“Life is filled with tests, one after another, and if you don’t recognize them, you are certain to fail the most important ones.” By Brian Herbert


In a  recent study from Stanford, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning, displays that a vast majority of students can’t determine it what they read on websites is true or false. (I would also be interested in a further study to see how many adults can identify fake news as sometimes I see adults posting fake news too.) The skills of evaluating fake news and information are a very important part of Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy. 

As educators we need to have an understanding ourselves where information comes from so we can help guide students. We need to explicitly teach if an article, blog post etc is reliable and accurate. We can start doing that be utilizing these three core ideas: 

Consider the Source: Where was the information published? Remember anyone can make a website.

Check the Author: What do you know about the author(s)? What else have they written?

Check the Date: When was the information posted? How long ago was it updated? 

Below are some resources you can use in the classroom for teaching how to spot fake news:

Chrome Extension: Fake News Detector 

Snopes (Put in a url you are wondering about and they will fact check it)

Fictitious, Satirical, Bogus, Fallacy-laden Websites (Sites that are fake you can use to teach students about digital literacy and spotting fake news. I would make this into a web-quest mixing real and fake news to see how many they can identify)

Lesson Plan: Fighting Fake News

Lesson plan: How to teach your students about fake news

Fake News and What We Can Do about It: HS Lesson Plans

More articles on fake news:

Mission Critical: How Educators Can Help Save Democracy

Who Stands Between Fake News and Students? Educators

Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News

Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds

How to Spot Fake News

411 on Makerspaces

“The mind has exactly the same power as the hands; not merely to grasp the world but to change it.” By Colin Wilson

A Makerspace is a learning environment where everyone can discover, collaborate, and create things. It is not defined as a certain space but rather an area of exploration, experimentation and tinkering. Many schools have been adding Makerspaces into their media centers but that is not the only place they have to be. You can add them into your classroom as well. There is a misconception that Makerspaces have to have technology such as a 3d printer and this is not true. I have seen many awesome Makerspaces with no technology in them such as Fashion Makerspaces. Ask parents to donate supplies or apply for a grants through Donors Choose or Go Fund Me: Education to help launch your Makerspace.

Here are some examples items you can put into your Makerspaces but not limited too:

Helpful Articles and Resources:


7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces

Book: Invent to Learn

My previous Makerspace posts:

Makerspace in Education

Ways to Use Blokify – Without a 3D Printer in the Classroom

Adding Creativity and Imagination to the Classroom

I would love to hear what you put into your Makerspaces.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” By Tamika L. Sims

One of my goals for 2017 is to help educators see that Personalized Learning (PL) is not “another thing” and not something that is hard to do in your classroom when you start small and are intentional in how you start. Below I offers 26 ways to incorporate the PL philosophy into your classroom practice. I suggest choosing one and start making small changes in your practice. To read how to get started with PL, check out my previous blog post here.

 A. Authentic: Create authentic experiences for your students that align to the real world and are fun.

B. Brain Breaks – Having an Action Based Learning (ABL) classroom that allows brain breaks keeps students engaged through movement.

C. Choice – Allow students to have choice in the classroom from the room design to the tasks they complete.

D. Data Trackers – Having students keep data trackers helps them understand what they are strong in and what they need to work on; allowing them to build a growth mindset about learning.

E. Empower – Empower students to have agency in their learning.

F. Flexible environments –  Let students pick where they sit and offer flexible seating options. It can be as simple as allowing students to stand if they chose or you can re-design your room with different types of seating.

G. Goal setting – Have students set academic goals.

H. Habits – Let go of old habits. As teachers/educators we get stuck in habits because they become comfortable for us and not always what is best for students. Reevaluate your teaching habits and think about why you _____ (fill in the blank with practice.) Ask yourself is it best for students? Why or Why Not?

I. Innovation  – Give students time to be innovative and think outside the box. You can do this through Genius Hour or PBL’s etc.

J. Journey  – Personalized Learning is a journey and always evolving for both you and the students. There is no one right way and you will at times make mistakes.

