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Innovation To Best Practice

This image is a first rendering of some ideas I am trying to bounce around in my head. I would love your feedback.


This has been something dancing around my head on the notion and process of innovation in education, and how it connects to “best practice”.  This is a space to share that learning.

In “The Innovator’s Mindset“, I define the notion of innovation as the following:

…innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative.

As I was working with a group of administrators, something stuck out to me.  Sharing a Google Doc that we could easily collaborate on, they had never seen this before, and were somewhat in a state of awe, yet to me, this was normal, or my “best practice”.  In the terms of teaching and learning, “innovation” can be a very personal practice. One’s “best practice” could be another’s “innovation”.

Discussing “The Innovator’s Mindset” in a Voxer group with educators, in what is becoming global bookclubLeigh Cassell made the comparison of this concept in literacy, which is a constant state of flux.  If literacy is ever-changing, do educators change alongside of it?  Others in the group made a unique comparison to the “decline of newspapers” and that some students are still tested on their ability to write a “news report” using the same format.  Does this “testing” include the ability to link articles, embed media, and source from different mediums (amongst other things), or is still your typical “newspaper” report?  The continuum could be from “innovation” to “best practice” to “dead practice”, if we are not trying to understand our current realities, let alone anticipate the future.

My belief is that innovation in teaching and learning starts with empathy; truly trying to understand those that you serve. Yet this is not only a starting point, but a continuous part of the process.  Once the needs of the learner are defined, innovative practices may be developed, which if they truly are “better” as per the definition, will eventually become “best practice”. For them to stay as “best practice”, they will need to be constantly revisited and reflected upon, with reflection, tweaking, and recreating as part of the process, with the possibility of eventually discarding the process altogether.  Some things could always be considered “best practice” (applicable to individuals, not necessarily as standardized solutions), but could eventually become obsolete.  This is why reflection is crucial to the process of teaching and learning.

This is not about change for the sake of change; it is about constantly understanding and questioning why we do what we do, not just taking it for granted.  Some practices in education from before I was born, could still be utilized in education if they work for learners, but we can’t simply rely on TTWWHADI (that’s the way we have always done it) as an effective answer when it comes to learners.  We must understand deeply why we do what we do to effectively serve the needs of learners.

(I am wanting to try different mediums so here is a short reflection I shared on Facebook.)


Some ideas floating in my head on “Innovation Moving To Best Practice”. Wanted to try something different.

Posted by George Couros on Sunday, February 7, 2016

Categories: Planet

Developing and Maintaining a Growth Mindset — The Learner's Way

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 7 February, 2016 - 14:18


  • For educators, parents and learners Carol Dweck’s research on the benefits of a Growth Mindset is naturally appealing. Those who have a growth mindset achieve better results than those who don’t, are more resilient and accept challenge willingly. After two years of incorporating a growth mindset philosophy we are finding that the reality of shifting a student’s disposition away from a fixed mindset and then maintaining a growth mindset is significantly more complex than at first imagined. - Nigel Coutts

Tags: growth, mindset, learner

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

Perspective and Defining a New Reality

The Principal of Change George Couros - 7 February, 2016 - 03:50

The following tweet was shared with me and kind of struck a nerve:

12 Barriers To Innovation In Education https://t.co/lYGsrtyTI7 pic.twitter.com/wfZrYWamN9

— TeachThought (@TeachThought) February 4, 2016

This post, originally shared in 2014, talks about some of the traditional barriers that lie in front of educators as they try to move forward.  What I thought about reading it, was some of the contradictions that we often talk about in what is holding us back.  One that was shared was regarding, high “teacher turnover”, which I found interesting because I have heard educators say to me that some schools aren’t innovative because they have had people there too long. Total opposite ends of the spectrum.

Another barrier was too many meetings. The contradiction is that we do not have enough time for collaboration. So we are either seeing that we spend too much time together, or not enough.  Now I know there is a difference between “meetings” and “collaboration”, but does this present an opportunity or an obstacle? Really, it is how we look at it.

I shared this in “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

When the six-second video app Vine came out, some people asked, “What in the world could you possibly do with six seconds?” Others said, “I wonder what I could do with six seconds?” It is not about skill set; it is about mindset. While some looked at the time constraint as a barrier, others saw the constraint as an opportunity. You choose your perspective.

I understand the point of the post, and the conditions that many educators face are not ideal. But I also know that we face certain realities in education that we will have to overcome, or they will control our future.  Leaders don’t focus on “we can’t”, but on “how can we?”

It is all about perspective, and we can either let our reality define us, or define our reality. Somebody, somewhere, is doing the same things that others say they can’t do.   What perspective we choose could determine the future of education.

Categories: Planet

Microsoft Research Open Source Challenge

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 6 February, 2016 - 22:20

Now this is interesting. Not often you think of Microsoft and Open Source in the same sentence. Although it does seem to be happening more and more often. This looks like it is for university students. An internship at Microsoft Research would look pretty good on a resume.

