What is the Value of the Teacher in the AI Classroom? – I asked ChatGPT over coffee.

Guest post By Tiffany Wycoff


At first glance, the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in the midst of the 2022 holiday season could hardly be counted among the items likely to be on a teacher’s wish list. It’s hard to imagine joy at such a release during my years of teaching middle and high school English, which consisted almost entirely of having students write, then grading student writing. If someone had suggested I introduce a tool that could answer an AP Lit open response question in a matter of seconds to my students, I would have contemplated quitting.

And yet, today I find myself both in awe at the dawn of this reality and curious about what it really means to be a teacher within it. As I pondered the questions – How will ChatGPT affect learning? How can teachers use it as a tool in their classrooms? How can teachers learn to both recognize and teach students the unique role and value of the human in an AI classroom and world? – I had the thought, maybe I should just ask the machine. 

So, on an ordinary day at work for me “in the cloud,” I grabbed a cup of coffee and settled into a chat with my computer. I found myself immensely curious. Would ChatGPT have some decent answers? Where would I find its limitations? Could this conversation help teachers start to understand the power of this technology as both an empowering tool and a frustrating reality? After a thrilling chat that lasted less than 5 minutes, I have to say…I think it could. Below is our coffee talk, with ChatGPT’s unedited contributions in purple.

Me: How will ChatGPT affect learning?

ChatGPT: I’m sorry, but I am not familiar with a chatbot or language model called ChatGPT. Could you provide more context or clarify your question?

(Ha! Clearly we’re not off to a good start. I refrain from asking GPT, “Are you being ironic?”)

Me (Trying again): How will generative AI affect teaching and learning in classrooms?

ChatGPT: Generative artificial intelligence (AI) systems, such as language models like GPT-3, have the potential to revolutionize education by providing new ways for students to learn and interact with educational content.

One potential application of generative AI in education is the creation of personalized learning experiences. For example, a language model could be used to generate customized learning materials or activities based on a student’s individual needs and interests. This could help students learn at their own pace and in a way that is most engaging and effective for them.

Generative AI could also be used to create simulations or virtual environments for students to interact with, providing hands-on learning experiences that would be difficult or impossible to replicate in a physical classroom.

Another potential use of generative AI in education is the creation of interactive tutoring systems that can respond to a student’s questions and provide real-time feedback and guidance.

Overall, the use of generative AI in education has the potential to make learning more personalized, interactive, and efficient. However, it is important to carefully consider the ethical implications of using AI in education and to ensure that it is used in a way that supports and enhances, rather than replaces, traditional teaching methods.

(Really? You think we should consider the ethical implications on AI in education when all this AI is out there in the “open” for free? That’s very intelligent of you! Thank you.)

Me: What other ways can teachers use AI in lesson planning?

ChatGPT: There are many potential ways that teachers can use artificial intelligence (AI) in lesson planning and teaching. Here are a few examples:

  1. Personalized learning: AI can be used to create customized learning materials and activities for individual students based on their needs, interests, and learning style. This can help students learn at their own pace and in a way that is most engaging and effective for them.
  2. Grading and feedback: AI can be used to grade assignments and provide feedback to students in real-time. This can save teachers time and allow them to focus on more high-impact tasks, such as providing one-on-one feedback and support to students who need it.
  3. Content creation: AI can be used to create educational content, such as videos, simulations, or interactive exercises. This can help teachers create engaging and interactive learning experiences for their students.
  4. Data analysis: AI can be used to analyze data on student performance and engagement, providing insights and recommendations for teachers to use in their lesson planning.
  5. Collaboration and communication: AI can be used to facilitate collaboration and communication between students, teachers, and parents. For example, AI-powered chatbots or virtual assistants can be used to answer common questions and provide support to students and parents.

It’s important to keep in mind that AI should be used as a tool to support and enhance traditional teaching methods, rather than replacing them. 

(This is actually a solid list of ideas for teachers! We may be onto something.) 

Me: What is the best use of a teacher’s time with students in a classroom with AI technology?

ChatGPT: There are many potential ways that teachers can use their time effectively with students in a classroom with artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Some potential approaches include:

  1. Personalized instruction: Teachers can use AI technology to create personalized learning experiences for students based on their individual needs, interests, and learning styles. This can involve using AI to generate customized materials or activities, or to provide real-time feedback and support to students as they work.
  2. Collaborative learning: Teachers can use AI technology to facilitate collaboration and communication between students, allowing them to work together on projects, share ideas, and learn from one another.
  3. Problem-based learning: Teachers can use AI technology to create interactive, real-world problem-solving exercises for students. This can involve using simulations, virtual environments, or other interactive tools to help students apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways.
  4. Project-based learning: Teachers can use AI technology to create engaging and interactive projects for students to work on, allowing them to explore their interests and learn through hands-on experiences.
  5. One-on-one support: Teachers can use their time with students to provide individualized feedback and support to those who need it most. This can involve working with students one-on-one or in small groups to provide targeted help and guidance.

Overall, the best use of a teacher’s time with students in a classroom with AI technology will depend on the specific needs and goals of the students, as well as the teacher’s teaching style and expertise. It’s important to consider how AI can be used as a tool to support and enhance traditional teaching methods, rather than replacing them.

