Saturday, March 31, 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.

Mar 12, 2012, 4 comments                       2,931 Pageviews

Mar 26, 2012, 5 comments                       2,868 Pageviews
Mar 25, 2012, 1 comment                         2,527 Pageviews

Aug 24, 2010, 35 comments                     2,458 Pageviews

Mar 23, 2012, 1 comment                         1959 Pageviews

Jul 15, 2010, 20 comments                       1525 Pageviews

Feb 5, 2011, 22 comments                       1485 Pageviewa                                                             

Mar 27, 2012                                          11426 Pageviews

Mar 23, 2012, 18 comments                      1424 Pageviews

Mar 30, 2012, 1 comment                         1423 Pageviews

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Parent says, "No good reasons for this excessive testing!"

Cross posted from Grumpy Educators
"Since I found out two years ago how much experimental testing was happening, I’ve opted him out of dozens of tests. He has skipped the CPS Learning First Benchmark Assessments, the Scantron Performance Series tests, and the pilot Common Core. CPS administered each of these standardized tests in several subjects, several times a year. But there are no good reasons for this excessive testing."

No good reasons indeed and no good reason for parents to get the runaround, be threatened, intimidated, punished, or misinformed, a disturbing and familiar trend nationwide as parents attempt to exercise their parental rights.

Chicago parent, Sharon Schmidt, chronicles how much effort it took to once again this year to exercise those rights and opt out her son of standardized testing. The Schmidt family has been exercising their rights in accordance to the law and provides the requisite information so that other parents have access to the facts. The lack of clear policy guidelines leads to unnecessary confusion. No parent should have to work so hard and write so many emails to clarify. This year, their son will not take the tests, but the school requires that he be kept at home on the testing days and be marked absent versus previous years when he stayed in school and did independent reading.

In a U.S. Supreme Court determination, Troxel v. Granville, the justices relied on the 14th Amendment:

(a) The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has a substantive component that “provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720, including parents’ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, see, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651. Pp. 5—8.

You can join the discussion about opting out in your state in two ways by joining the Opt Out group on Facebook. Here's how:
1) Type in the search: Opt out of State Standardized Tests - Your State i.e. Opt Out of State Standardized Tests - Ohio
2) Go to the page url: i.e.

You can find and additional information pertaining to your state at 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reactions to Stop Stealing Dreams

If you haven't read Seth Godin's Stop Stealing Dreams I recommend you consider downloading the free eBook and as it provides a great platform for education reform conversation. If you've read the book and want to talk about it, you can join this group where folks are not only doing just that, but they are also writing their reflections via articles and posts. Want to know what people are saying? Read these articles. If you're writing about Stop Stealing Dreams join the group and add your post here.

Article Name: Learning Math through Programming
Blog / Magazine: Shuback
Author: Jeremy Shuback
Brief Description: In Part 113, Seth Godin asks "Is the memorization and drill[...] of advanced math the best way to sell kids on becoming scientists and engineers?" A look at how various schools are teaching math by teaching programming.

Article Name:Those Kids Could Dream
Blog / Magazine:Between the By-Road and the Main Road Looking Up
Author: Mary Ann Reilly
Brief Description: An art piece and an essay exploring dreaming, parenting, and school.

Article Name: A Today's Meet by 5th graders
Blog / Magazine:
Author: 5th graders
Brief Description: 5th graders read part of the manifesto and then began discussing the ideas with their classmates and teacher

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Develop language skills with cell phones - True Stories

Cross posted at the Teaching Generation Text. The blog dedicated to using mobile devices for learning.

Not only can Google Voice become a repository for oral reports, assignments, or sound bites, but teachers can also write notes on each clip, share, and post them. Not only is this an effective tool for use with auditory learners and a way to practice language skills, but English as a Second Language and Foreign Language teachers will also want to listen up too! Often there is not enough class time for oral reports, but Google Voice changes all that as we see in the story of one high school Spanish teacher's experience in the below anecdote.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2 critical things to do & remember each day as a teacher

When I speak to teachers and parents of students and ask them if they are doing work that is meaningful, relevant, and worthy of the world, I often get puzzled looks or disappointing answers. Sometimes this is because there is a belief that we’re only preparing students for work worthy of the world. Actually doing is reserved for adults. Other times it’s because some believe that teaching their subject content is worthy in and of itself.  

I generally get a variety of answers.  An answer might be something like...

"Sure I am. My kids dissect virtual frogs in science class." 


"My kids turn in response to literature essays." 

A worse answer will be, something like...
"Sure I am.  My kids are going to be very well prepared for their standardized tests." 

The answer some people think I want to hear might go something like this...
“Oh, yes I am! I use Smartboards and I have my kids come up and tap it.”  

For those who know I think Smartboards are dumb, they may say something like this...
“We are using technology to publish student work.” 

