

Highlights from The Innovator’s Mindset, Part 2: Chapters 4 & 5 #IMMOOC


There are many bold statements from chapters 4 and 5 that really resonated with me. I used italics to show my thoughts and immediate responses to some of them below. As I was adding the highlights, I saw them as tweets and responded to them like I would if I was having a conversation about them.

Chapter 4

  • If you are not trusted to make a common-sense decision, why would you go above and beyond to become innovative?
    • If educators and teachers are constantly being micromanaged and questioned about every little thing, rather than trusted to do what is best for the students in their class, they may be loath to take that risk and try new things because they are not given the benefit of the doubt that they can make these choices for the learners they have in their classroom.
  • If innovation is going to be a priority in education, we need to create a culture where trust is the norm.
  • If something works, other educators in the building would be expected to do it, thus creating more work for everyone.
    • Is it fair to hold teachers back who want to take risks, be innovative, do something different to engage their students? Is it fair to the children if the students in the class next door are doing things that they do not get to do because their teacher is not ready (yet)?
  • If what’s best for learners is our primary concern, equity of opportunities will be created at the highest levels, not the lowest.
    • We need to create a culture where teachers collaborate, share, and learn from each other so that when one does something different, others want to do it as well. We need to applaud and learn from each other.
  • To quote Steve Jobs, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.
  • Rather than limiting educators’ initiative, and thereby students’ learning opportunities, let’s create environments of competitive collaboration, where educators at all levels push and help one another to become better.
    • Yes! When we work as a team, we can push each other to create the best learning environments for our students.
  • Likewise, we must build and strengthen relationships with (and between) our educators so that every individual sees him or herself as an integral part of a larger whole.
    • Like pieces of a puzzle or colorful threads, we all bring something different to our school. When we all work together towards the same goal, we create a beautiful masterpiece. (I believe a similar metaphor came out in the live chat with @TaraMartinEdu)
  • Instead of fear driving us to a place where “no” is our default, we need to strive to create a “culture of yes.”
    • We need to find ways to make our ideas work rather than give in to our negativity bias and look at all that could go wrong. We need to think instead, “what could go right with this idea!”
  • Even if other teachers don’t use my suggestions or ideas the same way I do, the simple act of sharing sparks creativity as we tweak, alter, and remix what we and others do.
    • Sometimes we just have to put things out there in the hope that something will catch on. If we don’t put our ideas out there, there is 100% chance they will go nowhere.
  • Our job, sometimes, is simply to be the spark, help build confidence, then get out of the way.
    • Yes! We must have confidence in our teachers so that they will have confidence in themselves when it comes to taking risks and trying something new.
  • If we want meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind.
    • “Relationships, relationships, relationships” ~George Couros

Chapter 5

  • We’ve got to keep asking ourselves the question I posed earlier: Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?
    • Just as in design-thinking we start with empathy, designing a classroom experience needs to start with the needs of the learners. We must always keep the learners in mind and remember that the group in your room this year is not the same and may not have the same needs as the group you had last year.
  • Can you imagine going to a place everyday where you felt your voice didn’t matter?
    • I would think that at that point it becomes get in, do what you need to do, and get out.
  • If we want “innovation” to flourish in our schools, we have to be willing to immerse ourselves in the environments where it is going to happen.
  • Another thing we must be willing to do is remove barriers that challenge those we serve.
    • Sometimes it is as simple as moving the laptopcart into the classroom or removing the block on certain websites.
  • It is my job to learn first if I want to lead well. As leaders and innovators, it can be easy to want to rush into change before we’ve taken the time to really explore what that change could and should look like.
  • Being present, learning first, and leading with the learner in mind will help you grown as an innovative leader.
  • Innovative leaders help people continuously grow with small steps that build both confidence and competence, so they are more willing and able to become more innovative themselves.
  • Trying to put yourself in the place of those you serve is where innovation begins.
    • Perhaps we all need to spend a day or two in our students (and colleague’s) shoes to really understand their learning experience.
  • We rarely create something different until we experience something different.
  • People are less likely to take risks and try new things if they don’t see those above the in the hierarchical structure doing the same thing.
    • We all must be willing to do what we are asking of others.
  • Innovation often comes from conflict and disagreement, not in an adversarial way but in a way that promotes divergent thinking.
    • Right! It is when we are trying to make something better, easier, or different that leads to creative innovations. What do we need to do to make this better?
  • If you want to be an innovative leader, your role isn’t simply to come up with new and better ideas, but to involve your staff in that mission.
    • We are all in this together!

photo credit: Upupa4me green ~ 13 marker via photopin (license)

Highlights from The Innovator’s Mindset Introduction and Part 1 #IMMOOC

I am participating in the IMMOOC and enjoy being part of this group of learners. I thought I would share some of my highlights so those of you who have not read the book yet can get a sense of what you are missing.

