Category Archives: Pedagogy

Reflections on: Trying to Teach a Common Core Curriculum

Jennifer Carey:

My good friend and former colleague Dan is one of the best math teachers I have ever known. As an Independent School teacher, I do not implement standardized curriculum; never the Common Core. His reflections here are thoughtful, albeit open ended. I hope you will join the conversation if this is something that sparks your interest.

Originally posted on Mathy McMatherson:

I’ve spent this year trying to teach a genuine Common Core Algebra I curriculum to high school freshman (my first time doing either of those) and I keep trying to find a way to write about with my experiences, but it’s hard not to get lost in all of the moving pieces that’ve happened this year. As the year winds downs (edit: did wind down. This post has been in the ‘draft’ pile for a few months and its already summer), I guess the biggest thing I feel is: the Common Core shift is real and I feel it and I have to rethink a lot of how I used to think about curriculum. This post is about me wrestling with what it means to try and genuinely implement a Common Core curriculum and trying to know where the wiggle room is.

In an effort to be proactive and give guidance to…

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How to Empower Your Faculty in a Mobile Learning Environment


Introducing a new technology into the learning environment can be an intimidating experience, even for seasoned educators. However, with careful and intentional planning on the part of administrators and educational leaders, they can become powerful tools as part of your curriculum and pedagogy. Here are eight ways that administrators and school leaders can empower their faculty to successfully adopt technology in their curriculum.

Is the Technology on Your School or in your School

mobile learning

Greg Kulowiec, in his talks on iPads and other mobile devices, is fond of asking “Is your technology on your classroom or in your classroom?” Using technology because it’s there, or because you’re “expected to” can be a path to failure. Instead, when choosing a tool, be it a device, a software platform, or another instrument, consider your educational philosophy, objectives, and vision. In his article, 5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads (and how to Correct Them), Tom Daccord argues that you should explore and examine your curriculum, learning objectives and goals, and pedagogical vision. Perhaps you are in the process of adopting technology at your school in the form of a 1:1 or BYOD; or expanding an existing program, however, don’t just throw technology at existing educational problems. Instead, make meaningful choices.

Reexamine Learning Spaces

A traditional learning environment, with students in rows looking at the teacher, is not an environment conducive for learning with mobile technology. Mobile devices are just that, mobile! Look at restructuring learning spaces to be more conducive to your learning environment. This could include having students work in pods or even taking their classroom outside of the physical building. Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs argues that forward thinking schools are fully redesigning the concept of what a school should “look like.” If you want to see some amazing, innovative architecture look at the cutting edge designs of Fielding Nair International. The Hilbrook School has some great tips on this in “5 Steps Towards an Intentional Learning Space.”

Bring Faculty into the Discussion

All of us in education are advocating for the children. We want our learners to be successful. Teachers are also stakeholders in this experience, in fact, likely the most passionate ones! By bringing them into the decision making and implementation process, you foster their investment, promote buy-in, and can readily address their needs and concerns. Teachers are your greatest allies, use them!

Technology Must be Education Focused

The transition of technology in the classroom has been a rapid one. Many schools are still scrambling to catch up. Because of this, technology often still falls under “Operations” (akin to utilities, car-pools, maintenance, etc) as opposed to “Education.” If you are introducing technology into your curriculum, then youmust ensure that your technology has an educational focus. To this end, it’s important that Educators and Educational Administrators be directly involved in the decision making process for hardware, software, filtering, and more, just as they decide other school supplies like notebooks, textbooks, and pencils.

Professional Development and Mobile Learning

The most important and powerful thing you can do to empower your faculty is to provide them with meaningful, relevant, and dedicated professional development time. In a time when schools are experiencing budget shortfalls, Professional Development budgets are often the first ones slashed. However, remember that when introducing a device into the classroom, even your veteran teachers are back to year one. Their curricular thinking, classroom management, and lesson planning are being entirely restructured and shifted. Professional Development should be tiered and scaled appropriately; do not put AP Science Teachers in curricular training with elementary school science; do not train all teachers with an “introduction to email” course. Instead, professional development should be leveled (Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced), as well as focused on appropriate grades and subject matter. I also encourage you to not add training to already busy schedules. This should be dedicated training time in lieu of other experiences. In addition to in-house opportunities, arrange for funding and provide time off for teachers to attend conferences, participate in webinars, and take classes. While it is great to organize internal opportunities for professional development, look to bring in outside instructors such that you can tap their expertise and let teachers hear from a different voice.

Tap Peer Teachers

One of the best resources that you have are your teachers. Tap your power users and those who have greater social influence in your schools. Even if you make it clear that approaching your Tech Director or Department Chair for assistance is not a “penalty,” it can still be in the back of their minds. A peer is less intimidating. Additionally, they know that their fellow teachers have the same students and work conditions as they do. Their advice and ideas often carry more weight than a Tech Director with decades of experience.

Don’t Lock it Down!

