Monthly Archives: February 2017

Digital Breakout EDU

It has been rare when a game changer in the EdTech world comes along that makes me go Flava Flav WOOOOOOOOWW. In recent memory, I have had that reaction when I first saw a glimpse of how Seesaw could change the way I engaged with my parents and students. The other WOOOOW came along when I saw EdPuzzle. I can show videos that can stop and students reflect on what they saw in real time? Amazing. I am sure you have some of those same moments in your teaching career.

Here is my next educational high. Are you ready? You sure? It is called Digital Breakouts.

The same game principles from the main Games page (Breakout EDU) apply to these games, but there is no physical component other than an Internet connected device (preferably a laptop/Chromebook/desktop computer.)

We encourage teachers to play alongside their students to model a growth mindset, resilience, and to show that teachers don’t always have all the answers.

The difficulty levels are out of 10 and are subjective. The levels do not correspond to grade level. Levels 1-4 are good for elementary, 4-6 for middle school, 6-8 for high school, and 8-10 for adults. All games are appropriately challenging for their level.


Here is the deal. The students click on a link. The link takes them to a Google site that an educator has created for the sole purpose of creating a shared learning experience. The google site has a Google Form that needs to be filled out. The form is set up so it can only be submitted when the correct answers are filled in. All the clues to the form are on the Google Site. They may be in the form of puzzles, links to youtube videos, links to jigsaw puzzles or anything you can imagine.

The students must find the clues and solve them or follow the links and figure out why the link was put there. Every part of the digital breakout goes back to the Google Form questions. Why am I watching a video about a clothes dryer? Oh George T. Sampson invented it and he is the answer to the Black History Month response Dry Me a River.

People this is what learning is all about. It is fun, engaging, difficult, requires teamwork, and is just plain good at making you think. Digital Breakouts will not be the end all and be all of your lessons but they will be a fine tool to put in every once in awhile to reinforce a lesson or give your students that teamwork activity they need to realize that every kid in the class can contribute something to the group.

Creating a Digital Breakout is not very difficult. You create a Google Site which has been revamped so that even a dummy like myself can use it. You then create a Google Form and you are ready to go. The Digital Breakout Website has tutorials on how to set up every step in the process; just click here. There is usually a story that goes along with the Breakout to hook the students in as well. The students love reading the story and then figuring out the Digital Breakout-based on that theme.

Like everything else in education, I am not the best at creating Digital Breakouts. What I am the best at is knowing who is the best at their niche in education. In this case, Brian Costello (@btcostello) is the greatest Digital Breakout man on the planet. He has created so many cool Breakouts. We used his Breakout on South American Culture and battled a school in Ohio to see who could figure it out first.

If you read this and teach in a classroom you need to run and figure out how to create and utilize these in class. It doesn’t matter if you teach Health, Science, Math, or Social Studies. They are perfect for any classroom from 2nd grade on up!



President’s Day and the Real History of America

What is the history of the country that I live in? Growing up I believed we were the “Good Guys”. The one’s who came in to save the day. We saved the world from Germany. Twice. We had to be great right? Little did I know about the true history of the United States. The more I learn the more I realize the history of my country is both great and terrible. I am not a historian but I would imagine that is true of most countries. A website called historyisaweapon has helped me get a bit of a clearer view of what has happened. They take excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr., Noam Chomsky, Fidel Castro, Mark Twain, Angela Davis, Sojourner Truth and numerous other historical figures.

The website is the creation of author Howard Zinn. On the site Mr. Zinn writes a note and a disclaimer for the reader

The Note: This great book should really be read by everyone. It is difficult to describe why it so great because it both teaches and inspires. You really just have to read it. We think it is so good that it demands to be as accessible as possible. Once you’ve finished it, we’re sure you’ll agree. In fact, years ago, we would offer people twenty dollars if they read the book and didn’t think it was completely worth their time. Of all the people who took us up on it, no one collected.

