I’m starting to narrow down what I want my final make to be. I’ve blogged a lot about documentaries and there is one in particular that I watched from my other grad class that I want to integrate into my curriculum. 

As for my #s6s, I drew a lot from the Wednesday discussion for ideas I enjoyed.  One of the important things this class emphasizes, at least for me, is honest discussion with the right focus. That open discussion and the opportunity to experiment and explore can lead to some really great things. With that in mind, I’m searching for opportunities/tools to do just that in this post:

  1. I loved the idea of kids in the class giving advice to those who will be in the class for next year through a short video (I think Lizzy shared that one). 
  2. The activity Christina started the meeting off with was also great. The idea of each member generating ideas before the class focused down on particular ones of interest is certainly worth using. 
  3. The activity above also reminded me of an activity that was introduced to me in my 2nd year of teaching. I’ve just called it the questioning method but it works in the same way. The teacher provides a prompt that offers a situation. Each student is given a certain amount of time to generate as many questions as possible (the emphasis is on generating lots of ideas instead of filtering them for quality). Next, they are provided with a little more time to pick the 3 questions they like the best. Afterwards, they partner up with 2 other people and share all of their 3 questions before deciding on 3 for the entire group. You can continue to combine groups in this way depending on how many questions you want. I always like to do this before starting a unit, and it’s great to see some of these questions being answered as we go organically and others creating new opportunities of study that wouldn’t be present otherwise.
  4. The “yes and” premise also had me flashing back to my public speaking class in high school. I love the idea of building off of each other, it created a great positive sense of collaboration and support. 
  5. Some of the discussion from this class (and especially the Wednesday meeting) have me considering things I use in the classroom and how I could adapt them to be easier with technology use. The discussion of homework being accessible also had me considering my introspective journal assignment I do with every class a few times per quarter. I think it would be just as beneficial if next year I provided a second option that’s the same but done through a blog. I would be curious to see how many students choose each one when given the choice. The opportunity for introspection and reflection is also another strength of this class and something I certainly value. 
  6. Introspection is also a core value of the Outward Bound Program and something I loved from that that I have adapted is letter writing. The last night of Outward Bound we wrote a letter to ourselves (that was mailed 6 months later). I use this idea by having my 10th and 11th graders write letters that they won’t get until they are about to graduate. 
  7. Connecting to 2 and 3, this was shared with me by one of poetry club students from her AP Literature class. I haven’t tested the idea in the classroom yet but I love the idea (and it went well when we tested it out in poetry club). 

Gearing up for the last make

For my final make, I decided to curate gamification resources in the form of a website.  When I first became interested in gamification, I had a hard time finding helpful resources and making sense of the concept.  I found so much information, and it was overwhelming.  I envision this curation as a one-stop-shop for the most helpful gamification resources, an organized space for me to easily refer to and add new information.  

From the outside looking in, gamification is not especially equitable because the concept feels abstract, and it’s a major departure from the typical classroom system.  I feel like gamification is something educators admire from afar; they may appreciate an exemplar, but then they dismiss it as unworkable in their classrooms without trying anything new.  However, anybody can gamify, and it’s possible to start small.  So, a natural starting place is a curation of resources that demystify gamification and show examples big and small in a variety of subjects and grade levels.

Where do I start?  Here’s a handful of my favorite gamification videos:

#S14S – teaching “hacks” pop-up results

For my S7S I figured I would share some of the “hacks” that have been shared with me this week (most of which were during our Wednesday meeting). 

