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Technology: the savior of education?

Posted by admin | Posted in 5Sigma, Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary | Posted on 05-10-2015

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In 2009, I left teaching. I didn’t do it because I was fed up with the system, or because I didn’t like my job. Quite the opposite. I really loved being a computer teacher. I loved the freedom of writing my own curriculum every day, and getting to know my students. I had a great time helping other teachers learn how to use technology, and coming up with ideas for how they could integrate it into their classrooms. In 2009, I left teaching for health reasons. I have auto immune disorders (Rheumatoid Arthritis and Raynaud’s Syndrome) and in 2009, my rheumatologist recommended that I take a year off to see if my body would stop attacking itself. Get away from the germs the wreak havoc on the system.

So, that is what I did. I took a year off, fully anticipating that this little experiment would not work and that I would be back in the classroom by 2010.

In 2008 (I know, I’m doing this in the wrong order!), I was teaching my students how to build a website using Wix. This is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) platform, but also allowed for some basic HTML embedding and tweaking. I was demonstrating for students how they could embed a Google Map onto their websites and asked the question, “if I wanted to put a map of the capital of the United States on my website, what would I need to type in?” Blank. Stares.

To clarify, these were 10 and 11-year-old students who are living IN the United States of America. I tried again, “You guys! The capital of the United States, you know, the country we live in?” At this point a few hands raised. “New York?” “San Francisco?” This was one of those face-palm teacher moments. In the interest of time, I gave them the answer. This scenario happened with 2 more classes. Out of 74 fifth grade students, not one of them knew the capital of their own country!!! At this point I started to panic a little. How could our social studies curriculum fail to mention the capital of the United States? I decided that I was going to take all of the curriculum home over the summer and create supplemental guides using technology to help teach what wasn’t in the curriculum. I didn’t stop at social studies, I took the reading, writing, math, and science curriculum home for kindergarten through fifth grade. The back of my MDX filled, I had a goal: to leverage technology to solve this problem.

As I poured over pages and pages of curriculum, one thing became abundantly clear…this was not a problem with the curriculum. At least not in the way I had assumed. It was all there. The kids had even done worksheets and taken tests on the information! When it came time to retrieve the information for a practical purpose, they couldn’t do it. Analyzing the curriculum, I could see why. The way that these skills were being taught was not going to reach my students. I knew these kids. I had taught them for years. As I looked at what the curriculum offered as “learning” I knew that it wouldn’t work for the majority of the students I saw each week in my computer lab. These are brilliant kids, but the only thing that the curriculum required of them was that they look at something, and then regurgitate what they had seen right back on paper. None of it ever had to take long-term residence in the brain. It went directly from the eyes to the hand. My pursuit of a technology supplement guide took on a new goal: take what was in the curriculum, and use technology to bring the learning to life. I had the added benefit of knowing each of the kids I was writing this for. I had their faces in my mind as I wrote these technology guides. I could picture their excitement over learning with what I was pulling together.

Fast forward again to 2009. I hadn’t finished the tech guides, so I was hired as a consultant to finish them for the remainder of the curriculum. I picked up a few other consulting gigs at other schools in the area. As I went through their curriculum I realized that this wasn’t a localized problem. This was a one-size-fits-all problem. At the end of the day, the real trouble was that curriculum isn’t designed for the individual, but for the masses. And in creating for the masses, it completely forgot its goal of teaching students. Who are individuals.

One day as I was working on these technology supplement guides and flipping through curriculum, a song came on Pandora (internet radio) that I had never heard before. I frantically looked for a sticky note to jot down the name of the artist. I stopped for a minute after I got the artist’s name down (Zee Avi, for those who are interested), and had a true geek out moment over how far technology had come. I marveled at the way that technology was so advanced that it could predict what music I would like, all based on one piece of information. It felt like a terribly intimate thing for technology to be able to do (particularly because at the time, I had no idea how the background technology worked!). In the midst of my geeking out, I had a thought: what if curriculum worked more like Pandora? What if we could input one piece of information about a student, and have technology predict ways they might like to learn? I could not shake this idea, and Tweeted it out. My PLN instantly retweeted that thought. I emailed an app developer in Australia that I had been working with and asked if technology was advanced enough to do something like that with curriculum. His response was somewhere along the lines of, “if you can think it up, anything is possible.” I couldn’t let the idea go, so this app developer pointed me toward Balsamiq and told me to learn what I could about how Pandora worked and then prototype my idea. Since I had all the time in the world on my hands, I did exactly that. Pandora called itself the music genome project, based on the human genome project. Essentially, it identifies attributes of music (over 400 of them) and tags each piece of music with those attributes. A map of music. Clearly learning has attributes, so I set out naming those, planning the way that learning could be broken down into the minutia so that an algorithm could identify the perfect resource for a student. At this point I had convinced myself that technology would be the savior of education. All we need is to better individualize for students! Problem solved! Clearly I’m a genius! ūüėČ

Only, the more that I talked to teachers, the more I talked with administrators, the more I looked for investors, the more that I examined the system, the more I realized…education isn’t quite ready for this genius.

The trouble is, we have a one-size-fits-all system. We have classes of 25+ students. We have teachers who are overworked and underpaid. We have a limited amount of time. We have limited budgets. The idea of mass education, in some ways, locks us into the one-size-fits-all. Standards and testing have become hallmarks of education. I started to recognize that even if I get the Learning Genome Project built, I still have to find a way for teachers to use it for students. With the current setup, that would mean the very top students in a class, those considered ‘gifted,’ and the very bottom of the class, those considered ‘low,’ would get to use it. The vast majority of students, those in the middle of the bell curve, would never get the individualized plan. Yet, they deserved it just as much.

This is where the Learning Genome Project took a small (read: enormous) detour. In order for this technology to be used to create a learning map for every student, a new system was needed. I began to consider what type of learning model this type of technology would be best utilized in. I couldn’t find a fit. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything that recognized that every student was a unique individual. One with unique learning patterns. Unique gifts. A unique worldview. I couldn’t find anything that recognized students with names. Everything was geared toward “students,” as if that one word can capture the genius of the individuals it claims. We needed a new system. One that honored humanity. That honored the students with names. I began to dream about what such a school would look like. I talked with other brilliant educators about what that would be like. The result: a new school. A new school model. A brand new way of approaching learning: I started a k-8 school, Anastasis Academy.