Microsoft Research is delighted to announce its first Open Source Challenge that uses the many and various open source computer science tools from our researchers. From artificial intelligence to programming models, cryptography to education, there is something for every enquiring mind.

See http://aka.ms/opensourcechallenge for full details. Closing date: April 11, 2016.

Professors – please circulate this email to your students.

Experience the power of open source software from a top research lab.

Join students all round the world in solving problems with Microsoft's open source tools.

Win big prizes, or the opportunity to interview for an internship at Microsoft Research.


Categories: Planet

A Small (and Powerful) Gesture

The Principal of Change George Couros - 6 February, 2016 - 12:26

As I am sitting on the plane, I receive the following tweet from one of the best people I know in the world, Mary Jane Burke:

Thanks to @gcouros! Marin Superintendents will be sharing your book far and wide! pic.twitter.com/bRPG38fFGc

— mary jane burke (@burkemaryjane) February 5, 2016

Instant tears.

Although I was unbelievably honoured by her sharing my book with others, there is something else that touched my heart in a tremendously powerful way. If you notice on each book, there is a heart-shaped rock tied to each one. That same heart was similar to the one that Mary Jane placed on a desk as I was talking to my mom in Marin County when my father had passed away suddenly, to try and comfort someone whose world was just destroyed.

MJ knows how much that small gesture meant to me in a time of such unbelievable grief, and I always think how lucky I was to be around someone so caring and relationship focused when the unimaginable happened.

Interestingly enough, I am writing this as I sit in the same airport where I wrote about my dad passing away, and I was trying to get home.  The pain never becomes easier, it just becomes different. That is the only way I know how to explain it.

I just wanted to thank Mary Jane for the constant support she has provided me and the special connection we have had because of what happened and how she has been so supportive. It truly means the world.

If you still don’t think a single tweet can say something meaningful, you might not really be paying attention.

Categories: Planet

Merging Classrooms: How I Shared My Students with a Class in Egypt

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 6 February, 2016 - 10:52

Every Classroom Matters episode 214

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Talking about ISIS and Arab Spring online with kids from the US and Egypt. Did teacher Adam Jones really do that? Yes he did. He merged his classroom with a colleague in Egypt with incredible results. Listen now.

Essential Questions: Merging Classrooms: How I Shared My Students with a Class in Egypt
  • How can you merge your classroom with another one located somewhere else?
  • How do you facilitate conversations on controversial topics in a professional way?
  • What are some guidelines for facilitating global competency and awareness?

Educator Resources from this Episode

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Leave Us a Rating and Review

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.

The post Merging Classrooms: How I Shared My Students with a Class in Egypt appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

100+ Great Google Classroom Resources for Educators

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 6 February, 2016 - 09:31

The easy tool educators are using every day

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Google Classroom allows teachers to easily manage student work and teaching with Google Docs, Google Forms, Google Spreadsheets and anything Google. This handy tool has opened up the doors of blended learning and collaborative classrooms like never before. Teachers wanting to implement Google Classroom can use these resources to get started, level up their learning, or become a pro at all things Google.

But there are so many sites! I’ve spent several weeks combing through resources and have picked some of my favorites. What are yours?

I’ll keep updating this page as I add resources. Please share your lessons, resources, and tips at the bottom of this post in the comments. I only want this to include high quality up-to-date information, so if you think anything needs to be added or changed, leave a comment. 

Updated: February 5, 2016

Google Classroom Resources

Tip: Use the #gafe hashtag for Google Certified innovators and educators (like me). 

Blog Posts TIP: The Google for Education Blog has the breaking announcements and information on Google Classroom. Just use the GAFE tag on their blog and see all the latest Google Classroom news. Interviews with Experts Tools to Help You Work with Google Classroom Websites The Google Classroom Help Center has everything you need for getting started. They have tons of resources and how-to’s.
  • A Google Classroom Symbaloo – Share this one with teachers who are getting started. They can make it their startup screen and test one thing a day.
  • Google Apps/ GAFE Tutorials for Teachers – a massive site full of tutorials. Use and email these out as you have specific tasks for teachers to learn. For beginners
  • The Google Gooru – The Gooru has a daily email with Google apps tips and lots of ideas for using Google. They also have tutorials and webinars. The lead GAFE administrators should definitely use this resource.
  • Sue Gorman’s Getting Googley Resource
Assessment Math Literature and Composition Research Apps Books Google Classroom Research and White Papers

Brown, M. E., & Hocutt, D. L. (2015). Learning to use, useful for learning: a usability study of Google apps for education. Journal of Usability Studies,10(4), 160-181.

Dotson, K. B., & Clark, C. (2015). Together we can… Knowledge Quest,44(2), 8.

Izenstark, A., & Leahy, K. L. (2015). Google Classroom for Librarians: Features and Opportunities. Library Hi Tech News, 32(9), 1-3.

