A Framework for Innovation in the Classroom – A.J. Juliani

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By A J Juliani

Each month I add a new resource to the Innovative Teaching Toolbox. Here is a simple framework for innovation in the classroom that came out of the research, interviews, and countless conversations I had with teachers and educational leaders during the book writing process.

Feel free to share, download, and modify! When you sign up for the Innovative Teaching Toolbox below I’ll send you:

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via A Framework for Innovation in the Classroom – A.J. Juliani.


10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation

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smartphone-in-classroom10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation

by Terry Heick

For the Google Generation, information isn’t scarce, and knowing has the illusion of only being a search away.

I’ve written before about how Google impacts the way students think. This post is less about students, and more about how planning resources like standards and curriculum maps might respond accordingly.

Curriculum maps are helpful little documents that standardize learning. That is, they clarify the content to be learned, and offer a shared pathway and schedule to deliver that content to students. Curriculum maps function as a kind of overview of learning content, and can also provide a common ground for the reform of planned learning activities based on assessment data (O’Malley, 1982).

The problem is, now more than ever, critical knowledge is changing. The things a student needs to know are different now than they were a half-century ago (unless you want to get super macro about it all and underscore literacy, critical thinking, etc., as timeless and universal).

In the presence of Google, predictive search, digital communities, social media, Quora, adaptive apps, and other technology, information is less scarce than it has ever been in human history. The same with networks, digital channels, and possible learning pathways to discover new ideas.

There is a subreddit for transhumanism. That means there is a community of folks that gather to share ideas, resources, and conversation about the “use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities”–living, breathing, enthusiastic (and sometimes snarky) human beings that can contextualize ideas, clarify misunderstandings, and point you in the right direction for future learning.

That’s pretty incredible.

There’s also one for education, science, the future, the past, self-directed learning, teaching, books, technology, and almost any other topic you can think of. When Google + Quora + twitter + YouTube + reddit +everythingelseontheinternet exist, the kinds of things a student needs to know change.

The age of knowing is slowing giving way to an age of data navigation, and what students need help with should be adjusted accordingly–even if in ways other than the ideas below.

the-google-generation10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation & The Age Of Information

1. Make the work Google-proof

Put another way, design it so that Google is crucial to creating a response rather than finding one.

If students can Google answers–stumble on you want them to remember in a few clicks–there’s a problem with the instructional design. And asking them what they’ll do when they WiFi goes out probably isn’t compelling enough as an argument.

Instead, anchor learning experiences around new kinds of thinking that force the synthesis of disparate ideas, media, and communities. Scenario-based learning, challenge-based learning, project-based learning, learning simulations, and so on.

It’s all out there, ready to be integrated in your classroom.

2. Force them to grapple with big questions without answers

Promote study and observation, not “content mastery.” In a Google-centric world characterized by access to content, networks, and new ways of thinking about things, the focus should be on more classically human practices of observation, study, and perspective.

Via a reddit thread, I found this link to a TED talk–the concept is called “rewilding.”

“Yellowstone National Park had become overrun with deer, which grazed away the vegetation dramatically. For years, biologists like Dave Foreman suggested a solution: bringing wolves back to the park, as the last ones were killed off in 1926. In 1995, wolves were finally reintroduced to Yellowstone, and the effects were dramatic. The wolves brought the deer population down to a sustainable population — but more importantly, they radically changed the behavior of the remaining deer. These deer started to move more often and avoid places in the park where they could easily be trapped, which in turn grew thick with vegetation. This allowed birds and beavers to move in, and the beavers’ dams became habitats for otters, muskrats, ducks, fish, reptiles and amphibians. The wolves also killed coyotes, which allowed for more rabbits and mice, which in turn boosted the populations of weasels, hawks, foxes and badgers. Meanwhile, ravens, bald eagles and bears fed on the carrion that the wolves left. In fact, even the river patterns in the park changed: the regenerating vegetation stabilized the riverbanks, which yielded less to erosion and took on straighter water flow. “The wolves, small in number, transformed not just the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park—this huge area of land—but also its physical geography.”

Not sure how that kind of discovery could ever be packaged into a “standard” without neutering it completely. Curriculum maps should promote careful, self-directed study of relevant and meaningful ideas, rather than design micro-lessons to “efficiently deliver information.”

And for the Google Generation, this kind of authentic content and perspective is infinitely available.

3. Actually make social networks and media channels part of curriculum

Their identification, navigation, analysis, and evaluation should be as much a part of study as branches of government or the writing process.

4. Focus on learning strategies 

See #2. Rather than emphasizing content, emphasize how to deal with an abundance of fluid and perishable content on a daily basis.

