March Madness

ButtonMakers Pattern TemplateIt’s March… what vibe are you giving?  Have you gone mad with assessments piling up or yet on the horizon?  Are your students feeling pressure or are they welcoming it… feeling empowered to take on the world?  To show off their MAD SKILLS!

Where are you… your mindset?  Are you on the countdown or upswing… planning life changing lessons (Dave Burgess, #tlap) and embracing the new life around you?  The kind that is a steady reminder that we are always growing whether it is day 1, 80, or 180.

You know you have already heard it… ONLY X amount of school days are left.  The countdown is on for students, parents and teachers.  Don’t get me wrong I have those days when the sun is shining and I think… ohhhh poolside would be nice.  Or the day that feels like 17 rolled into one.  But that doesn’t mean my life with my students turns to madness.  The question is…

if we had a March Madness bracket with awesome lessons planned for our students, where would yours land?  Would you be willing to throw it in the ring with the competition?  

if we had a March Madness bracket for EMPOWERED students, where would your students be?  Would they be sprinting to the front of the line… stepping up to add their name to the bracket? 

Is our role really any different from day 1 to 180?  Just like day 1 our goal should be to create empowered learners that are off the bench, jumping, clapping, ready for their call to step up and shoot.  Don’t leave before the buzzer. How would you feel if your leader, coach, or biggest fan stepped aside a quarter into the game… or when the last quarter started and the score was tied?! Every day is day 1.

If you are looking to bring your A Game in the last quarter try one of the following:

  1. Grab a book!  Dave Burgess Consulting, INC offers over 40 incredible innovative reads that are life changing to every child through educators like you!  Are you into STEAM and Makers?  Bring out your creative genius with books by Jacie Maslyk or Laura Flemming for go to quick action plans!
  2. Join a twitter chat!  #tlap #Leadlap #LearnLAP #MasteryChat #DitchBook #KidsDeserveIt #PlayLap #STEAMMakerChat #IMMOOC and so many more!
  3. Find or create your own PD… look into #4OCF with Rich Czyz and find many ideas that can be implemented at the drop of a dime.  Message me and I can add you to the incredible VOXER Chat led my Matthew Larson.
  4. Locate an EDCamp near you!  Close to Pittsburgh or ready to shake the winter blues with a road trip?  Join us as my district host Pittsburgh’s very own camp coming up in 2 weeks!  CLICK HERE to register!
  5. Make a REAL connection with the your students by bringing #BookSnaps into your classroom!  Book Snap Queen Tara Martin will walk you and your students through the learning process with one simple HOW TO VIDEO CLIP
  6. What about starting your own BYOB to build relationships in your building?  Bring Your Own Breakfast and hang out on Payday Friday!

Where is your creative spark (grab Katie Martin’s new book “Learner Centered Innovation” to help you find it)  What are you doing to keep the momentum so you aren’t left on the bench when the driven are playing?

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Creating Change Agents

Most often people choose teaching as a profession because they want to create change… change for the better!  Some will even tell you that their own experience was so negative they felt compelled to become “the change” that children need in the classroom.

Do you feel our children deserve more… do they need more?  If so the question is… are we delivering instruction in a way that will create this opportunity?

I often wonder why so many graduates are cramming for interviews.  Literally, I have witnessed interviewees grab hold of books such as Innovator’s Mindset (George Couros),  Teach Like A Pirate (Dave Burgess) and STEAMMakers (Jacie Maslyk) right before interviews in order to gain the edge on hiring.

Why are they cramming?

Do you feel our future teachers continue to prepare the same way as teachers did 5… 10… even 50+ years ago?  Are we helping to create change or are we still teaching and learning in a way that is no longer relevant in today’s society?

If we are given the opportunity to create change in education why wait until teachers are graduated and in the trenches to fire them up with incredible learning opportunities?

Let’s look at what current educators are doing to move the world of education forward and in turn pass this practice down to our future educators.

Let’s connect with future teachers.

Let’s make change.

Dave and Shelley Burgess of Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. have gifted education with a platform that works as a springboard for innovative teaching.  Are these revolutionary resources accessible to every college student preparing to be a teacher?


If not, we must ask ourselves a very important question… Why are we preparing our future with the same mindset we are trying to alter?

Are we creating experiences for our students? Are we still using the traditional checklist that no longer reflects the future of our students or better yet the future of the work force!?

What is guiding our future teaching practices?

In my opinion, you cannot advance a student’s depth of knowledge with a five day death march of a story that was taken from the required/chosen anthology.

Has anyone asked their students?  Do students really want to read the same story over and over for mastery?  Mastery of what?  Who needs skill when you can memorize the central idea of a story by reading and rereading day after day?

Don’t get me wrong, we are all in tune with Bloom’s Taxonomy and how to embed higher level thinking into the traditional way of learning, but that is simply not good enough anymore!  Our children deserve more… they need more and we must deliver our instruction differently to serve them the best possible way.  Our children need to be engaged in their learning where by they are empowered to move their education forward by choice and not through compliance.

It is not a free for all… there is accountability for all of us.  There is definitely a place and purpose for philosophy, domains, and pedagogy.  But who ever said that it had to come from the same mindset and discipline that was used all those years ago.  We must have accountability to change with the times!  As George Couros of Innovator’s Mindset so eloquently states,

“Change is an opportunity to do something AMAZING!”