I began this journey believing that technology was going to solve the problems of education, I suppose that is a natural path for someone so saturated in current educational technology. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that the problem wasn’t one that technology, like the Learning Genome Project, could solve but rather, one that technology could support. At the heart of what isn’t working is a system. A system that sees “students,” and not students with names. A system aimed at teaching the masses in a way that ends up minimizing humanity. Minimizing what makes us unique. Minimizing the genius that each of us alone brings to the world. I set out to create technology that would revolutionize learning, and instead detoured to the real game changer: a model that recognizes the individual, that honors it. Beginning from this place, students with names, learning can grow. Technology that supports that learning can grow.

The Learning Genome Project has taken a 5 year back seat, not because it isn’t important. Not because it can’t work. It has taken a back seat because first we need to recognize the humanity. When we really see the kids with names, the technology can support. It can help us reach each of those unique individuals. It can transform.

Anastasis Academy has been the single greatest “accident” of my life. In many ways I stumbled into starting a school. Seeing the way everything grows out of ‘students with names,’ the humanity, I’m able to again look at the Learning Genome Project with new eyes. In and of itself, the Learning Genome¬† Project (technology) won’t be the savior of education. Coupled with a model that honors humanity, it is unstoppable. I know this to be true. I’ve had the luxury of 5 years in Anastasis Academy. I’ve seen students come alive. I’ve seen them #standagain in who they are as learners, in who they are as the unique individuals they were created to be. If you’d like to see Anastasis Academy first hand, I hope you will join us for our education conference, 5Sigma. If you were a supporter of my Indiegogo campaign, I’d like to waive your conference fee! Just email me for a special code! I’d love for you to be my guest!

Last week, I had the great privilege of virtually meeting Bodo Hoenen. We share an eerily similar vision, come at from very different angles. Bodo is launching his own Indiegogo campaign. It is one that I will support because I so strongly believe that the world needs this. Bodo will be our closing keynote at 5Sigma Edu Conference. I cannot wait! I’m interested in partnering with those who share the vision. In those who know that we have to do better for kids now. Please help us BLOW UP the Internet with a new message about education reform. One about students with names. Individuals who are uniquely gifted and set apart to do something important in the world. If you’ve taught for any amount of time, you know that you are among genius waiting to be unleashed! It is time to empower kids. It is time to stop limiting with labels. It is time to stand again.

Follow Anastasis Students in the upcoming weeks as they work to transform education. As we begin our new inquiry unit, students are exploring the power of one. They are learning that they have an unique voice and worldview. They have the power to transform. I hope you’ll join us!

MobyMax: Tablet + help differentiating instruction

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Software, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 08-12-2014

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Moby Max: transform your classroom for $69!


It’s always nice when new toys show up in the mail to review. Especially when they promise to help make your program more tailored to the individual, that I really like!

What it is: MobyMax is more than just a tablet, it is a complete system that helps you identify areas of strength and weakness that your students might have through placement testing, progress monitoring, assessments, and IEP reporting; has practice for kindergarten through eighth grade mathematics, fact fluency, number sense, reading, language, literature skills, informational skills, writing, vocabulary, and state test prep. MobyMax also includes ‚ÄúPower Tools‚ÄĚ acting like a clicker, monitoring behavior, messaging, a social wall for students, a parent portal, manipulatives and time reports. Students can earn prizes and badges as they work through MobyMax and can set their own daily goals.

Each student gets their very own learning plan with MobyMax with the adaptive curriculum. Students who are struggling get the extra exposure and help they need, while students who are ready to move on are challenged appropriately.

One of the things that I really appreciate about MobyMax is the mix of direct instruction and the ability for students to discover learning on their own through discovery-based instruction. As a teacher, the continuous progress monitoring makes formative instruction that much easier. Because MobyMax is based on the Common Core, you can analyze data based on standards, student, class, school, or even district.

The MobyMax tablet is $69!! It has a 7‚ÄĚ screen and runs on Android 4.2. The battery life is 5 hours and should last most of your school day without a re-charge. Wifi and speakers are built-in and there is headphone input so that your students can use MobyMax Tablet independently without disturbing others.

How to Integrate MobyMax into your classroom: One of my favorite MobyMax features: it reads each question/problem/challenge for students so that your remedial or ESL students have an additional layer of support. Really helpful when you are working to meet the needs of a lot of different students! While MobyMax focuses mostly on the Understand/Knowledge levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, it is a really fantastic (and reasonably priced) way for your students to gain math and reading fluency practice. Each step of the way they are supported and challenged as needed thanks to the adaptive technology built-in!

MobyMax is reasonably priced enough that even if your classroom doesn’t have classroom computers, you could have several Moby Tablets. The MobyMax tablet would be a fantastic center where students can work on building skills independently. While you work one-on-one with students, other students can use MobyMax to keep moving forward with support. With class-sizes as out of control as they are, this is HUGE. The MobyMax tablet runs on Android which means in addition to all of the great MobyMax curriculum, your students also have access to all of the happiness that Android brings. Web browsers for research, additional apps, file saving etc.

In a 1-1 setting, MobyMax would be a great place for your students to interact and build a digital class community (practicing digital citizenship, communication, and building class culture). If you allow your students to take the MobyMax home for additional support/practice, you could forever banish worksheets from your classroom. Really! The feedback you get is fantastic and auto-magically adjusts to meet each individuals needs for practice and support.


At Anastasis, we are a 1-1 iPad setting, this works really well for us, but we also have a population where we can request a device in a BYOD situation. Many of you don’t have that luxury, MobyMax would be a fantastic solution in a lot of ways! Not only do your students now have a device, but they also get a robust math and reading fluency platform that enhances learning as aligned to the Common Core Standards. It’s like getting an extra set (or 20) of hands! Students who don’t have great support systems at home, now can continue learning independently. Really happy!