5. Create curriculum and lessons that absorb data seamlessly

In an age of information and analytics, data is abundant. Currently, maps and units and lessons are not designed to accept data, leaving it up to the teacher to extract it, and constantly make often significant adjustments to planning in light of it.

In 2014, we can do better.

6. Anticipate student needs

Student proficiency can be predicted by examining past performance, reading levels, and an assortment of other factors. This isn’t tracking, nor is it consigning certain students to novice levels of performance, holding them to lower standards, etc. It’s simply being pro-active–creating a map–or at least units within a map–that can facilitate the educated guesswork and instinct on the part of teachers.

Will they need extra time?

Mini-lessons on Digital Citizenship?

Unique literacy strategies?

A mix of digital and physical texts?

More choice or less?

Currently this is all done at the unit or lesson level. What would it look like at the curriculum map level?

7. Focus less on “understanding”

Of course students need to “understand”–but (hoping Grant’s not reading this) prescribing exactly what students will understand, when they will understand it and at what depth, and where, and how they will prove it–regardless of background knowledge, natural interest, literacy levels, etc.–is a bit…ambitious.

And even if it’s possible, at what incredible cost of teacher training, related resources, “classroom management and general gnashing of teeth and stifling of natural curiosity?

Of course the idea of learning is understanding. And we absolutely need to measure what’s working. But focusing entirely on mastery of pre-determined, catalogued, and non-student centered outcomes measured by unbearably unimaginative tests can’t be the zenith of modern pedagogy, can it?

8. Use spiraling by design

If you want to get better at something, you practice. So why not establish a handful of the most important ideas in content that act as anchors for other more discrete knowledge and facts, and practice them over and over again at a variety of cognitive levels (e.g., Bloom’s).

And if this happens, shouldn’t the design of the map promote it naturally? Why should the map say one thing, and then what happens in classroom be different? Should the curriculum map not reflect this approach? Even make it better?

9. Discourage use of traditional units

Among other sins, units encourage illusions of “coverage” for the sake of content packaging. Why not instead emphasize that learning is a marathon, not a series of artificially-divided sprints.

10. Illuminate the nuance of the world

Have you ever had anyone force you to listen to a song? And then stared at your face the whole time waiting for your reaction? Then asked you to write a cause-effect essay about it all? Horrible, right? That’s the process traditional curriculum maps encourage.

Content is incredible if we can just let it be incredible, and for the Google Generation, it’s right there at their fingertips. Curriculum documents should underscore the nuance of the world, not provide a chronologically-based checklist to cover it all.

If students can’t separate what’s worth understanding and what’s not for themselves–whether on the first page of Google search results, or links they find via twitter and facebook–our collective efforts are diminished.


11. Promote discovery and curiosity and self-direction over coverage and compliance

A curriculum map should be as much for the student as they are for the teacher. As such they should function as learning and discovery pathways, helping the learners see where they’ve been, where they’re going, and what’s possible. The Age of Information is characterized by discovery, curiosity, whimsy, and connectivity–all which necessitate self-monitoring and self-direction.

10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation; image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad

10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation.

13 Reasons for Using Technology in the Classroom

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For the 45 states who opted intoCommon Core, using technology in the classroom is no longer a choice — it’s required. Common Core’s Standards insist that for any student to be prepared for college and career requires they be digitally and technologically savvy.

From the English Language Arts Standards: Technology differentiates for student learning styles by providing an alternative method of achieving conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and applying this knowledge to authentic circumstances.

From the Math Standards: Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Proficient students are sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate for their grade or course to make sound decisions about when each of these tools might be helpful.

The standards themselves go into detail. Sprinkled throughout are constant allusions to the importance of using technology, its fundamental nature as the bedrock of education, and the necessity to weave it throughout the academic fabric, regardless the topic, skill or requirement.

Here are 13 reasons why this is a good idea. The first seven are directly from the Standards, the last six from my classroom experience.

1. Technology allows students to demonstrate independence. Tech makes it easy to provide options for accomplishing goals. Consider a book report delivered with Voki, Prezi, Glogster or a video. Students make a decision as to which approach is best suited to their communication and learning style.

2. Technology enables students to build strong content knowledge wherever they find it. It’s easy for students to pursue anything they’re curious about with technology. Make available online dictionaries to quickly look up unknown words. Teach students the tricks of quick and accurate online research. Follow the lead of hundreds of schools nationwide that have added the Genius Hour to theircurriculum, where students follow school academic guidelines 80 percent of the time and get to follow their own passion for the remaining 20 percent.

