Thoughts on How to Bloom in Education’s Death Valley

I recently watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk How to Escape Education’s Death Valley, and it made me smile,  then worry, and finally, hope.

Sir Robinson made me smile with his quick wit, clever wording, and honesty throughout his TED Talk. His three main points, human beings are naturally different and divers, curiosity is essential, and human life is inherently creative, made me glad and grateful to hear the ideas that I did not have the words share validated and more clearly  understood. If I had seen this video before I wrote my philosophy of ed the first semester of grad school, one it would have been a better paper, and two it would be much more true to what I think my education and teaching should be. I live in hope that inspiration knows far better than I do the prime time to strike so it is probably for the best that I am only now watching and writing about this.

The TED Talk made me worry. I was not worried for the safety of the speaker, the audience, or even the lecture. I was worried about the reason this talk needed to be given and shared. It is not a good thing when America’s educational system is compared to Death Valley. Deserts do not just pop up out of nowhere, there are conditions and ingredients they need to exist as well as the lacking of the conditions and ingredients that keep the desert at bay. One main factor in  America’s desertification of our educational system is the top down decisions that lead to schools and education being viewed as a mechanical process that’s worth is solely measured in standardized test scores. Long sentence. Long messy sentence. Our education system here is also long, long overdue for some changes so that the mess generations of students have been put through can be tidied up.

Sir Robinson’s talk made me hopeful. His message was well received by the audience and seems to echo what many teachers believe and what studies know to be true about teaching and learning. For learning and not just education to occur there needs to be outlets and opportunities for all students to learn through the arts, humanities, physical education, and the STEM that everyone has been raving about. We need to let children be children and find what subjects and experiences they like, dislike, challenge them, and inspire them, and cause them to wonder and create. The only successful way to do all of that is to provide  diverse and holistic learning opportunities for every child without limitations and with compassion and support. I am hopeful because there are those out there who believe and teach this way. It is my goal to be one of them because both students and teachers deserve and educational experience that can bloom.




The history of our world in 18 minutes (Making connections)


Filmed March 2011 at TED2011

David Christian: The history of our world in 18 minutes

I recently watched David Christian’s The History of Our Wold in 18 Minutes TED talk from TED2011. It is phenomenal, joyful,  and humbling. His discussion of the Goldilocks principle, genetic diversity, the beauty of errors or adaptive learning through DNA, and collective learning.

I think Professor Christian makes an excellent point about how our future as humanity and the future of our students rests in the continuation of education that informs and instructs them about big history. “Life is more than exotic chemistry” and we know this, can discuss this, and learn more about it because of our collective learning.

It is educators, at home, schools, and within local and global communities responsibility and privilege to teach, protect, and prepare our learners for our wold. In order to prepare them for the opportunities and challenges ahead we need to be constantly aware and learning from our chemical, physiological, environmental, and evolutionary history.



Haiku Deck-Creation Site

This last weekend’s class tasked us in reviewing or creating something from one of the many awesome presentations and tools for educators. The one I chose to investigate is Haiku Deck. Haiku Deck is a vivid and intuitive creative site that helps make dynamic slide presentations. It has a great resource of photographs for slide backgrounds and focal points. It has advanced services for payed subscribers, $10 or so a month, but it still pretty spiffy in its free form. I played around with the free version and even made a micro slide show found here:  

It is a fun, professional, personalize-able, and engaging. I would need to practice with it more if I was going to use it as much as I use PowerPoint but it looks like a good investment.

Haiku Deck logo


Extracurricular Empowerment, Kidprenuers, and Queen Bees

After watching the phenomenal Ted Talk by Scott McLeod titled Extracurricular Empowerment (Extracurricular empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines ) I was really grooving on his message of building robust and meaningful technological tasks and problems in to our school curriculum. Mr. MeLeod emphasized our dire need to give students meaningful tasks, give them the technology and access the need, get out the way while still supporting and guiding them, and let them be amazing. Mr. McLeod spoke about many different students who made and did great and inspiring things with technology in extracurricular settings. He got me wondering what other empowering and entrepreneurial activities students are doing.

Fox News shared piece online in May 2016, written by Kim Lachance Shandrow, titled 10 Successful Kid Entrepreneurs Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize ( that interviewed 10 teen and tween age entrepreneurs about their businesses, motivations, starts, and advice they have for other kidprenuers. One of my favorites is the interview with Mikaila Ulmer who started her business Me and the Bees Lemonade at age 11. She is the Queen Bee aka CEO of her own lemonade business that is delicious and bee friendly. She appeared on the TV show Shark Tank and is now selling her products through Whole Foods in select regions of the US. What inspires me the most is that Queen Bee Milaila donates a percentage of her profits to charities, preservation organizations, and bee keepers associations. So much more can be found at her website and Twitter  @MikailasBees. Her site has a find our product section that is super cool! Unfortunately the nearest place to my Arlington Virginia home that sells her product is in Florida but I have faith that her lemonade drinks will make their way up to me eventually. Queen Bee Mikailia even takes her presentation and entrepreneurial self on the road! Please look up her site and follow her on Twitter so we can all be awestruck by and proud of this hard working, creative, and generous  kidprenuer together.

P.S. – WOW! After looking at her Twitter I just found out that she was at this year’s, 2016 White House United State of Women Summit! I am so excited for Mikailia and that she was invited to participate in such a powerful and meaningful summit right by where I live. Yay!

