Weekly Share: 7 for the Price of One (Tab)

2645519906Hello folks, this has been quite a week of learning and I am looking forward to sharing some tips, videos, sites, and more with you.

I love when I find great things to read, watch, and ultimately share and this week was no different. I had several tabs I was viewing and decided that I would use my One Tab extension and share them with you as a web page and then discuss a bit more in depth each item in the collection.

–> So here is the collection of items for you. Click please.

Now let’s take a look at what you will find when you open it up to reveal the tabs- it’s like “the gift that keeps on giving” to steal a well-used catchphrase from commercials past (but interestingly enough started with the phonograph).

Tab #1 EdTech Teacher Boston Innovation Summit is being held on November 2-4 and  will feature innovative-ways-to-use-your-device workshops, design thinking, project based learning, and more.

Tabs #2, 3 and 4 are all on personalized learning. The first is a post from Jackie Gerstein where she speaks to the differentiation that comes when you offer open-ended  learning activities like those you might offer in a maker-space. Tabs 3 and 4 are articles from Mindshift @KQED that are referenced in Jackie’s post and delve more deeply into what it means to really personalize learning for each student and then suggests step-by-step ways to do this. Spoiler alert: there are a couple very good charts!

Tab #5 features Sal Khan of Khan Academy speaking for a PBS special, “TED talks: Education Revolution” that aired September 13, 2016 (yes, that was just the other day if you are reading this fresh from publishing date). Khan speaks about students mastering a topic before moving on to the next and uses analogies like this to make his point,

Would you choose to build a house on top of an unfinished foundation? Of course not. Why,then, do we rush students through education when they haven’t always grasped the basics?

Tab #6 is really fun. If you are like me and love to watch Jimmy Fallon and his games (though, I must admit that I am unable to stay up late to watch and watch it on DVR during the afternoon), then you will love this hilarious way to use and practice vocabulary in your classroom! Word Sneak is a game for two players (though I think you could adapt this for more) who are given a list of words that they must seamlessly sneak into the conversation. To make it work, the kids really need to have a good understanding of the meaning of the word– a great way to have fun while learning!

Tab #7 is from a favorite of mine- yes, PBS Learning Media. This time it’s their Back to School edition highlighting some of their excellent lessons. If you scroll down, you will see 60-Second Presidents- perfect for an election year (and President’s Day) like this one!

Looking for MORE? Pop over to the Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition paper.(li)



Games, Techniques, and Game Changers



“I am still learning” ~Michelangelo

This week was a busy week of reading and learning. I had about 20 tabs open in my browser of articles, posts, and videos waiting for me to sit down and take the time to view. Since it is a snowy day off, today is the day I will plow through them so I can share the learning with you.

Students as Problem Finders

“A great teacher makes themselves obsolete.” ~Vicki Davis

First on the docket is this podcast from George Couros and Vicki Davis. This episode is the 2nd in a series about The Innovator’s Mindset, written by George Couros, and it is about teaching children to become problem finders- to not just solve problems you give them, but to find problems that they want to solve. Students will not be with us forever, we need to teach them how to be independent, seek out learning opportunities for themselves, and take initiative.

Minecraft is Coming to a Classroom Near You!

This next is going to be very exciting for all of the Minecraft enthusiasts, especially your students. Microsoft, who purchased Minecraft in 2014  has announced a Minecraft Education Edition for schools that will launch this summer. As teachers, many (or some) of us, might be loath to introduce something in class that we are not familiar or comfortable with. What we need to do is set aside our fears and allow the students to become the teachers– let the students show us how Minecraft works. The Minecraft Edu Edition is going to have a community resource area for teachers to share their Minecraft settings so others can use them with their students. Check it out– there are already some starter lessons including the Pyramids of Giza and the Temple of Artemis.

iPad 9.3 Update is a “Game Changer”

If you are using iPads in the classroom this next article is for you! The new iPad update 9.3 will now allow for multiple users on one iPad with the addition of user profiles. Now if you are a teacher in a classroom (or even an adult with children who share your iPad) where iPads are shared with another classroom or amongst multiple students in your class, this new update will  be extremely helpful for you. One of the features is the ability for student work to be automatically saved to their own profile making loss or accidental deletion by another user a thing of the past! For more on this update, see here.

Let’s Discuss

I love this post from The Cult of Pedagogy (which includes a podcast if you’d prefer to listen) because it has ideas– 15 to be exact– you can start using right away to get the conversations flowing in your classroom. There are some excellent discussion techniques/formats divided into low prep (you can insert them on the fly), high prep, and ongoing strategies including the Fishbowl, Socratic Seminar, Philosphical Chairs, Pinwheel and 11 more AND each comes with a link to a video of how the particular technique works. So with this article you get the audio, the text, and the video!  I like that in addition to sharing the ideas and how to implement them, Jennifer includes variations on each. Many of these formats can be used from as young as elementary school.

