Let’s Chat: OpenAI and ChatGPT

Want to learn about OpenAI and how ChatGPT may impact education and the world of work? Read a bit here, check out my recent podcast and the latest article on Getting Smart

Recently there has been a lot of discussion and concern about Chat GPT. For educators everywhere, the concern is heightened because of the capabilities of this technology. If you are just starting to learn about what it is, let me explain. 

Chat GPT is a new AI chatbot basically, that has been built and is an upgrade from GPT3. You can learn more about GPT3 from this post I helped research in 2020. GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer. This AI chat has been released by Open AI, and it is artificial intelligence that is able to respond to prompts instantly and basically engage in what feels like a human conversation that is full of information. It uses natural language processing (NLP), which enables it to understand the questions from humans and to be able to generate responses that mimic a human conversation. It is able to understand the context of conversations and can answer within seconds of being asked about anything ranging from how to bake a cake to something very complex.

It is a language model, and it was released fully on November 30th. Within one week only, it had more than 1 million users trying to explore exactly what it does. This is the latest chatbot from open AI that had its launch back in 2015, and it has tremendous capabilities. It simulates a chat similar to what you might get from a chatbot when using an online website for example. But the difference is that it provides responses that mimic what you might find in a normal human conversation because it has been trained through machine learning and artificial

Chat GPT will take the input, the prompt, or the question, and then it will generate a response based on what has been asked using algorithms. The use of deep learning algorithms enables it to understand the context and the meaning behind the question and then it uses this to create its response in a conversational manner.

Questions are asked about its security and based on what has been shared, it is safe and all data that has been generated by Chat GPT is encrypted and is in compliance with regulations. It has also undergone a tremendous amount of testing before it was launched for more widespread use by the public.

I will be sharing more information in my blog but for now, I just decided to open with this and record a podcast episode about ChatGPT and my experience, some concerns, and some benefits that could come from it.

Hope you will listen, subscribe and share the podcast: ThriveinEDU Let’s Chat

Also, read this article published on December 16th that I helped to write. Nate McClennen and I wrote it for Getting Smart Education is About to Change

Check out a recent prompt:

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10 Tips To Get Some Teaching Time Back

Educators have so many responsibilities each day. The work does not end when the school day does (nor over the weekend).  Daily teaching schedules can become so filled with all of the tasks that teachers have that it leaves very little time for anything else. We can lose a lot of time trying to balance all of the tasks and make time for continued learning and growing as educators. It is important that we find methods and focus on being more balanced—at least as balanced as we possibly can during the year—while also setting aside time for professional learning.  

Especially during the past couple of years, as we have all experienced so many changes, it has been challenging to keep up at times. With so much to balance, it is not surprising that we often lose focus on self-care or can feel like we just are not accomplishing enough. Something that has worked well for me and that may be helpful for others is having a list of ideas that can save time, reduce stress and lead to greater efficiency. Having shortcuts or even hacks for doing the things that tend to take up the most time makes a big difference.

Here are ten tips for getting teaching time back:

  1. Find a focus: Think about ideas you want to try and make a list. Then, break that list into priorities and set up a schedule. By choosing a focus for each day, week, or even month, it will help us follow through with plans and feel more efficient and effective. For a start, think about topics that you read about over the summer or even ideas that you hoped to try last year but ran out of time. Make a list and hold yourself to it, and even consider creating a plan with a colleague. It can definitely help to have a friend to collaborate with you and you can keep each other accountable.
  2. Finding time-saving hacks: One secret that I have shared the most, which some have called a ‘game-changer’ is that I use the voice-to-text feature of email and documents to do most of my writing. I’ve done this for years and it has saved so much time that I can then devote to family and personal interests. Emails, parent forms, review materials, blogs, and even books have been generated by simply speaking into the phone and then editing as needed. 
  3. Have backup plans and ideas: Keep a list of ideas to use just in case the schedule changes, technology does not work, or something else comes up. Having some backup plans will save you from losing time when trying to find a solution.
  1. Use tech when with purpose: Leverage technology when it makes sense. How can you bring in digital tools that will save you time which can then be used for working with students and colleagues? Focus on the why and then how it facilitates more with less.
  2. Chunk similar tasks together: What are some of the tasks that you have on a regular basis? Group them to make a better workflow. Create assessments or lesson plans on the same day/same time. Pick a day to make phone calls home or schedule meetings.
  3. Schedule emails: There is nothing wrong with creating a document or using your email provided to create canned responses. Do you often write similar emails or have a common response? Create a canned response that saves you time later.  Also, schedule emails to send at a certain day and time so that you reduce the influx of emails that can happen.
  4. Make to-do lists: Use a calendar, create a daily to-do list and have tasks that become part of a consistent routine. Plan out the week and then cross off the tasks you complete before adding more to the list.
  5. Leverage tech: Save time with meetings in person or with challenging schedules by using some different tools to connect with students and families. Rely on the messaging apps or video conferencing tools your school uses.
  6. Choose versatile tools: Don’t overwhelm yourself, your students or their families, by choosing a lot of different tools. Find a few that offer many possibilities for use in the classroom.
  7. Fix your classroom set up: At the end of each day, take care of your materials before leaving school so you are ready the next day. Make any copies, set out papers, and write notes on the board so that you can be better organized ahead of time.

