Published on May 3, 2012

In the opening debate of a new series of Education Matters Debates with Teach First Sir Michael Wilshaw HMCI, Matthew Taylor, Peter Hyman, Ndidi Okezie and Gillian Hargreaves ask: what will it take to ensure that every child, regardless of socio-economic background, is taught by a "good teacher"?

Listen to the podcast of the full event including audience Q&A:

Our events are made possible with the support of our Fellowship. Support us by donating or applying to become a Fellow.

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Teaching in the 21st Century

Uploaded on Oct 24, 2011

I adapted this from an original video found here: The original presentation was created as a summary of the ASB Unplugged Conference in Mumbai, India 2010. I wanted to add more multimedia and make it more visual as well as adjust a couple of the ideas.

Published on Dec 21, 2012

Ready to flip your school or university class?

Drop by to learn more about how we can help you and your class.

With the teacher at the front and seats in rows, the classroom has barely changed in the last century. 

But, we now know that there's no "one size fits all" approach to learning -- and the flipped classroom model brings together advances in education and technology to provide a personalized, engaging learning experience for every student -- whatever their learning style, pace, or ability.

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The Ingredients of a Creative Teacher

The Ingredients Of A Creative Teacher

by Melissa

There is a lot of talk about creativity these days.

Creativity drives innovation, it sparks new thinking, it enriches our lives, and it connects us to other human beings.  While this is all wonderful and true, schools and educators find great difficulty in figuring out how to get more creative.

Since creativity is individualized and it expresses itself in each person differently, it becomes difficult for educational systems entrenched in testing and standards to figure out how to unlock creativity in students. Unfortunately, there is no ideal top down solution. Creative classrooms start and end with creative teachers. Luckily, creative teachers can be cultivated.

Here are three ingredients to cultivate creative teachers.

3 Seeds Of A Creative Classroom

1. Awareness

“If you don’t know where you’re going, the road’ll take you there.” – the Cheshire Cat to Alice

Any math teacher worth their salt will exclaim, “math is everywhere!” They see geometry on a pool table, they see calculus as a car slows to a stop, they hear it in the toe tapping of the clarinet player, they see simple math in giving change at the store.

They know what math looks like in real time and in real life because they have spent the time studying, practicing, and becoming aware of the many ways math is relatable. Creativity is no different. A creative teacher is aware of what creativity looks like for themselves as well as how it might manifest itself in others. A creative teacher always keeps their radar up for “interestingness.”

2. Empowerment

Empowerment is not a gift bestowed upon you; empowerment comes from within.

Every individual is filled with greatness and flaws. An empowered person has the courage to accept themselves for who they are and chooses a growth mindset.  A growth mindset says creativity begets more creativity. A growth mindset says you can actually learn to be more creative. A growth mindset says you can create conditions in which creativity flourishes.

3. Practice

This is the kicker. It’s not enough to just read about creativity or to scour Pinterest for hours each day. Creativity requires getting in there. It gets messy.  It requires some failing forward. That being said, there is real joy in creative practice. The act of making something, however small the act may be, changes something within. It lights a fire.

One way to start a creative practice is with a little copying. Children do this instinctively. They trace letters, they repeat movie lines (sometimes with perfect voice inflections) and song lyrics. Copying allows an individual to learn the ropes. Many great painters learned first as understudies, copying their masters.

The next step is a little something called remixing. The art of the remix is to take something that already exists and make it new. This might be a song, it might be blackout poetry, it might be improving on a coffee cup. Remixing is different than copying in that an individual is adding a little of themselves into the mix. It’s like an homage to the original artist, but with a little kick.

Remixing fuels creativity, and serves to spark others. This is evident in the viral videos that arise each day with parents, co-workers, and children dancing, lip syncing, and singing to remixed works.

The last way a teacher might practice their creativity is through combining. A great example of a combination is when Steve Jobs merged the idea of a graphical interface with the idea of a computer as a household appliance.  The combination emerged as the wildly successful Macintosh computer.

Combinations are powerful forms of creativity. Unlikely pairings can often yield interesting results. It often takes many trials and failing forward to get the combination just right, but as the saying goes, “there is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory.”

It is said that we are all born creative, but it can get buried and trampled in this modern world. Creativity thrives in classrooms where there is courage, awareness, and a culture that supports creative practice. That courage, awareness and culture starts with the teacher. When teachers light their own internal fires, it serves as a beacon for others.

Today is a good day to begin.

