Oct 162013

We have been fortunate to receive a set of Chromebooks for each of the departments on our campus. Last week, I gave a presentation on how I use them in my science class and we brainstormed as a faculty how we could use them in other departments. Our math department is very open to using them in class, but wanted some more specifics on how other teachers are using them. I put out a call to my PLN (Professional Learning Network) and had a Google Hangout setup in a matter of days with John Stevens, Rafranz Davis, and Shauna Hedgepeth.

The video below is a recording of the conversation that we had. There were a couple of connectivity issues and conversations that turned into other interesting topics, but I feel that there were some very good ideas for anyone looking to integrate tech into their math classroom.

It is becoming more clear every day on how powerful a solid PLN can be.

Here are some of the resources mentioned in the video

Google Draw


Daum Equation Editor



Scoot and Doodle

Infuse Learning

Mathy Cathy


Todays Meet

Lucid Chart

Lets students create their own learning – student example projects

 Posted by at 5:19 pm
Sep 292013

I get asked all of the time for my Teach Like a Pirate book study questions and have finally gotten around to putting them in a place where I can link people to. I used the same questions for the Twitter study as the live book study that I held on my campus.

Each week was an hour long session. Below is the reading schedule that I used.

Week 1 – Part I – Passion, Immersion and Rapport
Week 2 – Part I – Ask & Analyze, Transformation, Enthusiasm
Week 3 – Part II – The Third Circle through Around the Edges
Week 4 – Part III – All of Part III

You can find my complete list of questions on this Google Document. Select “Yes” when asked to make a copy of the document.

Sep 232013

inbI have never given an open notes test until this year.  Thinking back to my days in grade school, it seemed like the teachers that were giving open notes tests were also that same ones that never left their desk.  I don’t really know why that correlation existed, but it did.  I felt that if I were to give an open notes tests that I was somehow cheating the student out of learning the information.

This year I discovered that my new science team allows the students to use their science journal for every test/assessment that they give.  I was dumbfounded.  At first I was a holdout for the same reason listed above, but then I began to process how this change could actually benefit the student in the long run.    After analyzing my students over the past month I have come to the conclusion that everyone should be giving open notes exams.  I will detail my reasons below.

  1. The world is an open book test - There isn’t a job out there that doesn’t allow you to use your resources to find answers.   Why should educators stand in the way of the tools and resources that the students of tomorrow will have at their fingertips?  This just doesn’t make any sense at all.
  2. Students will take better notes –  I have seen it first hand in my class that students will take better notes and keep better journals if they know that they will have that available to them as a resource for an exam.  It may take a couple of assessments before they realize that they need to pick it up during ‘practice’ time, but they will figure it out quickly.
  3. It makes you create better assessments – If your exams consist of a bunch of vocabulary words that students can easily look up in a journal, then your exam stinks.  However, if your exam has a multi-stepped problem on calculating the net force of an unbalanced object, then why shouldn’t we allow students to go back and look at previous work that they have completed in class to help them solve the problem?  The reality is that .0000036% (made up stat) of these kids are ever going to calculate net force once they get into the real world.
  4. We should be teaching how to be resourceful – If you asked an employer if they would rather hire someone that can memorize or someone that knows how to be resourceful, I’m sure you would all agree that they would choose the latter.  The 21st century employee is going to have information at their fingertips that we could only dream of as children.  It is imperative that students learn how to find information.  I have found that students really appreciate and understand the importance of their journal when we go back and look at the most missed questions on the test.  I show them where I found relevant information in their INB’s and how it could have helped them on that particular question.
  5. You are empowering the student and building confidence – By allowing your students to use their own notes you are empowering them to take charge of their own learning.  I have seen first hand students that  have never been successful in other classes pump out some amazing grades this year in my class.  This builds up confidence over time, yet puts the blame back on them if they didn’t have good reference materials to work from.

Standardized tests should listen up too.  If students are forced to take standardized tests they should also be able to use their resources from class.  Think about how much more creative journals and notebooks would become.  Think about how much more engaged teachers would become about teaching resourcefulness.  I guess that would take the standardization out of the test.  That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it?

