Posts tagged ‘differentiation’


“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” By Winston Churchill

I learned about Wizenworld via Twitter. Wizenworld asked me to try out their game based math learning platform for students and this is my review. This short video will give you a quick back ground on what Wizenworld is:

Once I created an account, Wizenworld walks you through a quick tutorial. This tutorial is great as you don’t need to teach the students how to use the product. It also explains your mission is to defeat goons and free the Meings. There are six different environments with different meings in each.

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I soon began my math adventure by choosing the domain (fractions)  then a strand (recognizing fractions). The first game I tried immediately reminded me of  old school Zelda but as I continued to try all the games, I noticed they were all different. I liked that the games have students apply the concepts using manipulatives such as number lines or pictures. This is a great way for students that are taking online assessments to practice in a fun way.

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The games are engaging, adaptive and fun. There is formative analysis on class and student level that provides actionable data for teachers and students. They are in beta so they are looking for feedback on how they can improve. I sent in feedback about aligning standards to Common Core and they are working on it. I would love to know your thoughts if you try this in your classroom.

Take-Aways from Visiting Schools Implementing Personalized Learning

“Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.” By Doug Firebaugh

As many of you know, for the past few months I have been working as project manager for the Bill Gates NextGen Innovative grant. This past week we was able to travel to San Francisco and visit multiple schools that have started the process in their schools to personalize learning.

One school we were able to visit was Summit Public Schools. What I enjoyed must about this school visit was the students were empowered to drive their own learning, ensuring they are prepared for success in colleges and career. How Summit became invested in making sure students were driving their own learning was because they noticed that 100% of their students were attending a 4 year college but not a 100% were graduating from a four-year college; many dropping out within the first year. This sparked them to look at their teaching practice and realize that they were providing too much assistance to the students so that once ‘on their own’ they didn’t have the skills to be successful. To support the Personalized Learning cycle, Summit has changed classroom design and added personalized learning time.

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Summits classroom design is very open and most of the furniture is on wheels including the students desks and tables. This allows the teachers and students to redesign the room daily.


In this picture you can see students are working on individual learning tasks while the teacher is working 1 on 1 with a student. Notice there are devices but also there are books too. I think a fear many teachers have is that ‘traditional’ things will go away when they implement personalized learning and that is not the case.

We visited other school districts that also started implementing personalized learning and during these visits we had other take aways along with some revelations such as:

– There are lots of FREE edtech tools such as Khan that you can start using to transition into personalizing the students learning

– We are already doing a lot of personalization but it is not consistent such as balanced literacy, PBL’s and flipped classroom

– New support staff roles will help teachers optimize their instruction

– Training for everyone involved is a critical success factor for personalized learning

– Blended learning is apart of personalized learning and not  separate entity

These visits really drove home that the intentional shift to personalized learning is about fundamentally changing our approach to learning and teaching; technology is an important enabler but the devices we use are just one tool for delivering this instruction. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing more about personalized learning and starting to share my thoughts and resources on making this shift.

Reflections on Balanced Literacy

“It always seems impossible, until it is done.” — Nelson Mandela

I found it appropriate for my two year anniversary for blogging that today’s post would be my first guest bloggers post by Jessica Mize-Wilson. (@jmizewilson)

Recently, I joined a new learning community, The Teacher’s Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). I had the privilege of attending a TCRWP Homegrown Institute this summer and loved all the “Ah!” moments! It was affirming and satisfying knowing we were teaching readers and writers strategies to master skills that are so broad they can be applied to any type of reading. We are moving from a hybrid basel/reader’s workshop model reading program to full implementation balanced literacy. Balanced literacy, as defined by Cowen, states “A balanced reading approach is research-based, assessment-based, comprehensive, integrated, and dynamic, in that it empowers teachers and specialists to respond to the individual assessed literacy needs of children as they relate to their appropriate instructional and developmental levels of decoding, vocabulary, reading comprehension, motivation, and sociocultural acquisition, with the purpose of learning to read for meaning, understanding, and joy.” Teachers cannot implement balanced literacy alone, in silos! We must share and collaborate! Teaching teams will be most excited about the “instructional synergy” coming into the classroom. Teachers will see how each piece builds on one another and a community of learners (both teachers and students) begin to work together, feeding on each other and a “buzz” about our learning develops!

When I read the units, I begin to see each teaching point build on one another (something I always felt highs and lows with in my hybrid model of reader’s workshop.) I begin to hear and see opportunities for shared reading, interactive writing, word study, conferring, strategy groups and guided reading groups….oh my! Now I am overwhelmed! Not really, but it is easy to do because balanced literacy is about responsive teaching. A lot of decisions cannot be made until the students walk in the door! This fall, as a Literacy Facilitator, I will be coaching teachers in implementing balanced literacy and thought there were a few Ah! Ha! moments to share. So, here goes…

1. The components of balanced reading! Balanced literacy is a complex, dynamic teaching approach. If we want students to become risk takers, we must also take risk. Set your own goal! Choose one component to focus on and get really good at it first. Seeing the big picture and knowing the components of reader’s workshop will help you choose your goal! All of the components work together and offer a balance for students to transfer learning to all areas of their lives.




