February 27, 2023
ChatGPT is like Hello Fresh, it can provide the ingredients, but the teacher is still the chef. An image of a teacher wearing a chef's hat and a sample of Hello Fresh ingredients.

Using AI Tools to Level-Up Your Teaching Game

I’ve been fascinated by the rapid growth of AI tools that support teachers. Since ChatGPT was made public back in November,  hundreds of tools have surfaced and even more ideas have been shared across social media channels. My intention is to help you sort through those tools and ideas to present to you specific ways that AI can support educators. I want to begin, though, by addressing a question that has come up frequently in my own research around this topic. Will AI replace me as a teacher? The answer, even among the most prominent voices across the landscape of education, is no. Teachers using AI tools will, no doubt, work faster and more efficient than those teachers who don’t use AI tools. That could be happening now. Charity Dodd, from Learning Innovation Catalyst (LINC), provided this illustration recently and I made it into a graphic of my own:

ChatGPT is like Hello Fresh, it can provide the ingredients, but the teacher is still the chef. An image of a teacher wearing a chef's hat and a sample of Hello Fresh ingredients.

I have previously shared my own version of 20 Ways Teachers Can Use ChatGPT to Save Time and Work Smarter and I suggest starting there if you’re still learning about ChatGPT and the kinds of prompts you can ask this AI model.

Ways Teachers Can Use ChatGPT by Derek Oldfield

Dan Fitzpatrick ran a poll on Twitter asking teachers which tasks are most likely to eat into your own personal time and the results are below.

Poll results, 250 votes, which tasks are most likely to eat into your personal time | Feedback or Grading, Planning lessons, Creating content, all of the above is highest with 38.4% of the votes
Credit to Dan for selecting these three areas of need. I support and inspire teachers primarily at the secondary level and I can echo these concerns about time spent grading or giving feedback, creating content, and planning dynamic lessons. Let’s dig into ways AI tools can support these processes.

Grading or Giving Feedback

ChatGPT generating a writing rubric for a grade 8 essay

You may be thinking, well can’t we just ask ChatGPT or other generative AI language models for a rubric based on our assignment? Yes, you can! I’m learning more and more about prompt engineering and that will most certainly be a skill we’re all going to sharpen the more we use AI tools. I really like Dan Fitzpatrick’s PREP model of prompt-writing. Let’s take this example of an 8th grade teacher. The prompt: Create a rubric for a grade 8 writing essay. You are an expert teacher. The essay is about song lyrics. Students are to select a song with lyrics that they can identify with. The essay should explain why they selected that song and how they identify with the song lyrics. Students should identify the theme and message of the lyrics in their essay.
The follow-up to that prompt would be to ask ChatGPT to score a student’s paper according to the rubric, but to be practical, we probably aren’t doing that with 120+ essays and unless you upgrade your ChatGPT account, I’m not sure you’re going to be granted that many prompts in a single day. But the ability is coming! It’s coming to word processors like Google Docs and Microsoft Word. In the near future I’m predicting we’ll be able to access generative AI like ChatGPT inside of Microsoft Word or Google Docs and the AI will provide feedback to written work automatically. For now, get inspiration for your own rubrics by brainstorming with ChatGPT.

Creating Content and Planning Lessons

This is probably the category in which generative AI has exploded the most in the recent months. I could never include every tool here, but I’ll include a few that have potential and certainly fall under the purpose of saving teachers time.

