Sunday, June 30, 2024

The Shift Towards Cell Phone Bans in Schools: Navigating the New Landscape

In the ever-evolving world of education, one trend that’s been gaining traction is the decision of more and more districts to ban cell phones in schools. As an advocate for innovative education, I find this development both intriguing and challenging. Historically, many of us have championed the use of cell phones as powerful learning tools, providing students with access to information, collaboration opportunities, and various educational apps. However, recent shifts in the educational landscape have prompted a re-evaluation of this stance.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Digital Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably accelerated the integration of digital devices into our classrooms. With remote learning becoming the norm, schools invested heavily in laptops, tablets, and other digital devices to ensure continuity of education. This investment has paid off, and as we return to in-person learning, these devices have remained integral to our teaching strategies. With this widespread availability of school-provided digital tools, the necessity of personal cell phones for educational purposes has diminished.

The school-sanctioned devices have the necessary software and safeguards to facilitate a productive learning environment. This shift allows educators to maintain a controlled and focused classroom setting, minimizing distractions that personal cell phones often bring.

The Need for Responsible Usage Outside School

However, the conversation shouldn’t end with banning cell phones in schools. It’s imperative that we equip our students with the skills to use their personal devices responsibly outside of the school environment. Cell phones are ubiquitous in our society, and students must learn to navigate their digital lives with discernment and responsibility.

To address this, schools must implement comprehensive digital literacy programs that extend beyond the classroom, such as those from Common Sense Education. These programs should cover a range of topics, including digital citizenship, online safety, and time management. By doing so, we prepare our students not only to excel academically but also to thrive in a world where digital devices are an integral part of daily life.

Enforcing the Ban: A Collaborative Effort

A significant concern with implementing a cell phone ban is the enforcement strategy. It’s crucial that this responsibility does not fall solely on teachers, who are already juggling numerous tasks. Schools must establish a clear, effective enforcement plan that minimizes the burden on educators. This can include:

  1. Clear Policies and Communication: Establish and communicate clear policies regarding cell phone usage, ensuring students and parents understand the rules and consequences.
  2. Administrative Support: Designate specific staff members or a team to handle enforcement, so teachers can focus on instruction without having to police cell phone use constantly.
  3. Secure Storage Solutions: Provide secure lockers or storage solutions where students can store their phones during school hours.
  4. Use of Technology: Implement technology solutions like signal blockers or apps that limit phone functionality within school premises.

By having a well-thought-out strategy in place, schools can ensure the cell phone ban is effectively enforced without overburdening teachers.

Balancing Innovation and Regulation

The decision to ban cell phones in schools is not a step back but rather a shift towards a more structured and balanced approach to technology in education. It’s about creating an environment where students can focus on learning without the constant pull of social media and other distractions. At the same time, it’s crucial that we don’t neglect the importance of teaching students how to manage their digital presence responsibly.

As innovative educators, we must continue to adapt to the changing educational landscape while advocating for the holistic development of our students. By embracing school-provided digital devices and implementing robust digital literacy programs, we can strike a balance that fosters both academic excellence and responsible digital citizenship.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Why I've Been Gone: Post-Accident Health Update

You may have noticed that I haven't written on my blog since last fall. That's because I was in a serious accident caused by a hit-and-run driver. The free time I spent writing has now been taken up with visits to doctors and receiving treatment for my injuries. I haven't been too open about my accident in public spaces; however, I feel it's time to give folks who knew about my accident and those who didn't an update.


Last fall, I was struck from behind and run over by a hit-and-run taxi driver in a Chevy Suburban SUV while crossing the street at a crosswalk with the right of way. This accident left me with multiple injuries and prevented me from walking for many months. I was diagnosed with neuropathy and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as the "suicide disease," due to severe nerve damage in my foot and ankle. The slightest touch felt like being stabbed with fiery knives and electric shocks. Even wearing a sock was unbearable. I also sustained trauma to my head, neck, and shoulders, and I will need surgery to address those injuries in the future.


