Forgot Password? / Help



Learning from Angry Birds

I tried to figure out why I’m hooked on such a silly game. Have you ever played Angry Birds? It’s addicting. I keep going back when I have so many other things to do that are more productive. What is it about Angry Birds that hooks me and so many people? Cinematic Trailer of Angry Birds

Angry Birds

I am having trouble getting past level 7 but my 3 year old granddaughter can. Very frustrating! So I keep playing. Not during the day though. I do this at night to calm me down to sleep. You probably wonder how Angry Birds can calm me down. Read more


Project-Based Learning: Replicating Success

This Edutopia article by Grace Rubinstein gives you tips and strategies how to do project-based learning from a rural school district in Georgia that transformed the way its students learn using the inspiration and mentorship provided by San Diego’s High Tech High. Check out the tips and examples from Whitfield Career Academy, in Dalton, Georgia, where they are in their second year of shifting to High Tech High-style project-based learning.

Teachers going through this transformation don’t expect their schools to emerge from it looking exactly like High Tech High. Each school has its own unique teachers, students, culture, history, and setting, and its path to change must uniquely match those. Read more


Getting Back to Learning After Testing

I work with several public middle schools who are in the middle of testing. The mood and morale is awful. Students are complaining of headaches and some are skipping school. Teachers are asking me to help them create projects now so as soon as they stop testing, their students can get back to real learning that is connected to what is relevant to them.

Students need to be part of the design team developing questions about what means something to them. One topic we are working on is a six week project on Global Climate Change. We took a template of an existing project and cloned it. That was easy. Now the hard part.. designing group activities where each child has a role and responsibilities. The product they will create in their group is a 30 second public service announcement (PSA) about a topic involving Global Climate Change.

We brainstormed ideas for activities:

  • class will view a video on Global Climate Change.
  • the class will brainstorm ideas for topics about climate change using Inspiration.
  • students will group by topic (4 to a group).
  • each group will mindmap ideas and questions about their topic. They need to come up with at least ten questions. Refer to Developing Questions for Critical Thinking using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.The will post their questions around the room and on a comment on the website.
  • group roles could include: researchers, actors, director, camera person, graphic artist, writers.
  • each group will be responsible for a category with questions and answers for the jeopardy game.
  • groups will research their topic on the Internet and find the causes, effects, and how people can change the effects.
  • each student will calculate their carbon footprint.
  • all topics will be pulled together as the jeopardy game and played in class. The jeopardy game will be embedded in SlideShare and the project website.
  • the class will Skype with a local TV meteorologist about weather and the climate. Each group will choose one question to ask and discuss with the meteorologist. the Skype session will be recorded and saved to the website.
  • each group will then write a paragraph (100 words) about their topic and hand it to another group for feedback.  Questions to consider:
    Is it informative about the topic?
    Is there a call to action for the audience?
  • each group will use the feedback to create a storyboard with no more than 8 scenes and present to two other groups for feedback and approval.
  • each group will design or find the graphics, costumes, charts, etc. for each scene and practice each scene so the PSA is no more than 30 seconds.
  • each group will film and edit their PSA.
  • groups will show off their PSA to each other.
  • class will showcase their PSAs to school and parents.

This is big. It will take six weeks but these 6th grade students will always remember what they did and be proud of it. My job is in the background. This is too much for a teacher to do alone if they have never done anything like it before. I’m their coach.

This is so much fun. I want to do more. I am working with several other teachers to design different projects, playshops for teachers and more. One cool project is a CSI project. I’m working on that today. I wish learning could be like this everyday where students own it. Teachers are pulled in so many directions and spending months to prepare for tests that impact the school not the child. This is very upsetting to me. It should all be about the child — the learner.

In the future, we’ll look back and shake our heads for taking creativity and critical thinking out of schools for a whole generation of kids.  It’s time to bring joy back and make learning relevant to the real world.


Learn More. Teach Less.

There is a lot of controversy about professional development especially now when budgets are tight. I haven’t blogged for some time because I have been steaming about what is happening in our schools — for our children. This is their future we are messing with. Okay so here I go. I’m going to rant a little. Are you ready?

