Category Archives: Technology

How to be a boring, bad writer…and other ideas (TBT Remix)

I hadn’t thought about it this way:

So, if you want to be a boring, bad writer:

  1. Never ever learn new words.
  2. Be afraid to say interesting things.
  3. Read as little as possible.
  4. Always play on your laptops.
  5. Never touch a dictionary.
  6. Copyright.
  7. Never make [the reader] see the action.
  8. Never revise your writing.
  9. Definitely take the easy way.

Since I want to be a better writer, I should practice 1) using new words, 2) saying interesting things, 3) reading as much as possible, 4) leveraging technology to enhance learning, 5) using available resources, 6) striving to be unique and citing my sources, 7) presenting a good story, 8) repeating a revision cycle several times, and 9) understanding to “embrace the struggle.”

I wonder if the same set of ideas can be applied to PBL.  How to avoid PBL, Design Thinking, and makery:

  1. Never ever learn new applications and strategies.
  2. Be afraid to try interesting, complex problems.  It might take too long.
  3. Read and research as little as possible. Don’t read and watch Edutopia, Deep Design Thinking, or It’s About Learning resources or ideas from 12k12.
  4. Always use technology for one-way communication.  Just tell them what to do.  Don’t offer students the opportunity to have voice and choice in learning.
  5. If you try PBL, and it doesn’t work; just give up.  Never seek additional support and resources.
  6. Never collaborate with others on projects and problems that integrate ideas and/or concentrate on community-issues.
  7. Avoid applications and real-world experiences.  Never offer the opportunity to present to an authentic audience.
  8. Never say “I don’t know,” or “let’s find out together.” Answer every question asked in class, or better yet, don’t allow questions.
  9. Definitely do the very same thing you did this time last year.  It’s easy.  Take the easy way. Remember…the E-Z-way!

How about applying these ideas to balanced assessment?  How to be single-minded about assessment:

  1. Never ever try new techniques, methods, and strategies.
  2. Be afraid to try alternate forms of assessment: performance based assessment, portfolios, etc.
  3. Read and research as little as possible. Don’t read anything by Tom Guskey, Jan Chapuis, Bob Marzanno, Dylan Wiliam etc.
  4. Always use assessment to generate grades.  Never try non-graded assessment to make adjustments to learning that improve achievement.
  5. If you use rubrics or standards-based grading, and students don’t respond; just give up.  Don’t allow students to revise their understanding and assess again.  Let them learn it next year or in summer school.
  6. Rely on results from standardized tests to compare students.  Just follow the model set by adults that have not met you and your learners.
  7. Never assess for learning and reteach prior to a summative assessment.  Think that you are teaching a lesson if failure occurs with no chance to revise.
  8. Never offer 2nd chance test or other opportunities to demonstrate learning has occurred.
  9. Definitely use the very same assessment you did this time last year.  It’s easy.  Take the easy way. Remember… E-Z-way!

I find this approach connected the anti-innovation ideas from Kelly Green in her 2/21/2012 ForbesWoman article I found by reading Bob Ryshke’s post, What schools can do to encourage innovation.  It also reminds me of Heidi Hayes Jacob’s style in her TEDxNYED talk I found by reading Bo Adam’s What year are you preparing your students for?” Heidi Hayes Jacobs #TEDxNYED post.

I like the provocation of the video and the anti-ideas.  I appreciate the challenge of rephrasing these ideas as statements of what I could do to get better.  I wonder how we should practice to become better at PBL, balanced assessment, innovation and creativity, etc.  In the comment field below, will you share how would you answer this prompt?

Since I want to be a better ___________, I should practice 1)  _____, 2)  _____, 3)  _____, 4)  _____, 5)  _____, 6)  _____, 7)  _____, 8)  _____, and 9)  _____.

How to be a boring, bad writer…and other ideas was originally published on February 26, 2012.


Maybe we need to think of it as teachnology rather than technology. (TBT Remix)

The time with our learners is limited.  We have to make some very important decisions about how to use this time.  We must consider the economics of our decisions based on the resources we have.  Is it cost effective, cognitively, to spend multiple days on a learning target to master something that a machine will do for us?

Is what we label as problem-solving and critical thinking really problem-solving and critical thinking or is it just harder stuff to deal with?  Can we teach problem-solving and critical thinking in the absence of context?

Do we have a common understanding of what good problem solvers and critical thinkers look like, sound like, and think like?  If we are teaching problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity, shouldn’t we know what that means to us?  Shouldn’t we be able to describe it?

Does technology hamper or enhance a learner’s ability to problem solve and think critically?  I think I might be back to the struggle of using calculators to compute and a spell checker to write.  Do we even know enough to make a decision about technology until we experiment and learn by doing?

