What To Do On Twitter: 50 Ideas For Teachers


What To Do On Twitter: 50 Ideas For Teachers

by TeachThought Staff

This post has been updated and republished from a 2013 post.

  1. Send a link.
  2. Express an opinion.
  3. Follow innovative thought leaders.
  4. Stalk conversations between people you respect.
  5. Retweet a helpful link.
  6. Respond to someone else’s tweet.
  7. Have students use a tweet in a research project, then cite it using MLA rules.
  8. See what your peers are complaining about.
  9. Buy 5000 followers for $5, then wonder what on earth you’ve done.
  10. Get ideas for technology integration.
  11. Categorize twitter accounts by content using lists.
  12. Send a picture of your classroom with twitpic.
  13. Ask for pictures of other classrooms.
  14. Communicate with parents.
  15. Follow a twitter chat via #hashtag.
  16. Search for older messages (old = last week or so) to gauge “what educators are saying” about a particular topic–#21stedchat, for example. Or rather, what they were saying last week.
  17. Thank someone for their time, content, or collaboration.
  18. Organize a local-ish meet-up of local tweeps.
  19. Commit to never using the word tweeps again.
  20. Analyze emerging trends.
  21. Try to understand a complex idea by capturing it entirely in 140 characters. (Go on, try it.)
  22. See what your peers are curious about.
  23. Procrastinate when you should be researching, writing, grading, or planning. After all, twitter is research.
  24. Wonder what the world was like before twitter.
  25. Give an exam by asking open-ended questions which must be then revised, refined, and articulated in the very transparent domain of twitter.
  26. Encourage mentors or PLN members to observe and chime-in to said “open” exam with feedback.
  27. Curate resources by clicking relevant links, then saving with Evernote, pocket, Pearltrees, or another social bookmarking tool.
  28. Follow 10,000 people just to watch the absolutely ridiculous stream of tweets pour down your screen like a crazy digital waterfall.
  29. Ask an expert a question with @ messaging.
  30. Direct message someone a “hand-typed” (as opposed to automated) message as a show of support.
  31. Challenge an idea.
  32. Play devil’s advocate.
  33. Butt-in to a conversation that has nothing to do with you, and be abrasive about it. (Watch your follow count drop, and be sure grin devilishly when you get blocked.)
  34. Support a cause.
  35. Brainstorm with global educators to solve a local problem.
  36. Brainstorm with local educators to solve a global problem.
  37. Give exposure to under-exposed content.
  38. Listen to students.
  39. Start a new #hashtag.
  40. Revive “old” tweets worth revisiting.
  41. Start with a broad question, then collaboratively refine it until you’ve gotten at the right question. (This can be done with students or other educators.)
  42. Treat twitter like a personal text message service full single words and initialisms, e.g., “LOL!” and “IKR!” to one person.
  43. Or don’t.
  44. Promote your favorite learning platform by explaining how educators might use it.
  45. Research an idea.
  46. Lurk endlessly.
  47. Gather the general consensus on an issue.
  48. Read tweets from the perspective of new audiences—what would parents, politicians, students, business leaders, etc., think of tweeted edu-content.
  49. Watch what is “trending” when, and why.
  50. Pay attention to the differences in content that gets shared via RT, favorited, and responded to.



Failing Forward: 21 Ideas To Help Students Keep Their Momentum

failing-forward-fi-2Failing Forward: 21 Ideas To Help Students Keep Their Momentum

by Terry Heick

“Failing Forward” is a relatively recent entry into our cultural lexicon–at least as far has headlines go anyway–that has utility for students and teachers.

Popularized from the book of the same name, the idea behind failing forward is to see failing as a part of success rather than its opposite. Provided we keep moving and pushing and trying and reflecting, failure should, assuming we’re thinking clearly, lead to progress, So rather than failing and falling back, we fail forward. Tidy little metaphor.

So what might this look like in your classroom?

Failing Forward In The Classroom: 21 Ideas To Help Students Keep Their Momentum

1. Design iterative work (i.e., work that deserves and is conducive to revision and iteration)

How does this promote failing forward? If there’s no stopping point, then mistakes are simply opportunities.

Say: “Your design work on the app blueprint is coming along nicely. Awesome job using the feedback from the subreddit you got the idea from.”

2. Use project-based learning

How does this promote failing forward? Not only does PBL encourage iteration, but it also reduces the snapshot effect of academic assessment, where stakes are high, errors are costly, and there is almost always a right and wrong answer.

Say: “Your first two drafts didn’t work so well, huh? What can you take from each of them–what’s salvageable and what’s not?”

3. Help students publish their thinking

How does this promote failing forward? This helps mistakes become a matter of transaction between the student and their audience, i.e., the writer and the reader.

Say: “How did your audience respond to your ideas? Based on that, as data, how might you respond?”

4. Connect students with communities

How does this promote failing forward? In the classroom, students are motivated by performance and image; in a community–assuming it’s one the student cares about–they are motivated by the effect of the work and an identity that’s crafted over time. Or they should be anyway, depending on the nature of the connection with the community.

5. Develop a grading system that suggests it

How does this promote failing forward? Good old-fashioned extrinsic motivation. So give them points for correcting mistakes instead of not making them to begin with.

Say: “This essay was well-conceived; loved the clear purpose here, so you got full points for your initial execution. For the remaining points, you’ll now need to go back and revise this and edit that and that.”

6. Recognize it with badges, feedback, and celebration

How does this promote failing forward? As with #5, you don’t just claim to embrace mistakes, you provide instant feedback for it as a good thing with some kind of gamification, or merely a genuine one-on-one conversation with the student.

Say: “I was especially proud of the way you revisited this problem and found a better solution; you’ve now unlocked this achievement.”

7. Consider a no-zero policy (i.e., don’t “allow” zeroes as a team, grade level, or department)

How does this promote failing forward? When you insist that every assignment has to be completed by every student regardless of circumstance, you send a powerful message that all work is important. So A) Make sure the work they do is, in fact, worth their time, but B) Let them know through a well thought-out no-zero policy that failing to turn in an assignment isn’t the end of anything, nor will it simply become a mathematical effect on their grade.

8. Use Habits of Mind

How does this promote failing forward? Habits of Mind promote non-academic priorities that are hugely personal, and, once internalized by the student, valuable in and out of the classroom.

9. Help students practice metacognition

How does this promote failing forward? The more than can monitor their own thinking and performance, the more flexible they have a chance to be in real-time while doing the work to begin with, especially when you’re not around.

Say: “When you got to this point in the design process, what was your main focus?”

listeup-teaching-vocabulary-fi10. Model failure

How does this promote failing forward? You, as a professional, are modeling the humility and perseverance it takes to fail forward.

Say: “I created this test to help me understand what you understand, but I messed up; it doesn’t do that very well. In fact, it’s confused both you and me, and now I have to figure out how to respond.”

11. Study failure (often by those with “street cred” for students)

How does this promote failing forward? See #10, only this time it’s someone outside the classroom, so it has a chance for a different kind of credibility.

Say: “In 1895 when Nikola Tesla’s lab burned and he lost many of his notes and much of his equipment, he could’ve rested on his reputation and gotten a cushy job working for someone else. Instead…”

12. Require students to revise all incomplete work (and it’s “Incomplete” if it’s not proficient)

How does this promote failing forward? This is a similar to a no-zero policy–all work needs to demonstrate a certain level of quality, or it needs to be improved.

