Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Back & Remembering @Joe_Bower @DevenKBlack @BobSprankle

Over the course of the past year, we have lost three innovative educators. Each of whom has influenced my practice in meaningful ways. Joe Bower, Deven Black, and Bob Sprankle. While I am deeply saddened that our live conversations and interactions have come to an end, social media has provided an outlet for their ideas to live on. Because each educator was generous with sharing their thoughts and ideas, they leave behind a digital legacy that can live on to inspire others. 

Below is a little insight about each of these educators.

Joe Bower @joe_bower  
Joe Bower began inspiring me several years ago when I came across his blog, "For the Love of Learningwhere he shares his distaste of grading and blogs and his admiration for the work of Alfie KohnIt didn't take long before his blog became one of my favorites. He was one of my 25 favorites on Twitter as well. 

I was shocked when I learned he was taken from us too soon and too young as a result of an unexpected, heart attack. Joe's writing was always informative and inspirational. 

If you want to learn about progressive ideas in the areas of grading, assessment, and homework, check out Joe's book, De-Testing + De-Grading Schools, one of his talks, and his blog.

Deven Black @devenkblack 
I knew Deven as an intellectual out-of-the-box thinker. I loved speaking with Deven because he appreciated having lively conversations where we might disagree on a topic and knew on the other side of it, we’d both come out smarter.

Deven was part of a group that contributed to the New York City Department of Education’s ground breaking social media guidelines which were the first in the world to be created with students and teachers.  

In 2013 I sat next to Deven in Washington D.C. when he won the School Librarian Bammy Award as a result of his ability to create a 21st century learning center. He took over an out-of-date, disorganized library, with dusty old books and turned it into a modern, automated library created with a mission to support student learning in ways aligned to their interests, strengths, and talents. The Bammy’s marked the height of Deven’s education career. The events that happened next seemed to lead to a downward spiral. He had some work issues and lost his permanent teaching license. Then he literally, broke his neck.

I hadn’t heard much from Deven after 2014. I did not know that he had a history struggling with mental illness. I knew the side of Deven that he shared in his blog. A thoughtful, deep thinker, who had smart ideas on how to make learning more fulfilling.  Along with others, I was stunned to learn he was murdered and nearly beheaded at a homeless shelter just a few blocks up the street from me.  

I am thankful that Deven not only shared his organs with those in need, but he also shared his insights and ideas that are forever captured in his blog. If you want to learn from Deven, check out his blog. It’s great. I cite it often in my writing.  One of my favorite posts he wrote was “My One Great Lesson This Year.” Check it out at I think you’ll enjoy. You may also appreciate his 140Edu Talk where he explains high school dropouts is not a crisis. It is a message. One that tells us that school sucks, it is not reaching them, or that they feel they have no hope for success in high school or beyond it. You can watch his talk here or read the transcript here. 

Bob Sprankle @bobsprankle
Bob Sprankle was such a wonderfully kind man so giving of his knowledge. We often met up at conferences such as Alan November's Building Learning Communities. We would discuss tips, tricks, and what we were up to. I was always impressed with what he was doing with podcasting. There was the teacher professional development podcast, Seedlings which Bob hosted with Cheryl Oakes and Alice Barr. I had the pleasure of being a guest on a few episodes talking about topics such as harnessing the power of cell phones. He also did the Room 208 podcast.  Check out the movie he made about it with his students. 

My heart broke for Bob because I knew he had been suffering for many years with crippling pain from complications from polypropylene mesh used during a hernia operation. This pain prevented him from doing the work he loved so much. After years of service the Maine school system refused to provide Bob with disability benefits. I was one of Bob's many friends who tried turning to social media to address the issue. After years of crushing denials fighting the system, he and his family were forced to turn to the kindness of strangers to keep up with medical and living expenses. Eventually, after so much work and intervention of elected officials such as Maine state representative Robert Foley, the fight resulted in Bob receiving the benefits he deserved, but the fight took its toll and Bob died just a few weeks later at the age of 52.  

If you want insights into Bob's genius, Wesley Freyer compiled a thoughtful collection of memories in his blog post here and has started a site named Bob Taught Me which migrates and archives his various digital spaces.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

3 Gifts of Tech Learning "with" Educators & Families

What benefits might we see if time was set aside for teachers to learn "with" their students/children and parents? How could that even happen easily? I mean when do teachers, parents, and young people even want to learn the same thing. How could there be time for all these audiences to join together? #NYCSchoolsTech Leader, Lori Stahl-VanBrackle brought this idea to life over the winter break at her learning center in Manhattan.

