What makes your school/PD/conference different?

The first question that I get asked when people find out that I’ve started a school: what makes Anastasis Academy different? And this is a tricky one to answer, because the truth is EVERYTHING makes us different. It’s hard to describe something that no one has seen before, so you begin to relate it with ideas and concepts that people are familiar with. The more I’ve talked about Anastasis, the more I’ve begun to really recognize what it is at the heart that makes us so different. It is our starting point and driving force: students-with-names.

That may seem like a strange comment to make, “students-with-names,” because, of course they have names! But in education, we make a lot of decisions without these specific students-with-names in mind. We make decisions for students as if they are a homogeneous group, or worse, a number.

As if they don’t have special interests/passions/gifts.

As if they don’t have something unique that the world needs.

At Anastasis Academy, we see the potential of students-with-names and help them believe that they are capable of realizing that potential. That it is worth the risk of being fully alive. That they can be vulnerable in community.

When we talk about education, too often the focus is on learning all the right things, equipping kids with the right content and answers. But the truth is, a great school is about so much more than learning all the right things. A great school is about connecting humanity. It is about finding the educators who can draw students out, who can foster humanity and connection. Who see potential and help others see it, too. Who help kids embrace their worth and value.

Because we start from this place, from students-with-names, every other decision we make has to honor that.

So we can’t think about curriculum as a one-size-fits all.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t assess in a way that minimizes the individual and the learning journey that is happening.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t have large class sizes that prohibit us from getting to know the stories of students.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t pretend that worksheets, tests, and grades are what learning is about.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t let technology be the teacher.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t have restrictive classroom space.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t rely on typical professional development to prepare teachers.

Because, students (and teachers)-with-names.

When your goal is honoring the humanity, EVERYTHING else must shift to help meet that goal. Everything must be adjusted outside of the assumptions we make as adults about what education “should” look like.

Last week, I asked every Anastasis teacher to come to school on Tuesday with sub plans with one caveat- don’t “dumb it down” for the sub! Just continue on with whatever you were doing. That was all of the information I shared. On Tuesday morning, we all met in the office. I had slips of paper with every class name on it. Each teacher chose a name. This was to be their class for the morning.

Teacher Swap!

My goal was a simple one, build community and empathy among the staff. If you’ve met the staff at Anastasis, you may have wondered at this goal (these are the most amazing people who have incredible empathy and we have a pretty tight community). Something different happens when you are in a classroom that isn’t yours, teaching students you don’t normally teach. You begin to see things through new lenses, different perspectives. You begin to problem solve differently. We had a Jr. High teacher with our 2nd-3rd grade, our 4th-6th teacher with our kindergarten. Teachers who normally teach young students, teaching some of the oldest. It was outstanding!

During our Wednesday staff meeting, we talked about the successes and challenges that were faced. We remembered what it is like to be a “new” teacher again, the fish-out-of-water feeling that comes from having a loose inquiry plan with a different age group. It revealed the way that each class ladders up and prepares these students-with-names for the next part of their learning journey. It reminded us not to set boundaries and expectations too low; these kids are capable of greatness! It revealed to the teachers of the older students why the teachers of the younger students are ready for recess at 10:00am on the button. ūüôā

In a few weeks, teachers will begin to go into each other’s classrooms as an observer. My hope is, that the time spent teaching in each other’s classes will provide them with greater insight and more thoughtful observation.


In February, we invite you to come visit us. Join us to see first hand how a focus on students-with-names impacts everything that we do (including our approach to conference PD!)¬† The 5Sigma Education Conference is an opportunity for you to see first hand what makes Anastasis such a different learning environment. On February 19th, our students will tour you through our building, they’ll walk you through classes and talk to you about their learning experiences. We have two incredible keynotes by equally incredible people. Angela Maiers is our opening keynote. If you aren’t familiar with Angela’s work, I encourage you to take a look at her here, and learn why she is the perfect person to kick off our “students-with-names” focused conference. Bodo Hoenen is our closing keynote. Bodo has a passion for making individualized learning possible for children who have been largely forgotten.¬† In between those keynotes, will be sessions, panels, featured speakers, conversations, and plenty of inspiration. On February 21st we’ll take a field trip together.

This is our second 5Sigma Education Conference, if you were at the first, you know what a powerful weekend this is. If you weren’t with us last year, you will not want to miss out this year! Check out what last year’s attendees had to say about the weekend here.

Register today and take advantage of early-bird pricing!

Have something that needs to be added to our conversations? The call for proposals is still open! Click on the link above and head over to the “Propose a Session” tab.