Say: “This is so close to representing what you’re able to do. How can we take this and use it to push further?”

13. Grade for 2 or 3 prioritized ideas, not 10

How does this promote failing forward? Oftentimes, those students in need of the most help have the most to improve upon/recover from after feedback and grading. Keep it simply. Grade in stages, or better yet, personalize the grading for that student.

14. Help them be their own best critic (not worst)

How does this promote failing forward? If you can help them, in fact, become their own best critic, they’ll hold themselves to a higher standard than you ever could. but from a position of possibility, not judgment.

15. Have a crystal-clear grading policy that is knowledge and experimentation-friendly, rather than closed and risk-averse

How does this promote failing forward? By studying your grading system, you can be more certain what it “encourages.” By sharing it with others, you can get their feedback, revise it until it encourages what you’d like it to, and then make sure students understand how they’re being graded and why.

16. Have a short memory as a teacher if it benefits learners

How does this promote failing forward? Mistakes should be temporary; students can’t have a growth mindset if their learning leader holds grudges.

17. Help students create and use checklists

How does this promote failing forward? This one more protects the student from that initial failure than helps them respond after they do.

Say: “This checklist should help you as you begin planning your project. If it doesn’t, let’s revise it until it does.”

18. This one isn’t simple, but differentiate or personalize learning

How does this promote failing forward?  The more just enough, just in time, just for me it is, the more it can suggest true ownership by students–and ownership can lead to pride, pride to grit and affection and improvement.

19. Gamify your classroom by highlighting the process and nuance of student performance

How does this promote failing forward? The more visible the process of failure and recovery are, the more “failure literature” students can be, and the better they’ll be able to duplicate the failure-recovery process on their own.

20. Emphasizing iteration and progress over finishing and completion

How does this promote failing forward? Like #1, this focuses on learning as a process; unlike #1, this has less to do with how you design the work, and more with how students see the work you’ve already planned and how they approach it. (#19 can come in handy here as well.)

21. Every student has their own goals, sensitivities, and insecurities. As much as you can, honor that

How does this promote failing forward?

Say: “You’re one of the most creative students I’ve ever met with extraordinary potential. With that in mind, I’ve developed a unique grading system for you this 9 weeks to see if we can’t use all that talent.”

Failing Forward: 21 Ideas To Help Students Keep Their Momentum


Free Explain Everything Lesson Ideas For Your Classroom

explain-everything-lesson-ideasFree Explain Everything Lesson Ideas For Your Classroom

by TeachThought Staff

If you use Explain Everything–or you don’t but perhaps should give it a look–there’s a free iBook of lesson ideas that you might appreciate.

First things first: Explain Everything is a whiteboard and screencasting app that is a wonderful flipped classroom companion, allowing teachers and students to access content asynchronously. Push content and let them access it. And there’s a discount for educators if you meet Apple’s criteria (which makes sense).

In the developer’s words, Explain Everything “is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere. Create slides, draw in any color, add shapes, add text, and use a laser pointer. Rotate, move, scale, copy, paste, clone, and lock any object added to the stage.”

And now they’ve released an iBook with lesson ideas to use the software, because caring is sharing.


The Free iBooks With The Free Lesson Ideas Part

So the iBook then? In their words, “the Apps in the Classroom series was created by Apple to provide teachers with a few ideas on how to integrate apps into daily classroom instruction. Inspired by Apple Distinguished Educators, this book is a collection of activities that let students ages 5 to 14+ use Explain Everything to demonstrate their learning across a range of subjects.”

You can get the Explain Everything app, and the free iBook here.

Also available: Visible Thinking & Learning in Your Classroom with Explain Everything – One Day Workshop

Free Explain Everything Lesson Ideas For Your Classroom


4 Ideas For Motivating Adolescent Male Readers

ideas-for-motivating-adolescent-male-readers4 Ideas For Motivating Adolescent Male Readers

By Kenny McKee

It’s no secret that state and national assessments continue to indicate that boys lag behind girls in the area of reading.

The gap tends to grow larger as students enter adolescence. It’s also no secret that many teenage boys dislike reading — in class or at home. Just ask a high school teacher…or a teenage boy. While it’s not true that all teenage boys dislike reading, there is a growing trend of many becoming unmotivated readers. Obviously, students who are resistant to reading are unlikely to get better at it. Here are four ideas for motivating adolescent male readers.

1. Focus On The Now

Oftentimes, teachers emphasize the importance of reading skills or reading content by saying, “You will need this for the test,” or “You will need this for college,” or “When you get to the real world, you’ll need to be able to do this.” Well, students are living in the real world right now, and, for the most part, they have real concerns about their lives that they want to solve.

Many boys (and teenagers overall) like to know how learning impacts their lives in the moment, and they are generally not concerned with how schoolwork relates to an unclear future. Focusing on the future can lead to procrastination, since, to young men, the future seems a long time away (Smith & Wilhelm, 2002). Also, teachers can lose focus on students’ needs in the present.

We can make the reading we choose for whole-class instruction more motivating by relating it to the “here and now.” Survey your students to determine what they want to learn, and select reading materials aligned with their interests. Have students create products, presentations, or skits from their reading materials.

Many boys will readily engage in activities that ask them to create something meaningful or to perform for their peers. Also, consider designing inquiry units where students research answers to questions that concern teens, such as “Is the senior year of high school necessary?” or “Is love really all you need?” Weaving literature and informational texts around such topics can motivate many students, especially if students have some voice in what the inquiry topics will be.


2. Use A Variety Of Text

In some schools, there is a narrow view of what constitutes literacy. Even with the adoption of Common Core State Standards that emphasize informational text, the primary focus of secondary English language arts classes, especially in high schools, is often the study of literature. Boys engage in many other forms of literacy that traditionally are not valued by teachers. Since many boys do not read teacher-privileged literary fiction texts at home, many of them classify themselves as non-readers, even if they do extensive reading from the Internet, magazines, and newspapers (Cavazos-Kottke, 2005).

One solution that can have tremendous positive effects on motivation is incorporating self-selected reading as part of the English language arts classroom. Conferring with students individually over self-chosen reading provides opportunities to validate and support boys’ independent reading. Once you have learned a bit more about your male students’ reading preferences, you can find texts with similar genres, themes, or topics to include in whole-class reading. You can also better select texts for a classroom library.

3. Set Them Up For Success

Many boys need to feel like they can accomplish a task in order to even attempt it. Thus, goals must be perceived as achievable in order for boys to feel competent. The most-motivating activities offer success and demonstrate evidence of growth (Cleveland, 2011).

Scaffolding and differentiation strategies can contribute to developing a sense of competence. For example, many teachers use Newsela, a site that allows the user to alter the reading complexity of recent news stories. Students can even self-select their own readlng levels based upon factors such as familiarity with the topic, their reading purpose, and their comprehension.

Another option for students is using social scaffolding techniques such as Say Something. Students can select reading partners and then take turns reading, frequently stopping to discuss their comprehension of the text. Sentence starters can be used to help students initiate those conversations.

