Monthly Archives: December 2015

Technology Take Back

Technology is a mainstay in my class.

This unit I had my students create a game using the underhand volley. The directions were written beneath the assignment and a video was attached to the assignment so the students the lesson was “flipped”. Groups were posted in Google Classroom. I created a rubric using the google add-on Orange Slice. The students downloaded the orange slice student add-on so they could self-assess before handing in the project. I downloaded the teacher Orange Slice add-on so I could assess the project after it was turned in.

The students were to demonstrate the underhand volley and the game on video. They were then asked to pull the video into iMovie, delete the background noise, annotate over the videos explaining the game and the skills, and insert background music. They were then asked to submit the videos.


The students did a great job on the assignment. There was a problem, though. It took an extra class period than I had expected. I had crossed over into technology overload. One class, I completely canned the project and changed the lesson on the spot. This blog is not about how great technology is. It is about recognizing when I have gone too far. When the idea of technology juxtaposes with the reality of utilizing the technology.

My goal was for students to create a game using the underhand volley as well as understand and demonstrate the underhand volley. I took it too far. I fell in love with a finished product that I could show off to my PLN and say look at how great I am at having my students use technology. My students did not get the activity time they need and deserve. Technology did not enhance their learning enough to justify using it in this manner.

I could have had the students demonstrate the underhand volley using nondominant and dominant hand videotaping right into the google drive. They could have shared those videos with me. They would then go right into the game they created. This would maximize moderate to vigorous activity time and minimize time spent on technology.

My next two weeks technology will be on hiatus. I will get back to having my students move more and stand less. Our formative assessments will be done by me. We will get back to basics for a bit while I analyze and reflect how to balance the need to use technology with the need for students to move and practice skills.

Q1. Have you ever gone too far using tech? What did you do? #slowchatpe

Q2. How do you make sure you balance tech & activity time? #slowchatpe

Q3. How much teaching of technology do you do? #slowchatpe

Q4. Merry Christmas!! #slowchatpe

Q5. Merry Christmas!! #slowchatpe







3 Changes to the Education System

My mind is on overload. Eric Sheniger is participating in a book study on Voxer with us. The book we are discussing is Uncommon Learning. (written by Eric) The chat has me reflecting on the education system.

The federal government just gave the state the rights back to education. (read here) This is encouraging news for education. What is not encouraging is that as an education system we still rely heavily on testing and sorting our students by age. I would like this blog to be the start of a conversation. The conversation should center on three statements that I believe to be true.

Statement 1: Grouping students by age is not the best way.

Some of the resistance I heard was about students having a lower self-esteem being in a class with younger school mates. My first thought is that students wouldn’t feel poor about themselves if multiple classes did this. It would be the norm. Students play with each other naturally.

                The picture of a group of children all nearly the same age playing in a school yard may seem familiar to modern eyes, but it is an odd image from the long perspective of human cultural and evolutionary history. As anthropologist Melvin Konner pointed out more than thirty-five years ago, play among children close in age (same-age play) is largely an artifact of modern times.1 Same-age play became common only with the rise of age-graded schooling and, still more recently, with the proliferation of age-graded, adult-organized activities for children outside schools. Over the history of our species, as natural selection shaped the brain mechanisms of play, children’s social play usually occurred among individuals of different ages, often widely different ages. I would highly recommend reading this article that highlights the Sudbury Valley School.

Another statement I heard was that teachers are differentiating in their classes. Here is the problem with that. A 4th-grade teacher may have students ranging from 2nd-6th-grade math levels. Are teachers really differentiating five grade levels? Do they know the standards of 2nd-6th-grade math? Here is an interesting article to read about this.

I am not blaming teachers at all. It is hard enough to teach one grade level worth of content. What could be done is we can have teachers teaching 2-3 grade levels worth of content set up at a student’s pace. When the student is ready they could move to the next level. Data could be tracked to make sure this was happening. Students could progress at their pace. If they paced themselves out of the class they would join the higher class. It wouldn’t matter that they were joining a new class and would have to start at the beginning because the class was self-paced! The student would just start from the beginning. The next year they would continue wherever they left off.

Statement 2: Classes should not be broken down into individual subjects. English Language Arts and Social Studies should be one subject. Math and Science should be one subject.

Mike Ritzius (@mritzius) was the first person to put the idea into my head about combining classes. He actually did it with astounding success at his school. Unfortunately, the idea was not supported even though the data showed how successful of a program it was.

Math and Science walk hand in hand. I may even go as far as to say that Science is Math. Why do we separate these subjects?

Mathematics is used in Physical Science to calculate the measurements of objects and their characteristics, as well as to show the relationship between different functions and properties. Arithmetic, algebra and advanced mathematics may be used.

Arithmetic and algebra is used to establish values and solve simple equations or formulae.

In classical or everyday Physics and Chemistry, normal values are used to solve equations. In Astronomy, distances, sizes, and masses are very large. Special nomenclature is required to represent these values. In Atomic Physics and some areas of Chemistry, sizes and masses are small, although quantities may be large.

