Empathy Everywhere!

Is it just me or does it happen to you too, that when you start looking into something – in my case, Empathy – that it keeps appearing everywhere?!

Boosting Comprehension Through Empathy

Engaging With Empathy in Art Class

6 Ways to Show Math Empathy

Math, Science, Literacy, and Empathy are Not Mutually Exclusive

I am well aware that empathy is not a new concept, a term I have coined, or something people have never thought of before in relation to education. What I am noticing is that more and more people seem to be writing and sharing ideas on the concept that empathy can drive education. And many of these people are teachers in IB (PYP/MYP/DP) schools. Which is surprising when the idea of empathy is built in to the foundations of the IBO curriculum framework via their mission statement:

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Aside from the mention of being knowledgeable – and by this I am going to assume means ‘having knowledge’ or ‘being well informed’, the other key points mentioned are being active (and by this, I am to assume means physically active and both as a participant in their own learning and one that takes action on issues of importance), compassionate, peaceful, respectful, caring, intercultural, and understanding of differences. In one word: Empathetic.

So, why is this not a greater driving force than the bullet points of ‘knowledge’ that make up the curriculum frameworks?  I am not saying knowledge is not important, but I am saying that if we expect all these things from our students, we are going to have to get better at explicitly teaching or mentioning or embedding these components of empathy than we currently are. Our students are pretty great, but I believe they still need to see empathy explained explicitly and modelled consistently within a range of contexts.

How does this look in ‘real life’? I’m still working on that! 🙂 But stay tuned…I have been thinking about it for a while now along with obviously loads of other people and it is more than possible – we just have to be prepared to start.


Building Global Empathy

One of my colleagues is a big fan of Padlet. She shared with me this week, a post from the Padlet blog titled “Beyond the Steel Door” about a collaborative project between students in a Virginia juvenile corrections facility and students in a progressive Norwegian school.

The post is a great example of two teachers who wanted to expand the thinking of their students and used technology to help them achieve this goal. The communication between the students has evolved from the somewhat functional (What food do you have in prison?) to more about shared life experiences and differences in philosophical schools of thought. It is inspiring, and moving and it also showcases the talents of both classes of students when given the authentic opportunity to express themselves.  Take as an example this poem written by one of the Virginia students:

As the days go by and by,
And the next seems longer than before,
As I lay on the bunk and cry,
While behind this steel door,
Thinking about my past,
And how it all led me here,
Wishing I had another chance to stay
With my family for holiday cheers
Taking it one step at a time,
I know I will make it,
To be free again
Let’s find out where I take it.

And a response by a Norwegian student:



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Image Credit

I found this project to be amazing – and fascinating – and such a strong example of the powerful nature of learning when you start from a place of empathy. The primary goal was connection and authentic audience. The actual outcome was this PLUS incredible writing from students that may not have produced such work without this motivation.

So, how can we reproduce this experience for our students?

It is pretty obvious that one needs to have the passion and drive to make this happen – and to find another teacher that shares this passion and drive. But shouldn’t we all have that? Aren’t we here to facilitate meaningful connections for students, help them understand different perspectives, and communicate effectively and authentically?  Or are we too busy covering the curriculum for that to get in the way?

My colleague has suggesting finding schools in our area with Refugee students and German students and connecting with them. How would this work? Well, I think it would work if you first just started. With no agenda as to where it might lead. As the interactions progress, start looking closely at how the students are responding and guide them in ways to express themselves that also are curriculum objectives.  Creating poetry and using visual language were evident in the Norway/Virginia exchange but this was not the primary purpose for their interaction. Sure it can be scary/awkward/difficult to get a project like this going but it can also be inspiring/uplifting/motivating for all involved.

How can you use technology for collaborative learning?

Another friend, former colleague, and rockstar teacher, Tricia Friedman, is currently looking for ways to inspire her students to blog. She has created an amazing list* of prompts to spark thinking in her students and give them scope to lead their own writing experience. What if this list was shared with the world and students could post links to their writing for others to read and respond to? What if connections were made solely on student interest regardless of geographical location, culture, or identity? What if we got our kids connecting over shared ideas and philosophies – or even connecting over disparate ideas and philosophies in an open and respectful way.

