Friday, November 30, 2012

What’s hot for innovative educators around the globe

When it comes to education, it seems no matter where in the world you are from, the same innovative practices bring us together. This week at Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Global Forum hundreds of educators from more than 80 countries came together to showcase, learn, discuss and think about innovative teaching, learning, and leading practices.

Take a look below to see what was hot around the globe and think about how you might tackle one or some of these where you work in the New Year. When you find a topic of interest, click the link to read, watch, discuss and learn more.

Personalized Learning
How can we help ensure student voice and choice are top priorities; education is responsive to students’ needs, interests and aspirations; and that they’re given the skills and experiences vital to success in the 21st Century?

Student Voice
How can we help to ensure students have a say in what, when, where, how and why they learn? What are ways we can listen to students’ needs, interests and concerns? How can we empower youth to understand and act on the world's greatest challenges?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Microsoft big says stop doing 1:1 technology programs

You might be surprised that when Anthony Salcito, VP of education for Microsoft speaks with educators around the world and asks them who’s doing a 1:1 laptop program or 1:1 tablet program or 1:1 interactive whiteboard program, he tells those with their hands up :

“Stop doing that.”

He explains that he’s seen whole initiatives centered around various devices to the point that many other useful tools and pedagogy are thrown out the window so the device-driven initiative can be supported.  When we do that, we’re focusing on the wrong thing. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Plight of the Parent Education Advocate

Guest post by David Bernstein

I’m relatively new to the battle for wholesale educational change, but have fast learned that fighting for a different school model while parenting kids who go to fairly traditional schools requires a tortuous mental balancing act. On the one hand, I’m agitating for change to a badly broken education system, and on the other, I’ve  got to make sure that my own alternative-learning-style kids come out of the school system in one piece.
I love the movie The Matrix, not because it’s such a fabulous piece of art, but because of its powerful message of fighting back against a dehumanizing system that few fully understand.  The film depicts a future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a computer simulation meant to subdue the human population, while their bodies are used as an energy source (a little like factory schools producing kids to fuel an industrial economy that no longer exists). Once the main character, Neo, becomes aware of this manufactured reality, he joins a rebellion against the computers. Neo is constantly forced to move in and out of The Matrix in order to challenge it.
Scene from The Matrix
Such is the plight of the parent education advocate, fighting the education matrix from without one moment and engaging it from within the next; making sure our children get their work done one moment, and fighting to make sure the schools bend to their and other children’s needs the next.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

From banning to embracing - 5 steps to meet the challenge

By Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb | Cross posted at the Teaching Generation Text blog

Talk about progress...

Just a year ago Teaching Generation Text:  Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning, hit the market during a time when most schools still viewed cell phones as the enemy. For many they were simply a device that caused discipline issues and were viewed as a distraction and a cheating tool.  

Today, pioneering educators and their students have embraced a number of ways cell phones can enhance learning paving the way for an exciting challenge. Innovative educators can get teams of students together to participate in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge which positions phones as a learning tool.

Teaching Generation Text looks at using basic, text enabled cell phones to support learning and enhance good teaching strategies.  That was just the tip of the iceberg and a way to open educators’ thinking to stop fighting and start embracing cell phones.  The Verizon Innovative App Challenge takes it to the next level by taking the tool they love and using it to address a need or problem with an app!  

The challenge puts students front and center which makes perfect sense. Students have always been the most important and driving force behind Teaching Generation Text whether it was including students in developing responsible use policies, establishing classroom management practices, or in planning lessons using cell phones, or making learning relevant and interesting.

According to the Verizon Foundation, students are challenged to use their STEM knowledge, their ingenuity, and their creativity to come up with an original mobile app concept that incorporates STEM and addresses a need or problem in their school or community.

Challenges like this bring us closer to a day when students will stop hearing things like, “Give me your phone, Quit texting, Put the phone away, Cell phones are banned here.” Instead this challenge positions these devices as a viable learning tool that will help student address a need or problem and use their creativity and thinking skills to develop solutions USING THEIR PHONE!   

Here are 5 Steps to Get Going with the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The hottest posts that everyone's reading

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.

Want to succeed in STEM? Listen to the experts!
Nov 18, 2012, 1 comment
If you think a personal learning network is an echo chamber...
Nov 20, 2012, 12 comments
5 Reasons to “Gamify” Your Class
Nov 15, 2012, 7 comments
A Friendly Guide to Deploying iPads at Your School...
Jun 24, 2012, 9 comments

Friday, November 23, 2012

Technology: Tool of Engagement or Distraction?

