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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EdSurge – Helping us ask the right questions so that we can choose educational resources that actually promote learning


Awhile ago I mentioned EdSurge as a go-to site for technology in education. I have been receiving the regular edition of the EdSurge newsletter for some time now, but the more recent EdSurge Instruct newsletter for teachers is what I’d like to discuss today.

If you are a teacher, you NEED to be reading this newsletter weekly. To be honest, I’m not a “newsletter reader” in general, but this one catches my attention every week. I always make time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to click through every link in the email.

As a teacher, it can be really difficult to stay on top of the latest in educational innovation. Often, if you need a tool and you “Google it,” you run the risk of finding something that is borderline academic at best. EdSurge does a great job of vetting resources so you can be sure that if it’s coming to you through the newsletter, it’s something worth taking a look at.

Our educational system is at a point of major struggle. We need to be asking more questions about the tools we use to support learning inside and out of the classroom. Many educational resources that come in shiny packages can look appealing, but we can’t afford to be judging books by their covers these days. EdSurge can help us figure out what we should be asking and can lead us in the right direction for tools that really do support learning.

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NMC Horizon EdTech Weekly App

In June, I will be attending the NMC Summer Conference at MIT and could not be more excited. Being surrounded by such cutting edge minds makes me dream a little bigger and think further outside the box. Not to mention, I’ll finally get to see the MIT Media Lab, which has been a super dorky dream of mine for quite awhile. If you haven’t registered yet, here are 10 reasons why you should!

Take special note of #10. “It’s the convening of the tribe. You’ve been to the conferences populated by tens of thousands of people where name badges are survival items. The annual Summer Conference fosters a close-knit community — the beach bonfire of conferences. Even if you’re a first-timer, the NMC community welcomes you and your insights with open arms. As much as we are all EdTech enthusiasts, we recognize that it is truly you, the people, that makes the impact.” (Taken from 

This is no joke…the NMC community has been so friendly and welcoming! I recently spoke with Samantha Adams from the NMC who was awesome!  She had a wealth of information about the organization and the NMC Summer Conference. During our conversation, she told me all about the NMC Horizon EdTech Weekly App (available for iPad and iPhone), which I downloaded about a few weeks ago.  It is a pretty exciting app mostly because it makes our industry feel more legitimate…EdTech has a serious App now people! The App is quite simple to navigate and offers a few important features including:

  • Top 10 EdTech stories each week (and you can revisit articles from previous weeks)
  • A database of EdTech research including articles, papers and projects
  • A collection of NMC Horizon Reports discussing trends spanning the last ten years

Staying on top of cutting edge EdTech can be exhausting so my favorite feature is the top 10 EdTech stories of the week. It is simple, concise and keeps me up to date. Each piece has a snapshot-like abstract so that I can get an idea of the topic before committing to reading it in its entirety. Next up on Deck: The App is being updated and will have some pretty cool new features. Firstly, the K-12 Horizon Report will be available and it is the only place you can get it before June 14. Also, the Top 10 EdTech Stories will be categorized, making it easier to navigate and digest.

The App is $2.99 and you should buy it if you are an EdGeek like me, a student, teacher, parent or entrepreneur interested in technology for education. Click here for a sneak peak inside the App, including screen shots.

Are you going to the NMC conference? Reach out, I’d love to hear from you!

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More teaching, less talking pineapples. Submit your work to show that you are Pro-Learning!

Created by Ari Joseph who attended NYC Public School and is Pro-Learning. Please download this image and share it to raise awareness about the issues surrounding standardized tests.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been following the latest news on standardized testing here in New York. It is a controversial issue to say the least, and it’s about much more than a sleeveless, talking pineapple. Sadly, I do not have a perfect solution to suggest as an alternative to standardized testing, but I think we can all agree that we want children to spend their time in an environment that promotes creativity, imagination and innovation. Plus, if Pineapples can talk, I think its high time we begin speaking up too! (Sorry, I had to…)

This is not a new issue. Teachers have been complaining for years that standardized testing has taken a toll on authentic and creative learning. This year there seems to be a growing group of parents and administrators who are making noise and raising awareness around the country. Suddenly this crucial matter is gaining more attention. I believe that it will be the voices of students, teachers and parents that will ultimately make a difference in education and bring learning back into our classrooms.

