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Showing posts from April, 2014

#edsurge50: Giving Teachers & Students Voice in EdTech

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My students, who live in a quiet suburb north of Boston, are suddenly starting to feel like their work is making a difference. In December some of them shared their ideas for the innovative classroom remotely to a conference in Disney World. Two weeks ago a few more presented to a room full of teachers and administrators on the benefits of a paperless model.  And now a few of them have a national audience thanks to a published article with EdSurge.

















The Fifty States Project (#edsurge50) is the brainchild of Associate Editor Mary Jo Madda. Her mission is explained in this great video.



EdSurge and Mary Jo are providing an opportunity for teacher voices to he heard by business and political leaders who develop education products and policy. Not only that, even my students feel like their work is connected with the real world because their work was linked to the article. One of them even tweeted about it this morning, and his enthusiasm for "B block history" definitely comes thro…

Empower Introverts with BYOD

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Last night I participated in a #BYOTchat moderated by Steve Hayes and Nathan Stevens about introvert students. It was based largely on the work of Susan Cain, the author of Quiet.  She also gave an incredible TED Talk on the Power of Introverts.  The chat questions focused on the strengths of introverts, misconceptions about them as students, and how teachers and schools can better serve introverts.




The chat got me thinking about how my students use their own technology (smartphones, tablets, and laptops) to participate in class. Although we still do sometimes have traditional discussions that require them to raise their hands, much of our collaborative work happens via technology. The former is unnatural to the introvert students. Volunteering to share their inner thoughts and insights with others to gain notice and credit is uncomfortable.  The latter, sharing via technology, is more comfortable. Everyone is sharing and introverts have more time to shape their words and ideas the w…

The Dr. Will Show

I was lucky enough to be noticed by technologist and Twitter extraordinaire Dr. Will Deyamport III recently. We quickly arranged to have a Google Hangout and he asked me about how and why I decided to go paperless in my high school history classroom.


Please check out Dr. Will's original post on the episode at his blog, Peoplegogy.

Dr. Will asked great questions about what inspired me to go paperless, how it has changed my teaching, the differences in my students' experiences while learning in a paperless environment, and how parents have reacted.  We talked about the successes and frustrations of going paperless and discussed why my students recently decided to share their enthusiasm with their teachers at a professional institute.

It was an honor to be interviewed by Dr. Will, who has had previous episodes with edtech leaders like Jennifer Carey and Tom Whitby. I'm so grateful for an opportunity to share my practice with educators.

Thanks Dr. Will!

Students Teach Teachers the Power of Paperless

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If you read my blog with any regularity or follow me on Twitter you know I've transitioned to a paperless classroom this year. I've been lucky enough to have students who are willing to be on this new adventure with me. My well-intentioned plans don't always work perfectly when deployed in a BYOD classroom of 25 students. We've decided that there are too many benefits to the paperless model to let a few technical difficulties get in our way. Teacher and students have worked hard, together, so that we can benefit from the opportunities that mobile technology provides in a paperless classroom environment.  If it weren't for my students and their enthusiasm I never could have come so far... and I truly believe there is much much more my students and I will get to learn as we continue on our adventure together.

It only seemed right that when I had to opportunity to share my paperless successes at a professional conference, students should lead the way.  At the Blueprin…

Blackout Primary Sources

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If it had been possible for something to go viral in the late 1700s, Thomas Paine's Common Sense would have done that. His pamphlet was the catalyst that convinced a hesitant colonial public that rebellion for independence from the British Empire was the only answer.

Of course, language that was considered engaging and persuasive in the late 1700s is not necessarily the same language that 21st century teens find engaging. Without doing traditional document analysis, how can students see how important this document is?
As is often the case, I found inspiration from my PLN on Twitter. Greg Kuloweic and Lauren Putman were tweeting about blackout poetry, partly inspired by poet Austin Kleon.  Lauren challenged her middle school students to blackout the Battle of Salamis, with impressive results.
Greg blogged about it and explained how to leverage iPads to complete and publish the project. He also took the project a step further and suggested a way for students to produce videos in whic…

Death is Hard to Talk About

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On this one year anniversary of #BostonStrong part of what we remember includes the suffering and bravery of those who were injured or killed. It was a day that both horrified us and united us. Part of the reason for those two different affects is that death is hard to talk about.

On this day of remembrance I had the opportunity to remember a different event that forced Americans to come face to face with death: The Civil War. Drew Gilpin Faust and Ric Burns talked about Death and the Civil War at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Their talk focused on Faust's book and Burns's film based on that book.
Their discussion focused on how the sheer numbers of dead created new realities and attitudes of death. 2% of the whole U.S. population died in combat or from disease during the war. That adds up to approximately 750,000 people. (Based on the U.S. population today, 2% would be 7 million people...dead.) In the South it was even worse: 20% of the male population between t…

Animate Your DBQ

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Teenagers send videos to each other all the time via iMessage, Snapchat, and YouTube. Why not teach them to make videos that answer deeper historical questions?

The document based question (DBQ) is a staple in most middle and high school history classrooms, but your day-to-day document analysis can be humdrum. To add interest and encourage students to create something unique based on what they've learned, I asked them to produce videos that explained their document's importance.


The DBQ Project has a great American History Mini-Q that asks "The Battle of Gettysburg: Why was it a Turning Point?"  It contains four excellent documents that range from maps to letters to statistics.

Step 1: History Recall In a previous lesson of this unit, students analyzed statistics about the North and South at the outset of the war and created infographics. I asked them what they remembered about the advantages and disadvantages of both sides.

In another lesson students created their o…

A Reason to Push Forward

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I was honored to receive the 2014 Yale-Lynn Hall Teacher Action Research Prize at the Yale School of Management Education Leadership Conference on Friday, April 4.  Click the link below to view my submission:

Mobile Devices and Student Innovators


Mobile Devices and Student Innovators


My colleague Janet Dee was an encouraging force in getting me to put together the submission and helped with the editing and data analysis processes. Her connections with Yale SOM made it all possible.



A few reflections after attending the conference, being a part of the panel, receiving the honor, and returning to my classroom:




EdTech is Changing My Classroom Even Today I drafted the submission in February and I can't help but notice how much farther my students and I have come in the two months since then. They are building even more creative products, sharing their ideas collaboratively online, and staying on contact with me 24/7 with questions and ideas.  The classroom experience is changing faster t…

#sketchnotes: Time to Give Kids More Freedom

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I'm on the verge of a BIG shift in the way I empower my students to record day-to-day learning in my classroom.

I've blogged about doodle notes before to show how my students:
edit screenshots of class notesdesign images to represent primary source analysis

But I haven't really gone full tilt with student sketchnotes. Sketchnotes are a more creative and engaging way to take notes.  They're posted all the time on Twitter.


With all of the versions of doodling I've allowed students to use in the classroom, there is a clear structure I've put in place first.  I haven't really given them the freedom to doodle in a their own way.  I was worried that without some kind of linear guide my students would not get down the essential content I'm responsible for teaching based on our school curriculum and state standards.  On the other hand, as this school year has carried on I've been giving my students more and more choice an…