Friday, December 13, 2013

Weekend Reader on Bullying

5th Grade Football Team Rallys Around Their 1st Grade Waterboy Who Was Being Bullied [Laughing Squid]

Bruno: Bullying Is Bad, But Do We Know How To Stop It? [This Week In Education]

Want to Squash Bullying? C'mon, Let Kids Play [GOOD]

Is Anonymous Social Media the Answer to Cyberbullying? [Mashable] - The headline of this article is both misleading and preposterous. It's actually a feature/review of a new app called Whisper, which sounds exactly like the scrapped PostSecret app (yet somehow this is never mentioned) in that people anonymously post secrets. In any case, let's think about that headline: social media is getting more personal and less private by the day. If anything, recent trends point to near transparency and the end of privacy as we once defined it. Facebook, Twitter, and other major networks are not going to make a huge left turn towards anonymity. Instead of posing pointless questions like this, let's ask questions that get us closer to real solutions.

Yes, Your School is Watching You - The Takeaway [via The Quick and the Ed] - A debate on monitoring social media as a way to prevent cyberbullying and other online harassment by students.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review & Giveaway: That's Baloney!, Educational App

One of my favorite PC games growing up was Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego?. As you traveled through time and around the world, you had to follow clues to figure out where to head next to catch Carmen and her gang.

The historical clues mentioned tons of things I had not learned in school yet and at first, I was making no progress. I wanted to beat the game so badly, I started looking everything up in our set of encyclopedias (these were pre-Google days, of course).

I learned a lot of history this way, and I discovered a love for the subject that followed me through college, where I majored in the subject. Without Carmen Sandiego, I may never have been set on that path.

That's Baloney!, a new iOS/Android app by Evanced Games that I recently had the chance to try out, reminded me of the challenge of Carmen Sandiego. Players are presented with statements in a variety of subjects in grade levels 2-6 and have to decide whether each is true or just baloney.

Before I played the game, I thought it would be too simple: you have a 50-50 chance of judging each statement correctly even if you guess, and you can make several mistakes and still complete a round successfully.  Instead, I found That's Baloney! inspired the same desire to learn what was wrong about a particular statement when I guessed correctly that it was "baloney."

When you answer incorrectly, you are given a "pickle" that tells you why you were wrong. When you answer correctly, the game continues as you slowly eat your way through a stack of baloney. If you answer correctly that something is baloney, you aren't told immediately what was wrong with the statement, but at the end of the round you can read explanations of what exactly was wrong.

As you successfully complete rounds, snacks and sandwiches begin to fill your virtual fridge (where players keep track of what they've done). With over 500 unique questions for each subject at each grade level, there is a lot of food to be collected.

The questions are challenging, written at a level that might intimidate struggling readers at first but are short enough to push them to succeed. The game is untimed, so kids can take their time reading and considering each statement thoughtfully. When I spoke with the game's designers last week, they told me that the statements are based on Common Core standards and are aimed at building reading comprehension as much as anything else. That's Baloney! is actually an adaptation of an award-winning card game with the same premise.

I recommend this game for your tablet and smartphone-wielding children and students in the target age range (grades 2-6, ages 4-8). Honestly, I found myself feeling like I was on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? as I lost a round of supposedly 5th grade statements. The same desire to learn the right answer that followed me when playing Carmen Sandiego followed me in That's Baloney!, as I read each explanation at the end of the round.

Evanced Games has given me a download code to get That's Baloney! for free (normally $2.99 for iOS/Android), and that's what I'm offering to one lucky reader!  Send an email with the subject "That's Baloney" to by 11:59pm CST this Tuesday to enter, and I'll pick a random winner who will get the code. Good luck!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Weekend Reader on Large Scale Tablet Rollouts

L.A. school iPad program: Students should hack their tablets. [Slate] - A response to the news that L.A. Schools Now Taking Back iPads From Students Who Dare To Use Them For Purposes Of Fun (Consumerist).

EdTech: Chicago's Slow But Steady Tablet Rollout [This Week In Education]

How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses [Wired] - This is the November 2013 cover story, and it's about a border town not too far from me (Matamoros, across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville, TX).

Valley becomes proving ground for innovation in educational programming [The Monitor (McAllen, TX)] - A local article on tech initiatives in my home of the Rio Grande Valley, including McAllen's iPad rollout (I was a part of the pilot group two years ago) and how our region is being looked at across the nation.

The iPad Goes to School: The Rise of Educational Tablets [Businessweek] - Across all of these articles, most educators will notice a central ongoing issue with schools and technology: schools and districts rush to buy the latest and greatest technology with the promise of better results, but rarely think about how to use it effectively until later.

I watched this happen over the past ten years with calculators, "clickers", laptops, software, the Internet, smartboards, and on and on and on. I'm not saying these devices aren't useful or important, but unless schools figure out ways to use them productively (and that doesn't mean using them as glorified textbooks), they'll just end up on the school tech garbage pile.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Weekend Reader on Video Games and Education: November 2013

Angry Birds Physics Problem 

How gaming can help with your child's development [The Denver Post via The Quick and the Ed]

‘Funfair In Your Mouth’ Interactive Game Makes Kids Eat Their Greens [] - A great proof-of-concept for using video games to influence real world behaviors.