  • Curipod.ai Curipod will generate an entire interactive lesson from a single prompt. Curipod has already grown in its list of features. I imagine with enough funding this product will be around for a while. I’ll share a sample of my experience with Curipod, but you can access the video of my initial experience here. My opinion: this might provide ingredients, but as I often do with recipes, I would add a bit of my own spice to this lesson. Could this save time? Absolutely.Curipod is generating a lesson from the following prompt: Introduction to Photosynthesis
  • Conker.ai takes a single prompt and generates assessment questions from that prompt. The questions can then be exported into a Google form. So in a matter of seconds, teachers can have formative assessment questions in a Google form.Conker.ai generating assessment questions from a prompt: Create a quiz with 5 questions for grade 5 students about the water cycle.
  • ChatGPT can build an impressive lesson with the right prompt(s). In this sample, I take the PREP model and ask for a lesson generated from a TedTalk topic. The TedTalk is on YouTube. If a teacher was using an article or a video as the center of their lesson, ChatGPT can generate a lot of content based on that video or article. For the YouTube video, I copied the transcript of the video and pasted that into the prompt using the PREP model. My entire prompt:
    Write a lesson. You are an expert at writing quality lessons that engage students and progress their learning. Write a set of lesson objectives. Create an engaging opening task that sets the context for the lesson. Write three paragraphs based on the content. Use short sentences that are packed full of meaning and key learning content. Include a multiple choice question at the end of each paragraph that tests students learning of the paragraph. Add the answer for the teacher. Add a list of subject-specific terms and simple definitions. Write a set of questions based on the content. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy. Create a group task based on the content. This is for grade 6 students. Make the reading age 12 years old. The content: (I pasted the transcript of a YouTube video)ChatGPT generating an entire lesson using the PREP model

    This was one of my most impressive results from ChatGPT but I think it was most impressive because the prompt was of higher quality. The better the prompt, the better the result. The questions were great, the group project was good. These were good ingredients that likely would yield a palatable dining experience on their own. Would this save teachers time? Yes. 

  • Charity Dodd @CharityDodd introduced me to this idea and I think it has merit. Teachers can use ChatGPT to provide an adaptive assessment to students. I see this working most effectively as a student-led station. ChatGPT will provide questions to students and will increase or decrease the complexity of those questions based on the student response. With the right prompt, this will work.
    You will create an adaptive assessment. You will generate a reading passage for a grade 5 student. You will create a reading comprehension question. If I answer the question correctly, you will ask a harder question. If I answer the question incorrectly, you will ask an easier question.
    Obviously my prompt below was based on reading comprehension but this could be math problems, science concepts, or almost any topic you happen to be studying. The key, again, is in the prompt. What was not captured in the GIF below? I got an answer wrong just after the video cut. ChatGPT not only provided the correct response but it provided supporting details directing me to that information in the passage. That’s amazing.
    ChatGPT is creating an adaptive assessment by generating a reading passage and asking more or less complex questions about that passage based on the answer provided by the human.


Dan Fitzpatrick released this article over the weekend titled 21 Ways to be a Leader in the AI Era.

For the education system to survive and adapt to the rapidly changing world we find ourselves in, our leaders must embody courage and innovation, fearlessly taking the necessary steps to empower their students and staff to thrive in the AI revolution.

Original from The AI Educator at https://thirdbox.org/

His call is clear and powerful.

A rush of tools and ideas have surfaced since ChatGPT became public on November 30, 2022. That trend will likely continue if not increase in its potency. Districts, schools, and leaders alike will need to sort through these tools to empower their staff to get better results, save time, and improve learning. I like this matrix related to ChatGPT and pedagogy. I used this filter when deciding which tools to share in this post and I think it’s a necessary frame to keep around during this time.

A correlation matrix with quality of pedagogy on the y-axis and quality of prompt on the x-axis. The greatest quadrant in the upper right says work with AI to get better results, hours of time saved, learning is improved. That's the goal.

Original from The AI Educator at https://thirdbox.org/

February 9, 2021

Blended Learning Playlists

playlist is a sequence of resources or activities for a student to complete. I’ve been experimenting with the notion of learning pathways or learning playlists for a few years now. Unbeknownst to me, a pandemic would strike in the spring of 2020 and this pedagogical concept would become an easier embrace during this challenging time for teachers. I admit, it’s a paradigm shift, but bare with me through this post.

The image above represents a playlist for students in a high school geometry course. As you can see, the playlist begins by clearly stated learning targets derived from content standards. Choosing the targets, the end destination, is the first order of business when designing your own playlist. The teacher will need to consider the length of time required for students to acquire the concepts included in those targets. Is there a specific length of time that works better than others? In my experience, the longer the playlist, the more likely it is for students to lose their location or their purpose. You’ll have a better understanding of what that means in just a moment. I typically shoot for 10 instructional days.

