What Is G Suite for Education? [Updated]

What Is G Suite For Education?

by TeachThought Staff

G Suite for Education is an ecology of digital tools from Google designed to host and distribute digital documents, communication, and collaboration through cloud-based technology. (You can sign up here.)

Strengths: Apps designed to work together; cost; security; educational potential of YouTube; general focus on utility; there is really no Apple equivalent

Weaknesses: Sometimes clumsy user interface; lack of general polish; district filtering sometimes still an issue

One G Suite for Education Resource: The G Suite for Education Teacher Center

What Tools Are Part Of G Suite For Education?

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said that “Technology alone will not improve education, but it can be a powerful part of the solution,” and G Suite for Education is certainly a part of that effort.

G Suite for Education has Google Drive and its varied distribution tools as its core. Through the use of Google Docs, Drive, Gmail, Forms, Jamboard, Groups, calendar, and more, teachers can create virtual classes, track document changes, participate in discussions, and more–what many teachers have been doing for years, but in a formal package that can also serve alignment across classrooms and schools.

Our Take

Though nothing revolutionary, that’s part of its appeal: Most schools and districts aren’t ready for revolutions but rather want help doing what they already do but better, faster, and with broader reach and appeal. In that way, Google apps and G Suite for Education make a lot of sense for schools and districts trying to unify their digital practice under a single #edtech ecology.

G Suite for Education also has a reputation for lower-cost, as Chromebooks and Nexus tablets cost less than Apple counterparts, and Microsoft’s education strategy continues to be legacy-based and murky. With lower cost, broader acceptance, and a burgeoning app ecology, Google’s move in education seems both trending up and curiously sluggish, perhaps a product of Google’s own hesitance to embrace the kind of marketing that has made Apple such a recognizable brand.

How that concept of branding and ecology translates to education and its varied system continues to play out in districts nationally.

What Is G Suite for Education For Education?


The Definition Of Peer Teaching: A Sampling Of Existing Research

The Definition Of Peer Teaching: A Sampling Of Existing Research

by TeachThought Staff

What is peer teaching?

In short, peer teaching occurs when students, by design, teach other students.

But teaching what? And how? Austin Community College provided an overview of some of the existing (though decades old) research in a collection of resources for teachers in training, which provides a nice context for peer teaching.

“There is a wealth of evidence that peer teaching is extremely effective for a wide range of goals, content, and students of different levels and personalities (McKeachie et al., 1986). Peer teaching involves one or more students teaching other students in a particular subject area and builds on the belief that “to teach is to learn twice” (Whitman, 1998).”

“Peer teaching can enhance learning by enabling learners to take responsibility for reviewing, organizing, and consolidating existing knowledge and material; understanding its basic structure; filling in the gaps; finding additional meanings; and reformulating knowledge into new conceptual frameworks’ (Dueck, 1993).”

“Help from peers increases learning both for the students being helped as well as for those giving the help. For the students being helped, the assistance from their peers enables them to move away from dependence on teachers and gain more opportunities to enhance their learning. For the students giving the help, the cooperative learning groups serve as opportunities to increase their own performance. They have the chance to experience and learn that “teaching is the best teacher” (Farivar and Webb, 1994).”

In lieu of the benefits peer teaching and learning provide, it has a mixed reputation in education to its abuse via ‘let the ‘high’ students teaching the ‘low’ students’ which, done poorly, fails to meet the needs of both.

Peer Learning

David Boud of Stanford University explored the concepts of peer teaching, learning, and reciprocal peer learning in a short overview of existing research–which is limited. Though the context he discusses is primarily in the higher-ed domain where peer teaching is a literal component of most university learning models, the concepts transfer to K-12 as well.

According to Boud, peer learning is obviously closely related,

“We define peer learning in its broadest sense, then, as ‘students learning from and with each other in both formal and informal ways’. The emphasis is on the learning process, including the emotional support that learners offer each other, as much as the learning task itself. In peer teaching the roles of teacher and learner are fixed, whereas in peer learning they are either undefined or may shift during the course of the learning experience. Staff may be actively involved as group facilitators or they may simply initiate student-directed activities such as workshops or learning partnerships.”

As for the limited research data, Boud continues,

‘According to Topping’s review of literature, surprisingly little research has been done into either dyadic reciprocal peer tutoring or same-year group tutoring (Topping, 1996). He identified only 10 studies, all with a very narrow, empirical focus. This suggests that the teaching model, rather than the learning model, is still the most common way of understanding how students assist each other. Although the teaching model has value, we must also consider the learning process itself if we want to make the best use of peers as resources for learning.”

Whitman and Fife (1989) summarize research that was to that point current, below.

“Recommendations from current literature include the following: learning may occur when students work cooperatively, both peer teachers and peer learners learn, and learning may increase with a blend of situations in which professors are present and are not present.”

A significant portion of existing discourse on peer teaching relate to its application in the medical field, or language learning. A study published at Oxford Academic’s ELT Journal in 2017 added little new information, with the abstract concluding, “The use of peer teaching in the language classroom offers a creative way for students to participate more fully in the learning process,” and alluding to “(p)revious studies (that) have reported that peer taught lessons bring benefits such as improved motivation, enhanced learning, and authentic communication.”

The Definition Of Peer Teaching: A Sampling Of Existing Research

Project-Based Learning

The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning

The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning

by TeachThought Staff

Projects in the classroom are as old as the classroom itself.

‘Projects’ can represent a range of tasks that can be done at home or in the classroom, by parents or groups of students, quickly or over time. While project-based learning (PBL) also features projects, in PBL the focus is more on the process of learning and learner-peer-content interaction that the end-product itself.

The learning process is also personalized in a progressive PBL environment by students asking important questions, and making changes to products and ideas based on individual and collective response to those questions. In PBL, the projects only serve as an infrastructure to allow users to play, experiment, use simulations, address authentic issues, and work with relevant peers and community members in pursuit of knowledge.

By design, PBL is learner-centered. Students don’t simply choose between two highly academic projects to complete by a given date, but instead use the teacher’s experience to design and iterate products and projects–products and projects that often address issues or challenges that are important to them.

The chart below by Amy Mayer is helpful to clarify that important difference between projects and project-based learning. Ultimately, the biggest difference is the process itself.

What’s the Difference Between ‘Doing Projects’ and Project Based Learning? Image attribution flickr user josekevo; The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning; © Amy Mayer, @friEdTechnology, The Original WOW! Academy,


The Definition Of Bullying

The Definition Of Bullying: A Timeless Behavior With New Tools & Technology

by Terry Heick

Preventing bullying is just as likely as preventing poverty, racism, or violence.

If we can start from this kind of humility, we may be able to improve our efficiency in dealing with and responding to it as a problem.

Of course, there is no ‘it.’ Bullying is an output and a symptom—the result of a variety of factors that manifest themselves well beyond the school. Celebration of aggressiveness and violence, pack mentalities, depression, peer pressure, lack of empathy, violence at home, insecurity, social media, a lack of role models, and more all combine with scores of other factors to produce the ugliness that is bullying.

Technology has a way of amplifying our best and worst characteristics as people, and that is true with bullying—or cyberbullying—as well. Cyberbullying is just a digital layer added to what’s gone on for years in schools, on playgrounds, in workplaces, and even with professional athletes. In fact, there is now impressive nuance available when bullying through technology.

For one, there is the visibility and scale of it all. Make one comment on an Instagram thread, and every single person afterwards sees that comment, as well as any reply. Same with facebook, tumblr, and twitter if you dig a little. The snide comment in the hallway that was only heard by four of five people has been replaced by the snarky subtweet that has everybody taking screenshots.

Which brings us to the relative permanence of digital fare. Once it’s emailed, posted, liked, tagged, texted, or otherwise flung out into the digital ether, it’s “loose.” Gone. No longer under the sender’s control. Social media is designed to make people seen and heard, which means it captures—and amplifies–everything. In fact, certain apps, like Snapchat, are built around this very idea of permanence vs impermanence as some kind of escape of accountability.