One of our struggling students (happens to be dyslexic) has a broken iPad and used the MobyMax for the last two weeks in his 7th grade year. “I miss my camera, but I really like the way it let’s me practice and read with it so that I don’t miss anything important on my own. They should make apps for the iPad so I can get the best of both worlds. Overall, I think it has saved me the last two weeks!”

The one thing I wished for in the tablet was a camera. At Anastasis, our learning portfolios are digital. We take a lot of pictures of non-digital work for those portfolios! However, at $69 it is hard to find too much fault, camera or no!


Tips: You can WIN a MobyMax Tablet of your very own. Leave a comment below before December 15 about how you would put MobyMax to work in your classroom. On December 15th I’ll put your names in a random draw and one of you will get a happy surprise for your classroom! Make sure to include your correct email address in your comment so that I can be in touch with you!

Happy Monday!


Wonder how we individualize learning every day at Anastasis? Join us for 5-Sigma Edu Con in February!

Apple joining Hour of Code and offering free workshops! #edtech

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, Evaluate, inspiration, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Podcasts, Primary Elementary, professional development, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 04-12-2014

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Apple offers free hour long workshops to teach you how to code!

Today Apple announced that it will be joining code.org’s “Hour of Code” movement by hosting a free one-hour introduction to the basics of computer programming at Apple stores on December 11. During Computer Science Education week (December 8-14th) they will be hosting other workshops.

As a part of the Computer Science Education week, Apple will be hosting designers and engineers in select cities around the world. Pretty awesome! Contact your local Apple store to find out exact details of what your store has planned for the week.

Students at Anastasis Academy have started into an inquiry block about “How We Express Ourselves;” Hour of Code is coming perfectly timed as students can learn about how people express themselves through code.

Apple is also offering free resources for learning to code that you can get started with today. They’ve created a collection of helpful apps, books, podcasts, and iTunes U courses that will get your students coding in no time!

You (the teacher) don’t have to be an expert at coding to introduce your students to it. In fact, it is kind of fun if you are learning and discovering coding together…definitely a bonding experience! Truly, please don’t stay away from spending at least an hour during the Hour of Code just because you don’t feel like you know anything. Explore together and let your students get excited about coding and about teaching you something new as you go. The resources Apple has listed are a fantastic way to get started. Join the Hour of Code yourself for additional information and support here.

I love that coding can hit every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. It obviously allows students the opportunity to create something digital, but it also causes them to apply concepts/skills/math, analyze and evaluate code and what it is used for, and can help build knowledge and understanding in code and in a variety of subjects that the code is related to. Pretty great when that happens!

Want to continue your own learning about learning? Join us for the 5-Sigma Edu Conference. There is even a session on coding in the curriculum! It is going to be awesome and as an added benefit, you get to see how classes at Anastasis Academy run. Can’t wait to meet you there!

We choose the moon: assessment without labels

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 10-07-2014

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“With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.”- unknown

Yesterday, @Kevreadenn shared the quote above with me on Twitter. It had me thinking about assessment and John F. Kennedy’s, “we choose the moon” (embedded above – you should watch it again). The declaration that we WOULD send a man to the moon, that we would do the impossible,¬†seemed like an unworkable task given the technology of 1969. It is astounding to me that the technology I hold in my pocket is significantly more capable than the technology that sent a man to the moon. Kennedy inspired a nation to dream together, to achieve the impossible using¬†the resources that were available. How can we inspire kids in this way¬†as they¬†quest for learning? How can we help those students who look at the goal of reaching the moon and think, “this is impossible, I only have 1969 technology,” to be inspired, to look at their resources in new ways and believe that they can do the impossible?

Everyone wants to know that they are “winning” and contributing to something meaningful. The declaration that a man would go to the moon was a lofty goal. It seemed incredibly ¬†important, as a nation, that we achieve this goal together.

It strikes me as strange that the majority of assessment¬†that we focus on in education only shows lag data. The lag data reveals to¬†us where a student landed in a given moment, but doesn’t offer any opportunity for course correction. It also doesn’t take into account outside influences (not enough sleep, home struggles, lack of nutrition, friendship stresses, etc.). If our goals are lofty, and we want learning to be better, we will stop focusing on the lag data as the most important, and instead focus on the lead data. Lead data shows us what leads up to the learning, it gives us insight in the journey and process so that we can adjust as we go.

The majority of grading systems fail to compel action from students because they show historical data only. Students are left believing, “I’ve failed, and now I have to move on knowing I already fall short. Now I have to continue forward from a deficit.” Or they may be left believing, “I aced this, I already know it all, I don’t have anything more to learn.” Traditional grades tend to end learning. Traditional grades also measure students against everyone else with the goal being a perfect score. (Notice that I did¬†NOT¬†say that the goal was learning.) This comparison can be demoralizing for students who know they will fall short of the perfect score. They begin to label themselves as “stupid” and often arrive at the apathetic stance of, “it’s not even worth trying.” The other scenario is the student that believes the goal of the perfect score signals that they learned everything they need to know. For these students, apathy comes in already having hit the mark. “I know everything I need to about x.” This line of thinking closes down creativity and the drive to learn more. Apathy is the killer of learning. It matters not if you are a straight A student, or a D student, traditional grade systems breed apathy and don’t encourage kids to go for the lofty goals. There will be no choosing the moon.

Grading systems¬†need to be upgraded so that they engage students in the process of reaching lofty goals. When students are able to help set their own goals and the assessment happens as a part of¬†learning, students are continually pulled forward in their learning. Each small win adds learning momentum that begins to snowball into something bigger. For those who struggle, the small victories reveal that they can win and they are making forward progress. This gives the confidence that all learning is possible and worth engaging (even when the end goal feels impossible). The students who find that learning comes easily aren’t halted by artificial ceilings.¬†They aren’t left believing that the learning has ended¬†and¬†are encouraged to keep moving forward.

