Challenge, Listen, Create, Learn, Repeat

Photo by Tom Swinnen on

People always ask, how do you find the time to find the things that you share? First off, I am so lucky that my current position allows me to spend time looking for learning opportunities for myself, my colleagues, and my students. I have a schedule but I am not with students all day as many of my colleagues are because I go in and out of the different classrooms on a rotating basis. Additionally, I no longer have children at home as my oldest graduated from college this past May (#WeAre) and my youngest is a college sophomore (#GoQuakers) so after I take care of the J (16 year old Bichon) and give him sofa time, I am pretty much free to do what I want when the school day is over. I also found that working without the tv is helpful. Hence, the time both during the day and in the evening to get to do what I do and be able to share with you the things I am sharing today.

Social Media Simulators

First are some templates you and your students can use to share their learning and show their understanding of a character, event, story, or topic in almost any subject. The first is a Netflix template you can download to use with Keynote, PowerPoint, or Google Slides and the other is an Instagram template. Your students can easily show their understanding by creating a profile from the character’s point of view. Further clicking led me to the Twitter, Facebook, Time and Nat Geo magazine templates, as well as a link to a social media generator.

Writer’s Block

This next share is for our English teachers, budding writers, experienced writers who want to hone their craft and learn from an online community, or just those who enjoy writing and would like to exercise their writing muscle with random prompts. The Writer Igniter is a cool tool from DIY MFA where you are given a character, situation, prop, and setting (to me it sounds like the game Clue: Ms. Scarlet in the kitchen with a candlestick) and then you just start writing. For people looking for more, this site offers writing resources, an online community, podcast interviews with authors, and more.

Icons: More than Celebrity

I’m fairly certain I got this next site from a recent Matt Miller post but without going back in my history, I cannot be certain. I just know I have it open in a tab ready to share. It’s called, The Noun Project and it is basically a searchable set of free, downloadable (with your log in) icons for any noun (or verb, or adjective, or other part of speech including gerunds) you can think of– even “ugly sweater.” You can change the tilt angle, rotate it, add a shape, and change the outline color to get it exactly how you want it for your project. Kind of fun!

Front and Center

Sometimes having something front and center, staring you in the face, or just out on your desk where you can easily flip through and reference makes it more likely you will use it because you will be reminded of it. This downloadable image of four tools for learning from Pooja Agarwal is one of those things. It’s a simple mini-poster of the definitions of retrieval practice, spacing, interleaving, and feedback-driven metacognition along with downloadable guides for how to use these in your classroom. Who is Pooja Agarwal you ask? Well, you can check out these other posts where I have previously shared her great, research-based practices.

The Matrix

While scrolling through my Twitter feed this morning, I came to a guest blog post on Alice Keeler’s blog. It was written by Robert Kaplinsky and it is on depth of knowledge matrices. The first sentence of the post is like clickbait to me, “Ready for a problem that will make you rethink how we teach students mathematics?” Honestly, had that been the title of a Buzz Feed article, I think more than math people would click on it. But it wasn’t and I was not specifically looking for it but am so glad I scrolled by when I did because while the blog post has several, I repeat, several DOK matrices from elementary math through Calc. I am so glad I was reminded (I first wrote about him last February) of his cool math website, Open Middle which has math problems for literally every grade in school from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Click Here for Free Stuff

Now that I have your attention again, the above link is from We Are Teachers and it goes to their free, downloadable posters and lesson plans. Check out their upstander, character ed, historical figures, world language, math posters and the many others on the 21 pages for all areas of the curriculum.

And now for some professional learning and listening opportunities

I have been doing a lot of reading and personal work on culturally responsive teaching and mitigating implicit bias. It seems the more I read, the more that I find to learn, and the more articles like this from Medium that make their way to my inbox and Twitter feed. Most recently I read these articles from Edutopia, “Reflections on Becoming More Culturally Responsive”, “How to Audit Your Classroom Library for Diversity”, “Bringing a Culturally Responsive Lens to Math Class”, and “How to Make Social Emotional Learning More Culturally Responsive”.

Next is a podcast series, Neuroscience Meets Social Emotional Learning. It has 38 episodes ranging from 8 minutes to 1 hour and 8 minutes with the bulk being less than 30. I have not listened to any yet as I just happened upon them, but plan on listening to this one currently open in a tab, Dr. John Dunlosky on “Improving Student Success: Some Principles from Cognitive Science”.

For our 1st through 9th grade math educators and specialists, this summer you can pack your bags and head west to Denver or south to Texas (my directional perspective is from the northeast) to the [Co]Lab. At the [Co]Lab, you will learn and think collaboratively with other math educators from around the country about math practice and creating mathematical experiences that you can bring back for your young mathematicians (aka, your students). Even before you go, you can learn from their suggested readings, books, and articles, and resources including video playlists and free downloads.

