Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Dr. Will Show - What up Doc? Not me in academia with Nadia Jaber

Nadia Jaber is a graduate student at Stony Brook University in New York. She is getting her PhD in Molecular & Cellular Biology, and has completed an Advanced Certificate in Health Communications. She is passionate about career development for graduate students and has initiated a peer mentoring career group within her graduate department to serve this need. Learn more at


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why Chalkup is the next generation learning management system you need in your life..

Guest blog post by Jayne Miller

What learning management systems are supposed to do.

What it feels like learning management systems actually do.

Yeah. It's kind of true.

Learning management systems (LMS) are big, powerful tools meant to connect students, share resources, enhance grading capabilities, and keep discussions going long after class is dismissed. The problem is that these tools haven’t been doing that - at least not as well as they could be.

Don’t get me wrong - tools like Canvas and Schoology have taken the LMS model to the next level and made huge strides in getting technology in classrooms. That’s fantastic. I’m always happy to hear about another class that has adopted a platform to keep students connected.

But the promise of the modern LMS should be about learning more and learning better. That’s where platforms have missed the mark. What we’re hearing from teachers is that these tools aren’t serving as a place for exchanging ideas or sharing content; they’re systems for churning through assignments that bog classes down with features that aren’t relevant to their needs.

Further, the amount of time and energy it takes to train and integrate these systems is time and energy that could have been devoted to learning.

All this means classes don’t look forward to using their designated LMS, and that’s not what we -- educators and #edtech lovers -- want. When we know that teachers and students are liking Google Classroom, why aren’t LMS platforms doing more to seamlessly integrate w/ Google Drive? Or putting more emphasis on collaboration?

Well, let’s talk about Chalkup. It’s the new kid on the block and I think it’s an LMS worth getting excited about. The platform was designed with collaboration in mind, and we’re happy to say it plays nice with Google Drive.

Chalkup also focused on perfecting the tools classrooms are demanding. We’re talking powerful grading tools, built-in rubrics, and course calendars. Chalkup actually launched its latest and greatest iteration today, which builds on these high-demand features and includes a fantastic new way for students to manage their courseload.

All in all, getting devices in the hands of students and integrating tech into classrooms is a huge win. But if we could do it better, why wouldn’t we?

About the Author
Jayne Miller is an #edtech lover and writer/editor who joined the Chalkup team in 2014.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Join the movement. If you want to contribute a blog post, please check for me on Twitter @iamDrWill. Holla!

Transforming Today’s Classrooms

When Dr. Will asked us to guest blog, we were honored to collaborate with such a passionate educator committed to transforming today's classrooms. Like Dr. Will, we are dedicated to guiding school leaders and their teaching staff in implementing changes in teaching and learning through innovative approaches such as facilitated, flipped, blended, online, and personalized learning.

Though not a book about technology, Transforming Ice Age Schools, serves as a catalyst for instructional change. It is a leadership book that informs site and district leaders by introducing practical tools useful in approaching learning needed for this century and beyond. Our premise is that education, as most of us know it, has remained virtually unaltered since the Middle Ages. Instead, new initiatives and approaches have simply been layered on top of conventional programs of study. The structures in classrooms are still traditional and familiar.

We liken this historical layering in our system to an educational glacier. Yet with any glacier, when it reaches a critical depth and width, it begins to reshape itself and move. With global, and digital advances and information exploding, the critical depth and width of reform necessary for schools is compelling... and the necessary shift in educational paradigms of learning is now.

Of course, no one can move a glacier alone, but we can all move ice cubes. Our book prepares leaders to identify those ice cubes that are transformational leverage points. Utilizing our practical tools, school principals and district office leaders can collectively melt the glacier in their schools and unearth transformation in their organizations beneath. 