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.

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4 Ways to Help Students Develop SEL Skills

Previously posted on DefinedLearning

During the past school year, it has become increasingly important to focus on the mental health and wellness of our students and ourselves. As educators, it can be a challenge to find balance in our days and it is important that we do so and model this for our students. Learning can be a challenge and designing the right experiences that will support students on their journey and help them to develop SEL skills in our classrooms is critical. Why do these skills matter?

Because there is a direct correlation between SEL and the skills that employers look for, we need activities and tools to help students develop these skills in our classrooms. Essential skills for the future like communication, decision-making, problem-solving, and teamwork, to name a few of those listed by the World Economic Forum.  When we consistently address the five SEL competencies, research has shown that it leads to increased student achievement and positively impacts student wellbeing. With these benefits for students, it is important to explore the options available to us and then leverage different methods and digital tools to create spaces for students to build academic skills and SEL skills. 

Finding the right resources

First, I recommend that educators explore all of the resources from CASEL. There are materials for educators and parents and additional materials that can be helpful when starting with SEL. Also, a few months ago, Buncee, a multimedia presentation tool created a SEL toolkit that provides educators with everything they need to get started including ready-to-use template activities for grades K-6 and 7-12

The Five Competencies

Self-awareness: Students understand where they are in the learning process and are becoming more aware of their skills and interests as they learn. 

Self-management: Students develop the skills to deal with any emotions or stress experienced during the learning process. 

Social awareness: Students develop an understanding of others’ perspectives and different cultures. The development of empathy is important for students. 

Relationship skills. Developing supportive relationships to feel confident in asking for help and working as part of a team will prepare students for future workplace success. 

Decision making: Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, learn to process information, and find solutions.

Four Ways to focus on SEL

We can promote the development of SEL through teaching methods and activities which do not require technology. For example, using methods like project based-learning provides many benefits for students and is a good way to also help students to develop SEL skills. Finding ways to connect students with other classrooms or to learn about different places around the world, to solve problems, and communicate, can be done with a variety of digital tools. Here are four options to help students develop self and social awareness in addition to digital citizenship skills. 

  1. Book Creator has added new features that promote student choice and voice in learning. Because it is collaborative, we can connect students with global peers to develop social awareness and in particular, empathy as they learn. We can have students create a book to use as a journal or portfolio to use for reflection as they develop self-awareness. It is also a good option for students to create an artifact for their PBL experiences.
  2. Pear Deck. An interactive presentation tool that takes your Google Slides or Powerpoint online and enables you to add in activities to further engage students in the lesson. For SEL, Pear Deck is a good way to check-in with students and through the student-paced lessons, it promotes self-awareness and self-management as students track their learning. 
  3. Tract is a peer-to-peer program for students ages 8 and up in which students can work through on-demand classes or become creators of their own content. With Tract, educators support SEL and self-efficacy through student-directed, project-based learning through the enrichment clubs and on-demand classes available.
  4. Wakelet was a very beneficial tool for my students to share their PBL artifacts with classmates during our remote and hybrid learning. Students can create their own Wakelet collection to add artifacts of work, collaborate with their peers, and even record short Flipgrid videos to explain their learning.  For PBL, creating a class Wakelet collection enables students to learn from one another and explore new ideas and perspectives, promoting the development of social awareness and empathy.

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Could an edtech audit save your school money?

Guest post by Al Kingsley, @AlKingsley_Edu

Wherever your school is, it’s likely that costs for everything are going up but your budget is not. Combine that with an energy crisis that’s making the coming winter look even more gloomy than usual and balancing the books in the months ahead is going to be extremely challenging.

Reviewing how our schools spend money is a priority if we are to make the most of what little we have. And a great place to start is by reviewing, improving, and maximizing school technology use.

Check your tech

Has your school done a technology audit lately? If not, this is a good time to take stock of what you have and see where your money is going. From 2020 onwards, many schools had to hastily adopt different software solutions and devices in response to Covid-19 lockdowns, often without a real chance to research whether these tools would be appropriate to meet their needs beyond the immediate requirement to ‘keep education going. As a result, schools may now find themselves burdened with subscriptions to multiple edtech or software platforms that they are no longer using fully, as well as having more devices around than they need.