Good start but when I ask where the work is published and what is happening as a result of the work? 
I often get answers like...
“It’s published on our website, blog, wiki, or maybe YouTube.” 

Okay. That’s nice, but if it’s meaningful and worthy of the world how are adults supporting students in getting this work out from just reaching a school audience and into the world? Publishing it to your school or class is nice, but it’s not the world. It doesn’t help young people feel like they matter. It doesn’t help them understand how they have the power to change the world.  Publishing something and doing nothing is usually not empowering students to do as much as they can.

Unfortunately, in this age of accountability, many have lost sight of what really matters. In many schools it no longer matters what students, teachers or leaders are doing to change the world. What matters today is how well you help students fill in bubbles. 

And, frankly...

That's a skill that doesn’t matter!  

It's time to get back to the basics and by that I don’t mean reading, writing, and rithmetic.  I mean, the basics of why we decided to do this work. We didn’t enter this field to help kids fill in tiny bubbles.  We want our work to matter. We want to make a great impact on the lives of children. We know students won’t remember their favorite teachers or best times in school from the teachers who talked, textbooked, and tested. They will remember their teacher who told them they mattered. They won’t fondly remember the one who lied and answered that "you need to know this and take these tests to be prepared for the world." They will remember the teacher who told them they can change the world today.

How can you become that teacher?  By doing and remembering two important things.

Here they are:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When we block social media we block learning

At New Canaan High School students have the freedom to learn using tools they love and the websites they need to be most successful. One of the two freedoms were taken away from them in honor of “Banned Websites Awareness Day.” On that day students were blocked from using the sites they commonly use for learning and collaborating such as YouTube and Facebook. Not having the ability to use the tools necessary for success in the real world for learning at school deeply interfered with their ability to get the education they deserved. It really drove home the fact that the young men and women at this school were fortunate to go to school in a place that trusts and respects young people.  

Watch this video created by librarian Michelle Luhtala to see how these young people felt when this freedom was taken from them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hottest Posts That Everyone's Talking About 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.

Mar 12, 2012, 5 comments                 2,932 Pageviews                                                       
Mar 14, 2012, 7 comments                 1913 Pageviews
Mar 16, 2012, 18 comments               1811 Pageviews
Mar 21, 2012, 4 comments                  1613 Pageviews
Mar 15, 2012, 2 comments                  1558 Pageviews
Mar 5, 2012, 13 comments                  1328 Pageviews

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yes. Teachers & Students Should be Interacting - My New York Post Mention

If you're here because you saw my mention in the NY Post today, welcome. This is not a new topic for me. I've been talking for many years about the importance of social media in general, and Facebook in particular, when it comes to education. I have also written dozens of articles as well as been quoted and published in places like The New York Times and Tech & Learning on the topic.

If you want to run for office, run a business, or have a say in how your school is run you better be savvy in the use of social media. If you are, you not only have an opinion, you have a voice. A voice that matters and can make a difference. Unfortunately, more and more policymakers are putting restrictions on teachers and students when it comes to communicating online and in the end this hurts not only educators, but also our children.  

If you didn't see the article, it is here.
School big rips teacher Facebook ‘ban’

That article was written as a result of my comments in this article.
Less than ‘friends’ - Teachers told: Stay offline with students

If you want to read more about why I believe teachers and students interacting shouldn't result in everyone panicking, you can view what I've written about Facebook in education, by clicking here.

When it comes to children, I don’t mind being a pain in the ass

I’m a pain in the ass.  

  • I admit it.
  • I acknowledge it.
  • I own it.  
  • Heck, I'm even proud of it.

You see, I’m not satisfied with the work I’m doing in the school system these days. 

Not at all. 

I believe the work we do everyday should exemplify the idea that our children matter and are capable of doing work that is worthy of the world.


Work that matters...
Work that is worthy of the world...


Drill! Kill! Bubblefill!
(Wise advice from Nikhil Goyal. A young man that knows he matters.)

Yet, this is what educators today are charged to do.

And, if they don’t???


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nardone: Standardized education is killing U.S. creativity

Nardone: Standardized education is killing U.S. creativity does a terrific job of summing up my thoughts on why the standardization, rather than customization, of learning is resulting in all children being left behind and the death of creativity.

12 Most In-Your-Face Reasons Why I Will Not Go Back to College

I've often shared my disappointment with the "College for All" mantra that has become pervasive in education reform today.  College for some? Sure. College for all? Absolutely not. There are many reasons that college is not the best choice for some people.  Go check out this 12 Most post that I supported uncollegian Cinque Mcfarlane-Blake in composing.

12 Most In-Your-Face Reasons Why I Will Not Go Back to College

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Great Tool to Create Infographics in a Snap

Infographics are cool. Infographics are hot.


