Category Archives: Educational Innovation

10 Tips for Technology Mentoring


The tips below were created to support the Technology Mentoring program at Providence Day School.

10 tips for being a technology mentor

1. Listen well. Never assume you already know the solution.
2. Asks questions and don’t forget that sometimes the best answers aren’t technical.
3. Don’t underestimate your impact. Small, seemingly insignificant conversations are often the sparks that start forest fires.
4. Encourage training  and professional development.
5. Ask what if. You don’t know until you try or ask someone else to try.
6. Reduce anxiety for you and your peers. To be successful we need to shift instructional practice and attitudes. Helping peers feel comfortable does both.
7. Remember solutions need problems.
8. Learn from everyone. Our goal is support a learning community where everyone can learn something from everyone else. Model it.
9. Share. Share ideas, thoughts, problems and more with the tech team, school leaders, and peers, Keep up with your log.
10. Play. Use some of your five hours a month to explore and play. Remember that not all play needs a purpose. Purpose can come later.

if students designed their own learning


This is a must see video about giving students control over their own learning. I see this video as the end point but where could it start? Imagine asking Lower School students to create a plan to learn more about our environment, asking Middle School students to collaborate with teachers on designing the curriculum for next year, or asking Upper School students to plot a year long study of their passions? There are so  many possibilities for this model in so many different stages on independence and interdependence.

Scaffolding would be necessary. Adult participation mandatory. Perhaps motivation would be intrinsic.

Learning Artifacts: Blogs


Below is an email that was sent from a colleague of mine to the parents of his students. I think it is a great example of how digital tools provide a summative artifact of the group’s learning. How cool is it that parents can take a peek into the semester’s worth of learning?


The year is rapidly drawing to a close, so I want to reissue and invitation I offered to each of you at parent night last fall.  The invitation is to visit our class blogs at the links below (ask your student which period they are in this semester).

Why visit?  Well, first and foremost, you can look at work done by your child.  Just scroll down the right side to the “categories” section and find your child’s first name and click on it.  Note some students switched sections at mid-year.  You’ll find blogs that are recaps of lessons and some that are questions for their peers or me.  Second, you can look into our classroom and what they’ve been studying in AP Environmental Science.
Why blog?  Well, there are a number of reasons I might ask a student to blog:

1.  To remember or recount what happened in class that day.  We call this a “scribe post.”  This is most helpful to students who miss a lesson.

2.  To offer a question about a confusing concept prior to the test.  We call this a “reflection post.”  Other students are encouraged to answer these questions.
3.  To share something cool or a current event.  We call these “on my mind posts.”
and other reasons to use a blog include:
4.  To debate.  Blogs allow a space for responses after each post, and sometimes I require students to participate in a discussion of a topic like bottled water use in your family).
5.  To create a “positive digital footprint.”  I think I have a responsibility to help these kids leave a more substantial mark on the world wide web besides what they post on Facebook or Twitter!We’ve categorized all the post by the first 3 categories above if you want to see examples at the blog. Each student was required to serve as the class “scribe” at least once a semester and create a summary lesson for those who might have been absent.  Each student had the option of posting reflections before each test for some minor extra credit on the test.  Some students felt compelled to share something neat-a headline, a picture, or even a YouTube video clip.  By doing all this, the kids have had to reflect on what they’ve learned and they’ve created a wonderful online textbook as a resource for AP exam preparation.  Some students used the resource more than others, and that is fine.  Some students switched sections at mid-year, so you may not see many posts from them either.

Besides looking at what your own child created, I want to encourage you to scroll down to the “tag cloud” of topics we’ve studied this year.  Pick a topic that is of interest to you (energy, water, agriculture, etc…) and click on the tag.  We’ve cross-linked all the posts dealing with that topic even though they might be in different units.  That’s the beauty of this course (and use a blog), the interconnections between topics.  As John Muir once said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  Also, notice the “ClustrMap” of the world and look at the global audience these kids have attracted this year!

I’ve truly enjoyed teaching this group this year.

Fuzzy definition of the ED problem


As I sit through another session at #ettipad, i cannot stop drifting from one idea to the next. @gregkulowiec’s talk about the proper mindset for integrating iPads into the classroom referenced Seymour Papert which made me think about stagecoaches with jet engines which led to Morozov’s bookTo Save Everything Click Here about the downside of technology solutionism which made me think about Sir Ken Robinson’s call to foster, support, and teach creativity which got me thinking about the energy of educator’s like @ijukes and @angelamaiers which in turn made me contemplate the conversations I have with TWITS like @dwillard @fredbartels @pgow @raventech and so many others that influence my thinking which brought me back to Evengy Morozov’s book (which I have not finished) because it seems like of all this distills back to one thing – we have to properly define the problem. iPads, smartphones, laptops, or whatever other tool is developed in the next few years are insignificant if we cannot better understand our problem. I cannot find anyone who is interested in arguing that there aren’t significant problems with education and yet we don’t seem to have a clear definition of the problem we are all trying to solve. Perhaps the wandering thoughts above all just pieces of the definition of the problem.

Eddie Nomination: Best Teacher Blog


Derrick Willard is a pain in the butt. On average I receive somewhere between 25-20 emails a week which may not seem like a ton of email, but each email is potential tech support T.U.C.I.  “TUCI” stands for tool unknown, cool idea and they are rarely a five minute resolution. They take time to learn, explore, and investigate and as much I as sometimes want ignore @dwillard, his ideas are always so freaking cool. Cool because they aren’t just about playing with some sparkly, new tool. They typically involve improving the learning environment. All this whining leads me to my nomination. Derrick Willard’s blog, Tearing Down Walls, is a collection of these ideas, reflection on their successes, and most importantly, real, honest action research about tech and learning.

Please consider nominating and hopefully, voting for my favorite pain in the butt’s blog. It is deserving of an Eddie.

Re-thinking How to Select Mobile Apps


Found this post and thought it was worth sharing just because of the app descriptions. The more I read it, the more I think it is an interesting way to view/select apps for our digital backpacks. I recommend everyone take a quick look. Below is a brief excerpt. I will post the other blog posts in this series as they are posted.

What I mull over is how instruction using mobile technology can contribute to this type of thinking. That these new, promising mobile devices often house apps offering more of the same drill-and-kill activities we desire to minimize is a limitation. In attempts to integrate mobile technology, educators are left to the mercy of app developers who or may or may not fully understand how imperative it is that our children become critical and creative thinkers.

In this upcoming series, I will highlight apps useful for developing higher order thinking skills in grades K-5 classrooms. Each list will highlight a few apps that connect to the various stages on Bloom’s continuum of learning. Given the size and current exponential growth of the app market, I will also assist educators in setting criteria necessary to identify apps that maintain the integrity of teaching for thinking.

Apps that fit into the “remembering” stage improve the user’s ability to define terms, identify facts, and recall and locate information. Verbs commonly used to describe this phase include naming; finding, labeling, listing, selecting, retaining, naming, retrieving, recognizing, registering or realizing. Many educational apps fall into the “remembering” phase of learning. They ask users to select an answer out of a line-up, find matches, and sequence content or input answers.

Click here to read the entire post by Diane Darrow (@dianedarrow) on Edutopia.