I’m a coach. I go into the schools and watch what teachers have to do now. In most states, it’s testing time. Some schools are off this week. For the past 5-6 weeks, teachers have been teaching to the test. I don’t know about you, but to stop everything and teach to the test is outrageous. Is this really for our kids or to keep the school open? Or to really leave every poor child behind? Forget projects. Forget engagement. I know. I know. Accountability. Student data. If the data takes in account more than standardized tests. How about authentic assessment? A collection of evidence of learning.

What do our children need for their future? I can tell you it is not about knowing FACTS and how to answer a multiple choice test. That is unless they want to play Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. The jobs they will need expect them to know how to be creative, innovative, and be able to discern what they find is a fact or an opinion. News is bombarding us on the Internet and TV. Most children have cell phones but they are not allowed to use them in most schools. Why? Why are we so afraid of them. Cell phones are great tools and will become more of a factor in our lives. Just watch! There are more cell phones than landlines now. Students use their cell phone even more than the TV or computer. They rarely read newspapers anymore unless it’s on their phone. How do they know if the information they read online is biased, propaganda, or a big fat lie? We used to teach life skills and connect to real-world activities. We need to change the focus on facts and show students how to use information effectively, find it, evaluate it, and then even publish. I bet the majority of your students use some form of social media like Facebook and Twitter. I bet if you had students use their cell phones in school, they would be able to read, write, and publish using them. Ask them to text each other notes and brainstorm ideas with a mindmap.

Today the focus is on basic skills: math and reading. In some countries, children don’t start school until they are seven. We expect our children to start reading in Kindergarten. I remember when Kindergarten was where kids learned how to socialize. A good friend of mine retired when she was spending more time teaching the kids how to bubble in a bubble for the test then having them sing or dance.

This is a tough time because of the economy. We are focusing on building “High Quality Teachers,” but we take away what teachers need to become effective.  The problem for me is the definition of a “High Quality Teacher.” It is different depending on your bias about testing. Is a “High Quality Teacher” an expert in their content field but have no skills on how to do group kids for teamwork. One of the main characteristics needed in many high paying jobs is teamwork and collaboration.

If we really want our students to understand the concepts in the standards, then let them teach each other — co-design with your students projects that make sense. Students want to make a difference. I bet if we asked our kids to come up with questions about climate change, they would come up with hundreds of questions. Let them take one question and brainstorm more. Then design a public service 30 second movie to broadcast on YouTube. Just imagine how many standards they would meet and understand after a project like this.

Think about a project you did in school as a child, if you did. Then think about what you learned from a standardized test. What do you remember? I know we need some background information, but let’s be more creative about it. I remember making a paper maché relief map in third grade. I don’t remember much of anything else that year.

I cannot sit in a lecture anymore myself. I cannot even imagine children today sitting still for five minutes. Teachers are teaching more and students are learning less. They may get it for the test, but do they retain it?

I’d like to challenge a school or district to try a pilot with several groups of students. Follow them over several years. With one group (your control group), everything is like it is now. Then another group, have them make a movie with their Smart phone, do projects, teach each other. Test the groups the same. I wonder who will retain the information more. I’d love to be part of it. Let me know if you want to try this.


Defining Professional Learning Communities (PLC)

I wrote this post in 2005 where it is cross posted on Rethinking Learning. I read it and thought it needed to be posted again with a few updates.

A Professional Learning Community (PLC) is comprised of people (teachers, para-professionals, administrators, and other community members) who collectively examine and collaboratively work to improve teaching practice. A PLC can but does not have to be situated in one school or district. With the ability to work online from anywhere at anytime, members of the community can connect, find others with similar interests, study and review existing teaching practice, and do action research to improve teaching and learning.

