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I’ve recently stumbled upon a business blog titled I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and have found it surprisingly relevant to the world of teaching.  While I’m working my way through it, and will be excited to share more as I get further, this initial post made me think a LOT about planning and prioritizing.

On a daily basis teachers are faced with tons of choices.  Teacher look or silent lunch?  Physical proximity or public discipline?  Grade for mastery or completion?  Lecture or discussion?  Multiple choice or free response?

The problem is, there are often pros and cons of each (and I will be the first to admit that limited time is often a factor in the choice made), so we’re forced to prioritize.  But how do we figure out in which situations the reward vs. time required ratio will be highest?

In his post titled Introducing 2011: The Year of the Hustle, Ramit discusses the idea of disproportionate rewards.  That by investing a small, or large, amount of extra time in a task or project, the growth in rewards will be significantly higher than the increase in time.  The example he gives is related to the amount of time he puts into a guest post created for a blog, and the impact it has on how many people read it:

The immediate connection I make is to planning a lesson.  While it feels good to get through a plan, have all materials ready, and head home with a chance to watch your favorite TV show, this makes me wonder how much extra time would be required for a plan to begin yielding disproportionate rewards in regards to student mastery and/or investment in the content…

And how do we attach numerical values in order to calculate the disproportionate rewards?  I can attach numbers to student mastery (if I’m getting lucky with my assessment skills), but what about student investment, and their ‘I Can/I Want’ (to use very TFA lingo)?  And in the spirit of teacher sustainability and personal/professional alliance, how can I figure out exactly how valuable those extra two hours of TV/gym time are a night in order to figure out if the rewards really are disproportionate to what you’re giving up to yield them?

So this leaves me asking two questions:

1) How do I attach numerical data to pieces of the teaching world that aren’t as easy to quantify as pieces of the business world in order to calculate if a choice is producing disproportionate rewards, and

2) Which choices in my day will produce the most disproportionate rewards?  Where do I spend my time???

These questions make me excited to dive into 2011: The Year of the Hustle, where the aim is to find “unconventional ways to achieve high impact goals”.  Let’s see what we can figure out here in the world of education.


Ever since I made the decision to return to the classroom, and Gaston, I’ve been contemplating the purchase of an iPad.  My motivation is twofold:

1) With the amount of papers I organized daily on my clipboard, I wonder if the iPad (with it’s inclusion of Numbers, Pages and Keynote) is a quicker, more efficient, and lighter way to do all this.

2) I LOVE thinking about how we can teach our kids the newest technological skills, as well as use technology to teach our kids in an innovative way.  It’s hard to do this without having the newest tools, yeah?

Or maybe these are just my excuses to play with the coolest new toys on the market…

Either way, I finally bit the bullet and my iPad has been officially purchased.  Sadly they were out of stock at the store so I won’t be receiving it until literally a day before I move.

Some of the things I most excited about…

  • Using Numbers to organize basic grades, missing assignments, homework completion, my daily action plan, etc.
  • While having class discussions being able to quickly look up facts and pictures.  Pictures will be a great tool for visual learners when we’re doing readings and names/places pop up.  We can use Google Image search or Google maps to put a picture to an event or person.  Having the flexibility to do this anywhere in the room is a huge plus of the iPad, especially when you want to get students out of their desks.
  • Quick access to YouTube videos or video podcasts to accompany a lesson.

Some of my concerns…

  • How hard will it be to manage documents between a work computer (PC), personal computer (Mac) and now an iPad?
  • How can I get students using it, as much as possible, without risking damage?
  • How do I find meaningful ways to integrate it into a lesson as opposed to ‘gimicky’ ways?
  • Will I be able to purchase my class textbooks from iBooks?  So far I’ve only found one…
  • I’ve already bought a collection of books to use in class- will I need to repurchase all of them for my iPad as well if I want to use that for reading/highlighting/notetaking instead?
  • How long will it take to finally be able to comment on books on the iPad?
  • Wouldn’t it be cool if I could wirelessly connect it to an LCD and run keynote from my iPad?  Not sure how long it will take until that’s possible…
  • Printing.  Rumor has it this will be fixed in the next software update, but it’s hard to know when that will be.

I’ll keep you posted when I start using it!

After taking two years off to get my Masters in Curriculum Development and Instructional Supervision, I’m moving back to Gaston 🙂  This year, however, I won’t be teaching technology.  Not as one of my main objectives anyway.  I am reuniting with my former students, the Pride of 2012, at the high school, where I will be teaching them 11th grade US History.

I don’t know how to teach without blogging about the experience, and am excited for the opportunities to explore what it looks like to continue to integrate and teach technology in a high school social studies classroom…

I’ve spent the past two years thinking more about teaching in general, and continuing to follow a few of my favorite tech integration blogs, so of course have begun thinking not only about the North Carolina Standard Course of Study (which is extremely necessary for someone with limited knowledge of the content), but also how I can be sure to integrate technology, media literacy and 21st century learning skills into my classroom.  Right now I’m purely in the planning stages, but have found this blog post by Will Richardson on assessment to be particularly helpful.

Titled ‘Assessments for New Learning’, he uses some ideas from Douglas Reeve’s book (21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn) to analyze how we’re currently assessing our kids.  If we want to teach them these important 21st century skills, we have to assess the same way.  While it’s a bit absurd to think we could reform our entire standardized system overnight (nor am I necessarily a proponent of that), it is not at all absurd to think about reforming how WE assess our students.

So, as I began planning assessments for each of my units for the upcoming year, I’ve decided I need to start using this framework:

  • Learn (What did you know? What are you able to do?)
  • Understand (What is the evidence that you can apply learning in one domain to another?)
  • Share (How did you use what you have learned to help a person, the class, the community or the planet?)
  • Explore (What did you learn beyond the limits of the lesson? What mistakes did you make, and how did you learn from them?)
  • Create (What new ideas, knowledge, or understanding can you offer?)