Johnson, C. H., Linahan, M., Cuba, A. F., Dickmann, S. R., Hogan, E. B., Karos, D. N., … & Ropinski, B. L. (2016, January). Google Classroom and Open Clusters: An Authentic Science Research Project for High School Students. In American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts (Vol. 227).

Kelly, L. B. (2015). ” You Can’t Just Write an Essay in an Hour”: Supporting Middle Schoolers’ Peer Feedback and Revision Process through Online Writing Groups. Voices From the Middle, 23(2), 81.

Phiri, L., Meinel, C., & Suleman, H. (2016). Streamlined Orchestration: An Orchestration Workbench Framework for Effective Teaching. Computers & Education.

Build Your Google Classroom PLN Google Classroom Hashtags
  • #gafechat is the first and third Tuesday of each month 8-9 pm CST
  • #gafesummit – This is run by Edtechteam.com but many people share resources to this hashtag
Google Classroom Pinterest Boards Accounts Who Share About Google Classroom on Twitter

This is hard because there are so many who tweet about #gafe, but here a few.

Graphics Videos 80+ Google Classroom Tutorials from Richard Byrne

For beginners – a great playlist. Just click on the list and pick the video you need. Richard Byrne is someone I highly recommend!

2015 – New Google Classroom Features

Matt Miller created a fantastic overview of Google Classroom Features in late 2015, but also demonstrates the use of hotlinks in videos. This excellent tutorial is one that lets you just see what you want about recently added Google Classroom Features. Just click the link that interests you and it will take you to the video. (You do have to click play first.)

###Google Classroom Tutorial 2015

Convert an Image to an Editable Doc

Google Docs in the Math Classroom by Daniel Kaufman

What is missing?

Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

The post 100+ Great Google Classroom Resources for Educators appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Learner-Centered Design

The Principal of Change George Couros - 5 February, 2016 - 11:50

Greg Whitby shared this post by Richard Branson, referencing the book, “The End of Average” by Todd Rose (how is that for an “inception” sentence to start off a blog post!). In it, he shares a great story of end-user designed innovation, as well as his own experience in education:

The End of Average uses the example from the US Air Force to illustrate this point. Upon investigating why pilots were struggling to control their planes in the 1950s, US Air Force discovered that it had nothing to do with pilot error, but instead the way the cockpits were designed – to best fit the ‘average’ pilot of the 1920s. The Air Force measured 4,000 pilots on 10 dimensions of size, assuming that most would be within the average range for most dimensions, and many would fit all 10. Zero pilots fitted the average size profile. “By designing the cockpit for the average man, they were designing jets for nobody,” says Rose. The Air Force responded by adopting a design that was adjustable, which led to the invention of the adjustable seat – an innovation that we now take for granted.

The concept of ‘average’ has failed us in many different aspects of life – most notably in our educational institutions. (emphasis mine) I can’t overemphasise how useless I was at school. I didn’t fit in, and couldn’t keep up and was left convinced that I was lazy and dumb. Not seeing any benefits from remaining in education, I left school aged 16. But then something happened: beginning life as entrepreneur, no longer forced to focus of subjects I had no interest in, I turned my attention to things that I could see the relevance in and that I was passionate about. My brain opened up, and so did my world.

The things that really struck me about this post is regarding the notion of serving the end-user.  Similar to the pilots, schools need to be “learner-centred”, not “learning-centred”; there is a significant difference in these statements.

I recently saw a quote being shared through social media and went something along the lines of “If a teacher explains the same thing to a child 100 times, and they still don’t understand, it is not the child that is a slow learner.”  That really struck a chord with me.

When I first shared my thoughts on the “8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset“, the first characteristic shared was “empathetic”.  If that trait does not exist, how innovative could we truly be?  Without understanding that the learner and their needs are our number one focus, it doesn’t make much sense, the term “innovation” in education simply becomes a buzzword, and nothing more.

Categories: Planet

OEB 15 – What does it take to scale adoption of technology at your school?

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 4 February, 2016 - 22:37

Last December, I presented at OEB in Berlin. It was a crazy time of the year – flat out at work and too busy on my return to post anything meaningful about it. Then when I did have time, the lead up to Christmas saw me preparing frantically for that and focused on family activities. Holidays saw me do something I hadn’t done in the longest time. Down tools and rest.

I needed it. Last year was time of great change for me. New school, new routines, new challenges. New, but similar to to what I had worked on for nearly three years at Toorak College in my position as Director of ICT and eLearning. What I presented at OEB is outlined below in the abstract I wrote for the conference proceedings and is a summation of that experience.

At its essence is what I think is the need to upskill the technology skills of everyone in your school, not just the early adopters, the willing few. If you hold a position of responsibility in the eLearning space, there’s a need to build the capacity of the many, not just the few. To do this takes strong resolve and a need to work strategically. In my view, you need to identify the platforms that will  best suit the educational outcomes your school is trying to achieve and you need a focused approach to implement effectively, supporting your staff through the process and building a sense of community around the professional learning required to bring people with you.

