Teacher-created Video Series: 3 Great Ideas for Using Teacher-Created Videos With Students

This post is the second in a series about using teacher-created videos in your classes. For the first post in the series, “3 Great Ideas for Screencasting Software,” click here.

So, now you’ve chosen the software/application that works best for you. But what should you do with it? How can you use video to enhance your lessons (and not simply substitute one thing for another, or add something more to your plate)? While I think everyone is able to create their own videos, there are so many out there already. If you’re not quite ready to take the leap, a bit of Googling/YouTube searching will almost certainly result in some great stuff that other teachers were happy enough to post online.

3 Great Ideas for

Using Teacher-Created Videos With Students


  • Use Video to Flip Your Lectures


This is really easy to do once you have chosen the video software with which you’re most comfortable, and what is nice is that other than recording your voice/image, you don’t necessarily have to do a ton of new work.

Take one of your tried-and-true PowerPoint/Google Slides presentations. Then, using your preferred screencasting application, record the lecture that you would normally give in front of your whole class. From here, you have a couple of options.

I prefer to load my videos to YouTube, as it makes it easier for students to watch a teacher-created video on multiple devices. This can also help you if you’re dealing with equity issues; if a student does not have working internet at home, or a laptop computer, he/she may still have a smartphone or tablet, both of which are well-suited to viewing YouTube videos.

You can use a traditional flipped-lesson approach, assigning these teacher-created videos for homework. Then, the time you used to use in class to present material can be used instead to answer student questions and practice skills.

I also am not shy about how much I love using the station rotation model of blended learning that Catlin Tucker talks about extensively (see her blog here). A key component of a good station-rotation can often be the use of an “in-class flip.” Follow the same steps as outlined above, but instead of having students watch the video at home, they can actually watch the video at one of the rotating stations during class. This also can solve issues of equity; while many of us may not work in a 1:1 device environment, we may have access to a cart of laptops, or a classroom desktop computer. This model allows for a small group of students to watch a short video (I’d keep it to five minutes or so) on one screen. While they do this, their peers may be working in another small group with the teacher, or independently at another station.

In either scenario, if you’re worried about accountability (ie. How do I know they watched/understood my video?), EdPuzzle is a fantastic, free site that allows teachers to embed questions in any YouTube video (another benefit to adding your own videos to YouTube). You can then monitor student progress and formatively assess them on information conveyed by the video.


  • Use Video To Explain Rubrics


While I have used teacher-created videos and screencasts for a few years, this is something that I only just started doing. You may have rubrics or grading guidelines that you use often. And yet, simply handing students a rubric does not guarantee that they understand the assignment. There have been many times where I have spent a good portion of my class explaining and teaching the sections of my rubrics (perhaps this is a sign that I should simplify them? Definitely something I should look into…), and if you use this same document again and again, those minutes are going to add up over the course of a school year.

So, I’ve made a short video to explain the categories of my writing rubric. I use this same rubric for all argument essays, and students should understand how to use when completing drafts. The first time I used this rubric, I spent some time in class going over it, but I also made the video available. Now, I can direct students (and parents) to that video as a first step, freeing up more of my class time to work on the actual writing of their essays.

You can do this for nearly any procedural thing that you do often in your classes. I have made videos that explain my course and used them at the start of the year, which has allowed me to get started with the curriculum on the very first day of school. I’ve also made tutorials for using various technology tools that we use throughout the year. Anything that allows you to maximize the face-to-face time you have with your students is a plus in my book.


  • Have Students Create Videos to Demonstrate Their Learning


Using video in student projects is nothing new. I have seen countless students create “movie trailers” for books they’ve read, or produce other creative work using their parents’ video cameras, and then, their smartphones.

Something that I think we can encourage more of though, is to have students demonstrate their learning via screencasts. What if a student talked through her writing choices in an essay, while highlighting or circling specific words and phrases? Or, if a student solved an equation in math, and made a video explaining his process? With video, we can rethink how we ask students to “show what they know.”

I challenge you to ask students to produce a video in place of a traditional quiz or test (not all the time, of course). Think about using a portfolio process where students can reflect on their learning via a screencast, while they open up the various assignments they’re talking about.

You may find that students who typically struggle on traditional assessments may actually know a lot more than we think if provided with a different way of showing it.


