May 20


Emoji-iOS-8.3-Beta-4Emojis are rapidly becoming a well used part of our written and even spoken language. These modern pictographs are highly developed and extensive version of the early emoticons we all know as :- ) and :- ( built from ASCII characters. They are used extensively in texts and emails but are they affecting our students writing?

Emojis contain a vast variety of miscellaneous symbols, and emoticons (including more recent changes Apple has introduced whereby skin tones can be modified), and have recently opened up many serious new possibilities. Tech savvy and inventive youngsters are now sending entire communications in emoji by creatively stringing them together. This could be a new era in which writing with or in Emoji enables our students to be creative and encouraging them to think and write differently. Shouldn’t we be embracing this creative universal visual language rather than assuming its negative impacts on student writing?

Challenge yourself with these strings of Emojis. The creativity is inspiring.

According to Wikipedia, the core emoji set as of Unicode 6.0 consists of 722 characters. WOW, no wonder emojis and emoticons are changing the way we communicate. Interestingly some research shows that emoticons are increasing our ability to decode and in order to do so, we’ve produced a new pattern of brain activity. A group of scientists (who wrote an article in the Social Neuroscience journal) have discovered that when we look at a smiley face online, the same very specific parts of the brain are activated as when we look at a real smiling human face. Hence, when adding emoticons to our writing, our readers can more accurately “read” the emotional content of a message. This could soften the tone and could help mitigate cyber aggression and conflict over email by clarifying messages and giving the conversation a more “light-hearted” tone.

Today, emojis need little explanation and seem to be free of constraints and treacheries of language. Words give us the opportunity to express doubt and ambiguity, emojis do not. And as social media grows (and character counts shrink), this emerging iconographic and pictographic language is playing a significant role in communication.

? or ? affects on Student Writing

The issue of whether texting is affecting students’ writing and, if so, whether it is a positive or negative influence is much debated. It is very interesting to look at the dynamics of the arguments. Teachers and parents who claim that they are seeing a decline in the writing abilities of their students and children mainly support the negative impact argument. Some teachers and researchers suggest that texting provides a way for teens to practice writing in a casual setting and thus helps prepare them to learn to write formally. Ultimately, however, experts and students themselves report that they see no effect, positive or negative, on their writing as a result of using emojis.

Linguist Ben Zimmer believes emoticons and emojis aren’t a threat to written language, but are an enrichment. I would have to agree with him. The punctuation that we use to express emotion is rather limited. We’ve got the question mark and the exclamation point, which don’t get you very far if you want to express things like sarcasm or irony in written form.” Although emojis are more popular than ever, the idea behind them is actually quite old. “There’s an old utopian ideal that we could create a kind of a universal pictorial language,” says Zimmer.

A school in Sweden incorporated emojis into their English language lessons in which the students were challenged to write their own stories in Emoji language. This way these English language learners could make do with their current knowledge of English and could use Emojis as an alternative for unknown words.

Another way to embrace these influences in our students’ learning is to start using emojis and emoticons in the classroom. Emoticons can be used specifically to tackle the endless ways of describing our emotions. When exploring and taking deeper look at emoticons, students can be confronted with learning the wide range of vocabulary to describe their feelings in words just like they already use them in their everyday texts, such as persevere ?, relief ?, weary ?, or confounded?. All we have to do as teachers is encourage them to transfer these well known pictographs into words in their writing,



Resources; (Emoji searcher)



Mar 02

Digging Deeper

Digging Deeper into Learning, Creativity & Technology

Schools strive to find best ways of teaching and learning and I believe they are all eager to improve and explore new possibilities. With rapid changes and recent developments in curriculums and technology, these changes are inevitable. Schools should aim to include educating the whole child in which deeper learning, creativity and technology skills play key roles. As a result, schools also need to reassess the way they report on student growth and achievements.

Deeper Learning

Simply defined, “deeper learning” is the process of learning for transfer. Meaning it allows a student to take what’s learned in one situation and apply it to another. According to , who wrote an article about deeper learning for Mind Shift, we can define deeper learning even further by looking what researchers call the three domains of competence: cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal.

Cognitive        refers to reasoning and problem solving;
Intrapersonal  refers to self-management, self-directedness, and conscientiousness;
Interpersonal  refers to expressing ideas and communicating and working with others.

Blooms Taxonomy_2

Bloom’s taxonomy

In her article, Tina Barseghain, also touches upon two aspects that I find crucial in getting our students to become deeper learners. The curriculum should go deeper into application of skills, cover fewer topics that are more carefully selected and more deeply taught. School curriculums should aim to follow the educational objectives of the Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid. Bloom’s Taxonomy refers to a classification of the different objectives that educators set for their students (learning objectives). The key is to use of verbs rather than nouns for each of the categories. These categories are arranged from below in increasing order, from Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS).

As mentioned above, schools need to be rethinking the forms of assessment. Our assessment goals must be far more ambitious than what they are now. All schools should be following the lead of some international schools that are already using digital creativity and projects as assessments, rather than rely on standardized tests.

Deeper Learning, Creativity and Technology Assessment

Deeper learning, creativity and technology usage are now widely accepted as being important aspects of schooling. Yet there are many different views about what they are, how best we can cultivate them in young learners and whether or how they should be assessed. This could be because assessing these aspects is just too difficult in schools. Or it might be a consequence of our education system already perceived as over-tested. Or the subject-dominated nature of schools may simply throw up too many logistical barriers. Or, teachers who are interested in deeper learning and creativity may remain wary about assessing it. No matter what the reasons may be, our next step is to embrace these three aspects of teaching & learning, and to thoroughly invest in alternative forms and tools of assessment.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy isn’t about the tools or technologies rather it is about using these to facilitate deeper learning and creativity. It lends itself perfectly to problem and project based learning where students must work through the entire process of development and evaluation. The 21st Century Fluency Projects 6D model for Solution Fluency is an excellent example of how to work through the project or problem based learning frame work.

Measuring Technology Growth

Assessments aim to provide an accurate measures student performance at one point in time and to help gauge how much student learning is taking place. If we can apply assessments to curriculum subjects then why does it seem to be so challenging to gauge student growth in their technology usage and their abilities that show deeper thinking and creativity.

Let’s start by looking at school administrators and professional development as being a key part of bringing deeper learning, creativity and technology to students. When looking at the latter, Jeff Utecht makes an interesting point in one of his blogs that most administrators aren’t trained to evaluate the use of technology in a classroom environment. He suggests admin should evaluate the usage of technology in the classroom through the stages of technology adoption. Take for example these question when evaluating the use of technology in the classroom;

  1. Is the technology being used “Just because it’s there”?
  2. Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in Old ways?
  3. Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in New ways?
  4. Is the technology creating new and different learning experiences for the students?

As a school it is always good to know just how technology is being used and how well it is integrated into everyday lessons. All schools should now be aiming to use technology to create new and different learning experiences. Jeff Utecht also strongly believes we need to stop treating technology as a separate subject and need to see it more like an information skill. Which in turn promotes deeper learning and creativity. If we view technology as a skill, then we can look at the skills students are learning through the use of technology. These skills involve: Creativity and Innovation, Communication and Collaboration, Research and Information FluencyCritical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making, Digital Citizenship and Technology Operations and Concepts.

The continuum below aims to asses students’ performances in these skills. It does not include softwares and apps because if we teach software we would be teaching and assessing a program not the skills. Technology integration should be about giving students the variety of tools they need to be successful in creating new and different learning experiences.

Technology Developmental Continuums (TDC)

When teachers assess student performance on a continuum, they’re not placing value or judgment on it — that’s evaluating or grading. When using a continuum, the goal is simply to report a student’s profile of achievement.

Many schools are already using Bonnie Campbell Hill‘s Reading and Writing Continuum. Like her developmental continuums, this technology developmental continuum aims to provide a common language between administrators, teachers, students, and parents. 

Teachers can use the TDC to describe what a student should master from the pre-conventional stage to the proficient level. Teachers can put their students’ learning into context by pointing out to parents, for example, “Here’s where we placed your child on this continuum. The evidence we used to support our assessment will help you see why.” The goal of a TDC is so teachers can also report individual progress. Teachers can say, for example, “Relative to other five-year-olds, your child is still behind / just right / ahead.”

Technology Developmental Continuum (pdf)

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.04.21 AM

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.04.47 AM








An initial design for this continuum was created by Carrie Zimmer in 2012. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.15.28 PM








Feb 21

Think 3D to Print 3D

Unlimited 3D designing



I remember the first time I encountered the concept of being able to print 3D from a home printer. It was when someone in 2013 had printed their own gun. No way! Really? In his own home? YES! Well, thank goodness the U.S. Department of Homeland Security demanded Defense Distributed to remove the plans to design a working plastic gun from their website (according to Wikipedia).

And now, only 2 years later, 3D printing is an undeniable force in up-and-coming technology that we see in classrooms and schools. It is used as a learning tool which will continue to evolve. Front runners in The Netherlands like LeapFrog, Ultimaker and in NY MakerBot continue to provide benefits beyond standard educational curricula.

3D printing gives students the unlimited ability to design, test and engineer with hands on exposure to additive manufacturing and gives them an advantage at the dawn of the next revolution in digital manufacturing. Nearly every subject has a potential engagement and with 3D printers students are learning to do more than ask what technology can do for them. They are starting to ask what can they do with it.

3D printing stimulates student’s mechanical-spatial awareness in ways that textbooks cannot. By this special hand-on learning young students are able to see the beauty of the engineering process, take an initial idea all the way to completion. This will influence all the way in their educational experience. In an blog he wrote for 3D Print outlines several examples of how just about every subject within a school curriculum could benefit from 3D printing technology. He examples he mentions in his blog are using 3D prints for math, geography mapping, art and history. 3D modeling allows for a hands-on look at replicas of ancient artifacts as well as models of difficult-to-understand mathematical concepts.


Authentically Shaping the Future



Teachers who are fortunate to have access to 3D printing in their schools must understand how to incorporate 3D printing meaningfully into their instruction. To do this, they must move toward project-based learning in which teachers and students need to familiarize themselves with 3D design software. Doodle3D and SketchUp that allow students to construct their own designs. Students can also easily build from thousands of interesting models downloaded from the Internet, but just downloading and printing objects is not the best way to use 3D printers in the classroom. Doodle3D allows for students to create a simple line drawing on an iPad or computer. When the drawing is complete, the user simply presses ‘print’. The Doodle3D WiFi-Box connects your 3D-printer wirelessly to your laptop, computer, tablet or smart-phone and layer by layer the printer creates a 3D object from the 2D sketch made.

The key is to design and build something of value to the student. For example, students could build a model of a3D in the classroom settlement on the moon, including housing and research quarters and lunar ground transportation vehicles. To be successful, students would have to research the challenge of living in a hostile environment, such as that on the moon, and take into consideration the lack of breathable air and reduced gravitational force, etc. This part of the project would take a few weeks to complete; the actual building of the model is the reward for all the design work students do up front. David Thornburg the author of 3D Printing in the Classroom, has written several fascinating blogs about Tinker-Based Learning and understanding on how 3D printing fits into the STEM curriculum. He is also a true advocate of authenticity when working with students and 3D printers.

Printrbot has recently designed a curriculum document with a list of outcomes for teachers who want to incorporate 3D printing in their classrooms.  covers topics such as ‘Getting to know Your Printer’, ‘Designing and Creating Objects’, ‘The Printing Process’ and ‘Finishing Projects’. This document is aimed to provide the list of skills and ideas teachers are starting to explore 3D printing with their students.

In Indianapolis, a high school found a way to blend technology and authentic learning & creating. Engineering instructor Carita Girman was provided 3D printers for her class when she and her students embarked upon engineering and designing prosthetic hands challenge. Through a program called Enabling the Future, Ms. Girman and her students showed true authenticity after studying, designing and creating a prosthetic hand for a 6 year old girl.



Bringing 3D Home

With the support of my husband, I have taken on board my own challenge.
We recently bought our own 3D printer. Well in truth, we have invested in a “new simple maker’s kit” to construct our very own 3D printer. Seeing the value in building one ourselves, we started assembling it last night…. Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 1.58.15 PMThere are an incredible amount of parts, lots of screws and 51 steps for assembling. Who knew one could make their own printer using tie-wraps and wood.

Our 3D printer to be is a Printrbot. If you are interested in exploring a complete list of 3D printers with reviews and prices, please go to

My goals are to familiarize myself with the constructional parts and functions of a simple 3D printer, to expose my 5 year old twins to Doodle3D and hence printing their own designs, and to begin explorations into how I could use such an amazing up-and-coming piece of technology in my classroom.




Jan 29

Exploring Dyslexia

Image from Education International

Image from Education International

Although I was raised in Dutch, as I child spoke English with my siblings and had mastered English as any other native speaker would at the International/American schools I attended. Yet, I found myself in an ESL classroom throughout my whole elementary and middle school education. But English wasn’t my second language. It was my first language and it was the language in which I had learned to read and write. However, I was extracted from the mainstream classroom, given extra support and was given extra test time. I always wondered why was English such a challenging for me. The answer is simple…. I couldn’t spell.

Now I have a daughter of my own and I am just oh so curious to explore the peculiarities of dyslexia. My goal in this blog post is to rediscover and try to understand my own childhood better and help me explore my daughter’s ‘word blindness’. This post is dedicated to her and my explorations into understandings and/or misconceptions of dyslexia. I am by no means an expert in this area but thought I’d share my findings.

Being an analytical thinker, I figured a good place to start would be to dissect the word itself:

dyslexia (n.)

c.1887, from German lexie (1883), from Greek dys “bad, abnormal, difficult” (see dys-) + lexis “word“,
from legein “speak” (see lecture (n.)).

:a variable often familial learning disability involving difficulties in acquiring and processing language
that is typically manifested by a lack of proficiency in reading, spelling, and writing

Here is my hypothesis for a word sum: dys + lex + ia. Looking just at the word itself, I believe if <dys> is a prefix, then <lex> could be the base and <ia> a suffix used to form terms for states or conditions, which are often seen as abnormal. Or possibly the base could possibly be <lexia> but I can’t proof this. So maybe this wasn’t the best place to start because I got stuck with the word <lexia>. In any case, it is clear to me now that the word dyslexia presents what many people perceive being abnormality and have language difficulties. This perception isn’t totally incorrect, it’s just incomplete….

A more complete understanding

One of the best ways I can explain dyslexia is as an orthographic memory deficit – meaning that someone with dyslexia can not remember what the word looks like in reading and when spelling. Even students have had a strong phonetic background, they will still mix up their letters in words and have word blindness. Take a look at this example;

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.38.12 PM

In this sample, this child shows a variety of signs of dyslexia. She has flipped the letter /w/ with /m/ when trying to write (why). In her first sentence she writes /them/ to represent /he/ yet in her question she is able to spell /he/ correcting. She has also written <dus> (does) completely phonetically. This shows that she knows her phonics but can’t remember what the word looks like and therefore can only use phonics to spell words. This child has word blindness.

Word Blindness
What I remember most about learning how to read was that I would always make wild guesses and stabs at words. By looking at the pictures, there was a great chance my guesses would be correct. If not, the teacher usually would just tell me the word. Simply put, I couldn’t read and guessing was my simplest solution. Not because I didn’t have any phonics knowledge but only because I couldn’t remember what the words. looked like. I believe this was because I was never taught explicit spelling functions and wasn’t guided enough into understanding language as a systematic system. Here’s an interesting idea: 87% of the English language is predictable/decodable if you know the rules that govern the language. Yet, spelling for me was truly based purely on memorization. If only I understood the language and someone had taught me those rules.

Created by Sanne Bloemarts

I’ve read that there are over a million words in the English language and of all these words, about 600,000 words are in the Oxford English dictionary. Out of these 600,000 words, 83% are words from Greek or Latin roots. The remaining words have Anglo-Saxon roots. But then why do we find English such an irregular language? It’s because all the common everyday words (the ones we teach our students in first, second and third grade and are often referred to as sight words (the ones we tell our students to memorize), are in the remaining 17%. Even though these words only take up so little of the English language we tend to use these words the most and that’s why English seems so much more irregular than what it is.


Dyslexia is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points (The Rose Report – 2009). Meaning some people can be just a little dyslexic while others are very dyslexic depending on where they are on the continuum. I consider myself a little dyslexic. I’ve always been a horrible speller and still am when I hand write. Surprisingly, when working on a computer my spelling improves with leaps and bounds. I have become very good at using the web to find the spelling of words and am a huge advocate of using the right mouse click to find synonyms. Using tools as and etymology my number one go to places when I want to better understand words or even when I just want to be more creative in my writing. Having these tools just a click away helps me produce writing that make sense. On paper, which I almost never use anymore, I am usually still a mess. When I write I find myself concentrating on the spelling so much that I usually loose my train of thoughts and can’t seem to a be able to form coherent paragraphs.

Tech to the Rescue

Advances in technology have proven to have a positive effect on reaching dyslexic students. As I explained above, writing on a computer can eliminate the difficulties many dyslexic students and the spell-check feature helps with the frequent spelling mistakes that dyslexics are prone to make. Here are some great tools to you could start incorporating;
Software programs such as Kurzweil, can read back electronic or scanned-in texts, using an assortment of natural voices. This approach allows students to read along with the spoken words. Teachers at the schools could also be using Lexia reading software to reinforce phonological awareness and increase reading fluency. This program allows for the repetition that dyslexic readers need.

To improve reading comprehension, teachers could use Thinking Reader, which embeds prompts, hints, and feedback in the assortment of literature it contains. Load2Learn and Books4All are useful sites where teachers can download free accessible resources, especially books, to help students with dyslexia on classroom iPads. These resources are made by educational professionals who have an interest in providing support. Another great resource is an article written by the British Dyslexia Association. In this article they present a large variety of Apps that address the needs dyslexic students encounter. It highlights particularly useful features of each App and has detail descriptions.

Today’s technological age has brought so many great computer programs and tools to help individuals with listening & speaking, reading & spelling and writing & organization. However I always keep in mind that these technologies cannot replace direct intervention for students with learning challenges. They are merely a tool, a support, and a fun way of learning to read and write and to build confidence.

Six Simple Supporting Strategies 

Naturally, there is an endless number of ways and strategies to help our students with dyslexia with or without integrated technology. Many experts have written about such strategies in far more depth than I. The goal of this blog post was for me to look into the world of dyslexia a little deeper and to explore tools and strategies that I believe will make a difference. Below are six simple but important strategies I want to start including in my daughter’s upbringing and education.

1. Multi-sensory Learning
Dyslexic students should be using all their senses (visual, auditory, kinesthetics) simultaneously when learning. For example, when looking at helping students remember affixes, students should be writing, saying and seeing the affix. This could be done by writing words as a whole for handwriting practice rather than learning to write single letters.

YouTube Preview Image

2. Explicit, Systematic and Cumulative
Learning language is a systematic system in which dyslexic students need to be given explicit instruction leaving little to no chance and guessing. Rules such as ‘No English word can end with the letter /i/’ will help my daughter when she trying to figure out which letter to use when she hears /i/ as the last sound in a word such as /sky/.

3. Diagnostic and prescriptive
Ideally, student with dyslexia should be receiving individual lessons and based on diagnoses. In such cases a teacher only aim to fill the gaps in a child’s learning and can specifically build on only what the child already knows.

4. Cognitive
A dyslexic child needs to be taught that English is based on logic and reasoning and where spelling is not based on memorization but rather on understanding. Students need to learn how words work and see spelling as a thinking skill rather than a memorization skill. This ties directly into learning spelling through structures and strategies. Check out my blog post on constructing spelling through WordWorks in which I explain how we can learn spelling through understanding.

5. Teaching to automaticity
Dyslexic learners needs to be able to completely internalize each concept learned as a basis for future learning. Without full understanding of specific spelling rules, language once again becomes a memorization skill rather than a thinking skill.

6. Emotional Sound
It is extremely important to build succes and confidence with all students. With dyslexic students who generally believe they are stupid because they can’t spell, never ask them to read or spell anything that hasn’t been taught and practiced. Simple but oh so very true!




Jan 10

Edu for a new Era?

What are schools of the ‘future’ starting to look like?
In the Netherlands more than 10 “Steve Jobs” schools have starting teaching according to the principles of the O4NT, or Onderwijs voor een nieuwe tijd (Education for a new era), which emphasizes the role of the iPad in an elementary school environment. The program gives each child access to a “virtual school” through an iPad and helps them develop information and communication technology (ICT) and information processing skills, collaboration techniques and a critical, problem-solving and creative mind.

Although it may seem like quite an extreme concept if you have never encountered the O4NT schools before, the structure of these Dutch schools is hoping to branch out at least ten other countries. Even withIn the Netherlands, the O4NT schools will expanded according to Maurice de Hond (one of the initiators of O4NT) in an article on (Dutch online news).

Within these O4NT schools, each student is given an iPad instead of textbooks to encourage individualized learning and, potentially replacing traditional teachers. Various Apps were developed to help facilitate this new style of learning, including Tiktik sCoolTool — which manages a student’s schedule and assignments — and sCoolProjects — which allows students to work on group research projects. Parents and teachers will also be able to follow students through the iDesk Learning Tracker.

One major shift under O4NT’s system is the role of teachers. According to the press release from O4NT, “teachers will no longer simply convey knowledge to a group of children; they will be transformed into coaches that support children with their individual and group projects.”


So, is this truly the end of classrooms?
As a parent and a teacher, I want children to be comfortable and confident with the iPad on a daily basis. Being able to understand and work with a variety of Apps, making digital connects and being able to problem solve in a complex online way is all part of new learning. Even from a very young age and we could almost say iPad/tablet learning is virtually ‘unstoppable’.

Some fear and feel that we should stop using iPads and tablets in the classroom in order for schools not to turn into such O4NT schools. Would that be the solution for the fear of virtual classrooms? Should we stop all together with technology at schools as suggested by the ‘unplugged’ Waldorf School of the Peninsula, in Silicon Valley, where they provide a “renaissance education”.

On the contrary, I believe we should continue to embrace technology. Good Great teachers are constantly finding new ways to incorporate iPads in our ‘new’ teaching & learning. However, what personally scares me about schools such as O4NT, isn’t the technology; it is the lack of balance! Balance between screen and outside play time. Balance between group and individualized learning. Balance between being in the classroom and at home. Balance between talking and online chatting. Etcetera! The list could go on and on. As an educator and parents I believe finding the perfect balance is the greatest challenge of future education.

To learn more about O4NT schools;


Nov 25

Infographic Flipped Classroom

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 5.18.00 PM

There has been a lot of interest in the flipped classroom since it started about 10 years ago. Unfortunately there also seems to be quite a bit of mis-information and mis-understanding about the Flipped Classroom. There is also quite a bit of controversy about whether or not this is a viable instructional methodology.
Many bloggers, such as the ones listed below, explore and explain their thoughts about flipped classrooms but to put it all in a nutshell for you and for you to share, I created the infographic below;

This infographic is meant for teachers and parents
who are new to this methodology. Feel free to use it and to share with others.


Flipped_Classroom title=

Created by Sanne Bloemarts in

My thoughts of Flipped Classroom

While researching about the Flipped Classroom, my first reaction was, “this is not for kindergarteners!” And it wasn’t after reading inspiring stories and blogs that I was convinced it is actually applicable for all grade levels in some way or another. I feel truly motivated and inspired to try something new in my class after reading an article written in the Huffington Post about a teacher who tried to start a Flipped Classroom even though her students didn’t even have computers. Anything is possible.

For my videos, I began thinking about modeling my lesson after this one, focusing on a letter of the alphabet each week (which matches our reading series). Another great video on a flipped lesson for kinders in this one, in which content and vocabulary is introduced. This would be great to save class time for our IPC units of study.
I have also started following #flipclass to get the stories and experiences of others. Unfortunately not much is directed for a kinder classroom but non the less, I have started collecting a bunch of resources (such as WatchKnowLearn) and making some of my own videos that would apply to kindergraten. All in all I have concluded it is not the impossible task to have some what flipped kindergarten classroom.

FYI (a Flipped Classroom)

Below are a bunch of resources that may be helpful if you would like to find out more about this new way of teaching and learning!
The video below (Flipping the Classroom Simply Speaking)  provides a useful overview of the concept behind the Flipped Classroom.

YouTube Preview Image

The video below by Ben Rouse provides a description of how he has put the flipped classroom into practice in his school, including why, the steps involved in introducing it, the process and the benefits experienced by learners.

YouTube Preview Image

The presentation by Ben Rouse on his interpretation of Flipped Learning in his classroom. This accompanies the video above and provides links to resources mentioned in the video.



Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 5.10.49 PM

Flipping the Classroom is a post written by Harvey in which he shares tools to use for ‘Flipping the Classroom’ such as Google Hangouts (which I wrote about last time), Jing, Camtasia,


The Digital Sandbox Flipped Classroom Defined is a comprehensive post by Mike King which not only provides helpful presentations explaining the theory behind the flipped classroom concept, and examples of it in practice, it also includes links to digital tools which would support teachers in moving to using the flipped classroom concept in their own practice.



Lessons Turned Upside Down is an article by Darren Evans in the Times Educational Supplement which provides the background to the concept behind the Flipped Classroom – where pupils are directed to online resources by the teacher in advance of coming to class, and the activity where pupils put their learning into practice is then undertaken in class time with support from the teacher.



What the Flip? is an article by Steve Wheeler which challenges educators to think through what they are doing when considering a flipped classroom model.




ESchool News Flipped learning: A response to common criticisms by Alan November and Brian Mull provides helpful definitions of successful Flipped Learning along with links to research and examples of Flipped Learning in educational settings. The ESchool News also has a collated list of various posts on the topic of Flipped Learning here.


Jeff Dunn on the Edudemic Blog (Connecting Education and Technology) provides a visual infographic which provides an overview of why some educators hav emoved to using Flipped Classroom techniques and the differences it has made to learning and teaching for them and their learners.



The Flipped Classroom Model is a post by Jackie Gerstein which concentrates, not on the video element which many might see incorrectly as the main focus on learning, on what a teacher can do differently in the classroom to achieve the deeper understanding through managed activities which brings about higher order thinking and learning by pupils.


 Lisa Nielson on the Tech & Learning blog sets out concerns which have been raised about implementation of Flipped Learning models (and which schools thinking about introudcing the Flipped Classroom techniques would want to consider) and provides comments from others on how these concerns have been addressed in schools.

Where is it used already?

Edudemic Blog post on schools using the flipped classroom model provides links to schools using Flipped Classroom techniques in their classrooms and descriptions of their experiences.

Education Next  post by Bill Tucker provides examples of how the Flipped Classroom model is used in classrooms. In addition to describing how it is used the article also has many comments from other educators where concerns are expressed and how these concerns have been addressed.



Oct 06

Con+struct+ing Spell+ing through WordWorks

Deos it mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are? Smoe say the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.


So, if the order of letters in words really don’t matter, why do we mark spelling words inaccurate when the letters aren’t in their correct spot? I believe we should completely rethink the way spelling is taught.
Teaching spelling and learning how to spell is challenging for many. This seems to be so because many of us assume we need to memorize spelling patterns and spelling rules such as;                  

“i before e except after c”

Really? Is this how our students are supposed to know how to spell a word such as <perceive>? What about exceptions such as <science> and <sufficient>? How can we expect our students to memorize such spelling conventions when there are always exceptions to keep in mind. No wonder I was a terrible speller. Teaching spelling may seem like the impossible tasks mainly I think this is because we often don’t know the reasons to why words are spelled the way that they are. Well, as part of my professional development, I started looking into this and discovered spelling does make sense and I am not alone.

Spelling and Orthography

Understanding Spelling In a Nutshell
Let’s start by looking into what we need to know in order to be able to spell. And, to be a better spelling teacher it is important to understand the what spelling truly entails to foster our students’ orthographic knowledge.
To know how to spell a word (to have orthographical knowledge), we have to use two kinds of knowledge: morphological knowledge (knowing the spelling of the morphemes [the smallest meaningful units of language]) that a word contains and phonological knowledge (understanding the sound to letters [phoneme to grapheme] relation).

When learning and building vocabulary, our students also need etymological knowledge, which refers to knowing the origin and history of words. This taps into the fact that for instance a significant number of words in English are derived from Latin and Greek. The knowledge of Latin and Greek roots increases students’ ability to understand English words.

Using Word Sums and Matrices
Word matrices are powerful tools for exploring and testing knowledge of word structure. They provide a graphical shorthand for illustrating families of interrelated words, according to Peter Bowers (founder of WordWorks Literacy Center). He also states that word sums reveal how the underlying meaning-bearing building blocks of words (morphemes) combine to form words.

Take for example the word <does>. Instead of teaching <does> as a slight word that our students just simply must remember, we could or rather should be teaching it as a structured word. <does> is simply <do + es>. The suffix <-es> is added instead of just an <s> because the root ends in a vowel. This is comparable to the base <go>.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 5.51.38 PM

Structured Word Inquiry

Because English spelling is well-ordered, its basic structures and principles
can be taught 
with critical thinking and problem-solving as
an engine for developing students’ word knowledge 

and motivation for word learning.
Peter Bower

We should therefore be on the look out for our students interest in spelling. We should try to catch our students asking fantastic questions such as ‘why are there two <l> in <finally>’ or ‘ why do we say <photo> with a long <o> sound but in <photographer> we hardly pronounce the first <o> and the second <o> is short. When a student asks such amazing questions, praise their curiosity and encourage your student to continue such inquiries. Together or independently students should be guided to discover reasons through hypothesizes and finding evidence. This what Peter Bowers calls Structured Word Inquiry.

More than just Inquiry
Not all of our spelling instruction should be bases solely on the questions asked by our students. Teachers need to learn the fundamentals of the English system (the content) and then challenge themselves with the hard part –> choosing which spelling principle to teach to which student(s) under which circumstances. Peter Bowers aims to help teachers teach how the written word works through his websiteworkshops and a teacher resource book.

Students need to be given explicit instruction about morphology as a important part of helping students understanding how spoken and written English works. When teachers and students begin to learn about morphology, phonology, and etymology and how these three aspects of language work together it becomes possible to see why people like Peter Bowers say English spelling is an orderly system.

Fitting in the Technology

Although there is are only a few Apps for which tackle spelling older grades, none really tackle word building strategies whereby students are working on understanding morphology, phonology, and etymology. I haven’t tried this app with a classroom but this one might be worth while trying with your students.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 2.24.15 PM

Miss Spell’s Class is a word game that lets players test their spelling skills against the most commonly misspelled words on Players must quickly decide whether each of 20 words is spelled correctly or incorrectly, as speed and accuracy count to get to the top of the class! I haven’t used this yet but this sounds like a fun option for the older grades.


We enjoy having a variety of apps for our students on our classroom devices but when it comes to spelling through the eyes of inquiry and scientific spelling investigations, we should not rely on an app to help or support our students understanding of why words are spelled the way that they are. Instead we should use these online resources to support structured word inquiry:


The Online Etymology Dictionary is a free online dictionary that describes the origins of English-language words. Douglas Harper compiled the etymology dictionary to record the history and evolution of more than 30,000 words, including slang and technical terms.


This website will help you search for words which contain a particular chosen morphemic structure. For example if you were looking for all the words with <hap> in it. Remember this website only gives you a list of words and can not distinguish between words that do or do not fit the word family. When investigating related words, one must always do the structure and meaning test to determine if there is an orthographic relation between any two words:

  • The Structure Test: Construct coherent word sums to see if the two words share a common written base.
  • The Meaning Test: Use etymological references to see if the two words share a common root origin.

Mini Matrix-Maker will build a word matrix for you from the set of word sums you create for a particular word family. Deciding how to organize a word matrix can be difficult and even one small change to your word sums can make a big difference in what the final matrix looks like. Mini Matrix-Maker makes life easy for you and your students. All you have to do is create accurate word sums and the mini matrix maker will make an attractive matrix for you.


Real Spelling

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.04.08 AM

Real Spelling offers teachers comprehensive resources that explain the workings of English spelling. The Real Spelling website is a resource that offers understanding of the linguistic facts of the English orthographic system. The Real Spelling toolbox is for anyone who wants to know the facts of English orthography. It offers a detailed understanding of the spelling system. Although Real Spelling is probably the most detailed and informative resource you can find to understand our written language, it leaves choices of how to teach its content to teachers.


Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.16.56 AM

In contrast to Real Spelling, instructional theory and practice is the explicit focus of WordWorks. WordWorks, run by Peter Bower, offers training and resources that allow teachers develop a structured word inquiry instructional approach that becomes leverage for deepening learning in any content area. Be sure to check out his WordWorks website for many more details and links!


In conclusion, orthography is much more than expecting our students to spell correctly. As teachers our goal is to challenge ourselves and our students with questions and investigations into why words are spelled the way they are using the tools and links such as the ones I have mentioned above.


Oct 30



Some rights reserved by tinafranklindg

When is a book no longer a book?

The first electronic books were basic texts delivered to device. And while the vast majority of digital books sold still fall into this category, the next generation of e-books and book apps are rapidly changing and feature everything from video extras to animation to interactive games. For teachers, it is especially encouraging to see that many new features have been developed to make books more accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities.

Lots of interesting features out there are enabling children to interact with books in completely new ways. For example, Dr. Seuss eBooks have recently added new features that allow a parent to record his or her voice to play along with the child while reading. So, if a parent is away, ie. due to work, the child could actually hear that parent still reading to them.

For little kids, the text highlighting is a really big part of eBooks. Some new features enabling them to be able to follow along the reading. Such follow-along features are perfect for kids with dyslexia. The ability to see and hear the word at the same time with visual highlight really helps kids who lack decoding skills.

Other eBooks offer more advanced interactivity and animation and some of these books that might not resemble the print version, as we know it. These interactive books, enter new territory when we add other media such as audio and video, and features like navigational interactivity and user-determined engagement tools. These features get eBooks labeled as “enhanced” or “enriched.”

Apple has been the leader in creating a platform that expands the concept of the book; the company’s term for what it enables is “multi-touch” — a reasonably descriptive label for both the creator and the consumer. Another term that has gained some use is “transmedia storytelling.”  In addition to being words on a page and pictures, such animated and interactive eBooks also offer online social experiences that go along with the books.

Enhanced eBooks are all about videos embedded into the book. A good commercial example is the new book, ‘Night Film,‘ by Marisha Pessl has many images embedded into the book, as well as a companion app that people can use to read along with it.

But a lot of people are worried about eBooks. They wonder if a book that has a lot of animation is still really a book. They worry about eBooks being the same as giving children a video. Many enhanced eBooks are indeed starting to cross the blurring lines. For now at least, most eBooks are essentially the same as beautifully illustrated children’s picture books – only in a form that can be downloaded to an iPad or a Reader, or even a computer screen. So children are seeing, maybe that same picture that they might have seen if they were reading the book with their mom or dad on the couch, but now maybe mom or dad are next to them, still on the couch with an e-Reader or perhaps the computer.


Some rights reserved by teclasorg

What, if any, are eBooks adding to the reading experience? 

eBooks are slowly but surely become more and more accessible and they are slowly starting to change the landscape of reading. For many, especially for those children (and adults) who struggle with reading a standard print book, eBooks are becoming more indispensable. An organization called Bookshare has deeply invested in eBooks and now runs the largest digital library for blind and dyslexic people in the US. They serve a quarter million people and their whole goal is to turn that any inaccessible print book into something these children can use through audio, enlargements, braille on a braille display, etc.

But what does recent research tell us? Are these eBooks enhancing student learning? What effects do these enhanced interactive books have on student literacy? Unfortunately no publicized research has yet revealed the effects of eBooks on young readers. Many say you can take it with a grain of salt that children truly comprehended more of the story after using a Read Along feature versus when their parents were reading along with them. In truth, eBooks for general interest readers have just not sold very well. “Creators and publishers have tried to figure out whether and how to integrate these various multimedia and interactive elements into new products are being faced a significant business challenge,” says David Wilk on

Scholastic Publishing Company has been looking into finding sustainable ways to incorporate technology through a variety of ways including a project named; 39 Clues, which was very successful. Scholastic was one of the first publishing companies to experiment with ‘trans-media’. They aimed to build new kinds of media experiences that cross boundaries between books and interactive learning. 39 Clues is a series of ten titles, each written by a different, fairly well known children’s author that came out in succession. Each book came with a set of trading cards and a set of interactive codes that kids could use to join this online network. Millions of children have joined the website and thousands more join every single day. Project 39 Clues has been so very successful that, in a way, this may represent the future of reading.

Current Research on eBooks

As a follow up on the series 39 Clues, Scholastic came out with a study last year in which thousands of parents and kids were asked to take a survey. One of the things that most parents said they were most worried about with eBooks was that things like games and interactive features on the book might actually take the kids away from the actual act of reading. There are lots of other things they appreciated about eBooks, but that sense that it might turn too much into a game is something that parents are most concerned about.

Scholastic, Digital Book World and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center have been doing a variety of studies to learn more about the effects of eBooks on reading, interactive learning, comprehension, vocabulary building, child development, etc. The one study that that truly focuses on whether these interactive elements actually help reading comprehension and learning, or not, is the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. They looked at children and reading comprehension between print books, e-books and what we’re talking about now is enhanced e-books. And they found that children preferred reading on e-books. However, reading comprehension was lower on enhanced e-books than it was for both e-books and for print books. But the fact is, we just don’t know. Of course, accessibility is a huge issue, and being able to have access to information that you have no other comparison to is a great advantage for very many.

Where next?

Well, as we work on our computers and devices, we see Google understands pretty well what we’re searching for. And Amazon, understands what kind of books we read, and Netflix, what kind of movies we watch. It might be terrific, in the long term, if these enhanced e-books, just through the process of watching us do most of our reading, get a really good handle on what suits us best as readers. For example, if we learn visually, give us more visual material. If we learn auditorially, let’s go ahead and read it aloud. AND, if I use both synchronized, because that works best for me, I would like to get it that way. The ultimate goal would be to move away from that one size fits all approach and to start thinking about developing new customized eBooks.


Enhanced Ebooks Bad for Children
What is an enhanced eBook?
Screen Time
Parent Survey
Ebooks Fostering Literacy
Print vs Ebooks
Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s Quick Report on Books vs eBooks


Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is an outstanding source and this nonprofit organization focuses on the impact of media and technology on children and families. For those interested, I have found an amazing report on their most recent research on media use in the US called Zero to Eight.

This study explores American children’s media use of this year (2013). The report is the second in a series of surveys by Common Sense Media designed to document the media environments and behaviors of kids ages 8 and under. Link on this infographic to see an enlarged version!


Oct 17

Educational Books: Creative Teaching

If you are in search of good educational books that focus on Creative Teaching here is a list of books I have put together to help you decide on what to read next.

Being a Creative Teacher doesn’t imply you are teaching creativity. There is a noteworthy difference between creative teaching and teaching for creativity. When we teach creatively, we focus on the process. When teaching for creativity, we focus on the product at the end. As teachers it is our job to stop teaching what we think our students should show what they know (product) and focus more on helping our students learn what they need to know (process). Only then can we focus on finding creative ways to achieve creative learning!

Reading one or more of these books (not listed in a particular order) will guide you along in discovering more and new ways to develop the gifts and talents of all your students and your teaching.

Creative Learning without Limits explores ways of teaching free from determinist beliefs about ability.
The book outlines a vision of schooling that allows everybody to enjoy a full education to realize their gifts and talents. To read more about this book, explore this blog post written in Leading and Learning.
Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative is written by Sir Ken Robinson who advocates that creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy. Don’t miss his presentation on TED to get a better feel for his passion for education presented in his true humorous way.
Making Learning Whole – David Perkins provides seven principles of teaching that he believes can transform education.
Wounded by School – is a powerful book that shows how students’ are affected negatively by schooling – something teachers don’t like to think about!
The Passionate Teacher – Robert Fried provides many practical ideas to support creative teachers.

Powerful Learning by Linda Darling Hammond and others, is an outstanding book about how to develop inquiry learning across the curriculum. It provides practical examples and shares studies showing a deeper understanding derived from collaborative methods. I haven’t read this book yet but if most definitely on my list.
There are so many more amazing authors and recommendable books out there and I would love to hear about what you’ve been reading, so please feel free to share…..

Sep 03

I am, what I share! Internet Addiction

Addicted? Say What? Me?
Are you continuously sharing your life with others? Do you feel addicted to the internet and digital world? Should you be evaluating the impact of the Internet on your life, and address the problems directly caused by your Internet usage? I know you are probably thinking no, no, no,…..not me. We may think that but in some way or another we are all a little addicted to being online. You too are keen on being connected and staying up to date. The question is how much!


We are continuously evolving and like most species we are continuously in search of new addictions. Scientists discover new things about animal addictions all the time; such as bighorn sheep being addicted to licking lichen from rocks or hamsters being addicted to using their running wheels. Maybe being electronically connected has evolved into being a common human addiction.

Although internet addiction is growing rapidly and is now worldly recognized, some countries such as Japan are fearing the very worst for their youngsters. Already an estimated 518,000 kids, between the ages of 12 and 18, in the country are allegedly addicted to the Internet. As a solution the ministry is suggesting to create ‘internet fasting camps’ at outdoor learning centers where children will have no access to the Internet. However, what the article in The Telegraph, and the Japanese ministry are omitting to mention is in which way these adolescents are addicted.

The majority of people we see with serious internet addiction are gamers – people who spend long hours in roles in various games that cause them to disregard their obligations. We all know internet addiction is causing sleep and eating disorder, and in Japan, extreme cases have led to symptoms of depression and deep vein thrombosis. In the International Business Times, T. Stokes wrote an interesting article on ‘Internet Addiction’ in which he shares the brain changes in serious cases of internet-addicted people, are similar to addicts of alcohol, marijuana and even cocaine. Scientists scanned the brains of 17 Internet-addicted adolescents and found compared with controls, their addicted brains had changes in the white matter of the brain that is involved in attention, decision making, cognition and emotions.

I Am What I Share
Macro Lemcke
 shares interesting thought through TED conversation in which he says we are becoming a ‘Multi-Life Digital Creature’ and that it is not any more about what I am but more about what I share. I agree and realize much of my social contact with friends globally is based on what they and I share. Like children, we adults love to share, and we do it all the time. But weren’t we doing this already? Through letters, art, calligraphy, rock painting, etc. Sharing is part of what us human. Only now, sharing has just taken a different toll. We are sharing at a faster pass, sharing globally and sharing more complex information than ever before. This is a good thing, right?!
Well, maybe not so if you left your iPone at home:

YouTube Preview Image

But all yokes aside, I think for most of us, it’s about FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Most of us aren’t addicted, we just want to know what is going on. I define my technology/internet ‘addiction’ as a passion for being ‘up-to-date’. AND, we should embrace all the ways in which we can share but not be overwhelmed or addicted.

Getting Involved
Do we as grownups agree with the many scientists, researches, doctors, etc. who are suggesting that an obsession with online activities is also having an impact on children’s school performances? I would hope not. If this is the case, we as teachers and parents are doing something terribly wrong! Or the problem may actually be that we are not doing enough!

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 10.33.00 AMIf our ‘oh so important’ face-time is being defeated, killed even, by keyboard time, why do we keep introducing new gadgets that encourage technology addiction even at very young ages? Well, the answer is quite simple; because we can’t live without it and it is truly embedded in our lives. The internet is the newest and has the highest density of connection; it connects the world. And new technology inventions,….. well they will always remain cool and attractive! Who wouldn’t want to sit on this potty!

But that said, we must be alert as parents and teachers to what our youngsters are and are not doing with regards to too much internet/technology time. Dr. Graham thinks parents should be more aware and should consider the impact technology could have on their kids early on. “We really need to be thinking about early intervention, perhaps in antenatal classes, in the same way that [soon-to-be] parents are advised on diet and sleep … From the beginning, parents need to be aware that when your child sees you on your device, they will want that, too,” he told the Huffington Post. I couldn’t agree more with regards to parents but, we as teachers need to be doing the same! Even in daycare we need to think about the balance between learning with and without technology. We must continue to find new ways technology enhances the learning and children’s school performances! However, I recognize finding that healthy balance remains challenging! Teachers all over the world are now seeing the importance of integrating new technology in our curriculum and teaching & learning styles, and yet having all that technology run along side our face-to-face time with our students.

Stopping Your Addiction
Sometimes it can be as simple as just putting away your device!

But, here are some simple steps (developed by WikiHow) worthwhile reading to help those challenged in finding that personal healthy balance;

  1. Use the Internet for the same amount of time each time you use it.
    In other words, don’t say “I’ll only be on an hour today.” and then be on 5 hours the next and think you did well. A good time for daily Internet usage is 1 hour, or 2 hours at the most. You can set a timer for this so you do not go off track.
  2. If a timer doesn’t keep you on track, consider downloading parental control software– some programs include time locks. Let someone else set the password to override so that you can get it in an emergency, but not at your whim. There is a Google Chrome browser extension called StayFocusd that can synchronize the list of blocked pages between multiple computers.
  3. Delete accounts that you really don’t need anymoreHow many websites are there that you have accounts on that you don’t 100% need? YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace… sometimes people need their MySpace or Facebook for important things, like keeping in touch with people who don’t live nearby, but YouTube and Twitter and Facebook are normally the accounts that MUST be deleted. Twitter/Facebook is such a waste of time, and it’s quite addicting, while YouTube is also addicting, and people you don’t know want to interact too much. If you don’t want to delete your account, just block the pages.
  4. Delete your favorites (Keep important pages you might need for homework, etc.)

    — YouTube videos, online friends’ pages, all of it. If it’s not essential for your work or for you to breathe, don’t keep it.
  5. Be sure to maintain lots of offline activities. Have plenty of things to do that you enjoy. If you don’t have other hobbies, start looking for some. And volunteering can be a great way to get you out and about doing something useful/helpful.
  6. Monitor your feelings when you’re online and offline.
    Are you able to recognize when you’ve spent too long online? If not, you have a problem!

  7. So stop wasting your life on the Internet. Not that you can’t use the Internet at all, but use the right amount of time you’re supposed/you need to. Live your life more fully: go out; hang out with your friends; see a movie. Please remember what you’ve seen; this will change your life toward a great happy ordinary human being. Please stop using the Internet so much, for your own good.
  8. Be active and free — now, get off your computer: have fun and do your work/job away from the electronic task-maker!



Older posts «