If you have not read Can Texting Help Teens with Writing and Spelling? by Bill Ferriter, stop reading this right now to read Bill’s post.  It is a great example of leveraging technology to promote creativity and critical thinking using technology.  Read about having students write 25 word stories.  This is teachnology, not technology.  Tweet, text, type, write on paper – it doesn’t matter – unless you want to publish your work.  The technology, Twitter in this case, aids in the critical thinking; you are restricted to 140 characters.  The technology offers the learner a way to publish and see other published work.

My ability to transport myself from place to place is actually enhanced and improved because of my truck.  I have no idea how my truck works other than gas goes in, step on the brake to stop, R means we are going to go in reverse, etc.  I do not need to understand the mechanics; I can have that done.

I do not need to understand the mechanics; I can have that done.   I don’t need to know how to change the oil in my car.  I need to know that I need to have the oil changed in my car.  And, very important, I don’t need to learn this lesson by experience.  It is too expensive to learn experientially why I must have the oil changed in my car.

Isn’t it too expensive to spend 2-3 days on some topics that we traditionally teach?  Are we getting the biggest bang for our cognitive buck?  Often our learners can’t see the forest for the trees.  They never get to the why because of the how.  Don’t we need to learn when and how to use technology not only to engage our learners, but to increase our cognitive capital?

How can we learn to ask

  • Why are we learning this?  Is this essential?
  • Will technology do this for us so that we can learn more, deeper?
  • Does this have endurance, leverage, and relevance?
  • Shouldn’t we use technology to grapple with the mechanics so the learner shifts focus to the application, the why, the meaning?

Maybe we need to think of it as teachnology rather than technology was originally posted on January 26, 2011.

Teachnology: Using technology “differently” (TBT Remix)

When we ponder how, when and why to integrate technology, do we consider how learners might use digital tools as instruments of self-assessment, feedback, and tinkering to learn?

Last week I was “schooled” in using technology by a first grader.


She was invited to write for edu180atl.  Her post was published on 5.2.12.  To draft her post, we selected two pictures to use as inspiration.  She wrote a story for each picture and selected one for submission.  HOW she used technology to write was a HUGE lesson for me.

She took my computer from me and wrote 3 sentences.  There was a word that had a red “crinkly” line under it.


The instant feedback transitioned the technology to teachnology; it caused her to ask herself questions.  Finally, she asked me how to spell inspired.  Then, she read her 3 sentences out loud and decided that she needed another sentence in between two of the current sentences.  (Do I do that when I write?)

She was determined to have 200 words, not 198 words or 205 words.  She wanted 200 words exactly.  She learned how to use the word count feature since both stories were in the same document.  She read out loud and deleted words.  She read out loud again and added words.  It was awesome to watch.  She chose to ask to have a “peer” editor.  “Are there 2 words that I can delete? I want exactly 200 words.”  How much more confidence would I have about my writing if I had published articles and ideas when I was younger?

This experience with my first grader makes me wonder about learning – well, anything – with technology.  What assumptions do we make about what learners will and won’t learn if we put technology in their hands?

“How can we focus on what we do best without missing new opportunities to do better?” (Davidson, 17 pag.)


Davidson, Cathy N. “I’ll Count-You Take Care of the Gorilla.” Introduction. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. 17. Print.

LEARNing: Using technology “differently” was originally posted on May 14, 2012

Connect, extend, challenge: using digital tools, tinkering to learn

How do we use technology to learn and grow, make mistakes and try again, test and revise?

In our EduCon “do and dialogue” session, Doodling the C’s: Creativity, Comprehension, Communication & Connections, Shelley and I used the Visible Thinking Routine: Connect, Extend, Challenge as a reflection and discussion tool after each round of doodling.

We have been using the following side in previous learning sessions.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 7.38.21 PM

Not bad, but not a doodle.  Shelley produced the following awesome doodle to help learners engage with this routine as they reflect on their learning.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 7.43.27 PM

Shelley asked me to add color.  Here’s where I learned something new and exciting.  I took a picture of Shelley’s doodle with my iPad and imported it into the Procreate app.

Using the app, I could try color, undo when I didn’t like it, and try again.  I do not have the ability to undo when using my favorite pens.  Using undo and redo gave me the opportunity to test, assess, and revise until I was happy with my additions to Shelley’s great doodle. Here’s the version I pitched to be the final.


We immediately agreed that the question mark’s yellow was not what we wanted.  If I’d used ink on paper, we would not have been able to revise and play with color without a complete redraw.

Together, we removed the yellow and tried several other colors.  Finally, Shelley suggested that we just continue the green them for challenge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 8.53.21 AM

When we ponder how, when and why to integrate technology, do we consider how learners might use digital tools as instruments of self-assessment, feedback, and tinkering to learn?

What is a Fraction? – visual lesson

What if content isn’t the essential learning? What if content is just the vehicle to learn process?

Imagine these essential learnings:

Show your work:
I can describe and illustrate my thinking so that a reader understands without having to talking with me.

Mathematical flexibility:
I can apply mathematical flexibility to show what I know using more than one method.

 Our 5th graders just started a unit on fractions. What if we use fractions to teach our young learners to show their work and demonstrate flexibility of thought?