Here's what she did it and why it worked.
Photo 1) Designing a snowman for the 3D printer.
Photo 2) The product with mom/NYC Schools teacher  Cidalia & her child/ NYC Schools preschool student
Photo 3) Student/child explains her Scratch project

Sunday, December 25, 2016

#EdTech, #TechEd, #MediaLit, #DigCit #DigLit - Where Do You Fit In?

[Editor's Note: This post is being updated as we continue the conversation and dig into some common understandings and definitions. Share your 2 cents in the comments.]

You may have noticed the conversation about ed tech vs tech ed and the confusion about what each is or if there is even a difference.

This is understandable.

The International Society for “Technology Education” calls themselves the largest teacher-based non-profit organization in the field of “educational technology,.


They’re the society for “tech ed” but they are in the field of “ed tech” and have “ed tech” standards.

Ah, but there is a subtlety that can easily be missed* The preposition "in." So they're not actually the International Society for Tech Ed as stated above, but rather the International Society for Tech "in" Ed. But then why not just be the International Society for Educational Technology?


You don't want to be someone who confuses how to using technology in education with technology education.

The Innovative Educator is here to help you understand the difference, as well as determine where you fit in this whole picture.  To follow is your handy dandy guide.
Where do you fit into the big picture of technology in education?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The 3 Hottest Posts Innovative Educators Are Reading

If you haven’t been keeping up with The Innovative Educator, don’t worry. That’s what this wrap up is for.  Here are the three hottest posts that you don’t want to miss!

Taking the top spot for the first time is a post explaining how to determine if you are preparing students to become digital age learners. It looks at ISTE standards to help teachers think about this. Next up is a post outlining how to Choose the Right #EdTech Resources. The post highlights a great tool from Common Sense Education and points to some other important resources that innovative educators use to choose what is best for teaching and learning.

Rounding out the top is a post that hits on a topic that’s on top of mind for many innovative educators: How to handle fake news and think about if your students are able to evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and  relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

Are Your Students Digital Age Learners? ...
Dec 18, 2016,
Choosing the Right #EdTech Resources: ...
Dec 11, 2016,
She’s Gone: The Innovative Educator Leaves Us ...
Dec 8, 2016,

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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

12 Steps to Creating a Comprehensive Approach to #EdTech Integration - Consideration 6

Effective technology integration doesn’t happen organically. It takes intentional planning. There are twelve steps schools can take to get the ball rolling. It starts by looking at the district’s overall approach and seeing how your school can build upon what is in place and customize to the needs of your community.

In New York City we have a “Strategic Technology Plan” which is designed to help readers:
  • Understand connections between technology and the strategic goals of the NYCDOE
  • Discover opportunities for expanded technology programming and investment
  • Learn about the priorities for the next five years
The plan addresses three areas:
  1. Integrate Tech Into Instruction
  2. Invest in Infrastructure and Devices
  3. Focus on the User
The plan is an important starting point as it helps schools understand the services currently available, those that are being planned, goals for the future, and who is responsible for driving the work being conducted in each part of the plan. The knowledge of current and future services and goals across a district provides a foundation and starting point for schools to create their own approach to tech integration.

Here 12 steps that schools can take to create a comprehensive approach to ed tech integration for staff, students, and families.
  1. Create an advisory group with key stakeholders i.e. students, staff, parents
  2. Assess and identify the current state
  3. Discuss the desired state i.e. what would this look like on your best day
  4. Provide models that resemble the desired state and visit / connect with those working in such situations to identify challenges and successes
  5. Determine desired state
  6. Discuss and address hopes and fears
  7. Create a vision
  8. Share with key stakeholders and include their feedback
  9. Determine requirements for implementation
  10. Understand what it takes to manage complex change
  11. Share and celebrate with stakeholders
  12. Implement, revise, repeat

These steps will tend to overlap and are unlikely to occur in a chronological order, but each is important to ensure your school or district includes a comprehensive approach to tech integration.

What do you think? Do you have a comprehensive approach to tech integration where you work? Did you include each of these steps? What worked? What is missing? Please share in the comments.   

This is part of a series in my conversation with author and professor Liz Kolb, who is teaching a course at the University of Michigan that addresses ways technology supports modern teaching and learning. Stay tuned on The Innovative Educator blog for the additional considerations in future posts. For a recap of all ten considerations visit

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Are Your Students Digital Age Learners? ISTE Can Help.

This year the International Society of Tech Ed (ISTE) released its new standards for students. They provide a clear framework for how you can help our students think about if they are a digital age learner.

Here are the seven standards.  You can visit this link to download them.
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Want something to hang in your classroom?  You can sign up to get a free download of the poster here.
What does this look like in your classroom?  Are you and your students reaching for and meeting these standards? If so, what type of tools, lessons, and resources are you using?