Friday, September 30, 2011

DIY Guide to Keeping Children Safe Online Without Costly Filters

Banned Websites Awareness Week image designed by Kalan Lysenko, New Canaan High School class of 2013With ominous acronyms being thrown about such as CIPA and FERPA and COPPA, it’s no wonder educators are running scared when it comes to internet use and that filtering companies are profiting from the culture of fear that results. Unfortunately, doing what is most convenient (blocking and banning sites) is often not what is best for children or teachers. It is not uncommon for the tech-savvy teacher to throw up her hands because too many sites are blocked to be able to work effectively. Students have similar frustrations. The reality when it comes to filtering is that schools have not lost funding due to opening up access to valuable content for children. Of course this must be done responsibly, but it does not require the costly filters that don’t exist in the real worlds of our children. 

Here are some ways you can empower children to stay safe at school and in the world and they don’t cost a dime.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Building your personal learning network infographic

Well this is pretty cool.  The folks over at the ThingLink and Learn blog used the image tagging technology provided by ThingLink to create this embeddable info graphic to share my ideas about developing your personal learning network.  Check it out by mousing over the image on small dots.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education

It's rare for education reformers, policymakers, and funders to listen to those at the heart of education reform work: The students. In fact Ann Curry who hosted Education Nation's first *student panel admitted folks at NBC were a little nervous about putting kids on stage. In their "Voices of a Nation" discussion, young people provided insight into their own experiences with education and what they think needs to be done to ensure that every student receives a world-class education. After the discussion Curry knew these students didn't disappoint. She told viewers, "Students wanted to say something that made a difference to you (adults) and they did. Now adults need to listen."

Here is a video of the student panelists followed by a recap of some of the sentiments they shared.

Below are the sentiments shared by these current and former students during the segment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why I Don't Like Standardized Tests

Guest post by Cathy Earle
As an educator, I am sometimes called upon to teach children test preparation skills. I do so because these particular children are going to have to take a particular test – it's a reality. However, the first step of my test prep lesson is to tell the children that I don't like standardized tests, especially high-stakes tests. I don't believe they should have to take them, and, I tell them, I didn't subject my own kids to them.

Here are my major reasons for my antipathy toward standardized tests:

Monday, September 26, 2011

7 Filter Myths to Keep In Mind for Banned Sites Awareness Day and Always

As part of the American Association of School Librarian's "thinking outside the ban" blog series for banned websites awareness day, Doug Johnson dispels the following seven filtering myths. 
  1. The Childhood Protection Act (CIPA) is specific and  broad in what must be filtered in schools. 
  2. It’s the filtering company that determines what is blocked. 
  3. Some sites must be blocked due to bandwidth limitations. 
  4. The processes for re-consideration of print materials don’t apply to online resources.
  5. The technology department must determine what is blocked. 
  6. Internet filters are so good that supervision of students while online and instruction in online safety and appropriate use is not necessary. 
  7. Internet filters and intellectual freedom are mutually exclusive.
To read the truth behind each of these myths, check out the original article here.

For more information about Banned Websites Awareness Day resources and support materials, please visit AASL Essential Links.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

AASL Thinks Outside the Ban with Banned Websites Awareness Day - September 28th

Editor's Note:  This article was also posted on the American Association of School Librarian's site.  If you'd rather read it there, go here.  

Banned Websites Awareness Week image designed by Kalan Lysenko, New Canaan High School class of 2013More than a decade into the 21st century and the very tools and sites we need to ensure student success in the world are banned and blocked in many school and learning centers. Though banning and blocking is more convenient, it  is not what is right when it comes to preparing children, who will need to use and navigate these waters, for success in the 21st century. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL)  is bringing awareness to this problem by naming September 28th “Banned Websites Awareness Day.” This serves as an extension of the American Library Association’s long-standing censorship awareness campaign, Banned Books Week, beginning September 24. This new campaign directs national attention to the important conversation of the impact filtering has on our students.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What's Popular This Week on The Innovative Educator

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

Sep 15, 2011, 54 comments
 1715 Pageviews

Sep 18, 2011, 4 comments
  1666 Pageviews

Sep 21, 2011   1
551 Pageviews

Sep 20, 2011, 1 comment
   1530 Pageviews

Apr 22, 2011, 6 comments   1
472 Pageviews

Sep 19, 2011, 2 comments    1
376 Pageviews

Sep 22, 2011, 1 comment
    1272 Pageviews

Sep 16, 2011
   1161 Pageviews

Apr 26, 2011, 11 comments
  936 Pageviews

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rethinking Learning with A Child-Centered Lesson Plan

Editor’s note:  After reading How Andgragogy Might Look in the Classroom on the Mystified Mom blog, I asked if she could pull out the parts regarding lesson plans so that people could get a better idea of what a learner-centered lesson plan would look like. 