After months of intense treatments—many of which weren't covered by insurance or known by mainstream doctors—I am walking again and even doing some of the activities I enjoy. This is a huge milestone, considering my initial prognosis suggested I might not walk unassisted for at least a year or possibly never.
As my readers know, I'm a writer. To that end, I created a mobility guide to assist others with mobility challenges. There's so much that isn't commonly known or shared. You can check out the guide called "I can't walk. Now what? here:


I've been independent since moving to New York at the age of 21, so needing to ask for help was a big change for me. Thankfully, I had incredible support from those close to me, and I'm deeply grateful for their help—they kept me sane! Here are photos featuring some of the amazing people who supported me when I needed it most.

There were many more loved ones beyond those in the photos who helped. While I didn't capture everyone, I appreciate all of you who called, texted, wrote, came by, met/got me to ER, took me to doctors, did reiki, physical, and desensitization therapy, replaced my icepacks, encouraged me, walked my dog, did my chores, wheeled me to restaurants, took me into your homes to care for me, took me in my wheelchair to get out of the house, and more. Thank you!

Need Support?

If you know anyone with mobility needs and/or who suffers from CRPS or neuropathy, read my guide and/or reach out. I'm now in remission from both. I've learned a lot.

What's Next for The Innovative Educator blog?

While I will still require treatments for the foreseeable future, I'm figuring things out and plan to begin sharing back on The Innovative Educator blog.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

3 Free Technologies to Help Students Learn to Read

Once taught through traditional methods, the fundamental skill of reading has become much easier to acquire via the use of technology. Technology provides an exciting opportunity to enhance literacy in a way that's personalized, engaging, and accessible to all. This post delves into three technologies that help make learning to read easier in ways that empower both educators and students.

While some may associate Khan Academy with math videos, today, it is much more. Khan Academy now has Khan Academy Kids with thousands of educational games, books, and activities for children ages 2-8.

Kids can learn reading, phonics, writing, and social-emotional development through fun educational games and lessons. Find a variety of activities, from ABC games for kids to 2nd-grade books. Students can learn with catchy songs and yoga videos – while having fun moving, dancing, and getting the wiggles out. Khan Academy Kids is completely free, forever—no ads or subscriptions necessary.

Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI)

There are numerous Generative AI platforms available to support learning to read from the popular ChatGPT to Bing, Bard, Claude, etc. Here are some ideas for doing that, with more detail on each in this post

  • Adaptive Content: Tailor reading passages to individual reading levels and languages, providing a personalized learning experience. 
  • Create Personalized Stories and Songs: Create custom stories featuring students or write educational songs to make vocabulary learning fun. 
  • Reading Comprehension Support: Utilize AI to develop questions that challenge and enhance reading comprehension skills.

Common Sense Education

Choosing the right tools for reading education can be daunting, but Common Sense Education simplifies the process:
  • Customized Search: With filters for topic, grade level, device type, subject, cost, and more, finding the right resources is streamlined and efficient.
  • Reliable Ratings: An overall learning rating helps educators quickly identify quality resources to suit their students' needs.

Screenshot of the Common Sense Education site using various filters for a search for websites and apps that support learning o read.

By integrating technologies like Khan Academy Kids, Generative AI, and Common Sense Education, educators can lead the way in transforming reading education. These tools offer a way to make confident reading a reachable goal for every child. The time to explore, adapt, and inspire is now, for the future of reading education is not just on the horizon—it's here.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Smackdown of Top AI Image Generators: The Winner, Runner Up, & The Rest!

AI image generators provide innovative educators with new and exciting possibilities for their students and themselves. They have emerged as groundbreaking tools, offering innovative educators a wealth of new opportunities. Whether it's illustrating abstract concepts, crafting historical visualizations, or enhancing creativity in the classroom, these tools present an invaluable resource.