*which I am sure she will share with the world when it is ready! 

I think the point of all this is that we need to reframe our thinking when it comes to imagining ways for our students to share what they know. Until we are consistent in the way we provide authentic audiences for our students, I don’t think we are going to see the depth of expression our students are truly capable of. But it has to start with developing that culture in ourselves, as explained by Philadelphia based innovator, Margaret Powers:

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How do you exhibit authenticity in your approach to collaboration and interaction with others outside your classroom?

UPDATE: Here is a link to Tricia’s Blogging Inspiration Padlet:



Design Thinking in Action

Scrolling through my Twitter feed I was drawn to the graphic below. Simple. Clean. Minimal. Colorful. It just looked like smart thinking to me in the 2 seconds that I glanced at it on my phone.  So I scrolled back and took a closer look.

Origin of graphic: FastCoExist Article

This is the work of  British designer Hayden Peek.  His idea is a great example of Design Thinking in action. Peek started from a place of empathy. In his words:

“Numbers are too technical and honestly, who really understands what two grams of sugar or 845 calories means?” “Who’s got time to calculate all these numbers? Numbers get ignored. It’s simply too much work. Life is busy.”

“People are free to buy whatever food they like, but imagine a young mum who shops for her family,” says Peek. “Week after week, receipt after receipt, the graphics stay red. How long could she ignore this information? How long before it prompts her into action to make some changes?”

Peek’s thinking was to use the data already embedded in grocery stores and product barcodes and remove the numbers, reducing the data to a color coded summary of the level (High, Medium, Low) of Calories, Fats, Saturated Fats, Sugar, and Salt in your shopping cart.

I thought about the Design Thinking Process and about this design from Peek and I sketched out a possible scenario for the development of this design:

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Peek’s work was shared via FastCoExist and although his entire design process was not shared, the thinking behind how and why he decided on this as a viable option for improving the nutritional habits of a nation were mentioned.  In sharing his work, I found myself drawn back to the ‘discovery’ stage where iterations are made on the design to wonder if something can be added to include the level of High Fructose Corn Syrup, often ‘hidden’ in foods – even more so in light of a recent name change of HFCS.

This simple design idea could lead to big changes in the way people think about their shopping habits and move some of those people toward changes in their consumption behavior. While I am sure Peek will make money from this design in some manner should it come to fruition, this would be a great example to share with students to help them start thinking about what they can do and the simple changes they could design to make things better for the greater good – with empathy, rather than profit, as their motivation.


Communication, Empathy

More Thoughts on Empathy…

Last week, I was telling a fellow Masters student the story of my first year teaching in Munich. I was a new mom to a 10 week old baby when I started work at MIS. My husband would bring her to work so I could feed her and occasionally this would mean one or two kids would see her on her way in or out.

Until the day she stayed to say her ‘official’ hello a few weeks into the school year.

My little Lulu at 12 weeks old, visiting with Papa at school.

My class of 18 4th graders were enthralled. So much care and concern was shown for her: was she warm enough? was it quiet enough? did she have enough personal space? did she need anything? how could they help her? This was quite different to the way they treated each other upon arrival to fourth grade. About a third were with classmates from the previous year. A third were new to the school. The other third were returning students but hadn’t been in the same class before. They didn’t show this same concern for each other.

When I asked them why, their answers were quick to come: “She isn’t going to make fun of me.  She isn’t going to be mean to me. She can’t talk back to me. I have to think about what she needs rather than what I want.”

It seems children are naturally empathetic, yet something drives that deeper within them to the point where it is not always their first response. Until it is. Until empathy is the first and only option.

So, why not tap into that as a basis for all that we do in the classroom?  I am a big fan of “starting with why” but I am becoming a bigger fan of “starting with empathy”. I really think that when kids are given the task to think of what they can do for another person/place/situation, the learning will flow from that.  Maybe that is idealistic but I don’t actually think so. I think it will work.

This following video talks about what empathy is but also how to start on a journey toward building empathy through the exchanging of stories. In particular, it highlights the importance of listening – really listening – as others tell their story, which is a key feature of empathy in the Design Thinking process.