For those teachers who would like to pack their passport along with their luggage can check out 5 Programs for FREE Teacher Travel (or “travel with great funding”). This site is run by a Boston public school teacher as a way to connect teachers who like to travel and travelers who like to teach so we can all learn from each other ways to combine these passions. A quick click on the “explore” will lead you to clickable categories, tags, and archives making it pretty easy to see what’s there for you. So, if you are looking to travel to reboot your teaching self or inspire your lessons, then check out what others have done, how they’ve done it, and give it a try.

Love of Learning

Willingness to learn is not age-related; it’s about mindset

If you want to grow as a teacher, learning will become a way of life (1404)

“If we want to change how students learn, we must change how educators learn.” (1510)

The three quotes above (and one below) are just a few of the highlights from our book study, Innovating Inside the Box: Empowering Learners Through UDL and the Innovator’s Mindset and I am using them here to introduce today’s post which centers on professional learning. I love to learn and as mentioned in previous posts, I am a learning junkie and I love sharing what I learn with others.

 It is also a good practice to create space within the standard work day to dig into research, collaborate, share stories with colleagues about classroom and student success, and test ideas

One of the new ways our school is promoting the importance of our own professional development is by being committed to providing time during the school day for learning and gathering. For our upper and middle school colleagues, this means offering sessions at various times during the week in our Teaching Resource Center. For our lower school, so far it means Lunch & Learns*. Today was the first webinar watch party lunch and learn session that brought together some of our lower school colleagues to watch and discuss a webinar. We then hosted another viewing of a similar webinar this afternoon. While the topics of the learning sessions or webinars are important, to me, the conversations that are sparked when professional educators get together to talk about practices, vision, ways we can make learning equitable and accessible to everyone is what I find exciting and energizing. Really, it’s the time to talk, connect, and further develop relationships that will then impact our students and the school environment that is the true benefit.

So, what did we what did we watch today? The topic was Culturally Responsive Teaching and included two webinars from edWeb: Culturally Responsive Teaching So All Learners Can Be Seen, and Getting it Right: Authoring Equity for All. EquitableYou can find the links to the webinars, resources mentioned in the webinars, relevant articles, podcasts, and additional webinars in this Wakelet.

*When I say, “so far it is Lunch & Learns” what I see is that that is only a first step. It is a good one, and I love it, but that time may not work for everyone and I want to be able to find alternate times during the school day that will work for many.

Oh the Possibilities!

Be intentional about making time to learn

~George Couros, Innovate Inside the Box
Photo by Pixabay on

I am regularly blown away by the sheer volume of information, resources, and opportunities for learning (our own and our students) there are out there. I am continually learning about new resources and tools each week and while it takes time to read, watch, listen, comb through them all, it is time I find worthwhile and purposeful. This week I will share a few with you.

Earlier this week one of my colleagues, a Pre-K teacher, and I took time outside of our learning day (we are empty nesters so we can do this) to participate in an edweb webinar, “Creating Fun AND Instructive Learning Centers”. The big takeaways for me were the importance of making the learning accessible and equitable for all students, the learning centers need to align with the topic, they need to be intentionally created, teachers need to help guide the conversations with the students at the centers, and follow-up activities to do or discuss at home is a way to bridge the home-school connection.

The biggest takeaways, though were the additional resources for continued learning. First, is the edweb community of educators and the calendar of FREE webinars and resources. Three of the things that makes edweb such a great resource are the different professional learning communities for educators (there are close to 100) to join and learn with and from (for free), the webinars that happen everyday at varying times throughout the school day (and just after), and the continuing education certificates you can get for your participation. Second is the PBS teacherline professional development opportunities. PBS teacherline offers online, facilitated courses for graduate credits searchable by grade level, subject, and hours; and self-paced courses searchable by subject that are 1 1/2 – 3 hour commitments in total and are available to you for one year from the time of purchase ($49/course).

Curiosity drives the acquisition of knowledge

~Amanda Lang

If the above quote is true, how do we promote inquiry and curiosity in our classrooms? When Couros posed a similar same question in the Innovate Inside the Box Facebook group, among the many responses was one from a teacher who shared that she uses the QFT technique with her students. Since I had never heard of the QFT technique, I went to find out. I will leave you with a bit of curiosity and let you follow up on the questions you must have. If you want to go even further than that, then this may be what you are looking for.

Happy Holidays: #DITCHSUMMIT 2017



Image from Pixabay

Folks, an AMAZING learning opportunity is coming your way in JUST 4 DAYS! Yes, starting this Friday, December 15, the @jmattmiller will be bringing together a host of fantastic educators and thought leaders for OUR benefit in what is called, #DITCHSUMMIT.

