All Treats and No Tricks!

booWith Halloween only a few days away, I was tempted to provide a few “tricks” in this week’s post but decided that I would resist that temptation and only hand out “treats” for your enjoyment.

  • The first item was passed along to me by a colleague and adds to the growing list of articles addressing the topic of multi-tasking and technology. Don’t Look Now! How Your Devices Hurt Your Productivity.
  • The Faculty Focus website had two nice articles this week that look at topics that are common in discussions of teaching these days. The first one Teaching Critical Thinking: Some Practical Points looks at a skill that we all talk about but most of us have a difficult time actually teaching.
  • Finding Signs of Progress When Learning is Slow looks at one of my favorite topics, namely, effortful learning and how difficult it can be for students.
  • The last “treat” this week is a longer piece that is a good primer on the topic of Design Thinking (DT). DT has become very popular in education circles of late and provides a framework and way of thinking that can be used in every discipline. This primer is quite thorough and includes a bunch of excellent links for those who find the topic intriguing. Well worth the time!

Pre-Mother’s Day Friday 4


The thermometer is expected to crack 30 this afternoon and I am ecstatic! (That would be 30 degrees Celsius and not Fahrenheit for those of you who have not yet converted to the metric system.) Warm weather is a mixed blessing as most teachers will attest….nice to be able to shed the winter clothing for spring duds; but if it gets too hot, students and teachers alike can struggle to remain focused in toasty classrooms. I can think of no better way to beat the May heat than a new edition of the Friday 4, so here you go…

A snowy day = shovelling and reading

4fingersThe snow has just about stopped, at least for now, which means that I will soon have to pull on my boots and go out and shovel the driveway. I actually truly enjoy days like this, ones during which I balance a little aerobic exercise clearing the snow with time reading in front of a toasty fire in the fireplace. Sounds pretty good, huh?

If you are looking for something to read between shovelling sessions, I present this week’s Friday 4 for your consideration. I know it is not Friday, but it is close enough! 😉

  •  I found this opinion piece Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others from last weekend’s NYT interesting as I thought about how I create collaborative groups in my classroom and contemplated ways in which I could better teach effective collaboration. My wife was certainly not surprised by the third characteristic of the smartest teams!
  • On a somewhat related note, the following piece crossed my Twitter stream this past week and caught my eye so I clicked on the link and actually read it. Student Success Better Predicted By Personalities Than Intelligence; Why Being Smart Isn’t Enough
  • Smartphones Don’t Make Us Dumb is a piece that appeared in the NYT recently that was written by one of my favorite authors and cognitive psychologists, Daniel Willingham. The piece addresses some common misconceptions about attention spans and electronic devices. The bottom line for me as a teacher is that I need to keep stepping up my game if I am going to capture and keep my students’ attention in class.
  • After reading the Willingham piece in the NYT, I realized that I had not checked out his blog recently and decided to stroll over and see what I may have missed of late. Daniel’s latest post was a perfect piece for this week’s Friday 4: Five mini book reviewsOf the 5 books he reviewed, I had already read 2 of them but was intrigued by the last one on the list, so I ordered it from Amazon using my school-provided professional development debit card. Too easy! I may not be able to read the book today, but in 2 days thanks to Amazon Prime, I will have another book to add to between-shovelling sessions in front of the fireplace. 


Tool Time!

4fingersLooking to add some new tools to your teaching toolbox? This week’s Friday 4 will highlight a few relatively new technology related tools that are fairly easy to learn and use that have the potential to significantly change the teaching and learning that is going on in and out of your classroom. I encourage you to take the plunge and try using one or more of these tools in your classroom in the next couple of weeks.

  • Socrative is a web-based student response system that is similar to “clickers” in functionality that can be used on a computer, a tablet or a smart-phone. “Through the use of real time questioning, instant result aggregation and visualization, teachers can gauge the whole class’ current level of understanding.”  A Complete Guide for Teachers on How to Use Socrative is a great place to start if you have never seen or used Socrative.
  • If you are a user of Google forms in class, there was some big news recently having to do with the release of new add-ons for Google forms that add some really neat functionality to forms. If you are a user of Google forms, check out this post from the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website that describes a few of the add-ons that educators will find useful.
  • Ever wish you could easily create an interactive multimedia collage for a topic you are teaching, or better yet, have your students demonstrate their understanding by creating a dynamic presentation? Well, now you can! Check out this post from the Free Technology for Teachers website that is run by Richard Byrne @rmbyrne.
  • My personal favorite new tool that I have added to my teaching toolbox has to be Edpuzzle (@EDpuzzle). With Edpuzzle, you can take any video (your own or one from YouTube or several other sites) and make it your lesson by trimming it, annotating it or embedding questions that the student have to answer right into the video. As a flipped classroom teacher, it has been awesome to be able to add questions that allow the students to check for their own understanding right into the videos at the exact moment that I want. Here is a wonderful blog post by a fellow teacher that explain how to get started. Even if you do not use a flipped classroom, this tool could turn some of the videos you like to show into richer lessons.


October is Connected Educator Month…Get Connected!

