Tuesday, October 31, 2017

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: Diversity Matters Nov 2nd at 7pm

The New York City Department of Education is committed to Equity & Excellence for All: Diversity in NYC Schools. This means a commitment to supporting learning environments that reflect the diversity of New York City. Educators across New York City will come together on November 7th for the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit on Diversity Matters. In advance of that event, we are hosing this Twitter chat to get the conversation going.

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon (@eileen_lennon) moderates with me throwing in my two cents.

You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1. Why is the topic of #NYCSchoolsDiversity important to you, your students, and families? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q2 What are some ways tech can be used to tell the diverse stories of the students in your school? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q3 What are some ways ed tech companies can address the needs of diverse learners? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q4 What translation tools can students & parents use to communicate with speakers of other languages? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q5 What are considerations we should have around diversity & accessibility for school websites? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q6 What are some ways ed tech companies can do a better job of employing underrepresented groups? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
  • Meeting date/time: November 2nd at 7:00 pm
  • Topic: #NYCSchoolsDiversity
  • Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools)
  • Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)
Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.
We hope you can view the chat live, but if you are unable, please visit our archive at
https://www.participate.com/chats/nycschoolstechchat. You can also participate in the chat at that link or if you have an iPhone download the app at https://www.participate.com/apps (coming to Android soon).

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Real & Relevant Way to Meet Math Standards & Develop #MoneySmartKids

Like many adults of my generation, I left high school and college without financial literacy skills. I’m not alone. In fact two-thirds of Americans couldn’t even pass a basic financial literacy test. It’s no wonder our household debt in our country is at a new peak.

Despite being one of the most important topics to prepare students for success in the world, financial literacy is not present in most classrooms. It also is not included in many pre-service teaching programs.
Fortunately, it seems more and more institutions are taking notice and stepping up to provide resources that educators can incorporate into the classroom at no cost.

Financial Literacy Interactive for Students

Star Banks Adventure Game is one that provides an interactive way to help students grasp important real-world financial concepts. Student learn about 1) setting financial goals, 2) saving and spending wisely, 3) asset allocation, 4) earning interest, 5) inflation and even 6) diversification. It can be played on the web via a computer, laptop, or Chromebooks as well as on iOS and Android devices.

Financial Literacy Quiz for Adults

Students aren’t the only ones who will benefit. Teachers and families can learn right along with students. On the resource page educators can start by taking a money smarts quiz and instantly get their results. Did you know saving just $166 a month after college in an investment with a 7% compounded rate of return, would earn you have half a million dollars upon retirement? If you did, you may score well on the quiz.

Financial Literacy Site for Families

There is a whole site for families where they can access the quiz, find conversation starters, and find a 30 day calendar to financial literacy. The calendar provides activities that can be done and reinforced in the classroom or home. For example, one activity is visiting a bank. Something that could be a fun class field trip as well as an enlightening experience to do with a parent. Resources such as this are an important support for families. That’s because despite the fact that 69% of parents want to set a good financial example for their children, most find talking to their children worrisome so are reluctant to do so.
fin fit.png

Support and Resources for Educators

Teachers have access to a helpful curriculum matrix that correlates to the national standards that put a smile on many administrator’s faces. The Teacher version has a Classroom Mode that ties to the six key literacy concepts that align to standards in personal finance, economics and the Common Core. Teachers can break down the six concepts in the game and integrate them into existing lessons along with a host of educator resources they will find at Money Confident Kids.com. There they’ll find teaching tools and activities such as downloadable magazines for students, printables, videos, conversation starters and more.  

Educators can look under the hood at what their students are doing with a Teacher Dashboard. The Dashboard website helps teachers administer the game in the classroom and provides statistics that help compare different classrooms and track individual students' progress. Students will know their progress because they collect Trophies (for completing levels) and Graduation Hats (by completing Quizzes).

Innovative educators know the importance of teaching digital literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, and news literacy. The Star Banks Adventure Game provides educators with an interactive game, accompanying materials, and resources for parents that will help ensure students are prepared for success with financial literacy as well.   
STAR BANKS ADVENTURE and MONEY CONFIDENT KIDS are registered trademarks of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Hottest Posts on The Innovative Educator

Haven’t been keeping up with The Innovative Educator? Don’t worry. That’s what this wrap up is for. 

What’s hot? Messaging and Music: To be or not to be.

In these posts we look at the advantages, considerations, and challenges when it comes to allowing students to listen to music and use messaging in the classroom.  

Want to know the verdict?  

Check out the hottest posts on The Innovative Educator for the answer.

Oct 7, 2017
Oct 11, 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Is AR BS or Good Teaching & Learning?

Augmented Reality is nothing new for youth. It has been a part of student's social experience in apps like Snapchat and it made a big splash when Pokemon Go made its debut. But when it comes to learning, does it have a place?

While seeing an object, insect, or animal up close in an augmented reality is certainly preferably to reading about it in your science text, is it really the best way to help students learn?  

Let's start by thinking about the processed food of learning: The Textbook.

Is learning via AR it better than that?
save image

Well, yeah. Probably. It will engage kids with the wow factor for a bit, but then what?