I’m fully enmeshed in this challenge once again. I’m now working across a multi campus school and rolling out the curriculum component of another LMS. This time, SEQTA. The challenge is bigger with a staff four times the size of my previous school, but the premise is the same – build teacher capacity at scale. I have a good team around me – let’s see if we can pull it off. :)

In the meantime, read the abstract. My blueprint.

What does it take to scale adoption of technology in your school?

In 2013 I was appointed to the position of Director of ICT and eLearning at Toorak College in Melbourne, Australia. Toorak College was a 1:1 Laptop school where pockets of innovation were occurring with use of technology, but many staff were using computers at what Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model would describe as substitution level. Use of Microsoft word processing tools were mainstream and a Learning Management System running off Sharepoint was used but wasn’t fulfilling the purpose of being the common place for delivery of classroom content.

Prior to gaining this position I had read Michael Fullan’s book, ‘Stratosphere’. Within it he identified four criteria for technology and pedagogy to maximise learning.

“It must be irresistibly engaging; elegantly efficient (challenging but easy to use); technologically ubiquitous; and steeped in real-life problem solving.” (Fullan, Stratosphere)

This formed the criteria for my approach to the introduction of new platforms to aid in building capacity with new learning technology tools at a level of scale for both teachers and students within the school.

Toorak College had identified new strategic goals that included the following:

One school – greater communication across a Junior and Senior campus and a unified approach

Personalised Learning

Quality Teaching and Learning.

To help meet the achievement of these strategic goals, 2013 saw the introduction of a new Learning Management System (a product called Schoolbox). This platform enabled teachers to create class pages where they were encouraged to explain what was happening in class each week (or lesson) and to populate this page with the resources students would need to undertake learning tasks. Homework needed to be posted and assessment task due dates needed to be visible. It was an expectation that every teacher use this platform to enable students to have a ‘go to’ point to know what was happening within the school and to keep abreast of what they needed for their classes. The developers of the system responded to critique we levelled at their product concerning the fact that the forums didn’t provide threaded comment trails and there was little opportunity for students to add content and co-create curriculum. They developed a page component called ‘Social Stream’ that enabled students to post comments and upload files and web content. This addition vastly improved the system and saw teachers encouraging their students to pose questions and add resources that could enrich the curriculum. This enabled two way communication and collaboration rather than just a one way teacher directed approach to curriculum delivery.

During 2013, investigation into Google Apps for Education began. Decisions to move staff and students in Cloud Computing (SAAS) solutions are complex and require thoughtful planning and consideration. Google Apps for Education was considered for the following reasons:

  • the collaborative nature of the docs – the way students can work together and co-create
  • the visibility of works in progress when shared with teachers
  • the ability to provide feedback and formative assessment easily at point of need, when students are in the process of writing
  • the cloud storage provided to users – unlimited storage for each user
  • providing staff with a cloud storage option that sits within a school domain, instead of staff opening their own cloud storage accounts eg: Dropbox, and sharing school documents outside of a school domain

Extensive investigation into Google’s security measures and the SLA (service level agreement) offered to schools was entered into, with the reference point for this investigation being the Australian Signals Directorate’s (Defence Force) Cloud Computing considerations. This process is documented in a blog post called, ‘Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? Coupled with this was investigation into Hapara Teacher Dashboard. Hapara is a third party application used with Google Apps for Education. It provides an instructional management layer for teachers. Teachers access their dashboard and are given a snapshot view of student activity across Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Sites. Any time a student uploads a file to a folder that is visible in the teacher’s dashboard view, that document is instantly writable by the teacher. This enables teachers to access student documents easily and they can provide formative assessment on work in progress. When a teacher leaves a comment on a document, the student receives email notification. If the student replies, the teacher is sent an email. This enables a quick feedback loop for students.

A report tabled to the School Executive led to agreement that Google Apps for Education combined with the management layer of Hapara Teacher Dashboard was an appropriate platform that had the potential to improve the technology capacity of teachers and students and develop a collaborative culture that would help meet the school’s strategic goals.

2014 saw the introduction of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard across Toorak College. Chromebooks and Nexus 7 devices were introduced in the Junior School as part of this move. These were huge undertakings requiring staff buy in for success. Professional development opportunities and support in the LMS online environment were offered to build teacher capacity. The College wide move to Gmail as part of this initiative was instrumental in seeing adoption and understanding of Google Drive. Staff members’ need to understand the new mail interface spawned opportunities to discuss mail’s integration with Google Drive. This led to strong adoption of the platform, reinforced by the leadership team’s use of Google Docs as a means for sharing of key information and for collaboration for meeting notes.

Feedback about Google Drive and Hapara Teacher Dashboard from staff and students can be seen below:

Staff feedback:

“Hapara has changed my life in the classroom immensely. I love it”

“It works really well for individual or group tasks. In group tasks I can see if all students are doing an equal share of the work”.

“Google Docs works best for my teaching style, it has changed my work load for the better”.