I am only a former teacher (whatever that means)…but in an effort to be more of a doer and less of a talker I have come up with two ways that I can pitch in and advocate for better learning environments for children. I hope you will help me. Here is the first part of my action plan…


Action Plan Part 1: 

I would like to create a section of EdGeeks where I can feature the thoughts of parents, students, teachers and administrators who are Pro-Learning. Pro-Learning means that you believe in imagination, encourage innovation and embrace mistakes. The goal is to provide a platform where the people who matter can speak out about how and why they feel that standardized testing has led our classrooms away from learning. Here is a list of suggested ideas for work to submit. Please email all entries to and feel free to scan in any hand-written work. (If you wish to remain anonymous, please state that in your email.)

Suggestions for Student Submissions:
  • Write a piece about what you wish you could do in school instead of test prep
  • Write a piece about your favorite type of learning or a favorite project you have done
  • Write about an experience that you have had before, during or after testing
  • Interview a friend about how they feel about testing or test prep
  • Draw a illustration that represents your feelings about (testing, school, learning, etc.)
Suggestions for Adult Submissions:
  • Write about a time when you felt that testing was standing in the way of authentic learning for your child/your student/yourself (ie: testing, test prep, homework for testing)
  • Interview your child/student and submit a video clip of a moving response
  • Submit a photo of your child’s artistic demonstration: (ie: photo of a stack of test prep books, etc.)
  • Teachers/administrators can submit a story about a time when test preparation got in the way of learning
You can begin submitting your work via email ( immediately. In fact, the sooner the better! If you wish to handwrite- or your children want to handwrite/draw an illustration, feel free to scan and email as an attachment. Once I have received the first 5 pieces, I will create the section on my site and make it public. Think of this as an e-book of voices from the field.
Here is my very first submission:

This was a HW assignment submitted by a concerned parent of an 8-year old third grader. The HW was to practice filling in bubbles. No instructions, no questions asked. Gotta make sure those bubbles get filled!

Stay tuned for Action Plan Part 2, coming up early next week…

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Bankstreet Bookstore Update

Just a short post today:

I am so excited to announce that yesterday I met with Gabriel from Bankstreet Bookstore and we are officially beginning work on building up Marisa’s Dream Library. I am really looking forward to working with my favorite bookstore on the planet! The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and fully dedicated to supporting making reading personal for children, families and teachers. I could not be more excited about this partnership.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more updates on the library.

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Game Design for Social Change

I am completely inspired by a project by the World Food Programme called Free Rice. I stumbled upon this website and I can’t stop thinking that it is the next step in gaming for education. I don’t know a ton about gaming but what I do know is that many kids and teens are highly engaged by video games, while many teachers who I know struggle to find ways to incorporate video/computer games into learning.

Free Rice is in essence a computer game that promotes social change. Players have the power to make great change and learn at the same time. For every correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to help end world hunger. Currently, Free Rice has questions in the following categories: vocabulary, math, science, geography, art history, and foreign languages. To play the game:

  1. Visit the site and click on the right answer in the middle of the page.
  2. If you get it right, you get a harder question. If you get it wrong, you get an easier question.
  3. For each answer you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

To be honest, I am more intrigued by the idea of games for social change than the actual game itself. I love this notion that we can make helping others a meaningful reward, replacing those rewards that are materialistic. One thing I have learned from being in so many classrooms is that kids LOVE to help. They seek out purpose and if they feel like they are making an impact, they become more motivated. The idea behind Free Rice is simple, yet brilliant: Learn and help others in the process!

Whether you are a parent at home or a teacher at school, try introducing your kids to Free Rice and see what they think. I would love to hear feedback on this game so if you try it out, leave a comment about your experience. As far as next steps are concerned, I want to hear about students who are designing their own games for social change.

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Adora Svitak: Teenager, Published Author and Youth Activist

Check Out These Words of Wisdom…

  • “How many of you still dream like that and believe in the possibilities?”
  • “We kids still dream of perfection…and that’s a good thing, because in order to make anything a reality, you have to dream about it first.”
  • “I think that adults should start learning from kids…learning between grownups and kids should be reciprocal.”
  • “Adults often underestimate kids’ abilities. We love challenges but when expectations are low, trust me…we will sink to them.”
  • “The goal is not to turn kids into your kind of adult, but rather better adults than you have been.”
  • “No matter your position or place in life, it is imperative to create opportunities for children so that we can grow up to blow you away.”