Arithmetic consists of simple operations with numbers and values. Algebra is used to show relationships before the measured numbers are used for calculations. Higher math is used for complex relationships between properties. (

Social Studies is reading and dissecting history. Isn’t that a part of English Language Arts? We have to read non-fiction in school. History is non-fiction. (I know a lot of history is from the point of view of the winners and skewed) Couldn’t we combine them? I ran across a curriculum with a scope and sequence that used UBD and is based on New York State standards. Click here

Statement 3: Movement and technology should be incorporated into every class.

I try not to make blanket statements. This one is a no-brainer. Students should be moving every 15 minutes. You should be moving every 15 minutes. There is a ton of research to support this. It can be as easy as doing a walk and talk or you can use one of a million brain boosters. Read this  to get a better idea of why students should be moving in school.

Technology should be used by you or the students every class. I understand some lessons do not need technology for the actual information to be learned. Examples of this could be scientific experiments, playing an instrument, or reading a book. We can use technology for reflection, keeping track of progress, documenting the lesson with video or pictures. There are very few if any lessons that I have come across that could not be enhanced with technology in some shape or form.

The biggest obstacle to my idea is scheduling and flexibility. Class size would be fluid. How would specials be able to cope? Would parents be on board with this change? All I know is that things need to change if we truly want to say, “We do what is best for our students.”

My mind is still wrapping around how the educational system can be transformed using these three statements. I would appreciate any pushback or feedback about my assertions. They are in no way shape or form set in stone. I come from the vantage point of a teacher and former student. I would love to hear how administrators, parents, board members or any other stakeholders feel about my statements.

Q1: Do you believe that grouping students by age is the best way? #slowchatpe 

Q2: Should classes be broken down into individual subjects? Y?#slowchatpe 

Q3: Should movement be incorporated into every class? y? #slowchatpe 

Q4: Should technology be used in every lesson? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who pushes your thinking the most about changing the educational system? #slowchatpe 



To Blog or Not To Blog

This blog was a joint effort between Doug Timm and Justin Schleider. We came up with the ideas after #satchat on Saturday on the topic blogging.  As you read below, keep in mind these are thoughts written to promote thinking and not necessarily how either of us feel about blogging in general.  We think you can relate, connect, and see yourself in many of our questions and arguments back and forth.  The whole conversation is an internal dialogue where Doug took one side and Justin took the other.  We tried to separate these by using different colors.  

I am ready to start writing.  Why am I blogging? Is it because I have a great thoughts that need to be hashed out in more than 140 characters?  Do I want everyone to see me? Read me? ReTweet me? Tell me how great my writing is?  Maybe I am needing to blog to push other people’s thinking. There are a ton of people that could benefit from me pushing their thoughts. Or is it metacognition? Metacognition is defined as the, “Awareness or analysis of one’s own learning or thinking processes”. Am I writing so that I can shape my thoughts about something? Maybe it is a combination of all the above. All I know is that I need to write. The keys on my keyboard have been silent for so long here goes nothing.  

Ok just finished. Wow that was quicker than expected. Time to send.  Here I am, ready to send my words out to the world, I do this all the time, but for some reason this time is different, I have voices in my head!  I pause before I hit PUBLISH and then it happens, thoughts and voices overwhelm me from 2 very different perspectives.  Here is my internal conversation.

I am scared, what if my message is not what I am really trying to say?  I have read it 5 times and still am unsure if what I wrote is worth blogging about.  Just because I have thoughts, does not necessarily mean that someone else wants to read them.  I flash back to a childhood story when my grandmother yelled at me for barely being able to read, and she said that I would never be able to write. She was a honors high school English teacher, she should know these things.  

Forget the haters. I have a voice that needs to be heard. Have you read some of the stuff that is out there? I have a real voice that needs to be heard. People need to hear me. Maybe someone else is going through the same things I am! If I can reach one person and help them through their journey it is worth it. I want to be heard! Isn’t that what blogging is all about, being heard?

It is about being heard, but I am unsure of my message constantly.  What if  people perceive me in a way that is negative?  My biggest fear is feedback and the thought that someone is at home on their couch laughing at me or thinking I am stupid.  I never liked school growing up and hated writing.  My handwriting is still barely legible and when I write I am constantly erasing and writing over again.  My ideas seem boring or retreads of things I already have read.  Why do I not feel original.  Why do I feel like another grain of sand in an ever increasing beach of mediocrity?  Why do I question myself so much?

Some may think I am stupid. Maybe I am. I was stupid enough to get my bachelor’s degree. I am stupid enough to be a leader in my school. Maybe I am stupid enough to break through the flow of noise and bring a new perspective with this blog.  So why I am not a “writer”. I mean after all what is a writer? Someone who writes. Didn’t I just write a blog? That makes me a writer.

