Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Resistant Mom Embraces Texting to Connect with Her Tween

Teens TextingGuest post by mom, Carly Pietrzyk | Cross posted at Teaching Generation Text

I love my cell phone, but I have to admit, I was resistant to the texting craze and preferred to communicate with people via phone calls and emails. This changed, however, when my daughter got her first cell phone at age 11. She plays soccer several days a week and carpools with other families, so my husband and I wanted to get her a phone to make sure we had a way to contact her when we were not there.

Originally I thought this would mean an exchange of phone calls, but in typical tween fashion she immediately gravitated toward texting as her main mode of contact. This is when the texting world unfolded for me. 
It became clear that what is most important isn't necessarily the mode of communication but that my child and I were connecting. I learned the lingo and began communicating with my daughter when she was not with me.

She is now 12 ½ and texting gives her a way to check in with me and ask me for advice when she is with her friends. I love that she can now ask me things she might not want to ask out loud in front of her friends! I am sure I will grow to appreciate this even more when she and my younger son hit the teenage years.

For more ideas about effective ways that parents, teachers, and others can use cell phones to build relationships and enrich learning order Teaching Generation Text.

Carly Pietrzyk is a working mother of two children; Ava 12 and Carl 10. Pittsburgh, PA

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stop Stealing Dreams - Seth Godin's New Book. Available Free!

What is school for?

The economy has changed, probably forever.

School hasn't.

School was invented to create a constant stream of compliant factory workers to the growing businesses of the 1900s. It continues to do an excellent job at achieving this goal, but it's not a goal we need to achieve any longer.

In his new and FREE 30,000 word manifesto, Seth Godin  imagines a different set of goals. He warns that one thing is certain: if we keep doing what we've been doing, we're going to keep getting what we've been getting.

Our kids are too important to sacrifice to the status quo.

The book is organized in 132 sections. Godin explains that he organized it that way because the numbers make it easy to argue about particular sections and the intent of this book is to to start a discussion about how we can reach a different set of goals for education.

You can download the book here or visit this link to download in other versions.  

In the spirit of starting a discussion, I've created a Facebook group which you can join at and I have also created this document to foster conversation about each section.  I hope you'll take a look and share your thoughts and feedback.
Thank you to Lynne Cazaly for contributing this great graphic at the Stop Stealing Dreams Facebook group.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Don't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree - The problem with assessment

Editor's note: This is one of my favorite stories highlighting some of what is wrong with assessment, but first a great comic that captures the fables sentiment and a quote.

‎"Everyone is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." -Albert Einstein

The Animal School: A Fable

by George Reavis

Animal SchoolOnce upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world” so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that, except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup work in swimming.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Live tonight! Nielsen and Webb discuss Teaching Generation Text

Tune in to Engaging Ed Radio tonight, Sunday, February 26 at 9PM Eastern to hear Willyn Webb, my Teaching Generation Text co author, and I discuss using cell phones and student owned devices in the classroom to enhance learning.

On the show we plan to discuss:
  • Why should you use cell phones in the classroom?
  • The building blocks for successful use of student owned devices/cell phones
  • Examples of effective cell phone use
  • How to overcome administrative opposition
  • The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) debate
You can access the show’s BlogTalkRadio page by clicking HERE. That will allow you to listen live and even call in with your questions. We hope you’ll join us.

If you missed the show you can listen here:

Listen to internet radio with Engaging Educators on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Hottest Posts This Week!

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

Feb 19, 2012, 1 comment                         1993 Pageviews
Feb 23, 2012, 1 comment                         1878 Pageviews
Feb 20, 2012, 2 comments                        1833 Pageviews
Feb 16, 2012, 4 comments                        1818 Pageviews
Feb 17, 2012, 1 comment                         1705 Pageviews
Feb 5, 2011, 22 comments                        1649 Pageviews
May 10, 2010, 37 comments                      1429 Pageviews

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is it possible to know what is legal in America???