3. Technology responds to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, discipline.Decode this critical concept early in the education year. Explain why audiences are different — as is task, purpose and discipline — and how communication methods need to adapt to those variances to succeed. Then, let students pick what works, be it audio, visual, textual, color/movement, or a polyglot of their own making.

4. Technology values evidenceWith technology, students can click through to primary documents for evidence in support of their argument and push back if they don’t find those connections. Is the information believable if they can’t evaluate source material? What if it was misinterpreted? Teaching students to read closely, think critically, and dig deeper is easier with technology.

5. Technology understands other perspectivesSure, this can be done through conversation and class presentations, but doing it through blogging, comments, discussion boards (technology) is bigger. Plus, as students share their perspective, they can edit and rewrite to be sure the words fully reflect their ideas.

6. Technology differentiates for needs of students. Nothing does this better than technology. The creative student can use art and music. Those who love words can write. Visual learners can use a combination of color, images and personal drawings.

7. Technology deepens learning by using resources students are interested in. If we do our job well, students are inspired to learn more. They are eager to dig deeper into what has sparked their scholastic interest. If that means getting a ride to the library, going to the bookstore for a book, arranging tutoring time with a knowledgeable teacher, they may never get to it. If resources are only a click away, the chances of the task’s completion increase —and the activity itself may even become fun. Share these enrichment materials through Google Apps for Education, post links through a class Internet page or Diigo account, and create a playlist through programs like MentorMob.

8. Common Core expects students to be active learners, authors, not just consumers. Technology makes that happen by asking them to publish, share, collaborate.

9. Students want to use technology. When students use iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, widgets, online tools and a plethora of other digital devices, technology provides a path to learning that students are eager to follow. Why ask them to unplug at the schoolhouse door?

10. Technology is its own assessment toolTo paraphrase James Paul Gee, a professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University: “When students use simulations, games, videos to learn, they have to problem-solve, critically think, transfer knowledge from other learning experiences.” That’s a good thing.

11. Learning with technology is connected. In a connected, technology-rich environment, students engage with peers, celebrities, relatives and experts worldwide. They like to do that. Why do you think social media is so viral?

12. Technology gives students an equal voice. Student value is in what they produce, not based on age or grade level. Their voices are important; they are listened to. If they publish an ebook, it is judged on the quality of writing, not their age. Where else can this happen?

13. Consider a video. For teaching, that is. Students can pause it, rewind, learn at their own pace. That’s technology.

Use these 13 reasons to offset the three most popular excuses for not using technology:

1. It doesn’t fit into my program.

2. I’m already juggling too much.

3. I don’t have time to learn it or use it.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach once said, “Teachers will not be replaced by technology, but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by those who do.” Amen.

If you don’t use technology in the classroom — or wish you didn’t have to — share your reasons.


Are Your Students Engaged? Don’t Be So Sure | MindShift

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By David Price

It might be time we re-thought student engagement. Are we measuring the right things? Are we taking disengagement seriously enough? January is a time for resolutions. Perhaps educators, in 2014, need to resolve to better understand student engagement, challenge the myths around it, and make it a higher priority in their relationships with students.

Let’s deal with the issue of the importance of engagement first. A recent longitudinal study of Australian students has published conclusions that every government minister for education should heed. Tracking students over a 20-year period, researchers found that the more children felt connected to their school community and felt engaged (rather than bored), the greater their likelihood of achieving a higher educational qualification and going on to a professional or managerial career, over and above their academic attainment or socio-economic background. In other words, an engaged child from a low socio-economic background will have better opportunities in life than a disengaged child from a more privileged background. This is a crucial message for ministers grappling with the inequality gap.

But for these findings to translate into actions, we have to re-think what we mean by engagement. For too long we have confused engagement with compliance or, worse still, “fun.” This confusion has led to a number of myths distorting how we act, and what we look for, in the classroom.

Myth #1: “I can see when my students are engaged.”

Don’t be so sure. Those who have switched off are often only the visible tip of the disengagement iceberg. The ones below the surface could be “invisibly disengaged” — complying but not engaging. A great empathetic principal once told me of her shock in discovering that one of her best students (in terms of behavior and achievement) had been bored every day in school.

“But why didn’t any of your teachers spot this?” she asked.

He replied, “I learned how to fall asleep with my eyes open.”

Students are learning to modify their behavior in class so that they appear to be engaged while, in reality, they’ve intellectually checked-out.

via Are Your Students Engaged? Don’t Be So Sure | MindShift.