MIT Unleashes New Online Game for Math and Science [KQED: MindShift]

Computer Games in the Classroom [Wall Street Journal]

What Games Are: The Unfulfilled Promise Of Videogames [TechCrunch]

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review & Giveaway: The Smartest Kids in the World

Americans don't seem to agree on much these days. Perhaps one thing we're in agreement about is that our education system is not what we want it to be. By common measures like the PISA test, our students are way behind their counterparts in other countries.  Thus it's not that surprising that we look to the countries ahead of us on the PISA and other such measures for answers.

In The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley dives into Poland, Finland and South Korea for answers, using exchange students as her embedded reporters.  Their perspectives reveal a lot about both the differences and similarities between our systems.

This is a difficult, nuanced issue and Ripley thankfully does not try to provide a magic bullet to fix our education system. Most problems in our country, and really in our everyday lives, have no simple answers.  If we're ever to fundamentally change our education system for the better, it will take a multifaceted, long term approach.  It will take a lot of patience and ganas to make it happen.

Ripley notices a few key issues worth exploring. First, the way we teach mathematics is the U.S. is not the way it's taught in the top scoring countries. As I have written about myself, we teach the broadest amount of topics possible every year, without diving deep and asking more challenging questions. Problem solving and logical thinking, skills that would help our kids across the board, barely make it into our curricula.

Ripley's exchange students reveal that many of the top countries seem to have a greater buy-in to the importance of education both as system but especially among parents. Of course, parents have a reason to push their students harder: their are serious, life-changing consequences when students fail. Most teachers in America will tell you that it's hard to fail a class, grade level or standardized test to begin with, but if you do, you either can retake it until you pass or find some other way to not be held accountable.  In other words, when you hear that kids are "lazy" or "don't care" it's because they know they'll probably get passed along no matter what.

Another serious, systemic issue that Ripley points out is that teacher training appears to be much more rigorous in these case study countries. Education schools are held to high standards overall and each one is highly selective. In Poland, it took amazing political will over the course of decades to pull this off, to the point where I wonder how possible it is for us to do it here. That being said, I feel like this is something we can fix, even though it will not solve all of our problems.

Of course, there were times I thought the author was oversimplifying the problem, or defending criticisms of our system with anecdotes. For example, America's obsession with sports in schools is brought up a couple of times as a problem because it simply doesn't exist in these countries. I found very little evidence to back up the assertion that we're harming our kids through our system that actively promoting athletics. Yet I did not feel Ripley was trying to blame this issue for all of our systemic ills by any stretch of the imagination.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Smartest Kids and the author clearly did her best to deal with this complicated issue with an even hand. Anyone interested in improving education in the U.S. will come away with a lot to think about.

Luckily, I have not one, but two copies of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way thanks to the good folks at Simon & Schuster to give away!  Email with the subject "The Smartest Kids Giveaway" by 11:59pm CST Friday, October 4th to be entered in a random drawing. Thank you and good luck!

Get The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way now on Amazon.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekend Reader: New Ideas For The Arts In The Classroom

How To Introduce Kids To Tough Topics? Art And TV Can Help [NPR]

Integrating Arts and Tech Simultaneously: Four Lesson Ideas [The Inspired Classroom] - Great interdisciplinary ideas!

We Should Probably Turn Textbooks Into Comic Books [GOOD]

Powerful Opportunities for Content Creation & Publication in the Digital Classroom [The 21st Century Principal] - In short, let's use digital content creation as a ways to get kids engaged with the arts--writing, art, etc.

Stories aim to grow interest in math [ABQJournal Online]

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekend Reader on Social Media & Education: September 2013

22 Simple Examples Of Social Media In The Classroom [TeachThought via Twitter]

Facebook Guide for Educators [Technology Enhanced Learning Blog via Twitter] - A free PDF on getting the most out of one of the world's most popular websites.

Broadcast Yourselfie: How teens use social media and why it matters to you [Brian Solis via Twitter]

7 Top Social Networks Among American Teens - Facebook is still there, although there's a huge debate raging over whether they're starting to turn away from it.

10 reasons we need social media in education [Life of an Educator by Justin Tarte]

Friday, August 23, 2013

Essential Back to School Reading 2013

6 Best Back-to-School Tablets [Mashable] - I have a 7 inch Samsung Galaxy tablet, and it's pretty good. I figure you might need to type a lot for school though, so I'd recommend a case that has a keyboard like the one I'm planning on getting.

6 Practices for Creating a 21st Century Engaging Classroom [The 21st Century Principal] - Some ideas to frame your back-to-school planning this year.

Who Was Your Favorite Teacher and Why? [Lifehacker] - A good exercise to do before school starts again--how can you be more like that favorite teacher this school year? What's the one thing you can apply to your own practice?

Why Didn't I Think of This [Math Tales from the Spring] - A simple idea to make formula charts (or conversion tables, or any other needed reference material) easily accessible for students with Interactive Notebooks.

6 Back-to-School Items You Should Always Shop for at the Thrift Store [Wise Bread] - This one is aimed mainly at parents, but the lessons carry over for teachers.

