Saturday, April 3, 2021

Update: Why I Haven't Been Writing

Writing during a pandemic

You would think a pandemic would be a wonderful time to write. And, it was. At least for the first six months of the pandemic. At that time, I was writing a lot. It was at this time that hardly anyone was seeing anyone outside their home face-to-face. Most people weren't traveling either. I was not living with friends or family, so my interactions with people was strictly video or with neighbors who happened to be outside (six feet away) when I was.  

Connecting during a pandemic

Once October rolled around however, some of my friends and I began connecting outdoors in our small group of beach volleyball players. It felt good to reconnect for the first time in months, with those close to me. We went back to the beach and played volleyball outdoors several times a week. We played in the mornings, afternoon, and evenings. After we played we watched the ocean, the sky, had food and drinks on the beach. 

After being isolated so long, all I have wanted to do in my spare time is be outdoors, on the beach, playing volleyball and hanging out with my friends. It trumps all other activities, television, social media, dating, and even writing.  

When you have something taken away, you appreciate and value it more. For that reason, my priorities right now are the face-to-face time I can spend outdoors on the beach with those close to me. Today, the weather is not conducive to playing and it's a weekend, so no work either. Since I had the chance, I jumped over here to my other passion, writing, to say I'm still here, but just with different priorities right now.

I'll be back

I have some ideas for future blog posts, so please do stay subscribed and know that while I'm not sure when I will be back, it will definitely happen.

Four women on the beach in front of a beach volleyball court
Beautiful beach volleyball day & beautiful friends

Monday, February 8, 2021

Podcast Playlist - 10 Podcasts for Innovative Educators

While some people Netflix bindged during the pandemic, I choose another form of entertainment: Podcasts. Podcasts are great for multitaskers like me. Whether you’re jogging, cleaning, driving, flying, doing yoga (don't judge me) or out walking your dog, a podcast provides a great way to keep the learning going while you’re doing something else. Check out the playlist below to see what I'm listening to these days.

Screenshot of Google Podcast Subscriptions

Podcast Playlist 2021

10-Minute Teacher Podcast 

  • Overview: Full-time teacher Vicki Davis, dives into what matters most to classroom teachers. The best and brightest educators and idea creators will inspire you as they are interviewed on this show. You'll learn behind the scenes tips, classroom ideas, and practical mindsets for anyone working with today's kids.
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: Quick bite-sized tips and ideas for busy educators.

Class of 2025 

  • Overview: Class of 2025 offers an in-depth exploration of some of the issues that students from Oregon face today, seen through the lens of the students themselves. 
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: There are unique insights into learning during the pandemic.

Code Switch

  • Overview: Fearless conversations about race hosted by journalists of color. This podcast tackles the subject of race head-on, exploring how it impacts every part of society — from politics and pop culture to history, sports and everything in between. 
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: Great conversations about race that are relevant in classrooms today.

Ed Surge 

  • Overview: Join EdSurge reporters as they sit down with educators, innovators and scholars for frank and in-depth conversations about education and how it is changing.
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: Talks about current topics and trends in education like should teachers use TikTok.

Exponential Wisdom

  • Overview: Learn about how technology will impact and change the present and the future, often faster than you think. 
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: Provides insights into areas like education and careers from leaders in the field.

HBD IdeaCast 

  • Overview: A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management.
  • What innovatie educators may like about this podcast: The podcast gives food for thought about the world we should be preparing students for.

Mic Drop

  • Overview: Mood-swinging, dream-chasing, rule-breaking dramas and adventures told directly from teens.
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: Get insights about teens, from teens.  

Nice White Parents

  • Overview: If you want to understand what’s wrong with our public schools, you have to look at what is arguably the most powerful force in shaping them: white parents. A five-part series from Serial Productions, a New York Times Company. Hosted by Chana Joffe-Walt.
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: If you teach in a diverse system, this podcast may give you unique perspectives.


  • Overview: The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Throughline goes back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: Great for innovative educators who discuss social studies or current events with their students.

WSJ Tech Briefing

  • Overview: The Wall Street Journal's reporters and editors highlight leading companies, new gadgets, consumer trends and cyber issues. 
  • What innovative educators may like about this podcast: If you're an innovative educator, you're interested in the lastest in tech. This podcast gives it to you in 10-15 minute episodes. 

Your turn

These are some of the podcasts I'm listening to these days. What about you? Are you listening to some of these? Are there any that sound of interest?

Sunday, January 3, 2021

5 Books for Families Who Are Rethinking School

For many families the pandemic brought school home giving them a birds eye view into what their children are learning. While some parents are seeing their children thrive, others are frustrated by what they see. They find it hard for their children to sit all day working on screens. They are discovering a lot of what their children are doing is having information fed to them that they could have easily learned by watching YouTube videos. When they see what kids are learning, they're wondering if this is really that useful for their 21st century lives. They are also realizing that this is not just a pandemic problem. It is likely equally hard for their children to sit all day being fed information in class too. 