With government adding 80,000 pages of rules and regulations every year, it’s no surprise that regular people break laws without even trying.  

Kids who open lemonade stands are now shut down by police. John Stossel tried to open a lemonade stand legally in NYC.   That was quite an adventure.  It took 65 days to get permission from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

A family in Idaho can’t build a home on their land because the EPA says it’s a wetland—but it only resembles a wetland because a government drain malfunctioned and flooded it.  

If this is of interest to you, tune in and listen as John Stossel argues that America has become a country where no one can know what is legal. The show airs tonight, Friday, February 24th at 9pm EST, Saturday at 10pm, and Sunday at 3pm.  In this one-hour special John asks, "Is everything illegal???" 

He looks at the following areas:

3 Great Ways to Use Google+ Hangouts to Learn & Connect

Google+ Hangouts are a terrific and free tool that opens up new ways to teach and learn. The following video provides three examples of ways Google+ Hangouts are being used that might inspire ideas in your own classroom. Below the video I elaborate on how each idea can be used and include the minutes/seconds in the video at which time you can see each idea in action. 

Three examples of using Google+ Hangouts to teach and learn in new ways

Here is how this might be applicable in your school or classroom.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Six Propositions to Consider Before You Consider College

I’ve been a fan of Blake Boles’s (author, Zero Tuition College) ideas for quite some time. I reached out to him directly when I wrote a post that shared his 11 Great Reasons to Skip College inviting him to share more of his ideas here.  He agreed! The following post is an excerpt from the newest book he is writing, "Better Than College." If you like his ideas, please consider helping him out by visiting his fundraising site here where you can learn more and pre-order the book.
PHOTO: (credit Flickr/Earlham College)
While the idea that you can skip four-year college and still get a higher education may seem nuts, Blake Boles is writing Better Than College: How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree, a book on how to do just that. Below is an excerpt from the book where Boles shares six propositions to help you see why Zero Tuition College —the alternative learning method described in his book—holds just as much life-changing potential as traditional college.

Proposition #1: College is just too expensive.
Today, the liberal arts college experience offers many valuable things: exposure to new ideas, analytical skills, social networks, support, accountability, and the opportunity to live independently. But these good things come at a high price. The average family will shell out roughly $20,000 per year for tuition and living expenses,[1] while the average student who takes out loans will graduate with more than $25,000 in debt.[2] And this isn’t a recent trend: since the 1950s, college tuition has risen almost twice as fast as inflation.[3]

When the price of oil rises, we look more seriously at alternative energy. When a business raises its prices, we consider different ways that we could obtain the same goods or services. But even though the price of college has skyrocketed, we flood its gates. Why?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Join The Innovative Educator Live Tonight on Teachers Teaching Teachers

Join me live on Teachers Teaching Teachers at tonight, Wednesday 2.22.12 at 9PM Eastern / 6PM Pacific/World Times: .I will be among an amazing mix of thoughtful people who will be helping each of us to reconsider our assumptions and to recast our questions about student engagement in high school and beyond. You can add to this mix by listening in and adding to the chat at

Here's what you have to look forward to:
AND MORE! Mainly Paul AllisonMonika hardy, and Chris Sloan are ready to welcome the different perspectives on the important questions like...
  • Who drops out? 
  • Why? 
  • Does it matter? 
  • What alternatives are available? 
  • How do questions about "engagement" -- even what it means -- help us have productive dialogues about what good teaching and learning looks like and what might change in our schools?

All of this on Teachers Teaching Teachers at on Wednesday 2.22.12 at 9PM Eastern / 6PM Pacific/World Times:

I hope you'll be able to join!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Big Change - A Community Learning Project

Guest post by Jo-Anne Tracey | Cross posted at Journey to Discovery
We are still enacting Horace Mann's
Prusian schooling model from the 1800s

Most students, and many of their parents, will agree that school has taken the fun and purpose out of learning. We have lost touch with the understanding that learning is a natural process. Those who’ve studied the history of compulsory schooling understand that education was never the priority in the current “school for all model.” Policymakers like Horace Mann (Massachusetts, 1952 - credited as
Father of the Common School Movement) believed that “universal public education was the best way to turn the nation's unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens”. This model was begun at a time when resources, such as books and educated mentors were not readily available.  

