Category Archives: teaching

Just Because You Can Look It Up, Should You?

I saw a comment on Twitter recently suggesting that teachers should never tell students things that they could look up. It struck me as one of those zero sum statements that are not helpful as we try to navigate the changing relationship between teachers and students. Teachers have expert knowledge to share that can help students move forward with their own learning more efficiently. Finding the balance of when to share and when to encourage students to explore on their own is, in my humble opinion, part of the art of teaching.

I think the spirit of the statement was probably related to teachers telling students lots of stuff the don’t need to know to move forward efficiently, and the balance must include some consideration of how much knowledge students might need to get started and the best way for them to gather that knowledge. For instance, I observed in a project-based learning high school for several years where ALL direct instruction was banned. A math teacher shared that, as she worked with her 9th graders on a three-dimensional construction project, she realized that many of them did not know how to use a ruler. She felt that she could get everyone up and running pretty quickly with a short full group lesson but was worried about violating the pedagogical rules. Of course, they could look up how to use a ruler and helping them learn how to learn might be a valuable lesson for them, but in the context of the project, she could move things along in ten minutes of instruction.

Rather than imposing rules, we need to trust teachers to make good decisions about the needs of their students. Strict pedagogical rules–whether conservative or liberal–do not help anyone, serving only to create frustration and even fear in professional educators. As connected educators, we recognize the value of community and shared expertise as part of the learning process and often ask questions of our colleagues that, theoretically, we could have looked up ourselves whether we are doing so on Twitter or around the lunch table.

Perhaps we should start thinking of our students as those colleagues. That changes the dynamic, and those quick questions between colleagues can help keep them on track with their larger project.


Sitting with Students

I am a teacher of teachers, having spent time in both undergraduate and graduate classrooms at several Virginia universities. I teach online and face to face and recently wrote about my preference for face to face experiences.

I have been able to keep up with some of my students through social media but, as with most teachers, it can be hard to keep track of many students as they head into the world. So, one of the pleasant surprises at the conference this year were the former students who came up to say hello and let me know the influence my class had on their work.

And, I had the added pleasure of sitting next to a current student during Sarah Thomas’s digital equity session. He teaches in the underserved county where I live, and we have connected over this shared understanding of the real impact of the digital divide.

He spoke eloquently about how the lack of connectivity impacts expectations about out-of-school learning and the importance of working towards equity for his students. I felt a little pang of joy that I was able to nurture this leader as he moved into the next steps of his career.

Teaching is a “side gig” for me but it informs my other work in powerful ways as I think hard about the skills and dispositions my students will need to work and lead in the future.

Green Screen Practice

For Tuesday’s class, my students are thinking about leadership, vision and the standards. As part of the class, they will work in groups to create a slide about one of the Education Leader standards and how it relates to the other sets of standards. Once they create their slide, they will use Do Ink to narrate the slide in front of a green screen either using video of themselves or paper avatars. I have two green screen stations: one with a table cloth and one with a pizza box. Both items came from @gemilltime  who gave them to me after her presentation about using green screens in the classroom.

My sample was for the ISTE certification course and featured a paper doll of Emily Dickinson talking about flipgrid and how I use it as a check in tool for the genius project. Pretty dull stuff…it was proof of concept to make sure I had a basic understanding of how it works. I’m relying on at least some of my students being familiar with it. I think, as an exit ticket each week, I need to see how familiar students are with the coming tech activities. It will help gauge how far we might go and who might need extra support. I have some pretty techy folks this semester.

We are going to do a “stations” approach next week. There will be five groups–one for each standard–and all of them will spend the first 20 minutes planning their slide and their video. Then, two groups will work on their videos in the classroom while the rest of the students head out to the library to work independently on developing the twitter PLN, part of their passion project. They will find and follow experts in the area they want to pursue, identify potential twitter chats and then spend some time just interacting with Twitter. I feel like I used to as a reading teacher: if I wanted you to read, I needed to give you time. If I want you to use Twitter, I need to give it class time and priority.

As groups finish their videos, the other groups will rotate through with the goal of being done in time to watch them in class. If not, I’ll post them to the course site later.

My own attempt is not for prime time but I may play a bit tomorrow. I have these great paper dolls of famous American writers along with props that would make fun tableau. Maybe Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Mark Twain spend some time chatting.

Why I Teach Face to Face

My School Technology class met last evening for the first night. I joined 14 practicing educators who have chosen to pursue advanced degrees and principal certifications at a university in Richmond. They come from surrounding divisions including urban, suburban and rural schools. One class member works at a correctional institution.

My course is a bit free wheeling as I want to make sure students have time to explore and experiment with technology while considering its potential uses to support student learning.

Last night, we spent time playing with Merge cubes. I had collected enough of them during the $1 frenzy earlier this year that I was able to give one to each student. All of them quickly followed the simple instructions to download the app and get up and running. But soon, one of them wondered aloud, “How is this educational?” Discussion ensued even as they continued to interact with the cubes. I’m sorry I didn’t grab some video! But one student went home and posted some after class  as his second Twitter post ever!

I teach online and enjoy the convenience but you can’t have the kind of experience we did last night where everyone explores in real time, sharing, helping, laughing.

I am really looking forward to the rest of the semester!

First Day of School Visual Agenda

My first class for School Technology is Tuesday night. I always feel a lot of pressure that night: I need to address lots of differing objectives, including making sure they can connect to wifi, login in to the course site and create a blog post using text and images (something they need to be able do before the next class), while introducing them to the big picture ideas and questions around educational technology. I’m working through the agenda and did a visual draft ala Linda Barry’s Syllabus:

Class Agenda








I just did this with a regular pen and then tried to do a fancier, full color version but the pressure to make it perfect proved too much for me. I know many sketchnoters use a digital tool so I may start exploring, although I love the feel of pen on paper.