Monthly Archives: July 2016

Activation: Step 1 Diagnosis

This summer Vicky Goodyear, a pedagogical researcher in physical education and sport pedagogy, created a MOOC (massive open online course) for physical education teachers. The course was a three-week sprint that was based on the research of John Hattie. It is important that teachers look at the research in education and use that to continue to sharpen their skills.

Week one of the course focused on the ideas of activation and diagnosis.

A teacher who is the activator of learning is suggested to have the greatest impact. Specifically, an activator was suggested to be someone who can see learning through the eyes of their students, and where they can promote a learning environment where students become their own teachers.”

In looking at the first part of that statement I wonder how many teachers are able to see through the eyes of their students. What do teachers need to be able to see through the eyes of their students? Can I truly see through the eyes of a student? We are all shaped by the experiences of our lives. My life experiences and upbringing as a child framed the way I understood and experienced lessons in school. I do not disagree that we have to attempt to understand how our lessons will be received by our students. This is where the relationships with our students come into play. We don’t need to put ourselves in their shoes we merely need to ask them what they think as well as how do they learn the best.

The second part of her statement confirms what years of teaching have availed to me. Students learn better when they are able to teach and work through the learning themselves. This does not mean that direct instruction has no place in the classroom. Nor does it mean that teachers are unnecessary. What I understand this to mean is that the teacher does not have to be the sage on the stage. It means that the classroom works better when we set up learning that places students in control. Paul Solarz wrote a great book about this style of teaching titled Learn Like a Pirate. Another educator that is well versed in this style of teaching is Amanda Rogers (theEdsaneT).

The first step in the activation process is diagnosis.

“Diagnosis means focusing what students do, first of all, and then learning needs. Now these needs might be explicit and be seen straight in front of you, or they might be hidden. The key thing about diagnosis is that when we plan lessons, when we think about pedagogical approach, when we think about the structure of lessons, we need to be identifying our students’ learning needs first. So students are at the center of our practices.”

I would imagine that most of us agree with the statement above. We also have many obstacles that prevent this from happening. We are mandated what we have to teach, the amount of time we have to teach it, the way we have to teach (evaluation models), and the resources we have at our disposal to name a few.

The main obstacle of diagnosis to me is time. If we truly buy into the idea that our lessons and units are going to be based on our students’ learning needs then we will never be able to use the same lessons or scope and sequence every year. This is not to say that we have to completely reinvent the wheel every year but we will definitely have to change the shape and size of the wheel every year. Each class differs in cognitive, social, and affective skills every year. Their strengths and weaknesses drive my instruction. The way I am able to diagnose this is a combination of pre-unit testing, interacting with the students, and observing how the class interacts with each other. We interviewed Don Wettrick, author of the Pure Genius, for the Voxcast. His father summed this idea up perfectly. He said, “Don I don’t care if you teach for 20 years. Just don’t teach the same thing 20 times.” We should all take Don’s father’s advice. 

I will blog about responding and evaluating (the second and third part of activation) in future blogs.

Q1: How do you attempt to see your lesson or unit through your students’ eyes?

Q2: How do you diagnose your students’ cognitive preexisting knowledge of a unit?

Q3: How do you diagnose your students’ psychomotor ability before a unit?

Q4: How do you diagnose your students’ affective ability before a unit?

Q5: What would you like to discuss about diagnosing that we missed this week?



No Homework Blanket Statement Alice Keeler

Have you ever watched someone do something over and over again that made you angry? Maybe you whispered something to your friends about it but didn’t address it publicly. That has been going on in my head for months. I have watched Alice Keeler make the blanket statement that homework should not be given again and again. There is no gray in her statements. The first thing you see on her blog about homework is an image saying stop giving homework. You can check her view about homework here on her blog.

I have thought for a long time about why her statements bother me. I have come to the conclusion that she is considered an expert in the education community and her words carry weight with educators. She has over 60,000 followers who retweet her words reaching more educators than follow her. To be completely honest I respect Alice’s Google ability. Her knowledge of computer shortcuts and spreadsheets is second to none. I retweet her tips and shortcuts soaking up the knowledge she shares. However, if I let her declarations about homework being the devil go by without responding to them publicly that is tantamount to agreeing with her in my eyes.

In my teaching, I rarely give out homework. It doesn’t matter to me whether you believe in homework or not. If you want to read an article that shows the research on the pros and cons read this article by Marzano and Pickering published on the ASCD website. It gives an impartial view on homework backed with a boatload of research. The point to my blog and my recent interactions on social media is that you have a responsibility to be a critical consumer of information no matter who it comes from. If that information is detrimental to the profession you have a duty to speak up.