4. Use Male Reading Role Models

Many educators believe that a “Boy Code” that stems from an absence of positive male role models, the massive influence of the media’s distorted images of masculinity, and the fear of being labeled “feminine” impacts reading motivation. Because girls generally develop literacy skills at an earlier age, many boys perceive reading as a feminine activity. This perception leads to some boys shunning reading. Since they do not participate in school reading, they become less proficient at it, which perpetuates their lack of motivation (Cleveland, 2011).

Male reading role models are important for infiltrating the beliefs of the “Boy Code.” Many people point to the under-representation of males in the teaching profession, especially in English classrooms, as a factor giving the “Boy Code” more power. Some studies have found that bringing successful men into schools helps. Some evidence of this claim is that boys in wealthier districts generally report reading more often and have higher reading assessment scores because their fathers are likely to have jobs where literacy is valued.

These boys are more likely to view literacy as a masculine trait (Sadowski, 2010). Especially for boys living in poverty, it is important for male educators to discuss their reading and the importance of literacy in their lives. In addition, having successful and influential community members share the ways they use reading can be enlightening to young men.

Kenneth McKee is a literacy and instructional coach with Buncombe County Schools in Asheville, NC. He is a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader. To learn more about his work, follow him on Twitter (@kennycmckee) or visit his website; 4 Ideas For Motivating Adolescent Male Readers; image attribution flickr user gammarayproduction


30 Ideas To Promote Creativity In Learning

30 Ideas To Promote Creativity In Learning

by Miriam Clifford,

This post has been republished from a 2012 post.

The concept of teaching creativity has been around for quite some time.

Academics such as  E. Paul Torrance, dedicated an entire lifetime to the advancement of creativity in education. Torrance faced much opposition in his day about the nature of creativity.  Creativity was considered to be an immeasurable, natural ability.  Torrance called for explicit teaching of creativity.  He advocated that it was skill-specific, requiring intentional instruction.  His life’s work ultimately led to the development of the Torrance tests and gifted programs throughout the world.

In recent times, there has been a shift towards the increased acceptance of valuing creativity for all learners.  A 2003 TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson discussing this subject reached over tens of millios of viewers.  It discusses how our current school systems suppress creativity.   He proposes that our current model leaves little room for divergent thinking.

Much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems.

It relies on teaching to the correct answer.  An innovative thinking model is needed. Robinson recently tweeted an article about a new study that suggested 80% of educators surveyed preferred creativity to be included as part of learning standards.

In the same way, David Hughes, founder of Decision Labs and professor at UNC Chapel Hill, argues that innovation is an essential skill for our global economy. In talking about creativity in schools he says, much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems.

Most of the practice of creative methods is being done outside the traditional educational institutions by consulting firms and by persons in companies who have been trained in creative problem solving methods. In universities not much has changed since 1950, when the distinguished psychologist J. P. Guilford in his inaugural address as president of the American Psychological Association stated that education’s neglect of the subject of creativity was appalling.

Adding to this sequence of events is the fact that textbooks are at least three years out of date when they are published and . . . educational systems were the slowest adopters of innovation. Thus, we see that educational institutions need a strong dose of creative problem solving.

What are some ways then as educators that we foster creativity in our classrooms?

  1. Embrace creativity as part of learning.  Create a classroom that recognizes creativity.  You may want to design awards or bulletin boards to showcase different ways of solving a problem, or creative solutions to a real world scenario.
  2. Use the most effective strategies.  Torrance performed an extensive meta-analysis that considered the most effective ways to teach creativity.  He found that the most successful approaches used creative arts, media-oriented programs, or relied on the Osborn-Parnes training program.  Programs that incorporated cognitive and emotional functioning were the most successful.
  3. Think of creativity as a skill.  Much like resourcefulness and inventiveness it is less a trait and more a proficiency that can be taught.  If we see it this way, our job as educators becomes to find ways to encourage its use and break it down into smaller skill sets.  Psychologists tend to think of creativity as Big-C and Little C.  Big C drives big societal ideas, like the Civil Rights movement or a new literary style.  Little C is more of a working model of creativity that solves everyday problems.  Both concepts can be included in our classrooms.
  4. Participate in or create a program to develop creative skills.  Programs like Odyssey of the Mind and Thinkquest bring together students from around the world to design creative solutions and bring them to competition.
  5. Use emotional connections. Research suggests that the best creativity instruction ties in the emotions of the learner.  In the “Odyssey angels” program students can devise a solution to help their local community, such as helping homeless youth. This topic is worthy of more discussion by itself. A blog post by fellow blogger Julie DeNeen gives some valuable information about this type of teaching.

    Research suggests that the best creativity instruction ties in the emotions of the learner.

  6. Use a creativity model.  The Osborne-Parnes model is oldest, widely accepted model.  It is often used in education and business improvement. Each step involves a divergent thinking pattern to challenge ideas, and then convergent thinking to narrow down exploration. It has six steps:
    • Mess-finding. Identify a goal or objective.
    • Fact-finding. Gathering data.
    • Problem-finding. Clarifying the problem
    • Idea-finding. Generating ideas
    • Solution-finding. Strengthening & evaluating ideas
    • Acceptance-finding. Plan of action for Implementing ideas
  7. Consider how classroom assignments use divergent and convergent thinking.  Standardized tests do a great job of measuring convergent thinking that includes analytical thinking or logical answers with one correct response.  Divergent thinking considers how a learner can use different ways to approach a problem.  It requires using association and multiplicity of thought.  We should design assingments that consider both types of thinking models.
  8. Creativity flourishes in a “congenial environment”.  Creative thinking needs to be shared and validated by others in a socially supportive atmosphere.  Researcher Csikszentmihalyi (1996) coined this term, to explain the importance of reception from others.  Others consider how to create communities that foster social creativity to solve problems.
  9. Be aware during discussions.  You know that student who often asks the question that goes a bit outside the lecture?  Well, engage him.  Once a week, intentionally address those questions.  Write them down on an assigned space in the board to go back to later.  Validate their creativity.
  10. See creativity in a positive light.  In his blog in Psychology Today, Eric Jaffe talks about research that suggests see creativity in a negative light.  If we are teaching to creativity, we need to embrace it too.  Reward students for thinking of problems in varied ways by recognizing their efforts.
  11. Try the Incubation Model.  E. Paul Torrance designed this model.  It involves 3 stages:
    1. Heightening Anticipation: Make connections between the classroom and student’s real lives.  “Create the desire to know”.
    2. Deepen Expectations: Engage the curriculum in new ways.  Brainstorm and create opportunities to solve a novel problem.
    3. Keep it going: Continue the thinking beyond the lesson or classroom.  Find ways to extend learning opportunities at home or even the community.
  12. Use a cultural artifact.  Research from experimental social psychology finds that artifacts can enhance insight problem solving.  Consider using an ordinary object, such as a light bulb used in the study or a historical artifact to have students think about living in a particular time period.
  13. Establish expressive freedom.  The classroom environment must be a place where students feel safe to share novel ideas.  Allow for flexibility and create norms that foster creative approaches.
  14. Be familiar with standards.  Knowing the standards inside and out helps find creative solutions in approaching a lesson.  Teachers can adapt them and work within the current framework.  Some topics allow for flexibility and use of creative approaches.
  15. Gather outside resources.  There are some great resources to read related to creativity.  The University of Georgia, provides an array of amazing resources related to how to foster creativity in practical ways.  It also gives a list of programs and organizations that can help with the process.
  16. Allow room for mistakes.  Sir Ken Robinson said it best when he said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” 
  17. Allow space for creativity.  Design some classroom space for exploration, such as a thinking table, a drama stage, a drawing table, or a space for groups to discuss ideas.
  18. Give students time to ask questions.  Organizations such as CCE (Creativity, Culture, Education) suggest teachers incorporate opportunities for students to ask questions.  Intentionally design lessons that allow for wondering and exploration.
  19. Creativity builds confidence.  Students take ownership of their own learning.  Think of ways where students might design a project.  For instance, for the history requirement, I suggested students of both fifth grade classes create an exhibition of their final projects.  The students were so proud of their final work and learned from others presentations. Parents and community members were happy to see students take ownership of their learning.
  20. Encourage curiosity. Consider what is important to students. Student interest are a great place to start on what drives their own thinking tank.  Find inspiration from their world.  Creativity is intrinsic in nature.  Try to step into their viewpoint to find what motivates them.

