Final Friday 4 for 2013

4fingersAnother Year in the Books…What are Your PD Plans for 2014?

As the 2013 calendar year comes to a close, I would like to make a pitch for something that should be on every educator’s New Year’s Resolutions list as we prepare for 2014. The resolution is actually a relatively simple one that can be accomplished in several ways, none of which require a gym membership or forgoing anything at meal time.

Commit to taking more control of your own professional development in 2014.

If you are up to the challenge, I have 4 “opportunities” for you in this post that will get you started on the road to becoming more in charge of your own professional development as an educator. Feel free to be an over-achiever and partake in all 4 options!

  • Sign-up to receive the weekly newsletter from the Edreach website. For those of you unfamiliar with Edreach, here is their vision: “EdReach provides a platform for passionate, outspoken innovators- aiming to strengthen their voices by highlighting innovation in the field of education, through reporting critical educational news, providing commentary, and offering criticism of the educational issues of the day.” I subscribe to several of the weekly podcasts from this site and have found them a great way to pass the time when I am out getting in my Fitbit steps.
  • Sign-up to receive the Connected Educators Month Digest of highlights of the day. This online newspaper is from and the website. automatically processes more than 250 million social media posts per day, extracting & analyzing over 25 million articles.
  • On January 25, 2014 there is a unique opportunity for PD that is happening at several locations simultaneously around the country, EduCon 2.6. Grant Lichtman (@GrantLichtman) recently wrote a blog piece that described the event and gives some background on the partnership behind the event. For those of us in CT, we can participate simply by heading over to the Renbrook School on the 25th since they are one of the 6 host sites. You can register to participate at Renbrook here.
  • The Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) hosts a whole range of PD opportunities throughout the year that are predominantly teacher led and low cost to attend. The CAIS Commission on PD schedule of upcoming events can be found here. I recently joined the Commission on PD, attended several CAIS events in the past few months and found each one a valuable and worthwhile event.

Happy New Year of PD!

The whirlwind of Connected Educator Month

4fingersA Time to Reflect

As most of you know, October was Connected Educator month (CEM) and was filled with a plethora of opportunities for educators to connect with fellow colleagues and engage in valuable professional development. I did my best to sample a bunch of the CEM activities and found them all to be worthwhile and have added many fellow educators to my PLN. Along the way, I have collected and curated several very good resources and articles that have been good reminders or have pushed me to think about my own practices. Here are a few of the resources that I came across this month; hopefully, you will find at least a few that pique your interest.



October is Connected Educator Month – Are you game?

4fingersFor those of you unaware, the month of October is officially “Connected Educator Month” in the United States. CEM was started in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education and is “part of the Office of Educational Technology’s Connected Educators initiative, which is supporting online, social and professional learning for educators by conducting research, hosting communities, and working with the field.” ( 

From the website: “Online communities and learning networks are helping hundreds of thousands of educators learn, reducing isolation and providing “just in time” access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration. However, many educators are not yet participating and others aren’t realizing the full benefits. In many cases, schools, districts, and states also are not recognizing and rewarding this essential professional learning.  This year’s event will have a special emphasis on helping districts promote and integrate online social learning in their formal professional development.

So, you may be asking, “How do I become involved in Connected Educators Month?” It is actually quite easy and this week’s Friday 4 will provide you with 4 links to information that will help you on your path to becoming a connected educator.

  • The best place to start is actually the Connected Educators website where you can find a calendar of events that have already begun and will continue through the month of October. I encourage you to look through the calendar and find a webinar, podcast, twitter chat or discussion that is in an area of interest and take the plunge!
  • You can download a CEM Starter Kit here that includes introductions to what it means to be a connected educator and even 31 days worth of online activities you can try out.
  • Here is a blog post that was posted on the Edutopia website that offers “Ten Tips for Becoming a Connected Educator
  • If you are really feeling adventurous and want to combine CEM with an Edcamp experience, I encourage you to sign up for and participate in the first ever Edcamp Online event that will be occurring on October 26th. If you are unfamiliar with Edcamps, here is a link to a good description of the Edcamp concept.