It is very rare in education that we can make black and white statements ignoring the gray. Justin Johnston stated this clearly in his tweet (image on the left)  during one of my interactions with him and Alice. We know that traditional homework is boring and unnecessary. We know that homework should be something engaging. It can be something from simply reading to documenting the main idea of the television show you watched that night. Homework can be repurposed in millions of ways. It can be reworded as flipped, practicing at home, learning at home or any other phrase you want to switch it to. The bottom line is that if teachers want students to do things at home this is not always a bad thing. It is irresponsible to be a “thought leader” who is accepted to present at the top education conferences and make absolute statements such as “stop giving homework”.

If I was an administrator I would absolutely defend the practice of my teachers giving homework to their students. I would make sure the homework was not graded (or graded so low that the score would not affect the student) because we are assessing the standards not assessing responsibility. If the student can master the standards without doing homework than by all means stop doing the homework. On the same side of that coin is the belief that if a student is struggling and not taking the time to put in the extra work to master the standard that is a problem.

I do understand the equity issue of homework. This is a problem. Some students work, don’t have the internet, or live in a house where getting quiet time to complete assignments is next to impossible. For those students, we have to offer them time during study halls, before class, after school, or during class to accomplish any outside the room tasks.

Homework needs to be relevant, purposeful, engaging, and something that can be done without the help of an adult. It is our job as teachers to teach the students. Not parents, caregivers, babysitters or grandparents. We need all the support we can get from them but they should not shoulder the burden of teaching the concepts to the students at home. That is our jobs.

This marks the end of my journey debating online the merits of homework. When I see tweets debating the subject I will post this blog. Hopefully, it will show people that blanket policies and statements are never the way to go. As always come join me on #slowchatpe on Voxer to discuss the questions of the week

Q1: How much homework do you give out? #slowchatpe

Q2: Have you researched the pros and cons of homework? If yes what have you found? #slowchatpe

Q3: How has your research dictated whether you believe that teachers should have the ability to assign homework? #slowchatpe

Q4: What is your school’s stance on homework? #slowchatpe

Q5: Are students punished for not doing homework in your school? #slowchatpe


The last few days have been overwhelming. It started when I viewed the video showing Alton Sterling getting shot. It was by far the most disturbing video I had ever seen. Sleep evaded me until 3:30 a.m. What I saw shook me to the core. There was a man standing there who was tackled by a police officer. He was then pinned down by two officers. One officer pulled out his gun and killed him. What shook me up was that this gentleman was completely defenseless at the time of his murder.

I have been trained in Handle with Care for ten years. On top of that, I wrestled or coached wrestling for over 15 years. I have a complete understanding of how the body can contort and the ways to stop someone from moving in a way you don’t want them to. In my opinion, there was no way that Alton Sterling would have been able to reach into his pocket, grab his gun, and point it at an officer or a bystander. This was the first time that I had little to no doubt that a man had died at the hands of the police that was not justified. Any previous time this had happened I had allowed my personal bias and belief that police were here to protect us.

My previous thought process went something like this. The (person of color) should have listened to the cop. They shouldn’t have had a gun. Why were the cops called on them in the first place? I wanted to believe that cops wouldn’t kill someone if they didn’t have to. I still believe that most cops wouldn’t do that. I no longer can say that they ALL wouldn’t kill someone when they weren’t justified. The video opened my eyes. I would imagine that it opened most of white America’s eyes as well.

I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t dealing with watching the video of Alton Sterling well at all. It is not a video that you can unsee. My Voxer people were discussing what happened and I was just starting to process and deal with my emotions when Philando Castile was shot in his car while his girlfriend and a four-year-old were in the car with him. Unlike previous black men, the media was unable to label Philando a gang member or a hoodlum. He worked as a school cook for 11 years and moved up the ranks to a supervisor.

This was the type of man he was:

I watched a video of him dying while his girlfriend calmly narrated the series of events. You would have thought the whole thing was staged until you hear the police officer’s voice and you realize he was on the verge of cracking. Another innocent black man had been shot. We do not see him getting shot only the aftermath and the shaken voice of the officer.

My mind and emotions were in complete shock. All I could do was think about the two shootings. I did not want to discuss education even though Edcamp Voxer was in full effect. My brain didn’t care. The world was going crazy.

