Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration


Posts tagged with "ed tech"

Aug 8

My school district is making the move to digital textbooks, starting with high School science classes this year. Here is a little video that a local news channel did on it.

Ofcom: six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults

From the article:

They may not know who Steve Jobs was or even how to tie their own shoelaces, but the average six-year-old child understands more about digital technology than a 45-year-old adult, according to an authoritative new report published on Thursday.

The advent of broadband in the year 2000 has created a generation of digital natives, the communication watchdog Ofcom says in its annual study of British consumers. Born in the new millennium, these children have never known the dark ages of dial up internet, and the youngest are learning how to operate smartphones or tablets before they are able to talk.

"These younger people are shaping communications," said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s media research head. "As a result of growing up in the digital age, they are developing fundamentally different communication habits from older generations, even compared to what we call the early adopters, the 16-to-24 age group."

Click on the title to go to the article

Aug 1

Only Reporting the Planes that Crash in #edtech

As Don Henley once sang that the news loves to report when planes crash:

"We got the bubble headed Bleached blonde

Comes on at five

She can tell you ‘bout the plane crash

With a gleam in her eye

It’s interesting when people die

Give us dirty laundry”

-Dirty Laundry 1982

The fact is of course, that the news rarely reports the planes that land safely. News is only news, it seems, when the unusual happens. Houses that DON’T burn down are never news, Houses that burn down? Always news. Marriages that last forever? Not News. Divorce rate goes up? News. You get the idea.

With that in mind, I am noticing a trend in the news of reporting when big ed tech initiatives crash and burn. The most famous of course is the Los Angeles Unified iPad rollout where the kids immediately found a way around the built-in security and the iPads had to be recalled. Amid all of that, the district’s $1 Billion program crashed and burned, and recently the district rebooted the initiative with Windows laptops. I won’t debate the merits or lack thereof of the program, but it made for great news: giant ed tech program crashes. Millions of dollars wasted!

Then just this week, we learned that another large scale 1:1 initiate was cut back by the Hoboken School district, which decided to pull back it’s large-scale laptop initiative: Listen to the story here:

Of course, we could have a nice discussion about how these programs had some significant failures in implementation, not in goals. Poor logistics, bad training, poor communications. In the Hoboken case for instance the current Superintendent Toback “admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.”

The planes crashed in LA and Hoboken. Sigh.

The point however, is that there are 100s if not thousands of successful iPad and mobile device rollout programs across the country that the media does not report on. Both large scale and small scale. From chromebooks to laptops to tablets. From classroom implementations to district wide, to statewide programs. Consider the McAllen ISD in Texas who has had a wildly successful iPad 1:1 program. They are not alone. Remember the state of Maine? They still are going with laptops for all their kids in grade 7-12. Don’t hear too much about that anymore do you?

McAllen and the state of Maine: The planes are landing safely there. No one talks about them. Sigh again.

One major downside of all of this is that the average news watcher is going to see the plane crashes in Ed Tech and think that the NORM is for a bunch of money to be unwisely spent in times of budget cuts which it is not. Never seeing the positive or only tangentially by going to their kids school and seeing kids with technology.

We as ed tech proponents need to get the word out to our communities, not just report to ourselves about how wonderful we are, That is preaching to the choir. We need to preach to those that watch the bubble headed beach blondes for the evening news.

We need to celebrate the planes that land safely.

If teachers put the boring stuff outside the class in a flipped classroom, isn’t it still boring stuff? -Holt

If teachers put the boring stuff outside the class in a flipped classroom, isn’t it still boring stuff? -Holt

(Source: recitethis.com)

Dear Principals: Some Tips for Your First Back-to-School Meeting.

Dear New Campus Principal,
I know you have to do SOMETHING when all the we come back to school. I know that you are under the gun to be amusing, engaging, and informative. Some of us are a pretty hard audience. We have been through a whole lot of your kind over the years. It’s tough. Everyone is watching you and waiting for you to make a mistake so we can pounce on you like sharks on chum.

I thought I would make your life here a little easier by giving you a few pointers to make your new life here easier and to start the new year off on a good note. Believe me, I have been through a bunch of campus administrators over the years, and that old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression is true. Especially with us teachers.

So consider this a friendly welcome to the building letter. I hope you take it in the spirit that it is written.

Here goes nothing:

Please don’t show us a Ken Robinson video about how schools kill creativity and then in the next breath show us our test scores and tell us how we need to bring them up this year by sticking to the prescribed curriculum. Also any video that was made from cheesy sentimental slides telling us that all kids can learn while playing over some generic soft instrumental music is a no no. Oh, and we all saw that video of the guy that got everyone to dance on the hillside a couple of years ago.

Avoid giving us sports related platitudes about how we are all a team and that there is no “I” in team.

Don’t tell us that we need to use lots of technology in our classes if you are not willing to allow us time to learn how to use the technology and how we can incorporate it into our lessons. Allow us time to explore how we can use technology.

Don’t say you “plan” to do something. Either you are doing it or you are not. DO you PLAN to be walking the campus each morning or are you actually going to do it? Do you PLAN to be highly visible or are you actually going to do it? Do you PLAN on having lots of parental involvement, or are you actually going to have lots of parental involvement? We have seen lots of plans. We want to see lots of follow through.

Do not read a handout verbatim that you just gave out. We are all adults, We all have degrees. We can read. Really.