(Ding ding ding! We’re getting so close in number 5, time for one-on-one support.)

Me: What can humans do that AI cannot?

ChatGPT: There are many things that humans can do that artificial intelligence (AI) cannot. Some examples include:

  1. Creativity: Humans have the ability to generate new and original ideas, whereas AI is limited to the knowledge and capabilities that have been programmed into it.
  2. Empathy: Humans have the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, whereas AI lacks the capacity to feel emotions.
  3. Moral reasoning: Humans have the ability to make moral and ethical judgments, whereas AI can only follow the rules and instructions it has been given.
  4. Social interactions: Humans have the ability to form complex social relationships and engage in social interactions in a nuanced and subtle way, whereas AI is limited in its ability to understand and navigate social situations.
  5. Physical tasks: Humans have the ability to perform a wide range of physical tasks, such as lifting, carrying, and manipulating objects, whereas AI is limited in its physical capabilities.

Overall, there are many things that humans can do that AI cannot, and it is likely that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. While AI can perform some tasks more efficiently or accurately than humans, it is still limited in its ability to think, feel, and behave like a human.

(And this, my friends, is at the heart of what we’ve been talking about. We as humans need to be clear about what our unique value is within this reality. Machines work on algorithms…we need to level up our human-only skills. We need to be what we at LINC call “generative humans.”)

Me: GPT, what is a generative human?

ChatGPT: It’s not clear what you mean by a “generative human.” In the context of artificial intelligence (AI), the term “generative” typically refers to the ability of a system to generate new and original output, such as text, images, or music. For example, a generative AI system might be trained on a large dataset of text and then be able to generate new, coherent sentences or paragraphs based on that training.

If you are asking about the concept of a “generative human” in a broader sense, it’s possible that you might be referring to the idea of humans as creative or productive beings. In this context, a generative human might be someone who is able to generate new ideas, solutions, or products through their creativity and ingenuity.

I hope this helps to clarify things. If you have a specific question or context in mind, please let me know and I’ll do my best to assist you.

(Precisely! Yes, you have “clarified things,” meaning you have drawn the same connection I have been pondering. Thank you for seeing things my way GPT!)

Me: Applying that same logic, what is a generative teacher?

ChatGPT: The server experienced an error while processing your request. Sorry about that! You can retry your request, or contact us through our help center at help.openai.com if the error persists.

(Well, that’s embarrassing. Let’s resubmit…maybe you got lost in the logic.)

A generative teacher might be someone who is able to generate new and innovative ways of teaching and learning in the classroom. This might involve creating personalized learning experiences for students based on their needs, interests, and learning styles; using technology and other tools to facilitate collaboration and communication among students; or developing interactive, problem-based learning exercises that allow students to apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways.

In general, a generative teacher might be someone who is able to think creatively and adaptively, and who is always looking for ways to improve and innovate their teaching methods. They might be open to new ideas and technologies, and be willing to try out different approaches in order to find what works best for their students.

(And just like that, you’ve made my point. The value of the teacher in the reality of AI is human connection and creativity. It is generativity in living, breathing motion.)

About the Author

Tiffany Wycoff is the Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder of LINC. Connect with Tiffany on Twitter @teachontheedge.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Fridays at 6pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Chicago by Hedreich Nichols

Guest post

Listen to Smallbites via Hedreich Nichols, @Hedreich

This week is part two of the SmallBites Black History series. It could aptly called “Beyond the Struggle”. When I think of June and Pride celebrations, there is so much joy. Yes, there is talk of Stonewall and the fight for human rights, but there is a joy that we are missing in February. I believe that comes from the focus on our civil struggle and a lack of knowledge about the many achievements of people from the African diaspora in America.

Let Your Students Do the Sleuthing

I invite everyone to take time, this month especially, to celebrate all that Black Americans have accomplished in the face of insurmountable odds. Did you know that most enslaved people were freed with no education, no restitution and no path to transition from enslavement to freedman in a hostile environment? And yet, there have been notable achievements in every sector, achievements that are not widely known. Since this month is dedicated to Black History, allow your students to research Black business owners, scientists, writers, inventors, choreographers, educators, politicians, generals, etc. Discuss who they find and allow your students to take the lead. I’m hoping that will be acceptable even in today’s climate.  There is so much to celebrate and Black achievement in the US is so much deeper than Civil Rights and Soul food.

Who Wants to Join Me??

If you do find someone especially interesting to celebrate, I’d love to interview one or two Black History super sleuths this month for SmallBites. Message me at 5smallbites@bluewin.ch.

You can read more about Bronzeville in one of 3 of my social justice titles for Cherry Lake Publishing, From Black Wall Street to Allensworth

You can read more about the humanitarian crisis of emancipation from Professor Downs’ book, Sick From Freedom.Post navigation

Check out the podcast here.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Fridays at 6pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Learning about the metaverse

When it comes to education, there are always new ideas, methods, and technologies. As we have seen, especially over the past two years, the number of tools available and the advances in technology are increasing tremendously. In our schools, we have to prepare our students so that they understand what these technologies are, how they are being used now, and what the impact might be on them in the future. 

