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Combatting Emotional Fatigue: A Teacher’s Occupational Hazard #mondaymotivation

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 24 April, 2017 - 20:55

A conversation with Joan Flaherty on episode 61 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life” Mary Oliver.

Today’s guest, Joan Flaherty, author of Rest and An Approach to Rejuvenating our Teaching and Ourselves, talks about how we can combat emotional fatigue. Teacher, you have one wild and precious life. Our students do too. We need to use it well.

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In today’s show, Joan and I will discuss combatting emotional fatigue and:

  • How we should center ourselves in the classroom
  • Some counterintuitive thoughts on our relationships with students
  • Focusing on learning from everything
  • Advice for teachers who are burning out
  • Encouragement for teachers

I hope you enjoy this episode with Joan!

Want to hear another episode on rejuvenating your teaching? Listen to Angela Maiers talk about Unleashing Genius.

Selected Links from this Episode

View the transcript

Full Bio As Submitted Joan Flaherty

I’m a faculty member in the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph, Canada, where I teach communications. My research is in the area of teaching and learning.

The post Combatting Emotional Fatigue: A Teacher’s Occupational Hazard #mondaymotivation appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

“Empower” is Not a Bad Word

The Principal of Change George Couros - 24 April, 2017 - 09:15

Brady Venables shared this post, “Don’t ’empower’ Anybody”, and in it, the author (Claire Lew) refers to her own company and her disdain for the word. Here is what she states:

I never think I should “empower” anyone — especially our employees.

Why? The definition of the word “empower” is:

to give power to (someone); to make (someone) stronger and more confident.

The key words here are “give” and “make.” Empowerment means you’re transferring power to someone else. You think someone else needs you — your permission, your influence, your talents — to do something. And I don’t ever believe that’s the case.

I have also heard pushback to this word in many education circles. Here is the thing that might not be acknowledged in this company and in education; there is a power dynamic.  Teachers have power over students, principals and superintendents over teachers, and boards over superintendents.  Pretending that this doesn’t exist is not accurate.  The opposite of “giving” is “taking”. Is it possible for a teacher to take away from a student? An employer to take from an employee?  You may not like it, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

For example, here are some of the questions that the author shares (that are all great) that lead her practice (my responses in bold):

How can I better understand what our employees really want?

What will be done when that is figured out? Will there be something “given” to make it happen?

How can I seek out dissenting viewpoints, and be open to new ideas?

You would have to “give” people the opportunity to share their voice and “make” time to share it for this to happen.  

How can I create opportunities for connection and a sense of belonging at our company?

Could you replace the word “create” with “make” in the above sentence”

The article is great and asks questions that I believe are essential for people to thrive, and actually, become “empowered” in their role in the organisation.  In fact, I am sure the author would appreciate this challenge that I am writing as one of the questions she shared was, “How can I seek out dissenting viewpoints, and be open to new ideas?”  

One element of the word “empowerment” is that it denotes “servant” leadership.  “Giving” and “making” are ways that we can honour those people that we serve.

No matter the word you use, the practice is important.  “Empowering” someone is the focus on giving those you serve opportunities that may not exist without this focus.  It is better than the opposite.

The author ends the article with this comment:

You don’t need to empower anybody. Focus on creating an environment for people to be their best selves.

“Creating” could be replaced with making, and helping someone to become their “best selves”, could also be taken as helping them become “stronger and more confident.”  People could argue over the word “empowerment” all they want, but the focus of the author and myself is the same. Do what you can to push and support people to bring out something in them that unleashes more than what they would even expect of themselves.

“Empowering” is ultimately about serving people. In my books, I am pretty comfortable with the notion and the word.



Categories: Planet

Understanding the true nature of science — The Learner's Way

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 23 April, 2017 - 16:12


  • As thousands take to the streets as part of a global 'March for Science’ it is worth considering the significant role that education has to play. What are the messages we need to send our students about science and what role have schools played in creating the current climate? Now seems like the time to pause and reflect on the place of science in our community and our schools. - Nigel Coutts

Tags: education, technology, science, teaching, learning

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

Shifting from awareness to action — The Learner's Way

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 23 April, 2017 - 14:38


  • The evidence is mounting and the narrative around education is shifting towards a story centred on long-life skills, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. Success in the future seems to be connected closely to one’s capacity to innovate, to problem find and to make strategic decisions when confronted by unique situations for which we have not been specifically prepared.  - Nigel Coutts

Tags: learner, technology, education, collaboration, teaching, learning

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

Focus on the “Learner”

The Principal of Change George Couros - 22 April, 2017 - 07:28

I saw a link for an interesting video on “accelerating learning” for students and was intrigued simply by the title.  As I was listening to the content, the conversation was a lot of “we” (as in educators) figuring out what “they” (as in students) need.  A lot of deciding for them and “fixing” their deficits, and trying to figure out why they are “weak” in a specific target area.

I couldn’t watch it.  The intent was extremely positive, but I felt that it started with the wrong point.

I know they are kids, and kids need adult guidance, but I just struggle with any person, at any age, flourishing in an environment of being “fixed”, especially when the students aren’t necessarily in on the conversation.

