High School Stinks b/c Education is Broken

In his TedxPhilly lecture, Education is Broken, Chris Lehmann asserts what most of us know all too well: that, “high school stinks!” I think his assertion can be extended to encompass the feelings of many students that, school stinks. Chris suggests these feelings are harbored because students are constantly, day in and day out, told what to do over and over and over again. Even worse, when students are in school we bombard them with tests to collect data, and then use that data to hone in, focus on, and make a fuss about teaching them what they are ‘bad’ at, while letting teaching to elicit students’ “joy, passion, and interest” fall by the wayside. Two things in particular that Chris talked about really resonated with me, which was that school should be a place that teaches students how to learn, and that the job of an educator is to inspire students to “do stuff that matters.” These common threads within the teacher community have helped me develop and understand my philosophy of teaching and shape my interactions with students in the classroom.


In the past, and continuing to present, schools are designed based on the factory model; students are something to be manufactured and the goal is to yield a product- “the 21st Century worker.” However, I echo Chris’ sentiment that students should experience school as more than an assembly line to some distant future; school should teach students how to learn. In my 4 C’s blog post, I highlight the importance of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking, which are skills that allow students to see and interpret their classes through different lenses.

Chris says, “We can’t let kids think that the answers to everything they need to know is within the four walls of the classroom.”

This statement really spoke to me and drove home the message that “the purpose of school is to learn how to learn.” No longer is it a teacher’s job to tell students the information they need to know; in an ever changing and evolving digital world, information is no longer a scarce resource for students. Instead, it is a teacher’s job to guide students as they wade through the information overload at their fingertips, by teaching them how to effectively use the plethora of information available. When we teach students to learn how to be citizens, we allow them to “realize themselves,” and hopefully fell as if they are someone who matters.


Another part of Chris’ lecture that spoke to me was his suggestion that we interact with students in a way so that what they are doing matters now. They are not working with arbitrary concepts that they are told they might need someday, in the future; we “honor the lives kids lead” today, in real time, in school. The reality of education is, as Chris points out, “Kids [students] are making things that we [teachers] could not even think of.” How cool is it to be teaching in a classroom where students are authentic agents, interacting with their surroundings and working to understand real-world issues. Ultimately, our job as teachers is to inspire our students to see school as something that matters, and then share the “stuff that matters” with the world.


Although the sound quality of this particular video is a bit shoddy, the message still rings clear: education is broken, however; we have the ability to teach and inspire our students to fix it. With his funny, sarcastic, and energetic personality, Chris speaks to the truth of the broken and disconnected education system we face as teachers. Sometimes in education it can feel like every topic is taboo, but the narrative cannot change if we remain silent. Chris and other like-minded educators, including myself, have an obligation to stand up, speak out, and show our students that education does not have to be broken– if we allow our student-citizens to discover the tools to fix it.




TedxPhilly Education is Broken

Science Leadership Academy



Chris Lehmann


Kicking It Old School, in a New School Way

Every week, I attend the Tech Knight’s “Computers and Technology in the Classroom” class, where I am introduced to, exposed to, and offered an opportunity to engage and interact with a wide breadth of digital tools. Although I sometimes feel like a ship lost at sea trying to navigate through everything, there always seems to be a community of support- in the classroom, on the blogosphere, and within the larger, digital social network of educators.

This week, we are kicking it old school in a new school way; here of course I’m referring to the use of podcasts in the classroom. Essentially revamped radio, podcasting in the classroom, both listening to and creating, has gained more and more notoriety as a tool to promote education goals. Unlike traditional radio, there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of sites dedicated to creating and streaming podcasts on literally millions (I’m not exaggerating) of topics. One such network, tailored specifically to educators, is BAM! Radio; from their website:

“Today BAM Radio is the largest education radio network in the world offering programming from the nation’s top education organizations and thought leaders and reaching a wide audience of people passionately committed to quality education.”

