Blogging at TCEA17 with Aaron Hogan

I absolutely have experienced many turns and twists, mostly in my gut, with regards to blogging. First, I fretted over the platform I used. Was it cute enough? Then, I decided I didn’t want it to be cute. I wanted it to be professional. So, I left the cutesy blog. See exhibit 1, and created this blog.

When I first created this blog, I was motivated. Then, summer was over and work started. Now, I had an excuse. I didn’t need an excuse because I couldn’t find the time. I’ve always needed to write to reflect. The excuse I could fake was that I had no time when really it was the fear of do I have anything to offer?

Aaron shared this video with us which compares wonderfully to blogging. The one line that resonated with me most was when the girl tells the boy, “Why are you scared? You’ve jumped from five feet. How is this different?” It’s so true. I’ve written before and shared with a small group. What’s the difference when I share it online? And, I mean really, it’s not like millions of people actually even know your posts are out there. Since we are using this analogy to compare diving to blogging, let’s talk about the feeling you can only get when you dive from higher up. Although it is so scary at first, it is truly much more fun.a

Aaron also shared this quote from John Dewey, “We don’t learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” Again, a practice we want our students to follow. We need to be models of that.

Aaron shared ideas about what to blog about:

♦what you’ve learned & what you’re learning

♦what excites you, scares you, worries you, drives you, etc.

♦a great day or awful day that your learned from

♦what seems obvious

♦what gets overlooked

Other things to consider when blogging are: keeping a list and making some quick notes right away, putting time on the calendar to make blogging happen, and not getting bogged down in the editing process.

Instead, write it, skim it, and share it.

Develop a habit. Carve out time, but let it be organic. Write when it’s reflective. Just “Push Publish!”

Thank you, Aaron, for a great session.

GIFS, Memes, and More-A New Genre in Writing

I am a writer. That doesn’t mean I’m always good at it. I HAVE to write. It’s how I process all the forty-five thousand things whirling around in my brain without driving those who love me crazy.

That said, for as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed observing others tell stories. I love to listen. I love to read. I love to study the way others tell a story.

A while back I started to notice a pattern in storytelling, a pattern that really engages the brain and makes writing have added clarity. The thing I noticed was how storytellers were beginning to use GIFS, Memes, short video clips, etc. to help tell their story. At first, it began with presenters, but then I saw this Elle Magazine Article.

This type of storytelling is so entertaining and visually appealing. Why aren’t we letting kids explore this? Honestly, there is probably so much they can teach us. After all, they use this type of writing all the time in their text messaging. I mean, really, that Boomerang add-on to Instagram? It’s a GIF maker all by itself.

They are also practicing their inferencing skills and taking a step towards learning how to write a blended quote.

If you’re wondering how, here is a meme generator. And, if you’d rather use Google slides, here is video tutorial.

If you’d like to make a GIF, here’s one way, and Amy Burvall, a very creative educator, mentions this tool.screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-4-35-55-pm

And finally, I found this blogpost with many, many tools and explanations. So you have the tools, go #MakeitReal and create!!!


Assessment: Do This, Not That

Today a colleague of mine, and I presented at TCEA and shared our thoughts on how we can assess to drive learning and how we integrate technology to get students engaged, to see what they really know, and to give them immediate feedback.

Here is our presentation.

The foundation of our thoughts was based on some great learning from Jay Mctighe.

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This is a sampling of many performance-based assessments he created. Our presentation looked at the headers: selected response items, constructed responses, product, performances, and process-focused to give some ideas of how we can use technology to make these performance-based assessments relevant in the world the students live in.

We only shared two handfuls of ideas, but what I really hope learners left with were two big ideas. One, we have to make everything, EVEN ASSESSMENT, relevant to our students for real learning to occur. Two, any teacher can use this framework to flip their assessments.

I’m excited about using this framework to continue changing assessment. In fact, I’m headed to learn more about sketch noting right now to use in more depth with young learners as a process-focused assessment.

