Thinking Deeper

12 03 2016

I saw a “bumper sticker thinking” post recently on Twitter that said, “Teach from your feet, not your seat.” And at first, I nodded and agreed. It seemed to make sense. And it rhymed.

But then I thought about it for just a moment longer. And I’m not sure I can agree.

You see, I like to create student centered, democratic classrooms where the teacher isn’tScreen Shot 2016-03-10 at 11.46.36 AM.png the focus but that the work the students are doing is. That means that I may not be
standing and pontificating at the students hardly ever. It might mean that I’m sitting right next to them, talking closely and individually, based on what that child needs. It might mean that I’m an embedded participant in my own classroom. It might mean that because my students are truly engaged, I don’t have to walk and stand next to them at regular intervals to keep them on task. It might mean that our furniture is something other than desks in rows and I can pull a chair up next to almost any child in the classroom.

Do I wholly disagree with the bumper sticker quote? Not necessarily…and truth be told,  my ear likes that it rhymes. It’s catchy. And I’m sure there are situations where it is accurate. Who knows…I’m not even sure it’s meant to be taken literally…but I can only take it by the words that were used.

And that’s the problem with bumper sticker thinking: it’s not always accurate if you think a little longer beyond your first reaction. It feels good in the moment and we feel we’re actually doing something good. Woo! But where does that leave us?

So today when we see education quotes that come across our social media feeds, I encourage us all to think a little longer and to consider the words a little deeper. Let’s truly ponder the types of classrooms we want to have with the kids we currently serve. And let’s consider the educators we want to be for those kids.


United Tools for Schools: #ToolTest15

2 09 2015

Most of my friends & colleagues are familiar with my work for the past decade in Project/Problem/Passion-Based Learning or more recently my work in STEAMmaker and maker education. But fewer know that I live and breathe technology education. After all, back in 2006 I became the director of a brand-new 1:1 MacBook school and in 2009 I became a Google Certified Teacher (now called Google Innovative Educator). But in fact, I rarely post about edtech because there are so many folks out there doing a top job!

However, today, I feel I must share something truly groundbreaking in edtech: the inspiring United Tools for Schools. UTFS is doing something no one else in education is — helping get some of the best edtech into the hands of schools — for free — to try out for a year with supportive professional learning. Check out this short video:

United Tools for Schools Selection Committee

United Tools for Schools Selection Committee

Sounds, great, right? I know! This is a great chance for schools to try out a selection of paid tools for one year and then vote up which tools they liked best. This allows us in the edtech world to have an impartial view of which tools are worth investing in. And best yet, have a true impact upon the learning of thousands of kids!

What are the tools involved? Glad you asked! Take a look at the ones already signed up! We’re waiting on the go-ahead from a few more, so you can see this is truly worth signing up for!

If you want to get your school involved, please visit the UTFS website and submit your pre-registration here.

Also, if you work for an edtech tool company that has a paid version you’d like to get  included in this great tool test, let us know. We’d love to get your work included into the Tool Test list for 2016!

Kevin Honeycutt and I were invited to come aboard UTFS this last Spring and it’s been an honor working alongside some true leaders in edtech such as Vicki Davis, Adam Bellow, Brad Waid, Pernille Ripp, and more!

Please, if your school could use some help with education technology and high quality professional learning, please do take a look at United Tools for Schools.

5+ Reasons to Publish Student Work

2 01 2015

I often receive questions from teachers and administrators about all facets of Project Based Learning process, but especially about my insistence they allow (encourage) students to publish their work online. Just a couple days ago, I received another:

“Ginger, why would I want to have my kids’ work published online? What if people see it? People who aren’t parents or other teachers? What’s the benefit? It just seems like more trouble than it’s worth. Isn’t posting it in the hallway enough?”

Thank you, friend! Thank you for asking the question that so many are hesitant to ask. I have pulled together a few beginning thoughts about why we want to publish below, as well as where we might start.


Publishing for immediate and varied feedback

A limited classroom audience limits feedback and, ultimately, learning. When we have an entire world full of experts in all things and we have technology to connect with them, why limit our learning to a room, a desk, or a textbook? Students of all ages can publish their work on a classroom or personal blog, an online portfolio, posting in an appropriate forum, or anywhere an authentic and meaningful audience may be gathered.

technology to connect with the world's expertsWe want students to publish their work as often as possible, seeking critique (and kudos) from experts and interested parties for several reasons, including the ones below:

High-stakes learning

Publishing student work provides higher stakes for the work; students know others beyond just their teacher will see the work. Also, publishing the work to a broader audience helps the learning to be bigger than just the four walls of our classrooms. Suddenly, students are receiving feedback from across the world and realize their work has farther-reaching impact than what they might first believe.