First, let’s take a look at the research that serves as the foundation for this pedagogical shift.

Author of the book Drive, Dan Pink describes intrinsic motivation as motivation 3.0. This notion is developed from bodies of research around motivation. Dan uncovers several studies that reveal the dangers of if-then rewards, or carrots and sticks. It turns out, carrots and sticks can do serious harm to a student’s desire or motivation to learn. This seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? Education has been employing carrots and sticks for years. Wasn’t Pavlov’s dog offered a reward for behavior? Dan breaks down motivation into extrinsic and intrinsic. One such study including MIT students reveals some truth around carrots and sticks. A group of students were given some games, complex games that involved creativity, concentration, and motor skills. Their performance was incentivized based on three levels of performance. The highest performers would receive the greatest reward. The results were clear. Incentives worked as expected for tasks that required purely mechanical skill. Once the task involved any amount of creativity or critical thinking, rewards led to poorer performance. This study was repeated over and over, even in contexts where monetary rewards would mean more, but the results were the same. Carrots and sticks work for low level tasks that don’t require much thought. But if the task increases in complexity, rewards actually damage performance. As Edward Deci, Richard Ryan, and Richard Koestner explain, ‘Rewards do not undermine people’s intrinsic motivation for dull tasks because there is little or no intrinsic motivation to be undermined.’

Dan uncovers three primary drivers to amplify intrinsic motivation – autonomy, mastery, and purpose. You’ll see these drivers threaded throughout the learning playlists. It’s a misconception to think we design these playlists and set students off on an independent journey hoping they make it to the end. That is not the case. The playlists do involve a healthy measure of autonomy as we allow students to navigate through the playlist at their own place. Whole-group activities are done together as a class. Students have little say in when those are completed, but they do have some control over their independent work. In a traditional model of schooling, there are a number of constants in the learning equation. Time, practice, and assignments are all constants defined by the teacher and applied equally to the students. The teacher decides what assignments to complete, when they are due, the numbers of problems, and more. Learning is the variable in this model. Some students learn it all, some students learn parts of it, some students learn very little. The blended learning playlist flips the script. Time, practice, and assignments become a variable, and learning becomes the constant.

Checkpoints or progress checks are critical to the success of the playlists. If students are never asked for check their progress against a formative assessment, they are never informed of their location, their success, or their next steps in the journey. As you can see, the playlists offer strategically placed checkpoints that are designed to inform students about whether to move forward in the playlist, backward, or stay put. The majority of the independent work in the playlist is computer adaptive, meaning the software adjusts inputs based on student outputs. There is constant feedback provided to the learner. What might take me 18 problems to demonstrate proficiency, might take another learner 12 problems. That personalization is allowed within the system.

John Hattie’s meta-analysis of over 1200 bodies of research on instructional practices is fascinating. This blog isn’t about his research but you can read about how he determined the hinge-point for effect sizes. According to Hattie, 0.40 represents a year’s worth of achievement for a year’s input using that specific strategy. Any strategy with an effective size greater than 0.40 has an influence greater than a year’s worth of growth. 0.80 would represent a strategy that yield’s two year’s worth of growth. 1.20 would represent three years of growth, an incredible influence on student achievement.

Self-assessment and self-efficacy are among the highest influences when it comes to strategies that yield high achievement. Self-assessment is threaded throughout the playlist. Putting students in control of their pace by informing them of their progress through feedback becomes a powerful influence fueling intrinsic motivation. Self-efficacy refers to one’s confidence to complete tasks or exert control over their motivation. Students are in control of their own mastery inside the playlist. They can complete independent work until they demonstrate proficiency. They can retake progress checks, and they get at least two takes on the summative assessment at the end. The clear learning targets, the map of the journey, and the pursuit of mastery all contribute to a greater purpose. Learners become involved in the process advancing towards a specific goal.