The Definition Of Bullying

And then there’s the nuance I mentioned, starting with passive-aggressive behavior that so many social media platforms seem designed for. The aforementioned subtweets, ‘sliding in and out of people’s ‘mentions’ on twitter, tagging—and more acutely, failing to tag people that very well ‘should’ve’ been tagged, failing to respond to tags in a timely fashion, following and unfollowing, friending and defriending, and more all create an ecology that breeds bullying.

Which brings up an interesting point: What does it mean to bully? And more broadly, what kind of response makes sense to get closer to the roots of the problem?

Bully education should probably be a big part of it, in large part built around a clear, modern definition for bullying and all of its degrees. defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” That’s not a very kid-friendly definition, so that’d be a good start—a definition for bullying that the people who have trouble understanding it can use. “Being mean to people that can’t or won’t defend themselves” may be too flimsy-sounding, but it’s clear.

Maybe some compelling and authentic examples, include passive-aggressive bullying? The iconic bully takes lunch money, grabbing pint-sized kids by their ankles, turning them upside down, and shaking out their change. Certainly this still happens, and it’d be a stretch to say ’21st-century bullying’ is always digital. But updating how we define bullying, what it looks like, where it happens, and some basic strategies for response may be a good first step.

If nothing else, we might work to remove the stigma from being bullied. Everyone, at some point, has been bullied. There is no reason for shame. Which brings us to a key takeaway here—transparency. We can’t prevent bullying, but we can make it crystal clear that it:

  1. Happens
  2. Has varying degrees, behaviors, and contexts
  3. Isn’t always obvious
  4. Is not okay
  5. Is correctable
  6. Takes a village to correct

Highlighting the causes and behaviors instead of demonizing the bullies themselves could be one strategy. (The same approach, incidentally, may benefit how we treat felons.)

While there is some kind of justice in calling out and ridiculing bullies, that’s a lot like screaming at children for screaming at other children. Your reaction to any of this is a matter of personal philosophy and politics, but the big idea is to address the ecology that produces the problem, rather than playing whack-a-mole every time it surfaces. It’s not easy, but neither is spending two hours every morning responding to the previous evening’s middle school facebook blow-up.

The tone and terms of our social interactions are new, and require newly simplified thinking to understand.


Educators have taken many approaches to solving the problem of bullying, from making it ‘uncool’ to bully, to scary punishments, to teaching tolerance. Tolerance is part of the issue, but even that starts with highlighting differences between people, and suggests that one ‘tolerate’ the other.

‘Stopping bullying’–and racism and sexism and dozens of other examples of how humans can be cruel to one another consistently enough to require a word for it–is impossible. It’s ambitious to try, but ambition is one of education’s biggest sins. As the frequency and anonymity of our interactions increase through digital tools, so does our capacity to bully in more subtle, passive-aggressive ways than ever before. This is not limited to children, either–you’ve probably felt it yourself on twitter or facebook or instagram or the comment’s section of a blog.

Digital citizenship first depends on a more fundamental sense of citizenship–being a human being, then carrying that to digital spaces. We could do worse than helping students to reflect on these interactions (which would have the side-effect of slowing them down). Before each interaction, thinking about a few simple questions would change everything.

Who is this person?

What is their history?

How do we connect–how do our similarities and differences affect our feelings towards one another? How do our differences potentially strengthen our interaction?

How can I help them grow?

What do they need from me, and I from them?

This is digital citizenship in question form. As long as this kind of thinking is absurd, our capacity to hurt one another will be as well. The new thinking here, then, isn’t new at all, but rather reflects a need to return to that which is simple in the face of circumstances which seem more complex than they actually are.

So what’s a simple definition for bullying? Intentionally causing suffering for someone else–often someone who can’t or won’t defend themselves. The same as it’s ever been. Today, there are just more tools to make it happen, and new opportunities for more subtle and nuanced bullying. But the behavior itself hasn’t changed.

It’s what happens when one person fails to care for another.

A version of this post was written by Terry Heick for Edutopia; The Definition Of Bullying; How Bullying Is Changing


The Definition Of Intrinsic Motivation

The Definition Of Intrinsic Motivation

by TeachThought Staff

A decent working definition of intrinsic motivation is “motivation that stems directly from an action rather than a reward.”

Teachers often think of the idea of motivation in terms of student engagement but as Dr. Richard Ryan and Edward Deci explain below, it’s a little more nuance than that. From more their book, “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions & New Directions”:

Intrinsic motivation is defined as the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence.

When intrinsically motivated, a person is moved to act for the fun or challenge entailed rather than because of external products, pressures, or rewards….In Self-Determination Theory, we distinguish between different types of motivation based on the different reason or goals that give rise to an action. The most basic distinction is between intrinsic motivation, which refers to doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable, and extrinsic motivation, which refers to doing something because it leads to a separable outcome. Extrinsic motivation thus contrasts with intrinsic motivation, which refers to doing an activity simply for the enjoyment of the activity itself, rather than its instrumental value.”

Put another way, if a student studies for a test to make a qualifying grade to play for the basketball team, that would be an example of extrinsic motivation. Another example? Studying to ‘get good grades.’ And as you probably know by now, its polar opposite, intrinsic motivation, is the more powerful of the two, though not necessarily more common.

In the following video, Daniel Pink explores the incredible impact of intrinsic motivation on performance, innovation, and the way we learn. While he frames the idea around ‘business,’ he is clearly discussing learning and performance, which is ground zero for educators.

The Definition Of Intrinsic Motivation; image attribution flickr user bengrey

The Future Of Learning

The Definition Of Transmedia


The Definition Of Transmedia

by Terry Heick

Transmedia: a narrative that extends beyond multiple media forms that also plays to the strength those forms; may or may not be interactive

The term media has traditionally been used as a label for mainstream news outlets. More recently, its use has been reclaimed from such negative and political connotation, now commonly used to refer to the variety of multimodal (and increasingly digital) communication forms.

Plural form of the singular medium, media are simply ‘ways’ of communicating ideas and is a cause and effect of  digital literacy: letters, novels, magazines, emails, paintings, videos, and countless other forms can be considered media. It can come in classic or modern forms, formal and informal, all boiling down to the basic human need to communicate.

Marshall McLuhan

Any balanced discussion of media (though I’m not making any claims) has to include Marshall McLuhan.

In his professional prime during a time when televisions were replacing radios and McCarthyism was changing lives, McLuhan was witness to a powerful and important change in culture. Among other revelatory ideas, McLuhan felt that the ‘individual man’ was being replaced by ‘tribal man’ through media—media acting as a kind of conscious glue. He saw that humankind was coming to define itself through media—involuntarily, through numbing consumption and persistent conditioning. In this way, he saw media forms as social long before Zuckerberg had his big idea.

Essentially, McLuhan viewed media as powerful contributors to “how we experience the world, interact with each other, and use our physical senses”[i]—which makes their dizzying popularity logical.

Media Consumption

Today, media is in a brilliant state of flux. There is frankly so much of it—so many forms, so many platforms, so much consumption. Notions of fluid texts, hypertexts, and quasi-intertextuality preside can sometimes overwhelm the content itself. (McLuhan might nod his head and insist that the “media is the message.”)

And with this fluidity comes a kind of passing of the guard in terms of pop culture forms. Videogames have surpassed classic media forms like music, DVDs, and now movies increasing our interaction with narrative texts, and gamifiying media consumption.

So what becomes of books?


While I personally find it difficult to imagine a world where the stalwart of narrative structure—the novel—is vaporized by YouTube addiction and Beiber fever, anything is possible. And with physical books now giving ground to eBooks in terms of total sales (at Amazon, anyway), the future is incredibly complicated. If a Kindle can display an eBook, pdf files, Google Currents, and mashed blog posts, where does one begin, and the other end? The video game with the facebook page that pushes notifications to an app that itself is gamified and is automatically shared on your twitter stream?

