Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TLI - Pioneer Awards Recognize Districts' Achievements in Technology

The Lower Hudson Regional Information Center chose two local school districts, a director of technology and an enthusiastic third-grade teacher as the recipients of its Annual Pioneer Awards, now in its 20th year.

The awards ceremony, held May 16 in the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, gives the LHRIC an opportunity to showcase the efforts of educators and administrators who go above and beyond to make 21st century instructional technology available to students.

It also honors school districts for embracing technology, including their willingness to use mobile devices to enhance the curriculum, their focus on data management and safety, as well as their professional development efforts and more. 

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at what it took for each of this year's recipients to make it to the winner's podium:

Amy Rosenstein, Ardsley School District
Students in Amy Rosenstein's class at Concord Road Elementary School in the Ardsley School District are savvy about the world around them, and it's not because they've traveled the globe. In fact, the students don't have to leave their classrooms at all. Ms. Rosenstein brings it all to them through regular Skype conversations with people abroad, including famous authors and others. 

About four years ago, Ms. Rosenstein came up with the idea when she was thinking about ways to stay in touch with a friend who had moved to Hong Kong. Around that time, the third grade curriculum was changing, with a more detailed focus on China.

After the first couple of Skype sessions, Ms. Rosenstein could see the students were really enjoying the interaction, so she decided to expand it by inviting authors on a Skype call, one of which was Robert Kimmel Smith, the author of "War with Grandpa," a book the students had been reading in class.

That collaboration turned into the self-publication of their own realistic fiction stories using the website Storyjumper and the subsequent purchase of the digital books by parents and others.  

"The experience for the kids has been phenomenal," said Ms. Rosenstein, upon receiving her award. "It has not only opened up the classroom, but it has also made them realize that the world is bigger than Ardsley, even New York, and that they are now global citizens."

Ms. Rosenstein has connected students to people in Albania, Brazil, England, France, Italy, Kenya, New Zealand and Sweden, and she has also shared her enthusiasm for Skype with other teachers in the school by providing after-school technology classes and other initiatives.

John Krouskoff, Clarkstown School District
The Clarkston School District's director of technology, John Krouskoff, accepted his Pioneer Award not purely as a reflection of his own efforts but based on what he described as a "lot of teamwork."

The affable administrator was happy to accept the award, but even happier to be among a roomful of what he described as "innovators and leaders" who not only make the technology work in the classroom but who also challenge the students to reap the benefits of it. In addition to promoting 21st century learning, Mr. Krouskoff said, "We have the responsibility as leaders to really make things happen."

Part of what Mr. Krouskoff has made happen in Clarkstown is the creation of a Google Apps environment throughout the district. As recently as a year ago, students would have saved their work to a network drive, accessible only within district buildings.

Now they can save their homework and other projects to a cloud, creating a seamless transition from school to home while at the same time enhancing the collaborative nature of the learning and making it a fun and creative experience.

Mr. Krouskoff is also a proponent of teacher professional development, being readily available to instructors at all times and letting them know that the teacher environment is the first place where transformational technology takes hold.

Dobbs Ferry School District
Coming a long way in two years, with the installation of a wireless network in all three district schools, the use of smart phones by middle and high school students and a robust professional development strategy for teachers was the basis for awarding the Dobbs Ferry School District with a well-deserved Pioneer Award.

Superintendent Dr. Lisa Brady accepted the award on behalf of the district, reiterating the importance of technology advancement as a "moral obligation" in meeting the needs of students.

The district's transition to a student one-to-one computing environment began with an instructional technology audit that provided some really good data from students, teachers and administrators on their technology use, proficiencies, expectations and practices.

Simply training teachers on new MacBooks was not enough, though. It was also vitally important that instructors acquire a true comfort and ease in using the technology, something that would help them create engaging lessons for students and also get them excited about their own exploration of technology.

iPads for kindergarten classes through the third grade were purchased as well as tablets for the social studies and science departments at the middle and high schools. Social media channels were also created and administrators and other staff were encouraged to start using them.

The most important aspect of the district's growth is to "model what we expect from teachers and to give them the time to create 21st century classrooms," added Dr. Brady.