Book cover: Fix the school, not the child

Fix the School, Not the Child

Many parents are doing everything they can to help their children succeed. But perhaps it is not the child that needs help, but the school that can teach and support learning in a way that better meet the needs of children. 

To help with that parents can read “Fix the School, Not the Child.” The book provides parents with 20 concrete actions they can take to advocate for the rights of their child in school today. 

Supporting Student Personal Learning Networks

Book cover: Supporting personal learning networks
Some working parents are having a particularly difficult time having to support their children at home while also doing their jobs. However, it doesn't have to be that way. Parents can support their children in developing
Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). These are connections individual learners make to suit their specific perceived learning needs. 

We know that there is value found not only in what you know, but also who you know and how to make the most of those connections. This holds true for youth as well. Supporting Student Personal Learning Networks walks parents through how to help their children build their own personal learning network with first-hand accounts and advice from students and their parents.
Book cover: The working home educators guide to success

The Working Home Educator's Guide to Success

For working parents who find their children are thriving at home and considering making a change to homeschool but are not sure just how that can work, there is The Working Home Educators Guide to Success. The book has advice and stories from parents who homeschooled their children while also working.

Parents will learn that homeschooling does not have to look like school at home for their children to thrive. They'll also find there are numerous creative and unique ways to do scheduling and learning so children and parents will succeed and maybe even have more time then when their children were in school.
Book cover: How to Opt Out (not drop out) of School

How to Opt Out, Not Dropout, of School

For parents with teens who are considering continuing to learn from home there is How to Opt Out, Not Dropout, of School. This book will help parents on a path to empowering their child to take control of their own learning and discovering their own path to pursuing their passions.

The book provides the information and encouragement young people need to determine their best education option to meet their goals and be prepared for the present and future college and/or career.
Book cover: The Uncomfortable History of Schooling in America

The Uncomfortable History of American Schooling in America

While many families are eager to get back to the normal life they're used to, the pandemic provides an opportunity to reexamine how children spend their days. Many parents and children are enjoying the family time. The time to pursue hobbies and interests. The time to spend more time outdoors and active.

The Uncomfortable History of American Schooling takes a look at why we do what we do when it comes to school. Then it challenges us to consider if back to normal is really what we want or if it’s just what we know. It helps us grapple with the question: Could there be something better? For answers to that we look at the through-line from our past starting in the 1500s until today. We consider what our Prussian model of compulsory government schooling is designed to do: turn out well-disciplined students who would move by bells and follow orders without questioning authority. Then we look at alternatives that worked in the past, and could work in the present, and future to see if there is something better.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ideas for Connecting with Families Remotely

Slide saying: Parent Coordinators Professional Learning 2020
After the pandemic hit, Lorrie Ayers, a family leadership coordinator in Brooklyn, New York realized she needed to brush up on her technology skills so she could continue to help families in her district feel welcomed. She attended weekly learning sessions offered by the district on various ways to use technology to connect with families. In the sessions hundreds of staff members who support families come together not only to learn, but to network, connect, and share how they are putting what they learned into practice. 

She took what she learned and put into practice new, innovative, and even better ideas for connecting. 

Ideas for connecting remotely with families:

  • Bitmoji: Make it fun! Use Bitmoji in communications with families to add a little fun and flavor to your outreach.

  • Social emotional check: It’s important to acknowledge how families are doing. Before interacting, do a little check to see, acknowledge, and address how they are feeling.

  • QR Codes: Make it easy for others to access your content by adding a QR code that can easily be scanned. 

  • Mentimeter: Use live polls, quizzes, word clouds, Q&As and more to get real-time input - regardless if you’re remote, hybrid or face-to-face.

  • Virtual Coffee and Tea: No matter the beverage or time preference, virtual meetups make it easier for families to connect with schools. Provide weekly options for parents to connect with school staff from wherever they are.

  • Digital scavenger hunts: Families are encouraged to go outside, learn, and share using the district’s hashtag.

  • Zoom baking classes: It’s easy to teach a baking class from your own kitchen and learning to bake in your kitchen works well too. 

  • Social media: Families may not read their email, but many of them love connecting with schools on Instagram and Facebook. Find the right hashtag(s), make it accessible, and strengthen the home-school connection.

  • Virtual fundraising success: Gone are the days of sending home envelopes with donations. Virtual fundraising enabled one school to have record-breaking fundraising success.

  • Digital elections: Rather than having to come face-to-face for PTA elections more votes could be counted with an election on Zoom and digital voting.