Smithsonian Quests: Learning through discovery and collaboration

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What it is:
Smithsonian Quests encourage students to explore learning through discovery and collaboration.  As students learn, they can earn digital badges for their quests.  Students can explore their own interest through a series of online activities while incorporating knowledge and skill-building in the online quests.  The quests ask students to explore a topic of interest as part of a standards-based curriculum or as a student-driven after school activity.  By signing  up for Smithsonian Quests, you will receive an invitation to join a grade-level based group in the Smithsonian Quest Community.  Students from kindergarten through adult learners can join Smithsonian Quest and collect badges.

How to integrate Smithsonian Quests into the classroom: Smithsonian Quests is a great program that connects transdisciplinary learning with digital badges.¬† As your class works through the site, they will start to realize how they have been learning, exploring, connecting and acting.¬† Students can unlock a badge by completing a set of quests that go with it.¬† Some Quests are independent and others are collaborative.¬† Quests get reviewed by a group of “specially selected experts” before badges are awarded.¬† Badges include: oral historian, historical biographer, cool curator, cultural storyteller, portrait reader, community historian, symbols spotter, correspondent, dirt detective, art advocate, environ-scientist, culture keeper, eco-journalist, time traveler, H2O hero, conservation campaigner, invasions investigator and tree hugger.¬† Quests include things like listening to audio, taking pictures, recording, etc.¬† As you can see, there are quests for every interest!

When students sign up for quests, they get invited into a group (class group when the teacher sets up the account), can add friends, see the badges they have collected, and view friends who are online.  Students also get an online journal where they can reflect on learning or update their status with the kind of learning they are doing.

I like that these quests can be done collaboratively (a whole class goal to earn the digital badges by learning?) and that they are  largely discovery based learning.   The quests really challenge students to dig deeper in learning and often lead to additional questions.  Quests can also be completed individually by students.  Students can explore areas that are high-interest for them. These Smithsonian Quests would be a fantastic end of the year project where students are driving their own learning but working toward a known goal.  Spend the last week of school with a time for students to share their learning with others.

As we head into summer break in the United States, consider suggesting Smithsonian Quests to parents as a great summer-time learning opportunity.

Tips:  Register for free and have a look around to see all of the cool opportunities for your classroom!

I’ve been nominated for a Bammy Award for Educational Blogger.  I’d appreciate your vote to help spread the word about iLearn Technology.  Vote here.  Thank you for your continued support!!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Smithsonian Quests in your classroom.

On Building Culture: Anastasis Academy Teacher Handbook

Schools often talk about professional development as if it is the key to a successful school. I’m not convinced more professional development is the answer. ¬†I think it’s all about culture. ¬†When you have people who come together around passion, who enjoy each other, who have a common mission: that changes everything.

Our teacher handbook doesn’t look like most. ¬†It was inspired by creative companies like Valve and Apple. ¬†We are a group of rebels here. Our handbook had to reflect that.


We are on a mission to humanize learning.  We are on a mission to make personalized learning available to EVERY child in the world.  Please help us spread the word. Donate, tweet, blog, and email others about the Learning Genome Project.


The Literacy Shed: a treasure trove of ideas

What it is:¬† The Literacy Shed is a fantastic blog/site I learned about on Twitter from @missmac100, thanks Carol! The Literacy Shed is maintained by primary teacher Rob Smith and is packed full of teaching ideas all related to literacy. ¬†The site is separated into “sheds,” each with a different genre. ¬†There are short films images and book suggestions that are each accompanied by a teaching idea that includes discussion questions and writing prompts. ¬†The Literacy Shed has plenty of ideas to keep you going all year long! ¬†¬†This truly is a treasure trove that will keep you coming back again and again. You will find the following “sheds” on the Literacy Shed:

  • Fantasy
  • Ghostly
  • Other Cultures
  • Inspiration
  • Moral
  • Picture Book
  • Great Animation
  • Love
  • Inventors
  • Fairytales
  • Reading
  • Poetry
  • Adventure
  • Mystery
  • Film Trailer
  • Fun
  • Lighthouse
  • Flying Books
  • Resource
  • Non-literacy
  • Weblinks

How to integrate The Literacy Shed into the classroom: The Literacy Shed is a great one-stop-shop for inspiration and ideas to improve literacy and critical thinking in your classroom.  The ideas can be used with a variety of age groups, different ages will pick up on different themes and discussions using the same videos/images/books.  Students will become familiar with a variety of genres and become comfortable with the characteristics of each.

There is something here for every classroom and unit.  As I said, it is a treasure trove of resources!  Use the ideas in the Literacy Shed to spark meaningful discussions and writing direction for your students.  I always like to start with discussion and end with a written reflection because it gives students the opportunity to listen to other ideas, and then solidify their own ideas and reflections in writing.