In starting Anastasis Academy, we quickly found that no traditional grading system could adequately assess students as they were learning. We ditched formal A-F grading and instead used¬†standards based grading. The idea was that if we assessed students based on standards (which we used as some of our learning goals), stakeholders would be able to better map progress as they went. We use standards differently, at Anastasis the standards aren’t organized by grade levels, they are simply a continuum of foundational skills. It didn’t take long before the standards based grading was also falling short. There is SO much more to learning than simply meeting¬†the standard. We were interested in helping students understand how their attitudes toward learning impacted academic¬†progress. We wanted to help them understand how character spills into everything else that they do. We wanted them to see that more important than a “Math” grade, was the ability to think like a mathematician. We wanted students to be able to “choose to go to the moon” and contribute to something meaningful. We needed something more holistic that helped students see the intricacies of how learning works. We wanted them to be able to make correlations between their attitudes toward learning and the¬†outcomes that they could see.

Anastasis Report Card

This is the “report card” that I created. It is our attempt to help kids better understand what contributes to learning. It is a helpful way to¬†show students that they aren’t “stupid in math,” but instead help¬†them realize that they aren’t risk takers in math. The aversion to risk taking in math is what really holds them back.

The Latin root of Assessment is assidere, which means ‚Äúto sit beside.‚ÄĚ At Anastasis, we believe that assessment is more than just a measurement, it is an opportunity for apprenticeship, a time for us ‚Äúto sit beside‚ÄĚ and guide. We‚Äôve used various tools for assessment in our short history, our search was for the assessment tool that would offer a more holistic picture of learning. We‚Äôve used Mastery Connect and Jump Rope, but they fell short in giving us that holistic picture because they were tied to Common Core Standards alone (and limited by grade levels). What our¬†students do at Anastasis every day is SO much bigger and deeper than these standards, and yet we didn’t¬†have a good way to demonstrate that. Beginning in January, we rolled out our own grading system. We call it UpGrade because that is what it felt like, an upgrade!

Our goal for feedback on the UpGrade report is twofold:

1. To give students feedback that causes them to think, engage, and reflect on their own learning process as they learn.

2. To give families a detailed account of the student’s learning journey and forward progress.

The UpGrade reports are designed to explain what students know and are able to do, rather than determining grades based on point averages. This kind of grading allows teachers to more effectively tailor instruction to students based on what they actually know and can do, no floors and no ceilings.

The UpGrade report contains¬†the proficiency marks 1-5 (explained below). These numbers are intended to demonstrate the process of learning, students move through the levels of proficiency as learning progresses. A ‚Äú1‚ÄĚ indicates that a child is new to the learning or requires a lot of guidance. A ‚Äú5‚ÄĚ indicates that the student is able to apply the learning to new situations and make connections to other learning.

1- Novice Concept and/or skill is brand new, student is just getting started in the learning. Student requires much teacher guidance and prompting.
2- Apprentice Some prompting or guidance is needed for the new concept and/or skill.
3- Practitioner Concept and/or skill can be done consistently and independently. Student may require occasional prompting or guidance.
4- Scholar Student can apply concept and/or skill to new and/or different situations with little guidance. Student is ready to build on the learning (next level of standard). 
5- Change Maker Concept and/or skill come second nature and can be used to make connections with other learning. Students understand concept/skill and can apply, evaluate, analyze, and create using the skill/concept. Student can use skill/concept for in-depth inferences and applications.

Of course when you create a report card that looks like this, you also have to craft a grading system to populate the report card. Dang it.

This is where I had to get creative and use my limited resources to make something (that seems impossible) work. I used Apple’s Numbers as the method for creating the grading system. It is tedious work, the user interface is messy, but it allows lofty goals and the impossible.

On the back end, teachers can fill in rubrics, or learning evidence pages. These compile and end up as the final 1-5 on the image that you see above. Why did I use Numbers? It is the only spreadsheet program robust enough to incorporate the graphic above. The evidences of learning (assignments) and scores are the easy part. Getting the rubrics to work the way I wanted them to, not so much! I sent out a call for help the other night on Twitter and had some AMAZING spreadsheet ninjas step in to help me find solutions. I promised to share what I figured out…for those not interested in the technical bits, feel free to skip ahead. :)

Anastasis self-grading Writing Rubric in Numbers

This is the rubric that I was working on. I wanted it to “self grade” and then for the score to transfer as a learning evidence. It seemed like it should be simple, but this honestly stumped me for days. Thankfully my PLN stepped in to point me in the right direction!

I started out by creating a highlighting rule. This is simple in Numbers, just click on the cell(s) that you want the rule on and in the “cell formatting” pane, choose “Conditional Highlighting.” In each cell where teachers could leave a score, I wanted the cell to highlight when the score was added. I chose to add the rule “Text contains” and then the number that corresponded to the row of the rubric. Then I chose a color to highlight.

Next came the tricky part. In the¬†cells full of text, I wanted the last cell to recognize when a teacher had typed in a number, and to add up all the numbers of the row so that we could get a total that would populate on the Learning Evidence sheet. I could find all kinds of ways to accomplish this in a Google Spreadsheet or in Excel, but none of the solutions seemed to work in Numbers. I kept getting a syntax error. I finally solved it by using the following format:¬†=COUNTIF(B2:H2,”=*1″) In each row, I changed the number to reflect the score that it would count. This got me most of the way to what I needed, but it was only giving me a count of how many of the number were in the row, not giving me the sum (=SUMIF didn’t work). SO, I added another column to find the product of the “Countif” with the row number. Success! I’ll hide these two columns for the final grade system and just have the total at the bottom show up. This total is easy to then transfer to the Learning Evidence sheet.

THANK YOU @mathlioness @katieregan88 @mrmatera @alicekeeler @royanlee @jasonschmidt123 @benlouey @malynmawby @thomascmurray, you all are truly wonderful for spending time to help me solve this. I am seriously elated that there was a solution! Anastasis teachers will be thrilled as well! :) YOU ARE NINJAS!!