Infographics are hard. They are what other people create. Professional infographicians, right?


I just learned today from 12 Most writer Becky Gaylord McDonald that has been coming up with some really cool tools to let you graphically represent selected data using Facebook or Twitter hashtags.  This can be a wonderful tool for learning.  For instance, you can create a hashtag for a class research project and make an infographic when you are done. You can explore a topic you're interested in by creating an infographic of the hashtag for that topic.

Here are infographics of some of my most commonly used hashtags: #edchat #edreform #mlearning #unschooling #studentvoice

5 Steps to Help Students Connect with Real Audiences

In my work to support innovative learning in schools, I often find young people, given the opportunity to use technology and the web, are doing great work and are excited about publishing their work for the world to see. Unfortunately, that’s where it falls short. Somehow, the important lesson of audience is absent from most classrooms. If we’re not supporting students in reaching real audiences, we as educators are missing an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to supporting learners. In fact, the reality is audience should be a forethought...not an afterthought.  

Sometimes when I bring this up in school an educator will proudly explain how student work is published on YouTube or SchoolTube and posted on the classroom or school website. While that is indeed one audience, it is not the authentic audience I’m referring to or Angela Maiers means when we talk about doing work that is worthy of the world (see section B).

For example, at a recent school visit students were excited about creating PSAs about issues they were passionate about. They were especially excited because what they created could impact others to learn more about the issue. When I asked how “others” will find the video, they, and their teachers, are usually at a loss. While we’re doing innovative work, the traditional method of doing work for the teacher or class still prevails. There is little thought to reaching the those who share an interest in these topics.  To change that simply follow these five steps.  

5 steps to connecting with real audiences

  1. Research
    • Start with a basic Google search to see who is writing about your topic. Do any organizations support the cause?
    • Do a search on Wikipedia and see who supports the cause in the footnotes.
    • Search the topic on Technorati to see who is blogging about your topic.
  2. Outreach
    • Write to each organization. Let them know what you are doing. Ask them for their feedback as far as what type of product might benefit their work. Include things such as content, length, suggested research, credits, etc.
    • Reach out to those who are blogging about your topic. Let them know what you are up to and ask them if they may want to feature it.
  3. Collaborate
    • Once you create the outline or storyboard for your work, share it with the interested organizations. Get feedback for your final piece.
    • As you move to the review, revise, and edit stage, send your work to the organization for feedback.
  4. Publish
    • Invite the organization to publish your work.
    • Share the work on your local sites as well i.e. class, school, project website, with a link to the organization’s page.
  5. Share
    • Share the message far and wide using social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. When using Twitter do a search for the cause so you can include relevant hashtags.

This missing piece to learning can be addressed by taking these five steps.  When educator’s do not support youth in finding their audience, they are robbing them of doing the meaningful work that is essential for success.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When we stop stealing dreams, what do we do instead?

Editor’s note: My friend Penelope Trunk did a provocative review of Seth Godin’s new book, “Stop Stealing Dreams” where she calls him out on his ideas about education reform and homeschooling. The following post is my comment on her blog. You can read her response here.

Seth Godin does a good job of pointing out many of the flaws with institutionalized, compulsory schooling, but he does little to move the conversation toward a vision of what a school should or could look like today. It’s ironic, for example, that he picks Harlem Village Academies as a beacon of what a “good school” is. Despite Godin’s criticism of standardization rather than customization, and his disdain for testing, he highlights a school that has an “About me” page that celebrates students standardized test scores!

Why isn’t Godin pointing to models that solve the issues he addresses but our government refuses to fund for those who choose public school? The answers already exists with places like Democratic Schools, North Star Teens, Nuestra Escuela, Raw Learning or models like Schoolwide Enrichment that are being pushed aside by our multi-billion dollar testing industry.  The fact that Godin comes out against home education spewing mainstream myths and misconceptions was also disappointing. Particularly so because the unschooling end of the home ed spectrum beautifully addresses most of the problems Seth identifies with schools.

Seth isn't addressing the fact that the reality in the 21st century is that we no longer need traditional teachers to teach us or schools to certify or credential us. Applications like KnowIt! and organizations like Rad Matter are allowing students themselves, not school-issued report cards or transcripts, to demonstrate knowledge and ability.

When we realize education is no longer tied to places, but rather to people, a completely new way to learn can emerge. Of course, the system is doing everything it can to keep itself alive in its current form. As a result, instead of empowering young people with the freedom to learn, our school system bans and blocks them from having access to the technology and sites they need to make this learning occur. But, we don’t have to wait. More and more parents of various income levels, race, and employment status are waking up and taking back their right to provide their children with the best learning experiences possible right now. They are home educators and they are committed to doing what is best for their children despite what outsiders perceive as challenges. I invite anyone interested in learning more to join the conversation with hundreds of parents from around the world finding success at