Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Using Social Media to Grow Your Network

“Nowadays, social media is the easiest place to go to find something. “By David Nail

Social Media consists of websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. Some of the best known social media platforms are Twitter and Facebook. Today we are going to discuss how these two powerful platforms can grow your network and improve your craft as an educator.

Let’s start with Twitter. Twitter is an online social networking platform where users post and interact with messages, known as “tweets.” In education there are many ways that you can use twitter. Here are the top three ways:

  1. Follow Education Experts: Lots of ‘famous educators’ are on twitter that you can follow and see what their latest research or learn about the best practice that are happening in their classrooms. Some of my favorite people to follow are Paul Solarz, a practicing fifth grade teacher and author of Learn Like a Pirate, Pernille Ripp a 7th grade ELA teacher and author of a few books but my favorite of hers is Passionate Learners, Craig Gastauer, a high school teacher and Persinalized Learning Lead for his school, George Couros, principal and author of Innovator’s Mindset and Steven Weber, Associate Superintendent. We can also learn a lot from other experts outside of our elementary, middle and high school educators, such as psychologists, college or university professors, or education consultants who have plenty of research to share as well.
  2. Informational Text: Tweeters share a lot of great articles that you can use to grow yourself in your craft or for integrating into your classroom as part of relevant real world text. Follow hashtags or topics based on your interest. Some of my favorite hashtags to follow are #21stedchat, #edleadership and #cmspdl.
  3. Education Chats: Twitter chats may be the perfect form of professional development because they’re free and you get to choose the topic you want to learn about when you want to. Twitter chats  happen regularly and they give you access to a global community of educators with lots of perspectives. If you google education twitter chats, multiple twitter chat hashtags, dates and times will appear for you to choose from. Chats usually last one hour, but you may jump in and/or leave at your convenience and your needs. To begin slowly start be simply liking or retweet others’ chat responses to show support and to validate the ideas that resonate with you. The next step is to start commenting on others’ responses. Typically chats have Q = Question and A = Answer format so the narrator of the chat might have a tweet that says Q1 followed by a question and you would respond with A1. My twitter chat is #21stedchat and it happens every Sunday at 8:00pm EST.

Facebook is another great social media networking platform. Many think of it as a way to connect with friends but you can also use it to connect with educators.  

  1. Groups: There are a lot of great Facebook groups that share a lot of resources, ideas and can also serve as a great place to have though partners. Some of my favorite groups are Personalized Learning Collaboration, The Innovator’s Mindset (MOOC), Breakout Edu General Discussion and The Reading and Writing Strategies Book Community.
  2. Pages: Pages are a great place to follow as they also post resources and ideas but it is not as interactive as groups. Some of my favorite pages are CMS Personalized Digital Learning,  Learning Personalized, Edulum LLC and Getting Smart.

For the visual learners out there, or for those of you who are like me and sometimes want a picture to help spark an idea of your own, Instagram is the social media network avenue to take.  Like Facebook, Instagram can be used with a professional lens. There are lots of educators using Instagram to post pictures and videos of their classroom in action, as well as anchor charts and other resources they have created.  I suggest checking out @keslerscience and @nittygrittyscience where you can collect hands on science tasks and resources, and @worldlangcafe for my spanish and french teachers and  @subwaybookreview is another Instagram account to follow, but this one is a little different in that it is a collection of book reviews from subway riders from all over. Also, there are several Instagram accounts that are awesome ones to share with your students: Zion National Park (@zionnps), The National Gallery in London (@nationalgallery), The Smithsonian (@smithsonian) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (@noaa).

There are other great social media networks out there besides Twitter and Facebook such as YouTube, Pinterest and Google+.  Social networks help to keep you in the loop about what is currently going on in education.  Today’s technology allows you to connect with people all over the world while in the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is scroll your newsfeed, join a group, or sign up for notifications and you will be apart of an amazing educators network!



“Innovation is creativity with a job to do.” by John Emmerling

One of my favorite conferences is #ncties18. This conference always gets my brain thinking in new ways and reenergizes me. There is a lot of great information in just a few short days so it always takes me a few days to process. The one word I could sum up this conference this year would be #inspired.


  1. Marley Emerson Dias: She is the amazing young lady that started #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign and wrote the book Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! She is the youngest to be named Forbes 30 under 30. Check out her resource library here.
  2. Kevin Carroll: I can’t say enough things about Kevin Carroll as he truely is a game changer and amazing at his job! I often times feel guilty that I don’t have the best work/life a balance but he made me realize that it is okay not to because I LOVE what I do! He had so many great quotes but these three are my favorites
    1. “The master in the art of living makes little distinction …..blur the lines of work and play and find the joy every single day.” Kevin Carroll
    2. It’s not enough to have an idea. You have to advance it.   The difference between a dream and a reality is action.” Kevin Carroll
    3. “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato
  3. Students at Stedwick Elementary School: I can’t do this video justice with words….just watch, The Lie.