I’m sure that there are ways to take this new strategy to the next level, but for now I’m very happy that I’m empowering my students to be resourceful and allow them to use their notes for all assessments.

Jun 102013

tlapSummer has begun!  This is a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and to learn some new skills for next school year.  We will be starting a weekly book study of Dave Burgess’, Teach Like a Pirate on 6/17 at 8pm CST.  Burgess teaches cutting-edge strategies for skyrocketing creativity so that teachers will be able to design lessons to draw students into their content like a magnet. Readers will leave with the ability to create a classroom experience that will have students knocking down the doors to get in.

The book will have your mind racing with ideas that you can bring into your classroom immediately.

This 5 week session will be lead by the amazing @paulsolarz.  I am going to try and attend as many session as I can but have a few timing conflicts.  The author, Dave Burgess, will also be at the chats.  It’s such a great experience to be able to chat with the author of the book that the study is about.

We will meet on Twitter Monday evenings at 8pm CST, starting 6/17.  The study will last for approximately 5 weeks.

The book can be purchased at Amazon (electronic or paperback)

Please RT and invite as many people as you want.  I think that this is going to be a great study that has the potential to unlock a ton of creativity.

We will use hashtag #tlap during our discussions.

Weekly Readings (Tentative Schedule):

  • June 17, 2013: ”Part 1: Passion & Immersion”: Introduction – page 18
  • June 24, 2013: ”Part 1: Rapport & Ask and Analyze”: pages 19-54
  • July 1, 2013: ”Part 1: Transformation & Enthusiasm”: pages 55-71
  • July 8, 2013: ”Part 2: Crafting Engaging Lessons (Part 1 of 2)”: pages 75-106
  • July 15, 2013: ”Part 2: Crafting Engaging Lessons (Part 2 of 2)”: pages 107-141
  • July 22, 2013: ”Part 3: Building a Better Pirate”: pages 145-176
  • Discussions will continue after July 22nd, but the questions will not be focused on specific pages in the book.


Please follow @iamkesler @burgessdave and @paulsolarz for updates, reminders, etc.

 Posted by at 9:18 am
Apr 132013

This week our #tlap Twitter chat was asked the question “Many of the best books for teachers are not strictly educational books. What non-Ed books have influenced your teaching?” There were a slew of great recommendations that educators from all across the country are reading right now.

I have compiled a list of books that were discussed in the chat and listed them below. Disclaimer: If you purchase the book through these links I get a tiny fraction as an affiliate commission. The cost remains the same to you. Enjoy the list!

Educator Related Books


Non-Educator Related

Mar 232013

On Friday my classes made their genius hour topic selections.  At the beginning of the class I told them that I was changing the name of our time together from “Passion Projects” to “Genius Hour”.  They seemed to appreciate the thought of me thinking they were all geniuses.

I pulled up our brainstorming pages from last week and went through them again.  I explained why some of the selections were great and others stunk.  I reminded them that if they could answer the question within a few minutes, that the project wasn’t going to have legs and they would need to make another selection.

My classroom doesn’t have computers in it, so we all packed up and went down the hall to the computer lab.  Before allowing them to finalize their selection I turned on the excitement and anticipation of the moment.   I explained to them that very few classes get to pick what they want to learn about, and that they needed to seize the opportunity that was in front of them to make their project the best that it could possibly be.  I then had fill out the Google Form where they would make their genius hour project selection.

As the entries came flying in, I called them up one by one to either approve or deny the project.  I made a big production about it when they were talking with me.  If their project was approved I would say something like, “You’ve been approved!  I really love your idea and think that you are going to do amazing things with it!”  I then sent them on their way with a handshake or a fist bump.  They were excited!

In the spirit of transparency I’m going to list all of the project selections that I received.  I think that it is important to share these topic selections with the world so that they can be used as examples in other classes.  There are some on this list that are great and there are others that aren’t so great.  I decided to let the not so great ones get approved because I wanted them to find out on their own that their project may be too difficult or too easy to research.  They have been told that failure is OK.  They can also change their topic next week if they run into problems with their selections from today.