Monday, August 19, 2013

We Need To Teach Our Kids That Technology Is Great, But It's Not Everything

As a kid growing up in rural New Jersey, I got to play outside a lot. I used to spend hours and hours walking or riding on trails, catching frogs at the pond around the corner, or just having elaborate sword (stick) fights with invisible bad guys. I had computers (yes, plural) at home before most people in my community had even warmed up to the idea of a personal computer.  They were occasional playthings for the majority of my childhood, no more or less interesting than my Legos, playing soccer or the vast natural playground that surrounded my home.

Once those computers became connected to something outside of my house--at first to local bulletin board systems (BBS) and later to to dial-up networks and broadband internet--my traditional idea of play quickly disintegrated.  This shift happened when I was in middle school, exacerbating an already awkward and difficult process by introducing me to people and an entire world I would not have known otherwise.

I have been struggling to regain my sense of play and my connection to the outside world ever since. For the most part, I have been losing: the Internet and more recently smartphone and tablet apps have consumed my time and attention. These days, I work full time online running a couple of my own websites and managing social media for several clients: I'm always connected, always tapping away on some device.

This is why, despite being a steadfast advocate for using technology for learning in and out of the classroom, I am equally steadfast in advocating that sometimes you have to turn the damn things off.  Kids need to be given as many opportunities to engage in open play, to go outside, to read and write and be creative without any technological aide.

They need to grow up with the concept that their technology is not their life.  Anyone who has sat around a table at a restaurant or party and realized that everyone at your table is on their smartphone and not talking to one another will understand this.  These devices should be seen as a means to an end, not an end in and of themselves.

Kids also need to understand the limits and dangers of this always-connected world.  Online predators, viruses, hackers stealing data, social engineering, government surveillance, "educational" apps that don't teach anything, content they create living online forever... this is just the tip of the iceberg.

We need to teach them these things, both as parents and as teachers.  It is just as important, perhaps moreso, than anything other way we can use these devices to help children learn.  There's no time to lose, either: we are becoming more and more connected, more and more dependent every day.

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Apps For Educators: August 2013

Got a New iPhone? Here's 17 Starter Apps [The 21st Century Principal]

Teach with Your iPhone: Apps to Use in the Classroom [Edutopia]

Perfect Picnic [Partnership for Food Safety Education] - This iPhone/iPad game teaches food safety, aimed at kids ages 8-11.

Treehouse for iPad (via Lifehacker)

Treehouse for iPad Makes Learning to Code on the Go Simple [Lifehacker]

13 Apps to Keep Your Family Safe, Secure and Smart [National Fatherhood Initiative]

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review & Giveaway: The Energy Bus for Kids by Jon Gordon

The Energy Bus for Kids: A Story about Staying Positive and Overcoming Challenges by Jon Gordon is a children's book about using positive thinking, dealing with bullies and encouraging others to do the same. Big, colorful and easy to read, I think kids would feel the same feeling of adventure that they do on The Magic School Bus (no relation).

The book follows a young man named George as he navigates the daily challenges of elementary school. With the guidance of new bus driver Joy, he learns lessons to apply to his day. There's no silver bullet or instant gratification: George tries to follow Joy's advice and still has bad days. Over time, George learns five interconnected lessons that conquer all, and he's inspired to spread the lessons to his fellow students.

The idea of perseverance and hope in the face of negativity of all kinds is the theme that ties the book together. It sounds a lot like advice that adults might read in books, magazines and blogs, which is no surprise: Gordon adapted this from his bestselling The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, a fable aimed at hardworking adults.

This book is written at a fairly high reading level, and might be a bit long for younger readers with short attention spans. For younger or struggling readers, it might be something you need to read together. That being said, I think both parents and teachers of early elementary students will find this book valuable in combating bullying and negativity in all its forms.

As usual, I'm giving the copy provided by the good people at Wiley away to a lucky reader. To enter, email with the subject "Energy Bus Giveaway" until 11:59pm CST this Wednesday 8/14. I'll pick a winner at random and send the book their way. Good luck!

Get The Energy Bus for Kids on

Friday, August 9, 2013

Weekend Reader on Community Service in Education

Let Students Design Their Own Social Change Projects [GOOD]

Blake Kernen: The Case for Community Service [HuffPo]

3 Ways to Use Microcredit to Invest Your Students [This blog]

The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, & Social Action [Amazon] - A practical guidebook on how to incorporate service learning into your classroom.

What the Designated Drivers Campaign Can Teach Those in the Youth Service Movement [GOOD] - Finally, a reminder that we need to sell our students (and likely our schools and districts) on service learning to get them involved. It won't always happen organically.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Weekend Reader on Schools and Communities

I've been looking at recent articles with a broad lens recently, trying to tie together threads on community schools, Promise Neighborhoods and how every type of school can affect the whole community.

D.C. Non-Profit Program Develops "Cradle to Career" Pipeline [Ebony]

Linking home and classroom, Oakland bets on community schools [Hechinger Report]

A Philadelphia School's Big Bet on Nonviolence [The Atlantic] - This example follows part of the community school model, where the school broadening the support system in place to help students with problems that exist because of/within the community as a whole. Their amazingly positive results, especially in the face of such initial criticism, are an inspiration.

Luis Torres almost didn’t make it off the streets — and now he helps kids like him [NY Daily News] - A similar story to the turnaround discussed above.

Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/school Partnerships [Amazon] - Finally, a book recommendation on forging better school and community relations, which I believe is just as beneficial for the community as a whole as it is for the school.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review & Giveaway: Real Talk for Real Teachers by Rafe Esquith

His hair is still on fire! One of America's most beloved and respected teachers, Rafe Esquith has once again drawn upon his thirty-plus-year career to share his best advice for beginning, experienced and veteran teachers.

Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans: "No Retreat, No Surrender!" is divided into three parts: the first for new and beginning teachers, the second for those who have surpassed the five year mark, and the last for teachers closer to Esquith's level of experience.  He draws upon stories from his own classroom as well as those of colleagues to illustrate his straightforward lessons.  Thankfully, he avoids common education jargon or buzzwords (nor does create any of his own), opting instead for practical advice and thoughtful principles to follow.

I found myself agreeing with the vast majority of his advice--indeed, following most of these ideas is what kept me in the game for so long.  I didn't make it to the "Master Class" that he discusses in the third section of the book, but I could see myself following his lead had I survived that long.

At the risk of oversimplifying, Real Talk's advice centers around a few central themes:
  1. This job is really hard. Hang in there.
  2. Don't get bitter over time.
  3. Always strive to grow, try new things and become a better teacher.
  4. Love and respect your students.
This is a highly recommended book for any teachers, but I would particularly like new teachers to read this to gain perspective on where they are and where they could be if they stay in the classroom over the long term.

Viking/Penguin was nice enough to send me a review copy of Real Talk, and as always I am going to give it away to a lucky reader. To enter, email with the subject "Real Talk Giveaway" before Wednesday 11:59pm CST.  I'll pick a winner at random.  Thanks to all the loyal readers who always participate, and good luck!

Get Real Talk for Real Teachers on Amazon

Friday, July 26, 2013

Weekend Reader on Social Media in Education: July 2013

How to Handle Students on Facebook [Educational Technology and Mobile Learning]

Non-Profit Uses Social Media to Crush Bullying [GOOD]

Ten ideas for using Twitter in the classroom [TES Community via Twitter] - Bonus, for the skeptics: 3 things you should know about Twitter [Learning with 'e's, via Twitter].

Educators learning to evolve as technology, social media changes teaching []

Not using social media should no longer be an option... [Life of an Educator by Justin Tarte]

Monday, July 22, 2013

Giveaway: Catch The Wind, Harness The Sun: 22 Super-Charged Science Projects For Kids

There is still plenty of summer left, and I want to give parents (as well as elementary and science teachers) an opportunity to win a book that will help kids take full advantage of it. Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Projects for Kids, by Michael J Caduto, is full of fun, engaging science projects that will get kids off their duffs and out of the house (at least temporarily).

Besides the 22 projects, which utilize everything from swamp gas to solar power, there's also a list of resources for you and/or your kids to follow up so that the learning can continue.

This is the kind of book that should be in every home, and in every late elementary and middle school classroom library. Here's your chance to get a copy: email with the subject "Catch The Wind Giveaway" by 11:59pm PST Tuesday.  One random entrant will win. Good luck!

Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Projects for Kids []

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nominate Your Favorite Teacher For a RetailMeNot Classroom Shopping Spree

Coupon website/app RetailMeNot is hosting a contest for a teacher shopping spree at CostCo!  Nominate your favorite teacher on their website until Saturday, August 10th for a chance to win.  Good luck!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Weekend Reader on Entrepreneurship in Schools

Lemonade Stand 50 Cents Each Qiqi Lourdie June 24, 20111

Fishtree Blog — The Skills of Tomorrow Public speaking. [Fishtree blog via GOOD] - The author discusses whether entrepreneurship should be taught in schools.

3 Ways Schools Can Encourage Student Entrepreneurship [Edudemic]

Teach Your Kids the Value of Money with a Job Board [Lifehacker] - Teaching kids the value of work (and money) is a great way to set them on an entrepreneurial path.

How to Educate Next Generation of Entrepreneurs? Start by Reviving Financial Literacy [GOOD]

KidLead - A leadership training curriculum for kids ages 6-9. Leadership and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What We Really Mean When We Talk About Gamification in Education

For every article I read pointing to gamification as a key part of the future of education, there seems to always be a counterpoint about it being some kind of fad. It is admittedly a buzzword, and it will likely fade out of our vocabulary at some point (as all buzzwords eventually do). What it really means will remain a critical part of successful classrooms.

Gamification is not about making everything into a game, engaging players through fun and competition. At it's heart, when we're talking about gamification, we're really talking about positive feedback and reinforcement. Badges, levels, progress meters--these are all simply ways to say you are on the right track. Keep going. You're almost there.

Done right, there's usually no need for material rewards, just the external psychological motivation we all need sometimes. Finding ways to encourage your students to succeed is at the heart of good teaching.  Gold stars, a "Student of the Week" board, positive phone calls home, showing up at a student's athletic or academic competition... these are the most effective badges we can award our students.

Whether or not you explicitly try to gamify your classroom, the game is being played there every day. It's up to you to find out how to help your students win. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Weekend Reader on Games, Gamification & Education

Can Digital Games Boost Students’ Test Scores? [MindShift] - The short answer is yes, but it's also important to note that simulations seemed to have an even stronger correlation with better test scores. "We shouldn’t frame games, or any other instructional support, as ‘the answer,’" says one Gates Foundation official, but says that the data can't be ignored. "We should be careful not to view learning technologies as a replacement for deep teacher and student interactions. We see effective technology supports as enabling the opposite."

