Swedish fish = algebra ?

I did algebra today. In the words of my friend Monty, “true story.”

Every week, our Lower School has a fun estimation jar that lives just outside my classroom. Each week scores of kiddos waltz up and do their best to make an educated guess on the treasure of the week. Sometimes it’s edible, sometimes it’s bouncy, other times it’s practical. (Candies, rubber balls, erasers.) They squeak with delight as they count up the sides, across the top, trying to come up with the closest guess. Every Thursday, they wait with bated breath to see who wins and takes home the prize!

This week, it is Swedish Fish. The candy of the gods. Corn syrup and red dye 40 goodness. While it is not chocolate, Swedish Fish are perhaps my favorite fruit flavored candy and certainly my favorite in the “chewy” category. (I take my junk food seriously.)


So, back to math…Initially I though I would attempt to guess via volume-I did a bit of counting across and up. Then I remembered, I have the Internet. I guessed the approximate ounces of the jar, then used Amazon to figure out how many pieces per ounce. I was able to figure out a 2oz per piece (24), so I broke out some old fashioned algebra and, wait for it, solved for x. I guessed 30 oz. and determined that there were 360 pieces in the jar. I even used a pencil and paper.

In retrospect, I think I have way overestimated on my ounces to create my equation. However, I am really proud that I, certified math-phob, used my resources and a little lesson from Mr. Schwartz’s class to make a reasonable guess. I believe this is the first time in 36 years of life and 13 years of teaching that I have practically applied algebra in daily life.

All for the love of Swedish Fish.

So my take-away is this-we need to show real world ways to solve problems. I am likely totally wrong, but I can understand and explain my process which means I can work towards fixing my errors. When we give our kids real opportunities to apply their understanding and harness their resources, learning becomes authentic. It becomes “real.”

So, I wonder what I’ll see in the jar next week?

**how do you use real world problems in your classroom? (Math or otherwise.) tweet me and let’s share.**

one word 365

The trend for the new year round the blogosphere is declaring one word as an intention or focus for 2015. I’ve seen this filtering around both my professional and personal social networks with lots of great words.

For me, I have chosen a word at the start of the school year as my intention for the last three years. First, it was patience; passionate patience as I worked to help teachers grow. Second, it was courage; to step out of my own comfort zone and try new ideas as well as blaze a trail for those that might want to follow. Both of these words were great for centering my thoughts and helping me build strong habits of mind.

This year, my word is humility. After a summer study of the book of Micah and a life-long battle between arrogance and self-flagellation, I want to embrace the realization that I do not have all the answers. I recognize that my role as a teacher-leader is a fragile gift that needs tending and care. My favorite and most respected leaders have been ones with an internal sense of servant leadership; seeking not their own gain but the gain of others. The concept of humility also centers me to the point that I am just one piece of the larger community puzzle that works collectively to build up amazing children. This notion in and of itself is humbling.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “true humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” (Mere Christianity) I find this to be a truly visionary statement and its place above my desk is a constant reminder for the year that my work is important yet it is part of a larger tribe of importance and my focus should be on others first. I hope that this intentional practice of humility will, like its predecessors of patience and courage, become a unconscious trait woven into my daily thoughts and work.


Have you sent an intention for your new year or school year? Do you have a “one word?” Tweet me and let’s share!

what I’m reading this week.

This is such a good week for me as an educator. Five days for time with friends, cleaning the house, sleeping a little later, and catching up on that reading list that piled up over the fall.

Here’s on my list this week:

Design Thinking for Educators
How are we looking at the design process to guide our students to solve authentic problems? This handbook and subsequent workbook give great tools to explore the steps of DT for the classroom.

The Answer Sheet-The Washington Post
A great look about how the emphasis on STEM impacts the study of Humanities. Are we teaching our children to be wise, ethical, deep thinkers? Can we truly give them an holistic education with an out of balance look at any one subject over another? TBD…

A Brand New World in Which Men Ruled-nytimes
A reflection on the Stanford class of ’94 and the gender gaps therein at the onset of the Internet boom. (Also a mention to two of my favorite ladies, Summer Sanders and Rachel Maddow, members of the class.)

Why Understanding Obstacles is Essential to Achieving Goals-kqed mind shift
An NYU professor tells us it is not enough to be the little engine that could to think our way to success. She offers a system, “woop”, wish-outcome-obstacle-plan, to help students achieve goals. I like this idea as I think we simply must give kids tools to success beyond placations.

In the Midst of Winter: Selections from the Literature of Mourning
While I’m reading this for personal reading, it is an amazing collection of quotations, poetry, and prose to engage in the task of mourning and exploring the stages of grief. It might be an excellent companion for literature class or a gift for those in your life struggling with loss.

What are you reading this break? Tweet me and we’ll discuss! @teach2connect

It’s Comin’ on Christmas

I walked into our school building today and it hit me–Christmas break begins on Friday. Where did this time go? Obviously, I had a period time where everything stopped and I had to dis-engage from school for a few weeks. (This was tremendously difficult and not without sneaking peeks at email.)

Despite the crazy life times, I am really proud of all of the things that have happened in ed-tech this semester at Norwood. I’ve seen teachers stretch themselves, old ideas refined, new ideas flourish, and, in the end, the kids are the winners! Some highlights:

  • Every single teacher in the Lower School tried Hour of Code with their students. (EVERY SINGLE ONE!)
  • One of our 4th grade reading classes is in year four of successful blogging and the system is working beautifully. (Want to collaborate with us? Tweet me.)
  • Our K team has used lab resources for math at least once a month and has continued to support Centers.
  • Several of our Math teachers are infusing games into their curriculum to strengthen and expand computation skills. (Math Doodles totally rules.)
  • E-books abound in several classes and screencasts start this week in 4th grade math!
  • The 5th grade team is chomping at the bit to open up our Minecraft Rome unit at the beginning of January.
  • Reading centers in 1st grade includes a tech component and each week I have amazing readers come through my door.
  • Middle School Coding Workshop is off to a great start with lots of light-bulb moments and some lovely collaboration.
  • One of the awesome MS teachers is exploring flipping and is having great success.