These are just three of the endless possibilities for using videos with your students in a meaningful way. In the final post of this series, we’ll look at ways that schools are incorporating videos outside of the classroom and in the larger school community.



Teacher-created Video Series: 3 Great Ideas for Screencasting Software

A little over a year ago, a few different spheres in the education orbit collided right in front of me, and I have been reaping the benefits since. I had the good fortune to hear Jon Bergmann speak at ISTE 2016 (I talk about this a little bit in my ISTE 2016 post here), initiating my research into the flipped classroom. At around the same time, I discovered Catlin Tucker’s blog. Tucker is an ELA teacher and Blended Learning extraordinaire. I found a lot of crossover between these two leaders’ voices, with both clearly outlining the WHYs and the HOWs behind their respective educational philosophies.

More notably, I’ve been using the station rotation model of blended learning, something that Tucker writes about quite frequently (My favorite blog posts of hers related to this model are here, here, here, and here). But, no matter how you blend your classroom, I am finding that the most powerful and game-changing choices we can make is to use short, engaging teacher-created videos.

This post will be the first in a series about introducing these videos with your classes.


3 Great Ideas for Screencasting Software

    Teachers sometimes bristle when there are calls to give up on the “sage on the stage” model. I know that I was a student who responded fairly well to a good lecture. I am not quite ready to admit that the whole-class lecture is dead (here’s a really interesting NY Times Op-Ed about this very topic).

    But, I do think that we can take those awesome PowerPoints/Google Slides, and using screencasting software, modernize what once took us a whole period to do in front of 25 students. Here are three great tools for doing that:

  • Quicktime: This program comes standard on Apple computers. Open it up, click File→ New Screen Recording. The program will record whatever is on your screen and the computer’s microphone will pick up your voice. If you narrate over a presentation, you can save the video file and share it on your LMS, YouTube, or both.


  • Screencast-O-Matic: This site is made specifically for making screencasts. There is a free version, which gives you the ability to make up to 15 minute videos, and also to upload the video to YouTube. The pay version ($18.00 p/y) provides you with more recording time and more uploading options, along with some other features.


  • Screencastify: This one has some similar features to Screencast-O-Matic, but it has the added benefit of being a Google Chrome extension. You have the option of a free and a pay plan (24 p/y), with more features (like editing) being available with the paid version. You can record your whole desktop, a browser tab, or your webcam. Integration with Google Drive and YouTube is seamless.


    These are just three possibilities, and of course there are many more. The goal should be to choose a screencasting software that works for you and your students. You may want one that allows you the ability to edit, so that you can make your videos as clean, polished, and engaging as possible.

    So now you know which screencast software you want to use. In the next post in this Video Series, I will discuss how to use screencasting to create a new lesson or “update” an existing one.

Practicing what I preach: The teacher as writer

I’ve recently started reading Stephen King’s On Writing, his 2000 memoir that serves as a brief discussion on the habits and mindset of a professional writer. I’m not really sure why I picked it up–I’ve read little to none of his work, and I don’t usually go for memoirs*.

But, something has been gnawing at me for a few months now, and it’s this idea that a teacher (especially a writing teacher) should practice what he preaches. I frequently look my students in their eyes and say things like, “you should be reading ALL THE TIME,” or “reading and writing are like inhaling and exhaling.” So it seems pretty phony of me (amirite Holden?) to not follow my own advice.

Don’t get me wrong. I read all the time. Walk through my house and you’ll feel like one of Swift’s Brobdingnagians, traipsing past tall stacks of books, each its own little building. I can’t get enough of the reading part. But writing? Sure, I have a blog, but I don’t contribute to it with any real regularity. I write emails. Boy, do I write a mean email. Lots…and…lots…of…emails.


Hey little guy! Quit emailing and pick up a book!         (By Thomas M. Balliet (Projeto Gutenberg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

So I had already been thinking, I should make a habit of writing. There it was, hanging out in the back of my brain, amongst all of the other creatures that live there — Get that closet door fixed. Enroll in more classes. Put up that shelf. Call your mother. Write every single day. And while this nagging idea gained more life and grew– that I need to write more frequently—, there it was: King’s On Writing, plopped right in front of me on the “Summer Reads” table at Barnes and Noble. I am so glad I picked it up.

