“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” by Malcolm X

Below are some websites that you should add to your toolkit of resources for your classroom for both you and your students to utilize. I like them all but did add an asterisk next to my favorites. Some are new while others are oldie but goodies

Create Engaging Video Lessons: Metta, Zaption, Vialogues, Ted-Ed*, EdPuzzle* and Google Forms*

Virtual Field Trips: 3D Gallery, Google Cultural Institute, Google Lit Trips*, Google Trek*

Presentations: PowToon, Prezi, Haiku Deck, Emaze, Piktochart

Interactive Sites: Blendspace*, Thinglink* GooseChase* Canva

Assessments: Quizizz, Jeopardy labs, iClickerKahoot*, Plickers*, Google Forms*

Content: iTunes U, Open Ed, Newsela*, Crash Course* a You Tube Channel by John and Hank Green (Yes the author and his brother)

“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” By William Pollard

It is a simple question you need to ask yourself as an educator; are you helping to inspire your creativity or are you stifling them? Are you allowing the students voice and choice or are you (the teacher) always needing to be in control? Are you asking the right questions through exploration or are you demanding right answers? See what happens when third grade students think there is a correct answer:

Interesting isn’t it! If we give our students a safe learning environment with a foundation but allow there to be no ceiling, they have room to be creative and still master standards. If you have not seen Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? It is a must watch.

How can you foster more creativity in the classroom? Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Allow student voice and choice on assignments

2. Model creativity.

3. Incorporate Genius Hour into the schedule

4. Help students believe in themselves to be creative (sometimes we stifle this by setting limits without meaning too – such as rubrics)

5. Think about how you ask the question and what your expectation is for the students to answer

6. Encourage Design Thinking (Here is a previous blog post on this)

7. Assess in different ways. Allow students to show mastery through an iMovie or Skit, it doesn’t always have to be paper/pencil.

8. Allow for mistakes and a safe learning environment

9. Not everything needs a grade. Create some assignments to help students master a skill but don’t grade them, use them for feedback and improvement which fosters creativity.

10. Get out of the students way

Further reading on creativity:

Why Creativity Now? 

Fundamentals of Creativity

Sparking Student Creativity: A Practical Ways to Promote Innovation Thinking and Problem Solving

“Dispositions to learning should be key performance indicators of the outcomes of schooling. Many teachers believe that, if achievement is enhanced, there is a ripple effect to these dispositions. However such a belief is not defensible. Such dispositions need planned interventions.” – John Hattie (2009), Visible Learning

Teaching non-cognitive skills (also known as life skills, soft-skills, dispositions, habits of mind) are just as important as teaching our students the cognitive skills. Non-cognitive skills are traits and skills that help students (really everyone) facilitate success in everyday life. Non-cognitive skills are attributes teachers strive to foster in students. These skills seldom stand alone and are even more important in this day of age where almost everything we do is working with others.

There are many non-cognitive skills such as the famous four C’s of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication but we need to go beyond just them and think about how learners need to also be reflective, adaptable and flexible as well.

3 Quick Strategies to Embed Non-Cognitive Skills into the Classroom:

1. Praise effort, not ability and have students reflect on their work.

2. Highlight skill and talk about it purposefully. This could be done in morning meeting, classroom meeting or part of a lesson. It could also be when you notice a student, character or someone famous doing an exemplar job at one of the skills you could make it apart of a discussion.

3. Have a Genius Hour, Makerspace and/or Experiential Learning area where students can explore and tinker.

More Books/Articles on Non-Cognitive Skills:

The Need to Address Non-Cognitive Skills in the Education

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” By Rollo May

A backchannel is a great way your classroom can have a digital conversation. When using a backchannel in your classroom it is important to have clear expectations of how to use it. When doing an activity with a backchannel (really it should be when doing any classroom activity) make sure you set the purpose and have an outcome for the activity. Below are some reasons to use a backchannel, ways you can add it into your classroom and sites you can get started with.

Reasons to use a backchannel: 

1. It allows all students voice to be heard

2. It provides students with an outlet to engage in conversation (especially for those that are introvert/shy)

3. It allows the student to participate at their own pace

4. It is a written representation of what happened in the classroom

5. It helps build classroom community (if used correctly and with expectations)

Ways you can add it into your classroom:

1. Hold discussions about a book or other topic (especially for when watching a video clip to share thoughts)

2. Brainstorm ideas for projects, writing etc

3. Informal assessment/exit ticket or to poll student responses

4. You or students can provide links to resources and other rich media

5. As a ‘help desk': Students can pose questions and you or your students can answer and help.

Sites to utilize for a backchannel:

1. 81 Dash is the newest and so far one of my favorites. I love that it works easily with Google Classroom.

2. Today’s Meet

3. Backchannel Chat

4. Chatzy

5. Twitter – This one I recommend if you have students that are older, such as High School or College but also can be great for educators  during Professional Learning. You can also use Padlet as a backchannel but it can be used for so many other things as well, it is not solely for back-channeling.