Effective communications

When students publish online, they begin to realize what makes a presentation more effective. As they learn to build effective presentations, educators support the ability of students to be good readers, writers, speakers, and listeners. Students learn that successful presentations include strong design elements that are based on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards of technology ( These ISTE standards help students and teachers learn to incorporate effective visual and audio components, as well as  learning how and why to share presentations online within a selected learning network both synchronously and asynchronously.

Content creators, not simply content consumers

Students are learning that they can be creators of content, of art, of meaningful things that live online. They are learning that using the internet can be more meaningful than simply posting party pictures, funny cats, and mean comments about others.

Positive digital citizenship

When a well-designed project has become personal to students, they learn how important positive comments are and are less likely to engage in sniper-commenting on others’ work. In becoming creators of online content, students are developing a positive online resume and good digital citizenship habits.

Public relations opportunitiesblogging, communication, pbl, twitter,

Finally, the PBL work that is shared online is a great public relations opportunity for the community to engage with schools and see what great things are happening with, by, and for kids. The savvy school district will partner with the classroom teachers to learn to balance privacy and publicity, which in turn, role models smart marketing and communication with students and families.

In a modern learning environment, publishing student work is not only allowed, but supported and promoted.

Are you ready to get publishing, but aren’t sure where to post?

If there are others in your school who are currently blogging, it’s a great idea to start with them. They’ll usually be happy to help you navigate your school district policy. If no one is blogging yet, your tech support people will usually jump for joy and dig in to really help you too.

But maybe you’re a lone wolf in your district and need to go it alone. Here are some ideas for where to start, but be sure to review your district policies and inform your admin what you’re doing and why. No administrator likes to be surprised by parent questions about things happening in their schools they were unaware of!

If your school is a Google Apps for Education School, then Blogger or Google Sites (use the Announcements page template) are great choices.

If you’re not yet a Google Apps for Ed (GAFE) school, some other great choices are:

There are others that are great too, but these seem to be well-used in many schools with kids of all ages. Yes, even Kinders can blog.

Nervous about letting your kids blog? Have you thought about walking them into the blogging process with paper blogs first? (this is my favorite beginner-blogging link to share from my friend Karen McMillan).

Maybe you can create a Facebook page or group where parents are invited and you publish kids’ work there. Maybe it’s a Twitter account?

Maybe it’s a classroom website or wiki that gets shared to your school/district webpage to at least get you started.

There are many ways to leverage the great learning that goes along with publishing student work. Let me know if you have questions or if you have a great idea or resource to help others get started! Either way, let’s just get going!


Self-Advocates: Designing Their Own Digital Footprints

30 10 2014

I’ve had the occasion to revisit one of my favorite messages to share with students, parents, and colleagues, so I thought I’d share it again here. A quality digital footprint is about more than just not bullying people online. It’s more than just not visiting sites or posting unsavory pics or posts.

The message for kids is pretty straightforward: If you’re living in today, a well-designed digital footprint can take you places that people your age might only have dreamed of in the past. And if you’re smart, you can design a footprint that doesn’t just leave a harmless trail, but that can actually jettison you into your dreams.

Toward that end, I’ve pulled together a few pieces of advice that can be used to help parents, educators, students and their friends, and kids’ future selves think smarter about their own power.
Oh, and if you like this post, I’ve added link to FREEBIE materials from this blog post so you can create a bulletin board. Be sure to grab those at the bottom of the post. 