As a somewhat outspoken and passionate future educator , I was immediately drawn to the “Taboo” section of BAM! Radio’s network of podcasts. Upon further exploration, I chose to listen to the segment, Talking About the Topics We Often Avoid. In this on-going podcast, educators from around the country, of different backgrounds and experiences, gather to discuss ‘taboo’ topics in education. The particular podcast I listened to allowed the educators to air their concerns and frustrations in regards to why educators often avoid talking about certain ‘taboo’ topics. The reoccurring idea seemed to center around the fact that outsiders govern the education profession; people who have no idea what it’s like to be in a classroom do a lot of the discussion around these topics. Very seldom are practicing teachers involved in conversations about taboo topics in education, due to fear of backlash from administrators and a threat to their job security. However, the educational leaders discussing these issues on the podcast assert that teachers need to change the ‘anti-teachers,’ ‘teacher basing’ narrative and be brave; Vicky Davis, education guru and another education soul-mate mentor says:

“We teach with our lives. And our students are watching, and parents are watching. And we need to be the people who are honest and up front and help other teachers and encourage them to do the right things, even when it’s hard.”

Ultimately, the education leaders contributing to the podcast agree that teachers are hiding their voices, but that they need to get over the fear that something is going to happen. Teachers need to support each other within the profession because, there is no ‘winner,’ this is a discussion that needs to be had, and teachers need to be included. Vicky summarizes the discussion, asserting, “Teachers, no matter where they teach, have a very valid opinion- they should be listened to.”

After listening to and exploring various podcasts, I think podcasts are something I will be able to incorporate into my professional learning. Podcasts to develop professional learning give educators a wonderful opportunity to tap into a huge network of resources and human capital, hearing and connecting to the issues and opinions of teachers and educational leaders around the country, and around the globe. In just exploring a few sites and topics, I discovered so many podcasts I was truly interested in- I could dedicate a weeks worth of time just to listening! I think, personally, I am drawn to podcasts because, although the contributors are probably hundreds of thousands of miles away, I feel a genuine connection when I can hear the voices- inflection, tone, emotion, accent- coming through. In the digital social web, the amount of information and instant, real-time connectivity sometimes overwhelms me- podcasts allow me to feel as if I am in a simpler time, where friends gathered around the fireside to chat. However, the fireside is now a computer (or phone, or tablet) and the friends gathered come from far and wide.




BAM! Radio

BAM! Radio Podcast: Talking About the Topics We Often Avoid



Vicky Davis

BAM! Radio 

Marilyn Rhames

Nancy Blair

Joan Young

John Spence 



The Huffington Post Talking About the Taboo in Education

The Atlantic Inside the Podcast Brain

Mind Shift What Teens are Learning from ‘Serial’ and Other Podcasts

Word Cloud Review

Ok- first thing first: I am self-proclaimed technology un-savvy 20-something future teacher– I will be the first to admit that. HOWEVER, when the Tech Knight held a virtual class full of information and knowledge regarding presentation skills (i.e. how to use slides as a tool to enhance your presentation and keep your audience engaged), I thought, ‘hey, this isn’t too far outside of my comfort zone- I am familiar with how to use PowerPoint- I can really delve in and learn some great stuff about this tech tool.’ So, as I’m sitting there in our virtual classroom and we’re going through the 69-slide presentation, no problem- until we hit slides 58-65. Now, the Tech Knight wants us to select one of the visualization resources (tools used to bring things like images/photographyword clouds, infographics, and mind maps to a presentation) or sharing and creation sites, and create and review a product.

I think this assignment is practical and is designed for us to really explore and get to know different types of tools we can use in the digital classroom- I’m looking forward to it. I go ahead and choose to get some experience using and creating word clouds; and, since the Tech Knight offered it as a resource, I went ahead and chose to create and review Wordle. Apparently, this was a mistake. My first try yielded this as a result:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 1.31.41 PM


So, okay- I’m a little annoyed at this because it’s not working and I don’t know why, but I can handle it. In fact, the site has a troubleshooting link right below my image that failed to show up- ‘great!’ I think, ‘I’ll just navigate there, figure out what my tech un-savvy self did wrong and I’ll be good to go!’