A tech audit should detail your school’s assets and devices, current edtech, and other software, and clarify how they are being used. It may be that your needs have changed and you can now discontinue some of the subscriptions. On the other hand, schools using multiple edtech platforms may find one of them offers multiple solutions for what they want to do, which could make the budget go further.

Tighten up on your power use

Every school wants cheaper electricity bills and some solutions can help by tracking and analyzing the powered-on state of computers across the school. This provides accurate insight into energy consumption and pinpoints where energy wastage occurs, e.g., when devices are left on standby outside school hours. Schools can then set a schedule that automatically powers them off at the end of the day. If you have this functionality in any of your existing solutions, ensure that you use it. Every cent you save here will mount up over time.

Revise your digital strategy

Alongside your technology audit, take the opportunity to consult with all staff to ensure your digital strategy is still fit for purpose. A clear digital strategy should include a consistent vision of your school’s aims and identify short-term priorities for initial focus. It should also ensure your technology minimizes tasks and does not create extra work.

When researching and comparing different edtech offerings, it’s a good idea to ask suppliers for robust evidence to back up their marketing claims. This will help you to see whether their promised outcomes will be genuinely useful in your school’s unique environment. If you can find independent evaluations, then so much the better.

However, the most important consultations are with educators with hands-on experience. Twitter is a great source of information exchange and a simple question about others’ experiences is sure to provide you with different views to consider. Other educators’ knowledge of what works to save time and money in their school is the best evidence you can get, so it is well worth going the extra mile to talk to them. 

Maximize what you do

Once your school has trimmed and tailored its edtech and IT assets, the next task should be to set out a clear plan for ongoing training for staff. The aim should be to take them beyond simply operating the technology – instead, elevating their proficiency level and allowing them to apply it creatively to their practice. This way, your school’s investment in IT is maximized; it is doing its job improving teaching and learning, rather than sitting around not being used.

Your technology audit can also help schools make the most of their existing IT assets. For example, in schools with enough devices, buying digital textbooks could be significantly cheaper than hard copies – and digital handouts instead of printed copies will save a small fortune. 

In an ideal world, our students’ education should not be held to ransom by rising costs but the reality is that there are tough times are ahead. However, collaborating and sharing best practices with other educators in our schools and beyond costs very little and remains our greatest strength right now.

This blog has been adapted from the original published in Schools Week.

About Al Kingsley

Al Kingsley is Chair of a UK multi-academy trust, an EdTech author, speaker, and podcast host, as well as being CEO of NetSupport. His book, “My Secret #EdTech Diary,” is published by John Catt Educational Ltd and is available from Amazon. 

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Diving into PBL with iBlocks!

Providing a variety of options for students to show what they have learned or using different methods like project-based learning (PBL) will foster student agency and boost engagement and student motivation in learning. As educators, methods like PBL can help us learn more about our students’ passions and interests while providing students with learning experiences that will stretch their thinking and shift them from consumers to creators and innovators. Students become problem solvers and will take risks with learning and as a result, embrace the process of learning itself, rather than an end product.

When we create learning experiences that will more meaningfully engage students with the content, it increases student engagement and amplifies student achievement. Through PBL, we can create unique, authentic, and meaningful opportunities for students to explore real-world issues and better connect with the content and understand the world around them. By cultivating a student-led learning environment that promotes choice in learning, students will build confidence and these experiences will help to amplify student learning.

When thinking about beneficial learning opportunities that provide a lot of experiences, PBL is a perfect choice. PBL promotes the development of essential SEL skills and STEM competencies, and iBlocks provides everything that teachers need to get started. With iBlocks, there are a variety of topics to choose from that connect with different content areas and real-world issues. Students can design their learning journey and be supported in the process through resources like the student workbook. In the workbook, students can brainstorm ideas, add reflections, and chart their progress in their work. With the guiding supports in place, students will become more independent learners and develop a greater motivation for learning. Being able to see and feel the relevance and applicability of their work to the real world will have a positive impact on their learning experience.

Getting started

Teachers need to simply open the materials and can get started without worries about finding the time to review all of the materials and gather additional resources. iBlocks provides you with all of the content that you need to be able to effectively implement PBL and design thinking in the classroom. Teachers have everything needed to get started with PBL and bring STEM-focused lessons into their classrooms.

Unpacking the iBlock materials

When exploring the iBlock materials, teachers will find everything they need to dive right into PBL with students. First, explore the Skills Matrix which helps to set up the structure for the learning experience. It includes the goals for the lesson and the intended outcomes for learning.