What are you waiting for? Become a Connected Educator this month and grow as a professional! As always, I welcome your comments or feedback. Enjoy.


Spring – A time to reflect and hone your skills

Spring in the education world is a frenetic time filled with final preparation for AP exams, honors teas and events for our best and brightest students, countless meetings and the final “push” to the end of the year in all of our classes. As busy as the final weeks can be, it is also an excellent time to actually take some time and reflect on the year that has past and consider how it has gone and how we might improve what we do the next time around. In that spirit, I have assembled a few items (more than the usual 4) that I ran across this week that will hopefully inspire you to think about some of the fundamental aspects of teaching and learning, and with some serious reflection, might help you to become a better teacher in the long run.

 I welcome comments on any of this week’s “finds” and welcome suggestions for future editions of the Friday 4. Enjoy!

Friday Four – 2 to use and 2 to mull over

In this week’s Friday 4, I offer up two items that you may be able to incorporate tomorrow into your classroom routines and two items that are intended for contemplation and perhaps long term action.

Two items you could use tomorrow:

  • “Whiteboarding” is a wonderful way to get students working together in groups that can be used in any classroom. I came across a twist on the standard use of whiteboards in the classroom recently that I thought was pretty neat. The Whiteboarding Mistake Game will help to introduce higher order thinking into any activity that uses whiteboarding.
  • Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) recently highlighted three free online tools that students and teachers can use for collaborative brainstorming. With more and more collaborative work happening in classrooms, managing and facilitating the archiving of ideas can be a challenge; these tools may make it a little bit easier.

Two items to read/discuss/debate and ponder:

  • Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) recently penned a blog post (can I even say “penned” a blog post?) titled Confidence through Connectedness that I found to be quite thought provoking, particularly given our school’s ongoing discussions about online learning and innovative teaching.
  • Why do girls do better in school than boys? A recent study looks at some of the reasons. I was left thinking “What can I do as a classroom teacher to counteract the forces at work?”

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions. Enjoy!

Friday 4 – TABS tidbits

TABS Tidbits – November 29- December 1

I am currently on the way back from the TABS ( The Association of Boarding Schools) conference in Washington DC and thought it would be a good idea to share some of the wonderful things I came across during the conference for this week’s Friday 4. As with most conferences that I have attended over the years, the most valuable part is the networking and sharing of ideas that occurs in-between sessions and “after hours.” The chance to connect with new colleague or rekindle relationships with former students who are now colleagues is one of the best reasons to attend a conference. Regardless of how much of a pain in the neck it is to coordinate leaving school for a few days, the benefits always make it worth my time.

One of the highlights for me has certainly been the chance to reconnect with a former student of mine Hollis Brooks (@HollisBrooks) who is now the Dean of Students at the Hillside School (@Hillsideschool1). Hollis works with a former LC graduate Dan Marchetti (@MarchettiDan) who is currently the Assistant Headmaster at the Hillside School. The three of us spent many hours the past few days reminiscing about the past and talking about the work we currently do with young people and how important that work is. I cannot fully explain how inspiring and encouraging it is to talk with former students who share my passion for education. My conversations alone with them have made the 8 hour bus ride from Hartford to DC worth the time away from my work at LC.

So, what tidbits have I gleaned these past few days? Here are a few of the highlights from the conference.

  • Friday’s keynote speaker was Erik Wahl (@erikwahl) the “Picasso of Productivity” who is a nationally recognized artist, author and entrepreneur who inspires innovation and professional creativity through his original on-stage painting performances. Erik’s talk was in a word – AWESOME. You can check out a video about his talk here. His message is a good one for anybody who works with young people.
  • I attended several sessions on iPad programs at various schools and was quite impressed with what the South Kent School has done. You can check out what they are doing with respect to iPads and digital textbooks here.
  • I had a conversation with a fellow presenter Hans Mundahl (@hmundahl) from The New Hampton School about how we could continue the many great discussions that were occurring at the conference throughout the school year. We decided to try and hold a twitter chat on Wednesday evenings for anybody in the TABS “world” who wanted to continue to share ideas and thoughts about topics related to boarding school life. We are going to hold our first chat this coming Wednesday (12/5) at 8 PM ET. We will use the hashtag #TABSchat and would like to encourage anybody who is interested to participate. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, you can submit it here. For those of you who are not Twitter users, you can still follow the conversation by going to and entering the #TABSchat hashtag into the search field. A perfect opportunity for some free PD!
  • This last item did not actually come from TABS but it did cross my Twitter stream while I was there and resonated with me given the number of times I heard “21st Century skills” mentioned in sessions. This is a piece from Tim Quinn (@TimothyQuinn6) on group work and collaboration that appeared in the Kappan Magazine.
I hope you enjoy this week’s Friday 4 and that you will join me and others on Wednesday @ 8 PM for the #TABSchat.