  • Virtual wine tasting: Tasting wine from your home is a great way to support local business, connect families, and have a toast safely.

  • Virtual award ceremony: Canva video lets you take creative content to the next level and design with amazing templates that can be used for celebrations, award ceremonies, exercise classes and more.

Lorrie shared that these classes made her unafraid to try using new technology and to share what she learns with others. Check out the video below to hear directly from Lorrie.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Join Me at The Emergency #HomeLearningSummit

Emergency Home Learning Summit logo
Join me at the free Emergency Home Learning Summit as speakers (including me) answer the question: "What do you know about learning that could dramatically help or change the lives of students (as well as parents, teachers, librarians, and others) at this moment?"

Whether by circumstance or choice, learning at home is now the reality for more students than ever. The event is for educators and parents interested in helping students to learn. This is possibly what may be one of the most important conversations about learning in the history of the world. Understanding when, where, and how learning takes place has never been more important. The event goes through the end of November. 

Here is some of what you can expect

The Emergency Home Learning Summit will cover a variety of topics from more than 150 speakers in both drop-in conversatinos and curated series.

Topics include

  • Balancing home and school
  • Blended learning
  • Classroom 2.0
  • Defining success
  • Family & parenting
  • Screen time concerns
  • Microschools
  • Mindful teaching & learning
  • Student entrepreneurship
  • Modern assessment methods
  • Virtual and world schooling

Speakers include:

How to navigate the Summit

Visit the The Emergency Home Learning Summit website then either:
  • Sign up for future speakers who you can add to your calendar and watch live.  
  • All past speakers can be viewed for free for five days
  • Sign up by November 30th for the $99 pass to access all content. After November 30th the pass price goes up to $149. 
Each day's recorded sessions are posted at 9 a.m. US-Eastern Time and are available to be viewed for five days. (You need to click the "Include Completed" checkbox to see previous talks, including the ones released earlier in the day.)

Saturday, November 7, 2020

What A #BidenHarris2020 Presidency Means for Education

Biden and Harris watercolor with the word "United"

I did a series on what a
#TrumpPresidency meant for education. As a result, I was invited to Washington D.C. to do a press briefing on the topic. While there was possibility for some good, four years later, not much has changed as a result of his presidency.

Now that Joe Biden is our president elect, it's time to take a look at what a Biden / Harris Presidency means. Here are some highlights of changes that may improve our public schools. Let's start with what there is no focus on.

No focus on:

  • Standardized tests
  • Standards
  • College for ALL
Bravo! These were terrible ideas that existed under previous administrations. They stiffle innovative and individualized teaching and learning.

Areas of focus:

Let's take a look at some needed areas of focus that Biden plans to implement.

Safe, Healthy, & Innovative Schools 

Make sure teachers and students can work and learn in safe and healthy environments. Public school facilities received a grade of D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. In fact, each year the U.S. underfunds school infrastructure by $46 billion, resulting in thousands of schools that are outdated, unsafe, unfit, and – in some cases – making kids and educators sick. President Biden will include in federal infrastructure legislation funding specifically for improving public school buildings. First and foremost, these funds will be used to address health risks. Additional funds will be used to build cutting-edge, energy-efficient, innovative schools with technology and labs to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.

Build Innovative Schools 

Build the best, most innovative schools in the country in low-income communities and communities of color. Preparing our students for the workforce increasingly entails not only rigorous academics, but also problem-solving, collaboration, and technical skills. Biden will create a new competitive program challenging local communities to reinvent high school to meet these changing demands of work. This funding will be targeted first toward building the best schools in the country in low-income communities and communities of color.

Prepare Students for Good Jobs (even without college)

Ensure middle and high schools prepare students for good jobs. Students who participate in high-quality career and technical education are more likely to graduate, earn industry credentials, enroll in college, and have higher rates of employment and higher earnings. Like the arts and music, vocational training can often engage students in school, encourage pride for creativity and making, and teach entrepreneurial skills. Yet, American high schools have largely given up on “shop classes” in order to meet measures of accountability. The Biden Administration will invest in school vocational training and partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and employers. These partnerships will create programs that allow students to earn an industry credential upon high school graduation, a credential that readies them for a good-paying career. Career and technical education can also be used to increase access to middle- and high- school courses in computer science so that students learn computational thinking and are prepared to lead in fields such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Improve Teacher Diversity

Improve teacher diversity. Research shows us the substantial and unique impact that teachers of color have on students of color. For example, for black students, having just one black teacher in elementary school reduces the probability of dropping out. Biden will support more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including supporting high school students in accessing dual-enrollment classes that give them an edge in teacher preparation programs, helping paraprofessionals work towards their teaching certificate, and working with historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions to recruit and prepare teachers.