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Showing posts from 2016

What should educators do about fake news?

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The fake news phenomenon has been developing alongside the growth of social media for years, but it is getting more attention presently because of the important role accurate and inaccurate information can play in a presidential election. Since 50% of young adults get their news primarily online, and teachers observe their younger students doing the same, many educators have growing concerns about their students' abilities to identify the real from the fake news on the internet.

The most alarming statistics came recently from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, 82% of middle schoolers were unable to distinguish between "sponsored content" and a real news story on a website. When these young learners do academic research and find out about the broader world through the internet, are they be able to tell the difference between real and fake?

Together with my colleagues at school and my peers in other schools, I am developing st…

How to Talk About Sexting

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The advice for the past few years from parents and educators everywhere has been clear:
Don't do it. 
That advice has been less than effective.
So, here we are. Sexting is still going on and may even be "the new first base" for teens. In fact, 80% of adults admit to sexting within the last year. The reasons that adults and teens engage in sexting behavior is often different, and schools and parents are usually rocked by scandal when teen sexting comes to light in their community. In the mean time, many adults are afraid to talk about it because it seems so taboo and uncomfortable.
This post is meant to provide enough information to empower educators and parents to start talking to their adolescents and teens about sexting proactively. The discussions need to happen before the scandal breaks and in an effort to prevent it, not in reaction to the scandal. This information should make adults feel empowered, not frightened.
Also, as a disclaimer, this post is not meant to be…

My child knows more about #edtech than I do!

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A common concern I hear from parents is that their children know more about the devices and technology used in school than they do. Even parents who work in technology-rich careers may not be familiar with education technology. As a result, day to day monitoring of what their children are doing is awkward and difficult. Sometimes it isn't until their child is hooked on a video game or social media platform that they initiate any discourse about healthy technology use. When families wait until there is something wrong to have these talks, it is bound to be tense and unpleasant.


Some parents have reached out to our school's technology team to ask for advice on monitoring apps or software, parental controls, and other easy fixes. Our response to these requests is consistent with the message we have shared at parent orientations, parent council meetings, and parent webinars: Have proactive conversations about twice a month.Open these conversations by asking, "Can you show me h…

The Ugly Sweaters of Education

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The ugly sweater. No matter your faith, it is a recognizable holiday phenomenon. Some wear them proudly, and yet it is only because they are messy, loud, and noticeable. The time when they were fashionable has past (decades ago) but there are some trends that stick around because they are hard to forget.


There are certain teaching and learning strategies that are no longer en vogue, but are so valuable they have quietly lasted decades in many classrooms. In many cases, the tools used to carry them out and the names used to describe them have changed.

Lecture Yes, I said it. Even as a teacher who has criticized the practice of lecturing quite often, I do believe it is a tried a true practice that can be effective –– if done well. Educators who are masterful lecturers understand that a quality lecture is interactive, thought-provoking, and entertaining for all participants. Great lectures are not solo performances, they are engaging experiences.
Pear Deck is one platform that allows educ…

Be Honest About PD

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My favorite way to learn as a professional is to find opportunities for my colleagues and I to have the time and structure for the conversations we aren't having at school. When at school educators are limited by scheduling, the defined boundaries of titles and roles, and cultural norms or routines for "how things are done" day to day. This is why you'll often find me at regional or national conferences with my colleagues. Sometimes we are co-presenting, but more often we are eager to talk with other teachers, curriculum and technology coaches, and administrators so that we can learn from them and bring inspiring ideas back to our teachers and students.

I realized this is the most effective form of professional learning for me because I was asked to intentionally think about it today.

This week I had the opportunity to work with a team of teachers and administrators from my school at the Future Ready Summit in Boston. We worked together as a team, and also learned f…

Students, Standards, and Finding the Switch

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Recently I was honored that the people at The Learning Counsel asked me if I'd author their quote of the week. Inspired by my friend Dr. Robert Dillon's thinking in his recent post for them, I decided to focus the quote on a topic in which educators are getting mixed messages.

My fellow educators have commented with affirmations and encouragement to the posts on Twitter and Instagram showing the graphic above. I think there are a few reasons why the idea expressed in the quote is speaking to people.
They Know How to Find the Switch Teachers are charged with helping students master new information and new skills day after day, year after year. Anyone can walk into a classroom, assign a reading passage and whip up a worksheet for a child to complete. Skilled creative teachers do much more than that. They take some time early in the school year to get to know each student. They know learning is more likely to happen when they remember to think of themselves as teaching children …

4 Characteristics of Effective Education Leaders

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I have worked for and with excellent education leaders who have improved morale and inspired students and teachers alike to accomplish much more than previously thought possible. I've also had a few experiences with some leaders who have caused damage to a school culture. There are four particular leadership characteristics that I appreciate most in the education leaders I encounter.

Communicate a clear vision with a clear "why." In The Truth About Leadership, James Kouzes and Barry Posner explain what sets leaders apart from other team members:
The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders. Leaders are custodians of the future. They are concerned about tomorrow's world and those who will inherit it. (p. 46) In schools, administrators and curriculum leaders need to be able to imagine and articulate the future that students will face. Then they need to communicate how educators can help them practice and refi…

The shocking things teens are doing online

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When we write or talk about #edtech, we are often referring to the role of technology in teaching and learning. How can technology help teachers collect more data on their students? How can it help students be more creative? How can technology facilitate personalized learning? How can it connect learners with high quality resources and experts from beyond their classrooms?

These are noble pursuits, but we would be wise to remember that social media is perhaps the most popular way that our students use the technology they hold in their hands both inside and outside of our schools. There are many websites, videos, and speakers out there who do their best to warn teens about the dangers and pitfalls of social media. And there are many dangers.