New Tools and Ideas:

  1. YellKey – cool shorten link site
  2. Ziteboard: – white board for web browser
  3. #booksnaps – great way to add in digital literacy into your lessons

“Technology alone is not enough. It is technology married with the liberal arts married with the humanities that makes our hearts sing. When you keep people at the center of what you do, it can have an enormous impact.” Tim Cook


3 Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness in the Classroom

“The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh

Mindfulness is the practice of paying careful attention to your thoughts, feelings, and environment and more and more schools are adding these practices into their classroom to help students. This past week I saw a few mindfulness strategies that helped students make better choices. The students were able to use these strategies to self-regulate their behavior whether it be from fear or anger. Below are a few ways you can start to add mindfulness practices into your classroom.

  1. Stress Relievers: Have an area in your classroom with stress relievers so that students can acknowledge when they are stressed, upset etc and make a positive choice. In this area you can have things like a Kinetic Sandbox, stress balls or fidget cubes.
  2. Morning Meetings: During this time you can incorporate strategies for students to learn such as positive affirmations or writing in a gratitude journal.
  3. Read Alouds: Choose books that center around mindfulness so that the characters are teaching the lesson. Some great read alouds that have a mindfulness themes are:
    1. The Snowman by Raymond Brigg
    2. I Can Handle It by Laurie Wright

    3. Be Kind  Pat Zietlow Miller

*Bonus: Adding in Random Acts of Kindness (see previous blog post) is another great way to add in mindfulness.

Here are more Mindfulness resources if you want to dive deeper:

How Mindfulness and Storytelling Can Help Students

Rethinking Professional Development: Using Mindfulness to Explore the Emotional Labor of Teaching

Mindfulness in the Classroom


5 ‘Non-Education’ Books – That Taught Me About Education

“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life. ” By Joseph Addison

One of my favorite things to do is read. I am always reading two books at a time, a “fun” read and an educational/professional read. I feel it is important to always to continue to learn but just the other day I heard an educator say “I don’t read professional books anymore because I don’t know what else I can learn about my profession.” After being shocked, I pulled up my good reads list and gave her several book titles.

I believe no matter how old you are or what level of education you have, you can always learn and improve your craft. In dedication to this moment and to hopefully help others, I am sharing 5 non-educational books that taught me things about education that I have used in my job and classroom.

  1. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

  2. Soup: A Recipe to Create a Culture of Greatness by Jon Gordon

  3. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

  4. Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer  


I am always looking for a good read so please share your must read books below.

Going Beyond Presentation: 5 Ways to Create Using Google Slides

“Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.” By Yo-Yo Ma


Often times educators use Google Slides to present information but you can do so much more with Google slides. Here are ten ways to use Google Slides where students can be creative.

  1. Comic Strips: Have students create comic strips to show what they know or their creativity by using Google Slides. To create a comic strip:
    • Background: Add a background by right clicking and changing color or add an image as a background. (If you add an image, remember to send it to the back)
    • Characters: Insert images and/or objects (use PNG’s for their transparency)
    • Speech Bubbles: Add speech or though bubbles by inserting shapes and then callouts. (Double click on bubble to add text)
    • Animations: Use this feature to add or take away characters or objects to the slides.
    • Transitions: Use this feature to make it feel like you are moving from one slide to the next. (Click on the slide and then change transition)
    • Word Art: Use this feature to add excitement and onomatopoeia
  2. Creating books: Have students create story books to show what they know about a topic. Once they complete it they can publish it for an authentic audience. There are lots of ways you can do this such as publish to the web, as a pdf or print and bind it. You can also use screencastify extensions and have the students record themselves reading it which the creates a library of audible books. You can also add an extra challenge by having students create chose their own adventure too.
  3. Interactive Journal: Create an interactive journal that students can use when incorporating a self paced learning experience. It is a great way to hold students accountable along with making sure they master the content. To create an interactive journal in slides.
    • Start by clicking on a new slide show
    • Click on file and go to page set up
    • Customize the sizing to 8 x 9.75 inches (This makes slides look like a journal page)
    • Then add your content you want the students to complete and the questions/tasks you want them to complete.
    • Tip: Force students to make a copy by changing the url from edit to copy.
  4. Stop-Motion Animation: Have students create stop-motion animation movies. To do this with Google slides use the take a photo feature. Then publish to the web with the auto-advance feature.
  5. Vocabulary Notecards: Have students create their own vocabulary note cards. Set the criteria expectations and then allow them to peer review others notecards for feedback.
    • Students define vocabulary words
    • Insert images to help them remember the word
    • Students can change slide background color to correspond to topic or unit.