Do not say you want to have a culture of high expectations, and then are happy with test results that are the minimum expectation. Either we have high expectations or we don’t. But if we have high expectations, that means we also have high expectations for you.

On a side note, don’t tell us to not be afraid to fail, if you are going to get made if we fail at something. Set your rules for this, set your expectations, and let us know up front what you consider “acceptable failure” and what you do not.

Do not say you expect all of us to keep up with the latest trends in education, but then refuse to pay for any professional development opportunities. If it is within reason, then please send us to on going and meaningful professional development. And you can come along with us.

Do not read off your Powerpoint slides word for word.

Do not show a stupid Dilbert comic.

Do not treat teachers that have been in the system for 30 years the same as a new teacher. We know where the book room is, We know where the custodian hands out the keys. Meet with them separately to give them the lowdown on the basics.

Do not show us ANY video longer than 3 minutes.

Do not start a Book Study on the first day back.

Get to know the new staff BEFORE you introduce them at a meeting. Why are they here? Why did you hire them? Give us a little insight as to why you think they fit in here. Don’t just tell us that you think they will do a good job. Tell us WHY you think they will do a good job. Show us that you really thought about them when you hired them.

Don’t say you have an open door policy and then never be around. An open door is useless if no-one is there.

If you want us to use technology, then you use technology. Show us your blog. Show us you can walk the walk. And if you cannot, at least learn with us. Then use it.

We had BBQ for lunch last year. Try something different. Oh, and your secretary hates fajitas.

Tell us you are perfectly willing to take down every single motivational poster that has been hanging in the office for the last 10 years that no one has ever read.

Tell us that you will let all of us know when you will be out for the day. Don’t just tell your secretary.

Give us your cell number.

Have a great year.

And Good luck.

Don’t Believe Every Meme You See

Have you seen this meme going around Facebook? It is quite popular and has a gizillion “Likes.” I saw it on a few of my friends feeds, and it got me wondering if indeed the sentiment was true. Let’s think about it for a second:

The quote is: “In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in High School to teaching remedial English in college.” The quote is from a fellow named Joseph Sobran, a well known anti-Semitic conservative columnist who passed away in 2010. I suspect most people that pass these memes on have no idea who the person that made the quotes they agree with were like. They just like the quote and pass it on. No deep thought involved or needed to click “Send” or “Share.” The accompanying picture shows a kid wearing a Dunce hat sitting next to a computer, IMPLYING that computers make you a dunce.

These types of things show up almost on a weekly basis on the internet. Most of us have also seen the meme about the 8th grade test from 1895 or something, that most people today could not pass:

Such questions ask how many rods in an acre, and of course the scientifically inaccurate question asking students to explain why the Atlantic Coast is cooler than the Pacific Coast at a similar latitude (hmm..it isn’t actually, the water temperature is actually cooler on the US Pacific coast due to the way the ocean currents rotate..but I digress. Perhaps that is a trick question.)

The point of both of these memes is to demonstrate how poorly educated students today are compared to their counterparts 100 or so years ago. (I find it highly amusing that the people that are clicking “Like” probably could not pass that test, so what does that say about them?) By God, we are not teaching the Major Epochs in US History anymore! Dammit, my kids don’t know all the Republics of Europe! It is the Common Core’s fault! (Here is a list of them by the way. How many did you know?)

Of course those people that think kids today are just stupid, and that education is far inferior today than it was 100 years ago are totally wrong. Here is why:

Beginning with the Sobran quote, Latin and Greek, for the most part were taught in Prep schools, not your basic one room school house. For proof, look at the 1895 Kansas test and see how many questions ask about Greek or Latin? There are none. Frankly, Greek and Latin were part of a Rich White Male’s college prep education. The vast majority of students in school at the time, if they were even lucky enough to be in school because it was not mandatory, never took Latin, never took Greek, and almost certainly never took both together. If your Daddy was the owner of Standard Oil or your last name was Rockefeller, then you learned Latin and Greek. If your daddy was a dirt farmer, then you probably didn’t go to school at all.

As for remedial English college courses, there is some thought today that these courses are merely cash cows for cash-strapped universities and community colleges that are looking for any way possible to get students to pony up extra dough. Studies are now showing that remedial courses in post secondary schools are not needed in many cases, but still are offered or mandated. Many students in them do not need to be there, so for Sobran to say that remedial courses are bad is really saying that the system to get students enrolled in them is bad, not that the students or their education is lacking.

The people that make these memes are also ignoring basic US history. After WWII, there was a great number of returning vets that all of a sudden were placed back into the education system. Were they there to learn Latin and Greek? Of course not, They came back and wanted an education that would get them a job. As you can easily see from the graph below, the number of post secondary degrees awarded by accredited schools in the US has shot through the roof since the end of the Second World War. Latin and Greek were dropped out of most curricula because they were not needed to understand the jobs being offered, just as today. How many of you have had to pass a Greek test in order to get a job? Latin?

What the folks that decry how poorly our students are prepared ( do we really need to know such trivia as the feminine of Ox or the major rivers of South America?) rarely if ever turn the tables and ask if a student in 1895 Salina Kansas could pass a 2014 Eighth Grade standardized test? Consider the following question, taken off a pretty typical standardized science test:

How do you think those Kansas farm boys in 1895 would be up to answering that question? Probably not. The point is, tests are written for the times that the tests take place, not for 100 years after they were written. The other point is that education is designed to meet the needs of the CURRENT society, not the needs of society 10 decades past.