What’s the Scoop?

I learned about Jellybean Scoop the other day and think it’s an excellent site to add to your toolbelt. Jellybean Scoop is a non-fiction news and high-interest stories site geared to appeal to younger students incuding beginning or reluctant readers. The site is divided in to news sections like World News, Inspirational and Health, Nature and Science, Fun Facts, and Odd News, and the stories are leveled for beginning, intermediate, advanced, and fluent. Each articles come with audio so that students can listen to the article making it the perfect site for your early elementary or ELL students. Additionally, each article comes with vocabulary, word and sentence builders, comprehension, and print options to engage your students. Teachers can create and account for as few as 25 and as many as 100 students.

Khan and Pixar: A Match Made in Learning Heaven

What I love about technology is the opportunity to learn something new everyday. Now there is one more thing we can potentially add to our repertoire thanks to Khan Academy and Pixar: Animation. Khan and Pixar have released a free online course that is sure to make aspiring animators very happy. If you have ever spent time learning on Khan Academy, you know that the courses are well laid out and they make difficult content easier to learn so you can feel successful. This is definitely one to check out!

Want more great information? Check out this week’s Shipley PLN Lower School Edition!

Science, Google, Growth Mindset and More

“The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.” ― John DeweyExperience and Education

In honor of Earth Day and because I am a huge fan of Zaption, here is a Zaption tour on the Super Powers of Trees. Share with your students as a whole class and use the questions as discussion prompts, or share via your Edmodo class page and have your kids take a look tonight for some Earth Day fun. Be sure to browse all the Tours available for your use or remixing!

If you are someone who loves Science, teaches Science, wants to learn more about how memory works, or are just a Physics buff, you will enjoy this post 15 Science YouTube channels Kids Love. These channels explain science, they are not just how tos.

New features are coming all the time to Google Classroom, and today I learned about a few more. Now teachers can invite other teachers to be part of their classroom (think student teachers, co-teachers, etc) making sharing what’s going on and multiple teachers assigning work (or knowing what work your students have from other teachers) that much easier. The next is the ability to create an assignment and save it as a draft to post later. If you have other ideas, Google is happy to listen so think about what you would need from Google Classroom and let them know.

While we are almost at the end of April, it is still poetry month and so I thought I would pass this along to you. More likely something you might be interested in for yourself, or if you are a high school English teacher you might want to share with your students. This is the Library of Congress’  Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature where you can hear authors like Margaret Atwood and Ray Bradbury reading some of their poetry and giving commentary along the way. For more poet interviews (including spotlights on Hispanic writers, African writers, and more) both recorded and written, see here.

Some of you have started using Thinglink with your students as a way for them to share information about a topic. Richard Byrne shares how you can use your Thinglink classroom account and the Remix feature (where you take a Thing that’s already been made and remix it your way so you are not starting from scratch) to create review lessons for your students. This post is specifically about using it for map review, but I can see it easily being used for other purposes around your curriculum (Science you can have an image the students need to label, English they can answer Qs about a novel, etc).

We talk regularly about formative assessments, but have you thought about having your students use photos, screenshots, screencasts, and videos to find out what your students learned or found interesting today? Take a look at this article from Edutopia to see how your students can share artifacts of learning using digital media.

This next post by The Nerdy Teacher is about The next best thing to being there. The Nerdy Teacher, aka Nicholas Provenzano, is a 9th grade English teacher. He was going to be out of class at a conference for a few days but wanted his students to go on in class as if he was still there. He created some screencast of himself reading 4 different Emily Dickinson poems that he then wanted students to discuss. Since he was not going to be in class, he had the students do a “Silent Discussion” using their Google Classroom stream as their platform. You can read about it here. What he saw was how much discussion and interaction happened around these poems both during classtime and after it ended. It went so much better than he thought that he wondered if he holds his students back during discussions by being too involved himself. So, if you are going to be out of school for a day or two, why not be there virtually instead! For more ways to have class discussions where everyone gets a chance to speak up, not just the ones raising their hands, try Todays Meet, or if your classroom is on Twitter, use a hashtag to have a class chat.

I have shared several articles and posts on Fixed v Growth Mindset and today I am sharing one more. This one however, is a lesson plan developed in partnership with Khan Academy and it can be used over a few days with your students. It incorporates videos, discussions, and hands-on activities that help your students see that they can make a difference in their own learning, understanding and intelligence. I think this would be a great set of mini lessons to do with your students as you approach the end of the school year because it can be used in part as a reflection of their learning while they share information with future students of your classroom.

It’s About Passion

If you don’t have passion for what you do, then what you are doing will do you in.

