Sunday, March 18, 2018

5 Innovative Suggestions For Supporting "Kids Today"

Articles complaining about kids today aren’t too uncommon. Making the rounds is this article that asks, “WHY ARE KIDS IMPATIENT, BORED, FRIENDLESS, AND ENTITLED?”
I couldn’t disagree more with most of the answers among which include delay gratification, limit technology, and the very worst of all, “Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future ‘workability.’”

Here are some other ways to respond to kids today.

Suggestion 1: Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

Wrong: Don't set limits. This does not empower the young person to set their own limits. They think someone else is responsible to do that for them. It teaches dependence and compliance.
Instead: Have real conversations about decisions, choices, and help them make good choices using critical thinking skills you help them to develop.

Suggestion 2. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally

Wrong: Stop blaming technology. Sometimes tech is the very tool we use to connect with others in powerful ways.
Instead: Focus on what you are trying to achieve. If you want to connect with your kids figure out ways to do that. It may very well be by building something in Minecraft, memorizing every country by listening to a powerful video on YouTube Kids, or Skyping with Grandma.

Suggestion 3. Train delayed gratification

Wrong: Why manufacture reality?
Instead: Be real. Discuss benefits of having something now verses later. Sometimes there are benefits. Sometimes there are not. Discuss and decide.

Suggestion 4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”

Wrong: Terrible advice. What kind of boring job are they trying to prep kids for.
Instead: Look at real careers and what that work entails. Many careers are not boring or monotonous. Geesh. 

Suggestion 5. Teach social skills

Wait. What? Who are the adults saying this shouldn't be done? No one. Of course we want to support kids in positive social interactions and that should be both face to face and online. 

Your Turn

What do you think? Which of these suggestions might work for you?  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

6 Innovative Options for Students Who Don't Like Regular School

Editor's note: This is part of a series entitled "Innovative Approaches to Support At-Risk Youth."

Let’s face it. A traditional school approach doesn’t work for every student... and that’s okay. Fortunately, there are options in place for students interested in pursuing alternative pathways.  Here are alternative options parents and students can consider.
1) High School Equivalency:
Students who are at least 17 (or 16 with a waiver) are eligible to pursue a high school equivalency diploma better known as the GED and currently renamed the TASC. In most districts students are not on their own. For students pursuing an equivalency there is often help for students prepare to advance to college and pursue career opportunities. Ask if your district has college and career coaches to help students plan for their futures. Some districts may have a workforce development program offering professional training and paid internships. More and more districts are also offering these students opportunities to walk for graduation and attend prom as well. If they don’t have a conversation and see what can be arranged.

While some parents and students consider an equivalency diploma to have a stigma associated with it, others see it as an innovative and efficient ticket allowing students to pursue academic or work passions. It’s also important to remember, that in the modern job market few people place their high school graduation on their LinkedIn resume.
2) Virtual School:
Many states now have virtual learning options available for students such as Nevada Connections Academy. Benefits of such options include that they are available at no cost, they provide a flexible pace and schedule, they can be taking from anywhere in the world. This is a safe option for students who have had issues with face-to-face connections, bullying, or social anxiety. If you don’t have a virtual school in your state, schools such as Florida Virtual accept out-of-state students.
3) Homeschool/Unschool:  
Homeschooling is legal in every state. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about homeschooling. If you scratch below the surface you’ll learn some important facts about homeschooling. For instance, there is a high college acceptance rate for homeschoolers. You can receive a high diploma as a homeschooler. You don’t have to have parents or tutors teach you. There are lots of innovative options to learn such as jobs, internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and more. Those completely new to this idea can enroll in a program like Pacific Sands Academy which will walk parents and students through all the requirements for a high school diploma as well as provide support in developing a personal learning plan.
4) Career & Technical Education School:
Career and technical education (CTE) schools fell out of favor in the age of No Child Left Behind and College for All, but to the relief of many students, teachers, and parents, they are making a comeback. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that not everyone needs to pursue a career requiring college and that there are many honorable, high-salaried careers that don’t require a degree. The best place to pursue such options in New York City which has the largest portfolio of options that train about 60,000 students a year. If you visit a quality CTE school like Co-op Tech as you walk the school halls you will see students and work in fully operational beauty and barber shops, students constructing real buildings, an eyeglass repair store, car repair, and students fixing cars.  Students are set up with paid internships and a real shot at a viable career upon completion of the program. 
Classrooms at Co-op Tech
5) Drop In Options for Drop Outs:
Many districts have options for students 21 or younger who have dropped out or fallen behind on credits. This varies from state to state and city to city. In places like New York City options include:
A)  Young Adult BoroughCenters: These are evening academic programs designed to meet the needs of high school students who might be considering dropping out because they are behind or because they have adult responsibilities that make attending school in the daytime difficult. Students attend part time and in the evening to earn a high school diploma. Students between the ages of 17.5 and 21, who are in their fifth year of high school and have earned at least 17 credits, are eligible.
B)  Transfer Schools: These are small, full-time high schools designed to re-engage students. These schools look at the credits a student has and provides a personalized plan for them to complete school providing extra support to help students meet academic and personal goals. Support includes access to workshops, tutoring, Regents prep, and extracurricular activities. Schools support students in developing college and career plans for life after high school. Many Transfer Schools have the added component of Learning to Work, which offer students paid internships, job and career development, and more. Hear more from a student perspective in the following video.
6) Alternative School Models
There are both public (Big Picture, Schoolwide Enrichment) and non-public (Agile, Montessori, Democratic) models that provide passion-based learning options that may be better suited for students. These models generally do away with traditional approaches that include teachers, tests, and textbooks and instead invite students to discover and pursue their passions. This post provides more details and additional information n each model.  
Your Turn
What do you think? Are any of these options ones you think could work with students you know? Have you seen any of them in practice? Which ones resonate with you for the type of students you encounter?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