2. The mini lesson! Can it really be a mini and not a “maxi”? Yes! The TCRWP shared the architecture of a mini lesson and several conversational moves to keep the lesson at a brisk pace. Using the architecture of a mini lesson accomplishes three goals: planning becomes easier, teaching becomes more efficient and students come to know what to expect so they can better focus on what we’re teaching (builds trust in us!) Sending a message of, “We’ve got this!” load and clear. The mini-lesson is a invitation to try a strategy and the architecture of a mini lesson clearly defines what and how students can become successful readers.

3. Conferring! What am I suppose to talk about that will move students along their current text band and propel them forward to the next text band? It is going to take a lot of balance between mini-lesson instruction, strategy work, guided reading groups, partner work and conferring! Conferring catches a student at the cutting edge of their learning, at the cutting edge of greatness! A lot of times teachers think it is easy to confer with students, until you start! The key to conferring is not talking but listening! Coaching into the greatness is the hard part and it takes a lot of practice. The architecture of a reading conference helps move the conversation along.



Other Ah! Ha! Moments…
1. Reading Toolkit — teaching into readers needs!
2. #tcrwp chats on Twitter
3. The different types of small group work!

Digital Creations with EdCanvas

“In creating, the only hard thing is to begin.” By James Russel Lowell

Edcanvas is a tool I shared during the Edulum’s tool smack down and figured it needed more explaining then just the two minutes I had. Edcanvas is a place where you can create presentations, projects, share resources, flip the classroom and so much more. You can create meaningful content on any Common Core or Essential Standard in minutes, yes minutes! You can also use any device as it is mobile responsive.

Once you create an account and are logged in you will see that on the left hand side you can see your canvases, classes and gallery. To start a canvas, click on creating a canvas and enter the title for the canvas at the top. You can search for resources using the search options on the right. Notice there are many options of things you can use such as YouTube, Google Drive, Flickr, Website Links and Educreations. Once you have the resource you want drag it to a box and drop it. That is it, how easy! At the top you can change your theme and templates. Notice when you scroll over a box you can add text and/or embed a quiz!

One of my favorite features is the sharing options Edcanvas has. You can share the canvas so many different ways but it also has a unique way as well that I haven’t seen on many web tool sharing options. On Edcanvas sharing you also have the option of creating a QR code; how convenient is that!


Here is my Edcanvas that I made in 5 mins.

Creating a class is just as easy and a great way to help you differentiate. To start click on add class, select a new class and then name your class. It will give you a code that you can post on your workflow platform. Your students will go to and select sign-up then click the student tab. Have them register using the course code. (Notice no email address is needed as it is an option only.)

Other Awesome Features:

– Autosaves (great for students who forget to save)

– It can integrated with Edmodo

– Gallery of resources from other educators

– Click on play to present your Edcanvas

Apps and Sites That Work on All Devices for BYOT

“Honestly, I think we should be delighted people still want to read, be it on a Kindle or a Nook or whatever the latest device is.” By J.K. Rowling

With more and more schools launching, ‘Bring Your Own Technology’ or ‘Bringing Your Own Device’ (BYOT/BYOD) I created a symbaloo of all apps and web tools that work on all devices to help educators get started. Even though I am a firm believe, it doesn’t matter what site/app the students use to show mastery of a concept, some educators need a starting place and many have loved this symbaloo so I, of course, want to pass it along.

Typically when you click on the symbaloo tile it will bring you to a website/app that is linked. This symbaloo is a little different because I can’t embed the symboloo because wordpress doesn’t allow iframe widgets, so I had to make it a screen shot with url link.

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If there are sites that work on all devices that you have learned about, I would love to add them to my symbaloo. Please share in the comment section as websites are making apps everyday.

If you would like to view my previous posts on BYOT see below:

Bring Your Own Devices Resources

5 Best Practices for BYOT in the Classroom

Getting Teachers and Parents Comfortable with BYOT

Rolling Out Our BYOT

BYOT and Balancing Equality 

BYOT Our First Month in Review

Using ThingLink in the Classroom

“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” by Edwin Land


Thinglink was introduced to me when I was at the NC Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) Conference during a presentation by Richard Byrne (@rmbryne). I thought it was a really great FREE web tool but was disappointed it didn’t also have an app. A few weeks ago, Thinglink launched their FREE app, which I love!

What is Thinglink? Thinglink makes pictures interactive with text, video, images and links. When you click on a Thinglink image, you’ll see symbols such as red video circles and dots where it is interactive. Thinglink has endless possibilities in education. My top 3 ways of using it in education are below:

1. Student Portfolios: Teachers can use a picture of a student and through-out the year, students can add images of their work or video to show mastery of content. By doing this each quarter the teachers, students and parents can see the progress over the year. Each corner of the picture could represent each quarter/semester.

2. Assessment, Projects and Presentation: Students can create Thinglinks to show their understanding for any Common Core or Essential Standard. Teachers can have a rubric setting the expectation for what they want in the Thinglink. For example you could require, two text boxes, a link and  a video. Or you can set the expectation that the student must show mastery of a standard, and the student has a little more freedom to determine what that looks like. Having the students creating Thinglinks lets them use all their 21st century skills of critical thinking, creating, communicating and collaborating (if they work with a partner).

