Sunday, September 22, 2013

Using Pinterest to Showcase & Share Ideas with Teachers on a Worldwide Scale

Have you ever wanted to share educational ideas in a picture format instead of having to describe an idea?  What if you could do both?  That’s the idea behind Pinterest, an online content sharing tool that has hidden benefits for teachers and administrators everywhere.
By organizing your ‘pins’ on a board (which can be public – or private), you have the power to do more than you thought.  If you've ever been to the Pinterest ‘About’ page, you may have missed some great ideas to help get you started.  For example, utilize Pinterest to organize a class wish list, pictorially.   Create a new board and name it ‘Our Class Wish List’ or ‘Donate to Our Class Today!’ and post it.  Go a step further to e-mail your class parents (or entire school if you can), Tweet out the information, and post a link to your Pinterest boards on your school website and you may be able to get that fancy all-in-one color copier soon than you thought or the art supplies that are so desperately needed for an upcoming project that you’d like to do with your students. 

Pinterest can also assist you in organizing a class trip to another city, organizing a school-wide fundraiser or event, or even help you to plan a class project that needs a little more support than you can physically or monetarily give. 

You may also want to just use Pinterest as a way to build an online portfolio for great ideas that you've come up with or ideas that others have had that will enhance your own professional development for use in your classroom.  It’s a way to organize those great teacher shortcuts, technology incorporation ideas, projects, classroom management ideas, or lesson ideas in one convenient place.  Plus, just like most social networks, you can favorite a pin that you find extremely helpful and you want to hold on for future use. 

See an example by visiting my Pinterest boards ( see how Pinterest can help you!

Remind101: Possibly the Best New Educational App

For those of you who always struggle to remind your students and/or parents of everyday classroom reminders like special events, trips, upcoming exams, etc., etc., Remind101 can make your life a whole lot easier.  

Remind101 is a new free classroom management app that puts important communication into the palm of a teacher's hand.  Remind101 is extremely user friendly; all you need to do is set up a free account and Remind101 will generate a phone number (to use for text messaging purposes) so that you can communicate with parents in 140 characters -- or less.  Now, really, what's so special about this kind of communication?  Well, for many teachers, not much...but for Remind101 teacher users, the phone number that is generated for you allows your own regular (and private) cell phone number to be just that -- private.  The Remind101 service allows you to communicate with your students and parents through their apps (iPhone and iPad) or through their website; all the while leaving your phone number to yourself.  Students and parents can't see your number...and they can't respond back either.  It's a one-way text messaging service to simply allow students and parents to get that important, "Don't forget that lunch money is due tomorrow" in a text message (or sent directly to their e-mail).

What I really like about Remind101 is that it even allows you to even set up a reminder for a later date and time -- certainly avoiding the "I forgot to remind my class" blunders that can happen during a busy day.  This works great on a Monday when you can set up a reminder to be sent out on Thursday night at a certain time to remind students that their math test is on Friday and that they should look over the chapter that is being covered for the exam.  In addition, you can also Tweet out that same message on your Twitter account or post it on your school's Facebook page as well!  Have more than one class that you're teaching?...set up multiple classes so that a specific message reminder only goes out to a specific class.

If you teach at any level -- elementary school, middle school, high school, or even at the college level and beyond, this is one app you'll want to make use of.  For principals and assistant principals this works great too...instead of a class, set up a faculty'll be able to send out quick reminders to staff ("Remember, faculty conference is Monday afternoon in room 100!" or "Don't forget, there is a schedule change for today.") instead of having to always go through e-mails or websites.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Managing the Digital Classroom by Adam Hyman

Studies show that technology is a great motivator for students, but how can a teacher effectively integrate it daily into the classroom? From using the interactive whiteboard for everyday classroom management to using a document camera to capture students’ work for their portfolios to addressing cyber bullying, this book offers strategies, lesson ideas, and management tips for optimally using a wide variety of technological tools and helping students build 21st- century skills. Includes ready-to-use classroom management templates for the SMART Board! For use with Grades K-8.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545504843
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2014
  • Pages: 64

About the author:  Adam Hyman has been a technology teacher in NYC for the past 7 years and has been integrating technology into the curriculum for students in grades Pre-K through 6.  He also consults for Scholastic, Inc., providing workshops and training in technology. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tagxedo Word Clouds & Common Core Aligned Lesson Ideas

I recently discovered a fantastic website that brings the Common Core to students in a new and exciting way.  Similar to another word cloud building website, WordleTagxedo, allows students to create amazing eye-popping word clouds by turning your own words (or from speeches, news articles, websites, etc.) -- really anything -- into beautiful displays.  Tagxedo also allows users to customize fonts, themes, colors, and even incorporate shapes or photos of anyone -- even yourself!  What makes Tagxedo so much fun is that you can also purchase your creative word designs on mugs, t-shitrs, mouse pads, and more for those one-of-a-kind personalized gifts.

Yet, it's what Tagxedo brings to a classroom that is a perfect fit for Common Core aligned project ideas and lessons.  Because Tagxedo is word-based and relies on technology to create the Tagxedo itself, it can be incorporated into numerous CCSS lessons that can get engage students in topics that may otherwise be dry to some.

