“An overarching goal of education should be to immerse students in the beauty and inspiration of their surrounding world.” By Tony Wagner, from the book: Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era

I have seen the movie “Most Likely to Succeed” (twice going to be my third time this Saturday and I continue to learn something new). If you are in the Charlotte area the Teaching Fellows Institute is putting on a FREE screening of “Most Likely To Succeed” with a special screening guest Executive Producer Ted Dintersmith at UNCC Center City in Charlotte, NC followed by a 30 minute discussion with Mr. Dintersmith. Below is a description of the documentary and the trailer.


The feature-length documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” examines the history of education in the United States, revealing the growing shortcomings of conventional education methods in today’s innovative world. The film explores compelling new approaches that aim to revolutionize teaching as we know it. After seeing this film, the way you think about “school” will never be the same. Over a century ago, American education underwent a dramatic transformation as the iconic one-room schoolhouse evolved into an effective system that produced an unmatched workforce tailored for the 20th Century. As the world economy shifts and traditional white-collar jobs begin to disappear, that same system remains in intact, producing potentially chronic levels of unemployment among graduates in the 21st Century. The film follows students into the classrooms of High Tech High, an innovative new school in San Diego. There, over the course of a school year, two groups of ninth graders take on ambitious, project-based challenges that promote critical skills rather than rote memorization. Most Likely to Succeed points to a transformation in learning that may hold the key to success for millions of our youth – and our nation – as we grapple with the ramifications of rapid advances in technology, automation and growing levels of income inequality. For more information: http://mltsfilm.org/ 

WHEN: Saturday, December 5, 2015 from 8:30 AM to 11:00 AM (EST) 
8:30 am Doors Open

9:00 am Screening

10:30 am Discussion with Executive Producer Ted Dintersmith

WHERE: UNC Charlotte Center City – 320 East 9th Street Charlotte, NC 28202

Click here to get FREE ticket and please only ‘purchase’ ticket if you know you can go as there are only 300 seats. Thank you!

(The views expressed by Mr. Dintersmith and in the film Most Likely To Succeed do not represent the views of the Teaching Fellows Institute or its Teaching Fellows.)

Recently I was asked to provide some tips on the topic e-Learning along with some other educators for an article by Scott Hawksworth and Sarah Bass. I really enjoyed reading the tips and so I wanted to pass it along to my fellow blog readers.

Educational technology, and more specifically e-Learning, offers tremendous value to both students and teachers. Both are constantly evolving, and as such, challenges are inevitable. To that end, we surveyed hundreds of e-Learning experts in search of useful tips for teaching and learning online. Our search generated 101 amazing tips, which are presented below. For the first timer to the seasoned e-Learner, you’re likely to find many valuable tips to help you succeed online. Check out the article here: http://bestonlineuniversities.com/101-elearning-tips-from-the-experts

All of the expert contributors are also listed here with links to social media profiles so readers can connect and learn more about their work: http://bestonlineuniversities.com/expert-contributors

Students Creating with iPads

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” By George Bernard Shaw

To often lately I have been walking into classrooms and students are on iPads but all they are doing is either using it for research or to play a game. The iPad is a tool that allows our students to create content verses only consuming. Students can use higher order thinking skills to apply what they know when using many apps. The students then own the learning because they are applying concepts verse regurgitating information. Here are some of my new favorite FREE iPad apps and some oldie but goodies.

  1. Koma Koma – is a stop-animation app. It is simple to use with only four commands — shoot, delete, play and save.
  2. Adobe Slate –  create visual stories easily with this app.
  3. Shadow Puppet Edu – create videos in the classroom to explain ideas. There is also 30+ lesson ideas supporting Common Core too! (Great for all ages but I love that it is easy enough for K-1 students to use as well)

Oldies but goodies that I still use in the classroom:

  1. Thinglink
  2. ShowMe
  3. Tellagami
  4. StoryMe
  5. Adobe Voice
  6. Toontastic
  7. Padlet
  8. Haiku Deck
  9. iMovie
  10. ReadWriteThink Apps such as Trading Cards

All these Apps I have shared can be used across all content area and in many different ways from tasks to projects.

“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” By Elbert Hubbard


Computer based (online) testing is coming no matter if we agree with it or not; it is inevitable. The best way to prepare our students is to be integrating technology into all subjects, daily and in a variety of ways. Here are some tips below of things you can start doing in your classroom this week to help your students.

Model and teach….

  • … how to use a toolbar.
  • … students to use a calculator that is online (not just the ones you have in your classroom).
  • … students to read online text; including how to use strategies such as using an online highlighter and notes.

This past week I modeled how to do a stop and jot (annotate) using an online text from Tweentribune and Bounce. Here are some other web-tools and sites you can use in the classroom to help prepare your students:

  1. Diigo
  2. Dreambox
  3. Compass Learning
  4. Khan Academy
  5. Zeal
  6. LearnZillion
  7. Illustrative Mathematics
  8. Schoolnet or Mastery Connect
  9. Discovery Education Techbook
  10. Chrome Extension:
    1. Read & Write works with all sites, including Google Drive.
    2. Yellow Highlighter  with any site/article like NewsELA

If you have another way to help your students prepare for online/computer based testing please share in the comments.