Innovative educators are aware of the importance of ethical considerations when using images such as citing sources and fair use. This can make it difficult when searching for images to enhance learning materials. AI image generators are a practical tool educators can use for such needs without breaking the bank by having to subscribe to a paid-for image service. 

Here's what you need to know:

Versatility: AI-generated images can illustrate abstract concepts, historical events, or even mathematical principles in a visually appealing way.

Accessibility: These tools allow you to create unique visuals without the need for extensive artistic skills or expensive software.

Cost-Effectiveness: Many AI image generators are available at little to no cost, making them accessible to educators and students working within budget constraints.

Ethical Considerations: Always be mindful of fair use and citation requirements when utilizing AI-generated images in your educational materials. Cite where you generated your image and the prompt used. 

Choosing the right tool for your needs can be challenging, given the myriad of options available. To help you navigate this decision, I conducted a practical test using the prompt: 

"Woman wearing fashionable lady's disco-style zip-up sneakers with a heel. There are no shoelaces."

The results of this test, including some of the strengths and weaknesses of different AI image generators, provide insights that you may want to consider when using such tools. 

The winner

Bing Image Creator

Powered by DALL.E, you can access this image creator at no cost by visiting: Image Creator from Microsoft Bing

Bing Image Creator was able to produce a beautiful design. It was easy to use and available at no cost. 
Woman wearing fashionable lady's disco-style zip-up sneakers with a heel. There are no shoelaces.

Not only did Bing Image Creator generate the requested image, it then allows you to select a tool called "customize" that lets you create the image for various platforms with suggested text for various platforms (i.e. Instagram) or formats (i.e. poster). 

Here's an example of that.
Advertisement for sneakers above that says: Zip into style - fashionable and comfortable sneakers with zipper.

The runner up

Stable Diffusion

You can access this image creator at no cost by visiting

Stable Diffusion did a nice job as well, however, it didn't have that customize option, making it the runner-up. 
Woman wearing fashionable blue lady's disco-style zip-up sneakers without a heel. There are no shoelaces.

Woman wearing fashionable pink lady's disco-style zip-up sneakers with a platform. There are no shoelaces.

Woman wearing fashionable pink lady's disco-style zip-up sneakers with a heel. There are no shoelaces.

The Rest

Many of the other AI image generators simply could not create the request. I gave each at least three tries. 

For free

Google's Image Generator

You can access this free platform at

The platform could not produce the prompt. No zipper. Shoelaces were included. No heel. 

Here is what the platform generated.
Woman wearing fashionable silver lady's disco-style sneakers with no heel. There are no zippers. There are shoelaces.
Woman wearing fashionable silver lady's disco-style sneakers with no heel. There are no zippers. There are shoelaces.

Woman wearing fashionable silver lady's disco-style sneakers with a heel. There are no zippers. There are shoelaces.


You can access this free platform at

The platform did a mediocre job of generating the image. They were not worn by a lady and don't really look like sneakers. However, there are no laces, there is a heel and zipper. 

Here is what the platform generated.
Hand holding sequined shoe with a zipper in the sole.

Sequined shoe in the air
brown patent leather shoe in the air with a zipper

For Fee


You can access this a limited number of times for free, then it becomes a for fee platform. Visit

The platform did a mediocre job of generating the image. While it did remove laces and it did provide some unique designs, it could not generate a zipper. 

Here is what the platform generated.

White and silver version of a shoe that is a cross between a sandal and a sneaker.
Slip on silver and white sneaker
Silver and white sneaker with no laces or zipper


Midjourney is complicated to access. You have to sign up for Midjourney at You must pay a fee of about $10 a month and then join Discord and figure out how to use the correct prompts and channels. One advantage of Midjourney is that you can put specific subjects and images into the prompts. 

The platform did a mediocre job with the prompt. It included shoelaces, usually did not provide a heel, though it did add a zipper. 

Here are some of the outputs the platform generated from the prompt given:

Pink shiney shades in sneakers with zipper, heel, and laces.