The Challenge Starting February 2, 2015, 21 Days Committed to Practicing Creative Habits: Enroll now in the 21 Day Teacher Empowerment Challenge.

If you are looking for inspiration and some guidance to infuse these seeds of creativity into your teaching practice, your students — and your classroom — here’s your chance!

How It Works

  1. Each day you will receive an email that encourages a creative way of thinking or acting.
  2. Each day you are encouraged to share your experience in our online communities in the spirit of sharing, cooperation and collaboration.
  3. At the end of the challenge you will be energized to continue to practice creative habits every day!

You Will Receive

  1. Daily emails filled with tips on how to be creative, inspired and motivated.
  2. Online Community to share your creativity with other teachers from around the world
  3. A 21 Day Worksheet to keep track of your progress.

Enroll now!

Infographic: A Teacher’s Guide to Social Media

This infographic appeared on EdTech Digest and was produced by Online Colleges.


Creative Ways To Use Skype In The Classroom

The answer: in more ways than you could imagine. While Skype was not designed as an educational tool, it’s quickly becoming one as teachers discover the many ways it enriches their lessons and the lives of their students. Even something as simple as hosting a guest speaker through a video call can add excitement to a lesson.

As with any tech tool, it can seem daunting to introduce this into your classroom at first. If you don’t know where to start, try one of these five creative ideas.

1. Mystery Skype 

Spin this lesson as a game and you’ll have students on board right away. The idea is simple: connect with a class from another city, state or country and assign your students with the task of figuring out where the Skype class is located.

This has become a popular way to use this tool—so much so that it even has a name now: Mystery Skype—because it challenges your students in a variety of ways.

Get started with these four simple steps from Nicole Long, a language arts teacher who has Mystery Skyped with students in France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and all across the United States.

  • Set up a Google Calendar to track you sessions.
  • Compile student resources. “For the first session I compiled a list of resources and added them to the sheet; these resources provide tips on how to navigate Google Maps, a World atlas and a map of different time zones, among other things,” said Long.
  • Create and practice with sample questions.
  • Remind students to establish order for their questions based on the real-time information they learn about the other class: “Questions are only as relevant as the information you have,” explains Long.

Check out Using Mystery Skype as a Classroom Tool to learn more about Long’s experience and find out where you can connect with participating classes.

2. Guest Speakers

Guest speakers enhance nearly any lesson. “Though I may be confident in my teaching, I know that someone with expertise in a particular area will be better at communicating the subtleties of the topic from a position of authority. A guest speaker conveys current, realistic information and a perspective on a subject that is not available from textbooks,” says Patricia A. Mullins, from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Skype allows you to bring guest speakers into the classroom, no matter where they are in the world. Use it to give your students an experience they wouldn’t have otherwise while adding an exciting and educational element to your lesson. Popular Skype guests include:

  • Authors
  • Computer science professionals
  • College professors

3. Parent Readers 

Many children come from homes with two working parents, and neither parent has time to be present in the classroom on a weekday. With Skype, however, they can join the classroom from their work desk. Here are a few ways you can invite parents into the classroom:

  • Start a Parent Read Aloud series that allows them to read a book to the class via Skype.
  • Invite a few parents to connect during student presentations or for a classroom party.

Remember: If parents are connected to watch a performance or presentation, be sure their microphones are on mute so noises from their office won’t distract students.

4. Foreign Language Learning

There are few better ways to learn a new language than to hear it from the lips of someone who speaks in the native tongue. With Skype you can have these speakers address your class, regardless of where they are. The benefits of adding this feature to your language lesson are many. For example:

  • Skyping with a native speaker brings the language to life.
  • Practicing with a native speaker is not something many students could experience without Skype.
  • Students can learn about non-verbal aspects of different languages, like gestures in the Italian culture.
  • Students can become the teacher, helping the other person (or students) learn English as well.
  • Native speakers will talk in their natural dialect, which can’t be fully experienced with a textbook.

5. Virtual Field Trip

Using Skype to take a virtual field trip is beneficial to your students in a two ways:

  • Many children will never make it to a foreign county in their life. This allows them to experience that without leaving town.
  • "Visiting” a place they’re learning about in class brings an entirely new perspective to the lesson and helps them get a feel for the culture.

Consider how these “field trips” can best enhance your lesson. For example, the cobblestone streets of Rome are much different from the streets most students walk in the United States. Skype lets them experience that.

Remember to do your research beforehand to find the location that best exemplifies the distinctive attributes of the location and go there. Visit Skype’s Cultural Exchange to find people who are willing to show you around these places.

