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Posted by on in Early Childhood

letter flashcards

It’s becoming more and more commonplace to see programs using flashcards and worksheets in their attempt to jumpstart literacy development. These early academic activities are touted as best approaches and provide tangible take-homes for anxious parents who don’t want their children to “get behind.”

Unfortunately, what’s really important to early literacy is largely being overlooked and the best opportunities to make learning matter are going unnoticed.

These programs need to stop the nonsense and expense of fancy and unnecessary academic curriculum. Instead, there needs to be a focus on just 5 things, using an approach that is age-appropriate, meaningful, and purposeful to young children.  Research tells us that these 5 are the best predictors of early literacy:

speaking to child

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Posted by on in Tools, Shortcuts, Resources

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Videos can be a great way to deliver content learning to students. But how do you leverage video instruction to maximize learning? After all, school isn't the movies.

EDPuzzle

I use EDPuzzle to prep videos for instruction. You can sign up for free as a Teacher, upload and trim YouTube or other videos, and insert questions (quizzes) or prompts for students to answer or discuss during the video. Students sign in with a Join Code you give them or via their Google Classroom email.

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I recommend trimming videos to less than 10 minutes and include a question/prompt every 2 minutes or so. For example, I used a 5 minute video today and included 3 discussion prompts in it.

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Posted by on in General

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I am a teacher. For over three decades, I have taught in the public school system. Most of the teachers and administrators with whom I have worked have been focused on what is good, what is right, what is important for the students in their charge. The number one priority for all has always been the well-being – present and future – of the children who grace their classrooms.

Our system is not broken. We are not broken. Like any organization, there are areas that require attention, that demand improvement. But our system does not need to be demolished and buried. The work that we do must not be vilified.

I have two college degrees in education. I know educational theory and practice. I live it every day. I have seen programs come and go and come back again in a shinier package. I have watched as experts with little or no experience in this field craft legislation and directives that are meant to guide my instruction. I have watched as their solutions to correct the ills of this system crash and burn. Then, with my colleagues, I have endured the wrath of scorn for the failures produced.

Yet we stand strong and show up again and again, day after day to greet the children in our classrooms. We are not broken.

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Posted by on in Education Technology

In 2009, I attended the wedding of a good friend who wanted to wear a bow tie to the ceremony. He was opposed to wearing a clip-on but could not tie a bow tie. He told me he learned to tie it by watching YouTube. That resourceful friend is the first example in my memory of someone using YouTube to learn something new.

Today, it is well understood that YouTube is a great platform for learning. The iconic Crash Course channel has more than five million subscribers and teaches multiple subjects. TED-Ed makes high-quality short animated videos about many topicsThe Great War posts weekly videos about what happened in World War I exactly a hundred years ago in addition to many single-subject special episodes. By the time the channel is complete, it will be a massive open online course (MOOC) that gives learners an exhaustively deep understanding of World War I. Much like my friend learned how to tie a bow tie on YouTube, my wife and I learn how to make delicious meals from the Edgy Veg. One last example to drive this home - a family taught themselves how to build their own home by watching YouTube!

So Who Goes To This Website That Teaches People So Much?

The middle school, high school, and college students we teach don't just like YouTube - they are addicted to it. One study found 85% of Americans aged 13 to 24 regularly watch it and two-thirds of them say they "can't live without it." You can read the full report which puts average YouTube viewership for 13 to 24 year-olds at 6.2 hours a week, for yourself.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Last year, I participated in more Twitter chats than I can count.  I co-hosted 2 Edcamps and went to a national conference.  I even traveled to Australia to present at a conference!  But, there was one professional development experience that surpassed any of those events by far; and it didn't cost me anything.  I participated in the inaugural Shadow a Student Challenge!

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In my work with design thinking, the foundational premise is based on the concept of gaining empathy to understand how best to help others and solve the right problems.  As a result, School ReTool, IDEO, Stanford's d.schools, and the Hewlett Foundation combined forces to create a movement to excite school leaders in spending a day shadowing a student to provide powerful insights and experiences in better understanding the world we are creating for our students, and how we can make it even better.

Even though we could all say we went to school when we were younger and are surrounded by students all day, shadowing a student, as a student, provides a whole different context.  It took time to blend in and remind myself of the pace of the day and true shifts in the uplifted cognitive rigor in our classrooms.

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