The overlap is more extraordinary than the difference.

If you ask the folks at Inanimate Alice, one of the pioneering examples of the form, there is new player on stage—and one with critical edu-potential: transmedia.

The definition of transmedia is a narrative that extends beyond multiple media forms that also plays to the strength those forms. It may or may not be interactive. This makes it possible to have interactive video game portions of a narrative married to prose-rich novellas combined with smart use of specific social media platforms, all collaborating strategically to tell a compelling story while offering the potential for innovative use of crowdsourcing and audience engagement.

Transmedia Defining Characteristics

1. Born-digital

Written first for and specifically to be read and viewed from the screen

2. Interactive

Requires user action to drive the story forward.

3. Multimedia

Uses text, images, music, sound effects, puzzles and games to illustrate and enhance the narrative.

4. A Novel

A reading-from-the-screen experience for the “always on” generation.

5. Episodic

Each a self-contained story, the chapters are both interactive and occur across media channels.


Transmedia is what the word parts suggest it might be: a merging of media forms, here the digital with the narrative, but with the multiple platforms a part of the narrative. While transmedia promote interaction, they are not videogames, but rather new digital narratives offered in a way that has been inaccessible to classic forms.

This post was first published in 2012

[i] Everyman’s McLuhan by W. Terrence Gordon, Eri Hamaji, and Jacob Albert. Mark Batty Publisher; image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad

The Future Of Learning

The Definition Of Digital Citizenship

The Definition Of Digital Citizenship

by Terry Heick

This post was originally published in 2013 and was updated in December of 2018

As more and more students interact digitally–with content, one another, and various communities–the concept of digital citizenship becomes increasingly important.

Which begs the question: what is digital citizenship?

Well, first citizenship, which is formally defined as “the quality of an individual’s response to membership in a community.” This makes citizenship far more complex than a simple legal matter, but rather one that consists of self-knowledge, interaction, and intimate knowledge of a place, its people, and its cultural history.

So digital citizenship is nearly the same thing–“the quality of a response to membership in a digital community” would be a good first crack at the definition.

Revising that might more clearly articulate the differences between physical and digital communities, so a decent definition of digital citizenship then might be “Self-monitored participation that reflects conscious interdependence with all (visible and less visible) community members”

But that leaves out the idea of content itself, which leads us to a pretty good definition for educators: “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.”

Still too wordy? Maybe a shorter version for students–with some moral imperatives and implied advice–could be: “the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on.”


Term: Digital Citizenship

Definition: The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.

Examples of Digital Citizenship: Communicating with respect, respecting other’s privacy, seeing things from another perspective, adding helpful information/context to a discussion or wiki page, supporting others by offering useful feedback, encouraging them, or sharing work they’re proud of, etc.

Big Idea: Treating people, places, and ‘spaces’ with respect

Related Teaching & Learning Concepts: Empathy, Social Learning, Critical Literacy, Connectivism, Communal Constructivism

Related Teaching & Learning Resources:

63 Things Every Student Should Know In A Digital World

Moving Students From Digital Citizenship To Digital Leadership

Related Cultural Trends: Ubiquity of social media, Political ‘discussions’ on social media platforms, Freedom of Speech, ‘Global-Local’ social norms (i.e. China/free speech), Blogging, YouTube, Sociocultural equity, Globalization, Mental health, Bullying/Trolling, Clickbait, Critical thinking, ‘Fake News’

The Definition Of Digital Citizenship


The Difference Between Assessment Of Learning And Assessment For Learning

The Difference Between Assessment Of Learning And Assessment For Learning

by Terry Heick

What is the difference between assessment of learning and assessment for learning?

It boils down to purpose.

In 50 Ways To Measure Understanding, I talked about the purpose of assessment:

Is the assessment for the teacher or the student? If you’re not clear about why you’re assessing (and what you’re going to do with the data the assessment provides) you’re wasting a lot of time, energy, and resources–your own and that of the students.

Think like a doctor: You have to have a plan what you’re going to do with what you learn from the assessment (the data) before you give the assessment–ideally, before you even design the assessment to begin with.

The Difference Between Assessment Of Learning And Assessment For Learning

Assessment for learning is commonly referred to as formative assessment–that is, assessment designed to inform instruction. If we can agree that the purpose of assessment is to provide data to revise planned instruction, then the only type of assessment that’s not ‘assessment for learning’ is ‘assessment of learning,’ commonly referred to as summative assessment.

Assessment is generally broken down into three categories: assessment before instruction (pre-assessment), assessment during instruction (formative assessment), and assessment after instruction (summative assessment). To further complicate matters, it could be argued that pre-assessment is both assessment of and for learning–that is, it assesses ‘prior knowledge’ (as a pre-assessment) and that data is then used to revise planned instruction (making it formative assessment).

In truth, most of this is semantics and a bit confusing. There are many ways to measure understanding and the primary distinction in most K-12 classrooms for most assessments is function: What is the assessment supposed to do? If you’re using the ‘test’ so that you can see what students do and don’t know so that you can more accurately plan future learning lessons and activities, then it’s assessment for learning (even if you’re obviously doing so by performing an assessment of learning).

If instead, the assessment is merely a kind of benchmark to see ‘how well they can do’ and you’re moving on, then it’s primarily an assessment of learning. There is significant overlap between the two; in fact, the same test given in one circumstance would be considered an assessment of learning while in another circumstance be considered an assessment for learning.

In short then, the difference between assessment of learning and assessment for learning is a matter of function and purpose–a matter of ‘who’: assessment of learning is a way to see what the students can do while assessment for learning is a way to see what the teachers should do in response.

You can check out more of TeachThought’s assessment resources for teachers or contact us for assessment professional development, and let us know in the comments if there is a distinction or example you think other teachers could benefit from.

The Difference Between Assessment Of Learning And Assessment For Learning


What Is A Personal Learning Network?

what-is-a-personal-learning-networkWhat Is A Personal Learning Network?

by TeachThought Staff

What is a personal learning network, or rather a Personal Learning Network? How about a Professional Learning Network?

In the video below, Marc-André Lalande offers a concise, useful definition that simplifies the idea from hashtags and movements and social engagement and badges and, well, all the buzzwords you hear, into a clear explanation that works not just within education, but any field.

“A Personal Learning Network is a way of describing the group of people that you connect with to learn their ideas, their questions, their reflections, and their references. Your PLN is not limited to online interactions, but it is that online, global interactive part that really makes it special. It is personal because you choose who’s part of that group; you choose if you want to lurk–just check out what people are saying–or if you share; because you choose when to do so, and how to do so.”

In that way, a Professional Learning Network, then, is a natural extension of the way people learn–by connecting with others who have shared interests, ideas, or resources. If the internet was, at one point, one-way–a user “logs on” to search for information or share an opinion, then “logs off” because they’re “finished”–a more progressive view could be that connectivity is omnidirectional and multi-faceted. We connect with different people with unique expertise using varied tools for authentic and constantly changing purposes.

Interestingly, that view will continue to change as technology evolves. That is, we view and define connections in light of the potential for and degrees of connectivity.

What Is A Personal Learning Network? 


What It Means To Teach


What It Means To ‘Teach’

by Terry Heick

What does it mean to “teach”?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks, but a dozen side projects have kept me from doing so. It started out as an actual academic definition, but that wasn’t interesting. So here we are–here’s what–to me, anyway–it means to teach. I start out with the function of a teacher, and then begin to mix in ‘all the rest.’

Teaching means…

…to help another person understand.

…to help another person understand why something is worth understanding.

…to help another person responsibly use what they know.

…to artfully connect students and content in authentic contexts.

…to cause change.

…to cognitively agitate.

…that relationships with children are the bedrock for everything else.

…to be able to see individual faces, needs, opportunities, and affections where others see a classroom of students.