Pink shades in sneakers with zipper, heel, and laces.

Pink shiney sneakers with lace. No zipper or heel.

Adobe Firefly

You can access this paid-for platform at

It could not do the task. No zipper, no heel, shoelaces present. 

After multiple tries, here are some of the results it generated:
Silver sneakers with laces. No zipper or heel. 
Silver sneakers with laces. No zipper or heel.

Silver sneakers with laces and velcro. No zipper or heel..

With AI image generators, like the top-performing Bing Image Creator or the capable Stable Diffusion, you can create unique, engaging visuals that democratize the design process, making professional-level imagery accessible to all.

The journey of integrating AI image generators into your educational practices is one filled with discovery, creativity, and a bit of experimentation. It's essential to remember that these tools are as effective as the way they are utilized. Consider your student's needs, the subject matter, and learning objectives. If your students are using these tools, you must be aware of age restrictions.

Also, consider that the process is not without its challenges. As this exploration shows, not all AI image generators are created equal, and selecting the right tool requires thoughtful consideration of factors such as versatility, accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and user-friendliness. Some may offer additional features like customization, while others might fall short in delivering the desired results.

As innovative educators, we have the opportunity to harness these tools to inspire, engage, and enlighten our students. The future is here, and now is the time to embrace it.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Using Generative AI to Help Students Learn to Read

There are numerous Generative AI / Large Language Models (LLMs) available to support learning to read from the popular ChatGPT to Bing, Bard, Claude, etc. Whichever platform you choose, here are some ways to use generative AI to support learning:

  • Adapt reading passages to the appropriate level and language
    By employing LLMs, educators can easily adapt literature to the reading level of their students. For example, the tale of "Cinderella" could be rewritten with simpler sentences and vocabulary to suit Kindergarten students. If a student's native language isn't the primary language of instruction, these tools can seamlessly translate the text, ensuring comprehension and engagement.
  • Personalized reading support:
    By analyzing the student's reading levels and interests, the model can recommend and even generate reading materials for students.
  • Create personalized stories featuring students: 
    Personalization in learning builds a connection and enhances motivation. Teachers can create a story involving students from their class as characters, like a fun-filled class trip to the zoo. The story can be varied by reading level and even language. By using Generative AI, each story becomes accessible to all languages and reading levels and it is relatable and engaging, fostering a sense of identity and community within the classroom.
  • Write songs to enhance learning and develop vocabulary:
    Imagine having an LLM create a catchy song to a familiar tune, featuring the vocabulary or concepts from a children's book. This engaging method can increase students' familiarity with vocabulary and deepen students' connection to the material, turning reading time into a memorable and enjoyable experience.
  • Develop reading comprehension questions:
    Use the LLM to develop comprehension questions about a text to check understanding, help students make inferences, and connect to prior knowledge.  
As an innovative educator, you can take advantage of the exciting possibilities offered by generative AI to inspire and challenge your students in reading. By incorporating these strategies, you can create a more dynamic, personalized, and effective teaching experience. These tools encourage creativity and inclusivity, revolutionizing the way we approach education in our rapidly advancing digital age. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Chat with any YouTube video using ChatTube!

Innovative educators know that it is best for students to interact with learning videos using techniques such as Frame, Focus, and Follow Up. ChatTube just made that a lot easier. ChatTube uses ChatGPT technology to allow you to chat with YouTube videos in real-time using AI to ask questions, get summaries, pinpoint key points, translate content, and more. You can even suggest it provides questions/answers geared to a particular grade level. You can converse with up to five videos a day at no cost and more if you want to sign up for a premium version. 

ChatTube is embedded into YouTube. As you can see from the screenshot below, you can find it in the pane on the right. 

Screenshot of YouTube showing ChatTube in the pane on the right
For a more immersive experience, you can install the Chrome Extension.
Screenshot of what it looks like to install the Chrome extension of ChatTube