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 1.32.05 PM


WRONG! Java? Firewall? Web Content Filter? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?! Naturally, even though I’m not 100% sure what it means, I go ahead and click on the first troubleshooting link, the one about Java, which inadvertently causes me to have to go to the kitchen and make a real cup of joe. I digress. The next thing I see is this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 1.32.28 PM

Seems harmless, so on to ‘verify Java version’ it is. While my computer is getting it’s Java fix and I’m sipping my cup of joe, I’m faced with this screen:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 1.31.08 PM

I wait a bit, on this screen, but nothing is happening. Next logical step (in my mind), is to go back to the troubleshooting menu and click the second thing, which leads me to this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 1.33.22 PM

It’s like I’m reading a foreign language. WHAT? (now, if you’re really playing along, you’ll know that I tried this three times- kudos if you can tell!) At this point, I’m super frustrated and feel like a total technology failure. However, as a teacher I know there’s no such thing as failing- so I persevere on and I reset my Mac.

Feeling like ready to tackle this challenge, I navigate back to Wordle and try my hand at creating a word could (for what feels like the hundredth time). I press create and am greeted with this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 1.58.10 PM

Ok, so I’m done with Wordle. My review? Not friendly for Mac users (I would assume) and not a word cloud site I am going to use in my professional life or within my classroom. 0 stars.


HOWEVER, I still needed to complete the Tech Knight’s assignment and create a product. Luckily, because the internet, there are dozens of other word cloud creation sites, and I was able to easily create this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.25.44 PM

On Tagul

And this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.26.05 PM

On Word It Out


I really liked both of these sites, and only personal preference for design would lead me to chose Tagul as my favorite. Both sites allow you to either create a world cloud from individual worlds or, will create a word cloud based on a chunk of text input by the user. Unlike Wordle, neither of these world cloud creation sites seem to evaluate the input text and evaluate it to display frequent words in increasingly larger sizes. However, I think that could actually be beneficial in a classroom setting. For example, when examining the Declaration of Independence or US Constitution, students might create a word cloud to see what words, phrases, or ideas are used most frequently throughout. However, if we allow an algorithm to pick out what words are and are not important, and then present the answers to our students, are we promoting the 4C’s? Or, are we simply giving students the information they need without asking them to genuinely interact with and make connections to the content? Therefore, I like the features of the sites Tagul and Word It Out that would allow students to have more input on what words to use, how large to make them, and even get creative in the overall shape of the word cloud. Ultimately, I would give word cloud sites 4 stars.




Schoology: LMS


Word It Out






AND, HEY- if you know what I did wrong when trying to use Wordle and can help me troubleshoot, feel free to let me know! Comments welcome 🙂

Teens and Tech: Problems or Progress?

As technology becomes a more and more integrated part of our lives, school aged children are increasingly leaving their digital footprints all over the social web. Many of us are familiar with the scandals that seem to surround teens and technology, from cheating to sexting and everything in between- it seems we have a hard time keeping control of our teens in the digital world. In a TEDxDesMoines talk, Scott McLeod starts right off the bat by highlighting such negative issues involving teenagers, schools and technology, however; he quickly flips the narrative, spotlighting teens who are using technology outside the classroom to achieve digital greatness. His main idea- let go of control and give students technological freedom in the classroom. Check out his talk and then scroll down to read my reaction and reflections:

In this particular talk, Scott McLeod advocates for empowering students to use the technology they are interacting with in the extracurricular capacity in the classroom. As a self-proclaimed technology un-savvy digital visitor I am slowly learning how to appropriately integrate meaningful experiences with technology into the classroom and, even though I am wary, I have realized that bringing our classrooms full of students into the digital age isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I believe technology offers an outlet for students and allows them genuine, authentic, and interactive experiences in critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity- the 4C’s. However, I question whether this approach and shift towards a digital classroom will bring with it progress, or create more problems. Based on the claims, ideas, and assertions in the TEDx talk, I have two major points of contention: monitoring and backlash.

One of the biggest issues teachers have when considering how to use technology and social networking in the classroom is how to monitor what our students are putting out, and keep them safe online. In an example from the TEDx video, a young student started blogging about her sub-par school lunches and “people start[ed] paying attention.”

So here, a few questions come to mind: Who started paying attention? What are they paying attention to? Are these appropriate and well-intended individuals? Whose responsibility is it to monitor their interaction, if they posted from my classroom?