For most people, topics like augmented and virtual reality and artificial intelligence may be new. Understanding the differences between AR and VR for example and how these technologies are being used in the world and in education is important, especially with the use of AR and VR in different areas of work. Now enter the term “metaverse” which may be a new concept to many, however, it has actually been around for almost three decades. Neal Stephenson, an American science fiction author introduced the concept of the metaverse in his novel, Snow Crash back in 1992.

For some people, the term metaverse may have been first heard when Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was changing the name of Facebook to Meta back in October of 2021. To help people understand what his ideas were for the metaverse, he released a short video about how the metaverse would work. I recommend sharing this video with students to spark a conversation first.

With these emerging technologies and also with things like blockchain, NFTs, and web3 for a few others, how can educators keep up so that we can prepare our students? With so many responsibilities in our daily work, how do we find time to learn more about the metaverse? What are the best resources and how can we provide opportunities for students to drive their own learning about these emerging technologies?

Understanding what the metaverse is

First, it is important to have a working definition of the metaverse. The metaverse is “a simulated digital environment that uses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain, along with concepts from social media, to create spaces for rich user interaction mimicking the real world.” A few years ago, I read the book Ready Player One, which has been used to provide a glimpse into what the metaverse might look like. For getting started with learning about the metaverse, having a good based understanding of what the metaverse is would be the first step.

Years ago, people were using Second Life, which was a way for meeting with others in a virtual world. When I first used it in 2015, I was not sure what to think. For anyone who has not experienced it, you would create your own avatar, and communicate and interact with others in a virtual space. It was being used in place of traditional meeting tools like Google Hangouts or Zoom for example. Using this as a comparison,  the metaverse would be quite similar, except used for more than just meetings. It would be for all aspects of personal and professional life. Can you imagine spending 24 hours in the metaverse? Think about everything that you do in a typical day and what that might look like in the metaverse? What are the benefits and drawbacks? A good question to ask students and see what their responses are. Check out a video of a young woman who spent 24 hours in a VR headset and what the impact it was on her as a result. 

You can check out some of the videos available that provide a simulated metaverse experience. videos 

You may be familiar with Fortnite and Roblox, which are platforms that demonstrate the concept of the metaverse. Roblox is even providing lesson plans and activities that are aligned with the ISTE Standards. Engaging in the metaverse experience also does not require the use of headsets as the environments can be accessed through a computer and using a variety of web VR such as Engage VR for Mozilla Hubs for example. 

What else do we need to know?

More than just knowing what the metaverse is, we need to understand how it works, what devices and technology are needed, and what other concepts we need to be knowledgeable about. With life spent in the metaverse, everyday tasks like making purchases, working, going to school, socializing, and entertainment will look different. We will need to understand how to buy things and keep track of information, so we also need to understand blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFTs.  Think about the age of the students that you teach or work with. Fast forward ten years, will students be going to school and working in the metaverse?  If so, then we have to do what we can to prepare them and ourselves.  What are the skills that students will need to interact in the metaverse?

But will the metaverse disappear?

There has been a lot of growth in the use of the metaverse since October 2021. In education, some colleges are not only thinking about holding classes in the metaverse, some have already done so.  Research is being done to explore what the benefits of learning in the metaverse might be. Stanford unveiled a metaverse learning experience for students in June of 2021. Using the platform Engage VR, more than 250 students wearing headsets participated in class in virtual reality. In total, students completed two courses and spent 3,500 hours together in the metaverse rather than the traditional classroom or virtual meeting space like Zoom or Teams.

In the spring, it was announced by Victory XR that ten “metaversities” would be launching in the fall. While there are concerns about the metaverse, there are also some anticipated benefits to these options. Considering the increasing and sometimes prohibitive cost of traditional universities, a metaversity might lead to more opportunities for students. 

Thinking about benefits, providing education via the metaverse could resolve common issues such as class sizes or lack of adequate learning materials due to tight budgets. Students would be able to immerse more in learning experiences and in some cases, may feel more connected to and included in learning. A survey found that 80% of respondents felt more included in the metaverse. With permission settings, teachers would have more control over student interactions in the metaverse. In higher education, there can be a digital twin, which is a professor who is in the physical classroom space but through an avatar, is able to engage with students in the virtual space too.  

With these emerging technologies, it is important that we all explore new ideas and ways to best prepare our students and ourselves for what these technologies will bring. 

A recent article in Forbes shared some of the potential benefits of the metaverse. In the metaverse, people can make purchases, hold meetings, own land, buy and sell real estate, and even buy clothing for their avatars. It would have its own virtual economy for these transactions, which brings up another issue, financial literacy, and understanding how the concept of money and finances would work in the metaverse. When it comes to the impact the metaverse might have on the economy, it is estimated that it could become an $800 billion market by 2024.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Fridays at 6pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Ed3 DAO – amazing learning experience!


Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of discussion about emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, cryptocurrency, the metaverse, ​NFTS, and web 3. There are so many things happening in the world of technology impacting the workplace, and we are now starting to see these technologies making their way into the education space. Teachers that work with elementary students, or teach a content area such as math or a specific course like calculus or physics, may wonder how these topics might connect with the content they’re teaching. As a Spanish and STEAM teacher, for years I did not bring emerging technologies like AI or ​AR/VR into my Spanish classroom because I thought “I’m just a Spanish teacher.” However, we all need to help our students understand these technologies and their potential impact on our personal lives and education today and in the future. There is something that each of us can do in our classrooms regardless of the grade level or content area that we teach. It might look different for each of us, but we can still find ways to help students better understand the technologies that will be part of the future of learning and work.  