Ossining Union Free School District
A ubiquitous technology environment in the Ossining Schools and the way that administrators implement it and teachers use it was the basis for providing the district with the second of the LHRIC's District Pioneer Awards.

Even students in the district's pre-kindergarten classes are using technology, specifically the Educreations app, an interactive whiteboard that captures a student's voice and handwriting. In the middle school, Makey Makey is a popular program that teaches students how to design circuits, and at the high school, students are creating competition-ready robots.

The LHRIC's panel of judges was also impressed by the district's many partnerships with outside entities, including the Jacob Burns Center, IBM, Pace University and the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.

Through those affiliations, second-graders have created public service announcements centered on sustainability projects they developed, older children in the elementary grades have used a "green screen" to animate sections of a documentary they created on their iPads, and middle school students have learned to program computers in a 3D environment, among other creative endeavors.

Superintendent Ray Sanchez said the district's technology team is continuously seeking ways to leverage technology throughout the grades. He credited Director of Technology Jeremy Luft and Assistant Director of Technology Jennifer Forsberg for putting the district on the "proper path and navigating the ever-changing world of technology."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TLI – Tech Expo Draws Educators Looking for Inspiration and New Ideas

Approximately 300 people attended the LHRIC's annual Tech Expo April 5, an event that attracted teachers and administrators from dozens of local school districts as well as vendors from 21 educational technology companies.
Dr. Yong Zhao speaks at Tech Expo 2013.

Dr. Yong Zhao, an internationally known scholar, author and speaker kicked off the day-long event with an entertaining talk on creativity in education, or more importantly, the lack of it.

In his presentation titled, "Global, Creative and Entrepreneurial: Defining and Delivering High Quality Education with Technology," he questioned the idea of creativity and if indeed it applied to today's education system.

"In human history for a long time we didn't have a need for it and in fact most of the time we don't use it," added Dr. Zhao, author of over 20 books, including "Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization" and "World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students."

Surprisingly, Dr. Zhao is not always a fan of creativity, especially when it comes to some of modern society's inventions, like high-rise cities in his native China where pollution is at its highest.

But, he conceded, creativity is needed when it comes to shaping an education system that intends to adequately prepare students for the 21st century working world.

"America has been one of the worst education systems in terms of homogenizing kids, and the Common Core is trying to make sure our children are homogenous, not creative," Dr. Zhao added, referring to the Common Core Standards that states across the country will be implementing in the months and years to come.

Because of the changing economy and as a result, the shrinking middle class, Dr. Zhao said students must acquire different talents, skills and affinities. "Traditionally, we did not need people to express their individual talents," said Dr. Zhao. "But in a new age, we have to because special talents can be very powerful and useful."

The spotlight speakers included Travis Allen, founder of the iSchool Initiative, a student-led, non-profit organization dedicated to revolutionizing the education system through innovative technologies.

In his presentation, "Becoming a Mobile Learner," Allen described his journey into the world of digital technology, from playing video games as a child to quickly adapting to social media after acquiring his first smart phone at age 16. Allen recalled "doing everything" with his phone, quickly realizing there was a "huge gap between education and real world experience."

At the time, there were no cell phones allowed in Allen's Georgia high school, and Allen still believes this is true today. "They are bound to four walls and a desk and they are killing creativity," he said. "The current education system is built on an outdated and antiquated model that fails to account for the different learning styles of today's digital natives."

While still a high school student, Allen spent four months making a YouTube video about his beliefs, talking about where he felt education could go if mobile learning was allowed to take hold in America's classrooms. The video went viral and Allen created the iSchool Initiative as a result of it.

"The power of an idea can lead to so much," noted Allen, who has since presented in over 26 states and three continents. "With technology today, our youth has more power than ever before." 

The day's other speakers included Karl Fisch, the director of technology at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Co., and the original creator of the "Did You Know?" (Shift Happens) series of videos, in addition to representatives of local school districts and vendors attending the event.

They covered topics such as flipped learning, cloud networking, engaging students with language through technology, iPads in education, the use of Google Plus, blended learning and the Common Core, and the uses of SuccessMaker to support data-driven instruction, among other interesting discussions.