If we give students unlimited creativity and digital freedom, how do we monitor and lead them in the right direction within our classrooms? In addition, if our students are set on discussing and exposing inappropriate, dangerous, or taboo topics, how does a teacher handle that in their classroom? McLeod provides no mention of this, choosing to highlight only the appropriate uses of technology. However, I do have to stop here again to give technology and the digital social web some kudos. In the school lunch blog example, other students were inspired to also create and digitally share their school lunches- providing a voice to and offering perspective on school lunches from students around the globe. Again though, I am plagued with the question: who is responsible for, and how do they monitor the followers our students gain in the digital classroom? From what I can gather, this responsibility seems to be ambiguously shifted around, ultimately falling on the shoulders of the classroom teacher- we are responsible for what happens in our classroom. Digital social media is a magnificent outlet for students’ voices to be heard and expressed, to interact with others around the world, and open their minds to countless possibilities, but; is it fair to add another thing to our plates and task classroom teachers with such an overwhelming and unknown role?

In keeping with our train of thinking, let’s say we’ve gotten over the monitoring and safety issues. For me, the next question that arises is, what happens when something from your use of technology and the digital social web in the classroom upsets the administration, school board, or parents and community members? Back to the school lunch blog example; in this case the school board got wind of the content of her blog posts and prohibited the young student from further posting- social media caused a riot, forcing the school board to address the issue reevaluate its school lunches. This course of action is the exception, not the norm. When discussing how to deal with backlash from administration and parents, it is important to very clearly understand that not every issue is going to go viral and explode on social media- the majority of teachers and students are going to get quietly censored. McLeod makes it out that teachers are trying to to take away creativity and freedom when students become members of the digital social web, however; what he fails to mention is that the reality is, we teach in an educational system where there is a huge disconnect between teachers and administration. He talks about how teachers fear students’ use of technology and therefore try to control it, but I would venture to say the fear does not lie in what students can do online, but in what the administrations power will do to the teacher if it does not approve.

Ultimately, McLeod’s parting words are to

“Get out of their way and let them be amazing.”

This powerful statement needs not only to be applied to teachers giving up control of their students’ use of technology in the classroom, but also to administration. When teachers are trying to expand the young minds in their classrooms, whether or not they are using technology and social networking, administration could contribute to yielding brilliant young thinkers, if they would only get out of the way and let them be amazing.



TEDxDesMoins Extracurricular Empowerment 

 The New York Times, At Top School, Cheating Voids 70 Pupils’ Tests

 Your Erie State Police Cite Fairview Middle School Teens for Sexting

 David White Visitors and Residents



Scott McLeod

Martha and her Dad



Chicago Tribute Teachers Put to Test by Digital Cheats

Mashable 5 Ways Students Use Technology to Cheat

 M Live ‘Sexting’ on the Rise 

The Guardian Teenagers and Technology: “I’d rather give up my kidney than my phone” 

Tech Hub 10 Things Your Students Should Know About Their Digital Footprints

 Teach Thought Exploring a Teens Digital Footprint in 6 Clicks or Less

Ad Week Meet 12 of the Biggest Stars on YouTube 

Generation Like and The Digital Diet

Recently, the Tech Knight had us watch a 2014 FRONTLINE film, Generation Like, which left me baffled as to the legitimacy of the quest this generation of students seems to be on- for digital likes.

Right off the bat, I’m prone to saying I DON’T UNDERSTAND what the thrill of it all is (700 likes on a Facebook profile picture?! Because, recently I generated 43 likes on one picture and thought that was pretty swell… apparently I was ghastly mistaken).

Yet, the reality of life in the 21st Century classroom is that our students are thriving and loving (or, should I say, liking) life in the ‘social web’. If we understand how and why our students are so obsessed with the ‘social web’ environment, we can use this knowledge to create a format for delivering instruction to students that will allow them to genuinely engage with the content, simultaneously promoting and practicing critical thinking skills. With a developed understanding of how students are using the ‘social web,’ comes the responsibility of offering students the opportunity to unplug and engage in a full range of experiences, within and beyond the classroom. Understanding how our students use the ‘social web’ helps us, as educators, prepare for instruction in a classroom full of tweets, texts, and technology.

