Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Hottest Posts of 2011 on the Innovative Educator

Well another year comes to an end. I am grateful to all of you have chosen to spend time here on my blog thinking and learning with me.  Here’s the roundup of the top five hottest posts on The Innovative Educator blog this past year and the top three from last year.

The hot topics of the year include listening to student voice, keeping kids engaged, Google+, and ADHD/ADD. Last years hottest posts included using Facebook in elementary school, what not to do with interactive whiteboards and strategies to break the ban on tech where you teach.

I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out, share it, and if you’re inspired, leave a comment.

The top five hottest posts of 2011
Sep 28, 2011, 49 comments                                              19,746 Pageviews
Jul 17, 2011, 16 comments                                                12,577 Pageviews
Feb 5, 2011, 22 comments                                                8,791 Pageviews
Apr 25, 2011, 20 comments                                               5,996 Pageviews
Jul 10, 2011, 32 comments                                                5,839 Pageviews

The top three hottest posts of 2010 
May 10, 2010, 37 comments                                              8,336 Pageviews
Jul 15, 2010, 20 comments                                                6,109 Pageviews
Nov 3, 2010, 7 comments                                                  5,593 Pageviews

Thursday, December 29, 2011

12 Most Useful Ways Kids Can Learn With Cell Phones

This article is cross posted in full at The 12 Most... site. If you'd like to read the entire article there, go here.
By Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb, authors - Teaching Generation Text.

We live in a world that is increasingly mobile. In order for adults to connect with our kids and students, we need to mobilize. Kids love their phones, they are highly motivated to use them (constantly), and they always have them right there with them (if they’re allowed). What a strong basis for an educational tool: empower students to use tools they already own as a means for better education!
The Disney Mobile Cell and Tell survey of more than 1,500 10-17 year-old cell phone users found that teens and tweens like their cell phones perhaps more than other luxuries in their lives.
“If they had to choose between their phone or something else:
● One-third would give up listening to the radio, playing video games or going to the    mall.
● Nearly one-fourth would give up their MP3 players.
● One in five would give up TV” (2007)
As a parent, imagine having the opportunity to help your child with their homework by encouraging them to text for help while waiting at the dentist office or on the way to dance class. As a teacher, imagine having a student respond quickly to a reflection-type question from the day’s lecture while checking their texts during a water break at basketball practice. For both, imagine having a mother learning through a text about the vocabulary test in her son’s biology class tomorrow so she can review with him as they drive to karate lessons.
Today’s phones can alert students to study, serve as a smart vehicle to take notes, provide instant, on-demand answers and research, and even provide a great way to record and capture student oral reports or responses to polls and quizzes. The family dinner table is fading, the homework hour is constantly challenged, and we are out and about (with our phones) more than ever.
Parents may need to take the lead in allowing their children to use their phones for learning and in educating their teachers and administrators of the value in working toward acceptable use policies. There are numerous ways educators and parents can empower students with the freedom to learn with a device they love using.
We want to share the ways you can start using cell phones to enhance learning. To follow are 12 of the most useful ways to support learning as adapted from the newly released book on the topic Teaching Generation Text ( These ideas will help adults discover how to engage youth with fun, free, safe, and easy methods using nothing more than a basic, text-enabled cell phone.

1. Pictures make it real with Flickr

When cell phones have cameras, a new world is opened. Your kids can take pictures of homework projects, research material, field work, activities, etc. for their own use or to share with others. Encouraging students to take pictures of discussion material shared on the board, on handouts if they are going to be doing homework in route, or just to make sure the material does not get lost and stays handy is a great use of the cell phone camera. Flickr provides a free, easy and efficient way to share pictures taken on your cell phone and group them into slideshows based on topic.

2. Use an online cell phone notebook with WeTxt

Most cell phones have a notepad tool themselves, but when you want to be able to print notes, organize notes, and keep a running record on your computer, a service like WeTxt offers a free way to add your online notebook and notebook sections to your contacts and you and your kids can text in notes anywhere, anyplace,

3. Capture oral assignments and thoughts with Google Voice

Google voice enables educators to capture voice messages from students without providing them with their direct phone number. The power of this kicks in when you realize that what Google Voice does is actually become a repository for oral reports, assignments, or sound bites. Not only is it a repository, but parents and teachers can write notes on each clip, share, and post them. This is obviously an effective tool for auditory learners.