“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” Lily Tomlin

I used to give homework because it was what I was told I needed to do when I first started teaching. I didn’t question it because I always had homework growing up and I didn’t think anything of it. Lately I have been reading more and more about the negatives of homework and listening to friends battle stories with their kids over homework. When I think about it, I remember my battles with my parents over homework. I hated it, especially because 90% of the time I didn’t know how to do it, which only caused more frustration.

The more I learn about neuroscience and learning, the more I don’t believe in homework. We must challenge the status quo; just because homework has always been given, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do. Here is why I promote not giving homework:

  1. Research from Duke University (by H Cooper) shows no correlation between homework and student achievement.
  2. Play time is important to cognitive abilities that leads to student achievement. We need to give them time to play, structured and unstructured. (See previous post on Need for Play)
  3. Homework builds character, perseverance, grit etc….this is a MYTH- there is no correlation.
  4. What is the purpose? Most of the time the homework given is just busy work with a lot of rote memory which is a waste of time. Homework for homework sake is unhealthy.
  5. Students hate homework and the ones that want to learn after school do it on their own based on what they are passionate about. Also negative emotions lead to high levels of stress impairing memory which affects learning.
  6. How do you know the student is doing the homework? I often ‘caught’ parents doing the students homework for multiple reasons (didn’t have time, they didn’t understand, trying to improve their childs grade etc) and what is this solving for all parties involved…nothing, yet we can do something about it by not giving homework.

I understand there are some barriers such as the ones below but I also provide some solutions. I challenge you to really think about why you give homework or if you are a parent, why do you want homework?

Barrier 1: Schools or districts that require homework. (CMS teachers – it is not required by the district. Last year the board changed it to ‘can/may’ give homework from ‘must’ give homework. A step in the right direction!)

  • Solutions:
    • Have them read a book of their choice for 20 minutes as the only homework
    • Have student led conferences once a week, where the student discusses with their parents what they learned during the week.
    • Have students work on a ‘genius hour’ style project where they chose something they want to work on. (This will also help parents not do it for them because the student had choice and they will want to do it).
    • If you have to give math homework, make it three problems which a child can prove he/she knows the “how” and “why”. There is no reason to give 30 of the same kinds of math problems.
    • Choice boards where students pick what homework task they want to do out of a few choices. Ex: Do a weekly choice board and they pick one task a night from a choice of six tasks. Mix it up with math/reading skills.

Barrier 2: Pressure from parents who want homework given.

  • Solutions
    • Inform parents of the research and explain how learning can and will happen naturally at home by letting them be curious. (I have seen some teachers write a letter in the beginning of the year which helps set the stage)
    • Have a list of resources/sites for parents that want to work with their student at home explaining it is optional and not required.
    • Use any of the above solutions from required by school/district barrier

Here is further reading for you and/or articles you can use to inform your principal, parents etc:

Rethinking Homework

The end of homework? Why some schools are banning homework

The Great Homework Debate: Too Much, Too Little or Busy Work? 

Forget Homework

The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn (Disclaimer: I have not read this but it is on my reading list. I also suggest following him on twitter: Alfie Kohn)

If you have resources to share, please do in the comments.

Motivational Video Toolkit

“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.” By Ralph Marston

Below I have compiled some of my favorite motivational videos I like to use in no particular order:

  1. You Can Learn Anything
  2. Growth Mindset: World Best Motivational Videos for Students
  3. New Bell’s South Africa TV Ad — The Reader
  4. Rita Pierson: Every Kid Needs a Champion
  5. Rubik’s Cube: A Question, Waiting to be Answered
  6. 212 Degrees
  7. Broken Escalator
  8. Piano Stairs
  9. What Adults Can Learn From Kids
  10. Kid President Video Playlist
  11. Disrupting Education 
  12. This I Believe

I am always looking for more motivational videos so please share in the comments your favorites to help build the toolkit.

“Data itself is useless. Data is only useful if you apply it.” Todd Parker


Zeal is a new FREE site that makes grading exit tickets easy. Within 10 minutes I was able to create my free account, view Zeal as a student and as a teacher with their easy tutorial and create my class. The items are Common Core-aligned with 15,000 a question bank and sends the data instantly to the teacher and student in order for them to track their data.  Zeal also ‘gamifies’ for the students by offering them to earn coins, move up the leaderboard and use the coins to upgrade their own avatar.

They even make it easy for you to offer quick PD to staff. Check out our there Professional Development Resources to learn how to best use Zeal in your classroom/school. Like most sites you do need to be aware of the COPPA Law because you do need to have parent permissions to use; unless your district is like mine and has a different form that covers all sites.


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