“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.

LP_Book Image

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

“A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience.” By Jack Mezirow

Below are ten sites that I don’t think are not well-known but you should know as an educator. They are sites that will help you in the classroom from classroom management to challenging your students.

1. Team Maker: A simple random team generator that lets you create teams quickly and easily.

2. Tinkercad: a free, easy-to-learn online software to create and print 3D models.

3. Planetarium: Explore the stars and planets from your web browser. (Also a chrome extension)

4. Class Badges: Award badges for all different learning experiences.

5. Coggle it: Great for mind mapping and brainstorming.

6. HsTry:  Create interactive timelines

7. Zaption: Turn online videos into interactive learning experiences that engage students and deepen understanding.

8. Classtools-Connect Four: a game to review key terms/vocabulary and the connections between them.

9. Bouncy Ball:  Great for classroom management; the balls bounce based on level of noise in the classroom.

10. Greg Tand Word Problem Generator: Create different types of word problems in minutes.

*Sites that are coming soon or are in beta that look promising:

1.  Class Realm: a platform for teachers to introduce gamification into their classrooms, encourage better behaviorpatterns, and promote creative expression.

2. ThemeSpark: Build a standards-based rubric in under a minute.

3. Sphero Education:  Core lessons and STEM challenges give kids a fun crash course in coding while sharpening their skills in math & science.

Do you have a website that is not well-known but you think educators need to know? Please share in the comment section.

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by BUT in the long run There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” Led Zeppelin

Teaching students to be reflective about their learning provides them with real world skills and why I believe we need more student-led conferences (SLC). In my eyes, SLC’s should happen routinely in the classroom, not just limited to parent/teacher conference time once or twice a year. I also believe SLC’s should also happen in all subjects areas, not just reading like some teachers believe. With personalized learning and student centered classrooms, SLC’s should be a core component of the classroom.

Why Have Student Led-Conferences:

1. Deepen their understanding of themselves as learners because the students are self-evaluate, self-regulate, and self-motivate

2. Student are empowered and develop ownership of personal goals and achievements.

3. It holds students accountable for their learning and work.

4. Students are practicing real world skills such as communication, critical thinking, reflection, organization and leadership.

5. It focuses more on growth of learning verse just grades and test scores; especially if students have a portfolio of work and use a range of diagnostic, formative, and summative tasks to monitor student progress.

6. It fosters positive teacher/student relationships.

What Should a Student-Led Conference Look Like?

Start the conference with a question to put the student in the lead for example: Tell me what you are working on as a _____ (fill in with what subject you are working with: reader, scientist, mathematician etc). This should lead you to decide what comes next, if the student is on track, ask how can I help you attain your goal or do a small teach point if they need support. Make sure after each conference the student leaves the conference with a goal/action step that they will be working on. Here is a possible dialogue of a SLC in reading (T = teacher and S = Student)

T: “Tell me what you are working on as a reader.”

S: “I am working on the strategy monitoring my comprehension. I am noticing based on my ‘tracks of my thinking’ I am having a hard time with vocabulary.”

T: “Let me show you a way to figure out hard words.” This is where the small teach point comes in. (The teach point is only a few minutes)

S: “I will add that to my goals for reading and practice it this week and record it in my readers notebook.”

or in math

T: “Tell me what you are working on as a mathematician.”

S: “I have mastered addition and I have moved to subtraction but I am struggling.”

T: “Which subtraction strategy did you try using? Let me see your work.”

S: “I have tried using compensation but I don’t think that strategies works best for me because I round one of the numbers to make it easier but forget to compensate for it.”

T: “Let’s try a different strategy such as decomposing the numbers to make the easier for you to subtract.” This is where the small teach point of reviewing decomposing comes in.

S: “I will practice decomposing when I subtract as I feel confident with place value.”


1. What happens if the student doesn’t know what to do? If you are consistently having student-led conferencing in your classroom, the students will be used to the routine and process. If you are not doing this consistently then you should make sure to add it into your class period. Having clear expectations also helps. Use tools such as goal setting sheets, data trackers and refer to mini-lessons as well.

2. Am I as a teacher involved in the conferencing? Yes, you will facilitate the discussion if needed and ask probing questions.