In Chapter five Indicators for Teacher Instruction, we offer principals classroom instructional observational tools to analyze the indicators of quality instruction in their classrooms. These indicators include behaviors that demonstrate, for example, “the art of questioning” and other approaches that demonstrate teachers are embracing 21st century learning approaches. Particularly for those interested in blended learning, we highlight chapter six on Innovative Student Learning. This chapter identifies key characteristics of today's learners and why we must engage them in new ways. The following excerpt exemplifies the call to action we make to leaders when critically looking at classrooms in their own schools:

Instructional design can also be useful in providing authenticity and higher engagement. For example blended and flipped approaches allow students to maximize modern tools. Individualized digital curriculum provides adaptive software and immediate feedback for students to work at their own pace. Project, inquiry, design, and challenge-based learning models offer real life problems to explore and solve within collaborative groups. Developing world languages enables students to connect at intimate levels with others from around the world.

Of course, technology is a critical tool in many of these approaches, however we remind leaders that true transformation starts with effective instruction. If you would like to experience more blended learning approaches, or other innovative student learning methods in your own schools, we would like to welcome you to our PLN. By collaborating with each other about how to implement these changes, we will transform our ice age schools and melt the educational glacier once and for all!

Meet the Authors:

Lisbeth Johnson, Ed.D. was born in North Carolina and raised in Harlem, New York City . She moved to California in her teens and attended schools in Southern California. She received her doctorate degree in education in 2002 from the University of La Verne and completed her dissertation on the topic of Integrating Instruction with Technology. She has worked in educational settings for forty years  in Pre-Schools, Kindergarten and K-12,  through Post- Secondary institutions. She has been a teacher, reading resource support instructor, a Principal, Director and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and a Superintendent.

With a passion for on-going learning, Lisbeth is inspired to coach schools that are attempting to instruct students in the digital and twenty-first century environment. She recently received a Leading Edge Certification  for Online Learning and Teaching, adding new learning and expertise to her repertoire on the value of using Web 2.0 tools for student learning. In her retirement Lisbeth continues to teach at a University, and enjoys in her off-time the support of travel to far-away places with a loving family.

Born and raised in New England, Leighangela Brady received both her B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Connecticut. Now living in San Diego, she earned her Ed.D. in educational leadership from San Diego State University. Dr. Brady has taught in various teaching assignments from kindergarten through fifth grade. Later she served as an academic literacy coach for teachers. This position ignited an already sparked passion for curriculum and instruction and helped to further develop her strength as a curriculum leader. 

Dr. Brady is a former principal of a K-6 elementary school. As a site administrator, educational consultant, and instructional leader, Dr. Brady is passionate about quality education and effective leadership. She is a current Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services working to transform the schools in her own district. She is an author of Test Less, Assess More: A K-8 Guide to Formative Assessmentand presents annually at national and international conferences. Leighangela is a wife and mother, and plans to retire one day at her home in the Fiji Islands.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Five Steps to Being a Conference Presenter!!!


Guest post by Sara Thomas

It is with great pleasure that I write this guest post on my friend, Dr. Will’s, blog.  He wrote a wonderful piece on 1:1 devices on mine in August, so I am more than happy to return the favor. Hopefully I can rise to the occasion.

This post is dedicated to the brilliant friends I’ve made over the past year by virtue of being a connected educator.  There is one in particular who has inspired this post, and I’m sure for her, the content will be very familiar.  I probably left her the longest vox in history about two weeks ago.  I’ll attempt to recap it here.   

This goes out to anyone who is looking for an entry point into presenting at educational conferences.  If you’re doing amazing things with your students or staff, I strongly believe in “paying it forward,” and sharing this information with others, so they can help their students.  Presenting at conferences is one way to do this on a grand scale.

This is for those of you who are where I was a little over a year ago. Maybe you’ve presented at the school or district level, and are curious about going statewide, regional, or national...or beyond! Without further ado, I present…

Five Steps to Being a Conference Presenter!!!