K. Know  – Take the time to get to know your students including their strengthens and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.

L. Learning outcomes – Allow students to understand what the learning outcome is. Having students understand the outcome helps them focus on what steps they need to meet the outcome.

M. Mastery learning – Allow mastery to be measured in various ways in the classroom, including formal or informal assessments, performance tasks, or verbal responses.

N. Non-cognitive skills – Dispositions or non-cognitive skills are arguably just as important as understanding content or maybe even more important. Instilling skills such as communication, critical thinking and collaboration are important life long learning skills that help students become successful in life.

O. Opportunity – Provide students opportunities that are new or different to them opening up doors to possibilities.

P. Pace – Allow students to work at their own pace/speed.

Q. Quests – Learning quests allow students to research and discover content verse regurgitating.

R. Reflection – Reflecting on your work is one of the most under utilized best practices. Having students reflect on their work, assessment and learning process helps guide them to understand mistakes, ideas and problem solve.

S. Shift – You need to shift the role of the teacher from a lecturer and holder of all knowledge to a coach who guides students based on needs.

T. Technology – Technology is a tool you can utilize to help support instruction and deliver content based on the students needs.

U. Use Data –  Use data to make changes in your instruction, drive your lessons and tasks.

V. Voice – Have students share their voice  and knowledge with others. This can be done through blogging, projects, creating such as iMovie etc.

W. Whole Child – The concept of meeting the Whole Child is more than establishing  relationships with your students but also being aware of  each students health, safety, engagement and support.

X. Xamples – Have students collect eXamples of their work over time to see their growth. (Okay, so I cheated a little bit with this one but X is hard!)

Y. You Matter – Every student needs to hear they matter. Check out these resources from the You Matter Movement.

Z. Zigzag – PL is not going to be perfect all the time. You will have to be able to be zig-zag through what works for you in your classroom.

“Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.” by Hillary Clinton

With the holidays around the corner it is important to remember to self check your work- life balance. Over the years I have gotten better with my work-life balance. I am one of the lucky ones that truly enjoys my job but still needs to remind myself that work will always be there and never truely complete no matter how many hours I work. Here are some tips and tricks that I have learned over the years to help:

  1. Drop Activities/Tasks that Don’t Add Value: Ask yourself, “What is the end goal of this task, will it add value?” Sometimes we do things in our job or our personal lives because we have ‘always done it this way’. Reevaluate some of your activities and tasks to see if you can ‘gain’ time. I do this, every six months or so.
  2. Unplug: Set times when you will not look at work and/or technology and be in the moment. Examples: no technology at dinner, no work after 6:00 or no work until the kids are in bed. Do what works for your lifestyle but make a point to have set times. It also helped me when I took my work email off my personal phone. Sometimes I will do unplugged weekends and I find a lot of my best ideas come during those times!
  3. Exercise: It sometimes is hard to include this one into the mix but even if you walk for 20 minutes the benefits do wonders for you.
  4.  Learn to say NO: This is by far the hardest and something I am continually working on. This also doesn’t mean saying no just to work things but also personal. If you don’t want to go to an event or party, it is okay to say no. Sometimes I am asked to do ‘extras’ because I don’t have kids. This was confusing to me because not having kids, does not equate to, not having a life. Reminding myself this concept helped me say no.
  5. Don’t Worry about Others: If you work complete X amount of hours a week and complete your work while producing stuff you are proud of, who cares if Johnny or Sally works 50 hours. Maybe they aren’t getting their work done or using their time wisely, that has nothing to do with you. Also remember what others think about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with themselves.
  6. Happiness is a choice: Do what makes you happy!  John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

With all this being said, for the next two weeks, I will not be blogging. I am going to take the time to unplug and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. I hope you do as well!

More information about Work-Life Balance:

Work-Life Balance Information

Work-Life Balance Site

“When you’re gone would you rather have your gravestone say, ‘He never missed a meeting?” Or one that said, ‘He was a great father.’” by  Steve Blank.

