Startup Weekend EDU

Startup Weekend is such an inspiring idea! This organization fosters and promotes entrepreneurship in a variety of areas. At a startup weekend, individuals from all different fields (design, technology, finance, to name a few) come together to collaborate on ideas for startup businesses that can make change. The really great thing about these weekend-long extravaganzas is that some of them are focused on making change in the field of education. This weekend, Startup Weekend EDU is coming to NYC! Read about it here.

This video is actually really helpful in understanding how a Startup Weekend works and is pretty inspiring, although not particularly geared towards education – so open up your imagination.

Why am I writing about this? It’s my dream come true! Many teachers teach behind closed doors. Many families look to their child’s teacher for inspiration. Families and teachers should be looking into the results of events such as startup weekends. The companies, programs and learning tools that come out of these events can have a strong impact on the education of your children!

In just a few moments of browsing through links connected to, I found these resources…

TutorSpree Find Private Tutors

SnappSchool Parent-Teacher Communication

Grockit Test Prep Resource

…in just a few minutes!!!

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Here’s A Challenge!

Thanks to my friend Alli for passing this on…

StudentsFirst is hosting a 6-word essay contest to see who can do the best job of eloquently explaining what it means to be a great teacher in just six words. I’ve already submitted mine. Make sure you submit yours!

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PenPal News

Calling all Middle School and High School Teachers:

Here is some inspiration for you, a new project called PenPal News. PenPal News is merging technology with the age-old idea of pen pals. This project pairs classes and encourages students to read, think and share ideas about news that is taking place where they live or where their pen pal lives. In my estimation, the best part of this project is that it brings a safe social media platform into the classroom for the purpose of supporting learning. This is an innovative educational program that addresses the desire of our youth to participate in social media and to embrace technology in the classroom. Our kids want it, and we should be listening. My rule of thumb is: if it’s safe and it gets them reading…I want it!

Why PenPal News?

  • Because it is a highly engaging way for MS and HS students to read
  • To engage your students in critical thinking about important topics
  • To offer students a supplemental curriculum that has real-life applications
  • To teach and foster the importance of international relations
  • To offer students perspective on other parts of the world
  • To use as a medium for teaching skills that can improve writing

Opportunity is Calling: Currently, PenPal News is entering its second round of the pilot program, which is a FREE, 6 week program beginning in February. PenPal News is looking for the second set of teachers to participate in this program, which I believe will be revolutionary to the way we look at reading, writing and social studies in our classrooms! To learn more about PenPal News or to sign your class up for the February session, visit If you are an international teacher or if you know any, please pass this on to them! Click on the poster below to see what PenPal News is all about.

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Stand Up for Learning!

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Last year I attended the CEC conference (Council for Exceptional Children) in National Harbor, Maryland. For me, the most exciting part of the conference was the Expo, a central location where companies offer information on new ideas, curricula, materials and technologies to support learners in the classroom. I spent hours at the Expo talking to people, trying out tech toys and watching demonstrations. One of my favorite stops was actually a stand that provided information on school furniture. At this stand, I got to try out a revolutionary piece of furniture, the stand-up desk!

There is a lot of hype over the stand-up desk, and there should be! It is a really great idea. The one I tried out was the Safco Alphabetter Desk. It came with a stool that you could sit or lean on if you wanted to. The best part of the desk was the fact that it had a hanging bar down below that you could rock with your foot. This gave it an almost rocking-chair feeling.

Benefits of The Stand-Up Desk

  • Straight posture helps with focus
  • Standing up and being mobile is a healthier way to spend your day (duh!)
  •  Stand-up desks make the classroom environment more age appropriate
  • The hanging bar allows students to expend energy in an appropriate way (possibly improving behavior for some students)
To read more about the Stand-Up Desk in action, check out this NYTimes article.