…that you should always know the difference between what you taught and what they learned.

…to model curiosity.

…that students will likely never forget you (or that one thing you said, the time you lost your temper, how you made them feel, etc.)

…to know what it actually means to “understand.”

…to create a need for students to reorganize and repack their intellectual baggage.

…to self-critique your own biases, blind spots, and other “broken perceptions”

…to make dozens of crucial decisions on the fly not per day or class but per minute.

…that you’re going to be needed every second of every day in some important way.

…to adjust the timing, general ‘form’, and complexity of a given content so that it seems ‘just in time, just enough, and just for me’ for each student.

…to help students play with complex ideas in pursuit of self-knowledge and personal change.

…to be able to create an awesome lesson plan and unit–and to know when and why to ditch that plan and unit.

…to know the difference between teaching content and teaching thought.

…that you need to know your content well enough to teach any concept, skill, or standard within it 20+ different ways.

…that you’re going to work closely with people that will think differently than you, and learning to bridge those gaps with diplomacy could make or break your happiness

…to help students transfer understanding of academic content to authentic circumstances.

…to accept certain failure.

…to be a lifelong learner yourself.

…to disrupt social imbalances, inequities, and knowledge and skill gaps

…to confront your own weaknesses (technology, pedagogy, content, collaboration, organization, communication, etc.)

…to really, truly change the world (for the better or the worse).

…that you’re going to need a lot of help from everyone.

…to operate under unclear terms for success.

…to explain, model, and connect.

…to change, change, change.

…that in terms of sheer mathematical probability, you’re not going to be teaching for more than five years (if you’ve already passed that, congratulations!)

…that your ‘comfort zone’ no longer matters.

…your teaching program probably didn’t prepare you well (e.g., your ability to empathize and engage and design are more important than anything else you learned in said program).

…to practice humility.

…to cause students to ask Why? to everything.

What ‘Teaching’ Means; What It Means ‘To Teach’; image attribution flickr user pawelloj


What Differentiated Instruction Is–And Is Not

the-definition-of-differentiation-fiWhat Differentiation Is–And Is Not: The Definition Of Differentiation

by TeachThought Staff

For teacher’s and administrators, a useful definition of differentiated instruction is “adapting content, process, or product” according to a specific student’s “readiness, interest, and learning profile.”

It can be first that of as a matter of contrast–“differences.” This student needs something different than that in pursuit of a given learning goal.

We’re not sure it is a matter of fact how personalized learning, personal learning, and differentiated instruction compare, but we tend to think of differentiated instruction as the process of optimizing the packaging of academic content for individual students, while the former “personalized” and “personal” learning can also involve the changing of the content itself. That is, this student needs to learn this content, while differentiation is a matter of tailoring teaching for each students to reach the same content.

Carol Ann Tomlinson

In the context of creating instruction that actually meets learners “where they are,” differentiated instruction is a bit of a pioneer. Like Grant Wiggins’ work with backwards-planning, and Robert Marzano’s focus on research-based strategies, differentiation has had champions of its own, and among the leaders of that niche in teaching is Carol Ann Tomlinson, Chair of Educational Leadership, Foundations, and Policy at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

Tomlinson has published extensively with ASCD on the topic of differentiation (including a book that discussed differentiation in the context of Wiggin’s UbD), where the goal for differentiated instruction was given:

“The goal of a differentiated classroom is maximum student growth and individual success. As schools now exist, our goal is often to bring everyone to “grade level” or to ensure that everyone masters a prescribed set of skills in a specified length of time. We then measure everyone’s progress only against a predetermined standard. Such a goal is sometimes appropriate, and understanding where a child’s learning is relative to a benchmark can be useful. However, when an entire class moves forward to study new skills and concepts without any individual adjustments in time or support, some students are doomed to fail. Similarly, classrooms typically contain some students who can demonstrate mastery of grade-level skills and material to be understood before the school year begins—or who could do so in a fraction of the time we would spend “teaching” them. These learners often receive an A, but that mark is more an acknowledgment of their advanced starting point relative to grade-level expectations than a reflection of serious personal growth. In a differentiated classroom, the teacher uses grade-level benchmarks as one tool for charting a child’s learning path. However, the teacher also carefully charts individual growth. Personal success is measured, at least in part, on individual growth from the learner’s starting point—whatever that might be.”

The following graphic from ASCD offers several examples of what differentiated instruction is–and is not. The information here comes from Carol Ann Tomlinson’s newest book,The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition.

What Differentiated Instruction Is–And Is Not: The Definition Of Differentiated Instruction

The Definition Of Differentiated InstructionWhat Differentiated Instruction Is–And Is Not


A Common Language: 30 Public Education Terms Defined

graphic-notes-6-fiA Common Language: 30 Public Education Terms Defined 

by TeachThought Staff

Communication depends on a common language.

In any field, knowing what a colleague means when they use a term or phrase is the difference between talking about ideas and exchanging ideas. So the following list of public education terms is useful not so much for the definitions, but for the credibility (or at least authority) of the definitions, as they are sourced from the Department of Education itself, in this case in regards to clarify Race to the Top language and meaning.

For us, they’re informative for other reasons:

  • To see language and patterns is to see priority and thought. Put another way, you can’t discuss and likely don’t value what you haven’t identified and named.
  • To see how many factors impact a child’s education
  • To clarify your own misconceptions
  • To prioritize your own work
  • To share with colleagues

We’ve included most of the definitions they provided, but left a few out that were only narrowly useful. You can find the full list here.

A Common Language: 30 Public Education Terms Defined 

1. Achievement gap

The difference in the performance between each ESEA subgroup (as defined in this document) within a participating LEA or school and the statewide average performance of the LEA’s or tate’s highest achieving subgroups in reading/language arts and mathematics as measured by the assessments required under the ESEA.

2. College and career-ready graduation requirements

Minimum high school graduation expectations (e.g., completion of a minimum course of study, content mastery, proficiency on college- and career-ready assessments, etc.) that include rigorous, robust, and well-rounded curriculum aligned with college- and career-ready standards (as defined in this document) that cover a wide range of academic and technical knowledge and skills to ensure that students leave high school ready for college and careers.

3. College- and career-ready standards

Content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that build towards college- and career-ready graduation requirements (as defined in this document) by the time of high school graduation. A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the post-secondary level.

4. College enrollment

The enrollment in college of students who graduate from high school consistent with 34 CFR 200.19(b)(1) and who enroll in an institution of higher education (as defined in section 101 of the Higher Education Act, P.L. 105-244, 20 U.S.C. 1001) within 16 months of graduation.

Core educational assurance areas:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.

5. Digital learning content

Learning materials and resources that can be displayed on a digital device and shared electronically with other users. Digital learning content includes both open and or commercial content. In order to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, any digital learning content used by grantees must be accessible to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use screen readers. For additional information regarding their application to technology, please refer to and

6. Educators 

All education professionals and paraprofessionals working in participating schools (as defined in this document), including principals or other heads of a school, teachers, other professional instructional staff (e.g. staff involved in curriculum development, staff development, or operating library, media and computer centers), pupil support services staff (e.g. guidance counselors, nurses, speech pathologists, etc.), other administrators (e.g. assistant principals, discipline specialists.), and paraprofessionals (e.g. assistant teachers, instructional aides).

7. Graduation rate 

The four-year or extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as defined by 34 CFR 200.19(b)(1).

8. High-needs students 

Students at risk of educational failure or otherwise in need of special assistance and support, such as students who are living in poverty, who attend high-minority schools (as defined in the Race to the Top application), who are far below grade level, who have left school before receiving a regular high school diploma, who are at risk of not graduating with a diploma on time, who are homeless, who are in foster care, who have been incarcerated, who have disabilities, or who are English learners.

9. Interoperable data system 

System that uses common, established structure such that data can easily flow from one system to another and in which data are in a non-proprietary, open format.