On a side note, the next time you come across the Kansas Test, you might want to point out that the Kansas Test was probably NOT an 8th grade test but rather a test for someone applying for a job TEACHING in Salina Kansas. There is nothing on the original document that says “Eighth Grade Test” and in fact there are questions about tax rates and school funding, knowledge probably even a 19th century farm kid in 8th grade didn’t need to know, then or now.

Now, if you REALLY want to know the state of education in the US from an historical perspective, you need to read Diane Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
Of course, it will take you a little more time than simply hitting the “Share” key on Facebook to actually learn the history of education.

What Lies Ahead For Digital Education: Forbes

From the Article:

But if the use of technology is to have differential impact, technology must be made integral to teaching, not supplemental to teaching. Past attempts to integrate new technologies have been half-hearted, at best. Embracing technological change is no longer optional, it is essential.

Click on title to go to article

Five Ways to Get People on Board with #edtech

Education technology is always a hard sell, epsecially with those teachers and administrators that are perfectly happy with the status quo. “Why change? My scores are just fine.” is a phrase that we hear all the time. I have always thought of a bell curve that I learned about in my ed admin classes all those years ago:

A certain percent of your teachers, if you are a new principal, will do whatever you ask. A certain amount will never do what you ask. The vast majority of teachers however, want to be convinced that what you are doing is correct.

So what are some strategies that can convince those teachers that they should get on board with ed tech initiatives? Here are five ways that should help you convince those teachers and administrators that your ed tech initiative is worth their time:

Start With the Why
Why are we doing this? What is the reason that we are doing this initiative? So often, we see some ed tech THING coming from central office, we are not told why this is being done, only that we have to do it. The issue with this, other than the trust, is that decisions seem to be made in some sort of vacuum, without consideration of WHY the decision was made.
Explaining WHY this particular ed tech decision was made will go a long way towards teachers and administrators trusting that the technology was not just purchased because we could.

Explain How This Technology Makes their Jobs Easier
This kind of is an addition to the “WHY” argument: How does this new thingy make my job easier? If you can honestly show teachers that this technology actually makes their jobs easier, even if there is an upfront expenditure of time and effort, then you will win many converts, especially if the effort to keep using this new technology requires less effort than the whatever it replaces.

There should be some trade off as well. Don’t push a new effort out if you are not willing to give something up. What is it that teachers will NOT have to do if they adopt the use of this new technology? If you do not have an answer to that question, it will appear that you are “piling on” something else.

Explain How this Help Students
No technology effort in a school district should not even be considered if you cannot somehow explain how this will help students. What are students doing with this technology which is superior to what they are doing without the technology? How does this make learning more meaningful? How can students use this across classes? How does this allow students to address their learnign weaknesses? Show how this helps students, and many teachers will be convinced that this is a good thing.

Provide Meaningful Professional Development
Meaningful professional development means more than just showing how something works. Meaningful means how do you put this work in a classroom setting, using the new tool. If I teach science, then show me how to use this in science. Same for any class I teach. Do not just show me how to turn it on. Show me how to use this with my students.
If the PD is weak, then the implementation will be weak as well. Ed tech is not the field of dreams, where if you build it they will come. Meaningful PD provides the wedge between the naysayers who argue that the tool is a waste of time or money or effort.

Always Provide for Feedback and Transparency
From the very outset, allow for users to provide feedback. If teachers or administrators feel they have no voice in the process, then they will feel that they are being forced to use something that they may not need. Users of technology should be able to vent frustrations in a constructive way, as well as be able to provide feedback on what is working and what is not working. The folks that put in the technology should also be willing to admit when something is not working and be able to swallow their pride and create constructive work arounds for problems. There has never been a 100% successful implementation of anything. If you expect problems will occur, then when they happen, it is easier to respond.

Douglas Adams Reimagined for Instructional Technology

I recently ran across this quote from the late author Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Fame:

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technology:

  • Anything that is in the world when you are born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  • Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  • Anything invented after you are 35 is against the natural order of things.”

I thought I would rewrite that for education, with emphasis on teachers that still aren’t interested in doing technology integration:

  • Anything that is in the school when you started your career is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way education works.
  • Anything that’s invented between the first 5 years of your career and 15 years into your career is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get used to using it with your students.
  • Anything invented after you have been in education for 15 years is against the natural order of things and should be avoided at all costs.

What do you think? Too mean?

Handy Guide to The resources from Thinkfinity

As most of you know, the website aggregator Thinkfinity is shutting down. For years, Thinkfinity was a great place to find loads of lesson plans that spanned curricular areas. For instance, if you needed a lesson that combined arts with pretty much anything, Thinkfinity was the place to go.

Thinkfinity may be gone, but the resources and websites are still available. For those of you that are not familiar with Thinkfinity, let me assure you that ALL of these websites are of the highest quality and all have tons of resources for teachers.

Here is the list of partners that helped make Thinkfinity so great:


EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities.

EDSITEment offers a treasure trove for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality material on the Internet in the subject areas of literature and language arts, foreign languages, art and culture, and history and social studies.

All websites linked to EDSITEment have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom. They cover a wide range of humanities subjects, from American history to literature, world history and culture, language, art, and archaeology, and have been judged by humanities specialists to be of high intellectual quality. EDSITEment is not intended to represent a complete curriculum in the humanities, nor does it prescribe any specific course of study.

