2 Bloggers to Watch – and Why.


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I currently have two favorite bloggers. One is a teacher I worked with in Yokohama. The other, I only know through his blog and through friends who have previously worked with him – such is the six degrees of international school teaching.

These two bloggers I would recommend you check out and decide for yourself if they are worth following.  I would say they are.

Kristen Blum – Solid Ground

Kristen is a PYP teacher in Bangladesh. Her blog is one of the most honest I have read about the challenges and celebrations of being a PYP teacher. She is first and foremost an educator who is trying to engage, inspire, and build relationships with her students and her blog is an honest reflection of how this looks in her classroom.

Graeme Anshaw – Enquiry-Based Maths

Graeme’s tagline says it all: “Rescuing children from textbook or worksheet ‘learning'”. Graeme’s blog documents his experience with taking a deep inquiry approach to math education. He provides the theory behind his teaching but (best of all) loads of examples of how the theory translates into classroom practice. This blog should inspire you to rethink the way you teach math and show you how developing a mathematical mindset in all your students is really possible.

The thing I love most about both of these bloggers is that they put their work out there for others to look at, question, and wonder. I don’t think either would say their work is perfect, their practice a model to be duplicated, or their methods the most PYP (although they both COULD say that!). What they would (probably) say is, “Look…here’s what I am doing and if you find it at all useful or inspiring or it makes you think differently, then by all means take my ideas and mould them into your own teaching, your own thinking, your own way of doing.”

That’s why I like people who share their art. Who take the time and effort to put their thinking ‘out there’. I’ve learned a ton from these two, and I hope you do too.

(Un)Professional Development

I recently saw this heading somewhere (Facebook? Twitter?) and was naturally intrigued. And then I was in love. Here’s why.  First, take a look at the premise for this organization that offers training for teachers:


But professional development rarely acknowledges – or inspires – the courage and curiosity that educators bring to their own classrooms. Unprofessional Development is based on the belief that teachers must be celebrated as professional learners who find truth in discovery and joy in taking bold risks. It is a call to ignite a rigorous and personal creative habit. It is a challenge to resist judgment, perfectionism, discomfort and procrastination, and to put creativity at the root of all learning. Unprofessional Development is a charge to write, weld, cook, construct, jury-rig, sketch, stitch, bend and build both in and out of our classrooms.

Pretty cool, huh?

And then it got better when I scrolled further to their credo:


So who is behind all this?  Unprofessional Development is an initiative of the non-profit Project H Design and is led by Emily Pilloton and Christina Jenkins. If you live in NYC, Oakland or Berkeley, CA then, lucky you! They have courses in your area that you can sign up for.

But what about those of us in Munich – or elsewhere? (Un)Professional Development offers a tailored service to your school (contact them for further information).

But what if you can’t afford that right now? Well, start with yourself. Take a look again about what they said about traditional professional development and what they do differently.  Ask yourself what it would look like if you were:

  • celebrated as a professional learner
  • finding joy in taking bold risks
  • resisting judgement, procrastination, perfectionism and discomfort
  • putting creativity in the root of all learning

How would you be a different teacher? How would your classroom change? What if you said “yes” more often? What if you disrupted the status quo?

One of my favorite thinkers had this to say about disruption:

The journey to disruption may be lonely but fundamental to our ability to serve and add value.

-Will Northrop

What are you doing to disrupt, to serve, to add value in your classroom?

What Is Your Favorite Tech Tool?

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This morning I was on Twitter when #bfc530 came up with their daily topic: What is your favorite tech tool?

I quickly responded:

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I then sat back and watched the tweets pour in.  Later today, I went through the tweets and made the following word cloud of all the tools.


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Google was a clear winner and some of my favorites stood out but there were also a bunch of new (to me) tools I will be taking a look at. In particular:

I haven’t heard of or used any of these but they were all tweeted by educators who (for the most part!) were up at 5:30am to tweet about education so I am going to guess they are pretty passionate about it!

I will investigate and report back on their usefulness!



I have added a new page to my blog titled “Publications”.

Please take a look in order to access free downloads from the iTunes store to your iBookshelf!

Currently, there are two titles to download with more planned in the near future.

Summer Slide – A reality or media construct?

I just read Alfie Kohn’s take on the Summer Slide.  He puts forward an interesting argument and correlates the ‘fear’ of loss of progress over the summer with the same fear of what will happen if teachers don’t assign homework (hint: Mayhem! Chaos! Kids Gone Wild!).

He summarizes his argument:

By the time September rolls around, kids may indeed be unable to recall what they were told in April: the distance between the earth and the moon, or the definition of a predicate, or the approved steps for doing long division. But they’re much less likely to forget how to set up an experiment to test their own hypothesis (if they had the chance to do science last spring), or how to write sentences that elicit a strong reaction from a reader (if they were invited to play with prose with that goal in mind), or what it means to divide one number into another (if they were allowed to burrow into the heart of mathematical principles rather than being turned into carbon-based calculators).

