Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Dr. Will Show - S.H.I. N.E with LaVonna Roth

LaVonna Roth is an internationally known learning specialist, author, keynote speaker and consultant. Her passion is bridging how the brain learns with education and helping every individual realize the value they bring.

She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Kent State University, a Master’s in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Walden University.

LaVonna taught at the elementary and secondary levels for 10 years with 5 years being here in Hillsborough County School District!

As a teacher, LaVonna Roth was recognized for several awards including:
       Florida Council - Social Studies Outstanding Teacher of the Year
       Hillsborough County School District - Social Studies Teacher of the Year
       Corr Elementary School - Teacher of the Year
       Florida Department of Education - Mentor Teacher

Since then, LaVonna has started her own consulting and speaking company, authored 8 books, worked with schools and districts across the United States and other countries to increase engagement and the fun factor in learning. She serves on the Board of Directors for an international education association and is passionate about helping students and educators be the best they can be.

She is the founder of the Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.™ initiative where every person is encouraged to use his or her skills, talents and gifts… to illuminate the world.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

HBCU’s: Relevant or Relics?

HBCU’s or Historically Black Colleges and Universities graduate over half of all Black professionals in the U.S. They produce over 50 percent of the country’s Black teachers and 70 percent of the Black dentists. Even more, most Black folks who go on to earn Ph.D. have earned their bachelor’s degree at an HBCU (United Negro College Fund). Yet, with those statistics, critics of HBCU’s argue that their time has come and gone, and that they are no longer needed.

As someone who attended an HBCU (Tougaloo College), I can speak from personal experience the great work being done at those institutions. When I arrived on campus in August of 1992, it was the first time in my life; I was surrounded by so many driven, determined, and forward-thinking Black minds. I was forever changed by that experience. 

You see, HBCU’s do more than prepare students for the academic rigors of one’s chosen field of study. They teach students to love themselves and that they come from a people who are more than side-notes, side-kicks, and stereotypes. What is more, they instill in its students a sense of pride and confidence, and empower them to take direction over the course of their own lives. Now that may seem irrelevant or something out of a James Brown song. But when you are the first in your family to go to college or come from a community in which the only people who get out of the neighborhood are rappers or ballplayers, being in an environment where you are nourished and your sense of self is nurtured and your intellect cultivated is life-changing. There aren’t any words for what that means to your future success.

I left Tougaloo after 2 years to go to Film School. Still, to this day not graduating from there is one of my biggest regrets in life. I know that I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am without my time at Tougaloo. The people I met there had a profound impact on my life.

To those who think HBCU’s are inferior or not necessary in this multiracial, multilingual global marketplace, consider the success of such notable HBCU alumni: Oprah, Tom Joyner, Dr. Ruth Simmons (president of Brown University), Tanika Ray (Designer and TV Host), Spike Lee, Shaun Robinson (host on “Access Hollywood"), and Jacque Reid (journalist), just to name a few.  And consider that the enrollment of White, Latino, and Asian students (around 20 percent) have been on the rise at the 105 HBCU’s (BET). In fact, a few years ago, Morehouse’s Valedictorian was White.

So check out an HBCU and see what they have to offer. You never know. One just may be the right fit for you.

Friday, October 23, 2015


I say yes.
Dr. Will asked if I would guest blog.  Yes.
Will you teach yoga someday, even though public speaking is -er- public speaking?  Yes.
Do you want to run through the everglades, alone, at midnight? Yes.
Do you want to just go to Paris for New Years? Yes.
I say yes.
There is a lot of conversation about balancing your work and home life.  I do not think that is enough.  As an educator, you need to literally breathe life into your classroom.  It is not enough to simply roll into a classroom and read a scripted curriculum.  You need to inspire kids to find their passion.  Finding ones passion is an interesting topic in and of itself.  You are not born with a passion.  You find it along the way.  Typically, it is another person who inspired you to try something new.
This is why I say: Yes.
This beautiful life that we get to live is not simply about finding a work/home balance.  This simply cannot be.  It has to be about finding actions, people, places or things to become passionate about.  Work that you live for, activities that you long to get to: that’s the good stuff.
So one of my passions is yoga.  We all have heard of the touted health benefits of yoga.  It calms the central nervous system. It helps to make you flexible and strong.  It helps you spend your money at lululemon (just kidding).  Once you start practicing, you find out what your body can and cannot do in the moment.  You become attuned to yourself.  It is just good fun to conquer standing on your head, or balancing in Crow Pose.  It releases endorphins and makes you feel like a super hero! All people should stretch and bend and flex, and if all the while they can find the love of an Asana practice, well,  that is just the cherry on top.
By saying “yes” to the opportunities that come your way, there is just no telling what journeys you will take.  But for certain you will benefit and so can your students.  If you worked really hard and ran a half marathon, marathon, or even the glorious iron man and shared that with your students: they are being exposed to their potential passion.  Their future joy.  And you gave it to them through simply sharing.  If you created a set of mugs over the weekend, played croquet, made scones, or ran around with your dogs in the yard: share it.
When it comes to finding that sought after work-home balance: forget it.
When it comes to finding, fostering and then sharing a passion (A reason for living!): share it!
Say “yes” to the possibilities that come your way.  Who knows, you may have hated visiting that farm last weekend, but you may have a student who ends up opening their own sheep shearing business: all thanks to you!
Peace, Victoria
About the authorVictoria Curry is an Assistant Principal in Upstate New York. She spent 10 years teaching 3rd graders in Chinatown (Manhattan) and 3 years teaching 5th grade in the East Village (Manhattan). She loves working with children and inspiring them to live the best life possible. Professionally she works non-stop with technology. She has been lauded for her creation of systems in schools for teachers to communicate and circulate data. Currently, she is working on growing her PLN on twitter @VictoriaCurry77 please follow!