When people ask about Anastasis, they are usually curious to know how we’ve broken past the barrier of labels. We have students who are dyslexic, twice exceptional, have struggled in school, are gifted, know how to play the game of school, etc. Everyone of these kids chooses the moon. They choose to do the impossible and keep moving forward. They aren’t stifled by the learning labels. They know they are more than an “A” or “F.” They start to understand that learning is not the same as a grade. They begin to understand where their hangups actually are and can work on adjusting those instead of believing they are failures. ¬†It is amazing what happens when you take away the labels and help kids understand that no matter where they start from, there is something to be learned, forward progress to be made. They choose lofty goals. They do the impossible.

Sphero: the coolest robot around

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Evaluate, iPod, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 14-04-2014

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Sphero- coolest robot ever

This week, the wonderful people at Orbotix sent me a Sphero to try out and play with. HOLY COW, I haven’t had so much fun with a new toy in a long time. The better part of today was spent learning about the Sphero and stealthily “driving” it into classrooms (much to the delight of kids). Sphero is a robotic ball that gets controlled by iPhone, iPad, or android device. I had it rolling all over school this morning…I only wish I had thought ahead to record student reactions (I was using my iPhone to control it and didn’t think about video and pictures). I had so much fun with it, that I brought it home to play and learn some more. It is equally loved by my dogs! ūüėČ

Sphero seems like a simple concept, a ball that can be controlled via tablet or phone. Even though the concept is simple, I have to admit, I’m pretty floored by the way that this little ball moves around effortlessly as if by magic. We have a hallway in our school that includes an incline and it rolled up it without any trouble, like a champ! It is SO much more than a fun rolley ball. There are a slew of apps that interact with the Sphero making it ultra fun and educational. The majority of apps available are totally free to download. There are a few that cost $0.99. Apps include:

  • Sphero Nyan Cat Space Party- Even if you have no idea what Nyan cat is, your students will. They will think it is awesome.
  • Sphero Dark Nebula Episode One- A labyrinth game for the 21st century.
  • Sphero Dark Nebula Episode Two- Defeat obstacles and enemies using your Sphero.
  • Sphero- the app I played with all day. This app drives Sphero and teaches it (and you) new tricks with basics of coding.
  • GoGo Mongo- Designed to teach toddlers and primary students healthy eating habits.
  • Sphero Exile- Arcade-like space-fighter game. But with real life actions!
  • Sphero Draw N’ Drive- Use your finger on the tablet or phone to draw a shape or path and watch Sphero follow it.
  • Sphero MacroLab (great for education!)- Learn basics of programming by arranging simple commands and settings in any combination. Save favorite programs and share them with friends.
  • Sphero TAG- A great tag game when you have access to more than one Sphero.
  • Zombie Roller- A zombie app. Need I say more?
  • Sphero Lights- Basically the coolest night-light ever. Keep the Sphero lit even when charging.
  • Last Fish- Try surviving as a fish in toxic water filled with goo and shadow fish. The goal: survive.
  • Sphero Macro Draw- Draw using your Sphero robot.
  • DJ Sphero- Go ahead and be a party rock star with Sphero. Load tracks from your iPad/iPhone music library . Cross fade between songs and speed up or slow down music by spinning your sphere robot. Basically you will be the star of the lunch room.
  • Astro Ball- An arcade-syle 3D flight simulator.
  • Sphero Golf- I played this one as soon as I got home. Create a physical golf course and then virtually control Sphero to make it into the holes that you create. Hit Sphero with either a flick of the finger, or (for more fun) by swinging your arms while holding your tablet/phone.
  • Sphero Cam- Currently Android only. Use the built-in camera on Android to record video with Sphero.
  • orbBasic for Sphero- This is a great app for learning and practicing program. Students can execute basic programs and create and prototype autonomous behaviors for their Sphero robot.
  • Sphero H2O- For real, this robot can be played with IN water!! This is a game for a summer pool party.
  • Etch-o-matic- 21st century toy makes drawings like it is 1965. LOVE this app! Brings me right back to about 1987 when I sat in the back seat of the Jetta on the way to Grandmas. Just like an etch-a-sketch, only better.
  • Sphero Snake- Classic Snake game brought to life.
  • Disc Groove- Control your Sphero to avoid being hit by “flying meteors”
  • Doodle Grub- A new twist on the classic Snake game. Lots of fun.
  • Sphero Pet- Wishing you had a class pet? Sphero fits the bill well without being overwhelming. Kids can teach it to shake, flip and move in any direction.
  • Pass the Sphero- A game of dare for multiple players where Sphero becomes a ticking time-bomb. Lots of fun when there is lots of snow and recess has to occur inside.
  • Sphero Measuring Tape (AWESOME, measuring our Anastasis Academy garden!) Virtual measuring tape. Amazingly accurate. Our kids have been learning Area/Perimeter and using the Anastasis Academy garden as a learning space. Sphero helped verify their calculations.
  • Sharky the Beaver- Sphero turns into an augmented reality beaver that you can interact with.
  • Sphero ColorGrab- A multiplayer tabletop game. Sphero flashes colors and you have to pick him up at the right time to earn points. Best indoor recess ever!
  • Sphero Chromo- Like an old-school Simon game for this little robot. Makes me a little nostalgic for my childhood. :)
  • The Rolling Dead- an augmented reality game featuring zombies. Not sure how it gets better than using Sphero as a fireball to shoot virtual zombies. Anastasis Academy backs to a cemetery where the teachers walk/jog after school. I’m pretty sure the Rolling Dead/Sphero combo will be a welcome addition to our exercise.

The Sphero apps the are available to download range from just plain fun, to serious learning capability and augmented reality. There are so many possibilities with this little robot and, it seems, that the apps and abilities of this little robot will only continue to grow. This robot is resilient. It can stand up to dogs, water, outdoors, hills, etc. Truly so magical and amazing!

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

I dig technology that effortlessly blends real world with imagination and technology. Sphero definitely fits this bill in ways that I haven’t seen before. I’m excited to dig into Sphero Education to try out the STEM lessons that can be used with Sphero with students. I’ll be sure to blog our progress through them! Stay tuned.