10. Local educational agency 

As defined in ESEA, a public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a State for either administrative control or direction of, or to perform a service function for, public elementary schools or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a State, or for a combination of school districts or counties that is recognized in a State as an administrative agency for its public elementary schools or secondary schools.

11. Low-performing schools 

Schools that are in the bottom 10 percent of performance in the State, or who have significant achievement gaps, based on student academic performance in reading/language arts and mathematics on the assessments required under the ESEA or graduation rates (as defined in this document).

12. Metadata about content alignment 

Information about how digital learning content assesses, teaches, and depends on (requires) common content standards such as State academic standards.

13. On-track indicator 

A measure, available at a time sufficiently early to allow for intervention, of a single student characteristic (e.g., number of days absent, number of discipline referrals, number of credits earned), or a composite of multiple characteristics, that is both predictive of student success (e.g., students demonstrating the measure graduate at an 80 percent rate) and comprehensive of students who succeed (e.g., of all graduates, 90 percent demonstrated the indicator). Using multiple indicators that are collectively comprehensive but vary by student characteristics may be an appropriate alternative to a single indicator that applies to all students.

14. Participating schools 

Schools that are identified by the LEA or consortium and choose to work with the LEA to implement the LEA(s)’ Race to the Top plan, either in a specific grade span or subject area or in the entire school.

15. Participating students 

Students enrolled in a participating school (as defined in this document), grades, or subject areas and directly served by a Race to the Top District plan.

16. Persistently lowest-achieving schools 

As determined by the State, consistent with the requirements of the School Improvement Grants program authorized by section 1003(g) of the ESEA,

  1. Any Title I school in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that (a) Is among the lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring or the lowest-achieving five Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in the State, whichever number of schools is greater; or (b) Is a high school that has had a graduation rate as defined in 34 CFR 200.19(b) that is less than 60 percent over a number of years; and
  2. Any secondary school that is eligible for, but does not receive, Title I funds that (a) Is among the lowest-achieving five percent of secondary schools or the lowest-achieving five secondary schools in the State that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds, whichever number of schools is greater; or (b) Is a high school that has had a graduation rate as defined in 34 CFR 200.19(b) that is less than 60 percent over a number of years.
  3. To identify the lowest-achieving schools, a State must take into account both (i) The academic achievement of the “all students” group in a school in terms of proficiency on the State’s assessments under section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA in reading/language arts and mathematics combined; and (ii) The school’s lack of progress on those assessments over a number of years in the “all students” group.

17. Personalized learning plan 

A formal document, available in digital and other formats both in and out of school to students, parents, and teachers, that, at a minimum: establishes student learning goals based on academic and career objectives and personal interests; sequences content and skill development to achieve those learning goals and ensure that a student can graduate on-time college- and career-ready; and is updated based on information about student performance on a variety of activities and assessments that indicate progress towards goals.

18. Principal evaluation system 

A system that: (1) will be used for continual improvement of instruction; (2) meaningfully differentiates performance using at least three performance levels; (3) uses multiple valid measures in determining performance levels, including as a significant factor data on student growth(as defined in this document) for all students (including English learners and students with disabilities), and other measures of professional practice (which may be gathered through multiple formats and sources, such as observations based on rigorous leadership performance standards, teacher evaluation data, and student and parent surveys); (4) evaluates principals on a regular basis; (5) provides clear, timely, and useful feedback, including feedback that identifies needs for and guides professional development; and (6) will be used to inform personnel decisions.

19. School board evaluation 

An assessment of the LEA school board that both evaluates performance and encourages professional growth. This evaluation system rating should reflect both (1) the feedback of many stakeholders, including but not limited to educators and parents; and (2) student outcomes performance in order to provide a detailed and accurate picture of the board’s performance.

20. School leadership team 

A team that is composed of the principal or other head of a school, teachers and other educators, and, as applicable, other school employees, parents, students, and other community members, and leads the implementation of improvement and other initiatives at the school. In cases where statute or local policy, including collective bargaining agreements, call for such a body, that body shall serve the school leadership team for the purpose of this program.

21. Student attendance 

During the regular school year, the average percentage of days that students are present for school. Students should not be considered present for excused absences, unexcused absences, or any period of time that they are out of their regularly assigned classrooms due to discipline measures (i.e., in- or out-of-school suspension).

22. Student survey 

Measures students’ perspectives on teaching, learning, and related supports in their classrooms and schools. The surveys must be research-based, valid, and reliable. Over time these results should be predictive of rates of student growth.

23. Student Growth 

The change in student achievement for an individual student between two or more points in time, defined as—

  1. For grades and subjects in which assessments are required under ESEA section 1111(b)(3): (1) a student’s score on such assessments and (2) other measures of student learning, such as those described in the second bullet, provided they are rigorous and comparable across schools within an LEA.
  2. For grades and subjects in which assessments are not required under ESEA section 1111(b)(3): alternative measures of student learning and performance, such as student results on pre-tests, end-of-course tests, and objective performance-based assessments; performance against student learning objectives; student performance on English language proficiency assessments; and other measures of student achievement that are rigorous and comparable across schools within an LEA.

24. Student-level data 

Demographic, performance, and other information that pertains to a single student but cannot be attributed to a specific student.

25. Student performance data 

Information about the academic progress of a single student, such as formative and summative assessment data, coursework, instructor observations, information about student engagement and time on task, and similar information.

26. Subgroup 

Each category of students identified under ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(C)(v)(II).

27. Superintendent evaluation 

Rigorous, transparent, and fair annual evaluation for the LEA superintendent that provides an assessment of performance and encourages professional growth. This evaluation rating should reflect (1) the feedback of many stakeholders, including but not limited to educators, principals, and parents; and (2) student outcomes performance in order to provide a detailed and accurate picture of the superintendent’s performance.

28. Teacher attendance 

During the regular school year, the average percentage of days that teachers are present when they would otherwise be expected to be teaching students in an assigned class. Teachers should not be considered present for days taken for sick leave and/or personal leave. Personal leave includes voluntary absences for reasons other than sick leave.

29. Teacher evaluation system 

System that: (1) will be used for continual improvement of instruction; (2) meaningfully differentiates performance using at least three performance levels; (3) uses multiple valid measures in determining performance levels, including as a significant factor data on student growth (as defined in this document) for all students (including English learners and students with disabilities), and other measures of professional practice (which may be gathered through multiple formats and sources, such as observations based on rigorous teacher performance standards, teacher portfolios, and student and parent surveys); (4) evaluates teachers on a regular basis; (5) provide clear, timely, and useful feedback, including feedback that identifies needs and guides professional development; and (6) will be used to inform personnel decisions.

30. Turnaround strategy 

As defined by the School Improvement Grant (SIG) regulations, published in the Federal Register on October 28, 2010 (75 FR 66363), turnaround model, restart model, school closure, or transformational model.

image attribution  data source


6 Types Of Assessment Of Learning

types-of-assessment-fi6 Types Of Assessment Of Learning

by TeachThought Staff

If curriculum is the what of teaching, and learning models are the how, assessment is the puzzled “Hmmmm”–as in, I assumed this and this about student learning, but after giving this assessment, well….”Hmmmmm.”

So what are the different types of assessment of learning? This graphic below from McGraw Hill offers up six forms; the next time someone says “assessment,’ you can say “Which type, and what are we doing with the data?” like the TeachThought educator you are.

6 Types Of Assessment Of Learning

1. Diagnostic Assessment (as Pre-Assessment)

One way to think about it: Assesses a student’s strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills prior to instruction.

Another way to think about it: A baseline to work from

2. Formative Assessment

One way to think about it: Assesses a student’s performance during instruction, and usually occurs regularly throughout the instruction process.

Another way to think about it: Like a doctor’s “check-up” to provide data to revise instruction

3. Summative Assessment

One way to think about it: Measures a student’s achievement at the end of instruction.