Personally, Victoria has many interests: environmental history, techquity in schools, sewing, running, practicing yoga (on and off the mat), and loving her two dogs Jet and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. No bio for Victoria would be complete without mentioning Brian Curry, her husband. Accomplished artist and metal enthusiast; Brian is simply the Earth to her Sun. 
Connect to Victoria for all things Progressive in Education! @VictoriaCurry77 or on her newly minted blog: .

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Living Life By Your Own Rules by Brittni Pope

Ultimately, this life is ours for the taking. We have power! We can make decisions and choices to either bring us closer to our greatness or keep us separate from it. In one way or another, we will all encounter barricades that make accessing our inherent greatness seem or feel virtually impossible. And there’s no guidebook detailing the best way to live our lives so that we can have all of the things we desire and truly be happy. In more ways than not, we’re essentially left to our own devices with no other solution than to figure it all out as we go. 

So, here we are, figuring it all out whilst simultaneously recognizing that what seemed like a fool-proof approach to adulthood is more like trial-and-error on top of a huge pile of trial-and-error. Some of us realize we aren’t too keen on climbing the corporate ladder for the rest of our lives. Others of us realize that our passions have changed and we want to change careers. Some come to find that no amount of money is enough to compensate them for lost time in their personal lives. The list could go on and on. It doesn’t really matter what category you fall into, but the point is that we have to live a little of the contrast to know what we really want and care about having. If you’re currently experiencing the contrast, it’s ok. Pay close attention to what you love and don’t love about your experience. It will help you as you start this journey to living a life that makes you happy.

Once we’ve realized that none of us really know what we’re doing, like any new game, project or test, we guess and make up our own rules or parameters as we go. We seem to be fine with this until it might affect our individual livelihoods or families or pockets. All understandable and completely valid, however, why should our approach to life be immune to the same process?

Life got really fun and really exciting the moment I realized that I could design my own life. So many of us live lives that don’t resonate because we don’t believe that we have the capacity to do this or care too much about what others may think. This causes us to inadvertently choose to live lives framed, shaped and molded by people who don’t have our ultimate happiness nor best interest at heart.

If you’ve ever felt paralyzed by your own life or felt like you were living a life that wasn’t meant to be yours, it’s because you’ve given creative control to other people. I can remember feeling like I was drowning. Every time I thought about my life I felt nauseous. It was the first time I’d ever experienced a real-time recognition that I was sitting in the passenger seat of my life with someone who I didn’t know driving recklessly. I felt like I had no control over a life that I was seemingly an active participant in. 

Do you want to know what’s more terrifying than taking control of your own life? Learning how to live and function in soul wrenching pain if you don’t.
  • Your life doesn’t have to be defined by how well you can suffer through it. 
  • Your life also doesn’t have to be defined by how well you can take direction.
  • Give yourself permission to give yourself direction. 
  • Give yourself permission to design your life. Give yourself permission to live a life that makes you happy.
Living your happiest life is not selfish. Living your happiest life on purpose is actually one of the most selfless things you can do. It gives you the ability to show up as the best version of yourself in every aspect of your life and most importantly for the people counting on you most.

If you don’t have it all figured out, that’s ok! Truthfully, you don’t need to have it all figured out. Guess what, no one else does either! Cut yourself some slack! 

I can assure you that if you show up each day of your life on purpose and with intention in a way that feels authentic to who you really are, your personalized how-to guide for life will write itself.  

Stop the comparison games! Stop obsessing over the perfectly filtered and curated lives that you see on social media. 

Remember, our journeys are individual and unique to us. Celebrate that instead of trying to resist it. Give your best life a fighting chance by dancing to the beat of your own drum and writing your own rules.