Being a teacher is challenging work and can be isolating. Many teachers teach the way they were taught which many times tends to be traditional lecture style: the expert or the giver of knowledge. Now with accountability issues, teachers are pressured to meet standards and teach to the test. What I am seeing is more teaching that is prescriptive in nature. In some areas, especially for at-risk students, this style can be  effective in teaching reading but less effective for students to retain deeper concepts. When teachers can interact with other teachers who have similar teaching situations, take the time to test and challenge their ideas, inferences and interpretations, and review and process information with each other, they grow professionally. This learning experience grows exponentially with the expanding exchange of ideas and multiple sources of knowledge from a variety of participants of the PLC.

A PLC can be a powerful professional development opportunity that encourages change and improves professional and personal learning.

Attributes of PLCs: the Five Dimensions
(adapted from source:

  1. Supportive and Shared Leadership. The collegial and facilitative participation of the administrator shares leadership with his/her staff by facilitating their work.
  2. Share Values and Vision. All PLC members develop a shared vision based on their commitment to the needs of their students and their desire to improve their teaching practice or grow their own skills and learning.
  3. Collective Learning and Application of Learning (Collective Creativity). PLC members move beyond existing procedures and teaching methods to design strategies for improvement based on high standards, latest research, and best practices.
  4. Supportive Conditions. The environment is risk-free so all members are safe and comfortable to collaborate, communicate, learn, make decisions, problem solve, and share their results and products.
  5. Physical Conditions and Human Capacities.
  1. Time to meet and talk
  2. Small size of school or PLC
  3. Physical proximity of staff to one another
  4. Teaching roles that are interdependent
  5. Communication structures
  6. School autonomy
  7. Teacher empowerment

I agree with the first four dimensions for any school. An online PLC can take the fifth dimension beyond the classroom and school walls.

  • PLC members can meet anytime from anywhere.
  • The PLC can be multiple sizes with the support of  eCoaches who guide and facilitate the process.
  • Anybody can be the teacher and learner and eCoach.
  • Communication online is a paradigm shift for teachers and needs to be designed into daily routines.
  • Teacher and Learner empowerment.
  • Learner centered environments.

The PLC as an Organizational Culture

Most learners adopt the organization’s guiding principles. If these principles are top-down decisions without input from all the stakeholders, the members of the organization may implement them without commitment and belief that they will affect positive change. The organization will be more successful if all members are valued and involved in the decisions on the direction of the community right from the beginning.

A sense of relational trust – linking the notions of respect, competence, personal regard, and integrity with academic achievement – also strengthens the community and makes shared decision-making possible. (Gordon – 2002)


Creativity in Education

There is a lot of talk about bringing creativity into the standards-based classroom. What does creativity mean to you? Does this mean that a teacher is defining the type of curriculum and classroom environment? Or does it mean that students have a say in what they learn?

I want to challenge you to think way outside the box about this. If we are going to design a learning environment where students are creative critical thinkers that have the skills to be collaborative global citizens and become the best they can be, the focus needs to be on the learner. If we do this, then everything changes: the school, the classroom, teacher education programs, administration, and the relationship with the school with the school community especially the parents.

I was reading today about the number of jobs available and that there are not enough people qualified in the US for high tech talent. Tapan Munroe stated in “It’s a seller’s market in some fields of work” that it is a myth that there aren’t job openings in America. Education is focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to help build these skills, but the US student is just not prepared to fill these jobs. US launched the Common Core standards that are separate skills that do not seem to relate to today’s kids. We have all the standards in My eCoach and teachers match their projects to them. We have people who are adding resources and projects to the standards. Here are two seventh grade Common Core Math standards:


Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems.
MATH-RPR.7.3. Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems. Examples: simple interest, tax, markups and markdowns, gratuities and commissions, fees, percent increase and decrease, percent error.
Expressions & Equations
Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic expressions and equations.
MATH-EE.7.3. Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies. For example: If a woman making $25 an hour gets a 10% raise, she will make an additional 1/10 of her salary an hour, or $2.50, for a new salary of $27.50. If you want to place a towel bar 9 3/4 inches long in the center of a door that is 27 1/2 inches wide, you will need to place the bar about 9 inches from each edge; this estimate can be used as a check on the exact computation.