Tips: You can follow the Literacy Shed on Twitter: @redgierob

Please leave a comment and share how you are using The Literacy Shed in  your classroom!

Skype Classroom Directory- Global Collaboration #glolab

What it is: Skype is an incredible tool.  It is a free download that allows you to video chat with anyone in the world (who also has Skype downloaded) for free.  Teachers have been using Skype in the classroom for years now to connect to other classrooms, to connect with experts, and even to introduce their students to favorite authors (Skype an author).  There is a new tool coming for education, a Skype classroom directory.  This directory will connect teachers and help them to use Skype to enrich students’ educational experiences.  The directory will be launching in December (English only) but you can pre-register for it now.  Once you sign up with your Skype account, you will be able to search for other teachers and classes by searching by subject or region.

How to integrate Skype Classroom Directory into your curriculum: Skype Classroom Directory will be a leap forward in connecting teachers and classrooms around the world.  Use Skype to connect your students to others around the world who are learning similar content, for a debate, for an inquiry unit, to teach and learn from each other, to connect with experts, for a global virtual book club, or just to bring some cultural richness into your classroom.

Tips: Yesterday the topic of the first #edchat (a chat on Twitter) was global collaboration.  Skype is an excellent way to collaborate globally.  The Skype directory will be an enormous help in connecting teachers on global projects, right now there isn’t a great way for teachers to connect purposefully for global projects.  As it stands, you send out a tweet request for help and wait for someone to answer.  Yesterday on #edchat I proposed that we come up with a Twitter hash tag to use when we are talking about global collaboration tools or opportunities.  Anyone looking for someone to connect with can just search the hash tag #glolab.  If you are looking for teachers to collaborate use and search the #glolab hash tag to connect.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Skype in your classroom!

Mystery of the Poison Dart Frog

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What it is: The Mystery of the Poison Dart Frog comes from the North Carolina Museum of Art.  Students are introduced to three characters in an online picture book.  Zoey and Zeke are visiting their cousin Camilla who works as a curator at an art museum in Costa Rica.  Soon students are swept away in a mystery and adventure as they must use clues and match up the Costa Rica art pieces with the notecards that were written by the donors of the art.  Along the way students learn to read for information, and learn about art, science, history, and culture of Costa Rica.  

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How to integrate the Mystery of the Poison Dart Frog into the classroom: The Mystery of the Poison Dart Frog is a fun way for students to practice reading for information and practicing the inferring reading strategy.  As students work through the mystery, they will also be learning about art, science, history, and the culture of Costa Rica. This is a great activity for students to complete independently in a computer lab or 1-to-1 setting, it is a little long to be completed as a center activity.  If you teach younger students, or students who may not be able to read the story independently, read the story as a class or small group using a projector connected computer or interactive whiteboard.  Students can work together to solve the mystery using the available clues in the story.  Before students begin reading the story, they can build background knowledge by using the built in research guide.  Students can learn more about Costa Rica with an interactive map, learn about the works of art they will see in the story, and the different animals represented in the works of art.

The story can be read in either English or Spanish.  For older students learning Spanish as a foreign language, the activity could be completed in Spanish.  This would be a fun activity to test their skills of reading for understanding in the Spanish language.

Tips: For more great related links, click on the “more” drop down from the home page.¬† Happy solving!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Mystery of the Poison Dart Frog in your classroom.

National Geographic Image Collection

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What it is: National Geographic is known for their poignant images.  Now, those images can be viewed online in the National Geographic Image Collection.  There are more than 11 million images that chronicle the world from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century.  Students can also view the history of photography from daguerreotypes to digital through an interactive time line. The image collection includes images related to exploration, wild life, people and cultures, and science and climate change.

How to integrate National Geographic Image Collection into the classroom: The National Geographic Image Collection is an impressive set of images from around the world.¬† The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” proves to be true.¬† These images are indeed worth a thousand words or more.¬† Use these images to help you tell the story of our world as you teach students about history, science, wild life, and world culture.¬† These images will help to connect your students with learning in ways that a textbook can’t.¬† Use the Image Collection for creative writing prompts.¬† Allow your students to choose an image from the collection to tell a story about.¬† The interactive time line can be used to¬† teach students about the history of photography.

Tips: I learned about this site from a Tweet by @McTeach a few weeks ago on Twitter, thanks Karen!

Leave a comment and share how you are using National Geographic Image Collection in your classroom.