4. Have an expert in your pocket with ChaCha

Imagine having an expert to turn to at any time for information, advice, guidance…for free! That’s ChaCha, an amazing service that will become invaluable to students and parents alike, works on any cell phone with every provider and enables students to ask any question and receive an accurate answer as a text message in just a few minutes.
You may want to caution students/parents that there may be advertising as part of the ChaCha message and teach them to be aware users by disregarding unnecessary inclusions. or text 242242
To discover eight more useful ways to use cell phones for learning check out the original article at The 12 Most... site.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Prepare students with math they’ll need in the real world with YummyMath

Guest post by Brian Marks

Editor's note:  Those who have followed my math rants know that I am critical of the disconnected math skills taught in schools that take the subject out of context. I also am not a fan of the drill and kill math games like Mangahigh that are more interesting than math worksheets, but pay little attention to the real-world relevance of why these skills are necessary. In this post Brian Marks gets to the heart of the math problem by sharing a resource that puts real-world relevance at it's core.

I can still remember my own math classes as a kid.  I remember working out of a text book, listening to my teacher as she taught us three example problems so that we could do problems 1 – 43 (odds only) for homework.  Of course problems 1- 43 were all the same problem, they just had different numbers or letters in them.  At the time I thought they were just letters, but now I know they were variables.  Maybe at the time I knew they were variables, but did I know what a variable was?  

Let’s fast forward to the present.  What has changed? Often math classes still look the same as they did decades ago.  Students enter the room and check their homework, which is followed by direct instruction on some math skill that is meaningless to most of them.  Students get to practice a few problems in class and look forward to more homework full of practice problems and maybe some contrived word problems.  The only thing different today might be the availability and variety of math resources on the Internet.  Students might be using text books less and worksheets more.  The Internet is full of websites that provide teachers with skill worksheets that focus on algorithm practice, which means tediously doing the same procedure over and over again.  There are even some popular websites that help kids learn the steps to successfully work through an algorithm.  On some websites if you get ten of these problems correct in a row you get to move on to a new skill.  What is concerning is that many of the math resources on the web are simply making it easier for teachers to teach skill procedures and for students to memorize procedures.  We have yet to see sweeping changes in math education in terms of: student learning to conceptual development of math concepts, student discourse, critical thinking, number sense reasoning and a purposeful use of technology, all of which can help prepare students for the challenges of the real world.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Innovative Educator's Picks for the Google Chrome Extensions in The App Marketplace

I've been using Google Chrome for the past several months for two reasons. It's efficient and faaast! How fast? Faster than any other browser I've tried on the PC or MAC. Along the way, I've discovered Google Chrome Extensions in the App Marketplace which is a fantastic bonus. There are a ton of free apps that are great for productivity and education.

Here are my must-have productivity apps.
  1. Screen Capture
    Capture visible content of a tab, a region of a web page, or the whole page.
  2. Dictionary
    Double-click any word to view its definition in a small pop-up bubble.
    View the complete definition of any word or phrase using the toolbar dictionary.
  3. Scratchpad
    Scratchpad lets you take notes while you browse, and syncs notes to Google Docs. Notes are found in your "Scratchpad" folder in Google Docs. Works fully offline, so you can take notes even when you aren't connected.
  4. Aviary
    Aviary has a suite of products that enable you to edit images, create music, edit audio, and more.
  5. Picnik
    Picnik is photo editing awesomeness! There's a complete set of tools from basic fixes to professional quality effects and cosmetic touch ups.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My 12 Most Favorite Ways Unschooling Rules

In his book Unschooling Rules, Clark Aldrich sets out to teach those who’ve been schooled, a thing or two about ed reform with insights and lessons from the world of homeschooling / unschooling.  Aldrich and I share this passion and knowledge that there are many lessons to be learned by studying those who have opted out of school and taken ownership of their learning and their life. We had the pleasure to speak together on the topic in this webcast. The book does an excellent job of sharing what really works for quality learning by identifying and framing 55 guidelines to successful learning that home/unschoolers have uncovered.  