    Student interest are a great place to start on what drives their own thinking tank.  Find inspiration from their world.

  21. Structure is essential.  Studies, such as a meta-analysis by Torrance suggest that creativity instruction is best with clear structure.  For instance, consider the guidelines of the standard curriculum objectives and add these to the design.  For example, reading considers communication, comprehension, listening, writing and reading.
  22. Observe a working model of creativity.  Visit a creative classroom or watch a video about how a creative classroom works.  The “Case for Creativity in School” is an excellent video that educators can watch to see how creativity might play out in a classroom.  This school adopted a school-wide approach to recognize students.
  23. Consider the work of current experts in the field.  Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally renowed creativity and innovation expert.  His work is used to meet global challenges, renovating education, business, and government organizations to implement his strategies.  His books and TED talks are great places to generate teaching ideas.
  24. Explore different cultures.  Culture is an excellent vehicle for inspiring creative thinking.  In Thinking Hats & Coloured Turbans Dr. Kirpal Singh discusses how cultural contexts are central to creative endeavors.   You can discuss how collaboration between cultures, such as in the space program, produces unique, novel ideas.
  25. Find ways to incorporate and integrate art, music and culture.  A recent report prepared for the European commission considered that creativity is a central force that shapes our culture.  With the changing times we live in, the report suggested that society is enriched by cultural-based creativity.
  26. Use a collaborative creative thinking model to solve classroom problems.  For instance, read a paragraph and then have groups discuss a list of questions.  Collaborative problem solving is catching on quickly.  In fact, many business schools have implemented creative thinking models into their curriculum.
  27. Design multidisciplinary lessons when possible.  When teaching geometry, I designed a lesson called, “Geometry through Art”.  It included works of Art to show fifth graders their application to everyday geometric concepts.  The result was astounding.  I never thought that the subject matter would be so successful.  I designed an entire unit that focused on how different concepts rely on geometry.  I even asked the Art teacher to help reinforce those concepts in class.
  28. Tapping into multiple intelligences is key.  Creativity requires us to use different parts of our brain.  We often bridge connections between seemingly unrelated areas to make new concepts emerge.  Allow students to use their strengths to find new ways of approaching a topic or solving a problem.  You might be surprised with what they come up with.
  29. Understand that creativity is important to students’ future in the job market.  Paul Collard for Creative Partnerships, discusses how 60% of English students will work in jobs that are not yet created.  In today’s market, students must largely be innovative and create their own jobs.  Collard suggests teachers focus on teaching particular skills or set of behaviors, rather than preparing students for specific careers.
  30. Teach creative skills explicitly.  According to Collard, “Creative skills aren’t just about good ideas, they are about having the skills to make good ideas happen.”  He suggests creative skills should include 5 major areas:
    • Imagination
    • Being disciplined or self-motivated.
    • Resiliency
    • Collaboration
    • Giving responsibility to students.  Have them develop their own projects.

In a recent article, What Would Dr. E. Paul Torrance Do?:  A Legacy for Creative Education, the author considers what lies in the future of creativity in our schools?

Retired professor Berenice Bleedorn says we should continue his legacy of sharing information and practice “the art of creative thinking”.  We must continue to advocate for its use and move against the current or as Torrance himself called them, “the powers that be”.  After all, teachers are the real driving force behind the creative thinking in our schools.

If our schools are lagging behind, we must be the creative minds that urge our students to be curious and seek new answers.

This is a cross-post from; 30 Ideas To Promote Creativity In Learning


Boring School Staff Meeting? Here Are Some Ideas

mikewillis-boring-staff-meetingBoring School Staff Meeting? Here Are Some Ideas

For many of us, snow did this to us—pushing end-of-the-school-year proceedings until mid to late June. We’ll probably be brought back in a few times in July, at which point it’ll be time to get our 2014-2015 rosters for a new school year. That makes right now a delicate time.

Here are some tips that as a teacher you can use to–well, these probably won’t help you. You just do what you’re told. As an administrator? Well, you’ve probably got an itinerary and you can’t deviate from it. District official? Your hands are probably tied to. Hmmm. Maybe admins-to-be who have some flexibility in how you design end of the year staff meetings? There we go.

For all 3 of you, here are some ideas.

Do Less of This…

1. Keep them any longer than you have to.

School staff meeting until 6:30 p.m.? Why? To make the school year even more grueling? That’ll do it.

2. Tell them everything they need to do, but then give them no time to do it.

Yes, this is how it’s always been done. But don’t wonder why building turnover–or teacher burnout in general–is so high.

3. Show a bunch of bar graphs and empty statistics. 

Instead, focus on stories, design, and decision making.

This student was finally able to do ____, and it impacted his life by ______.

We have designed checks here, here, and here to enable this.

We solicited feedback in these forms, considered these perspectives, and decided to go with this technology.

4. Ask staff to do anything creative.

They’re tired. Unless you want mediocrity, maybe it can wait?

5. Single out “great teachers.”

This sounds good on paper. Good teaching should be celebrated. The fact of the matter is, the best teachers either know they’re good, or are happy to have their skills celebrated in 1-1 meetings.

Further, the “great teachers” are also often the most tenured, more charismatic, or most popular teachers rather than the out-and-out best. The get the accolades, best students, key committee positions, benefit of the doubt, and so in an endless circle of self-fulfilling prophecy.

It can also jade the “merely decent” teachers, which can hurts worse than celebrating the great ones helps.

6. Warn them of the impending trials that will challenge them next year like never before.

Nothing is more inspirational at the end of a long year than telling teachers how much worse next year will be!

7. Force staff to watch inspirational videos.

Instead, ask them to find their own and share them in their own networks.

Instead, do more of this…

1. Focus on the people, not the positions.

The meeting agenda may break down as 12th grade team meeting with 11th grade team, or English Department developing an Assessment Committee, but try as much as possible to humanize the proceedings. Lianne is going to work with Duane and Sean to take a look at our assessment calendar, while Seth, Andrea, and Kim work together to troubleshoot our attendance policy.

2. Let staff tell their personal stories.

If you have a certain number of mandated hours you all have to breathe together in the same room, humanize the process. Let them tell their own stories—of their classrooms, students, curriculum, or even their own personal lives.

And make it easy for them.

3. Focus on teaching and learning.

Schools are complicated places full of a lot of “stuff” that has nothing to do with teaching or learning. This means it necessarily comes up from time to time. But minimize it as much as possible. “Housekeeping” items like dates, room changes, new hires, etc., can often be communicated via technology.