3. Some teachers are reluctant, how can they be brought on board? Understand change is hard, start with the willing teachers that want to try to let others ‘see’ teachers do them so they feel more comfortable. Start off in one subject, master that and then move on to conferencing in other subjects.

I do think SLC should have with parents too and an FAQ I always get is when parents are involved is:

1. What if the parent has a question for just the teacher? At the end of the student-led conference you can have a few minutes without the student or you can set up follow-up appointment. If you are consistently communicating, this rarely happens. Many are so impressed with how much their student knows it doesn’t happen as much as you think.


“Manipulative’s are a tool for instruction, yet teachers tend to not use them due to lack of education and confidence of their effectiveness to increase learning.” (Green, Flowers, & Piel, 2008).

With more and more Chromebook’s coming into school districts it is important to make sure our students are using them for creation verse consumption of knowledge. A great way for students to show creation is in Google Drawing App. Teachers and/or students can create manipulatives, task or games based on the skills they are learning. Below are a few examples along with how to create these in Google Draw.

1. Let’s Go Shopping: This is an example for our a second grade money task. The students must show how much money would represent what they are buying. They can do a screencast* to share their thinking as they are creating.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.22.01 AM

2. Water Cycle: This is an example a student created based on the water cycle. The student created the water cycle images, label the correct terms and then did a screencast* explaining their thinking. For younger grades they can do a screen shot.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.21.36 AM


3. Base Ten: Here I created a virtual base ten task. The students have to create the number by using the base ten virtual manipulatives and explain their thinking through a screencast*.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.22.46 AM

Here is my folder of Google Draw templates I have created or I have found, click here to add them to your Google Drive.  They will only look like an image until add them to your drive, then you can edit and see more of the details.

*Screencast: We use the Google Extension Snag-it. (If you are in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, this extensions is put on all Chromebooks. All the students need to do to create the screencast is click the blue S to the right of the url window.)

How to Create Manipulatives in Google Draw: 

1. Decide what type of manipulative you need and brainstorm what the goal of the task is for the students. (Example: For the Let’s Go Shopping task I created above. I wanted to see if they could create the correct combinations to pay for the items.)

2. Then log into your GAfE account, go to your drive and click on new (you will have to go to the arrow where it says more to find Google Draw) click on draw.

3. Right click on the blank grey and white grid/canvas to choose a background color you would like to use.

4. Now you build your manipulatives or games the way you would like. Under the insert tab are where you can put pictures, create shapes and text boxes.

Here are a few other ideas you can create manipulative/tasks for but not limited too….

Math: fraction number line, quadrilateral chart, ten frame, clock/time etc

Reading: story maps, word sorts, vocabulary, brainstorming/mind-map etc.

Science: periodic table, cell diagram, rock cycle etc

Social Studies: history timeline, infographic, graphic organizers such as for cause & effect

Other Resources for Using Manipulative’s:

Alice Keeler Website

Graphic Organizers with Google Drawings

 Google Drawings Support

I would love to know how you use Google Drawing in the Classroom, please share in the comments.

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

If you are en educator you have gone through some-type of implementation process, be it a new initiative or program. In order to make growth in any type of implementation we need to look at what is going well and what is not going well. I like to call these, glows (what is working well) and grows (what do we need to improve on). This is a best practice reflection that should be used in all aspects of implementation from the classroom with students, to teachers at schools and with administration for the district.

How can you implement this in your classroom, school or district?

  1. First block off time and make sure to have these discussions often and regularly.
  2. Make sure to set up a safe environment so people will be honest and have authentic discussions.
  3. If you always look at only the grows, people tend to become negative. If you only look at the glows, you are not being realistic to making growth and change. Make sure you have a discussion about both.

In a classroom: Ask students what is a glow and what is a grow they feel about their learning experience. This helps not only the students reflect on their learning but also the teachers get an informal data point to see how they can maybe change their practice to better meet their students needs.

With teachers: Block off time during a staff meeting, and as grade level or individually discuss what is a glow and what is a grow of the school or of an implementation you are rolling out to see how you to best move forward.

As a district: Ask schools/admins what is a glow and grow of the district or of a specific implementation.

Below is the template I have used with students and educators I work with. To save time, I have also sent this to them ahead of time to fill out so when we are together we are having discussions to help improve us.  (*This also helps model a best practice that educators can use with their staff or teachers with their students.)  Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning.



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