"If you want to influence the student at all, you must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will."- Horace Mann
Now, with the Internet, a mentor does not need to be in the same room, the same city or even speak the same language. Libraries are found in every community for those who still find that they learn best from print resources.  

For the sake of the students, we, the adults, must let go of learning models that are familiar. We must develop systems with a purpose of learning for the future. We must allow change to happen. Not small slow change, but change which allows students to prepare for the 21st century which is NOW.  We must strive for a system that allows our societies, communities, regions and countries to regain their competitive edge.  The ability to change, rapidly, to the needs of the people and the environment is what made North America great.  But, we can not dwell on past glories. We need to continue to change and to move on. Let this Big Change begin with today’s students.

Here’s how.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Google on Your iPad or iPhone or iTouch...

If you love Google and you have an iPad there are several must have apps that you’ll love! What is important to know is that you don’t want to just go to Google in your browser.  Go to the App Store and download the actual apps.  

Start by searching “Google” and download the apps you see which will likely include
  • Google
  • Google Gmail
  • Google Translate
  • Google Books
  • Google Earth
  • Google Currents
Once you have the apps downloaded, go to Google and notice some cool features including a very accurate voice search, a icon that takes you to all your Google apps, and Google Googles. Googles is cool. It is a visual search that let's you search by taking a picture of something i.e. a book, a painting, a monument, etc. Watch this video to learn more. Note: To see the cool screen I have in the shot below, you may need to tap the word "Google" on your device.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Hottest Posts This Week!

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

Feb 13, 2012                                        2,265 Pageviews
Feb 11, 2012, 4 comments                1,778 Pageviews
May 13, 2011, 8 comments              1,714 Pageviews
Feb 12, 2012, 1 comment                  1,632 Pageviews
Feb 7, 2012                                           1,490 Pageviews
Aug 24, 2010, 23 comments             1,416 Pageviews
May 10, 2010, 37 comments            1,397 Pageviews
Feb 5, 2011, 22 comments                1,238 Pageviews
Feb 5, 2012, 2 comments                  1,230 Pageviews

Friday, February 17, 2012

Making Screen Time Limits Gentle and Fun

Guest post by Cathy Earle

Transitions can be hard for kids, and sharing can be even harder. It would be lovely if everybody on the planet could have their own top-of-the-line computer, but it's not a reality in all schools and families. Even the least-scheduled homeschoolers can't play Minecraft and Wizard 101 whenever they please, because there are appointments to keep, baths to take, meals to eat, beds to sleep in, and hopefully fields to run in! Whether parents and teachers limit kids' computer time in order to share one computer among several users or because of educational or health reasons, enforcing “screen time” limits can be very frustrating.
There can be whining, begging, bargaining, or even all-out arguments.

Industrial Designer Justin Thoreau Lund tells me that he found himself in this situation with his normally mild-mannered daughter Vega. He writes:

Our attempts to come to a mutual understanding regarding screen time were the inspiration for BEEP, a USB device that gently transitions kids off of a computer when their allotted screen time is up. BEEP has bendable arms that allow the timer to be positioned on the computer monitor, and BEEP's animated eyes act as visual cues showing the passing of time. As a child's screen time winds to a close, BEEP falls asleep, and so does the computer.