Step One:  Figure out your “thing.”
Everybody is an expert at something.  That’s why it’s so important for us to share our stories. We can all teach and learn from each other...that’s how our profession continues to thrive.  Take a long, hard look at yourself.  What is it that you do exceptionally well as an educator?  Maybe you’re really into digital storytelling, or are a guru at a certain LMS.  Maybe you’re great at facilitating collaboration.  Figure out where you shine, and what you would like to share with others.

Step Two:  Connect!
It may seem that I am preaching to the choir here, because if you’re reading blogs, you are likely a connected educator.  Touché.  However, I have found that there’s an entire spectrum of connectivity.  Think of it as having different belts in martial arts.  Signing up for Twitter, Google Plus, Voxer, etc. is akin to receiving your white belt, which is an accomplishment in itself.  If you want to hit the higher levels, however, you need to start breaking boards, grasshopper!  Jump into Twitter chats (check out Cybraryman’s list here).  You don’t need an invite.  Be like Nike, and just do it!  Also blog.  Blog more.  And, dare I say it, blog even more!  Blogging helps to establish your credibility, while allowing you to share your story and help the profession.  Win-win.  Win.       

Step Three:  Connect some more!
Everyone has their own philosophy when it comes to social media.  I have had many friendly debates with members of my PLN in terms of our approaches.  My personal ideology is to connect with as many educators as possible.  I believe that we can all learn from each other, and don’t believe in cutting off any potential streams of knowledge.

That was the warm and fuzzy version.  Now, it’s time to get practical.  Remember how we talked about the importance of blogging?  A great way to get readers is to make those connections online.  However, it’s not about gaining readers and’s about reflecting and growing with your PLN.  None of us came to this profession to be “Twitter famous.”  When I became a teacher 10 years ago, this stuff didn’t even exist.  What is important is connecting with others so that your students will benefit.  A PLN has stood the test of time, even though it wasn’t always called that.  

Takeaway: Be genuinely interested in what others have to say, and they will be interested in you.

Step Four: Use the search feature on social media.
There are two phrases that have been quite helpful to me since I have started presenting at conferences: “call for proposals” and “call for presenters.”  I used to search both of these phrases at regularly scheduled intervals, be it weekly or monthly.  If something caught my attention, and fit into my calendar (more on that later), I would apply for it.  At first, I would only apply to conferences in my geographical area, but as I became more confident, I began to apply to conferences all over the United States, and even some in Canada.  

Make the search boxes on Twitter and Google+ your friend.  Be realistic, though.  It is no fun being accepted for a session, and realizing that you can’t do it after all.  Some conferences look for virtual presenters.  These are great, because you get most of the perks of face to face conferences while avoiding travel costs.  In mid-2014, I put together a publicly editable spreadsheet to get you started with conferences, and it’s been growing since then.  Please add those you may know as well.  

Step Five: Close your eyes and jump.
Congratulations!  Your session has been accepted.  It may seem scary at first, but you were chosen for a reason.  Rock it out!

Here’s a quick bonus tip: you definitely want to stay organized when it comes to sessions that you have submitted and/or that have been accepted.  I decided to take it old-school, and buy a wall calendar.  Nothing against digital calendars, but I just stay a little better organized when I can physically write the date down.  I pencil in dates for conferences where I have applied, and go back over them in Sharpie if they get accepted.  If the session is declined, I just erase it.  No harm, no foul.

So, what are you waiting for?  Go get ‘em, Tiger!  I hope to sit in your session one day.  Please shout me out on Twitter (@sarahdateechur) if you found this helpful, or have any questions.

About the Author: Sarah Thomas is a Google Certified Teacher and Edmodo Support Ambassador from the Washington, DC area, as well as the leader of the DC Metro Area Google Educator Group.  She is the Technology Liaison at John Hanson French Immersion School, where she teaches Technology Integration/ English Language Arts to middle school students.  Sarah conducts professional development for teacher recertification at the county level, and is a doctoral candidate in Education at George Mason University.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

GEG Mississippi GHO Event - Flipping the Classroom

For this GEG Mississippi GHO event, fellow GEG Mississippi member James Comans, leads a discussion about flipping the classroom with Jennifer Gwilt and Sarah Thomas, GEG DC leader.