We have not spent any time discussing the creation part of the genius hour projects.  I’m working on putting together a webpage that students can use that teaches them alternative ways to present an idea other than a poster board.  It’s sad, but posters and power point projects are the only two ways that many students know how to present a project.  I intend to change that!

Genius Hour Topic Selections – 6th graders

What is the question(s) that you are going to answer over the next several weeks?
To make people aware of how hard farm life is
how does the circulatory system of a horse work?
How to throw a football like a quarterback
how to make homemade plah-doh  for little kids to play with
Can me and Collin create a website from scratch on creating a websites from scratch?
Can me and Beau make a website from scratch while doing a tutorial of it.
How did dinosaurs become the animals we know today.
How the heart works and why we need a heart.
i want to learn more about the old mars rover and how big is it
how babies are formed inside their moms stomach.
I’m am going to research about how the brain works and how it is made and what it is made of.
how to make a bow
I am going to do a project on how to make a bow for your hair .
how did Joe Montana(forty niners)QB get to be himself by getting to the hall of fame and make his jersey
how do rovers work and build a model of the rover
I’m going to be doing my project on how rockets work and I’m going to build a model of it.
How can people see better with glasses than without
How make a homemade arcade game with no electricity.:p
How do babies form inside there mother?
how to a rover and how it works.
How are babies form inside the belly?Not a question good question,but i really want to learn about that.
children’s wolf book
Do you want to make t-shirts,bows?This is the person to see.
I Want To Research How To Go Down A Ramp
How to make an website
I’m going to ask what is makeup made of.
What causes us to forget?
my question is: how do we loose weight in our bodies
How are different types of cancer formed or caused and how they can maybe be cured or if there is a cure.
Black holes…everything about black holes.i want to try to learn every thing about black holes
where are lynx at so that people can buy them cause they are to sell them and earn money for new lynx to have made a preserve to let them live
how is heart cancer caused?
what is the difference between a wild hog and a javalina.
what causes hiv/aids y it kills you
pedriatition studies
do the gnomes from argentina exist
how to rebuild a small engine
How to make a tutu?
How does brain canter spread?
what does Bigfoot and chupacabra actually mean in mythology and in real lifewhere can you find themare they real or myths

can someone in the future actually discover them

what are chupacabras really

is Bigfoot a ape or a man

How can I become a millionaire over night?
How has technology affected the human body?
do the gnomes from argentina exist
My favorite question is “how does crossbreeding animals work?” I also have “what makes people laugh?”, “what caused the Big Bang Theory?”, “how do elements form?”, and “how does the skeletal system heal broken bones?”.
How Does A Plane Fly
my question is : how do trees grow flowers and leaves?
What are the migration routes of the great white shark? How long does it take them to go in a whole route? At what season do they reach at each place they stop at?
How did the universe start?
How to make a car from scratch.
Is bigfooot real
What are all the types of cancer. What can the  doctors do to help.
I am going to bring awareness to littering and polluting.
explain more about black holes
How does your brain connect with your movements?
Bring Awareness:Smoking
how did Roberto Carlos kicked the banana kick,and the 180 degrees kick.
how to increase reaction times and how to increase eye hand coordination.
i want to know what type of stuff is out in space
How does the human color pattern works?
what happens when a meteor hits the earth?how loud is the sound when the meteor hits the earth????
Why are people worried about global warming?
I want to know if the Evolution theory is actually real?
how was the universe form
Learn all there is to know about dolphinss
who built alcatraz
how are children born with autisum.
how can people get healthier and live longer?
how a rocket launcher work
why do black holes suck stuff
y r forgs slimy
What jobs give the most money?
I am going to answer for the next week that how can i look for my project i am trying to research and the project in going to research is “How Are Babies developed” but is i can’t looked for that one i think i might have to change it.
My question is…Why do we shrink when we get old???
what causes cancer and why does it happen.
What are the deadliest fish in the oceans
The questions that i am going to ask is,how was the universe was created and the research i am going to do is how was the sun and the planets in our solar system Mercury,Venus,Earth,Mars,Jupiter,Saturn,Uranus,Neptune,and Pluto.
what are some ways to jump higher in basketball
Why do people get white hairs as they get older and how are they formed.?