How to create an online Advent calendar

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Art, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Fun & Games, History, Inquiry, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 01-12-2013

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I love this time of year, it comes with such wonderful anticipation of things to come. A time to be mindful.

 How to make a digital advent calendar- iLearn Technology

You can build some of that anticipation into your classroom with a digital advent calendar that reveals something each day in preparation for the holiday season. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, “coming.” In Christian traditions, this refers to God’s coming into our midst. Anastasis is a faith-based school, so the advent calendar I created for our students and families is to be in celebration of this coming.¬† Your classroom advent calendar doesn’t have to be faith-based.

Your advent calendar could be in anticipation of the coming new year, the coming break from school, or just a fun way to surprise your students with something they get to reveal each day.¬† It would even be fun to reveal some sort of “Mission Impossible” task each day for your students. Be creative! This could be related to something they are learning/working on in your classroom, a kindness challenge, a video of the day, a writing prompt for the day, brain teaser, a book/poem/website for the day, a peek into your classroom for families, inquiry question of the day, song/podcast, 25 days of science experiments, etc.¬† Even as adults we enjoy moments of anticipation, why not capitalize on that in your classroom?

I used Weebly to create our digital advent calendar.  You can follow our calendar here. Weebly is an easy to use, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website builder. It makes it simple to quickly put together a site that you can easily edit in preparation for the next day of revealed surprise.  Weebly also lets you include a nice variety of content so that it is flexible enough to meet your needs. I started December first with some text and an image.  My plan is to take a video each day of our students sharing a verse, quote, thought, blessing, song, etc. and embed the video using the YouTube option.  The only thing for me to do each day will be to take the video and upload it to our Anastasis YouTube channel and then copy the url into the Weebly image for the day. SO easy to keep up with each day!

How to build your own Weebly Advent Calendar:

  • Sign up for a free Weebly account
  • Choose a template to start with for your calendar. Any of the templates will work, choose the look you like best!
  • Start by dragging some text onto your page. This is a great place for a few sentences about your calendar and what students/families can expect to find each day.
  • Under the “Structure” section, select and drag over the “Columns” onto your page. I chose 5 columns.¬† Repeat so that you have multiple rows of 5 columns.¬† I have a total of 5 for 5 rows and 5 columns.
  • Into each row and column, drag over the “Image” option so that you have 25 image place holders.
  • I used Apple’s Pages software to create my daily images with the dates listed on them. I used some digital paper, layered a solid box of color, and two text boxes. I took a screenshot of each date (I just created one image and then changed the text for each screenshot).
  • Back in Weebly, click on the image placeholder to upload the images created (alternately, you can just use the search option to find images to use). Repeat for each image.
  • Create a new page (under the Pages tab a the top of the Weebly screen).¬† Be sure to check the box so that the page is hidden from navigation.¬† This is going to be your “come back on the appropriate day” page. Click “Save and Edit.”
  • On your new page, add some text and an image.¬† Type a greeting message from those who are trying to sneak a peek early.
  • Navigate back to your home page. Click on each image, an edit box for the image will come up.¬† Select “Link” and choose “Standard Page” and then the page you just created.¬† Save.
  • Create other pages for your site if you would like to, I created an “About” page for those who are curious about Anastasis.¬† It might be fun to include a “contact” page where students can submit ideas for the calendar (maybe original writing or other work?)
  • Publish your site.
  • Each day go back and click on the image for the appropriate day. From the edit box, go back to “Link” and change where the image links to.¬† It can link to another page that you create on the Weebly site, a website or video, a file, or an email address (what if your students got a new email address each day to email an encouraging note to?).¬† Alternatively, you can delete the image for that day all together and embed a video, html, flash, etc.
  • Don’t forget to re-publish after you’ve added/edited the site!

There is something truly wonderful about revealing a surprise each day. Don’t leave the families of your students out, it would be great to give families a glimpse of your classroom so that they can see what there kids are up to each day. This can be photos, original student writing, video, or fun activities to be completed as a family in lieu of homework.

Students can also be in charge of creating their own advent calendar. The possibilities for this are endless!


What great ideas do you have for using an advent calendar in your classroom? Share them below!

Support Small Business Saturday: Koostik #technologymadenatural

Posted by admin | Posted in General | Posted on 30-11-2013

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Two give aways in two days. That is pretty awesome!

Koostik give away: iLearn Technology #technologymadenatural


Today is support small business Saturday in the United States.¬† I’m particularly fond of this cause for shopping because my family has always owned small businesses. My dad is the ultimate craftsman. He is always dreaming up new inventions and he uses one of my favorite mediums to carry out those inventions: beautiful cuts of wood. There is something about having wood in your home, it evokes feelings of warmth and a connection to nature. When my dad started Koostik, I was especially excited because it connects technology (which you know I love) with the natural beauty of wood. These are not just functional, they are truly pieces of art. Each Koostik is handmade and unique.¬† Because no cut of wood is exactly the same, each one has a slightly different feel.¬† Every time I visit the shop I want to take more product home.¬† I constantly get the, “but Kelly, you already have a Pivot.” My response, “I know but it isn’t THIS Pivot in the Ambrosia Maple!”

Koostik is a true small business.¬† My dad works on the woodwork with a few other guys in his shop, and my mom does the finishing and packaging. My brother works sales and does all the photography and website design. There is a passion and attention to detail that you find in small businesses that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. I support small business because I appreciate that attention to detail. I appreciate the craftsmanship and passion that go into every product. I like knowing that I am supporting a neighbor, a family.

In honor of Support Small Business Saturday, I’m offering a giveaway for the Koostik product of your choice. Sorry international friends, this one is for US citizens only! To enter you will need to do one (or all) of the following:

A winner will be chosen on December 6, 2013.  Hurry and get as many entries in as you can! The winner will be announced on iLearn Technology and contacted through the social media that you used to enter.


