“Perhaps the greatest threat facing all educators today is the relentless national criticism of America’s public schools. The national narrative that is driving the negative public perception of education is leading to a decrease in public confidence and calls for reduced financial support. Today, educators face intense scrutiny and criticism, while what is right in American education is largely ignored.” Bammy’s Creators

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It is hard to believe David Prindle and I started #21stedchat in August of 2012, almost three years ago!  We started the chat because we wanted educators to create a positive 21st century learning environment for students by sharing resources and ideas that has worked in our classrooms and educational experiences. We have been more than pleased with how well it has gone and it has truly made me a better educator.

To this day David and I  have never physically met. We come from different worlds, David is a high school Forensic Science and General Chemistry teacher in MI, while I have taught mostly elementary in NC, but that doesn’t matter because along with all our #21stedchat members we all care about doing what’s best for students. Each week we have a different themes to discuss and in case you haven’t joined us for #21stedchat, it takes place every Sunday from 8:00-9:00 PM EST on Twitter.

We are humbled and honored to be nominated in the best Twitter Chat Community category.  We were nominated by the academy and we couldn’t have done it without all of our #21stedchat members. We want to thank you and ask that you please take a few minutes to vote for us here:  

It Takes a Village to Educate a Child

The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline award that identifies and acknowledges the good work being done all across the education village. The Bammy Awards was created in response to the tremendous national pressure on educators and education leaders to improve student outcomes, the impact of high-stakes accountability and the intense scrutiny that today’s educators face.

The awards aim to foster cross-discipline recognition of the collective contributions being made to educate children, encourage collaboration in and across the various domains, elevate education and education successes in the public eye, and raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field.

The Bammy Awards acknowledge that teachers can’t do it alone and don’t do it alone. The Awards aim to recognize the collaborative nature of education, to encourage respect in and across the various domains, to raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field and to elevate educators, education and the value of life-long learning in the public eye.

“I love technology, and I love new gadgets. I can no longer figure out how to use ay of them, but I love them.” Jerry Zucker

New technology gadgets are always coming out; check out some of these creative play gadgets to add to your classroom.

1. Ozobot

2. Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider Blue*

3. Spheros*

* Bonus both the MiniDrone and Spheros can utilize Tickle App to teach programing.

4. LittleBits

5. Fascinations First Time Clock Puzzle

6. Rubik’s Slide

7. Osmo

8. Roominate

9. Cublets

10. Moss

Be on the lookout for Bloxels which is coming soon! Please share any gadgets that you are utilizing in your classroom in the comments section.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” By George Bernard Shaw

Over the years, I have heard a lot of what I call “Yeah but’s”….these are the excuses/arguments educators make that usually have a fixed mindset verse a growth mindset. As a leader (you don’t need to be in a leadership position, to be a leader) you need to be able to navigate around the yeah but’s; here are a few I have heard with some possible solutions.

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1. “Yeah But…I don’t have the time to integrate ________ (fill in the blank technology, PBL’s, data analysis etc.)” Solution: Try to find a way to make it so they are saving time, see the value in it and how it connects to the curriculum. For example: start slow by offering to create a Project or Problem Based Learning (PBL) for them that matches the curriculum (which is modeling in a different form) and then scaffold by doing one together etc.

2. “Yeah But…My students don’t have internet at home.” Solution: This is becoming a myth because often time educators don’t take the time to survey their class to see if they have internet and just assume they don’t. More and more homes are getting internet over cable! I have worked with several Title 1 schools and once we ask ‘do you have internet?’ they realized it was maybe only one student and often times the whole class did. (I do suggest a survey that is anonymous as you don’t want anyone to feel bad they don’t have internet). Another solution that has helped was creating a list of free wi-fi around the city/town. I often found that parents don’t realize they could get free internet at McDonald’s or the Public Library etc.

