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Showing posts from 2014

Real Teaching (and Learning) from Afar

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I had the amazing opportunity to attend and present at the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence National Institute in Walt Disney World last week.  The thing is, I'm still a teacher and my students were still going to be in my classroom.  They also still need to be having valuable collaborative experiences, even in the absence of their teacher.

I wasn't willing to cook up filler activities.  So I asked myself, "How can I teach without being present?"

Step 1:  I set up the necessary resources online so that all students could access them.  Students were going to study the rise of democracy in early 19th century America and the controversial presidency of Andrew Jackson.  I also made sure to post QR codes that bring kids to those resources throughout the classroom.

Step 2:  Of course, while I'm being inspired by other educators and experience the Disney Magic, I don't want my students to have a miserable week.  It made sense to let them decide how they wanted to l…

Tech Tips for Developing Real Relationships With Students

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The reason I believe so much in the importance of tech integration in education has little to do with the tech itself. Instead, it has everything to do with the communication and relationship-building that tech makes possible. Recently I wrote a post for Smarter Schools Project on this topic. Click here to read it.


Why Student Voice is Essential at EdTech Conferences

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Four of my current and former students helped me write an article about the importance of student voice at EdTech conferences.  In their portions they went even further and called for student input into lesson plans, app designs, and professional decision-making.
Click the image below to read their words.  Thanks for sharing!

Traversing the EdTech Slopes

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I love to ski. It is part of my identity. I don't remember learning how to ski. My parents taught me themselves when I was 3 years old.  For me, skiing is as natural as walking or breathing.  Want to see how much I love it?  This is a cliff in Steamboat, Colorado.


Our students are like that with smartphones, iPads, and laptops.  They have always lived in a world of YouTube, apps, tweets, and snapchats.  They thrive on the relationships they build partly through tech integration.  But many of them go to schools run by adults who are intimidated by the complexity of these tools.

I tried snowboarding when I was about 15.  I'd already been skiing for 12 years. I thought I'd be a quick study. I wasn't. It was hard. I fell a lot. It hurt.  Many long time teachers have become comfortable with more traditional methods.  They're good solid methods.  They're used by good solid teachers.  The thing is, these teachers are still skiing while their students live to snowboard…

"So What?" - The Power of Twitter, Voxer, and Great Questions

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My good friend Tammy Neil, a math and tech integration teacher from Florida, challenged a few of us in the Breakfast Club, a daily educator chat on Twitter (see #BFC530) and active group on Voxer, recently with a great question:
"So what?"
The context of the discussion surrounded the power of social media and how our students use it.  Alex from Target has gained nearly a million Twitter followers merely because a teenage girl shopping one day snapped a picture of a cute guy working the Target register and posted it.  Tammy asked us, "So what?"  What will this young man do with his now widely heard voice? Will he use it for personal gain, or will he use it to do something important? To make a difference?
This prompted me to think about my own history classes and what it is like to be a student in one of those classes.  Why should they learn about history? So what? How will students' time spent in my class make a difference? I have been working hard to ensure my …

Pedagogy Behind the Paperless Classroom

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I have been co-presenting with 6 of my students over the past few months at various conferences on the paperless classroom.  There are a few questions that are consistently brought up either with raised hands, on the backchannel during the session, or afterwards when attendees want to ask me face to face.  Most of them are clarifying questions around how a paperless classroom fits into teaching and learning pedagogy.  After our most recent workshop at MassCUE, I thought that these questions are asked so often it would be worth publishing

1. Why do you hate paper so much?
Ok, so no one has asked me this to my face at a conference.  But my colleagues and a few students have.  I've made an effort to preempt this question when I share at professional conferences by using this comical advertisement.



Funny, right?  No, I don't hate paper. It has an important place in our lives and in our education system.  In fact, although students don't have to keep any paper and I do not hand…

Why Attending an Edu Conference With my Students Changed Everything

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Our students make us laugh, drive us crazy, and inspire us to better ourselves.  They shouldn't just be the reason we teach, they should be a part of the teaching.  Yesterday I had the opportunity to present at MassCUE with 6 of my current and former students.  Watching them present was a proud moment, but it wasn't my favorite moment of the conference.  I knew they would blow the presentation out of the water. I knew they had prepared well and that their session attendees would learn something.  The BEST part of my day was watching them experience, learn, and network because of the unofficial opportunities the conference creates.