Message for Anyone: 5 Straightforward Steps to Managing Your Digital Footprint.
  1. Find out what is already there. Google yourself often. Know what is being said and posted about you and by you.
  2. Try to remove the negative that might be there. If someone has posted something that doesn’t put you in your best light, ask them to remove it. And don’t post anything negative about others. Ever.
  3. Begin to monitor your digital footprint. Know what is going up when and where under your name. Use Google Alerts to monitor who is saying what about you under your real name, your usernames (all of them) and about your workplace. Know this information because knowledge is power. Take control of your own footprint.
  4. Brand yourself. If you have a common name, find a way to make yourself unique with a tweak of your name or user name. My friend Jerry Butler will never be the top hit on Google as Jerry Butler the musician from the 60′s has that spot sealed. So he’s re-branded his work as “Jerry the Tech Guy.” Incidentally, he’s a really nice guy who does really great work. Find a way to make your OWN footprint, no matter your name.
  5. Pile up the positives, and make sure they are found. You can do that with a consistent brand (even if it’s your own name, like me) and by sharing your work on social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, to name a few of the biggies.
Message to Parents: Help your children to develop positive online habits from a very early age.
  1. Ask questions at school such as, “How are you helping my child learn to manage digital literacy skills? Information management? Time management and organizational skills in an online world?” Kids learn by doing so they need to be using these tools — and experiencing some mistakes so they can learn from them — in school (and at home) right now.
  2. Be where your kids are online. You would never let your kid go play in a park unattended for hours at a time every single day. Yet parents let their kids be online alone for many reasons.
  3. Keep communication open, but don’t helicopter. This is important when they’re young so that you can be there when they need you as they move into less-communicative (read as “developing more independence”) years. There are great articles out there about how to do this for everyday conversations. Practice the tips early and practice them often. And be patient.
  4. Use Google Alerts. No matter how good you are about being where your kids are online, and keeping communication open, there will be places and usernames you don’t know about. Use Google Alerts to follow your kids’ activities online, but don’t use it as a “gotcha!” moment. Use it to know where they are and compliment them when you see something great happening. It will remind them you care.
  5. Be a good digital role model. Don’t post the pics or say the things you’re asking your kid to avoid. Do learn. Do publish. Do grow. Be a role model online as well as in real life.
Message to educators: Help your students to hone their digital footprints by learning and using a variety of online tools for academic, personal, and social development.
  1. Create access to professional learning tools. Students need to learn time and task management and organizational skills. There are a lot of tools out there that will help your most disorganized and time-challenged students to function more successfully as it helps them to focus on their strengths and not simply their deficits. Here’s a LiveBinder of awesome iPad and Android apps for kids to practice organizational skills as well as try out tools that professionals (in their areas of interest) might use every day.
  2. Teach digital citizenship & legacy through practice. Kids of all ages learn by doing. Remember when you learned to drive a car with a manual transmission? You were taught how to do it, and then you found yourself behind the wheel. And soon, you realized you, in fact, did not know how to drive this car. That’s how kids are with digital citizenship. Sure they’ll make mistakes. But so did you in that car. But you practiced. And you learned. And so will they, if we let them practice.
  3. Connect fun, tools, learning. Tools without learning are drill/kill and not fun. Learning without the creativity and complexity of creative technology is not as engaging. But like peanut butter and chocolate, when you put them both together, you have a powerful combination of technology, learning, and FUN! Because when students are working at the highest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, they are creating new products out of multiple resources and learning. When those products are created, they deserve to be shared, whether they are beautiful art, amazing academic learning, or astounding philosophical thoughts. Publish that work and help your students get authentic feedback from professionals in the field. They’ll never ask “Why are we learning this?” again.
  4. Mentor & role model for parents. Many parents only get 1-3 shots at teaching and guiding kids at your age group. You have much more broad experience and so parents need you to guide them, as they guide their children at home.
Message to students and their friends: Use the Internet not just for fun (and it is fun and should be fun) but also use it regularly to Connect, Collaborate, Grow, & Learn. Because life is about more than just LOLcats and The Oatmeal all the time.
  1. Craft the image you want to portray now and later in life. Because what goes online today stays online always. I NEVER thought I’d be doing what I’m doing today for a living, so don’t assume you know your path now. Just keep it clear of the muck. It’s ok if you have a footprint that includes school activities and/or MMORPG’s. That’s who you are now. Just be sure that what you’re sharing is done in a positive light and that you also are publishing things that show your academic and creative learning too.
  2. Practice being a good friend in real life and online. That’s just good stuff. Show people you’re not a jerk because you probably aren’t.
  3. Do Good together. And notice that I have Good with a capital G. That means to do good deeds and, in general, make the world a better place in big and in small ways. And help your friends do that too. And share those things online as well.
  4. Your life is now…don’t wait for it to start. Don’t wait until you’re 13. Or 18. Or 21. Or out of Middle School. or until you have a car. or until you… You’ll never do anything. Life is Right. Now. And it’s fleeting with every single second that’s ticking away. So jump aboard.
Message to professionals now and professionals of the future: Craft a footprint you want employers, colleagues, & customers to see.
  1. Digital portfolios are 3D resumes. When people get to see your work progress as you get more experience, then good things can happen. You would never be able to show this sort of depth of information or dedication on a one-page paper resume. Leverage these online portfolios to truly show off more sides to yourself and your talents.
  2. Your online profile mirrors real life. You are a professional or are soon to be one. Be proud of the work you do because if it’s within a passion area of your life, show it off. Let people know that this is who you are! However, if you feel you have to put a mask on when you go to work; that who you are at home and at work are two different people, then you’re probably not going to be happy or be in that job for long. And then you should truly be polishing up that digital footprint before you go out job-hunting.
  3. Leverage social media for Good. Notice that Good is with a capital G, because it means to do Good in the real world and in the online world. Because it’s important. Do great big things. Do random small things. Just do Good where ever and whenever you can. It’s good for the world. It’s good for your community. It’s good for your resume. It’s good for your family. It’s good for your life.
  4. Mentor young learners. (see above)

If you’d like more information about any of the topics or tools listed (or not listed) above, and how to jump aboard at the practitioner & visionary levels, I would be happy to come work with your group! Contact me


Freebie bulletin board materials <– download them and use them in good digital health!

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