Friday, April 18, 2014

My Google Teacher Academy 2014 Application

I am really excited to be applying for the 2014 Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View California this summer. I have wanted to become a Google Certified Teacher for years, but until now, I have not been available on the days the academy was being held. 

This year I am moving to California just in time to attend the Mountain View Academy at the end of July. (Beginning July 1st I am going to be the Curriculum Director for Keys School in Palo Alto!) Of course, the program has become much more competitive over the years. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be accepted.

As part of the application I had to create a one minute video that answers the question: "How do you innovate in the classroom or educational community to generate positive change?”

This is what I came up with. I hope you like it. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Passion Driven Professional Development - Teachers Unplugged at NAISAC14

This morning I helped facilitate our second (annual?) Teachers Unplugged session at the NAIS conference. This is an Edcamp style unconference that allows the participants who show up to define the conversations that they want to have. Among a sea of stand and deliver presentations, Teachers Unplugged is a chance to connect with other independent educators attending the conference and discuss issues that we are all grappling with.

This is something you can run inside your own school at a faculty meeting with teachers or in a classroom with students. A number of participants asked me to list out the steps so that they could try it at home, so here they are.

I hope this is helpful. I welcome your comments, suggestions, or questions!

Set Up:

  • Easels with chart paper or white boards or a google form set up for people to propose topics.
  • 3-5 Circles of chairs or tables set up for different discussions


  • Participants arrive and write down topics that they are interested in discussing.
  • Participants also vote for the topics that they are most interested in (the ones they wrote down and the ones others wrote down)
  • Explain the "rules" of an unconference.
    • Who ever shows up is meant to be there
    • If no one comes to your discussion, go to another one
    • The law of two feet - if the discussion isn't what you thought it was going to be, go to another one.
  • One organizer/facilitator runs an icebreaker that allows participants to introduce themselves to eachother
  • While the icebreaker is going on, the other organizer(s) find the most popular topics and assign them to different tables.
  • Participants choose the discussion circles in which they want to participate.
  • Participants discuss the topics for about 20 minutes and then (if there is time), they move to another circle (or stay where they are if they want to continue the conversation).

Wrap Up

  • Ask participants to share with the entire group something they learned.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

California Here I Come...

Andrew Vorzimer / Creative Commons license
I am excited to share that my family and I are moving to California this summer. I am looking for a job at an independent school in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am open to both teaching and administrative positions, particularly as a curriculum director/dean of studies or as a middle school teacher. If you know of any openings or can give me any advice for my search, I would greatly appreciate it. You can find my resume and other pertinent information on my website:  Thanks!

Friday, November 29, 2013

4 Things I Love about Design Thinking in Education.

You may be hearing a lot about Design Thinking lately (maybe just from me ;-). In my last post I laid out a Design Thinking lesson plan that I used in one of my classes. Here are a few of my favorite things about this process of learning and discovery.

1. Design thinking begins with problem finding. Learners might have a general idea of what they want to learn more about. However, it is only through interviews, observations and research that students discover what the problem really is. This makes it very learner-centered. It isn't the teacher asking students to solve the problem. It's the students coming up with the problem themselves.

2. Design thinking is not a linear process. Once students create a prototype and test it out, they may discover they actually have the problem wrong and have to go back to the beginning to redefine it. I think this is really an important element of the process because when a student encounters failure - it isn't the end of the line. It is just a faulty step along the way.

3. Design Thinking is fun. It gets kids off their feet. They use colorful post-it notes and sharpies. Who doesn't love a purple sharpie? They race to think of as many ideas as they can in a limited amount of time. They wander around like spies, collecting observational data on unsuspecting people. It is an active and exciting process.

4. Design Thinking is real. People in the "real" world really use this process in their profession. This is a skill that students can use throughout their lives, not just in the classroom.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Design Thinking approach to Digital Citizenship

Design Thinking is a problem solving methodology used by people all over the world to come up with new ideas. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how to integrate this approach into education. This summer I took two Online courses to learn more about the process. I am very interested in ways to use this approach in my own teaching.

This fall I decided to apply this approach to my 7th grade Digital Citizenship unit which focuses on cyberbullying. It worked really well. There are many approaches to the Design Thinking Process. I chose to use this process from the Stanford Design School.

Here is my lesson plan. If you are interested in giving this a try at your school, I am happy to answer any questions.