  1. Pop-up joke: Lizzy shared that she builds jokes into her math lessons to keep the class engaged and on track. I think the use of humor in the classroom is a very underappreciated tool in the academic world; I was glad to see Lizzy bring up its relevance and effectiveness.
  2. Fan fiction as a literature hack: Amy shared this one that she uses in class. I was interested to hear more but from what I understood she saw it as a way to empower students in their learning. The work connects to what they’re studying but also encourages creativity and allows the student to add to what they already know. 
  3. Blog for absent students: Use of blogs is multifaceted and I really liked this idea from Lizzy to keep absent students on track without disrupting the lesson when they’re back. 
  4. One-on one for absent students: Tahira also posted about a procedure in her class for students who are often absent. I’m sure many of us have those students and obviously we want them to stop being chronically absent but what are we to do when that doesn’t stop? I like Tahira’s mention of having them at her desk for mini-lesson of sorts to catch them up and the opportunities this creates later in class. 
  5. Textbook hack: Another one from Lizzy and Wednesday with creating books from the work in class that students have ownership over and have created. I like the idea of students having a tangible measurement in their hands of the work they have done and the progress they have made. 
  6. Poetry Anthology: Similar to the ownership and creation aspect of #5, for my poetry units I always have students create poems as we study published poets. The project for the quarter becomes their own 10 poems and afterwards each student submits a poem by e-mail to me and we have a class anthology of poems (we also take a day where students can read their poem in the anthology and signs books). 
  7. Books for cross-curriculum: I don’t remember who brought it up but the use of certain books is an easy “hack” to connect curriculum between classes (and students should value the learning that much more when they see the ideas represented in different classes).
  8. Easter Eggs: In the TV world there is a concept of show creators hiding “Easter Eggs”. It’s a subtle nods to other things, it’s not distracting to the average viewer, and it allows dedicated fans an opportunity to dig deeper into the material (not coincidentally something a teacher is always striving to inspire in their students). There are a number of ways I can see this being used in the classroom but similar to #1, I will often have one multiple choice question on a test/exam that has a “throw away” answer that’s meant to give the kids a chuckle. I’ve done this so often some kids eagerly seek out the “Easter Egg” and at the least I hope it gives them a chuckle which might help to slightly alleviate the stress some testers feel in those situations. 
  9. Extra Credit that Helps the Teacher: Speaking of testing “hacks” one of my favorite extra credit options has the dual purpose of also reminding a teacher of what covered material might not have been represented equitably on the test. On some tests I will ask: “What’s one thing you learned about during this unit that was not on the test?” I know I hated studying something in depth only to find it wasn’t even on the test and this seems to be a way to address that (and as I said remind you if you forgot to cover something on the test). 
  10. Sci-fi for Real World Discussion: I’ve never taught a sci-fi book in class but our discussion of Gattaca this week allowed me to see the possibilities. At times sic-fi can actually predict what’s to come (especially from a technological standpoint). At times this can raise some serious moral dilemma’s that I could see classes really diving into. So the right sci-fi book would be a great way to bridge the gap to moral implications and connections. 
  11. Kids Leading Discussion: I can’t find the link but the Digital Is website discusses a symposium on ethics and medical issues that is student lead. I love this idea and all of the things it does to empower. 
  12. Genius Hour: I’m interested in seeing how I can adapt this idea that was discussed this week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMFQUtHsWhc
  13. Opt-Out Movement: Okay so this isn’t a hack in the general sense that it makes things easier (there’s nothing easy about the dedication and risk involved in the Opt-Out Movement). Teachers can’t change laws. They can’t change the system in place. What I’m thinking is that it’s a hack in the sense that it accelerates the process of fighting back against the culture of standardized testing (at a time when the options of stopping this seem very limited).  It’s always been my understanding that one of the big goals of the opt-out movement is to tip the scales when enough participate to force the system to adjust. 
  14. #Hashtags: Obviously hashtags themselves are hacks but I’m referring to the Jimmy Fallon segment on the Tonight Show. What they’re really doing is making their audience do the work for them and then curating the results. The fan provide the content (the work), they get the credit (curate) and the result is usually hilarious. Here’s an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0LtIsuZz6w

Make it pop!

Thoughts on seeking equity in connected learning:

1.  Use laptop carts as a computer lab pop-up.  Their mobility makes their use flexible and therefore more suited to connected learning. Students can arrange themselves in a manner that best suits their work, and they can give themselves space from other groups.  Considering current budget issues, I feel like a laptop cart would gain a lot of “bang for the buck.”

2.  Prioritize early childhood education and set a foundation for connected learning.  We need to place all early learners in a carefully-planned environment that nurtures the skills they need to succeed in school. Teachers must tap into children’s natural inclination to connect and play as well as scaffold them to new discoveries.

3.  Use connected learning as a tool to help keep kids in school.  Many older students find school irrelevant and are unmotivated. These students are put off by traditional teaching methods, and they are learning very little.  Utilize connected learning and give them a voice.  With an interest, a purpose, and permission to discover, these students may begin to find relevance in school.  

4.  Value all learning and thinking styles.  Some students thrive in fast-paced, participatory situations such as Twitter chats.  Others prefer to quietly reflect for some time before composing a blog post.  Give all learners a chance to experiment with various modes of participation, but respect the preferred mode.  Really, it’s ok for students to frequently use their preferred mode.  That’s real life; we find what works, we use it, and we get even better at it.  Preferred is efficient and therefore frees us up to focus on challenging content.  It’s even enjoyable for many of us.