Next, I recommend checking out the Teacher’s Guide. The guide has information about the process for using iBlocks, the student workbook, and activities for each module are included in the Teacher Guide and it also has the standards and other relevant PBL-related information to guide teachers in the implementation of PBL with iBlocks.

For ideas on how to use the iBlocks and the flow of the lessons, teachers will find it easy to get started with the lesson plans that are included. In each plan, there are detailed descriptions, classroom activities, and also outcomes that are anticipated for each learning activity and lesson.

Take time to look through the Student Workbooks to explore the activities and ways that students are guided through their learning journey. Students have writing space to answer questions, brainstorm ideas, ideate solutions, work through challenges, and then reflect on what they have learned. Each of these is highly beneficial for SEL skills.

And finally, after reviewing the Teacher Guide and Student Workbook, there are assessment materials that are great for use with students to determine their understanding of the work they are doing with the iBlock content. Some of the materials are great for SEL as students reflect on learning and the challenges with the PBL experiences. They will develop skills in self-awareness and self-management skills during their project.

Choices through iBlocks

There are a lot of great iBlocks to choose from for different grade levels and content areas. Think about topics related to your content area or skillsets that students need and find an iBlock that can provide everything in one.

Here are five options to start with:

Build Literacy Skills: For example, to help students build their literacy skills, there are iBlocks where they can create a short story or design a comic book. Students might also enjoy creating a one-act play and then hosting a performance for classmates or even the school! These would be great choices to boost creativity and spark curiosity for learning. It also gives students the opportunity to collaborate and create something truly authentic and relevant to their lives.

Social Awareness: It’s also important to help students understand issues that are being faced by people around the world, so exploring iBlocks related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would also be a great option for teachers. The “Clean Water and Sanitation” iBlock, explains SDG Number 6 and the “importance of ensuring availability and sustainable management of water for everyone.” Students can explore where water comes from, identify contaminants and then design and engineer their own water filtration system. The No Poverty and Xero Hunger iBlock, focuses on SDG Number 2. This iBlock not only will help students to focus on math but also develop social-emotional learning skills as they learn how they can create something to benefit people from around the world. These would be great choices to help students not only learn about math, science, and STEM but also develop essential SEL skills.

Each iBlock matches skills to standards such as the Common Core or the NGSS standards.

Collaboration and Problem-solving: Students need to develop these skills to be prepared and with iBlocks, there are fun options that help students to build these and other skills like critical thinking and creativity, as they design and carry out their own Escape Room or even make up a traditional board game.

Emerging technologies: Students can become designers and engineers through the Wearable Technology iBlock. Providing students with an opportunity to think about the purpose and how the technology can benefit people and then design something, fosters creativity and moves students from consumers to creators and innovators!

Financial Literacy: Another very important topic for students is to be financially literate. In the financial literacy iBlock, students learn about concepts related to economics and then design and reflect upon their own personal financial plan.

There are many more iBlock options available that help teachers enrich the content being taught and leverage the right tools that will help students to develop core curricular skills as well as STEM-related and SEL skills.

Benefits of choosing iBlocks

What I like the most about using iBlocks is that for teachers who are looking to bring a new method like project-based learning (PBL) and also to give students an opportunity to build SEL skills and to be prepared for a growing need for skills in STEM-related fields, this is the solution for everything. When we find tools and resources that enable us to do a lot with less and it saves time, it will be highly beneficial for students but also for helping teachers to embrace and provide these new and transformative learning experiences for all students.

The iBlocks framework offers an “out-of-the-box” experience in that it simply requires taking the materials out of the box to get started in the classroom. By using iBlocks, teachers will be confident getting started with PBL without having to worry about so many other variables.

iBlocks makes it easy to provide enriching and engaging learning experiences for students that are flexible regardless of where learning is happening. You can download a sample iBlocks to start with today!

About the Author

Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She is the author of sevens books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World”, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us,” “Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-person and Digital Instruction” and “Things I Wish [..] Knew.” All books are available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at https://anchor.fm/rdene915

Rachelle is available for in-person and virtual PD sessions for your school.

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Meet Marty the Robot!

In collaboration with Robotical

As we think about preparing our students for the future, all educators need to think about ways to bring STEM into the classroom. With a predicted need of 3.5 million STEM-related jobs available by 2025, students need opportunities to learn about STEM topics in all classrooms. Through STEM, students build skills that will enable them to adapt to the changing world of work such as collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. With the right resources, we also help students to develop essential social-emotional learning (SEL) skills that are also critical for future workplace success.

In my 8th grade STEAM course, we explore a lot of different technologies and the best learning experiences are when students can work together and figure things out on their own. Even better is when they take the lead and teach me and their classmates too. How can we create opportunities for students to dive into coding and STEM? With Marty the Robot, students will take the lead!