Here are just a few ideas to incorporate Tagxedo into Common Core-aligned lessons:

1.  Create character traits of your favorite characters from books that students are reading into a Tagxedo that takes traditional character trait maps to a whole new visual level.
2.  Use Tagxedo for Math vocabulary when studying particular topics that are heavy on content vocabulary.
3.  Use Tagxedo in Social Studies to create an informational poster to highlight a particular point in history, U.S. Presidents, holidays, geography, etc.
4.  Use Tagxedo for an ice-breaker to allow students to create a visual word cloud that represents themselves for the first day/week back at school.  Students can then share out the types of words that they used to describe themselves for their new classmates.  TIP:  Students can upload an image of themselves and then use the available online tools to enhance themselves and their word creations.  It takes the old boring "All About Me" to a whole new technological incorporated level.
5.  Use Tagxedo to create amazing keepsakes for moms, dads, relatives, etc., for graduation or other holidays throughout the year.

How are you using Tagxedo in your classroom?  Share it out below by posting a comment -- or Tagxedo it out!

Follow Adam on Twitter @ps101hyman or @TpTEduTech

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why High Schools Need APs of Technology

With the onset of the Common Core State Standards, one position that will be in greater demand in the nation's high schools will be a technology assistant principal.   Although this type of position is relatively unheard of at the moment, it will certainly become needed in the years to come.  

Typically, high schools are broken down into smaller departments...English, math, science, social studies, the arts, etc.  Yet with the Common Core State Standards, it is imperative that schools also adopt and incorporate a technology department.  Forget about maintenance and even funding for now, which will be a huge part of the job no doubt, but rather, focus on the implementation of using the technology that is available to foster different learning styles, enhance learning, and get students used to the tools that they will be using more and more in an educational setting, and, of course with a goal for college and career readiness.

One focus that will be a certain requirement for an AP of Technology will be professional development.  That's a huge factor.  Case in point: although younger teachers certainly feel more comfortable using technology, they may have a hard time incorporating it into the more rigorous curriculum.  Furthermore, younger, more inexperienced teachers or rookie teachers may benefit from technology PD simply to help them understand the limitations that technology may have; every student in every class doesn't have a computer or tablet with them at their disposal during every minute of the day.  Teachers will need to understand how to manage their classrooms with some sort of a shared system until the days where either BYOD is a mainstay or state and/or federal funding can cover the cost of the 1:1 technology ratio that will eventually be a given and not so much a far-fetched wishful fantasy.   Also, keep in mind that the available technology will most certainly change and teachers of all ages and abilities will have to adapt.  After all, we all know that the students of the future will always be a step ahead of us.  

The burning question is whether or not an AP of Technology is limited to high schools or if that is something that will ultimately be considered in the middle and elementary school levels as well.  With technology budgeting and allocation, available grants, constant maintenance and upkeep, software updates, professional development and ongoing training that is aligned with the Common Core, an AP of Technology of the future may be as synonymous with all levels of education as math and reading is to us now.  In addition, take a look down the road...not too far down that road you will also have a flipped curriculum in place to some degree in many, if not all schools.  How will teachers be rated when they are recording and posting lessons without their class physically with them at the time that the main lesson is given?  Now, factor in the technology that hasn't even been invented yet, and that is the point where a regular technology teacher or coordinator and regular assistant principal may not cut it any longer.  

As with any technology, you always have to be thinking several steps ahead - especially with technology in education.  What's good for today's student will most certainly be antiquated and a non-factor with tomorrow's student.  Technology in education must morph and adapt with the times and as a result, so must the way our schools are run - from administration to teachers to students alike.  

Think about how your school may adds future issues with technology on all levels and if an AP of Technology is something that may be in your future.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Art of Technology Anticipation

This past week, a news article entitled, "What Will A NY Classroom Look Like in 2020?" by Eric Holden hit the nail on the head - the technology that is available today will be an expectation in future classrooms.  It is my [obviously shared] belief that iPads (or iPad-like tablet devices) will, indeed replace 3-ring binders, textbooks, homework pads, marble notebooks, novels, and everything else that we associate with what ends up packed away in a book-bag   As a matter of fact, the future students of the world may not even know what a "book"-bag is.

Technology is (and will continue to be) something that changes and evolves faster than we can keep up with and technology use in education is certainly something that parents and teachers must adapt to - and always stay a step ahead to anticipate what will be.

Schools today need to start planning out how they may want to deal with a growing popular idea of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to their classroom.  Schools will also need to pay closer attention to budgets because technology (especially new technology) comes at a high cost.  Yet, how do you anticipate for something that isn't there? hasn't been invented? seems like a dream?  Is it really even possible to answer that question?  Probably not.  Just think back 10 years ago.  One decade ago who could anticipate that we would have the internet available to use in our pockets?  Who could foresee video chatting on a mobile device?  Besides Hollywood sci-fiction writers who were paid to dream big and far-fetched, not many of us saw it coming.  That's how hard it will be for school administrators and educators to determine what it will be like in 5 or 10 years from today.  