5.  Things that “pop” are the great equalizer because all people are primed to attend to the new, the unusual, they gory, the unbelievable, the gross, the unknown, and the impressive. Somebody singing on a subway?  How unusual; I think I’ll listen.  Multi-car pileup on the Turnpike?  There’s a gaper delay going the opposite direction.  Engaging lesson hook?  Students pay attention (until you return to being a “sage on the stage”). We need to go beyond piquing our students’ interest to maintaining their interest through connected learning. When learners draw upon shared purpose, interest, peer culture, and production, they’re bound to discover more things that “pop.”

F16F & choice

I’m still going with Precious Knowledge for my documentary this year but I’ve always liked the idea of providing choice to students whenever possible. I’ve been considering how to have different documentaries going on in the room simultaneously so each student can pick one they’re interested in for next year. That means I’ve been trying to generate a list of awesome documentaries. Quick disclaimer: all of the documentaries on this list are ones I’ve already watched (I have also started a list of ones to check out but would welcome suggestions), and some of these are probably a bit too political for the classroom.  At any rate, I’m hacking my F5F this week for my list:


First Person - My usual documentary for my 10th graders. It paints a very dark picture so prefacing and debriefing is important but you’ll notice I try to find Philadelphia centered documentaries whenever possible. 


We Could Be King - I dedicated an entire blog post to this movie. This is one I would love to find a way to simultaneously screen as an option for students who are interested.  


Blackfish - Powerful and worth examining in the classroom to see the power a documentary has to effect change.


A Place at the Table - I’ve only read the book on this one but I was impressed. 


Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary - Powerful and still relevant to today. 


Freedom Riders - One of my personal favorites and the one I use with my juniors for American Literature. 


Freakonomics- Okay so I’ve read the book on this one again, but intrigued (I would have taken an economics class if it were like this). 


Previous Knowledge - Think I said enough about this one in my blog post for the week but very impressed with it and looking forward to the reaction and discussion from my classes. 


Paperclips - *Spoiler* - I love that the students are empowered and take control of their own learning (they even act as tour guides for visiting schools). 


Speaking in Tongues - Examines language immersion programs and very well done


Let the Fire Burn - Heavy subject matter with the infamous Move Scandal here in Philadelphia. I thought the documentary was very objective and presented all sides of the story fairly (which becomes tough as the viewer to decide for yourself which is exactly what you want!)


Inequality for All - It all makes sense to me but I’m aware that some would charge this is too political for the classroom. 


The 16th Man - I use this to supplement our reading of Invictus. 

Art of the Steal - A museum as interesting? Yes. The story behind the Barnes delivers!


Gasland - What the frack? Perhaps a charge of politics would come into play again (seems like any time you mention the environment that will be the case I suppose). I enjoyed part 2 as well. 


Flow - What better time for this one than now with California’s drought being discussed? A science teacher in my school uses this one and from what I saw while observing her class it was well done. 

Those are the ones I’ve watched off the top of my head. 

What else should I check out? 
What subject matter am I missing out on that might be of interest to students? 

A few thoughts on my journey

Things I value as I reflect on my connected learning process:

1. Discovering gamification and beginning to imagine how it might look in my classroom.  The kids love games; l love games.  Why not set up the classroom experience to feel like a game?  

2. Tinkering with new tools and expanding my network of technology-related resources.  So far, my favorite tools are My GoogleMaps and Mozilla Webmaker.  However, Webmaker has a pretty significant limitation, and it drove me nuts.  I wanted to sync a recording of my voice to my Cinderella book hack (and I spent many hours trying).  In the end, I couldn’t get the timing correct due to pauses and skips in the edit.  I wonder if there are similar tools that may work better for this kind of project.

3. Not reading the syllabus.  I love that each week follows the same schedule. I know what to expect, and I know what’s due.  The only variable is the topic.  It’s freeing to not worry about Project X that’s due in 2 weeks.  Rather, I focus on the here and now, the topic of the moment. I can be present in my learning, which is something that doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should.  