Is Gamification Just a Fad? [Mashable] - Short answer: no.

Games to keep teenage girls enthralled with math, science [The Seattle Times]

Videogames and Learning [] - A look into the research on how games can be effective in the classroom.

The Game That Will Save Zynga (And Mathematics Education) [This blog] - A learning game idea I came up with last summer, which seems appropriate given the game publisher's business woes. I'm still willing to hear your offer, Zynga.

Coming Monday: my take on gamification and education.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day Sale On My Books At

Here's a holiday coupon code for 25% off any order at FIREWORKS.  It's a great chance to add either of my books to your summer reading pile. It's good until 11:59pm this Friday, so use it quickly!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Basics of Quadratic Functions iPad (Tablet) Project

For the last few years, when my students were learning about the graphs of simple quadratic functions (usually ones in the form y = ax2 + c), they would make posters of quadratic equations and label key parts.  As we discussed solving quadratic equations by graphing, students would make posters explaining the process

Last year, I combined these projects using the iPads our students had available:
  1. Create a Keynote presentation or video that shows 2 quadratic equations and their graphs (one that opens up and one that opens down).
  2. Label these parts:
    1. Vertex
    2. Axis of symmetry
    3. Roots/zeros (if any)
    4. Minimum or maximum
  3. Show how to tell if a graph opens up or down just from the equation.
  4. Show how to find the vertex using the calculator.
  5. Show how to find the zeros/roots using the calculator.
As with the adaptable iPad project I shared last week, you could also give students the option of using the fantastic Educreations app.

Essentially this is the same project as those simple posters, but it utilizes the technology we had available in a meaningful way. While I would never want to replace every low or no-tech project I use, it's always important to take advantage of the resources you have.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Weekend Reader on Teaching Coding

Kids DIY Game Creation App TinyTap Heads To iPhone, Launches Its Own App Store [TechCrunch]

UT launches video gaming academy [Austin American-Statesman] - Video games are big business, bigger than movies at this point. This is at least part of the reason to incorporate coding into our K-12 curriculum.

How and Why to Teach Your Kids to Code [Lifehacker] - Plus two bonuses from the same site, Learn Beginner and Advanced HTML/CSS Skills for Free and Hopscotch HD Introduces Kids to Programming.

Three Free iPad Apps That Teach Kids To Program [iPad Apps for School via Twitter]

Why You Don’t Need to Go to University to Learn How to Code [GOOD]

How coding might just save our kids [USA Today]

Monday, June 24, 2013

If You're Reading This in Google Reader, You Need To Switch Now

If you've been reading this blog using Google Reader, you're going to need to switch to something else before July 1st, because it's shutting down.  GR had been my feed reader of choice for as long as I can remember, but as soon as I heard the news, I sought out an alternative.

Using this guide by Lifehacker, I decided to try out Feedly, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It has a beautiful, easy to read and use interface, both on the web and their smartphone/tablet app. I actually like it better than GR. You can import all of your GR feeds directly into Feedly when you sign up, but you need to do that before Google's service shuts down.

On iPad, Flipboard is also a great option. You could also try a free service like Bloglovin. You could also follow the blog on Facebook, although that seems a bit inefficient to me.

Choose quickly! Remember, you have until July 1st.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Building Internet Savvy Kids

Online 'Driver's Ed' Course Preps Kids for the Social Web [Mashable]

Common Sense Media - This well-established site is a one-stop-shop for parents and teachers looking for help teaching kids to be savvy about all media, including social media.

Teaching Students Better Online Research Skills [Education Week]

You're Being Monitored All the Time — Deal With It [Mashable] - The best way to use the current debate about the government tracking us is to engage your students in a discussion about how easily the government, corporations and anyone else you know can track your whereabouts based on what you do online. Between the data you agree to share or don't own when you sign Privacy Policy agreements and what students decide to freely post, it will be hard for them to be frustrated with anybody but themselves. This particular article should serve as a great discussion piece.

Creatively Designed Posters Educate People About The Perils of Cyberspace []

Monday, June 17, 2013

Win $1000 in Classroom Supplies from ClassWish & Citgo

Fueling Good in your classroom with ClassWish
ClassWh, an alternative to DonorsChoose where teachers can help get classroom resources, just launched a big giveaway:
109 teachers will each win $1,000 of classroom supplies.

Entering is really quick and easy:
  1. Visit
  2. Find your school
  3. Simply join the site as a teacher
  4. Click the link in the activation email you receive
  5. Then just follow the easy instructions to opt in for a chance to win.
Create a Wish List, opt in to the contest and that will help attract tax-deductible donations for classroom resources from people who care about kids. Also, many companies match employees’ donations, which can double their funding.

Many teachers on the site have already received hundreds of dollars of donations, and some have received as much as $2,000 of supplies. You can get books, computers, art supplies, musical instruments, science equipment, sports equipment, or whatever you want.
Teachers can enter until July 7th. Good luck!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Weekend Reader on Bullying in Schools

Click to enlarge
A Must-See Anti-Bullying Poster Perfect For Classrooms [Edudemic] - More info about the poster below.

School Bullying Prevention Task Force Wants Less Talk, More Action [The Educated Reporter] - I think we all do.