The disclaimer: This version is made from OCR. That is a fancy way of saying that we scanned in and coded over six hundred fifty pages. There will be a few small occasional errors: spelling mistakes, odd punctuation, and the like. If you see any, please contact us. We have posted it in spite of these mistakes for two simple reasons. First, the book is worth a mistake or two because it really deserves the widest audience possible. Second, we are sure that once you new people begin reading it, you’ll go out and get a physical copy. You should go and get it (and ones for your friends and family). At this point, A People’s History Of The United States is available in regular form, read aloud on audio, on posters, in a teaching edition, and as just the twentieth century chapters (we have all but the posters). And now here. Please Enjoy!

I am writing about this because all across the country schools have been teaching about the Presidents of the United States and the history of this country from the viewpoint of the victors. The people who have gained and excelled by the atrocities committed in the name of America. My point here is not to solely bash the history of America. It is to make sure that we as educators understand that the history of America is why there are so many problems that exist in our society today.

The word intersectionality is something that is something that helps explain these complex problems with this country. Intersectionality is defined as… “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” We can not look at how our indigenous people are struggling today without looking at gender, class, or racial inequality as well.  You cannot talk about racism without addressing sexism. You cannot address ageism without looking at classism. The problems we face are not separate. They are all intertwined and connected.

Take a look at the website I have listed above and let’s continue our learning journey together. We will continue to push ourselves to be more knowledgeable about the country we live in as well as how we can make a positive change today. As Nelson Mandela stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I am still trying to change the world. & ConnectedPE Conference

Jarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo) has created a physical education army. He teaches in Victoria Australia and has a passion and enthusiasm for the role emerging technologies play within teaching and learning. He is first and foremost an advocate for lifelong movement and physical activity, however, realizes the power of 21st-century technologies that can shape new age teaching pedagogies.

Jarrod is known throughout the online community as “The PE Geek”, and authors a blog of the same name at which has proved to be an invaluable resource for teachers seeking effective use of 21st-century tools in PE.  He has begun his own mobile development company, “The PE Geek Apps”, which builds mobile applications for teachers on both Android and iOS devices.

In addition to doing all the above-mentioned activities, he has created the most massive online physical education development around. He calls this conference the ConnectedPE Conference. The ConnectedPE Online Conference is a global Physical Education event that takes place over the course of one week. Each day there were three amazing Physical Education themed sessions led by presenters from all over the world. These sessions were pushed out through the platform Zoom as well as Facebook Live.

I was lucky enough to be accepted to present during this week event on the platform Seesaw. I call it a platform because it can be used on any device. It is a student-driven digital portfolio and simple parent communication tool. There is no better technology tool on the market than Seesaw.  Seesaw allows me to communicate what is going on in my classroom with the parents in my school. This can be done via a selfie video done by me, the students, or video captured of the students during my class.

The digital portfolio side of things is another game changer. Students can type, use a video, a drawing, a picture, submit a link, or upload a file. This can be used for formative or summative assessments. It is such a versatile tool that it has become my go to answer during Twitter chats! When someone asks how can I…… Seesaw is almost always the answer. It is a GAME CHANGER!

The best part of Seesaw is that it can be used for free! There are paid versions that do give you some more benefits. That is to be expected. They have to pay their staff and expenses somehow! They are a company that understands that teachers are cash strapped and have vowed to keep a free version available as long as they exist.

I am purposefully keeping this blog shorter about Seesaw because I have already done the hard work of showing you how I use it in my classroom here. Click the link and watch my presentation if you want to learn more. I want to go on record stating that I am not a paid representative of Seesaw. This allows me to freely state that this is a classroom tool that you need to be using. It will take the place of 7 different tools you probably have to use now as well as give you more options you haven’t even thought about! You can use QR codes to get into the program or use your GAFE id to set up classes and login.

Did I mention that they set you up with free blogging sites? Forget using Kidblog which charges you! Don’t mess around with Google Sites to find a work around. Simply click blog on and only your student’s first name will show up on the site.

I know this blog read like an infomercial for Seesaw; however, you need to check out how it can help you create a classroom with an authentic audience as well as keep track of your students’ work.

If you are a physical education teacher you should connect with Jarrod. He is always creating something useful for the physed community. In addition to that, he is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He has donated money to numerous people and projects over the years never saying a word about it. I only know because those people have told me personally about it. I would like to publicly thank Jarrod for everything he is doing to make the physed community stronger. 