To add your own views on some of that day's topics, go to the specially created collaborative Google Doc at

Monday, March 25, 2013

TLI - Education Technology Advocate Shares Cool Tools and Gadgets for Teaching

Educators interested in discovering the latest apps that promise to make learning and teaching engaging for students were in for a treat this past January as the self-professed "chief geek" Leslie Fisher provided them with plenty of ways to energize the curriculum.

Leslie Fisher speaks at the January TLI event.
 The talk was one of two sponsored by the LHRIC's Technology Leadership Institute and held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

Ms. Fisher, who serves as director of Fisher Technologies, Inc., provided a myriad of resources for those who might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new technology coming at them on a daily basis.

Some of those include the following:
Evernote – Ms. Fisher described this application as "gadgety but informative." The latest version, known as Evernote Clearly, captures everything, including text, audio, photographs and more, and makes blog posts, articles and web pages clean and easy to read. – a paper-based computing platform that consists of a digital pen, digital paper, software applications and developer tools. Central to the Livescribe platform is the smartpen, a ballpoint pen with an embedded computer and digital audio recorder.
Class Dojo – improves student behavior and engagement by awarding and record real-time feedback. It also captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators.
Edcanvas – this allows users to create step-by-step guides on any topic. They will also be able to integrate video, audio, stills and links from YouTube. Ms. Fisher suggested that teachers use it as a tool to create quizzes for students. – a web-based literary database, otherwise known as a "storyverse" that visually indexes, annotates and connects the people, places and things that are found in books. – a curation service containing news and social media. allows users to create boards or web pages around a single topic. Users can use a page to aggregate educational videos, online quizzes, spelling resources, and other similar stuff. 
For educators teaching an active news item,'s curation tools can be used to create a page that is constantly updated with the latest items on the topic. – a good site to place nuggets of information or also to grab information from others, said Ms. Fisher. – a free service that allows users to create websites quickly and easily. – a form manager that Ms. Fisher believes is much easier to use than Google Forms. – users can collect the urls of various websites, enter the addresses into the website and wait as the site creates one url for all of them. – a safe way for teachers to text message students and keep in touch with parents.

Other cool applications that Ms. Fisher talked about include augmented reality for the iPhone and iPad, a video showing Google's powered glasses (not yet on the market) and Aurasma, an augmented platform operated by Hewlett-Packard.

To find out more, visit Ms. Fisher's website at

Friday, February 22, 2013

TLI - Educator Provides Tips on Collaborating with Students

For instructors stumped on how to effectively integrate technology into their lessons, Richard Byrne's Feb. 13 presentation, "Making Learning Collaborative," was invaluable.

Mr. Byrne, best known for his award-winning blog, Free Technology for Teachers, which reaches approximately 49,000 educators on a daily basis, was speaking at the LHRIC's Feb. 13 Technology Leadership Institute held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

Seeking information on the Internet is perhaps one of the easiest tasks to get students to commit to, said Mr. Byrne, who taught high school social studies for eight years. While Google is by and large the most popular search engine in the world and the one that most students turn to, there are other alternatives for students to use, added Mr. Byrne, a Google Certified teacher.

One alternative is a site called InstaGrok, a discovery and learning engine that has been set up specifically for educational purposes. By using this tool, teachers can see what their students are bookmarking and clipping, and the product also has a neat evaluation tool that allows instructors to give a series of multiple-choice quizzes, many of them with thought-provoking, insightful questions.

Forget bookmarking websites on one's computer, Mr. Byrne said. Instead, participants were encouraged to use Diigo for bookmarking purposes. "We often think of collaborative projects as being this monster two-week activity," said Mr. Byrne. "With collaboration, we can accomplish more work and go deeper in a lesser amount of time, and Diigo is a great example of this."

Twitter, while wildly popular with teenagers these days, can be equally attractive in the classroom, especially when students and teachers want to search for topics. Instead of using the traditional RSS feed option to receive updates from news sites and other sources, Mr. Byrne said a better alternative is Approximately 15 to 20 minutes per day is all that is needed to peruse one's favorite websites or blogs using this tool, he added.