How can educators prepare?

Teachers often feel like they have to be the expert, but I can attest to the fact that you don’t. Thinking that I had to be the expert kept me from taking risks throughout my teaching career. I know that I don’t have to be the expert, I only need to know enough to get students started. Then they can take the lead and we can learn with them as everyone knows, we learn directly from them too. So when it comes to these topics, finding time to learn about them can be challenging. How can we possibly know enough?

In October, Getting Smart held a Town Hall focused on “Where has education been and where will it go next?” Nate McClennen, VP of Innovation and Education kicked off the event with an overview of the different web versions. Vriti Saraf, Co-Founder of Ed3 DAO spoke about the versions of the web and how “Web3 will advance things at a technological level, this technology will also have impacts on reshaping the “ethos of the web.” Mike Peck also shared some of the themes of web3 and the impact on the learning systems in place and the roles of educators and students in this space.

To get started, educators can explore blogs available through G​etting ​S​mart, participate in the Ed3 DAO Twitter spaces and check out resources from their 3-day ​E​d3 conference held November 11-13, 2022. The conference’s mission was to help educators understand what these technologies mean for the future of education and how to best prepare students.

[image from Ed3 DAO website]

What is Ed3 DAO?

Ed3 DAO (Digital Autonomous Organization), co-founded by Vriti Saraf and Mike ​P​eck is a group created “by educators and for educators” to learn about web3. They are “committed to onboarding one million educators into the world of web3.” Educators can join the group and interact through a Discord Channel or connect via Twitter. Ed3 DAO recently held its first virtual conference in the Edverse. It had a variety of session types including Ed talks, hackathons, gaming, networking opportunities, learning labs, and more. The focus was on the future of “learning, earning, teaching and community.”

The conference provided opportunities to explore and interact in the metaverse space. The event included a variety of learning opportunities including Edtalks, 20 learning labs, networking and idea labs in the Edverse where you could pitch ideas and get feedback from other attendees. There were also 12 Mastermind sessions focused on topics such as AI and the future of writing, what students need to learn about web3, amplifying SDGs with web3, and legal topics in the metaverse.

Attendees were able to receive a “proof of attendance protocol” (POAP, an NFT) certificate on blockchain as evidence of their participation in the event after each day. The proof can then be used for professional development hours, shared on social media, added to a crypto wallet, or used for teacher professional development hours.

[The event kickoff was held on YouTube and in the Ed3verse]

Some of the main speakers included ​Vriti Saraf, Mike ​P​eck, Dagan Berstein, leaders in this space and I recommend that anyone wanting to learn more and be involved, should follow their work. During this event, participants were able to learn about what web3 means and how the look and feel of school might change. It was a great opportunity to connect with educators who are teaching students about these topics and gather ideas for use in the classroom. Also to be able to experience the metaverse by joining in the virtual space, selecting an avatar, and learning how to communicate in these new spaces for learning. 

The event

The kickoff of the event focused on “What is Web3 and Why Does It Matter in Education?” What is Ed3 DAO and how to make the most of the conference with Vriti Saraf and Mike Peck. They spoke about what web3 is, how it has evolved and the impact that it will have on education and the world. Vriti explained how when the world wide web was created in 1990, at first it was decentralized and open source, which meant anyone could create. Web 1.0 was “read” and there were not a lot of opportunities to do more than consume content. In 2005, the web evolved to become web2.0, where social media apps and other websites could be created by people without the need to know how to code. It made global collaboration and sharing of content possible. This was the “Write” version because we could now contribute. Web 2,0 changed from “building to business, collaboration to monopoly, and innovation to profit generation.” Tim said, “this is not the web we wanted to create.” This is where web3 comes in and the focus of the conference. Web 3.0 is “own” because people can own and create their own info because of blockchain. It has shifted from closed to open, business to building, and monopolies to collaboration. No longer tied to owning everything but instead, sharing. 

Vriti said, “As educators, the small-scale building mentality is leading to creating micro-schools and unbundled learning. Collaboration and community-driven equals personalization. Innovation is leading to new ways of learning, hybrid, immersive and regenerative.” 

Mike Peck spoke about the shifts from web versions and their impact.  Now we have the gig economy and people can engage in different types of work. In web3, more changes are coming. As the web evolves, we may see the “creator economy.” How will decentralized platforms enable people to create and explore in ways unlike what we can do now? 

How will it impact our daily lives? Instagram, Starbucks, and Pearson are a few corporations that are discussing how web3 will impact strategy and are looking at the use of NFTs. As the web evolves, educators need to help students develop essential skills such as digital citizenship, financial literacy, and the 4 Cs.  In web3, “there is an importance of community and how we can work together to achieve great things.” According to Mike, “Our students are already experiencing the metaverse, like with Fortnite and some are even investing in web3. A 12-year-old created a collection called “Weird Whales” and made around $160,000 in one day.  He created the code base through to the NFT collection. 

Learning Labs on Saturday- move your avatar to join in a session.

