I Now Have An Opinion About Taylor Swift


Taylor Swift.  I know who she is.  I probably hum or sing along to her songs, possibly without knowing that they are hers.  One of our music teachers showed me a Flash Mob this morning of her song “Shake It Off”.  None of these things are remarkable and up until about six minutes ago, I had no opinion one way or the other if you had asked me, “What do you think of Taylor Swift?”

But that was six minutes ago.

Now, six minutes later, in response to your question, I would describe Taylor as smart, educated, a quick-thinker, articulate, thoughtful, honest, and an empowering, encouraging role model to young girls and women, globally.

Here’s why: Watch what she says in response to Emma Watson’s passionate UN speech:

Share this with the human beings you know who care about human beings.

Use your words to lift others up.


Concept-Question Cards – UPDATED!

concept cards 1

When I was teaching in Yokohama, I made a set of PYP Key Concept cards.  One card for each concept.  On the back of the cards are questions divided into learning areas (language arts, music, art etc). The questions come from within the PYP Making It Happen guide.

These cards travelled with me from Japan to Boise and then to Germany where a new set was typed up and then shared. Except, as I created the new ones, I ended up inadvertently duplicating one of the sets of questions.  I have FINALLY gotten around to fixing this error and can now offer a free download of the revised Concept-Question cards!

Thank you for your patience in waiting for these!

PDF: Concept-Question Cardsconcept cards 2


Sharing The Planet

I want to share three videos that could be really good to use in your classroom.  All three focus on human interaction with our planet. They are short, interesting, and most of all, contain an important message that we can be sharing with our students.

Our Biggest Challenge

The first video is a melodic offering from Symphony of Science.  The gentlemen you see and/or hear in this video are Bill Nye, Sir David Attenborough, Richard Alley, and Isaac Asimov. Their words have been masterfully mixed together to create a dynamic video on Climate Change.

The Axis of Awesome – Make the Change (Not the Climate Change)

This is a great video made by Australians!  My former neighbors are raising awareness about The Reef and how one of the world’s greatest natural wonders is about to be destroyed because there is money to be made.  The video urges us to make a change (not a climate change).

From Toilet to Table – Overcoming the Yuk Factor

My friend and inspirational human being Erica Lloyd works for SOIL in Haiti.  She and her colleagues were recently featured on the BBC website for their work in restoring sanitation to thousands of Haitians following the devastating earthquake in 2010. The video explains how providing clean sanitation is also providing nutrient rich soil for Haitian vegetable farmers.'s%20fight%20against%20disease%20with%20the%20eco%20toilet&product=news

This last video is particularly meaningful to me because of Erica’s involvement in and passion for, the organization for which she works.  When my kids last year began their PYP Exhibition journey, Erica took the time to Skype with a group of students who were also interested in humanitarian causes.  Our friend Beth, shared the following about Erica when she posted a link to the BBC piece on her newsfeed:

For some time now, I’ve been in awe of my sweet friend Erica Lloyd (who appears in the video at 0:44 -a BBC star!). She gave up a very comfortable life in the metro D.C. area to go to Haiti and work with a program called SOIL, helping to combat diseases such as cholera while educating the community on proper hygiene and sanitation. They have created a system that not only controls human waste, and offers simple necessities such as toilets to those who do not have them, but also recycles the waste as fertilizer to enable the people to grow their own crops in an otherwise stubborn environment. They are saving lives, and making it possible for these residents to live a more dignified, self-sufficient, and clean existence. I’m not sure I would have that kind of resilience, frankly; which is why I thought it was time to ask all of my FB friends to take a moment to watch this video, read the story, and recognize the efforts of Erica and the folks like her who truly do dedicate their lives to helping folks better their own.

How could these videos work in your classroom?

Inspiration, Leadership

Raise Your Voice!

I read an article tonight about some students in Denver, Colorado who walked out of classes in a planned protest again the School Board’s recent proposal to that course materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strike or disregard of the law.”