5 Parent Resources to Support Children in Being Safe & Responsible Digital Citizens

Kids today!  If you believed the headlines, you'd think that technology has created a generation of kids who are impatient, bored, and entitled. While that could be true, don't blame the kids or the tech. It is up to the adults in their worlds to ensure we raise kids who know how to be safe and responsible digital citizens.  

Educators do this by following the curriculum from providers like Common Sense Education, Google’s “Be Internet Awesome,” and EverFi’s “Ignition.”

I asked a group of Common Sense Educators which sites they recommend for parents. 
Below are the resources they suggested schools can share to support parents in keeping their children safe online.

5 Digital Citizenship Resources for Parents 

1) Common Sense Widget for Families

Want live, updated information regarding digital citizenship on your website? You can give parents easy access to advice on parenting in the digital age by adding the Common Classroom blog for educators and the Making Sense blog for families to your school’s or district’s site.
Produced in partnership with Digital Awareness UK this video series is designed to help parents keep their children safe online. It consists of six short films for parents, six matching films for children as well as downloadable online safety fact sheets. The resources are designed to encourage and support open discussions in families about how to enjoy the online environment while staying safe.
Practical advice for parents from NetSmartz on some common sense ideas for keeping kids safe online.

4) Online Safety for Families

Wired Safety provides advice for keeping young people safe online at various ages from age 8 and under through the teenage years.

5) District Guidelines and Responsibilities

New York City schools created guidelines and outlined responsible internet use with students, staff and families which you can view at the links below.
  • Social Media Guidelines - NYC
    These are the student guidelines schools share with parents. There are also guides for parents, infographics, and an activity book that go along with the guidelines.
  • Digital Citizenship Responsibilities - NYC
    New York City Schools educators created plain language guidance to advice for supporting good digital citizenship with students and infographics to accompany this advice.

Your Turn

What do you think? What has your experience been with supporting parents in being safe online? Are these resources you feel would be helpful for the families of your students? Have you tried any of these resources? What did you think? Anything missing? 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: School Safety Tonight at 7 p.m.

During this month's #NYCSchoolsTechChat we will address ways to increase school safety. #NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me throwing in my two cents. 
You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1 What approaches are you using to keep you and your students safe at school? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q2 You have to Maslow before you Bloom. How are you ensuring your students feel a sense of love and belonging in your classroom? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q3 What are schoolwide approaches used where you teach to help students who have experienced trauma or are suffering from PTSD? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q4 How does class size and class load affect your ability to connect & build relationships with students? How is your school ensuring you have a manageable number of students? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q5 How does your school and classroom help families and students feel welcomed and a sense of belonging in the school community? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q6 What methods is your school using to combat bullying / cyberbullying? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, March 1
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: School Safety
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).

Monday, February 12, 2018

Address Learning Differences with These Micro-credentials from @DigitalPromise

Innovative educators know the importance of understanding how a student learns best and then designing an approach tailored that student’s needs. This comes in the form of learning that is student centered, differentiated, and takes into account the learner’s differences and preferences. It also means having a class load that makes this manageable and using  resources like Thrively or Personal Success Plans to tap into students individual passions, talents, interests, abilities, and learning styles.

However, while educators who have these skills will be more effective at supporting student learning, a teacher’s preservice program may not have fully addressed this. As a result, educators must learn on the job, by reading articles, attending workshops (if they are offered and able) and speaking to others face-to-face and online. While this is helpful, there is now a way to jump-start, document, and become recognized for developing this expertise.