The Power of Peers

In the past week I have been fortunate enough to have three different peers from other schools visit me and my classroom reminding me of the power and value of making connections and fostering collaboration. Last Thursday, Sharon Geyer (@sharongeyer68), from the Pomfret School visited during the Flipped Classroom Open House day to sit in on the microbiology course I teach with a colleague using the flipped model. Today, Mark de Kanter from Westminster School and John Adams (@jwadams25) from the Dublin School visited to see the flipped classroom in action and talk about ways that we are incorporating technology into the curriculum.

The conversations about teaching and the sharing that occurred during each of their visits were, without a doubt, the high points for the days. While I certainly enjoy and value the collaboration and discussions I have on a daily basis with my colleagues at Loomis Chaffee, it is always eye-opening to exchange ideas with colleagues from other schools and different educational settings. I have always benefitted and learned something new when I reach out to fellow teachers and engage in thoughtful conversations about pedagogy and the craft of teaching. Teaching can be an isolating profession if you allow yourself to remain in your “comfort zone” and do not actively seek out new ideas.

As much of a pain in the neck as it can be to take time off and visit a colleague in a different school, I firmly believe that it can be one of the most valuable professional development exercises. Watching a peer in action, asking them about how they structure and run their classrooms and sharing ideas leads to a level of self-reflection that is critical if we are to improve as educators. We frequently ask our students to try new things, take risks and reflect on their own learning. If we are expecting these things from our students, we ought to model the behavior ourselves.

So, if it has been a while since you either invited a colleague into your classroom or visited a colleague in his/her classroom, I encourage you to venture out of your “comfort zone” and engage in some low risk professional development. I promise you that it will be worth your time.

As always, I welcome your comments or feedback.

Friday 4 – October 12

A Fall Cornucopia

This week’s Friday 4 is an eclectic collection of items from a busy week here at Loomis Chaffee. While there is no single theme that connects the items, I am hopeful that at least one of the threads will be of interest to you.

  • Given the fact that it is midterm time here, I have had many discussions with colleagues about grades and how we assess and evaluate students and their work. Ever since I heard Rick Wormeli (@RickWormeli) speak at an ASCD meeting a few years ago and read his book “Fair Isn’t Always Equal”, I have thought quite differently about my grading philosophy and policies. Fortunately, you can read several pieces from Rick and see several videos from him at the the Stenhouse publishing site dedicated to Free Assessment and Grading Resources from Rick Wormeli. (You will have to register for a free account in order to access some of the info.)
  • I referenced Daniel Willingham’s (@DTWillingham) blog and latest book  in a recent post and was pleased to see the Fall edition of the American Educator magazine feature an excerpt from his book. You can download the piece here in which Willingham explains how to analyze and dissect educational research.
  • Followers of the Friday 4 will know that I am a regular reader of Tom Whitby’s (@tomwhitby) blog “My Island View.” Tom recently wrote about his thoughts on the current state of professional development in education and the need to change the model and make PD “evolving and continuous.”
  • Jut over a month ago in the Sept 14 Friday 4, I encouraged people to join me in the Power Searching with Google MOOC.  Well, I can report today that I was able to successfully finish the course and received my certificate of completion via e-mail yesterday. While there was a great deal in the course that I was already familiar with, I did learn a whole bunch of neat tricks and tips for searching with Google that will make me a more efficient and powerful searcher. The course is officially over now, but you will be able to access the videos and course materials beginning Monday, Oct 15 at this link. The ability to locate quality, reliable information on the internet is a critical skill these days that we need to know how to do both for ourselves and so that we can help our students navigate the increasingly information dense world we live in.