Outfitting a classroom with standing desks is not a cheap endeavor! That being said, you may be able to convince your school leader that it is well worth the investment. There are also grant opportunities available for teachers (which will be spoken about in greater detail in a later post). If outfitting your classroom with a standing desk is not feasible, it might be worth purchasing just a few stand-up desks to try out on a rotation basis.

I am most curious to learn how it affected students with sensory issues and/or behavioral challenges. Many of the behavioral challenges we see are directly connected to the inflexible structure of the traditional classroom environment. Not being allowed to move around freely for a prolonged period of time can have a detrimental effect on a learner. Stand-up desks might be the answer for some of them. What do you think?


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A sweet, creative gift that will last forever!

I am absolutely in love with this company! Child’s Own Studio takes a child’s drawings and makes them into a reality by creating a stuffed toy using the design in the drawing. Take a look at these:


What an incredible way to encourage creativity. Thank you so much Child’s Own! You are awesome.

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826 National

There are many non-profit organizations out there who are making incredible changes in the field of education. One of my favorites is 826 National, an organization founded by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari. The mission of the organization is to support students and teachers in exploring creativity, improving writing abilities and getting excited about writing. The organization meets these goals in a variety of ways including but not limited to after-school tutoring, field trips and in-school projects. You can find out more about 826 National by clicking here.

I love a lot of things about this organization, perhaps mostly the storefronts! Each 826 National Center has a unique storefront, which motivates students and makes the work that happens there fun. This organization puts a lot of thought into the power of the work space, and I have gotten a ton of creative ideas from browsing the storefronts on their website.

This is a perfect time for me to be posting about 826 National because the online shop is selling a variety of items that make incredible gifts for young writers, teachers or even parents who love writing! Being that the holidays are around the corner, you might consider shopping at the 826 National Shop. Believe it or not there are 2 best parts: the gifts are really hip and inspiring, AND all proceeds from 826 National’s online store are used to support 826’s numerous writing programs for students in Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

Here are my top picks for young writers, teachers and parents:

For Young Writers: Inspirational Postcards

For Teachers: A fresh new voice on education…the voice of the students.


For Parents: Lesson plans and writing prompts that make writing engaging!

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Brave New Voices

Last year I stumbled across an amazing show on HBO called “Brave New Voices.” BNV is an ongoing spoken word event created by Youth Speaks. The HBO show gives you an inside look at this national youth competition. The show is highly engaging and the performers take the audience through a wide range of emotions. Teenagers from all over the country write and perform poetry. This project gives our youth a voice and a platform to share it. The project fosters creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking amongst students. Let’s use it!

First, I’d like to give you a visual so here is one of my favorite performances. It is a favorite because I think the way these two students intertwine themselves is mesmerizing and the topic makes me smile.

This show is inspiring to me for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we can use it as a teaching tool to inspire middle and high schoolers. Some of the poetry is inappropriate for middle schoolers, and some are even inappropriate for high schoolers so using this as a teaching tool requires a little bit of pre-reading/pre-watching. Many of the pieces are about controversial topics so it is important to choose the ones that best suite your needs. That being said, many of the pieces are important even though they are difficult to watch, so let’s keep an open mind.

Why Use Brave New Voices As a Teaching Tool

  • Kids get inspired by watching their peers perform
  • The students on this show approach difficult subject matter with a fresh eye that can lead to juicy discussions in your classroom
  • The performances will teach your students that writing can make you get the chills

How to Teach Using Brave New Voices As a Teaching Tool

  • Show a video of a performance before writing to get inspired.
  • Photocopy or project the words to a poem and then show students the video performance. Compare the two are forms.
  • Use these videos to come up with interesting writing topics.
  • Check out the incredible HBO/Brave New Voices website. It as a great resource that shares videos, features students and even offers the text version of some of the most creative performances (See below.)
If you fall in love with BNV like I did, and want to use it to teach your students…you might want to consider purchasing the DVD’s. They offer a variety of pieces to choose from so you can find the best fit for your students.
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Top Pieces:

I love the piece at the top of this post because it is fun. Many of the poems performed on BNV are bold, emotional and even difficult to watch at times but all of them speak volumes. Here are my two other favorites:

Favorite Color by Jay Davis, 16 Years Old

This young poet gives me chills and evokes emotion that I didn’t realize existed. Her piece is heart-wrenching yet eloquent, and all I can think about when I watch her how intimidated I might be if I sat next to her in high school English. She is amazing.