The Technology Transition 

One way to adapt is to make small changes here and there so that it's more of a slow walk into a cold pool, rather than a full cannon ball drop to intensify the shock and then get used to the water.  Seasoned educators need to take it slow compared to the younger, techno-savvy ones. Nevertheless, there are some tools that can help make the transition easier.

A fantastic web tool that has recently become available is Live Binders.  Live Binders creates a virtual 3-ring binder that allows you to combine all of your cloud documents, website links and upload your desktop documents for easy access, to share, and update your binders from anywhere.  So why take a real 3-ring binder with you when you can access a virtual binder from anywhere that has an internet connection?  Again, here is the future of education -- new to us in the present, but what will be expected in the not-so-distant future.  Another great idea has come from Sallie Severns, founder of Answer Underground, which allows students to create mobile study groups.  Finally, myHomework, a basic, free app for iPhone does what it sounds like it does -- allows students to organize assignments and projects by creating a color-coded calendar.  It's pure student organization on a phone.

Now, our future may not look exactly like it did in the Back to the Future trilogy, but it's hard to argue that the future will remain the same as it looks today - because it won't.  Again, it all comes down to the anticipation of what will be.  Eric Scheninger, a.k.a. "Principal Twitter" (@NMHS_Principal on Twitter) is the Principal at New Milford High School in Bergen County New Jersey.  Principal Scheninger is not only at the helm of his school, but at the helm of an educational renaissance with technology incorporation in education.  He not only is anticipating what will be, he is utilizing it now by allowing students at his high school to use the technology for the everyday.  Principal Scheninger is setting a great example by showing that the future is now - and he's made his mark by earning the respect over 38,000 Twitter followers.

The bottom line is that schools, districts, cities, and states need to start giving the future a good look.  Anticipation is everything.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Building School Technology Infrastructure from the Ground Up

The sheer amount of technology that is being introduced into the education world is growing at an intense rate.  According to Smart Infrastructure, a research report from The Center for Digital Education and Coverage, nearly 50% of high school students own -- or have access to a smartphone or tablet computer.  What’s more amazing, more than 6.7 million higher education students took at least one online course during the fall 2011 term (I was one of them, completing my dual degree from NYIT in School Building Leadership & Technology).  Since the Common Core State Standards will try to implement online assessments in ELA and Math by the 2014-2015 school year, it’s imperative to make sure that we are ready and have the proper amount of equipment to handle the demand.  The question is will school districts across the county be ready for it?

The Need for Speed

Internet quality and speeds have come a long way from the mid to late 1990s and dial up access.  Today, the infrastructure system that supports the internet is getting better with fiber optics and equipment that allows for faster upload and download speeds; mobile broadband speeds of today could leave a 56K dial-up connection in it’s dust, so speed isn't quite the issue any longer (or is becoming less of an issue at that).

Tips on getting additional support to fund technology:

  1. Look within by utilizing parent and local business support.  Whether your parent body is a 501c3 tax exempt nonprofit organization or a group that can financially take on the weight to improve the infrastructure and technology in your school building, support is what you’re looking for. Work collaboratively with teachers, administrators, and other school staff to raise the money in a variety of ways, such as a fundraiser.  The teamwork will point you in the right direction and bring everyone together.  Reach out to local community service people for additional support - they may have funds that can help soften the blow financially.  

    You can take this a step further by using a charitable web-based company like onecause that makes contributions to schools simply by connecting to consumers' everyday purchases. Just use the onecause link and you'll end up in a one-stop shopping "mall" that will send a percentage of your spending back to the school of your choice. By adding a link to a web-based company like onecause to your school's official webpage, you're automatically increasing the chance that funds will come back to your school -- and since people love to shop online, why not steer them in a direction where they're helping out the school just by shopping for items that they will purchase online anyway!

  2. Use a web-based service like DonorsChoose, which Oprah Winfrey calls a “revolutionary charity” to help fund school projects.  People and organizations donate money or services anonymously to help fund projects of all sizes - big and small.  For more on DonorsChoose, visit their about section.
  3. Use a blog like Blogger or WordPress or other social media like Pinterest or Twitter to reach out for additional support.  By posting a blog with detailed information and pictures about what you’d like to accomplish and what the funds are needed for, you’ll open up your possible resources to not just your immediate school and surrounding neighborhood, but to the world -- yes, that’s right -- the world.  Use a hashtag phrase on Twitter such as #SchoolDonationsNeeded or #SupportOurSchool with a link to your blog to help fill the cause!  You’ll be amazed how fast the word can get out and around with a little self-promotion.  Plus, you never know who is seeing the Twitter feed under one of your hashtags - Mr. Donald Trump or Ms. Oprah Winfrey may want to help you out.

The bottom line is to reach out and use as many resources as you possibly can.  Get a team together of parents, teachers, and community members on a committee to help your school tackle the infrastructure of your building so that your students are 21st Century ready, willing, and able!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Importantance of Interactive Common Core Math Lessons

Nothing screams Common Core like a good math lesson that not only digs deeper into mathematical meaning and thinking, but a lesson that also incorporates other curriculum areas, and...of course, technology. We all know that today's students gravitate towards technology like magnets on a refrigerator.  This isn't a secret by any stretch of the imagination.  As a matter of fact, most students born after 2005 don't necessarily know (or understand for that matter) how to work on anything without technology in the mix!  It's as natural as anything and school administrators, teachers, and even parents need to embrace that idea in order to move forward in lesson creation and development.

