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Sit With Us App: How Kids are Fighting Bullying One Lunch Table at a Time

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 13 February, 2018 - 21:30

Natalie Hampton on episode 252 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Natalie Hampton, a senior in Los Angeles, was bullied and ate alone every day. After she transferred schools, she found teachers and other students who wanted to make sure no one ate alone. Her “Sit with Us” apps and clubs are sweeping the US and other countries as kids use social media to find other kids and stand against bullying.

Sponsor: The US Matific Games have warm-up week running from February 14-20. Then, the games run from February 21-28. Try Matific free and sign up to join their Math games. Now is the time.

Matific is a fantastic site full of math manipulatives and customized playlists of activities to help students at every level master math. This fun, gamified site is sponsoring Math games this February and students can compete to win prizes for themselves and your school. Set up is easy, send them their class rosters and they’ll have you set up in 24-hours. This is a great way to try out matific, help your kids boost their math skills and have fun. And it’s free!

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript Sit With Us App: How Kids are Fighting Bullying One Lunch Table at a Time

Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e252

Date: February 13, 2018

Vicki: Today we have with us Natalie Hampton @nobodyeatsalone , a 17-year-old who is changing the world. She’s not wasting those many days at the lunch table she’s been alone, but she’s using it to help others who are struggling.

She was recently named one of “25 Women Changing the World” by People Magazine and has won lots of other recognition with her “Sit With Us” app.

So, now, Natalie, what have you experienced that led to the creation of this app?

Natalie: Well, it wasn’t exactly one experience. It was kind of over the course of two years.

I was in a school community where I being really badly bullied, and I was physically attacked four separate times. I was verbally bullied, and on top of that I ate lunch alone every day. It was so embarrassing and isolating, that experience of sitting alone.

The experience of sitting alone was so embarrassing and isolating

So once I was able to transfer to a school in a much nicer community, that experience really stuck with me. I started inviting kids over to my table that I saw sitting alone, and they became my closest friends.

I realized how that small act of kindness did so much for both of us, and so that’s why I really wanted to do something about it.

Vicki: So what does your app do?

Natalie: It’s called Sit With Us and it’s a free lunch planning app. Basically, it helps kids find allies in their schools.

The Sit With Us app helps kids find allies in their schools

So you sign up, like any social media site. You create a profile page, add a list of interests and bio and add friends. From there, if you choose to be an ambassador — which means you want to add on the anti-bullying aspect — you sign a pledge saying that anyone who tries to join your table will be welcome.

From there, you plan lunches. So you say, “My name is (this). I’m sitting (here) at (this time), and then that’s viewable to anyone in your school.

So if you’re a kid who is bullied or lonely, you open the app, you sign up with your school, and you’re given a full list of all the tables where you could join and you would be welcomed.

Vicki: Wow! How many ambassadors do you have?

Natalie: Well, we have over 100,000 users, and we’re in eight different countries. We’re continuing to spread every day.

Over 100,000 users in eight different countries — and spreading!

Vicki: So have all of those kids signed up to be an ambassador? Or how many have said, “If you want to sit at my table, you are welcome”?

Natalie: We don’t have the exact numbers on ambassadors, but if you go through and look at the app, there is an overwhelming amount of ambassadors — which is not something I expected at all. I thought that this would just be a lunch planning app for kids, but there are so many out there who really want to make a change and want to help stop bullying.

Vicki: So think about the stories and the emails that you are getting from people. What’s one that really touches you? (And of course, you don’t have to say their name.) But is there one that stands out that really reminds you of, “This is why I’m doing this.”

Natalie: Yeah. So I’m a high school senior. Classes are crazy, and there are college applications and everything, on top of having a full-time job and traveling can be really tough.

But whenever we get messages through our social media channels, it really reminds me that what I’m doing is really rewarding. It makes it all worth it.

Personal feedback from a user of the app

One of those that I got is from a girl who lives in Texas. She was just starting at a new gigantic public school.

Her mom saw an article for, “Sit With Us,” and printed it out and handed it to her. She was really confused because she thought she was the new girl. Why would she be the one being the ambassador?

But she decided to try it anyway, brought it to her school, and within the first week she had a huge group of friends that she met through the app.

She has gone on to create a Sit With Us Club. So now she’s a club leader, and she has a leadership position at her new school.

She’s loving her classes, and she has a whole friend group that she met through it as well. So I think that’s really what we were going for, is to help kids find allies in their school.

Vicki: Oh, I love that!

Is that just… Think about it…

Natalie, instead of just taking that experience you had, internalizing it, and getting bitter — you’re actually helping kids who have the same problem — around the world!

How does that feel?

Natalie: Well, I felt like if I didn’t do anything to speak out against bullying, I was just as bad as all the people who saw me being attacked and said nothing.

If I hadn’t done anything to speak out against bullying, I was just as bad as all the people who saw me being attacked and said nothing

It was something that was so important to me and affected me so greatly that I couldn’t just sit there and not do anything.

It was really something that I felt that I had to do. And I thought, with all this work, even if I only help one person, then it will have been worth it.

Vicki: So, Natalie, I’m a teacher, and you’re talking to teachers.

What can teachers do to help?

I know, you know, sometimes in bullying, teachers can make things worse. But that’s still no excuse.

You know, if I see it, I’m going to deal with it. I’m going to address it and talk to the kid who’s sitting alone and see what I can do to address it.

But what’s your word to teachers like me?

Natalie: At my old school, pretty much my only ally and friend was my visual art teacher.

We all had to sit in one cohesive area, and so when you’re sitting alone, it was incredibly embarrassing because you were kind of labeled as the outcast.

The only person I had to talk to was my art teacher. And she would leave her classroom unlocked for me during the day so that I could go in there and sit by myself. I didn’t have to see everyone else.

And while that’s not a solution, she was the only one who really saw me sitting alone and would reach out and talk to me.

What can teachers do to help?

So being aware is the first step in anything.

She really saved me from so much suffering just by reaching out in the littlest way that she could.

And then, on top of that, I think what’s really important is to inspire the students. I thought that what I’m doing now would be completely impossible. But with the guidance of my teachers, and them believing in me, it’s really helped me go far.

I really think that students have so much power that they just need the adults around them to tell them that.

So as a teacher, if you can be supportive and help them reach their dreams that they want to do — whatever project they may be thinking of — it’s going to be incredible.

Vicki: So Natalie, do you have any teachers that are working with you now that you want to give a shout-out to or thank?

Natalie: YES! Of course, my history teacher, who is my absolute favorite teacher is our club sponsor, and he’s helping us run the club at my school. We really couldn’t do without him. So shout out to “Teddy.” (laughs) He’s my favorite teachers, and I’m in his government class right now, and so there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Vicki: So how has he helped you in inspiring you to pursue this?

Natalie: Well, when I came up with the idea, I was 15 and had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to code and somehow wanted to create a global app.

At first, it was really my parents that helped me run with it.

Then on top of that, it was my teachers. I talked to them and said, “Would you be interested in helping me do this?”

So we started our first club at my own school, and once it grew big enough there, we spread to other schools. It really started with that foundation at my school that helped me bring it to other schools.

Vicki: Wow, so we have learned so much about the Sit With US app.

So it’s an app. It’s also a club. It’s also a movement.

The Sit With US app: An app. A club. A movement.

I love this idea — when you’re new at a school, to think — it’s about helping others.

Because you know, you may go to that school and there may be a lot of people who are alone, and who want to sit with others.

I think this is a great app to talk about with our students, and also to share.

But also know, teachers, there are times when I have students that I work with, and they’re sitting by themselves. I do make my room an open and safe place that they can come to any time of day that they want to.

And of course, if you’ve been listening to this show for a while, you know that I had four years of my life when I was that kid who was alone. I was that kid who was picked last. I was that kid who was worthless, and that nobody would ever love.

If it hadn’t been for my parents, and eventually some teachers when I got older who really helped me see my worth as well as my own Christian faith… And that, I mean how can you overcome that?

There are so many gifted and amazing children who experience this. And one is too many.

So… take a look at the Sit With Us app. Share it with your kids, and let’s continue the fight against bullying.

Contact us about the show: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Bio as submitted

Seventeen-year-old Natalie Hampton is a Los Angeles high school senior, anti-bullying activist, app developer, and the CEO of a non-profit called Sit With Us, Inc. Natalie was severely bullied in middle school and was forced to eat lunch alone nearly every day. After she switched schools and quickly fell in with a great friend group, she would invite anyone who was eating alone to join her lunch table. Those people became not only her friends, but friends with everyone in the group, and were invited to social gatherings. She saw that one simple act of kindness made a big difference in their lives. This inspired her to create the Sit With Us mobile app, which serves as a free lunch planning tool for middle and high school kids so that no one has to eat lunch alone. Kids can use the app’s features to coordinate lunches with their friends. They can also volunteer to be Sit With Us Ambassadors for their schools and post open lunch events on campus so that anyone looking for a table to join can find one. The app has been featured by Apple under “New Apps We Love” in the App Store, has been downloaded by 100,000+ people in eight countries worldwide, has won numerous awards, and has garnered the attention and acclaim of international media and press. Natalie recently was named 1 of 25 Women Changing the World by People Magazine. This past summer, she won the Outstanding Youth Delegate Award from the United Nations Youth Assembly and was given the privilege to speak from the podium in the Great Assembly Hall about the importance of a peaceful and inclusive society. She has also been an invited keynote speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, TEDxTeen London, and many conferences, including “Girls Can Do” (Washington D.C.), Renaissance Weekend (Charleston), and Say NO Bullying (Los Angeles). Recognizing the effectiveness of her solution, six prominent anti-bullying organizations are partnering with Natalie, including Born This Way Foundation, PACER, and Champions Against Bullying, and her non-profit has received grants from corporations such as Disney, Samsung, and the Learning Channel.

In addition to her work with Sit With Us, Natalie volunteers extensively for her community. She is a senior counselor for United in Harmony, a non-profit organization that runs a sleep away camp for underprivileged and homeless kids, and she also tutors underprivileged kids at the Otis Booth campus of Children’s Institute Inc.