Michael Fullan, researcher and former dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, made the statement, “Learning is the driver; technology is the accelerator.”

In my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“, I created an iteration of the phrase:

Learners are the driver; technology is the accelerator.

It is subtle shift, yet significant.

When we talk about our “smartest” kids, do we talk about our students who do the best academically?  If we focus on the “learner”, we realise is that some of our “smartest” students are not the best at school.  If you are an educator and you are reading this, you might not have done well academically but you could be an amazing teacher.  Grades are not an indicator of intelligence; they are an indicator of ability in certain areas, that someone else deems important.

Look for the strengths in your students, no matter their abilities in school.  When people, of all ages, feel valued, they are more likely to move forward.

Categories: Planet

9 Fine Ways to Do Better 20% Time

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 21 April, 2017 - 21:19

A global search in education blog post

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Twenty percent time from Google. Or a genius hour. Or passion projects. Or compassion based engineering. I’ve written about these before. First, I’ll define the terminology. Second, I’ll give you an example from my classroom happening right now. Finally, I’ll take you through nine of the components that help teachers have a successful 20% time in their school.  I hope this gives you an overview of how students can make choices and pursue their passions in school.

Some definitions: 20% Time

Based on the Google 20% time, students take 20% of their time in a class to pursue a personal interest project. This can be done in consecutive days or one day a week.

Genius Hour

Often schools who have arts, STEM or other enrichment choose to take one enrichment period and have a “genius hour” where students explore their talents to make and create.

Passion Projects

A student is allowed to select a project in a course of study that is of personal interest. Some people might call it a personal interest project.

For our beginning of the year passion projects, some students chose to teach others about our robotic filming Swivl tool and app.

Compassion-based engineering

Students design and make things to meet a social need or good. I find myself doing far more compassion-based engineering than other topics. I first heard this term from Angla Maiers, creator of Choose2Matter.

Innovation Week

Some schools will host an innovation week with an altered schedule. The purpose of the week becomes making, inventing, and creating. Often students will have a competition or showcase at the end of the week where people are invited to see or judge their works.

Maker Movement

Many schools are creating maker spaces or “Fab Labs” so students have a space and place to invent. Some libraries are putting these in a Learning Commons. (See Micki Uppena or Chad Lehman as examples.) Communities and nonprofits are emerging to share in the cost of 3d printers, laser cutters and more.

We started the school year with passion projects. Here, students are assembling Google cardboard and picking apps to use with it.

MAD About Mattering: Compassion-Based Engineering in My Classroom

This year my ninth and 10th graders are working with students from other schools in MAD about Mattering 2017.

In this project, students from around the world are collaboratively building apps. Students 13 and older are in MAD-Senior, and 12 and under are in MAD-Junior. I have over 50 students participating on ten apps on MAD-Senior.

What kinds of apps are students building?

To give you some examples of the types of apps they are creating, let me give you three.

These apps aren’t available yet and are just a few of many incredible apps we’re developing here

The Brave App

The Brave app is being designed to help promote bravery. These kids found that not much research is being done into bravery. They think that kids need to learn to be brave to live a good life, but also that there is a difference between bravery and foolishness. Wow. Looking good!

In the Brave group, students are talking about what makes someone brave. We had some interesting conversations on the difference between when you’re brave and when you’re just foolish.

Stop Pollution App

Another app called Stop Pollution is trying to help kids know how to stop pollution and how they can all help. The kids are curating videos that appeal to teenagers and other things.


But perhaps the HELP app which stands for help everyone live peacefully. This app is quite intriguing because the students are putting things in the app to try to help people to get along.

Giving Choices

All of these are examples of where students are given a choice. Now we didn’t call it 20% time or genius time or our passion project. We just call it compassion-based engineering.

Students choose their social issue, their teams, and make apps together.

Can Students Bring Passions to Play?

But the big issue is in our schools, is there ever something during the day were students are allowed to choose. Is there ever a time when they can bring their passions to play?

9 Fine Ways to Do Better 20% Time

As I thought about it, I have found that there are nine ways to unleash student creativity when you’re doing something like 20% time or genius or passion projects.

1 – Give students the freedom to choose

Here, one of my students is working with his custom built Arduino robot. We have to make time to tinker for these sorts of projects to emerge.

You know it’s interesting when kids get out of high school, and we say,

“Okay what you want to do in your life?”

a lot of them don’t know. I believe it’s because they’ve never been asked

“What do you want to do?”

in an open-ended way. They’ve always been told what to do.

Students need an opportunity to be able to choose. But letting them choose is not always easy. Fifth-grade teacher Rayna Freedman has her students blogging and says,

“I think for student, one of the hardest things is for them to be comfortable and confident with choosing their own topic. I do give them a direction packet and, like, a list of 30 things that they could blog about if they were stuck for ideas. And I think one of the things I’ve heard is “starting my blog” which I think is a common thing for kids at this age is “how do I start my piece?” And so that’s a great time for me to be able to give feedback and kind of have this idea exchange with students right online. “

Choosing the topic and the form of expression are both important

But we can’t stop at just giving students a choice of topic; students also need to choose their form of expression sometimes.