Credentialing teachers in addressing learning differences

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation is offering their learning differences course at no cost as part of a 10-part micro-credential stack from Digital Promise. These micro-credentials provide a competency-based, personalized, way to learn on demand the many aspects contributing to how students learn, from the way our brain processes information to the impact of emotional intelligence on learning.

Research-based approach

Educators who complete the stack are able to bring into practice a more personalized instructional approach, focusing on each student’s individual learning strengths and needs. Each micro-credential begins with an overview of a construct or idea in personalized learning that is supported by the latest research to help educators gain a deeper understanding of its importance in the learning process. Educators are then asked to identify a student’s strengths and challenges and create and implement a plan that supports the student in meeting their goals for learning.

Below are the topics about which some of the micro-credentials are focused.  
Visit the full micro-credential stack.
Educators who have earned the micro-credentials say they have found it extremely empowering to have the language and knowledge to not only define the specific needs of their students, but also determine ways to meet them best. Rather than providing whole class instruction or grouping their students into broad categories, they have the ability recognize their students as individual learners and the tools to ensure they are able to support learning based on their unique strengths, talents, interests, abilities, and learning styles.

Assessment and credit

Upon completion of each micro-credentials teachers submit their work to assessors who determine if the educator has successfully demonstrated competency. If they have, they earn a micro-credential in the form of a digital badge that they can display on their resume, LinkedIn profile, social media sites, and email signature to demonstrate their skill set and stand out from the rest. Because micro-credentials are competency-based, the learning is visible allowing an interested party to in essence, look under the hood, and see all the elements that lead to acquiring competency in this skill or area.

Many states such as New York, Texas, Montana, and Massachusetts provide formal PD credit for successful completion of micro-credentials. There is also an option to pay a nominal fee and receive graduate credit from accredited university partners such as University of San Diego and Portland State University.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

8 Elements Found in Classrooms of Innovative Educators

George Couros tells us, if we want innovative students, we need innovative educators. Do you qualify? In his book, The Innovator’s Mindset, Couros challenges educators to consider whether they empower students to wonder, to explore–and to become forward-thinking leaders? He does this in part by providing eight things to look for in your classroom.  

8 Elements Found in Classrooms of Innovative Educators

  1. Student Voice
  2. Student Choice
  3. Time for Reflection
  4. Opportunities for Innovation
  5. Critical Thinking
  6. Problem Finding and Solving
  7. Self Assessment
  8. Connected Learning
If you need help remembering to incorporate these elements into learning, #NYCSchoolsTech educator extraordinaire, Eileen Lennon created the below infographic which you can print out as a poster (download via PDF) and put up in your classroom. When you do, ask your students to help you consider when these elements have been present and determine ways to incorporate them into future schoolwork.  

Your Turn

Which of these elements do you include in your classroom? How do you do it?  Anything missing?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

No Child Left Unloved: 5 Shifts We Need to Serve At-Risk Youth

Editor's note: This is part of a series entitled "Innovative Approaches to Support At-Risk Youth."

Innovative educators work hard to find the best ways possible for students to learn by tapping into their talents, passions, interests, and abilities. However, before the learning can happen, there is one crucial element that is necessary, but often overlooked for learning to occur. One that is especially important when serving at-risk youth.

If there is not love, there is not learning

This is not addressed in schools of education. This is not addressed by those critiquing schools or teachers. In fact, it is ignored. As a result, an educator who might be a master in his or her craft will fail in reaching these students if they are not loved.

Students raised by “guardians”

If, like many teachers and politicians you were loved by a parent who cared for you, it is possible this has never crossed your mind. However, those of us who teach at-risk youth know many of our students have not had such luck. In fact one of the first things you learn as a teacher in such places is to STOP using the word PARENT. That’s because a large number of our children have parents who were not prepared to raise them. Instead they have “guardians.” It is almost without giving it much thought that we transition to speaking and writing not about parents, but about our student’s parent or guardian.

Teachers in inner city schools will also notice a lot of students of ALL ages, intentionally or accidentally refer to them as mom. They are looking for love and care.

If we unpack the term, we can start to think about what are we saying to these kids without parents. The ones who aren’t lucky enough to have parents, but have guardians instead. It is a constant reminder that someone doesn’t love and parent, them, but rather guards them. The same language used by those who ensure there is order in a prison. As a result, we have children being guarded and protected but not parented and loved.

Unfortunately, teachers are trained to teach all kids the same way whether or not they have parents.