Blog: http://www.sitwithus.io

Twitter: @nobodyeatsalone

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Sit With Us App: How Kids are Fighting Bullying One Lunch Table at a Time appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

When Going the Second Mile Becomes Second Nature

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 13 February, 2018 - 13:51

Day 37 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Do you know where you’re aiming? What does excellence look like? You can’t be complacent and strive for excellence. Excellence requires effort.

“If you don’t aim for anything, you’ll hit it every time,” Zig Ziglar

Tonight at the supper table, we had a family conversation about how we can tell people are really aiming for what they say they want to do. Every basketball, football, softball, baseball, and every other team I know talks about wanting “region” and “state.”

But so few hit the mark. Why?

I’ve known quite a few state winning teams in my time as a teacher. I’ve learn to spot them in the off season. When I see students at the school working out with each other and on their own when they don’t have to — that is when I can tell. They are aiming.

You’re aiming for excellence when going the second mile becomes second nature.

Post Mortem or Final Answer?

Kip was discussing a football team he played on once that never won region or state. After practice, the kids who made mistakes were punished with extra work and had to do a “post mortem.” But not everyone. Just the misfits and those who messed up. Most of the players were tired and went to the locker room. Everyone really needed those extra runs.

This is quite a contrast to what my son’s former NFL football player, Danny Copeland, has taught my son to do — the Final Answer. The Final Answer is an exercise that Danny did himself in preparation for pushing ahead during exhaustion. When the workout is done and they’re exhausted, the Final Answer is an exercize where they push and drag a heavy concrete block up a hill. The goal is to do it four or five times when done with the workout. It teaches you to push hard when you’re tired. It is not an exercise any of them look forward to doing but it is something they’re thankful for when in an exhausting point in the game.

The people who prepare with a “Final Answer” are those who are aiming for excellence in the sport.

The “Final Answer” exercize makes the second mile second nature.  It is your answer to the question everyone is asked at some point in their life,

“Are you going to reach the goal you’re aiming for by pushing through exhaustion?”

We All Have a Final Answer

Excellence is difficult. It is hard. Some people will call you a zealot. Others will say it is too much. But we all have a final answer we give when we’re tired but the bulls eye is within arrow-shot.

If you don’t aim for anything, you’ll hit it every time. And if you are aiming for something important to you, sometimes you have to let the arrow fly when you’re spent and have nothing left to give. You’ll need steady hands and a mind prepared to act and aim when everyone else gives up.

Great achievements rarely happen after you’re well rested and relaxed.

They often happen in the midst of exhaustion and exertion and they don’t happen unless you aim for them.

Where are you aiming?

Do you prepare a final answer?

Is going the second mile second nature?

This post is day 37 of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post When Going the Second Mile Becomes Second Nature appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Teaching Diversity in Computing

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 13 February, 2018 - 06:17

One of the important topics in computing these days is diversity. Why? Well there are things like concern about equal opportunity. (Why Can’t Silicon Valley Solve Its Diversity Problem?) and that is part of it. It’s often hard to make people understand why that lack of diversity is a problem. People are only starting to understand how bias creeps into software. It creeps in because we all have biases – some more subtle than others. And that influences how we write software.

Here are a couple of issues that have come up based on race for example.

It should be obvious that something like facial recognition should be tested with a wide variety of people with different faces and skin tones. Right? Well apparently it is not so obvious.

Some early color computer monitors used a mix of red and blue colored letters. This is actually a problem because there are a surprising number of people with red/blue color blindness. No one on the design team had the problem of course so it slipped by until the product was released.

There is a story, I haven’t been able to verify it but it is a good example, that early models of the Apple Newton had a very good handwriting reader. Well until they handed it to a left handed person and it could not read their handwriting.

I’ve been talking about testing and debugging with my students lately. It seems like a logical place to talk about algorithmic bias and the need for testing with a diverse population. We talk about how different viewpoints also contribute to more and different ways of looking at problems.

I feel like this is an important topic to cover. Having a more diverse population in computing is clearly an issue of fairness and that is enough of a reason to promote it. But I don’t think it hurts to point out that diversity also results in better software which benefits all of us. If we don’t explain this and teach it than I don’t think all of our students will understand this on their own. Some will of course but it is too important a topic to leave to chance.

BTW there is a regular Twitter chat on ethics and computing using the #EthicalCS hashtag. Highly recommended.

For more on the topic of bias in algorithms you  may want to visit the Algorithmic Justice League.

Categories: Planet

Beat Boredom: Engaging Tired-Out Teenagers in Critical Thinking

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 12 February, 2018 - 21:30

Martha Rush on episode 251 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Students can seem tired and bored, but we can engage them in learning. Martha Rush has ideas and inspiration to help us reach our students this week! Martha is the author of Beat Boredom: Engaging Tuned-Out Teenagers.

Sponsor: The US Matific Games have warm-up week running from February 14-20. Then, the games run from February 21-28. Try Matific free and sign up to join their Math games. Now is the time.

Matific is a fantastic site full of math manipulatives and customized playlists of activities to help students at every level master math. This fun, gamified site is sponsoring Math games this February and students can compete to win prizes for themselves and your school. Set up is easy, send them their class rosters and they’ll have you set up in 24-hours. This is a great way to try out matific, help your kids boost their math skills and have fun. And it’s free!

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript Beat Boredom: Engaging Tired-Out Teenagers in Critical Thinking

Link to show:www.coolcatteacher.com/e251

Date: February 12, 2018

Vicki: Happy Motivational Monday! Today we’re talking to Martha Rush @MarthaSRush, author of Beat Boredom: Engaging Tuned-Out Teenagers.

Now Martha, lots of us are heading to school today. We do have teenagers. They either act bored, or they really are bored.

How do we start motivating ourselves to reach them, because sometimes it feels like we’re just singing and dancing in front of their classroom, and they’re like asleep and drooling on the desk?

Where do we start?

Martha: (laughs) I like that description. I definitely sympathize with that.

Part of the reason I’m so interested in the subject is because I was one of those kids, and I had a really hard time staying awake in school.

When I became a teacher, and I saw kids — you know, essentially drooling on the desk — I took that as feedback, like, “Whoa. I’ve got to figure out something that I can do.”

I’ve come to realize that the opposite of bored isn’t entertained, or doing singing and dancing, but just trying to engage them.

The opposite of bored isn’t entertained

Giving kids, for example, a chance to talk about an issue rather than listen to me. Or telling them a story that really taps into their emotions and gets them excited about learning rather than just giving them bullet points on a PowerPoint slide.

Vicki: So Martha, tell me about a time when you kind of felt like your students were a little bored. We won’t admit that…

Martha: (laughs)

Vicki: (laughs).. We’ve all been a little boring sometimes, but maybe they were a little bored, and you turned it around, and you really got them engaged and excited.

Martha: One example of that — and this doesn’t seem like a topic that would be boring — but when I used to teach a class called Civil Liberties, I would talk about the issue of whether people have the right to end their own life, the right to die issue.

I would bring it up, and the kids would just look at me because it wasn’t something they’d thought of. They’d kind of stare at me, and I would try to engage them and ask some questions. They didn’t really want to share their opinions

One way that I was able to overcome that with that particular lesson was that I came up with four really small case studies about four actual people. I gave the kids a few minutes to read the case studies and think about, “What would you do in each case if it was you? What would you do in each case if this was your family member?”

Come up with real-world examples

I just had them ponder that, take a few notes on it, and then when I started asking questions, oh my gosh, they were all over it. They all wanted to talk about it because they were emotionally hooked and they had a chance to test out their own opinions on something new.

Vicki: Real world does make such a difference because kids are always asking, “How does this apply to my life?” Aren’t they?

Martha: Absolutely. With that lesson, so many kids would come in after school because they wanted to keep talking about it. “Well, now I’m thinking about this, and what if this happened to me, and how would my parents deal with it?”

One of the cases involved and 18-year-old who’d had an accident and who was quadriplegic. The kids just couldn’t stop thinking about this…

Vicki: Hmmmm.

Martha: … and how it would affect them with their families.

Vicki: OK, Marta. Let’s play the flip side of this. If you wanted to tell us teachers as many ways as possible to bore kids in 30 seconds…

Martha: (laughs)

Vicki: (laughs) … Give us as many ways as you can.

Foolproof ways to bore students — or ways to fail at engaging them

Martha: Oh, what a great question!

  • Well, make sure you speak in a monotone.
  • Don’t emote.
  • Sit behind your desk while you’re talking in a monotone.
  • Cram as many words as you can on PowerPoint slides.
  • Tell students they have to copy this down and don’t tell them why.
  • Don’t give them any context or explanation.
  • If they ask, just tell them, “It’s important. I said so.”

Vicki: (laughs) Ohhh… and we could go on, couldn’t we?

Martha: (laughs) Yes, unfortunately.

Vicki: OK. So that’s what we’re NOT going to do. (I hope nobody came in and just started listening at that point.) That’s what we’re NOT going to do.

You’ve already talked about using real-world examples.

Do you think that teachers might be little boring because THEY’RE bored?

Martha: Yes. I definitely think that’s the case.

What do you do with a subject that you as a teacher find to be boring?

I know for some subject, a teacher might ask me, “Well, how can I make this interesting?”

There are some that would stump me because they’re not necessarily my subject, and I would say, “We need to find you a master teacher who’s really passionate about this subject, to help you overcome that.”

I talk about in the book, my worst class in high school as a student was Physics. I was so bored in Physics class, and I never understood how it could be interesting. I didn’t understand how it was relevant.

I’ve sat in a couple of physics classes with master teachers, and WOW. Completely different story. They can actually make me excited.

So, yeah, I think it can be. Sometimes we’re assigned to teach something we’re not passionate about. Then we need to get help from somebody who is passionate about it.

Vicki: Yeah. So watch videos, or find a TED Talk. I have two rules.

Number one, I’m not going to walk into my classroom unless I can honestly say I love every single student. And there have been a few times when I’ve had to struggle because kids know. And I’ve had to adjust my own attitude.

And the other one is, I’m not going to teach anything unless I can find an angle where I can get excited because it’s contagious! Isn’t it?

Martha: Absolutely, and I get excited about economics. And I’ll tell you, that’s not a subject everyone gets excited about.

Vicki: (laughs) No it’s not! (laughs) That was MY drool-on-the-desk subject!

Martha: (laughs) Yeah, I have to get really excited about it, and it comes out.

Kids will say to me, “This class is so much more interesting than I thought it would be!”

And it’s because I love it.

Vicki: So what does a teacher do if they really hate the topic they have to teach?

What do you do with a topic that you despise?

Martha: That’s such a big challenge. Like I said, seek out a master teacher who can show you the ins and outs. I do a lot of work with Econ teachers, and I hope that I can show them, “Look, this is really cool. You can make this really fun.”

And you really have to pump yourself up, in a way, and say, “I’m going to find a way.”

For me, the hardest subject I think I ever taught was just U.S. Government. I would read that textbook at night, and it put me to sleep. I had to rethink, “How am I going to make this compelling for my students?”

Vicki: OK, so let’s say a teacher is excited about a subject, but they know, “It’s Monday. I’m heading to school, and I don’t think what I did last week worked.”

Where do we start?

What do you do when something you tried didn’t work?

Martha: Gosh, doesn’t that happen so many times?

Vicki: Yep. (laughs)

Martha: I used to walk in like after that hour you think, “Ohhh, I don’t know if that really worked.”

I think we have to spend that reflective time really backing up and thinking, “What was I trying? What way might I get students better engaged?”

Two things I would say… One is you’ve got to just try your best every day. You can’t be too hard on yourself. And the other one is to realize that it can take a couple of years to refine a class.

So I know I didn’t answer, “What am I going to do that day?”

I think the thing is, sometimes you even just want to say to the kids, “I need to teach you this, and I feel like you’re not really interested in it. What are some things about this that you would find interesting?”

Or, “Would it help you if we did it this way?”

I think sometimes, especially with older students, really kind of breaking down that wall and saying, “I’m going to have an honest conversation with you, kids. I need you to learn this. I’m struggling to find a way to make it compelling to you. What things have we done that you did find compelling, and how can we (apply) that?”

Vicki: Or “What’s the most interesting thing in this chapter?”

You’ve already said one big one, which is make it real world. Find examples. Take a look at things.

But you know, you can always make a game.

I have a costume box…

Martha: (laughs)

Vicki: If I’m really falling on my face, I’ll do a bellringer, where they have to act something out.

I guess after we’ve been teaching a while, we might have some Go To things, huh Martha?

Teacher tricks and tips are accumulated over time

Martha: Absolutely. Yeah.

And you find out which questions work and which questions don’t work, right? I mean that’s one of the things that I learned over the years of trying to run a discussion based on a class. Some questions you ask and no one will answer. So you have to figure out, “What’s a better way to ask it?”

Or maybe what you do is out three questions on the board and say, “Write down your answers to this and think about it.” Then you give them five minutes, and you come back at it with a slightly different question. And now they’ve all had time to think about it, so they’re more comfortable.

Vicki: OK. Martha, as we finish up, give us a 30-second pep talk about how to beat boredom in our classroom.

How to beat boredom

Martha: I believe that the first step toward beating boredom is realizing that it’s important that boredom is an actual barrier to learning. It’s not just an excuse, and it’s not a rite of passage for high school kids.

I think once we’re committed to beating it, then we’re going to start thinking about, “What are those strategies? Can I incorporate simulations? Can I involve my students in discussions? Should I give them real world problems to solve? Can I give them tasks that are going to be really meaningful — like getting involved in a political issue, going to a protest, writing a letter?”

I think getting yourself pumped up about figuring out ways you can engage students and make what you’re doing really meaningful and relevant — I think that’s where you start.

Vicki: Teachers, I want to leave you with this. I was listening to a John Maxwell video the other day, and he said something interesting. He said, “Experience isn’t a teacher. Reflective experience is.”

Some people just have twenty years in a job, and they have one year of true reflective experience where they learned. We don’t want to be that.

As Martha has talked about, we want to reflect on how we’re doing.

When something’s not reaching a class, we want to figure out, “What are their interests? How can I get excited? What are they excited about? What can we do?” because we do want to have an excited, engaged classroom.

And remember, I love the point Martha made earlier. We don’t have to be entertaining to be engaging. I think that’s an important difference there, so get out there and reach those kids and get them engaged!

Contact us about the show: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Bio as submitted

Martha is a nationally recognized high school economics and social studies teacher and active teaching advocate. She is the author of Beat Boredom: Engaging Tuned-Out Teenagers, (Stenhouse, 2018). She is also Founder and CEO of NeverBore, an education consulting and content company that provides teachers and school systems with research-based curriculum and workshops that make teaching more engaging and interactive.

With 20+ years of teaching experience, Martha has deep expertise in creating classroom environments that facilitate critical thinking skills as well as deep understanding of core concepts. Having led multiple student teams to championships and finalist positions at various Economics, Personal Finance and Entrepreneurship competitions, Martha is an authority in methods that actualize the potential in students to achieve and reach beyond average.

She is the current Education Committee Chair within the Minnesota Council for Economic Education, and she holds a Masters in Education Entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania School of Education, a Masters in History from the University of Minnesota, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan.


Blog: www.MarthaRush.org

Twitter: @MarthaSRush

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Beat Boredom: Engaging Tired-Out Teenagers in Critical Thinking appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Moving From “Stealing” to “Remixing” With Credit

The Principal of Change George Couros - 12 February, 2018 - 00:26

Eileen Lennon recently shared this image with me (and the world) on the “8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset” from my book:

This visual is incredible, and I appreciate Eileen taking and building on my work.

Here are the apparent benefits to Eileen:

  1. She has created something of value that others can use.
  2. She has dug deeper into her learning by building on the work of someone else.
  3. She has created something that will help her build a more extensive network.

Here are the obvious benefits to me:

  1. Eileen has promoted my work and brought more attention to it.
  2. She has created something visual that may have brought a different audience into what I have shared through a visual.
  3. I get to dig deeper into my work by going through the reader’s interpretation of what I am saying.

Through the opportunity to remix, both the originator of the content and the “remixer” benefit.

So why I am bringing this up?

Because in education, we talk about “stealing” each other’s ideas. I despise this, and it sets a bad precedent for our students.  We should use terms like “remixing”, “altering” or “build on” (all with references) but never “stealing.”  Personally, I get frustrated when I see an idea that I have worked on just taken and used by others without reference. I have had school leaders take my blogs, and post them on staff pages as their own.  It is frustrating and can feel entirely defeating.

I wrote this post, “4 Reasons Why Referencing Others Is a Good Thing,” and gave some suggestions on why you should ALWAYS reference to the work of others:

  1. It shows that you are well read.
  2. It raises up the profession as a whole.  
  3. Great leaders give credit. 
  4. It is an honor to be referenced by someone else. Pay it forward.

I do my best to be thoughtful of my work, and if I have a great quote in my head, I Google it before I put it out there.  It is hard to come up with an original idea, but it is important we do our best to give credit.  I always tell people that do presentations that it is always better to over-reference than under-reference. 

Simply stated, stealing might benefit one party, while hurting another.  Building on the work of others with proper referencing creates a win-win opportunity.  As a profession, let’s get rid of the idea of “stealing” the work of others, even if made in jest. We are all better when we lift up the work of others, instead of claiming someone else’s ideas as our own.

Categories: Planet

A culture of innovation requires trust and resilience — The Learner's Way

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 11 February, 2018 - 19:04


  • Two quotes by Albert Einstein point to the importance of creating a culture within our schools (and organisations) that encourages experimentation, innovation, tinkering and indeed failure. If we are serious about embracing change, exploring new approaches, maximising the possibilities of new technologies, applying lessons from new research and truly seek to prepare our students for a new work order, we must become organisations that encourage learning from failure - Nigel Coutts

Tags: culture, innovation, resilience, Education, teaching, learning

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

The Epic Ebook Guide

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 10 February, 2018 - 18:35


Tags: books, eBooks, guides, reading, resources

by: Paul Beaufait

Categories: International News

Empty Chairs Matter

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 10 February, 2018 - 05:38

Day 35 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Every day I go around the classroom and greet every child by name, and I inquire about the empty chairs. If a child is out, I want all of the other kids to know that child is important to me. Sometimes I’ll send an email, or I might need to ask the front office where they are. But always know, and I always inquire.

Because how I treat the empty chairs is how the rest of these kids know I feel about them when they’re gone too. They are important and empty chairs matter.

How do you treat empty chair?

The same thing happens at family Thanksgiving lunch. There are empty chairs there. Grandmother Martin, Granny Adams, Granddaddy Adams, and Uncle Caroll. They emptied their chair and Thanksgiving will never be the same again. The empty chairs matter. When we pray, we thank God for those people who sat in the empty chairs and send a message to our kids that we do not forget those who mean something to us.

Essentially, the way we deal with the empty chairs is a signal to this current generation of how they’ll deal with our empty chair one day. Life matters. And every single person matters.

Additionally, when someone leaves your business or office, how you treat the empty chair matters. It shows if you’re building a legacy or if every single person is forgettable and unimportant. Do you trash everyone who leaves? Or do you work hard to celebrate the wins and wish them well?

How you treat the empty chair matters.

There’s a haunting scene in Les Miserables where the young hero, Marius, sings the song  Empty Chairs and Empty Tables. He knows his life will never be the same because those chairs are empty where they used to laugh and converse and talk.

Life can change in an instant.

Tell People You Appreciate Them While Their Ears Can Hear It

So I’m going to ask you something today. Don’t be like the kid after the person dies who suddenly comes out in tears and claims they are best friends.

Appreciate the empty chair while the warm body is still sitting in it.  Tell people you appreciate what they mean to you now. It may be awkward but why not? When tragedy happens or when they leave, you told them now.

If there’s any great tragedy is this —that people are dying and they don’t know what they mean to us.