High school students Bronwyn Elisha, center left, and Tori Leu, center right, cheer as a passing motorist honk in support of their protest against a Jefferson County School Board proposal to emphasize patriotism and downplay civil unrest in the teaching of U.S. history, at Ralston Valley High School, in Arvada, Colo., Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Students from at least two high schools walked out of class Tuesday in the second straight day of protests in Jefferson County. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)(Credit: AP)

As I looked at this photo,  I couldn’t help but think how incredibly proud their teachers must be. To have organized (via social media and texting) a peaceful, educated protest in order to have an education that allows them the opportunity to learn from history.

They were not the only young people using their voices for good this week.  Brown graduate and actress, Emma Watson, delivered a moving speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the HeForShe campaign, the goal of which is motivating men and boys to end gender inequality.

Her speech was a strong, educated, passionate example of how important it is to seize any opportunity that comes your way when given the chance to use your voice. Emma shared her own nervousness about her speech, offering the following advice to herself and to others who may question wether or not they should speak out:

In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt, I told myself firmly: if not me, who? If not now, when?” – Emma Watson, UN HeForShe Speech

Finally, motivation doesn’t get much more motivational than from high school football player, Apollos Hester. He delivered the following speech in response to his team winning their football game by one point:

All of these young people are remarkable examples of how powerful their voices are.  This made me question my own teaching and how often I encourage and give opportunity for students to raise their voices.

How do you allow your students to raise their voices in your classroom? Could you hang this poster in your classroom?  Would your kids believe you meant it?


Be Bad…Until You Are Good

I am a bit fan of helping children to establish a Growth Mindset and the idea that #youcandoanything. Sometimes however, I think perhaps teachers can be at fault for overthinking how to go about creating this kind of ‘can do’ attitude in our classes. What really is the best way to instil in our kids the need to push through and keep trying, even when you are not sure if what you are doing is ‘good’ or ‘right’?

Then I saw a shot from one of Ellen’s recent shows, where she was interviewing Jason Segal who had the following to say:

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I think this is really cool advice. And it doesn’t have to only apply to the kids we teach.  When was the last time you were not afraid to be bad at something until you were good at it?

Inquiry, Presentations

Adobe Voice meets Powerful Provocations in PYP

The inquiry team at school is working on a series of staff meetings devoted to inquiry and building inquiry into our planning of units of work to allow students to grow individual inquiries.  It is our nod to Genius Hour and we want to see it embedded into units of inquiry in a way that lets students see that they can follow their passions and curiosities through the lens of an inquiry unit.

We are starting later this week with a look at our provocations. In preparing for this meeting, we started thinking about the criteria for a great provocation.  Very timely was the PYP chat on Sept 11th which was about….Provocations!  There are loads of great resources on the PYP Chat Wiki that you should check out.

As life would have it, I was ‘stuck’ (I will never complain about this part of being a mom) reading to and snuggling with my daughter so I missed the first 45 minutes of the Europe PYP Chat.  A quick read back indicated that there wasn’t a real tie in to what we were doing  in terms of creating provocation guidelines for teachers.  So I shared ours.  It looked like this:


Some good ideas but the presentation? Not my cup of tea at all.  So, what to do?  I tend to think in pictures so started sketching out some ideas.  I shared these with our art teacher and we were on to something but then life and time (or lack thereof) got in the way and I knew I wasn’t giving her enough time to work her magic.  And then I remembered Adobe Voice.

I had shared this with our German teachers and I loved how easy it was to use.  It was perfect for the job at hand and in about 13 minutes, I had created this:

What do you consider when creating provocations?

What makes your provocations powerful?


Dot Day – Make it Matter!

Dot Day


Yesterday was Dot Day!  Did you ‘make your mark’?  More importantly, did you ‘make it matter’?

My Dot Day was spent proctoring online standardized tests – the antithesis of Dot Day, ironically.  I made a special trip down to our cafeteria to check out our Dot Day wall of awesome which cheered my spirits immensely thanks to our gorgeous art gals, Lisa and Kate.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4And then I came home and forgot to read The Dot to my daughter and play her the Make Your Mark song (but I promise I will keep Dot Day alive and do those tonight!).