Love Letter to Albuquerque Public Schools by Miguel Figueroa, Reed Bobroff, Olivia Gatwood, and Khalid Binsunni 

I’d like to end with this…I went back and forth thinking about whether or not to include this link on EdGeeks. It is controversial in nature and uses language that is not be appropriate for all viewers…but it was the most inspiring piece to me. It really made me think about classrooms around our country today. In many ways it feels inspirational to hear students who will not stand for being told to shed pieces of themselves, particularly their creativity. Thank you to Team New Mexico for making me stop and think…and for bringing a little controversy to the table.

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The Most Important Lesson of All: A little heart can inspire a lot of kindness.

A few days ago a friend sent me an email about an inspiring project. The project made me smile as did the thought of writing this post. Today’s goal is to inspire selflessness.

The holiday season is of course for giving…but more importantly for thinking about others. High above any academic curriculum I have ever taught, I place the importance of teaching children to understand the power of kindness and of demonstrating acts of selflessness. The holiday season is a perfect time to find teachable moments and model the importance of supporting others. I always seem to come across inspiring projects around the holidays and I wanted to share some fun ones with you today. While this may seem like a hiatus from educational posts, I think it is the exact opposite…a reminder of the most important thing to teach! A type of learning no one can take away from you…kindness.

 Awesome Project #1

Parents, Occupational Therapists & Makers,

Join us on December 3rd for an afternoon of toy hacking for children with disabilities. We will cover the basics switch accessibility including taking a toy apart, identifying the electronics inside and how to solder a universal switch jack for access. Please bring a toy that you would like to switch adapt (see Ideal Toys section below).

When & Where

December 3, 2011 from 12:30pm – 3:30pm
Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU
721 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003

Hacking for the Holidays Website

Hacking for the Holidays Facebook Page

 Awesome Project #2

Make Happy Happen aims to spread happiness by facilitating personal promises, promoting social inspiration, and providing relevant fulfillment opportunities. We see the holiday season as dominated by corporate greed and shopping frenzies, but we believe that we can return the holidays to its core values of love, peace, and generosity. Together, we can make the holidays happy for all.

Make Happy Happen is a project of Leo Mancini Design (

Make your promise at

Awesome Project #3 

Books for Keeps started as an effort to help one little girl who loved to read but didn’t own a single book. It’s grown into a grassroots movement to end “summer slide”.

Lack of access to books outside of school is a leading cause of summer slide. Our solution? Give them books. It works.

Here’s our story.

Do you know of any projects that inspire kindness? Share them by leaving a comment!

A big thanks to my friend Alli for inspiring me to write this post:)

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Donkey Mobile Library

There are certain people that you come across who have the ability to change the way you think and the way you live your life. Every now and again, I’ll try to share about someone or something that has inspired me.

While working in Ethiopia, I had the pleasure of meeting Ato Yohannes Gebregeorgis. He is founder of the organization Ethiopia Reads and the brain behind Donkey Mobile Libraries. This is an incredibly inspiring project that began in 2005. The goal of this program is to make books accessible for children living in rural Ethiopia. I can go on all day about this project but the best way to understand the Donkey Mobile Library is to see one in action.

Watch this video and then tell me you don’t want to spend

the rest of your day building a book mobile!

In addition to the amazing Donkey Mobile Library project, Ethiopia Reads also publishes books in local languages including Amharic and Tigrinya. The books are multi-lingual, including both English and Ethiopian languages on each page! One way to support the work of Ato Yohannes is to purchase the books that he has published (which I personally own and have used in the classroom!)

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