Most recently, technology has been getting a lot more attention in classrooms and schools throughout the world (and if you think about it, we used to only say throughout a city...or state...or even country).  Regardless, now a classroom teacher needs to be able to understand the technology and it's global role with students and figure out a way to bridge the two together so seamlessly, that the work and learning just happens as naturally as anything else.  

In the United States, the Common Core State Standards attempts to place a technology component in lessons and in learning for as much as possible - and why not?  Technology means so much to today's modern student that it's nearly becoming a way of life for them.  To students, technology has always been there for them...we can't say the same for the rest of us!  And just as when Alexander Graham Bell created that little old invention, the telephone, 140 years ago, it was the youngsters that were born thereafter that felt comfortable with it.  That's just how technology works.

So how can we create fun, interactive math lessons that are not only engaging, but allow our students to delve deeper into their thinking process and get more out of those lessons?

One of the best ways to utilize the technology that we have available is to use SMART Boards (or other types of interactive whiteboards, also known as IWBs).  Using SMART Boards to help bridge that gap between regular, old-fashion math lessons, and the endless possibilities with an interactive math lesson that is engaging, interesting, and fun is the Common Core key.  Remember, the Common Core is good (in theory)....but educators must also realize that in today's world, the technology helps to bring it all together.  Teachers can't just ask better questions and teachers can't expect students to explain themselves better.  The bottom line is that teachers can't leave out the technology.  By understanding this key component, educators will be able to turn that rigor-dial up several notches.

Watch my Scholastic Teacher Talks: Adam Hyman's Tips for the Interactive Whiteboard for additional discussion and demonstrations.

Here are some additional tips to create engaging interactive Common Core Math lessons:

1.  Take a look at the standards.  Read them.  Pull out the information that is listed.  Then read them again.  What do they say?  What do you understand?  What ideas come to mind?  Jot them down.

2.  Use the resources that you have ( internet, etc.) and start pulling out information that will help you build your lesson.

3.  Get to know your IWB and it's software.  Know as many features that your SMART Board has to offer so that you can begin to build a lesson that doesn't just use that IWB to project questions and information as if it were a fancy overhead projector.  That's not what an INTERACTIVE Whiteboard is meant to do.  It's interactive for a reason -- use it to get students to come up to the board and manipulate numbers, pictures, patterns, etc., so that they can not only think about problems differently, but so that it will allow them to be able to explain their reasoning behind their thinking.

Using technology isn't meant to be a distraction.  It's not meant to make your life harder.  Using the technology that is available to meant to play towards a student's strength.  Take advantage!

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Skype's New Imprint on Education

Recently, Skype announced a free upgrade for teachers who use Skype in the Classroom to their  free group video calling - a fantastic gesture on the part of Skype for educators.  The bonus feature, only recently available to paid subscribers, now opens the virtual door to many more possibilities as Skype tries to level the playing field with the new rage in online video conferencing, Google Hangouts, which allows for similar features and with up to nine participants at one time.  

If you have an internet connection, a laptop or computer, and a webcam, you're ready to knock down the walls of your classroom and extend your teaching world-wide...and if you have a SMART Board installed in your classroom, you've basically opened up your own mini television studio!

Here's a few ideas as to how Skype in the Classroom and the new availability to utilize the group chat feature can help you expand the walls of your classroom and/or school:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Utilizing USTREAM for Schools

If you haven't dabbled in or don't know what it is, it's time to start.

USTREAM is the largest and most well-know live streaming platform with over 50 million monthly viewers along with a network of produced and user-generated content.  USTREAM has reshaped online media in nearly every aspect of our world.  And it's in education that USTREAM may have an unprecedented and profound impact in the future.  

What Your School Needs

A basic account, a webcam, and a computer (or now, even a mobile device) is all you need to get started -- and it is those basic tools that can open up an entirely new window into the education field.  Upload your school logo and set your USTREAM channel to private so that just your school community can access it and like magic, you have yourself a recipe for constant communication success and your own virtual television studio!

Use USTREAM for Parent Communication 

What's better than broadcasting a PTA or Parents' Association meeting to those parents that just can't make it in person?  Now you can -- and should.  At PS101Q in Forest Hills, NY, the school will regularly broadcast important parent meetings to parents and teachers who just can't physically be there in person to join in the meeting.  The school gets those parents and teachers involved by setting up a live Twitter feed during those meetings, inviting viewers to tweet in a question or comment - just like you may see on TV.  It brings the school community closer together as a result; not letting parents feel as if they missed something.  What's even better?...the school records the meetings and special events so that if you missed it altogether, you can watch it on demand any time.  

Parents love the idea as noted on the PS101Q Media Center website's USTREAM tab:
 "I am just writing to thank you for the USTREAM initiative. What a fabulous way to keep the school community current and involved. So many parents are not able to attend regular meetings and workshops due to work or other constraints, but we never have to worry about missing a thing, now." 
"I could only watch some of it, but I thought it was great. I was surprised how "live" it felt; I didn't feel that I missed anything not being in the room. I think this will be a huge help for those of us who are challenged in attending meetings. Thanks for setting this up."