Editor’s note: I believe
technology can be used as a tool of engagement, empowerment, and creation but there are also educators who believe that technology can get in the way of learning. In this post, guest blogger Rod Baird shares some cautions to consider when using technology. Take a look and if you are so inspired, comment with your thoughts.  

Guest Post by Rod Baird

At New Canaan High School students are
not banned from using tech or blocked from sites.
Like Lisa, I am a huge advocate for the constructive use of technology in teaching.  Tech’s merits are widely and appropriately celebrated. But today I want to play the role of devil’s advocate, if for no other reason than to remind us that technology in the classroom is so vital that we must do everything possible to appreciate it, and the best way to do that is to avoid taking it for granted.
My book, Counterfeit Kids, describes how high schools are graduating more and more students who can’t reason, reflect, make much sense or apply what little education they were exposed to in high school largely because their education has been turned into a crass college acceptance contest instead of Aristotle’s pursuit of wisdom and, we need to be honest with ourselves: part of the problem is the race to use technology whenever possible.  But Tech can and does too often deprive our children of their minds. Of course, that happens mainly when technology is used excessively: excessive texting, tweeting, Facebooking, YouTubing. When used constructively, technology will be the progenitor of our civilization. But still in its infancy, and therefore unknown and dangerous, like any new wild thing, technology has to be used carefully.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Superstorm Sandy Blows innovation through NYC schools

Hurricane Katrina brought rise to charter schools in New Orleans and it looks like Superstorm Sandy is bringing rise to online learning in New York City.  

Celine Azoulay, Executive Director of iLearnNYC is thrilled to be able to support New York City’s secondary school children who have been displaced from their homes or reassigned with 21st century learning opportunities. 

The iZone worked diligently to put a full plan in place to offer this to NYC students through iLearnNYC, an extension of the NYC Department of Education’s iZone.  Azoulay, who has been working on this online learning initiative since its inception in 2010, has worked with her team to put a full course load of offerings in place that includes core subject areas and electives including economics, calculus, and foreign language.  Teachers experienced in online learning will teach the courses.

No internet? No problem!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

If you think a personal learning network is an echo chamber you’ve missed the point.

High school math teacher Crystal Kirch used her blog to ask for help with her biggest struggle this year:

"My students don't know how to learn.  They don't know how to succeed.  And, it doesn't seem like they care to change any of that. "
After reading about her struggle, some innovative educators and parents disagreed with her view toward students and took the time to respectfully disagree with Ms. Kirch. Unfortunately, Ms. Kirch censored all those who did not see things her way. On Twitter she thanked everyone for all their love in reaction to her post...even though she knew the truth was that there were people who did not love what she shared.  

Ms. Kirch was directly confronted about her practice of silencing those who didn’t share her views on Twitter and in the blogosphere. She ignored that. As she published comments that expressed the sentiment “Way to go”! “Atta girl!” and “Chin up!” it became clear that her views were to be loved, not pushed or challenged. When they were, she reacted by hiding and disabling comments and added a disclaimer to her post admonishing those with comments that did not support her position calling them “intense attacks.” 
She then wrote a post praising herself as someone who among other things cares more than she should (Yikes!). She also explained that her public blog was solely for her Personal Learning Network (PLN) which defines as only those who agree with her views. She also decided for her readers that her direct quote about her biggest challenge (above) was taken out of context and she was under attack.

But here’s the thing...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Want to succeed in STEM? Listen to the experts!

President Obama believes “The quality of  math and science teachers is the most important single factor influencing whether students will succeed or fail in science, technology, engineering and math.” The problem is that our “quality” teachers  and their administrators are not given the freedom to support children in ways that will produce the scientists and innovators our country needs.  This is because we are stuck in an outdated system that values test scores and grades rather than creativity and innovation.  

This is no secret.  America’s great scientists and innovators have been clear about how our nation’s schools need to change to support great thinkers like themselves. Unfortunately it seems those with the power to make decisions (the politicians and corporations) are not listening to the very type of people we say we want our students to become.  

Let’s take a look at what those in charge are failing to hear when our nation’s historic inventors, scientists, and physicists share their advice and experiences.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The hottest posts that everyone's reading

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.

Nov 8, 2012
Nov 13, 2012
Oct 29, 2012, 1 comment
Nov 11, 2012
Apr 25, 2011, 22 comments
Jul 8, 2012, 15 comments

Thursday, November 15, 2012

5 Reasons to “Gamify” Your Class

Imagine if students were as motivated to do their schoolwork as they are to beat Halo 4. “Gamification” is a fancy word to describe how to achieve exactly that - bringing game-like engagement to non-game settings - and it’s beginning to pervade all aspects of life, including education.

