Spring Ideas to bring STEM to your classroom!

By Rachelle Dené Poth, @Rdene915

As we continue to seek ways to best prepare students for the skills that they need to be successful in the future, it’s important that we are not afraid to take risks in our classroom by bringing new methods and different digital tools for our students. In looking at resources from the World Economic Forum and the Job Skills Outlook for 2025, for example, many of the skills that we’ve been talking about for years are still in demand and predicted to be even more essential in the future. Some of those skills include critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity, collaboration and communication, flexibility, resilience, leadership skills, and digital literacy. Deciding on methods to use or which digital tool to use in our classrooms can be a challenge sometimes, however, there are some easy ways to get started with STEM learning activities that provide many benefits for students.

Regardless of the grade level or content area, all teachers can bring in ​STEM-focused activities for students in a variety of ways. There may be concerns about a lack of teacher training, however, it just takes a little bit of time to become familiar with the technology or the concepts and then let students dive in and take the lead in learning. It is great when students teach us as well. It does not require us to be experts in all of these areas. We just need to find a few ideas and get started.

Why STEM Matters

Helping students to learn about STEM is important for their future success as many of the in-demand careers are in ​STEM-related fields. These careers will increase in demand and it is important that all students have opportunities to explore their interests in these areas. There are many benefits of learning about STEM including that it helps students to develop problem-solving skills, which is a valuable skill for any type of career. Students build collaboration skills when working with classmates to solve STEM challenges for example. These opportunities also spark curiosity as students become more engaged in learning, not just the content area but also learning more about the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Providing STEM-related learning opportunities helps students to become more comfortable with taking some risks in learning and also shifts students from being consumers to creators and even innovators. ​

STEM also helps students to build social-emotional learning (SEL) skills. As students work through a learning activity, they build self-awareness in regard to their skills and their interests, self-management as they work through challenges, and develop persistence and resilience as they may face obstacles in learning. They also become better with time management as they plan their project-based learning​ (PBL)​ or need to meet a specific deadline for their work, depending on the methods used. Students build relationships as they collaborate with classmates and develop social awareness as they learn about one another or by exploring the United Nations’ ​S​ustainable ​Development Goals (SDGs) and learning about places and challenges being faced around the world. Decision-making skills are developed as they focus on their learning journey and make decisions and take greater ownership of their learning. Providing STEM activities helps students to become quite flexible in their learning as they have to continue to iterate and reflect on where they are in the learning journey.

Getting Started and Ideas to Explore

Finding the time to get started with ​STEM may present another challenge for teachers, especially with benchmarks that need to be met and specific curricula that must be followed. However, there are some different ways to bring STEM in even if it’s for a short term or as a class activity. 

  1. Start with a discussion about the various subjects of STEM and then encourage students to explore something related to their interests and share it with classmates. There are many online resources available and even educational programs and courses that can help students to learn about STEM subjects. It could be that they enroll in an online course or follow a tutorial and then create something to share in class. Hands-on learning is a great way to get students involved in STEM and that can require very little if any funding. 
  2. Think about the content that you are teaching and identify a real-world problem for students to solve or apply a STEM concept to it for a solution. Students can work individually or in small groups to come up with different solutions and then provide feedback to each other.
  3. Design ​h​ands-​o​n learning activities for students. Depending on the course you teach, it could be having students conduct an experiment in a science class, they could design a prototype for something, reconstruct a famous landmark from history or another course of study, and try to improve upon it using STEM concepts. Use the STEM challenges to connect students in the classroom and boost student engagement in learning.
  4. Bring in some digital tools and STEM materials. There are many digital tools available that not only provide students with opportunities to learn about STEM but also involve emerging technologies like artificial intelligence for example. We have been working with Marty the Robot, a humanoid that can be coded screen-free with color cards or using the app with text-based and block-based coding. This is another great opportunity to bring in STEM, PBL, and SEL and understand how AI is programmed. Also with the great choices focused on STEM and SDGs and more with iBlocks, students engage in learning that is authentic, meaningful, and personalized for them. Teachers have all of the materials they need to get started. Another option is Ozobot, a one-inch robot for teaching students about coding that is a favorite in my STEAM class. It can be used as a screen-free coding resource too!
  5. Think about cross-curricular collaboration. Finding time to bring in STEM activities can be done when collaborating with colleagues through cross-curricular collaborations. Find a common focus and have students apply their knowledge from these courses to design a project or work together with classmates to develop STEM and essential SEL skills.

