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Posted by on in Education Leadership

In one of my favorite Portlandia sketches, everyone in Portland promotes their DJ night. Sometimes it feels like every teacher is turning into a blogger like citizens of Portland compelled to spin records. This is a fundamentally good thing: it allows teachers to share and access great practices while creating positive digital footprints. Here is some advice for teachers considering starting an education blog.

Why Blog?

You are a teacher in the United States of America. You work too hard for too little pay. Who goes to bed at night worrying about telling the world how great you are? No one, that's who. Teachers have to tell their own story. 

Further, we encourage students to create digital portfolios. Teachers need digital portfolios too. What better way to introduce students to digital portfolios than sharing your own?

Finally, you never know what the future holds. What if your dream job in another school opens? What if you have to move? What if your school has cuts? Be armed with a powerful digital portfolio to showcase what you do. Everyone has a resume. Your blog will make you stand out.

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Posted by on in Education Technology

Devices in classrooms can empower students when used effectively. But how do teachers know if they are integrating technology effectively? Here are questions to ask about time that help teachers use effectively integrate technology. 

What percentage of time are students in creative apps such as Synth, Tour Creator, ThingLinkJamboardCanvaFlipgrid, Google My Maps, Google Sites, etc? What percentage of time are students in Google Docs or a word-processing tool?

What percentage of time are students consuming from self-paced interactive tools such as video paired with EdPuzzleDesmos, Google My Maps, Google EarthThingLink, Google Expeditions, etc? What percentage of time are students learning from the teacher and a slideshow?

What percentage of time are teachers speaking to students one-to-one or in groups of five or fewer? What percentage of time are teachers lecturing to the whole class or not speaking at all?

The more a teacher increases the percentage in the first question and decreases it in the second question - the more effectively they are integrating technology.

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Posted by on in Professional Development

In Drive, Daniel Pink argues that mastery, autonomy, and purpose motivate people in their careers. A study by The Economist and Google for Education found that giving teachers autonomy makes them better teachers. For more information on the study:

Giving teachers autonomy with edtech spurs mastery and purpose while empowering them to innovate.

Do your district's professional development and edtech practices honor mastery, autonomy, and purpose? Are teachers trusted to use edtech? Is access to apps, websites, and new releases restricted? When leaders see new tools, do they have a sense of urgency to get them into the hands of teachers and students to create new possibilities?

Exploring the answers to those questions can only improve technology integration. Here are some approaches to technology integration and PD that empower teachers. 

Let teachers play. No perfect choreography necessary.

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Posted by on in Curriculum & Unit Design

I often find myself demonstrating this-or-that edtech tool to rooms of educators using content I taught in the classroom. Thanks to the The Great War YouTube channel spurring my interest, I often use World War I content. As I demo a tool or strategy,  I will ask the audience a World War I-related question. This is often met with blank stares. When I casually mention the Schlieffen Plan, I might as well be speaking Latin. 

What a teachable moment. A room of educators. All with advanced degrees. All so good at their jobs that they took the initiative to attend a conference to improve their practice. And these successful adults forgot everything they learned in high school about World War I.

This raises an important question in an age where technology liberates students from learning exclusively from school-provided materials: How does curriculum fit with personalization, technology, and empowerment?

I recently had this conversation some teachers at a conference. Like this blog post, we had more questions than answers.  We talked about how schools teach students both content and skills. A great argument about the value of skills in education is The Skills to Pay the Bills by Chris Aviles. In it, Aviles argues that focusing on skills is more important than memorizing facts. 

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

fidget spinner

As educators, we have all encountered colleagues bemoaning the rise of fidget spinners, whether in-person, on blogs, or on social media.

For some perspective, consider how people outside education view fidget spinners. Watch The Young Turks enjoy playing with them. Forbes magazine calls them the "must-have office toy for 2017." The sheer delight of staffers playing with fidget spinners at AJ+ bears this out. Most poignantly, YouTuber Bunny Meyer says, "I find...I've been struggling with depression and anxiety...and these things [fidget spinners] calm me down." Quick aside: How awesome would it be if we cultivated creativity in our students that resulted in them having eight million YouTube subscribers like Bunny Meyer does?

These positive takes are not surprising when you consider Nerdist's piece about how physics explains why fidget spinners are so fun. Non-educators think of fidget spinners as fun and comforting, so...

What does our discomfort with Fidget Spinners say about education?

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