I would love to hear your reasons to use a backchannel, ways you add it into your classroom and/or sites you like for a backchannel.

My #ISTE2015 Round Up

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” By Leonardo da Vinci

It is hard to believe that a week ago was the first day of #ISTE2015! There was over 18,000 educators from all over the world at the conference in Philadelphia, PA. There was great sessions, keynotes and my favorite networking with my PLN! Below are my top three ‘items’ from ISTE that I rounded up from my notes:

Google Cardboard Expedition

1. Google Reveals: #GoogleEdu
  • Google will allow developers to embed a “share” button that allows teachers and students to share resources to Google Classroom. More than 20 educational content and tool providers have already committed to integrating the Classroom share button.
  • Google is rolling out an API that lets developers integrate their tools with Classroom.
  • Google Expeditions (using Google Cardboard) allows you to take a virtual tour through museums.
  • Google Classroom mobile notifications: In the next few weeks, Google will be adding mobile notifications in their iOS and Android app. Students can immediately see when they’ve got a new assignment or grade, a note from their teacher or a comment from a fellow student.
2. Resources for STEM schools and Makerspaces:
  • MakerBot launched an education site. You also can have a free download of ‘Makerbot in the Classroom’ which includes an introduction to 3d printing and design along with lesson ideas etc. www.makerbot.com/education and @makerbotedu
  • IgnitEDLearning features teacher designed projects around making and circuits.
  • The Autodesk Design Academy features collection of materials that help educators teach creativity and design.

3. These are app/sites I am going to be looking more into:

  • Periscope – I have used this to watch video but have not created one myself for others to view.
  • 81 Dash – A new way to back channel that also integrates with Google Classroom.
  • Twine – is an interactive story telling site. (You can also challenge your students by adding coding to it as well)

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” By Benjamin Franklin


With summer starting for some educators and for others it is right around the corner. I wanted to take a minute and offer five ways to improve your practice over the summer.

1. Take Time for YOU: Take this time to do things you love as it will help you get refreshed and ready for the new school year. When I take time for me, I find it happens to be when my best ideas formulate without even realizing it.

2. Read: It doesn’t have to be books but it can be blogs, articles, magazines and it also doesn’t have to be an education item. When I read outside of education, I get just as many ideas of things I can try to implement. It helps me think outside the box and be creative.

3. Participate in Professional Learning/Development: Take at least one class or course this summer that can help you improve your practice. Instead of your traditional face to face class try an edcamp or a virtual course such as a MOOC or book study.

4. Build your PLN: Connect with other educators and build your PLN through Twitter, G+, Instagram and Voxer. I am not saying you have to do this every day but take a few days out of the summer and connect with others to see what they are doing in the classroom and also share out what you are doing or plan on doing.

5. Reflect: Take time to reflect on your teaching practice. Think about what worked in your classroom last year and what didn’t. Before diving into what you plan on doing the first few weeks back to school, think about the year as a whole, what do you want to accomplish? What do you want for your students? What is something new you are going to try?

I would love to hear how you plan on improving your practice over the summer, share with me in the comments.

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” By Stephen Covey

Personalized Learning (PL) looks different in every school and in every classroom but the foundation to me is that it is student-driven. Often times when working with teachers and different school districts I get asked, “What do you look for in a Personalized Learning Classroom/School?” Below are some common PL “look for’s” – these are examples and is not an all-inclusive list by any means.


  1. Coach: Teachers are adapting to the students learning according to their specific needs. (See previous blog post The Shift of the Role of the Teacher)
  2. Small Group Instruction: Teachers are not doing whole group instruction but small group direct instruction based on students needs.
  3. Creating Playlists and Pathways: Teachers are not creating lesson plans but creating playlists and pathways focusing on what the students are doing verse what they are doing.


  1. Ownership: Students are consistently self-evaluating, self-regulating and self-motivating their learning through goal setting, reflection and having voice and choice in their learning.
  2. Monitoring: Students are monitoring their data, growth and behavior through data trackers etc.
  3. Dispositions: Students are practicing soft skills/habits of mind daily such as collaboration, being flexible and adaptable.

Classroom Environment:

  1. Safe Learning Environment: The classroom needs to have clear rules and expectations. (I highly suggest making these together as a class in the beginning of the year verse dictating them)
  2. Furniture: The classroom needs to be flexible with places for students to have a quiet spot to think or a place that is conducive for collaboration etc. (Learn more from my previous blog posts: Tips and Tricks for Creating Learning Spaces and Multi-Functional Learning Spaces in Classrooms)
  3. Technology: The classroom should have technology that is seamlessly integrated as technology is only a tool to help the learning environment just like books and pencils. I am a believer that classrooms should have all different devices from iPads to Chromebooks so students can become device agnostic.

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