How do you use this in a real-world situation? I asked Ken Bakken who is an eCoach on my team to help some 7th grade teachers create a real-world project that would make sense to students. Percentages can Make and Save you Money

This is still teacher-driven curriculum but it is a step in the right direction. The idea is to make the curriculum real to the learner. What if we tried a different approach where learners were given a problem or concept and they came up with the driving questions? Give them some real-world concepts like…

  • Climate Change
  • Pollution
  • Water Quality
  • The Price of Oil

If you look at one of these concepts, you could probably think of questions that will engage students in amazing discourse. Letting go is good. Let the students brainstorm the questions. Give them the standards and what is expected of them and then let them go again. Let them co-design the activities based on the standards. You provide the structure, the guidelines, and facilitate learning and collaboration. Just watch the creativity take off.


Brand Yourself

What is your Unique Selling Position (USP)? How do you stand out in a crowd or in social media so you are remarkable and different enough to get noticed by an employer or client?

You can do this by branding yourself. The job market is tough and sending thousands of resumés may not be the right way to get that “job” you want. I am older than most job-seekers but I learned some things about using the tools available to get known. I read this article from AARP and thought I’d share and adapt the tips for you.

  1. Find your passion. It’s all about what you believe in and thinking and looking positive about it. Believe in yourself and what you are doing. If you do, others will too. “Accepting yourself is the most important ingredient in the self-confidence formula.”
  2. Give an elevator speech.Come up with a short 60 second pitch that comes across who you are, what you do best, and why others should believe in you. Make it authentic, strong, and personal and make it stand out from your competition.
  3. Validate your passion.You believe in what you are doing. You are positive about it. Find others that do to. Encourage your believers to share your passion and get the buzz out all over the place. Find your “Google Quotient” using the Online ID Calculator ( to see how many relevant hits your name generates in a web search. Use social media like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter to build your PLN (Personal Learning Network).
  4. Promote your passion. Design business cards that promote you and your brand and give them out to everyone after your elevator speech. Link to your website that promotes you also. Have all of your contact information so people can find you.
  5. Come up with your look. Come up with your look and dress the part. You may have a signature accessory, color, or shoes. Just look as professional as you can with crazy boots or wild glasses.


Defining Quality Education

President Obama seeks to end the ‘status quo’ of education law. He got it right that schools are struggling to meet the requirements of the act and Duncan said “under the current law, it’s one size fits all. We need to fix this law now so we can close the achievement gap.” We are talking about designing a quality education that measures how students are improving. I’d like to propose a new movement that defines what quality education means. One size does not fit everybody so how do you define one type of education?

Not only do we have to call for more flexibility but be real about where students are. Not every child is ready or right for college. If we compare our students to students in China, India, and Brazil, then maybe we need to look at those students and where they really are based on achievement, prior knowledge, and goals. The students in these countries and others are tracked. We are comparing all of our children on their college bound students: the best of the best.

We measure all of our students…that is… the ones that don’t drop out. We base the tests on standards. The problem with the way state standards and Common Core standards are designed is that they are separate skills that don’t connect to the real world. Tests teach to each standard. This type of assessment is confusing for the test-taker and difficult to design.

Instead of focusing on each standard and how to teach to that standard, I suggest designing real-world projects or activities that meet those standards. You can map your curriculum and standards and even design collaborative projects with other teachers.

The Obama Administration has invested $350 million to support states in their efforts to create more sophisticated assessment systems that measure problem solving and other 21st century skills and that will provide teachers will timely information to help them improve instruction.

So in defining quality education, problem solving and 21st century skills, let’s look at authentic assessment i.e. portfolios. The portfolio is a collection of evidence of learning. Some of the evidence includes tests, essays, presentations, pictures, and reflections.

Questions to reflect on:

How do you measure improvement? How do you design this new type of learning environment that measures success of each student? This is not going to be easy but I’m up to the task. Are you?


Going to CUE

I’m looking forward to going to the CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference in Palm Springs  (March 16-19) – not just because of the weather. But because of the people — connecting in person with people you know virtually. This is my time to recharge, learn, unlearn, and take some risks. I’m presenting four sessions, so you probably have figured out what I’m doing right now. finding lots of resources and goodies to share.

