SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum

This week I covered the SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum for EdSurge. The theme of the conference was “Doing Business During Seismic Change.” While the attendee list was lengthy (and impressive), the conference felt intimate and I made a ton of new EdGeek-y friends!

Those of you who know me know that contributing to EdSurge has been a dream of mine for awhile now, so you can imagine my smile being a first time EdSurgent! Click here for my recap of the conference.

To show your love for EdSurge, nominate them for the Crunchies 2012 award for “Best Content Discovery Application” by clicking here. It will take you less than a minute, just click nominate!

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Fifth Grader Creates and Implements Original Study Strategy

I work with an incredibly intelligent and talented fifth grader who recently amazed me by creating her own study strategy and implementing it independently.We have been working on improving her spelling for about two months. In addition to working on spelling, we are also working on building accountability for independent work between our sessions. A small portion of our work together includes spelling quizzes so when we first started working together, I asked her to study for our quizzes as her homework. She asked me how to study and I responded, “Study in a way that works for YOU.” I usually work with students to identify learning patterns that work for them and explicitly teach study strategies that will work, but I was curious to see what she would come up with.

Three weeks later, I noticed that she had scored 100% on all of her quizzes. I knew the words were quite challenging for her so I asked her to share her study secrets with me. She brought over her iPod and played me her recordings. She devised an entire study strategy independently. Listen below to hear one of her recordings:


Study Strategy

Step 1: Write a list of words with correct spellings in spelling notebook.

Step 2: Use a voice recording device. This student used her an app on her iPod – I believe it was iTalk Recorder.

Step 3: Record your voice saying the word, a sentence and then a 3-6 second break.

Step 4: Test yourself by playing back the recording and spelling the words on a fresh page in your notebook. Check your work by referring back to your correct word list.

What I am most inspired by is the initiative she took not only to study but to self-test to see if she had mastered the material. She said she would sometimes self-test 2 or 3 times to make sure she really knew her words. I am over the moon that she took the time to do this and that her parents gave me permission to share it with the world.

On a different note, here is another reason she is so awesome! On Halloween, when many kids were simply eating their candy, Little Miss Creative was graphing her candy!

Sugar High


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EdCamp in NYC

It has been an extraordinarily challenging week in New York. Before sharing thoughts about education, I wanted to take a moment to send my love out to all of the families who were affected by Hurricane Sandy and to give thanks for all of the volunteers who have been supporting them. With a little bit of hope and a lot of hard work our community will begin to rebuild.

Just a few days before all of the chaos in New York, I attended my first EdCamp and it was definitely worth sharing about…and no, not just because I got to see two 3-D printers in real life (though that was pretty ridiculous!) It took place at The School at Columbia, which is right in my neighborhood. Families always ask me about this school and I must say after visiting, that it seems like a place where innovation and great teaching happens everyday.

As for EdCamp…I’ve been reading about EdCamp for awhile now, but I still wasn’t sure exactly how it would work. The first hour was what truly made EdCamp so unique. During that time the sessions for the day were created. There was a large board at the front of the room and teachers were crowding around it. Some were stepping up to facilitate a session, while others seemed to be asking questions that would call for a session. By the end of the hour the session board had something for everyone.

Three out of four of the sessions I attended taught me something new, which is a pretty good stat for an ed conference. Don Buckley, director of technology and innovation at The School at Columbia blew my mind speaking about the design thinking project he worked on with his students last year. He collaborated with Tools at Schools to bring design thinking into the classroom. He also shared a video that got my head spinning – it’s definitely worth a view. You can find it on his posterous site.

Click this screenshot to view the video.

Mary Beth Hertz, Kim Sivick and Deven Black led a hands-on session where we got to learn about and try out the Makey Makey. If you can get your hands on one of these, do it! I haven’t had that much fun in awhile. Here is a teacher introducing Makey Makey to a few Kindergarteners for the first time so you can get a visual. If this doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will!