The EDSITEment experience includes:

  • a user-friendly website that offers easy homepage access to the latest offerings from EDSITEment
  • NEH Connections: a robust feature that links to NEH-funded projects of particular relevance to educators
  • user-defined lesson-plan searches that can be customized and filtered five different ways
  • direct access to student resources and interactives from the homepage
  • a rotating calendar feature with access to a full, yearly calendar
  • Closer Readings +, a unique blog for and about the humanities in the classroom
  • EDSITEment was selected as one of the top 25 websites for 2010 by the America Association of School Librarians and has been accepted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Permanent Research Collection of Information Technology, the world’s premier historical record of computing applications and innovations.


    If you are a math teacher, you need to be here. Illuminations is a project designed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

    Lessons and interactives searchable by NCTM’s Principles and Standards and by the Common Core State Standards.

  • Over 600 lesson plans
  • Over 100 activities; these are virtual manipulatives, applets, and games
  • 13 Calculation Nation® games
  • Play online math strategy games against a computer or players from around the world. 8 Issues of Bright Ideas yearly

    Bright Ideas is the e-newsletter of Illuminations. This newsletter provides the inside scoop into the best and latest resources, information, and new ideas to interested teachers.

    5 mobile apps for iOS and Android

    6 social media platforms

    National Geographic Education

    The National Geographic Education Portal offers free geography, science, and social studies content resources for K-12 educators, learners, and families. Created by the National Geographic Center for Geo-Education, the Portal’s highly engaging materials maximize learning in and out of the classroom.

    The Portal features wide-ranging instructional content—spanning pre-kindergarten through post-secondary—that brings concepts and real-world events to life for our worldwide audience. Cutting-edge multimedia and mapping tools engage a new generation of young people in National Geographic’s iconic research and media.

    With over one million visitors each month, the award-winning Education Portal is recognized as one of the most innovative sources for educational and reference content.

    Teaching Resources

  • Standards-based lessons and activities use National Geographic photos and video to enable teachers and students to explore the world.
  • Hundreds of free activities and lesson plans are available for use in classrooms, homes, and other educational settings. They are searchable by grade, subject, and audience.
  • Lessons, activities, units, and ideas
  • Professional development resources and courses
  • Collections for STEM, Common Core, citizen science, and other timely topics
  • Educational interactives and games
  • Reference and News
  • The Portal’s extensive reference offerings for students combine maps, videos, photos, and text to explain complex topics in an accessible, student-friendly way. Students can search by grade and subject to satisfy their personal curiosity or conduct research for school.
  • Geography and geoscience encyclopedia
  • Real-world profiles of explorers and scientists
  • Articles on events and research
  • Homework help
  • National Geographic video, photography, and illustrations
  • Mapping
  • Interactive maps and tools offer students the chance to see the world in new ways by inviting them to create and print their own maps,
  • incorporate thematic data about the world, and supplement it with graphics and links of their own creation. FieldScope, our interactive mapping platform, lets citizen scientists view and analyze data geographically.
  • Interactive maps with thematic data layers for data analysis
  • Geo-tours and geo-quizzes
  • Black-and-white outline maps to print in sizes from 8.5x11 inches to 8x10 feet
  • Historical maps and maps from National Geographic magazine
  • Games and Interactive Multimedia
  • The Portal’s many games, apps, and interactives for learners focus on decision-making, interconnections, and learning through exploration.
  • History interactives
  • Interactive science models and calculators
  • Exploration games
  • Vocabulary games
  • Geography games

  • Read Write Think

    At ReadWriteThink, their mission is to provide educators, parents, and afterschool professionals with access to the highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials. A great source for cross curicular activities, including lots of ideas and materials for after school lessons.

    RWT contains lesson plans, professional development parent resources. after school resources, and a wide variety of videos.

    Science Net Links for the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science

    Science NetLinks is a premier K-12 science education resource produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At Science NetLinks, you’ll find teaching tools, interactives, podcasts, and hands-on activities, and all of it is free!

    Science NetLinks provides K-12 teachers, students, and families with quality resources for teaching and learning science.

    All of the resources are Internet based and free to everyone. Lessons and activities can be printed or used online. Many of the interactives, esheets, and tools work great on an interactive white board or in a computer lab. All of the resources are designed to be delivered in a variety of formats and classroom settings.


    At the heart of Science NetLinks are standards-based lesson plans that incorporate reviewed Internet resources, and can be selected according to specific learning goals and grade ranges. Each lesson is tied to at least one learning goal and uses research-based instructional strategies that support student learning. The lessons are written for the teacher, but include student-ready materials such as student sheets (student reproducibles) or esheets (online worksheets that enable students to engage directly in Internet activities).

    Each Science NetLinks lesson ties to at least one specific learning goal and uses research-based instructional strategies to support student learning. All Science NetLinks lessons follow pedagogy guidelines recommended by the AAAS Project 2061, as well as many other education researchers, and begin with motivation exercises. These exercises allow students to engage in an introductory exploration, with guiding questions. These explorations may be conducted online or offline, and involve concrete, relevant involvement with the subject matter.