Student feedback:

“I love the quick feedback”

“I love the accessibility and the accountability”

“I like that I can easily back up my work”

“Google Apps works well for school, because it allows me to have my work constantly backed up. It can be used offline, so the use of internet browsers doesn’t restrict my ability to work. It is easy to organise my work with and has all the capabilities of programs on my computer, but with the ease of mind of constantly backed up work and the ability to work from my phone or another computer”

2015 saw consolidation at school level – no new platforms to introduce, but a focus on how to best use ICT to personalise learning experiences for students. The LMS was fully integrated into school life and all teachers had a presence and the skills to create class pages. The focus for staff development was in seeing full integration of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard into everyone’s practice. Continued professional development sessions were offered and analysis of platform use enabled identification of staff members with little presence. This led to focused professional development opportunities.

The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition describes “Scaling Teaching Innovations” as a “Wicked Challenge: Those that are complex to even define, much less address”. Having a coherent strategy around technology platforms to utilise in a school or district system goes some way to meeting the challenge of scaling teaching innovations. When teachers are provided with the tools that allow for collaborative practice, quick and easy insight into student work in progress, ease of providing formative assessment, tools that allow students to become creators of content and the ability for group work to be managed effectively, there lies the potential for teachers to have opportunities to rethink their pedagogical practices. When everyone is utilising common tools, you are speaking the same language and can support one another in gaining a deeper understanding of the tool’s potential to facilitate richer learning experiences and become a normalised part of the teaching and learning process.


(2014). Cloud Computing Security Considerations: ASD Australian … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.asd.gov.au/publications/protect/cloud_computing_security_considerations.htm.

Luca, J. (2014). Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? | Lucacept … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://jennyluca.com/2014/04/03/moving-to-the-cloud-what-should-you-consider/.

Fullan, M. (2012). Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change. Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.amazon.com/Stratosphere-Integrating-Technology-Pedagogy-Knowledge/dp/0132483149.

(2015). NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition | The New Media … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2015-k-12-edition/.

Puentedura, R. (2012). The SAMR model: Background and exemplars. Retrieved June, 24, 2013.

(2011). Schoolbox Learning Management System (LMS) & School … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://schoolbox.com.au/.


Categories: Planet

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 4 February, 2016 - 22:15
This announcement went out to CSTA members (and others) this week.This award does include computer science teachers!
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (#PAEMST) is launching its 2016 Nomination Drive and needs your help! Do you know an outstanding math or science teacher? 
Submit your nominations this week to be included in the drive. Together, we can make 2016 a great year for teachers! 
Nominations can be submitted on our website, www.paemst.org. The nomination deadline is April 1, 2016, and the application deadline is May 1, 2016.

Categories: Planet

Edusketching: A Tool to Help Students Understand Complex Concepts

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 4 February, 2016 - 13:34

Every Classroom Matters Episode 213

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Your recall of information is up to 55% greater with the use of a picture linked to the content, according to edusketch expert and National Board Certified Teacher, Wendy Pillars. Wendy coined the term edusketch and authored the book Visual NoteTaking for Educators: A Teacher’s Guide to Student Creativity.

OK, busy teachers, this is something you can do with a marker and a piece of paper. If you will learn this technique, you can help students learn better! No technology required! This is something all of us can do with students of all ages. We can all edusketch.

Listen to the show and then dig deep into edusketching resources at the bottom of this post to get started.

Essential Questions: Edusketching: A Tool to Help Students Understand Complex Concepts
  • What is the difference between visual notetaking and edusketching?
  • Why does Wendy prefer markers and paper over iPads?
  • What if students say they can’t draw or create?
  • What is the neuroscience behind edusketching and memory improvement?
  • Why adults seem to be intimidated more than students by edusketching and how to move past it?
  • How can you handle criticism from colleagues when you try something new?
  • What are some classroom examples of using edusketches with young students?

Educator Resources from this Episode with Wendy Pillars Other Resources for Visual Notetaking, Notetaking, and Edusketching

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Leave Us a Rating and Review

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.

The post Edusketching: A Tool to Help Students Understand Complex Concepts appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Kids These Days!

The Principal of Change George Couros - 4 February, 2016 - 06:41

I was setting up to speak this morning, and this wonderful young lady came up to me, unable to contain her excitement and said, “Oh! You are George Couros! You are my teacher’s hero!”

I lost my breath and was honoured by her kind words, her not knowing how much she filled my bucket.  I then asked her if it was okay to get a selfie and send it to her teacher.  She said yes, and we then said hi to her teacher:

Hanging with #TLIM and wanted to say hi to @DawnGranley from myself and Skyler! pic.twitter.com/axFyJ36JiM

— George Couros (@gcouros) February 3, 2016

As a show of my gratitude, I asked her if she was okay to deliver a signed book to her teacher. She was very excited, and sent her teacher the following message:

@DawnGranley @gcouros pic.twitter.com/iBQFl7dcfX

— Sheri Wigmore (@sdwigmore) February 3, 2016

It made me tear up…what a wonderful student.