No child left unloved

If we care about ensuring today’s youth grow up to be productive citizens, we need to rethink the role of teachers and schools. Chris Lehmann explains if we want children to learn, then we need to build caring institutions. To do this, we must stop thinking of our jobs as teaching subjects and start realizing we are teaching kids. The relationship between teacher and student is more important than the relationship between teacher and subject.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

To understand this from a scientific approach, let’s review Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Schools are often positioned to help provide for a child’s basic needs and self-fulfillment, but the psychological needs are often completely overlooked.

No child left behind

Rather than address the psychological needs of children, we’ve put into effect programs that ignore this. Instead, they think leaving no child behind means ensuring they all score well on standardized tests. Long after this failed experiment was launched by George W and supported by the electeds that have followed him, we see this doesn’t work.

Interestingly, President Barack Obama, realized the importance of this and even lauded the model that best embraces relationships: Big Picture Learning. Here’s what they believe:

Relationships under gird all learning at The Met. Keeping adults and other students at bay is not an option. Met students must build close relationships with an advisor, community mentors, and other Met faculty, if they are to fulfill their personal learning plans.

The Met, as it likes to say, enrolls families, not just students. For students, this conviction poses a formidable adolescent challenge: accepting parents and guardians as valued partners in their learning.

His words were ones that evoked promise and excitement for a shift and enlightened experience for students. Sadly, despite his words, Obama embraced the common curriculum and standardized tests that valued none of this and obliterated models such as Big Picture.

If we really want to help students to learn, we must address this forgotten piece of Maslow’s Hierarchy with these five shifts.

5 shifts we need

When we move love to center of learning, these are natural shifts that should result.

1) Parents, not guardians: We must consider how we can ensure a child is surrounded by family, not guardians. Do they have a permanent home? Permanent parents? If not, attend to that.
2) Loving before learning: Jeff Bliss taught us that we must touch a student’s freakin heart before we can reach their mind. He was right.
3) Realistic class loads: You can not build a relationship with students if you can’t get to know a student. That means we have to look at the science which says there is NO WAY to know more than 150 students. Do the research. Get to know Dunbar’s number. If you’re administrator who values students you won’t allow unrealistic class loads. If you are a teacher you will do your best to ensure admins know you value children and you will encourage them to set you and your students up for success.  
4) Change the role of the teacher: When tech teaches, teachers can do much more work when it comes to building relationships and ensuring students experience deeper learning.
5) Update schools of education and teacher training: The kids are right (see what they wanted the nation to know about education). Teacher training programs need to include training on guidance, counseling, social work, and other support.

Good teachers know that love and relationships are at the center of learning. They know they are set up for failure and they are frustrated. But change is possible. The innovation we need to realize it is nothing new. Instead, it requires that we make these important shifts that put children at the center of learning.

Monday, February 5, 2018

An Innovative Educator’s Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings

Like it or not, at this point in time Facebook is the winner when it comes to social learning communities. It is where companies have found they can best connect with customers and build relationships. It is also where organizations have learned staff can effectively connect to keep communication going and learn and support from one another. 

If you’ve tried to be one of the last to hop aboard, but realize it is no longer possible if you want to do your job most effectively, here are some tips for setting up your account and privacy settings.

An Innovative Educators Guide to Privacy Settings

1) Get real
Use your real name. When you don’t not only do you not move toward establishing a solid digital footprint, but you also lose trust and credibility. Social places like facebook are for real people with real names. 

If you were the most popular kid in high school and don’t want all your classmates looking you up because those days are behind you then consider modifying your name. For example, drop your last name or put your title as your first name and your first name as your last name i.e. Teacher Lisa or Techie Tim.

2) Make your profile public
Social media is for being public. Don’t put things there you wouldn’t want others to see. Use social media as an opportunity to be a role model with a strong digital image. Think of it as a space where others can get to know the whole you that you want them to know.

3) Use groups for less public posts
If there are things you don’t want public, use groups for that. What is shared in a group is only seen by group members. Good uses of groups include using them for family pictures and sharing, support groups (i.e. parenting), special interest groups (i.e. sports). Also remember being in a group does not mean you are “friends” with group members.

4) What about the crazy stalker ex boyfriend?
Block em! This way that can’t see what you post. 

5) What about what other people post?
You can control what other people post by selecting the right settings.
-Select that only you can post on your timeline

- Select that you must review anything you are tagged in before it appears on your timeline.  
- Select that you will review tags people add to your posts

Your turn
What has your experience been with privacy settings? Have you tried something that you find more effective? Any interesting stories of peril or success? 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: Valentine's Special Tonight at 7 p.m.

