How to Shred – #cuerockstar

Not many workshops, camps, or conferences offer anything like Rock Star Shred Sessions. Each morning after everybody grabs some caffeine and sugar, Rock Star faculty “sing for their suppers” previewing their sessions but more importantly giving attendees a chance to find the best fit for what they want to learn and who they want to lead them in their exploration.

How to Shred – YouTube.

Chirp for Chrome is Huge Convenience for Teachers

Chirp has proven itself to be incredibly helpful to teachers who want to send content or links to students using iPads or Android devices. Now with a free install, teachers can send content from their Chrome browser to devices running the app. This opens a whole world of convenience in that data doesn’t have to be moved to a teacher device before it can be sent to students.

Check out Chirp’s blog post below on this development and its plans to soon make Chirp be able to send data in the other direction, from mobile devices back to Chrome.

Chirp for Chrome is out!.

EdTech and the Rock and Roll Church

Here is another repost from a couple of years ago but it’s one of my favorite pieces I have ever written. Original Post from May of 2011

Today at my kitchen sink, while cleaning up some breakfast dishes, I had one of those “ah ha” moments. It was as if it was sent from above.

Here is the idea. Think about what educational technology and the “contemporary” Christian church service have in common. Whether you are a believer or not, it is hard to deny the similarities.

Over the course of the last twenty years, many churches have seen big changes to the typical Sunday morning worship formats they offer. For years, churches were seeing a decline in numbers and an apathy amongst its congregation. When asked why, many members…and especially young ones…said they just weren’t getting a personal connection with the traditional singing of hymns and congregational responses. Sound familiar? What are educators hearing when they ask today’s student who seems disinterested in school and apathetic? It’s pretty much the same thing. These students are struggling to make the personal connection with the traditional way schools operate and present content.

What did churches do? They listened to those they aim to serve and they tailored their offerings….well, some did. For many of those who did, they saw a return of parishioners and renewed interest. According to a article, a 2009  study found 64% of churches that updated their services or created contemporary offerings saw their numbers grow.

Education should be paying attention and following some of the same principles when it comes to integrating technology.

Principle #1: If we don’t meet their needs, we will lose students. If these churches hadn’t gotten creative and realized the legitimacy of the desires, church goers would do just that…go, and take their tithes and offerings with them. With the increase of “schools of choice” laws and the pushing of vouchers by some politicians, it is just as easy for families who don’t feel the personalized connection to take their state foundation grants down the road with them to a different district. The proper use of educational technology can tailor that education and create that personalized connection. We in education need to listen.

Principle #2: Meet those we aim to serve on their schedules. Churches began to meet members more on members’ schedules and not just on the church’s schedule. Many of the “mega churches” offer Saturday night services or Sunday evening services for those that just can’t roll out of bed or have mid-Sunday morning conflicts. They are also using technology to stream church via the Internet or they create podcasts of their services. Educational technology has amazing abilities to break down the same dependencies schools have on rigid scheduling and limited course offerings. Content, courses, and lectures can all go online and on portable devices. It can be streamed over the Internet and classes can meet in the virtual spaces of wikis and classroom management systems like Moodle. Schools can be creative and unlock learning time from the 8 to 3 mold, just as churches are unlocking worship from 11:oo to noon on Sunday morning.

Principle #3 Remain true to your core content. Even though there may now be a five piece rock and roll band up by the altar, the music is still about the same God that “What a friend we have in Jesus” is. The service may look vastly different from the outside but it’s the same truths that are being pursued. It’s the same Scriptures being studied. Philosophically for me, educational technology is a way to pursue academic truths and develop deeper understanding of the content to be learned. I am a firm believer that the liberal arts must be cherished and that classical studies teaches the contemporary human to inquire and think on a higher level. Now harness those pursuits to the tools we have technology wise and the discovery is ramped up 100 fold. Bringing the classics into the context of today makes it personal to kids. is a perfect example of taking great literature and exploring it through Google Earth…relating sometime ancient locales to our contemporary world. Even Steve Jobs during the launch of the iPad2 heralded this pursuit. “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.”

What neither education nor the rock and roll church can lose sight of is the human relationship factor. Isn’t that mission of both really? Technology can do a lot of things for both, but if we are not fostering respectful inter-personal relationships in either space then we are missing the boat and no matter how slickly produced, the messages will never find their targets. Computers can never replace great teachers and podcasts can’t replace exceptional preachers.