Skyler then went on to introduce me to the audience, and was very well spoken, articulate, and just had so much enthusiasm.  I started off by talking about her immediate impact on me, and how if these are the kids that are determining our future, I am pretty happy with that.

After that, I asked her if she would help sell books with me. Not only did she take payments on my phone through square for people, she also was asked to sign a book herself. As a token of my appreciation, I gave a book to her as well.

I arrived to the airport and I received this from Skyler and her teacher:

@gcouros @sdwigmore thanks for the tweets and the book! You filled both our buckets! pic.twitter.com/Bbo8aAx1vR

— Dawn Granley (@DawnGranley) February 3, 2016

All I can say is that I am so often amazed by our students, and also by their teachers that do so much for them. Thank you Skyler for totally making my day!

Categories: Planet

An Online Community for CS Teachers Using Microsoft Tools

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 4 February, 2016 - 01:43

One thing I am constantly looking to do is to learn from other computer science teachers. There are some good online communities for this purpose. I’m a member of a couple of Facebook groups for example. And I regularly follow conversations on the SIGCSE and AP CS mailing lists. A few months ago I joined an online community for teachers using Microsoft tools to teach computer science.

In the group are teachers using the tools I use a lot – Visual Studio, Code Hunt and TouchDevelop for example. Also some tools I occasionally use but have liked for years like Kodu and Small Basic. And somethings I am still learning about like Minecraft and the BBC Micro:Bit. And more. It is a very friendly and helpful bunch of teachers and I am learning a lot.

If you are using Microsoft tools/products to teach computer science, you’ll want to join. Sign up at http://aka.ms/MCSTN

Categories: Planet

Teacher PD Is Still Broken, These 3 Steps Can Fix It

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 3 February, 2016 - 12:58

Every Classroom Matters episode 212

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Many teachers feel like teacher professional development is a waste. Dan Brown shares the three research-based ways to make teacher PD better. What is more hypocritical than a lecture on differentiated instruction or project based learning? But there is teacher professional development that DOES impact learning in the classroom. Let’s do that. Listen Now.

The best of teaching should not only be used in our classrooms, it should be used to teach teachers! We can improve professional development for teachers but it will mean redefining the traditional “seat time” approach to professional development. It may also mean redefining what we talk about at professional development experiences. Let’s rise to a higher standard and become inspired to be the model leaders this generation of teachers and students needs to improve education around the world.

Essential Questions: Teacher PD Is Still Broken, These 3 Steps Can Fix It
  • What are the 3 key aspects of excellent PD according to research?
  • How do we improve professional development and make it so it can get approved by regulatory organizations?
  • How teachers can take on hybrid roles and become leaders in professional development?
  • How can we bring student  and school strengths into teacher professional development?
  • How we can get to personalized learning plans for teachers?
  • How can teachers move from martyrs to models?

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The post Teacher PD Is Still Broken, These 3 Steps Can Fix It appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Top Blog Posts of January 2016

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 2 February, 2016 - 23:17

The Cool Cat Teacher Blog

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Wow! January 2016 was an epic month here with a reach of over 200,000 views between this blog, my blogspot blog, and vickidavis.me. Add to it a great month for Every Classroom Matters and all of you who share and reshare on Facebook and Twitter and you’re looking at more than a million educators reached through the network built around this blog.

The numbers are staggering, but in the end, it is always about you. It is about you — the individual person who reads this blog and if you find what you read here to be helpful to you in your everyday classroom. Teaching is not easy and we have to share and help each other as we work to level up a little bit every day.

I opened the year in Illinois with a first day back and wow, those educators were awesome! And now, poof! January is gone.

Last night I had the teacher kickoff meeting for Mad about Mattering and wow! Our students are going to be designing apps together using the latest in mobile app development technology and compassion-based engineering concepts from Angela Maiers. What an epic group of teachers.

SO excited about our MAD about Mattering kick off teacher meeting tonight! #appsthatmatter @coolcatteacher pic.twitter.com/0W8mQ0Vw1j

— MAD-learn (@MADLearn) February 1, 2016

I hope your January was one where you leveled up and learned. I also hope you’re making progress towards your goals. Teacher, take care of yourself so you can take care of those kids. Get outside, get some exercise. May February be even greater!