Great sites for creative common images to use for the above ideas:




Identifying Types and Levels of Student Engagement

“When I talk to students, I don’t ask them what they want to be when they grow up, I ask them what problem do they want to solve?” Jamie Casap

We know that engagement is an essential part of learning but often times educators have mixed understanding of what engagement is and how to identify it. To me, student engagement is when the student is motivated to learn because they have curiosity, interest and/or passion about what they are learning. Often times educators think that student participation is engagement but that is not necessarily true as that is active compliance. For example, a teacher asks a question, a student answers. Technically the student is participating but they are not necessarily engaged.  It is important to note there are different levels of student engagement along with different types of engagement.

Different Types of Engagement:

  • Emotional: Student attitude ranges from liking what they’re doing in class to deeply valuing learning and skills they are gaining.
  • Cognitive: Students use strategies such as metacognition for deep learning.

Different Levels of Engagement:

  • Engagement: Students take ownership through active and authentic learning strategies based on their needs and goals along with having voice and choice in their tasks.
  • Active Compliance: Students participate in learning and complete performance tasks.
  • Compliance: Students complete work that is given to them. The tasks are routine and/or rote.

As a teacher it is important to reflect on your craft to see if you can identify the different types and levels of engagement happening in your classroom. Once you can identify them it is important to take action to strive to always have true engagement in your classroom.

Here are some other resources on student engagement:

National Survey of Student Engagement

Edutopia: Student Engagement

12 Myths About Student Engagement


10 Ways to Add Choice into the Classroom

“Choice strengthens all.” By Neal Prescot

Allowing students to make choices in the classroom not only empowers them to make great choices about their learning but it also motivates them. No one likes to be told what to do, sometimes having a simple choice between two items makes all the differences.  Below are some ways you can start adding in choice and some tips to help make the transition smoother.

  1. Tasks: Have students pick how they want to practice a skill by allowing them to choose the task they want to complete. This can be done by providing a standards based choice board or a self paced pathway.
  2. Seating: Have students chose where they want to sit to learn. Having expectations and teaching students about making right choices is apart of the learning process.
  3. Homework: See my views on why I don’t believe in homework but if you are going to give it, allow for students to choose what they need to work on based on their needs. I promise you that you will actually get homework turned in if you provide choices that are engaging and authentic.
  4. Product choice: Have students chose how they want can show what they know about a topic. Allowing students to make this decision allows for not only ownership but gives them room to be creative!
  5. Genius Hour: Genius hour is based on Google and 3M’s 80/20 theory, 80% of the time you work on the tasks you need to complete in order to move the company forward. The other 20% you work on something you are passionate about. This applies great in the classroom as the students work on the standards for 80% and then they get 20% time, genius hour, to learn about something they chose to learn about that is not tied to a standard.
  6. Reading: Research has shown that letting students choose their own books, makes  them not only better readers but also they will want to read more when given a choice. Often times I am given the excuse but I want to have whole group academic coversations. You still can have class discussions about books by allowing students to choose based on theme. For example, having the topic be leadership and the book choices you give them all have leadership embedded in them.
  7. Morning Meetings: Many classrooms start off the day with morning meetings; why not have the students run morning meetings! Have the leader of the day chose the greeting and the activity. You can provide a safe learning environment by providing them options to choose from by listing different greetings and activities on the board.
  8. Classroom Environment: Have students chose how they want the classroom to look/feel as it is their learning environment too. You can start off small by having a suggestion box somewhere in the room and invite students to use it to express thoughts, concerns, and opinions regarding classroom policies and procedures.
  9. Note Taking: To often I see teachers telling their students how to take notes. Having students chose how they want to take notes will create ownership in understanding the content. Modeling different note taking strategies will help students to make the best choice for them such as Cornell, sketchnotes or interactive note taking.
  10. Assessment: Having students take an assessment when they are ready allows students to feel confident in the content. This tends to scare a lot of teachers but start off small by allowing them to take the assessment anytime during a certain week or provide two days. You can take it on Friday or if you need the weekend to study/practice, you can take it Monday. If we as teachers are truly looking for mastery, we need to remember not everyone masters a concept at the same time.

Tips to Think About:

  • Start small and only chose one way to add choice into your classroom.
  • For any choice you provide, explicitly teach your expectations and think about  potential roadblocks before issues arise.
  • Do not make the mistake of giving too many options as that can be over whelming.
  • If you do a choice board and you have the students pick one choice a day, make sure you have six options because if they do one a day for five days, then it is not really a choice.
  • If providing a choice and it “goes bad or fails” before saying it doesn’t work, analyze what could you do differenty to make it succcessful. Also make sure you are giving it enough times.
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