As Valentine's Day approaches, this chat will give participants ideas for way we can touch our students' hearts so we can reach their minds. 

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me throwing in my two cents. 

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

Q1 What innovative approaches are you using in your classroom to celebrate Valentine’s Day? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q2 Learning is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. How are you ensuring your students feel a sense of love and belonging in your classroom? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q3 What are schoolwide approaches used where you teach to help students feel they are loved and they belong? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q4 In this digital world, what are some ways we can use technology to help students feel love and belonging? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q5 Do you have innovative approaches to help families feel a sense of love and belonging in the school community? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, February 1
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: Valentine's Day Special: Touching Our Student's Hearts to Reach Their Minds
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).

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Permanent Families: Innovative Interventions That Serve At-Risk Youth

Editor's note: This is part of a series entitled "Innovative Approaches to Serve At-Risk Youth."

We know from one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies on interventions for at-risk youth, that traditional interventions are not likely to work. Approaches like counseling, mentoring, homework help and camp, do have an effect. A negative one.

But that doesn’t mean we should just give up. Instead it means that we need to move from traditional to innovative approaches to support youth at risk.

This post is part of a series where we will look at innovative ideas that show promise for a supporting at-risk youth to realize their potential.

In this piece, we will look at an innovative approach to supporting children who have been placed in out-of-home protective care.

Traditional Approach: Foster Care / Group Homes

Traditionally, such youth were placed in foster care or group homes. However, the research shows that for youth who’ve grown up and out of the foster care system about half experience homelessness. 50% are unemployed. 70% of girls will have an unplanned pregnancy. 75% of boys will end up incarcerated. 50% become dependent on a substance. 25% are not able to receive a GED or graduate high school. Less than 5% will complete college over their lifetime.

Among the problems that providing temporary care in various homes or group homes creates is that these young people are not permanently connected to adults they can count on.  They lack models for creating resilient families, successful work lives, and strong cultural and ethnic identities. As they approach adulthood they lack a vital safety net.

Social Capital

Additionally, since they are not connected to a family they have not developed social patterns of acceptable behavior that support desirable outcomes for the family unit. As a result, according to social capital theory, these youth are more likely to make choices that have a negative long-term outcome.

High levels of social capital in a child's life have been linked to more positive life outcomes and productive personal outcomes such as occupational viability, individual health and psychological well being according to business Professor Wayne E. Baker who wrote the book on the subject. In their article on social capital in the Journal of Marriage and Family, sociology professor Frank Furstenberg and scientist Mary Elizabeth Hughes share that when parents make' social investments in their children and the community this increases children's odds of graduating from high school and attending college. Smaller social support networks (less social capital) are associated with higher likelihood of homelessness.

Traditionally the foster care system and independent living programs have not focused on connecting young people to caring adults who will continue to provide a supportive safety net.  

Innovative Approach: Permanent connections for older foster youth

Traditionally, by the time they became teenagers, adoption / placement with a permanent family was no longer even considered an option for children in foster care. When you take into account that the average age for financial independence from their parents in America today is 30, you can see one reason why expecting a young person to be on their own is problematic and results in the aforementioned consequences.

Turn Focus from "Placement" to "Connections"

An innovative approach is to turning the focus away from placement and toward connections such as those a family provides. In her article, Permanence or Aging Out? A Matter of Choice, Lauren Frey, MSW, LCSW suggests developing youth-centered permanency planning teams: an individual team for each youth; asking the youth to identify important members of their own team; making the youth the central team player on the team; joining youth, birth parents, foster parents, family members, and other important adults (teachers, coaches, guidance counselors) together with professionals on the planning team; and facilitating a proactive and continuous teaming process until youth reach permanence rather than episodic or crisis-driven meetings.

Move from "State as Parent" to "Permanent Families"

This moves from the traditional approach of state as the youth’s parent, to the each youth having a team of caring people who will serve in the role of permanent family.

Whether they are open about it or not, older youth want families as revealed in a survey on the nature of happiness conducted by the Associated Press and MTV. The 18 - 24 year olds who were polled, ranked “spending time with family” as their top answer to the question, “What makes you happy?” Youth want belonging, connectedness, and someone to care about them. They want an adult in their life who they can know, trust, and loves them unconditionally. The only way to achieve this is by helping them find care and a family not just until they are 18 or 21, but forever.

Call to Action

There are organizations like You’ve Gotta Believe that help any interested party become an adoptive parent. They follow a youth-centered-model to find homes for the teens or young adults who make up 25% of those in care. Innovative educators can help these young people by attending an orientation which happens across the year, to learn more and then sharing what they learn with prospective families in their school, home, or religious community.