Top Blog Posts of January 2016
  1. 10 Ways to Flip a Kid and Turn Their Day Around
  2. 6 Ways to Motivate Teachers: Be the Hope
  3. The 7 Devices of Transformation in Education New in January!
  4. 15 Best Google Drive Add-Ons for Education
  5. Notetaking Skills for 21st Century Students
  6. Epic Effective Classroom Decoration and Design Resources New in January! I am constantly updating this resource guide!
  7. 10 Stress- Busting Secrets of Great Teachers
  8. How to use Padlet: A Fantastic Tool for Teaching
  9. 6 Reading Comprehension Problems and What to Do About Them
  10. What To Do When Someone Hates You
  11. 10 Things Google Classroom Makes Easier with Alice Keeler New in January!
  12. If I’m such a Great Teacher, Why Do I want to Quit
  13. The Top 15 Tweets of 2015 New in January!
  14. Should we be averaging grades? Picture by Thomas Guskey New in January!
  15. Beginning and Ending Class Like a Pro with Brian Szabnik New in January!
  16. 18 Epic Productivity Apps
  17. Would You Want to Be a Student in Your Own Classroom? with George Couros New in January! (This gem has more than 500 tweets already. You can’t see the Twitter count without using Buzz Sumo, but wow! This series with George Couros based on his book The Innovator’s Mindset is likely going to be a top one for February.)
  18. Teaching Pitfalls: Signs That You Are Out of Balance with Alicia Roberts New in January!
  19. Top Tips for Teaching with Robots (using Sphero!)
  20. How to Create Custom Thumbnails for your YouTube Channel
The Top Show on Every Classroom Matters: Primary Sources with Dr. James Beeghley

The top show on Every Classroom Matters this past month was a whopper of a show on using primary sources with Dr. James Beeghley called “How I’m Teaching Beyond the Textbook, Far Beyond…”  Topping more than 6K listens and counting, it is a must share for history teachers and anyone who wants to understand how history instruction is changing.

A Big Thank you to JTouch from InFocus

I want to give a shout out to a new sidekick in my classroom! The Jtouch board from inFocus has replaced my Interactive Whiteboard. I love it! If you want to learn more about how I’m using it in my classroom, listen to the 10 Things Google Classroom Makes Easier episode with Alice Keeler. Interactive White Boards are being replaced by this incredible, massive touch screen device.

The post Top Blog Posts of January 2016 appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

A Framework for K-12 Computer Science Education

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 2 February, 2016 - 22:44

Last week about 25 or so computer science educators met in Austin TX for two days to work on A Framework for K-12 Computer Science Education. This was not the first meeting of course. Meetings have been taking place online and in person for some months now.

The process started last fall with meetings of thought leaders and stakeholders in CS education. (Mark Guzdial wrote about one of these meetings and the start of the process at the BLOG@CACM in Advice for CS Education from Science and Mathematics Education.

With all the attention computer science education is getting these days (finally) it is important that the community have quality resources to work with. This framework (and standards like those that CSTA is updating) are huge parts of filling that need.

A steering committee initially comprised of the Computer Science Teachers Association, the Association for Computing Machinery, and Code.org is overseeing this project. And there are many top CS educators involved.

Of course a project like this needs a lot of eyes looking over things. Transparency is a must. So there will be review periods. In fact, the first review period launches with a webinar (link) on Feb 3 at 8 pm ET / 5pm PT. More information about being involved in the review is on the K-12 CS Framework web site. It is very important that a wide representation of computer science educators be involved in this project. I hope many of you will get involved.

Related posts:

Categories: Planet

You Matter: Before You Help Students, You Must Help Yourself

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 2 February, 2016 - 13:22

Every Classroom Matters episode 211

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Stress caused me to lose half my hair and gain weight. Stress put Angela in the hospital three times in a year. As much as we love caring for children, we’ve learned very hard lessons that mattering starts with loving yourself enough to take care of yourself. From going offline to exercise to just taking a deep breath, it is time to get real about how you’re treating yourself. Listen Now.

If you aren’t alive, you can’t take care of kids. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t be in the classroom teach and in your best frame of mind. So many of us struggle with this, but it is time to get our lives back. Angela Maiers makes the crucial point that we cannot only live healthy lives in the summertime or during break. We have to live healthy on a daily basis.

Mattering starts with a decision to treat your own body like you matter. Precious teacher, you are important. Start treating yourself like it. Aptly, I listened to this episode as I pounded the elliptical tonight for 20 minutes. It felt great. I have a million things to do, but none is more important than my own physical body. For without a body, I cannot do everything else. If you’re struggling or know someone who is, listen and share this show and ask yourself the hard questions that will help you change.

Aptly, I listened to this episode as I pounded the elliptical tonight for 20 minutes. It felt great. I have a million things to do, but none is more important than my own physical body.  If you’re struggling or know someone who is, listen and share this show and ask yourself the hard questions that will help you change.

Essential Questions: You Matter: Before You Help Students, You Must Help Yourself
  • How do you step back when you’re overworked and exhausted?
  • How does mattering in your classroom start with how you treat yourself?
  • How can you commit to self-care and why it is so important?
  • What was the hard question Angela asked Vicki over lunch that changed the direction of Vicki’s life?
Listen to all the episodes in this series: Mattering Mondays with Angela Maiers.

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The post You Matter: Before You Help Students, You Must Help Yourself appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Opening the door to learning

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 2 February, 2016 - 13:13

Richard Branson wrote a fantastic piece last month on why there is no such thing as an ‘average’ human being. Reflecting on his own experience he writes, ‘The concept of ‘average’ has failed us in many different aspects of life – most notably in our educational institutions.’

