Sunday, February 26, 2017

5 Tips to Getting Started with ePortfolios

Watch out standardized testing. ePortfolios are making a comeback.


Want to join the fun where students get to show what they know with authentic work highlighting their best pieces at certain points in time?


This roundup will help you get started.

1) Choose a platform
First you need to check out what resources are available for ePortfolios. You can start with this list of ePortfolio apps and websites from Common Sense Education. But which to choose? Seesaw and FreshGrade are pretty popular. This video offers a comparison of those two options. Take a look and see which one you like best, or check out one of the others.

2) Find resources to support this work
Helen Barrett has been focusing on ePortfolios for a long time. She has a huge compilation of materials at

3) Understand the process and product
Silvia Tolisano took a look at Barrett’s work and noticed that she explains it is a combination of process and product. Part of that process includes reflection. She laid it out this way:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

3 Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

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!

Making its way to the top for the first time is a post that simply clarifies why vouchers and charters won't make public school better.  Next up is a post that takes another look on how to determine if the news you are sharing is real or fake.

Rounding out the top is a post that gives teachers ideas on how to show off certifications and accomplishments. The post has testimonials and samples from real teachers. 

Feb 15, 2017, 
Feb 12, 2017, 
Feb 8, 2017, 

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, February 22, 2017

4 Strategies To Support Digital Responsibility

Note: Twitter won't let you share my blog url so use this instead: 

Innovative educators have the opportunity to promote, participate in, and model intelligent discourse in face-to-face and digital interactions. This means knowing the importance of making meaning of what we read and hear by gauging credibility, verifying sources, and looking at evidence and facts. It means we know that getting angry and calling others “stupid,” “ignorant,” or stereotyping them is not responsible. Instead, we share evidence with verified sources and present information that provides a variety of perspectives and viewpoints. This enables us to engage in responsible and intellectual, rather than baseless and emotional, conversations.  

Intelligent conversation is an effective weapon in the fight against the spread of fake news and  misinformation. It also helps us make informed decisions and consider what intentional next steps are necessary to achieve desired outcomes.

So, how do we begin?

#1 Share information showing perspectives along the continuum
Don’t just share information from the news source that you always see eye-to-eye with. When you share information, look across the continuum to get several perspectives. Pew's study of Americans' media habits provides a lens for this. It takes the average viewer/consumer of all of these media outlets and plotted them on a continuum, trying to ascertain which outlets are favored by which side of the political spectrum.

This means that when you are sharing information to support your beliefs, make sure you include sources across the continuum.

Let’s take a look at an example. Say you’re trying to understand Trump’s travel ban. Don’t just turn to your favorite news source. Instead, you may choose to look at his from CNN and this from Fox News, verify facts, and repeat.

Another nifty resource is Blue Feed, Red Feed which which lets you see liberal and conservative issues such as immigration, affordable care act, and abortion, side by side.  

#2) Verify the source

If you post information, make sure you can confirm the source. Unsigned, unsourced, and anonymous information, is a red flag. A story with a source is valuable. Share something without a source, regardless of how plausible you think it seems, means you’re probably just spreading an urban legend, fallacy, misinformation, old wives’ tale, rumor, or gossip.

We can look at a few popular posts that have made their rounds on social media to illustrate this point.

  • One post started like this:
    I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:

    The post provided information and ended citing the source: Susan Keller. She is a real person who takes credit for her words. You can see the original post and intellectual discourse around what she shared along with her responses.

    The verdict?
    Sharing this post is responsible.  
  • You’ve probably also seen posts where a source is named, but isn’t verified. For example, if someone tells you Warren Buffett or some other rich or famous person asked you to share his message, there’s a good chance he did not. Even if you think he did, you need to check into that.

    Here are 5 Ways To Know if he really did.

    The verdict?
    Sharing this post is irresponsible. Warren Buffett did not ask you to share his message AND the post is filled with misinformation.
  • Another post started like this:
    A Trump supporting Facebook friend told Scott Mednick, "We suffered for eight years. Now it’s your turn.” Scott wrote a brilliant response asking how exactly his friend had suffered under Obama.

    The source while cited, could not be verified. Did a friend really tell Scott Mednick this? Does Scott even exist?

    The verdict?
    Sharing this post is irresponsible.