This idea won a notable design award, which led to press coverage and statements of interest from many people. This inspired me to take this idea from its conceptual stage to completion, and I spent two years developing the idea further. BEEP is now ready to move to the production phase, and I have launched a social funding campaign on Kickstarter.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Death of a Democratic School in A Culture of Greed and Mistrust

Guest post by Shella R. Zelenz, M.A.Ed., Ed.D. Candidate

Iniabi = Osage for "The sun on which all life depends"

We will not be able to transform our education system if we remain comfortable. How can we? We can’t possibly be comfortable with genocide in Africa, slave labor practices in China, and other similar humanitarian abuses. Especially when we become aware that the only reason this occurs, is a direct result of the current consumerism-focused educational system that has now  reached a crisis point. I no longer wish to hear other ways to tweak the current system to make people happy.

The system itself needs redesign and repurposed. No one is happy in this current paradigm. Even those who "succeed" according to the current educational system spend their entire lives in fear of losing what they have and are willing to abuse others to maintain their lifestyles. I'm seeking education with a TRUE purpose. Our kids deserve it. Our future needs it. We can no longer continue down the path our founding educational systems designed. A consumer focused education which perpetuates the continuous need to produce more and purchase more despite the environmental and cultural ramifications.

To respond to the need for something truly different, I developed a model for a school that had the potential to offer an entirely new way to educate. Education with a purpose designed to change the world. Education with a purpose to change the way we interact with one another. Education with a purpose to change the current destructive models into self-sustaining practices, reversing the damage done by those who did not know any better.

I began this school with the intent to create a non-coercive, democratic middle-school similar to Summerhill in England and the Sudbury Valley School in the United States. However, there were additional factors which made it more unique. This school was to be eco-sustainably built and maintained, off-grid, and the students were responsible for the growing of the food (organic farming), cooking, and maintenance of their "village." Adults were present and participating, but the purpose was to teach self-sustaining ways of living.

Students were responsible for the governance of their school. Students would spend a semester living in various on-campus “continents.” These spaces reflected the cultural identities of those who inhabited the continent represented. They had to research everything they could and recreate that lifestyle. The foods they grew were relevant to that continent. What they chose to study and do with what they discovered regarding their continents was left up to them. Projects were designed by the students and facilitated by adults, which would inevitably integrate all factors deemed essential to learning (math, language, reading, writing, music, arts, science, history, ethics, and government). The goal was to have the students obtain a deeper understanding of the world that they lived in. Each semester, they would move to another continent.

Upon completion of their “tour around the world,” they would then begin the apprentice program, designed for students 16 years and older. The apprentice program was significantly different in that the students chose a one-on-one personal mentor to further their studies. They would identify an area that interested them, most likely with a global perspective after having studied the continents so intently for a few years. From that interest, they would select various internship possibilities where they could spend time learning hands-on skills with already established organizations that either pursued that type of concept or that would help deepen the understanding of the problem faced. The mentors would then help the student to design their own business plan. Partnerships with the local Better Business Bureaus were made and they had generously offered to teach courses on business establishment. Our goal was to walk the student through the process of literally launching their own business which resonated deeply with their own beliefs.

Unfortunately, these goals were never met. It seems the community was not ready for such a school. There are numerous factors which led to the eventual closing of the Iniabi Free School. Factors such as my not being a native Texan, not having strong connections to the community prior to launching, and not having sufficient funding. All of these factors contributed to the realization of what the purpose of the school truly meant, and what obstacles society deeply faces to overcome them. All of this despite the drastic progress accomplished with the few students we did have.

Here is what I learned throughout pursuing this school in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex:

  1. Parents did not trust their students to succeed and only wanted to know if they could get into college.
  2. Businesses were intrigued with what I was doing, but were very uncomfortable when told that the educational system they currently entrust their children to is contributing to their own demise.
  3. Adults do not trust children to make intelligent decisions with regard to their own education and well being.
  4. No one wanted to pay for it, but they wanted their kids to be in it. Some would pay a reduced tuition, but refused to volunteer their time to compensate the difference, even though they saw how much their child loved it and was making progress never before seen in the public schools.
  5. Staff were not interested in working for free (due to lack of funding, not lack of intent to pay).
  6. Grants for such a unique model were non-existent.
  7. The lack of focus on the test made it highly unsupported by financial institutions.
  8. No one (not even the staff) truly and deeply understood the ramifications of such a model.