Use USTREAM for Special Assembly Programs

Have you ever felt badly because a parent couldn't make it to see his or her son/daughter in the school play, or for her piano solo during the spring concert?  Or what about that do-or-die school basketball game that a few parents couldn't attend?  Well, now they can!... virtually, of course.  Set up programming for all of those special assemblies and special events and those parents who just couldn't get out of the office or who were out of town can now all of a sudden "be there" and not miss a beat.  It's a fantastic way to keep parents involved and feeling proud of their children by using the USTREAM channel that you and your school can set up...and if the technology is available to do just that, why not?!?

Use USTREAM for Teacher-Parent Communication

For the administrators out there, have your staff and teachers use USTREAM for 2-Minute Tutorials or 2-Minute Expectation Clips to communicate to parents what's being studied, how parents can help their children at home, or lesson demonstrations.  It's the perfect way to make sure that parents are in the loop - and there's nothing better than a live stream, or recorded stream to do just that (especially with the introduction to the Common Core State Standards).  Tip:  Have teachers rotate on the grade or in departments to record themselves so that parents see that there is full-staff buy-in for effective communication of the curriculum and CCSS material.

Use USTREAM for Professional Development

Think of this as the flipped-classroom for teachers for professional development purposes.  Administrators, teachers, support staff, and district support, etc., can all play a role in professional development by using your USTREAM channel.  Teachers and staff can participate in watching the videos at their leisure and in advance to important PD in order to save some time before a meeting (and it doesn't hurt to let parents at home see what work is being done to further the education of the teachers themselves).  Using USTREAM in-house can make an effective technological impression that may just get people more involved as a result.

Use USTREAM In-House for In-School Broadcasts

Use USTREAM for daily news messages from the principal....for "Friday Happy News" to end a productive showcase student artwork....for student-created Public Service Announcements....drama sporting events (both during and after school)...really, ANYTHING!  This works especially well if your school has interactive whiteboards, laptops, or even mobile devices for students and staff to access and creates a strong connection to the school community as a whole.  The added bonus side-effect: once again, parents are kept in the loop, making the school-home bond even that much stronger.  It's a win-win.

Basically, the bottom line is that paper notices that go home to celebrate successes or for informational purposes are good -- but start to broadcast and introduce an alternative form of communication and that same information (now by using USTREAM) all of a sudden takes on a whole new meaning and in a whole new dimension.  

Be warned may have one challenge if you decide to take on this initiative:  finding on-air talent that are ready, willing, and able to step in front of the camera!

What ways is your school using USTREAM?  What other suggestions for USTREAM do you have for use in schools?  Let us know by posting a comment below!

Follow Adam Hyman on Twitter @ps101hyman

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Walkthrough Roadblock?

There have been so many arguments for -- and against -- walkthroughs from administrators that  it can sometimes feel as if we'll never reach a consensus.

Some teachers will tell you that they welcome walkthroughs because they want feedback and direction with their teaching practice...and other teachers just cringe at the idea of another adult walking in on their lesson because they just don't like to be studied, even if it is for only a few minutes.  For those teachers, those 3-5 minutes could feel like an entire class period especially when their technology is not cooperating and 30 students are all raising their hand at the same time because they can't access the WiFi, or can't open a document.  It happens.   

Now, there are certainly more advantages of walkthroughs than there are disadvantages; the trick is getting everyone on board to accept them for what they are meant for.  In Enhancing Profession Practice by Charlotte Danielson, Danielson talks about the four main domains (Planning & Preparation, The Classroom Environment, Instruction, and Professional Responsibilities).  These four domains can be seen in a snap-shot during a walk through and an administrator or supervisor is supposed to be able to tell if these four main domains have taken place during that short observation from when they walk into a classroom to when they leave the classroom.  Since this type of observation is informal and decreases the amount of pressure that a teacher has to perform (barring that they have planned, prepped, create a good environment for students to work in, and provide the instruction that is necessary for guidance), teachers should actually welcome this type of observation with open arms. Yet, you'd be hard-pressed to find many teachers who will actually admit to that.  

What an administrator should do to get teachers on board with the walkthrough and curriculum support mentality:

1.  Nobody is invisible, and yes, teachers can see you.  Administrators who just walk into a classroom and don't want to be recognized or spoken to as if they aren't there at all need to realize that this could hurt a professional relationship.  In the real-world if a supervisor walked through a manufacturing plant, would he ignore his employees when they said hello or ask the supervisor to come over for a minute to show them something that the're working on?  Not in the least.  When teachers are excited and enthusiastic about a project that their students are working on, an administrator needs to get there and jump right in.  There needs to be interaction and a bonding that not only shows the teacher that they care, but also puts ownership on the students which can foster a sense of pride in their work.  As an administrator, take a moment to become part of the class, even if you have a pile of paperwork to get will go a long way in supporting the teachers and students.