Over the last two school years, I have had the privilege of being a virtual cooperating teacher for future educators of Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.  Education majors are required to take a technology course their freshman year.  One of the professors is Dr. Sam Fecich and she is a change agent!  She is connecting our future teachers to classrooms while instilling skills for both the future leaders in education as well as the current classroom teacher.  Her students are building their PLN (Professional Learning Network) on twitter and engaging in meaningful learning with a variety of resources including books posted above.   Dr. Sam, along with the education department of GCC, is making change in current practice… investing in our future!

If we really want to educate future teachers to be AMAZING CHANGE AGENTS we need to communicate at all levels.  Colleges, universities, public and private school systems, along with the community and work force… we must sit down at the same table and break bread together.  We need to share in the same meal, prepared by the same hands, and with immense compassion and understanding have the conversation that WE share in the responsibility to MAKE CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!



When you know better, you do better!





30 Second Pitch: Engage-vs-Empowerment #IMMOOC

If we are truly trying to transition learners to leaders, don’t we also need to transition from today’s buzz word engagement to the future of empowerment?

A powerful and impactful challenge flag was thrown last year by my new administration… 100% engagement for all students, all day… and yes, every day!  That was a challenge that I couldn’t wait to get ahold of within my classroom.  It was absolutely incredible to see my students embody my love for learning.  Was this for the day?  The week?  The month?  That is when it happened.  The moment I realized that engaging my students was only going to be sustainable if I empowered them!  WOW! That was a moment!

A moment“… that was what I needed to give my students.  I started with asking them to pitch me an idea in 5 minutes or less.  I gave a little criteria, but I didn’t want to close their minds to revolve around my thinking, so a laundry list of stipulations went right out the window.  I simplified and initially gave 5 minutes.  FIVE MINUTES is a LONG TIME!  Either they know what they want or they don’t.  Period.

Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate, says, “I’m more than willing to take advantage of and influence everything around me to increase my students’ chances of success.”  Yes, that is my thought exactly!  How can I teach like a pirate?  Here it is- challenge the holder of the hookThey need to hook ME!  My students need to be the ones creating the hooks too!

-authority or power given to someone to do something; the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights

This definition is embedded in my brain so I reread Innovator’s Mindset, again and again!  I needed an example… something concrete.  I absolutely love how George Couros shared his moment with engage vs empower.

“So instead of trying to create engaging content for my students, I decided to turn it over to them.  Deep Learning occurred- they understood and remembered what they taught each other.  I had given my students control over their learning, and the change in atmosphere was palpable.” –George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset


Then the moment came when a student came to me and asked for the use of Ozobots outside of tech stations.  YES, I was that teacher… the one excited and willing to bring as much technology in as possible, (Thank you and my supportive community) but ONLY used it in isolated learning moments… UGH!  Weekly, even daily isolated moments, but I literally separated it from the content!  What was I thinking?

So, on this particular day it just so happened that I barely had the 5 minutes to spare… no time to hear why or how they could possibly make this applicable to character, setting, and the plot of our story so I challenged them to tell me in 30 seconds or less.


Mrs. Nan, I can CREATE a setting based on the chapter we are in today.  I can CONNECT it to technology by using Ozobots.  I may need to go on to the computer to look at a coding idea that I have, but that isn’t a big deal because “Rachelle AKA RESOURCE” is an expert and can show me.  Oh, and then I can turn the Ozobot into a character and have it navigate the setting.  AND I would really like to blog (MOMENT) about it after! #micdrop

WOW… the excitement in my student literally infused the pitch into my mind in LESS THAN 20 SCEONDS!  It reminded me of  Jacie Maslyk asking me what my “1 minute elevator pitch” would be like.  My response, “What is an elevator pitch?”

“It’s that 1 minute when (insert name of famous person) walks into the elevator with you and you have your chance to tell them your brilliant idea before the elevator doors open again. It’s your brief moment to grab their attention, pull them in, and convince them that yours is the next great idea.” –Jacie Maslyk, STEAMMakers

This was it… the moment the 30 Second Pitch came to life!

30 Second Pitch

  1. Mindsetthis is your creative moment… approach it with excitement and use your creative juices!
  2. Connect4: Explain how you can connect your idea to technology BEYOND our 4 walls of learning!
  3. Research: Call on your resources!  Collaborate ~ Communicate ~ Dig into your idea! #WhoIsYourCrew
  4. Moment: This is YOUR TIME TO SHINE!  How will you do it?  #VoiceAndChoice

I have shared this with a few of my colleagues, as well as many parents, who have been curious as to how on earth I can justify the use of this technology (Hour of Code, Sphero, Ozobot, Osmo, Edmodo, Canva, Snap-Circuits, Bloxels, Makey Makey, EdPuzzle, Scratch, and more) in my room.  How can I possibly teach the “curriculum/book” and also have time for this?  Well, to be clear, I actually teach skills.  The PA Common Core skills that are a foundation to the success of every child in 3rd grade.  How I teach that skill is choice… and not just mine.  When I really want to know how to make something happen (the thing that will light the world on fire) for my students, I simply ask!  They always tell. #empowerment

Note: Thank you JESSE REESE for the incredible “piece of art” you created out of my very sloppy notes!  YOU ROCK! #grateful