Ex of Assessment: The student can draw out any topic, for example the water cycle or a math problem, using the free Skitch app. The student can save it to their camera roll and then create a Thinglink demonstrating their knowledge by adding recordings, text and links explaining their thinking.

Ex of a project: The students can make book reports by taking a picture of the book cover and embedding a movie trailer that they have created for the book. Or for non-fiction the student could find a picture of the person like Steve Jobs, and they can show their understanding of the book. Click here for my example, I chose to do a favorite quote and speech.

A fabulous teacher, Lisa Maples, embedded her class Thinglink into her wiki, as an end of year project. There are  links to various digital projects that the students have created.

3. Lesson Plans and Homework: Teachers can create Thinglinks to help differentiate lessons and homework. Using any image, the teacher can add the content they want the students to know. You can even spice up graphic organizers and info-graphics.

Ex of  a Lesson Plan: The teacher can take a picture of an ecosystem and add all the vocabulary words and/or videos that can help the students learn the topic.

Ex of Homework: This is a great way to flip the classroom. You can embed videos and practice problems on a  topic and have the students complete for homework. Click here for an example using comparing fractions.

Thinglinks are easy to create on both the website and in the app. First create an account at (it is free). If you want to create a Thinglink on the app, download it, and then sign in. Using the pictures in your camera roll, chose one and then tap anywhere on the picture. Here you add the content you want such as video or text, add a title and you are done. You can share it by emailing the link from the app but it also automatically syncs; when you log into your account through the website, you can share it many more ways. If you are creating a Thinglink on the website, click on create in the top right corner and chose an image that is on your computer or for a website (make sure it is a creative commons imagine) and add your content. That is it, I love free and simple!

Any of these Thinglinks can be made into a QR code as well. You can have these posted around the room as helping aids or to inform the students. Just copy the url and paste into any QR code creator such as qrstuff or follow my directions on my blog post about making  QR code in google drive.

I would love to hear how you have used Thinglink or want to use it in your classroom, please share in the comments or on this open Thinglink I created by clicking edit and adding your idea. (To make a Thinglink where anyone can add info, click on the edit tab and set your settings to anyone.) Another great way to have students collaborate in the classroom.

Follow me on Thinglink:  Edu_Thompson. Here are some more great Thinglinks done by other educators! Click on the links to view.

Flexible Learning Paths

Web Tools and Literacy

Let’s Teach Kids to Code

Transforming the Classroom with ‘Touting’

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” By Theodore Roosevelt

There is a new social media called Tout. To Tout you capture 15 second status updates and publish them online. The recordings can be about news, gossip, places etc. When reading about Tout a month ago it got me thinking; we can use this concept in the classroom. This would allow students to be 21st century learners by communicating, collaborating, critically thinking and creating.

I decided I wanted to try this concept of creating 15 second videos first with having students act out vocabulary terms. I shared my idea with a 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Mehta (@megan_mehta) and we used her class as our ‘guinea pigs’.

We explained to the students that they were going to act out the fraction vocabulary terms (3.NF). The rules were that they couldn’t say the word and the clip had to be under 15 sec. This allowed the students to use all their 21st century skills. The students had to collaborate together and decide how they wanted to act out their vocabulary word, they had to critically think about what was most important about the vocabulary word in under 15 sec, they had to communicate this effectively so the other students could figure out what the vocabulary word was and then create the video.

Ms. Mehta model what acting out a vocabulary word looked like by acting out the ‘life cycle of a plant’ in under 15 secs. We then gave the students about 10 minutes to brainstorm in their groups while, Ms Mehta and I facilitated and asked guiding questions.


While I took the students out into the hallway to help record, Ms. Mehta continued with her math workshop and we rotated the groups until all the students recorded their vocabulary words. The students then uploaded them to their Gaggle digital lockers and added them to the class social wall. (This could also be done on an Edmodo or Schoology account) The students then reviewed each others videos and guessed what word the other groups did. They now can review these vocabulary words visually at anytime by logging onto their Gaggle accounts. Here is an example: Can you guess what their math vocabulary word is?

That is right – Fraction! We felt this was successful because this allowed students to review vocabulary words for the state test without ‘drill and kill’. The students loved the activity as well. We did decide not to tell the students about the ‘Tout’ site as we didn’t want them to go home and look it up as it does have some inappropriate videos for young students. (FYI-Tout: You should make an education version for students that is safe for them)

This activity can easily be differentiated but giving ‘harder’ vocabulary words to the higher level students and the easier vocabulary words to the lower students. This way they are all doing the same activity and it is not apparent that they are on different levels.

My next idea for this tout concept is with middle and high schoolers; I want them to ‘tout’ status updates about what they are learning and then share with friends. This will allow the students to reflect on what they are learning like a twitter status update but visually. They will also put these on the classrooms Gaggle social wall so they can view each others.

I also think you can use this concept as a way to informally assess what the students understand. I would love to hear other ideas to make these idea even better. I hope you try it out in your classroom.

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