Focus on the craft of teaching. If you make it sound industrious, it will look and feel industrious. Set a different tone in this meeting.

4. Stick to a small handful of ideas.

Lest their cups runneth over no matter how much you have to “cover.”

5. Let them brag about one another.

They may not want to brag about themselves, but they often will about the teacher next to them.

6. Promote their capacity.

All meetings, trainings, and development would, ideally, train and develop, yes? Improve capacity. Not tick a box, sign an attendance sheet, and get a worthless “certificate” in the mail and a jolly rancher with a “You’re the best!” note taped to it.

Instead, do something that initiates a process that will continue after the meeting is over. Connect people to networks. Show them what’s possible. Light a fire.

7. Give them time to collaborate 

And don’t ruin it with a bunch of rules and regulations.

image attribution flickr user mikewillis; l Do Less Of This & More Of This In Your School Staff Meeting; Boring School Staff Meeting? Here Are Some Ideas

Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning Ideas For Science: Using Machines

machine-contest-fiProject-Based Learning Ideas For Science: Using Machines

If you’re looking for an interesting project-based learning idea for science, the following “Dream Fort” contest might be worth considering. Information appears below, as do the relevant images and contact information you’ll need to participate.

“To promote the fall 2013 release of The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story of the Six Simple Machines, Sylvan Dell Publishing is teaming up with author Lois Spangler, and giving readers the chance to bring their creativity to life with the Dream Fort Design Contest.

Entries will be accepted from September 16th through December 6th, with judging beginning on December 7th and ending December 27th. Contestants must consist of a team of at least two people with one member over the age of 18 and all other members under 12 years-old.

Contestants must mail in the entry form, along with answers to 20 questions about the fort and the design sketch of their fantasy fort. Winners will be announced on January 6th, and prizes will be given for the best entries! Entries can be emailed to Heather Williams at or mailed to the Sylvan Dell office at 612 Johnnie Dodds Blvd, Suite A2, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464.”machine-contest-4




7 Ideas For Learning Through Humility


Learning Through Humility

by Terry Heick

Humility is an interesting starting point for learning.

There is a tempting sense of empowerment in our current “age of information” that can lead to loss reverence and even entitlement to “know things.” If nothing else, modern technology access (in much of the world) has replaced subtlety with spectacle, and process with access.

A mind properly observant is also properly humble. In “A Native Hill,” among other ideas Wendell Berry gets at the idea of humility and limits. Standing in the face of all that is unknown can either be overwhelming (and thus numbing), or illuminating (and thus invigorating). How would it change the learning process to start with a tone of humility?

To be self-aware in your own knowledge, and the limits of that knowledge? To clarify what can be known, and what cannot? To be able to match your understanding with an authentic and compelling need?

learning-through-humility7 Ideas For Learning Through Humility

In your classroom, this might look like:

1. Concept-mapping what is known and unknown, and documenting change as it occurs

2. Articulating degrees of knowledge, and documenting change as it occurs

3. Artfully demonstrating the relationship between a learner and the information being learned

4. Authentically demonstrating a need to know

5. Showing patience for the process of learning

6. Visually comparing what is known with what is unknown, and documenting change as it occurs

7. Preferring (as a system of education and society) informed uncertainty and iteration to superficial feedback and reductionist assessments

This idea is admittedly abstract and seemingly out-of-place in increasingly “research-based” and “data-driven” systems of learning, but that’s part of the allure I’d think.

Adapted image attribution devianrtuser moonglowlilly under CCC license

Project-Based Learning

10 Practical Ideas For Better Project-Based Learning In Your Classroom


10 Practical Ideas For Better Project-Based Learning In Your Classroom

By Jennifer Rita Nichols

Teachers are incorporating more and more projects into their curriculum, allowing for much greater levels of collaboration and responsibility for students at all levels. Project- based learning is a popular trend, and even teachers who don’t necessarily follow that approach still see the benefit to using projects to advance their students’ learning.

Projects can be wonderful teaching tools. They can allow for a more student-centred environment, where teachers can guide students in their learning instead of using lectures to provide them with information.

The increase in classroom technology also makes projects more accessible to students. Research no longer requires a trip to the library, and displaying information no longer requires a poster board. Instead, students can access endless amounts of information with a few clicks, and create all kinds of creative final products (such as slides, videos, cartoons, ebooks, blogs, websites, graphics, and much more).

Despite general agreement about the benefits of using projects and project-based learning in general, it must be noted that all projects are not created equal! It is quite possible to create projects that remove creative ability and control from the students and places all the power of decision with the teacher.

This may happen fairly often because teachers are wary about being able to assign grades to the final assignments handed in to them by students. If all students aren’t given the same components to work on, with similar topics, and the same final layout to create, then how can the projects be accurately compared by the teacher? In short, they can’t – but also, they shouldn’t!

Students do not need to be compared against each other, but to the standards they need to achieve for their level. How each skill is demonstrated can differ from one student to another, yet each student can succeed nevertheless. A teacher who knows the program will know what skills each student needs to acquire, and present them with situations to help develop those skills. A teacher can also gauge whether a student has developed each skill regardless of the way they choose to create and present their project.

When students are engaged and interested in the work they are completing, the final product will be much better than when they feel forced to complete a task.

…but how can you make sure that the project you assign is engaging to as many students as possible – if not to all of them?

Here are some great tips to keep in mind when putting together your next project.


1) Have students work in small groups or pairs whenever possible.

Don’t underestimate the power of collaboration. Working alone can be great at times to place a student’s level of ability on their own, but it can be frustrating to a student when they run into parts that they are less adept at. Peer support can help keep things running smoothly, and also help students to build the skills that they are lacking by learning from each other.

If groups are too large, students are given the opportunity to shrink back and leave the work to others, but pairs or groups of three allows everyone to share input and really take on a role within the project. Don’t be afraid of assessment from projects, you will be able to tell how each of your students are developing by maintaining a constant presence in your classroom and observing/interacting with your groups.

Being able to work together will definitely keep students more engaged in the work, especially since they become responsible to each other and to themselves for the completion of the project. There is less chance of students giving up or giving in mediocre work when they are being counted on by peers and are having fun.

2) Choose skills to be worked on instead of specific topics.

The goals of education focus on helping students to build the skills that they will need for their future. These skills involve being able to collaborate, write well, read between the lines, infer meaning, organize information, find solutions to problems, research effectively, and learn about their place in the world.

When forced into specific topics, students are limited in their ability to be creative and to focus on learning information that they find relevant to their lives. Instead of asking students to all complete projects on an animal, for example, why not decide on a few target skills and build a project guideline that can be used for many different topics instead? That way, students can focus in on something they would like to learn more about, while following your guidelines to make sure that the skills you are targeting are being developed.

If you want students to define a set of problems associated with something and work together to try to find plausible solutions to those problems, there is no need for every group to be working on exactly the same topic. This will also make things much more interesting when it comes time to present the projects, instead of listening to each student’s version of the same thing!

3) Give students guidelines that allows for individuality.

After choosing the skills or content that you would like to be the focus of your project, build guidelines that support student individuality and creativity. Instead of making a list of specific questions with specific answers (such as ‘what is the habitat of the grizzly bear’ questions), lead students towards more open-ended answers in your guideline.

