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Showing posts from 2014

State Testing = Boss Level

I'm part of the first Mario generation. What that means is that I have a different perspective of game play than the younger generation of gamers. Back in my day, there was nothing worse than your parents asking you to do a chore or come to dinner while in the middle of a video game. Back then, there was no pause. Game play was a one-time shot.

Game developers have since responded to this, and games today are often world-based challenges with multiple pathways and levels of completion. Even the linear running games (Temple Run) can be paused with progress saved along the way. Think about Candy Crush Saga. Once you complete one level, it saves your progress and you don't have to replay each level every time you play. You can retry that same level over and over until you get it right. This is part of what makes these games so sensational. The ability to check off, be done, and move on to new challenges. Thinking back to early gaming it's easy to see why video games only appe…

8 Film-Makers for Students: Free, Cheap, and Easy

I love film-making! My children love it and so do my students.

Film-making is such a great way for students to express their understanding and learn from other students. These days there are so many drag-and-drop programs, that even the least techy person can create a professional-looking and imaginative product. The great thing, too, is that many of these programs don't require any special equipment. A class computer, tablet, or the student's smart phone will work just fine.

Seriously, if you haven't tried film-making (whether you're a student, teacher, administrator, parent, grandparent....), I highly encourage you to try it. Really, it is so much fun!

Here is what we love about film-making:

Student 1: The film-making part is really cool, because I like to be on camera.

Student 2: I like the film-making part. It's fun to try out new things.

Student 3: I love to see my "likes" on my YouTube channel.

Student 4: It's better than presenting in front of …

Outgame Your Online Students

I am the digital equivalent of the obnoxious student in class, jumping out of my seat, proclaiming, "Done! Done! Finished!!!" Whenever there is even the slightest uncertainty about anything, I have to be the first to Google the answer. And no, I am not smirking when I find the answer while others are still debating. Ok, maybe I am, but just a little.
My high school years were the beginning of the end of the paper-age. I first searched for a digital image at 15 (Remember Dan's Gallery of the Grotesque, anyone? No? Well, don't look it up.), entered my first chat room at 16, got my first email address at 17, and bought my first eBay item at 18. The digital age still blows my mind.

Jump forward 20 years, and now I'm not entirely sure that my phone hasn't grown into an extra appendage. 

I love online learning. I love everything about it. I love blogs and articles, quizzes, videos, and social media. Clearly I'm not the only one, or we wouldn't have Google, …

I'm Not Afraid of Test Scores and You Shouldn't Be Either

I'm a masochist. No, really. I am. I have a sick, uncontrollable yearning to read the comments underneath news articles. You know the ones - the comments on a NASA article blaming Obamacare for Justin Bieber's arrest - the ones where people make grandiose oversimplifications, like "poor people just need to make better choices" and "all doctors are idiots."

Sure, maybe I just have a twisted nature that seeks pleasure out of this sort of misery, but I have a deeper fascination that often leads me into the dark world of reading similar commentary on the failure of teachers. Have you seen these? They run nearly as rampant as the blame on the President.

Apparently, we are all lazy, overpaid, incompetent, and boring. We only teach because we couldn't handle a "real" major. We hate our students, and we want them punished, but at the same time, we are overindulgent and praise their every effort. Children are rude because of us. Teenagers push down th…

Learning vs. Laundry: 12 Ways to Engage the Online Learner

The power of online education extends far beyond providing access to non-traditional students -those who are limited by time, location, or expense. It has the power to transform and revitalize the educational experience for the learner.

Online learning is more than providing a new environment for the same learning; it is about educational revolution.
Read my 12 tips below to see how you can create an engaging learning environment for your e-learner.

1. Accept that you have lost your captive audience. In a live setting, the presenter has the benefit of politeness. Even if a learner is not completely engaged, he will typically at least mimic learning. By placing your course online, you are now competing with Facebook, texting, other homework, laundry, cooking, and family. Many online learners are motivated by the perception of multi-tasking, and so they will (often erroneously) believe they can learn while completing other tasks.


2. Don't be intimidated by losing your captive audie…

Schools in The Apple Revolution: The User Experience

Tomorrow's schools will look drastically different from today, and a significant amount of credit is owed to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, but maybe not in the way you think.

Increasingly, classrooms are now equipped with iPads, iPods, and MacBooks. Teachers can individualize lessons, engage students, and flip the classroom with one-to-one devices. These specific devices, in and of themselves, however, will not transform education, but rather it is the concept behind them that will.

Apple's focus on the user experience has created a world where technology is not only accessible for the average non-techy person, but it is also fun, engaging, and mesmerizing. Computers were no longer about the developer, about his desires, his interests. This paradigm shift meant developers now focused entirely on the consumer, on using technology to create an "experience" for the user. Steve Jobs' advice:

Start with the experience and work backwards to create the technology. 