The following was posted on tecnoTIC, an education blog in Spain that does similar things to iLearn Technology.  (This was originally in Spanish and was translated with Google Translate.)  Raul (the creator of tecnoTIC) found my blog and made the suggestion to link them because of their similar nature.  After spending some time on his blog, I was hooked.  The cyberfriendship grew and we began exchanging ideas, linking two cultures through technology.  It has been a great experience!

A year ago I proposed to Kelly Tenkely, the creator of iLearn Technology can unite our blogs in order to symbolically link the two publications driven by common objectives if, as the twinning of cities, but in this case blogs. To seal the twinning did in his time a banner exchange so that we are bound, you may see a banner on its Web tecnoTIC Colorado USA and one in tecnoTIC iLearn Technology (who is from Spain but also stay in USA server) so that readers can access and mine tecnoTIC to iLearn Technology. With the passage of time can say that besides this “banner exchange” has created a good thread of communication between tecnoTIC iLearn Technology and exchanging views, experiences, news, etc., which have contributed somewhat to our growing blogs.

I asked him this morning to Kelly the possibility of writing this brief post on our blogs twinning and the answer was “definitely do that, I think it is a great idea!”.

Original: “Hace ya un a√Īo que le propuse a Kelly Tenkely , la creadora de iLearn Technology la posibilidad de hermanar nuestros blogs con el fin de unir simb√≥licamente ambas publicaciones movidas por objetivos comunes, si, como los hermanamientos de ciudades, pero en este caso de blogs. Para sellar el hermanamiento realizamos en su momento un intercambio de banners de tal manera que estamos enlazados, es posible ver un banner de tecnoTIC en su p√°gina de Colorado USA y otro de iLearn Technology en tecnoTIC (que aunque se hace desde Espa√Īa tambi√©n est√° alojado en un servidor de USA), de manera que sus lectores pueden acceder a tecnoTIC y los m√≠os a iLearn Technology. Con el paso del tiempo se puede decir que adem√°s de ese “intercambio de banners” se ha creado un buen hilo de comunicaci√≥n entre iLearn Technology y tecnoTIC, intercambiando impresiones, experiencias, noticias, etc, que han contribuido en cierto modo al crecimiento de nuestros blogs.

Le consult√© esta ma√Īana a Kelly la posiblidad de escribir este breve post sobre el hermanamiento de nuestros blogs y la respuesta fue “definitely do that, I think it is a great idea!”.”

Story Cove

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What it is: Story Cove- A World of Stories is an excellent collection of stories from around the world.  The folktales come from a variety of cultures and places sharing timeless lessons and universal values.  The stories are shared in two ways, as an audio story only, or as a movie.  The stories have been collected from countries around the world including: Africa, Asia, Americas, Australia, and Europe.  Students can explore the world through the stories told there.    Each story is accompanied by a variety of activities including coloring pages, mazes, printable masks, etc.  There is a teacher page where you can find lesson plans for each story that extend the story elements to explore the original story with projects and activities that encourage interaction with other students, parents, and teachers.  Each story has a lesson for students in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and third grade.

How to integrate Story Cove- A World of Stories into the classroom: Story Cove- A World of Stories is a fun way for students to learn about other cultures and countries through the stories told there.  It provides a great tie in between geography, language arts, and social studies.  As you are teaching about other countries, use Story Cove as a way for students to understand more about the people who live there.  Because the stories have universal values, students will be able to relate them to their own lives.  Story Cove can be used with a projector or interactive whiteboard for whole class participation or set up as a story center on classroom computers.  These stories are great for building reading strategies like making connections, summarizing, synthesizing, questioning, and evaluating.  They are also helpful for language and vocabulary building.

Tips: If you can’t find a place to directly tie in Story Cove in your curriculum, consider introducing a new folktale to students each week of the school year.  Use the Story Cove story as a writing prompt for journal writing.

Related Resources: Speakaboos

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Story Cove in your classroom.

World Digital Library



What it is:   The World Digital Library is a collection of free primary materials from around the world.  Students can search the World Digital Library for materials that will help them understand other cultures.  Students can search for materials by place, topic, time period, or institution.

How to integrate World Digital Library into the classroom:   This is an amazing collection of primary materials from around the world.  This is truly like bringing museums from around the world into your classroom.  Use the World Digital Library to illustrate lessons using an interactive whiteboard or projector.  Students can use World Digital Library for research and to support projects they are working on.  I love the look of World Digital Library, primary sources embeded in a map of the world.  It helps students visualize where in the world the materials they are looking at came from.


Tips:  Bookmark World Digital Library on the classroom computers for quick access.  World Digital Library is multilingual, just choose your language before you begin searching!


Leave a comment and tell us how you are using World Digital Library  in your classroom.