Other useful classroom tools include, a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational games and exercises, and padlet, an application that gives users a blank wall and asks them to create something out of it. In the past, teachers have used padlet to pose questions about a particular topic, receive answers from students and then provide feedback, all on the same page.

"Don't use technology to bore your students," said Mr. Byrne. "Let your kids do the making; it's not a threatening environment for them."

For more information on Mr. Byrne's work and to avail of his many resources, visit His other websites include:,, and

Thursday, February 21, 2013

TLI – Acclaimed Writer Argues for Better Perspective on Education

If there's one thing that Marc Prensky would like to see schools doing, it's giving students the credit they deserve.

One of the world's leading experts on the connection between learning and technology, Mr. Prensky urged participants attending the LHRIC's Feb. 13 Technology Leadership Institute to move away from the old system of top down teaching and in its place embrace the idea of partnering with students and using the powerful capabilities of technology to help do it.

Mr. Prensky, the author of five books on the digital culture and education, talks frequently about designing better pedagogy and curriculum for today's generation of students and how educators can learn to thrive in this digital age.

"We have to prepare these kids while avoiding something else that we often slide into, which is what I call cellophane kids," said Mr. Prensky, during his presentation titled, "Brain Gain: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom," which is also the title of his latest book.

Despite what other experts say about the United States' education system trailing the schooling of other countries, Mr. Prensky, the founder and creative director of Spree Games and Games2train, believes the system is failing children worldwide. "The whole world is in this place and it is not a good place," said Mr. Prensky. "It's not just developing countries with problems; the world's education is in the toilet."

Educating to the wrong context
Much of the problem, explained Mr. Prensky, is that schools are teaching to a context that no longer exists. In a world with half its population under the age of 25, Mr. Prensky said educators need to come up with better solutions to engage students. 

The context we currently live in is described by Mr. Prensky as "VUCA," which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It's a context that is perhaps the biggest challenge to educators and to the world in general, he added.

Mr. Prensky sees education through the eyes of those who were born in this century and not through the eyes of the ones providing it. Today's students, he said, are disillusioned with the system, many of them feeling their primary role as students is to follow directions. Not that young people have all the answers either, he noted, but that adults' educational needs are very different and focused primarily on raising grades and test scores.

To combat this, Mr. Prensky suggested that teachers listen more intently to students, but also focus on the verbs of teaching rather than the nouns, which in this case applies to the tools or technologies that assist teaching and learning.

Nouns that have become familiar in today's learning environment include PowerPoint, e-mail, Wikipedia and others, but additional tools are quickly taking their place. The verbs of learning, however, often remain the same, he said. They include presenting, communicating, persuading, collaborating and learning, to name a few.

"It's important for us to focus on what those verbs are, even as the nouns to do it with are changing all the time," noted Mr. Prensky, who holds master's degrees from Yale University, Middlebury College and The Harvard Business School. "The question to ask is this: what are the key verbs we want our students to learn?"

Like all new challenges in life, technology can be scary, said Mr. Prensky. "I don't tell people to change, but I do remind them that we all need to adapt to the world we live in, to this new 21st century context."

Doing old things in new ways
While most schools simply recreate new ways of doing old things, Mr. Prensky believes that educators should be creating new ways to do what they couldn't do before. Websites, for example, even the best ones, are "trivial uses of technology," he said.

Activities such as Skyping with students and teachers around the world, using 3D printers, engaging in virtual worlds, playing complex games, creating robots and encouraging the use of the computational knowledge engine, WolframAlpha, which is not about giving students the answers to a problem but rather explaining how the result was obtained, are all worthwhile endeavors, he added.

Technology, however, can't provide students with all the answers. That should come from teachers who have empathy for them, which in turn will create a desire for learning and a passion to persist and do better, Mr. Prensky noted.

While educators over the years have been "bamboozled" with the idea of best practices, the notion of inventing has somewhat disappeared. "When something is moving as quickly as technology, there are no best practices," said Mr. Prensky. "There are only good practices and the need to continually invent better ones."