Skype is quickly becoming a popular classroom tool, and for good reason: it’s a free tool with more uses than many premium programs. Consider where you can make space for this tool in your lessons and how it would be most beneficial to your students.

Technology in the Classroom for Struggling Teachers

With technology moving out of the lab and into the classroom, it's becoming a challenge for some teachers to integrate technology in the classroom with tech tools such as websites, educational games, simulations, iPads, Chromebooks, GAFE, and other geeky devices that used to be the purview of a select group of nerdy teachers. Now, all teachers are expected to have students work, collaborate, research, and publish online.

I'm fine with that because I am that nerd, but if I was expected to integrate art into my classroom, I'd break out in a cold sweat and expect the worst. As the tech coordinator responsible for helping teachers use technology in the classroom, I hear too often from experienced, valuable, long-time teachers that they believe the time has come for them to retire, that they just don't get this new stuff.

I also have colleagues who think it takes a special brain to understand tech (the same way students think about math and science) -- one they don't have. If either of these educators are you, here are 10 tips that will take the fear out of infusing tech into your lesson plans. Take these to heart -- let them guide you. They will make a big difference in how you feel about yourself and your class at the end of the day.

Make Yourself Use Technology in the Classroom Every Day

Even if you have to set aside 10 minutes each day where you close the blinds and lock your door so no one sees your misery, do it. You don't have to succeed with the tech tool you select, just use it. Whether it works or not is entirely beside the point. The point is you're trying. You're exploring the process. You're unpacking the mysteries of tech in your academic career.

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Believe this: The more you use tech, the more comfortable it will be, the more commonalities you'll find between tools, and the easier it will be to share with students.

Try to Figure It Out Yourself

Go ahead. Test the tool. You won't break the computer. Try the problem-solving that has worked in other situations -- like intuit a solution, look around the screen and see what pops out, and read the manual.

The hardest part of this hint is believing you can do it. When I got my first computer, most people didn't have one so I taught myself by testing, trying, failing, researching, or whatever worked. I wasn't always successful, but I came up with a good template for problem solving which works to this day.

Ask for Help

If you can't figure it out yourself, there's no shame in asking for help. Don't let those geeky tech nerds who work magic on your school's computers intimidate you. Walk into their office, stand there and talk until they help you. If they aren't clear, ask them to repeat it. You are smart, just not about tech!

Attend Webinars

There are lots of free online learning opportunities like LearnZillion and Russell Stannard's Teacher Training VideosHere's a longer list. You can also go to YouTube and search by topic. Many of these are thorough, clear, and easy-to-understand. If one isn't, try another. For example, YouTube has over seven pages of videos on how to use Photoshop.

In addition to rewindable online learning, try live webinars and Google Hangouts. Your favorite teacher resource website probably sends notifications when these are available (likeSimpleK12). Don't worry that you'll be the dumbest one there or that they'll say stuff you don't understand. It's not true. Lots of attendees are silent, there to learn a subject they don't know.

Don't Expect to be Perfect

Embrace mistakes. Let students see you're human, which gives them permission to be less than perfect also. A lot of learning happens through failure. Understand that and expect students to understand it, also.

Having said that, I occasionally get parents who are unhappy when I struggle with concepts. They must think I get a daily upload of all tech information that I can access as needed, or that I absorb technology by osmosis. What they don't realize is there are 6 bazillion tech education tools out there (and growing), and the one I'm teaching was selected because it's perfect for the lesson plan. It requires a bit of re-education on the parent's part and a supportive administration to get past those attitudes.

Believe Problem Solving is Fun

NOT knowing how to use technology is not a “problem.” It's a chance to think, stretch the brain, achieve new heights and get that huzzah feeling that only comes with great success. Model behavior appropriate to learning new material that you want to find in students. Show them that you don't whine, throw up your hands, say you can't do it, or call someone outside for help. You attack the problem with passion, confidence, and a smile.

You Know as Much as Most Other Teachers

I talk to teachers across the country. I know what confuses them, what causes them to reach out to their PLN for help. Most are struggling just like you -- some more than you. They put a brave face on for their school community, but there are times they are only one step ahead of the learners queued up behind them.