 This October marks the third annual Connected Educator Month. “Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education and its partners as part of the Connected Educators initiative, CEM offers highly distributed, diverse, and engaging activities to educators at all levels.” Information about the program and a full calendar of events can be found on the CEM homepage. There is literally something for every teacher who is looking to continue his/her own professional learning and become a more connected educator. Some examples of events in the coming week alone include:

  • Sunday 10/5 at 8 PM EST Workshop: Beginners Guide to Becoming a Connected Educator.
  • Monday 10/6 at 4 PM EST Using Educational Technology in the Classroom.
  • Tuesday 10/7 at 8 PM EST Weekly Task Talk with Illustrative Mathematics
  • Wednesday 10/8 at 8 PM EST New Teacher Chat on Twitter #ntchat
  • Thursday 10/9 at 6 PM EST Twitterchat #whatisschool an interactive chat about education around the world
  • Friday 10/10 at 8 AM EST New Frontiers in Assessment Discussion

I encourage you to, at the very least, take a look at the calendar of events and commit to participating in at least one event during the month of October. Now on to the Friday 4 Finds of the week…


Sharing…the way it ought to be.

ShareThe power of the PLN – Sharing Resources

One of the best features of a vibrant PLN is the wealth of resources that its members can provide when you least expect it. I am fortunate to have a great bunch of colleagues at Loomis Chaffee who frequently pass along interesting articles and videos that they come across that they think I might be interested in. In my role at the school, I feel obligated to “share the wealth” and pass along the items that come my way to others who might also find them interesting or intriguing. So, this week’s Friday 4 is actually a few of the resources that recently came my way from my LC PLN. I hope you find one or more of the items as interesting as I did. Thanks PLN!

  •  The first piece is an article that appeared in The Atlantic magazine titled The Confidence Gap. The piece explores the evidence that “shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.”  The article has important implications for teachers of young men and women and will make you rethink how we can best serve all of our students. Thanks to Al Freihofer and Monica Kirschman (@monkirsch) for passing this one along.
  • If you are interested in exploring the use of the “flipped classroom” model, “Inside Higher Ed has published a free compilation of articles — in print-on-demand format — about efforts to reshape the use of classroom time that can be found here. Thanks to Sheila Culbert (@SCulbertLC) for this resource.
  • The following TED talk Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic is a short but inspiring talk that is well worth 6:45 minutes of your time. The comments on the video are also thought provoking…not everybody is in agreement to be certain. Thanks to Julie Hinchman for sharing this video.
  • The final piece (and associated website) come thanks to Rachel Allen. Educational Psychology: 20 Things Educators Need To Know About How Students Learn

Thanks again to those who passed along these resources. Keep them coming!

Spring has sprung….well, not quite.


4fingersDespite the weather of late, the spring term has officially begun and the race to June is in full swing. While it is not time to revamp an entire curriculum, it is a good time to try a few new things in the classroom and shake things up a bit. Here are a few items that may inspire you to try something new in your classroom this spring.

  • Pedagogy Postcards is a series of short blog posts by Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) that I ran across on Twitter that cover a range of teaching topics. Tom describes the posts as “A series of short posts about specific elements of teaching practice that I think are effective and make life interesting.”
  • As most of you know, I teach in a “flipped classroom” and have found that the practice has changed the learning dynamic in my classroom. We are beginning to see some research come out on the benefits and drawbacks of the flipped classroom now that it has become more widespread in use. Here is a news story from that includes a link so some of the recent research. For more info on the flipped classroom, here is a great piece 4 Pillars & 11 Indicators Of Flipped Learning from the website.
  • Looking for creative ways to use Google forms? Here is a great list of tons of uses for Google forms that may spark your interest.
  • Tips for Writing Good Multiple-Choice Questions is a nice piece from the website that contains practical advice for designing MC questions.


A not quite Friday 4


  • New Study: SAT Scores Have No Bearing On College Success. For those of you who work with students who are college bound, this story and the study are quite interesting and worth sharing with our students.
  • How can we reverse the disturbing trend of gender imbalance in the STEM fields? Here is a nice little video that asks girls about their experiences in physics and a practical guide from the National Institute for Educational Research “Encouraging Girls in Math and Science.
  • I have had a number of people ask me for help in developing rubrics of late and truly enjoy the process of crafting the criteria for assessment as well as the descriptors for each level of performance. If you are not using rubrics and do not know how to start or just want a refresher course on the qualities of a good rubric, here is a great little online tutorial from the University of Colorado Denver that is quite good.
  • Ran across this news article that was shared on Twitter by  my brain science friend Dr. Judy Willis (@judywillis) that looks at Why Some Smartphone Games Are So AddictiveNot sure who Judy Willis is? Check out this little video from Jay McTighe (author and designer of the Understanding by Design approach) about Judy.
  • Looking for a way to organize your own research or help students organize research for an assignment in your class? Check out this option of using Google Slides from Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) “How to Use Google Slides to Organize Research.

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!

Technology in the classroom – The why and a few hows.

Friday Four – Feb 22

Of all the “issues” that teachers have to deal with, effective and appropriate use of technology in the classroom is probably the one that elicits the most fear and anxiety. Part of the anxiety comes from the fact that technology changes so rapidly and it is impossible to be the master of all of it. This anxiety or fear cannot prevent us from actively seeking out and learning how to use new technologies in our classrooms.

  • This week’s first piece is actually a series of three posts written by Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann), the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy. Chris is well known for his belief that “Technology must be ubiquitous, necessary and invisible.” He addresses each of his claims in the series of posts that can be found here
  • Now for a few of the “hows.” Chris Betcher (@betchaboy) is an IT teacher from Australia that I follow on Twitter who recently wrote a blog post “Office vs Drive: Some thoughts” that makes a good case for switching from “old school” to “new school” when it comes to word processing, spreadsheets or presentations.
  • If you are already a Google Drive user or are intrigued after reading the previous piece, this post from Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) will walk you through how to use Drive on your iPad.
  • If you are really ambitious and want to seriously add to your technology toolbox, check out this page 100+ Google Tricks for Teachers.

I hope you enjoy these finds from the week and that you add a few new arrows to your teaching quiver. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.