CUE Conference 2011Come and Get It – Free Stuff to Use Right Away
Thursday 9:30-10:30 in the Oasis 4 of the Convention Center

Digital Storytelling and Web 2.0 Workshop
Thursday 11:30-2:30pm  – registration required
Plaza B Hilton Hotel – Windows Lab

Mobile Technology – Learning on the Go
Friday 11:30 – 11:50
Oasis 1 – Convention Center

Quick Ways you can bring Joy to Learning
Friday 3:30 pm to 3:50 pm
Oasis 1 – Convention Center

I’m putting together a website with lots of resources with a backchannel for participants to share resources. Let me know if you are going and share any presentations you are doing. If you are going to or presenting at a different conference, please share that also.


The Educated Unemployable

Thomas Friedman’s article China, Twitter and 20-year-olds vs the Pyramids wrote:

“Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia today are overflowing with the most frustrated cohort in the world — “the educated unemployables.” They have college degrees on paper but really don’t have the skills to make them globally competitive. I was just in Singapore. Its government is obsessed with things as small as how to better teach fractions to third graders.”

This issue is not the middle East’s problem alone. The world is changing and education is not looking at the bigger picture. We are in a global crises everywhere. Young people 15-29 are realizing that their education or lack of it is impacting their ability to get the type of jobs they need to live. They are finding they have a voice: on the Internet. People making sure they are heard: on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Friedman writes:

“The Arab world has 100 million young people today between the ages of 15 and 29, many of them males who do not have the education to get a good job, buy an apartment and get married. That is trouble. Add in rising food prices, and the diffusion of Twitter, Facebook and texting, which finally gives them a voice to talk back to their leaders and directly to each other, and you have a very powerful change engine.”

What if oil prices rise? They will. It’s inevitable. Then food prices. Yes, they will rise too especially if more countries have government turnovers and the people of the country revolt. It is now happening in Algeria. What about developed countries like the United States, the UK, Australia, and Europe. If the unemployment rate does not go down in the US to 8%, the US is going to make some changes maybe not to where we need to go. Also are the numbers correct? What about the 99ers who have been unemployed for over 13 months?

We have educated people who have been looking for work for months. Work has changed. Businesses are running slimmer and cutting costs because of the uncertain economy and less cash flow. So things have to change all over. If people 15-29 are educated, use social media, then maybe we need to teach them how to use social media to create businesses and entrepreneurial skills. For those in under-developed countries, this will be a very big challenge. How to create enough jobs or businesses for 100 million people? Oh my!!

There just are not enough jobs for everyone. When I look at organizations like Kiva that provide small loans for people around the world who want to start their own businesses, I see hope. Everyone of us has a dream somewhere down deep. We were born as unique individuals who have interests and passions. If we continue to teach the same way we have for hundreds of years, we will continue to get the same products. People looking for work that is not there.

It is time to review all this emphasis on testing and standards and question “are we preparing our children for their future?” Our competition is not the school next door. It is China and India. Our children are part of the global marketplace. As long as they believe school as we know it today may prepare them for their future, they are caught in a system that could lead them down a road of failure. Some jobs are definitely needed: doctors, lawyers, engineers. But even if you become a teacher, it does not mean you will be assured there will be a job for you where you want to work.

How about teaching how to do projects, create projects, and market your projects? People who have critical thinking skills and are creative how they find solutions will get projects. Jobs where you received benefits and a pension may not be the same anymore. Just having a job now does not give anyone security anymore. We are in a revolution. Education is the key but what it looks like today is not what we need for the world’s economy. It is not all about jobs anymore. It is about how we are preparing people for their own survival and how it benefits society or the people in your area. If we start children very young asking questions and being curious about the world, they will come up with solutions.

Why not create a project about the climate, the creeks in your area, housing market, or another major issue that impacts your community? Except ask the students to create the project, ask the questions, and own the process. Any project can match standards. Students own the learning when it is relevant and real to them.