These students decided to create a car powered by the kinetic energy of a tape measure contracting. Some students will choose hands on activities while others will embrace technology. But they choose!

Jennifer Cronk, a special ed teacher and mom of a young man with special needs, recently talked with me about his PTO application for outstanding teacher. The PTO had always required an essay, but in this case, they allowed her son to submit his nomination via video.

The story is really moving. It was a transformative experience in this young man’s life when someone finally allowed him to express himself in the medium that best suited him. Jennifer says,

“He made himself redo that video seven times. And in that last video he was the most articulate I have heard him in that entire year. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, this one exercise of adapting this not only met his need but it also had him work on his clarity of thought, his clear articulate speech. If I had scribed that for him he would have never had that moment.”

Give choices. Don’t say “make a PowerPoint” or “do a poster.” We really need to give students freedom of topic and freedom of medium if we want to unleash real creativity. 

2 -Give students time to play and tinker

Exploring virtual reality with Google Cardboard is one thing we’ve done this year. So much fun (and inexpensive.)

Students need time to play and tinker. Sometimes they need to “just mess around.” And when I say this, I’m not talking about unstructured — hanging out — throwing spitballs at the ceiling — “messing around.” Perhaps looking into Micku Uppena’s library can help us understand. In a recent show, Micki says about her library,

“Well, it is not a quiet place and that has mixed reactions, but it is definitely not quiet. There’s books all over that represents all different kinds of kids. We have activities like we have the Legos  and the cardboard and K’NEX . And then we have a creation station that has this treasure box in it. And it’s a place where teachers and parents and kids can just dump their treasures from their classroom and kids create something new with it.

We have kids using technology but that really isn’t the focus. Technology tends to be a tool that they gravitate to after they’ve built with something else. So they use the books and the technology for tools but kids are all over and they collaborating with other kids that they normally might not collaborate with in the classroom. So, it’s pretty exciting to see them choose what they want to focus on each day.”

Tinkering is exciting. Once you learn how to engage students with making and tinkering it is a better adrenaline rush than catching that big bass who has been playing with your hook all day. (And coming from me, that’s saying a lot.) 

That brings us to our third example.

3 –  Provide a variety of tools to spur creativity

Keva plank challenges are a popular happening n Chad Lehman’s library maker space.

And this is where we get into having that variety of tools which does spur creativity. A while back, librarian Chad Lehman talked about how to equip a maker space. He told me,

“Well, it’s been pretty fun, we’ve just kind of got things rolling about a month and a half ago, we have four Makey Makey kits  for the kids, we have four of the Ollie robots, we have a number of different LittleBits kits and Arduino coding kits. Kids have been making a lot of music with those and kind of using the electronic modules for that. Three of the Bloxels videogame making kit. We’ve got five of the little Ozobot robots that kids are programming.”

Have a variety. Things you can program. Things you can touch. Things you can press. Build. Make. Things you can Extrude. Recycle. These are all parts of having a variety of tools. And when you see it happening, it’s pretty incredible.

4 – Keep an eye out for student strengths

Micki Uppena says the green screen is one of the most important things for a modern library to have.

But sometimes when the students are playing with those tools they need a teacher who can spot your strengths. I like to tell my students at the beginning of the school year that I am mining for diamonds. And sometimes I’ll show them this big ugly rock before I say it and asked them what it is. Only one student had ever guessed that it is a diamond because it looks like a big old ugly rock.

And that’s how our students look. Sometimes when we first spot them they aren’t a beautiful diamond; they are kind of rough. So I’m always on the lookout. It is my personal goal for every school year: to find at least one thing every student does better than every other student.

Notice strengths. And this is an important part of a genius hour or passion projects. Find teachers who notice what their students are good at doing and not just their student’s mistakes.

5 – Give some guidance

Choices extend to classroom decorations where I gave students an option to pain the ceiling tiles. I love this one. Every time I look up, I remember that I’m letting students live this motto.

Sylvia Martinez, co-author of Invent to Learnsaid it well on a recent show,

“I think that you want to combine thing that are skill-builders with more openended projects. You don’t want everything to be open ended. I think the idea that kids are just going to magically discover things by themselves is mistaken but the other side of the coin isn’t to tell them exactly what to do all the time.”

Where I made horrible mistakes with genius hour is when I just gave them all materials and said just play. And that’s what happened. Some kids just don’t do anything at all.

Play with guidance. You do have to give some advice. You do have to have some expectations — whether it’s having students reflect or share a picture or demonstrate what they’ve done. If you don’t, you may feel like the first time I did genius hour — like you wasted your time. Of course, those few students will excite you. But your goal is to have 100% participation with all of your students and not just a few who are self-starters and motivated. 

6. Let them struggle

Chad Lehman’s maker space includes challenges and lots of options for students. Chad presents those choices to students, so they aren’t overwhelmed.

Sometimes the secret of great teaching is not jumping into soon. Sometimes kids need to struggle just a little bit so they can learn to solve problems.

