Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Google Movies: Fast, Fun, Easy Way to Capture & Celebrate Learning

Part of providing an effective learning opportunity includes capturing and celebrating the learning. There are numerous ways to do this. Lately, my favorite is Google Movies because it is a fast, fun, and easy way to document events.

Here's what you do.

During the event:

  • Take photos 
  • Record videos

After the event:

  • Go to Google Assistant on your phone
  • Tap "Movie"
  • Select photos and videos you want to feature
  • Tap "Create"


You've made a movie. Google will pick the filter and music, but you can always go back to edit and select your own filter or music. 

Here are movies I've recently created:

Successful 1:1 Onboarding 

#NYCSchoolsTech Educators Hit The MakerEd Forum


MakerBot Social

Saturday Learning: Common Sense Digital Citizenship

What do you think? Do any of my movies inspire you? Is this something you might try using to capture the learning at your next event, workshop or learning activity? How could you get students involved? What else do you think is possible?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Checklist for Effective Learning Opportunities

If you provide professional development or work with those who do, you want to make sure, that participants have the best experience possible. To help with that, you can use this handy dandy checklist for effective PD that I wrote about and which the graphically talented and innovative educator, Eileen Lennon turned into an infographic. Check it out and print it out (here's the PDF) to place in the rooms where educators are likely to give or get professional learning delivered.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Messaging - Tool of Engagement or Weapon of Mass Distraction?

To be or not to be? That is the question for some teachers when it comes to allowing messaging (text or instant) in the classroom. Many see it as a distraction, but young people often disagree. Innovative educators know that students own the learning, but at the same time, the educators are responsible for the success of their students. Therefore it is in everyone's best interest to review the literature and find out if instant/text messaging can indeed support student success.

Fortunately, I combed through more than a dozen articles and studies (several listed at the end of this post) so you won't have to. Here is what I've found.

The literature says...

Messaging can be a great way to communicate, connect, build a learning network, and improve literacy. However, it can also be a distraction resulting in students being less focused and productive if they are not guided in responsible use.

The verdict: Allow students to message

Letting your students have access to instant messaging can be great for you and them, if they learn to do this responsibly. This means being aware of the task at hand and knowing how to connect with those who can support productivity and reduce distractions from those who may get in the way. It also means discussing with students when certain writing styles and text speak are appropriate and when they are not. When doing this, keep in mind, you might not have all the answers? Students may have insights about communication styles and norms to which their teachers may not.

Messaging responsibly

Here are some overarching concepts to keep in mind.

In the 21st century our students have easy access to a powerful support network made up of experts, family, friends, peers, and others who share their interests. Messaging puts this network at every student’s fingertips so that it is no longer just the teacher students can turn to for learning, support, and motivation. Our job as educators is to help them use this power responsibly.  

Furthermore, messaging provides students an opportunity to practice reading and spelling on a daily basis. According to research , using initials and abbreviations and understanding phonetics and rhymes are part of messaging and they are also part of successful reading and spelling development.

Teachers also must be aware of and have a plan in place to address issues such as sexting and online bullying and have discussions and teach lessons concerning that as well. A good start are the social media guidelines and digital citizenship responsibilities developed by students and teachers in New York City.

Getting started

1) Discover

Ask students to share conversations they have had over messaging that supported their learning. Perhaps this was while working on a project where they were collaborating with others. Maybe they reached out to someone who could give encouragement or advice. Maybe the school principal messaged them to check in and make sure they were doing well. Work with students to be detectives finding lots of great examples of messaging.

While there are great examples of messaging, there are also examples where students have not messaged responsibly. Have students share those examples (anonymously if appropriate) and identify what they notice.

2) Discuss

Discuss with students what is acceptable when it comes to messaging. What type of messaging is responsible. What is not? What should students do when they or others are not messaging responsibly? What are some strategies to employ? Who should you reach out to if there is a message that makes you feel uncomfortable. What are some techniques and when might you want to turn notifications off?

3) Document

Create a chart with messaging do’s, don’t’s and strategies. Post those in your classroom. Be willing to update and revise as new situations present themselves.

Is it worth it?

If you are willing to help students do messaging responsibly, you are setting them up not only for success when it comes to learning, but also for success with strategies for life. Not only that, but professor and linguist, David Crystal reminds us of this:  
“The best texters, are the best spellers.”
“The more you text, the better your literacy scores.”
“The earlier you get your mobile phone, the better your literacy scores.”
“What is texting?  Texting is writing and reading.”
“The more practice you get in writing and reading, the better writer and reader you will be.

The Standards

Need help convincing administrators? Let them know that instant messaging aligns to numerous standards of the International Society for Technology Educators:
1 Empowered Learner
1c Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
2 Digital Citizen
2b Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices
7 Global Collaborator
7a Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.
7b Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
7d Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

Further reading

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Music - Tool of Engagement or Weapon of Mass Distraction?