If you allow your teachers to be their best professional selves, to personalize their tools and devices, you give them ownership of the technology in their classrooms. If you send the message: “This item is fragile and dangerous. You can’t be trusted to use it properly, install software, or explore,” then you can’t expect them actively want to use and explore with these devices. I am not saying it should be the wild, wild west. However, set a reasonable use policy and trust your faculty to be their professional selves. By managing their own devices they can explore new tools, become more comfortable, and therefore feel empowered to use it in their classrooms.

Allow Time for Learning and Growth

New devices come with a learning curve. While you can minimize it, there will be some growing pains. Do not make technology adoption a high stakes game for your faculty. Allow for mistakes and failure. One of my favorite podcasts,Freaknomics, posted an episodea few months ago entitled “Failure is Your Friend.” By failing, you take risks, learn, and advance. So don’t just tolerate failure, celebrate it! If you want an innovative environment, then you must celebrate the process of innovation, which includes failure.

Building and fostering an environment where your faculty feels empowered to use mobile devices requires an intentional process on the side of administrators. Respect them as stakeholders, support them professionally, and allow them to explore and take risks. You will be amazed at what they can do!

Looking to learn more? Come join us this summer!


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Design Thinking with iPads

Jennifer Carey:

Some more great information from iPad Wells!

Originally posted on EDUWELLS:

Design thinking is a powerful tool to really get your students thinking about and tackling a problem or topic at a much deeper level. It is a structured task that focuses on giving considerable time to thinking about and empathising with the people within the situation (Target audience or client), designing and prototyping a possible solution that is immediately challenged in order to improve it. It is used much in business and the design industry but can be used as a general classroom task within any subject area. It also gets students to work quickly without much introduction.

Design thinking promotes creative thinking, team work, and student responsibility for learning.


It is a form of solution-based, or solution-focused thinking; starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of solving a specific problem. This keeps minds open to multiple solutions.

The core rules behind Design Thinking:

  1. The Human Rule: All Design Activity Is…

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3 Ways to use Google in Art & Art History

This is reblogged from my post on Daily Genius


Google has become one of the most popular tools in schools today. With its broad and flexible system of apps, there are many ways to adapt them into a classroom to help you explore new and dynamic ways of presenting materials or having students build projects! If you teach in the art department (with either Studio Art or Art History), here are three ways to use Google to facilitate your classroom workflow and to allow students to showcase their work.


Google Docs is a quick and easy to master word processor. Where it excels, however, is in its ability to track progress, share your work, and collaborate with others both at your school and with peers from outside of your institution. My Art and Art History teachers love using it as a tool for students to write research essays, synopses, or other written assignments. Because of the collaborative elements, it’s an excellent tool for group projects and/or peer editing. When students are finished with a project, they can share the final version with the teacher. With the “revision history” feature, the teacher can track a student’s writing over a period of days and hours, witness group contributions, see how a student incorporated peers edits, and more.


Create Folder

Shared folders within Google Drive have so many uses in the world of Art! To create a shared folder simply open Google Drive, click “new,” and select “folders.” Give the folder a name and then share it by selecting it with a single click and then choosing the “share” icon. You can share a folder with a single person or a group of people depending on your needs. Students and others can then submit content directly to that shared folder.

My Art History teachers love using shared folders as a repository for presentations. Often, high-resolution images of art create robust files that are too large to email. With a shared folder, this is no problem because students can simply upload their presentations directly to it; with Google Apps for Education, there is no limitation on file size or storage, so space is not an issue! With a shared folder for presentations, students can continue to access the content for future reference.

In studio art, a shared folder is a good way for students to submit images or videos of their work in progress or as a finished product. As Google Drive has free apps for both iOSand Android, students can also upload directly from the camera roll on their smartphone or tablet!


Students in Art classes often have a portfolio of work that they are especially proud of and want to showcase. Google Sitesis a great place for them to highlight their work. A Google Site can be personalized and has the ability to embed images, video, documents, presentations, and even folders from Google Drive, allowing students to create and curate their own digital portfolios. With Google Sites’ shared settings, students can publish their portfolio only to themselves, broaden it to their community (a particular teacher, their classmates, the faculty as a whole, or the school or district), or to the world. Teachers can help students decide their appropriate audience based on their age, school or district policy, or the objective of their showcase.

Google’s tools support teachers and students as they produce, share, and curate material across a variety of contexts. While these are three ways that I have seen teachers in Art and Art History use Google in their classroom, how else can you envision using these tools and apps?

To learn more about using these tools, EdTechTeacher will be offering a Google & iPads Pre-Conference Workshop as part of their February 9-11 iPad Summit in San Diego.

A Digital Worksheet is Still Just a Worksheet

Jennifer Carey:

So true!

Originally posted on Jonathan Wylie: Instructional Technology Consultant:


Recently, there have been a number of tech tools that have been created to help enhance teacher productivity and improve assignment workflows in the classroom. Take, for example, the excellent OneNote Class Notebook Creator. It is an ideal app for Office 365 schools who want to quickly distribute materials to a whole class, have students work in a paperless environment, while also providing a collaboration space for the whole class to work in.