Saturday Master Mind Legal Issues in metaverse Counseling The Future: Legal Topics in the Metaverse 

The unconference experience

It was unlike any other experience I have had. The gatherings around the learning labs during the unconference and being able to interact, engage in live conversations whether the camera was on or off, and moving in all of those spaces was awesome. It offered flexibility by being able to move your avatar into any of the different learning spaces and quickly enter another space to connect with attendees. While it is similar to being at an in-person event or a virtual conference and changing sessions, the time to move and enter the spaces is in your control and instant when in the Edverse, rather than waiting for someone to let you into the room or traveling a distance. 

On Sunday, Nate McClennen, VP of Education and Innovation of Getting Smart kicked off Day 3 events with an Edtalk about “How can web3 drive open ecosystem of learning, workplace degrees, and thriving democracies and livelihood?  He spoke of the evolution of the web and how web 3 allows for “permissionless, self-sovereign and decentralized systems, which increases access and agency which empowers people to be more active.” With centralized systems, there are groups of data that are being used to make money for others, compared with decentralized. When it comes to learning, the learners control credentials and digital wallet/employment records. Store information there, the diplomas are there and are easily verifiable without other distractions or time consumption.

Joining the Edtalks held in the learning labs or available on YouTube was a unique experience. There were many great sessions available that deciding was difficult!. Some of the topics for learning labs that I joined were Design, Modeling, and Building NFTs to Build Future Student Entrepreneurs, and Making Web3 Work for Workforce Education with Dr. Micah Shipee and Kaylee Brown.

[A great session with Pablo and with Vriti Saraf closing out his Learning Lab session.]

The conference ended with a dance party in the virtual space celebrating the conference and thanking Vriti Saraf for an amazing event. Several members of the planning team spoke and shared some of the key takeaways from the event. Vriti said, “Web3 is all around us and it is here and education is always the last to catch up.”

[The final gathering to close out the Ed3 DAO event]

To learn more, check out the Twitter feed for the #Ed3con22 event to see more images, and the conversation topics and connect with other educators. I recommend that anyone interested in learning more about web 3, become a member and check out the events that the Ed3 DAO holds each month. There are also courses available for educators to work through that are focused on the blockchain, metaverse, NFTs, web3, and more.

An unconference was held in the Edverse Ed3 DAO city where attendees could organize their own discussions. 

The look of a conference in Ed3verse, photo credit Maria Galanis

Speakers at the Ed3 DAO conference, photo credit Maria Galanis

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Fridays at 6pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Making Math Usable for Young Learners

Guest post by:

Sharon A. Edwards

Sai Gattupalli

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Everyone wants to improve math learning for elementary school-age children. Computation, calculation, and problem-solving skills are essential tools for young learners to have. Each builds the mathematical foundations, conceptual building blocks, for future understandings of math instruction in middle school, high school, college, and careers. But national test scores are lower than pre-pandemic as are interest and engagement of many young learners.

To develop tools to support math learning for students, teachers, and families, we and our University of Massachusetts Amherst colleague Robert Maloy, are developing a free open for use online system called Usable Math:


Usable Math provides a unique interactive problem-solving model of activities for youngsters learning mathematical reasoning and computation skills with word problems. Using computers, tablets, smartphones, students, and teachers can access standardized test questions from the Massachusetts MCAS tests and receive multiple learning strategies from four virtual coaches we call learning coaches. Estella Explainer, Chef Math Bear, How-to Hound, and Visual Vicuna are the characters offering words, images, pictures, charts, graphs, animations, and gifs to engage students’ thinking as they read, compute, and strategically solve word problems. The model supports estimating, comparing, understanding vocabulary, and identifying ways to be math solvers seeking right answers in different ways.

To date, we have published interactive modules about fractions, addition, rounding/estimation, geometry, money, data analysis, measurement, and more are on the way.

The name Usable Math encompasses our goals and purposes for the system design:

  • U Able meaning you (every young math learner) can be a math problem solver.
  • Us Able meaning together all of us (students, teachers, and family members in classrooms and homes) can be a team of math problem solvers.
  • Usable meaning anyone (young or older) is able to develop their math problem-solving skills with curiosity, practice, and clues for thinking from the online coaches. For this reason, the system is open and free and works on multiple digital devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Usable Math is designed so users control the process of what learners see and how quickly they see each problem, the coaching clues, answer choices and the answer to the problem. A click-to-see approach lets children and adults use a mouse or a tap to reveal the inner workings of the math word problems one step at a time. Each click of the mouse or return key reveals additional strategies for youngsters to use in solving math problems strategically.

Click-to-see proceeds like this. With the first click, a problem appears on the screen, some with and others without their answer choices being shown depending on what the problem is asking learners to do. In this example, seeing the answers is necessary to problem-solving it.

Click a second time and the system displays Estella Explainer’s hint, a reading strategy intended to reframe the math question in more straightforward, kid-accessible language. The math problem continues to display at the top of the screen, while each hint appears in the bottom section of the screen. The idea is to engage children in actively conversing about the problem from the lens of Estella Explainer’s scaffolding hint.