When it’s all said and done, you want to be able to look back at your life and know that you showed up for yourself as someone who made you happy, not as someone who lived a life of discord so that others could be happy.

Your most amazing life is waiting on you to design it as you’re living it! Your best life starts NOW!

About the author: Brittni Pope is a 25-year-old woman residing in Atlanta, Georgia dedicated to empowering and enriching the lives of others through sharing ways to build a positive and healthy relationships with themselves. She only takes two things in life very seriously, love and happiness! Her main platforms are her website,, and her YouTube Channel, where people can find blogs or videos covering a variety of topics dealing with personal and professional development, fashion, lifestyle and travel. Brittni also works in the digital marketing industry where she is able to combine her personal passions with her profession. She has been able to build a community of people across the world who are committed to living their happiest lives and looks forward to the continued growth and expansion of channeling her passions in this capacity. If you are interested in connecting with her, you can do so by e-mailing her at or following her on Instagram or Twitter at @BrittniPope.

“We only ever settle for anything in life because we’re scared of something worse or something better. I’m here to help people understand that ’something better’ can be their reality and that their fear only has as much power as they assign to it.” -Brittni Pope

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Dr. Will Show - Diversity in Edtech with Jordan Pedraza

On this episode, I speak with Jordan Pedraza about diversity in edtech.

Jordan Pedraza currently leads Community at Remind, an edtech startup providing a messaging app for teachers to communicate with students and parents. Jordan has worked in the edtech space for almost 10 years with experiencing in higher education, k-12, policy research, and international settings. Before Remind, Jordan led Community with Google for Education and helped universities, k-12 schools, and ministries of education adopt various Google tools. Jordan is deeply passionate about helping communities explore and adopt technology for new learning models and creativity.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Schools Can Create Positive Classrooms with BYOD or 1:1 by Kerry Gallagher, J.D. and Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D.

Author's Note: This post was co-authored with my dear friend Kerry Gallagher, J.D.. We brought our shared experiences in 1:1 and BYOD environments together in this article. Our hope is to share best practices for transforming teaching, learning and the overall mindset in schools that have gone digital.

When a school, or even a district, decides to roll out a BYOD or 1:1 program there are many complicated factors to consider. The job of an Instructional Technologist, as in Dr. Will Deyamport, or a Digital Learning Specialist, as in Kerry Gallagher, is to prepare teachers for the implications these powerful devices will have on their classrooms, lesson plans, and their students’ learning experiences. It takes more than rewriting a few lesson plans. It is a mindset shift. Based on our own experiences in our own schools, from Mississippi to Massachusetts, here are our best practices for professional development in a BYOD or 1:1 school.

Digital Citizenship Integration - Kerry

Simply putting devices in the hands of students and teachers will not revolutionize what is happening in classrooms. But it can. In preparation for the access to content and instant communication that every person in your school will have, it is essential to dedicate significant time to training teachers on digital citizenship. Digital citizenship encompasses the norms of effective responsible use of technology including etiquette, communication, consuming and creating media, security, privacy, and more. Without making digital citizenship education a priority, schools often resort to policing student devices. Not only is this an impossible task, it does not allow for the development of healthy young digital citizens.

Instead, schools and teachers must give students the tools to help them manage their own behavior, and to help them know what to do when they make a mistake. The Nine Elements of digital citizenship from Mike Ribble are a great place to educate yourself. Then, look to resources like ISTE, Common Sense Media and iKeepSafe for lesson ideas to use in classrooms with students.

Pro Tip: A best practice is to fully integrate digital citizenship in all subject areas at all levels. If students know it is a one day or one week lesson they just have to “get through”, they will never see how the concepts apply to every engagement they have with their device, in and out of the classroom.

How to Navigate Foundational Apps - Will

To go BYOD or 1:1 educators need some way to facilitate digital instruction and to warehouse resources to share with students. Some teachers use Google Classroom and Drive, Office 365 and OneNote, or one of several Learning Management Systems such as Schoology or Haiku Learning.

In our case, we needed a platform that allowed teachers to differentiate, individualize, and personalize instruction. As a district we also wanted a space where they could easily design, develop, collaborate, and share resources across grade levels and subject-areas. Upon selecting Schoology, our next step was organizing a two-week technology boot camp.

What we didn’t want was to drop a cart of Chromebooks in each teacher’s classroom and they feel bewilderment at what happens next. The boot camp consisted of sessions on the Chromebook, GAFE, Schoology, and several other sessions aimed at preparing teachers for the upcoming school year. These sessions were not the traditional “sit and get” or “drill and kill”. Teachers need a hands-on experience with opportunities to collaborate and discuss how they can successfully implement the tools. For example, a teacher may be concerned that the login process for a program may be too complicated for their students. These are the moments when Instructional Technologists can see the implementation through the eyes and experiences of the teachers.