Don’t want to wait to see if you’ve won? Koostik is currently running a sale for 30% off all products and 50% the Mini Koo! The sale runs through Cyber Monday (December 2). You could be the star of the holidays with your awesome Koostik gift giving skills!

Tynker: Computer programming for kids

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, History, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Websites | Posted on 22-11-2013

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iLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kidsiLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kids

What it is: Tynker is about the coolest way for kids to learn how to computer program- absolutely NO prior programming experience is needed!  Tynker leads kids through design thinking through interactive courses where kids can learn how to program at their own pace.

Anyone can teach kids how to program (no really!) because with Tynker, you don’t need any prior knowledge or understanding.¬† Tynker provides teachers with tools, curriculum and project ideas that will have your kids programming in no time!¬† The Tynker curriculum pack starts with 6 lessons.¬† Each one is appropriate for a 45 minute work period. Through the teacher dashboard, you can assign lessons to your students.¬† A built-in tutor provides step-by-step instructions that guides students toward creating a working project.¬† The teacher dashboard also helps you track student progress as they learn and master concepts.¬† No data entry is required, students login and the teacher dashboard auto-magically populates.

When students have completed projects, they can publish them to the class showcase and be shared with family and friends through email, Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

Happily, Tynker works entirely in your web browser.  There is nothing to install or setup.  It is good to go right away!  Equally happily, Tynker is FREE for your school!  Woot!

How to integrate Tynker into your classroom: Not only will students learn the basics of programming with Tynker, they can use it to demonstrate their learning through their creations.  Students can compose stories and comics that retell a story, historical event, recent field trip, fiction or non-fiction.  Using the physics features, students can learn some basics about physics and cause the games they create to be more realistic.  They can also demonstrate understanding of physics principles through their creations.

Students can use Tynker to create their own apps to show off their understanding of new math/science/social studies vocabulary, math or science concepts, retell stories, character sketches, games, animations and more. In addition to being able to create stories, games, and  slideshow- students can also program original music and create computer art.

Don’t think you have time in your curriculum?¬† Take a look around Tynker and think about natural ways you could use it to enhance your curriculum.¬† Instead of asking your students to create a book report, have them program a retell using Tynker.¬† This will take some additional background knowledge (they will need to go through a Tynker tutorial or two) BUT the outcome is well worth it.¬† You will have asked your students to learn something new semi-independently, beefed up logical/mathematical thinking skills through programming, and invited students to think critically about what they read to tell the story to others through a program.¬† Worth the additional 45 min!¬† Students could demonstrate a math concept, show the steps in a science experiment, retell an event in history, and even compose their own music through program.¬† When you start thinking like a maker as you play with Tynker, you will realize there are infinite opportunities for including Tynker in your curriculum.¬† If you are still convinced that you can’t find the time in your heavily scheduled (sometimes scripted-sad) day, why not start a before or after school program, summer camp, lunch club, etc.?

At Anastasis, we have Crave classes every Wednesday.¬† These classes are offered by our teachers every 5 weeks.¬† Teachers choose an area of learning that they crave and create a class based on that (we have everything from programming, to cooking, to forensic science, hockey history, junk orchestra, iPad rock band, to chess and da Vinci art).¬† Students get a list of classes at the beginning of a new block, and get to choose a class that they crave.¬† The result is a wonderful mixed age (k-8) class of passions colliding.¬† The kids LOVE Wednesdays for this awesome hour of our day.¬† I’m excited to offer a Tynker class for our next block of classes (along with playing with our new Romo robot!), I think this is going to be a popular class!

iLearn Technology- Romotive robot

Tips: If your school uses Google apps for education like we do, your students can log in with their Google information.

What do you think of Tynker?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

Eliademy: Democratizing education with technology

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Interactive book, Internet Safety, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, PE, Phonics, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, video, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 19-11-2013

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ilearn Technology: Eliademy- Democratizing education with technology

What it is: Eliademy has a wonderful mission of democratizing education with technology.  The tool makes it easy for anyone to create an online classroom, for free!  Eliademy makes it easy for educators to create, share and manage courses.  Eliademy is a free learning management system and course content created by you.  Educators can engage students through discussion boards, videos, images, news feeds, visual notifications and calendar with a fast and easy to use interface.  Eliademy is available everywhere: Mac, PC, tablet, smart phone. Very handy!  Even better, you can create a course from your tablet (not available in a lot of LMS/online classroom options).

How to integrate Eliademy into your classroom: Eliademy isn’t just for offering distance-learning.¬† It is a great way to connect your students in new and awesome ways in a blended-learning environment.¬† Keep all of your digital classroom resources in one, easy-to access place.¬† Make sure that your students can always be connected to what is happening in class with a shared calendar. Extend classroom discussions with discussion boards, video, and news feeds.

I’ve long been a fan of blending online experiences with offline.¬† Students begin to see that learning can happen anywhere, not just in your classroom.¬† They also connect in different ways online.¬† I’ve found that kids are willing to have deeper, more vulnerable conversations in an online environment.¬† This is especially true when the relationships are established first in the classroom.

Host your “flipped” materials using Eliademy.¬† Not only can students access video, they can extend the experience with access to additional classroom materials, the ability to discuss and share resources online, etc.

Challenge students to create their own course to share.  What are they passionate about?  What can they offer to teach others?

Tips: Eliademy makes the promise that it will always be secure, without advertisements, and free.  Outstanding.

What do you think of Eliademy?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

Knowing Everything and Students with Names

Posted by admin | Posted in Blooms Taxonomy, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 18-07-2013

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This post is in response to a Newsweek article titled “What if You Could Learn Everything”

“Imagine every student has a tireless personal tutor, an artificially intelligent and inexhaustible companion that magically knows everything, knows the student, and helps her learn what she needs to know.”