Guest Post by Mystified Mom

People often claim that learner-centered methods are not practical for mass delivery systems due to the fact that standards have to be met. As a veteran educator, I have not found this to be true. To follow are the eight parts of a lesson plan and my comments about what could be added to gear them toward how students learn best. 

The header typically include the teachers name, grade level, topic, and time allotment. This is all standard information. The one piece of information that can be rethought is the time allotment. Unless things have changed, the typical time allotment for a lesson is 30 minutes to an hour. Every now and then, I will see lessons that take longer or will span the course of a few days. Students and teachers should allot more time to do lessons. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mobile Phones in Schools As A Lifesaving Tool

Guest post by Erik Endress, Founder & CEO

I met Lisa Nielsen, creator of The Innovative Educator blog, a year ago after learning of her stance on enabling students to use mobile phones in school as a learning device.

Proponents will say that you can't let kids use their phones because they might use them to take photos or video or text. I want them, and their teachers, to do just that when their school goes into lockdown, when their is an active shooter in their school, when they are witness to criminal behavior and anytime they need help.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

School redesign as a community project-based learning challenge

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
-Albert Einstein 

If you’ve ever complained about the way things are in schools today, now’s your chance to stop talking and start acting by participating in the Reinventing School ChallengeThe challenge is a program that begins with a simple mission: Encourage life-long learning, promote alternative learning environments and equip learners with 21st Century skills. It takes a fresh and different approach to school reform in the following ways.
  1. Inviting the whole community to get involved.
  2. Giving the community a framework to collaborate and fashion solutions for their own school communities.
  3. Providing a platform to present, share and celebrate what's possible and what really works.
The program uses design, collaboration, technology, play and social media to engage and empower young people to effect positive change in their school community. It starts by encouraging participants to reframe problems as opportunities. Ask beautiful questions, spark imagination, provide a framework to research, generate ideas and rapidly prototype and test design solutions. Doing anything less, results in remaining passive observers, making slow progress, losing interest and leaving all the work policy makers and Government. If they fail to deliver, we will simply blame them and much will stay the same.

This new Design Thinking Challenge runs for 8 weeks from now until November 7th and again in March. It uses design, collaboration, technology, play and social media to engage and empower young people effect positive change in their school community. It encourages life-long learning, promotes alternative learning environments and equips participants with 21st Century skills.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Disorganized Sports + Unstructured Play

When asking children: 
What is your favorite part of school?
    It is not uncommon to get this answer:  
      I still like to play :)
      Sadly, in schools today, recess is on it's way toward extinction.  On a parenting group I belong to, student's back to school schedules were shared.  Sadly, very few included time for recess. Yet at a recent conference I listened to brain researcher John Medena  who shared that activity, movement, and exercise is crucial for boosting brain power.  Not only does play make you smarter, this article points to play being a great way to alleviate ADD / ADHD symptoms. Unfortunately, educators are in a state of panic in our test prep obsessed education system, no longer able to think clearly about what is truly best for our children. 

      If today's teachers and administrators had the opportunity to pull themselves away from the worksheets and bubblesheets they would find that play is an essential component of student success as pointed to in the article Can We Play by Psychologist David Elkin.  In the article Elkin shares that recess is already extinct in more than 30,000 U.S. schools that have eliminated recess to make more time for academics and that children’s time spent outdoors has fallen 50 percent since the 1990s.

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      If School Was Causing Your Child’s ADD / ADHD Would You Remove Him?

      During a recent conversation with friends and family, the topic of ADHD / ADD came up and I shared my belief that this is not a disease that should result in people being drugged, but instead a personality type (like mine!) that should be honored.  My friends and family looked at me stunned.  They wondered how an educator like me didn’t know better as this new epidemic was clearly documented as a disease.  I then found out that a few of those among us had been drugged or had been responsible for drugging their children.  They were offended by my words! Fortunately, I'm used to this.  