4. Listening to my classmates’ thoughts every Wednesday night and feeling free to share when I’m ready.  I have always been a quiet student, and my report cards always suggested that I didn’t participate enough.  Those report cards didn’t reflect my active listening or the fact that I needed time to quietly process and reflect in order to make meaning.  Discussions in school often move too quickly for me to interact on the spot.  In this class, I love that I can actively listen to our sessions without feeling pressured to force a comment.  I feel like I’m respected as a learner.  I may not have a whole lot to say when we meet, but I’m connecting with everybody’s ideas, and I’m happy to share those connections in my blog.

5. Choosing my path.  It’s been empowering to follow my interests to new discoveries.  I think back to the beginning of the semester, and I remember feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by the lack of parameters.  I didn’t know where to begin.  But once I got the ball rolling, it didn’t stop.  New ideas led to questions which led to new discoveries and offshoot ideas.  This feels satisfyingly authentic and meaningful.


F5F week 10.

1) I appreciate the gift of patient & understanding teachers.

2) I appreciate the gift of amazing students & teachers that share some really motivating and amazing videos that truly make me think of ways to change and how i can use connected learning, and my passion for reading as a gift to help someone else.

3) I appreciate that shared interests make for more amazing learning experiences and that I can share my shared interests with new people all of the time and meet new people everyday.

4) I appreciate that Spring has Sprung, its almost April and the showers have started to bring us those May Flowers. My Tree has little buds on them.

5) I appreciate that through-out this semester i have met many amazing people from many walks of life and they are all pretty amazing.

6) I appreciate YesPhilly and what they are doing for young adults, and the Video Pushouts & Dropouts.

7) I appreciate Joy Kirr’s Passion-Based Learning Video because I am passionate about reading and I want to let me students teach me what they are passionate about.
Enjoy your weekend everyone,


Delayed #F5f

In our Wednesday Google hangout quite a few of us described hitting a wall with what to blog. I haven’t reach that yet but the #f5f’s have definitely started to get tough. 

1. My other grad class let me find this great resource: 


2. I had a great teachable moment on Friday when a student asked innocently enough if it was true that women made less money than men. It was good tangent to go off in class and it was timed perfectly to where I could ask her questions to help her find answers (instead of just rushing and giving the answers). 

3. That also led me to double-check my information. I always trust Pewresearch: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/08/on-equal-pay-day-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

4. I also am appreciative to have had the chance to spend the weekend with family. Some grading and lesson planning fell to the side in the process, but there’s always more grading and planning to do. It was nice to remind myself this weekend that it’s important to set that aside at times and enjoy what you have. 

5. Finally, I happened to bump into a former teacher at Arcadia last week and enjoyed catching up with her. I got to my Thursday night class really early to get ready for a presentation and happened to walk by her office while she was in. We talked for at least 15 minutes and to tie back into point 4, I mentioned to her when she asked how teaching was going that I’m learning little by little how to make sure I set aside time for myself (advice my cooperating teacher pointed out on many occasions to me while I was student teaching). The teacher I was speaking with knew exactly what I meant and said that her cooperating teacher had done the same for her. Her cooperating teacher had told her, “if you ever have the chance to go see a show or grade, you always take the show.” I need to be better at “picking the show” sometimes, and this weekend was a great reminder of that. 

“Productively eavesdropping” on gamification practitioners

Social Studies - A thorough look into two teachers’ gamified classrooms.

Chemistry - I’m not one to throw around the word “epic,” but I can’t think of a more appropriate word to describe this storyline.  This guy means business.

This video (for all curricular areas) shares great tidbits for the gamified classroom.  My favorite suggestion is to promote class cooperation and camaraderie by awarding bonus XP to the entire class for the first person (or first 5 people) to reach a certain number of points.

Chemistry - A quality look at the nuts and bolts of gamification.

How to gamify using Moodle:

Manic Monday Fine 5 fun day?

Hi Everyone this is my f5f.

1) I appreciate all of our hangouts. That we get to meet, and chat and truly come together, and discuss Techquity, and clequity, as well as connected learning.

2) I appreciate that my classmates post thoughtful articles and stories that we can all respond to ( Eric’s post) and have a good discussion.

3) I appreciate that Connected learning is creating so many different jobs, as well as creating a purpose for students to come together as a group and share their findings.

4) I appreciate that we have been able to hack our own hacks, that when I write my S7S or S6S or F5F that we have been able to change that.

5) I appreciate our connected learning network as a connected learning discussion board. I love how we can come together online and just talk about connected learning and how we can help our students.

Happy Monday,