    The activities in a typical Science NetLinks lesson provide an opportunity for students to participate in a series of guided reflections that will engage them in the subject matter. These can take a variety of forms, including the following:

    Full class discussions, in which the teacher leads the class in a group discussion of the questions and situations that are posed; Self-guided exploration involving one student or a small team of students responding to the questions in case journal work sheets printed from the web site;

    Individual participation, using a student virtual workspace, in which a student responds to the material online in a personal, electronic notebook that stores the student’s answers on a web-accessible file. Online interactives that illustrate concepts or processes (for example, investigating the layers of the skin or how organs work together in a system) or other supplemental information that will help students understand the content. All lessons include detailed teacher components that offer content framework, instructional strategies, and suggestions for ongoing student assessment. Strategies for checking students’ understanding are embedded throughout the materials and guide teachers in making instructional decisions, and provide measurable learning results.


    Science NetLinks Tools are a comprehensive collection of the best resources on the Web for students and teachers. Included in Tools are original interactive lessons developed by Science NetLinks as well as annotated reviews of the best STEM resources on the Web. Each Tool includes a detailed description of the resources as well as substantive suggestions for using the resource in the classroom. Also included in each Tool are customized links to other related Science NetLinks content.


    Science NetLinks Collections are resource lists compiled around a theme or topic. They may include lessons, tools, Science Updates, or other Science NetLinks content as well as additional resources from trusted sites that support or enhance the Collection theme.

    Science News

    Science NetLinks Science News is the place to go to get the latest news on what’s happening in the world of science. It includes several dynamic features that provide links to articles from ScienceNOW and Science for Kids as well as the latest Science Update, Mystery Image, Science Blog, and Thinkfinity Community discussion. Science News is updated frequently to stay fresh and relevant to science educators and students.

    Science Updates

    Science Updates are 60-second radio programs presenting current science research, as well as responses to questions phoned in to the Science Update hotline (1-800-WHY-ISIT). Science NetLinks Science Update lessons include suggestions for using the research in the K-12 classroom, as well as the transcript and an MP3 file for playback.


    Science NetLinks Afterschool is for afterschool facilitators and daycare providers who would like to bring more hands-on science to the children in their care. It includes a list of activities, grouped by age. Each experiment includes a facilitator page and a student page. The facilitator page not only includes the instructions for setting up and running the activity, but also offers an explanation of the science involved in plain English and suggests related activities for further follow-up. The student page includes a link to the student’s instructions for conducting the experiment or online activity, as well as one or two links to additional youth-friendly resources, such as videos, podcasts, or websites.

    Smithsonian History Explorer

    This site appears to have moved to Edmodo. The links, at least when we tried them were slow or dead.


    Welcome to Wonderopolis®, a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Brought to life by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), our Wonders of the Day® will help you find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, a stolen moment between breakfast and the bus, or within school curriculum and education programs.

    Wonder is for everyone. It can happen anywhere and at anytime. Connecting the learning we do in our schools, our homes, and our communities, Wonderopolis walks the line between formal and informal education. Each day, we pose an intriguing question and explore it in a variety of ways. Our approach both informs and encourages new questions, sparking new paths of wonder and discovery in family and classroom settings.

    Since our inception in October 2010, Wonderopolis has been lauded for our fresh approach to wonder and learning. Some of our awards and recognition include:

  • TIME magazine’s “50 Top Websites of 2011”
  • Parenting.com “Best Kids’ App”
  • EdSurge featured School Tool
  • WOMMY winner (2011)
  • USA Today 4-star rating
  • TIME Techland Technologizer endorsement of the Wonderopolis app
  • Winner of Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award for the Family
  • With multi-disciplinary content that purposefully aligns to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the STEM Educational Quality Framework, and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we’ve earned a place in K-12 curriculum and in classrooms worldwide. Teachers can use the daily Wonder to jumpstart their students’ critical thinking, or dip into our ever-growing collection of Wonders for content that relates to specific themes and student interests. The possibilities for using Wonderopolis in the classroom are endless, and we invite you to find firsthand accounts and additional resources in the Educator Sandbox.

    Children, parents, teachers, schools, and families all benefit from Wonderopolis—as well as contribute to its content and growth. Supporting 21st century communication and digital citizenship, visitors who leave comments on the site receive personalized responses from the Wonderopolis team. Users are encouraged to nominate their own Wonders and to vote on Wonder ideas from others.

    - See more at: http://wonderopolis.org/about/#sthash.yXQSQ3Mw.dpuf

    It was sad to see Thinkfinity die, but most of the material lives on in one form or another. Most of this content is free to use and replicate.

    Jul 9

    10 Questions With Vicki Davis on her new book “Reinventing Writing”

    Vicki Davis is known far and wide as the “Cool Cat Teacher” and has one of the most widely read education technology blogs The Cool Cat Teacher. She recently published a new book "Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever.” She was gracious enough to answer ten questions about the book. As always, with all author interviews, the answers are unedited.

    Q: Can you give us a 10,000 foot view of your new book “Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever?”

    We have incredible new tools to teach writers that will empower peer review, make assessment easier, and unleash collaboration and yet so many schools are still satisfied with just typing the same old paper essay. I wanted to write an approachable book that any teacher could understand about how to teach writing in school. To get started, I took the 60+ tools I’ve used in my own classroom and wrote them on post it notes to determine just what categories of writing we should talk about. I simple ways to select the right tool, set it up quickly, and how to prevent common mistakes and demonstrate how it has never been easier, more convenient or more important than right now. Every teacher or school who teaches writing or uses writing across the curriculum principles will want this book as a reference.