Who is This Genius?

The quotes above were taken from a TED Talk by a teenager, published author and youth activist by the name of Adora Svitak. If she doesn’t make you want to attend the Penny Conference…I don’t know what will. This remarkable young started a blog called “Write With Adora,” an online youth literary magazine. Children are encouraged to submit writing to the site which is curated by Adora herself.

Adora, thank you for speaking out on behalf of kids everywhere. As a teacher, learner and childish adult…I am completely in awe of both your mission and your sensational imagination. I am amped up to hear you speak at the Penny Conference!

If you have 8 minutes, check out Adora’s TED Talk, it’s amazing!

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SnappSchool – Helping parents become homework heroes

About a month ago I met SnappSchool founders Alex Weinberg and John Halloran. What I immediately loved about SnappSchool is that we share a common mission – to support parents in becoming teachers at home. One of my favorite things about this duo is that Weinberg is a former teacher and Halloran is a parent…what a perfect match. Too often, teacher and parent perspectives are missing in the creation of educational technology. The fact that this partnership brings both perspectives to the table makes their product unique. These two are truly committed to bridging the gap between home and school!

Messaging System: SnappSchool’s first product was a messaging system for teachers. The system was developed to support teachers in communicating the events of the day with families. It is a simple tool that allows teachers to contact individuals and groups of parents with ease. This communication is crucial because it helps parents know what is happening during the school day, especially when children struggle to answer the age-old question, “What did you do in school today?”

Weekly Email Tool: SnappSchool’s latest product is a weekly email that helps parents support their children with homework and all around learning in the home. Weinberg and Halloran chose this as their next tool to meet a few specific needs:

  • Some parents want to help their children but cannot remember far enough into their childhood to recall learning the material.
  • Some parents want to help their children, and CAN remember how they learned the material – but they don’t understand the way teachers teach it now.
  • Some parents want to help their children but don’t have resources or materials that support the topic.
  • Some parents want to help their children but aren’t quite sure what topic their children are working on in school.

The weekly email is pretty amazing. I know this because I get them for all grade levels! The emails are concise and the strategies are simple to use. What I love most about the emails:

  • I love the toolbox strategies – which are quick, tactile ways to teach a particular lesson
  • I love that each email has a list of attached resources for parents who want to take the learning a step further.
  • I love that the emails are so visual – believe it or not, grownups need visuals too!

This is a growing project and math is just the beginning. I am excited to see where Weinberg and Halloran take SnappSchools next. Make sure to sign up for SnappSchool’s email service here and share with all the parents you know.

***Enter the code EdGeeks to get a free subscription until the end of the 2011-2012 school year! 

Here are some sample emails so you can get a visual:

Fact Triangles

Grade 3 Sample: Fractions (Basic)

Grade 6 Sample: Geometry

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Food for Thought

H.S. Students in Ghana hold their written responses for PenPal News while waiting in line to type.

This is a High School in Ghana. These High School students use PenPal News to connect with students at a school in California. This school has 1 computer that 40 students share. After spending this past week at SxSWedu hearing multiple speakers discuss the fact that internet and technology levels the playing field for students around the world, I find this photo puzzling. Does this look like a level playing field to you?

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The Heart and the Bottle App -by, Oliver Jeffers

It is not so often that a children’s author is able to touch the lives of adults through picture books. There is just something about Oliver Jeffers though…something about his style of illustration and storytelling that just gets me. His picture books are stunning:

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0399257373[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0399255451[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0399254528[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0399250972[/amazon-product]
[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0399250743[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0399247491[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0007304331[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0399242864[/amazon-product]

I also love that he is a true artist who just happens to create children’s picture books. When you stop by his site, be sure to look through his paintings as well.

What I am most impressed with is actually a new app called “Heart and the Bottle.” This Ipad app is so exciting. It fuses creativity and art with literacy and imagination! Watch this trailer to get a glimpse of the app in action. It is even Apple’s ipad app of the week. The trailer gives me the chills – it is truly amazing what can happen when an adult captures the unique imagination of a child through art and literature. Thanks for the inspiration Oliver!

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