With another click, Chef Math Bear offers a computational strategy. With another click, a strategic thinking idea appears from How-to-Hound. And with another click, a hint in the form of a movie, chart, graph, or picture appears from Visual Vicuna. In each instance, students and adults have opportunities to analyze and discuss with one another what they think or know, or have learned from the coaches to help them answer the question. When all of the coaching hints are visible on the screen below the question, another click either shows the answer choices or if those are part of the question already, highlights the solution to the problem from among the answer choices. Then before continuing to the next word problem, a motivational statement (“You know parallel lines when you see them” or “You SOLVED the puzzle”) appears along with a surprising visual, a gif, or an image to elicit smiles or delight or laughter to emphasize the accomplishment and encourage viewing the next problem.

Enabling children and adults to choose how quickly or slowly they see information when analyzing problem-solving strategies from the coaches is a deliberate different practice from expectations in many classroom settings. In math, youngsters have mistakenly been taught that being “smart” with math means being the first or one of the first to answer questions correctly or to complete practice worksheets swiftly. By not taking the time needed to read and think through possible problem-solving strategies, students make mistakes, confuse key concepts, and begin to believe that math is a skill only some are competent to learn.

We want Usable Math to be different for several reasons. First, the design of the system makes it possible for children and adults to have productive collaborative problem-solving discussions before choosing an answer. They can “work” the problem, discussing what each puzzle teaches and how it might be solved using different ways. This focuses on the math concepts of the problem and the illustration instead of immediately identifying a procedure to use to find an answer.

Second, the presence of four coaches, with their own problem-solving points of view or perspectives offers choice for students. They can, and do, find a coach who becomes their math friend whose ideas help them to approach problem-solving with confidence. The use of animations and visuals allows the coaches to offer information along with surprising, engaging learning. Children keep coming back to see what the coaches have to say and do. Engagement produces learning.

Third, youngsters and adults discover how math is really about all maths. Look again at that term “maths.” Putting the “s” on math broadens its meaning and changes how it is to be taught and learned. While maths is a term used by educators throughout the world, it is not used or thought of often in classrooms in this country. Maths indicates that there is not one single subject called math, but many ways to think about mathematical topics and concepts. Maths urges children and adults to think like solvers of problems, not recallers of formulas. Maths stresses conceptual understanding with procedural knowledge.

It is our goal to have Usable Math promote maths learning for students, teachers, and families in all topics of maths. We welcome your thoughts and responses and your suggestions for how to revise this coaching system in the future.

Sharon A. Edwards is a Clinical Faculty in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Retired from public school teaching, she taught primary grades for 32 years at the Mark’s Meadow Demonstration Laboratory School, a public school in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Sai Gattupalli is a Learning Sciences doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research interests are broadly focused on learner culture, learning through game play, and game design.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Fridays at 6pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

MTSS Part Two: Essential Components of MTSS

Guest post by Bonnie Nieves, in collaboration with Class Composer

In the previous blog, I outlined the first step of initiating Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), a framework designed to meet the needs of each and every learner in a school district. When your school community has completed its inventory of instructional tools and supports for academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning, it is time to move on to putting these resources into action. 

The next steps include planning for three essential components of MTSS: 

  • Instruction that includes academic, behavioral, and SEL learning opportunities for all students.
  • Assessment tools that measure the effectiveness of this instruction.
  • Ensuring that your master schedule has space for per diem support for students.

MTSS is typically represented as a pyramid with Tier 1 universal supports being the foundation. It can be accurately represented as a triangle or funnel. 

All students receive universal supports and transition between tiers 1, 2, and 3 based upon progress monitoring data monitored according to a reliable universal tool at predetermined intervals. These tools do not need to be school-wide standardized tests. According to the American Institutes of Research (2021), high-fidelity screening is universal, accurate, and conducted at least quarterly.

Most students will remain in tier 1, some will transition to tier 2, and fewer will move to tier 3. If a school community finds that a large number of students are in need of tier 2 support, it would be prudent to investigate the evaluation tools and quality of the universal curriculum being used.

Now, envision a system of three triangles, one for each indicator: academic, behavioral, and SEL. Students may be at any of the three tiers for each of the three instructional areas (academic, behavioral, social-emotional) at any one time. For example, a student may be receiving tier 1 instruction for academics, tier 2 targeted support for behavioral instruction, and tier 3 for social-emotional instruction.

When teachers work with all of this information, academic, behavioral, and social-emotional, it can require a great deal of time and organization. Providing for all students is essential and each of these represents important data points that teachers need to focus on in order to provide the best for students. However, there needs to be a more effective and efficient way to do this.

MTSS and Class Composer 

Class Composer provides everything that teachers need to be able to monitor student progress and is readily accessible to anyone, at any time. It enables all teachers to access the information they need about each individual student when they need it. Easy to track and record student growth toward individualized goals.  Simplify how you manage all the assessment data collected! With progress monitoring, teachers can easily track student progress and provide the right supports.

Having access to all this information in one space enables teachers to create a supportive learning community for students. These teacher-student connections lead to the development of the essential relationships that need to exist for all students to be successful.

Give Class Composer a try today using their sandbox. You will experience a simpler, more streamlined experience when in the easily accessible, data-driven platform that promotes student academic achievement and the development of essential SEL skills.

Head to Class Composer to learn more!