Networking My students had met members of the Burlington High School Help Desk via Google Hangout a couple of times thanks to the vision and urging of Jennifer Scheffer.  Meeting face to face, talking tech, and planning for future brilliance took their networking experience to a whole new level.  They were buzzing with excitement as they shared hot …

Teaching Technique: The 1 Minute Throwdown

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History teachers know that lessons on exciting events are easy.  It's teaching the philosophies behind those events, the intangibles, that is tough.  I needed a quick engaging plan to help the kids learn the material without watching them glaze over before my eyes.

This time I was teaching the 19th century ideologies that influenced the European Revolutions of 1830 and 1848: conservatism, liberalism, nationalism.  My plan was for the kids to come up with their best 1 minute presentation and go head-to-head with one another to find out who could best explain their ideology while entertaining their audience. Classmates would vote for the winners.
Day 1Define the word ideology and give students resources that describe the three 19th century ideologies.There are 3 ideologies in this instance, so I divided the class up into 6 groups: 2 groups per ideology.Groups read the resources and come up with an accurate, teacher-approved answer to the essential question: What were the major polit…

Student Connect -> Teacher Connect

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Some educators from my amazing PLN from #BFC530 created an off-shoot group called Student Connect. We have a Voxer group that allows our students to leave messages for one another from across the country.  Lisa's 11th and 12th graders in Pennsylvania can talk to my 9th and 10th graders in Massachusetts can talk to Scott's 7th graders in New Jersey can talk to Sarah's 7th and 8th graders in Georgia can talk to Becca's K through 5 students in Texas.

We come up with the question for each day and the kids talk to each other about their answers.  They LOVE listening to voices of kids from all around the country thank to Voxer.  They laughed together when eating waffles was mentioned as a fun weekend activity.  They shook their heads together when the stress of the PSATs was mentioned.  One of my sophomores said, "It's nice to know they're the same as us."

Day 1 Question: What do all kids want every teacher to know? Day 1 Responses: Here are the responses f…

Paperless Love

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I was honored to be invited by Dr. Will Deyamport, III to write a post with my students about our experience with a paperless classroom.  The link is below.  Please read and comment! Thanks Dr. Will!



Paperless Love

A Massachusetts Classroom Gets Global

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How global is Massachusetts?  Well, the infographic below might be helpful.  But, the real question we need to ask is: How global are Massachusetts classrooms that are preparing Massachusetts students?
I'm just at the beginning stages of this new pedagogy of global learning. I wish I'd arrived at it sooner.  Last week my sophomores had a 45 minute video chat with the expert historians Jamie and Darren at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England.

After studying the evolution of textile machinery, they got to see a prototype Arkwright Water Frame live via Google Hangout.
They learned about urbanization, the health of women factory workers, Luddite protests, and the enslavement of orphan children.


After being part of an international chat, my students wrote about what they learned and how it was different than typical classroom experiences.

Kate said:
I did learn a lot because I was interested in the topic and could interact with the person who was teaching. I lik…

The World is Our Classroom

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During the school year of 2013-2014 I had a goal of helping my students understand the power of their mobile devices when it comes to learning.  I achieved this, in part, by going paperless in my classroom and asking students to demonstrate learning through multimedia products instead of tests.  Inspired by Sylvia Tolisano's session at BLC14 in Boston, one of my personal and professional goals during the 2014-2015 school year is to show students that the best learning happens when we leverage all of the resources available to us.  While I might be their history teacher, I'm usually not the person with the most expertise available. In fact, the world is available to my students.  They just have to tap into it.