I like this RSA animated short from Brené Brown on Empathy (which is actually referenced by one of the participants in the previous video). She describes empathy as making a connection with another by examining yourself first. I like this idea: that we each have to look to our own experiences first.

This last video was created by 8th grade students. Again, I think it highlights the idea that empathy is naturally present in the children we teach, we just have to place importance on it. The social issues that exist in many schools are a result of a lack of empathy for each other. If empathy was naturally a driving force in everything ‘school’, wouldn’t this also change the social culture of school?

What role does empathy play in your teaching?


Start With Empathy

Tony Wagner’s book “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World” is a brilliant read. Instead of hoping kids will develop 21st Century skills by accident or as an ‘aside’ to their school career, Tony believes we need to explicitly look for ways to equip students with skills needed for what he describes as “an increasingly flat world”.  He calls these the Seven Survival Skills:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurship
  5. Accessing and analyzing information
  6. Effective oral and written communication
  7. Curiosity and imagination

He published this list of skills in his previous book, The Global Achievement Gap but has since conversed with people across different fields and discovered that there are other skills that needed to be added to this list of ‘essentials’.  These include:

  • perseverance
  • a willingness to experiment
  • taking calculated risks
  • tolerating failure
  • a capacity for “design thinking”

The last skill, ‘design thinking’, is a concept employed at IDEO . (If you don’t know a lot about this company, take a look here or go straight to this greatFast Company Design piece on what schools can learn from IDEO, Google and Pixar – brilliant!).  Wagner shares IDEO’s design thinking concept as an example of a way of viewing the world that is fundamental to any process of innovation. (Wagner, pp13).  The CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown, goes on to describe five characteristics of ‘design thinkers’:

  1. empathetic – looking at the world from multiple perspectives and putting others first
  2. integrative thinkers – being able to see all aspects of a problem and possible breakthrough solutions
  3. optimistic – believing that no matter how challenging a problem, a solution can be found
  4. experimental – being willing to use trial and error to explore possible solutions in creative ways
  5. collaborative – this above all!

Wagner goes on to list further studies, more conversations and addition research that provide similar lists of requirements and criteria for innovative thinkers, ultimately summarizing them as follows:

  • curiosity – being in the habit of asking good questions with a desire to understand more deeply
  • collaboration – listening to and learning from others who have perspectives and expertise different to your own
  • associative or integrative thinking
  • a bias toward action and experimentation

What he then wrote should have us all leaping for joy:

As an educator and a parent, what I find most significant in this list is that they represent a set of skills and habits of mind that can be nurtured, taught and mentored!​


All of this is not new. The article I referenced above about schools learning from innovative idea-based companies was published in 2011. And what was first on the list of characteristics of a Design Thinker?



Related reading:

How Empathy Paves the Way for Innovation

Building a Culture of Empathy



Fast-forward to 2016 and an article by Susie Wise on Edutopia on Design Thinking in Education: Empathy, Challenge, Discovery and Sharing. A brilliant read which I summarized below:

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I just love how succinctly Susie explains this process. And it is a process, a journey, a new way of thinking about learning. As a PYP educator for the past 15 years and an IB Workshop Leader, I have been ‘schooled’ in inquiry based education. Also ‘formulaic’ in approach, the biggest difference I see is that Design Thinking is all about the students in a more immediate way than the PYP approach. What do I mean?