What does the teacher do? It’s a mistake to think the teacher sits at the desk with his/her feet up. The teacher is furiously referencing the feedback provided by the adaptive platforms students utilize for independent work. The teacher is also diagnosing misunderstanding or misconceptions provided during whole-group experiences. The teacher uses this information to make decisions about small groups and seating arrangements. The teacher spends a considerable amount of time on a knee or seated at a desk beside students asking questions and listening to gauge understanding.

There is a noteworthy connection between the tasks a teacher chooses to include in the playlist and Bloom’s taxonomy. Computer adaptive platforms have their place in blended learning, but as long as teachers understand their limitations. My whole-group experiences are rich and require intellectual agility in order to complete. These tasks require students to analyze, compare strategies, evaluate work, and create.

The most common concern at this point becomes “do students navigate all playlists at their pace? How do you manage the chaos when students are working on different playlists?” Students move to the next playlist together with their classmates. I never have more than one active playlist at a time. In my experience, this is the best way to do it. What if students aren’t ready to move on? Believe it or not, that rarely happens. Why? The classroom culture transforms to a degree that classmates just don’t allow other classmates to fall behind. If I’m doing my job, analyzing the feedback, and making informed decisions about who to spend time with, and what seating arrangements would maximize students’ strengths, then the gap between the first student and the last student never grows too wide. I’ve done this in the secondary classroom with over 100 students and I’ve never felt bad about moving to the next playlist.

In conclusion, I want to wrap this up with the best representation of equality vs equity that I’ve ever seen. This is relevant to learning playlists because I hope you can see the value in giving students what they need to succeed. This is a theme throughout the playlist. Students are provided what they need to succeed, not equal portions of time, practice, and assignments.

Image Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

July 24, 2020

Power-Up Your Course Organization and Lesson Planning

One of the many lessons learned during the last quarter of the 19-20 school year was how critically important it is to organize your course in a student and family friendly manner. We were all caught off guard by how suddenly we were tossed into an entirely new model of schooling. For many, there just wasn’t enough time to refine course layout, reconsider our folder structures, etc. I hope this post provides you with some inspirational ways to layout your course content this upcoming school year. Let’s not kid ourselves either, reorganizing our courses will only enhance the student experience even if we find ourselves back in a face-face model of schooling.

I really like these samples from two fabulous teachers at Mill Creek Intermediate – Joanna Smith & Tiffany Quade. I used the drop-down to display the inside sections of one of the folders.

Joanna Smith


Tiffany Quade

Need to know what you missed on Tuesday April 28? ☑️

What are we doing this Friday? ☑️

Where do I find the assignment we did last week? ☑️

Want an easy-to-read overview of the week? ☑️

Are there embedded videos showing me how to do this work? ☑️

What are the learning goals for my child this week? ☑️

Continue reading

June 4, 2020

Developing Metacognition & Executive Functioning

I completely agree with Tiffany Wycoff’s recent response in tweet:

This is the perfect moment to leap forward and I believe teachers have acquired a tremendous amount of new skill that may serve them well as they move towards a learner-centered model. Let us be careful to provide support, not just technical support, but pedagogical support as we navigate these new waters.

As teachers begin to shift the ways they lay out content, provide instruction, curate student work, provide feedback, and measure learning, it is ever more important to be intentional about the ways in which we develop metacognition and executive functioning skills.

“The ability to think about what we are learning, how we are learning, what we want to learn in the future are important skills that must be explicitly taught in classrooms.” – Catlin Tucker
How can teachers incorporate intentional opportunities for kids to reflect on and monitor metacognition and executive functioning skills? If schools begin in a remote setting, it’s going to be critical that we provide our students real opportunities to talk about, reflect on, monitor, and track progress across skills like time management, task initiation, persistence, and more. 
*Flipgrid – Include a weekly topic designed to allow students an honest place to reflect on how they’re learning, whether their phone was a distraction, how they mitigated distractions, the role their earbuds play in learning, etc.
*A simple page in a notebook designed to allow students to place a point on a number line tracking progress across any skill.
*A correlation chart
*A discussion post – collect video or audio responses
*SMART Goal Setting
*End of the week exit ticket (Google Form, Microsoft Form, etc)
*Self-assessment doc
Click here for a Word version of the template below. Click here for a Google Doc version of the template below.
I think you’ll like this Powerpoint/Slides/Keynote template. I created templates for the six middle schools, but they can be easily edited to reflect any of the BCS schools. Click here to download the Powerpoint templates yourself.
November 14, 2019

