The Case for Teachers on Twitter

Educators are learners first.

woman holding iPhone during daytime
Photo by Paul Hanoka on Unsplash

“I don’t care about Twitter, and I’ll never go on Twitter,” I heard an educator say last year.

I understand this position. From the outside, Twitter may just seem like more noise, more distraction, more nonsense that doesn’t really add anything to our lives or professional growth.

I’ll also be the first to agree that as busy professionals and leaders of families, we need to be intentional and discriminating with our time. Meaningless scrolling and shallow engagement doesn’t and shouldn’t make the cut.

But what IF Twitter can serve a valuable role in our professional growth and development? What IF Twitter can add to our lives without consuming much time?

Educators Are Learners First

In my view, the case for teachers on Twitter begins with the idea that educators are learners first. The principles of learning that we believe in for our students apply just as much to our learning and growth as they do to theirs. If we’re hungry to learn and grow, it’s wise to build an active Professional Learning Network and engage.

Twitter isn’t the only place to build a professional learning network. But it’s an awesome place to start.

The Learning Activities of an Active Twitter PLN

1. Collaboration.

Just like our students, education professionals learn best when they learn together. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. When you have a question or you’re feeling stuck in a challenging situation, chances are your Twitter PLN will be able to offer suggestions and resources.

2. Communication.

As David Guerin once wrote, “Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning.” When we write, read, and respond to professional conversation, we’re more engaged. We’re tuned in. We can’t help but learn. And the inverse is also true.

3. Metacognition.

We also learn when we take the time to thoughtfully reflect on our journey. By answering questions like What am I learning, Where am I going, and How will I get there, we gain awareness and greater intentionality about our own learning path. I treat Twitter as a journal, especially when I’m trying a new project or attending an education conference. You too can use Twitter to archive and preserve your own learning reflections for future reference.

4. Visible Learning.

When we make our learning visible, we benefit from feedback, and others learn from our stories. And we can make the learning of others visible, too. When asked why he uses Twitter, principal Chris Chappotin used the word “showcase.” Administrators are especially well-positioned to play this role in their buildings, since they can be in more classrooms and contexts than teachers.

5. Inspiration.

Whether it’s a lesson idea, helpful resource, or a word of encouragement, my edu-Twitter feed is an overwhelmingly positive space. Think of it as constant connection with a cloud of education leaders and mentors. It’s phenomenal.

6. Professional Relationships.

When we engage in professional conversations, we meet others in similar fields and spaces. Twitter is a wonderful place to connect with education leaders and authors, too. It’s as easy as reaching out.

Five Ways to Increase Your Engagement on Twitter

I believe the number one reason that so many educators try Twitter and then ignore the platform is lack of engagement. Maybe it took them forever to work up the nerve to finally tweet something pithy or valuable, but it’s only crickets in response.

What a waste of time, right?

It doesn’t need to be. By following these five simple strategies, you’ll increase engagement and gain more value from your time on this platform.

1. Use relevant hashtags whenever possible.

If you’re new to the platform, you may regard hashtags as little more than cute decorations. But for many users (including me), hashtags can be a great way to dig deeper into a topic. Think of hashtags as rooms. Whenever you use a hashtag, you’re putting your tweet in that room for others to find. Whether it’s #growthmindset, #goinggradeless, or #formativeassessment, tag your posts so that others can find them topically. With a little Googling, you’ll find the best hashtags to use for your context and areas of work.

2. Tag others whenever appropriate or relevant.

If and when you’re sharing ideas or resources that relate to someone else’s work or area of interest, you’re doing them a service by tagging them. Educators usually like thoughtful tags — especially if it’s an endorsement, shoutout, suggestion, or recommendation aimed specifically at them. I always like being tagged by colleagues in my building, because otherwise I might miss their tweets. And authors usually appreciate being tagged in quotes from their work, because you’re helping to share their message. Again, keep it genuine. But don’t be afraid to connect.

3. Use relevant images, GIFs, and videos.

Make your tweets stand out and get noticed by adding relevant media. Again, this isn’t purely an attention game, but it is about building the kind of engagement on the platform that makes activity worthwhile. You have to be seen to be heard, especially as you get started.