Another way to think about it: It’s macabre, but if formative assessment is the check-up, you might think of summative assessment as the autopsy. What happened? Now that it’s all over, what went right and what went wrong?

4. Norm-Referenced Assessment

One way to think about it: Compares a student’s performance against other students (a national group or other “norm”)

Another way to think about it: Group or “Demographic” assessment

5. Criterion-Referenced Assessment

One way to think about it: Measures a student’s performance against a goal, specific objective, or standard.

Another way to think about it: a bar to measure all students against

6. Interim/Benchmark Assessment

One way to think about it: Evaluates student performance at periodic intervals, frequently at the end of a grading period. Can predict student performance on end-of-the-year summative assessments.

Another way to think about it: Bar graph growth through a year



6 Types Of Assessment Of Learning

The Future Of Learning

The Definition Of Mobile Learning



by Terry Heick

What is the definition of mobile learning?

For starters, let’s agree that mobile learning is learning based on mobility often through mobile devices like smartphones, iPads, other tablets, and wearable technology.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Years ago, I created a graphic that laid out some of the principles of mobile learning, which included Access, Transparency, Self-Actuation, and Metrics.

For a briefer definition of mobile learning, we might might offer that it is ‘a kind of learning characterized by the need and ability of the learner to be mobile.’ And that’s a critical difference.

Mobile technology as it is commonly used in public education today is characterized primarily by being ‘1:1’–that is, each student getting their own screen. This could theoretically be used to personalize learning for students. They no longer have to ‘share’ one teacher or a single chalkboard, whiteboard, projected screen, etc., but don’t have to move to a ‘computer lab’ to make that happen.

In this case, the classroom becomes the computer lab.

But of course, education just isn’t there yet. Personalized learning only happens in spurts and pockets, unevenly and inconsistently are rarely in ways that change lives for students (as 13 years of schooling absolutely should).

One of its existing characterizations is the use of mobile technology, including smartphones and tablets. Eventually the kind of technology used to support the learner in acquiring data, making connections, and other meaning-making strategies will change.

Wearable technology is one example–the functions of now handheld tech will shrink and be worn. This will change how the data is both acquired and communicated–haptic feedback, gyro and GPS sensing, bendable ‘hardware,’ increasing intelligent location-based alerts, and other features will replace existing type-and-swipe interactions.

This will, in turn, affect the kinds of data learners seek; pinch-and-zoom maps, for example, will likely no longer require pinching and zooming, and may become active (pushing out data, directions, changes to routes, traffic, retailer information, etc.) rather than passive (requiring user input to return data/results).

The Fundamental Pieces Of Mobile Learning

Philosophically speaking, the fundamental pieces of mobile learning (independent of formal systems of education) would simply be the learner, mobility, and a physical environment. Technology isn’t necessary for someone to be both mobile and learning.

In day to day life, mobile learning requires exactly that–a learner and mobility within an environment in which they seek to learn. This can be formal–a college using an iPad on a subway to watch video lectures from on online course. It can also be–and more frequently is–informal. An example might include someone traveling in a new city and using a smartphone camera and app to translate a foreign language in order to understand the local public transpiration system.

In contrast, within systems of formal education mobile learning is characterized not by the learner, their need to know, nor their mobility within an given place or environment, but rather the technology itself. While the technology matters in the given scenarios above, its value is relative and its function more or less replaceable by less expensive solutions.

See also Making The Shift To Mobile-First Teaching

Mobile Teaching

If you’re standing and delivering your lesson and in full control from beginning to end in a one-size-fits-all approach to learning, mobile teaching doesn’t make much sense for you.

Picture a triangle between the mobile tech, the communities students live in, and the teachers as content and assessment experts, with the work of students in the center.

Mobile teaching doesn’t center the technology, but rather rethinks curriculum, planning, teaching, and learning in a way that aligns most evenly with the technology most accessible to you, all in service for extraordinary and inherently personalized learning experiences for students.

The Definition Of Mobile Learning: A Mobile Learning Triangle


What’s A Twitter Chat? An Example And Definition For 2018


What’s A Twitter Chat? An Example And Definition For 2018

by TeachThought Staff

What’s a twitter chat? Where can you see an example of a twitter chat? How do twitter chats work? All good questions.

In 2017/2018, social media is undergoing changes in trend and usage–more visual and focused on engagement rather than simple funneling of traffic to websites, for example. The social media channels now stand on their own.

To wit, twitter isn’t exactly a new platform and teachers in particular have enjoyed its resource-giving potential for years. That means most TeachThought readers have likely seen plenty examples of twitter chats and know exactly what it is.

But maybe you don’t.

If that’s the case, let’s talk about it.

See also The Honest-To-Goodness Beginner’s Guide To Twitter For Teachers In 10 Steps

What’s A Twitter Chat?

In the broadest sense, a twitter chat is conversation on a specific topic held on twitter. But of course it’s more complicated than that.

Below, we’ll take a look at an example of a twitter chat. For now, let’s look at its characteristics.

1. A twitter chat is a conversation based on a specific topic.

2. Twitter chats are generally held ‘live.’ This means that people wanting to ‘chat’ ‘meet’ at a specific time and respond to questions from a twitter chat host. (More on that below.)

3. Because of how twitter works, some method of ‘unifying’ the conversation needs to be used. Without this, the chat will be lost in a stream of other tweets by other people you follow.

4. To accomplish this, a #hashtag is used. Twitter chat participants can then search for the hashtag and view the entire conversation in one single stream, and append their own tweets with the given hashtag in order to have their contributions join the chat/conversation.

Note, sometimes the #hashtag used is general enough to be used by twitter users that have no interest in or awareness of the conversation being held. For example, if the twitter chat is one mobile learning and the hashtag #mobilelearning is used, someone may tweet and use the #mobilelearning hashtag completely unaware of the chat being held.

At times, this adds to the conversation, as the ongoing use of the hashtag allows for new ideas and resources to be discovered. At others, it allows for irrelevant tweets (that are skipped over easily enough by readers, of course) to be unwittingly included in the conversation.

5. Speaking of ongoing use, another great part about twitter chats is that they don’t have to stop, but can continue indefinitely.

While the formal question-and-answer portion usually ends at a pre-determined time, users can access the ‘chat’ at anytime by searching for the specific #hashtag used in the chat. Between formal twitter chat gatherings and set times, users can continue to use the hashtag to join the conversation.

(In fact, it could be argued that this is the ideal use of hashtags–persistent and ongoing–rather than the more formal meet-and-answer-questions-for-an-hour approach.)

How Does A Twitter Chat Work?

So now you know what a twitter chat is and how it works in a general sense, what about the specific formatting during the live conversation? Seeing an example of a twitter chat will be useful.

Besides the aforementioned use of specific hashtags, the only other thing you need to know really is how to ‘answer’ questions. Though it can vary from twitter chat to twitter chat, usually one person (the twitter chat moderator/host) has a series of questions they create beforehand.

When the twitter chat begins at the pre-determined time, the host will introduce the topic and themselves and any other key participants. Next, they’ll simply tweet a question/prompt intended to promote discussion and response from twitter chat participants. They’ll prepend all questions with the letter ‘Q’ and a number indicating which question in sequence it is.

For example, in a twitter chat on critical thinking, we might start like this:

“Good evening! Thanks for everyone joining the #criticalthinking twitter chat tonight. Let’s get straight to the chat!

Q1. How do you define critical thinking in your classroom? #criticalthinking’

Participants would then answer by prepending their responses with the letter ‘A’ followed by the number matching the question they’re responding to–something like this if they were answering the question above:

‘A1. We define critical thinking as any thinking intended to evaluate and judge a subject.’

The host usually moves on to the second question (Q2) after a pre-determined period of time (for example, two minutes) or when they feel there has either been enough time for everyone to respond (which could be more or fewer than two minutes).