We will all leave an empty chair one day. What we leave behind are the memories of the mind. One of us might be the last voice singing empty chairs and empty tables. But even when chairs are empty we still have hope because we still have life!

Some cultures deal with death better than others. How we mourn empty chairs sets a precedent for how our empty chair will be grieved.

Remember the Empty Chair

When my friends sing no more, I will make new friends. But the old friends always have a place in my heart. Their chair will always be empty at the table. I can replace my couch when it gets old, but not these people. Each of them was unique. No one can fill their place.

Family. Friends. Colleagues. Students.

Irreplaceable. We just learn to live with a new normal. When people are gone, we have to move on, yet we can celebrate and remember.

How will you handle the empty chair?

There would be the biggest tragedy of all. That is if the person who sat in the chair meant something to you, and for you to completely go on as if nothing happened. Don’t stuff it in. Mourn and mourn well. For how we deal with death or loss is often how we deal with life.

How we respect the empty chair matters.

There are empty chairs and empty tables. What song will you sing in tribute? How will you live life differently?

How do you treat the empty chair?

The answer may say more about how you feel about life and people than anything else you do.

As when my Grandmother Martin died, I will not stop living, but I will start living better. For when my day comes to leave my chair and travel from reality to glorious eternity, I hope I leave behind people I touched and encouraged in the short puff-of-smoke life I lived here.

Got an empty chair? Treat it well.

Know someone that when their chair is empty, you’ll feel the pain? Tell them now.

Feel time passing? Live your life as a legacy of a life well lived. Write the story only you can write.

Empty chairs matter. So do full ones. Every single human being is a precious gift to be treasured and loved. May we live out that legacy.

The post Empty Chairs Matter appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Priming the Computing Teacher Pump

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 10 February, 2018 - 04:52

Where are computer science teachers going to come from? That’s the big question. OK it is one of the big questions about Computer Science for All. Increasingly CS is moving to younger and younger grades and a lot of people are asking where those teachers will come from. Many teachers who teach computer science now don’t think of themselves as computer science teachers by the way. In elementary schools most teachers appear to think of themselves as grade level teachers. The generally teach most everything.

I believe we want computer science integrated in the elementary school curriculum and not just a subject taught by specialists. I was a computer specialist in a couple of elementary schools many years ago and while it was fun I think it would have been a lot more effective as a more integrated subject.

But anyway, back to the question, how and where and when are these teachers going to learn to teach computer science? There has long been some discussion about getting schools of education involved. Not much progress and most of the talk seems to have been among computer science education people.

Earlier I saw this post on Mark Guzdial’s blog - Finding a home for computing education in US Schools of Education: Priming the Computing Teacher Pump

So of course I visited the related website  - http://www.computingteacher.org/ – to learn more. Some of the most amazing people in CS education are involved. I hope a lot of schools of education take notice and get involved. We need teachers prepared to prepare all students.

Priming the Computing Teacher Pump: Integrating Computing Education into Schools of Education

This report focuses on Schools of Education rather than Departments or Colleges of Computer Science/Computing for setting up CS teacher education.

We challenge US teacher education programs to innovate and integrate a new discipline into their programs. What we propose is nothing less than a change to the American Education canon. Such enormous change will require innovating in different ways, using different models and strategies, before we find models that work. The report, Priming the Pump, will highlight examples of integration from across the United States, and provide concrete recommendations for discussion.

With the expansion of computing education in mainstream K-12 schools, the current training mechanisms for teachers quickly will fall short of supporting a sustainable pipeline of teachers for the scale many cities and states have committed to.

Categories: Planet

The Struggle To Keep Programs Simple

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 10 February, 2018 - 02:34

Debugging code is hard. Really hard. The more complicated the code the harder it is to debug. Brian Kernighan said it well.

But oh do my students write clever code. Well, they think it is clever code. If nothing else it is complicated. It’s not really their fault though. Not completely.

Looking at student code the other day I realized that their tool set is limited. They don’t always have the tools to write code simply. I’ve blogged about this a bit before (The Complex Question of Complexity in Programming ) but it is something I keep struggling with. Many problems, like the Lights Out project in that referenced blog post, can be written in far fewer lines of code if you know about arrays. Without arrays it takes many lines of code and there are many places things go wrong. On the other hand the many lines are simple lines while the array version is more complex and has to be thought about a lot more.

Which way is better? Well that is open to debate. Plus it depends on the experience of the programmer.

It’s more than tools though. My students have been writing a project that involves a lot of if statements. They are doing the Ski Lift Ticket Project that I have blogged about before. There  are a lot of ways of constructing this solution. Some are more complicated than others. It always seems like some students want to make it very complicated. Why? I’m trying to figure that out but my working theory is planning. That and working in stages.

Some students try to handle both the age range and the resort status at the same time. For an experienced programmer this is not a big deal. For a raw beginner this can be a bridge too far. Students who first think about the age ranges and test that and then look at the resort status tend to do better. Better as in finish first and have less complicated solutions.

Too often beginners just start writing code without planning. Rather than being that fast way this is the long way. It also tends to result in more complicated code as line after line is added to handle situations that were not thought of in advance. Obviously I talk about planning all the time. And I try to model it when we work though exercises as a class. But well, kids in high school, know better. Just ask them – they’ll tell you.

I keep trying though. I also try to show them code and point out the design steps and the simplicity that makes it easier to follow. And I give them more tools as well. A lot of times a light goes off and a student says “I could have done this other thing a lot easier if I had known about that.” Yep, so keep learning new tools!

Categories: Planet

5 Formative Assessment Strategies to Help with Classroom Management

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 9 February, 2018 - 21:30

Mike Roberts on episode 250 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

We need more strategies than fist to five or thumbs up thumbs down. Teacher Mike Roberts give five strategies that can help us with formative assessment AND classroom management.

Sponsor: The US Matific Games are coming this February. Try Matific free now and sign up to join their Math games.

Matific is a fantastic site full of math manipulatives and customized playlists of activities to help students at every level master math. This fun, gamified site is sponsoring Math games this February and students can compete to win prizes for themselves and your school. Set up is easy, send them their class rosters and they’ll have you set up in 24-hours. This is a great way to try out matific, help your kids boost their math skills and have fun. And its free!

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript 5 Formative Assessment Strategies to Help with Classroom Management

Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e250
Date: Friday, February 16, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Mike Roberts @BaldRoberts, eighth grade English teacher in Salt Lake City, Utah, and author of Hacking Classroom Management: 10 Ideas to Help You Become the Type of Teacher They Make Movies About.

Now, Mike, you have five ideas for us today, to do formative assessments. But these are also strategies that help with classroom management.

So give us the first one and help us understand how great formative assessment can help us better manage our classroom.

Mike: Yeah, like anything else in our classroom, I think we have to take a variety of approaches in how we do our formative assessments.

I think a lot of us fall back on the “thumbs up, thumbs down” or the “fist to five” concept, which — you know — I think is good.

But I think the more engaged you can get your students in that process — and really get them to think about the learning rather than just respond to it — I think that helps keep classroom management a lot more interactive for the student and a lot more engaging for them throughout the class.

Vicki: Yeah. What’s the first example?

Mike: First example. Real easy one. I call them High-Five Hands.

Formative Assessment Idea #1: High-Five Hands

On their way out the door, I just have some hands up on my door. And this is a good one for self-assessment. I think a lot of times, teachers don’t think self-assessment can play a role in formative assessment.

I will sometimes ask students to critique themselves with their effort today. Or we’ll have a learning target for the day, and I’ll say, “OK. Assess how you did on that learning target today.”

There’s a green hand, a yellow hand, and a red hand. They’ll just real informally as they walk out, just high-five that on the way out.

You could also use emojis if you want to. Put some big old emoji faces up there.

And I also sometimes use this as a prior knowledge assessment as they’re walking out. If we’re going to be talking about irony the next day in my class, I’ll say, “OK. Tomorrow, we’re going to be talking about irony. Slap your hand up there, and let me know what your thoughts are on how you feel about irony.”

That way, when they come into class the next day, I have an idea of where the conversation should be going, if I’ve seen a lot of kids slap the red hand, I know, “Ok, I’ve got to start this ‘down low’.” If a lot of kids have already slapped the green hand, though, I know that they may have some background on it.

Vicki: Oh, fantastic. Love it!

OK, what’s your second?

Mike: That first one was what I call a One Minute Assessment. And now I’m going to go into a couple of Five Minute Assessments. These are assessments that you can do either as an exit ticket, an entry ticket, or sometimes just in the middle of class.

I’m a big fan of summarizing and using literacy in the classroom.

So two of my favorites are Twitter Summary, where students have to summarize what they’ve learned in — usually 140 — but now it’s 280 characters.

Formative Assessment Idea #2: Twitter Summary

And I require them to include a hashtag or two in there. This is where you really find out which kids get it, and which kids don’t. Those kids who are nailing their hashtags? It is unbelievable how cool it is when you see that kid really think through what they’ve learned and come up with this hashtag that just hits it right on the nail.

Vicki: Can you give me an example of what that would say with a hashtag, and how you would know?

Mike: Yeah! So we did one on Lord of the Flies a couple years ago. This kid was really going through. I had them summarize, I think it was Chapter 11. It’s a chapter where a big rock falls on a kid. And their hashtag was #watchforfallingrocks.

Vicki: Ohhhh. Cool!

Mike: Yeah, so it was really cool to see them think through it. They didn’t just go through it, they tied something from their life into the reading. It was really cool to see something like that play out.

Formative Assessment Idea #3: Haiku Review

The other one I really like for the Five Minute Assessments is called a Haiku Review, where students summarize or review the learning target for the day in a Haiku format — so 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.

And a lot of you are like, “I know. My students would not do that.”

Vicki: (laughs)

Mike: They will, I promise.

Vicki: (laughs)

Mike: And it’s really fun to see them counting out syllables. You see them patting their hand or tapping their jaw. And again, you get these kids who might be quiet or might not be that engaged. Here’s your chance to kind of share some of that creativity.

In both of these Five Minute Assessments, I like to always have them present it as well, so you might want to add a little five-minutes extra onto the back end of both of those.