King’s chief accomplishment in On Writing is in lifting the curtain on writing well. I, too, must admit that growing up I thought that “good writing” was a skill only some people possessed, and yet King delineates very practical rules for improving your craft: setting a routine, using your vocabulary, knowing your grammar. Like many skills, writing can be honed, and even today, I need to hone my own.

So, I’m setting the goal to write every single day this summer. Come September, I will no longer be just a writing teacher, but also a writing co-conspirator. My students’ struggles will be my own struggles, and we can talk about where we hit hurdles in putting ideas on a page.

I’m looking forward to joining my own class.

*I know, that may sound weird. People try to convince me to read more of them. I recognize that there are many well-written, life-changing memoirs, but I’m weirdly stubborn about reading them. Go ahead, send me the titles of your favorite memoirs. I’m sure I won’t read them.

What The Great British Bake Off can teach us about assessment

Ready. Get set. BAKE!

My wife and I heard this triumphant starting cry easily thirty times over the course of two recent snow days. This is how The Great British Baking Show (The Great British Bake Off in its native U.K.) opens every baking challenge over the course of its seasons’ ten-episodes, and I’m not going to lie, it would excite us every time, immediately inspiring intrigue as we anxiously awaited to see what these twelve amateur bakers would create.

A quick explanation for those of you who are unfamiliar with GBBO: twelve amateur British bakers compete over ten weeks for the title of best all-around baker. During each themed episode, the contestants compete in three separate rounds with the hopes of earning “Star Baker” for each mini-competition.

Needless to say, we became hooked. We binged the three seasons available on Netflix with a strange urgency–we needed to know who would win. I’m not sure why. Other than a cake plate and bragging rights, each season’s winner does not get anything. No television deal or monetary windfall. Nothing. Just the pride and honor that comes with winning.

After several trips to Williams Sonoma and multiple Amazon splurges, we found ourselves filling in the gaps in our kitchen’s bakeware. We also purchased the official Great British Bake Off recipe book, hoping to try our hands at some of the beautiful baked goods (or “bakes” as hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins would call them). Things got a little out of control.

Then, at some point in the midst of our Bake Off/baking fervor, a thought occurred to me: The judges on this show were pretty good at assessment. My teacher brain, as it often does, was beginning to knock on the door of my baker brain (I’m being fairly generous here, as I am certainly, in no uncertain terms, not a baker).

I tried my best to explain this in a couple of short takeaways:

Diagnostic Assessment:

Every episode of GBBO is themed (cakes, pies, biscuits, breads, etc) but the three competitions are always the same. The first competition every week is the “Signature Challenge,” which requires the bakers to prepare a recipe that is tried and true, but still fits the theme. So if it’s the “cake” episode, every contestant comes in with a cake recipe they have baked a million times before and feel fairly confident recreating for the judges. This round is clearly just a good old fashioned diagnostic assessment. The judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, are getting the opportunity to see what the contestants can do before receiving any advice or guidance. What do they already know?

As a teacher, I have found diagnostics to be incredibly valuable in my decision-making. It helps me get a benchmark for where my students are and allows me to set goals that are ambitious but realistic. More often than not, a diagnostic assessment does not figure into a student’s end grade, as it’s only formative, but that data can stop problems before they begin (Think of a student who may be placed incorrectly, or just need some more scaffolding for an upcoming assignment). On the flipside, students who perform very well on diagnostic assessments sometimes are announcing themselves to their teachers as those who may need to be challenged more.

Skills Check

The second competition on every episode of GBBO is a “Technical Challenge.” The contestants are not told beforehand what they will be required to bake, and are all given the exact same recipe, though it is sparse and contains minimal instructions. The goal here is that the bakers will need to rely on the skills they already have in order to create the final product. Because everyone is baking the exact same thing, it becomes more apparent who possesses superior, practiced baking skills, and who still needs more practice. Furthermore, the finished products are evaluated blind, so the judges do not know whose items they are sampling until the end.

Since the advent of the Common Core, there has been much more emphasis on teaching students transferable skills. I’ve seen a lot of my “tests” change significantly over the past few years. It is rare these days for me to have many plot questions on an end-of-book assessment (a lot more reading comprehension and writing now); I am finding much more meaningful data in the results of these exams, and I am able to target my instruction more effectively by determining where students still struggle, skills-wise.