4. Engage in Twitter chats.

There’s absolutely no better way to build connections with other educators than by engaging in real-time Twitter chats. Not sure where to start? Try the weekly #TLAP (Teach Like a Pirate) chat, one of the largest to take place on the platform each week. Or, next time you’re at a large conference, tweet the highlights from your learning at the conference hashtag.

5. Keep it education-only.

Make a point of only following educators, which generally keeps your feed on track with education. It’s incredibly easy to switch between Twitter accounts quickly, so I have my faith, sports, and politics conversations elsewhere. If you’re still not convinced, here are 5 Reasons to Niche Down on Twitter.

The point is, if you follow @RealDonaldTrump, @Yankees, @Netflix, and the like, your feed will get noisy, distracting, and unproductive. My advice? Keep it strictly on education.

A Simple Formula for Getting Started

There’s no time like the present to use Twitter to develop your professional learning. Once you’ve created a Twitter account, how can you go about building a professional learning network? Here are some practical steps.

  1. Start with at least one tweet a day.
  2. Share questions you’re wrestling with, ideas from your learning, or inspiring quotes from your reading.
  3. Use one or more relevant hashtags (like #MSed for middle school education).
  4. Use one or more user handles (think of interested colleagues, figures working in related areas, or authors of your quotes).
  5. Include relevant images whenever possible.

Then, try to follow at least one more educator a day. Not sure where to begin there? Visit @MisterCavey and select Following. You’ll see nothing but educators and education organizations. You can start following them, too.

As I said at the outset, Twitter can facilitate the same learning processes that we seek for our learners: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, metacognition, and relationships. If you’ve been a Twitter holdout, consider this both a challenge and an invitation.

Happy Tweeting! I look forward to learning with you.

Sincerely,
@MisterCavey

Thoughts from My Twitter PLN

As I put the finishing touches on this piece, I asked my PLN how they use Twitter. Here were some of their responses.

First, an educator who teaches in my area:

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And here is a reply from Chris Chappotin, principal of STEAM Middle School and guest on episode 61 of the Teachers on Fire podcast, who I mentioned earlier in this story:

Annotation 2020-01-18 160918And this — from a fellow education podcaster:

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Episode 115 – Jonathan Alsheimer

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Meet Jonathan Alsheimer

JONATHAN ALSHEIMER teaches seventh grade history at the legendary Fred M. Lynn Middle School. He’s a family man, keynote speaker, and the author of #NextLevelTeaching: Empowering Students and Transforming School Culture. As much as he enjoys speaking to teachers about education, it’s a thrill for him to share his story with students and motivate them to overcome adversity in their own learning journeys.

Early Struggles with the Game of School

Although he grew up in an education household, Jonathan freely admits that he struggled to play the game of school. As a kid, test-taking was difficult, and he remembers adopting a facade of confidence to cover up those insecurities. To be successful, he realized he would need to work hard and never give up, and he carried that never-quit ethic into athletics and throughout his school and college career.

He’s found strength in being honest about his academic journey and enjoys encouraging students to keep pushing, keep grinding, never give up, and overcome those challenges that today seem insurmountable. “Be that teacher that you needed when you were a kid,” he says, and it’s something he keeps constantly in mind regarding his own practice. We need to see past the data and the test results to recognize each child for who they are and the journey they’re on.

Next Level Teaching 

One of the biggest motivators behind his book, Next Level Teaching, traces back to a major language arts test that Jonathan failed in high school. As painful as that failure was, it’s only made him more determined to become first a Master of Education and now a published author. He’s walking the walk — living out his message that hard work and determination can overcome the demons of failure and adversity. To the doubters and haters that second-guessed his potential, this book is a mic drop.

115 - Jonathan Alsheimer7.jpgOne of his hopes for this book is that it inspires teachers to reach out to learners and classrooms beyond the door of their classroom. No, one teacher won’t completely revolutionize an entire school and culture by themselves. But our influence goes much further than we think it does, and it’s when committed teachers truly take ownership of their communities that we start to see systemic change.