Education's Unicorn: Parents Who Don't Care

Students, this post is for you... If you are Hispanic, this is especially for you....

Students, did you know that if you are Hispanic, you are more likely to be in basic remedial classes?
Fewer of you will be in AP and advanced classes.
More of you will drop out of school.
Many of you will not go to four-year colleges.

I know that you know this, because I hear you say....
I'm not going to college. I'm Mexican.
No, I don't know how to do that. I'm Mexican.
All the Mexican kids are in the stupid class.

But, did you know that WE also know this? We know that you don't have the same odds for success as your Black, White, Asian, and other counterparts. We talk about this with our friends. We discuss it at our teacher meetings. We read about it. We write about it. And when we go to grad school, we study it in nearly every class.

But we are lost. We want to help. We want you to have bright futures. We want to fix this, but we don't know how. We search for strategies that might…

Why Educators Should Listen to Pharrell


Recently I heard Pharell summarize my entire educational philosophy in one profound statement. When asked where he went to school, Pharrell replied:

The universe is my university.
I believe we are just entering into a new universe of education that will be so drastically different from its predecessors that we won't even have words to define it. And just as with any group entering into a new world, there will be great triumphs, but there will also be unknowns, challenges, pain, and failure.

In education we talk about foundations and building blocks, pathways, and transitions. Education as we know it is linear, and at its core are a select group of truth holders. Those who possess the knowledge, those who confirm degrees, those who decide which knowledge is relevant. But did you know that the universe has no core? There are an estimated 500 billion galaxies each with their own core, their own center. Educators who cannot accept that they are no longer the center will be pus…

What If We Could Choose Our Schools Like We Do Our Restaurants?

What if we stopped trying to find the best, most-researched, proven-effective, one-size-fits-all program for education?
The other day I was telling my daughter why Denny's always reminds me of my first teaching interview. We had driven six hours for this interview, and I was spending my last dollar. As a young single mom without a traditional teaching certificate, my options were limited. I was hoping that this tiny school on an Indian reservation also had limited options. The night before the interview my two children and I shared a stack of pancakes at the hotel Denny's. If I got this job, I could afford to take my children here once in a while, and I would know I "had made it."

My daughter was saddened by this story and could not believe there was a time in our lives when this was the best I could hope for. 

Years later, I still think about this every time I see a Denny's. Why is that? What is it about restaurants that evoke such emotions in people? When young …

Using "The Hunger Games" to Manage Behavior

Walk into a Kindergarten class, and you will believe in magic. How one lady manages to get 20 5-year-olds to snake quietly through the halls with only her smile and a charming, "Follow me, boys and girls", will amaze you. Elementary teachers are masters of patience and classroom management. Even the most troublesome of these babies will animately express their love for their mistress of learning.

Some of these teachers get really creative with their classroom management programs. Have lunch in an elementary school, and you will see what I mean. The kids will be all too eager to share with you whose clip was changed to orange, what prize they got out of the treasure box, how many Mrs.-Random-Teacher's Bucks they have, how many days it will be until they are the star student, how they are the luckiest person ever because they got to be the line leader twice in one week because the substitute didn't know...

What happens to all this greatness as the kids get older? When …

The AD/HD Whisperer

I have a gift for working with students with AD/HD. I don't say this to boast, but as an expression of humility for the journey that has led me here. I understand my students, I connect with them, and sometimes, though certainly not always, I am able to inspire their learning in a meaningful way. I say this with the same sort of false pride as one who won the lottery - it was only by luck, probability, and circumstance that I walk this path.

Unlike other "whisperers" though, I can truly relate, because I am just like them. Growing up I didn't realize I had attention difficulties. In the 1980's only the kids who climbed on desks were diagnosed. It was only by reflecting my students' mirrors upon myself that I began to understand how my attention deficits affect my life.

Many of you reading this probably know someone with AD/HD, and you may know quite a bit about it. One thing that's important to understand about attention deficits is that they can manifes…

The "S-Word" - Don't Call Kids "Smart"!

Over the past decade, I've happened across several articles/people/instances urging adults to stop calling children "smart."  They warn that by labeling them "smart," students will become lazy. Children will begin to believe they are somehow intrinsically better than "non-smart" kids, and their self-value will come from labels rather than actions. And if a child believes himself to be dumb, calling him otherwise will violate his trust.

Teachers woefully express their regret and challenge themselves to never use the S-word. They offer suggestions, though, such as emphasizing a child's efforts and accomplishments. When a child gets a 100 on a spelling test, you should say, "Wow! You really studied hard" rather than "You are so smart!"

The logic behind this argument makes sense, and I have wrestled with this idea when interacting with my own children and students. This is not entirely bad advice: questioning our words and their i…