Meet Me At My Best. Then, We Can Go Together.

Mindset is all around us. Whether it’s about the growth mindset or the innovator’s mindset, there’s an urge to become better today than we were yesterday. I really love the idea that with each day there’s a chance for more. But, I’m kind of bummed about something. People, myself included at times, are slowing down the process because they/we are tiptoeing around with where we are in our learning for fear of how we might appear to others.

I was reading Denis Sheeran’s Book Instant Relevance yesterday (an absolutely wonderful read by the way), and when I got about 40% through according to my kindle, I teared up. I teared up because in that moment, my “why” for what I do everyday as an educator was defined so beautifully and simply. I was thrilled to know I could state exactly why I do what I do in ten words. Denis talked about how he and his family would play a game and how one day his son said, “Dad, meet me at my best [score] and then we can go [on] together.” Denis continued to talk about how this is how learning should be.

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This year is my first year as an instructional coach and that message is what I want to send to any teacher about how we might work together, without egos (too big or too small), without judgements. You bring your best, and I’ll bring mine for the benefit of one another, for the benefit of kids.

Don’t shrink for fear of being a braggart. Everyone has something to teach and share and everyone benefits when we share. Don’t feel like you have to prove your value or your worth by “knowing everything” because when you “know everything” others are less likely to think they have anything to share with you.

We are all growing. Meet me at my best because I’m willing to show that to you, no matter how crazy I may seem. I’ll meet you at your best because your willing to share. And, we can go together, learning so much from one another, making today better than yesterday, but no where near as good as tomorrow will be.


Who Cares About Pokemon-Go Anyway?

If you’re an educator, you should. One of my teacher friends, who is a total gamer, reeled me in to this game. I saw the game exploding all over Twitter almost immediately and downloaded the app to see what all the fuss was about. I have learned to Whip and Nae Nae, memorized odd lyrics, watched Vines, learned to solve the rubix cube, and more all for the sake of kids. After all, we need to know what are students are into to make deep, meaningful connections, right?

I played a bit, invited my daughters to join me, and got a few extra fitness steps that day, but I didn’t really see the value until the “Teach Like a Pirate” Twitter chat on Monday night. (Here’s a link to a participate learning archive of the chat and all its resources). My eyes were opened to the possibilities like George Couros discussed in his post. Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.

I try to always think about whatever is new through the lens of not only is good for kids, but is it good pedagogy? In this Pokemon Go world, I was only looking at the surface, thinking it was novel, fun, great exercise, etc., but after the chat I felt differently. If one draws an analogy between what Pokemon Go is, its intricacies, and learning. There’s a whole mega load that can be done.

Below are some things I’d like to try in the name of Pokemon GO:

  1. Go Play the Game with your class- playing a game that allows you to know your students really quickly. Whether at recess or as an ice breaker, gather up a couple of devices and build teams of 3-4. Head out in search of Pokemon. You will also be able to discuss hallway behavior, see generous, collaborative spirits come out-or not, see who reads and follows directions-or not, and give a tour to those new to the school on your way. If we can Save Fred, why can’t we play Pokemon GO?
  2. Build Community during the first week of school-ask students about the game. Have they played? What level are they on? What’s their favorite capture and why? What does their avatar look like? Have them play for homework, take pictures, and share narratives of their adventures. A lot could be revealed about family life, interests, energy levels, competitive natures, and mindset, making it a great way to get to know them really well. Even if they’re not playing, they will probably offer up what they did instead, which still connects students and teachers.
  3. Use Pokemon GO for working on Math Content-Denis Sheeran got my wheels moving about this. His first tweet in the chat was:Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.32.59 AMThis could be done in almost any grade level, varying the level of graphing required. I started thinking about how we could have students make arrays showing the number of captures of a particularly pokemon, maybe work on multiplication. Or, the probability and statistics involved with the question “what’s the likelihood of catching a pidgey vs. a squirtle in your neighborhood?”. If a teacher just starts thinking about the six math strands, he/she can easily teach using the Pokemon Platform, maybe even use it as data collection like these students. Apparently, Denis has a book coming out called Instant Relevance which is exactly what this game allows us to do, take student interests and bring them into learning.
  4. Use Pokemon GO for geography lessons-Can you imagine how much more meaningful teaching directions, longitude, latitude, etc. would be in this context? Students could even draw their own maps, creating legends that include their Pokemon, Pokestops, or Gyms. Have a specific content in social studies you also have to cover like the Regions of your State in conjunction with the indigeneous people? Ask kids which Pokemon would live most compatably with which indigeneous people and be able to survive in that given region. Now you have habitats, regions, informational reading, map skills, writing, and high interest learning all rolled up into one.
  5. Use Pokemon Go for writing digital stories in combination with Google’s Tour BuilderStudents could locate their captures and write digital stories of how that hunt went down, dramatizing it for their readers, of course. It would be fun to use the augmented reality tool here, so that the imagination could go wild and the responsibility of digital citizenship could be taught.
  6. Use the Idea of Evolving Pokemon to teach Growth Mindset-When Pokemon reach a certain level, have a special, or are traded, evolution can take place. We can use this idea to get students to see how learning is the same way in a language that makes sense to them.

This is only a sampling of what could be done, but I wanted to archive and share these ideas. If you’d like to see more, remember to see this link with the archived ideas.

Hopefully, you’re seeing the importance of Pokemon Go in the classroom. After all like Denis Sheeran said in the chat,

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Happy Pokemon Hunting,



For All The Educator Rule Followers!

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I’ve always been a compliant person, afraid to go against the rules. I never really analyzed why until lately, until I felt like I wanted to break the rules, well at least within my classroom, within education. And, I need to say it’s not because I’ve become a rebel, but it is because I have asked myself everyday of my career that question most educators ask, “Is this what’s best for kids?”, and well, over the last couple of years I’ve gotten some major pushback from that question I’ve been asking while planning for my students.

I was listening to a Bedley Brothers podcast Saturday during a garage clean out. It was a flashback episode where Daniel Pink was a guest. The three gentlemen talked about lots of things, but the one thing that really struck me was when Pink said something to that effect that it’s sad teachers have to break the rules to do what’s right. I agreed 100%, and I felt bad for all of us educators. How many of us feel bad or don’t try something we know would be great because it would be “breaking” the rules?

It got me thinking about rules and what they really were.

Webster says the following:

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The definition says its “what is allowed”. It even calls rules advice. When you see the word defined, it doesn’t seem near as bad to maybe “break” a piece of advice if you don’t like it or a statement that says what’s allowed. Statements? Advice? I don’t listen to a lot of statements or advice, so why should rules, if they’re synonymous, be any different?

Then, I thought who gave these statements or advice about the way things are done in education? Who set the rules of desks in rows? Who decided after everything taught a standardized, multiple choice would be best? Who decided mini-lessons were the best way to “do” teaching? Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I don’t know what makes some things go “viral” in education and what makes others not. We are all experimenters in our classrooms everyday as far as what is best for our students that current day and what is not. Each individual teacher knows what is best for the learners around, and the only way we can go wrong, the only way we can “break the rules” is if we don’t do what is best for the learners involved, if we stick to the “education rules” for compliance sake.

So, here are some statements and advice I’d like to try and “break” this year.