Bring the energy, bring the passion, engage with kids, and love on students beyond your classroom and throughout your building, Jonathan urges. Take those opportunities during supervision duties or athletic events to connect with kids on another level and communicate care. Be “that teacher” that we all look back to with fondness, the one who believed in us and made a difference beyond the academics.

What To Do When It’s Hard to Connect

To teachers who struggle to connect with their learners, Jonathan encourages them to view each student as their own child. How would that relationship change the ways you relate to that hard-to-reach kid?

Kids need to feel empowered; when they feel that they can’t win or don’t matter, that’s when they withdraw, isolate, and tune out. Teachers should rethink “throwaway minutes” and use that time to build quick connections and trust. When kids love you and they love your classroom, they’re more likely to learn.  “I’ll throw away 30 minutes today to gain an hour of focused instruction next week,” Jonathan says. Find their interests and connect with them there, and you’ll be on your way to building a positive relationship. 

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What Else is Setting Jonathan on 🔥 in Education: TeacherFit 

One thing that Jonathan is hyped about today is TeacherFit, a health and wellness program for teachers. It’s simple, affordable, and has the capacity to significantly improve the health and wellbeing of an entire staff community. Even better, TeacherFit gives Jonathan great mentoring opportunities with students. He’s been working out after hours at school, and students have been joining in. It’s been another great on-ramp for relationship-building with students, and it’s improving the health, wellness, and community culture at Fred Lynn Middle School.

A Professional Goal: More Speaking to Students

Jonathan’s new book has taken a lot of his his focus and attention over the last year, but he also continues to build his capacity to speak to students. He is speaking at schools in Texas and Kansas in January and anticipates more opportunities in the months to come. Some of the feedback from schools and students has been incredible, and to hear that his message is giving hope to the hopeless pushes him to do more. There are kids that need to hear that message of hope at virtually every school.

Personal Passions That Bring Jonathan Alive

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“I’m all about getting out there and living life,” Jonathan says. “I wanna DO stuff in life.” He’s committed to living a life with no regrets, visiting new places, and trying new things. He’s already tried white water rafting, climbing mountains, and mixed martial arts fighting, and he looks forward to experiencing a shark cage next. It’s all about living life to the fullest and modeling a spirit of risk-taking for his learners, and his experiences make for great stories, illustrations, and connection points in the classroom as well. “You can be okay with what you got or you can push life to the max,” he tells his students.

His Key to Productivity: A Relentless Spirit

Instead of an app or routine, Jonathan points to his relentless spirit as his key to productivity. It’s a value that kids need to learn to nurture and grow within themselves over time, he says. That said, it’s also important to take some time for yourself, and Jonathan credits his amazing wife for helping him find balance between work and play. Next Level Teaching isn’t about spending money and hours on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s about acknowledging that you as the teacher are the single most important factor for learning in the classroom, and that being the case, we need to care for ourselves properly.

Voices & Resources That Inspire His Practice

Over on Twitter, Jonathan recommends following his principal, Hamish Brewer. Hamish has been absolutely inspirational, genuine, and he really does walk the walk at Fred Lynn Middle School. Connect with Hamish on Twitter @BrewerHM

When asked for an edtech tool pick, Jonathan goes to iMovie. It’s nothing new, but kids love it, he says. It’s such an easy and powerful way to energize learning activities and engage students in the act of creation.

When it comes to books, Jonathan recommends Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting the Educational Norm by Hamish Brewer, a book he was honored to contribute to and endorse. Jonathan also shouts out Leadership Lessons of the Navy SEALS: Battle-Tested Strategies for Creating Successful Organizations and Inspiring Extraordinary Results by Jeff and Jon Cannon, explaining that many of the principles contained in this book are universally applicable and certainly come in handy in the classroom.

Jonathan has a lot of commute time, and two of his favorite podcasts include Jostens Renaissance and TeacherFit

This episode released during the Christmas season, so when prompted for an all-time favorite Christmas movie, Jonathan went with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. It’s one of those family classics that never fails to deliver laughs.

We sign off on this inspiring conversation, and Jonathan gives us the best ways to reach out and connect with him online. See below for details!