You're Allowed to Google an Answer and Then Teach It the Same Day

Yes, you are allowed to reach out to experts for answers even if it's minutes before the lesson plan is rolled out. With your knowledge and teaching skills, you'll understand the directions and how they connect to the bigger picture. Search engines like Google and Bing are effective approaches to finding solutions as long as you vet the sources for accuracy and legitimacy. I do it in the middle of class if necessary. For example, last week, a boy pushed some shortkey by accident and ended up with double underlines on everything in his Word doc. It took 15 seconds on Google to come up with the solution (Ctrl+Shift+D). Let students watch you do this search on the Smartscreen and then model it themselves when they have problems.

If you have teachers or students who constantly ask for help with problems you've already solved, there's an acronym for that -- LMGTFY. Let Me Google That For You. This is a gentle reminder to your colleagues that they can take responsibility for their own learning via the Google search engine (or Bing, or any other you choose to use).

Every day, there are new ways to use technology in education. You will never finish learning this topic. What you can learn is a strategy for addressing it. By transferring knowledge, leveraging what you do know, and allowing for flexible learning paths, you can develop the habits of mind that will make yourself comfortable with the new educational paradigm.

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of dozens of tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and dozens of books on how to integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Adapted image attribution flickr user denisekrebs

Degrees in Education and Teaching Certificates Infographic

Degrees in Education and Teaching Certificates Infographic

An education degree is designed to prepare the student for a career as an educator. The Degrees in Education and Teaching Certificates Infographic presents the latest data on education degrees and teaching certificates in the United States and details the current job outlook, the outlook over the next ten years, top salaries, and top degree types for education and teaching positions.

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

The individual workload for teachers depends mostly on the school’s location and the age of the students. Leadership in individual school systems and educational benchmarks can increase the level of regulation on the classroom, which can be frustrating to teachers. Some schools allow teachers to have mentors and team-teaching opportunities, but most teachers work alone with a changing group of students.

Types of Degree Programs


  • BS in Elementary Education – Mathematics
  • BS in Elementary Education – Social Studies
  • BS in Elementary Education – Science
  • BS in Elementary Education – English Language Arts
  • BS in Education – Elementary Education


  • MA in Ed – Teacher Education – Mid Level Science
  • MA in Education – Teacher Education Secondary Mathematics
  • MA in Education – Teacher Education Middle Level Mathematics
  • MA in Education – Teacher Education Secondary Science


  • Educational Specialist
  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

Top 5 Career Available for this Degree

  • Elementary and Secondary Schools
  • Employment Services
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
  • Local Government (OES Designation)
  • 6 State Government (OES Designation)

Quick Facts

According to the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school teachers, including history teachers, held 1.1 million jobs in 2008. The BLS also reported that employment opportunities were expected to grow by nine percent between the years 2008-2018, though this growth would be dependent on various levels of education spending in each state and locality.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary school teachers held 1.5 million jobs in 2008. Employment is projected to increase by 16% to 1,793,700 jobs in 2018. Also, many job openings will be spurred by the retirement of present-day teachers, as noted by the College Board. According to the College Board, nearly half of all teachers were over the age of 45 in 2006. Public schools, however, need funding from the government in order to hire more teachers, which may require local or state legislation, according to the BLS.


Going Digital: The Easy Way to Create Digital Lesson Plans

For years and years I used the typical spiral-bound teacher plan books.  You know, the kind the district gives you at the beginning of each school year with pages and pages of square boxes to fill in.  I kept them too, year after year, squirreled away just in case I needed to refer to them while I was planning my current year’s curriculum.  Finally, one day, while cleaning out my desk and staring at a stack of planners from years gone by, a thought occurred to me. What am I doing?  What a waste of time, effort and paper!  There has to be a better way!

I realized that these planners didn't even fit my schedule.  I was always trying to cram an extra square into the grid or squeeze in a class here or there.  Also, with a subject like art, I ended up writing the same lesson over and over again, because you rarely teach something just once.  Now, lets talk about what I had actually recorded.  You would have to be a cryptic sleuth to be able to decipher what I had scrawled in each box.  Could this possibly be best practice?   No way!

I decided, then and there, that I needed to go digital!  I designed a simple template to use each week, with my schedule and my needs in mind.  (Feel free to download a copy of my template below.)  I color-code each grade level because I like visual coding, kept one box for lesson planning and used the bottom box for integrating “I CAN” target statements that my district required. 

Read more ...

Teachers' Guide to Google Books

About Google Books

February, 2015
Google Books is a powerful book search platform that allows users to search for books and text inside books. Google Books provides several interesting features. “My Library” for instance enable you to bookmark and save your favourite books. Users can also search for key words and phrases from within the book, clip a portion of the text and share it, and download the book in different formats : PDF, EPUB, and in plain text.