    This is a post that pits people against one another without a verifiable source. We don’t know who the original poster is and we don’t know if there was suffering endured or if it was indeed legitimate. That is because we have no evidence this really happened.

#3) Show evidence and facts

Citizens are trying to make sense of what they are reading, seeing, and hearing by posting information to help gain knowledge and understanding. Bravo! This is a smart use of social media.

Sometimes, someone may inadvertently share information that is inaccurate or missing a part of the story. When that happens don’t attack, name call, and/or stereotype the poster. Instead, help the person, and others who are reading, by providing useful  information with evidence and facts. Pull relevant quotes from a credible source that provides clarity and link to the source. From there you can engage in intelligent discourse around the topic.

#4) Attack ideas, not people, parties, or affiliations
Don’t attack a person. Attack the idea. In other words, avoid ad hominem arguments. These are arguments that consists of replying to a person's argument by merely attacking the character of the person making the argument. With such arguments include name calling or calling others ignorant. Another common ad hominem fallacy is calling someone a hypocrite. In fact, that has its own name and is specifically referred to as an ad hominem tu quoque

So for example if the person shared something you feel is misleading or untrue explain, don't say they don't know what they are talking about or ask them for their record on the topic. Instead determine their intent behind why they shared the piece and then if there is a flaw, share evidence to the contrary. Invite them to share their reaction now that they have ad ditional information.

Here are some ineffective comments I’ve seen lately:
  • You and your tribe are all hypocrites.
  • I know you and your band of merry protesters too well. The whole lot of you act like spoiled children.
  • You are far removed from reality.
  • You're all nothing but a loud nuisance, and an inconsequential.
  • Your ignorance knows few bounds.
  • Where’s your record on the topic?
  • You're promoting information that lies/misleads/dismisses.
  • You have no idea what you are talking about.
The above comments were made in response to articles or information that people who believed them shared. In each case an ad hominem argument is used rather than intellectual discourse around discussing what was posted and responding to it with helpful information. The focus is the person rather than the idea or topic. This doesn’t move relationships nor understanding forward. If you think the article hypocritical or disconnected from reality, don't make it personal. That's not effective. Instead share verified information that shows otherwise. If you think posting an article shows lack of respect, share how that is the case and point to facts to that help the poster understand. If you think someone is ignorant on a topic, especially if you are an educator, help enlighten them. Don’t ask someone for their record on the topic. Don't make it personal. Keep the conversation on the topic/idea and grapple with that. Don’t tell someone they are lying or misleading. Give them information about why what they shared is inaccurate. If you think someone doesn’t know what they are talking about, don’t attack. Help them understand.  

There are those who may think this is too much work or it just takes too long to check things out. There are people who read something, agreed with it and figure they’ll just post it because they like it and maybe it might actually be true. That’s okay if you just want your own private bookmark, but when you do this in a social space there is etiquette and responsibility to follow. Especially for those who serve as role models such as educators.  

If you want to take the time to share your ideas in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, sometimes, you can’t just move fast. Slow down. Verify the source. Look at views that span the continuum of perspectives. Make sure you have evidence and facts. Attack ideas, not each other.

Yes, the process can seem slow and frustrating, but it keeps us moving forward while the alternative gets us nowhere fast. [Or consider the alternative -- just don’t post!]

Sunday, February 19, 2017

4 Sites to Fight Fake News

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

Common Sense Education has released a 1-minute video featuring four websites to separate fact from fiction. When the next viral story, makes it to class, take break to discuss media literacy and help your students determine how these sites can be of value.

This site is all about following the money. It points out the connections among political contributions, lobbying data, and government policy. The site is run by a nonpartisan, independent, nonprofit, called the Center for Responsive Politics which is the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The site was created so that citizens are empowered by access to clear and unbiased information about money’s role in politics and policy, and so they can use that knowledge to strengthen democracy. The site works to produce and disseminate information on money in politics to inform and engage Americans, champion transparency, and expose disproportionate or undue influence on public policy.

Here are some of the topics you will find on the site.

Innovative Educators: Not only is this a terrific site for the study of social studies and literacy, but it could also be a great resource for math / statistics.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

3 Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

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!