Meet Marty the Robot

Marty is absolutely amazing! From the time you open the box, the fun begins. Without even interacting with Marty, students are instantly curious about Marty and how he works. If you have not seen Marty before, let me introduce you.

Marty is a humanoid robot that can dance, walk, and even wiggle his eyebrows! Each of Marty’s limbs is controlled by a separate motor which enables Marty to move around with his unique walking mechanism. Whether using the app or hands-free coding, Marty will bring joy to the classroom and spark curiosity for learning about him and coding right from the first time he is introduced. An excellent choice for students starting in pre-K and up!

Getting students started

With the options available in the app or the web-based app, students can dive in and create a program that has Marty moving, dancing, walking, and talking. Marty also comes with a ball that can be used to kick. Using the fun sticker accessories, students can dress Marty up which will help to promote student engagement and curiosity for learning!

It is amazing how much technology is available and how powerful it is for learning. Marty has a rechargeable battery and can be used for multiple class periods, enabling all students to engage with Marty!

To help students understand what coding is, the screen-free option is perfect for learning about the steps in the process and how Marty responds. Using the infrared sensors and color sensors on his feet, he can figure out which direction to move in and even dance and play music when he is placed on the color cards. It’s fun to see the students’ responses to how Marty moves and then for them to create their own code using the cards. It definitely sparks interest for them to get started with the app and make their own programs to get Marty moving and shaking.

Coding with Marty

Students can get started comfortably with the block-based coding or try more advanced text-based coding such as Python. Some fun activities are the obstacle course for students to try. It is fun for students to figure out how to get Marty to move around and even kick the ball! Marty will execute the program created by students and this helps students to learn about coding at their own pace and problem solve. If Marty does not respond as they hope, they can then work together to figure out how to change it so that it works, and if it doesn’t, problem solve to get it to work. Working through coding is great for building essential SEL skills such as self-management as students work through challenges and set new goals and also a great way to build collaboration and communication skills.

Benefits for teachers

Teachers don’t need to worry about needing a lot of time to get started, since Marty comes with everything needed within the learning portal. There are some videos to show exactly what Marty can do, lessons for unplugged activities for students to learn about who Marty is, what a program is, moving in different directions, and then getting started with MartyBlocks Jr. There are also lesson packs to choose from, such as “Marty Sensing the Environment”, “Introducing Python with Marty” and even mathematics lesson packs for younger as well as older students. One thing that I love about the resources is that Marty can be used to help students understand sustainability and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students can see the impact of STEM and these types of learning activities for them.

In the Knowledge Base, teachers can find support articles and lots of other information to help them get started. Teachers can learn about all the parts of Marty, and there are even user guides for Python, Raspberry Pi, the MartyBlocks Jr, and many other topics.

New features coming soon!

As if Marty wasn’t already awesome for students and teachers, check out these new features coming soon! All Marty robots will have LED, or “Disco” eyes and this will be a lot of fun for students when coding! There is new sound functionality on the way that will include type-to-speech and also the playback of recordings. And recently, there was a webapp, or a browser-supported version of the app made available. Now students in schools that are using Chromebooks or working on a PC are able to have the same great experience as they do when using the app.

To best prepare students for the future, having opportunities to learn about and explore STEM is important. When we provide options that promote agency in learning, it leads to more meaningful experiences that promote the development of essential skills for the future and empower students through self-driven learning. What I love is that Marty is definitely a fun and engaging way to get students to learn about STEM. Everything that teachers need comes with him and there are all of those resources available in the Learning Portal and Knowledge Base. You can also do cross-curricular activities and connect other core content areas with coding of Marty. And it’s fun for students of all ages, we just need to tweak the learning goal and give students a chance to really expand upon the types of coding and programming that they’re doing.

Get started today! You can try Marty for free! All you need to do is sign up for a free trial and schools can try out Marty for 2 weeks with no obligation. You definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity, because your students and you will fall in love with Marty right away!

About the Author:

Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was recently named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021.

She is the author of seven books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking, Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU, The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead, Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World, True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us, Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-Person and Digital Instruction and her newest book Things I WIsh [….] Knew is now available.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at 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!

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Five Fresh Ideas for Fall

As teachers, we should strive to offer different choices for our students to become curious about learning and better understand the world around them. As they learn, they need to be able to show what they are learning and to apply their knowledge in ways that enable them to be creative, have fun while creating, and engage more in learning. When it comes to our content which is important, we also need to bring in diverse learning materials that enable students to learn the content in a more authentic and engaging way, while developing skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity that can be transferred to their future.

Using PebbleGo and the books available through Capstone, foster creativity and curiosity in students. Combining the Capstone content with all of the creativity options available by using PebbleGo Create, students can create meaningful and visually engaging representations of their learning. Because Capstone offers curriculum-aligned content, teachers will be confident that they are providing powerful and purposeful learning experiences for students. When combined with the power of creation from PebbleGo Create, students will be empowered through voice and choice in learning as they create and can track their own growth and build skills in a digital environment.

Helping students develop their digital citizenship and essential technology skills is also facilitated using these tools. Using Capstone’s digital library collection, we empower students with choice as they select and read ebooks or explore articles available on PebbleGo. To reflect on and apply what they have read, they can use PebbleGo Create to express learning using a variety of creativity options that will promote authentic, meaningful and personalized learning for students. It truly is a multi-purpose platform that can do so much and the possibilities really are endless when it comes to learning!

Here are five fresh ideas for fall:

  • Current events: November is Native American Heritage month and this presents a great opportunity for students to “recognize the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States.” Using the PebbleGo Next resources, students can complete a cultural comparison of some of the indigenous cultures. There are a variety of activities to help students learn how to research and share what they have learned.

Capstone has some great books available for students to read about changemakes and people of impact that led to the creation of some of our policies and government structures in place today. There are books about elections and the government. Students can read and then create something to share with classmates about what they have learned!

As students read, engage them in conversations, see what they are curious about and then have them create something to share that learning! Whether students design a book trailer or a book summary, it is a more engaging way to learn and share!

It’s important for students to be prepared when it comes to their health and that includes not just physical health at all to mental wellness. Especially as we focus on SEL, helping students to understand their emotions and practice mindfulness and being able to ask for help when needed is important. With holidays and special events throughout the year, students need to build their knowledge of healthy eating habits, and what better way than to explore in PebbleGo and then use PebbleGo Create to share that with classmates and their teacher!

Building upon SEL, we can help students to develop social awareness by learning about healthy habits for eating and then learning about other countries or customs of people from around the world!

With these great resources from Capstone, students can think about their habits and the importance of focusing on self-care and wellness!

It is important for students to understand the backgrounds and perspectives of their classmates so they can develop social awareness and other essential SEL skills. With options available in PebbleGo, throughout the year students can learn about important holidays and how they are celebrated and use what they learn to make cultural comparisons, which promotes global and cultural awareness. Building relationships in our classrooms is essential and as we prepare students for the future, providing as many opportunities to learn about the “what, why, and how” regarding holidays and traditions is important.

With the resources from PebbleGo and enabling students to then use PebbleGo Create to share learning, it enables each student to engage in the power of choice as they visually communicate learning, thoughts, and experiences and create something unique! There are so many options and all are provided in a safe space where students can explore and find exactly what they need!

**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

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A Feminist Internet

An excerpt from a blog post by Claire Gagnon, a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. To read the full post, go to A Feminist Internet

Throughout history, new technological developments have left specific individuals behind, including women and other traditionally marginalized groups.

Published in August 2016, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) released the “Feminist Principles of the Internet.” The goal of these principles was to encourage Internet rights to be human rights. In the preamble, the APC wrote:

A feminist Internet works towards empowering more women and queer persons – in all our diversities – to fully enjoy our rights, engage in pleasure and play, and dismantle patriarchy. This integrates our different realities, contexts, and specificities – including age, disabilities, sexualities, gender identities and expressions, socioeconomic locations, political and religious beliefs, ethnic origins, and racial markers. (APC, 2016)

The principles are presented in five sections: Access, Movement and Public Participation, Economy, Expression, and Agency. As a whole, the document is aimed to improve social justice for women and traditionally marginalized groups on the Internet.

The Access section focuses on universal, accessible, unrestricted, and affordable Internet access “relevant to women and queer persons, particularly information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, pleasure, safe abortion, access to justice, and LGBTIQ issues.” (APC, 2016, para. 3). In the United States, as technology is advancing, false information plagues the Internet. It has become increasingly more difficult for women and traditionally marginalized groups of individuals to find adequate information on sexual and physical healthcare – information that can be critical to their livelihoods.

The Movements and Public Participation section discusses the need for the Internet to give all traditionally marginalized groups, especially women, the space to speak their minds. Without judgment or hate, the Internet should be a safe space for all to engage in resistance, movement building, and decision-making in Internet governance (APC, 2016). After the 2016 election, a large feminist movement (#MeToo) spread internationally – in-person and online.

The Economy section rejects capitalism and its chokehold surrounding politics and technology. There should not be a divide in who has access to technology. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States – forcing everyone to remain at home for months – technology became the bane of the existence of those who could not afford a computer, Internet access, or electricity.

The Expression section calls for the freedom to let everyone have equal rights to express themselves over the Internet. This can take multiple forms, including political and religious interests.