EdcampEncore 17 Reflection


This Saturday I was lucky enough to be a part of an amazing idea called EdcampNJ Encore. The idea or the why behind the Encore is that the first time we talk or learn about something we are just scratching the surface. We need time and space to bring the idea to life. Using that as our why, we planned a follow-up to the original EdcampNJ that would occur three months later and named it EdcampNJ Encore.

One change that was made under the direction of Stacey Lindes (who stole it from somewhere)  was to change the terminology from sessions to conversations. This subtle difference helps keep with the why of the day. We did not want “experts” monopolizing the time. EdCamps should really be about conversations and that the sum of the room is much better than its’ individual parts.

As far as we knew this was the first event of its kind. That means that there was bound to be mistakes and we were basically shooting in the dark. With that being said, here are the highlights and lowlights of the day!

The highlight of the day for me was going to the library and holding a Book EDU. We all sat on couches and discussed our favorite books that have helped shaped our thoughts. One of the books mentioned was the #EduMatch Snapshot in Education. There are many reasons that this book is fantastic. The number one reason for me was that the book is available on an E-reader for FREE and it was creator by people in education for people in education. The book takes little “snapshots” of what educators are doing in their buildings and shares with the reader how this will improve their educational practices.

Another book that received a lot of love from the crowd was the Hacking Literacy book from the Hack Learning series. This book was touted as having resources that the teacher can implement the very next day. That is the type of material I like to read. Lavonna Roth was given some love with her whole child approach to teaching book titled Brain Powered Strategies to Engage All Learners. A couple of other titles that were mentioned was the book Thanks for the Feedback as well as Start With the Why. Here is the link to all the notes and books discussed during that conversation.

I was slightly disappointed in the turnout of the day. We had over 150 people sign up and only 75 show up. I know that this was a normal showing for some Edcamps and that in general people blow off things they don’t have to pay for when something comes up, but it was surprising that the people who already had taken time away from their busy lives to come to the original EdcampNJ didn’t make it back. The upside to that was that everyone was truly able to get their voice heard during the discussions. In the end, it is not about the number of people who show up but the quality of the conversation that really matters.

The second conversation I attended was facilitated by Mike Ritzius. Mike is an Associate Director of Professional Development and Instructional Issues the ‎New Jersey Education Association. His conversation is one that was highly attended and really got my wheels turning. The basic premise I took away from his session is that the system (school) should be changed. Once the school is changed, which is driven by the students’ needs than teachers can be trained in whatever they need to be trained in. The training leads to professional learning which in turn leads to professional development. The professional development is done in order to change the system which starts the cycle all over again. If you would like to learn more about this I would contact @mritzius directly because there is still a lot that I need to learn myself.

The final conversation of the day was a forced reflection. We always talk about being purposeful and keeping the why in the front and center of our decisions. Why should educators, students, parents, administrators, or board members show up to Edcamps? Where is the value of them? How is going to EdcampNJ going to benefit students? All the attendees were asked to sit at a table with other random people. The table had chocolates, mint lifesavers, Swedish fish, anchor charts, and magic markers. The participants were given a prompt and then directed to write their responses down on the chart paper. They were instructed to move every twelve minutes to a new table.

This served a couple of purposes. The people were forced to get up and move as well as interact with people they didn’t know. I know I hate when this happens to me in the beginning but I always end up connecting with new people. The second purpose of this was to document how EdCampNJ had directly benefited students. In the immortal words of Doug Timm, “Connect globally; change locally.” This activity showed the how and what of EdCampNJ. Click this link to see some of the responses.

The final couple of minutes we had other EdCamp organizers stand up and give a quick 30-second speech about their EdCamp and when it was occurring. I was so surprised at how many organizers had shown up to the Encore!!

I am going to wait until the feedback rolls in from the survey in order to declare the day a success. There are going to be things that need to change as well as things that we will keep in the future. I am going to declare that I am proud of the day that the EdCampNJ team planned and executed. Next time I hope to see you there!