Desmos Activities in the Elementary Class

I’ve been a fan of the Desmos activity platform for quite a while. If you’re teaching math and don’t know about it, stop reading and check it out now at teacher.desmos.com. I love the transparency the Desmos team places on their philosophy of learning math. I’ve read Dan Meyer’s blog posts about the thought invested into designing the platform and how it relates to how they believe math instruction could look and sound for students today. This post on orchestrating more productive math discussions is great! I often use this post on how Desmos designs learning activities, because it provides a good context for math teachers to reflect on their own practices.

It’s no secret that most of the content the Desmos team releases is designed for secondary students and teachers. If you glance at their teacher webpage, you’ll find it difficult to locate lessons for anyone under grade 6 or 7. The search bar on the teacher page only yields activities that have been approved or reviewed by the Desmos team. The platform, though, is free to use and if used effectively can result in quality learning experiences for younger learners. I’ve been working with a 3rd grade teacher during his 90-minute math block. I used the learning platform to design an experience his kids could use to review for a test they’re having the next day. The experience would be the first whole-group experience his kids have had with a Desmos activity. Mr. Shchurtz and I decided to utilize the pacing feature in the platform to move his students together, slide by slide, for most of the activity, since it was their first experience with it.

I can’t say enough about how engaged his learners were throughout the experience. We mirrored Mr. Schurtz’s Ipad to the projector through the whole lesson. I supported Mr. Schurtz in planning the activity, meaning we sat and looked at each slide trying to anticipate student responses, which slides would require a pause to interject instruction or support, and which sections we could allow students to work at their own pace.

During the experience, I quickly noted how the students responded to seeing their work projected on the board. Their motivation and attention skyrocketed! Even Mr. Schurtz made a statement about it during the activity. It was as if their work had more meaning knowing it was being shared with a wider audience. It’s worth noting, the Desmos learning platform allows a teacher to anonymize names when displaying student work, and you also don’t have to display the work at all.

As students draw or input their work on a slide, the teacher can view the work in nearly-live fashion. Mr. Schurtz noticed one student’s creativity when solving a problem, so he used the platform’s pause feature to pause everyone’s work simultaneously. Next, Mr. Schurtz asked Liam to explain his work to the class. You can view Liam’s explanation and the classes response here.

I left the experience encouraged by the rich conversation and the depth of thinking that was required of the students. It was almost as if the rigor of thought or the effort that was required was disguised as something fun.


October 23, 2019

Equal vs Equitable

Full transparency here… Rick Wormeli wrote the book Fair Isn’t Always Equal and it is excellent! It is on a must-read list for many educators, including this one. I’ve recently put a lot of thought and consideration into the notions of fairequal, and equitable and the roles they play in learning design. I am writing to share my context with other educators. My role in education has recently allowed me to jump back into the design of a learning pathway for a classroom of students. Honestly, I miss this. Before I left full-time teaching in a classroom setting, I was experimenting with a better way to design learning experiences that differentiate for my kids.

Several years ago, I began a relentless pursuit to liberate my students from this conveyor belt of learning that is one-size-fits-all (or is it none?). Prior to increasing my capacity and skill with technology, this was a task that seemed out of reach to me. The current model of schooling still restricts my students and teachers to arbitrary calendar dates, meaning that all students have to attend school for 180 days before they can advance. Even though no one really knows how long it will take any one student to learn x, y, and z, I could still innovate within the constraints of the calendar. As a math teacher, the conveyor belt of learning meant that all kids would receive equal time for instruction, equal time for practice, equal numbers of problems to practice, and equal number of days to learn before providing evidence in equal number of ways. There was a time in this journey that I realized that I didn’t have to force this level of uniformity onto my students any longer. As Rick says, I will always be fair, but I will rarely be equal. To be clear, the conveyor belt sends several messages to students. To some, it says if you can’t keep up, sorry. I don’t want to imply that all teachers feel this way, but doesn’t that message also say it is more convenient for me to plan this way, so keep up. For others, the message says I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wallow in mediocrity even though you’re ready to move on.