Google Apps schools are flocking to Google Classroom – a management tool for teachers who are looking to consolidate and simplify the flow of electronic files. It lets you make a copy of an individual document and distribute it to students with permissions configured automatically so that only the student and the teacher can see the document. There is also a discussion feed for students to communicate inside your Google Classroom.

iPad classrooms are using workflow…

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Three Tips for Managing a Classroom with Devices

This is reblogged from my post at Daily Genius.

When adopting technology in the classroom, one of the key concerns for educators is classroom management. Often, they believe that with devices come three options:

  1. Ban devices outright (Good luck!)
  2. Lock them down
  3. Open your classroom up to the Wild Wild West!

However, I have found that many traditional methods of classroom management readily translate to a technologically rich curriculum – with some modification.


Most of us teach in “traditionally” structured classrooms – the teacher is in front and the students sit in rows looking at the teacher. However, this is a poor setup when students are using devices. With screens faced away, it’s easy for students to give into temptation and get off task. After all, the teacher can’t see what they are doing.

Moving away from a teacher-centered learning space and building on a student-centered learning environment is an important shift that often involves switching up your physical classroom setup. Having students work in pods or other creative, flexible learning spaces helps you to keep a more effective eye on the class. Don Orth shows how to Hack Your Classroom in this video about the Hillbrook School’s iLab.

At Eanes ISD in Texas, Carl Hooker addresses the power of a flexible learning environment in his post “The Obituary of the Student Desk.” After deploying devices, he quickly realized that the physical learning space needed to adapt to the new technologies.

A more student-centered learning space then lends itself to a more student-centric teaching style. Instead of lecturing at the front of the room, move around the classroom while students collaborate and create. If you notice that students quickly close a window or switch an app, then you can have a quick conversation with that child. Matt Scully from Providence Day School also suggests that you keep an eye out for “iPad eyes;” that look students get when they are off track or zone out and need to be brought back into the lesson/activity. These behaviors and corrections are similar to what teachers have done throughout time when students are passing notes, whispering, or doing other work during class.


Cell phones are a popular tool in the classroom today. At the same time, they are used for 21st century note passing and can become a concern for academic dishonesty. In my classes, if we are using cell phones for quick reference look ups or a buzzer activity (using Socrative or Kahoot!), my policy is that cell phones stay in front of the student, face down on the desk, unless they are actively being used. Students are then less likely to give into that Pavlovian response to the text message buzz when the device is in front of them. Also, having to reach for it ensures that you, the teacher, notice their actions and confirm that they are on task.

Sometimes, it’s not appropriate to use a device at all! During quizzes and tests, I collect cell phones and put them in a basket. I don’t want good judgment to give way to temptation. Additionally, we sometimes put tech away because it has become a distraction or even an deterrent to the learning activity. I believe that class culture is the most important aspect of the school community. If technology is interfering with our community, it goes away. Since I know my classes and their unique dynamic, I can adapt based on the circumstances.

How you approach technology use in your classroom should not be “one-size fits all.” You know your classes, their personalities, and your culture. Shift your policies on a case-by-case basis; choose a solution that works for your individual class and activity


If you want to effectively employ laptops, tablets, and smartphones, you must shift your view of the device. We often see these tools as extensions of long established technology: they are word processors and communication tools. However, today’s devices are far more robust and significant! View them as portable creation, consumption, collaboration, reference, and organizational tools.

Too often, we see these tools only as consumption devices – nothing more than glorified eReaders or Internet research tools. However, they can also be used as powerful creation devices that allow students to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of different ways. Instead of having students do traditional tasks (that are limited in their ability to collaborate and share) such as type out a response or make PowerPoints to give in-class presentations, a student can capture video and images on their phone, edit them using an app like iMovie or MovieMaker, and share it to the world via YouTube.

I love to use phones in my class as a buzzer system for bell ringers or review games. Using PollEverywhere, I can create moderated back channels or use flexible questions to check for understanding. Kahoot! is another popular platform because students compete against one another for points, and if they exit the app (to check a text message for example), they are locked out.

By shifting your learning space, adjusting your observation methods, and tweaking your lessons, you will not only limit distractions created by devices, but also build a more robust, 21st century classroom. The great thing about the internet is that it can help you with building these type of lessons. For more ideas, check out the resources on Edutopia and EdTechTeacher.

Looking to learn more integrating technology into your classrooms? Join EdTechTeacher this February 9-11 for their 2nd annual iPad Summit in San Diego. They will also offer Summer Workshops in cities across the US beginning in June.

Free Common Core Resources via iTunes U

ASCD iTunes U content screen capture.

ASCD iTunes U content screen capture.

If you are looking for professional development and content focused around the Common Core, then check out ASCD’s (Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development) courses and other resources via iTunes U. Courses cover a variety of content for Grades K-12 and are entirely free for teachers and other educators.