I think that why so many students in this generation do struggle with getting the answers is that us adults always give them the answers without letting them have that struggle. Sylvia Martinez says,

“And it’s hard to not answer questions, it’s hard to not give kids information while we know the most efficient way to do things. But classrooms aren’t there for teachers to show off how efficient they are, they are for kids to learn. And maybe it’s a little inefficient and it might be a little painful to watch when you know there’s a better way but not helping. You know, not being mean. I’m not saying be mean to kids or hide information, but letting them be a little frustrated, letting them try something and say, “How did that go for you? What are you going to try next?” And letting them come up with the answer instead of constantly telling them what to do next.”

I saw this again when talking to Adam Bellow, BreakoutEdu co-founder. Kids struggle with a challenge to “open a box” using clues, content knowledge, and cooperation. When I asked Adam about the biggest mistake teachers make, he says,

And this is the hardest thing for teachers. It’s facilitation. I mean, we always talk the old “Oh, you want to be the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage.” In this, you are challenged to literally do that. In many cases, it means sit on the sides and watch your kids learn. You are not to get involved, you are not to tell them what the answer is even if they’re begging you unless, of course, they give you a hint card.

It is hard to not give answers to students on their first request. I know when I was growing up and playing with the computer, we didn’t have the Internet. All we had was a book. It didn’t have much about as the computers had just been invented. So, I had to struggle a lot, and I learned a lot. But a lot of students want the answer NOW.

Perhaps the hardest criticism I (or any teacher) might endure is when a parent says,

“my child says you won’t help me.”

I do help, but there’s a difference between helping a child learn and becoming their external brain. Kids can’t put me in their backpack and take me to college. (Thank goodness!) They’ll only have the software we’ve taught them to use – THEIR BRAIN.

7 – Be open-minded to unintended products and adapt

My former student, Andrew Stargel, (one of the students on the original Flat Classroom project), comes back to share his filmmaking skills with my students as they make their Christian movie, Unspeakable. We won’t finish it this school year, but we’ve still learned so much.

Sometimes when you’re making and creating, your product goes a totally different direction. For example, in the film project that I’ve been doing, we just don’t have enough time to finish it. So, instead of giving up, I’m having students create scenes. We’ll release just one or two scenes on YouTube in hopes of maybe garnering some attention for that.

Adapt. When you do passion projects sometimes things go in a different direction, and you just can’t finish it the way you envisioned it, and you have to adapt and still be happy and realize that you did learn a lot. 

8 – Publish for a wider audience

We know that an audience improves student performance, so we want to have an audience. Plus an audience is just fun! When the MAD about Mattering project finishes in the students are done, they’re going to compete in an online presentation “shark tank.” (Stay tuned.) This presentation will be part of sharing their work with the world, and it’s a lot of fun.

Teacher Rayna Freedman’s fifth graders publish a blog post a week for a larger audience.

Plus, you don’t want to do wastebasket work because that just doesn’t make a difference.

Publish. Students can safely publish for the real world. It is being done hundreds of thousands of times a day. Most fears are unfounded. There’s a way to publish safely. 

9 – Celebrate and Innovate

So much making and building is going on in Chad Lehman’s library, that they are converting an adjacent computer lab into the maker space. All this activity has created some challenges, but Chad sees these as great challenges. The library is popular again!

As a teacher, we have always to be learning. Our students do too. No project ever goes as I expect. Some have great things happen, and some have disappointments. But, we celebrate our learning no matter what we do. We innovate and make those projects better the next time we do them.

Celebrate learning. Level up. A project doesn’t have to be perfect or even be finished to be a successful learning experience. 

Where can we tinker and create?

But I think in the end, every school should ask themselves is there one class where students can create and can invent? I truly think this makes a more creative student.

And, we found in the United States that are creativity scores are declining for the first time in measured history.

We have to do something to help our students get more creative.

Maybe we just need to give them time with a little teaching savvy on the side.

Other Articles I’ve written on 20% Time, Genius Hour, and the Maker Movement

The post 9 Fine Ways to Do Better 20% Time appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

5 Easy Brain Breaks for Your Classroom

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 21 April, 2017 - 20:12

A conversation with Rob Donatelli on episode 60 of the 10-minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Want to help students learn and be more refreshed? Students need breaks too. That is why brain breaks are becoming so popular. Teacher Rob Donatelli @DTown_MrD talks about the brain breaks phenomenon. Then, Rob gives teachers five ideas he uses in his classroom for brain breaks. Take a brain break today!

This episode is sponsored by Bloomz, my favorite tool for parent communication. They are sponsoring April’s free webinar, 5 Habits to Start Now to Thrive in the Fall. You don’t have to give up your summer to prepare. Learn what I do now to make the fall even more wonderful!

Register now for the free webinar

Listen Now

Listen on iTunes

Click the button for iTunes or Stitcher to subscribe to this show




In today’s show, we’ll discuss:

  • Backwards classroom race
  • 60-second pitches
  • Face off
  • Smartphone ping pong
  • Penny catch

Plus, Rob gives a 40-second pitch to teachers about the reasons they need brain breaks in their classroom.