Vicki: Awesome! OK, what’s our fourth?

Mike: Then we go into what I call Fifteen Minute Assessments.

A big part of classroom management, I think, stems from the fact that students just sit all day long.

They sit in their one class, they come to the next class, they sit in that class. They get a little break here and there, but there’s just a lot of sitting.

So I’m a big fan of incorporating a lot of movement into my classroom management approach.

So for these quick assessments, I do what’s called a Walk and Talk.

Formative Assessment Idea #4: Walk and Talk

Rather than sitting up and having a lecture or having a discussion where they’re in small groups and things like that, we will leave the classroom. We’ll go walk around the neighborhood.

I will give them a question, and they will pair up. We’ll have a big old line on the sidewalk, and we’ll start walking. You know, you set this up with, “Here are the requirements, and here are the parameters, and are are the expectations.” So they know all this. Then I ask that question, and they start walking and discussing this.

That is a great formative assessment, because I’m just kind of hanging out in the middle, walking up and down, and all I’m really listening for with each question are a couple keywords. If they’re saying those keywords, then I’m feeling pretty confident that they’re getting this concept.

Walk and Talks are great because it gets them out and moving. Any time you can leave the classroom, it’s a fun thing for kids. They really get excited about it.

If you’re not quite ready to leave your classroom, another one that I would throw in there would be what I call Musical Chairs.

Musical Chairs

Again, they’re in their small groups, but they’ll discuss a question and then I’ll play music for about 15-20 seconds while they walk around randomly. When the music stops, they sit down and then discuss the next question.

And again, my role as the teacher in that, I’m just listening for those keywords, seeing which kids are really engaged, seeing which kids are passionate about it, which questions I missed the target on. Sometimes I’ll ask a question, and it will just be super quiet. That one falls on me.

And then the last one is what I call a Vocab Story.

Formative Assessment Idea #5: Vocab Story

Again, this one incorporates a little more literacy into it. You’re going through, you’re throwing out some vocab words and key concepts. And I’ll just write five or six up on the board.

I’ll say, “Alright. I need you to write me a story incorporating these words into your story.”

So for 10-15 minutes, they’ll just write a story about whatever they want. Again, you really get to see which kids get it, by how they are using those words and how they incorporate those words into their everyday lives, or something we’re doing in school, how they manipulate the words.

You get a really good understanding of “Are they getting that concept?” without smacking them on the summative assessment.

Like I said earlier, I think there are a lot of different ways that we teach, and I think that our formative assessments should do something in those same line.

You give that active kid the chance to move, you give that quiet kid that chance to show their artistic talent,ad you’re just trying to throw out as many different option as possible.

Vicki: So, Mike, what’s one thing you wish that every teacher understood about doing formative assessment right?

Mike: Whoooh! That’s a GOOD question!

That there is no “one size fits all.” It’s a lot like teaching.

Like I said, the “thumbs up, thumbs down” — I think a lot of us fall back on that. But I think that every time I’ve done one of those, I think it’s like 85% of them give a thumbs up.

And as much as I’d like to think I’m that great of a teacher, I don’t think that 85% of these kids have this mastered.

I think that’s just the easy approach. And I think a lot of us like to say, “Look, I did a formative assessment, and they said they were understanding it,” rather than letting them SHOW you that they understand it.

Rather than taking a passive role in the process, let your students take an active role in the formative assessment process.

Vicki: And I totally agree with that, because when my formative assessment really started informing my teaching, is when I was teaching binary numbers.

I used to say, “Give me a thumbs up, thumbs down.” The kids would say, “Yeah, I get it or I don’t.” And I would quickly understand that they totally did not understand.

They just wanted to move ahead. (laughs)

They just didn’t want to do it anymore, because they thought it was too hard!

But when I actually started saying, “OK, let’s do some problems, and let’s do a quick formative assessment,” so I actually know what their answer is… Then, it’s like, “OK, Now we’re really getting somewhere.”

These are some great tips.

And I love linking together formative assessment with a form of classroom management, because they really do go together. If you do a formative assessment and your kids aren’t engaged in the formative assessment, then you really need to look at everything, don’t you?


Mike: Yeah, absolutely.

And one of the things about the book is I know a lot of schools differ in how much technology they have, so I tried to incorporate ideas that anybody can use. Regardless of whether you’re a kindergarten teacher or a 12th grade teacher, whether you have tons of technology or limited technology. These are just good strategies to help get you kids engaged in what’s going on.

Vicki: So, remarkable teachers, remember… we need to be checking for understanding –pretty often! Every 15-20 minutes at least, in our class periods. That’s 2-3 times per class period if you have a 50-minute class period like I do.

So let’s do this. Let’s be remarkable. Let’s be amazing teachers.


Contact us about the show: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Bio as submitted

Mike Roberts has taught middle-school English for the past twenty years. In that time, he has received numerous awards, including the 2014 Utah English Teacher of the Year. Beyond the classroom, he has been a featured speaker at dozens of state, regional, and national conferences. He has served on many educational committees, is an adjunct education professor, and has had his work published numerous times. His latest book, Hacking Classroom Management – How to be the Type of Teacher They Make Movies About, is scheduled to be released in December of 2017. Mike loves sharing his ideas with others, and he still is a bit surprised when people actually show up to hear him speak. When he’s not teaching or presenting, Mike can usually be found running ultra-marathons in the mountains. And even after all these years, he’s still not sure which takes more energy…a week with 8th graders or running a 100 mile race! You can follow Mike on Twitter @baldroberts

Twitter: @BaldRoberts

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post 5 Formative Assessment Strategies to Help with Classroom Management appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

When You Disagree: How You Disagree May Be More Important Than the Disagreement Itself

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 9 February, 2018 - 11:34

Day 34 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

How do you disagree? Do you express your disagreement with the person’s actions but affirm that you care about the person? Or, do you defend your opinion so profoundly that you leave the person feeling that you only love them if they agree with you?

When we agree, we can build trust and work together. But when we disagree, that is when we build respect if we do it in healthy ways. With this in mind, when someone disagrees with you but continues to respect you as a person, you know they are the kind of person you can work with for a lifetime.

None of us will agree with each other all of the time. None of us are right all the time.

If you think you’re always right, you just proved yourself wrong.

It is important to realize that if both sides of the disagreement support a worthy cause, they’d both better realize that bystanders don’t really care what you’re disagreeing about. As a result of their observations of your behavior, they’ll ruthlessly judge your cause and your organization by how you disagree.

All things considered, while the matters over which we can disagree can be vitally important, the way in which we disagree can sometimes eclipse the matter over which we argue.

Given these points, I challenge all of us (myself included) to affirm and support people even when we disagree with their actions. I also challenge us to disagree in a way that doesn’t harm the causes and people we love and support.

We can disagree and in fact, we’d better disagree sometimes – at least behind closed doors or we’ll risk groupthink. But learning how to disagree respectfully is a seemingly lost art form in a stop-your-foot and shake-your-fist defriend-your-friend world. When respectful disagreements are observed, it almost always earns the respect of those who see it happening. Additionally, healthy ways of handling disagreement create an environment where progress and the accompanying friction can thrive and move an organization forward.

Can we disagree in healthy, productive ways? If so, we and our organization have one hallmark of excellence.

This post is day 34 of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post When You Disagree: How You Disagree May Be More Important Than the Disagreement Itself appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Personalized Learning Vs Personalization of Learning

The Principal of Change George Couros - 9 February, 2018 - 10:14

Every time I work with a school district, I hope that they learn from me because I learn from them.  Recently, in Del Mar Schools, Laura Spencer shared their idea of “personalization” of learning.  Before she started speaking, I was skeptical because I have seen the idea of “personalized” learning happening in many schools where a student jumped on a computer and based on the information they share, the technology creates a pathway for that student.  Although the technology is impressive, it doesn’t mean that it is good.  Seeing a student completely zone out in front of a screen and letting the computer lead the learning is not where I hope education is moving.

Laura presented the idea of “personalization of learning,” meaning more in how does the teacher understand the student, build on their interests, and create learning opportunities for the student.  I can get behind this idea.

The personalization of learning creates the opportunity for more depth and authenticity, whereas “personalized learning” seems to be more about knowing the “stuff”.

I wrote the post, “Five Questions to Ask You Students To Start the School Year“, and these are the questions I suggested:

The point of the post was for learning to be personalized, not for “personalized learning”.

Let’s just remember that in “personalization” is the word “person.” Technology is powerful and creates opportunities that I couldn’t even imagine as a student, and we would be crazy not to embrace and build upon what is in front of us. But if it dehumanizes our schools, then we have forgotten that we are not only there to develop learners, but people as well.

Don’t forget the person in the word “personalized.”

Categories: Planet

Is that a trick question?

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 9 February, 2018 - 04:04
For me at least writing test/quiz questions for programming students is hard. Most of what I assign and grade are projects but sometimes I like to toss out a quiz to see if I can figure out what students really know.  And frankly, some students are more comfortable with traditional quizzes and tests so it feels like a good thing to do. But as I said, writing questions is hard. I tell my students I can write a hard quiz really quickly but an easy one takes longer. I think that is true for a lot of teachers. Either way students like to second guess teachers on the questions they are asked. You’ve all heard it (and maybe said it yourself – is this a trick question?

Now this is a trick question:

What is the value of x after this code executes:

int age = 21;
int x = 15;
if (age >= 21)
     x = 15;
     age = age + 1;
     x = age;

It’s a trick question, in my opinion anyway, because it uses tabs to make it look like three statements are executed if the if statement is true. And that may be the case in some languages but in C-family languages like C, C++. Java, and in my case C# it’s not. I want students to realize that without curly braces x is going to be 22 no matter what else goes on. There is some extra code in there just to confuse things. Is that a good question? Arguably not but students never complain about it. What to they stress over and question me on? The freebee question I tossed in to make the quiz an even number of questions.

Enter the letter A as the answer to this question
I want to fix the first question BTW. I’ve never liked it but I was in a hurry one day. The second one I think I’ll leave as is.