While this isn’t the exact aim on GBBO’s Technical Challenge (at the end of the day, it’s still a game show), I do like that every contestant is required to do the exact same thing. This makes it easy to see a range of abilities present in the kitchen/your classroom. Blind evaluation isn’t a bad idea either.


The last round of every episode of GBBO has the contestants create a “Showstopper”

bake, which requires them to show off not only their technical prowess but also their design chops. What this results in are some of the most imaginative and beautifully designed creations that you’ll ever see (and you can eat them too). If you’re wondering how this ties to assessment, it boils down to one thing: student choice.

What’s always the most fun part to watch in any episode’s Showstopper challenge is when the bakers explain their inspirations for their unique designs. You can see the pride on their faces (when the end result works out for them) as they unveil these wild pieces of edible art to the judges. One contestant literally made a loaf of bread that looked like a lion.

While understandably, not every assessment we design is going to inspire our students to lion-loaf-like heights (there is still a place for the good ol’ fashioned test, I.M.O), I do find that students learn more and are more engaged when they are able to lean into their passions and know-how while being “assessed.” I mean, this is the whole idea behind 20% Time or Genius Hour Projects, no?


When you watch The Great British Bake Off, it becomes clear very early on that what drives these people is a love of baking, and sharing that love with those around them. When they do “fail,” it is because they had the courage to take risks that didn’t pan out. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to design assessments that allowed our students the same amount of freedom?

It may not be a piece of cake, but where there’s a whisk, there’s a way…

How do you define literacy?


Is literacy just about knowing how to read and write?  (photo courtesy of Flickr user JustGrimes)


Because I am very much a believer in the old saying “everything happens for a reason,” and possess a modicum of belief in fate/destiny/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, today’s events particularly resonated with me. So, let me share a story with you.

I teach “Legends and Fantasy Literature,” a genre studies course for seniors that studies the evolution of fantasy writing from King Arthur to the present. Right now, my students are researching topics of interest for their term papers, and have been using a popular educational website to aid them in the creation of their bibliographies and notecards. As I was walking around the room, I was pleased to see one of my students helping a classmate set up an account on this website, and demonstrating how to use the site’s myriad features. I went to see if another student needed help, but before I could, I overheard something like this:

Student A: “So now your account is set up, and this is how you use the notecard function, but let me show you something.”

Student B: “What’s up?”

Student A: “There’s a little glitch in the programming that makes it difficult to type all of your information into a notecard without having to scroll, so you’re going to want to open up the code on here and delete the ribbon on the top of the notecard window.”

Student B: “How do I do this?”

(Student A tinkers on his friend’s computer and opens up a window, and then points to a line of code.)

Student A: Just hit delete on that line.

Student B (after deleting the line): OH! Okay, thanks!

Needless to say, I was blown away by this conversation. There was so much happening here that I did not expect, and by the end of it, I found myself smiling like a goofball. Let’s forget for a minute that I witnessed a student demonstrating problem-solving ability on his own. Let’s also forget that this student was sharing his workaround with another student, and facilitating learning in a way that was completely student-centered and did not require my intervention. I was absolutely impressed by both of these things. But, the thing that stuck out for me was that here was a student who possessed a kind of literacy that I am completely devoid of, and yet, it was wholly necessary in his English class in order to accomplish a task.

Tonight, I had the opportunity to moderate #njed on the topic of “Reading Across Content Areas,” which is why I think today’s lesson was so serendipitous. But, all of this has me thinking, what can we do, as teachers, to replicate and foster moments like the one I described?

Marc Prensky wrote for Edutopia in 2008 (a whopping 8 years ago) that “programming is the new literacy:” 

“I believe the single skill that will, above all others, distinguish a literate person is programming literacy, the ability to make digital technology do whatever, within the possible one wants it to do — to bend digital technology to one’s needs, purposes, and will, just as in the present we bend words and images. Some call this skill human-machine interaction; some call it procedural literacy. Others just call it programming.”

In many ways, my experience today was this idea coming to fruition, and I would love to see more of this kind of thing, but there still remains the one caveat—I have absolutely no background in coding.