As you already know the heinousness was not done yet. An Afghanistan war veteran shot 12 people, killing 5 police officers. I again stayed up until 2 in the morning glued to my Twitter and Voxer trying to make sense of what happened. The next day I woke up and went to work at my summer camp. Thank god I was able to be around children. Innocent children who were worried about getting out in GaGa, playing cards and eating smores. Children who wanted nothing more than to high five me and hear me scream out in mock pain when the sound echoed across the gym. Children who were more invested in winning jolly ranchers and dum dums than figuring out why someone would shoot innocent people. I made sure to give a hug, handshake, and high five to every possible kid who would accept them.

The shooting of police officers was made even more heinous when I realized they were protecting the protesters of a black lives matter rally. They were not causing troubling or heckling the crowd. They were merely doing their jobs. Five more innocent people killed because someone thought shooting another human being was the answer.

mark-hughesTwo more items stick out to me from that past days. The first one is that this man named Mark Hughes was a suspect in the police killings. No sooner was he a suspect than Twitter was posting videos of him running when the shooter opened fire. The police and the news were slower than social media!!! The upside to social media is that it does not have to be vetted. The news comes in fast and furious from multiple sources. The downside of that is that information is not vetted at all. We do not know what is real and what is false.

The bigger development that has not been discussed as much by the general public is that the shooter was killed by a police robot bomb for the first time on United States soil. I don’t know how I feel about this. The police were no longer in imminent danger. My view is that we do not kill someone unless they are going to kill me or someone else. The rampage was done. The shooter deserved a trial. Texas has the death penalty. He would have died anyway. What I don’t know is whether or not he could have hurt more people. If the answer is no the police should have waited longer before deciding to bomb him. They should not have put anyone is in mortal danger attempting to capture him; however, they could have waited for dehydration or starvation to kick in. We should not be killing anyone unless we need to. Again I do not know the entire circumstances but we should all be wary now that this tactic has been used without any repercussions by a police force.

Who else are police or our government allowed to kill on U.S. soil? Before you say this man deserved to die just think about what box was just opened. Where do we draw the line between who can be killed by robots and who can’t? Are police now going to be the judge, jury, and executioners? This should worry people. Any time we give the government more power without questioning their tactics we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our fellow citizens.

This week I have many more questions than answers. I don’t know how to solve our country’s racial problems. I only know one thing. As Americans, it is our obligation to say that we have to protect our citizens from dying. This means that police policies in urban settings need to change. Our war veterans need mental help when they return from war with PTSD. Americans need to understand how race impacts the lives of their fellow citizens. People across the world need to recognize that we are on earth together. There are no winners when violence is involved.

I would like to thank my various Voxer and Twitter groups for allowing me to vent my frustrations and fears over the past days. The world seems to be going wild and social media has played an important role in keeping things in perspective. I have developed relationships with a diverse group of people with different skin tones and religions that have helped me get a global perspective as well allow me to vent. This week social media helped me. I literally cried tears of empathy, anger, and frustration. It is through these deep and emotional conversations that I was able to rebalance my emotions and not let fear and anger overtake my world.

Q1: How did you follow the events of this past week?

Q2: How did the events of the past week effect you?

Q3: How will the events of the week effect your students?

Q4: What are your thoughts on the robot bomb?

Q5: How did social media aid you in processing the events of this week?


The Teacher/Salesperson

This is another #slowchatpe blog collaboration. The quoted first half of the blog as well as the blog idea was written by Makisha Rogers (@kisha4tech).

written by @kisha4tech

Edtech is a multi-billion dollar industry. As such, it is no surprise that everyone wants a piece of the pie. Start-ups and established organizations are claiming to have that great transformative resource that schools need. Now, in for-profit companies, a vendor repping a product may go directly to the the salesman in the trenches, and tell him why and how he needs to sell a product. Perhaps the salesman likes the the product, but he knows there are much better products out there and he does not think his customers will bite so he does not want to waste his time. Instead of walking out, the vendor tells the salesman that he can earn money for selling this product, and if he sells more than any other person in the region they will fly him to Hawaii for an all-expense paid trip.

As a salesman, what would you do?

This is a problem that we in the education world may face. As companies attempt to get their product in schools they may begin to solicit teachers to do their marketing, effectivity turning them into salesmen. Now if a teacher is passionate about a product, I agree they should share that product with the world. But if money is involved, it could become tricky and may even cause people to overlook a better resource for our students. And if they are trying to convince others to use that product, well you get where I am going with this.

So here are a few questions to think about…If an edtech company  comes to you asking you to try their product, write about their product, rep their product at conferences, would you do it? Saying yes to this is fine, but let’s go further. Would you do it if you did not believe in the product and knew there were much better options out there? Would you do it if they offered you money? Do you know people who would?