You can connect with Jonathan …

Connect with the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media:

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Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel!

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Real-Time Feedback for Real-Time Learning

Assessment is most effective and efficient when it happens right away.

Photo by Jeffrey Lin on Unsplash

“The most important takeaway from the research is that the shorter the time interval between eliciting the evidence and using it to improve instruction, the bigger the likely impact on learning … the biggest impact happens with ‘short-cycle’ formative assessment, which takes place not every six to ten weeks but every six to ten minutes, or even every six to ten seconds.”

— from Embedding Formative Assessment, by Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy

Think about that quote. The shorter the time interval, the bigger the impact on learning.

Let that sink in for a bit.

Nineteen years into teaching, I still don’t have the assessment game completely figured out. No matter how much feedback and assessment I provide, I labor under the constant burden of all the other student work that I feel I should be assessing.

In the evenings, on my weekends, on holidays, and even on snow days — especially snow days — I hear that quiet voice.

You should be grading work right now.

However subtle, it’s constant guilt and pressure. You know the feeling.

It’s enough to drive teachers insane. Studies confirm that it’s even enough to drive some from the profession entirely.

Image Credit: Sam Hames on Flickr.com

I started my career in the pre-internet classroom. In my 7th and 8th grade classrooms, I always had at least one tray marked INBOX. Work from learning activities given throughout the day generally ended up there. (Many of them with no names — remember that fun?)

Depending on the day’s activities, I might have anywhere between 25–100 sheets of paper in my inbox by day’s end.

And I would do my best to mark all those papers, of course. But inevitably the constant barrage of paper would start to pull away. My chunk of papers would become a pile, then a stack, then a mountain.

Within a month or two, my school bag was ballooning out of control. And I wasn’t alone. I remember colleagues who resorted to milk crates to ferry their paper mountain back and forth from home each day. Milk crates, filled to the brim with assignments that required marking.

Just take a moment to savor that accumulation of anxiety. Ahhhhhhh.

I’ve taught just about every subject in middle school, and I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that the most challenging assessments to complete — at least, in the traditional sense — were the writing pieces in English class.

Combing through a middle school student’s piece of writing was a brutally exhausting endeavor — especially before computers in the classroom. Traditionally, I was looking for form, style, meaning, and conventions. But I wasn’t just evaluating — I was coaching — and so I sought to offer meaningful feedback and notes as well.

Make sure your subject and verbs agree.”

“Fortnite should be capitalized — proper noun”

“New paragraph here”

The math on this kind of feedback got ugly. To carefully comb through one piece of average writing and offer this level of feedback could take three or more minutes. With 28 students in my class, that was about 90 minutes of marking. Then the feedback had to be recorded — first in a place and way the student could observe it, then in my gradebook or assessment tracker.

Add any time to take breaks, talk to family and friends, or just generally be human, and we’re talking two hours.

Two hours of marking — typically in an evening when I felt exhausted from the day. For one learning activity.

And of course that didn’t count time spent on unit plans, lesson plans, email, parent communication, coaching, etc.

It was too much time.

The bad news about the scenario I just described is that it often failed to yield the results I was looking for. Even if I returned those assignments the very next day, it was unlikely that most students would pay much attention.

To put it bluntly, I could spend five minutes marking one piece of writing only to have the student look at it for five seconds.

And realistically, my timeline on returned writing assignments was decidedly not next day. A week or two, maybe.

Of course by that time, students really didn’t care. Well, they might care briefly about the grade. But it would definitely be a minority of students that would look much further at that point.

So what, exactly, was being learned through this assessment process? Very little, I suspect.

In fact, I knew it was very little, because my writers would tend to make the same mistakes all year long.

In the last three years especially, my thinking on assessment has started to change in big ways.

For one thing, this is only my second year in nineteen years of teaching that my gradebook contains no numbers. I’ve gone gradeless. By itself, that’s a massive change in mindset with a ton of implications.

For one thing, I no longer regard marks as currency. In older models of education, students and teachers lived under the understanding that for every piece of work done, there ought to be a payment.