However, I do think that what we can do is become facilitators of the kind of intellectual curiosity that already exists in students like the one I described. If there are multiple literacies, a teacher’s role can be engaging with students and encouraging them to use these literacies to work out a problem independently and maybe even teach a peer (or his teacher, which my student was kind enough to show me, today).

#ECET2NJPA – Reflections

I know, I know. It’s been three months since I’ve posted anything. This was one of the things about blogging that worried me before I started one–that I’d start off with a lot of steam before life inevitably caught up to me. That blogging would become a much lower priority than reading student essays or you know…grocery shopping…procrastinating…playing video games…

But, I want to cut myself a little bit of slack because the original intention of 3 Great Ideas was to share other teachers’ ideas, not just my own. And let’s be honest–starting a blog that relies heavily on teacher collaboration right before summer vacationMaybe not the best plan. Oh, well.

Whatever, though. Teachers-if you’re reading this, I still would love your great ideas. Send them to me. This entry, however, is about #ECET2NJPA which I had the pleasure of attending during the weekend of 9/24 at The College of New Jersey.


The #ECET2NJPA Convening took place at TCNJ on 9/24-9/25. (photo courtesy of http://www.ecet2njpa.org)

I literally do not even know where to start. ECET2, which stands for “Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers” is a national organization, with the NJ-PA convening representing about 200 educators from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If you’re looking for an education event where everyone is positive and shares a similar philosophy, then start getting involved with #ecet2 Twitter chats on Sunday nights. It has seriously grown my PLN by leaps and bounds.

The convening had multiple sessions over two days; I was excited to finally get to participate in a #BreakoutEDU during a session led by the wonderful Veronica B. Dougherty. If you don’t know anything about BreakoutEDU, well…it’s awesome. Think of those “Escape the Room” events popping up all over the country, but now adapt it for education. We had the opportunity to work on a 45-minute Breakout (or break-in) that incorporated multiple disciplines and ability levels. The best part about this activity for me was that there were very few instructions–we had to really use our problem-solving skills to get into the BreakoutEDU box.

Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 3.04.50 PM.png

Don’t worry–we did it! (Photo courtesy of Shai McGowan’s Twitter)

ECET2 events also have educators speak in front of the whole group under the heading “Cultivating a Calling.” There were so many wonderful and different stories told–some heartwarming, some inspirational, some funny, and many with elements of all three. Glenn Robbins and David Aderhold’s stories, while very different, showed the impact that innovative leaders can have on a school’s culture. Mike Ritzius made us all laugh while detailing his creative problem-solving skills and reflecting on the ways that many of our careers tend to meander in unexpected directions. Meenoo Rami reminded us that much of the time, our job as educators is only as effective as the positive relationships we have with students. For me, these talks were empowering, insightful, and energizing.

Finally, a big takeaway for me after #ecet2njpa was that educators need to go to more events like this one. I felt this way after #ISTE2016 too (read all about that here), but there is something to be said for being at an optional workshop/convening/conference. Every attendee wants to be there, and you make so many valuable connections. There are always lots of practical things to take away, too–new tech tools, pedagogy, philosophy–but that stuff is just the icing on the cake. I’m really starting to see that the bedrock of meaningful education is in a network of teachers who collaborate and care about the success of all students.

Shout-outs (Shout OUT!) to all of the people on the steering committee for putting together a fantastic weekend of learning.

Call For Ideas: Your 3 Great Ideas from #ISTE2016

So, I posted this week on some of the Great Ideas I saw at #ISTE2016, but the cool thing about this conference is that every attendee has a different experience. So, I figured, why just share what I saw? The whole point of 3 Great Ideas is to give many teachers a place to share their knowledge. So…

#ISTE2016 attendees: What were the greatest ideas you took back from the conference?
If you have an idea, reach out to me via the contact page on this blog, or you can reach me @MrKrapels.

#ISTE2016 – 3 Great Ideas Just Aren’t Enough!