James Comans

James is a Mississippi educator born and raised in South Jackson.  He attended JPS schools for 11 years, then graduated from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.
James has been in education since 2005, teaching at both the middle school and high school level.  He also serves as a teacher consultant for the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute, and was a Common Core trainer for the Mississippi Department of Education for their 2013-2014 Middle School Language Arts Cohort II.  He holds a master’s degree in secondary education (MAT-S) from Mississippi State University and a specialist degree in educational leadership (Ed.S) from The University of Mississippi.
In April, James married the beautiful Robbie Henry of Cleveland, Mississippi.  James, Robbie, and their cat Zooey live in Southaven, where he teaches 8th grade science at DeSoto Central Middle School. Robbie is a graduate assistant in the Speech Language Pathology program at The University of Memphis. Zooey enjoys taking naps and burrowing in couch blankets. 

Jennifer Gwilt

Jennifer has been teaching high school for 10 and a half years. Currently, she teaches high school Algebra and Biology in a high school in the suburbs of Detroit. She has been flipping her Algebra 2 class for about a year, and is halfway working on flipping her Biology class.
Sarah Thomas

Sarah is the Technology Liaison at John Hanson French Immersion School in Oxon Hill, MD.  In addition to this role, she also teaches Technology Integration and English Language Arts at the middle school level.  She has served on the School Leadership Team, advising administrators and teachers on technology-related matters.  

Outside of her work at John Hanson, she also conducts professional development for teacher recertification hours at the county level, on topics such as Google Drive, Google Sites, and Using PowerPoint in the Teaching and Learning Process.  Sarah has presented on various technology topics at the local, regional, and state level.  She also presents free interactive tutorials for teachers on various educational technology topics.

Sarah holds a Masters degree from Howard University in the field of Curriculum and Instruction. She is currently a doctoral candidate at George Mason University, with a major in Education. Her upcoming dissertation, Using Technology to Facilitate Language Acquisition of English Language Learners, is rooted heavily in student-created artifacts through the use of project-based learning.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Dr. Will Show - Blended Learning with Schoology with Google Lead Learner Chris Aviles

Chris Aviles is the Ed Tech Coach for Fair Haven School district in Fair Haven, NJ. Before that, he taught English at Barnegat high school for nine years. There his classroom featured advanced gamification with a yearlong Alternate Reality Game, self-paced and self-directed mastery, BYOD, Passion-based and flipped learning, and blending!

At Fair Haven, Chris is working on flipping and gamifying professional development, rolling out some great learning experiences for kids involving makerspaces, coding, Minecraft, and more as well as telling stories with data to make state testing meaningful to all stakeholders.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Dr. Will Show - Connected Principals with Beth Houf and Jay Billy

Jay Billy is a K-3 Elementary Principal at Slackwood Elementary School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.  He is passionate about learning and the use of technology in the 21st century classroom. Jay has been in administration for over 20 years and has worked at levels from College to preschool. His blog is Just One Principal’s Thoughts. You can connect with him on Twitter: @JayBilly2.

Beth Houf is a K-5 Elementary Principal in central Missouri. She is advocate for educational risk-taking to empower high levels of learning and engagement for students and staff. Beth is passionate about the integration of technology in the classroom. Beth is an eMINTS (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) trained teacher. She is a facilitator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Leadership Academy, providing monthly training to state educational leaders through the integration of innovative learning skills. She is also active in her local, state and national elementary principal’s associations. Beth has presented at the Missouri PLC conference, Missouri PBIS conference, Interface Math and Science Conference as well as multiple district professional development sessions, and will present this summer at ISTE on the journey of integrating technology and innovation through staff professional learning. Beth has been a guest lecturer at William Woods University, Westminster University and the University of Missouri. Beth networks with other educators through social media and face-to-face opportunities. Connect with Beth through email, Twitter (@BethHouf) or through her blogs:,,