Lesson tic-toc

  • Introduce the two essential learnings.
  • 60 second quick write to recall what is a fraction?
  • 60 seconds of pair-share to improve answers to what is a fraction? 



  • Regularly return to the essentials to learn and the associated learning progressions.  How are we doing? At what level are we right now? What is a next step?
  • 60 second quick write to recall what are equivalent fractions?
  • 60 seconds of pair-share to improve answers to what are equivalent fractions?
  • How might we use technology for learning and investigation?

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How might we put process and product on even ground? What if we emphasize communication and flexibility and use content and skill as vehicles to show what you know and how you can communicate?

Level 4
I can analyze different pathways to success, find connections, between pathways, and add new strategies to my thinking.

Level 3
I can apply mathematical flexibility to show what I know using more than one method.

Level 2
I can show my work to document one successful method.

Level 1
I can find and state a correct solution.

Level 4
I can show what I know using words, numbers, and pictures.

Level 3
I can describe and illustrate how I arrived at a solution so that a reader understands without having to talking with me.

Level 2
I can describe or illustrate how I arrived at a solution so that a reader understands without having to talking with me.

Level 1
I can find a correct solution to a task.

Common denominators – “Let’s see why”

Everybody knows that you must have common denominators to add fractions, right?  Do we know why? If asked to construct a viable argument, could we? Can we draw it (i.e., communicate why visually)?  How mathematically flexible are we when it comes to fractions? From Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math: for Students:

…we know that what separates high achievers from low achievers is not that high achievers know more math, it is that they interact with numbers flexibly and low achievers don’t.

Today’s Building Concepts lesson: Adding and Subtracting of Fractions with Unlike Denominators, had our young learners working to show their understanding of adding and subtracting fractions in multiple ways.

Kristi Story (@kstorysquared) used a phrase today that has really stuck with me is “Let’s see why…”  It immediately reminded me of Simon Sinek’s How great leaders inspire action.

And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.

I wonder if, when young learners struggle with numeracy, it is because they do not see why.  Have they been so concerned with “getting the right answer” that they have missed the theory, reasoning, and geometry? photo[1]

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What if we  leverage appropriate tools and use them strategically? What if we use technology to personalize learning and offer every learner the opportunity to see why?

#LL2LU draft for use equivalent fractions as a strategy to add and subtract fractions.

Level 4:
I can solve real-world and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.

Level 3:
I can solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem.

Level 2:
I can add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators, including mixed numbers, by replacing given fractions with equivalent fractions.

Level 1:
I can understand addition and subtraction of fractions as joining and separating parts referring to the same whole.

I can recognize and generate simple equivalent fractions, and I can explain why the fractions are equivalent using a visual fraction model.

#LL2LU for I can apply mathematical flexibility.

  Level 4: I can analyze different pathways to success, find connections between pathways and add new strategies to my thinking.

Level 3: I can apply mathematical flexibility to show what I know using more than one method.

Level 2: I can show my work to document one successful  method.

Level 1: I can find and state a correct solution.

#LL2LU for I can construct a viable argument and critique the reasoning of others.

Level 4: I can build on the viable arguments of others and use their critique and feedback to improve my understanding of the solutions to a task. 

Level 3: I can construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Level 2: I can communicate my thinking for why a conjecture must be true to others, and I can listen to and read the work of others and offer actionable, growth-oriented feedback using I like…, I wonder…, and What if… to help clarify or improve the work. 

Level 1: I can recognize given information, definitions, and established results that will contribute to a sound argument for a conjecture.

#BrightSpot Ethnography and #Buoyancy using Twitter – Learning Together

To pursue bright spots is to ask the question “What’s working, and how can we do more of it?” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, in the real world, this obvious question is almost never asked. (p. 45, Heath and Heath)

…“buoyancy”— a quality that combines grittiness of spirit and sunniness of outlook. (Pink, 4 pag.)

What if we broadcast bright spots of learning? What if we intentionally observe our community and culture through a lens that some might call rose-colored? How might we collaboratively and creatively tell the story of what is most important? What if we document and share small moments?

As we have seen, even the smallest moments of positivity in the workplace can enhance efficiency, motivation, creativity, and productivity. (Achor, 58 pag.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 8.32.53 PM

At the end of this 1-PLU course, each learner should be able to say:

  • I can contribute to the bright spot ethnographic data collection of our learning community using Twitter.
  • I can use the power of positivity to elevate the learner and learning in and out of school.
  • I can bright spot learning in our school and inform the larger community of the myriad of learning experiences that happen daily.
  • I can foster and develop connections with other educators and experts to expand my Professional Learning Network (PLN).

How might we learn more about our community and each other? What if we continue to develop a culture and a habit of positivity, bright spots, and buoyancy?

Achor, Shawn (2010-09-14). The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. Waterville, Me.: Thorndike, 2011. Print.

Pink, Daniel H. (2012-12-31). To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others (p. 4). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.