I don’t think I can “bear” to choose only 3 Great Ideas…

I know…this is only the third post, and I am already breaking my own rules. When I conceived the concept for 3 Great Ideas, I thought three was a good number. It will be easy(ish) to find contributors, and it’s a small enough number to not overwhelm people. So, because I’m a neophyte who thought he would actually be able to return from the #ISTE2016 with only 3 Great Ideas, this entry is going to be a little different. I stuck to the whole “three” idea, but each section is going to have lots of stuff in it. “Bear” with me…

Some of the Greatest Tools:

Obviously, if you go to a conference like ISTE, there is an overwhelming amount of tools and products barraging you from all angles. You can’t see everything, so don’t even try. The best thing you can do is soak up whatever you can and try to walk away with something you and your school can use. Here are a few tools that stood out for me:

  • FlippityWhen Kenneth Griswold presented this tool at TeachMeetISTE, people literally “oohed” and “ahhed.” Flippity allows teachers to create a student randomizer, just by utilizing your Google Sheets. All you need to do is have a roster of students, put it into Sheets, publish the sheet to the web, and you’re ready to go. Even more exciting? Flippity can automatically group students to the number of your choosing. No more on-the-spot scrambling if a student is absent or your numbers are off!
  • Switcher StudioSteven New (also a presenter during TeachMeetISTE) shared this really interesting tool that allows teachers who create their own digital content to use iPads and iPhones to broadcast and edit live video. There are also capabilities for multi-camera production, too (3 additional cameras if on the same wifi network). Then, stream to popular streaming platforms for live viewing.
  • ZooKazamThis was another crowdpleaser that Kyle Calderwood showed us at TeachMeetISTE. ZooKazam allows users with the aid of a “target” (print online) to have augmented-reality animals appear on any surface through the use of your iPhone or iPad camera. Kyle is also one of the TeachMeetNJ organizers.

    Here I am using Google “Ocs”…

  • Photo Apps: Bill Selak presented his session, “Iphonography 101” and shared a number of apps that take photo editing to the next level. Snapseed allows you to adjust color, focus and crop. Mexture allows users to integrate different textures with their photos. TouchRetouch was particularly interesting to the crowd in that the app provides users with the capability of easily erasing elements in a photo.
  • ThinglinkLiz Calderwood, also a TeachMeetNJ organizer showed off this real neat tool where you can take any picture (or “thing”) and add pinpoints to it. Then, within these pinpoints, teachers or students can incorporate links, videos, other pictures, etc. This allows students an opportunity to incorporate visual models to show their learning. Really cool!
  • SymbalooSymbaloo is a bookmarking tool that creates a user homepage on all devices. It presents all of a user’s favorite websites on an easy, icon-based page. Good tool if you want to curate a number of sites for students, or for keeping track of your own sites across devices.
  • HistorypinThis one, which I saw during “101 Web Tools” (presented by the people from SimpleK12) was really amazing. Historypin is a website where users can upload documents, photos, videos and more, and then tie it to a pin on a map. The purpose is to build an interactive map that tells the story of a place through the eyes and mouths of those that live there.
  • GoosechaseThis was SO FUN. During the ISTE session, Gamify Your Classroom, Marty Creech and Britanny Guy taught us about how to use game design to increase motivation in students. They led the session through this really fun and interactive scavenger hunt app, Goosechase. Goosechase lets students (or in this case, teachers) complete a series of tasks and earn points on a leaderboard. In our session, we got to high five other groups, and also learn about gamification via articles uploaded to Goosechase.
  • DocentEDUThis is one tool that I actually knew I wanted to check out coming to ISTE. I had played around with DocentEDU briefly this school year when I saw someone mention it on Twitter but didn’t know much. It allows teachers to turn any website into an interactive space via a Chrome extension. You can embed questions, videos, links, notes and more on the surface of any website’s page. Really great way to create engaging content. Their CEO, Matt Nupen was a really nice guy, too and seemed really helpful.

Some of the Greatest Ideas:

Yes, ISTE had me walking away with a bazillion new apps, programs, websites, and tools that I want to use right away in the classroom. But, for me, I got the most out of hearing about others’ philosophies, ideas, and mindsets. Jon Bergmann, Thomas Arnett, Vicki Davis, Mike Gwaltney, Aaron Sams, and Stephanie Sandifer led a panel about blended learning, and I walked away with a new commitment to how I want to structure my classes.

Blended learning is very much the future of classrooms

These are things we should be paying attention to when considering student success.