Coming up next:

The final part of my MTSS blog series will elaborate on two essential components: assessment tools and instructional resources. Assessment tools that can help your school community provide common experiences without impacting teachers’ ability to use Universal Designed for Learning (UDL) planning tools. Instructional resources for each of the three tiers for academic, behavioral, and social-emotional instruction.

About the Author

Bonnie Nieves is the author of “Be Awesome on Purpose” and has over a decade of experience as a high school science teacher. She has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Educational Leadership. Her passion for creating immersive and authentic experiences that fuel curiosity and creating student-centered, culturally responsive learning spaces that promote equity and inclusion has led her to establish Educate On Purpose Coaching.

In addition to being an award-winning educator, Bonnie works to ensure equitable and engaging education for all through her work as a copy editor at EdReports and Classroom Materials and Media reviewer for The American Biology Teacher journal. She serves on the MassCUE board of directors and enjoys connecting with educators through social media, professional organizations, conferences, Twitter chats, and edcamps. Bonnie is a member of the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science, and the National Science Teaching Association. She encourages you to connect with her on Twitter @biologygoddess, Instagram @beawesomeonpurpose, Clubhouse @biologygoddess, and LinkedIn.

Please visit www.educateonpurpose.com for information about her current projects.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Fridays at 6pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Boosting Curiosity for Learning

As educators, we need to be comfortable with taking more risks in our classrooms. Whether we dive in and try new ideas, bring in new digital tools, or shift to more of a facilitator role, it will promote more student-driven, meaningful learning. With more options available, we will foster student agency, boost engagement and increase student motivation in learning. We need to embrace and model risk-taking as we create opportunities to place students in the lead more and experience purposeful learning fueled by choice. 

With methods like project-based learning (PBL) and through a variety of traditional and digital tools, we will more authentically engage students with the content, and their role will shift from consumers to creators. Students will appreciate the process of learning and as a result, it will positively impact overall achievement. 

In my classroom a few years ago, I recognized a lack of true student engagement. While I had offered students choices in the types of projects and tools they could choose from, these options did not promote student-driven learning. Through PBL or using choice boards, for example, we can promote more independent learning for students. When students have more autonomy in their learning experiences, they become more motivated and engaged in the learning process. For students to make significant progress, there needs to be sustained engagement. 

When we started to do PBL and use methods like choice boards and Hyperdocs in my classroom, the process of learning was ongoing and iterative. Student engagement increased and they enjoyed these new experiences. They were tasked with decision-making and as a result, became more curious about what they were learning and focused on the process rather than the end product. Students told me that they looked forward to different opportunities and the peer collaboration that was happening in our classroom.

Boosting Curiosity in Learning

Promoting curiosity in learning is essential for student engagement and motivation. As we move through the school year, at times, student engagement decreases whether as a result of activities and tools that do not promote more choice, exhaustion from testing, busy schedules, and other challenges experienced. To better engage students, we need to provide options for them to problem solve, create, collaborate and take some risks with learning. As they connect more authentically and meaningfully with what they are learning, it will spark curiosity. 

Curious students become more invested in the process of learning and the next steps in their learning journey. As we help students shift from consumers to developing as creators and innovators, they will be better equipped with the essential skills to be successful and flexible in the future whether in education or careers.  With learning opportunities that are hands-on and in some cases, non-traditional, we will spark that curiosity for learning that leads to sharing their work with others.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Engage students in inquiry-based learning and focus on an area of curiosity. With a method like genius hour, students choose what they are going to learn about and then need to set goals for their work. As they design their learning journey, they will build essential SEL skills such as self-awareness and self-management. 
  2. Ask students what they are interested in learning about. Promote the development of social-awareness, one of the five competencies of SEL by focusing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As students explore global issues, find out what they are curious about and engage them in some problem-solving and critical thinking by asking them to identify similar challenges in their community. 
  3. Connect students with the community and focus on place-based learning. Find opportunities to collaborate with local business owners, entrepreneurs, and other organizations. Expand beyond the local community and connect students virtually with people who work in an area of students’ interest. Experiences like these give students an opportunity to apply the content they are learning in the real world. Students may even find opportunities for job-shadowing or internships and better understand career options that are available to them and learn about themselves and their interests too. 

When we provide opportunities for students to set their pace for learning, to collaborate, and to explore topics of interest, they invest more and become more curious about learning and the next steps.

For some educators, it can be uncomfortable at first to place more control in students’ hands, but there are many great benefits. Students take the lead more, develop essential SEL skills and skills that will be transferable to multiple areas of work. With more independent learning, we encourage self-monitoring, peer collaboration, and decision-making and guide students as they become more confident with taking risks, setting goals, and reflecting on their learning journey.

Why Curiosity for Learning Matters

Teaching the content is important, but finding ways to spark student curiosity is also important. It is also essential that we help students discover what they are most passionate about. What makes them curious and draws them into learning and applying and then sharing their learning? 

We can start by using a hook to pique their interest, experiment with a new teaching method or digital tool, or ask students to brainstorm ideas and plan with us. When they feel valued in the learning environment, it will positively impact learning and foster the development of many essential skills. 

We must continue to look for innovative and student-driven activities to best prepare them for the future. With more independent, choice-infused earning through methods like PBL, genius hour, and place-based learning, students will shift their focus to the process of learning rather than on points or a specific final product. Students will be curious about the next steps in their learning journey and their connection with the content and their learning community will be positively impacted.