To enhance the practice of teaching, Mr. Prensky said teachers need to give students the credit they are worthy of. Not trusting them enough nor giving them the freedom they deserve is a frequent occurrence, he said. "The education of tomorrow has less to do with course, curriculum, degrees and exams," he added, and more to do with collaboration.

Mr. Prensky said schools have "gone off track," focusing more on high performance testing and deviating from the goal of creating better people. "What we should be doing is motivating our kids to figure out what they're passionate about, to think creatively, and to think critically and scientifically. I think kids would be more excited to be become better thinkers, actors and relaters."

For more information on Mr. Prensky's work or to order any of his books, go to  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TLI - Italian Preschool's Educational Practices Highlighted by Respected Educator

In the middle class city of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, an educational concept that was created at the end of World War II has captured the minds and hearts of teachers everywhere.

It's an approach that puts preschool children at the center of their own learning, allowing them to learn naturally and to develop a close relationship with their environment as they touch, move, listen, see and hear using a variety of materials.

Educational consultant Gary Stager has seen the Reggio Emilia approach up close and spent an afternoon talking about it to local educators attending the LHRIC's Technology Leadership Institute event last month.

This unique learning approach takes place at the Loris Malaguzzi International Center in Reggio Emilia.

"Everything that's done in this city is done with children in mind," said Dr. Stager, referring to the mindset of city officials who refer to it as the "City of Children" and see the school as an important component of the entire community.

Starting with the assumption that children are already competent when they enter the school, Dr. Stager said it's not unusual to see preschoolers setting tables for the family-style lunch, complete with table cloth and real china instead of paper cups that most American children would be given.

Because parents are a vital component to the successful running of the school and are viewed as partners, collaborators and advocates for their children, there's no need to formalize the relationship between school and caregiver, added Dr. Stager.

Learning is never rushed. In fact, it's not uncommon for children to spend weeks or months on inquiry. "Kids are solving authentic problems that are rooted in their inquiry and so, for example, teachers won't teach writing until a child expresses an interest in it."

In many ways, explained Dr. Stager, educators at Reggio Emelia consider the classroom to be the "third teacher," with students learning in an environment that is considered "whimsical, nurturing and inspiring thought."  

Teachers often work on projects with small groups of children, while the rest engage in a wide variety of self-selected activities. The topic for much student work comes directly from the teacher observing spontaneous play and exploration, as opposed to following a designated theme or unit of learning.

Students' work is often on display in public buildings across the city, such as in the opera house where their colorful drawings were enlarged to decorate the theater curtain. Another large scale project included the "Amusement Park for Birds," an outdoor playground for birds that the children designed and built themselves. The park, located in their playground, includes fountains, waterwheels and a whole host of other equipment, some of which was donated by the city.

For Reggio Emelia teachers, the elements of a successful project include purpose, time, personal meaningfulness to the initiative, complexity and serendipity.  "They just look at kids' work in a different way," said Dr. Stager. "Teachers there are constantly reflecting and documenting the students' progress."

For more information on this unique initiative, Dr. Stager suggested that educators read "The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach, Advanced Reflections" or visit

TLI – International Speaker Lauds the Creative Use of Technology

Moving away from the "drill and practice" routine that encompasses technology instruction in many of today's schools and transitioning students to the "tinkering and making" of learning is a strategy that local educators were asked to consider as they create new ways to reinvigorate education.

The approach is the thinking of Gary Stager, a renowned international speaker, consultant and educator who spoke passionately about his beliefs at last month's Technology Leadership Institute conference held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

He delivered his keynote speech titled, "The Creative Technology Revolution You Can't Afford to Miss" during the event's morning session and later in the afternoon provided educators with more detailed examples of revolutionary educational practices at the preschool level in a talk titled, "Lessons for K-12 and Edtech from the Best Preschools in the World."

Dr. Stager, the executive director of The Constructivist Consortium, has helped learners of all ages embrace the power of computers as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression.  

His belief is that children are capable of doing extraordinary things, but that our current education system does not provide them with ways to learn in a "natural, more fluid way."