Google Books has recently released a new feature that let you search for magazine content on Google Book search.It has also created reference pages for every book so you can quickly find all kinds of relevant information such as book reviews, web references, maps and many more.

Related:  A Visual Guide to The Use of Google Books in Research

To help you better understand how to use Google Books, I compiled these guides from Google Books Help page and arranged them in such a way that you can easily access them from one single page. These guides cover the different features and functionalities provided by Google Books, clicking on any of the titles below will direct you to the corresponding  page where you will read more on it.

1- Getting started with Google books:

2- Search for Books:

3- Downloading Books

4- Full Text

5- About "My Library"

6- About Citations and Copyright

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5 Things every teacher should able to do on YouTube

January, 2015
After the post I shared here on how to create flipped videos via the use of annotations and other interactivity features on YouTube, I received a couple of emails from fellow teachers asking about certain functionalities on YouTube. Instead of answering each one individually, I decided to create this post and include in it the major important things a teacher should be able to do on YouTube.

Here is what you will get to learn from these tips:

  • Know how to add subtitles and closed captions to your videos
  • Add and edit annotations
  • use enhancement features to improve your videos
  • How to use YouTube video editor to combine, trim, add music and customize your clips
  • How to search YouTube library for copyright-free music to add to your videos
  • How to swap the audio track on our videos

Click on each title to access its corresponding resource page.

1- How to use YouTube Video Editor
Get to learn about the basic features provided by YouTube video editor.This page will show you how to customize  your videos using different toolsYou will also get to learn how  to combine multiple videos and images in one video, how to trim your clips to custom lengths, and how to add music to your video from a library of approved tracks.

2- How to Add Subtitles and Captions  to Your Videos
This feature allows you to add subtitles to your videos so that deaf people or those who speak a different language can understand your content.

3- How to Add Annotations to Your Videos
Annotations help you engage with viewers and make your videos more interactive. With annotations you can layer text, links, and hotspots over your video. They help you enrich the video experience by adding information, interactivity and engagement.

4- How to Enhance Your Videos
The enhancement functionality allows you to make tweaks and add effects to your videos. These include things such as:

  • Auto-fix: Lets you adjust lighting and colour
  • Stabilize: This allows you to adjust the video to correct any shakiness
  • Slow motion: This enables you to slow the speed at which your video plays
  • Trim: Lets you clip parts off the your video
  • Filters: Choose from pre-set colour filters that you can apply to your video to give them a stylish and unique look.
  • Face blurring: Protect the anonymity of people in your video.

5- Learn How to Find Music and Audio for Your Videos Using YouTube Audio Library

15 Mistakes New Teachers Make (and what I learned making them)

AJ Juliani

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of new teachers the past three years, and I’ve seen many of the same mistakes I made during my first year teaching repeated over and over. Now, this isn’t to say that I thought teaching was extremely difficult during my first year (I actually loved it and was not too overwhelmed)…but I did have my fair share of “rookie” mistakes.

I’ve learned that the best way I can help out new teachers is by sharing my story, and what teaching was like for me that first year. The best part of making mistakes is learning from them…so even if you make some of the mistakes listed below, it’s all part of the process!

1. Never leaving school

It’s your first real job and you want to do the best possible work. But staying at school till the custodian’s lock-up is not the solution. Talk to your colleagues. Plan with a partner. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to preparing your lessons and activities. Above all, focus on being efficient, instead of just working hard…the latter leads to teacher burnout fast.

2. Missing out on all of the extra-curricular events

I remember so many people giving me the advice to take the first year and only focus on my teaching. Awful advice. Part of teaching is being part of the community and getting involved in extra-curricular activities and events. It’s also important for your students to see you in other roles besides teacher. I took on the school newspaper and started coaching lacrosse in the spring…best two decisions I made in my first year.

3. Writing an email when a phone call would be better

This one may seem obvious to most veteran teachers, but as a new teacher I would pour hours into crafting perfectly written emails to parents, co-workers, and administrators… In most cases, a phone call would have worked just as well, and would have saved me hours. Also, some things (especially if it involves emotion or two-sides to a situation) are better off spoken, and not written.

4. Making a phone call when a face-to-face conversation would be better

Ever heard of cabin fever? I think I had “classroom fever” at one point in my first year. I spent WAY too much time in that classroom. When I got up, went for a walk, and talked to some people face-to-face…it would help.