Using questions such as ‘list three facts that you found surprising while researching the topic and explain why they surprised you’, ‘based on the information that you gathered, explain why you think ____ happens’, and ‘explain what the top ten things people need to know about your topic are in order to understand it well’ can really lend themselves to multiple subjects.

Your guideline should list the skills that students are working on, so they are aware of them and can actively work on developing them. If you want students to learn about democracy and how the government works, as well as to develop their problem solving skills, then telling them to build their own country – similar to the USA or Canada in structure and government – but with their own flair added in, can be an engaging way to do it. Allow for some crazy bits included in their constitution, or even elections where voters submit to X-rays instead of bringing ID.

In order to complete the project, they will need to research the government you want, and take it even further by using the information as a basis for their own creations.


4) Encourage students to take on different roles while collaborating.

In order to get all students involved in a project, don’t allow them to simply break it up and then put it back together after each student has individually covered a section of it. Collaboration in the real world involves being able to work together on each part of a task, while learning to compromise and solve problems as they arise.

We rob our students of some great practice when we split tasks! Depending on the needs of the project, you can have graphic designers, managers, organizers, researchers, etc. While one student would be named ‘in charge’ of graphics, for example, they would still be working with the input of the rest of the team – much like how adults collaborate on projects in the ‘real world’.

Encourage them to switch roles as needed, based on the strengths of their team, or on the skills each student needs to develop. No one student should always be ‘in charge’ or ‘approving’ all the work.

5) Allow students creative choice when it comes to the final result.

Do you really need that project to be presented on a piece of cardboard? If so, then make sure you have a good reason for it! There are so many ways for students to demonstrate learning, especially with the integration of technology, that it seems rather ridiculous to rob them of the chance to decide for themselves how to showcase their work.

What you really want is found in the content of the project, not in a piece of paper or cardboard. When students take ownership of the method of presentation, you are sure to be blown away with some extremely creative and innovative presentations. Allow them to make eBooks, videos, movies, animations, mind maps, skits, game shows, talk shows, newscasts, magazines, podcasts, blogs, or anything else they can come up with!

6) Change the way that projects are presented/displayed.

Even if every group in your class presents in a different way, you will be able to assess each and every one of the projects, based on the skills/content that students need to show you. Students will also look forward to presenting their project, and seeing the presentations made by others!

Also, instead of just pinning projects up on a board, or sending them right home after being presented, consider displaying them in more creative ways. Ebooks, articles, videos, and other media can be incorporated into a class website or blog, where other members of the community can access and appreciate the work.

If students know that their work will be shared online or in the school/community, they will likely be more excited about putting their best foot forward. When you know your work goes directly into the recycling bin once it’s finished… well, less effort tends to go into it!

7) Grade projects based on the targeted concepts and skills.

Create grading rubrics or charts for yourself that help you to focus in on the specific skills that you are looking for in each project. Since each group may have a different final format, you won’t be able to compare them with each other very well (which we shouldn’t really do in general when assigning grades). Students are supposed to be graded on their level of development when compared to curricular goals, not based on comparisons with each other.

Try to avoid assigning grades based on how great one group’s video was when compared with another group’s poster board. While one might stand out more, the other may just have better content!

Letting students know exactly what you will be looking for beforehand will make it much easier for you to see what you need, as they will usually make sure to show it to you!

Besides, let’s face it, if a university professor didn’t explain exactly what was required of an assignment, but graded you based on what they were mysteriously looking for, you would be frustrated and have a hard time doing as well as you could in that class. Our younger students appreciate the guidance too!

012010 019

8) Consider cross-curricular activities and/or work with another class.

Projects tend to be more engaging if students have the chance to immerse themselves in them as much as possible. Seeing similar content appear in multiple subject areas helps to reinforce what students are learning, as well as make the learning more relevant to them.

In many cases, mathematical or scientific learning can be added to English projects. History is another subject that lends itself well to cross-curricular projects.

Working with another class can also be fun for students. With today’s technology, it is even possible for students to collaborate on projects with classes in other schools – or even in other countries. Doing this definitely helps to prepare students for their futures, as we often find ourselves working/collaborating with coworkers in other departments or cities. It can add an extra challenge to organizing work and getting things done efficiently!

9) Give the project a purpose beyond the classroom.

If possible, try to build connections to the outside world into projects. If students can work on something that will directly benefit the school or community (such as planning and implementing a fundraiser, or creating books/movies for a community centre or home, or even planning a special lesson for younger students) it can really help to build engagement in the class.

Knowing that your work will do more than get you grades – that it will actually be used to help people – can be a powerful motivator. Students will also help to motivate each other when they know that their work is important and useful.

10) Incorporate the project into the students’ digital portfolios.

While not all projects can directly impact the community, they can at least be used as evidence of learning in students’ working digital portfolios. The great thing about digital portfolios is that they follow a student as they advance through the grades and paint a picture of progress over time.

Once again, doing this can help curb the de-motivation of knowing that work will just be thrown away once completed. Incorporating student reflections and teacher/peer/parental/community feedback can also be a nice way to follow up on the learning that has taken place, as well as provide some future goals to work on in order to improve on skill development.

Beyond just tracking learning, the allure of being able to go and watch a video project you created years ago seems too good to pass up; I can remember a few of my own projects I wish I could see again!

Image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad and woodleywonderworks


9 Writing Prompts You Can Use In Class Tomorrow



Defend or critique: Statistics lie.

Answer: How does math support critical thinking?

Respond: “The essence of mathematics is its freedom.” (G. Cantor)


Defend or critique: Science has limits.

Answer: What is most important about a scientific model?

Respond: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” (M. Curie)

English-Language Arts

Defend or critique: Poetry is anthropology.

Answer: What is the most easily misunderstood difference between tone and mood?

Respond: “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” (G.K Chesterton)


34 Smart Ideas For Using Smartphones In The Classroom

digital-age34 Smart Ideas For Using Smartphones In The Classroom

34 Ways Ideas For Smartphones In The Classroom By Category by John Hardison first appeared on 

In continuation of last week’s article, Part 1: 44 Better Ways to Use Smartphones in Class, here is a new list of thirty-six additional ideas to help leverage the power of these tech gadgets in the learning environment. In this blog post, I have attempted to avoid any redundancies. Please join me in helping educators everywhere creatively use smartphones by contributing any overlooked uses and supportive responses via this survey.

34 Smart Ideas For Using Smartphones In The Classroom

To Collaborate

1. Have students collaborate with their off-campus peers by exchanging phone numbers. This may sound far-fetched, but the organization is easy to set up. Through teacher communication, an explanatory permission letter, and a shared Google form/spreadsheet, appropriate information from many students could be distributed. Imagine, for example, three different classes from three different schools collaborating on a shared project. 

2. Use the Skype smartphone app to accomplish the same task mentioned above. I am blessed to be in a school with a strong wi-fi setup. Obviously, you will want to check on the availability and coverage of wi-fi in your school.

3. Embrace the power of augmented reality with apps like Planet Finder to make a lesson plan more realistic. Imagine thirty in-class students pointing their smartphones towards the sky to reveal the actual location of Jupiter, Mars, or Saturn.

4. Use Junaio on a field trip to continually research and access information on-the-go. This app uses augmented reality to “float” informational bubbles in the direction of the host area. Although it is often used by shoppers and social media fans, Junaio is well worth the time spent investigating its potential educational value.