8 Exciting Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning Approaches That Teachers are Embracing in 2014

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by K. WALSH on JANUARY 5, 2014

The Future of Technology Integration in Instruction Lies in Engaging and Empowering Teaching Methods Like These.

As we head into this new year I’m excited about the many instructional means and methods that educators are using technology to facilitate in 2014′s classrooms both physical and virtual!. As the 2nd decade of the 21st century rolls along, the scales are undoubtedly tilting further in favor of embracing the benefits that technology can bring to instruction, and away from frustration and resistance.Let’s explore some of the powerful instructional approaches that technology is helping to make possible, or bring to a new level, in classrooms and schools across the world.In public and private schools of all shapes and sizes the world over, inspired teachers are working with their students using different types of devices, and various methods of access, to use teaching and learning constructs like these. All of these will see expanded use in 2014 and countless students will be engaged, delighted, inspired, and successful as a result.

1. Student Created Content

The powerful moment when a student shows you something they made for an assignment – a persuasive presentation, a digital booklet, an animated report, a video they shot – is tremendously rewarding. The things that just about anyone with a little time, patience, and access can do with the today’s digital tools are pretty incredible.Think about what students learn and experience when they create their own digital content. They often have to access and curate materials and put together a flow or layout. They have to delve into the subject that they are creating the content about and learn the application they’re using to create it. When they are done and they share their work, their sense of accomplishment and purpose can be a beautiful thing to behold. And they can experience it over and over again as they share their work with others!

Learn More: Student Created Content is an Exciting and Inspiring Learning Tool that Teaches Many Skills

2. Collaborative Learning

Working collaboratively is an vital 21st century skills – most workers need to collaborate to some extent or another at points in their work lives. Our ability to collaborate via digital tools expands every day thanks to a seemingly endless array of Internet based applications that enable us to things like edit documents as a team, communicate face-to-face no matter where we are, use interactive whiteboards that allow for simultaneous edits, and so on. Digital collaboration in learning activities is not only a fun, engaging way to learn, it opens up possibilities that haven’t existed before, and prepares students for success in the evolving work place.

Learn More: 6 Free Online Collaborative Interactive White Boards – 2012 Update

3. Active Learning

While everyone has their own learning style, there is no arguing that applying what you learn – doing something with it – helps to iron out the kinks and reinforce learning, no matter what your fundamental learning style is. Isn’t that much of what Active Learning is about? Whatever types of active learning you pursue project based, experiential, constructivist, experiential, etc., there are countless free tools available to today’s student and educators via the Internet that can be used in active learning class work and assignments. Get engaged, have fun, create something, while you apply what you are learning!

Learn More: Flipping the Classroom Facilitates Active Learning Methods – Experiential, Project Based, Problem Based, Inquiry Based, Constructivism, Etc.

Read more at 8 Exciting Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning Approaches That Teachers are Embracing in 2014.

Critical Thinking Via Infographics | Langwitches Blog

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7th grade Geography teacher, David J. at Graded-The American School of Sao Paulo, was planning an in-depth country data study and interpretation. He decided to allow his students to explore the use of infographics to visually represent the data and compare their findings. He explained to his students:

Instead of a focused, issue-based case study, the major project of the quarter will be a comparison of three countries (one from Europe, one from North or South America, and one from Africa or Asia).  You will research many categories (citing sources correctly), represent the data using infographics (group collaborative component), and then provide reflection (annotations) on how and why the countries are similar or different on these topics.  Additionally, students will write comments comparing their own researched countries’ information to the data of other students.



Some of the students had seen infographics, no one had created one. In an introductory lesson, we introduced infographics with the following resources.

What are infographics?

Wikipedia defines infographics:

Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends

via Critical Thinking Via Infographics | Langwitches Blog.

Technology Integration Matrix

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The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) illustrates how teachers can use technology to enhance learning for K-12 students. The TIM incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, constructive, goal directed (i.e., reflective), authentic, and collaborative (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003). The TIM associates five levels of technology integration (i.e., entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation) with each of the five characteristics of meaningful learning environments. Together, the five levels of technology integration and the five characteristics of meaningful learning environments create a matrix of 25 cells as illustrated below.

Levels of Technology Integration into the Curriculum


The teacher begins to use technology tools to deliver curriculum content to students.


The teacher directs students in the conventional and procedural use of technology tools.


The teacher facilitates students in exploring and independently using technology tools.


The teacher provides the learning context and the students choose the technology tools to achieve the outcome.


The teacher encourages the innovative use of technology tools. Technology tools are used to facilitate higher order learning activities that may not have been possible without the use of technology.


via Technology Integration Matrix.