Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why am I crying?

Earlier this week, a Pennsylvania Instructional Technology Coach shared her district's video for the GMA contest – lip syncing to Katy Perry’s song ROAR. Since then, I’ve seen these videos popping up – usually with a “vote for us” request. Today, I saw one for our local high school – asking everyone on Facebook to vote for the school’s video. That’s not why I’m crying.

One radio station in PA is listing local participants' videos on their webiste. At least 4 of them came from Classrooms for the Future (CFF) districts. (A CFF Coach was in one of them!!!) Some of them are just plain old fun. Some share poignant messages – like Roxborough’s from Philadelphia. All of them show regular kids doing amazing things. I’ve seen academic clubs, marching bands, football players, cheerleaders, lacrosse teams, drama students, special needs students, and more. I’ve seen administrators and teachers.

All of them represent great production quality – some of it stellar.

So, why am I crying? Many of these kids were doing this on CFF equipment, an initiative that is no longer funded in Pennsylvania. If not on CFF equipment, it was done in a district that started with CFF and saw the need to continue the investment. Our coaches were involved in many of those videos. The kids had to use the skills that they are learning in OUR schools. Beyond the technical aspect, they had to coordinate huge undertakings. They had to decide what to keep and what to leave behind. They had to use critical thinking skills. They had to determine how to effectively communicate their message. My guess is that there was a lot of story-boarding going on.

In most cases, it wasn’t done for a grade. It was done for a contest. It was done for fun – that’s it. They did it because they wanted to. They were motivated. They were excited. They probably didn’t even complain about the number of hours it took. They had to have administrator support. Kids from every niche within the school had to cooperate and collaborate. It is so cool.

Yes, using technology in school can engage students, increase the use of critical thinking skills, and encourage reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I wonder what a test would have told us about what they learned through this process.

In a nutshell, all of the above is why I’m crying.

Here's a set of videos from the Philadelphia area:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Essential Q’s for Using Digital Tools in Your Classroom

Essential Q’s for Using Digital Tools in Your Classroom

Thanks to the awesome CFF Coach Listserv from Pennsylvania for their collaboration on this list!
These essential questions are to help to define what the 'good use' of technology looks like. They are meant to promote thinking about whether the use of technology is meaningful and relevant to the learning.

Many of these questions could start with the word “Will” and be followed up with the question, “How?” I chose to start with how, since I think will is too easy to answer with a “Yes.”

The questions are phrased in a way that would be used in the Before of a Before-During-After coaching consultation or while designing a lesson. With some tweaking, the questions could also be used in the During phase – watching a lesson in action, or the After phase – for reflection.


  • How will the use of this digital tool engage students with the content?
  • Would doing the same activity with other tools such as a chalkboard, whiteboard, manipulatives, or paper and pencil have been just as effective?
  • How will the students create, manipulate,  and explore the content in ways that a traditional approach would not afford?
  • Who will be using the digital tools - teachers or students? 
  • How will the use of technology impact different learners?
  • How will the the learning process be impacted by the use of technology?


  • How will the use of this digital tool make the content more engaging? 
  • How will using this tool provide students with the ability to explore content that may not have been available to them without the technology?
  • How will the use of this digital tool make the learning of this content more effective?
  • How will using the technology promote a deeper understanding of content?
  • How will what the students are doing address the Common Core Standards?
  • How will students demonstrate understanding?
  • How will you measure understanding?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013

Doing What We Could Not Do Before

So, in my sessions these days, I often refer to a Prensky article that asks whether we are doing old things in old ways, old things in new ways, or new things in new ways (using technology). I just read this NYT article that presents an interesting picture by doing new things in new ways. Yes, I suppose that the researchers could have manually counted the frequency of word usage in 5.2 million books published between 1500 and 2008. However, they would still be working on it.

Instead, using Google’s online database of these same books, the researchers (and David Brooks in the NYT), used their critical thinking skills to tell a story about the last half-century based on word frequency in books. It’s very interesting, and, of course, provides opportunity for further analysis, with an examination of bias needed.

Either way, the information and data that our students have access to is mind-boggling. What WILL they do with it????

Prensky Article: (Geez, this is from 2005, and we’re still talking about it.)