And what about the source? Who wants us to buy into this? A textbook provider? A publisher? A testing company? A hardware or software provider?  

What's in it for them?

And, what about all the other ways to learn? Is it better than that? Is it cost effective?

AR: The Verdict? It depends.

When compared to textbooks, most would agree that AR improves upon the learning experience. It can also help make a textbook a bit more interactive and give it some life.

But what about other options? A powerful novel? A game? A MagniScope? A PBS documentary? A YouTube expert?

To help think about this, I turned to my friends at Modern Learners for some insights.

When thinking about AR, VR, mixed reality, and etc, Gary Stager, asks, are we "investing in reality first" before we invest in such technologies?

That's a good question. Especially for kids who live in big cities like where I work. In New York City we have cultural neighborhoods, experiences, some of the finest museums, zoos, gardens, and experts right in the backyard of our schools. Are we taking students there? Or if we aren't in such communities, are we using resources like Facebook Live, Periscope, and Skype to connect and interact with real people and places in other parts of the world?

When I served as a library media specialist in an inner city school in Harlem, we had immersive experiences in places like Chinatown, Little Italy, and Spanish Harlem. We visited places like El Museo Del Bario and the Tenement Museum. We had scavenger hunts around the neighborhoods and the museums were happy to freely open their doors to our inner city youth visiting on weekdays.

Of course there are times when a real experience can not occur in place of a virtual experience. For example, a trip to Mars or the Titanic are out of reach. Engaging in or witnessing a dangerous activity for a newbie such as driving a car, plane, train, are other examples.

But even with such extremes, there may be a movie, field trip, game, or museum experience that might provide a better learning experience.

In his Modern Learners podcast Will Richardson puts it this way. If for some reason we really can't invest in realities, then yes, these "halfway measures for poor kids" make sense, but only if it really is not possible to bring students more authentic opportunities.

But let’s make sure those real experiences are not available before jumping into augmented ones.

Consider this...

When trying to determine what is best for students, here are some questions you can ask:  
  • How would a student use this outside of school?
  • Does it help a young person create agency over learning?
  • Does this have a real-life use?
  • Is this better than...
    • Reading about it?
    • Watching it?
    • Doing it?

When you consider those questions, you will be better positioned to determine and explain if augmented reality should become a reality for the students where you teach.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Google Movies: Fast, Fun, Easy Way to Capture & Celebrate Learning

Part of providing an effective learning opportunity includes capturing and celebrating the learning. There are numerous ways to do this. Lately, my favorite is Google Movies because it is a fast, fun, and easy way to document events.

Here's what you do.

During the event:

  • Take photos 
  • Record videos

After the event:

  • Go to Google Assistant on your phone
  • Tap "Movie"
  • Select photos and videos you want to feature
  • Tap "Create"

Here's what that looks like.


You've made a movie. Google will pick the filter and music, but you can always go back to edit and select your own filter or music.

Here are movies I've recently created:

Successful 1:1 Onboarding 

#NYCSchoolsTech Educators Hit The MakerEd Forum

MakerBot Social

Saturday Learning: Common Sense Digital Citizenship

What do you think? Do any of my movies inspire you? Is this something you might try using to capture the learning at your next event, workshop or learning activity? How could you get students involved? What else do you think is possible?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Checklist for Effective Learning Opportunities

If you provide professional development or work with those who do, you want to make sure, that participants have the best experience possible. To help with that, you can use this handy dandy checklist for effective PD that I wrote about and which the graphically talented and innovative educator, Eileen Lennon turned into an infographic. Check it out and print it out (here's the PDF) to place in the rooms where educators are likely to give or get professional learning delivered.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Messaging - Tool of Engagement or Weapon of Mass Distraction?

To be or not to be? That is the question for some teachers when it comes to allowing messaging (text or instant) in the classroom. Many see it as a distraction, but young people often disagree. Innovative educators know that students own the learning, but at the same time, the educators are responsible for the success of their students. Therefore it is in everyone's best interest to review the literature and find out if instant/text messaging can indeed support student success.

Fortunately, I combed through more than a dozen articles and studies (several listed at the end of this post) so you won't have to. Here is what I've found.

The literature says...

Messaging can be a great way to communicate, connect, build a learning network, and improve literacy. However, it can also be a distraction resulting in students being less focused and productive if they are not guided in responsible use.

The verdict: Allow students to message

Letting your students have access to instant messaging can be great for you and them, if they learn to do this responsibly. This means being aware of the task at hand and knowing how to connect with those who can support productivity and reduce distractions from those who may get in the way. It also means discussing with students when certain writing styles and text speak are appropriate and when they are not. When doing this, keep in mind, you might not have all the answers? Students may have insights about communication styles and norms to which their teachers may not.

Messaging responsibly

Here are some overarching concepts to keep in mind.

In the 21st century our students have easy access to a powerful support network made up of experts, family, friends, peers, and others who share their interests. Messaging puts this network at every student’s fingertips so that it is no longer just the teacher students can turn to for learning, support, and motivation. Our job as educators is to help them use this power responsibly.  