Once the students selected their topics they began their research.  This is where I realized that I am going to run into some challenges with with their technology knowledge.  Our school is a Google Apps school.  The problem is that the only training they have ever been given with Google Apps is in my class.  I ran into many issues that I’m going to have to spend some extra time to solve.  Many students were having a hard time remembering passwords.  Even if they were able to get into Google Docs, they weren’t clear how to use a document to save research along the way.  I’m going to spend an extra few days next week teaching them how to utilize their Google Docs account during a research project.  These skills are far more important than Jupiter’s moons, right?

I also found a cool Chrome plugin called Save to Drive that allows students to save websites and media to directly to their Google Drives with one click.  It’s going to really come in handy.

Until next week…


 Posted by at 7:36 am
Mar 112013

tlapOur #tlap chat this week was so epic that I didn’t even get to all of the questions that I had prepared to ask.  We also trended (#2) on Twitter for the 3rd week in a row.  

Once again we discussed the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  This week we focused on the presentation piece of his Venn diagram.  It is the piece that is most often overlooked by educators.  We then turned to the “hooks” that Dave has come up with to help engage our students while they are in the classroom.

At the end of the chat I requested that everyone add one or two websites/apps that they use on this Google Doc. I plan to pretty this list up at some point and create a page for it.

The full chat has been archived and I look forward to seeing everyone next Monday at 8pm CST. Continue the discussion on Twitter using the #tlap hashtag

Full reading schedule can be found HERE



Mar 082013

I introduced the idea of a genius hour project to my three 6th grade honors science classes on Thursday. Overall, I think that it was very well received by the students. I’m trying to focus all of my energy on the 75% of them that ‘got it’, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little concerned about the few that were either apathetic or asking questions like, “Do we have to do this?” Not everyone is going to be as excited about the project as I am. Once they realize that the alternative to genius hour is far inferior, their feelings about the project may change.

I had the students raise their hands if they were excited about the project, and I saw a bunch of hands in the air. I then asked if anyone was scared or nervous about what I was asking them to do, and there were also many hands in the air, including mine! We had the conversation about how they have been told all of their life what they had to learn in school and how I was liberating them from that style of learning. They definitely seemed to appreciate that.

We then started to brainstorm ideas on the SMART board. The VERY FIRST idea went something like this:

Me: Ok, let’s start putting some ideas on the board. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad. We can always go back and tweak them later on. Fire away.

Student: I want to learn if dogs will eat human throw up.

Me: <I’m soooooooooo hosed!> Ummmmm…no. Can you do an 8-week project over that? Try again.

It got the conversation going and we actually came up with a lot of good ideas. Some of them will turn into projects and some of them will just spark better questions. See the images below of the brainstorming pages for 2 of my classes.



Our spring break is next week. I gave the students the task to think about more ideas and questions over the break. My plan is to do one last brainstorming session the next time we meet and then submit our final projects for approval. I will be doing all of the communication through Google Docs.

Mar 062013

passionI am going to be introducing genius hour to my students tomorrow.  I’m terrified, excited, and liberated all at the same time.  I’ve been researching doing a genius hour for the last few weeks and finally decided that this is a perfect time of year to pilot the program.  We are calling it a passion project in my class.

I teach 6th grade science and and will only be introducing this project to my honors classes, which is half of my students.   If all goes well I hope to introduce it for a broader base next year.  I know that my on-level students will want to do this project also.  I could probably even make the argument that it would impact them greater than my honors students.  However, if I fall flat on my face with this I feel like the honors kids will be able to pick me back up, and we can all make it to the finish line.  I’m a bit skeptical about the chaos that could ensue in my on-level classes if I’m not on my “A-game”.  I could be dead wrong, but that is the decision that I have made for this year.

The students know nothing about the projects, and I think that is part of fun.  Below I have listed my plan for tomorrow.

