Wednesday, September 28, 2016

6 Skills Students Today Must Develop

You know the drill.  Our job as innovative educators is to prepare students for success in the 21st century, but what does that really mean? The 21st Century Learning Design rubric provides a great lens to help you see if you are ensuring students are developing the skills they’ll need for success when they move on to college and careers.
Here are the six skills:
Are students required to share responsibility and make substantive decisions with other people? Is their work interdependent?
Knowledge construction
Are students required to construct and apply knowledge? Is that knowledge interdisciplinary?
Is the learning activity long-term? Do students plan and assess their own work, and revise their work based on feedback?
Real-world problem-solving and innovation
Does the learning activity require solving authentic, real-world problems? Are students’ solutions implemented in the real world?
Use of information & communications tech for learning
Are students passive consumers of ICT, active users, or designers of an ICT product for an authentic audience?
Skilled communication
Are students required to communicate their own ideas regarding a concept or issue? Must their communication be supported with evidence and designed with a particular audience in mind?
What is great about this framework is it gives you tools for looking at each skill.  

These include the following:
  • Overview
  • Key questions
  • Rubric
  • Flowchart

Here is a flavor of what some of the components look like.

This provides an overview of definitions of key concepts and related examples.  

Key questions
Consider if you are fostering the skill by asking yourself important questions. Here is what this looks like when considering collaboration:

The rubric helps you assign each learning activity a number from 1 to 4, according to how strongly it offers opportunities to develop a given skill. Here is an example for real world problem-solving and innovation.
Flow Chart
There is a flow chart to help you think about where you fall on the rubric.  Here is what that looks like for self regulation.
So what do you think? Are these skills you are fostering in your classroom?  Does this give you a useful framework to think about it?  What do you like? What might you use in your work? You can check out the whole framework here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Books Can Help Us Talk abt #BlackLivesMatter

I have black friends and colleagues disappointed with their non-black friends because they are not speaking up about why #BlackLivesMatter. Some of my white friends say this topic is out of their comfort zone. They are embarrassed by what is going on and don't know how to speak up because it is a touchy subject and they fear sounding, offensive, stupid, or being attacked. As a result they are silent, and when fear gets in the way of conversation, there are no winners.

As a white educator who has worked in Harlem since the 90s and lived here since 2001, the topic certainly hits close to home. I was the young Jewish girl came who came to teach at a school in Central Harlem, not as an idealistic young white TFAer but rather as one who worked my way through college to earn my masters degree to end up exactly where I wanted to be: in a school full of excited kids who I knew I knew little about and who in return knew little about me. We all had a lot to learn.

This is the story of how schools in general, and libraries in particular, can play a role in being a part of the solution.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

3 of The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

Have you been keeping up with The Innovative Educator? If not, that’s okay.  Here are the three hottest posts that you don’t want to miss!

Taking the top spot for the first time is The Biggest Barrier to Real LearningWant to find out what it is? Read the post.

Next up is a post that tells you how to become The Genius Hunter In Your Classroom

Rounding out the top is a great post for teachers to share with parents as back-to-school nights are on the horizon. It provides ideas for ways to grow learning and strengthen relationships with a #DeviceFreeDinner all week long.

If any of these posts are of interest, check em out and share with others using the buttons below on Twitter, Facebook, email or whichever platform you like best.

Sep 14, 2016, 1 comment
Sep 11, 2016, 4 comments
Sep 4, 2016, 1 comment

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How and When to Teach Children to Type

Kids today are practically born with technology in their hands, but when should teachers and parents help those hands graduate from tapping, dragging, and swiping to home row and touch typing? Keyboarding skills are great to have because they save time and increase efficiency. What’s more, typing can be fun!  It’s like a game.
The time teach children to touch type is whenever they ask to learn. Watching others who have the ability to touch type seems almost magical and serves as a great way to motivate them to take interest themselves.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Can a Good Writer Be Bad at Diagramming Sentences?

I still remember standing at the chalkboard in Mrs. Kopald's fourth grade class diagramming a sentence. I had no idea what I was writing or why. I drew a straight line and all these branches and just wrote stuff on them. I didn't know what I was really doing and still don't know a past participle from a gerund or direct object. 

I felt similarly about iambic pentameter  in high school which looked like this:
 ×  / ×   /   ×  /      /  ×    ×   / (×)
To be or not to be, | that is the question
These were the types of activities that turned me off from writing for so many years. Can I really write if I don't know parts of speech or rules of grammar? Can I really rap (yeah, I did that in high school) if I don't know iambic pentameter.  

