Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Use social media to shine on school quality reviews

Not only is use of social media good classroom practice, but in places that have quality reviews (an assessment and evaluation system for schools), engaging parents with social media will help schools shine.

School quality reviews are used as evaluation tools in places such as England, Wales, and New Zealand and have recently made their way to the United States in places like New York City. Quality reviews are generally customized to a particular district, but one thing they all have in common is placing a value on the home and school connection.  

Here are some key areas that social media can be used to help schools engage families and do well on the school quality review.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do You Have to Be an Entertainer to Engage Your Students?

A contributing factor to the high school dropout rate and one of the biggest complaints of students is simply that “I’m bored.” And...many teachers know that their students consider them boring.   So, what’s the answer?  Some would say that you need to be an entertainer.   I was recently interviewed on BAM radio by Rae Pica along with Mike Muir, Lee Kolbert, and Pat Hensley who wrote, “Should Teachers Be Entertainers?While many feel forced to entertain, is this the best approach? In the show we discuss how teachers can expect to engage students in the face of all that competes for their attention.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Rhonda Bliss (Jeff Bliss's mother) shares her thoughts

Editor's note: This post is from Rhonda Bliss. The mother of Jeff Bliss known for telling his teacher how he felt about packet-driven learning. I share this post with the permission of Rhonda Bliss. The original post can be found on Jeff Bliss's Facebook page here.

By Rhonda Bliss

It has been 2 weeks and Jeff's words continue to resound throughout the educational community of the world. It was and always will be about the poor quality educational system. I have read extensively since the video went viral: posts both positive and negative, new web sites, and have received the most encouraging words from people throughout the country. My own students wanted to know about the video. The opportunity became a teaching moment which as they soon discovered was what I had done in the classroom since 2006 when I took my current job position. Passionate, face to face teaching, creative ways to engage kids and help them remember what they had learned: I was touching their hearts and they knew exactly why Jeff was so passionate about his education. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How well does your school meet student expectations? Take this quiz to find out.

The Leaving to Learn movement, started by Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski is built on the idea that a great way to learn to find success in the world is to be in the world. The first step is taking down the barriers between school and the outside world and letting students leave, to learn. Washor and Mojokowski recently published a book on the topic. In it they bring the philosophy to life via real examples from schools following the Big Picture Learning model. If you're unfamiliar, students in these schools usually spend a couple days each week in the world pursuing their passions. What sets these students apart from those in traditional schools is that upon graduation, not only are these students deeply connected to that which they are passionate about and others who share and can help them pursue these passions, but they also graduate with authentic, real-world experience and expertise.

At the heart of this philosophy is the idea that learning should be student centered. To do that we need to be clear on the expectations students have our their schools. The following diagram outlines the ten expectations which young people want from their schools.

Read more about these expectations and watch videos of this in action here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

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.

May 19, 2013, 8 comments
May 12, 2013, 12 comments
Apr 9, 2013, 6 comments
May 3, 2013, 3 comments
May 6, 2013, 1 comment
Mar 27, 2013, 7 comments
Jul 15, 2010, 24 comments
May 14, 2013, 1 comment

Friday, May 24, 2013

Innovative tool for the NYC mayoral race

Who should be New York City's next education mayor? 

Gotham Schools helps citizens decide with an innovative tool which you can see in the photograph below.  
Visit the site at

Thursday, May 23, 2013

4 Ways to Provoke Change In Our Education System

Guest post by Jaime R. Wood

In his most recent TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson says, “There are 3 principles on which human life flourishes, and they are contradicted by the culture of education under which most teachers have to labor and most students have to endure...diversity...curiosity...creativity.”

What does it take to infuse these principles into the education systems we build? This is a question that can’t be answered by one person alone, but in my 14 years of teaching and researching education, I’ve come to realize that 4 catalyzing actions, small steps that each of us can take fairly easily, can initiate change in positive ways from the ground up. 

Here they are.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5 ways to increase chances of a successful #1to1 implementation

As more and more schools hop on the 1:1 or BYOD bandwagon in one way or another it is important to deeply consider proper implementation.  While there is the promise for engaged and inspired learning, these large-scale implementations also present potential pitfalls for school districts that must watch the bottom line, provide adequate support for teachers new to the technology, and engage families in a dialogue about these powerful pieces of equipment that are going to be coming home in Johnny’s backpack each night.

There is no shortage of advice for effective use of technology in the classroom, but for the first time, Common Sense Media, a national non-profit that provides curriculum support for schools around safe technology use by kids, has created a soup-to-nuts planning program that includes resources for all phases of a 1:1 implementation. And since they’re experts in Digital Citizenship there are plenty of resources in the program geared towards on-boarding students for safe and responsible use of their new devices.

You can check out an overview of the program in this video.