Have some fun! Take a break! You might need these especially as kids are taking high-intensity tests to help kids refresh and gear back up.

(I am not crazy about the tests but I am crazy about kids. When I feel things getting too intense, I take brain breaks with my students.) 

I hope you enjoy this episode with Rob!

Want to hear another episode on something fun to try with your students? Listen to Dr. Tim Green talk about using Aurasma in the classroom.

Selected Links from this Episode

Transcript coming soon.

Full Bio As Submitted Rob Donatelli

Rob Donatelli is a business & computer science teacher at Dallastown Area High School. He is also the founder of the Donatelli EdZone.

His passions include school leadership, education technology, presenting, entrepreneurship, and coaching. Follow him on YouTube at the Donatelli EdZone or on Twitter @DTown_MrD.

The post 5 Easy Brain Breaks for Your Classroom appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Tips for Successful Digital Parenting

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 20 April, 2017 - 21:17

A conversation with Weston Kieschnick on the 10-minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

How much time on devices is too much time? Should kids put up their smartphones and talk to each other and parents sometimes? Are we using technology too much as parents?

Today, for Thought Leader Thursday, Weston KieschnickWeston Kieschnick @wes_kieschnick and I have a conversation about digital parenting. There aren’t easy answers but one thing is sure, we won’t find answers without having the hard conversations.

This episode, blog, and webinar are sponsored by Bloomz, my favorite tool for parent communication. They are sponsoring April’s free webinar, 5 Habits to Start Now to Thrive in the Fall. You don’t have to give up your summer to prepare. Learn what I do now to make the fall even more wonderful!

Register now for the free webinar

Listen Now

Listen on iTunes

Subscribe or rate the show by clicking the button for iTunes or Stitcher

In today’s show, we’ll discuss:

  • Digital overuse and digital deserts and the need for balance
  • The dangers of letting kids have devices during time for sleep
  • The challenges faced by parents in today’s digital age
  • Questions for parents to consider about moderation
  • Experiences and observations about digital overuse and misuse

I hope you enjoy this episode with Weston!

Selected Links from this Episode

Read the transcript for this episode

Full Bio Weston Kieschnick

Weston Kieschnick is a Senior Fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education. His thought leadership around blended pedagogy has been published in Education Week, Ed-Tech Magazine, and The Learning Transformation: A Guide to Blended Learning for Administrators.

He also created and hosts Teaching Keating, an acclaimed podcast where pop-culture and pedagogy collide.

Mr. Kieschnick has worked with teachers and school leaders from every state in the US and more than 30 countries around the world. Districts where Weston provides keynotes, teacher development, and coaching have been recognized among the top ten in the country for their work in educational technology. During his tenure in education, Weston has served as an award-winning Teacher, Assistant Principal, and District Level Administrator. Weston resides in Colorado with his wife Molly and his children, Everett and Charlotte.

The post Tips for Successful Digital Parenting appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

People Are Always Your Best Resource

The Principal of Change George Couros - 19 April, 2017 - 21:31

You can have a shiny new vision and mission statement, school or district goals, and a myriad of things that say what your district does.  But none of this happens without people.  If you do not value the people that you serve, and more importantly, if they do not feel valued, all of those things were a waste of money, time, and resources.

People are your school.

People are the system.

People make things happen.

Not programs. Not initiatives. Not mission statements.

I have seen amazing schools with terrible mission statements, but I have seen incredibly forward-thinking mission statements that don’t make a difference.  Valuing our people doesn’t mean we don’t push them; it actually means that we do.  We help them become the best version of themselves, but we start with their strengths, not their weaknesses.

To do work that matters, people need to know that they are the best resource your organisation will have, and they have to be utilised according to this belief.  If you do not bring out the best in them, nothing you write on any document will matter.  Those visions and mission statements can become important, but only people can bring them to life.

No mission or vision statement will ever make your school better in isolation. People do that. Focus on people.

Simple idea, yet often overlooked.

Categories: Planet

How the African STEP Dance Ignited Kids at Ron Clark Academy

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 19 April, 2017 - 21:03

A conversation with Junior Bernadin on episode 58 of the 10-Minute Teacher

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

African Step, based on the African Gum Boot Dance, has an American version with a competition. Junior Bernadin @jbernadin one of the STEP coaches at 3-time national champion winning Ron Clark Academy. Learn about this marvelous type of song/ dance and its role in African American culture. Also, hear about Junior’s commitment to excellence and what students learn from competing in this dance competition.

Listen Now

Listen on iTunes

Subscribe by clicking on the iTunes or Stitcher links below.



In today’s show, we’ll discuss Junior’s work with the RCA step team:

  • The origins of step
  • How step came to Ron Clark Academy
  • What students learn from step competition
  • His students’ story from beginning step to winning the national championship
  • The journey Junior has taken with the students

I hope you enjoy this episode with Junior!

Selected Links from this Episode

See the transcript of this episode

Full Bio Junior Bernadin

Junior Bernadin is a Dean of Students and IT Director at the highly-acclaimed Ron Clark Academy (RCA). In addition to his daily roles at RCA, he currently serves as one of the coaches of the current 3-time National Step League Middle School Champions, the Essentials Step Team.