Finally, the Agency section focuses on the hope to design an Internet that is safe, private, and prevents marginalized individuals and their children from harm. With the Internet being key to education, students need to keep safe online while completing homework. The Agency section is about an Internet that empowers and protects women and traditionally marginalized individuals, not one that is used to surveil, control, or harm those at greatest risk. 

What can a feminist Internet do for education? By adhering to the APC statement, schools and educators can create a safer environment for students, especially females and students from traditionally marginalized groups. 

Association for Progressive Communication. (2016). Feminist Principles of the Internet –

 Version 2.0. Association for Progressive Communication (APC), Feminist Principles of

 the Internet – Version 2.0 | Association for Progressive Communications (apc.org)

Burke, Tarana. (2022). ‘Me Too’ Global Movement – What Do We Do? Global Fund for Women. 

‘Me Too’ Global Movement – What is the ‘Me Too” Movement 


Dastin, Jefferey. (2022). U.S. Tech Industry Frets About Handing Data to States Prosecuting 

Abortion. Reuters Journal. U.S. tech industry frets about handing data to states

 prosecuting abortion | Reuters 

Rodriguez-Cayro, Kyli. (2021). How BIPOC-Led Outreach Campaigns Are Closing The COVID

Vaccine Gap. Bustle. BIPOC Communities COVID Vaccine Outreach Sheds Light On 

Myths About Vaccine Hesitancy (bustle.com) 

Seah, KT Matthew. (2020). COVID-19: Exposing digital poverty in a pandemic. National 

Library of Medicine. COVID-19: Exposing digital poverty in a pandemic – PMC


Claire Gagnon (she/her) is a history and education major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Graduating in December 2022, Claire is planning on teaching history and social studies in Massachusetts. She focuses her research on historical impacts on marginalized groups, as well as British involvement and child education during and after World War II. 

**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!

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Boosting Academic Progress with Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

In collaboration with StoryJumper

Meeting academic standards and staying on track to cover the required curriculum can be a stressful experience for educators during any school year. But because of school closures and transitioning learning environments during the past couple of years, meeting educational requirements on time has become even more stressful. Educators have been concerned with finding ways to make up for the instructional time and learning opportunities lost during Covid.

SEL Challenges that Negatively Impact Learning

In addition to making sure that students develop their academic skills, we also need to help students develop the social-emotional learning (SEL) skills they need to thrive at school. If students don’t have opportunities to develop essential SEL skills, their ability to recover from any “learning loss” will be more difficult. When students lack the skills to work through challenges, lack confidence in the classroom, or experience frustration or anxiety when it comes to learning, their learning potential will be negatively impacted.

Also, students who have underdeveloped SEL skills can exhibit behavioral problems that disrupt the classroom learning space. Examples can include acting out in class or having negative peer interactions that disrupt a lesson. Some students may have trouble managing their emotions, but with SEL practices in place, we can help students to regulate their behavior so they can learn better.

Choosing SEL Solutions

To address these challenges, teachers have resources such as a variety of learning activities as well as digital tools that provide them with what they need to get started to bring essential SEL opportunities to students. Finding the time to explore new resources can be limited by busy teaching schedules and other demands. As a result, it is essential to:

  • Find resources that provide a lot of options for teachers and students in any grade level or content area
  • Provide students with a variety of ways to meet their learning interests and needs through the power of choice
  • Offer authentic, meaningful, and engaging SEL experiences for students
  • Choose resources that make it easier and less time-consuming for teachers and students to get started.

Building SEL Skills with StoryJumper

Stories are an excellent way for students to learn social-emotional skills. Stories allow students to safely explore or express personal challenges through characters who serve as role models. Students gain a sense of agency over difficult situations because they get to control and determine what happens in their stories.

StoryJumper is a valuable digital storytelling platform that boosts students’ writing, reading, and SEL skills. But it’s not just digital. StoryJumper story books that are created by students are frequently published by schools and parents as “real” hardcover or paperback books, providing a memorable and tactile connection with their story books. StoryJumper provides many options for authentic learning and makes it easy to get started on writing projects. Imagine filling your classroom bookshelves with books written by your students.

Many Options in StoryJumper

Using resources like StoryJumper, K-12 students can explore and create books based on their specific interests and needs. These opportunities foster student agency and boost true engagement ​in learning. The power of choice leads to higher student motivation to learn, improving student achievement.

StoryJumper provides everything that teachers and students need for a writing project within one streamlined and robust learning platform. Multimodal (visual, voice, and text) creation options are integrated into StoryJumper, making it easier and more engaging for students to fully express their thoughts and emotions. These integrated options help reluctant writers and students with learning challenges overcome their resistance to writing and build their confidence.

