Category Archives: Pedagogy

Free Meditation & Mindfulness Tool for Teachers

Mindfulness meditation is enjoying a moment in education. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique” and is often paired with meditation practices. Once viewed as a new-age fad, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation have be backed by science, which have found that it helps reduce stress and provides relief for a variety of ailments from insomnia to pain relief. You can find some peer-reviewed studies from the National Institute of Health. Additionally, Harvard recently published findings that brain scans show that the brains of meditators have more gray matter (linked to enhanced senses, increased memory, and executive decision making). 


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With these findings, it’s no surprise that meditation and mindfulness are enjoying some attention in the education. KQED Mind|Shift has published a series of articles on the benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation practices in schools for both students and teachers. Also, Edutopia has published a series of articles to help introduce these tools in classrooms. Many educators are implementing these exercises to help students manage stress and anxiety, improve memory, and address behavior in their schools.

Several years ago, I came across mindfulness and meditation practices in a few educational conferences. It wasn’t until I had a series of stressful events that I listened to my friend Larry Kahn and decided to give it a try myself. It has now become a regular practice for me and I can attest to its benefits. Recently, I learned that one of my very apps (I am a paid subscriber), Calm, has implemented The Calm Classroom Initiative to help bring meditation and mindfulness to classroom across america.

After you are accepted into the Calm Classroom Initiative, they will send you “tips, suggestions, and best practices to introduce mindfulness to your classroom and get your students excited about meditation.” This is a great way to bring these resources for both you and your students. Please note that Calm has in no way provided me incentives (financial or otherwise) to promote their program. This is a personal attestation to the value of their tool.

Apple Introduces Apple Teacher Learning Center

In case you weren’t paying attention, yesterday Apple held an event and launched the iPhone 7. However, September 7th also saw the launch of a great new resource for educators: the Apple Teacher Learning Center.

business-925900_1280This free new program allows educators to access training resources for using Mac, iPad, and their built in apps to build creative and engaging lessons. The resources in the Apple Teacher Learning Center can help you to build personal learning environments, harness accessibility tools to empower students who learn differently, redefine assessment, and enhance the tools in your classroom.

The Apple Teacher Learning Center awards badges after you have mastered various tools and stages. Once you have completed all of them, you earn the ultimate Apple Teacher logo badge to proudly display on your blog or print out and post it in your office! Sign up today!

Podcasts to help Students think Creatively about Traditional Content

One of the great privileges in my position at Ransom Everglades is that I still get to work directly with students in the classroom. I teach two sections of United States History. This work not only “keeps me honest” when it comes to technology, but it encourages to hone my skills as an educator and learner. Teaching a “traditional” subject using “non-traditional” tools can be a challenge. I want my students to think outside the box, explore things from new angles, and challenge accepted interpretations of historical events. This can be difficult not only for them, but to me. After all, history has been taught a specific way (focusing on names and dates and the expertise of Ph.D.’s) for generations.

One way I have found to disrupt this tradition is to bring podcasts into my classroom. Podcasting is an amazing medium that has disrupted terrestrial radio in unimaginable ways. As a result, there is a wealth of information out there to bring into the educational environment. By using engaging and well-researched material to provide students alternative perspectives and media. Here are a few of my favorite Podcasts (I’ve highlighted a couple of episodes). I hope that you will share your favorites below as well.

Radiolab Presents: More Perfect: More Perfect explores the role of the Supreme Court throughout history and in the modern era. I never thought that someone could make court cases engaging, but I was happily proven wrong. One of my favorite episodes is “Kittens Kick the Giggly Blue Robot.” This episode explores the history of the court and how it became one of the most powerful entities in the land. Every episode includes citation of sources and case law. They also provide this handy song to help you remember who is currently on the Supreme Court:

Footnote: A Show about Overlooked History: Historians often state the worst fate of a figure is to be condemned as a footnote to history. Footnote explores those often overlooked figures and the impact they had.For example, in the Day of Two Noons they explore how we developed time zones and the financial (and sometimes fatal) results.

Revisionist History: Malcolm Gladwell’s new series explores and reinterprets historical narratives. Check out “The Lady Vanishes,” which explores the impact of tokenism in the art and political worlds.

NPR Code Switch: With the rise of Social Justice in the news and the prevalence of multi-racial communities, Code Switch does an amazing job of tackling uncomfortable conversations about race in an effective and safe medium. One topic I found especially informative was “Say my name say my name (Correctly Please),” where contributors discussed the challenges that arise from “difficult” names in the broader community.

History Chicks: This podcast focuses on women throughout history. Women often take second fiddle to their male counterparts. History Chicks delves into these figures in great detail. For example, explore the history of Katharine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s set-aside first wife). She is more than a footnote to the Tudors.

These are just a few examples of podcasts that I enjoy with my students. I hope you will explore and find some topics to share in the notes below or in your own classrooms.

Must Read Educational Sites for Summer

This is reblogged from my post on FreeTech4Teachers

There are a lot of resources on the web for educators, and it can be challenging to sort through all of that information to find those hidden gems. Here are a few of the websites and blogs that I recommend to educators looking to get started. Some are on the general topic of education while others focus on specific themes or topics. Check out this list and add your own in the comments below!

General Education Topics

Edutopia – Edutopia was founded by the George Lucas Education Foundation to provide a place to share evidence-based practices and programs that help students learn. They cover topics from professional development to digital citizenship initiatives.

EdWeek – Education Week covers topics in education around the country, including public, charter, and independent schools. They report on current events, publish articles, and touch on pedagogical practice. Some parts of EdWeek are free but note that others are paid.

Huffington Post Education – The Huffington Post Education section includes a curated list of stories and blog posts on education. They may cover school policies, digital equity, or teacher pay disparities. This is a great resource for educators who want to keep the pulse of topics in education.

NPR Education – National Public Radio reports on education topics at the national, state, and local level. Always a great resource, NPR reports on topics such as chronic absenteeism or violence in schools.

MindShift KQED – MindShift focuses on innovative practices in teaching and learning. They cover both theory and practice in a way that is both academically sophisticated and accessible in short bites.

Educational Technology

To read the complete list, visit FreeTech4Teachers

Reflections on: Trying to Teach a Common Core Curriculum

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.

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!

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Design Thinking with iPads

Some more great information from iPad Wells!


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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