The Framers and Founders of America called for a separation of Church and State. It doesn’t mean the two can’t learn from one another though.

Marathon Dad Mike Rossi is Right, Handled Situation the Wrong Way

“What’s Trending”, that new staple of news broadcasts brought to my attention today a situation where a family took its kids out of school for a few days to watch father Mike Rossi compete in the Boston Marathon.

Upon returning from what Rossi describes to the school as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book” the family received a letter from the school’s principal Rochelle S. Marbury stating the absences would not be excused and that “an accumulation of unexcused absences can result in a referral to our attendance officer and a subsequent notice of a violation of the compulsory school attendance law.”

Come on Ms. Marbury! Seriously let’s talk big picture here, one that does not need to be clouded with threats of referrals to law enforcement.

Think about what a momentous experience watching Dad compete in one of the world’s great events was for these children. It’s something they will always have. Could anything happening in that Pennsylvania elementary school really be as special as what they experienced in Boston? Even if it was the greatest school on Earth, it’s doubtful these kids would be taking away anything they’ll remember as long as the memories they made.

We as educators work at the pleasure (or displeasure apparently) of families. These are not our kids. We are entrusted with a great responsibility but ultimately school is not the most important thing in their lives. Sadly for too many kids, school is the best thing they have going and we can never forget that either. It is great hubris though to operate with an air that life should bow to compulsory attendance. In the end all we really have are experiences and memories and if we are really here to do what is best for kids then we need to be supportive of that…especially an experience like this.

Rossi responded to the school with an eloquent 340 word response. Here are some highlights of his proposed response he put on Facebook. It is unclear though if he actually sent it to the school or just left it as a status update.

“While I appreciate your concern for our children’s education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school. Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.”

“They watched their father overcome, injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.”

“They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can not deter the American spirit. These are things they won’t ever truly learn in the classroom.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I do have a problem with this though. Mr. Rossi’s response is fabulous but it should have been delivered to the school exclusively and not posted publicly on Facebook…at least not immediately. Everyone has the right to express themselves and write open letters but there are proper steps to take first

No matter how upsetting the school response might have been, opening up a civil, face-to-face dialogue with the school is what the Rossi’s owe that to the district. I am sure the teachers and administrators at Abington Schools have given a lot to the members of the family over the years. This was a disagreement between parent and school and a private matter. Ms. Marbury deserves the opportunity to be included in a private conversation and not just roasted at the stake of social media.

If nothing else, maybe this will open up some civil discussion about looking at the tedious relationship between family-life and school. This case exemplifies how a little consideration on both sides could have benefitted everyone.

Today Show coverage
Inquistr article with links to full letter

Five Things In Education We Have To Stop Pretending

cory-matthews-make-it-stop-boy-meets-worldI was challenged this weekend to really think. Lisa Nowakowski, many of you know from her work with CUE Rock Star, listed  five things we have to stop pretending in education. and then she tagged five other educators including me to list five more things as part of the #makeschooldifferent challenge. Okay, here it goes.

Stop pretending:

1) We need more technology in schools.
Solution: We don’t need more technology in schools. We need a better focus on how technology can improve teaching and learning. Start with great teaching and then ramp it off the charts by giving students tools to deepen their understanding, dig for more, and then share their knowledge or skills in authentic and impactful ways. Now, in areas where that vision and set of priorities is in place, bring on the technology! LA Unified Schools systemically lacked all of the above on their failed, massive iPad initiative and is now trying to blame Apple and Pearson. It’s not the technology’s fault for the shortcomings. Technology can have zero impact or worse without great teaching and know-how. It’s like a chainsaw. Don’t buy if you don’t know what you’re doing.

2) Technology use needs to redefine every task, providing experiences previously inconceivable.
Solution: I am a big proponent on the SAMR model of technology integration and have presented a number of times on it and its value. SAMR identifies at what level teachers apply technology. A major misinterpretation comes when people think the only good integration is the highest level of redefinition, or that what was previously inconceivable. Trevor Shaw wrote about some of that today in eSchoolNews. Nobody wants the iPad being used solely a $300 worksheet, but it’s unrealistic to expect every tech use to earth shattering. Sharing documents via Google Docs might not be “redefinition” but it has huge inherent value over just typing something. We can’t live in “redefinition”. It’s just not practical.