I’ve literally copied and pasted this into the top of my ‘Assessment’ section on the unit plan, and am labeling each form of assessment with one (or more) of the above.  Similar to hanging a Bloom’s poster in the back of your room to hold yourself accountable to higher level questioning, this will hold me accountable for actually assessing more than just lower level skills in a multiple choice format.

Would love thoughts on your assessments and how you determine how and what to assess.

Thanks to Pedro from KIPP Team Academy, I’ve stumbled upon one of the best tech integration resources I’ve found yet. This website, called School 2.0, is a predesigned plan for schools of the future.

The website contains a free complete toolkit with a TON of resources to help you begin implementing in your own classroom, but also to help get your school leader and other teachers on board. There’s even reflection activites to help team members identify where they stand now in terms of technology, and where there’s room to grow. There’s team development activities meant to help facilitate the conversations schoolwide so actual implementation can begin.

Your school might not be ready for all this at once, but at the very least it can help you clarify your own visions for your classroom, and help to begin conversations schoolwide.

Just discovered this awesome resource online. It’s a huge collection of pre-made PowerPoints that you can adapt to your specific lesson/unit/objective, or use as is.

Check it out 🙂

At KIPP Summit I talked a lot about VoiceThread, and threw out several ideas for ways to use it in your classroom. I just discovered a fabulous wiki created by Colette Cassinelli, an educator in Oregon, that collects a whole bunch of ideas for VoiceThread to be used in different classrooms. Check it out!

Blogging from an iPhone… This might change my life.

I’m sitting here in Travis C where Kim and I have presented for the past two days, thinking about all that’s happened so far. I can’t explain to you the drastic shift I’ve seen this year in terms of technology and KIPP. In order to attempt an explanation, it helps to think back on my first and second years at the Summit.

The first year in New Orleans I was just beginning my first year of teaching, and was placed in a tech position. I desperately looked through the event calendar hoping to find sessions giving me something (anything really) to work with. I had no idea what I was doing and desperately wanted resources from more experienced tech teachers. By the end of the week I had found ONE other tech teacher. And not a single tech session.

Fast forward to year two in Phoenix. There I sat through two Bus-Ops sessions only because they had the word technology in the title. Turns out they had nothing to do with teaching or my classroom. Beyond that there was nothing. I met two other tech teachers, and also lucked out with meeting up with Ignacio that year, which gave me someone willing to indulge me in my growing excitement about Technology and KIPP.

Now here we are, year three, in San Antonio. While no longer teaching at GCP, my vision for KIPP and how technology needs to play a role hasn’t changed. The planning team this year for Summit is incredible, and was super receptive to our ideas for Tech workshops. As a result we got to present four tech workshops, and there are two more on the agenda for later in the week. There’s a tech roundtable tomorrow, and I’ve met over 10 tech teachers/facilitators! While I’m still overwhelmed by what needs to be done, through teaching I’ve also learned the importance of recognizing growth to be as significant as achievement.

And boy are we growing 🙂

An example of what resumes could begin to look like…

Christopher Penn, the Chief Technology Officer of the Student Loan Network, has posted online what could be the resume of the future. This interactive, online resume, includes a video introduction embedded in the center of the page (which I’ve embedded below here for you to see), a written introduction below, links to his websites and blogs on the left side as well as all the ways to contact him on the right (including AIM, Skype, and Twitter).

This could completely revolutionize the way our students find jobs in the future, as well as the importance of their digital footprint. I’m totally intrigued… there go the next couple days of my life as I begin to piece together my own 🙂

As I’ve been working more on my workshops for this year’s KIPP Summit in San Antonio I’ve found myself involved in a lot of big-picture thinking. The workshops focus more on tangible, daily ways to integrate more technology in our rooms and schools. But like any great lesson, the most important take-away has to be the WHY. Why should we take the time to figure out this technology, and learn all the skills we need to effectively implement it in our rooms?

So through all this thinking I’ve narrowed it down to three big WHYS. Here they are:

1. Are our classrooms right now preparing our kids for what their future will really look like, or what we’re used to it looking like?

The truth is we are teaching our kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet. The careers they lead 20 years from now will look entirely different from what ours look like. We aren’t servicing them if we’re preparing them for what we’re used to and not for what they will actually face. Instead of memorization of facts, we need to transition our classrooms to focus more on their ability to ingest and digest information critically, and their ability to publish and create. With the growth of Web 2.0 anyone can publish, and those who don’t learn how to will quickly fall behind.

2. Our kids are already using a ton of technology outside of school (cell phones, video games, internet), so who’s explicitly teaching them how to use them safely and responsibly? Are we modeling for them what it looks like to use Web 2.0 for learning and communicating? Are we showing them what a great MySpace profiel looks like, and what kinds of groups can be created for learning rather than just socializing? Are we creating lessons for how to keep themselves safe while navigating the Internet? Are we teaching them how permanent and damaging Internet footprints can become if we don’t think ahead while creating them?

If we don’t clearly and explicitly plan units around these ideas, and daily lessons checking to make sure they understand, we are not preparing them for successful professional careers that use these tools to their advantage rather than their detrament.

3. Like I said in point two (and many educators are saying everywhere) , kids are using all these tools at home. My last point would be to question WHICH kids are using these tools at home? I can tell you my students without computers or the Internet are certainly not using them at home. So where and when are they exposed to this technology? If not at school, who will teach them how to use it? It worries me that by ignoring these skills in our classrooms we are just creating an even larger divide between the students who have and those who don’t.