His primary body of work for the past few years has been centered on the constructivist use of technology, which borrows from the work of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, whose theories on knowledge and learning are widely respected in the field of education.

Believing that the years spent in school are the most valuable to helping children evolve into artists, physicists, philosophers and more is something Dr. Stager promotes as he delivers presentations to educators around the country and across the world. "The endless time-wasting is staggering," said Dr. Stager, referring to a system that he believes doesn't provide enough intensity and creative learning for children.

"We have a perfect storm that's swirling outside of our school buildings," he said. The fast-moving technological changes are certainly making an impact on society, he added, but it's not something that schools are taking advantage of. "This technology revolution has an added benefit of being great for kids and rejuvenating teachers and reinvigorating education. There's never been a cooler time to learn."

Reality TV: A "DIY Revolution"
While others decry the evolution of reality TV, Dr. Stager believes it's a positive trend. What it represents, he explained, is a form of "apprentice expertise," where one gets to see people in their natural surroundings, discover what drives them and see what it is they do. It's also an opportunity, he added, to energize young people and to give them a chance to shine as well as to receive a mentoring experience they might not get in real life.

Describing some of nation's youths as being "dead behind the eyes," Dr. Stager, who founded Constructing Modern Knowledge, a minds-on institute for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing, said that many of them do not have enough meaningful conversations with adults. "We can worry all we want about how Finland is doing on long division tests, but the generation of kids who don't know how to talk to adults is astounding," he added.

To combat this, Dr. Stager suggested that schools move away from the notion of "hiring a pro" to acknowledging the societal shifts, economic trends and increased mobility in technology and then introducing the idea of "tinkering/making" in the classroom.

In recent years, several magazines have been created to cater to this maker movement, a term that encapsulates the practice and habits of millions of people who are into self-producing everything from robots to handmade crafts.

Those publications include "Make Magazine," "Made By Hand," "50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Child Do and Why" and "Geek Dad." The "Maker Faire" is another example of experiential learning in action. The event, which last year attracted over one hundred thousand people in San Diego, includes a coming together of curious people who enjoy learning and sharing what they do.

"Generations of Americans have never fixed anything," Dr. Stager said. To solve that, schools can use the computer to "kick it up several notches," meaning that students can be taught to use technology creatively and at the same time develop their sense of perseverance, passion, choice, effort, purpose, mindfulness and so much more.

Becoming Their Own Problem Solvers
Engaging students in hands-on projects using computers ensures that students will make more interesting things, he noted. The increased use of 3D printers, for example, has made this even more exciting for students. In fact, Dr. Stager said he'd love to see such printers not just in an art room but in the physics lab and other places around the school where creativity is nurtured.

Dr. Stager, who has worked in schools around the world bringing rich mathematical and scientific thinking experiences to children and teachers, believes that students who are makers will have the ability to solve their own problems, forge their own path and be passionate about what they do.

For example, designing their own videos instead of merely consuming them would teach kids geometry, physics, motion, animation and a whole host of other things. Other interesting projects that have been made by children in the past include digital gingerbread houses, drum sets made out of bananas, a video controller made out of clay, digital origami and more.

"Most of what we are doing with computers in schools is incredibly disappointing," pointed out Dr. Stager. As a result, children have no chance to "get lost in something and to develop expertise." Providing students with rich opportunities for learning and a memorable education is most important, he added. "I think the highest, noblest calling of a teacher is to create memories."

For more information on Dr. Stager's groundbreaking work, visit

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

TLI - Technology Kickoff Highlights Flipped Learning, Web Tools for Educators

School district administrators and educators walked away from the LHRIC's TLI Technology Kickoff Dec. 4 with a deeper knowledge of flipped learning and an eagerness to try out some new web tools that promise to make teaching and learning more valuable for all.

Brandon Lutz speaks at the TLI Technology Kickoff Dec. 4

The daylong event, held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, featured Aaron Sams of the Flipped Learning Network and Brandon Lutz, a technology integration specialist for the School District of Philadelphia. Both speakers were available later in the afternoon to give more detailed talks to smaller groups looking for guidance and direction on how such ideas could be implemented in their schools.

