Monday, February 12, 2018

Address Learning Differences with These Micro-credentials from @DigitalPromise

Innovative educators know the importance of understanding how a student learns best and then designing an approach tailored that student’s needs. This comes in the form of learning that is student centered, differentiated, and takes into account the learner’s differences and preferences. It also means having a class load that makes this manageable and using  resources like Thrively or Personal Success Plans to tap into students individual passions, talents, interests, abilities, and learning styles.

However, while educators who have these skills will be more effective at supporting student learning, a teacher’s preservice program may not have fully addressed this. As a result, educators must learn on the job, by reading articles, attending workshops (if they are offered and able) and speaking to others face-to-face and online. While this is helpful, there is now a way to jump-start, document, and become recognized for developing this expertise.

Credentialing teachers in addressing learning differences

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation is offering their learning differences course at no cost as part of a 10-part micro-credential stack from Digital Promise. These micro-credentials provide a competency-based, personalized, way to learn on demand the many aspects contributing to how students learn, from the way our brain processes information to the impact of emotional intelligence on learning.

Research-based approach

Educators who complete the stack are able to bring into practice a more personalized instructional approach, focusing on each student’s individual learning strengths and needs. Each micro-credential begins with an overview of a construct or idea in personalized learning that is supported by the latest research to help educators gain a deeper understanding of its importance in the learning process. Educators are then asked to identify a student’s strengths and challenges and create and implement a plan that supports the student in meeting their goals for learning.

Below are the topics about which some of the micro-credentials are focused.  
Visit the full micro-credential stack.
Educators who have earned the micro-credentials say they have found it extremely empowering to have the language and knowledge to not only define the specific needs of their students, but also determine ways to meet them best. Rather than providing whole class instruction or grouping their students into broad categories, they have the ability recognize their students as individual learners and the tools to ensure they are able to support learning based on their unique strengths, talents, interests, abilities, and learning styles.

Assessment and credit

Upon completion of each micro-credentials teachers submit their work to assessors who determine if the educator has successfully demonstrated competency. If they have, they earn a micro-credential in the form of a digital badge that they can display on their resume, LinkedIn profile, social media sites, and email signature to demonstrate their skill set and stand out from the rest. Because micro-credentials are competency-based, the learning is visible allowing an interested party to in essence, look under the hood, and see all the elements that lead to acquiring competency in this skill or area.

Many states such as New York, Texas, Montana, and Massachusetts provide formal PD credit for successful completion of micro-credentials. There is also an option to pay a nominal fee and receive graduate credit from accredited university partners such as University of San Diego and Portland State University.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

8 Elements Found in Classrooms of Innovative Educators

George Couros tells us, if we want innovative students, we need innovative educators. Do you qualify? In his book, The Innovator’s Mindset, Couros challenges educators to consider whether they empower students to wonder, to explore–and to become forward-thinking leaders? He does this in part by providing eight things to look for in your classroom.  

8 Elements Found in Classrooms of Innovative Educators

  1. Student Voice
  2. Student Choice
  3. Time for Reflection
  4. Opportunities for Innovation
  5. Critical Thinking
  6. Problem Finding and Solving
  7. Self Assessment
  8. Connected Learning
If you need help remembering to incorporate these elements into learning, #NYCSchoolsTech educator extraordinaire, Eileen Lennon created the below infographic which you can print out as a poster (download via PDF) and put up in your classroom. When you do, ask your students to help you consider when these elements have been present and determine ways to incorporate them into future schoolwork.  

Your Turn

Which of these elements do you include in your classroom? How do you do it?  Anything missing?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

No Child Left Unloved: 5 Shifts We Need to Serve At-Risk Youth

Editor's note: This is part of a series entitled "Innovative Approaches to Support At-Risk Youth."

Innovative educators work hard to find the best ways possible for students to learn by tapping into their talents, passions, interests, and abilities. However, before the learning can happen, there is one crucial element that is necessary, but often overlooked for learning to occur. One that is especially important when serving at-risk youth.

If there is not love, there is not learning

This is not addressed in schools of education. This is not addressed by those critiquing schools or teachers. In fact, it is ignored. As a result, an educator who might be a master in his or her craft will fail in reaching these students if they are not loved.

Students raised by “guardians”

If, like many teachers and politicians you were loved by a parent who cared for you, it is possible this has never crossed your mind. However, those of us who teach at-risk youth know many of our students have not had such luck. In fact one of the first things you learn as a teacher in such places is to STOP using the word PARENT. That’s because a large number of our children have parents who were not prepared to raise them. Instead they have “guardians.” It is almost without giving it much thought that we transition to speaking and writing not about parents, but about our student’s parent or guardian.

Teachers in inner city schools will also notice a lot of students of ALL ages, intentionally or accidentally refer to them as mom. They are looking for love and care.

If we unpack the term, we can start to think about what are we saying to these kids without parents. The ones who aren’t lucky enough to have parents, but have guardians instead. It is a constant reminder that someone doesn’t love and parent, them, but rather guards them. The same language used by those who ensure there is order in a prison. As a result, we have children being guarded and protected but not parented and loved.

Unfortunately, teachers are trained to teach all kids the same way whether or not they have parents.