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PenPal News in Action


Over the past few months, I have been working with Michael Bernstein at PenPal News to develop curriculum for PenPal Red/Blue, a six-week exchange where classrooms across the country are sharing and learning about election-year issues. I recently had the pleasure of spending the morning with a sixth grade class in Manhattan who has been participating in PenPal News Red/Blue. It was incredible to see the program come to life!

During my visit, students were learning about our economy and reading a piece called What America Does For Work. The group of students I observed decided to take notes on the article before responding to their penpal. Because the article presented two visuals, a few students decided to create T-Charts in their notebook to help them understand the data in the chart. I was overwhelmed with excitement when I saw the initiative they were taking! Students were able to compare and analyze the information to make important overarching observations about the change in jobs over time.

While the students were undoubtedly remarkable, I was most blown away by the teacher! When building curriculum for PenPal News we try to provide enough structure so that teachers feel comfortable, while at the same time leaving enough room for creativity so that teachers can make each lesson their own. The teacher I observed created two tools to help her students with PenPal News. Firstly, she created a protocol poster to provide students with a visual agenda and some simple rules to abide by when using the program (see below.) She also created a “Power Word List,” where she chooses powerful vocabulary from the article (which she has pre-read!) to preview with students so they begin the article feeling prepared.

I am so fortunate that I had an opportunity to observe this incredible class. Get into the classroom if you can…especially if you are developing an EdTech tool!

Make sure to check out PenPal News and take a look at our one-minute explainer videos to see how we take challenging issues and make them accessible for 12-18 year olds.

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Citelighter: Storing, Sharing and Organizing Your Education and Research


I recently began working with the team at Citelighter, a startup that supports learners in storing, sharing and organizing their education and research for free. Citelighter is currently being used in 1500 schools worldwide. Initially the tool was developed with higher education in mind, but an increasing amount of middle and high school teachers have been using Citelighter to support younger learners.

As a K-12 special education teacher, tutor and instructional coach my major focus is on making learning accessible for all students. I am always looking for ways to minimize the distractions and keep things organized in order to maximize student independence.  Citelighter allows learners to highlight and cite texts online with ease but I was initially drawn to the tool because of its natural relationship with differentiation in the classroom. There are so many possibilities for using Citelighter to tailor research projects to student strengths and weaknesses.

The team at Citelighter is unique because their mission first and foremost is truly to support the learner. They have a passion for talking to teachers to find out what we really need. Our goal is to make Citelighter a tool that is focused around the learner and the best way to do this is through getting feedback from the user so if you are out there using Citelighter, feel free to reach out to say hello, ask a question or share a story! Stay tuned for more ideas about how to use Citelighter to support the needs of all learners.

Glad to be back,


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EdGeeks 2.0 Comin’ at Ya This Week

A new laptop, a new decal, a new website…it’s been a long haul but EdGeeks is making a comeback this week. Hope everyone had a lovely summer and a smooth start to the school year. Ed Innovation is bubbling in NYC and I for one think it’s gonna be a big year for learning and teaching.

Glad to be back,


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The Weekly Lowdown #31


7-9-12 Gadgets for EdGeeks: Peer Pressure Hits the Adult World: Why Not Use Blackboard…Everyone’s Doing It?

I just went rogue and decided to use Lore instead of Blackboard as my course management system. I’m loving it so far. Read to learn about what makes Lore so attractive and why we need to question every educational tool that comes our way!

7-11-12 Inspiration: The Listserve

The Listserve is an e-mail lottery. “One person a day wins a chance to write to
the growing list of subscribers. It could be you.” (Taken directly from The Listserve’s website). I just signed up and i’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get chosen to share my thoughts with a list of over 20,000 people!

Okay everyone – I’ll be taking a week or two off from EdGeeks so I’ll see you in August!

Thanks for reading and happy July.