Cyberbullying Design Thinking Activity (for 7th graders)

  1. Present the idea “How might we end Cyberbullying?”
  2. Explain the Design Thinking Process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype,
  3. Tell students they are going to be interviewing each other to find out what their peers know/have experienced about cyberbullying.
  4. Divide students into groups of three. Students interview each other for 4 minutes each.
    • Student A interviews student B, Student C scribes
    • Student B interviews student C, Student A scribes
    • Student C interviews student A, Student B scribes
  5. Student share their notes and summarize what they have learned. What common themes did they see? (5 minutes)
  6. Each group shares with the entire class a summary of their discoveries.
  7. Individually students brainstorm 10 questions they still have about cyberbullying - Put on Post-it Notes.
  8. Put Post-it notes up around the room.
  9. Each student walks around and picks 3-4 questions to research before the next session.


  1. Students share with the class what they learned about cyberbullying from their research.
  2. The class uses this empathy map to take notes as people share.
  3. Groups generate 5 new “How might we" questions that are more specific (based on the research collected.)
  4. Groups share their new “How might we” questions with the class.
  5. Each group chooses a How might we question to focus on (It doesn’t have to be one of their own and it can be the same question as another group).
  1. Each group on chart paper brainstorms 100 ideas for solutions in 15 minutes.
  2. Post chart paper and all students look at all solutions.
  3. Each student has 5 post it notes and votes on the top 5 ideas they see (different color for each group).
  4. Groups pick one idea to work on.

We didn't have time to build a prototype. So instead students created a commercial for their product.
They had to address the issues of cyberbullying in the commercials in order to convince people to purchase their product.

Groups share their commercials.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Resistance is Futile... Managing Resistance to Change

Change is hard. Trying new things engages a fear of the unknown that makes most people uncomfortable. It has been my job to help my faculty and students to work their way through their discomfort to a place where they can see the benefits of implementing new ideas and programs.  

Here are a few of the ways that I have found success managing resistance to change.
  • Celebrate small victories and honor each step they take towards trying something new. As a teacher in the trenches myself, I understand that what we think will work in theory doesn’t always work in practice. 
  • Empathize with the logistical difficulties of making change and help people to find ways to balance both sides. 
  • Understand that not all change is effective. I encourage faculty and students to question change as long as they do so thoughtfully. 

Ultimately, I believe that if good pedagogy is at the core of the change, and there is enough support for new ideas, educators will move from resistance to acceptance over time. It is my job to help them through that process.

What strategies do you use to help people adapt and accept change?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

BYOD vs BYO iPad -
I began this year's iPad pilot fully expecting that we would be come an iPad school eventually. The term "pilot" when used as an adjective is defined as an "experiment or test before using something more widely." When used as a noun it is "the person who operates the flying controls of an aircraft." As the pilot of this iPad pilot, it has definitely been a wild ride. Over the course of this experience my opinion has shifted considerably.

There were three reasons that I thought the iPad would be the best device for us as a school.

1. We would all have common apps that we could use for projects.
Of these three, my biggest shift in thinking has been around number one. This became even more clear to me yesterday at a meeting of the AISNE tech directors. I thank Jeremy Angoff  for helping me to expand my thinking here. I wrote in an earlier post that I felt the iPad was getting ahead of the pedagogy and that the learning should come first. Rather than thinking about our projects as defined by the tool, I should be defining the project by the goals and letting the students find the best tool for the job.

For example, my goal with my Explain Everything project was to have students create a movie illustrating one of the Greek myths that we study. But this doesn't have to be done with Explain Everything (as awesome as that App is). If we focus on a goal  of creating a 2-4 minute video that explains the key points of a myth, the students can decide on the best tool for the job. I think we can still offer suggestions and support, but I know that students will also do that for each other and for their teachers.

From a technology perspective this approach gets kids thinking about the goals of the project and forces them to find the tool and figure it out. Those are key skills that we all need to have TODAY (see my earlier post on the term "21st Century"). In addition, it frees the teacher from having to know the tools, which is particularly helpful for our less technically comfortable faculty. Because each device will have a different set of options, the choices students make will be more varied, and perhaps even more interesting and creative.

2. The iPad has a low profile, making it less of a barrier to class discussions around a table.
Almost three quarters of my students have chosen to purchase a keyboard for their iPad, thus making this benefit moot. Admittedly the screen is still smaller than a full size laptop, but it still gets in the way.

3. The iPad touch screen and size allows for reading and annotating books and articles.
I don't have an answer for this one. The iPad is still better for annotating and reading. I would imagine that some students will choose to have two devices, an e-reader of some kind and a laptop (If they can afford it). Other students will read the old fashioned way and annotate using a highlighter and a pen.

We aren't quite done with our pilot. We are taking one more year to make this decision. It will be interesting to see where we land. At some point the plane is going to run out of fuel. (Couldn't resist the metaphor ;)