2. Pure purpose and no funny business.  Administrators need to make it very clear to teachers that when they are walking into a classroom to take that snapshot, it's to help them get better and not to catch them doing something "wrong".  Case in point:  about a decade ago I was teaching 6th grade.  It was just two days before the State tests in ELA and I was reviewing the skill of author's purpose with my class -- a skill that they had been having some difficulty with.  The reading coach came in for a minute and didn't let 30 seconds go by before she started waving her hands as if she were drowning in the ocean and screaming from the back of the room, "Wait!  Stop!  Stop!  You're going to confuse them!  It's too much!"  I remember those words to this day and remember how furious I was at her for the outburst.  Had she realized that it was only a review, that we had already done this type of work before, and that we were just refining the skills, that wouldn't have ever taken place.  Worst of all, who looked like the fool?  I did.  I lost credibility with my students because someone else thought that they knew what was happening in my classroom.  

3. Just the facts, just the facts.  In The Three Minute Classroom Walk-through by Carolyn J. Downey, other positives are mentioned such as the ability to gather a sampling of a teacher’s actions, to gather a better insight into a school’s overall operation, to share samples of practice to share with your staff during professional development, and even to help to identify teachers who may need more help or support.  Just a few minutes and just the facts can allow for more of an interaction with the school staff, which, in turn gives a better understanding of the school’s day-to-day operations. 

Based on my own experiences, a disadvantage to a walk through is the short time span that a supervisor sees during that particular walk through.  In The Three Minute Classroom Walk-through text, it is mentioned that time management is important because you may want to spend more time with less experienced, novice teachers as opposed to more seasoned veterans.  Because a three minute walk-through is such a short period of time and a small snap-shot of what actually takes place all day, this could short-change the novice teachers (although it is hopefully understood that good administrators will still make time for teachers who are new...or seasoned, and who may be struggling). 

Another disadvantage is that an administrator may walk into your classroom just after you had a fantastic lesson, missing something that you were proud of or had wished someone had seen for themselves…a too-good-to-be-true moment or lesson.  How many times have administrators walked into a classroom only to see a ruckus, or a transition where they were loud, or during snack time.  It happens more times than you think.   Does this lead to a supervisor getting the wrong impression of who you are as a teacher?  On the other hand, it is understood that because of the frequent walk-ins (based on the three-minute walkthrough model), the law of averages should give you a fair amount of positive walk-ins as well as times that are just the daily business of the classroom.   Regardless, there are plenty of good reasons why walk-throughs can be favored, versus negative reasons and it's up to the administrators to make it known that there are there to support you in any way possible.  Teachers by nature want to impress and strut their stuff, but it must be understood that you can't give an Oscar-winning performance all of the time.  After all, the best hitters in the game of baseball don't get a hit 7 out of every 10 at-bats.  Food for thought.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Will The Real Common Core Please Stand Up?

The Common Core State Standards officially go "live" in 2014.  In the meantime, teachers are working diligently to understand the CCSS and are trying their best to create lessons that are fully aligned - now.  Yet, are the lessons that are being created really...truly... specifically...Common Core?

Will The Real Common Core Please Stand Up?

I recently took notice at the material that is on Teachers Pay Teachers as well as in and about the internet world and I found that although teachers are calling lessons "Core" - they may not be "Core" at all.  Core lessons use questioning techniques that are deep and meaningful.  Core lessons also expect students to be able to explain their thinking and reasoning.  Additionally, Core lessons foster collaboration and the use of technology and students need to make sense of problems and need to be able to show reasoning with those problems.  Administrators and teachers alike need to sit down and take a good, hard look at the definition of the Common Core and fully become aware how to not only implement a CCSS lesson, but how to design it using multiple facets of the CCSS. That's what makes the CCSS rigorous and multi-layered.

A few weeks ago at PS101Q in Forest Hills, NY, an event was held to address the Common Core: A Common Core Fair Night.  The event was a success - but not without the efforts of the PS101Q staff.  The night showcased what a CCSS lesson looks like for parents to expose them to the rigorous work that their children are doing and will be expected to do for years to come.

One teacher in particular, Mr. Stabenau, who teaches visual arts at the school, jumped in to also demonstrate a CCSS lesson.  He wasn't teaching a CCSS Math lesson or a CCSS Reading lesson, but what he did was truly, 100% Common Core.  With his reading of Happy by Miles Van Hout, Mr. Stabenau elicited emotion from his [parent] students while showing them the illustrations as he read the book to them.  The parents were asked to express an emotion that they connected to while Mr. Stabenau read the book aloud and then to illustrate a fish of their own with pastels.  The emotion that they came up with was written on the back of the paper.  To tie up the demo lesson, Mr. Stabenau asked his parents to hold up their pictures to the rest of the group to see if they could guess the emotion by studying the illustration.  The group tried to guess each other's emotions that were being transferred to the paper in what was a very entertaining portion of the lesson.  Mr. Stabenau was able to connect CCSS literacy, communication, and a hint of writing within the visual arts world - and it worked amazingly well.
Happy by Miles Van Hout

The point here is that the Common Core can be interpreted in numerous ways.   It's how teachers are able to connect multiple disciplines to one another in order to get the most out of their lessons.  For example, the use of SMART Boards and a Social Studies lesson with video clips and informational texts....the use of a document camera and interactive whiteboard hooked up to a microscope in Science with a journal to write down what is being observed....students in a technology class that are creating interactive timelines for Women's History Month using an online web service like TimeToast...these are all Common Core lessons and projects - all designed to dig allow students to find out more...and to connect one curriculum area to another.