Common Sense Media partnered with expert 1:1 educators to develop the program, which highlights best practices and lessons-learned and provides turnkey tools for schools to leverage. To follow are some of their key findings.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wrong! Free computers don’t affect educational outcomes

In case you missed it, a wrong-minded study was released this month from the National Bureau of Economic Research that says that computer ownership does not affect educational outcomes.

Makes you wonder how on earth earth such misguided studies can even be commissioned. Also makes you curious about who is really behind the funding of research that misleads readers into believing that poor kids don’t need the same tools their wealthier peers use for success.

Here is an excerpt from the study:

Computers are an important part of modern education, yet many schoolchildren lack access to a computer at home. We test whether this impedes educational achievement by conducting the largest-ever field experiment that randomly provides free home computers to students. Although computer ownership and use increased substantially, we find no effects on any educational outcomes, including grades, test scores, credits earned, attendance and disciplinary actions. Our estimates are precise enough to rule out even modestly-sized positive or negative impacts. The estimated null effect is consistent with survey evidence showing no change in homework time or other "intermediate" inputs in education.
Note: You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery. However if you have a .GOV email (i.e. you may be eligible for a free copy.
We already know that a dump and dash of computers, books, or really anything is not going to magically have results if there is no time spent on effective use combined with coaching, modeling, and support.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The packet-driven classroom

Jeff Bliss got our attention when he shared his frustration with his teacher, classmates, and the world about his learning environment.

The now viral video captures a room of passionless students, some with their heads down, some with a facepalm, some staring into space, all silently sitting at their empty desks seemingly disconnected not only from each other, but also from their behind-a-desk-fortress teacher.

That is until Jeff Bliss got up and spoke:

Jeff Bliss: [I’m tired of] hearing this freakin’ lady go off on kids because they don’t get this crap. If you can just get up and teach them instead of handing them a freakin’ packet, yo. There are kids in here who don’t learn like that, they need to learn face-to-face. You’re just getting mad because I’m pointing out the obvious.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

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.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Do we have to choose between student voice and teacher voice?

It turns out my support of student activist Jeff Bliss caused at least one teacher to announce on his blog that he wants to quit Tweeting and blogging.  

Friends bombarded me with the post, accompanied by comments like, “This is great. We don’t need someone like that representing our profession.” Or, “Wow. He must really be threatened by students being heard. I think that’s a good sign.”

I represent, apparently,all that makes him want to quit. The problem however, is that what he expresses in his blog is a poorly articulated, almost despondent rant. The discouragement that he is feeling is completely understandable; he sees Bliss’s attack as one more on the pile laid upon teachers whose hands and voices are tied tighter every day.  But what he expresses can have a dampening effect on those trying to amplify the voices that matter.

This is about more than one frustrated student’s angry words, and the shouts of praise and derision that followed. This is about whether a voice representing one view can marginalize or even erase another.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Could PBL be the Solution to Education Reform?

At the behest of politicians, educators nationwide have been told to view students as statistics, not as individuals, and to view the purpose of the educational enterprise as raising test scores rather than developing capable minds [1].

While I was taking a survey today about Response to Intervention (RTI) I began to reflect about how RTI and Data-Driven Instruction have affected my school.  In the past few years, I have noticed teachers becoming overwhelmingly stressed about Standardized State Tests.  Teachers feel like they don't have enough time to lesson-plan in order to appropriately meet the needs of their students.  Moreover, teachers feel that the precious planning-time in which they do get is being wasted during team meetings and other scheduled events.  Teachers are becoming depressed because they are feeling like they are doing their students a disservice by "teaching to the tests" and there isn't anything that they can do about it.  This unfortunately creates an extremely negative atmosphere that is contagious to all valued stake-holders in a school system.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Was #JeffBliss disrespectful for using his #StuVoice to demand a beyond-the-packet education?

By now, you've probably seen the video of high school student Jeff Bliss demanding an end to what he calls "packet teaching." Instead he puts out a call to action for teachers to work to touch the hearts of kids to open their minds. The interaction was ignited when his teacher told him to stop his bitching about the test and kicked him out of class. A student flipped open the cell phone, caught his reaction on tape, and published it. It hit a chord with many and went viral, being viewed by millions around the globe.

As Jeff shared his frustration, his teacher saw no value in his wisdom and told him that he was wasting her time. When he responds, she apathetically silences him, tells him again to leave and informs him he is not welcome back.

What surprised me more than this teacher's dismissal of a young man so passionate about the education of himself and others, was that there were so many people who thought Jeff Bliss was the one being disrespectful.

Wait! What????

As I recently expressed during a weekly Student Voice chat on Twitter, here's my thinking about how we should view students.
And this resonates with students.
When a teacher tells a young man frustrated about being robbed of his education that he should stop bitching and stop wasting her time, how on earth can we be focused on the student being the one that is showing disrespect?

Our school system is here to support children in learning. Most of us are aware that very few students learn well with "packet teaching," yet it remains.