3. “Yeah But…I don’t want to have 1:1 devices in my classroom because students might cheat and I can’t control what they are doing on the device.” Solution: Sometimes explaining this is true but it is also true for paper and pencil classrooms helps educators to see more solutions verse seeing it as a problem. Empower the educators by asking what they would do if a student was not doing what they were suppose to be doing on the task given. This shows them the same classroom management that they have been using can still apply. You can also offer tips and tricks in classroom management that can help combat this. For example: Rearrange the classroom so that when the teacher is working with a small group, the students screens are facing them. (You want to be looking at the back of the students heads) This way they can see if they are on task by looking at their screens and feel more in control. There are also solutions like Nearpod that control the screens of devices; I am not a big fan of this as we need to build student ownership but it is a way to sometimes help educators that are reluctant.

4. “Yeah But…Google Apps for Education (GAFE) is too difficult and too much to keep up with in the classroom.” Solution: Again, like I said in the solution for how to integrate, try to find a way to make it so they are saving time, they see the value in it and how it connects to the curriculum. Model using something like Google Forms to create an assessment and then adding in Flubaroo so they can see how it can save them time from grading the assessment.

5. “Yeah But…Parents do their homework when I give them homework online.” Solution: Try explaining how giving any type of homework, parents can do their work for them. The key is to give quality homework that kids want to do and at their level so then they don’t need their parents help. Try creating a choice menu board for homework where students choose what they want to do.

6. “Yeah But…I only have a few computers in my room.” Solution: There are several ways to combat this one. Try creating a schedule to rotate the computers so the teacher can ‘see’ the management of it. Also show how in a true blended learning model you only need a few computers and offer some tips and tricks.

7. “Yeah But…My students aren’t motivated.” Solution: This is a hard one as usually it is not because the student isn’t motivated but because the lessons aren’t engaging. If the lessons aren’t engaging you can offer to model some lessons that are engaging or show how adding student choice is a huge motivation booster for students, even when it is only between two options. If it is the student, there are a few tips and tricks that you can offer that educator to help them with students motivation such as getting to better know their students’ interests and passions.

8. “Yeah But…rigor is overrated and just a catch-phrase.” Solution: I agree that the word is over used but I remind teachers the true essence of rigor a best practice. “Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at a high level, and each is supported so he or she can learn at a high level, and each student demonstrates learning at a high level.”  (Blackburn, 2008) A great resource to offer is Rigor is Not a Four-Letter Word by Barbara Blackburn.

9. “Yeah But…I need to prepare my students for _____ (fill in blank with middle, high school or college) so the desks need to be in rows and I need to lecture.” Solution: It depend on which level you are working with. For those educators that say because they are going to middle school, have them tour a middle school to show how that is not what middle school is looking like any more, especially with more blended learning happening. For high school and college yes they haven’t changed as much but they are starting to. I try to explain that we need to do whats best for students and show the research behind best practices. For example the mini-lesson verse lecture. I use Salman Khan as my example and why he only does 10 minutes or less videos on Khan Academy. For the classroom design I use brain based research tips along with explaining how the workforce has changed.

10. Turning any “Yeah Buts” you hear into goals is another great way to combat the negative and turn it into a positive solution.

I would love to hear any yeah buts you have heard and a possible solution to add to my toolkit.

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” By Robert McAfee Brown

A few years ago I wrote a blog post on Tools for Using Digital Storytelling in the Classroom and a lot has changed in digital learning so I wanted to do a sequel. Many of the tools in the first digital storytelling post I still use along with Digital Storytelling with Tellagami App. Below are a few more I have added to my FREE Digital Storytelling Tool Kit.

Apps:

ChatterPix Kids: Is a user-friendly app that allows students to chose a picture and make it talk in 3 easy steps. One take any photo, two draw a line to make a mouth, and three record your voice. (They also have a ChatterPix for students that are 13 and up).

Imagistory: Is a wordless app where students become the creator of the story based on the pictures they see. It is a great way to see if they have mastered plot diagrams.

Storehouse – Visual Storytelling: Is an app that allows you to use picture to create a story. It is a great way for students to present using just pictures and let them show mastery of the content.  I had a student app smash using ShowMe and Storehouse and present (explain) on how to multiply and divide fractions only using pictures….now that shows true mastery!

Adobe Voice: Is an app that records your voice, imports pictures, and allows you to write text to create a short video.