Pro Tip: Flip professional development by offering learning modules via the LMS you have chosen to implement. Then you can focus on how they can use the tools to reimagine the learning experiences of their students during that precious professional development time.

Screenshot 2015-10-06 at 6.25.32 AM.png
This is a screenshot of a course I created for 9th teachers in our 1:1 Chromebook initiative.

Classroom Management Coaching - Kerry

Once teachers are familiar with the tools, they will be excited to try them in their classrooms. But pause with them and ask them how their classroom environment will look different. As part of the planning for complete integration, teachers need to be prepared for a classroom design that looks different.

For instance, if teachers want to have eyes on student work, they can teach from the back of the classroom instead of the front. It is the best way to peek at screens while students are engaging with content in the classroom. If students are taking an assessment on their devices, have them line the classroom walls with their desks facing away from the center. 

What about the configuration pictured here? When students work in groups, have them make
little semi-circles facing the outer wall with their desks. Then the teacher can walk between the
groups to check in, or stand in the middle of the room to scan all groups simultaneously. There are many other classroom configuration tips that can be crowdsourced when teachers and technology coaches put their heads together in a cooperative training session.

Pro Tip: Facilitate this professional learning opportunity in a classroom at your school, so teachers can physically move the furniture in the space and act out classroom situations to find out what works.

Leading Digital Change - Will

It took me a few weeks into the school year to understand that my job as an Instructional Technologist no longer means just teaching teachers how to use technology to meet specific learning goals or outcomes for students. In leading the 1:1 at the high school, I am, in fact, responsible for leading digital change. What I do has evolved to coaching teachers through the shifting in their mindset and professional practice from “paper and pencil” to “going digital”.

Going digital is about more than just putting devices into students’ hands. It is about changing the learning culture and giving students ownership of their own learning. This is a paradigm shift. Instead of the teacher being the sole repository of information and the student being a passive participate, the teacher now becomes a facilitator or guide and the student becomes the driver and producer of their own learning paths.  
Leading digital change is simply about building teacher capacity. Some teachers will take to digital (blended learning) like a fish to water; some will feel uncomfortable and need help getting started; and some will worry that it is an attempt to replace the classroom teacher.

In order to make a successful transition to digital, teachers and the learning culture at the school must be transformed. As with the students, teachers should take ownership of their own professional learning and have the room and support to make the shift. The key is to get teachers talking. Listen to  their concerns and goals, and work with them to develop a digital learning plan that leverages the talents and experiences they already have. Teachers need this shift to be a conversation and not a mandate.


All four of these elements of teacher development -- digital citizenship, foundational apps, classroom management, and leading digital change -- are essential for a successful BYOD or 1:1 program in any school. Education technology coaches come with lots of titles, but in the end our role is to be there to train and then support teachers day-in and day-out. With these four elements and the time needed to facilitate growth, the mindset shift can happen school-wide.

About the authors:

Kerry Gallagher's varied background in education, technology, and law give her a unique and realistic perspective of what truly works to maximize learning experiences for children and adults. 

Currently, Kerry is a Digital Learning Specialist at St. John's Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts. St. John's Prep is a 1:1 iPad school serving 1500 students grades 6-12.  She is also the Director of K-12 Education for ConnectSafely, a Silicon Valley based non-profit dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy, and security.

Kerry taught middle and high school history in Massachusetts and New Hampshire public schools with Bring Your Own Device programs for 13 years.  As a classroom teacher, Kerry was best known for her paperless collaborative classroom model which thrived on project-based learning.  She also helped her students create Rockets Help Desk, a far-reaching student-driven technology integration program in her previous district. Beyond the traditional classroom, she has coached students in downhill skiing and mock trial and understands the importance of the whole child when considering the role of technology in education.

Dr. Will Deyamport, III is a District Instructional Technologist, globally recognized Connected Educator and Connected Ed Consultant. Motivated by his passions for education and digital media, he has been able to leverage the use of social technologies in the classroom to enhance the learning experiences of people worldwide. While his efforts are primarily targeted towards teachers, it is his thought leadership in this specific field that has helped him to create an innovative, interactive and integrated classroom experience for students and teachers alike. In addition to identifying existing and underutilized digital tools and resources in education, Dr. Deyamport has worked diligently to bridge that gap. It is this core endeavor that has taken him on the professional adventure of a lifetime! His research and work in this field has helped shape his social entrepreneurship and given him the opportunity to connect and collaborate with some of the most inspiring and acclaimed people in education both nationally and internationally. Through these collaborations, Dr. Deyamport has been able to facilitate and curate powerful, thought-provoking and enlightening conversations and content which look at a multitude of issues educators face inside and outside of the classroom. The expansion and diversification of his professional portfolio has resulted in Dr. Will becoming a highly sought after speaker, presenter and guest lecturer.