I want more questions that require students to read code. The thing I struggle with is how to write good code reading questions without using poor coding practice. The AP CS A test has some and I toy with borrowing some of them and making adjustments for various programming languages but  so far I spend more of my time trying to come up with projects.

I’ve also used Code Hunt with some classes with mixed results. I may tackle that again soon. It can be tricky to set up your own questions though.

I have been reading about questions that ask students to put lines of code into the correct sequence. (Parson's Problems) That seems like a good idea. I wish I had a good tool for both writing them and having students work them out online. Any one know of such? (Looking at one in the comments.)

What sorts of questions do you ask programming students? What tools do you use to ask coding questions?

Categories: Planet

FREE MATH FUN: The Matific Games are Here

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 9 February, 2018 - 02:59

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Matific is a fantastic website for K-6 students. It’s part virtual math manipulative, part math game, and part personal math instruction. Right now, your school can join the Matific Math games and win cash and prizes as your students learn math. It’s FREE, and they’ll help you set it up. In this post, I’ll share about the Matific Math games, how to get started, and why Matific is so awesome.

This post is sponsored by Matific.

What Is Matific?

The NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) highly recommends the use of manipulatives in the math classroom and the Matific site is full of virtual math manipulatives. So, while these activities are gamified, students are learning by interacting with and manipulating objects.

Along with being able to set multiple languages, each student can work at their own level through a personal playlist set by the teacher.

And right now, you can sign up free to participate in the Matific Games.

How Do the Matific Games Work?

Sign up for the games. The people at Matific can set you up within 24 hours or help you use Matific with Clever. You can join from right now through February 20th.

February 14-20 is the warm up. This lets you practice, get your students into Matific, and get set up.

Then, from February 21-28, your US school and your K-6 students can play the games. Over $50,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded as students and classrooms collect stars.

The goal is to finish with the highest average number of stars collected.

This is the perfect time of year for these games and activities as you prepare students to level up in math.

Check out the Matific site for their strict privacy policies. While you’re there, sign up to get your free access to Matific for the games.

Tips to Get the Most Out of Matific
  1. Browse by standards

Each student can have a customized playlist. Browse by standards so that you can customize what students need. This means that while your class is playing the Matific games, you’re working on those standards that you need to cover and addressing concepts that might be struggling with right now.

2. Easily Assign Tasks

Simply assign students their virtual math manipulatives activities with a click.


3. Track Students’ Progress With Performance Reports

You can understand how students are doing and get feedback by running snapshot reports. This is how you can make sure that your students are progressing and how you can determine whether to assign more content to help them progress through the game. You’ll want to keep an eye on these reports every day while you’re playing the game.

Check out Matific and join the games! What a fun thing to do in February to promote math  learning. Thank you in advance for telling your friends!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The post FREE MATH FUN: The Matific Games are Here appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Introducing Storyville

Chris Betcher - 9 February, 2018 - 01:23

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”— Dr. Seuss – I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Watching a child learn to read is a fascinating thing. I remember watching my own two kids acquiring the skill of reading for themselves, and seeing what a remarkable difference it made once they were able to pick up any book they wanted, on any topic, and read it. I remember the joy of watching my kids devour literally hundreds and hundreds of books as they got older. It really is quite amazing. And that ability to read – not just for functional understanding of words, but with a fluent and genuine love of literature – opened up vast worlds of learning and imagination and curiosity for them.

I think most educated people understand the value, and importance of reading.

There is a substantial body of evidence to support the idea that reading TO children when they are young has a positive, long term effect on their development, not just in helping them develop as readers themselves, but in even more substantive ways across a whole lot of cognitive domains.

In fact, studies using fMRI have proven that children who are read to when young show a big difference even at the neurological level. One study by Dr John Hutton concluded that “Results showed that greater home reading exposure was strongly associated with activation of specific brain areas supporting semantic processing (the extraction of meaning from language). These areas are critical for oral language and later for reading.” 

There is a lot of research that all comes to basically the same conclusion – reading to your children when they are young is hugely important and the effects of it can be seen well into their teenage years. The effects can be seen on language acquisition, vocabulary development, imagination and inquisitiveness, reading fluency, listening skills, pronunciation, and so on.

The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research concluded that “Children four to five years old who are read to three to five times a week have the same reading ability as children six months older (who are read to only twice or less a week). Reading to children six to seven days a week puts them almost a year ahead of those who are not being read to. It was also found that reading to small children has a positive effect on the development of numeracy skills.”

Unfortunately, even though the benefits of reading to young children are so well documented (and it is such a simple and enjoyable thing to do with your kids!) there seems to be a obvious divide based on socioeconomics. Lower income families tend not to do it nearly as much as higher income families. Which is kind of sad, because if they did, the research suggests it could be the single most effective thing those families could do to help break the poverty cycle and give their children greater opportunities in the long term.

In fact, a 2012 a study titled Reading to young children: a head-start in life,  by G. Kalb and J.C. van Ours noted that children who get read to more frequently at age 4-5 achieve higher scores on the NAPLAN tests for both Reading and Numeracy in Year 3 (age 8 to 9).  These differences in reading and cognitive skills are not related to the child’s family background or home environment but are the direct result of how frequently they have been read to prior to starting school.” In short, reading to your kids makes a big difference, no matter what background they come from.

The good news is that reading to your kids when they are young is a pretty simple thing to do, and it seems there are more parents than ever making the time to read to their children. That’s awesome. The bad news is that even with the overwhelming evidence that reading to your child might be the single most important thing you can be doing to help them, still only about a half of all parents are actually doing it. (Depending on the study you look at, the figure varies from about 40% to 55%)

So parents, you want to do the best for your kids? Read to them! It’s that simple.

Meet Storyville

Knowing that reading to kids is incredibly important, and acknowledging that for many kids it does not happen nearly enough, let me introduce you to Storyville. Storyville is a project by the Equity Foundation, the professional development arm of Actors Equity, representing Australian actors. Their idea is brilliant and simple. Storyville aims to connect trained actors – many of whom have spare time during school hours – with classrooms around Australia, providing talented readers for children. These actors voluntarily go into schools and read to kids. That’s it. Simple. Brilliant.

Some of the things that trained actors learn to do really well is to play different characters, use their voice effectively, tell stories that engage an audience, and act! So who better to read to children than an actor?

I think it’s a brilliant idea. If you’d like your school to be part of it, and have a talented trained actor come and read to your kids, just fill out this form.

Hat tip to my daughter Kate, a trained actor herself and a graduate from WAAPA, for telling me about this project.

Categories: Planet

Computational Thinking and Math for Elementary Grades

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 8 February, 2018 - 21:30

Steve Floyd on episode 249 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Fun, exciting tools and techniques can help very young kids understand math and learn computational thinking. Today’s guest, Steve Floyd, tells us how.


Sponsor: FREE MATH RESOURCE The US Matific Games are coming this February. Try Matific free now and sign up to join their Math games.

Matific is a fantastic site full of math manipulatives and customized playlists of activities to help students at every level master math. This fun, gamified site is sponsoring Math games this February and students can compete to win prizes for themselves and your school. Set up is easy, send them their class rosters and they’ll have you set up in 24-hours. This is a great way to try out matific, help your kids boost their math skills and have fun. And its free!

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript Computational Thinking and Math for Elementary Grades

Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e249
Date: February 8, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Steven Floyd, from London, Ontario, Canada. He was named one of ten 2017 Computer Science Association Awards for Teaching Excellence.

Today we’re going to talk about teaching computational thinking for K-6.

Now, Steve, a lot of folks talk about Computer Science and teaching coding with the older levels, but what kinds of computational thinking should we be teaching the younger kids?

What kinds of computational thinking should we be teaching younger kids?

Steven: It’s been actually really quite interesting. We’re looking at some of the concepts and some of the things that students are doing in the older grades.

I know for myself with a few of the project we’ve been working on, we’ve been saying, “Can we get the younger students to engage in these same types of thinking?”

Obviously, they’re doing simpler tasks, maybe they’re not as complex and in depth, having tor but the type of problem solving they’re doing — the type of debugging, and having to sequence their instructions and reiterate and do trial and error — all of those things that we see the older students doing, we’re finding that with the newer technologies we can get these younger students doing the same thing.

It’s been really cool, It’s been really interesting.

Vicki: Steve, do you have any favorite tools that you like for the K-6 crew?

Favorite tools to use with younger kids

Steven: We’ve been working with the Bee Bot. It’s a small little bee. It has about six buttons on it. You program it to go 15 cm forward, turn 90 degrees left. Then you just hit GO, and the bee executes the instructions.

We’ve used that with even junior kindergarten kids. They’re usually doing spatial reasoning tasks and trying to get it to go around a grid.

We do a lot of work with Scratch Junior, a free app on iPads and things. You can get an grid and X-Y coordinates on there. Students are doing storytelling, where they’re having to decompose their story into smaller chunks and then code the story.

Those are the two big ones that we’ve been using. The we usually move to Scratch, somewhere around grade three or 4. That’s a nice transition for the students, because it’s still block coding, but it adds a little bit more complexity.

Vicki: I actually have some of my older students do Scratch. It’s a great way to introduce them to all kinds of computer science concepts before you’re ready to go into actual coding.

Today we were doing a project, and one of them said, “This is math! This is geometry!”

I mean, there’s a whole lot of math in this computational thinking, isn’t there?

There’s a lot of math in computational thinking

Steven: There is. It’s just a natural fit.

Sometimes we’re teaching specifically to the students to learn coding, to learn about loops, or to learn about a variable. But a lot of other times, we’re using coding to have students experience math.

So in Scratch you can have the Cartesian planes, or in Scratch Junior, you just have XY coordinates. It’s a really cool way for students to sort of experience math.

There’s a professor here in London, Dr. George Gadanidis, and he does a lot of work on math and computational thinking.

Instead of having students write down responses and being told how mathematics works, they’re getting a chance to sort of construct that knowledge by using these tools. It’s really, really interesting to see.