Students (workers) completed work for their teachers (bosses) and were paid grades (wages) for their efforts. Every piece of work was worthy of compensation.

The size of the reward matched the level of compliance. The game of school.

The problem with the game of school was that it often ignored the true business of education: the learning.

In school and in life, people learn best in the moment. When I learned to launch a podcast, caulk my shower, or build a website, it would have done me little good to receive feedback or assessment a week or two after I attempted the task.

I needed the help and feedback right then and there — precisely when I was engaged, prepared, willing to learn, making mistakes and finding my way.

That’s when feedback and coaching made the biggest difference. That’s when it was powerful.

In Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School, Starr Sackstein writes that “Assessment must be a conversation, a narrative that enhances students’ understanding of what they know, what they can do, and what needs further work. Perhaps even more important, they need to understand how to make improvements and how to recognize when legitimate growth has occurred.”

And that’s where I’m at today — intensely interested in those conversations, those in-the-moment, real-time, productive struggles.

I’m interested in helping my students wrestle with and through problems, create solutions, collaborate efficiently, and communicate effectively.

I’m interested in helping them understand where they are, where they need to get, and the steps they need to take to get there.

I’m interested in helping my learners assess their peers more effectively, offering feedback that is kind, specific, helpful, and accurate.

And I’m interested in tech tools like Google Classroom, Google Docs, Seesaw, and others like them that facilitate all of these ongoing, powerful, real-time conversations of learning in new and effective ways.

Just as it is on the sports field, my most effective coaching will never happen a day, a week, or a month after the fact. My best coaching and feedback happens right there and then in the classroom as my students study, learn, create, build, design, and share their learning.

That’s where the action is, and that’s why I’m putting less energy into summative assessment and more energy into formative. It’s why I don’t worry about the marking mountain as much as I used to. It’s even why I can relax enough to reflect on my practice and write this blog post.

Because the best feedback my students will ever receive happens right in the moment.

Episode 114 – Julianne Ross-Kleinmann

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Meet Julianne Ross-Kleinmann

JULIANNE ROSS-KLEINMANN is passionate about the power of instructional technology to support teaching and learning, sharing what she’s learned with others, and community service — her focus for over 30 years as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc.

Julianne formally started teaching technology in the 1990s, and she became an ISTE member soon after. She’s a frequent presenter at conferences and schools on topics including technology applications, integration and troubleshooting, rubrics and assessment, STEM, makerspaces and room design. Her favorite presentations have involved co-presenting with her students on topics relating to computational thinking using the Scratch and Scratch Jr. programming languages.

Julianne is currently an Instructional Specialist for the Ulster County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in New Paltz, New York. She is an Iste Certified Educator, Apple Teacher, Certified BrainPOP Educator (CBE), Google Level I Certified Educator, ISTE Mobile Learning Network 2017 Excellence Award Winner and past chair of the ISTE STEM Professional Learning Network (PLN), and currently serves on the ISTE Board of Directors. 

“First and foremost, I’m a teacher,” Juli says. “I’m a teacher, a learner, and a service leader. I like to help others lead toward success. For me, it’s really important that the student surpasses the teacher.”

Fighting the Doubts

Juli can say she’s never been “run out of town” in a professional sense, but she’s certainly left a few contexts where she felt like it was just not the right fit. She’s worked in some isolating circumstances, including those where she has been the only female, the only female of color, or the only female who was more academically centered versus IT centered, and in some of those contexts she’s been met with stiff pushback.

Pushback and resistance can make us question ourselves, she says. We can start to feel like failures because our views are not well-received and don’t fit with the status quo. It’s in those low moments that Juli has leaned heavily on her always-supportive husband and positive professional learning network to provide the encouragement, confidence, and affirmation that she needed.

Her Path and Passion for STEM Education

She actually didn’t intend to become a teacher in the beginning, Juli laughs, and she wasn’t always interested in STEM or technology. But when Simon Helton asked Juli to support the Math and Science network at ISTE, she accepted. She began building professional relationships immediately and has served in this role with ISTE ever since. Today, the ISTE STEM Network provides collaboration, professional development, and support for STEM teachers and leaders around the world, and Juli has been a proud part of its ongoing development.