Furthermore, messaging provides students an opportunity to practice reading and spelling on a daily basis. According to research , using initials and abbreviations and understanding phonetics and rhymes are part of messaging and they are also part of successful reading and spelling development.

Teachers also must be aware of and have a plan in place to address issues such as sexting and online bullying and have discussions and teach lessons concerning that as well. A good start are the social media guidelines and digital citizenship responsibilities developed by students and teachers in New York City.

Getting started

1) Discover

Ask students to share conversations they have had over messaging that supported their learning. Perhaps this was while working on a project where they were collaborating with others. Maybe they reached out to someone who could give encouragement or advice. Maybe the school principal messaged them to check in and make sure they were doing well. Work with students to be detectives finding lots of great examples of messaging.

While there are great examples of messaging, there are also examples where students have not messaged responsibly. Have students share those examples (anonymously if appropriate) and identify what they notice.

2) Discuss

Discuss with students what is acceptable when it comes to messaging. What type of messaging is responsible. What is not? What should students do when they or others are not messaging responsibly? What are some strategies to employ? Who should you reach out to if there is a message that makes you feel uncomfortable. What are some techniques and when might you want to turn notifications off?

3) Document

Create a chart with messaging do’s, don’t’s and strategies. Post those in your classroom. Be willing to update and revise as new situations present themselves.

Is it worth it?

If you are willing to help students do messaging responsibly, you are setting them up not only for success when it comes to learning, but also for success with strategies for life. Not only that, but professor and linguist, David Crystal reminds us of this:  
“The best texters, are the best spellers.”
“The more you text, the better your literacy scores.”
“The earlier you get your mobile phone, the better your literacy scores.”
“What is texting?  Texting is writing and reading.”
“The more practice you get in writing and reading, the better writer and reader you will be.

The Standards

Need help convincing administrators? Let them know that instant messaging aligns to numerous standards of the International Society for Technology Educators:
1 Empowered Learner
1c Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
2 Digital Citizen
2b Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices
7 Global Collaborator
7a Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.
7b Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
7d Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

Further reading

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Music - Tool of Engagement or Weapon of Mass Distraction?

To be or not to be? That is the question for many teachers when it comes to allowing music in the classroom. Many see it as a distraction, but young people often disagree. Innovative educators know that students own the learning, but at the same time, the educators are responsible for the success of their students. Therefore it is in everyone's best interest to turn to the research and find out if music can indeed support student success.

Fortunately, I combed through more than a dozen articles and studies (several listed at the end of this post) so you won't have to. Here is what I've found.

The research says...

The research shows that music can be terrific for helping set a tone. The right music can be calming, help reduce stress and anxiety, support someone in being happy, and get people in the mood for physical activity or competition. It can also be a great tool to support productivity and concentration and what teacher wouldn't want that for their students?  

However that's not the whole story. Some music can also lead to students becoming distracted, less productive, agitated, and depressed.  

The verdict: It depends.

Letting your students listen to the music can be great for you and them, but not just any music. And, the music that is right for one person, may not be right for another because of a variety of factors related to enjoyment of the music, personality type, and goals and outcomes.

Choosing the right music

Here are some overarching concepts to keep in mind.

Focus and productivity can increase with music that the listener finds enjoyable, is familiar, does not have lyrics.  

Mood can be enhanced  and energy level brought up with music that is upbeat and familiar.

Getting started

1) Discover customized music

Wouldn't it be great if there was a way you could find the perfect music aligned to each unique student? Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis, suggested trying Focus at Will to #NYCSchoolsTech educators and staff discussing the topic. In her blog, Vicki explains that the app claims to use science to design the music that puts you in “the zone” of productivity. It works for her and her son who swears by it. She bought a subscription which she uses it in her classroom, although she shares that sometimes kids want music with words in which case she uses another platform. Here is what it looks like after taking the quiz:

The quiz takes a few minutes. You can do it as a class activity or have students do it with their parents for homework.  Once you have the results, chart how your students did so students can see one another's type.

2) Discuss music types

Share with students some of the research about the effects of music and how different music helps them increase focus and productivity. Ask students to group together by results of the music survey. Let them listen to the sample track and share what they notice and challenge them to find other music that might fit in that genre.

3) Create playlists

Encourage students to work in groups to create a playlist that incorporates what they have learned. Work with students to set expectations and limitations i.e. no profanity, limited lyrics. Once each group has their playlist have them present it to you for sign off. You may want them to have a family member review and sign off as well. Students should also sign a contract committing to listening to the songs agreed to on the playlist and agree to consequences if this is not followed i.e. lose privileges for a week, month, semester.

Is it worth it?

Doing a study productivity, focus, and music, will take some time up front that will provide your students with skills, strategies, and an awareness that will last a lifetime. Need help convincing administrators? Let them know that doing this is helping students become empowered learners who know how to customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process. Not only is that important for students, but it is also the International Society for Technology Educators standard 1B.

Further reading and research

Articles citing studies of the effect of music on students:

Articles citing studies of the benefits of music at work:

HT to innovative educator Eileen Lennon for getting the conversation going.