My journey began to shift when I realized I could leverage technology to better respond to my students and that response would greatly impact my instructional design. The pathway you see laid out in the image above represents an experience that embraces the understanding that all kids learn at different rates with various levels of support.

One of the more enlightening experiences I had along this journey came when I realized I could leverage technology to provide students a number of practice opportunities that reflected what they needed in order to demonstrate proficiency. No longer were all of my students receiving the same 25 practice problems on the same night. I also recalled nightmarish experiences when I would pass out tests on test-days and cringe when I got to a few desks of students I knew were not ready for this test. Those days are in the past. I could get into the nuts of bolts of that learning pathway, how students navigate it, the face-to-face learning experiences (whole group and small group) vs the self-paced ones, the role the formative practice plays and how it impacts student ownership, autonomy, and self-assessment. Not to mention the depth of learning, the mental dexterity required to complete some of the experiences, and the metacognition included in reflective opportunities along the way. But I want to hone in on the grip that fairness has on so many classrooms.

I fear too many classrooms are focused on being equal with students, in the interest of fair practice. But let’s be clear about equality.

Image Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

What we really want in our classrooms is equitable and responsive teaching. Being fair and equitable is giving kids unique and specific supports so that all students have an opportunity to succeed, or learn. That means we have a responsibility to provide those supports when possible. So what practices fly in the face of equity? Consider whether your own instruction rides on a conveyor belt of one-size-fits-none instruction. Let’s consider what equitable grading practices look like. Are our grading practices handcuffed by equality? I know some teachers that allow redos or reassessment in their class, for example. Hats off to those teachers for recognizing the value of iterations in learning, something that applies to nearly every single profession in the world. But, in the interest of being equal with all students, teachers give partial credit to the second or third iteration or redo. The most typical response here is this practice ensures fairness to those students who got it the first time. Are we punishing students for learning at a different rate than we’re teaching?

I appreciate you reading this far. After some recent work in a classroom, I began to reflect on fairness, equality, and equitable teaching. The pathway I provided represents just one example of how instruction can be designed and innovated in ways that provide students healthy and equitable experiences. I think it also points to the greater world in which we live. If teachers still consider themselves the master of content in their class, they’ve been outsourced by Youtube and Google. We’ve got to start providing students opportunities to learn how to learn. That doesn’t mean they do so in the absence of a teacher, but it does mean the role of the teacher has to change from delivering content to managing student learning. Are we providing kids opportunities to inquire, filter information, and apply it in authentic ways? Think about how much learning we omit because we hold students hostage to arbitrary timelines.

November 2, 2018

Does the word relationships indicate an impossible teaching nirvana?


One of my favorite edu-speakers is Todd Whitaker. He often says “If you want to change student behavior, you need to start by changing adult behavior.” Many schools begin the year chanting the mantra of relationships. Some even develop a relationship theme or move from a behavior policy to a relationship policy. While those are certainly moves in the right direction, I still fear many teachers simply regard this as a shift away from student responsibility. I wonder if they feel threatened by the language that suggests some impossible teaching nirvana, a nirvana that fails to address “Barry” that is seated in the back breaking pencils. In reality, we need reminded that students don’t want dramatic displays of affection or one-off events to build relationships on day one. They don’t want our personal life poured out, they don’t want a social media connection, and they don’t want to stop by for tea or coffee. We need to remember the drip effect. It’s the steady, daily acts of care that yield the largest gains. It’s the high five in the hallway, the eye contact as we walk through the cafeteria, the 20-second conversation by the busses, the positive phone call home, or the handwritten note dropped in a locker.