There is no question that today’s students are immersed in a world of limitless, instantaneous interactions via the ‘social web’. As much as we may try to fight it, the ‘social web’ is invading our classrooms, with many schools and school districts instituting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or 1-1 laptop distribution programs. With these programs we give our students and ourselves access to information and resources that educators of the past could not have even dreamt of. However, we have to be able to understand the ‘social web’ our students are caught in to know how to effectively interact with them in the classroom, or we are simply embracing technology for technology sake. Educators can prepare for classroom instruction by embracing and engaging with the platforms that students are already using, gaining credibility with them (and, the education cyber world). Once functioning on the ‘social web,’ teacher-tailored technology can assimilate into instruction, to either coincide and fit with or question and challenge what students are doing within and beyond the classroom ‘social web’. As our schools as institutions catch the technology wave, our pedagogy and instructional methodology need to stay hip (as the teenagers say) to effectively reach the generation of learners cruising through our classrooms.

In preparing our classroom instruction to withstand the onslaught of our students’ ‘social webs,’ we take on the responsibility to lead students to understand that a balance must be struck between the online digital world and the ‘real’ world before them. Part of this entails making it clear to students that they have the option and ability to make the conscious decision to put their devices away when it is not the best tool. We need to understand how students use the ‘social web’ so that we can be prepared to offer solace from the constant infiltration and influx of technology. The advice in a 2011 Washington Post opinion article, The Digital Diet, is still relevant today; the author, Daniel Sieberg, asserts

“[I]t is time to make peace with all our gadgets and fold them into our lives more effectively. We need a strategy that that puts us back in control, rather than letting technology overwhelm us.”

As an educator to students who are members of Generation Like, it is important to give explicit instruction in how to unplug and detox from technology and their devices. As someone who is on the moderate side of device use and technology consumption on the ‘social web,’ I am able to see the value in “the digital diet,” and it is important that we communicate this philosophy to students. When you understand how students are using the ‘social web,’ you can prepare for how and when is a useful and appropriate method for classroom instruction- and then challenge students to decide.

In presenting content in a format similar to what they experience using the ‘social web,’ we help our students navigate the digital world using higher-order processing skills. However, the classic proverb from the Spiderman movies comes to mind when strategizing on how to integrate technology and the ‘social web’ into classroom instruction: with great power, comes great responsibility. With that in mind, it is ultimately our job to understand (the pros and cons) of students’ use of the ‘social web’ and develop healthy, balanced instruction for use in the classroom. Truth be told, in a classroom full of tweets, texts, and technology, understanding and embracing the obsession with the ‘social web’ can only better prepare an educator for classroom instruction.



FRONTLINE Generation Like

The Washington Post The Digital Diet



VSOL and ED554 Unit Plan

As the semester unfolds and I continue to ride the tech wave into a digital future, I will use state curriculum standards to serve as the focus for a unit plan, fully incorporating technology. To widen my experience with grade level and curriculum content, I have chosen to develop lesson plans and activities based around the following standard:

VS.5 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the role of Virginia in the American Revolution by

  1. identifying the reasons why the colonies went to war with Great Britain, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence;


While trying to navigate my way through building a unit plan integrated with technology, I will also aim to structure the lessons and activities around the 4C’s (for those of you not familiar with this educational buzzword, the 4C’s are: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity). By teaching and developing the 4C’s in our students, educators can help shape their students into well-rounded, tolerant, problem-solving, innovators of tomorrow’s future. Similar to the DYN program I highlighted in my previous blog post, I plan for students to have an authentic experience with technology by making decisions and personally interacting in the digital world, making it necessary for students to evaluate and draw meaningful conclusions. In accordance with the standard of focus, and other state standards, students will be asked to interpret events in history and form opinions surrounding a central, thematic question, promoting critical thinking skills. While developing as critical thinkers, students will have the opportunity to form collaborative groups to share and discuss individual ideas and how they may relate to the overall theme of the unit. Similar to the group that declared America’s Independence from Great Britain, students will work together to pen their own ‘Declaration’ of sorts. With the help of technology, students will be able to communicate their ideas and receive feedback and guidance from adult experts. They will use a variety of digital means to communicate the reasons behind the American Revolution to the world, simultaneously expressing a connection from past to present, and what implications that may have in the digital future. The lessons and activities will challenge students to take a creative approach, perhaps entertaining even the wildest of ideas, as John Larmer suggests. By allowing students to create digital content in the classroom, with guidelines, we promote ownership and empowerment in every individual student. Via the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence, my integrated technology unit plan will involve engaging and empowering lessons and activities that promote critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.