The Next Step to Stop Bullying [Blackboard] - This is a step in the right direction. I think this can be done without a dedicated app, though, if we think the problem through.

Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents, and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis - This acclaimed book is a companion to the documentary of the same name.

At Work: Cyberbullies graduate to workplace [USA Today] - Finally, to hammer home the importance of tackling this problem before kids turn into adults, let's realize that bullying doesn't stop when students are done with school.

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Adaptable iPad Project Idea

Last year was a pilot year with iPads in my district, and my students were part of the first lucky group to get them. Teachers were mostly left to their own imaginations to dream up ways to incorporate them into our instruction.  For this simple project, my students used their iPads to produce content instead of consume it.

In this example, we were working on factoring expressions, but you could do this project with any topic you are working on.  Students simply had to either make a video or presentation where they both visually and verbally explained how to solve example problem drawn from workbooks we used regularly (you could use any convenient source).
MMA 11th
Mr. DeRosa

In this project you will show how to solve 4 types of factoring problems (choosing examples from the given pages):
  1. Factoring by GCF  (workbook pg 55)
  2. Factoring x2 + bx + c  (pg 56)
  3. Factoring ax2 + bx + c  (pg 57)
  4. Factoring Special Products  (pg 58)
Because you have to explain how to do the problems and show the steps involved, you have two options:

Option 1: Make videos of you working out the problem on paper or on a whiteboard (you can use the one in the classroom). How to submit:
  • Submit the videos by sending via message
  • Send it directly to me via message on Facebook.
Option 2: Download the free Educreations app from the App Store to record yourself explaining the example. How to submit:
  • Create an Educreations account, then send me a link to your presentation by email or text message.
  • Email for submission is
Educreations works like a virtual whiteboard on your tablet, recording what you see as well as audio.  You can start with a blank slate or add content before recording, such as an image you might want to draw on.  Creating and sharing presentations is simple, and for camera-shy students, it's better than requiring a video.

This might seem a bit too simple, but that's the point. This small scale project can replace tedious independent practice that might involve them doing problems out of a workbook or worksheet. The creativity involved is a way to engage your kids and get them to use their tablets for learning.

Have you used iPads or other tablets in similar ways? Share your ideas in the comments.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Beyond Facebook & Twitter: Using New Social Networks in Schools

Social Media Explained (with Donuts)

It seems Facebook is losing it's grip on young people as new (and less parent-filled) social networks pop-up. Twitter has certainly become very popular among young people in my area, to the point where schools are paying close attention.  I've shared lots of resources for using these networks, but it's time to give a serious look at how to use other social platforms in schools:

5 Best Tips For Using Pinterest In The Classroom []

Using Instagram in an Educational Context [Emerging Education Technology]

How To Use Vine In The Classroom [Edudemic] - Vine is made by the people behind Twitter, but the bite-sized video app can be used independently.

Teachers, Youth, and Social Media: Experiments [DMLcentral] - Food for thought on using private social networks for just teachers and students, with some ideas that should carry across to other networks.

It’s a ‘like’: The IGGY networking site for smart pupils is a hit [The Independent UK] - A new social media network is aimed at "smart" teens, or more precisely, teens who want to talk about important issues and not waste away their time online. While I'm not usually an advocate for reinventing the wheel, there's a lot to think about here.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway: The Perfect Teacher Coach

The Perfect Teacher Coach
The Perfect Teacher Coach by Jackie Beer and Terri Broughton is a concise, thoughtful guide to becoming an effective instructional coach.  The two UK-based experts draw on years of teaching and coaching in a variety of settings, providing a clear blueprint of what coaching is and isn't.

I found their framework for coaching very similar to what I learned both from Teach For America and in graduate school,  In short, coaching is not about telling teachers what is wrong and how to fix it, but giving them the tools and encouragement to do so themselves.  Coaches are great listeners who ask the right questions and provide a positive, unwavering belief that teachers can find the right answers within.

It should come as no surprise that the elements that make a great coach of teachers also make a great classroom teacher.  I was always taught to constantly reflect on my practice, get feedback from my students and outside observers, identify weaknesses and find solutions. When I did a good job of all of those things, my classroom was at its peak effectiveness.  This is also the message of The Perfect Teacher Coach.

Whether you already coach teachers, have such a role on the horizon for next year or beyond, or are still just trying to improve in your own classroom, there's a lot to learn from this new guide.  I highly recommend it.

As usual, I'm holding a giveaway of my copy of the book! The book will not be released until July 16, so one lucky reader will be one of the first to get their hands on it.  If you're interested in the book, send an email to with the subject "The Perfect Teacher Coach" by 11:59pm CST this Wednesday, June 5.  I'll pick a winner at random. Good luck!

Pre-order The Perfect Teacher Coach on Amazon.

Friday, May 31, 2013

New Resources for Teaching Kids Financial Literacy

OSU gives students a lesson on debt [The Columbus Dispatch via The Quick and the Ed] - No reason you can't do this in some form for K-12.

Free Credit Lesson Plans for Middle School and High School Teachers - Financial education is both a necessity and a no-brainer as far as making math more relevant for our kids.

Elementary Math, Reading Skills At Age 7 Linked To Financial Success At Midlife, According To Study [HuffPo] - Perhaps the best financial literacy we can teach is indirect: making sure our children can read and write fluently in elementary school.