After bedtime, I came down to work on a MOOC I am currently enrolled in: Powerful Tools For Teaching and Learning: Digital Storytelling.   We are spending five weeks learning about the power of telling stories digitally.  It is already one of my new favorite things.  Our first assignment was to create the plan for the story we will make and this is what I am going to do in honor of Dot Day:

Digital Storytelling Plan


So, while it may not have started out as the best Dot Day, it has ended up being a super inspirational Dot Day for me, for sure! I think Vashti would be proud – and I hope I can do justice to such a great book (and author!) in my story!

Dot Day, forever!

POSTSCRIPT: I have started my storyboard and I think I want to change it as a tool for teachers to promote Dot Day and why we as teachers need to make our mark too.  Thoughts?


Bias in Teaching

One of the things I love about my role as Learning Technology teacher, is that I get to work with all the teachers at my school. They come to my room or I go to theirs, and prior to our meeting, we get to discuss how and why they would like to integrate technology into their teaching. 

As I work with teachers, I get to see them in their natural habitat and see a different side of the person who I have lunch with, sit down at recess with, or talk to during meetings.  I get to see them as a teacher. And I get to see what they love, what they value, what is important to them in their classroom.  I also get to see what falls a little lower on the ladder of importance for them. I listen to the choices they make when talking to and with our students and I see them in the way they communicate. 

And that makes me think about my own teaching. 

Where is my bias?  What do I value above other things? When have I come across to my students as having a strong opinion for or against something – and is this ok?  

When you google ‘bias in teaching’ you get a whole lots of hits for gender bias, political bias, hidden bias.  This is not really what I am talking about.  I am talking about the bias that comes from teachers being human and having opinions about the job they have been asked to do.  As teachers, we sign on to teach.  This is a wide-open task that is narrowed down by the philosophy, vision, and mission of a school.  When we sign on to work somewhere, we sign on to live out the values of the school. But we are human.  And we have our own ideals and vision too.  

Some teachers don’t love math – and research has pointed to parents and teachers passing on their own math anxiety to their students. What about other subjects?  Are we unconsciously (or consciously) pushing our own agenda when it comes to what we highlight as important?

What do you do when your vision, your ideals, your beliefs do not mesh with that of your school?  Where is the bias in your teaching? 


21st Century, Leadership, Reflection

What Is School For?

What is school for?

According to Seth Godin, this is a question we’re not nearly spending enough time asking each other.

Today, Seth posted on his blog: The wasteful fraud of sorting youth for meritocracy. His post his brilliant.  I know that I say everything Seth does is brilliant, but this is really worth reading. It challenges us to rethink the way we ‘do school’ and the way we ‘sort’ children in school.  Is this what school is for?  A giant institutional sorting hat?

 My husband and I watched this video (and by this, I mean I played it over and over and he kept asking when my “very exciting video” would be over).  It did lead to an interesting discussion that we have had before on the purpose of school and what sort of education we want for our daughter. We realize she is still a baby, but it is good to talk about it.  It makes me wonder how many others are having this conversation too.  When we think about what we want for our daughter the list reads something like this:

-to be inspired to learn

-to delve deeper into things she is passionate about

-to become a caring, kind, collaborator

-to learn about the world she lives in and the people she shares the planet with

-to have fun, to play, to try new things

-to ask if she needs help

-to do something interesting, to figure things out


Does that sound like your school? 

Take a look at Seth’s Stop Stealing Dreams TEDx talk.  


“If you care enough about your work to be willing to be criticized for it, you have done a good day’s work.” ~ Seth Godin

So, again, What is school for?

Will Richardson posted 19 Back to School Questions for School Administrators.  The list is thoughtful, engaging, and would produce some pretty interesting dialogue.  I particularly like the following four questions that pertain to my new line of work:

  • How do you use technology to learn?
  • What was the last artifact of your own learning that you created with technology?
  • What expectations do you have for your teachers’ use of technology in their own learning?
  • What expectations do you have for your teachers’ use of technology in the classroom?

He then went on to ask his readers for a suggestion to round the list out to 20. I started off by offering this:

Tweet One

and then after reading through all of this from Seth, changed my mind to this:

Tweet Two

If you have not read Seth’s manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams and you care about education and the future of education, then I implore you to find the time to read it.  It doesn’t have all the answers but it has a lot to get you thinking – and it led me to Imagine A School of my dreams. 

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