I am not a writer, I don’t use fancy words or imagery, I don’t push anyone, I see what I write and I think “not that interesting.”  I have these thoughts all the time.  Why would someone else want to read my verbal diarrhea.

I don’t use fancy words because the message is what resonates with people. My vocabulary isn’t extensive.  If this wasn’t published for the world it would have much shorter (4 letter) words in it!! People want to hear my message, not use a dictionary to figure out what I am saying.  Why use big words when everyday words do the job just fine?

I really want to push people’s thinking. Let’s be real, no one really likes to be told their views are wrong. I talk about growth mindset and think I am living it.  People ask to have their thinking pushed, but do they really want that?  Every other answer in every Twitter chat from now until the end of time is growth mindset. I have the ability to push their thinking. This blog will push people in a way they have never been pushed. It is real. Authentic. Different. It is me. No one else has my perspective. People want that. People Need That.

Because I want to inspire, not just push a message.  Is that so hard to understand?  I want my other voice to stop fighting with me, I want to be the best I can be, and my writing should be proof of that.  I just don’t feel worthy…   

I am not better than anyone else, but I am something special. My ego understands this. My ideas may not be new or revolutionary, but they belong to me. They are my ideas that I need to put on a page. That is all I can ever ask of myself.

I have done this before… I have tagged a lot of people and threw this up on multiple hashtags as well as Facebook, Google+ and other social media outlets.  I felt shame each time as I know I am not worthy.  Each of those previous times I kept my mouth shut to my other voice!  I did not speak up! I allowed my other side to overwhelm me!  I don’t know that I want what my other side wants.  Do I need the pats on the back through favorites, comments, retweets, +1, you get the idea.  Do I need those as motivation, because without them, what am I?  It wasn’t always that way…   It used to be about a “thought” and trying to put “thoughts” to paper to work out the kinks.  Is my reason for blogging now becoming diluted and shallow.  It is not about me, or I should say, it is about me, but not my thoughts, but my name.  It is about my name and I need that high?  This is why I am speaking up to my other voice.  Am I starting to feel shameful?

Stop. For real! You are way overthinking this!  Who are these “edu rockstars” that people swoon over. Why are they so popular? They are people. People who have a message. People who put their pants on one leg at a time.  My message is just as important as theirs. People need to hear my message. The more people that hear my message and read this the better. The more retweets and conversations that this can start the better. It doesn’t matter that I don’t participate in the Twitter or Voxer chats that I drop the link to my blogs in.  Those people get me and they want my words!  All that matters is that people will read it. I can start conversations they never would have had before.  My message is important because it is me!  I am going to tag everyone and any hashtag that is out there.  I am not going to feel guilty about it. My message needs to get out.  

Do I want people to know who I am? Yes. Yes I do. I want people to know who I am and what I do. Does that make my blog any less worthy? No. The bottom line is that my blog is me. If people don’t like it that’s ok. I still need to get my voice out there. It will help more people than it will hurt.  That was my original question at the beginning.  Why am I doing this?

I know I like to write, but who is it for? I still have not totally answered that question.  What do I want?  Who do I want to read this?  Here I go again with endless questions!  I can’t stop thinking that my other side has a really good point.  Does sharing to a larger audience dilute my message?  Especially if I send out “words” all the time.  Does this just become noise like a car with a really loud sound system that drives by?  You look, maybe just for a second, but once the noise is gone, so are any thoughts.  If I could just figure out my motivation in blogging and is it covering something up?  How has my evolution led me to this moment?  If I knew that I probably would not have spoken up.   

I want people to read this. As many as possible. This may help them or it may help me. Either way it will help someone. Maybe it will cement someone’s position. Maybe someone will realize they disagree with me. Doesn’t matter. We are thinking, reflecting, metacognating (made that up). The number doesn’t matter it could be one person or thousands. The important part is that this blog will push me and possibly others. Isn’t that what we want?

I make sense, I really do, but why did I speak up?  Why am I here?  What is my purpose?  I am important too and I will not stay silent any longer.  My back and forth with myself is not a competition although at times it feels that way.  It is a struggle, a battle, with no winner or right or wrong.  Those situations are the most difficult, but I guess that is life in general, why can’t I accept that?

My finger slowly goes to the touch pad to PUBLISH… Should I?  Why all of a sudden did I question my motives? who is my audience? why do I write?  Now I question myself, is that a sign?  The tension in my head is overwhelming me to the point of sweating.  Who am I? The confident blogger that self-promotes with really no discourse, or the one that is thoughtful about topic, audience, form, and ideas?  Or am I both? Maybe I fall somewhere in the middle. Should I PUBLISH this one? The top is spinning…...Click to see if I posted
Q1: Who do you identify more with the blue or the green voice? Why? #slowchatpe

Q2: What excuse do you give for not blogging? #slowchatpe

Q3: Do you blog for you, others, or both? How do you know? #slowchatpe

Q4: What makes you read someone’s blog? #slowchatpe

Q5: Is blogging is overrated? #slowchatpe