To be or not to be? That is the question for many teachers when it comes to allowing music in the classroom. Many see it as a distraction, but young people often disagree. Innovative educators know that students own the learning, but at the same time, the educators are responsible for the success of their students. Therefore it is in everyone's best interest to turn to the research and find out if music can indeed support student success.

Fortunately, I combed through more than a dozen articles and studies (several listed at the end of this post) so you won't have to. Here is what I've found.

The research says...

The research shows that music can be terrific for helping set a tone. The right music can be calming, help reduce stress and anxiety, support someone in being happy, and get people in the mood for physical activity or competition. It can also be a great tool to support productivity and concentration and what teacher wouldn't want that for their students?  

However that's not the whole story. Some music can also lead to students becoming distracted, less productive, agitated, and depressed.  

The verdict: It depends.

Letting your students listen to the music can be great for you and them, but not just any music. And, the music that is right for one person, may not be right for another because of a variety of factors related to enjoyment of the music, personality type, and goals and outcomes.

Choosing the right music

Here are some overarching concepts to keep in mind.

Focus and productivity can increase with music that the listener finds enjoyable, is familiar, does not have lyrics.  

Mood can be enhanced  and energy level brought up with music that is upbeat and familiar.

Getting started

1) Discover customized music

Wouldn't it be great if there was a way you could find the perfect music aligned to each unique student? Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis, suggested trying Focus at Will to #NYCSchoolsTech educators and staff discussing the topic. In her blog, Vicki explains that the app claims to use science to design the music that puts you in “the zone” of productivity. It works for her and her son who swears by it. She bought a subscription which she uses it in her classroom, although she shares that sometimes kids want music with words in which case she uses another platform. Here is what it looks like after taking the quiz:

The quiz takes a few minutes. You can do it as a class activity or have students do it with their parents for homework.  Once you have the results, chart how your students did so students can see one another's type.

2) Discuss music types

Share with students some of the research about the effects of music and how different music helps them increase focus and productivity. Ask students to group together by results of the music survey. Let them listen to the sample track and share what they notice and challenge them to find other music that might fit in that genre.

3) Create playlists

Encourage students to work in groups to create a playlist that incorporates what they have learned. Work with students to set expectations and limitations i.e. no profanity, limited lyrics. Once each group has their playlist have them present it to you for sign off. You may want them to have a family member review and sign off as well. Students should also sign a contract committing to listening to the songs agreed to on the playlist and agree to consequences if this is not followed i.e. lose privileges for a week, month, semester.

Is it worth it?

Doing a study productivity, focus, and music, will take some time up front that will provide your students with skills, strategies, and an awareness that will last a lifetime. Need help convincing administrators? Let them know that doing this is helping students become empowered learners who know how to customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process. Not only is that important for students, but it is also the International Society for Technology Educators standard 1B.

Further reading and research

Articles citing studies of the effect of music on students:

Articles citing studies of the benefits of music at work:

HT to innovative educator Eileen Lennon for getting the conversation going.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: Tech to Connect with Families - Oct 5 at 7pm

We are well into the 2017/18 school year and that means it is time to focus on ideas, tips and strategies for using tech to effectively connect with families.  

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon (@eileen_lennon) moderates with me throwing in my two cents.

You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1. Share tech tools you have used to connect with parents.
Q2. What strategies using tech tools will you implement to connect with parents?
Q3. What support do you need from colleagues to be effective in connecting & communicating with parents?
Q4. Which tech tools can you use with staff for support to connect with parents?
Q5. What challenges have (or could) you face when incorporating tech to connect with parents?
Q6. What are some ideas to overcome challenges one may face when incorporating tech to connect with parents?

Chat details are below:

  • Meeting date/time: Oct 5th at 7:00 pm
  • Topic: #Tech2Connect with Families
  • Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools)
  • Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)
Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.

We hope you can view the chat live, but if you are unable, please visit our archive at You can also participate in the chat at that link or if you have an iPhone download the app at (coming to Android soon).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

If These Walls Could Talk...What Messages Can You Share with Staff, Students, & Families?

I had the opportunity to visit Facebook to learn how other school districts and businesses were using Workplace: Facebook's answer to connecting whole organizations with familiar tools like chat, Facebook Live, and groups, so they can turn ideas into action. While it comes with a price tag for businesses, it happens to be free for education institutions. 

But this post isn't about that, it is about the messages you see as you walk around the Facebook offices. These messages come in the form of signs, many created and posted by employees and partners about core values at Facebook. 

You can check out the photos below to see what some of that is and the messages it sends to staff and visitors. As you do, think about what signs your staff might place around your office or school. Or, if you are a teacher, what might students want to post around their classroom? Messages in your schools and classrooms that come from those who work and study in these spaces, helps build culture. And, don't forget to invite your partners, the community and families, to contribute as well.