    Q: I hear a lot of teachers tell me that technology tools are taking something out of learning. Some say that it removes that personal touch. Do you find that to be true? What do you say to those that think technology is going to somehow lessen their roles as teachers?

    ​If you use it collaboratively it can connect learners and engage communities. This is a hard one because change is hard. I would say that it depends on how they are connecting students. If students are now just connected to a machine then yes, we’ve moved one step closer away from human touch. However, I see technology as always being about people. When my students write with kids in Iowa or masters students in Alaska - they are connecting in a new, powerful way.

    Teachers need to know how to: 1) engage peer review and feedback every day and 2) interact with their students online and 3) connect their classrooms with other learners from around the world. These three things can supercharge learning and writing.

    As for lessening our roles as teachers, we are connectors, coaches, and lead learners. Research shows that teachers remain and continue to be the single most important factor for student achievement. While the effectiveness of the school and a student’s background do factor in greatly, not as much as the teacher in the classroom.

    By learning and improving our practice continually, we can become more effective teachers every day. In the south we say “when you’re green, you’re growing, when you’re ripe, you rot.” As a teacher, we’re never ripe - we must always grow and learn the best practices to help our students — that is what makes us more effective.

    Q: How is writing changing?

    ​We can now collaborate and give peer feedback. Tools like Kaizana let us leave voice feedback (an important best practice for struggling writers.)

    I heard someone who observed a teacher who had a 1:1 iPad classroom. Her students wrote, stacked their iPads on her desk. She looked at them and checked them off and handed them back. If you look at the SAMR model — the lowest level is just “Substitution.” This means that technology has just been substituted for something that was already done — in this case paper. iPads are expensive replacements for paper and this classroom totally missed the point of what writing using technology can do!​

    The last stage of SAMR is Redefinition and that is where I want to help teachers understand how new tools are redefining how we can teach. We still incorporate some of the older things that we used to do, but now we redefine. For example, ProWriting Aid is such a powerful tool for grammar and style, what teacher wouldn’t want to use the free version of that with Google Docs? (It works free for under 1,000 words.)

    Q: What should we be saying to students about the future of writing? What should we be saying to teachers?

    Writing is still essential to being well educated. While some call video “the book of the future” - great videos have scripts and descriptions and blog posts written about them. And yet, when we write in schools, students must see themselves as professionals. I teach my students that they are professional students. How they write in their social lives is up to them, but when they are professionals they must write in ways that include others. While English is being used by many around the world, our dependence upon translator apps means that when we write in nonstandard ways and ignore punctuation and capitalization that we are excluding some people from understanding our work. Most students who haven’t been taught immediately resort to terrible grammar, spelling, and punctuation when they go online. We must help them understand that their job is as a professional student so we can help them shift gears and thrive in the academic and business world. We should also help them see and enjoy the beauty, wonder, and art of good writing (and reading).

    I believe most teachers love their students and want to help students succeed. To do this, we have to shift our minds and modalities out of the 20th century in which we were raised. Remember your grandparents who used to say, “I used to walk two miles to school and why don’t you? It was good enough for me and it is good enough for you.” The way we were taught was born out of another century. While there are some things we can use, we’ve got a wealth of research and innovation at our fingertips now. We know so much more about the human brain and learning. Add to that the proliferation of conditions like ADD and special needs and we have a completely new age of teaching. We can thrive and not just survive in this world today as teachers but we must learn how.

    I want teachers to be empowered and encouraged and Reinventing Writing is a book about hope. In the final chapter I share my strategy of innovation for overwhelmed teachers — Innovate like a turtle. Enough said. ;-)​

    Q: One concern that many educators have is that paper and pens are ubiquitous, while iPads and other technology is not available to everyone. What are your thoughts on that?

    You use what you have. Paper and pens are still part of writing - of course. But as other devices proliferate we must use them to help students collaborate. My school is a BYOD school but not all students have full sized devices, so much of our writing is taught in our computer lab. .

    Schools who do not have every single student in their middle and high school writing electronically should reexamine and restructure what they’re doing. I recommend that the school and district take the free survey from Project 24 (http://all4ed.org/issues/project-24/) and benchmark what they are doing against best practices for 21st century schools. .

    We use what we have but we also push forward to what we must do. Most teachers do have their own computing device, this book will help them improve their own writing and co-planning until they can help their students with writing. It starts with you learning and with the massive movement towards technology in every school, the time to learn is now.​.

    Q: Something I always hear from teachers is that there are no actual, real life, in-the-classroom examples of what us Ed Tech people are advocating. How do you address that in your book?.

    I am a classroom teacher - every single tool in the book I have used with my students. Everything I write is born out of personal experience and recommendations from other teachers. Quite a few chapters also had collaborative editors — teachers who added their thoughts and shared. Those chapters were actually written in Google Docs! Those who follow my Cool Cat Teacher blog will know that I’m pretty practical and this book is an example. .

    I do have two pieces from researchers where appropriate — one on wikis by Dr. Justin Reich of Harvard University and another on cooperation vs. collaboration from Dr. Mary Friend Shepherd. Sue Waters also shares best practices for teaching blogging from her experiences with tens of thousands of teachers on Edublogs. ​.

    Q: Why just nine tools? Aren’t there a million?