For example, Sam Webster, a 4th grade teacher, gamified her class using a teacher-created project called SuperFunner. “I’ve seen kids who aren’t normally excited become really excited about school all of a sudden,” Webster said about the system.

Here are 5 reasons to consider gamifying your class.

  1. Engagement - If you’ve ever played or watched someone play a good video game, you’ll know that nothing engages people like games do. Even kids who are normally unfocused, unmotivated, or undisciplined become highly focused, motivated, and disciplined when playing games. Gamification can help bring those attitudes to class.
  2. Intrinsic motivation - Not only do kids spend significant amounts of time playing games, but they do so voluntarily, with no hope of earning extrinsic rewards like candy or pizza parties. Gamification is all about guiding people to achieve things that perfectly challenging them, and typically the only incentive to do so is the sense of accomplishment they feel when they succeed.
  3. Extension of learning - It’s tough to design a course that challenges each student to the level they need. Video games, however, somehow manage to capture the full attention of multitudes of people at a myriad of skill levels simultaneously. Gamification can help deliver challenges at the right level for all students in a class, whether they’re two grades behind in reading comprehension or three grades ahead in math.
  4. You’re already doing it - School is inherently game-like - students earn points for completing challenges, and are eventually rewarded with badges in the form of grades. Gamification only improves the current system by employing game elements proven to be extraordinarily effective in video games. If we’re already doing it, we might as well do it right!
  5. Straight up fun - It’s just more fun!

This infographic helps put the significance of video games in relation to school in perspective.

For more information about gamifying school visit

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Using Cell Phone Friendly Social Networks for Global Benefits! - Wednesday Morning

Start your Wednesday morning with the Global Education Conference
8:00 a.m. EST, 6:00 a.m. MT

Here is the link to the session:

Learn how to set the building blocks for success with cell phones. Empower students to connect globally through the integration of social networks. See how twitter, textnovel, and celly support students with global education networks. The authors of Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning share their experiences and immediately applicable tools for leading students in making global connections with their cell phones, even in schools where they are banned.

Translate Informal Learning Into PD Credit with Knowit

When it comes to innovative educators it’s not unusual to spend a lot of time on social media—reading, watching, sharing, learning, connecting, and creating. The articles you read, comments you make, and ideas you share on social platforms like Twitter tell a compelling story of your knowledge and interests. However, right now all of that work is undocumented.

What if there was a way to turn all this learning into something that could be quantified?

The challenge seems difficult because social media is mainly focused on what is going on right now, so it fails to show the story that has built up over time. Your learning is there in the chaos, but much of it is buried pretty deep.

Knowit is a free tool that addresses this challenge making sense of that chaos. When you sign up, Knowit scours the links you share on Twitter, automatically categorizes them, and makes inferences about your expertise. It then builds a simple but information-rich profile that tells your knowledge story. Once the story of your informal learning has been pulled together, you can use it to document your professional development, learn more effectively, and even use it on your resume to give hiring managers something positive to find in your social media profile and help you land that perfect job.

Check out my Knowit profile below or see it live at:

So, what are you waiting for? Go to
Knowit and find out the areas in which it says you are an expert.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cell Phones in the Classroom: Distraction or Undervalued Teaching Tool?

picWhile some educators see cell phones and digital devices as distractions and sources of attention deficit, others say these are wonderful, undervalued teaching tools. Do we need to suppress the use of cell phones in classrooms or bring today's teachers up to speed on how to teach with this new tool?

Listen as Rae Pica hosts a conversation on BAM Radio’s Educator’s Channel where "Cell Phones in the Classroom" author Liz Kolb and I take on Greg Graham author of Cell Phones in Classrooms? No! Students Need to Pay Attention to discuss the benefits of cell phones for learning.
play buttontalk
Discover more reasons why I believe cell phones can be effective learning tools by reading Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The hottest posts that everyone's reading

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.

Oct 29, 2012, 1 comment
Nov 1, 2012, 4 comments
Jul 8, 2012, 15 comments
Dec 8, 2010, 1 comment
May 10, 2010, 39 comments
Nov 5, 2012
Oct 30, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

5 benefits of learning to play musical instruments

Music lessons offer children many benefits including aiding mental, physical, emotional and social development. Does your child’s school support this?  If not, you may want to share the following benefits of learning to play music.  

  1. Boosting Brain Power - Taking lessons to learn to play an instrument significantly improves brain power.  Research from the University of Kansas suggests that learning at a young age will have an impact on a child’s cognitive skills as they grow older.
  2. Improving Memory - Young people that learn to play a musical instrument have been shown in studies to have an improvement in behavior, memory and intelligence. All types of lessons for music stimulate multiple patterns of brain development, which is what helps to increase memory.