If you know even 1 teacher who would answer yes to the last three questions, is that cause enough to stop and critically think about the potential problems this could have for our industry? Could legal issues arise?

I am writing this to simply provoke thought around the matter. Honestly, I wrestle with my feelings about this. As I am writing, I find I have more questions than answers. I am sure I will have more discussions about this with my PLN and my mind may change again. So, I am not knocking anyone’s eduhustle, but I will say if you are a educator/salesman…please don’t try to sell me and my students crap!  I will leave with this statement… Educators, let us lead with morals, lest we be turned into a pack of shady salesmen.

written by @schleiderjustin

Education companies are already leveraging education professionals to help sell their product. They have “ambassadors” that hock their product on blogs, at conferences, during podcasts and multiple other social media platforms. I want to be perfectly transparent here. I will be an official ambassador for SeeSaw, have received funding for our Voxcast podcast and BlabberMouths blab by Spark, and spout the virtues of Voxer to anyone that will talk to me for longer than 30 seconds. The funding we receive for the podcast and Blab covers the cost of the podcast. I have not received a dime of money for my services. There have been times where my meal has been covered by Spark.

This brings up the question of how reputable an endorsement of these products truly is. Spark pays my podcast and Blabbermouth bill; would you expect me to say anything other than they are the greatest physical education curriculum resource out there? If one day SeeSaw sent me to a conference or Voxer gave me a blue tooth speaker do you think I would speak negatively about their products? No that would be silly.

What I will respond to Makisha’s above comments are that I loved the product before I willingly became a mouthpiece for them. SeeSaw is the best digital portfolio platform that I have ever used. Hands down. I spread the word about SeeSaw before they even created their ambassador program. Voxer has pushed my professional development more than any other social media platform has ever done. They created the ambassador program under our (a handful of educators) insistence that it was needed. Spark has the best curriculum that I have researched in the physical education world. It is easy for me to look in the mirror and say that endorsing these products will positively impact your students.

This is a slippery slope though. What if Voxer stopped working effectively? What if SeeSaw started to cut corners and their product started to slip? What if I found a better curriculum than Spark? I personally would stop being a mouthpiece for those companies. Anything my name is attached to is top notch. My “brand” is about finding creating and amplifying the best in education.  (Hence my association with DCTV430, the Voxcast, BlabberMouths, Slowchatpe, The Kinesthetic Classroom as well as SeeSaw, Voxer and Spark)

Can we say this is true with all educators? Do some educators profit from the endorsements? Do they get free trips to #ISTE, get stipends at conferences, get kickbacks if they get a district to sign up for their product? I am sure this happens. If they are directly profiting from their relationship do they have a motive or angle to sell their product? Absolutely! This isn’t a problem if their product is top notch. What happens when they don’t believe in their product? Or another product comes along that is better? That is the worry that Makisha and I have. Will they step away from their relationship? The study of human nature says maybe not.

The next time one of your “edurockstars” is espousing how great a product is, ask them what are you getting from it? Does Google pay you? Are you selling a book? What’s your cut of the book? Dave and Shelly Burgess have created a pirate empire. You can learn how to shave like a pirate, cook like a pirate, and play hide and seek like a pirate. (ok maybe that was too much) When they tweet how great a book is do you ever ask yourself why? How much of a cut are they getting? Do they really believe that every book they publish is great? Check out Teach Like a Pirate and Learn Like a Pirate. They are in direct opposition of how a classroom should run. One is all about the sage on the stage while the other highlights how to be a guide on the side. Neither is wrong and neither is right. My point is that they are publishers and that when they endorse a book they publish, it directly benefits them. That’s not a knock on them it’s simple math. You buy a book they publish they are making more money.

When you ask “edurockstars” what’s in it for you, hopefully, you get the answer that I just love this product, nothing more. I would venture to guess some will get defensive and tell you everyone is doing it, stammer, or try to gloss over your question. There is nothing wrong with making money if you are transparent to your PLN and consumers. We are not naive. Education is a business. As consumers, you need to make sure you know what you are getting and who is profiting from you and your school districts purchases. This will make sure you are not influenced by anything other than the product. 

Q1: What influences you and your school district in buying Education products?

Q2: How do you learn about new Education products?

Q3: Would you endorse a product that you didn’t love if you would receive something that would help you or your students?

Q4: Do you ever think about people’s motivation when they tell you something is great and you should buy the product?

Q5: What Education books or tech do you recommend? Are you profiting from them in any way?