Use This "Bank Ledger" to Manage Your Kids' Allowance [Lifehacker] - This one is meant to be used at home, but I think it could be adapted to an early elementary classroom using play money or something of the sort.

7 Places Teens (and Adults) Can Learn About Money [Wise Bread]

Friday, May 24, 2013

New Resources for Teaching Math: May 2013

How math-phobic parents can teach kids to love math [Explore]

Math Worksheets Land - Tons of Printable Math Worksheets From All Grade Levels - A new, free resource created by a retired math teacher.

Balancing the Equation for Boys and Girls in Math [The Educated Reporter] - Research to apply to your classroom practice.

13 ways to make your kid a math genius [Holy Kaw!] - This echoes a lot of things I wrote about in Toys & Games Every Kid Should Play With Growing Up.

Math Games and Videos for the Common Core [PBS LearningMedia] - The free service recently added tons of new educational content, including this outlet.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Weekend Reader on Using Music in the Classroom

How Music Can Become A Bigger Part Of Your Classroom [Edudemic via Twitter]

Spitting Rhymes and Firing Synapses: Freestyle Rap Battles Could Boost Student Creativity [GOOD]

Swapping C.R.E.A.M. for STEM: Wu-Tang's GZA Helps Kids Learn Science With Hip Hop [GOOD]
Jake Scott on YouTube [via The Educated Reporter] - This high school math teacher has been combining rapping with instruction.

VIDEO: Why Music Moves Us [Explore] - A little more on the science behind the power of music.

Using music in the classroom also happens to be one of the lessons in my book Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word. You might like it.

Finally, here's the now infamous Domain & Range Song that I adapted a few years ago:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Weekend Reader on School Lunches & Student Health

Sen. Durbin Eats School Lunch at Tilden High School

How a $50 School Lunchroom Makeover Could Help Fight Childhood Obesity []

How the Food Industry Exploits Students’ Cravings for Sugar, Salt, and Fat [Edvoices] - Mr. Nast makes great points about the need to teach our kids media literacy, especially the power of advertising, as well as the science behind junk food.

What NOT to do: Lunch Ladies Teach Middle Schoolers About Debt, Trash Their Lunches If They Owe Money [Consumerist]

Action for Healthy Kids - This advocacy group has a lot of information on model school lunch and health programs.

USDA Rolls Out New School Brunch Program For Wealthier School Districts [The Onion] - A little satire that makes real life calls for better lunches for everyone seem much more reasonable.

Friday, April 19, 2013

New Online Resources for Math Teachers

JsTIfied is a Pixel-Perfect Graphing Calculator Emulator [Lifehacker] - I'm not sure if this is the best solution in terms of bringing obsolete technology into the smartphone age, but it's progress.

The Best Way to Teach Kids About Money? Slip It Into Math and English Classes [] - This seems common sense to me, but it's only now becoming a national priority. Here's an example I came up with not too long ago: Math in the Real World: Should I Take This Loan Offer?.

IXL Math - A new website with math practice for nearly all K-12 grade levels and subjects. Your students can create accounts, track progress and get feedback and help on specific skill sets.

Murals and Math: One School's Solution to Graffiti [GOOD] - This could be done online or offline. Beautiful, smart and engaging.

Curriki Announces New Online Project-BASED Geometry Course Available Free to Teachers & Students [Curriki]

Friday, March 22, 2013

5 Awesome Articles to Share With Your Students

How I used to share awesome articles with my students.
10 Amazing Jobs You Could Land With the Right STEM Education [Mashable!] - Discuss this one in class and watch their eyes light up!

MIT’s Free Creative Learning Class Teaches You How to Learn Almost Anything [Lifehacker] - Discuss question: What would you want to learn, if you could do it for free?

What if students designed their own schools? [GOOD] - Ask your students what their school might look like. You can use the short video as the kickoff for your discussion.

Mark Hyman, MD: Why Cooking Can Save Your Life [Huffington Post] - Home Economics isn't too easy to find these days, but that doesn't mean the skills are unneeded for your student's long term health.

How to Self-Publish Your Very Own Children's Book [Wired:GeekDad] - In the digital age, anyone can do this. I would suggest to use for the self-publishing, since they have done right by me with my two books, but otherwise, there's nothing stopping your students from being able to do this. You could do this as a very low tech in class project, but if you have access to tablets or similar tech, why not create the physical product? Your students would be much more invested if they were creating something not only tangible but that could actually make them some money.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Will It Take For "Zero Tolerance" Policies To End?

It's not too surprising that as a nation, we're all out of outrage for stories like Boy Suspended From School For Making “Gun” Out Of A Pop-Tart and Florida high school hero gets suspended AFTER preventing school bus shooting.  It seems that in recent years, stories like this have become as much of a media cliche as "local boy makes good."  They still illicit some sort of reaction, but it's not sustained or strong enough for us to make a serious change to the now standard "zero tolerance" policies in school districts across the country.

An artifact from my earliest teaching experience
"Zero tolerance" sounds great when the most common school story seems to be about mass shootings.  Of course, that's why we have these policies to begin with.  The reality is that "zero tolerance" runs counter to anti-bullying efforts as well as common sense that every good teacher uses within their classroom.