P21 Is There a Best Way to Develop the 4C’s in All Students?

The 4C’s and New Learners of the 21st Century

As trends in education pedagogy move away from standardized testing, educators are able to embrace an alternative framework, allowing for highly effective and engaging experiences inside and beyond the classroom. Part of this framework involves incorporating, what is commonly known in the education world as, ‘the 4 C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity’. Promoting and valuing these four ideas leads to students who are not only successful in assessments while functioning in the classroom, but also outside the classroom walls, in the real world. If we cannot provide our students with the tools to function independently, effectively, and as innovators outside of the classroom, are we really doing them any service, at all? I do not believe so, therefore; it is important to explicitly incorporate ‘the 4C’s’ into teaching pedagogy to develop our students for the jobs they will explore in the future.

In a video provided by the Tech Knight, I was able to get an inside look into how different institutions embrace the technology savvy 21st Century learners we are encountering in our classrooms. In conjunction with promoting ‘the 4C’s’ the highlighted institutions, educators, and students took on learning in a totally revolutionary, digital way. One such institution in Chicago is the Digital Youth Network (DYN); an after school program that has developed into a full-fledged in-school media arts program, even establishing a partnership with the Chicago Public Library. Although not necessarily explicitly targeting state or national standards for learning, DYN allows students the opportunity to get hands on experience with digital media, while developing and fine-tuning 4C skills. For example,

Working with DYN allows students the opportunity employ critical thinking in regards to their actions and the decisions they make, both among classmates and with their peers at home. Additionally, it seems much easier for students to think critically when they can conceptualize why decisions are important and how significant an impact they may have. When interacting with technology in a hands on, grassroots, authentic, real-world way, the students in the DYN program teach themselves when, how, and the importance of critical thinking.

The DYN program encourages collaboration amongst students at all levels, tasking them to tackle heavy issues that they are or will face in the real world. One of the students featured in the video explained her understanding of collaboration as “sometimes having to take the passenger seat and go along for the ride.” Through collaborating with their classmates, peers, teachers, community, and digital community, these students are talking to and hearing from people from all walks of life.

Another student in the video spoke on collaboration and summed up that, from his work in the DYN program, he possessed the skills to “fit in every pocket of society”… what a powerful and articulate statement for a high school student to conceptualize and verbalize.

DYN embraces and empowers students to explore the many avenues of communication in the 21st Century. As so many of the ways to communicate are digital, it can be said that perhaps, what it means to be literate now encompasses digital literacy. The DYN program offers opportunities to not only learn about digital communication, but also to learn by experiencing, hands on, how to effectively digitally communicate.

Of the 4C’s, I believe the DYN program focuses and embraces creativity to its fullest. To promote the flow of ideas and spark inspiration, spaces for students are created in typical classroom settings, but more so as ‘non-traditional’, spaces similar to what might be seen in the real world. For example, upperclassmen in the DYN program have the ability to create content for, plan, and then present material they have learned to a class of middle school students. As we know, creativity is one of the most important aspects of teaching, so to see a high school student able to create content and present to an audience speaks volumes about the opportunity to express creativity the DYN program gives students on a daily basis.

An expert in the video asserts that, “every kid has an interest.” I believe that the DYN program in Chicago allows students to discover and develop an interest that will put them at the forefront of 21st Century learning. While fostering a lifelong passion for digital media, students are able to seamlessly use critical thinking skills, collaboration, communication, and creativity to ultimately thrive as citizens of the real world.



PBS Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century

 Digital Youth Network