Enjoy and as always, please do not hesitate to leave comments or suggestions for future Friday 4 editions.

Friday Four – September 21

The Seasons are changing….are you?

Technically today is the last full day of summer with fall officially beginning on Saturday, September 22, 10:49 A.M. EDT, the fall equinox. While it may still technically be summer (translated – “vacation”) as I write this week’s Friday Four, it feels as if we have been in school for quite some time already and that the fall term is well under way. To celebrate the astronomical beginning of fall and the beginning of the school year, I have put together a Friday Four that includes some “big picture” items that I hope you will mull over while the “newness” of the school year is still palpable.

  • Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn) is a nationally recognized educational writer and outspoken critic of homework, competition and rewards in schools. He has had a piece appear on the back page of the Ed Weekly Journal every September for nearly 20 years. This year’s piece “Schooling Beyond Measure” explores the fascination/obsession with using data-based measures of assessment.
  • One of the fellow educators I follow on Twitter and whose blog I read regularly is Brian Bennett (@bennettscience), a science teacher from Indiana. He recently posted a piece on his blog called “Three Questions” in which he describes a conversation he had with a colleague that led to what they saw as the 3 core questions we can/should be asking our students. I found the post inspiring and hope you will as well.
  • NPR recently aired a piece titled “Teachers’ Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform” that explores the significant role that bias plays in teacher expectations for students.
  • Starting this weekend (September 23) NBC News is hosting their 3rd annual Education Nation Summit in NYC. They have a website dedicated to the year-round initiative that is loaded with great resources, news and opportunities to be a part of the conversation about education in the US and the world.

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback. Have a wonderful first day of Fall!


Friday Four – September 14, 2012

Connect, Learn and Grow

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the NYTimes Schools for Tomorrow Conference yesterday and listened to a whole host of inspiring speakers. The theme for the conference was “Building a Better Teacher.” I thought it would be appropriate to include some items from the conference in this week’s missive.

  •  This first item is actually the conference itself. All of the panels were streamed live and can be watched now on the conference website. The sessions that I found particularly interesting were:
    • How do we measure teacher performance?
    • How can we better support teachers to deliver better instruction?
    • Keynote from Aneesh Chopra (@aneeshchopra), the former Chief Technology Officer for the United States.
  • Looking for a way to ramp up your Google searching skills? Why not take advantage of a MOOC (a massive  open online course). Daniel Russel, the uber tech leader from Google who spoke at the NYT conference, offered a course on Power Searching with Google this summer which had over 150,000 people register and take the course. He is running the course again starting on September 24. You can register for the course here. I have registered for the course myself so perhaps we can form a study group!
  • At one point in the conference, the audience was polled about what they thought was the most pressing issue with regard to supporting teachers to deliver better instruction. The overwhelming “favorite” was ongoing professional development and the importance of being a connected educator. As I listened to the panel, thought about the response and tweeted out some ideas to the Twitter hashtag for the conference (#NYTedtech); I was reminded of how significant Twitter is in my ongoing PD and ability to connect with fellow educators. For those of you who have read my Friday Fours in the past, you know that I am a big fan of Twitter as a way to connect with fellow educators and share ideas. If you are not a Twitter user, I would encourage you to at least go to and follow a hashtag for 10 minutes and see if you learn something new. There are hashtags for any and all interests. Here is a link to a page listing the education related hashtags that are commonly used. (Thanks to Jerry Blumengarten a.k.a. “cybraryman” for the list) You just may be surprised with how easy it is to get free PD whenever you want.
  • My last find this week is actually a piece published this week in the NYT by LC alum Steven Strogatz (@stevenstrogatz). He is a Mathematics professor at Cornell and is “wicked smart” to use a phrase my students are fond of. He has the ability to make math accessible to those of us who are not mathematicians, no easy task if you ask me! Not quite related to the theme of the first three finds of the week but a great find nonetheless.

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions.