Month: November 2015

Classroom Eye Candy

malmquist-fb2by Kristie Burk

Jennifer Gonzalez taught middle school language arts before becoming a university professor.  She writes the blog “Cult of Pedagogy” about the art of teaching. Check it out!

Before Thanksgiving, she posted a great article called “Classroom Eye Candy: A Flexible-Seating Paradise.”  In it, she interviews Rebecca Malmquist, a high school English teacher in Michigan who has rearranged her classroom space in a very unusual way.

The space is not just about the seating; although, the seating is pretty cool.  Malmquist is also concerned with lighting, music, and writing surfaces. Even if you do not have time to visit yard sales for couches and bean bags, you can still implement some of her ideas in small ways.

Check out the interview and the fantastic pictures!  Have you done something creative with your classroom? Do you have a favorite blogger? Let us know at



Downingtown’s First “Turn Off and Tune In” Weekend

Infographic: Americans Use Electronic Media 11+ Hours A Day | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

by Kristie Burk

According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, Americans aged 18 and older spend more than 11 hours a day using electronic devices. Yes, you read that correctly — 11 hours a day!! Since the average adults spends 6.8 hours sleeping – that’s A LOT of time online.

Do you ever wish you could just tune it all out? Starting on Wednesday, November 25th at 4:00 pm through Monday, November 30th at 4:00 am, the Downingtown Area School District will be participating in the “Turn Off; Tune In…To Your Family” weekend. All employees will be unable to send or receive email via their district accounts. Why not let the kids tune in to their families, too? Good news – teachers have agreed not to assign homework (excluding long-term projects) over the same time period.

Want to continue the trend beyond Thanksgiving weekend? Melissa Monahan, Senior Vice President at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, wrote an article that lists some suggestions for “replenishing” her mind.  Her suggestions:

  • Establish three ½ hour intervals a day (outside of sleeping) where I will not look at a screen at all.
  • Never bring any device other than an electric toothbrush into the bathroom. (Don’t act like you have never brought your phone in the bathroom.)
  • Three times a week pick up the phone to talk to a friend rather than text, tweet or Facebook message them.
  • Once a month write three cards/letters to friends or loved ones.
  • Instead of immediately tweeting something you think is interesting or pithy, share it in a verbal conversation with a friend, colleague or family member.
  • Start a journal and commit to writing in it one day a month. Writing does not have to be prose; it could include germs of ideas, song lyrics, silly observations or drawings.

Enjoy tuning into your family and friends and have a very happy Thanksgiving weekend!



Too much grading? One cool trick!

by Kristie Burk

It’s the age-old problem for teachers – you don’t want to grade EVERYTHING that you assign, but your students won’t do the assignments unless they’re “worth” something.

So, what is a teacher supposed to do!?

Buried Alive by Klaus M, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Klaus M 
Monique Wood, blended French teacher at Downingtown East High School, has a fantastic suggestion.  She gives her students several assignments during the course of a week, but she doesn’t tell them which ones will be graded.  At the end of the week – surprise! – the students find out.
This little trick is quite easy to do if you’re using Schoology.  You can create assignments, including tests and quizzes, and keep the category “ungraded.”  Then, you can just change the category later for the assignments that you want to count!
Even if you don’t use Schoology with your students, you can still use this little trick. Isn’t it brilliant?  Do you have a great tip to help your fellow educators with grading?  Let us know at

Food for Thought Friday: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Today’s guest blogger is Peg Calvario, a Philadelphia-area Certified Executive and Leadership Coach.

by Peg Calvario

Consider in a recent study by Bersin & Associatescompanies that excel at employee recognition are 12 times more likely to have strong business results.  Imagine if you cultivated an attitude of gratitude for everyone and everything in your organization.  What results could you generate?

Here are three ideas for a gratitude mindset:

  1. Each morning make a list of three to five things you appreciate. This requires only a moment and will help you cultivate a habit of gratitude and boost your happiness.
  2. Find ways to personalize your appreciation with your people.  Some people value acknowledgement before a group and others prefer a more private thank you.  The way you extend gratitude to others can make a big difference when people see how much you — their leader care about them.
  3. Be open to receiving feedback.  Part of expressing gratitude means really listening to and appreciating what the other person has to say.  If you show gratitude to someone who feels it is not genuine, the gesture is meaningless.