Take a look at your "Common Core" lessons and projects and see if what you have created really is "Common Core"...or just an impostor.

Check out MasteryConnect, it's simple to share and discover common formative assessments and track mastery of state and Common Core standards. They have a free CCSS widget that can be placed on your school's web page, or on an app for your mobile device.

Find Adam on Teachers Pay Teachers for Common Core aligned lessons and projects and follow him on Twitter @ps101hyman.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why Teachers Need To Blog

Very often, school administrators will ask new teachers to keep a reflective journal so that they can note their professional growth and allow themselves to see the big picture. In essence, they are asked to sit back and think about what they planned, how their lesson was delivered, decisions that are being made, what's working, what's not working, etc., etc. The writing process in this case forces teachers to slow down and honestly give themselves a chance to catch their breath.

Enter blogging for teachers.

Blogging allows teachers to not only be reflective about their teaching practice, but to also connect with teachers on a world-wide scale. Educators can take their ideas, expertise, and communicate to others in the profession what is cutting edge and innovative.

Take, for example, technology-related, Common Core-aligned projects. Recently, I had my 5th and 6th grade students create a multiple-step math word problem in groups of two. Now, this isn't anything really special. This type of assignment takes place all the time, no doubt. Regardless, here's what made it remarkable: I had the pairs of students not only create a multiple-step math word problem, but they had to use Prezi (a cloud-based presentation application that allows for real-time collaboration and sharing) to showcase their problem and show how to solve it in two distinct ways using different strategies. Not only was this innovative, but very Common Core with the technology/math/presentation marriage. Students were completely engaged and highly motivated...and needless to say, I was extremely happy to see that they were able to produce some amazing work.

The bottom line is that teachers need to take time to be reflective...and blogging can hit on just that. By taking on a blog, you can reach out to others and reach deep down inside your own take on education. So, take the blogging leap today and start your very own personalized reflective'll thank me later.

Follow me on Twitter @ps101hyman

Monday, February 18, 2013

Perfect Marriage: Google Docs & The Common Core

How did Google know that Google Docs and The Common Core State Standards would be such a perfect marriage?  Chances are, they didn't.  Regardless, the idea of Google Docs and it's many technological uses completely lends itself to the Common Core and college and career readiness. Whether Google had some sort of cosmic inside scoop about the CCSS or not, you couldn't have paired two ideas any better.

Let's face it, technology is no longer just something that happens.  No way, no how.  Technology drives everything and that means education too.  Google Docs and it's online, cloud-collaboration has been gaining lots of steam over the past couple of years.  So much so that I've started using it with my 5th and 6th graders over that same time period.  Really, it's uses are endless and match the Technology Common Core State Standards so well that you couldn't have made it a better match.

Here are some uses for Google Docs that I have used...and work!

1. Collaborative Projects

What's better than getting two or three students together in a collaborative group to create a living document on any nonfiction topic they want to work on?  Let me tell you - nothing is better.  I realized the power of Google Docs and it's influence on today's technological, 21st-Century students when on one random Tuesday evening around 10:30 in the evening, I checked in to grade some of the projects that students were working on.  To my surprise, there were a few groups working collaboratively on their projects -- all pulling their weight and all giving it amazing attention.  Best of all, when I entered into their documents, there was such an excited energy to see their teacher in their document...being able to give feedback and say, "Great job!".

2. Brainstorming and Project Organization

Students should take time to plan out their work and their projects for optimal end results. When I pair students together or create groups for projects, I always suggest students use Google Docs as a forum to gather their ideas and brainstorm.  Students not only can get together in a school-based setting, but can continue their planning at home -- or on the go with the Google Drive app on their phones and iPads.  It doesn't matter what project it is - Prezi, PowerPoint, etc., etc. - the idea to use Google Docs to gather ideas it priceless.

Tip:  I always choose one project at the start of the year (after I have introduced how to use Google Docs to my students) and have my students sit on opposite ends of the classroom - and not with their partners or group members.  I tell them that they can't say a word to one another, but can talk to one another as much as they'd like....using their fingers and the chat feature!

3. Staff & Professional Development 

Forget about the students - how about your staff?  Google Docs is a fantastic way to get your staff all working on one document for professional development.  Teachers and staff can work on monthly planning calendars, overall curriculum projects, homework, or goals - and work on it without even having to be in the same room.  Teachers can not only share ideas and opinions by using the chat feature within the document as  they take place in real-time, but they can accomplish their work in a fraction of the time that it used to take.

The bottom line:  Google Docs aligns to the Common Core by using technology to do the work that the Common Core demands.  Use Google Docs and the technology with your CCSS lessons and projects - your students will be ahead of the game...and that's worth it.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Worldwide Common Core

The introduction of the idea of the Common Core a couple of years ago has certainly added some juice into the education field.  It's something like a booster shot that was long overdue.  But how big is that field now?  Statewide?  Countrywide?  Worldwide??  Well, worldwide may be a stretch, but it certainly has the power to make it there, if it hasn't already.