About the Author:

Rachelle Dené Poth is an ed-tech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education. She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear, and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Rachelle is the author of seven books and is a blogger for Getting Smart, Defined Learning, and NEO LMS. Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU https://anchor.fm/rdene915.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Fridays at 6pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

How Can We Prepare K-12 Students for the Future?

By: Rachelle Dene Poth

In the discussion about skills that students need for the future, there are many things to consider. We can ask about student interests and have a good understanding of the current opportunities in the world for work and learning. However, we also need to continue to research and stay informed of changes happening and new trends and technologies that are evolving. Where do we start?

We can first look at the evolution of required skills over the past 10, 20, and 30 years to find some commonalities and use it to predict possible future needed skills. We could look for trends in technology and certain industries of work. By looking at how technology has changed the types of work and jobs that are available within any given industry, we can come up with a plan for the future and design the right learning experiences for our students.

Consider this: Think about bookstores or shopping malls. Now we have so many online sites for people to purchase the items they want, without needing to set foot into a store. When it comes to books, we don’t even need a physical book any longer, we can quickly download them to our devices and access them at any time. Our purchases arrive at our home the very next day, if not the same day, depending on location.

Thinking back from childhood until my early 30s, I spent a lot of time in bookstores and record stores. Bookstores provided a space to sit and read or study or whatever you needed to do. It was a place to be social and to maybe enjoy coffee with colleagues or take time for yourself. But today it’s hard to find bookstores; many have closed over the past few years, which means there are employees who have been replaced across the world because of online sellers. It also means a loss in jobs replaced by automation. Shopping malls, especially in smaller towns, are also losing tenants because the stores cannot compete with the ease of buying online.

Newspapers have downsized either the amount of information in the papers has decreased or stopped production completely. These are just a few examples that I think of where new technologies have greatly impacted the world of work. How much more will technology seemingly replace the need for humans and human skills? What impact will automation have on our students? How do we prepare to be ahead of technology?

Preparing for the Unknown by Working Together

First, we prepare students by helping them to understand the technology and the potential impact it has on our future. We need to take a bigger step and help students to become the designers of the technologies for our future. We need to encourage students to create new ideas, find problems to solve, and create problems to explore. We need to work together to provide learning opportunities within our classrooms, our schools, and our communities, where students get to experience different types of learning. Sometimes even taking on something new that’s outside of their comfort zone, and likely outside of ours as educators, too. We need to encourage students to explore new areas, even if they initially express a lack of interest. We should give students the same opportunities to explore and see if something else out there sparks curiosity or leads them to learn more and build skills in a new way.

Ideas to Start

To better understand the changes happening in the world, we need to take chances with experiential learning, place-based learning, or working on community service projects. These can provide more real-world opportunities for students to develop skills on their own.

A few ideas:

  1. Have students create a business based on the content area,  specific topic, or thing. Set some guidelines. For example, if students are studying the 18th century, they likely won’t launch a social media campaign. Having these types of guidelines will push them to think creatively, problem-solve and collaborate to come up with new ideas. Maybe the next step is then changing one fact about their project, maybe it occurs in a different country, at a different time, and on a limited budget. These changing variables will push students to look at learning as an ongoing process.
  2. In many schools across the country, courses are being offered on entrepreneurship, project-based learning, innovation, or some variation of these. Students are creating their own podcasts, designing their own clothing, or creating their own brand of something innovative. Fostering these types of activities will keep students actively pursuing new ideas and help them to be flexible when it comes to changing technologies and the world of work.
  3. Connect students with some of the learning opportunities available through edtech companies such as Google and Flip or organizations such as StartEdUp Foundation and Remake Learning. Earlier this summer, Google announced a certification program for high school students to become certified in GSuite tools. Flipgrid partnered with Find Your Grind to provide career decision-making resources to students. Students can take a lifestyle assessment and find out which careers might match their interests.

By exploring the work being done by Don Wettrick with StartEdUp, educators can find podcasts and other resources to learn how to provide these innovative learning opportunities to their students. Students can sign up for free events through the foundation, which will have locations in six cities. Remake Learning provides a wealth of resources in its playbook, blogs, online forums as well as local and national events.

Think about all of the resources we have available to us with things that don’t even require us to interact with humans. We can arrange food delivery, and purchases from Amazon, or have questions answered about our technology troubles. These are the ideas that led to a change in the way work is done. We need to give students opportunities to manage big projects, look at problems and come up with solutions, especially out-of-the-box solutions, and try new things. Check out iBlocksPBL from Teq Products for a great way to get started with PBL and STEM!

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Fridays at 6pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Teach Better

Rachelle Dené Poth @Rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU


Rachelle Dené Poth @Rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU

Mandy Froehlich

Rachelle Dené Poth @Rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU

Katie Martin

Informed by research, refined by practice


Rocking today's classrooms, one teacher, student, and class at a time.

User Generated Education

Education as it should be - passion-based.

Learning as I go: Experiences, reflections, lessons learned

Rachelle Dené Poth @Rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU

Serendipity in Education

Join me, Allyson Apsey, as I stumble upon the fortunes of learning, laughing, and celebrating alongside incredible people.

The Effortful Educator

Applying Cognitive Psychology to the Classroom