Criticism of Jeff Bliss in social media and the mainstream press indicate he could have gone about this a different way.

They say he should have addressed her privately.
  • This makes NO sense. It was the teacher who called him out and kicked him out publicly in front of the class.
They say he should have gone to the principal or school board.
  • I'm sure he will, but at the time, he was responding to the woman who told him to stop bitching and kicked him out of class for voicing his frustration.
They say he should know the politics of education and know this is the fault of those beyond the teacher.
  • It is not the job of students to know the politics of education. It is their right to learn and to observe their freedom of speech when this right is being withheld. 
They say he robbed his classmates of an education by disrupting the class.
  • No. No. No. Students speaking to their teachers about how they learn best is not robbing anyone of an education. It is an opportunity for everyone to put down the packet, talk, think, and discuss how they can best learn. Students can fill in bubbles anytime, anywhere. A class is a place for interaction and discussion.
They say he shouldn't have addressed the teacher because she was just doing what she was told.
  • We should not silence students who are telling their teachers they can't learn they way they teach. Students should be able to speak with their teachers and teachers should listen. When they do they will find there is something valuable they can learn.
I commend Jeff Bliss for standing up for himself and all the other students who deserve a beyond-the-packet education.

Our children are not our future. They are the voices we need TODAY. Our job is to listen and support them. When they say they can't learn the way we are teaching (or not teaching in this case) we must hear them and do what we can to ensure they receive the education they deserve. When we do that we will have citizens who are not just good at sitting down and filling in packets but standing up and filling our world with those who are empowered with embrace their right to change the world.

You can like Jeff Bliss's Facebook Page here and follow him on Twitter here.

Oh, wait. Before you go, check out this great remix of Jeff Bliss's inspirational words.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The hottest posts 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.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pinterest curated into Joyce Epstein's 6 Types of #Parent Involvement

If you are responsible for helping to build and strengthen the home-school connection, you’ll want to follow Principal Joe Mazza on Pinterest. Mazza uses Pinterest to pin resources aligned to the National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs which build upon the six types of parent involvement identified by Joyce L. Epstein, Ph.D., of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University.  

Below you will find the standards for the six types of parent involvement with Pinterest boards that are aligned to each.

Standard I: Communicating
Communication between home and school is regular, two-way, and meaningful.
Follow this board at

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Leave high school. Test out of college. Save $$. Find success.

Editor's note: There are plenty of questions around if college is really worth the time and money. Personally, I found a way to graduate college as a teen without going into any debt, so the decision wasn't too difficult. More and more people are finding innovative ways to have their cake and eat it too. Here's one such story.  

Guest post by Laura Fokkena. Cross posted at Rise Out: Leave School. Start a life.

I don't believe standardized tests are an accurate measure of learning. In fact, one of the reasons I encourage students to extract themselves from high school is because it means leaving behind a culture where education is gauged by letter grades and multiple choice exams. But I'm also strategic. If colleges want to award you a semester's worth of credit in exchange for a one-hour, $100 test? Why argue?

In the first year after my daughter quit high school, she took 14 standardized tests. This felt absurd even as it was happening. I'd supported her leaving high school so that she could skip the busywork and have more time for authentic learning experiences, yet here we were, purchasing SAT and ACT preparation books, which she studied in lieu of actual literature.

But I don't regret it, and here's why.

Monday, May 6, 2013

What breaks your heart? Tackle that with Quest2Matter

Quest2Matter is a youth-focused effort that encourages young people to tackle problems that break their heart. The Quest seeks to unlock the potential of young people to think entrepreneurially and innovatively and use modern tools to change our world.

What is The Quest?
The Quest is a catalyst that challenges students:

Students who accept this challenge will know that they matter and that they can make a difference in our world.

What makes a good quest?

Ask yourself three questions.

1) Does your quest change the world for the better?

  • Great ideas dare to question the normal ways of doing things.
  • They also dare us to do things that many others may disagree with.
  • We're looking for rule breakers who are working hard to bring their big idea to light.
2) What have you done in the real world with your idea?
  • We're looking for stories about things that have actually happened (as opposed to things you want to have happen).
  • Stories of failing are welcome too - especially if you picked yourself up and kept on going.
  • That's because true innovation comes from trying things all the time, and most of us can't make our big ideas real without making mistakes along the way.
3) Can you get personal and tell a great story?
  • Great social change begins with something personal.
  • We'll be looking for students who can share a first-hand story (preferably through video) and inspire others to make their own impact.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

3 ways to use Twitter Fast Follow to strengthen the home-school connection

Did you know that anyone (in the US) can receive Tweets on their phone even if they haven’t signed up for Twitter? Twitter Fast Follow allows anyone to follow Tweets right from any phone with texting capabilities. For a school community, this can provide a simple way for people to get information they care about in real-time. It is a terrific way to build and strengthen the home-school connection.

Here are some ways it can be used.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The hottest posts 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.