      Sunday, September 18, 2011

      School is Not School. A Place Where The Community, Not The School, Provides Learning.

      I recently shared three radical ideas to transform education without school.  In it, I shared Linda Dobson’s timeless article, When the School Doors Close:  A Midsummer Night’s Dream where she outlines the transformation that would occur if schools ceased to exist and instead we engaged in community-centered learning.  Rather than compulsory, age-based facilities, with community learning people choose to attend and learn about topics of deep personal passion and interest.  There would be many options available to individuals of any age.  The community takes ownership and responsibility of the learning and well-being of others.  As my wise friend Jeff Pulver recently said, “The only difference between a dream and reality is making it happen.”  

      There is a community that is doing just that.  I learned about this community from Arif Hidayat.  Although we aren’t the same age, live on opposite ends of the earth, and don’t speak the same language we are connected by our passion to  provide children with learning opportunities that best fit their needs. Through the wonders of Google Translate we have been able to engage in an ongoing dialogue where he has shared stories about two Learning Communities in Indonesia. 

      Saturday, September 17, 2011

      What's Popular This Week on The Innovative Educator

      Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

      Sep 15, 2011, 37 comments
       2,947 Pageviews
      Sep 11, 2011, 28 comments
       2,679 Pageviews
      Sep 14, 2011
        1928 Pageviews
      Sep 13, 2011, 1 comment
        1870 Pageviews
      Sep 5, 2011, 1 comment
        1672 Pageviews
      Jan 9, 2011, 22 comments
        1450 Pageviews
      Jul 15, 2010, 19 comments
         1202 Pageviews

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      Stupid in America

      Editor's note:  Some teachers may recall John Stossel's Stupid in America broadcast bashing NYC schools and unions back in 2006.  This time around he has a different story to tell which you can watch this weekend.   

      Guest post from John Stossel

      Exciting things are suddenly happening in education.  Inner-city kids do well on benchmark tests and are excited about learning. I tell fourth graders that school is boring, they yell at me, “No, it’s not!”  One boy said: “Reading is rockin’ awesome!”

      I’ll report on innovations at the Success Charter Network and Harlem Village Academy in New York, and at the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, California.  “Let’s destroy the system… create a system that serves kids,” says charter school director Deborah Kenny.   

      Hurricane Katrina made that experiment possible by destroying much of New Orleans.  Now 70% of New Orleans students attend charters, and they learn more.

      Aside from such bright spots, most of education in America is still a mess.  The cost has skyrocketed, but performance is flat.

      Why?  One big reason is that the government monopoly—the “BLOB”— makes it nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Former Washington DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee talks about her attempt to change that, including firing her own daughters’ principal, and the backlash that led to her losing her job.  

      I’ll confront union leaders, like DC union boss Nathan Saunders, who opposes judging teachers by student test results.   “I know my kids are learning when I look in their eyes,” says Saunders. New Jersey union leader Joseph Del Grosso opposes charter schools:  “Over my dead body, they’re gonna come here.” 
      Virtual education innovator Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, is on the right track.   He’s a great teacher who now reaches millions of kids via the internet.   Some fifth graders who watch his videos do high school level math.   Before radio and TV, every big town had a best teacher and a best singer.  Mass media changed that, so now Lady Gaga sings to the whole world.   But education has stayed local and stagnant-- until now, when the web allows the world’s best teachers to reach into every classroom. 

      Why don’t we have more innovation? Why don’t we have a vibrant market in education? Are we still Stupid in America

      To find out, watch Stupid in America this weekend on Fox News. Tune in on Saturday at 10PM EDT / PDT, repeats on Sunday. 

      Leaders Share How Tech Has Helped Students Learn

      Part of my work is helping educators partner with students to innovate learning using technology. You can see some of the cool things learners are doing at  I recently had the chance to hear from school leaders about their feelings in regards to how they felt about their teachers and students who were using technology in the classroom.  They explained that not only are students more motivated, engaged and excited about learning in general and writing in particular, but instruction is also changing and becoming deeper. They explained the focus on innovative and authentic publishing has resulted in the culture of the classroom becoming more collaborative.

      One leader said it this way:
      Using the netbooks, iTouches, Smart Pens, digital cameras, etc., never cease to amaze students and create excitement in the classrooms.  It would be very hard to go "back" to only the paper and pen activities.  Students and teachers see literacy in a different way.