In addition to his daily roles at RCA, he currently serves as one of the coaches of the current 3-time National Step League Middle School Champions, the Essentials Step Team.


Photographs of Students on the STEP Team provided by Junior

Step team members are required to do community service as part of their work.

Step Practice at Ron Clark Academy

Step competitions are colorful and beautiful. (see the video above)

Community service as part of participating in step.

Three-time national champions – Ron Clark Academy step team

The post How the African STEP Dance Ignited Kids at Ron Clark Academy appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Richard Byrne’s Most Exciting Edtech Tools

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 18 April, 2017 - 20:31

A conversation with Richard Byrne on Episode #57 of the 10-minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Today Richard Byrne @rmbyrne discusses the edtech tools he’s most excited about today. From video tools, creation tools, to app creation, you’ll hear lots of ideas. Plus, he’ll tell you about his newest project.

This episode, blog, and webinar are sponsored by Bloomz, my favorite tool for parent communication. They are sponsoring April’s free webinar, 5 Habits to Start Now to Thrive in the Fall. You don’t have to give up your summer to prepare. Learn what I do now to make the fall even more wonderful!

Register now for the free webinar

Listen Now

Listen on iTunes

Subscribe to the show by clicking the network of your choice

In today’s show, we’ll discuss:

  • Live video streaming tools and why he’s moving to YouTube Live
  • Blogging and creation tools
  • Why app creation will soon be in the reach of every student
  • Dealing with naysayers and blocking
  • Why he’s not as excited about quizzing tools and heading towards creation tools

I hope you enjoy this episode with Richard!

Selected Links from this Episode

Free Webinar: 5 Habits You can Start Now to Help Your classroom Thrive in the Fall by Vicki Davis

See the transcript of this show with Richard Byrne

Full Bio Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne is a former high school social studies teacher best known for developing the award-winning blog Free Technology for Teachers. He has been invited to speak at events on six continents and would gladly speak in Antarctica too. Richard’s work is focused on sharing free resources that educators can use to enhance their students’ learning experiences.

Richard is a five time winner of the Edublogs Award for Best Resource Sharing Blog. Richard became a Google Certified Teacher in 2009. 2012 saw Richard receive a Merlot Classics award from chancellor’s office of California State University. In 2010 he was a finalist for ACTEM’s (Association of Computer Teachers and Educators in Maine) educator of the year award. Tech & Learning Magazine named Richard one of their “people to watch” in their 30th Anniversary celebration (http://techlearning.com/article/26660).

On a daily basis, Richard’s blog Free Technology for Teachers reaches more than 100,000 educators. In addition to writing Free Technology for Teachers, Richard also maintains iPadApps4School.com and PracticalEdTech.com. Richard’s print work includes a monthly column for School Library Journal, contributing author to What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media, and contributions to Teacher Librarian. Richard lives in Maine with his daughter Isla and loyal dogs Max and Mason.

The post Richard Byrne’s Most Exciting Edtech Tools appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

What is the experience our students tell others about their time in school?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 18 April, 2017 - 07:41

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Bezos (CEO and founder of Amazon) and the annual letter to his shareholders:

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.

I’m interested in the question, how do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organization?

Such a question can’t have a simple answer. There will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps. I don’t know the whole answer, but I may know bits of it. Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making.

True Customer Obsession

There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.

Why? There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.

What does this mindset have to do with education?

Some people will shun ANYTHING that comes from business because they will say “schools are not a business”.  I agree to some point. Profit is not the bottom line of education, but if you can’t apply and learn from the lessons of success from others, and make your own connections, ultimately our students lose out.

The “obsessive customer focus” that Bezos speaks of, is the same reason I have been challenging people for years to start from the question, “Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?”  This is not a one-off question, but something that we should ask ourselves daily. It should be something posted in our schools and classrooms.  Even moving further, “What is the experience our students tell others about their time in school?”  This ties into the first question, but it also helps others understand that the experience of school is something that every person in our organisations helps to create.

This is not asking what would work best for you (the adult). It is asking you to try your best to understand your students, their realities, their viewpoints, and take that learning and create something meaningful for them.

This is why I wrote about “8 Things to Look For in Today’s Classroom”.  The term “today” focuses on what the students in front of you need.  We talk about preparing our students for the future, but that often comes at the cost of ignoring who is in your room today.  They need you to be your best, and at your “Day 1” right now.  You only have one opportunity to work with the students you have this year.  Today’s classroom is understanding to serve the future, you focus on serving your students in the present. They are the future.

I will continue to look at this image and think about how I can iterate it to move forward while digging deeper in each area:

What is irrelevant? What do we need to add or subtract?  If I am focusing on “Today’s Classroom”, I have to be open to my learning changing as well.

Some people will take this as I am saying that schools are not good enough. I take this notion of “Day 1” as always growing.  Remember, Jeff Bezos started Amazon out of his garage, by only selling books. They are continually evolving to become better, even piloting “brick and mortar” stores.  This also doesn’t mean we need to revamp what schools do every single day. Remember, Amazon still sells books, but much of the company looks different from its original inception.  We need to figure out when to go deep, when to iterate, invent, and/or reinvent.  Focusing on who we serve first and moving backwards from there will always help you to figure those things out.