Webtools:

Google Story Builder: Is a great collaborative web tool that can be used in so many ways. One of the students favorite ways I have used it was updating the old school “story carousel” where you start a story and then pass the paper to a classmate after two minutes and repeat a few times and see what the story ends up as. Instead of passing the paper, the students do it collaboratively in the document.

Storyjumper: Students can create ebooks for free. (If you want it as a hard cover book, that is when you have to purchase)

Fodey: The site isn’t visually pleasing but it gets the job done. Create a newspaper articles using this site.

Dvolver Moviemaker: Using avatars create a story and turn it into a movie.

Both App and Webtool:

Make Beliefs Comix: Who doesn’t love creating comic books! This is a simple user-friendly

Please add in the comments your favorite FREE app/webtool for storytelling so we can add it to the toolkit.

“I’m constantly going through the motions down a path that has chosen for me by others. When is it going to be my turn?” by 7th grade student

Many of you know I read a lot of education books as I am always improving my craft, practice and ideas. I highly suggest adding Learning Personalized: The Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom by Allison Zmuda, Greg Curtis and Diane Ullman to your book lists. This book, unlike other Personalized Learning books I have read, concentrates on the pedagogical shift to student centered learning. It addresses how technology is only a vehicle in the process but the change really occurs when the teacher makes the shift in the role from lecturer to coach. The book offers practical advice, suggestions and resources including examples as models.

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From the Author: Allison Zmuda

How do we create assignments and classroom cultures that treat students as active partners in their own learning? Learning Personalized: The evolution of a contemporary classroom describes a vision of how to deeply engage students through the development of rich and complex ideas, problems, and inquiry; design and revise a plan, and communicate to the target audience.

Our vision is that personalized learning is a better way to accomplish disciplinary and cross-disciplinary outcomes and grow people. The heart of the book is the Personalized Learning continuum (you can find it by clicking here). We propose that every educator or staff can identify where existing policies, practices, and assignments lie and how one can envision what ideas might engage and deepen student thinking and development.

The book is organized around the twelve elements with clear explanations and related examples from around the world. We are grateful for the wonderful collaborators and contributors to the book, but we always are inspired by examples and ideas. Please visit learningpersonalized.com to share your inspiration and learn from the good work of others.

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” by Daniel J Boorstin

I was at an educator event this week and I learned about #eduin30 and was so excited about it. George Couros is the creator and wrote a blog post you can find here on #eduin30. In a snapshot, I think it is the BEST PD in 30 Seconds and Couros tagline says it all: Bite-size Learning For Hungry Educators.

Course also asks a different question each week to guide the videos too. He posts them on Friday giving educators ‘time’ to reflect and post.  Here are the different weeks Tweeter feeds with the question that was asked.

Week 1. What is one practice in your classroom that you would like to share? #eduin30w1 (March 6th, 2015)

Week 2.  What do you look for in a principal? #eduin30w2 (March 13th, 2015)

I learned some great ideas from following #eduin30. Will you be adding to the hashtag? I will be. :-)

“If you don’t much care where you want to get to, then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.” By The Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

One of my favorite conference is NCties, an ISTE affiliate for North Carolina, and I look forward to it every year. Below are only some of my take-aways, as I didn’t want to overwhelm everyone so I filtered through my notes and chose my top 5-ish (because you will see I sub-resources of my top 5) and they are not in any particular order.

  1.  Todd Nesloney
  2. Kevin Honeycutt
  3. Richard Byrne
  4. Resources based on tweets from #NCTIES
  5. My Favorite Tweets
    • “School shouldn’t be something kids are surviving. It should be the highlight of their day”
    • If we want learning to change for students we have to change the way we do PD for educators. @web20classroom
    • When a teacher asks: “Who doesn’t have Internet at home?” the kid hears “Who is poor & pathetic” @gwynethjones

Bonus: Here are all the #NCTIES15 resources from all sessions: j.mp/20ncties15

From my session was on how we rolled out Personalized Learning in our district. Here is our information: pl.cmslearns.org and come see Personalized Learning in action! Sign up for a tour on April 2nd, 2105. More Info

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