Me & the Bees Lemonade Original Mint


Generation Like

How does understanding how children use the Social Web prepare us for our instruction in the classroom?

After watching the PBS Frontline special Generation Like I better realized just how connected and dependent much of the student population is even at a young age. If they search for something on Youtube, Twitter, Tumblr, or other social media sites they will find it, for better or for worse and that is both exciting and terrifying. I think in order to prepare instruction for this is to be aware of the digital media and learn how to navigate some aspects of it on your own. One possibility I thought of from this was to make a classroom YouTube where projects, presentations, extra credit challenges, group work, and classwork can be uploaded, shared, and liked. Find and recommend safe, interesting, and curriculum relevant videos for students to watch, respond to, and share within the classroom setting. Making class and school bulletin boards look like some of the commonly uses sites, red and white for Pinterest and YouTube, blue and white for Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

In the blog articles The Pursuit of Likes by Katelyn Hawkes and The Pursuit of Likes by Be Bona Fide, both published this year, the bloggers write about the ideal self that is pursued through social media. Katelyn Hawkes writes about what traits and personas people build and try to maintain while often times forgetting the need to build and appreciate one’s self in real time not digital time. Be Bona Fide’s blog post was about the self-confidence crippling and dependence that can be formed through social media, that there is an overabundance or lacking of a certain something that keeps you from happiness and acceptance. The Be Bona Fide blogger writes about her struggle with personal appearance and how complements and praise from social media was a quick high it left her craving and even doubting that she deserved more or any of it.

I think it is important for educators to be aware of the dependence many students have upon social media to feel connected and worthy. I worry about students blurred concepts of fame and infamy but that is a discussion for another time. The tools students use in their social time can also be used to help better their educational experience; instead of text from superheroes why not make a class project be text from historical figures that summarize historical events, or a math scavenger hunt that individuals or groups of students can do about geometric angles and shapes that they need to record and load to a class YouTube or share with the class, have the class follow and Tweet an author or scientist and see if you get a response or retweet. The important thing I learned from watching Generation Like is that students want, need, and feel that they have the right to digital media and its connectivity and outlet for self-expression. I will be a lot-a-bit over my head my first year of teaching but I hope to pull in social media in small ways and work with teachers, students, and other resources to connect learning to students and students to learning in contemporary and  digital ways.

Generation Like

American Pride Eagle - life liberty and the pursuit of likes on facebook

Digital Media- New Learners of the 21st Century and the 4C’s

Digital Media- New Learners of the 21st Century:

One of the section topics in the video Digital Media- New Learners of the 21st Century was the one about the one that pairs students with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC to make technology based interactive scavenger hunts based on exhibits within the Smithsonian. I think that this project contains and uses the Four Cs; critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. The students worked together to think critically about the clues and give feedback to other groups about their clues and writing styles. The students collaborated and communicated within their own groups, other groups of students, and with the Smithsonian staff and professionals. All parties involved used their creativity to provide, build, and explore this scavenger hunt program.

The Four Cs- Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity

The 3 Ds- Design, Develop, and Determine

I think the article Is There a Best Way to Develop the 4 Cs in All Students by John Larmer provides great points about how to maximize learning through Project Based Learning that is fed by the Common Core Standards and guided by the 4Cs is very well done. He does not bash or berate teachers for not using this trinity of teaching but rather suggests and explains that the ground work is already there and implemented in the classroom. He outlines how to pull up the learning and teaching within the classroom with very open examples knowing full well that each class and year has it focuses, challenges, and strengths. Yes, he plugs in his book and hints at the more in-depth ideas and strategies therein but what author wouldn’t. If his book is as guiding and helpful as this short brush with his work in the article then please sell it to me and tell me more. Mr. Larmer’s article and points about the best use of PBL and the 4Cs and the 3Ds to support and strengthen the 4Cs is a well-crafted, straightforward, and enlightening read.

MIND/SHIFT and Stories Teachers Share

MIND/SHIFT: How We Will Learn                          Stories Teachers Share Podcast

Resources, strategies, and support for modern educators who know there is more that can be done to improve their teaching and students’ learning experiences. The blog site is geared towards many different educational age groups and often the articles highlight applications of the topics in a variety of classroom settings. The articles are detailed, easy to read, offer encouragement and strategies rather than indomitable tasks, and often are paired with source links and videos for more in depth study. The blog site divides up its article topics into the categories: motivation, teaching strategies, digital tools, the mindshift guide to digital games and learning, culture, big ideas, kids and coding, teenage years, creativity, and stories teachers share podcast and video. The blog is updated with new articles weekly and is fairly easy to navigate. This MIND/SHIFT site works with NPR and PBS to provide phenomenal additional learning and teaching resources.

The Stories Teachers Share podcast is great for a laugh and to feel connected with some of the hardships, joys, and connections that come with the territory of teaching. I have listened to all of their podcast episodes even before doing research about this blog site because of worry about being a disastrous first year teacher this fall. The podcast story Wet Sundays was my first brush with the MIND/SHIFT pod-casting scene and it floored me in a good way.

MIND/SHIFT is a blog for everyday lesson planning ideas or lifesaving classroom DIY storage tips. It is, however, a positive, creative, and intellectual blog that works to bring the developing ideas and strategies for instruction, integration, and digital navigation to educators and an easily accessible and engaging way.