  1. EMPATHY: This is the core beginning and one which I think we forget sometimes. Without empathy, students are  without context or a framework for thinking. We often will say, “They’re just not interested in ‘xyz'” or “Some of my students are so off-task or disruptive to their group.” Perhaps it is because they are not invested in what you are doing? Empathy is about looking at others but it is also about the individual too. What can I do for another person/place/situation to make it better? How can I contribute? We know our students are egocentric so how can we harness this and ask them, “What can you do?  How can you make a difference?”. And really value what they have to say.
  2. CHALLENGE: Many parents and teachers and administrators are looking for rigour in the classroom. This can sometimes be misinterpreted as ‘harder work’. But what if it was rephrased as ‘appropriate challenge’?  As teachers, it is time for us to make a shift in the way we frame our questions: “How might we….?” indicates immediately that there is more than one way of doing and invites a challenge to students. John Medina, author of Brain Rules and Brain Rules for Babies, writes about the rapid decline of questions asked by students as they age from 4 to 6 years old. 4 year olds are curious, thoughtful, and ask a lot of questions.  6 year olds have figured out that the teacher already knows the answer and that their questions are less important than having the right answer.  Flip this on its head and ask “What if…?” and see what happens.
  3. DISCOVERY: The emphasis here is on doing. Do more! Do more! Do more! Think, create, tinker, prototype, construct, build, paint, act, record….the list goes on! This is all about iteration and the trial and error of doing and learning from what doesn’t work. This part I love because so often the big focus is on the product and kids get one shot at it. This gives students the chance to try and try again – and again! And think of the learning that occurs with each iteration! I can see an app like Book Creator coming in handy within this process as a way for students to journal their process with photos, videos, text, and voice. It all becomes part of the learning.
  4. SHARING: Note, it doesn’t say “PERFORMING” or “PRESENTING” or “POLISHED PERFORMANCE”.  Susie says it all with her quote: “Design can not thrive in isolation”. Making sharing of the journey a regular part of your classroom routine will help kids be more open to listening to and learning from each other. It will spark new ideas, help students solve problems they weren’t able to tackle on their own, and provide an opportunity applaud success authentically.

Having read and doodled, I then moved on to Thomas Riddle‘s article: Improving Schools Through Design Thinking.  I didn’t doodle this one (yet!) but it is a great read on the ‘how to’ of Design Thinking with an emphasis on a bias toward action  and the willingness on the part of teachers to embrace the notion of failing forward  in that we learn from mistakes. In following Thomas on Twitter, I was directed to this WEALTH of information: The Beginners Guide to K-12 Design Thinking. A massive undertaking which will answer questions you didn’t know you had about everything D-T related!
Click here to open this binder in a new window.


Then, I came across another brilliant resource – one which I would definitely share with students – in the form of this great animated video from John Spencer.  I can’t believe it has only had just over 1000 views on YouTube (I’ve watched it about 20 times already myself!) because it is clear, innovative, and explains the Design Thinking process as something to “L.A.U.N.C.H” in your classroom. He also has a free course, “The Ultimate Guide to Design Thinking” which I have signed up for and looks pretty interesting.

Finally, I went back through this blog to see what I had previously posted on Design Thinking.

  • This post has a great slide show presentation (very Presentation Zen) about the main components of design thinking. It also has an innovation lab project (video) that provides a real example of Design Thinking in action.
  • This post is another intro to the concept of Design Thinking. In the comments is a link to a great TED talk that further highlights the ideas in the post.
  • This post links to the Design Thinking Kit for Educators and again breaks down this concept into chunks to help you figure out how it might look in your classroom.

Quite enough to keep you busy for some time as you delve more into Design Thinking, for sure! Just remember to keep EMPATHY in mind as you explore. More than kindness, more than thinking of others, empathy is, as far as I can tell, the best way to ensure we build a culture of thinking amongst students that is solution oriented, inclusive, and will engage them in meaningful inquiries on their path to greater learning.



Action Research

Action research: research that will help the practitioner.

-Kurt Lewin

When I first heard the term ‘Action Research’ I think I focused more on the ‘research’ and less on the ‘action’ and in doing so, was a little turned off at the thought of engaging in hours of reading through studies and adhering to protocols, testing hypothesis and analysing data.  Upon further investigation, it became super clear that I was focusing on the wrong part of the term.

ACTION is where it is at.

Action Research is initiated by you. You reflectively look at what you are doing, ask questions, check what others already have figured out, and identify the problem you wish to tackle.

You think gather data through observations and other methods, and analyze and interpret the findings you collect so that you can act on evidence. Once your action plan is in place, you take another look, see what has worked or what still needs changing, make an iteration of your original plan and continue through the cycle.

Here’s my summary of all that in one handy graphic:


So, why should we care about Action Research?