The above process is continued until all of the questions have been covered. To end the twitter chat, the host usually thanks the participants, then lets them know where they can find the chat (if they use a tool like storify to embed it), when the next chat is scheduled for, and points them to any other relevant links or resources for further reading or engagement.

An Example Of A Twitter Chat

While it’s been a few years since we’ve hosted a twitter chat with any regularity, in the past we hosted a #reflectiveteacher chat, which we’ve embedded below for reference so you can see an actual example of a twitter chat.

The topic obviously explored the idea of reflection in teaching, with the specific twitter chat on this day focusing on reflective teaching with the purpose of ‘Fostering A Growth Mindset With Our Students.’

You can find more information on the chat here.

Twitter Digest: Fostering A Growth Mindset With Students; What’s A Twitter Chat? An Example And Definition For 2018

Learning Models

The Definition Of Combination Learning

the-definition-of-combination-learning-fiThe Definition Of Combination Learning

by Terry Heick

Combination Learning is a new teaching and learning strategy for the 21st century. The definition of Combination Learning is learning through the flexible combination of two or more learning components.

This is a new learning strategy developed by TeachThought that responds to the endless possibilities in modern learning environments. It is purposefully flexible, and adaptable to a variety of content areas, grade levels, and available local technology.

The Big Idea

The big idea of combination learning is shifting the focus from content to the process of learning.

Combination Learning allows teachers and students to work together to “mash” bits and pieces of learning to design entirely unique and personalized learning scenarios. The result is a flexible, self-directed learning environment where the teacher acts as facilitator and mentor, and the student is at the center of–and entirely accountable for–their own progress and performance.

It can be as simple or complex as the circumstances call for. It can be standards-based or open-ended; technology-based or based on in-person human interaction; project-based, game-based, rigorous, supportive, etc. In that way it is more of a shell or template for teachers and students to fill as necessary.

Student Directions

Pick and choose one or more of the following “pieces” to use and/or combine to create a learning experience that’s meaningful to you, and results in something interesting, playful, and uniquely “you.”

Try to start with yourself: Who are you, what are you a part of, and what does that membership suggest that you understand and do?

Remember, these are just examples. There are dozens for every category.

combination-learning7 Examples Of Combination Learning

1. Combination: Model-Based Learning + iTunes App Store + Craigslist + The Problem of Aging Technology

Paraphrased: Use model-based learning to study the iTunes App Store basic design, combine it with what makes Craigslist popular, and use it to solve the problem of the trading or disposal of aging technology in local communities

2. Combination: Inquiry-Based Learning + Use of classic music in modern hip-hop + Analyse + Essay or 5 minute YouTube documentary

Paraphrased: Use inquiry-based learning to explore and analyze the concept of hip-hop artists sampling classic music, then package your ideas in an essay or short documentary

3. Combination: The Sandbox + Peer Instruction + The Water Cycle

Paraphrased: Use the learning simulation “The Sandbox” to explain the Water Cycle to a peer in some way that’s “new” to their understanding

4. Combination: Separate Causes & Effects + Immigration + Presentation + Self-created Rubric

Paraphrased: Separate the causes and effects of immigration through research, then create a presentation to your local student body or other more relevant audience. Self-assess presentation through self-created rubric

5. Combination: Twitter + Spotify + Design

Paraphrased: Design an app that combines the function of twitter and Spotify to create something new

6. Combination: Right triangles + Bridge Constructor (an app) + Structural Analysis + Vlog

Paraphrased: Study and use right triangles to design bridges using the app “Bridge Constructor,” then complete a structural analysis of the results in brief video log

7. Combination: Project-Based Learning + Local Challenges + Local Entrepreneurs

Design a 6 week project that addresses some self-selected local challenge through collaboration with local entrepreneurs

Text-Version Of Graphic

Below are some examples of these “components”–pieces of the learning process. Note, though Combination Learning can be as scripted or open-ended as circumstances demand, lesson templates like Hunter’s lesson plan format are probably more ideal if you have a standard, objective, target, assessment form, grouping goal, literacy strategy, and other critical parts of the learning process are “non-negotiable.”

Need to Know Sources (reasons to learn)

Citizenship; self-knowledge; stuff you’re curious about; the kinds of things other people study; family or community needs; academic standards; where you feel incomplete or underdeveloped


Who wants or needs to know? This always should start outside the classroom!

Roles (point of views to think/act from)

Historian, Craftsman, Farmer, Documentarian, Scientist, Designer, Engineer, Writer, Photographer, Artist, Journalist, Teacher, Curator, CEO, Human Being, Activist, Botanist, Conservationist, Hippie, Coder, Hacker, Musician, Publicist, Entrepreneur, App Developer

Purposes (Why you’re acting/creating/designing)

To explore/explain/inspire

To persuade/inform/entertain

To create/design/iterate

To repair/restore/save

Media Channels (information sources)

YouTube, books, learnist, poems, movies, stories, songs, videos, encyclopedias, posters, conversations, nature, video games, etc.

Apps (that research, simulate, record, create, publish, curate, connect, etc.)

Storehouse, Brainfeed, WordPress, twitter, pinterest, Questia, Wikipedia, reddit, Explain Everything, etc.

Cognitive Actions (strategies for thinking)

Identify, Analyze, Evaluate, Create; Explain the significance, Critique, Design, Connect, Explain, Narrate, Separate cause and effect, Compare and contrast, Form and revise questions based on learning, etc.

Learning Strategies (strategies for planning learning)

Model-Based Learning; Inquiry-Based Learning; Play; meLearning; Self-Directed Learning; Reflect & Respond; Project-Based Learning (4 Ps); Peer Instruction; Scenario-Based Learning


Essential questions; self-created questions and matters of inquiry; questions posed by community members; challenges rephrased as questions


Bullying, Social Media Abuse, Distracted Driving, Drinking and Driving, Unplanned Parenthood, Literacy, Bad Work, etc.


Local business, universities, peers, families, neighbors, entrepreneurs, etc.

Image attribution; The Definition Of Combination Learning


The Ultimate List: 50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction

The Ultimate List: 50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction

by Terry Heick

Differentiation is a simple idea that’s less simple to actuate.

Differentiation is a rational approach to meeting the needs of individual learners, but actually making it possible on a daily basis in the classroom can be challenge.

In ‘What Differentiation Is–And Is Not: The Definition Of Differentiation,’ we recall ed-guru Carol Ann Tomlinson’s overview of differentiation as ‘adapting content, process, or product according to a specific student’s readiness, interest, and learning profile.’

And in ‘Understanding Differentiation’

“The goal of a differentiated classroom is maximum student growth and individual success. As schools now exist, our goal is often to bring everyone to “grade level” or to ensure that everyone masters a prescribed set of skills in a specified length of time. We then measure everyone’s progress only against a predetermined standard…(yet)classrooms typically contain some students who can demonstrate mastery of grade-level skills and material to be understood before the school year begins—or who could do so in a fraction of the time we would spend “teaching” them. These learners often receive an A, but that mark is more an acknowledgment of their advanced starting point relative to grade-level expectations than a reflection of serious personal growth.”

And therein lies the need for differentiation. What can be differentiated?

Tomlinson’s above identification of ‘Content, Process, or Product’ provide a useful starting point, as she explains that,

“A teacher can differentiate content. Content consists of facts, concepts, generalizations or principles, attitudes, and skills related to the subject…In many instances in a differentiated classroom, essential facts, material to be understood, and skills remain constant for all learners. (Exceptions might be, for example, varying spelling lists when some students in a class spell at a 2nd grade level while others test out at an 8th grade level, or having some students practice multiplying by two a little longer, while some others are ready to multiply by seven.) What is most likely to change in a differentiated classroom is how students gain access to core learning.”

Below we’ve gathered a list of 50 differentiation strategies. This is the beginning of an index of similar in form and function to the TeachThought Learning Model Index. Like the Learning Model Index, this list will be updated with definitions, tools, tips, and strategies to enact the strategies, and examples of each.