Each day for 9 days you will receive a link to the daily video. The speaker presentations will range from 30-60 minutes and will be available until the clock strikes midnight on December 31. After that time, they will *disappear*, much like Cinderella’s magic pumpkin.

Here is the list of speakers.

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If you do not know, DITCH is an acronym that stands for:






I participated in this last year and LOVED it. You can read my posts on it here and here.

*If you made it to this point in the post, then you can view all the #DITCHSUMMIT presentations from last year right HERE!


His Story, Her Story, Their Story, Our Story

11627048594I have had two tabs open in my browser for the last rotation and a half. Since my school is on a 7-day rotation, with each day being a letter of our school name,  that means this tab has been open since the previous P day. Today is E day. That is a long time to keep something hanging around but these two tabs are worth it and here is why.

The first is a blog post from the Cult of Pedagogy that got me from the title, Best PD Ever: The Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminars. At the time that I first saw this post, I was researching effective PD (which I then shared here) so of course I was going to open it up and read it. Gonzalez talked about a series of teacher seminars that immerse the teacher learners in the specific history experience during one week residential seminars. Depending on your area of study, this could be Mount Vernon for the George Washington experience, New York City for the 9-11 experience, or Missoula, Montana for the Lewis and Clark experience.

I had not heard of Gilder Lehrman so I went to visit their site. I have still not left. It is a veritable treasure trove of learning from all eras of history from The Americas and American Indians,  exploration to the present.  You can explore by era or by themes across time. There is so much here for history teachers, history buffs, students, or anyone like me who just likes to learn. There are primary sources like letters from soldiers that you can listen to while reading along, or this letter from a slave to his mother, or this one from Abraham Lincoln to his wife. They also have Multimedia like this one about Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass that I coincidently heard about during Dave Chapelle’s opening monologue on SNL, where Abraham Lincoln asked Frederick Douglass what he thought of his inaugural speech (Douglass was not allowed in to the White House because the guards did not know him. Lincoln saw him and shouted, “Let him in, he’s that’s my friend Douglass,”), or these about the Thirteen Colonies. There are Interactive features, teacher resources, video series, and so much more. The site is free to sign up and use, many things viewable without logging in. For educators there are professional development opportunities, online programs, self-paced courses,  summer seminars, teacher resources, and that is just the beginning.

To have this amazing collection of resources at your fingertips is incredible. While this post may be short, it is packed with information that I encourage you to spend some time checking out and then passing along.

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)



Two Days in Bootcamp: No Sweat


“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” ~Peter Drucker

Today was the second of two days of the Google Educator Certification Boot Camp led by Rich Kiker. If you have ever watched any of Lee LeFever’s in Plain English Commoncraft videos– and I recommend that you do because they are excellent explanations of what can be difficult concepts- you will absolutely think that Rich has been doing voiceovers and using a pseudonym because he sounds just like LeFever. But I digress. Rich made the two days of learning fun and informative and left many of us thinking, “Is there nothing that Google does not or cannot do or has not thought of!”

It is easy to get excited by the tools because Google has made it their business to make our workflow as simple, smooth, and as positive experience as possible.

Here is just a handful of things I learned today:

#1 Copy grades from Google Classroom to Sheets

If you are using Google Classroom and you are assigning points to student work, then you will want to choose the option to Copy All Grades to Google Sheets. Now all assignments, students, and grades are automatically added to a grade book that lives in your Classroom folder. Even better– this grade book can then be imported into tools like Power School and other online grade books that your school may use. Talk about ease of use and making life simpler for teachers, this one is amazing!

#2 Start a Google Hangout right from your calendar

Yes, that’s right. If you create a meeting appointment on your calendar, a link to a hangout is automatically created. If you invite someone outside of your organization, an invitation will be sent along with a link to join the hangout. You can open the event in your calendar and start the hangout when it’s time. Easy as pie.

#3 Senders Remorse or Undo Send an Email

Have you ever clicked send in an email and then realized there was a mistake, or worse- like Gloria in Modern Family you said things in the heat of the moment and wished you could un-send it? Well, now you can- within 30 seconds. In your mail settings you can enable undo send and choose from 10-30 seconds within which you will have that capability. Emails that you recall will automatically be moved to your drafts where you can leave it until you are ready to edit, send, or delete it.

#4 Right Click Your Way to Options

You may have used the right click/command click option in a window, document, or even a cell in Sheets, but have you right clicked on a tab in your Chrome browser? Try it.

#5 Step Onstage with the Orchestra

Have you ever dreamed of performing on stage at Carnegie Hall but you know it will never happen because you are not talented in that way? Google can put you on stage with their 360° experience. Give it a try!

For more on today’s boot camp, and to hear about some really cool tools you can check out my Storify of tweets. Trust me, there are things there you won’t want to miss.


photo credit: Tough Mudder Training Week 1 via photopin (license)