Here are my 12 most favorite ideas from the book.

Rule 6 - Avoid the false dichotomy of the vocational OR academic track
Aldrich points out that the two-tiered approach of an academic and vocational path is an immoral sorting system with crippling consequences that presents a false dichotomy. Instead, true wisdom comes from a synthesis of these two perspectives and more. Unfortunately, in the culture of high-stakes testing, this lesson has been lost on politicians and publishing companies looking for huge boosts to their egos and financial gains. Additionally, the new Common Core Standards is seeping its way into schools with the intent to force everyone down the same narrow academic track.

Rule 9 - Sitting through a classroom lecture is not just unnatural for most people, it is painful
Students are psychologically ravished daily by this onslaught. As a result, sadly they are often mis-diagnosed and drugged to keep sitting still and compliant.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Emoticons Enhance Expression :)

Cross posted at Teaching Generation Text
Some critics of text messaging feel it is ineffective communication because it is void of emotion, lacking the message enhancements that tone of voice and nonverbal expression provide. Maybe those critics never received a love note. Yes, text messages are short, quick, and full of abbreviations. However, the back and forth nature of texting more closely resembles conversation than a note or letter. As we have seen, it is a combination of two forms of communication which has proven very appealing to teens and tweens. In addition to needing to find the right word to convey emotions A whole new means of communicating feelings and emotions has developed for use with texting called emoticons. Emoticons are symbols used to represent feelings. The use of emoticons in text messages makes them very effective in expressing the feelings that go with the words. In The Seattle Times David Silver, a University of Washington professor of communication who studies new media is quoted, “The beauty of language is that it’s infinitely morphable. The use of emoticons is amazing as a way of transmitting spoken language’s social nuances” (Dunnewind, 2003)

Saturday, December 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 inspired, leave a comment.

May 22, 2011, 7 comments
2,056 Pageviews

Dec 21, 2011
1965 Pageviews

Dec 20, 2011, 5 comments
1618 Pageviews

Dec 16, 2011, 1 comment
1575 Pageviews

Dec 18, 2011, 7 comments
1450 Pageviews

Dec 13, 2011, 1 comment
1257 Pageviews

Dec 15, 2011, 2 comments
1022 Pageviews

Feb 5, 2011, 22 comments
972 Pageviews

Friday, December 23, 2011

Great Gift Idea for Students - Learn Authentically by Giving with

Editor’s note: If your children receive money this holiday season Christeil Figuroa Gota has a great suggestion for how they may want to consider spending some of it while they learn many significant life lessons.

by Christeil Figueroa Gota

People are always talking about bringing education to life, literally, by living their lives and letting their children learn the ins and outs of living in our modern world.  Home Educators and Unschoolers are expert at this.  Those in the conventional education world are sometimes incredulous that simply living ones life is enough of an education for children.  So, I thought I'd take some time to illustrate our paradigm with just one example - Being KIVA Lenders.


My husband and I got involved with KIVA in 2006. is a non-profit that networks worldwide to provide micro-loans for business and housing.  That sentence alone started a conversation with my children about micro lending and the state of business and housing in the world.  To be a lender, one can start with as little as $25.  You can connect with a borrower anywhere in the world.  Simply log on to and browse by loan type or country.

The loans you give are interest-free and will be paid back to you by each borrower.  No other guarantee is made.  We started with $100 to lend and have added more money to our account each year.  Although you can lend anonymously, we can correspond with the borrowers and they can send messages to lenders.  Their stories are posted as well as updates on their loan repayments and progress. As the loans are repaid, we have an opportunity to re-lend as many times as we want.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Texting to Enhance School Communication with Celly

Celly is a platform of tools that enhances school communication by creating cells which are instant mobile networks that connect your school. Members can join a cell by texting or logging in to the web.

Click on the urls below each scenarios to learn about how schools are using Celly.

Celly is a terrific tool to harness the power of cell phones for school communication.  For additional ideas, resources, and workshops outlining effective ways to use cell phones for learning, including research-based strategies, lessons, and more, check out Teaching Generation Text