5. Focusing on that “one kid”

I don’t know many teachers that haven’t focused on that “one kid” at some point in their careers. Hey, it happens to the best of us, and there really isn’t anything wrong with trying to help as much as possible. But…this “savior” mentality takes an emotional toll. It also blinds us to the other 20-some kids in the classroom who need our support and encouragement. Try to find the balance even when you are pulled in one direction.

6. Trying for a “well-managed” classroom

This is a biggie. Most of what they taught me in college made me view my job as a teacher close to one of a manager. Therefore I spent way too much time trying to make my classroom and my students “well behaved” so I could check “classroom management” off the list of things I had mastered. What was lost in all of this focus, was that my students needed to be engaged. And if the room looked a bit crazy, that did not matter as long as they had “high commitment and high attention” towards the learning activity. I did not learn this lesson till the middle of the year during a crazy debate filled class that was highly engaging and just the type of learning I wanted to replicate!

7. Too many summative assessments

I was worried early on that my students would not be focused in class unless there was a summative assessment in the near future. Please do not make this mistake. Creating a forced focus because of looming assessments is one of the worst ways to instruct and engage. A better way is through formative assessments…

8. Not enough formative assessments

I missed out on this one big time. Formative assessments are the best way to see whether students understand what you are doing in class. When you check for understanding as a teacher, the results can truly inform your instruction…instead of guessing where students may be in their understanding. Check out this awesome resource from Edutopia.

9. Too much homework

Again, I thought “rigor” was giving challenging homework. Why? Probably because when I was in high school the most challenging courses had more homework assigned. I had to shift this thinking when my grades started to reflect who did their homework instead of who demonstrated true understanding of the concepts and mastery of the skills we were covering. I’m not one to say we need to “get rid” of all homework, but I did have to rethink what my purpose was for sending work home with students.

10. Contacting parents with only negative news

I saw parents at back-to-school night and then the next time I spoke to most of them was when I had to call home or email about an issue in class. I was lucky that this did not happen very often…but looking back I’m ashamed of my negative reasons for reaching out to parents/guardians. I quickly learned that sending home good news is one of the best ways to build a good relationship with parents/guardians and the community.

11. Trying to write the same lesson plans you did in college

Remember those 4-5 page lesson plans that you had to type up in college? You are going to burn yourself out real fast if you try to write that kind of lesson plan for each class every day… Also, depending on what is in the “lesson plan” it really doesn’t connect to the learning during class, but instead “what activities you are going to do” in class. Check out this post on learning plans and try for a shorter (but specific) approach instead.

12. Failing to think about your classroom design

Class design is more than just moving away from “desks in rows” or seating charts. This has taken me the longest to understand, but how you set up your learning space really impact the type of collaboration and communication that goes on in the classroom. We’ve been doing a lot of work at to support brain-friendly class design because of the fact that there aren’t many resources out there for teachers!

13. Thinking about technology as something separate and special

It is important to understand technology’s role in learning. If you make technology something we are “going to do” as a class, then it becomes a special event. The problem with this thinking (and I did this with almost every project/activity in my first year) is that technology is no longer a “special event” in our daily lives. We use it seamlessly as an integral part of how we communicate, collaborate, create, learn, consume, and connect. So when we make technology a separate piece of learning, students get the impression that technology is only used for certain things at certain times…instead of having it available always as a resource but using it for a true learning purpose.

14. Not reaching out for enough help

If you are like me then you probably think you can do it all. I did (still do sometimes). I’d spend hours and hours working on a lesson or activity when I could have created a better lesson/activity in less time with the teacher next door. I rarely reached out to administrators for help, thinking they would see me as weak for not “knowing” how to do everything myself. Now I ask for help all the time. And guess what…people like helping other people! It is not an inconvenience especially when you can bring a new idea or way of thinking to the discussion.

15. Thinking differentiation is too hard

It’s hard as a new teacher to teach one lesson, at one pace, and keep all of the students engaged. But we wrestle with classroom management as if this is the only option. The issue, is students are at all different levels of understanding and ability…and if you “teach to the average” you are actually not reaching any of the students (great video here that explains the thinking.) Differentiation on the other hand seems really difficult: How can I tailor my instruction and content for the wide variety of learners in my classroom?

Here’s the thing…just like anything else, it is very hard to conceptualize without a step-by-step process to getting started. It is difficult to picture until you have seen it in action.

This is one of the many reasons I wrote my new book, Learning By Choice: 10 Ways to Transform Your Classroom into a Student-Centered Experience. 