This week my students will be meeting and talking with Jamie, an Explainer at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England.
My sophomores have worked hard to learn the proper terminology and the social and economic impact of industrialization in preparation f…

Kids Speak: Good Teacher v. GREAT Teacher

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The curriculum I teach might be history, but teaching is about a heck of a lot more than curriculum.  More than anything else, building a real relationship with students is what facilitates learning.  In case I needed a reminder, my newest students for the 2014-2015 school year did a great job talking about those meaningful relationships with teachers in their first blog post of the year.

On the first day of school we watched a video in which a series of teachers and administrators talked about the hard fact that every child deserves a great teacher.  As part of their first blog post I asked students to talk about teachers they've had in the past that have been "great" and to give reasons.  Here are some of their awesome answers:

A great teacher must also be compassionate so they take outside factors into consideration. For example. if a student is having a rough time at home the teacher understands and makes necessary adjustments to help through that issue.

One specific t…

Creating a Place for Students to Create

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Public education is changing.  But change is slow when new programs, ideas, or teaching methods don't fit into existing structures.

Last spring I proposed a Student Help Desk program for our high school.  My hope was for students to have the opportunity to create tutorials that would help teachers and students integrate BYOD more smoothly and successfully at our school.  See, I don't believe in tech for tech's sake.  But our students are already bringing incredibly powerful smartphones and tablets to school, so why not teach them to leverage that power to enhance their academic experience?  BYOD can help students:

collaborate (Google Drive, Prezi, Padlet, messaging apps)create multimedia projects (Animoto, Videolicious, Educreations, ChatterPix)stay organized (Evernote, Google Drive)test their learning (Socrative, SurveyMonkey, Quizlet) This is how professionals are getting things done, so why shouldn't our students be working this way in the classroom as preparation fo…

Five Strategies for #EdTech Success in the New School Year

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Check out my latest article in EdSurge for these tested and proven strategies.  I've used them myself! Thanks so much for reading.

Set-Up Students for #EdTech Success in Week 1

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Here's my plan to set up my students for the content, collaboration, and creativity that technology will allow in our (ironically) history classroom:

Day 1: Inform Students and Parents It will all start when I show students this video from November Learning to spell out my mission: give them to tools to be doers.
Next I'll let students know that every final creation they produce will be published to the world, not just to me. They need to make it relevant and interesting. More importantly, it needs to be something they are proud to connect with their name online.Of course, I'll send home electronic and paper notices (the first and last paper notice of the year) to parents to let them know the same information and to assure them that they will have full access to all of their child's class materials and work in real time.  Grade data will also be available online, but with password protection.Sharing my own published work with both parents and students is essential. The …

Are These Really "Atrocities"?

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Chris Jordan is a photographer and artist making bold statements with images.

At about the 7 minute 30 second mark he calls the statistics surrounding prescription drug consumption, imprisonment, and breast augmentation surgeries "atrocities" in our culture. Is he right?  Since I teach teenage girls and see their daily struggles (not to mention that I vividly remember my own), the stats on breast augmentation surgeries for women under the age of 21, and given as a gift for high school graduation.... well, I'm not sure what to say.

Once we have gotten past our first five days and students have set up their initial tech, critical research, and analysis skills; I'd really love to dive into history with these images of today's statistics.  The lesson is that we have arrived at this place because of our history.  My job is to teach kids the history and to help them understand how it affected the present.  Their job is to help create change that will move us in a pos…

Leaders Communicate, Plan, and Act Together

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During our final day of the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Student Leadership Institute, BOLT students learned about the importance of communication, planning, and working with others. A leader does not have to be the smartest person in the room, just the person that can recognize others' talents and figure out how those talents will help everyone reach their goals.

On Thursday afternoon one of our last activities, facilitated by Christian Huizenga, was aimed at teaching the kids to communicate and plan before attacking a problem.  Their hands were tied together with yarn and then intertwined with someone else. They had to find a way out.

We kicked off Friday morning with MouseQuest in Epcot.  Continuing the theme of thinking and acting together, students worked in groups of 6-7 to solve clues, find answers, complete tasks, and answer challenges all morning. They had to take on roles within their groups based on their strengths.

We celebrated with a group picture in front of Sp…