Alignment – Or, Do We Walk Our Talk?

Earlier in my career as an educator, I coached my high school’s fastpitch softball team. Then, as now, I believed the best way to make my team successful was to coach them in the skills and knowledge they needed to excel and then I let them go out and play. I was often asked (by parents, never the players) why I didn’t call pitches for my catchers. The answer was simple: It wouldn’t be in alignment with what I believed made my players the most successful.
Fast forward a couple of decades: I was invited to attend the SXSWEdu in Austin, TX and am lucky enough to see Will Richardson speak. What he said really stuck with me – so much so that I had to get it all out in a mind map to feel like I was truly understanding.

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What is Personalized Learning?

personalized learning definition

That’s the best definition of personalized learning I’ve seen or heard. It rings true with everything I believe education should be. The problem with “personalized learning” is that there are many, many definitions and competing interests for the term. For the purposes of this site:

  • It’s not computer software delivering yet another assessment.
  • It’s not an algorithm deciding what comes next for a student learning to read.
  • It’s not students making all the decisions about content and direction.
  • It’s not a strategy to employ for special projects.

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Less Talk, More Action

Across my facebook feed yet again came the discussion about taking notes by hand versus on a laptop. Like clockwork, every couple of months, one of my facebook friends shares an article that champions note-taking on paper over note-taking on an electronic device. This time, it was from the Washington Post: Why Smart Kids Shouldn’t Use Laptops in Class

This is not news. We’ve known this for a while and the research is really clear: If you are going to sit passively for 50 minutes and listen to a lecture, your best bet for retaining information is writing out notes on paper by hand.

But that’s a lot like saying, “If you have to hand-crank your car before your trip, it’s best to wear gloves, set the emergency brake and hold the choke out.”


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“Scaffold-Blasting” – Differentiation on the Fly

Being able to differentiate assignments in Google Classroom was an oft-requested feature when GClassroom debuted. We know that differentiation done well is one path to creating an equitable learning environment for all of our students.

Google added functionality to Classroom, and currently, you can send different groups of students different assignments in Google Classroom – but when you choose the “right” assignment for each student, you run the risk of giving them too much help.

How about a solution to giving just enough scaffolding that’s quick, easy, and most importantly, instantly responsive to your student’s need in the moment?

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Giving Every Student a Voice in Your Socratic Circle by Leveraging Digital Tools

Socratic Circles are a great way to engage students in a provocative question – students are engaged with the topic, encouraged to think about complex topics with a critical eye, and inspired to explore big ideas.

However, it can be a challenge to give all students a voice in a Socratic Circle that is 30+ students big…there are time, space, and personality constraints that sometimes mean the conversation is dominated by just a few voices.

By leveraging digital tools, you can mitigate these constraints and give all of your students a voice – thus giving all students the opportunity to explore their own thinking as well as their classmate’s.

I recently had the good fortune to be able to spend some time at Wheeling Elementary in 4th and 5th-grade classrooms using Chromebooks in this manner.

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