Innovate or die.

This isn’t about “are we good enough?”; the focus is on continuously getting better and understanding who you serve, and what you do to serve them.  If you move backwards from there, you will always be at “Day 1”.

Categories: Planet

Motivating Special Needs Breakthroughs #mondaymotivation

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 17 April, 2017 - 20:51

A special needs conversation with Jennifer Cronk on episode 56 of the 10-Minute Teacher

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Empowering special needs students with technologies is one of the greatest ways to motivate and ignite their learning. Jennifer Cronk @jenniferacronk shares two tearful but joyful stories of people with special needs unleashed (including her own.) Let’s start this Monday motivation remembering the joyful opportunity we have to help every child with technology!

This episode, blog, and webinar are sponsored by Bloomz, my favorite tool for parent communication. They are sponsoring April’s free webinar, 5 Habits to Start Now to Thrive in the Fall. You don’t have to give up your summer to prepare. Learn what I do now to make the fall even more wonderful!

Register now for the free webinar

Listen Now

Listen on iTunes

Subscribe to the show by clicking your favorite podcast network


In today’s show, we’ll discuss:

  • How to empower special needs students to champion themselves
  • Examples of alternative assessment and contribution for those with special needs
  • How Jennifer motivates students and teachers to unleash learning
  • A breakthrough story of Jennifer’s own son who wanted to honor his teacher
  • The moving thing that happened last week to Jennifer with a special needs teacher

I hope you enjoy this episode with Jennifer!

Selected Links from this Episode

See the transcript

Full Bio Jennifer Cronk

Jennifer Cronk is an Assistant Manager of Emerging Technologies for the Southern Westchester BOCES in New York. She currently oversees and strategically plans the Google Apps transformations of several school districts in Westchester county. Jennifer began her career in 1996 as a computer teacher and passionately pursued the ed tech field for twenty years. Jennifer presents nationally at instructional technology conferences, and workshops on integrating Google Apps and other emerging technologies into learning. She is a Google Certified Innovator and Google Education Trainer. In addition, Jennifer is also certified: administrator, english teacher, elementary teacher and educational technology specialist. Jennifer also blogs about “digital parenting”, professional development and educational technology at www.transparentlyteaching.com and is a co-host of the blab.im show “Positively Special Ed”.


The post Motivating Special Needs Breakthroughs #mondaymotivation appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

5 Habits to Start Now to Help Your Classroom Thrive in the Fall

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 17 April, 2017 - 20:46

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Want to prepare to have an amazing fall now? Would you rather have a summer to just spend some time healing up and getting yourself back together? Here are some tips for what I am doing NOW to make sure fall is awesome (but summer is too!) Join the free webinarThursday, April 27 6 - […]

The post 5 Habits to Start Now to Help Your Classroom Thrive in the Fall appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

What could go right?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 15 April, 2017 - 23:19

I was blessed and honoured to be the keynote for #CUE17. It was one of the best experiences of my professional career.

Here is a short snippet from my talk, and one of my favourite stories to share:

My favourite part of sharing this story is that it was students who taught me the power of the positive because I gave them the power to do so.

One of my favourite quotes is from educator Shelley Wright:

“But kids often defy expectations if we give them the opportunity.”

Yet do our fears, and sometimes lack of knowledge, hold our students back from their aspirations?

How often do we shut things down based on “what could go wrong?” How often do we focus on what is possible and what could go right?

How often do we change our pathways because of negative people? I am not talking about those that are critical thinkers, but are simply critics.

I recently tweeted this:

Thinking critically and being critical are not always the same thing. It is necessary to challenge ideas, while honouring people.

— George Couros (@gcouros) April 9, 2017

We will need to challenge one another in education if we want to get better, but we also need to create a culture where we need to know we have each other’s backs. I appreciate that students taught me this lesson, and it is one that I remind myself of daily.

Categories: Planet

5 Things Every Digital Citizen Should Know #digcit

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 14 April, 2017 - 20:31

A conversation with Alice Chen on Episode 55 of the 10-Minute Teacher Show

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Today Alice Chen @wondertechedu teaches us about digital citizenship. She discusses five things every digital citizen should know. For each digital citizenship item, she gives classroom examples. Several important topics arise including how to talk to your students about their positive online presence and online professionalism.

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In today’s show, Alice and I talk about 5 things every digital citizen should know including:

  • Three basic internet safety issues
  • The need for students to have a positive online identity
  • Helping students interact online using the language of success – academic language. (Editor’s Note: In my opinion, the way Alice teaches IM speech versus academic speech is powerful.)
  • Authentic audience and blogging

I hope you enjoy this episode with Alice!

 Want to hear another episode about digital citizenship? Listen to 5 Ideas to Connect Your Classroom with TW Williamson who teaches in Taiwan.