STEM education is all about computational thinking, problem-solving, project-based learning, and real-world design. There are so many applications and expressions of STEM, and the list is growing all the time. Looking at the great inventions and innovations of the past gives us vision and clarity regarding directions for the future. Even a revolutionary social figure like Harriet Tubman modeled the STEM spirit through systems thinking, empathy, and proactive problem-solving.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM Education

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become focus points for the ISTE STEM PLN. One of the ways ISTE is working towards greater equity is to promote scholarships and programs that fund minority representation in ISTE’s speakers and conference attendees. ISTE is also piloting an Equity Action Forum that gave educators a place and space to unpack big issues in this area of equity with a focus on action. And Juli has contributed to the development of another ISTE initiative called Growing ME: Bridging the equity gap through mentorship

Other Points of Professional Passion

One of the things that has really ignited Juli’s passion for the ISTE educator certification process is the journey of becoming a blended, reflective education leader herself. She’s also passionate about SEL in education. Perhaps it’s nothing new, but she still loves the fact that social-emotional learning is such a focus in schools today.

Bringing Scratch and Robotics to the Mid-Hudson Valley

One of Juli’s professional goals in 2020 is the prospect of bringing a Scratch Day event into the mid-Hudson Valley. She’s also interested in robotics comptetitions, Vex events, AI and other blended learning opportunities. She sees educators traveling great distances to take part in these sorts of events and would love to host some closer to home.

Other Personal Passions That Bring Juli Alive 

Ever since she was a child, Juli has enjoyed baking cakes with her mother and legendary aunt. She’s taken some baking courses and loves to watch baking shows. She’s also a big fan of motorcycle riding and looks forward to getting back on the iron horse and riding through the Hudson Valley in 2020.

Productivity from the Professional Learning Network 

Juli’s productivity hack is her professional colleagues and support network. “I need to surround myself with people who have gone through what I’ve gone through, people who are kind and can sympathize, and also people who have nothing to do with education and bring a fresh set of eyes to situations.” These people are like family, she says.

Voices and Resources That Inspire Her Practice 

Over on Twitter, Juli recommends following @ISTESTEM to connect with an uplifting group of educators passionate about STEM education.

Asked to point to an edtech tool, Juli enthusiastically boosts Scratch and Scratch Junior, the simple but powerful coding languages developed at MIT to help younger learners build computational thinking skills.

learning-first-technology-second.jpgJuli’s book pick is Learning First, Technology Second: The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons by Liz Kolb, a profound look and essential starting point for educators looking to do more with technology in their classrooms.

Based on encouragement from Jorges Valenzuela, Juli has tuned in to the STEM Everyday Podcast hosted by Chris Woods, another former guest of the show. Follow Chris and get to know his show @DailySTEM

When she finds the time to put up her feet, Juli’s latest picks on Netflix have included Vantage Point and a modern classic, Stranger Things

We sign off on this inspiring conversation, and Juli reminds us to connect with her on Twitter @JBR_Kleinmann.

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Episode 113 – Dr. Jennifer Pieratt

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Meet Dr. Jennifer Pieratt

JENNIFER PIERATT is an educator, mom, speaker, coach, and project-based learning nerd. She offers tips, tools, and inspiration for Project-Based Learning and is the author of three books, including Keep It Real With PBL, Secondary: A Practical Guide for Planning Project-Based Learning. She hails from a small California beach community called Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

Mad Respect for Primary Teachers

Jenny had been teaching for about eleven years before she decided to pivot her career and work for two companies that support project-based learning implementation across America. It was incredible work: she learned so much, saw so many school environments, and built a ton of amazing professional relationships.

After three years of this work, she decided to change course again. She had small children at home, and all her time on the road was putting a strain on her family. She returned to the classroom, thinking that teaching fifth grade would be a breeze, but was instead surprised to find it a steep challenge. Used to teaching secondary, the move to the primary classroom was a bit of a shock, and she calls it the hardest thing she has ever done.