Transition to Student-Centered Learning
A few years ago, Mr. Sams started experimenting with video as a conduit to learning, creating videos or "vodcasts" that students could view at home and then discuss in class the following day.

The flipped learning model, which was first coined by author and journalist Dan Pink, relies heavily on the use of Internet technology to leverage the learning so that instructors can interact with students instead of lecturing them.

Referring to the lecture-style teaching that has been prominent for over 100 years, Mr. Sams said, "There's got to be a better way than standing in front of a classroom and droning on about something. We know this is not the best way to teach, and we've known that for years, but it is still what we're doing."

While the flipped learning concept is gaining traction, Mr. Sams said there are still some "growing pains." Admitting that it can be a "painful process to transition," Mr. Sams conceded that many educators want to get on board, but have no idea how to do it. "This is a different way to approach teaching without losing the stuff of learning," he reassured them.

Taking the direct instruction model out of the group learning space and shifting it into the individual learning space is better for students, Mr. Sams contends. As a chemistry teacher, he would often ask his students to review his instructional videos on their iPods, encouraging them to discuss their findings with each other, but then shifting his focus to students who needed more one-on-one instruction.

Flipping "Bloom's Taxonomy"
Flipped learning can also be applied to a slightly different version of "Bloom's Taxonomy," the learning model created in 1956 by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, where students go from remembering and understanding information to creating something out of it.

When using a top to bottom inverted approach, as many flipped learning experts suggest teachers do, students can access the more creative aspects of learning and then tap down to the "understanding" component if need be.

Teachers, he said, are often so dependent on delivering content that they forget how important it is to encourage the practical hands-on aspects of learning. "When students want to learn how to do something, they go to YouTube," said Mr. Sams, referring to their proclivity for learning by seeing.

Using what he described as a "flipped mastery approach," Mr. Sams understands that students will access the necessary content when they need it, but he is more interested in giving them the chance to first "practice, apply, assess and then remediate."

"The kids who don't get it, they are the ones who get all my attention in class; that kind of approach is not going to happen when you stand in front of a class and lecture."

Mr. Sams said such strategies make for more independent learners and the differentiation in teaching gives students options that he believes are more valuable.

To learn more about the flipped learning concept, Mr. Sams encouraged participants to enroll in conferences, sign up for free webinars and visit The Flipped Learning Network's website at

Inspirational Web Tools
As a technology specialist for the Philadelphia Schools, Mr. Lutz likes to make teachers and other staff comfortable when it comes to using technology. "I believe in anytime, anywhere access to learning," said Mr. Lutz, referring to the slew of resources he shares with educators.

Those resources have been put together by Mr. Lutz into a fast-paced presentation titled, "60in60: 60 Web Tools in 60 Minutes," which Mr. Lutz shared during the afternoon kickoff session.

In it, Mr. Lutz offers fresh, timely resources that teachers can use to enhance learning in their classrooms. Some of them include the following:

Edmodo: This has a Facebook-like interface and is being widely used by educators. This safe environment is excellent for sharing between teachers and students.
Gooru Learning: Contains a slew of resources for students, including a lot of math/science-based material.
Kid Zui: This is a kid-friendly web browser, otherwise known as "the Internet for kids." It contains lot of games and age-appropriate videos for children.
iBooks Author: Lets users create their own virtual interactive textbooks with ease.
Math Train: Students can make math videos and podcast them to the world.
PresentMe: Presenters who can't appear live at a presentation can put an image of themselves or some other graphic in a split frame screen and use a webcam and microphone to record.
Prezi: Mr. Lutz uses this application, which is similar to PowerPoint, for all of his presentations. No software is needed.
Side Vibe: This site allows students to create web quests. Students can get involved in online discussions and other activities and it will still keep them focused.

To keep up-to-date on the latest tools available for educators, Lutz said he subscribes to a variety of social media sites. He points out, though, that teachers should not feel overwhelmed by the amount of tools available on the Internet.

"Web tools come and go," said Mr. Lutz. "However, it's important to create your own plan, create relationships, listen and try one tool at a time."

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