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness  to learn is a choice.” By Brain Herbert

I often hear I love the philosophy of Personalized Learning (PL), but where do I start??  I hate to break it to everyone but there is no ‘how to guide’ because every teacher is at a different point in their craft and there is no one right place to start. In this post I offer you some ideas of where you can get started but again, there is no one right way.

Let’s start off with understanding what PL is because PL looks different in every district. The foundation of Personalized Learning is the same, classrooms are student driven with an emphasis on student ownership of their learning. The role of the teacher is different but very much important as they are now the facilitator of learning verse the only one that holds the knowledge at the front of the room.

With that being said, let’s look at some ways you can get started with PL in your classroom:

  1. Offer choice in your classroom: It does not have to be 10 choices, which is often the misconception, but try offering two. For example, if you are studying the theme of Identity in English, offer the students two articles or books to read around that theme. You can then still have a class discussion around the theme even though students read different material.
  2. Use data to make changes in your instruction: As teachers we gather a lot of data but we don’t often use it to change what we are doing in the classroom. Try giving a pre-assessment or an entrance ticket and use that data to drive your mini-lesson. Ask yourself, does everyone need this lesson? Probably not, so let the students that have shown that they know the skill, go deeper and try exploring the concept on their own through a task. Then pull the small group that needs the mini-lesson. I often hear, ‘but everyone needs this skill because it is a new concept/skill in ____ (fill in grade level)’. This does not mean that they don’t have background or that they don’t know how to do it. Stop making the assumption that everyone needs the same thing because it makes you as the teacher feel more comfortable. Think about it in another  way if you don’t believe me; how often have you sat in  workshop because the instructor has assumed that everyone needed to be trained on the same thing. How frustrated did you get? It is the same thing for your students.
  3. Try flexible seating: Let students pick where they sit and offer flexible seating options. This does not mean that you have to spend lots of money and redesign your classroom all at once. Try allowing students the option if they want to stand or sit while they learn. (Fast Fact: Did you know that you learn 10% more when you stand!) You can also swap out desks for tables or hold a ‘furniture drive’ and see if parents can donate used furniture such as bean bag chairs. You can also use sites like Donors Choose or Go Fund Me Education to redesign your classroom.
  4. Allow students to goal set and reflect: You will be surprised at what students will admit about themselves when you give them the time and structure to do these things. Allow students to think about their strengths and weaknesses as a learner. Have them set a goal for themselves and then later have them reflect on it. You can start with weekly goal setting and reflections but most find it is so powerful that they have the students do it daily. Start by making it a routine and stick to it. As the students are transiting into the subject or class, have them set a goal and then a few minutes before they transition again, end class with a reflection.
  5. Get to know your students: Building relationships with your students and understanding what they like and dislike is a huge part of PL. Knowing your students allows for you to better meet their needs and interests.  Something I hear from secondary teachers is but I have 180 students; yes that is a lot and harder to do but not impossible. You can do a few things to get to know your students (and it is never to late) such as create a survey for them to fill out or greet them at the door and slowly start to get to know them. When I taught 8th grade, I greeted them at the door before every block. I slowly learned something about each student and let that start the relationship. In the beginning I had many students ‘blow me off’ but soon they realized I wasn’t going to stop and that I cared. I too often watch some teachers not even acknowledging their students until the bell rings and then they go right into the lesson. It only takes a few minutes to stop and say Good Morning and this can make the world of a difference to so many students.
  6. Showing Mastery: Allow students to pick how they show mastery of a concept. This allows students to use their higher order thinking skills. If students aren’t sure how to show mastery of a concept, have a list of options to guide them. Remember PL is a new way for students to think as most liking previously they have been told what to do.