When you make the effort to cultivate an attitude of “thank you” in your thinking and actions, I am certain the results will be astounding.  Few things stick in our mind like those moments when we learn that people appreciate our efforts or we acknowledge others who have helped us.

What do you think? You can contact Peg directly at



Website Wednesday: 2015 List of Best Apps and Websites

Today’s guest blogger is Pat Carroll, Shamona Creek Elementary School Librarian.

by Pat Carroll

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) just published their 2015 list of best apps and websites, something they have been doing annually for a number of years for websites and more recently for apps.

They have been divided into categories, which makes it easier to browse what might be of interest.

In addition, I noted that in the closing General Session on Saturday afternoon, Eszter Hargittai, a professor at Northwestern University, shared her research on college students’ digital media use.

“Perhaps not surprising to the AASL audience was Hargittai’s finding that while it is true that millennials have been exposed to digital for most of their lives and spend a lot of time online, students are less savvy about navigating the Internet than most people believe, with digital naïve a better term to describe them than digital native. While everyone’s skills are improving with more exposure to the Internet, those students from less-privileged backgrounds than their peers don’t improve as quickly, widening the gap.” – Eszter Hargittai

When asked if lessons in digital use made a difference, Hargittai cited a study she conducted in which one group of students was offered one hour of instruction, while a control group had none. With only that one hour of coaching, the first group performed better.

If interested, here’s an additional link to read how she surprises her college students by sharing information about them she learns online as part of her course on “Managing your Online Reputation”.  I found it interesting reading!

An Hour of Code with Star Wars!

star_warsby Jonathan Blow has a brand new tutorial for the Hour of Code 2015, in partnership with Disney and Lucasfilm — featuring Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Work with Rey to guide the new droid, BB-8, through a mission. Then, join Leia to create and share your own game in a galaxy far, far away.

Try an early preview of Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code

Students will learn to write JavaScript to power their games. For younger learners, a tablet-friendly, drag-and-drop version will be available in the next few weeks. You can also check out other options for all ages. And stay tuned… more tutorials are coming soon.

Prizes for every educator — and a behind-the-scenes “Making of Star Wars” experience

There are 80,000 Hour of Code events signed up worldwide. Help your students join in on this record-breaking event! One Hour of Code can be enough to inspire the course of their lives. Join in.

  • Every organizer worldwide will receive a gift card to Amazon, iTunes or Windows Store.
  • One school in every US state will win $10,000 worth of technology for your school.
  • One lucky classroom will win an exclusive, behind-the-scenes “Making of Star Wars” experience with the visual effects team who worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens!
  • 100 participating classrooms will win a BB-8 droid robots that students can program.

I couldn’t be more excited to share Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code with you today. Code your own game, share it, and tell us what you think.

Food for Thought Friday: No More Lecture Halls?

by Kristie Burk

Do you remember the college lecture hall? When I attended Providence College as an undergraduate, I distinctly remember sitting in a large hall with a few hundred of my closest friends, listening to our professors talking.

Times are changing! I was reminded of this when listening to Julie Evans from Project Tomorrow speak at the recent iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium.

She showed us some pictures of a new building at the University of Kansas. [Get a 360 degree view of a classroom here.] The design and construction of the classrooms show us just how much our concept of learning and the skills needed to succeed in today’s marketplace have changed at all levels.

Instead of the traditional seats in a semi-circle around a lectern, the new classrooms at KU have tables where students can work in groups.  The tables are wired so that students can project with their devices to monitors either on the wall or on the table.  Most of the walls have whiteboards for collaboration. The focus has definitely shifted to the students.

“Even the common spaces in the new [KU] building provide opportunities for learning. For instance, the atrium provides a marvelous gathering space for individual study, but also for conversations that often lead to informal learning.” – Doug Ward, Associate Director of the University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence 

And the best part of the whole story? This is a new building…for the School of Engineering! The design choices are in response to the new skills that students are expected to develop. The school’s website says that the new classrooms are “critical for students to hone their teamwork and communication skills while building their technical expertise.”

Have you rearranged your classroom because of your emphasis on student-centered learning or does your room layout need an overhaul? Food for thought!