      Thursday, September 15, 2011

      What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers: What You Do Hurts Our Children

      Guest Post by Laurie A. Couture.  This article was originally posted here and shared with permission at The Innovative Educator blog.               

      Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs (Image by Factoryjoe)
      Many parents are shaking their heads at the audacity and insolence of the CNN article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Disney-and-Oprah-endorsed teacher, Ron Clark. His article is dangerous because it represents how the majority of traditional school teachers view children, parents and teachers’ roles as authorities over children’s lives. In my post, What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents, I challenge Ron Clark to consider the dehumanization of children and the undermining of the parent-child bond in the institution he represents.

      Most parents in industrialized societies are conditioned by their own schooling to be obedient and unquestioning of their children’s schools and the so-called authorities therein. A frightening majority of parents are unaware that most everything that traditional school teachers do is developmentally inappropriate and even harmful for youth of all ages. However, a growing movement of parents are parenting through awareness, consciousness and connection to their children’s needs. Many of these parents are opting out of public and traditional schools are are seeking refuge for their children in child-centered and democratic schools or through homeschooling and unschooling. 

      As a mother of an unschooling teen son, and based on the years of complaints I have heard from parents and their children about traditional schools, I have compiled a list of  concerns and presented them to teachers in the context of their own education:

      Wednesday, September 14, 2011

      Make and Publish Books for Free Using A Cell Phone and Flickr

      If your students have access to a cell phone (or any digital device i.e. iPad, laptop) that can take and send/email pictures, they can make and publish their own books quickly and easily using Flickr.  This is a great way to bring student books to life by publishing them digitally in a format that can be easily shared with the world or printed as a book for the classroom or school library.  

      With Flickr you get an email that you (or anyone you share the email with) can use to send all your pictures to and Flickr makes it very easy to sort and group pictures using tags or drag and drop features. You can get a link or code to embed any picture or group/sets of pictures into any online space. When emailing your subject line becomes the picture caption and the message/body becomes the description. To follow are the steps to making a book using Flickr, a sample book, and ideas for the classroom.

      Steps to making a book with Flickr

      Tuesday, September 13, 2011

      Top Ten Ed Tech Issues This School Year

      I was recently asked what I saw as the top ed tech issues this year.  Here are the first things that came to mind. 

      1) Passion (Not Just Data) Driven Learning
      2) Bring your own tech
      3) Reducing use of filters and empowering students to do this work by engaging responsibly online
      4) Reducing fear of teacher /student relationships i.e. Social media doesn't cause inappropriate behavior, it catches it.
      5) Authentic ePortfolios for teachers and students
      6) Developing a responsible and impressive digital footprint
      7) Supporting students in developing a responsible and impressive digital footprint
      8) Developing your personal learning network
      9) Empowering students to develop their personal learning network
      10) Authentic publishing for teachers and students

      These also happen to be some of my most favorite things to write about here on The Innovative Educator blog. I look forward to sharing and growing ideas with all of you :) I also wonder what's missing?  Are there other things you'd like to see addressed?

      Sunday, September 11, 2011

      Parents Take Issue with Advice of 'Super Teacher' Ron Clark

       Guest post by Home Educator, Christiel Gota

      Dear friends who are teachers:

      This article by Ron Clark drives me to tears. I know teachers have a tough job and many are doing their very best within this system. However, I have to speak on behalf of parents when it comes to this article.

      Sorry, Mr. Clark and all your minions, but I will NEVER stand against my child in support of you or the system. I will never apologize for jumping to my child's defense - and I will ALWAYS jump to my child's defense. Sorry, but I can't trust you - especially when you say my child has a behavior problem. They are no problem at home. If behavior problems only occur at school, it is YOU that is doing something wrong, not me!

      Saturday, September 10, 2011

      What's Popular This Week on The Innovative Educator

      Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

      Sep 5, 2011, 1 comment
        1,530 Pageviews

      Sep 6, 2011, 1 comment
         1413 Pageviews

      Sep 1, 2011, 1 comment   1
      331 Pageviews

      Sep 2, 2011   1
      293 Pageviews

      Sep 7, 2011
         1285 Pageviews

      Sep 3, 2011
          1255 Pageviews

      Aug 28, 2011, 5 comments
         1228 Pageviews

      Jan 20, 2011   1
      203 Pageviews

      Jan 28, 2011, 11 comments   1
      194 Pageviews