Making it to the top for the first time is a post that looks at ways that teachers who receive certifications / micro-credentials are showing off their digital badges. Check out the post to read about their innovative ideas, insights, and see actual examples. Next up is a post that has been at the top for a few weeks. It shares the insights colleagues and I came up with at EduConn 2017 when discussing the role of the teacher in the age of Google.

Another post that has made its way to the top for the first time provides five ways to know if you should really copy, paste, and share that thing someone told you to send. Read the post and save yourself or others the embarrassment of spreading fake news.

Feb 8, 2017, 
Jan 27, 2017, 
Feb 12, 2017, 

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, February 15, 2017

Why School Choice Does Not Lead to Fair Competition Or Innovation In Public Schools

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

With the confirmation of Betsy Devos, people are trying to understand why there is such an outcry against choice. Isn’t competition a good thing? Reporter John Stossel said in a discussion on my Facebook page, “If the parents get to choose, and the money follows the kids, good schools will grow and bad ones will get better.”

But that can’t happen and the game isn’t fair.

Here’s why.

Once No Child Left Behind was enacted, public schools were forced to leave student-centered ideals behind and focus on ensuring children passed one-size-fits-all standardized tests that rewarded memorization and regurgitation. Authentic learning opportunities went to the wayside in public schools. Models like Big Picture Learning and Schoolwide Enrichment that honored students talents, passions, interests and abilities could not survive in such a climate. As a result, only private schools and charter schools are able to embrace models such as the Montessori Method,  Agile Learning, Reggio Emilia, and Democratic Schools that allow for the freedoms that can be realized when operating outside the restrictions and regulations imposed upon government schools.  

While some of these models were embraced in the past in public education, they can not survive the current climate of standardization and regulation. As a result the competition is rigged. Charters and privates can provide child-centered, innovative learning environments that the government prevents public schools from embracing.

Does it have to be that way?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Did Warren Buffett Really Ask You To Forward His Email? 5 Ways To Know.

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

Fake news isn’t a new thing and it isn’t an internet thing. Many of us had our first experience with fake news when we were told about Santa Claus coming to town. That was followed by old wives tales. Stories that were generally told to discourage some type of behavior. Of course there was never proof. This is where, “Because I told you so” comes into play.

Then there was the chain letter. If you broke the chain surely you would receive bad luck. There's also scare mail. You know that email that warns you of dangers like poisonous perfume samples or the fright mail that says if you dodn’t send money somewhere something bad would happen.  

The internet and social media make the spread of fake information more simple, but it has always been there. Let’s take a look at a story that has been making the rounds in social media (Twitter. Facebook.)

Have you seen this one?

Warren Buffett is asking everyone to forward this email to a minimum of 20 people, and to ask each of those to do likewise. In three days, most people in the United States will have the message. This is an idea that should be passed around.
The BUFFETT Rule (The email goes on with a bunch of “facts” and proposes a Congressional Reform Act.)

So, should this be passed on? Numerous people, like those below, thought it was worth a try.
But, was it really worth a try?

No.  Here’s why: If you are going to reach out to others and try to convince them to think or do something, it is your responsibility to determine if what you are asking is true, valid, and feasible.

5 Ways to Know What's True

  1. Send this to everyone you know!
If the communication is urging you to forward this message to all your friends, it is generally a hoax. There are exceptions of course, but this is your first red flag.

2)   Would this person really send a chain mail/communication?
Celebrities, billionaires, politicians don’t generally make it a habit of sending chain mails.  In the case of Warren Buffett’s assistant confirms this here.

3)   Check the source
How can you confirm the source? Check their feeds on Twitter, Facebook, their website. If there is a warning or call to action from someone person, search for the video where they said this. If you’re not finding evidence from the source, then chances are it’s not true.

4)   Fact Checking Sites
There are several fact checking sites. Snopes is probably the most well know. Fact Check and Truth or Fiction are others.  If we take a couple minutes and check the sources, we can see the Buffett story is just a tale.

5)   Check the News
Look for credible news sources coverage of the issue. In the case of the Buffet story here are two sources that uncover the truth.

Innovative educators are in a unique position to help educate young people with strategies to stop perpetuating false information. Empowering students to understand how to tell fact from fiction is a necessary and useful skill to ensure they are on the path to make educated and informed decisions during and on their way to adulthood.