Bullying is nothing new.  I was bullied in middle school (this was years before Columbine), and when I stood up for myself and it inevitably led to a "fight", we were both punished equally.  This was wrong then, and it's wrong now--if a student is bullied and stands up for themselves, or someone defends themselves after someone else starts a fight, it should not result in both students being suspended or otherwise punished.  Obviously, a student intervening to prevent a Columbine-like tragedy should be honored, not punished.

In short, "zero tolerance" discourages anyone from intervening and preventing bullying or other violence--including bystanders--because the consequences are doled out so thoughtlessly. 

This brings us to the second problem: great teachers follow the main theme of Teaching with Love & Logic, the best book ever written about teaching. Great teachers know that the ladder of consequences or any other rigid system simply doesn't work. Every incident should be considered on a case-by-case basis, like it is in exemplary classrooms.  This idea hasn't spread to the school or district level, like many common sense ideas that come from the classroom, but that's because it's easier to follow mindless, blanket policies.

The solution to this problem is very simple: districts and ultimately principals consider each case on it's merits and hand out appropriate consequences accordingly. This would end the practice that led to the Florida teen and any kid that makes a mere gesture of a gun getting suspended.  Keeping "zero tolerance" in place not only fails to protect innocent kids, but also adds to the list of reasons why students are so increasingly disengaged with the entire school system.

Our students deserve a system grounded in reality, like the rest of the world around them.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Have You Read One Of My Books? If So, I Need Your Help

I know a lot of people have read one or both my books on teaching, Ten Cheap Lessons and Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job.  Between the number sold and those I've given away, there's roughly a thousand of you out there.  Here's my problem:

0 reviews for Ten Cheap Lessons on Amazon, only 1 on

2 reviews for Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word on Amazon and 0 on

I don't know about you, but I rarely buy anything online that has few or no reviews. So no matter where you got your copy of my books, you can help me out by logging in to either site and posting a brief review.

Positive or negative, I'd like you to share your thoughts with others who might be interested.  Any feedback I receive will help me reflect, improve and hopefully be able to publish better work in the future.

Ten Cheap Lessons:,
Teaching is Not a Four Letter,

Monday, March 11, 2013

What Leaders Can Learn From Spike TV's Bar Rescue

Jon Taffer would make a pretty good principal. In the Spike TV reality series Bar Rescue, the bar expert takes failing bars and turns them around. How that might qualify him for a principal role requires looking closely at this great show and finding the very practical lessons that apply to any successful organization.

The problems facing each bar vary, of course, but the overarching problem in nearly all of the businesses is a failure of leadership.  At first, the owner usually refuses to take responsibility for bad practices, poorly trained managers and employees, or failing to meet the needs and wants of their clientele.  Of course, when no one takes responsibility, nothing ever gets better--especially if the lack of accountability starts at the top.

Does that sound much different than a school or classroom that's being run poorly? You can only fix problems when you agree to own them.

The show follows a procedure of collecting information, history and observations and then using that data to make improvements.  Taffer brings in experts to retrain staff, fix menus and improve the entire concept behind the bar.  He uses tons of research and science to get the owner and staff on board with changes and to show us, the viewer, why it works. 

The process of reflecting on relevant data is something every successful teacher and school leader does. Poor leaders can sometimes put on a good enough show to convince you they're seriously, objectively looking at what's right and wrong in their schools.

There's also some great examples of what not to do on the show.  Owners, managers and employees display the whole gamut of poor decisions, from laziness to ignorance.  Taffer himself does a lot of yelling and insulting that should never fly in any school or classroom.

Most importantly, there is always resistance to change--it doesn't matter that these places are failing and what they are doing is clearly not working, there's always someone fighting Taffer on making improvements.

We see all of these things in schools, and we must continually strive to do better.

There are many other shows like this on television, and they follow the same formula--Restaurant Impossible, Tattoo Rescue, and many other makeover shows.  If you watch a lot of them, like me, you see these same lessons come up almost without fail.  That's how you know it's something you can learn from as an educator.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Weekend Reader on Video in the Classroom: March 2013

19 Videos That Make Learning Fun [Mental Floss] - Covering everything from women's suffrage to calculus.

Kids Will Create Masterpieces With the Tabletop Moviemaking Studio [Wired:GeekDad]

THNKR - CHANGE YOUR MIND [YouTube via Twitter] - Described as TED talks for high school and college students "but better".

Making Math Meaningful with Online Games and Videos [KQED/Mindshift]

8 Videos That Prove Math Is Awesome [Mashable!]

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Don't Click 'Share' To Save A Copy of My Shared Google Docs

It's good to know many teachers are getting use out of the documents I've shared on Google Drive. I know this because I get an email every time someone clicks Share, because that button is a bit misleading.

When you click Share, Google thinks you want to make a collaborative document, not save a copy to your own Google Drive or hard drive.  If I approved all of these requests, each one of those people would be able to edit the original document I shared however they want, and it would be saved that way for everyone else in the future.

Since I want to preserve my original documents and you want simply to have your own editable copy, you don't want to click Share.  The image above should be pretty clear, but if you're not sure, follow the easy directions I posted last spring:

I Want to Teach Forever: How to Make a Copy of Google Docs I've Shared UPDATE 2/28: Some of my Google Drive settings were messed up and things were not being shared properly. I fixed them this morning and you should be able to access any and all files that I've shared here on the blog.