  1. Assessments-I’ve been on a mad hunt for relevant, authentic ways to see what students know. Stay tuned for a post on this. I’ve been do a lot of thinking with my teacher buddies as we try to upset the assessment, grading world.
  2. Spaces-Definitely the space, the learning space will be shaken. I like the idea of creating spaces like the most Innovative Places have. Here’s a link to a google doc of articles, design tools, thoughts on learning spaces-A place like this.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.02.21 PM
  3. Walls-I’m not talking literal here. I’m talking about removing the figurative walls we have our learners in. There’s so much to be learned here. I love participating in  #globaledchat on Twitter. I always learn so much from this chat, not just about Skyping and Google Hangouts but about cultures and the flattening of the world in a good sense.
  4. Engaging, Purposeful Professional Development. I’m still gathering information here. I’ve read many recent blog posts, research articles, and teacher surveys. I tend to fall back on what I know about learning–the more authentic and personalized I can make that specific teacher’s learning the more effective it will be. I have ideas of creating two minute tech tutorials created by students that I will house for teachers, but there’s lots more rules that need breaking here.  More to come and advice welcomed.
  5. Digital Citizenship-community wide. I hope to help empower students, teachers, and parents to create a digital footprint for good. A smart lady, Brandy Ramirez, told me about a “techsperts” club she started at her school where the students were the tech experts. They helped out the teachers who were in need of tech assistance regarding a new app or digital tool. This gave me an idea to do a similar thing but also have these techsperts available to teach parents, grandparents, or anyone else who wanted to learn about the new technologies. This will take two after school days: one for a techsperts training/work session, and another for allowing the community learning to occur. I think it will be awesome. It may encourage some tech leery teachers to step forward as they see it being such a community event.

So here’s to ignoring ADVICE and STATEMENTS that aren’t best for learners.



Learning. Coaching. Fandom

You know when a blogpost is titled with fragments it’s probably going to be a “deep read”. So, here are some more fragments for you. Best practices. The cutting edge. What’s next? What’s new?

As I read and learn more about learning, one thing remains common among all: INSTINCT. My belief systems about education are actually found in what is INSTINCT. I’m learning to step out of my own way when it comes to teaching and learning. As I consume the mounds of material through Twitter,Podcasts,Voxer, Blab, books, etc. about what’s best in education, I always think of one thing as I filter my way through the new. “Is this naturally good for learners?” If I feel it is, if it’s something I see occurring in the world, whether in education or not and it’s good for learners, then I give a try.

Recently I read, The Book of Learning and Forgetting. Its premise is that all learning is actually quite simple, the things we easily  learn, like walking and talking and that which we don’t mean to learn but do anyway, like how somewhere along the way we weren’t “good at math” or art.

There’s a catch here though.  Frank Smith, the author of the book, says, “We learn from the company you keep”. We have to join clubs. Clubs where we identify with and relate to others in that same club. If we don’t identify with a “learning club”, then we won’t learn from that club and instead search for another.

In the book, there’s talk about how we moved away from what was “natural” in teaching and learning to meet the demands of an idea of mass education.  Smith even talks about the “entry of the testers”, discussing how psychologists and the military led to our current education system, a situation where interdisciplinary studies did not serve as a good mix. The words psychology and military just don’t have the same connotation as learning.

And now, we are trying to unwind what’s been done, unravel all that has been created in an effort to check off a box, when checking off boxes and learning don’t fit neatly together because no one box is the same.  No wonder we are sometimes dizzy!

Learning is an art personalized for and by the individual learner. A teacher stands off behind the shoulder of the learner, offers tools, points out white space, suggests colors, and celebrates the end result.


When I think about the instructional coach job I’m about to start, I think the same way. I’ve read books, scoured several blogs, and even talked to some practicing coaches along the way, looking for just the right ideas and inspirations when it comes to coaching. But, I’m going back to what I’ve learned about learning. I’m going to have to be patient and wait, wait for what the teacher learners need. I am so excited to have an opportunity to see what the teacher learners who I am about to work with will create along with their students. I hope to provide them a tool or two along the way, push their thinking, encourage their efforts, and none of this can really be done without knowing that teacher really well. I know I’ll be their biggest fans.

And speaking of fandom, I’m blogging because of the coaching in my thinking by people like Bethany HillConnie Hamilton, and George Couros. They reminded me of the importance of blogging, and I thank them for letting me “join” their learning club.

This blog will be a journey where I will be filtering all that comes along the way with the one thought of “is this naturally good for learning?”.