Just my opinion of course, but I think passion is the key to turning a “job” into a vocation. After all, when you love what you are doing, it ceases to be just a job.

And, I also believe that for students, having a teacher who is passionate about their subject, who is passionate about teaching, makes all the difference in the world with respect to students’ interest and enjoyment of the class, and, I believe, their performance.

Case in point: my son who is a junior in high school has the most amazing US history teacher. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject is palpable. The students eagerly go to his class and engage with the material and the teacher in a completely different way. They are not memorizing facts and figures, they are discussing motivation, reasoning, impact on society and impact on their lives. Now, one could say that passion alone will not make a student like a class or even do well in a class. But I will say that it is a large part of what makes a class or subject come alive for them.

Case in point number 2: I happen to have introduced coding to my eighth grade students during the Hour of Code this past December. Many of the students enjoyed it so much that I decided to suspend my regularly scheduled class programming so the students (and I) could explore a bit more of the coding. We are using code.org and Khan Academy and we spend about 48 minutes once a cycle solving puzzles and creating code. It’s been very exciting. One of my girls who started off as a reluctant participant (she preferred the discussions we were having over the coding we were/are doing) told me today that she is going to be participating in the LEAD program this summer and she will be continuing to learn computer programming! Now this is quite a turn around for this student who begrudgingly started coding with me just a short time ago. But, because of the excitement and enthusiasm in our classroom environment, she has become excited and enthusiastic about learning how to code! Quite wonderful if I do say so myself.

SO what can we as teachers do to keep the passion alive?

  1. I think we need to begin every year as if it is our first. We should not just open our plan books to see what we did last year at this time. New students, new interests, new personalities, teach them differently; one size does not fit all.
  2. Try something new. Coding is not something I knew a lot about. I had taken a Coursera course from Stanford, which I loved, and tinkered around in Tynker, but it was not until this year that I really began embracing the excitement and challenge of solving these puzzles.
  3. Keep learning. As John Cotton Dana says, “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
  4. Find other teachers to learn with and from- create your PLN
  5. Lastly, take risks. There is nothing difficult about doing everything the same. It’s easy certainly, and comfortable, but you can’t grown when you don’t change.


One Size Fits All? Some?

I just read @CrudBasher’s post: The Learning Equation and began to think about a particular statement he made,

I think the goal of education should be to develop every child’s gifts and aptitudes to their furthest potential. As all children have different gifts they will all turn out differently.”

I agree wholeheartedly with what Andrew says and think that most teachers would as well. What I’m wondering is what the stakeholders in the school districts have to say is their goal for students. Because, when you look around at the classrooms that are still set up the same way they were 25 and 50 years ago, and you look at the standardized tests and the information that is deemed “necessary”* for people who want to be educated, it would seem to be that there is a disconnect between what is written, what is expected, and what is actually happening.

Here is what I mean: now, I have not actually asked superintendents of schools what their goals are for the students in their district, but I’m guessing that they have a mission to educate all children. But educate according to the standards set forth by the state. What I am confused about is the one size fits all curriculum that is then enforced (for lack of a better word). What Andrew and then Salman Khan in his video (embedded in Barras’ post) say is that even though the students are all in school for the same amount of time (give or take), some achieve better than others. Everyone is taught the same things, but not everyone comes out on top. So it is obvious that the one size fits all approach is not working.

In his comparison of education of the past (even present) and his vision of education 20 years from now, Khan said that students go to school for a fixed time from K-12, then some add 4 years for college. At that point, “you are 22, now you will not go to school anymore.” The learning is done. Andrew said something similar in his post titled Education Reform is About Time:

“Even if you factor in high school and college, you still had to be done by the time you were 22 or so.”

Schooling as it has been historically, has been about going to school from a certain age, being in classrooms with children of the same age, learning what is supposed to be taught (if one wants to be educated), and then moving out to the working world. It is no wonder that I have heard kids say they can’t wait to be finished with school. I even said it myself at one time (we’re talking many years ago while still in high school–now there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not looking to learn more).

When students are not taught material they are interested in, or are allowed to pursue their own passions, why shouldn’t they want to just be finished with school? The school is being done to them. For some, the achievers, it’s ok, they still achieve. But what about the children who learn differently, who are not motivated? What happens to them? They are in school the same amount of time (give or take) as the achievers, but they do not achieve.

And so this is where technology comes in. And differentiation. And sharing learning with others. Because it is technology which will allow for “customization” as Barras says, and “credentials” as Khan says in his video. Technology will allow us to change the question from, “what did you earn in school” (GPA), to “what did you contribute to society?”

photo credit: Derek K. Miller via photo pin cc

* Seth Godin defined “necessary” so clearly in his book, Stop Stealing Dreams when he said

For a long time, there was an overlap between the education that the professions rewarded and the education that we might imagine an educated person would benefit from.