Well, primarily because as teachers we want what is best for our students and what is best for them, also happens to be good for us too! John Dewey said, “We only think when we are confronted by a problem.” We need to put problems in front of our students to build their thinking skills and we need to continually be seeking ways of solving the problems we see in our classroom that are based on evidence and have solutions grounded in an actionable change process.

Often people are terrified/mad/scared/frustrated by change. “We’ve tried that! It didn’t work three years ago! That is how we used to do it!  Why do we need to do it differently?” Action Research provides individuals with the opportunity to analyze their own practice and look for solutions to problems they identify. While it can (and maybe should?) start with you and result in the development of skills, changes in habits, knowledge or methodologies of teaching, it doesn’t stop there.  Action Research can be done by groups of teachers and result in institutional, class, group, or institutional change. The results can be summarized and generalized findings can be shared globally to guide further research of other individuals or groups.

While I believe students could also participate in Action Research, I think a more scaffolded approach such as the Design Thinking process is more appropriate.

In both Action Research and Design Thinking, one could argue that starting at a point of Empathy will yield the most positive gains. Why? Because to be empathic means you have the ability to think beyond yourself with a view to solving a problem that exists for another person, place, or process. And going back to John Dewey, we only think when we are confronted by a problem. 

Iteration, or the repeated following of a sequence of steps in order to become successively closer to a desired result, is at the heart of both Action Research and Design Thinking. The idea that one is never fully ‘finished’ or that problems are never permanently ‘solved’ gives room to the creation of new possibilities.

What does this mean for your classroom?

Well, think about it for a minute. What do you love about your teaching? Perhaps more importantly, what frustrates you or what are you dying to try?  Flipped learning? No homework? Project Based Learning? Mixed ability reading groups? What’s that thing that bugs you? That’s where you start:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Examine other research and your own data
  3. Act on the basis of the evidence you collect
  4. Reflect on what worked and what you still need to do


The great part?  You don’t need permission to do this. You don’t need to wait to be told to do it. You can start right now by jotting down the ideas that are already floating around. Is it more ‘work’? That depends on what you consider work to be.  I would argue that it is more work (and in this case, I mean both physical and mental effort) to keep pushing against a problem that exists rather than trying to find a solution to solve it.

What will your Action Research look like?

Start with WHY you are doing it in the first place.  Ask yourself, “How can I  help my students improve the quality of their learning?”  And then break it down from there:

  • What is my concern with my current practice?
  • What am I going to do about it?
  • What evidence will I need to guide the action I will take?
  • How will I validate what I have done?
  • Am I finished with this for now?

Be sure that you are starting with yourself in mind too:

  • I am initiating the research
  • I am asking a real question about a real issue and looking for a real possible solution
  • I am starting from where I am
  • I am striving for improvement (and any improvement, no matter how small, is improvement).


Further information:

Action Research by Eileen Ferrance, Brown University

Change, Innovation, iPad, Organization, Tech, Technology

Think Like A Startup

Last week I was fortunate to go to Amsterdam with four fabulous colleagues to attend the European Conference on iPads in the Classroom hosted by the International School of Amsterdam.

Our trip started like this:

And then on to the ‘real business’ – two days of guest speakers, breakout groups, classroom observations, speed geeking, and great conversations about the use of technology in the classroom. The tech team at ISA offered some great tips and ideas about getting started with iPads including appointing iPad Point People to support learning across the school and they had some practical ideas for making the day-to-day use of iPads easier for everyone (students and teachers). Sue Worsnup, the Grade 3-5 IT Facilitator at ISA shared the following:


The Keynote speaker for the conference was Warren Apel – the former Tech Director at ISA who currently is operating his own startup, Scholastico, before moving to Tokyo in the fall as Director of Technology at the American School in Japan.

As a sidenote, Warren’s company offers a way for schools to set up Parent-Teacher Conferences that is so quick and easy. If you or your school are interested, it really is worth your while to read the brochure linked above or to watch this 2 minute video on how it all works. It really looks awesome!