No child left unloved

If we care about ensuring today’s youth grow up to be productive citizens, we need to rethink the role of teachers and schools. Chris Lehmann explains if we want children to learn, then we need to build caring institutions. To do this, we must stop thinking of our jobs as teaching subjects and start realizing we are teaching kids. The relationship between teacher and student is more important than the relationship between teacher and subject.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

To understand this from a scientific approach, let’s review Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Schools are often positioned to help provide for a child’s basic needs and self-fulfillment, but the psychological needs are often completely overlooked.

No child left behind

Rather than address the psychological needs of children, we’ve put into effect programs that ignore this. Instead, they think leaving no child behind means ensuring they all score well on standardized tests. Long after this failed experiment was launched by George W and supported by the electeds that have followed him, we see this doesn’t work.

Interestingly, President Barack Obama, realized the importance of this and even lauded the model that best embraces relationships: Big Picture Learning. Here’s what they believe:

Relationships under gird all learning at The Met. Keeping adults and other students at bay is not an option. Met students must build close relationships with an advisor, community mentors, and other Met faculty, if they are to fulfill their personal learning plans.

The Met, as it likes to say, enrolls families, not just students. For students, this conviction poses a formidable adolescent challenge: accepting parents and guardians as valued partners in their learning.

His words were ones that evoked promise and excitement for a shift and enlightened experience for students. Sadly, despite his words, Obama embraced the common curriculum and standardized tests that valued none of this and obliterated models such as Big Picture.

If we really want to help students to learn, we must address this forgotten piece of Maslow’s Hierarchy with these five shifts.

5 shifts we need

When we move love to center of learning, these are natural shifts that should result.

1) Parents, not guardians: We must consider how we can ensure a child is surrounded by family, not guardians. Do they have a permanent home? Permanent parents? If not, attend to that.
2) Loving before learning: Jeff Bliss taught us that we must touch a student’s freakin heart before we can reach their mind. He was right.
3) Realistic class loads: You can not build a relationship with students if you can’t get to know a student. That means we have to look at the science which says there is NO WAY to know more than 150 students. Do the research. Get to know Dunbar’s number. If you’re administrator who values students you won’t allow unrealistic class loads. If you are a teacher you will do your best to ensure admins know you value children and you will encourage them to set you and your students up for success.  
4) Change the role of the teacher: When tech teaches, teachers can do much more work when it comes to building relationships and ensuring students experience deeper learning.
5) Update schools of education and teacher training: The kids are right (see what they wanted the nation to know about education). Teacher training programs need to include training on guidance, counseling, social work, and other support.

Good teachers know that love and relationships are at the center of learning. They know they are set up for failure and they are frustrated. But change is possible. The innovation we need to realize it is nothing new. Instead, it requires that we make these important shifts that put children at the center of learning.

Monday, February 5, 2018

An Innovative Educator’s Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings

Like it or not, at this point in time Facebook is the winner when it comes to social learning communities. It is where companies have found they can best connect with customers and build relationships. It is also where organizations have learned staff can effectively connect to keep communication going and learn and support from one another. 

If you’ve tried to be one of the last to hop aboard, but realize it is no longer possible if you want to do your job most effectively, here are some tips for setting up your account and privacy settings.

An Innovative Educators Guide to Privacy Settings

1) Get real
Use your real name. When you don’t not only do you not move toward establishing a solid digital footprint, but you also lose trust and credibility. Social places like facebook are for real people with real names. 

If you were the most popular kid in high school and don’t want all your classmates looking you up because those days are behind you then consider modifying your name. For example, drop your last name or put your title as your first name and your first name as your last name i.e. Teacher Lisa or Techie Tim.

2) Make your profile public
Social media is for being public. Don’t put things there you wouldn’t want others to see. Use social media as an opportunity to be a role model with a strong digital image. Think of it as a space where others can get to know the whole you that you want them to know.

3) Use groups for less public posts
If there are things you don’t want public, use groups for that. What is shared in a group is only seen by group members. Good uses of groups include using them for family pictures and sharing, support groups (i.e. parenting), special interest groups (i.e. sports). Also remember being in a group does not mean you are “friends” with group members.

4) What about the crazy stalker ex boyfriend?
Block em! This way that can’t see what you post. 

5) What about what other people post?
You can control what other people post by selecting the right settings.
-Select that only you can post on your timeline

- Select that you must review anything you are tagged in before it appears on your timeline.  
- Select that you will review tags people add to your posts

Your turn
What has your experience been with privacy settings? Have you tried something that you find more effective? Any interesting stories of peril or success? 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: Valentine's Special Tonight at 7 p.m.

As Valentine's Day approaches, this chat will give participants ideas for way we can touch our students' hearts so we can reach their minds. 

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me throwing in my two cents. 

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

Q1 What innovative approaches are you using in your classroom to celebrate Valentine’s Day? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q2 Learning is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. How are you ensuring your students feel a sense of love and belonging in your classroom? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q3 What are schoolwide approaches used where you teach to help students feel they are loved and they belong? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q4 In this digital world, what are some ways we can use technology to help students feel love and belonging? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q5 Do you have innovative approaches to help families feel a sense of love and belonging in the school community? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, February 1
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: Valentine's Day Special: Touching Our Student's Hearts to Reach Their Minds
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 You can also participate in the chat at that link or if you have an iPhone download the app at (coming to Android soon).