We even had a grade 7 classroom (in which) this young girl was just so excited. She called her teacher over, and she started doing a dance when she got the cat to move to the right coordinates. I thought it was kind of cool, but we see that sometimes in our computer science classes…

The teacher saw me afterward, and he just couldn’t believe that she was doing that, that she saw herself — at least temporarily — as a mathematician. She had never had that kind of success. It’s really cool to see thing like that happen.

Vicki: Steve, do you find that there are teachers that think that kids can’t really understand these concepts — like elementary kids really understanding XY coordinates?

Are there teachers who think younger kids can’t understand this?

Steven: There are, sometimes. We’ve been doing a lot of getting teachers to just do it.

Rather than having these really long sessions where we introduce the concepts, and we’ve got these slideshows, and we’re explaining the theory behind it all… What we’re finding is that we get teachers to come in and just grab the tools right away, start doing something that might be step-by-step.

They quickly learn it that morning. Because they’ve learned it just that morning, first off all it builds their confidence in teaching it, but also they realize that when they go to teach it to the students they’ve just learned it themselves.

So actually they’re a little more prepared to teach it to the students because they can empathize with the learning process. They understand the barriers that the students might face, because they just faced those barriers earlier that week when they were learning it themselves.

So it’s been really interesting. There is that sort of growth mindset you have to instill in them. But telling them to have a growth mindset doesn’t always work. We find just that handing them the tools, getting them to have some success with it — makes them realize that they can handle this.

Vicki: And there’s nothing like when the child says, “OK, I want it to go over here. I want it to go over there.”

Calculating those X and Y coordinates — which really kids of most ages can do — and then realizing that they can make the physical robot go here or there based upon their program.

Steven: Exactly. I think it was Seymour Papert that said, “These are tools (or objects) to think with.”

Tools to think with

That’s what these computers are. That’s what these robots are. That’s what these little lines of code are. They’re just tools to think with.

The students will type in the stuff to get the robot to here or to there, and it doesn’t work. But they’re understanding eventually WHY it doesn’t work. They are being able to construct their knowledge a little.

They’re realizing, “So THAT’S what X coordinate means, and THAT’S what Y coordinate means.”

We’re hoping to look into, maybe, does that transfer onto other tasks? So when they’re doing tasks on paper or something, that involves X-Y coordinates — having constructed that knowledge with the robot — does that lead to greater success? That would be really interesting to see.

Vicki: Steve, you’ve given us one example of a seventh grade girl. Do you have an example for us where the light bulb went on? You just realized, “Perhaps we’re underestimating the abilities of our elementary kids.”

Do we underestimate the computational thinking abilities of young kids?

Steven: We were in a grade three classroom, and we were doing X-Y coordinates.

What we had going on was that a few of my high school students were teaching the grade threes. So we had this program where our high school students came in to teach, which was really cool to see our high school students being leaders like that.

We had told the teachers ahead of time what we were going to cover. The teachers had said, “That’s a LOT of material. It’s a grade three class, and it’s an hour before recess. But we’ll see how you guys do.”

And they were just blown away at how quickly the students picked it all up. We eventually — because there was time left — went up to the board and started talking about rotations and translations and reflections to these grade threes. I think we called them flips and slides and turns at first.

By the end of the lesson, the students were using this terminology. The teachers were just amazed. And some of the students would record themselves. So when their cat was doing a rotation, they would record themselves saying “rotation.”

At the end, we sent a few students down to show some of the other teachers, and they were just playing in the program, basically labeling with this audio, each of the translations, the reflections.

It was a really cool experience for the students — and also for the teachers there to say, “Wow! They’re covering a lot. And it seems like they’re really understanding it. They’re able to say it in their own words afterward.”

Vicki: Wow! You’re really making us think!

So, Steve, as we finish up, could you give us a 30-second pep talk on why we need to have computing and computational thinking in the elementary grades?

Steven: There’s always that argument for jobs and for the labor market — which is a great argument. We want our students obviously to have skills that they can find employment. We want the labor market to be full of people with IT skills.

And that’s… that’s exciting… that’s good…

I know a lot of teachers don’t seem to get up in the morning, not passionate about their work (being) simply to fill the labor market. They want students to be developing as human beings, developing as citizens.

It’s not just about the jobs of the future being based in IT

And I think that’s what’s sort of underestimated with coding and computational thinking. The natural things that happen — things like innovating and creativity, and the way students are collaborative (almost automatically, when one student has something working and another doesn’t) — the idea with these coding and computational thinking tasks is that often there’s not one right answer.

So students learn that there’s more than one possible solution.

They learn that they can get feedback right away from their programs. They can try quickly.

They say sometimes, “You can fail quickly, and you can fail cheaply, because you can just change the code and try again, and change the code and try again.”

So it’s my hope that students are learning these skills and they are realizing that they can apply these to other areas of their life. They can be creative, innovative, collaborative. They can be problem solvers in other areas.

The other big one that really interests me is sort of media awareness. Maybe it’s media literacy, or just knowing a little bit about how the world works.

Knowledge about coding transfers to other areas of students’ lives

Once you understand a little bit of computer programming code, you start to look at things a little differently. You understand how the traffic lights might be working in your city, or how they could work better. You understand why you get certain ads sent to you, maybe in email or maybe certain things pop up when you’re using the internet because you were shopping for shoes the day before.

You start to understand those algorithms, and I think it just makes you a “critical citizen,” I suppose… a critical thinker? I think those are the things that we’re not quite focusing on yet, with coding and computational thinking. But it’s definitely beyond the jobs.

Vicki: And I would encourage all of our listeners to also pick up a book called Humility is the New Intelligence.

Basically, the next big disruption of jobs is going to be intelligent machines. It’s going to displace a significant number of jobs.

Part of the thesis of the book is that the jobs that will be left will be those requiring creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and working with other people — things that machines cannot do very well at all.

These are the things that we have to teach — how to interact with these intelligent machines, how to program, but also how to do these other things.

I think that it’s more than just coding. It’s more than just computer science.

And Steve, I like what you said about, “It’s not just about having jobs and all that.”

That’s important, but I think it’s about being relevant and employable because you CAN solve problems, you CAN create, and you can collaborate with people as you do these things.

So… teachers get out there and plan for computational thinking and coding and adding that to you K-6 curriculum.

Contact us about the show: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Bio as submitted

Steve Floyd is a high school Computer Science and Computer Engineering teacher from London Ontario ,Canada and was one of ten worldwide recipients of the 2017 Computer Science Teachers Association Award for Teaching Excellence in Computer Science (http://www.csteachers.org/?page=StevenFloyd). He has worked on a number of coding, computational thinking and mathematics projects with elementary and high school teachers https://www.teachontario.ca/community/explore/teachontario-talks/blog/2016/08/30/driving-student-engagement-in-mathematics-with-coding-and-programming) and along with his wife, Lisa Floyd, he co-hosts TV Ontario’s Coding and Computational Thinking in the classroom online hub (https://www.teachontario.ca/community/explore/coding-in-ontario-classrooms).

Blog: https://stevenpfloyd.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @stevenpfloyd

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Computational Thinking and Math for Elementary Grades appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

A Noble Person Does Noble Things

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 8 February, 2018 - 13:48

Day 33 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Every cause is not a good one. Everything that you could stand up for is not something worthy of the sacrifice. Just because you’re ridiculed doesn’t mean that your cause is noble. Some people take a stand and pat themselves on the back and never stop to ask themselves if that stand is noble one.

Isaiah 32:8 says,

“A noble person does noble things and stands up for noble causes.”

The NIV version says,

“But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.”

This word “noble” is also translated as “prince” or “generous” or “willing.”

When we consider the tasks and activities we pursue, do we consider their nobility? For me, there’s something noble about helping children. There’s something noble about treating each person with dignity and respect. There’s something noble about encouraging and helping people.

As you look over your calendar, are you planning noble things? How many of those things will be something you’re glad you did in 10 years?

Not all tasks are created equal. All dreams are not excellent. While it is good to complete tasks and good to have goals, completing an unworthy task is not noble. Nor is accomplishing a goal that is not admirable.

If you check something off, make sure it is worthy to be done in the first place. When we ask these questions, we can focus on excellent, noble things that are worth the precious time we’ll never be given back.

This post is day 33 of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post A Noble Person Does Noble Things appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Easy Paperless Contact Logs

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 7 February, 2018 - 21:30

Meredith Akers on episode 248 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Administrators and teachers have so many contacts with parents. Today’s guest, Meredith Akers, has gone paperless with her contact logs. She talks about how she did it, the time she’s saving, and her recommendations for building relationships with parents by becoming more organized with your contact logs.

Sponsor: FREE MATH RESOURCE. The US Matific Games are coming this February. Try Matific free now and sign up to join their Math games.

Matific is a fantastic site full of math manipulatives and customized playlists of activities to help students at every level master math. This fun, gamified site is sponsoring Math games this February and students can compete to win prizes for themselves and your school. Set up is easy, send them their class rosters and they’ll have you set up in 24-hours. This is a great way to try out matific, help your kids boost their math skills and have fun. And its free!

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript Easy Paperless Contact Logs

Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e247
Date: February 6, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking to an assistant principal at an elementary school just outside Houston, Texas, Meredith Akers @meredithakers.

Now, Meredith, you have recently gone with paperless contact logs. You think that it’s a great thing for all of us to do.

First of all, what have you done?

Meredith: Well, if I go back a second, I think everybody who knows me at my school would say that I am such a binder queen, and I do love my binders. Every time I spoke to a parent — which as an assistant principal that’s a lot — I used to print out the student info that has the parent’s info and circle that and then turn it over and write the conversation on the back.

I like to take really good notes. That way if a parent calls me back, I can refer to those and also it helps me when I write something down to follow through. That write-down really helps my brain to remember what I’ve said I’m going to do., and to have that to reference.

But I’ve got all these binders! I’ve been an assistant principal now for seven years, so I’ve got seven years worth of binders, and that’s just silly.

Seven years of binders

Vicki: Wow…

Meredith: And I can’t “search” those!

My partner assistant principal, Julie Clements, and I thought, “What if we used Autocrat and Excel, and set things up a little bit differently so that we could search those notes?”