Image from @SteeleThoughts

As adults, we generally steer clear of people who want an instant relationship. Imagine the person you meet in the grocery store line that invites you and your spouse on a 7-day cruise to the Bahamas. Too much too soon is awkward! Relationships grow with steady drips, not in a hour-long assembly or one lesson involving paint and slime. In the adult world, it’s the kind word at the door as you enter school or the thinking of you text message that strengthens a positive relationship. Those same strategies work with kids.

Great teachers invest emotional currency on purpose. They know the smiley face they put on that paper, or the stamp they stick on a child’s hand, or the game they stayed late for is a worthy deposit of emotional currency. That currency can be cashed in to avert a crisis or deescalate a tense situation. Great teachers know that the toughest students may have one person at their school that they’ll talk to when things go from bad to worse, and that one person is me.

June 6, 2018

You Want Me to Be LESS Human?

The high schools in my county are undergoing a full 1:1 implementation next school year. The lower grade levels are already 1:1.  You want me to be LESS human?  Isn’t that a common concern when teachers are suddenly facing a huge influx of devices?  I see it on teachers’ faces and you can likely hear it in the hallways after faculty meetings.  It’s a common misconception and one that needs addressed via high quality learning experiences for teachers.

I like taking the example Sal Khan, of Khan Academy, gives us in a popular Youtube video.  He explains that even he wouldn’t want his own children sitting in front of a computer all day with little support from a teacher.  It’s true, Khan Academy does offer that experience to children in third world countries who lack the support of a trained professional.  But, the benefit of blending instruction through the use of technology is really about making teachers more human.

I often use myself as an example.  Years ago I spent x number of minutes each week calling out correct answers to homework.  I used the trade & grade method.  I passed out red pens, called out answers to homework problems, had the students right a percentage on the top of the paper, turn it in, input grades, and begin class. Even if I gave homework twice a week, that’s still a large chunk of time that really isn’t very valuable. I replaced that time with a lot more time spent down on a knee with groups of students or one student working directly with them as they worked out problems. A lot of my whole-group instruction (I used to have students take notes, replaced that too) became more effective small group instruction.  It’s amazing how much better students listen if you’re instructing a group of 5 rather than a group of 25.

Here’s a great workshop for teachers: “Close your eyes and visualize a snapshot of time in your class in any given week. I want that snapshot to be the time that you would consider the HIGHEST quality in terms of learning. If you could press pause at any given moment, what would your moment be?” What follows is an excellent discussion.  Ask teachers to describe that moment in detail.  What is the teacher doing?  What are the students doing?  What does the room sound like?  Who is speaking most?  You can even follow that conversation with “what would your worst moment be?” and discuss that. Blended learning is really all about making teachers MORE human, not LESS human. Standing up front of a class reading a powerpoint while students are passively writing down notes isn’t high quality time in terms of learning. It MAY be necessary but it’s not high quality. Blended learning is taking the highest quality time and making more of it.

Finally, professional learning should really focus on driving instructional time up Bloom’s ladder.  Replacing low quality time with students should yield more frequent learning in the upper levels of Bloom’s, something I found very difficult prior to blending effectively. – Derek

July 6, 2017

Spark Excitement Leading Up To Your PD

Ever read the announcement for school or district provided professional development and let out a big sigh?  When you hear about professional development, what emotions rise to the surface?  I have heard plenty of teachers clammer over the thought of attending PD.  I also know many teachers who look forward to the learning opportunities in their school or district.  Either way, I hope your professional learning experiences don’t elicit this feeling:

Source Unknown

I want to arm school and district leaders with ways they can engage their participants before their PD events in order to generate excitement, ignite the conversation, and spark momentum heading into their professional learning experience.


Flipgrid is on fire!  Matt Miller put together this awesome blog post including 15 ways Flipgrid can be used in the classroom.  Consider this number 16!