I am so proud of all of the work of my colleagues and friends. We are peeping through the keyhole of re-thinking learning and I am so very happy about it. I think 2015 will bring even more ideas to our pedagogical table and I can’t wait to see what is next.

It also wouldn’t be a last post of 2014 without offering my immense gratitude to the entire edu-community and specifically my Norwood Blue Hawks. Not a day has passed, really not a minute has passed, where I haven’t felt compassion, love, and patience. I am truly grateful and hope that I can continue to express my thankfulness as our calendars flip to the next page.

May this holiday season bring you lots of time with family, a comfy chair for reading, snuggles of furried and child types, full bellies, warm hearts, and perhaps a gadget or two.



this is hard; this is fun!

Heard in the tech lab this week….

“This is hard!”

“This is really fun!”

“I can do it!”

“I’m a coder!”

This week has been chock full of light bulb moments, squeals of delight, squints of frustration, and cheers of success. Hour of Code week in our lower school has been amazing. Every single child in our lower school (k-4) has spent time using apps to learn the fundamentals of programming (coding) and have grappled with struggle and found success. The phrases I’ve used the most this week….

“Keep going!”

“You can do it!”

“What would happen if…?”

“Give it a try.”

I haven’t done a ton of direct instruction this week. I have spent time facilitating discussions about what coding is and how we need to think to accomplish a task, but most of the work was done by students working through projects. Every single child, regardless of their math level, has taken to the same set of tasks based on their grade level. They have worked through apps on their own time and to their own best success.


This has been the best week of my year so far because I see the learning coming to life. Real learning has happened this week. Whether it has been gaining a new set of logical thinking or feeling confidence to learn a new skill, EVERY child has done it. Every child has experienced the fun that comes from hard work. The challenges found in Hopscotch and Cargobot, in Daisy the Dinosaur and Kodable are not inauthentic. For our young children, they are difficult ways of thinking. And despite this difficulty, success has come.

It is in times like these that my belief in hard work for kids is affirmed. Children rise to difficult tasks, if only we present them in a way that challenges them and engages them. If only we keep pushing them to try and to collaborate. I am so grateful this #hourofcode week. I can’t wait for next year!


Hour of Code 2.0

Hour of Code week is next week and I’m so tremendously excited. I absolutely love seeing what the kids are able to do through their brief glimpse of coding. We have even have our Lower School acting troupe preparing a skit for the kick off (based on one of our apps.) We are committed to giving our kids an introductory experience with programming. Here’s more on Hour of Code.

This year, we will use iPad resources in K-4 as they have been met with wild success and interest. For more information on the resources we plan to use for our 2014 Hour of Code, check out our Tech Lab page on Haiku LMS or visit Hour of Code.

code.orgI also really love the Google Made w/ Code Project, especially the connection to the National Christmas Tree. I had a blast this morning playing the Frozen themed coding game on code.org. Here’s the bracelet I made last summer via Made w/ Code.


What are you doing with your kids for this year’s Hour of Code? Tweet me @teach2connect and don’t forget to use #hourofcode to share your ideas with others!

new online safety…same good parenting


I’ve just spent two invigorating days at the Family Online Safety Institute Annual Conference. This event brings together tech industry leaders, education professionals, policy makers, and parents to discuss online privacy and safety. As I spend a lot of time discussing online safety and behavior with students and parents, I thought this would be a great avenue for me to learn about new trends, policies, and strategies for being a successful facilitator of these conversations.

I attended both plenary and breakout sessions on topics ranging from 1st Amendment vs. graphic content to the psychological impact of social media to the legal ramifications of sexting. I had conversations with local edufriends, researchers in the field, and leaders from instagram and ask.fm (yup, ask.fm–more on that in another post.) My brain swirled with all of the concepts and my twitter feed burst with commentary. Learning the trends of media use by adolescents and children was helpful in terms of data and provided reassurance that parents and children do, in fact, talk to one another about safety online.

I could wax poetic and share my notes from the many sessions but it comes down to this…parents (and other adults in kids lives) need to start the conversation of appropriate, kind, and safe behavior early and have the conversation often. This is not a new concept, but in our age of digital over-saturation, it seems to feel new. It is not about the latest app or the newest way to block content, it is about engaging in meaningful relationship building with our children. It is about modeling the appropriate use of devices in our own lives. It is about not panicking about brain development and at the same time providing opportunities for those little brains to build in meaningful ways.

It is apropos that this article from June in The Atlantic resurfaced on facebook yesterday. In brief, it seems that parents are more worried about a child’s high achievement and happiness then they are about building a sense of empathy and compassion. This falls right in line with what many of us see as educators–parents looking for filtering, blocking, privacy controls over having a conversation about appropriate, kind, and compassionate behavior AND creating lines in the sand about what is expected. My favorite line from one professional discussing children’s use of media created a little backlash on twitter but the point was valid—parents must be willing to say no, especially when it comes to their children and media/devices. Choices about use of media need to be purposeful and monitored. Screen time balance is not just about time limits-it’s about content choices and conversations of purpose.

FOSI has provide parents with a resource for helping them along the way. As has Common Sense Media. And Safe, Smart, Social. And a host of other companies and programs out there to help parents. It is there, all for the taking. Good parenting has not changed, it has just become just a little bit more challenging. We are in this together, as adults who care for children, to help them grow into smart, safe, kind, and compassionate human beings. Let’s go do it!


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