Something that really hit home during the blended learning session was the idea that “distance can be a positive principle.” Many of us know lots about flipped classrooms by this point, but the panelists here made it clear that it isn’t just about creating videos for home viewing. In fact, they talked about the value of having students view teacher-created content in class, while the teacher walks around and helps students who are ready to discuss.

The panelists also discussed the importance of creating a workflow system that works for your blended learning model.

These are the hallmarks of a succesful blended learning model.

Pretty much, I walked out of blended learning realizing more than ever that we as teachers have to give students more opportunities to demonstrate and articulate authentic learning.

Speaking of articulating student learning, another great session was Building a TED Culture in Your Classroom. I love TED talks, and what really makes them meaningful is the vast library of free, accessible videos they post on their website. TED makes it possible for people around the world to access high quality, engaging talks from the world’s greatest minds. This workshop detailed how teachers can leverage the power of TED in their schools by having students and community members deliver their own talks. Jimmy Juliano and Laura Grigg, teachers in Lake Forest, Illinois, walked us through their story of first starting a TED Club in their school and then eventually organizing a community TEDx event. By the end of the event, I was super jazzed and trying to figure out how we could do this in my own school.

My tweet, literally as I was walking out of the door at Building a TED Culture in Your School

What I like about the TED talk model is that it gives students a framework for reflecting on their learning. Many of the teachers I saw at ISTE2016 focused on getting away from the “read a PowerPoint verbatim” model and instead, getting to a place where students do a thing, and then present on their process. TED is a great way of fostering this kind of thinking.

Some of the Greatest People

Of course, I am leaving out so many of the other ideas I heard at ISTE. But, as I am sitting here in the airport awaiting my flight home, it’s becoming clear what ISTE was really about–connecting educators with other educators. I was privileged to listen to some wonderful speakers. We started off with a fascinating keynote from futurist Michio Kaku, who talked about all the ways that technology will make our lives easier (and scarier) in the future.

We are currently preparing students for jobs that we don’t even know about yet.

Tuesday morning, we saw R2-D2, LeVar Burton, and Princeton professor Ruha Benjamin (that’s still a strange combination when you say it out loud). What a wonderful day when you can both nerd out over R2 and be moved and inspired by Dr. Benjamin.

Dr. Benjamin spoke in a way that inspired and challenged my ideas about education and the world we live in. Here we were, sitting there in the middle of this educational technology conference, and Dr. Benjamin’s keynote touched on the human element of things. It was a perspective-gaining moment and reminded me that once again, as teachers, the shiny toys are fun but we musn’t let them distract us. We’re in the business of equipping students with the tools to be better learners and compassionate people.

The last slide of Dr. Ruha Benjamin’s keynote

3 Great Ideas for Resetting and Refreshing During Summer Break

Our topic for this week is a pretty vital one. We all teach our hearts out from September to June (or your district’s equivalent), but let’s face it–like the kids, we teachers look forward to the summer vacation too. What many of my non-teacher friends usually don’t realize is that teachers do not just spend their summers sitting at the beach soaking up the sun (well, not entirely). For many of us, summer affords us the time we so desperately crave during the school year to think, reflect, and recharge so that we are our best versions of ourselves on Day 1.

This week, you’ll see how we are many times more excited to return to our classrooms after an experience in a far-off place. You’ll learn how reminding yourself why you love your content is a revitalizing practice. And finally, we’ll see how sometimes, a long break from school actually provides a wonderful chance for learning.

What can you do to reset and refresh during summer break?

I hope you enjoy–both this entry, and your summer.


– From Tom (follow @NVOTomWalsh), a high school social studies teacher in New Jersey:


For many different reasons, I believe traveling is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries after a long school year.  By planning a trip you give yourself more than just a goal of getting to the end of the school year–you give yourself an event, however big or small, to look forward to.  I plan and book most of my trips in the middle of March or early April so that I have extra time to research the sights, restaurants and activities of my destination.   The trip is paid for during the school year. For many teachers who don’t get paid during the summer, this is another nice perk.