5. Participate in an on-campus scavenger hunt to locate QR codes that link to assignments via the teacher’s pre-made YouTube videos or other websites. This active lesson can be as intricate as time allows. However, teachers should not take on all the stress of creating the QR code-based mega-lesson. Students can create QR codes directly from their smartphones. Apps like Qrafter and Redlaser can help with creating and viewing quick response codes.

To Communicate

6. Have P.E. students/athletes post workout data by using a Google form/spreadsheet. Instead of the old school format of a wall poster where students pencil in their workout maxes, P.E. teachers and coaches can ask students and players to quickly post their athletic progress directly from their smartphones.

This method encourages educators to abandon the time-consuming and inefficient task of periodically calculating the data. Instead, educators can simply input a formula and share the spreadsheets online and/or print them out and make visible on classroom walls. Students will also have the freedom to continue their workouts and training outside the classroom without having to remember to record their scores upon return to school. They can take care of inputting the data immediately after performing the task.

7. Athletic coaches can also integrate powerful apps like CyclemeterHeart Rate Monitor by Azumio, and iMapMyRide with modern workout accessories like heart-rate monitors to create powerful and accurate data. Click here to see how Coach John Calipari of Kentucky is doing something similar to get the most out of his players. Just imagine how this on-going data collection could be integrated into science, math, language arts, and even history lessons. You could even ask an art student to illustrate the growth of an athlete in a symbolic drawing or painting, while inviting a “Music Theory” student to create an instrumental song that accurately depicts the same student’s triumphant transformation.

8. Generate interest in a lesson by asking students to peruse new movie trailers and identify correlations between the storylines and the assigned standards. Flixter works perfectly for this assignment.
Extend lessons by having students listen to related podcasts.

To Create

9. Not enough cameras to go around when recording original movie trailers and mini-movies? No worries. Allow students to use the powerful iMovie app to produce polished videos. On a personal note, I see this so often with my 13 year-old son who routinely turns a slow, laid-back Sunday afternoon with his friends and cousins into a collaborative movie-making expedition with a create-on-the-go script, multiple camera angles, and an accompanying soundtrack. With this app, students can elevate any lesson plan by creating an interesting movie trailer.

10. Use action movie and Extras4iMovie apps to bolster and add special effects to any video. Would you want students dodging a runaway car during class to make an effective mini-movie? With a few swipes of the thumb, the same special effect can be added with these way-too-easy apps.

11. Rig a smartphone or iPod to any tripod to avoid recording “floating” scenes.

12. Lean on Videolicious and Vidify apps to create less-tedious, short films.

13. Use apps like Mouth OffZippo LighterLightsaber, and Rimshot for visual props and to liven up any in-class skit or presentation.

14. Upload audio, video, pictures and text to a polished online, multimedia presentation using the Capzles app.

15. Create an instant song with Songify. Have no singing or rapping talent? No worries. Just speak into the app and let it work all the magic.

16. For the more serious musicians, use SoundCloud to record original sounds, songs, and podcasts to share with the world.

17. Take an a cappella recording to newer heights by producing original tracks with Easy Beats and other beat-maker apps.

18. Assign students certain topics and allow them to create boards of informational pictures via Pinterest. These Pinterest boards of images, information, and links can be shared with the entire class as additional resources to kick-start any unit.

19. Take beautifully edited pictures and share with anyone through Instagram.

20. Have students create an informative collage of pictures that address a particular area of concentration. These collages can then be printed and posted around the classroom for yearlong references. PicCollage makes this way too easy.

21. Capture symbolic photographs of lessons studied and send with textual citations to Posterous for viewing by the entire class.

22. Leverage the power of Juxtapose to “photoshop” or transpose pictures.

23. Declare everything as a potential note by setting classes up from day one with Evernote. By sharing “notebooks” as a class, students are able to treat anything as a potential note. Whether a picture or text, students continually add to the shared documents that are accessible from anywhere.

24. Have teams document their progress with large, collaborative projects with PinterestImageFaveInstagramTwitter, or Facebook.

25. Make a geometry lesson real by photographing examples of various angles and theorems on campus.

26. Add audio and explanations to pictures and invite comments with Audioboo. Think of it as the speaking version of Twitter. This app would be excellent for interviewing, reporting, documenting, etc.

27. Write an original poem with symbolic pictures using Visual Poet. This app could be very effective during a campus walk designed to take pictures of nature while linking those images with original poetry to reflect a particular genre, such as Romanticism.

28. Bring out the inner artists within all students by allowing them to represent their understanding with drawings. Check out the Draw Something Free app.
Create and share podcasts with Audioboo or other voice recording apps.

To Curate/Coordinate

29. Take a Google Literature Trip in Google Earth.

30. Explore the world directly from students’ desks with Google Earth.

31. Take pictures of on-screen notes and use Evernote to write directly on those pictures.

32. Diffuse students’ indecision by encouraging the use of simple selection apps like Dice.

33. Check stocks in Economics class with the touch of an app.

34. Read available PDFs directly from smartphone when not enough books exist or when you have already reached your copying maximum. Here is a PDF file that would be very handy for my American Literature class: The Red Badge of Courage.

Still not convinced? Check out this parody of Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa’s “Young, Wild and Free” that illustrates how these awesome tech gadgets are revolutionizing the classroom. Written by my friend and colleague, Dave Guymon, and me, it is appropriately titled “Smart, Sleek and Me.” As with the smartphones-in-the-class issue, we wanted to take a negative and turn it in to a positive. I hope you enjoy.

Image attribution flickr user davelawler


12 Tips & 28 Ideas For Pinterest For Teachers

Pinterest is a wonderful tool–highly visual, as brief or in-depth as you’d like, and easy to use.

But using it for a specific goal beyond simple repinning takes a little know-how, which is why Kimberly Tyson of learningunlimitedllc created this cheat sheet for teachers.

12 Tips & 28 Ideas For Pinterest For Teachers. Read. Skim. Share. Rejoice.


Cheat Sheet by Kimberly Tyson, learningunlimitedllc;12 Tips & 28 Ideas For Pinterest For Teachers

The Future Of Learning

50 Ideas For Using Skype In Your Classroom

skype-logo-on-imacSkype, the free, ubiquitous VOIP downloadable, offers some unique opportunities for tech-savvy teachers to get their students learning in exciting new ways. It might prove a buggy affair depending on the version, but all the same the service still makes for a phenomenal classroom tool. Read on to find out how you can put this cool tool to work in your classroom.