I launched a Flipgrid topic to the #wvedchat network recently.  West Virginia’s statewide technology conference is coming up July 18 and I used Flipgrid to encourage conference-goers to record a short video response sharing what they are excited about for this year’s conference.  We’ve received some great responses so far and you can view them or respond here.  Consider using Flipgrid to generate some excitement leading up to your next professional development event.  Your session leaders could even record a mini-commercial detailing what participants will learn by attending their session.  Or you could use Flipgrid after your event to collect feedback or testimonies about what your participants will take back to their classrooms and schools.  Finally, you could require participants record their video response in order to be entered into a door-prize drawing during your PD event.  Flipgrid offers a great opportunity to increase the energy heading into your professional development sessions.

#The Hashtag#

Every conference or professional development event should be using a backchannel.  Recently, I was fortunate enough to follow the learning at two huge educational conferences by following the conversations across the conference hashtags: #ISTE17 & #ModelSchools.  I’ve never been to either conference, though they’re definitely on my edu-conference bucket list!  School and district leaders have a great opportunity to model an effective instructional practice by encouraging participants to exercise their voice across the event hashtag.  The hashtag also provides participants an opportunity to share their learning during the event.  Using curation tools like Storify, educators can capture their learning during the event and use that archive as evidence of their growth during evaluation conversations with school or district leaders.  I love what Dwight Carter did during Model Schools to reflect on what he learned during various sessions.  You can view this reflection by clicking here.


There are advantages to using Facebook and one of them is that nearly everyone is already there.  Meet your event participants where they are and create a Facebook event for your professional development dates.  You can use the comment sections in the event posting to generate excitement, provide thought-provoking questions, or preview some details about your event using pictures/videos.

January 27, 2017

What Do I Do Now?

What do I do once I have damaged that relationship?  This question was born out of a recent conversation with a student-teacher in my building.  It was a great thought and one that every educator should be considering.  I have to imagine that even the best managers of classrooms have messed up and damaged a relationship with a student before.  We’re human, after all.  So let’s set the stage a bit.  That one student who has been tip-toeing the line for several days or even weeks, decides to jump over the line head first one day.  The irritation overcomes you and you lay down some punishment.  The next day the student comes in with a chip on his/her shoulder and you are forced to dig deep into your toolbox in a relentless search to engage that student, but your efforts are to no avail.  So you’re left wondering, “how long will he/she come to my room with a negative attitude?  Do I just let this student have his/her space?  If I ignore them, I’m afraid they’ll just distract others.”  Chances are, they will distract others.  That student is seeking an audience and will do what they can to pull more students to their side (there are sides now, you know).  So what do I do now?

Let’s say for sake of this post, this student is Jeremy.  This, in my opinion, is the best piece of advice I can offer to the teacher in this situation: DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO PREVENT MORE JEREMYS FROM APPEARING IN YOUR CLASS.  Right now, you’ve only got one Jeremy.  But, if you do nothing, more will appear.  So what can you do to prevent Jeremy from multiplying?

No doubt, in this situation, Jeremy already has some followers or at least some people that may be considering joining the fold.  You better seek those students out like a Sidewinder missile!  Now, you have to do more than identify them.  Start recognizing anything even remotely positive that those students are doing in your class.  “I appreciate how you came in and got your stuff out so you’re ready to go, great job man!”  “Hey Daniel, I’ve never seen someone persevere over one problem quite like you have! Way to go!”  “Chasity, thank you for picking that pencil up off the floor for me!”  With each of those praises, you look them in the eye and dap, shake their hand, or high-five.  Make a positive contact if possible.  

Next, go the extra mile.  Don’t just rest on a positive praise that requires 5 seconds of your time.  Write those students a handwritten note and deliver it to them.  Make a phone call home and tell mom or dad how much you appreciate that specific behavior you observed in their child.  You want those behaviors to continue, right?  Then put in the effort.  It’s worth it!  Meet those students as they arrive at school early in the morning.  Talk to them.  If your schedule permits, see them at lunch and sit with them, talk to them.  Great relationships with tough kids don’t happen by accident.  If you’re willing to do the things few educators are doing, you’ll reach the kids few educators are reaching.

If you follow through with these actions, chances are great that you have done well to prevent more Jeremys from appearing your class.  Read my next post to determine what to do with the original Jeremy.