For now, we’re sharing the list and the graphic, and would love your questions and comments below as we proceed. Note that we’ve already listed more than 50, and eventually will likely have closer to 100.

The Ultimate List: 50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction

50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction

1. Curriculum Mapping

2. Inquiry-Based Learning

3. Power Standards & Enduring Understandings

4. Project-Based Learning

5. Classroom Layout & Design

6. Learning Model Integration

7. Sentence & Discussion Stems

8. Tiered Learning Targets

9. Learning Through Play

10. Meaningful Student Voice & Choice

11. Learning Badges

12. Relationship-Building & Team-Building

13. Self-Directed Learning

14. Choice Boards

15. Bloom’s Twist

16. Debate (Also, 4-Corners and Agree/Disagree can be useful here as well.)

17. Sync Teaching

18. Double-Entry Journal/Essay Writing

19. Analogies, Metaphors, And Visual Representations

20. Reciprocal Teaching

21. Mock Trial

22. The Hot Seat/Role-Play

23. Student Data Inventories

24. Mastery Learning

25. Goal-Setting & Learning Contracts

26. Game-Based Learning

27. RAFT Assignments

28. Grouping

29. Socratic Seminar

30. Problem-Based Learning/Place-Based Education

31. Learning Blends

32. Write-Around

33. Genius Hour

34. Rubrics

35. QFT Seminar

36. Learning Menus

37. Cubing

38. Layering (e.g., layered curriculum or assessment)

39. Jigsaws

40. Graphic Organizers

41. Learning Through Workstations

42. Concept Attainment

43. Flipped Classroom

44. Mentoring

45. Planning Through Learning Taxonomies

46. Assessment Design & Backwards Planning

47. Student Interest & Inventory Data

48. Learning Feedback

49. Mini-Lessons

50. Class Rules

Bonus: Identity Charts, Time Management, Media Usage, BYOD, Classroom ‘Atmosphere,’ Scaffolded Literacy, Student-Led Conferencing, Adaptive Learning Apps, Peer-to-Peer Instruction

50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction


A New Definition For Equity In Education

A New Definition For Equity In Education

by Terry Heick

In a profession increasingly full of angst and positioning and corrective policy, there are few ideas as easy to get behind as equity.

Equal. Equality. Equity. Equilibrium. Equate. These are all fine ideas—each tidy and whole, implying their own kind of justice while connotating the precision of mathematics. Level. Same. Twin.  Each word has its own nuance, but one characteristic they share in common is access—a level, shared area with open pathways that are equidistant to mutually agreed-upon currencies.

When discussing equity, there are so many convenient handles–race, gender, language, poverty, access to technology, but there may be a larger view that we’re missing when we do so.

The Scale of Equity

There isn’t a more global issue—equity being perhaps the global issue of our time. United Nation statistics published last year in The Economist put it plainly. While progress is being made in sub-Saharan Africa in primary education, gender inequality is in fact widening among older children. The ratio of girls enrolled in primary school rose from 85 to 93 per 100 boys between 1999 and 2010, whereas it fell from 83 to 82 and from 67 to 63 at the secondary and tertiary levels. And elsewhere, in Chad and the Central African Republic, there is a flat-rate of less than 70 girls for every 100 boys.”

This is a starkly different conversation about equity than the one we might have in the United States, the UK, Canada, or Australia. We have the luxury of becoming choosier, and harsher on ourselves, as progress is made, i.e., let’s first make sure there are free, quality schools everywhere, and that children can all read and write, and then at some point down the line we can concern ourselves with iPads vs Androids, or the broadband access in our poorest communities.

It’s easy to miss the scale of this as an “issue” because unlike assessment, curriculum, teacher pay, class sizes, educational technology, or any other persistently evergreen edu-choke point, equity never stops affecting. It’s both the center and periphery of everything because we’re always who we are, where we are.

The Cultural Effect

As a species, we express ourselves through difference. What makes “culture” interesting is how it both recognizes the individual while simultaneously allowing them to disappear into the whole again. In culture there is both identity and anonymity. There is a constant self–>group transaction that is based on both affection (inward expression) and image (outward expression). This transaction is then repeated across cultures, with completely different functions. Differences within and across cultures are differences nonetheless, but the individual can think while groups simply gather.

So this is a brutally narrow take on how people gather and cohort and manifest their vision of what it means to be human, but the point remains: As educators, we suffer that same reductionism when we see the masses the same way Nielsen does television ratings. Students aren’t demographics, and it’s murky at best to see how treating them that way has improved their lot, or our shared progress.

While squinting and trying to narrow gaps, it’s too easy to lose the scale and product of our work. The segmenting of Mackenzie and Andrew into a group, and that group into a subgroup, and their understanding into data, and the knowledge we hope they come away with into standards we can teach with—this all becomes a tone—a posture dictates the terms of teaching and learning. Equity in the classroom is different than in the job market.

A subcorollary is that we all share equity and inequity, both in possession and effect. In “The Hidden Wound,” Wendell Berry writes, “It may be the most significant irony in our history that racism, by dividing the two races, has made them not separate but in a fundamental way inseparable, not independent but dependent on each other, incomplete without each other, each needing desperately to understand and make use of the experience of the other…. we are one body, and the division between us is the disease of one body, not of two.” This is both abstract and practical. We share both living space and social membership.

Somehow, though, public education, more so than any other industry or profession, is expected to aggregate these inherent disparities while transcending them. Our task?

  • Create a curriculum that provides a common language for knowledge without homogenizing the nuance of that knowledge
  • Design learning models that are inherently inclusive regardless of access to technology
  • Establish authentic functions for family members and communities who may speak a completely different language

As individuals, we work to separate ourselves—as children, often based on image, and as adults, often based on income, where we choose to live, what we drive, the smartphone we carry, and what we choose to do “for a living.” But each of these expressions of who we are–gender, native language, race, sexuality, socioeconomic level, and so many others–are also opportunities for disparity all work to undermine the function of education.

skokie--tt2It’s easy to see equity in education as a matter of fairness, access, and inclusion, but that’s only the case if what’s being fairly accessed is a system of teaching and learning that is able to meet the needs of an increasingly global population—that means fluid, responsive, dynamic, neutral, and alive. For an industry that struggles to get every student reading on grade level, this may be a bit much. My gut reaction, then, is that this can only occur through the affectionate expression of the local—this student in this home in this community, with the school functioning as an extraordinary support system.

The equity is at the student level rather than the demographic level because demographics only exist in paperwork. For every student, there is commonness and there is difference; there is what’s shared (i.e., student needing knowledge), and there is distinction (e.g., poor, rural, white, black, male, female). This never stops. We can revise our schools, curriculum, pedagogy, and technology until it is inclusive, fair, and accessible to every student, but that’s been an ongoing effort that may represent a kind of basement for our goals.

But why not consider something more ambitious? New thinking about the terms and definitions of gender emphasize both the characteristics and the fluidity of any culture. If we insist on standardizing content, maybe we can avoid standardizing education. How many different answers are there to, “Why learn?” Fantastic! Let’s iterate ourselves until we can honor that.

The work before us, then, may not be to level an academic playing field for which there is no straight, but rather to create new terms for why we learn, how, and where—and then change the expectation for what we do with what we know.

Simply guaranteeing access and inclusion into a body of content-based is no longer sufficient if our goals stretch beyond academic. A modern definition for equity in education may be less about equal, fair, or even, and more about personalization–a body of knowledge, habits, and networks that help each student realize their own perfectly unique potential.

As for a definition for equity in education? How about, “eye-level access to curriculum, education models, and learning spaces that depend entirely on the native interests, knowledge demands, and human affections of learners individually.”

Or more briefly, “a fully-realized system of learning that starts and ends with the humanity of each student.”

A New Definition For Equity In Education; adapted image attribution flickr user helpingting and skotit;