Branson wants to see an education system that isn’t geared to making students fit in but enabling each one to stand out.  He says when you base an educational system on the concept of an ‘average learner’, we fail to ‘recognise and nurture talent’.

I am sure there are many for whom schooling was a less than average experience.  It illustrates how critical it is for teachers and leaders to see the world from the eyes of the learner, to understand what motivates and challenges and to provide ladders to climb instead of hurdles to jump.

At the start of our school year, I wanted to share the inspirational story of one of our former students. Nas Campanella lost her vision at 6 months of age and despite this, went on to achieve her goals including becoming the world’s first blind radio newsreader.

She spoke recently to our system leaders about her experience of schooling and her work as an advocate for students with disabilities.

Our work as teachers and leaders must be as advocates for all learners; opening the doors of learning no matter how challenging.

Categories: Planet

Ways To Set Up Others for Success

The Principal of Change George Couros - 2 February, 2016 - 09:40

As leaders, it is important to ensure that help is provided to people to become their “best self” through the process.  I love the idea of sometimes “super-sizing” their job, meaning that we put them in situations that are “above” what they usually do, to push them to become better.  Yet when people are put into these situations, the likelihood something can go wrong is greater.

How do we ensure that people are put into the best possible situations to succeed?  Here are a few ideas below:


  1. Trust them.  Have you ever seen a basketball coach say to a player about to shoot a free throw, “Don’t miss.”  Duh. Do you think that a person wants to do poorly?  Not a chance.  If you hired them in the first place, then trust them to do the job that they are supposed to do.  The people you have hired do not need to be micromanaged or else they wouldn’t have the job in the first place. I would actually suggest that the more someone is micromanaged, the more anxiety they will feel, leading to a lesser chance of success.  You should definitely be available to support and jump in when it is absolutely needed, but being micromanaged is the equivalent of not being trusted. No one thrives in that environment.
  2. Ask what they need.  Servant leadership should be just that, servant.  As discussed above, it is important not to have it done your way, but to support people in a way that they need.  Sometimes people feel that “asking” is a sign of weakness, so a great leader will check in on what they can do for someone to be as successful as possible. Sometimes it will be nothing, but just being asked is sometimes enough to say to someone that they are there for you.
  3. Figure out when to be a leader or a cheerleader.  Sometimes things go wrong and people need to step in, but it is the degree something goes wrong that people have to understand.  Is this something that will lead to being totally unsuccessful, or is this something that will be a great learning experience for later?  Sometimes leaders need to step in front, but sometimes they need to support from behind.  The skill is figuring out when.
  4. Be direct when needed. If someone in your organization is not achieving to the level you believe they can, it is important to communicate clearly to them.  I have had leaders that really want to say something, but they want people to figure it out for themselves, yet this can cause mistrust.  Instead of dancing around a topic, being direct is often the best way to go when something is absolutely needed.  This will lessen the conversations that run through a person’s mind after, as they know exactly what is needed, as opposed to wondering if they are missing the mark.  People want to do a good job, and if they aren’t, sometimes the best way to communicate this in a direct but respectful manner.
  5. Ask questions.  The best leaders know that they can learn from any position, and that the more questions they ask others, the more they grow as well. The best mentor relationships is where learning is happening in both directions, not just top down.  Through your own curiosity and questions, it helps someone reflect on their own work, which helps them to be successful the next time around.  Success breeds success, and the more we learn from what others did right, the more we all grow.
  6. Appreciate the work in an authentic manner.  I could have just said to “appreciate the work”, but sometimes praise feels political; like it is being done to check off a box of being a “good leader” as opposed to coming from the heart and mind.  Give meaningful feedback to someone and appreciate not only their success, but their growth. Do it not as a “boss”, but as person to person.

These steps are more ideas than a formula, as each person we serve is different, but hopefully they will help others to think about how leadership is crucial to setting up others to become successful.

What have the best leaders you had done to support you to become successful?

Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 1 February 2016

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 1 February, 2016 - 22:09
Initially the big deal for me last week was working on the CS K-12 Framework (an effort by code.org, CSTA and ACM) and then the President’s weekly Saturday address was all about an inititive Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Learn Through Computer Science for All  That links is to a YouTube video of his 4 minute talk.

US Chief Technical Officer Megan Smith took to the official White House blog to go into a lot more detail.

The BBS Micro:bit is one of my Computer Science Education Things to Watch in 2016 and I’m watching. It looks like another delay as the BBC confirms Delayed micro:bit computers will reach teachers after half term. They still plan on a million of them being distributed and a lot of teacher training is ongoing
Lego Land has mosquitoes by Garth Flint talks about some of the issues he has had getting Lego software working for his students. It’s about more than that though as it is an insight into what sort of thing CS teachers often have to deal with that makes their work different from other teachers.

The College Board has an AP Computer Science Principles Toolkit with a bunch of resources.

Stacey Armstrong talks about how High School Programming Contests Rock! Programming contests are big in Texas where he teaches and he’s got some good resources in this post.
Categories: Planet
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