3) Teachers need to be trained in how to work new tech tools.
Solution: Teachers don’t need to be trained how to push buttons, copy-paste, or export to Quicktime. What teachers need is to be immersed in an experience where they learn to put specific technology tools to work in their classrooms to boost teaching and learning. Too many presentations or workshops end up being magic shows with cool tricks but not much depth in how to make a difference. The learning needs to be continuous as well. For growth and sustainability to happen, co-workers need to be constantly helping each other by sharing little victories,  their tribulations, and ideas for better management.

4) Initiatives are like satellites. All they need is strong engineering and a solid launch.
Solution: Planning, design, and a great roll-out are essential to any initiative. The problem is that too many people think that after the launch the work is essentially done. Initiatives aren’t satellites though. Initiatives are more like the cooking and serving of a seven course meal where the food needs constant attention, and the diners do too. How many things have you seen in your career rolled out with great energy go on to fizzle quite quickly because there was no follow up after the launch? If you’re going to “set it and forget it,” just forget it.

5) We are just teachers and only administration can bring meaningful change.
Solution: This one might be getting a little hacky because it seems like it has been stated emphatically in every keynote address I have attended in the last year but it can’t be stated enough. A lot of real, positive, sustainable change in education comes from individual teachers or small groups of teachers who find things that work and they share those ideas. For whatever reason, co-workers often put more clout into something new they see or hear about from another teacher as opposed to it coming from an administrator. There is something powerful in knowing this technique, app, or strategy actually works in someone’s actual classroom. Whatever works in your classroom needs to be shared. It’s not bragging. It’s moving education forward.

So, there you go. Those five have been begging to be shared. Thanks Lisa for lighting the fire!

Now it’s time to pass the challenge along to five more great educators. Let’s see what else we need to stop pretending. You are now officially on the clock Kelly Croy, Sue Gorman, Sean Junkins, Brad Wilson, and Ben Rimes.


Shaking up School Lunch: Epic Lip Sync Battle brings the Fun

Where I teach in Hamilton, Michigan, elementary teachers have an hour lunch/planning time everyday. With it come some obvious advantages for staff. Lunchtime is less rushed and everyone in the building has common planning time. Kids get longer recess. With it also has come challenges. The longer kids are in the lunchroom, the more likely they are to get restless and in trouble.

Principal Teisha Kothe has taken this problem by the horns. She has instituted all kinds of fun activities including Flocabulary videos, Trivia Tuesdays, and Talent Fridays where kids get to show off their special abilities. We kicked things up a notch last week.

Building upon a hugely successful kickoff to March is Reading Month that featured a Superintendent vs. Curriculum Director lip sync battle embedded in a Hans and Franz skit, I challenged Teisha to our own battle. Kids were glued to the action and their laughter, smiles, and excitement were priceless and on Friday we made Blue Star Elementary a place where kids definitely wanted to be. Shouldn’t that always be a goal of our schools?

Here is the full-length version of Teisha with Katy Perry’s “Roar” and me with the Kidz Bop more-elementary-appropriate version of “Uptown Funk”.

10 Spring Break Apps and Features for your kid’s iPad

The calendar is about to flip to April and with that comes Spring Break, at least here in West Michigan. It’s been another brutally cold and long winter and I personally can’t wait to get to some warmth, relaxation, and time with my family away from the daily school routine. As families prepare to hit the road or just enjoy some time off here are ten great iPad apps and features for Spring Break 2015.

  1. Off Switch – It’s not an app but probably the best feature of any electronic device for Spring Break is the off switch. Shut down for a while and unplug. Focus on all of the natural and analog adventures you can have even if it’s just for an extended period each day. off buttonUnplugging completely might not be that easy though for the family facing a 24 hour drive, hours in airports, or suddenly now faced with a whole week at home together. The following recommendations are to help keep kids’ brains, creativity, and fun going throughout the week. They’re not in any particular order as far as one being better than another, just great apps.
  2. Keynote - This is more than Apple’s version of PowerPoint. Not only is it a really powerful presentation maker, it’s a powerful design tool as well. After a week of taking pictures and video of their adventures, kids can spend the ride home assembling all of their memories. Keynote is free on all iOS devices purchased since the Fall of 2013. Keynote is car friendly because most features aside from sharing are not wifi dependent.
  3. Maps – If you’re on the road this break, give your kids part of the navigational duties. When I was growing up, we would travel most summers across country from Arizona to Michigan. My sister and I learned so much about geography and math when we rode shotgun with the big Rand McNally atlas on our laps. The iPad’s built-in Maps app or its Google counterpart do way more than a print atlas. You can search for restaurants, upcoming gas stations, hotels, and more. Maps requires an Internet connection so in the car, kids might need to use the one on your phone.
  4. Cargo-Bot -