    Back to the post it notes from the beginning. There are many many tools but when I took the 60+ tools I was using in my classroom to teach writing and began grouping them, I saw patterns emerge. I also wanted to help teachers understand just what had been reinvented in their classroom.

    For example, Reinventing Your Filing Cabinet talks about Cloud Storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, and One Drive and how to store files. Reinventing Prewriting talks about brainstorming tools and graphic organizers. Reinventing Paper talks about ePaper and eBooks and Reinventing Notetaking gets into Evernote and One Note and how to take notes electronically. You get the idea. There are basic things in the classroom which have transformed and there may be several tools that can be used in that category of tool. So, it would be 9 categories of tools I guess you could say.​

    Q: I am a teacher and I say to you: “These are just more things I have to learn. I don’t have time.” What do you answer back?

    I say read Chapter 13 - my personal strategy of innovation. As I work to improve I keep a list of my big three - what are the next three things I’m going to learn. In the past three years one of my things was writing. We implemented a program in my school called “Writing Across the Curriculum” - which I thing is important. But in my technology-centric classroom I found it was so hard. As I pushed forward and got every student to write eagerly and often, I wanted it to be easier for other teachers.

    So, if writing is your thing to improve - just read the book and then come up with your big three. I always recommend that overwhelmed teachers read the last chapter first as it calms them down. Too many of us get into overload paralysis instead of just plodding ahead like a turtle one flipper at a time.​

    Q: What did you hope to accomplish by writing this book?

    I want to make writing with technology easy, approachable, and more effective. Writing teachers are on a hamster wheel being asked to run faster and faster and it is killing many of them. I have friends who grade essays every night and you could hang clothes hangers on the bags under their eyes by the end of the school year. IT DOESN”T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!!

    There are simple ways to improve writing and to harness the power of peers. I have a whole chapter on building a community of writers because I think that so many do not unleash the power and engagement of a writing community.

    I’m so grateful for the teachers who helped me journal, write, and even publish my own work in high school. I want to help more teachers reach more students than ever. Students who write and publish online are students with a voice - I want that for every student.

    Teachers are amazing professionals but they often just want to know a practical how-to and advice. This book is my effort to give them that - from a real classroom teacher. I wrote it at 4:45 each morning over the past two years and quite a bit last summer. ​

    Q: I always like to ask this question to all the authors: Who is listening?

    Great question. To me the question is more about conversation. When I write I put my Twitter handle on the cover. When someone reads a book or blog post of mine, I want to engage in conversation with my fellow teachers.

    So, we’ve had some great conversation - some are using #reinventingwriting and others are just messaging me about the book. Right now, many teachers feel the relief of just picking 3 things and starting on those. Many are starting at different places. I’m seeing elementary teachers focus on prewriting tools and infographics and using Voicethread to help students speak with topic sentences so they’ll be able to write with them. Lots of elementary classrooms are starting to publish their own ebooks and teachers are running class twitter accounts as I discuss in the Reinventing Journals: Blogging & Microblogging Chapter.

    Middle school teachers seem to be heavily into collaborative writing and peer review and using tools like Kaizena and Google Docs for feedback. High school teachers are using all of these things but also getting into ebooks, epaper, ​and all of the great citations tools as well as the research tools in the book. The “term paper” process is evolving and students are getting far more feedback along the way from peers instead of the teacher having to be the one reviewer.

    All classrooms are publishing and sharing and Quadblogging is becoming wildly popular. There is a ton of conversation on the difference between journaling and blogging (and rightly so.)

    I’m getting ready to create a group on Voxer for the teachers who are having these conversations. I think excellent books in today’s educational circles become conduits for conversation. So, I want to facilitate connections between teachers so they can share best practices. Reinventing Writing gives them a common starting point.

    So, who is talking about reinventing writing the concept? Every single school moving into the 21st century. Reinventing Writing is rapidly become part of that conversation and that is exciting to see.

    Thanks again for taking time to answer these questions Vicki. ​Thanks for including me! The book is: Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever

    From the Publisher:

    In this much-anticipated book from acclaimed blogger Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher), you’ll learn the key shifts in writing instruction necessary to move students forward in today’s world. Vicki describes how the elements of traditional writing are being reinvented with cloud-based tools. Instead of paper, note taking, filing cabinets, word processors, and group reports, we now have tools like ePaper, eBooks, social bookmarking, cloud syncing, infographics, and more. Vicki shows you how to select the right tool, set it up quickly, and prevent common mistakes. She also helps you teach digital citizenship and offers exciting ways to build writing communities where students love to learn.

    Special Features:

  • Essential questions at the start of each chapter to get you thinking about the big ideas
  • A chapter on each of the nine essential cloud-based tools—ePaper and eBooks; digital notebooks; social bookmarking; cloud syncing; cloud writing apps; blogging and microblogging; wikis and website builders; online graphic organizers and mind maps; and cartoons and infographics
  • A wide variety of practical ways to use each tool in the classroom
  • Alignments to the Common Core State Standards in writing
  • Level Up Learning—a special section at the end of each chapter to help you review, reflect on, and apply what you’ve learned
  • Writing tips to help you make the best use of the tools and avoid common pitfalls
  • A glossary of key terms discussed in the book
  • Useful appendices, including reproducible material for your classroom
  • No matter what grade level you teach or how much tech experience you have, you will benefit from Vicki’s compelling and practical ideas. As she emphasizes throughout this essential book, teaching with cloud-based tools has never been easier, more convenient, or more important than right now.