Today, she says she has mad respect for primary teachers who work with kids all day, for every subject, often without breaks. She calls this part of her teaching journey the impetus for the work that she does today and credits her discouragement for adding perspective and insight into the challenges that middle school teachers face.

Keep it Real with PBL

Keep it Real with PBLIn January 2020, Jenny will publish Keep It Real With PBL, Secondary: A Practical Guide for Planning Project-Based Learning from Corwin Teaching Essentials. Jenny intended the book to be a go-to resource for teachers who are venturing into PBL – an organized and accessible source of support that she could leave behind with teachers who hoped to maintain the momentum and learning derived from her training workshops. The book is designed for continuous reference and growth, something teachers can refer back to time and time again.

Jenny also offers a series of online courses and coaching opportunities around project-based learning. With work experiences at PBL Works, High Tech High, and New Tech Network, she feels that her philosophy and application of PBL integrates the best flavors of all three organizations. She’s not averse to going rogue or off-script in a workshop, she says, because sometimes educators become overwhelmed by the scale of the work involved. Clarity is essential.

A Favorite Project Idea

One of Jenny’s all-time favorite projects is called Silent Voices and it comes from a school called Lake Elementary in Vista, California. It starts by looking at the American Revolution from the eyes of marginalized groups in history and then moves to compare the state of those groups to the challenges faced by marginalized groups in today’s society. It’s a very layered project that demands critical thinking and substantial depth of knowledge, and the end products created by these fifth graders never cease to impress.

Something Setting Jenny on 🔥 in Education: Technology

Technology in the classroom can be a tremendous asset, Jenny says, especially when it is used in ways that enhance project-based learning. She applauds the schools that are using technology to engage their communities, showcase their learning in online exhibitions, collect data, bring experts into the classroom, or conduct field work instead of traditional field trips. She’s seen some classes at the elementary level – even kindergarteners – who are leaving the classroom to collect their own data in the field. How exciting and authentic is that?

A Professional Goal for 2020

Jenny has been giving her 2020 resolutions some thought lately, and one big focus will be a commitment to collect, highlight, and showcase more Math and world language resources for PBL. These subjects often feel like the forgotten children, she says, which only increases her desire to inspire educators in these important categories.

Personal Passions: Exercise and Nutrition

Jenny describes herself as a very active person, and laughs that she is not her best self unless she’s gotten her workout in for the day. She thinks it’s important to try a variety of fitness activities, and some of her experiments have included triathlons, boxing, and hip hop dancing. She’s also interested in nutrition, and with a sister who’s a registered dietician, it’s easy to remain a curious (hungry?) learner in this area. 

A Key to Productivity: Her Happy Planner

One of the biggest keys to her productivity is her Happy Planner, Jenny says. She blocks her time by hour for every day in this notebook, and it generally results in a pretty regimented but productive day. To make sure a task is completed, it needs to appear in her planner – otherwise, it just gets lost in the shuffle.

Voices and Resources That Inspire Her Practice

Over on Twitter, Jenny recommends following Camille Nunnenkamp @MissNunnenkamp, a fifth grade teacher at Lake Elementary in Oceanside, California, part of the Vista Unified School District. Camille is doing some awesome things with PBL in her practice, and she posts accessible examples of what PBL can look like in the middle years. For anyone looking to grow their PBL skill set, Camille is a must-follow.

Jenny’s pick for an edtech tool has to go to Evernote, a tool that makes tracking, syncing across devices, and collaboration as effortless and efficient as possible.

Innovate Inside the Box by George Couros and Katie NovakOne book Jenny has been enjoying lately is Innovate Inside the Box: Empowering Learners Through UDL and the Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and Katie Novak. She gained a ton from George’s first book, The Innovator’s Mindset,  but finds this title even more applicable to the context of project-based learning.

Two podcasts that Jenny thoroughly enjoys include the legendary Serial, a true crime classic in the podcast space, and a newer show, To Live and Die in LA.

When the day is over or the weekend is upon her, Jenny is watching The Crown on Netflix. The series chronicles the life and career of the Queen of England, and to anyone with an interest in history, this is must-watch material.

We sign off on this fantastic conversation, and Jenny gives us the best ways to connect with her online. See below for details!

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