With his recent experience in building his own startup business, Warren’s keynote “How Schools, Teachers, and Administrators Can Learn To Think Like A Startup” was a great combination of his experience as a teacher and tech director, and his past year of starting a company. He presented his 12 lessons that he learned over the past year that could be applied to the work we do in schools when looking to innovate or start a new project:


  1. Be curious
  2. Focus on what could be – not what is
  3. Be disruptive
  4. Learn from failure
  5. Move with speed
  6. Embrace a playful attitude
  7. Get the team right
  8. Communicate!
  9. Be transparent
  10. Learn together with the customers (or in this case, students/parents/teachers)
  11. Dream big – go for your Moonshot!
  12. Start with “why?”

Warren has written up his keynote as a blog post (linked above) and it is a really worthwhile read for those looking to lead change within your school. I was most grateful that there were five of us from my school hearing this message together. There is such a lot of power and added value to sending a small group to the same workshop or conference that I think some schools overlook. As the conference went on and conversations bubbled up, it was great to see the ideas and suggestions forming within our group and the enthusiasm for what could be regarding our iPad program at MIS.

This group of go-getters, early adopters, innovators, were motivated by what they saw and heard and inspired to bring these ideas back to their own classrooms and teams. For me, this was the most rewarding part of the two day event. The other thing I loved was that the conference was held during the week which allowed us the opportunity to observe classes in action.  The opportunity to walk through a school when the kids are there was fantastic and in itself, was a great PD session full of ideas and tips for cultivating a mindful learning environment.  Here are a few shots from around the school:

As the two days progressed, I made notes that I later turned into an iBook titled “iPad Integration Guide”. It focuses on technology in the PYP classroom, a core set of apps for learning and sharing, coding apps, students as authors with a focus on Book Creator, and a ‘nuts and bolts’ section which gives a few tips and tricks for rolling out iPads into the classroom. Click on the link below to download for free from iTunes.

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Download from iTunes – click here

We have had a less than ideal (!) start to the year with our iPads as we transitioned to the VPP program and a new MDM system so this conference was just what was needed to help us recalibrate and set ourselves up for the rest of the year and the year ahead. I am looking forward to seeing the authentic, purposeful, and innovative advances in teaching and learning that will come from all of this!



Why Minecraft?

Image Credit

Yesterday’s post briefly touched on the subject of Minecraft. The article, How Minecraft and Duct Tape Wallets Prepare Our Kids For Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet had this to say about the game that kids are crazy about (and some adults too!):

It’s difficult to predict which skills will be valuable in the future, and even more challenging to see the connection between our children’s interests and these skills. Nothing illustrates this better than Minecraft, a popular game that might be best described as virtual LEGOs. Calling it a game belies the transformation it has sparked: An entire generation is learning how to create 3D models using a computer. Now, I wonder, what sort of businesses, communication, entertainment or art will be possible? Cathy Davidson, a scholar of learning technology, concluded that 65% of children entering grade school this year will end up working in careers that haven’t even been invented yet. I bet today’s kids will eventually explore outcomes and create jobs only made possible by the influence of Minecraft in their lives. Why take any chances and build your dream house with blueprints alone? The Minecraft kid could easily make a realistic 3D model of one for you to walk through before you build. That’s why DIY treats Minecraft as a tool, not a game, and encourages our members to use it to pursue art, architecture and community-building.

I was first introduced to Minecraft by students when teaching in Boise 4 years ago. They were excited, engaged, and enthusiastic by this ‘game’ that seemed so much more than that.  Yesterday, I read a great post about Minecraft: a definitive guide to setting it up in your classrooms with different levels of autonomy on the part of the student and different paths with graduating degrees of responsibility for students – each with pros and cons of the particular approach.

Published by Common Sense Media on Graphite, the article: Getting Started With Minecraft in the Classroom, is one of the best I have read about the benefits but also the how-to’s of Minecraft in the classroom. What was particularly interesting to me was the third (of three) tips: Interaction with the game.  “The game” could be replaced with whatever it is you are asking your children to interact with: the lesson, the resource, the ideas, the concepts, the tools, the questions….etc. The article describes three levels of interaction:

  1. Low-level interaction
  2. Mid-level interaction
  3. High-level interaction

In the classroom, this looks like:

  1. Fooling around, playing, seeing what happens
  2. Teacher led, teacher initiated, expanding on given prompts
  3. Student directed learning

I would argue that in every classroom there is a time and place for varying amounts of each type of interaction. As an art teacher, I would begin each clay unit with “Clay Play Day” and the kids spent their 90 minutes doing exactly that – playing.  Within that time, there were opportunities for them to ask questions, teach each other, browse through books/examples of clay techniques, watch videos, collaborate, or tinker on their own. The lessons evolved into a mix of those routines with some specific lessons from me on techniques and the unit was rounded out with student-initiated clay projects.  This is exactly how Minecraft can work too.