    About Vicki Davis:

    Vicki Adams Davis (1969- ) Through her blog, “Cool Cat Teacher,” Vicki helps educators teach with better results, lead with a positive impact, and live with a greater purpose.

    Vicki teaches full time in Camilla, Georgia at Westwood Schools where she teaches technology and business courses for grades 8-12 and serves as IT Director for the school. With more than 70,000 Twitter followers Vicki was named one of “Twitter’s Top 10 Rockstar teachers” by Mashable and included in Thomas Friedman’s book, the World is Flat.

    Vicki’s classroom and blog have won many awards including the ISTE Online Learning Award and more. She is author of Reinventing Writing and coauthor of Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds. Her Cool Cat Teacher Blog, is consistently named one of the top 50 blogs in education worldwide. She hosts the online show “Every Classroom Matters” which consistently trends as a top 10 show in the K12 section of iTunes. Vicki has keynoted more than 20 education technology conferences in the US and around the world.

    Vicki has written for Edutopia, the Washington Post, SmartBlogs and more.

    She’s from the south Georgia, growing up on a farm just outside Camilla. Vicki is passionate about inspiring excellent teaching and about helping people use technology effectively to live their dreams. You can read more about Vicki at coolcatteacher.com on Twitter @coolcatteacher.

    Jul 8

    This is simply awesome and should be played at every parent night at every school in every city in every state. Inspire HER to change the world. Nice job Verizon. Hats off for this PSA.

    Jul 7

    Five Reasons to Flip your Leadership

    I think that in about a year, the term flipped will morph into something else because it is becoming overused. In the meantime, we have to put up with the phrase in almost any content, in this case, flipping leadership. I think the ideas here are good, but it seems to me that this is all about good staff development, good communications and good leadership. Are the five things he mentions here exclusive to being a flipped leader? I don’t know. The five things he lists are:

    • Maximizes Faculty/Staff Meetings
    • Sets the mindset before a district meeting
    • Improves Parent engagement
    • Saves Time
    • Puts the focus on learning
    Click on the title to go to the article.
    Jul 1

    Nearly one-third of Americans aren't ready for the next generation of technology

    How are we as educators making this easier for people? From the article:

    A new survey suggests that the digital divide has been replaced by a gap in digital readiness. It found that nearly 30% of Americans either aren’t digitally literate or don’t trust the Internet. That subgroup tended to be less educated, poorer, and older than the average American.

    In contrast, says Eszter Hargittai, a sociologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who was not involved in the study, those with essential Web skills “tend to be the more privileged. And so the overall story … is that it’s the people who are already privileged who are reaping the benefits here.”

    The study was conducted by John Horrigan, an independent researcher, and released 17 June at an event sponsored by the Washington, D.C.–based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the study of 1600 adults measured their grasp of terms like “cookie” and “Wi-Fi.” It asked them to rate how confident they were about using a desktop or laptop or a smart phone to find information, as well as how comfortable they felt about using a computer. Of those who scored low in these areas, about half were not Internet users.

    E.O. Wilson’s “Life on Earth” complete is now free

    A couple of days ago, Apple announced it was upgrading iTunes U so that teachers could create entire courses inside their iPads. It looks like they are kicking it up a notch as they have just released E.O.Wilson’s entire work Life on Earth for free in the iTunes Bookstore. If you are not familiar with this work, it continues to be one of the most interactive AWESOME ibooks ever created. Even if you are not teaching biology, this is a great set of books to have on your iPad.

    Along with the books come the free course as well on the iTunes U

    “’Life on Earth’ comes alive on iPad, providing a stunning perspective on life. The interactive experience will ignite in students an appreciation for what they have inherited—this beautiful planet and every living thing on it—and an understanding of the role and responsibility we all have to preserve the biodiversity around us,” said Wilson. “I am immensely proud of the iBooks textbook series that the Foundation is providing at no cost to students and the public, allowing us to bring the meaning and importance of biodiversity to life for a global audience.”

    “We are very proud of the enormous effort by all involved in making E.O. Wilson’s ‘Life on Earth’ a reality. We have created a state-of-the-art teaching tool that brings a new dimension to our understanding of nature and biodiversity, and how it should be presented in classrooms,” said Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “We aim to inspire a new generation of explorers and informed citizens who are prepared to take responsibility for conserving and protecting the biological richness of nature as a treasure to be passed on.”

    From the iTunes release notes:

    Inspired and led by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalists Edward O. Wilson – and created with a team of world-renowned educators and artists – this comprehensive and original standards-based curriculum tells the story of life on Earth, giving students a deep understanding of introductory biology.

    Presented as a seven-unit collection, E. O. Wilson’s Life on Earth is a free iBooks Textbook that uses rich, Multi-Touch experience to engage students in lessons about everything from molecules to ecosystems.

    And accompanying iTune U course – Biology: Life on Earth – extends students’ learning in and out of the classroom with reading and writing assignments and extension activities like field observations and moviemaking.

    Designed to prepare tomorrow’s biochemists, explorers, environmental policymakers, and engaged citizens for their work, this captivating curriculum inspires students to take responsibility for conserving and protecting nature’s biological treasures.

    Another nail into the publisher’s of textbooks coffin.

    Go get it.