    Cargo-Bot app for iOS

    Here is a game based on doing work at the shipyard, but every kid I know thinks of it more as the beloved claw at 90% of America’s pizza joints and grocery stores. Kids have to program the claw to move crates in a series of puzzles that gradually increase in difficulty. This app is ladened with advanced problem solving and an introduction to computer science in that in order to move the claw, kids have to assemble directions as if they were coding an app. Building this type of logical reasoning transcends many different subject areas. No Internet needed.

  5. Replay - Here is a fabulously easy-to-use movie editor that provides stunning results. In fact, this app is so good, Apple used it in its product launch of the iPad Air 2 in October. The killer feature lies in the app’s ability to analyze your photos and footage for tempo, sound, and color. High-end effects like lens-flare, background color, and music are all added automatically and can also be adjusted manually. It’s actually called Replay Video Editor for Instagram but no Instagram account is needed. Internet is only needed for sharing projects or buying advanced features. Remember to always, always, always shoot your video horizontally! Here’s a sample of what you can do literally in just a few minutes with Replay. This was some really, really rough drone footage we took over my house.
    Screenshot 2015-03-30 12.38.30
  6. IXL - Sometimes the math drill apps get a bad rap, but I am a firm believer that in the proper dose they can do a lot of good as building computational fluency is essential. Without a strong handle on basic facts, kids are greatly hampered moving forward into more complicated math. IXL is a great app that works all math standards from Pre-K on up. Many schools have student subscriptions. Check with your kid’s school to see if they do and get the username and password for your trip. You’ll need an Internet connection so it might not be the best for the car or van, but incorporating a little math never ruined anyone’s vacation…not completely anyway.
  7. Penultimate - Here is a notebook app where kids can doodle, journal, or draw-up inventions. Because it is digital, they have an endless supply of paper and no crayons will melt all over your interior when left on a hot backseat. Any photos on the iPad can be easily inserted into sketches and if they have an Evernote account, your kids can sync their creations and keep them among their other notes on the cloud-based free service. Internet is only required to sync or share.


    Penultimate App from Evernote

  8. Google Drive - This one is more practical over exciting, but many schools issue students Google Apps for Education accounts. With the Drive app, kids can upload all of the photos and videos they shoot with the iPad to their school accounts. When they get back to school and get the “What I did over Spring Break” essay assignment, they’ll have tons of visuals to insert. Requires Internet.
  9. Kindle App - If your kid can handle reading in the car or on an airplane without getting sick, load that iPad up with good books. The iBooks app lets you do the same thing with books from the Apple Book Store but if you are an Amazon Prime member you can take advantage of the lending library and can “borrow” one free book a month for the Kindle. Internet is required to download books, but not needed once loaded.
  10. Tinkerbox HD – This puzzle app is ridiculously addictive and involves engineering one contraption after another. Getting a ball into a basket gets increasingly more difficult as new conveyor belts, levers, and ramps are introduced. It works scientific concepts and logical thinking but in the end it is just fun.

No matter where you are headed or if you are just sticking around home, these apps all can fend off the dreaded “I’m bored” and keep brains firing all week. A few others to explore include Canva, Photoshop Mix, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Snapseed. Whatever you make, make sure great memories are at the top of the list.

Michigan New Teacher Conference | SAGA Educators

This is a great event for new teachers hosted by Gary Abud Jr. and Andrew Steinman of SAGA Educators. I had a chance to talk to both in Detroit at MACUL and wanted to pass along information on it.

The Michigan New Teacher Conference is a free event for early career and aspiring teachers to network and learn with and alongside experienced educators.

New and experienced educators are invited to join us for a morning of conversations about teaching, leading, and learning. This conference has something for educators with all levels of experience.

Support for Michigan’s newest teachers

Insight from accomplished career educators

Networking opportunities for all participants

All conference attendees to walk away with strategies, skills, and tools that can be used the very next day.

Check out Michigan New Teacher Conference | SAGA Educators.

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