Selected Links from this Episode

See the transcript of this episode with Alice Chen

Full Bio Alice Chen

Alice Chen is a teacher and technology coach in Southern California. In addition to these roles, she is a Google for Education Certified Innovator, 2014 Lead PBS Digital Innovator, and PBS SoCaL American Graduate Champion.

During the course of her career, she was a two-time recipient of the UCSD Outstanding High School Teacher award, a 2012 Microsoft Partners in Learning U.S. Finalist, and the 2012 Teacher of the Year at her school. She is also a consultant and presenter who regularly speaks at regional and national conferences.

The post 5 Things Every Digital Citizen Should Know #digcit appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

8 Tips for Better Classroom Procedures (in a STEAM Lab)

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 13 April, 2017 - 21:14

Episode 54 of the 10-Minute Teacher with Vicki Davis

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Today I  am sharing some of the classroom procedures that make my computer lab hum. I’ve got some wordless ways for knowing who needs help and  how I reboot my classroom as just a few tips. I hope these help some of you who may be struggling with flow. And guess when the best time to try new procedures is? RIGHT AFTER you have the standardized tests, for sure. At the bottom of this post, get my classroom management template pack by signing up for my newsletter.

Listen Now

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Subscribe to the show by clicking one of these buttons

In today’s show, we’ll discuss:

  • Simple wordless ways for knowing when students need help
  • Essentials for starting class effectively
  • How to reboot a classroom that isn’t following procedures
  • Some favorite books on classroom management
  • A simple tool to help reinforce procedures

I hope you enjoy this episode with me!!

Selected Links from this Episode

Click to see the transcript

Full Bio

You can see my full bio here.

You see so many pictures of me in professional attire, here’s an awesome fish I caught over spring break. I love getting outdoors on the water. Something about it rejuvenates my soul. So, this is me, Vicki Davis.

The post 8 Tips for Better Classroom Procedures (in a STEAM Lab) appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

New Systems, Old Thinking

The Principal of Change George Couros - 13 April, 2017 - 21:01

I often separate people that save their files into two categories; desktop people and super-sub folder people.

Desktop people save everything on their desktop.  They have a picture in the background, but no one has seen it this decade.

Super-sub folder people have what they believe the greatest system of folders in the world. They have a folder, within a folder, within a folder, within a folder. There is also another folder in there somewhere, buried deep, but it’s there.

Although I use both methods to some extent, I would no longer fit into either category exclusively (although I had a pretty awesome folder system back in my XP days).  Doing the majority of my work in the cloud and on google drive, I rarely save anything in a folder or desktop. Simply using a naming structure that involves hashtags, (ie. #blogposts, #innovatorsmindset #chapter1), I can find my documents much faster than I ever could through the folder system.

The reason I bring this up is that often with new systems, we often bring old thinking. Even with technologies relatively new such as Facebook and Twitter, people cringe at the notion of following people they don’t know on Twitter.  Their “Facebook mentality” is that they connect with only people they know, and they bring that over to Twitter. I separate the two platforms to help people see the value in both; Facebook is who I know, Twitter is who I want to learn from.  The relationships do not need to be reciprocated on Twitter in the way a Facebook friend request is a mutual agreement.

With the ideas that I have shared above, there are no absolutes or wrong ways to use them, but it is to point out that we often bring old ideas to new spaces. This is not exclusive to technology.

I have witnessed some of the most amazing new media centres; amazing technologies, flexible seating, spaces that look more like “Google” than they do the remnants of the traditional school libraries.  Yet, the “shushing” persists in many of these spaces, and the student working in isolation. Again, not all cases, but it is important to note that if the space changes, there are some amazing opportunities in front of us, but we still have to grab them and rethink what is possible.

Gary Stager states the importance of our thinking moving us forward:

When school leaders tell me, “Our school is building a $25 million Makerspace,” I am concerned that Makerspaces may exacerbate educational inequity. While there are expensive pieces of hardware that may need to be secured, I want the bulk of making to permeate every corner of a school building and every minute of the school day. Teachers whose Makerspace is in a few cardboard boxes are doing brilliant work. Making across the curriculum means students as novelists, mathematicians, historians, composers, artists, engineers— rather than being the recipient of instruction. We bring experience with us, but thinking differently moves us forward.

There are so many “new things” in education and our world, but if we bring along the same thinking, what will really change?

Categories: Planet

Code Slow Finish Fast

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 13 April, 2017 - 03:06

Looking through student code today brought this quote to mind.

“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain

Students are always in a hurry to write the code for programming projects. No matter how strongly I suggest they think about the problem and design their code most of them start coding right away. This often results is a lot of code where a small amount of code will work just as well if not better.

Often the techniques for less code require a bit more thought. Setting up a long set of if statements with a bunch of different variable names is tedious but doesn’t always require as much planning as setting up an array and loop solution does. Students are in a hurry so they take what they think are shortcuts.

Experience tells of course. My version of Whack A Mole (our current programming project) can be changed from 5 possible “moles” to 6 by changing one 5 to a 6. Some of my students would have to write, well let’s just say I don’t want to do the math.  We’ll go over the options during our next class. The theme will be to think more before starting to code though.

Categories: Planet
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