In the book I go over 10 specific strategies for teachers to differentiate in the classroom using student-choice as the main driver. The best part…you can follow the step-by-step guide in each chapter to bring choice into your classroom, differentiate instruction and assessment, and see student engagement and ownership increase.

If you’d like to get a FREE Chapter of my book on February 1st before it is released, just sign-up below and I’ll send it straight to you!

Click to GET the first chapter of Learning By Choice for FREE!

Photo Credit: Gamma-Ray Productions via Compfight cc

A Comprehensive Framework For Student Motivation

A Comprehensive Framework For Student Motivation

by Terry Heick

When researching student motivation and gamification late last year, I came across the most comprehensive gamification framework I’ve ever seen. Developed by gamification expert Yu-kai Chou, it was an ambitious effort that distinguished black hat gamification (which is “bad”–think Farmville and Candy Crush) from white hat gamification (which is “good”–think Minecraft or even an ACT score). (It’s also copyrighted, but they graciously allowed us to use it.)

While it is designed not as an educational framework, but rather as a way to demonstrate gamification and its many strands, gamification is about human encouragement and motivation. For educators, student motivation is one of thepillars of a academic performance. While the terms are sometimes misunderstood–and risk becoming cliche as we continue to talk about them topically rather than specifically–student motivation and student engagement are prime movers in the learning process. Without either, teaching is an uphill battle.

So what began as a post about gamification became more a matter of student motivation–what motivates students in the classroom and why. If we can nail down those factors–those characteristics that drive student motivation–we can, at worst, be more attentive to them as we design assessments, lessons, units, and even learning models.

8 Core Drives Of Student Motivation

1) Epic Meaning & Calling

Yu-kai Chou explains, “Epic Meaning & Calling is the Core Drive where a player believes that he is doing something greater than himself or he was “chosen” to do something. A symptom of this is a player that devotes a lot of his time to maintaining a forum or helping to create things for the entire community (think Wikipedia or Open Source projects).”

Educator takeaways? This is easy to reduce to “get good grades to get into college to “become” whatever you want to “be,” but while they wait to “become” something (i.e., a “professional” of some kind), they need meaning from their work that is a matter of  self, knowledge, and personal development (see Development & Accomplishment below).

What if…we continued to build on the ideas of problem-based learning, place-based education, and scenario-based learning, where students have the ability to interact with authentic–and hopefully local–problems, designing solutions to problems they see on a daily basis.

2) Development & Accomplishment

Yu-kai Chou explains: “Development & Accomplishment is the internal drive of making progress, developing skills, and eventually overcoming challenges. The word “challenge” here is very important, as a badge or trophy without a challenge is not meaningful at all.”

Educator takeaways? Right now, letter grades, certificates, and in cases, digital portfolios are tasked with communicating a learner’s measure of performance, progress, and accomplishment. The visibility of this development and accomplishment is also limited and completely academic.

What if…the development of a “learner identity” was a matter of choice and authentically-sourced, rather than universal and academically-derived?

3) Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Yu-kai Chou explains: “Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is when users are engaged a creative process where they have to repeatedly figure things out and try different combinations. People not only need ways to express their creativity, but they need to be able to see the results of their creativity, receive feedback, and respond in turn.”

Educator takeaways? Learning feedback is different than grades, and grades are different than assessment, and assessment is different than learning results–offering feedback that promotes learning while encouraging creativity (part of the root of the word encourage is courage)? How can we give learners the space and emotional support to experiment with complex ideas and data sources without letting them flounder, or “play and experiment badly”?

What if…play was at the core of learning while married to an authentic feedback loop, and lessons and units and projects ground to a halt without creativity?

4) Ownership & Possession

Yu-kai Chou explains, “This is the drive where users are motivated because they feel like they own something. When a player feels ownership, she innately wants to make what she owns better and own even more.”

Educator Takeaways? Space, place, voice, and choice are among the principles of student-centered learning. A sense of agency can be both empowering and overwhelming for students.

What if…Students “owned” their learning experiences in connection with mentors outside the school?

5) Social Influence & Relatedness

Yu-kai Chou explains, “This drive incorporates all the social elements that drive people, including: mentorship, acceptance, social responses, companionship, as well as competition and envy…Also, it includes the drive we have to draw closer to people, places, or events that we can relate to. If you see a product that reminds you of your childhood, the sense of nostalgia would likely increase the odds of you buying the product.”