It's kinda like when that teacher tells you that you need to understand quadratic equations to be a good athlete in sports like baseball, or basketball, or for me, volleyball, but then you find out, really you don't.  
Quadratic Equation

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

The post that takes the #1 spot for a second week provides an ethical response guide for When Students Ask: Can I Friend You? Check out the post and the cool infographic created courtesy of @Eileen_Lennon.  
Taking the #2 spot for the first time is a post that is great for teachers to share with parents as back-to-school nights are on the horizon. It provides ideas for ways to grow learning and strengthen relationships with a #DeviceFreeDinner all week long.

Making its way to the top for another week is a post that takes a look at ways to use @PokemonGo to inspire learning.  

Rounding out the top is a post that makes it to the top for the first time. It shares The Biggest Barrier to Real LearningWant to find out what it is? Read the post and find out.

If any of these posts are of interest, check em out and share with others using the buttons below on Twitter, Facebook, email or whichever platform you like best.
Aug 21, 2016, 1 comment
Sep 4, 2016
Aug 24, 2016, 2 comments
Sep 14, 2016, 1 comment

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Biggest Barrier to Real Learning

David Geurin shared 7 Ways Tech Transforms Learning. The first reason, authentic audience, is the single biggest barrier to learning that is relevant, real, and innovative. David says this:
It's really sad that most work students do in school ultimately ends up in a trash can. The audience for their efforts is usually the teacher and maybe their classmates, but rarely is work shared beyond the school walls. By using digital tools it is possible to share work to a potentially unlimited audience, and it's possible to curate the work so it's available forever. Say goodbye to the trash can finish. 
When students work for an authentic audience, it is potentially a game changer. Instead of just completing assignments in a manner that is "good enough" they now want the work to be just plain "good." And how the work is received can provide excellent feedback. An authentic audience multiplies the possibilities for feedback. As any blogger can attest, having an audience changes everything, and really makes you think about your ideas
Geurin is right. but even those schools and individuals who are trying to have students create for an authentic audience often are not getting it right. 

Here's why:

Published does not  authentic audience
Some schools / educators think they have this covered by merely having students post work in a public place. Just sharing work on YouTube, a school blog, a platform like Google Classroom, Edmodo, or other online space, is not necessarily going far enough for reaching an intentional authentic audience. It is simply publishing without proper thought going to who the right audience might be for the work. An authentic audience must be located and the platform and/or places they go to find information must be determined.  

Example: Students create Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that address the problem of litter in the community and want to encourage others to reduce, reuse, recycle.  They make the PSAs and publish them on YouTube and Vimeo. While someone may see those videos, there is no intentional thought to the audience. These two big questions are ignored:
  1. Who do you want to see this PSA.  
  2. How are you going to get this PSA in front of them.  
The answer in this case are local community members.  

The first thing students can do is research where PSA's are generally published for an audience and investigate the process via interviews.  They might consider the following:

  • How do you get a PSA on television or radio?  
  • Is there a format or length for each medium? 
  • How can a PSA get listed in the online version of the local paper?  
  • Is there an environmental group that might be interested in sharing the PSA on their website? 
  • Can the school share this on their website? 
  • Can the school work with the district to publish this on a district website?  
  • Can there be a contest in the community to bring attention to the issue?  

There is a lot that can be done when we start looking at authentic audiences. This often forgotten piece is essential to the learning process.

Manufactured audience does not  authentic audience
At some schools, they may put together a panel to evaluate student work and think the job of publishing to an authentic audience is done. This is often what happens in Performance Based Assessment schools.  While the students worked on a project, created a presentation, and had an audience someone put together for them, there are many problems with this strategy. 
  1. The emphasis is on assessment, not real work for a real audience.
  2. The students usually have no say in the audience.
  3. The audience the project should really have been created for is often missing. 
  4. The intent is evaluation of the students and is over when the evaluation is over.
If the work was real work for an authentic audience, this would look different. 

That panel mentioned above would be brought into the process early on. They would be partners in bringing the project to life. In fact, rather than evaluators, the audience would become part of the student's learning network and/or mentors who guide along the way and have a stake in the student's success.  

In the PSA example above, the way this could become authentic is this. 

The student has been working under the guidance of panel members to create the PSA. There has been ongoing dialogue and communication.  They have also worked with members to create a campaign. The presentation is the time to view and celebrate the final PSA along with the campaign strategy. Panel members give feedback into the strategy and determine the role they will play.  

Wondering what this really looks like in practice?  Here are two examples:
  1. Second grade students discover tourism is suffering in their town. They explore all the wonderful things in their community and make an interactive multimedia presentation that they Tweet out to a targeted audience and have featured on the tourism bureau’s Facebook Page and website to help attract tourists to their city.  Read more here.  
  2. Fifth grade students tackle the issue of sustainability. Their strategy to improve sustainability in the community is to educate and encourage businesses in the community to be a part of the solution. To do that students learned what businesses could do to be sustainable and created brochures that included concrete advice. Students presented and distributed the brochures to businesses. To hold businesses accountable, students created an honor roll of businesses following those practices that was published on the town website in printed in public places and they provided badges of sustainability to those who met their criteria.
    Read more here.
Authentic audience is one important part of the equation when it comes to preparing today's students for success. Geurin's infographic below outlines six additional considerations. 