  • When the students arrive they aren’t going to need anything.  I’m simply going to tell them that they have “been chosen for something VERY SPECIAL”
  • Next I will show them the Kid President Pep Talk

  • Next I’m going let them know that no one in our school district has ever attempted to do what we are about to do, and then show my Haiku Deck

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

  • I really don’t know what to expect at this moment.  My guess is that people are either going to be elated or terrified.  I will then hand out my Google Document and have them read over it before answering a barrage of questions.
  • I’m going to give them some time to start brainstorming ideas and have them write them down on the back of the paper.
  • I will then make the SMART board available for students to write down their best ideas.  We will pick them apart as a class.  This is where I’m going to try and talk about narrowing their questions down to something more researchable/answerable (are those even words?!).  I will explain to them that if I can find the answer with a quick Google search than the project probably isn’t any good.

I fly by the seat of my pants on many things, and this will be no different.  I believe that I have a decent first day lined up, but I’m sure that I’m going to run into a million more questions that I’ll need to have answers to before our spring break is over.  Lucky for me there is definitely some precedence for these types of projects, and the teachers that have done this before me have a strong presence on Twitter.  I can always ask!

I will continue to post updates under the Passion Project category of this blog.

Mar 052013

podcastsI’ve had an iPod/mp3 player for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only recent given any credibility to podcasts.  I don’t really even have a reason, but they just weren’t a part of my daily consumption.  I have been devouring EdTech content over the last several years, and I can’t believe that Podcasts have been missing from my toolkit.  I cannot stop listening to them.

These are my 5 favorite EdTech Podcasts in no particular order.

1. Techlandia - Follow @ipadsammy (Jon Samuelson) and @tedrosececi (Alison Anderson) as they take you through the world of educational technology.  Their show provides insight into their PLN and provides some humor along the way.  The tech is the backbone of the show, and these two know their stuff. Website: iPadSammy

2. Instructional Tech Talk – @jeffherb (Jeff Herb) has a great show designed to help you integrate technology into your classroom, building, or district.  Jeff does an exceptional job keeping his content fresh and relevant.  His shows generally have solid interviews with specialists that are using the technology that he is speaking about that week.  I have pulled many takeaways from his show.  Website: Instructional Tech Talk

3. Teacher Tech Talk  - @chadkafka (Chad Kafka), @taml17 (Tammy Lind), and @jepcke (Judi Epcke) host this podcast where they discuss technology, gadgets, apps and tips that impact teachers, students, and learning. Get connected to find out what other educators are doing in their classrooms, stay up on technology news that impacts education and learn from the items they share out as the ‘things of the week!’ This is a relatively new podcast, but the hosts are great and have an abundance of experience with tech in the classroom.  Website: EdReach

4. The Cool Teachers Podcast – The Cool Teacher Podcast was started by @boisebarbara (Barbara Schroeder) and Chris Haskell (no Twitter Chris?), two geeky faculty members from Boise State University. The Cool Teacher Podcast episodes include timely technology tools, tips, and trends that can make your classroom a cool and engaging place.  This is a long running podcast that is updated fairly often.  Definitely subscribe to this one. Website: CoolTeachers.org

5. Hooked! #nerdycast- Moving beyond 90s style student engagement, this show explores the freshest new ways to captivate students, get them passionately “hooked on learning,” while having some fun along the way. Hosted by @thenerdyteacher (Nicholas Provenzano) and @tgwynn Timothy Gwynn, this Nerdycast is definitely not your mother’s student engagement show. Listen, laugh, learn.  This podcast is brand new, but their first episode is amazing.  I predict much success from these two guys. It looks likey they are using the hashtag #nerdycast to continue the conversation. Website: The Nerdy Teacher

This one isn’t specific to EdTech, but it’s worthy of a mention.

EdBean - This podcast series is made entirely by teachers for teachers.  Hosts @kamfultz (Kamie Fultz), @mrmatera (Michael Matera), and @USMDrama (Adam Moreno) have a mission to bring play, passion and purpose into our jobs as educators.  These three all work in the same school (I believe) and have a passion that you love to see out of teachers.  Add this podcast to your mix immediately!  Website: EdBean