From the Introduction . . .

  • We forget that our responsibility isn’t solely to teach memorization or the mechanics of a task but to spark curiosity that empowers students to learn on their own.
  • We need to change what school looks like for our students so that we can create new, relevant opportunities for them— for their future and for today.
  • We need to develop a shared vision, align expectations, and provide pathways to ensure that all teachers have the resources to learn, create, and innovate to meet the needs of today’s learners.
  • Schools, more than any other organization, need to embrace a commitment to continuous learning.

Part 1: What Innovation Is and Isn’t

Chapter 1

  • The word “innovation” must be more than a buzzword in education- we will have to know what it is, what defines it, and what it looks like in practice.
  • Innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better.
  • Innovation is less about tools like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things.
  • A teacher, as a designer and facilitator, should continually evolve with resources, experiences, and the support of a community.
  • Establishing an innovative culture doesn’t require transformation. However, it does require leaders who will develop and sustain systems that support “optimal learning experiences” and who value the process of creating and refining ideas.
  • “Innovative teaching is constant evolution to make things better for student learning.”
  • The question that must be asked every day is. “What is best for this learner?”
  • Starting with empathy for those we serve is where innovative teaching and learning begin
  • Questioning what we do and why we do it is essential for innovation.
  • When we think differently about the things that we are used to seeing daily, we can create innovative learning opportunities- for our teaches and students.
  • Designing solutions with both the Individuals’ Interests and the end goal in mind is crucial for any innovation to be successful.

Chapter 2

  • Innovator’s mindset can be defined as the belief that the abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas.
  • We must focus on creating something with the knowledge that’s been acquired.
  • The world only cares about- and pays off on- what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).
  • The Innovator’s Mindset- Belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas.
  • Our challenge as leaders is to think of new ways to do things so we can more forward.
  • We need to look at the realities of our situations and create something new. And it’s crucial that educators see this “inside of the box of innovation” modeled by administrators.
  • Having the freedom to to fail is important to innovation. But even more important to the process are the traits of resiliency.
  • As leaders, we need to develop a culture that focuses on doing whatever it takes to ensure that we are successful in serving all of our students.
  • The innovator’s mindset exemplified: Try, fail, and try something else until  you find or create a solution that works.
  • Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?
  • Consider your student’s learning experience from their point of view.
  • Do your students have opportunities to learn in ways that connect to their lives and make an impact on how they engage with others?
  • What is best for this student?
  • What is this student’s passion?
  • As educators, we can create better experiences for our students by tapping into their passions. To do so, we need to be intentional about learning more about our students and what they love.
  • What are some ways we can create a true learning community?
  • The experiences we create often make students dependent upon the teacher for learning.
  • By embracing the idea that everyone in the classroom is a teacher and a learner, we can create a community that learns from and teachers one another.
  • Regular feedback helps us reflect on how we are serving our current students.
  • If we are going to help our students thrive, we have to move past “the way we have always done it,” and create better learning experiences for our students than we had ourselves.
  • “Is there a better way to teach this lesson to meet the needs of these learners?”

Chapter 3

  • Great educators can work within the constraints of the system and still create innovative learning opportunities for their students.
  • Effective leadership in education is not about moving everyone from one standardized point to the next but moving individuals from their point “A” to their point “B.”
  • Making connections between the powerful ideas and information that’s being freely shared online allows educators to expand learning opportunities for their students.
  • Learning is literally a matter of creating new meanings, new neural networks, and new patterns of electro-chemical interactions within one’s total brain/body system.
  • Imagine how much deeper learning could be if “creation” was a non-negotiable in the learning for both us and our students.
  • When thinking about moving forward, focusing on the question, “What is best for these learners?” helps ensure you’re making the right decisions.
  • Questioning our efforts, progress, and processes is crucial to innovation.
  • Innovation is not about changing everything, sometimes you only need to change one thing.
  • I will learn from others to create better learning opportunities for others and myself.