Saturday, May 30, 2015

As a “connected educator,” I belong to a number of listservs, follow various Twitter hashtags,  and
connect with friends and colleagues on Facebook, Google+, and other social media services. Recently, I noticed that I have followed numerous links to posts on an education-related blog titled, Brilliant or Insane.

As a proponent of outside-of-the-box thinking, the title alone is enticing to me. The axiom, “If we keep doing what we have always done, we will keep getting what we have always gotten” comes to mind. No wonder that schools are struggling with all the new programs and mandates when essentially, they look and operate the same as they did before Rumplestiltskin fell asleep.

My mantra for the last several years has been, “Teach Differently”—and Brilliant or Insane seems to follow a similar bent. Thanks, folks, for validating my mantra as well as providing new food for thought.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Kickstart Your Mobile Learning Project

Looking for digital content for your mobile or 1:1 initiative? PowerMyLearning is a collection of engaging free activities including academic games, interactives, and videos that are searchable by subject, grade, and Common Core standard.

Curated by a team of educators, PowerMyLearning also includes several sets of tools to help personalize and maximize instruction, such as playlists, a student dashboard, and other tools. Quiz Packs, available for select content areas and topics, focus on a specific Common Core State Standard and contain one of PowerMyLearning‘s top digital learning activities plus two short quizzes. 

PowerMyLearning resources come from a number of well-known educational content providers such as ReadWriteThink, PBS, BBC, and LearnZillion. Teachers or parents can set up level and interest-appropriate activities, or students can direct their own learning by choosing activities of interest to them. Both adults and students also have access to reports that monitor progress.

Digital literacy is integrated into PowerMyLearning by providing students the ability to choose avatars, create profiles, and tackle special challenges to earn more power for their “Wizmos.”
The PowerMyLearning collection is constantly growing and adding new activities and features. Create a free login and explore activities for your students at at

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Google Launches Helpful GApps Tutorials

Google recently launched a new series of mini-courses to support teaching and learning with technology. Each course has tutorial videos, supplementary links, periodic quizzes, and a final assessment. Topics include Internet 101, (Google) Apps for Education, Gmail, (Google) Drive, Chrome OS and Chromebooks.

For schools and districts who have adopted Google Apps for Education as well as districts with mobile initiatives or those going BYOD, the GApps Tutorials could be a fabulous supplement to the ongoing professional development necessary to truly integrate technology into teaching learning. The courses are freely available online and participants who log in with a Google account can track their own progress and even receive completion certificates.
Access the GApps Tutorials at

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Newsela website helps to provide Common Core-aligned materials

The Common Core provides a number of challenges to classroom teachers. One challenge is the requirement for the increased use of informational text within lessons. To utilize these texts effectively, teachers must provide materials at appropriate reading levels for each student as well as assess each student’s learning and growth.

A new website named Newsela provides innovative solutions for these challenges by providing engaging news articles that teachers can assign to students at one of four lexile levels and provides matching quizzes to assess comprehension. Although students need accounts to use Newsela,  they do not need email accounts, and may be assigned usernames and passwords through a school district's Google domain. Teachers create an account at the Newsela website and receive a 5-digit code that their students use to join the class.

Teachers then assign articles to groups of students by standard, topic and lexile level, and monitor student work through a teacher dashboard called a “binder”. Students working online have their progress recorded automatically in both student and teacher binders, but hard copies of texts and quizzes may also be downloaded and printed.

Additionally, Newsela has partnered with the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University Teachers College to identify some best practices for using Newsela in the classroom in large class, small group, and individual groupings. Supplementary lesson plans and ideas have been shared by schools in Newsela pilot projects and other innovative early adopters.

The Newsela website provides a collection of continuously-growing resources for teachers looking for relevant, Common-Core-aligned, engaging non-fiction texts as well as those looking for digital resources for 1:1 or mobile deployment projects. Be sure to take a test drive at

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Resources for Digital Citizen Week

October 21-25, 2013 is Digital Citizenship Week. Digital citizenship is part of the process of learning to live, learn, and work in the global community, so these skills need to be embedded into students’ everyday lives, both at home and at school.

Edutopia and Common Sense Media are two leaders in providing resources for teachers and schools to facilitate engaging and relevant lessons and projects that incorporate important concepts such as copyright, internet safety, cyberbullying, digital footprints, communication, collaboration, and media literacy.

Common Sense Media’s resources include comprehensive, age-appropriate curricula for pre-K through 12th grades, while Edutopia’s collection includes videos, lesson plans, and projects from which teachers can pick and choose to find the ones that best fit into their classroom activities. Both sites also have materials for parents, families, and community members as well.

Be sure to join in the celebration of Digital Citizenship Week, and check out the various resources on both of these sites to find the perfect fit for your student’s needs!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Need training for 21st Century skills?

Is your school or district looking for help with training for 21st Century skills? The Goodwill website provides over 250 free tutorials on a variety of 21st Century topics including email, spreadsheets, social media, iPads and Google tools, as well as some basic tutorials on reading, math and job search skills.

The GCF tutorials take many forms: text, video, interactives, simulations and games. The tutorials and lessons could be used as a means of initiating a discussion, offering supplementary training or providing remedial assistance for those who missed a day of school. Frequent blog posts on the website also provide resources on many topics for learning and living in the online world such as Internet safety, searching and evaluating online information, and even advanced skills such as using Microsoft Excel’s vlookup function.

The Goodwill Community Foundation, whose motto is “Creating Opportunities for a Better Life,” is a program provided free of charge by the Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina. Tutorials can be used by anyone without logging in, but users can also create a free account to track their class history and create transcripts. Since GCF is accedited by IACET, the International Association for Continuing Education and Training, participants who register may earn CEUs for successfully completing the online classes.

With fabulous content and a the perfect price point, might be the solution your school and district has been looking for!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Got Technology? Meet

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the volume of apps and educational media you encounter daily? Check, a free website created by Common Sense Media that provides reviews and ratings of apps, games, websites, and digital curricula. Created and curated by a team of professional educators, also blends the field notes contributed by teacher-users to provide practical insights to using each digital resource in a classroom. Site visitors can search by type (apps, games, websites), content area (language arts, math, science, and more), grade level, and price (free, free to try, paid). Additionally, it’s connected to the Common Sense Media website, that has a multitude of free resources for digital literacy as well as book and movie reviews. Give a try!  It is sure to become one of your most-visited sites!
(cross-posted from