Visual. To make illustrating books easier, StoryJumper allows students to design their own characters who look like people in their own lives (see below). Students can also use illustrations from StoryJumper’s art library or upload their own drawings or photos. These options make learning more authentic and empower students to create and share their own stories, helping them connect with classmates & teachers and build self-awareness and social awareness skills.

Voice. When a student records their voice narration within their books that they choose to share, other students can hear the author’s excitement and more deeply connect with them (see below). There are also options to add background music and sound effects that further bring students’ stories to life.

Text. Text can be entered in many different languages and styled with a variety of fonts. Students can also initially write their stories in Google Docs and then copy and paste their text into StoryJumper, which will auto-paginate the text across several book pages.

Authentic Learning through StoryJumper

Creating StoryJumper books with an authentic purpose (such as publishing their book) makes students more engaged in learning, boosting their academic progress. When students know that their work will be published as a “real” book and they have the option to share it with other students, they’re much more likely to put in their best work.

Teachers can also showcase outstanding student books to the rest of the school by printing out the StoryJumper QR codes for those books (see below) and posting them outside the classroom. Other students can scan the QR code using their device, read and listen to the outstanding book, and give positive feedback to the student author, boosting their confidence.

In my Spanish III class, students really enjoyed creating stories with StoryJumper. Being able to design characters and collaborate on a book boosted engagement in my classroom. My students increased their retention of content because they were able to work with classmates and build SEL skills while using a tool like StoryJumper that sparks curiosity and creativity in learning. It was fun seeing what they created and then having time to read each other’s stories made it even more meaningful.

Easy to Get Started with StoryJumper

Teachers can quickly get started with StoryJumper by leveraging the lesson plans and writing project ideas available. You can create template books to help students finish their books faster and import your Google Classroom classes to make class setup faster.

Students can also get started quickly with StoryJumper. Once they log into their accounts, students find that it’s easier to write with multimodal creation options (compared with a typical text editor), helping them write with more confidence and less hesitation.

Students can find props/scenes and upload their own images right into their books. As a language teacher, providing ways for my students to also build speaking skills is important. With the voice recording option, StoryJumper made it easy for my students to narrate their stories and build confidence in speaking through their writing.

Regaining Some of the Time Lost

If we need to reteach some of the content and help students to master their academic and SEL skills, using resources like StoryJumper will provide something that meets every student’s interests and needs. With StoryJumper, teachers are able to create more excitement for learning​ ​and better understand student needs​.​

Learn more about how StoryJumper helps to improve social behavior. Explore the Teacher’s Guide and StoryJumper Library to see examples of what’s possible. Choose inspirational stories that help students to build confidence. Get started with a writing lesson plan and see what students create and how it boosts their learning experience!

Head to StoryJumper today!

**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

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Becoming the Change

Let All Things Take Their Course

Guest post via Dan Wolfe Becoming The Change  Self-Management  

“Let your mind wander in the pure and simple. Be one with the infinite. Let all things take their course.”

-Chuanng Tzu

Often times we want to be in control of everything: our thoughts, dreams, and desires. However as Chuanng Tzu points out in today’s quote sometimes it’s okay to let go of our thoughts and let our minds wander. As they say, nature has a way of letting all things take their course. By no means is this an easy task because for most of us it is very difficult to have our brains shut off, even when we go to sleep. We just need to remind ourselves that it is ok to do so. It isn’t like we relinquish control we will never get it back. We will. Sometimes all we need to do is just step back and let things ride as it pertains to our minds. It is a good way to recharge ourselves too.

What does this quote mean to you and how can you apply today’s message towards managing yourself better?

A Centered Life
Becoming The Change Self-Awareness
“A centered life is one that is grounded in your core values rather than changing based on the most recent trend, compliment, or outside expectation.”

-Dr. Thema Bryant

If you heard the phrase “a centered life” what comes to mind? Someone that is focused? Someone who is locked in on their lives? Self-aware? All of these would be correct. As Dr. Thema Bryant points out in today’s quote a centered life means we are grounded. In other words, we don’t let our hopes and dreams lose sight of what is right in front of us. It serves as a sort of reality check. She mentions core values. This is your moral fiber essentially. It is the hill you are willing to die on for what it is you believe in and stand for.

When we are grounded in these core values no amount of persuasion such as keeping up with Joneses, what someone says about you (whether it is positive or negative), or even beyond the realm of what it is possible can sway your thinking. Why? Because you are focused on the here and now and understand if things don’t align with your own core values then it isn’t worth your attention in the first place.

What does this quote mean to you and how can you apply today’s message toward improving your self-awareness?

Learn about Dan’s book via Amazon and Follow Dan on Twitter @ServLeadInspire

**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

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