She actually jumped in first. She did it a different way than I did. Julie started by using Autocrat. We have about 1100 kids at our elementary school.

She ran a spreadsheet of all the kids and their contact info, and then used Autocrat to kind of help her create for each child a digital sheet. She was going to keep all her contact info for the whole year on that digital sheet for the kiddo.

I kind of did the opposite. I still look up the child’s information. We have an awesome automated system. I can just type in the child’s name, and it brings up everything for me.

So I still look up the child’s info, but I use a Google Form now to type in the number I called, who I spoke to, and our conversation. Then at the end of that Google Form, I have a second section that I can say if I need to follow up.

This is my favorite part that I never had with my paper contact system.

My favorite part that I never had before with my old system

When I hit that follow-up button, “Yes I need to follow up,” if I’ve told the parent, “Let me take care of that and call you back tomorrow,” or “Let me ask the teacher to follow up with you on that,” then I have a separate section in the form that I can type in that I need to follow up with the teacher or I need to call the parent back.

When I submit the form using Autocrat and the Excel that’s attached, Autocrat automatically emails me that follow up that I said I need to do.

So as soon as I finish that conversation with the parent and hit Submit, I get an email in my Inbox that tells me what I need to follow up on.

It becomes my To Do List

For me, that’s kind of my To Do List. If I need to forward that to a teacher, it’s right there, already types. I don’t have to retype it. I can just forward it to the teacher or it can sit in my Inbox, kind of as a To Do List for me until I finish it up and mark that off.

Vicki: So now Autocrat is an add-in for Google Sheets. Are you using Google Sheets, or are you using Excel?

Meredith: I’m sorry. I said Excel, but I did mean Sheets. Thank you for correcting me.

Vicki: OK. So you’re using the Autocrat merge tool that lets you do all the merge and also kind of gives you some automation features with it, right?

Meredith: Exactly! Exactly!

So setting up that form… Google Forms. Once you set that up, you can link it to Sheets (and I said Excel but I meant Sheets, thank you for correcting me) and then within Sheets I was able to set up an Autocrat function that is an add-on for Sheets. Then every time I fill out the form, that information automatically goes to the Sheets, and then Autocrats sees, “Oh, she has a follow up,” and emails me, “You need to follow up on this.”

Vicki: So you can look at a student and you can see all the conversations you’ve had with that parent?

Meredith: Exactly. So I love that feature, too, that I can go into Sheets and easily search for a student’s name and see every conversation we’ve had. Or I can search for a certain day, “Did I call them that day?”

Easily search for information

It makes it really easy to go back an find information, whereas a binder like I used to do or a notebook like some people like to do for their contact log, You just can’t search that.

It’s great to just use that Find feature too, to find “When did I say this?”

Vicki: So you’ve blogged about how you did this. So, the administrators and the teachers — we all have student contact — that are listening.

Is this hard to set up? Can they just follow some steps, or is this something that, you know, “Somebody’s going to have to help me do this.”

Can anyone do this?

Meredith: I absolutely think that people can do this. If you’ve never used Autocrat before, I would recommend heading over to my blog because I did do a step-by-step walk through.

It’s really a one time setup. I set it up back in August. I don’t have to do anything else. It just works the rest of the year for me, so it’s been great.

You can watch me walk through it with a screencast and just follow along and set yours up if you’ve never used Autocrat before. It’s that one time setup and you’ll be good to go.

Vicki: Wow. So this is transformed your workflow.

Meredith: It absolutely has transformed my workflow.

It has transformed my workflow

It’s so much easier for me to take those notes while I’m talking to a parent. For me, I can type a lot faster than I can write.

I’ve also found that my notes from conversations are much more detailed, and when I reference back to them, that’s when it’s great for me to have details from our conversation.

Vicki: Wow. Has this freed up any time for you?

I mean were you spending more time on paperwork, and maybe now you’re spending more time on building relationships, or what?

Meredith: I believe it has saved me time, especially when I’m hunting back for a piece of information in that conversation. I don’t have to search through a binder of flip through a notebook.

It has saved me time

I can just go to Find, type in what I need, and find that student’s name and that conversation.

It’s absolutely a timesaver. Yes.

Vicki: You know, when you’re dealing with difficult situations, there’s always this thing… You know, people can have false memories. (laughs)

Meredith: Yeah.

Vicki: I mean, that’s a very real thing.

That’s why police — when there’s an accident — really listen to those 911 tapes and when people tell them right then, because it is literally possible for us humans to wish something was so, to the point that we can plant false memories in our own minds, particularly when it’s emotionally charged.

That’s one of the things that I’ve found with taking good notes, is important for me.

Also, sometimes parents don’t take those kinds of notes, do they?

Meredith: Right. Parents don’t. And parents don’t remember, so it’s good to reference back.

I often tell parents, “Would you hang on just a second? I want to write that down.”

I feel like sometimes it diffuses — when a parent’s upset — that they know I’m not just listening. I’m writing this down. It’s important to me.

I’ll find that they calm down because I’m slowing down our pace a little. “I’m sorry, could you hang on a second? I want to write this down because I want to make sure I have your wording right.” I do find that it diffuses those tough situations.

It diffuses emotions in those tough situations

Vicki: Yeah. It’s all about relationships, isn’t it?

Meredith: (agrees)

Vicki: Yeah.

Meredith: It really is.

Vicki: And when technology can help us have better relationships and really focus… because you know, we’re dealing with kids. We’re dealing with children. We’re dealing with human beings. Not every interaction is going to be easy, is it?

Meredith: Absolutely not. There are definitely going to be tough conversations, and so any tool that can help us as educators to slow our own minds down… because we don’t want to be reactive.

If a parent’s upset, we don’t want to elevate that. Because if we get upset, it’s just going to amp it up and everybody’s going to be upset.

So if something like taking good notes — which definitely helps me, and I would recommend to others — helps me to stay focused on, “OK, I’m just going to start my listening.”

That’s great for building relationships, always, to start by listening, letting that person know that you value what they say, and that you’re writing it down. (It) makes an impact.

Then writing down how you’re going to follow up, too.

When I’m face to face with a parent, I take handwritten notes. I think that speaks also, that I’m writing down what I’m going to do to follow up.

Face to face meetings versus phone calls

I let parents know, when we’re on the phone, when I’m typing it, “You know, I’m going to type this in. I’m going to make sure I follow up with you tomorrow.”

They know there’s a plan, and I’m writing that down. I’m going to follow through.

Vicki: And so they don’t hear you typing and just think that you’re doing something else.

Meredith: (laughs) Absolutely, I don’t want them to think that! Yes.

Vicki: You know, I was curious about the face to face. There’s nothing more disconcerting than when somebody’s on a computer — especially those who can’t type and look at you at the same time — because it just builds a barrier.

I think that’s smart.

So what do you do with those handwritten notes when you’re done with the meeting?

Meredith: You know, sometimes I ask my secretary — because I am an assistant principal — to type them in for me if they’re very long.

But if they’re short, I type them in myself because I can usually remember more details to add, and I do like to have it all in one place in that Sheets.

Vicki: OK. So teachers and administrators, we can use Google Sheets and a free add in called Autocrat to have paperless contact logs.

Some of us have this inside our school information system, like Power School that I have at school to kind of track my contacts.

I think this whole idea of going paperless is an important one for all of us.

Please do remember that even when we use technology to keep up with these things, it’s still all about people. It’s still all about relationships, and listening is one of the most important things we can do so that our parents know that we are working to help their student learn and have a world-class education.

Meredith: Absolutely.


Contact us about the show: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com


Bio as submitted

Meredith Akers is a wife, mom, Christ-follower and elementary school administrator who believes that the best way to help others grow is to model expectations through relationship building, staff developments, meetings, hallway interactions, reflection, technology integration and application, and instructional practices. Her daily aspiration is to make a positive impact and to leave those she serves better off for having interacted with her.

Meredith currently serves as Assistant Principal at Ault Elementary in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD outside of Houston, TX. She is a Google Certified Educator Level 1 and 2 and a FlipGrid Certified Educator.

Meredith is passionate about providing quality professional development and helping educators connect and grow. Meredith has led numerous professional development sessions on her campus, for her district, at conferences, and as a consultant including book studies, Google apps workshops, and training for school leaders to better utilize tech tools. She is a co-founder and co-moderator of #CFISDAPchat (every other Thursday at 8:00pm CST) and co-moderator of #TXed (each and every Wednesday night at 8:30pm CST). Join the conversation!

Meredith blogs at meredithakers.com about educational leadership, ed tech tools and applications, and great instructional practices. You can connect with Meredith on Twitter by following @meredithakers.

Blog: https://meredithakers.com/

Twitter: @meredithakers

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Easy Paperless Contact Logs appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Handle Criticism Effectively

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 7 February, 2018 - 14:07

Day 32 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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You can tell a lot about a person by how they handle criticism. Those who immediately dismiss criticism neglect the fact that most criticism, even that from an enemy, carries with it a grain of truth or no one would believe it.

While not every person deserves a response nor does everyone deserve to be heard, when someone loves you, you must listen even when it breaks your heart.

And then, for me, I take it. Pray over it. Examine my own heart and motives and determine what I believe is truth.

Norman Vincent Peale said,

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

So, hear your critics- especially when they know and love you– and examine your heart. Yet, also remember a few other things.

Great Works Attract Great Critics

Ralph Waldo Emerson said

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”

My Dad always said to be happy when you attract critics because people don’t criticize people who are doing nothing.

And in the end, I must quote Theodore Roosevelt for I have whispered these words in the night as they bounced off the ceiling and echoed into my heart,

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Reflecting Upon Criticism

There is a great talent when one deals with criticism.

Knowing what is true that matters.

Knowing what is true that is an expected consequence.

And knowing what will keep you from progress.

Consider the last criticism you received. Did you reflect upon it? Did you consider it?

Is this criticism a pathway for an opportunity for improvement or is it an anchor that will hold you back or a diversion that will distract you from your task? Knowing the difference makes all the difference.

If you want to be excellent, you have to understand that all criticism isn’t created equal.

This post is day 32 of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post Handle Criticism Effectively appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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