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The Listserve

Firstly, a big shout out to my dear friend Ari Joseph for always passing on inspiring projects! This is not a traditional educational post but I am completely intrigued by this project and wanted to share. It is called The Listserve and it is a really exciting idea!

Basically, it is an email lottery system with a growing number of subscribers. As of the last time I checked, the subscription list was up to 20,640. “Each day, one person is randomly selected to write one e-mail to the growing list. That’s the only e-mail allowed to be sent to The Listserve.” The essential question for this project is: If you could talk to one-million people, what would you say?

I signed up yesterday and received my first email from a student in Australia. His words were endearing and it was great to hear a voice from so far away. What a great way to bring people together and to make us question what is truly important! In the spirit of education, this could be a really inspiring project for ELA, Writing, Social Studies…even math with a growing list of subscribers. Thanks Ari, i’m inspired. Can’t wait for today’s Listserve email. Hope I get picked soon:)

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Peer Pressure Hits the Adult World: Why Not Use Blackboard…Everyone’s Doing It?


Isn’t it odd how we are constantly teaching tweens and teens about peer pressure, yet in our adult years we sometimes find ourselves unable to resist it? I had my most recent experience with peer pressure while becoming an adjunct lecturer for the summer. I will be teaching a graduate course on Inclusion for Students with Disabilities In General Education. Teaching teachers is the most inspiring experience. You have the opportunity to model all of the things you hope they will go off and embody with their students: high engagement, rich resources, collaboration, student-centered learning and more!

The faculty at my college (and at many colleges) uses Blackboard for course management. Years ago when I was a student, I often felt frustrated with Blackboard so it came as no surprise when I began entering my course information and realized I had quite a few questions. Perhaps the most important question that came to mind was, “Why do we use Blackboard?” It’s sad to say that I think the reason most people use it is peer pressure. It becomes “Everyone uses it so it must be good. Now lets stop asking questions.” This year I left the classroom to begin a long journey filled with questions and pondering about teaching and learning and I didn’t feel that now was the time to stop.

After chatting with some colleagues and looking into my options, I decided to pilot Lore to manage my course. This may sound silly but I felt connected to the simple design of the site. It was reminiscent of turning in my Sony Vaio and buying a Mac years ago. Lore is so attractive and simple to use. With Blackboard, I relied mostly on one-pagers to walk me through the process of completing each task. Lore is pretty intuitive. It took me about ten minutes of play testing to figure out how to use the site. Lore’s videos helped me with the small things I couldn’t figure out myself.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been uploading information and resources that will support my students. I have filled in the calendar with dates for class times, assignments and exams – which are all color coded. I uploaded articles, links, and videos, and shared ISBN numbers for reading materials. Finally, I recently linked my Blackboard account to Lore (I know this sounds blasphemous) so my students could login and see what I’ve been up to. I invited students to set up their profiles. So far I have a few students who have gone through the full process of filling out their bios. I like the idea of the profiles on Lore. I am able to connect with students before our course begins. This will help me match faces to names and will give me background experience of each of my students.

The moral of the story: Now more than ever, in our current state of education, we need to be asking questions about EVERYTHING! I’ll keep you posted on how Lore goes.

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Lowdown #30

You have probably noticed that I’ve slowed down a bit this summer. I’m beginning to teach grad school so I am focused on that but will continue to write as much as possible during the summer months, coming back in full swing in September. Thanks for reading.


7-2-12 Gadgets for EdGeeks: Wallwisher

I recently stumbled across Wallwisher and my brain was immediately flooded with ways to use this tool to support learning. Make sure to check out my first wall and contribute an idea or respond to someone else’s. Thanks!

7-5-12 Gadgets for EdGeeks: EdSurge – Helping us ask the right questions so that we can choose educational resources that actually promote learning

I’ve been an avid edSurge reader for quite awhile now and I felt it was time to share out about the edSurge Instruct newsletter for teachers. If you aren’t signed up yet, you’re seriously missing out.

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