While I love playing with Duplo blocks with our daughter, I will be the first to admit that my husband is far more creative than I am in that area of building and design – which is probably why he is most often requested to be the Duplo partner!  If you feel the same way then find the kid (or kids!) in your class who you would want to work with and have them take the lead on bringing Minecraft to your classroom.

If you are ready to bring Minecraft to your classroom, Check out Graphite’s  Minecraft review and MinecraftEdu review.

If you are looking for further advice, inspiration, or commentary, try these posts:

If you want a quick tour into a Minecraft world, try the Hour of Code Minecraft experience.



Do It Yourself!


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Back in 2012, I wrote a post titled Become An Enabler…Of Creativity!

One of the sites I referenced was the newly launched website. I thought it looked great then and it has only gotten better since, with the addition of so many more categories of skills, the option of paid courses with tutors, and (for those who love tangible rewards) the option of purchasing cloth badges when challenges have been met.

Here’s where I think this site is most awesome/useful:

  • the skill list is MASSIVE – I think every kid could find a category that interests them and within that category is a range of activities that will likely be both familiar and new to them, encouraging them to do something they love and something they have not tried before.
  • if you are a homeschooling parent or are lucky enough to go to a progressive school that doesn’t have busywork homework assigned, this is an awesome portal for kids to delve into to put their tinkering skills into action
  • the skills and challenges are multi-faceted: if you choose the Athlete skill, one of the challenges is to prepare an Athletic Diet which involves not only finding a recipe for a meal to suit your athletic endeavors, but preparing it and then writing about or making a video to explain why this meal is good to eat. Reading, research, measurement, nutrition, sports science, video production, explanatory writing – all covered in this task.

Today, a link popped up on my Facebook feed to an article published in May last year: How Minecraft and Duct Tape Wallets Prepare Our Kids for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet.  Written by Zack Klein, founder of, the article is awesome and points to so many ways in which we need to allow our kids the opportunity to create and be creative with the things they are passionate about:

It’s crucial that kids learn how to be passionate for the rest of their lives. To start, they must first learn what it feels like to be simultaneously challenged and confident. It’s my instinct that we should not try to introduce these experiences through skills we value as much as look for opportunities to develop them, as well as creativity and literacy, in the skills they already love.


…the childhood passions that seem like fads, if not totally unproductive, can alternatively be seen as mediums for experiencing the virtuous cycle of curiosity: discovering, trying, failing and growing.


I don’t think it’s important that kids use the skills they learn on DIY for the rest of their lives. What’s important is that kids develop the muscle to be fearless learners so that they are never stuck with the skills they have. Only this will prepare them for a world where change is accelerating and depending on a single skill to provide a lifetime career is becoming impossible.


The DIY community is awesome. The forums are positive and encouraging and they have loads of steps in place to keep it open but also safe for kids. Even if your kids are young, the site has great ideas for activities you could do as a family.  Here are some of the skills that were intriguing to me:

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I think what I like most about this site is that it is such a great model for a personalized approach to education in which kids can be given agency over their learning. It’s not about what “we” want them to learn or want them to be interested in. It’s about letting them know that the things they love to tinker with are important and relevant. I didn’t know until I read this that the brains behind the site, founder Zack Klein, was also the brains behind the video hosting platform, Vimeo – something that started as a tinkering passion as a young kid.

With the rapidly-changing job market and the mind-blowing idea that many (or most!) of the jobs our kids will move into are not yet even created, giving young people the forum and the freedom to tinker and explore and try and experiment are vitally important.

How could you use the approach in your classroom?