There are many more ways of getting started with PL but hopefully one of the ideas above will help you. Here are also some tips with getting started:

  1. Ask yourself: Would I want to be a student in my own classroom? If the answer is yes, why? Is there anything you can change to make it even better? If you aren’t sure try asking your students. If the answer is no, why? What is one thing you can change to make it better? Then try it.
  2. Chose one area to try PL in: It can be any subject, grade level or a unit but just pick one place to start in order to not overwhelm yourself. For example: start with Math or with your block one class. You do not have to implement PL in everything you do right away, choosing an area and one thing is a great way start. If it goes well, try the one small change in another class/subject.
  3. Chose one small action step: Small action steps make the biggest impact. Take one small action step that changes your role as a teacher along the continuum. To learn more about the continuum check out my previous blog post: The Shift in the Role of the Teacher.

I know I will have some readers that will say, yeah but ____ (fill in the blank with excuse) and you are right, there is always going to be a yeah but. The difference is knowing that you can find a solution to that excuse by trying something to change it. For example, yeah but my district doesn’t ‘do’ PL. That is okay, no one said you can’t in your classroom, so give it a try.

Check out my other blog posts on Personalized Learning:

Dismantling Personalized Learning Myths

Personalized Learning ‘Look For’s

Moving Through the Continuum of Personalized Learning

10 Ways to Personalize Your Classroom

Personalized Learning Collaboration Group

I also have many more if you want to click on the category tag, Personalized Learning, on the right hand side of my blog page. Good luck with your implementation of PL. If you have any questions, or need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” By Theodore Roosevelt


Over the last few years, the idea of growth mindset has been a popular topic in education and continues to be. Knowing that our brains can change, even as adults is a wonderful thing! According to neuroscientists, the brain is like plastic, it can be reshaped over time, forming new neural pathways and this is called neuroplasticity. The things we do or say more often become wired into our brains as habits. Researchers say it takes around an average of 66 days to form a new habit.

To cultivate a growth mindset within students you can use these questions in you classroom to build new habits.

  1. What are your goals?
  2. Are you proud of your completed work; why or why not?
  3. What did you do today in ____(fill in subject) that made you think really hard?
  4. What will you do to improve upon this _____ (fill in the blank with story, design etc)
  5. Who can you seek feedback from to make your _____(fill in the blank with story, design etc) better?
  6. What mistakes did you make that taught you something new or to do differently?
  7. What strategy are you going to try?
  8. What will you do to solve this problem?
  9. How will you tackle this problem or challenge?
  10. Did you make good use of your resources?
  11. How can you do _____(fill in the blank: ex this math problem) differently?
  12. What will you do to challenge yourself today?

My other blog posts on Growth Mindset:

Tools to Help Students Build a Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset Books for Students

Musing on Mindsets

A site with songs to help students learn and understand the brain: Neuroscience for Kids Songs

I would love to learn more questions that you ask your students to help develop a growth mindset. Please add them in the comment section.


Hour of Code 2016

“An understanding of computer science is becoming increasingly essential in today’s world. Our national competitiveness depends upon our ability to educate our children—and that includes our girls—in this critical field.” By Sheryl Sandberg

It is that time of year again where I love to remind and promote Hour of Code to all educators. This year the Hour of Code is the week of December 5-11, 2017. The Hour of Code is a global movement hosted by Computer Science Education Week and Code.org reaching millions of students, in over a 100 countries from K-12th grade. The concept is simple, it gives students an one-hour introduction to computer science and computer programming.

In North Carolina alone there are 16,919 open computing jobs (4.7x the state average demand rate) with only 1,224 computer science graduates. You can learn more about how you can support North Carolina Computer Science here or about any other state here.

More great resources:

Apple is offering FREE Hour of Code Workshops

10 projects to kickstart Hour of Code

Hour of Code with Kodable

Here are my previous years blog posts on Hour of Code along with other Computer Science blog posts that have helpful resources:

Resources for CS EdWeek 2015

Hour of Code

The Foos: Kids Coding App

Using Kodable App in the Classroom

Bridging Coding and Common Core with Tynker

I hope all of you give your students the opportunity to see what coding and computer science is all about! You don’t have to know how to code or anything about computer science to provide students the spark to get them excited about learning computer science!

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