  1. Meet with other classroomsOne of the most common projects educators utilize Skype for is setting up exchanges with classrooms around the world, usually for cultural exchange purposes or working together on a common assignment. The program’s official site provides some great opportunities to meet up with like-minded teachers and students sharing the same goals.
  2. Practice a foreign languageConnect with individual learners or classrooms hailing from a different native tongue can use a Skype collaboration to sharpen grammar and pronunciation skills through conversation.
  3. Peace One DayFar beyond classroom collaborations, the Peace One Day initiative teamed up with Skype itself and educators across the globe to teach kids about the importance of ending violence, war, and other social ills.
  4. Around the World with 80 SchoolsThis challenge asks participating schools to hook up with 80 worldwide and report back what all they’ve learned about other cultures and languages.
  5. Talk about the weatherOne popular Skype project sees participants from different regions make note of the weather patterns for a specified period of time, with students comparing and contrasting the results.
  6. Collaborative poetryIn this assignment, connected classrooms pen poetic pieces together and share them via video conferencing.
  7. Practice interviewsThe education system frequently receives criticism for its failure to prepare students for the real world, but using Skype to help them run through mock-up interviews with each other, teachers, counselors, or professionals will help grant them an advantage.
  8. GamingMerge the educational power of gaming with the connectivity of Skype for interactive (maybe even international!) role-playing and other competitive delights that educate and engage in equal measure.
  9. Hold a contest: Challenge other classrooms to a competition circling around any subject or skill imaginable, and work out a suitable prize ahead of time.
  10. Hold a debate: Similarly, Skype can also be used as a great forum for hosting formal and informal debates to help students with their critical thinking and research skills.
  11. Make beautiful music togetherBuild a band comprised of musicians worldwide, who play and practice together over video — maybe even hold digital performances, too!
  12. Who are the people in your neighborhood?All the press about classrooms meeting with one another tend to veer towards the international, but some schools like to stay local. These two Tampa Bay-area kindergartens met regularly via Skype, sharing their current assignments with new friends only 10 miles away.
  13. Highlight time differences: But there is something to be said about global exchanges, too, as it provides some insight into the differences between time zones — great for geography classes!
  14. Combine with augmented realityBoth at home and in school, Skype provides a communication tool for collaborative augmented reality projects using the PSP and other devices.
  15. Mystery callLink up to a classroom in another region and have them offer up hints as to their true location, challenging students to guess where in the world their new friends live.
  16. Each student works a specific job during callsDivvy up responsibilities during Skype calls so every student feels engaged with the conversation, not just passive participants watching talks pan out. Assign bloggers, recorders, mappers, and any other tasks relevant to the meeting and project.
  17. Play BattleshipThe classic board game Battleship offers up lessons in basic X and Y axes; plus it’s also a lot of fun. Compete against other classrooms for an educational good time.


  1. Parent-teacher conferencesSave gas, time, and energy by holding meetings with moms and dads via video chat instead of the usual arrangement.
  2. Meet with librariansTeachers and students alike who need some assistance with research or ask some questions about a specific book might want to consider hooking up a Skype link with the school library.
  3. Meet with advisorsSimilarly, the VOIP program also connects college kids with their advisors whenever they need to ask questions about degree plans or scheduling classes for next semester.
  4. Record a podcast: Download or purchase an add-on that allows for recording audio via Skype and use it in conjunction with GarageBand (or similar program) when looking to set up an educational podcast for or with students.
  5. Record video: Numerous plugins allow Skype users to record video of their chats, lectures, and presentations for later use, and students who miss class might very much appreciate having what they missed available for viewing.
  6. Provide tutoring and office hoursIf students need some supplementary help with their assignments — or simply something they can’t get past in the lessons — videoconferencing allows their teachers to offer up tutoring and opportunities for extra help. Special education classrooms might find this strategy particularly valuable.
  7. Teach digital literacyBecause social media (comparatively) recently started creeping into most facets of daily life, it’s exceptionally important to illustrate online safety to the Digital Age kiddos. Skype requires the same sort of care and attention as Facebook and Twitter, and serves as a useful lesson in keeping one’s identity protected.
  8. Make Skype the classroomThe growth in online classes means Skype itself works as a platform to conduct lessons, share presentations, provide tutoring and support, and more.
  9. Reduce absencesSet up Skype streams to help students from falling too far behind in the event of a sickness, suspension, caretaking or similar scenario that causes them to leave the classroom for an extended period of time.
  10. Presentation toolRather than sending students off on a virtual field trip, let them present their research and findings to institutions or eager parents wanting to know what their kids are learning about right now.
  11. Meet special education needsSkype allows the special education classroom to incorporate students of all ages and abilities into the conversation, and it works equally well as both a remote and a local tool.
  12. Study groups: Instead of staking out precious library or coffee shop space, holding study groups via Skype provides a cheaper, more time-manageable alternative.
  13. Meet exchange students earlyBefore shipping off to live with a host family or bringing in an exchange student, arrange meetings ahead of time and get to know one another’s unique needs, wants, and expectations.


  1. Art critsSchedule time with professional artists and receive thorough crits about how to improve a piece. Because Skype allows for screen sharing, anyone working in digital media will appreciate the convenience!
  2. InterviewsRather than a lecture, try hosting a Skype interview with professionals and – if the money’s right — game-changes happy to answer student questions.
  3. Tour a museumMany distinguished museums around the world, such as the York Archaeological Trust, digitally open up their collections so students browse and learn no matter where their classroom may sit.
  4. Guest lecturersMany plugged-in professionals these days will gladly offer up special lectures and lessons to classrooms via Skype, and sometimes charge a much lower fee than if they were to travel!
  5. Simulcast performancesInevitably, some students’ parents, grandparents, and other loved ones can’t attend a play, concert, or other performance. Streaming it over Skype gives them an opportunity to tune in and show some support.
  6. Book clubWhether part of a classroom project or organized as an extracurricular, book clubs meeting over the ubiquitous video conferencing tool make for a great project.
  7. Music lessonsThanks to Skype, tech-loving music teachers now reach a much broader audience of eager pupils willing to perfect their skills on almost any instrument imaginable.
  8. Professional developmentSkype benefits more than just students, as educators themselves can use it to plug in and keep their career skills sharpened and broadened.
  9. Attend or throw a poetry readingMany poets hold readings via Skype, but some educators might want to take things a step further and organize their own.
  10. StorytimeA perfect idea for plugged-in libraries and pre-K and kindergarten classrooms: offer remote storytime for kids around the world or ones stuck at home sick.
  11. Participate in town hall meetingsSearch for town hall meetings the world over and see which ones allow civic-minded classrooms and students to plug in and participate via Skype and other VOIP-enablers.

And here are the tools to help you do it!

  1. Skype in the ClassroomRun by the video chat client itself, this social network allows teachers and students alike to find collaborative projects meeting their educational goals.
  2. ePals Global CommunityAny and all VOIP-enabled classrooms seeking others for shared assignments or a quick meeting might want to turn toward this incredibly popular social media site to discover like-minded students and teachers.
  3. IDrooThis virtual whiteboard makes online presentations a breeze and works especially well during collaborative classroom sessions or with any special guests who pop online.
  4. Skype Office ToolbarSkype-savvy educators use this plugin to make sharing Microsoft Office files that much quicker and easier.
  5. Google suiteCollaborative classrooms often take advantage of Google Docs, Maps, and Translate for various projects as easy, free resources to keep collaborations organized and understood.
  6. SkyremoteAdd on Skyremote for desktop sharing and the ability to control other computers remotely — a great tool in the collaborative classroom!
  7. VodburnerMake use of this video recorder to tape digital lectures, field trips, special events, streams, simulcasts, and more for later viewing by students, parents, and other teachers who might benefit from the information at hand.
  8. Hot RecorderWhen it comes to whipping together podcasts or other audio, Hot Recorder is considered one of the best companion programs to Skype.
  9. telyHDWheel in the giant TV and attach a Skype-ready telyHD camera for a much bigger viewing screen, which students in larger classrooms will appreciate!

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