But what if we approached it differently? What if we encouraged and lifted up our teens so that they truly believed it is within their power to make great and positive change through their use of social media?
Most recently my school, St. John'…

You're Going to #GoOpen. What's Next?

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The U.S. Department of Education's Open Education initiative, also know as #GoOpen, came to New England for a summit hosted by Dr. Daniel Downs from North Reading Public Schools at the Amazon offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts today. Leaders like Kristina Peters, Andrew Marcinek, and Grace Magley spoke, and I was honored to be asked to speak about how openly licensed resources and tools can be used to help create high quality learning experiences for our students.

All students deserve great teachers, and great teachers deserve access to the resources they need to customize learning experiences for their students. But once they have access, what's next?

How can we motivate students to want to read and learn deeper with these resources? We have to start by inspiring them with great questions. These questions shouldn't be based on standards, rather they should inspire our students to want to master the content and skills in the standards. There are examples of inspiring quest…

Make #EdTech Work for YOU, Not the Other Way Around

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Some criticize technology use in the classroom as a way to draw kids in with flashy colors, sounds, and games that don't promote hard work and deep learning. I see technology use in education as a way to inspire our learners to want to dig deeper into everything they learn. It can also help our students access resources and experts from the world beyond their school.

So how can we make sure the EdTech is working for you and your students, and that it is not just another thing to add to the list of "things to do" in your classroom?

1. Better Professional Learning If school and instructional leaders want teachers to take risks with new teaching strategies and technology in their classrooms, they have to model that risk-taking when we design their professional learning experiences. Instead of having "technology trainings" we should embed technology into all professional learning. After all, we want teachers to embed technology only where it fits well into their s…

The Half-Truths of Collaboration in Education

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In a healthy collaborative situation, I know I can create better work and deliver a higher quality product to teachers and students. This might be the reason that my favorite part of the writing process is going through edits, feedback, and revision. If a person I trust can read through a piece with fresh eyes and perspectives, I am eager to consider their ideas, concerns, and even the most minor wordsmithing. Notice, however, that I prefaced that last statement with the caveat that it must be a person a trust.

Taking the time to build a relationship of trust must occur before healthy honest collaboration that challenges all individuals and improves the collective results. Without building that trust, we are left with "half-truths" about collaboration.

In Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work, Dufour, Dufour, and Eaker explore these half-truths.

1. "First, educators often substitute congeniality for collaboration (Barth, 2006; Segiovanni, 2005). If the m…

The Four Elements of Paperless Learning

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My journey to the paperless classroom started years ago. Even then there was both excitement and criticism around the concept of eliminating paper from our learners' academic experiences. Now that we are in an era where technology is a given, and no longer something special, is "going paperless" still worth discussing? What does "going paperless" really mean, anyway?

Here's my definition:
Paperless Classroom: Students and teachers use all available tools to access resources, record and organize information, communicate among themselves and with the outside world, and create original products as evidence of learning. As with all other resources and materials, paper is only used when the learning process or final product requires paper as a necessary element. Paper does not drive the process.
There are obvious economic reasons for going paperless:

Economy of costs: Paper is a significant percentage of every school's budget each year. If teachers and studen…

The Good, Better, Best of School Culture

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It seems the universe wants me to think more deeply about school culture this week. So, I'm asking myself:


How can we achieve the best school culture?
I attended Edcamp Leadership Massachusetts on Monday (see #edcampldrma for the live tweets from the day) and the dominating theme was school culture to promote positive change and to address the current climate of unrest and inequity nationally and globally. The participants there asked themselves and one another what responsibilities schools have to intentionally shape their culture so that our students have a healthy environment to ask tough questions.

Then, of course, I read a few chapters in Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work as part of my summer learning with a few colleagues at school and the focus was on school culture. As I read, I found myself returning to the Cultural Shifts table in Chapter 3.

Overall, the trend I noticed throughout the table is the quest to give all stakeholders a seat at the table. This …

The Best Personalized PD I've Ever Experienced

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Over the past 4 months I've had two incredible opportunities and each of them could easily qualify as the best personalized professional learning I've ever experienced. In fact, they were so powerful that I am planning to propose that a similar experience and format become a part of the professional learning we offer at my school. Here is my proposal:

Open or close faculty meetings, PD days, PTO gatherings, and even student class meetings with a TEDx-style or Ignite-style talk from a member of your community. Why was it powerful? Well, there are a few reasons:

From the Speaker's Perspective On April 30 I had the opportunity to give a TEDx Talk as part of TEDxYouth@BHS in Burlington, Massachusetts and on June 26 I was able to give an Ignite Talk (twice!) at ISTE's 2016 national conference in Denver, Colorado. The format and preparation requirements for each event forced me to examine my pedagogy, classroom activities, students' projects, and many pictures of my class…

The Key to Revolutionizing Education

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As I was reading the first few chapters of Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work I found this statement about how policymakers view education and the role teachers have in improving our schools.

Conservatives may contend that educators won't improve their schools, while liberals argue that educators can't improve their schools; but both groups seem increasingly resigned to the fact that efforts to reform schools are doomed to fail. (p. 51)
Of course, the authors go on to use statistics to argue that there is evidence of widespread school improvement, despite the hopeless outlook many policymakers have. While these statistics are upbeat and fun to read, they are based on assessments: test scores, graduation rates, and how they measure up to socioeconomic data. There is something missing here: the human element. The biggest reason education continues to move forward is because of the determination of educators themselves. There is no single reform movement, technolo…