Jose Ferreira, the CEO of Knewton, has made this artificially intelligent companion a reality for k-12 students. ¬†He has partnered with three curriculum companies including Pearson, MacMillan, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as part of his vision for making Knewton the adaptive learning tool that will make textbooks obsolete. ¬† This “adaptive learning will help each user find the exact right piece of content needed, in the exact right format, at the exact right time, based on previous patterns of use… ¬†Knewton, at base, is a recommendation engine but for learning. Rather than the set of all Web pages or all movies, the learning data set is, more or less, the universe of all facts. For example, a single piece of data in the engine might be the math fact that a Pythagorean triangle has sides in the ratio 3-4-5, and you can multiply those numbers by any whole number to get a new set of side lengths for this type of triangle.”

Knewton works as you might suspect, it begins with a test to see what a student already knows. ¬†Content is pulled in the form of reading and videos to teach the student the things that they do not know. ¬†This is similar to what many other “personalized” adaptive learning systems are doing. ¬†What makes Knewton stand apart is the way that the technology “reads” the student. ¬†As the student is learning, the technology is recording timing, confidence, tabulating each keystroke, and whether the student is guessing or taking their time to answer questions. ¬†So, the more that a student interacts with Knewton, the smarter it becomes and the better that the study recommendations get.

When I see technology like Knewton, it astounds me. ¬†I am always excited about technology that has the potential to improve learning and that feels seamless for humans to interact with. ¬†While the geek in me rejoices that someone is tackling a project this substantial to increase learning, the educator in me is disappointed. ¬†Knewton is all about knowing things. It is about facts. ¬†But, is it really worth all of the effort for technology to train humans to be computers? ¬†I mean, that is essentially what this is doing, no? ¬†We are creating a new factory model, this time the technology is programming us. ¬†Ironically, this is exactly what Knewton’s CEO is working to overcome.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that are worth knowing. ¬†Important, foundational things that shape the rest of what we are able to do. ¬†But, who gets to determine what is foundational and essential for a student to know? ¬†As far as I’m concerned, most curriculum companies are already overreaching in what every single child MUST know. ¬†So, with the vast amount of knowledge available in the world, how do we determine what is really critical for us as a society to know? ¬†The rest of it, while interesting and important, is not necessarily worth forcing. ¬†Even the title of the article, “What if You Could Learn Everything?” makes me cringe. ¬†I don’t want to know everything. ¬†I don’t want to be so crammed full of facts that I can rock a game of Trivial Pursuit, but I can’t actually DO anything useful.

My bigger problem is that once again, we are introducing a tool into education that intends to personalize the learning experience for the student, and in doing so, strips away their humanity. ¬†You see that don’t you? ¬†This is turning children into computers and fact recallers.

But students have names. ¬†They have stories. ¬†Teachers have a different kind of urgency to make things better because we begin and end with students who have names. ¬†This goes beyond the altruistic, “wouldn’t it be great if education worked better” motivation of politicians and curriculum companies who have the ultimate goal of improving our ¬†rank in math and science. ¬†As a teacher, you deal in humanity. ¬†You are concerned with the life that is being shaped. ¬†You want kids to know that they are more than the collection of facts that they have memorized. ¬†The are unique and have something important to offer the world. ¬†That they matter. ¬†Humanity.

So, while I find the concept behind Knewton fascinating, it isn’t what I want for education. ¬†It may fill a need for a piece of the puzzle (namely the foundational knowledge piece), but it isn’t going to make education better if it becomes education. ¬†Being educated is more than just knowing facts (and I’ll remind you again that we already have computers for that). ¬†Being educated means that a child can make connections, synthesize, analyze, evaluate, apply, create something new. ¬†It is learning that is applied.

Technology will play a critical role in the evolution of the classroom. ¬†The role will be different from what Knewton offers. ¬†Instead of assuming that all kids need is facts, the technology will recognize and embrace the humanity. ¬†It will offer more than one way to learn, because while some kids will really enjoy sitting and reading, watching videos and taking an online multiple choice test, others will want to try out a concept through experimentation. ¬†They will want to build something new with their knowledge, or launch further investigation into a concept, or take a field trip and see the learning for themselves. ¬†Learning cannot be reduced to a computer. ¬†This changes the recommendation engine and relies heavily on skilled educators. ¬†This takes into account who a student really is and makes learning recommendations based on that. ¬†The recommendations aren’t relegated to a computer, they can be field trips, videos, apps, projects, activities, experiments, books, and anything else that can be used to learn. ¬†This is utilizing technology for personalization beyond pacing and content exposure to pass the next multiple choice test. ¬†This is empowering teachers to truly shape the learning experience for each student. ¬†This is recognizing that students should have a say in how and what they will learn. ¬†This is why I created the Learning Genome Project.

The Learning Genome Project recognizes that learning is more than just a collection of facts. ¬†It embraces humanity and rejects the idea that humans should be computers. ¬†It will be transformative because it works to make each student the best that they, individually, can be. ¬†It works to strengthen the WHOLE child, not just the fact reservoirs in the brain. ¬†It goes beyond remembering content and challenges students to do something with their knowledge. ¬†I can’t tell you how many students I have met that know their multiplication facts inside and out, but have no idea why finding area requires multiplication. ¬†Knowledge is useful when it can be applied. ¬†The Learning Genome Project urges students to go beyond knowing into the other, rich areas of learning. ¬†Blooms Taxonomy is a useful for thinking through what it means to learn. ¬†Knowledge and understanding are a portion of the learning, but so is the ability to analyze, evaluate, apply and create. ¬†Learning is multifaceted and alive. ¬†It can’t be so neatly all contained in this sort of adaptive learning technology. ¬†Education should utilize technology (I tend to believe this will be the Learning Genome Project) in order to reach the individual. ¬†It must reach outside of itself and meet that student with a name. ¬†It must be able to recognize a student’s need without demanding that the need be met with a predetermined question/answer set.

This post took me some days to think through and write. ¬†It spurred some new thinking for me. ¬†It made me go back through the Learning Genome Project wireframes to dig out any hidden corners that may harbor something that would strip the humanity. ¬†It caused me to think of a new Bloom’s Taxonomy image. ¬†I welcome your thoughts and comments!

Hat tip to @alexbitz for sending me this article!

**If you know an investor who might be interested in the Learning Genome Project, I’d love an introduction!