Summer learning loss? It’s just a subset of life learning loss—when the learning was dubious to begin with.

His summary is really a blueprint for what parents can do (and teachers can support) in order to use the summer break as an opportunity for growth rather than loss: Do experiments, swing in a hammock and write a story from the perspective of something around you, bake something or make something that has you using your math skills, for real. Most importantly, focus on the process of having a summer vacation and all that entails: rest, experiences, creation, re-creation, and play.

As Kohn points out, the ‘summer slide’ is evident when standardized test scores are compared. But what about the skills that can not be measured on such a test?

My take on combatting the slide? Here are some Summer Learning slides I shared with the parents at my school:

With the exception of the ‘knowing’ slide, which gives details of websites in which students can practice traditional academic skills, the tools suggested focus on the idea of creating and documenting based on experiences. The more children see, do, touch, feel, experience, and try, the more they will have to speak, write, and create about.

In addition to technology, get outside, and read (read outside or just read and then go outside or vice versa). If you are needing help with summer reading, look no further than my favorite book blog: One Page To The Next.  Last summer she posted on Summer Reading for Book Enthusiasts. This summer, her Summer Reading post is another great spread of excitement for readers.

If you are still looking for ideas, my other favorite blog Engage Their Minds has a wealth of resources under the category “Summer Slide

Finally, I love this list of ideas for experiences for kids from Ranger Rick.  Take a look and download from here – and then make a digital book, i-movie, podcast, artwork, poem, rap song, comic book, or ??? about your experience!


What’s up, Dr. Tony Wagner?


I have been a long-time fan of Dr. Tony Wagner. His quote, “it is not what you know, but what you do with what you know” is one that I repeat regularly – to myself and to colleagues in order to switch our focus from collecting knowledge to connecting ideas and concepts, to creating and sharing with others.

In November of 2014, Dr. Wagner wrote a blog post for P21.org that led with the driving question:  What is really needed to prepare students as citizens and workers in the 21st Century? In this post he said:

…as long as we insist on testing every student every year, instead of testing only a sample of students every few years, we will be unable to afford the kinds of assessments, like the College and Work Readiness Assessment, that measure the skills that matter most.

…I believe that this “reform” will only serve to accelerate the trend of teaching to the tests and to ensure that whatever good qualities that may exist in the Common Core will be lost in an increasingly test-prep-centered curriculum.

…no corporations make important hiring or promotion decisions on the basis of a standardized test score…

I continue to worry about the impact of a test-prep curriculum on student motivation, as well as on teacher morale.

Dr. Wagner describes the current situation as one in which there is an “overzealous focus on standardized testing”. So, can you imagine my surprise when I open an email from NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) and find that at their Fusion Central conference in July, none other than Dr. Wagner is the keynote speaker.  NWEA is the author of MAP tests (Measures of Academic Progress).  A standardized test.


This seems like such a disconnect to me in light of everything I know about Dr. Wagner and his high regard for experiential learning and a holistic education. Has he sold out?  Gone over to the dark side? I can’t believe that this is possible, so why is he there?

Part of the potential reason is hinted at in his blog post:

To scale innovation, we need broader agreement on the education outcomes that matter most, as well as an accountability system aligned with those outcomes. The key to accomplishing these two tasks, I believe, is for educators to more actively engage with business and community leaders and to work together to develop a more 21st Century appropriate accountability system.

My hope is that Dr. Wagner is seeking to become part of the solution. That he wants to have a hand in how the tests are created in order to help develop tests that are broader in scope and take into account things beyond the limitations of current standardized tests.

Or, perhaps his goal is to show educators who are required by schools or districts to administer these tests how they can use the results of these tests to ‘create innovators’ and build upon student strengths. I would like to think that there is a way of making valuable something that takes so much of a student’s time and removes them from the classroom.

And yet another part of me hopes that he will just stand up there and declare “NO MORE STANDARDIZED TESTING!” And the audience will go wild!  Whichever way it plays out, I will definitely be following closely to see what comes of this.

Visual Note-taking or Sketchnotes

I have been working with one of our Learning Support teachers and EAL teachers to give guidance to students in fourth grade on taking sketchnotes. I am a huge fan of this and try and practice it myself at conferences and when listening to TED talks. I am always on the lookout for ‘how to’ guides….and then I found this: The work of Sylvia Duckworth in one amazing presentation.  It is seriously all you could ever hope to want to know about visual notetaking.

Packed with links, images, suggestions, more examples, and just so, so good, this is a brilliant place to start if you are a novice or experienced sketch noter.

What are your best tips and tricks for visual notetaking?