If we look at the points above, we see a common theme - trust and money. The purpose of education is about money. When we start acting ethically, we don't know how to do it because it doesn't appear to align with the current beliefs about money. In fact, I had an African American woman recently tell me that removing money won't change racism. She believes that those who participate in racism only do so because of their own personal beliefs. I disagree. I believe money is why they believe what they believe. In fact, I can prove so by using her as an example. She is from Africa. However, she uses cell phones, has a diamond on her wedding band, and drives a car which uses oil. If she does not believe that she is contributing to the genocide in Africa, then she misses the point that money has driven her to participate in racism unintentionally. Whether the abuse of other cultures is conscious or not, these practices need to be addressed.

The aim of the school was to produce self-sufficient entrepreneurs who created new kinds of businesses. Businesses that did not trample the earth, destroy cultures, and were conscious in their practices. Businesses that behaved ethically. Unfortunately, it seems such goals are not in alignment with the current climate and focus of what our society values. When that changes, I have a school just waiting to re-launch.

Author Background
Shella has taught music for 16 years. It wasn't until her oldest son had challenges in school that she ventured into the public school classroom. This is where she discovered what created his challenges. It wasn't her son, it was the education system itself. Her own resistance to the system as a teacher inspired further inquiry into why things are the done the way they are. As such, she pursued her doctorate in educational leadership and change. Her research in that program is what led to the school that she endeavored to start in Texas. Her goal wasn't just to make school more enjoyable for kids, nor was it just to "save" the inner-city youth which her school was designed for. Her mission was to create an entirely different purpose for school. A purpose that would offer societal and systemic change which she feels is critical at this juncture in history. Her research delved into the worlds of virtual classrooms, unschooling and democratic education systems. However, it was not limited to school structures and practices. Her research included anthropological aspects which affect various cultures in the current school models and how their resistance to it may be genetically encoded to protect their futures.

This may appear contradictory to contemporary thought and practice in education, but that is because current thought is pursued through the eyes of the historically designed school structure. The purpose of education in America was to create workers who would contribute to society and be good consumers. We have accomplished this. What was neglected, and is glaringly obvious at this point in history, is that such perpetuation of understanding is what is leading to the destruction of our earth and of cultures globally. Education can no longer focus on the "dominate and conquer" mentality. It is time that education focuses on the holistic world-view of sustenance for all, not just the elite. More on her research can be found at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

10 Fun & Innovative Ways To Learn From Animals

While learning is often associated with textbooks, tests, and teachers, there is an another source from which children can learn some fantastic life lessons.  One of the best learning resources are the creatures that live among us. Animals! There are so many great ways to learn with and from animals.  Here are ten fun and innovative ways that young people, and the adults in their lives, can get in touch with their warm and wild side and learn a lot in the process.
My adorable cousin and her bunny.
  • Get a pet - Pet’s are a great way to help children develop responsible behavior,provide a connection to nature and  teach respect for other living things.
  • Watch a pet - There are a number of reasons that a family may not be able to get a pet. When this is the case, another option might be to offer to watch a pet for busy neighbors. This provides several of the benefits of getting a pet and can also turn into a part time job for the pet-loving child.  
  • Walk a pet - What better way to engage in physical fitness than with a pet. Go for a run in the park or around the block. This too can turn into a part-time job for the child who has a way with animals and wants to become the neighborhood dog walker.
  • Learn about endangered species with UStream - UStream is doing some amazing work with capturing endangered species live on film.  Children can watch animals catch prey, mate, reproduce, and much more. Another great feature is viewers can chat with experts and others who are interested while watching the animal in the wild.  Additionally, there is a lot of educational information on many of these pages. Start on the general Pets / Animals page at The following are some wonderful pages that are educationally sound and terrific starting places.