Let me explain.

The new CCSS, which is slated to go full speed ahead in 2014, has done one amazing and positive thing:  collaboration on a worldwide scale.  Likewise, services like Common Core Questions which has created beautiful novel-study assessments for teachers and web services like TpT (Teachers Pay Teachers) has opened to the door to a level of collaboration between teachers never seen before.  Throw in Twitter's ability to get the word out and the numerous other educational organizations out there and you have a recipe for greatness.  Why?  Why not??  Teachers from educational power-house states like New York, Massachusetts, and California are now teaming up with talented teachers from 40-something other states who have signed on to the new CCSS.  Add a sprinkle of the world education market like England, Finland, and Japan, and magic, there is something amazing brewing.  

Personally, I just started to venture into TpT (Teachers Pay Teachers) to see what was types of CCSS aligned projects and lessons were out there and to see how much CCSS collaboration is truly taking place -- and let me tell you -- it's booming.  Being in the education arena, I am fully aware of what the Common Core is and it's purpose.  That said, I started to create Common Core aligned (and technology-infused) lessons and projects to post and within hours, I had my first sale.  But it wasn't so much the sale that I was looking for.  It was the amount of fantastic material that is out there that I was interested in seeing.  TpT has over 81,000+ (and growing) free items on it's site...some of which are highly aligned to the CCSS.  Of course, you have to do some searching, but they certainly do exist.  And then there is the great stuff you can pay for - well worth it for the teacher who isn't totally clear as to the language and formats of the CCSS; not to mention what a time-saver it is for those teachers who lead a hectic life! 

The Common Core isn't a fad that will just disappear like past educational ideas.  Will it look the same a year from now...or five years from now?...probably not...but the basic foundation and idea of college and career readiness is something that we will be focused on from here on out.  And just like how the internet and technology has brought the world closer than ever before, so shall the ability for teachers worldwide to collaborate and share ideas, lessons, and projects unlike any time period before.  Educators are doing great things, I can see it already...and we haven't even officially begun.

Follow me on Twitter @ps101hyman and find me on LinkedIn at

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Clear Common Core

Parents at PS101Q in Forest Hills,
NY attend a Common Core Fair to
learn and understand what the
Common Core State Standards
is all about.
On February 6th, 2013, PS101Q in Forest Hills, NY, an elementary school of about 600 students in PreK-6, held a Common Core Fair Night for parents, staff, and student teachers.  The purpose of the Common Core Fair was to communicate to parents what the Common Core is and what a Common Core lesson looks like in a classroom setting.  The goal was to showcase the Common Core so that our strongest supporters, our parents, would have a better understanding of the rigorous work that students are being exposed to and what is being done to get the job done before the mandated 2014 roll-out. 

So, why a Common Core Fair Night?

Back in January, parents attended a workshop regarding the new Common Core-like NYS Tests in both ELA and Math that their children were about to face.  I presented the information to the parents and every time I mentioned those scary words, 'Common Core,' there were more and more blank faces in the audience.  Parents simply didn't know what I was talking about.  They heard of the Common Core, but it was clear that teachers and administrators knew much more about it than they did.

It can't be said enough -- learning the Common Core as an educator is one thing -- explaining and communicating the Common Core to parents is a whole new ballgame.  

How it was done:

Teachers who are on staff at PS101Q volunteered to help convey the message by taking a Common Core lesson and delivering that lesson to parents as if they were students.  Upper and lower grade CCSS Math and ELA workshops were offered along with CCSS assessments, technology, Science, CCSS Math games, and even Visual Arts were offered.  The goal was to have parents experience different components of the Common Core across the entire spectrum of the curriculum.  Focus on high text complexities, the language of the Common Core, high-level thinking conversations, and the overall work that is being done to challenge students to become college and career ready was explained and demonstrated.  Best of all, the parents did the work that their children do so that they would be able to take their experiences home to further assist work that is continued long after a school day has ended.

To further draw parents in to this extremely important educational event, we also enlisted outside organizations and companies like Scholastic, Common Core Questions, Answer Underground, BrainPOP, Quizlet, Cacoo, Common Core by Mastery Connect, Pearson, SpellingCity, Watch-Know-Learn, TEQ, iThoughts, Wordflex, and Children's First Network 207 for additional help and support with give-a-ways, promotional material, demonstrations, and even free raffles.  All of the help we got was highly enthusiastic support and it really made the night feel whole.

Technology played a roll as well.  PS101Q's website displayed Common Core Fair Night information with a Google Forms registration link that would provide preliminary attendance numbers.  PS101Q's Twitter feed was also used to communicate the event along with reminders from Constant Contact e-mail blasts.  Of course, we went the old-fashioned route as well too -- sending home paper flyers.  

The bottom line -- spread the word to your parents regarding the Common Core, what it is, what it isn't, what it's intended to accomplish, and how it affects our teachers, students, and yes...parents too.