Educator takeaways? How can we design learning so that students need to connect to clarify a need for knowledge, to create knowledge, or to share knowledge? Pushed further, how does social influence change the knowledge and competencies we choose to value?

For example, how has social media–twitter for example–altered social currencies? In a physical environment, charisma can be a matter of aesthetics, height, voice tone, or verbal linguistics. In a digital realm, the ability to communicate concisely, to use hashtags effectively, and to time your messages properly all give the appearance of charisma. The lesson? Unique spaces create unique conditions for influence and value.

What if…we created a classroom where the social influence was both a cause and an effect for curiosity and an authentic need to know?

6) Scarcity & Impatience

Yu-kai Chou explains, “This is the drive of wanting something because you can’t have it….”

Educator Takeaways? Choosing what to make scarce, and how to build want in students is a matter of design with a few simple bullet points. Traditional academia has scarcity built in already–extra-credit, choice, opportunities for self-selected grouping, personal technology use (BYOD), course selection (in K-12) and more are all “scarce,” and thus have value.

Education also withholds permanent markers of performance (i.e., final letter grades) until the end of a semester to both motivate students as well as provide the image of authority and control. Using “Scarcity & Impatience” becomes a matter of being selective in what is made scarce, and how that scarcity and requisite need-for-patience impacts student learning.

Put another way, what are we withholding, and to what end? That which is scarce–but still integral to a larger process–has embedded value. How can we use that?

What if…what we wanted students to value was a matter of personalized learningthis value for this student in thiscommunity based on this circumstance?

7) Unpredictability & Curiosity

Yu-kai Chou explains, “Generally, this is a harmless drive of wanting to find out what will happen next….The very controversial Skinner Box experiments, where an animal irrationally presses a lever frequently because of unpredictable results, are exclusively referring to the core drive of Unpredictability & Curiosity, although many have misunderstood it as the driver behind points, badges, and leaderboard mechanics in general.”

Educator Takeaways? Learning without curiosity is like a fire without heat. Unpredictability is one source of curiosity, but there are many sources of curiosity. So much of a classroom is a matter of process and routine, which places a premium on predictability and procedural knowledge.

What if…instead, our classrooms were learning spaces that were charged with possibility, connections, creativity, and student-sourced emotion? And what if, by some matter of design, created intellectual chaos rather than worried about behavioral chaos? How would we need to design access to content, feedback loops, learning models, and outward visibility to make this work?

8) Loss & Avoidance

Yu-kai Chou explains, “This core drive is based upon the avoidance of something negative happening. On a small scale, it could be to avoid losing previous work. On a larger scale, it could be to avoid admitting that everything you did up to this point was useless because you are now quitting.”

Educator Takeaways? As a profession, we tend to design learning experiences that discourage risk-taking and punish mistakes. “Loss” has been at the core of academia since its inception. If you don’t do this work by this date you lose this desirable alphanumeric symbol (letter grade) and may even fail the course outright (i.e. lose “progress” and credit and be forced to repeat).

This driver of student motivation has not been effective historically in K-12 education for many students because it requires students to value the loss, which requires them to see the long-term consequences of that loss. Unlike adults, students live in the now.

What if….we could somehow design a unit, for example, that “forced” the student to “start over” if they made certain mistakes, but through other principles of student motivation outlined above, they were somehow motivated to do so?

A Comprehensive Framework For Student Motivation; image copyright Octalysis and Yu-kai Chou

Meet 4 Teachers Who Took Classroom Design
to the Next Level

AJ Juliani

Wow, what can we say! This past summer we decided to start a learning space design challenge on to highlight all of the amazing “cribs” that you have designed for students.

Instead of just “aesthetics” we focused this challenge on brain-friendly learning spaces that promoted deep learning and engagement through design.

And we were blown away by the response!

Over 4,000 educators have joined our Classroom Cribs learning community and many of you sent in videos of your learning space as part of the challenge.

Together, Erin Klein, Ben Gilpin, Tom Murray, and myself watched all of the challenge entries with a focus on brain-friendly design and non-traditional learning environments.

This month we will be featuring 30 of the learning spaces during our “30 Days of Design” on the blog. Be sure to check out new classrooms every day.

Announcing Our Grand Finalists

Each of our finalists have gone above and beyond in designing their learning spaces. Their classrooms are an inspiration to each of us and focus on using a brain-friendly approach.

Our four finalists each received a $100 gift card to continue improving the design of their classroom.

Here are the finalists! Congratulations!