Check it out and then share how you are working to transform learning where you work.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are You The Genius Hunter In Your Classroom?

If you work in an inner city public school, and even some who don’t, know that one teacher per 30 or more students is difficult at best. Fortunately, innovative educators have figured out that while they may be experts in pedagogy, they have a whole class full of experts in technology.  We all enjoy being recognized for our talents. Figuring out who your classroom geniuses are during the first 30 days of school is an inspiring activity for all grade levels.

Innovative educators already know that it is best to give students options in showing what they know by giving choice of creation and platform. Students often know how to use apps and sites educators may never have heard of. When teachers take on the role of genius hunter they are intentional when they discover which students are great at using various resources and they chart it. Do you have a student who made an excellent story in Snapchat? List them as the Snapchat expert. Is there a student who rocked Piktochart to explain a concept? Boom. They’re the expert in Piktochart. Maybe you have a student who created something they learned in history using Minecraft. Share their expertise!

When teachers celebrate student genius, the focus in class moves to student strengths and the ongoing internal conversation with your students and external conversation in the class, is to think about what their particular genius is.
Angela Maiers is at the forefront of helping educators seek out the genius in their students. Read her blog here.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

This week a new post takes the #1 spot. It provides an ethical response guide for When Students Ask: Can I Friend You? Check out the post and the cool infographic created courtesy of @Eileen_Lennon.  

Taking the #2 spot for the first time is a post that helps teachers consider if the professional development they provide or attend contains the five qualities that are necessary for success. Check out Does Your PD Have These 5 Essential Qualities? to see what those qualities are.

Making its way to the top for the first time is a post that takes a look at ways to use @PokemonGo to inspire learning

Rounding out the top is a post that is great for teachers to share with parents in the new school year. It provides ideas for ways to grow learning and strengthen relationships with a #DeviceFreeDinner all week long.

If any of these posts are of interest, check em out and share with others using the buttons below on Twitter, Facebook, email or whichever platform you like best.

Aug 21, 2016, 1 comment
Aug 14, 2016, 4 comments
Aug 24, 2016, 2 comments
Sep 4, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

5 Teacher Personas to #HackTheClassroom & Discuss Innovative Practice

Hacks are those who come up with clever solutions to everyday problems. Innovative educators are natural hackers constantly coming up with, and even sharing, ideas to improve teaching and learning.  Microsoft has come up five teacher personas as an easy-to-think about framework for hacking our classroom. This is a great framework to keep in mind for teachers and administrators who are considering ways to innovate learning in their classrooms.  It gives educators a common language to describe what they are doing.

Below is a description of each hack persona. Check them out and think about how you have, or how you plan, to innovate learning through one of these personas.  

Five Teacher Hack Personas

Want to learn more? Hack the Classroom is an exciting online live event designed to inspire and enable you to incorporate new ideas and tools into your classroom so your students can achieve more. Sign up for Microsoft’s event on Saturday, September 24th from 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM EST at

Here is EVEN MORE from Microsoft's Anthony Salcito in the below Tweet.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

#DeviceFreeDinner Ideas to Grow Learning + Strengthen Relationships

Note: Twitter won't let you Tweet my blog url. Please use this shortened url instead

The research is clear. Time together around the dinner table has beneficial results including improving quality of daily life, your children's chances of success in the world, and your family's health according to the  Family Youth and Community Sciences Department at the University of Florida. In fact, your child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight Hammons & Fiese, 2011. A study done by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse revealed that teens who eat fewer than three family dinners per week compared to those who eat five to seven a week are twice as likely to use alcohol and tobacco and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.
This isn’t just for people with traditional careers and family lives. It applies to all families regardless of how busy your schedule or important your job, In her book “The Obamas,” author Jodi Kanter highlights  the President’s commitment to having dinner with his family five times a week. Unfortunately in the hustle and bustle of today's digital world, the art of the family dinner has been drained out of many homes with device interaction replacing face-to-face connection. During a panel discussion hosted by Common Sense Media that focused on raising caring kids in a digital world, Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education shared that many families are not even sure what to do at dinner time if all are free of digital devices.
If this applies to your family, don’t despair. Below are ideas for dinner time activities for each day of the week. These suggestions should serve as a helpful way to ensure dinner time is a valuable experience for families.

Editor’s tip
What if your family really truly can’t do dinner together? Are you doomed to disconnected, unhealthy lives?  Of course not. In the end what is important is that the family has set activities/rituals each week that they do together face-to-face (even if that means video conferencing with Skype or Google Hangout) and distraction free.  For your family this may actually mean breakfast, lunch, a before bedtime ritual or perhaps a sport or arts activity the family does together.