Traveling also gives teachers an opportunity to learn more about the subjects that they love.  I am a high school social studies teacher and traveling has given me the opportunity to see and experience things that make my classroom a richer environment for learning. By visiting places like the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, Robben Island in South Africa where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh, I have been able to transform my lessons by providing real world insight into these events and making the information presented in class more tangible for students.
Finally, the most rewarding aspect of traveling is that of a human element.  So much is lost when we simply learn about something through books, videos, FaceTime, Skype and social media.  Yes, the facts are important but there is no substitute for actual life experiences like having a quiet pint in Dublin and talking to the locals, walking through a night market in Chiang Mai and smelling food being cooked in hawker stalls in the humid night air or having a delicious meal in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower at a relatively unknown restaurant.  These experiences are what fuel my desire to go and see (or in some cases revisit) another part of the world each summer and allow me to return to a profession that I love each September recharged, revitalized and excited to start another year. 

– From Kelley (follow @KelleyKulick), a high school English teacher in New Jersey:

 Recently, at a friend’s backyard barbecue, I was asked a question I’ve gotten a million times in my life: How do I get my child to like reading? This is the English teacher version of “Oh, you’re a doctor? Great! Does this mole/scar/mark look weird to you?”

After I launched into my usual commentary on modeling reading for enjoyment, I remembered something a veteran teacher told me during my first year in my current district: “To an extent, we all have to be cheerleaders for our material.” I talked about how teacher enthusiasm is a key to developing student interest—if they see that we like our material, they grudgingly end up coming along for the ride, and then realize that they liked the ride more than they expected.

The summer, for me, needs to be about recapturing that joy that we all have but sometimes have to fake as the strains of a school year weigh on us. Live without bells and schedules: if I want to read, I read, but if I want to play Candy Crush, I’m playing Candy Crush!

Next, get out and celebrate and embrace your nerdery. We all got into this job because we love the material we teach and we like discussing that material and bringing it to other people. Get back to the source—read books that grab you, write for fun, visit historical sites and museums, see the productions you just didn’t have time to see during the year. Talk about them with your friends and family. Engage with your subject because it brings you joy—not because you need to break it down by a set of standards. By unplugging the lesson planning parts of our brains, we get to recharge our batteries and approach September with the rose-colored glasses of our first teacher September (without that first September terror!).

– And the last one is from me (follow @MrKrapels)

So, Tom and Kelley pretty much stole my ideas for this post. I fully endorse both of the ways they choose to refresh over the summer months. In fact, when Kelley sent me her great idea, my wife and I were at Barnes & Noble, in the middle of our annual summer book splurge.


This year’s haul…


And, like Tom, I truly relish any opportunity to skip town and go see something. Just a few days ago, I was trying to figure out how to somehow get my hands on tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child when we travel to London this August. I suppose I’ll sit outside the theatre and beg…

But, what I decided to discuss here is how summer is the best opportunity for teachers to learn. Yes, I became a teacher because I wanted to work with kids, and because I love my content, and because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. But, I also love to learn. So much happens during the school year, that sometimes it is easy to forget this.

So, for me, summer (in addition to resting, reading, traveling, and spending time with those I love) is about finding some new ideas for next year. I’ll pick up one new book that may help me in the classroom. This summer, I’ve been moving fairly quickly through Kelly Gallagher’s In the Best Interest of Students.  It’s a great read and takes a deeper look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Common Core standards, while also providing great classroom strategies. Gallagher’s website (linked above) is a great resource too, or follow him @KellyGToGo.

I also like to attend conferences or other professional learning when possible. Last year I found out that I would be teaching a course, “Literature and Philosophy of Asia.” While an amazing class, I really had very little schema for teaching it. Luckily, the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia runs a fantastic week-long workshop on Teaching East Asian Literature in the High School at Indiana University. This experience was so valuable for me. What I learned there in a week will undoubtedly help me for the rest of the time I teach this course.

I’m finishing this entry about a half-hour before I leave for Denver, Colorado to attend the ISTE 2016 conference, an international expo and conference for educational technology. I am beyond excited, as I’ve never been to an education event of this magnitude, and I’ve been connecting with other teachers attending ISTE for the past few months. I’ll also be joined with some of my fantastic colleagues, and I am grateful that I will have this opportunity to do some real reflection and learning alongside those that I will be working with next year.

My hope is that I will be able to share many great ideas over the next few days as I’m going to be flooded with all sorts of cool stuff in Denver, so check back next week!


Thanks to the contributors, and please, shoot me a comment either here or @MrKrapels if you’d like to add some of your own great ideas to this blog.


Happy summer everyone!