Finding the Funding

Some of the challenges with bringing STEM into classrooms may include a lack of funding, depending on the type of resource that a school may want. Applying for grants or connecting with a local school or organization that offers a lending program or a library of resources that they share can be a great way to get started. Another suggestion is to obtain a few items and have students work in learning stations. Giving students a chance to explore multiple resources and then exchange ideas and reflect on their learning experience is also beneficial. When it comes to technology, not all schools may have access to the right devices, so finding a variety of resources to use that provide students with the opportunity to learn and engage with these tools is important. Also connecting subjects with other areas of the curriculum so that they see the real-world connection makes it more meaningful for students.

Another idea is to find guest speakers who can talk to students about STEM fields and the importance of these areas. In my school, we have access to a cohort that helps us find local organizations, technology companies, and local universities that offer resources or STEM-related learning opportunities for students.

The Benefits are Long-Lasting

Providing access to resources that equip students with the right information and opportunities to work at their own pace and explore based on their specific interests and needs is essential. Providing students with opportunities to engage in more student-driven learning through STEM-related activities will offer many benefits beyond just the content knowledge. It will prepare them for whatever the future holds and equip them with a variety of skills that will be adaptable to many areas of work and life.

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

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Diving into coding with Ozobot!

In collaboration with Ozobot, the opinions expressed are my own.

Coding has become an increasingly important skill. The ability to code opens up a world of possibilities, allowing individuals to create apps, websites, and other digital tools that can improve the way we live, work, and interact with one another. However, while coding is an essential skill, it is equally important to balance it with screen-free options. With the rise of online learning in recent years, it is essential to find a platform that can provide an engaging and interactive coding experience. This is where Ozobot comes in.

We have enjoyed working with Ozobot for a few years in my STEAM course. There are so many benefits from coding such as developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills to building self-confidence and creativity. However, while coding online offers many benefits, it is essential to strike a balance between screen time and screen-free activities. Ozobot offers an excellent solution for both coding online and having screen-free options, complete with Ozobot Classroom, a free database of STEAM lessons for grades K-12.

What is Ozobot?

Ozobot is a small, programmable robot that is designed to help students learn to code in a fun and interactive way. With its many features and capabilities, it has become a popular tool for both educators and parents alike. There are so many benefits of using Ozobot and lots of ideas for using it in all classrooms. There are even lessons and activities to get you started! Learn more!

The Importance of Learning to Code

The ability to code is becoming an increasingly essential skill in today’s world. From business and finance to healthcare and education, coding is transforming the way we live and work. It allows us to create new digital tools, automate processes, and solve complex problems. Moreover, coding is a skill that can open up many job opportunities and can help individuals to build successful careers in the tech industry.

However, coding is not just for those pursuing a career in technology. Learning to code can help children develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and creativity. It can also help them to better understand how technology works and how to interact with it. Additionally, coding can help children develop a growth mindset, which is the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. Coding has a place in every classroom and in all content areas!

The Importance of Screen-Free Options

While learning to code is essential, it is equally important to balance it with screen-free options. Today’s students are spending more time in front of screens than ever before, and this can have a negative impact on their physical and mental health.

Ozobot’s color-coded language is a unique feature that sets it apart from other robots. By drawing lines in different colors, students can program Ozobot to perform different actions, such as spinning, changing directions, or even playing music. This approach allows younger students to engage with coding without the need for a screen, making it an ideal screen-free option.

Therefore, it is essential to provide children with screen-free options to help them develop a healthy balance between digital and non-digital activities. This can include activities such as reading, playing sports, and engaging in arts and crafts. It can also include educational toys and tools, such as Ozobot.

Ozobot’s online coding platform, Ozobot Blockly, offers a more advanced coding experience. With a drag-and-drop interface, students can create more complex programs, including loops and conditional statements. This platform also includes an interactive simulator, allowing students to test their programs before uploading them to the robot.

The Benefits of Using Ozobot

There are so many ideas and activities for classroom use and Ozobot provides a ton of resources for educators to explore and learn! Designed for students in grades Pre-K and up, Ozobot can be used in a variety of settings, including classrooms, after-school programs, and at home. Some of the key features of Ozobot include:

Easy to Use: Ozobot is easy to use and does not require any prior coding experience. This makes it an ideal tool for young learners who are just starting to learn to code.

Interactive Learning: Ozobot provides an interactive learning experience that is engaging and fun. Students can program Ozobot using a simple visual programming language or by drawing lines on paper. This allows them to see the immediate results of their coding efforts and encourages them to continue learning. My students have loved the possibilities with this!

Versatile: Ozobot can be used in a variety of settings, from individual play to group activities. It can also be used in a variety of subject areas, including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as well as language arts and social studies.

Ideas for Using Ozobot in All Classrooms

Ozobot can be used in a variety of ways in all classrooms. Here are some ideas for how to use it:

Language Arts: Students can create a story and program Ozobot to act out the different scenes. This activity can help students improve their writing skills and develop their storytelling abilities. Explore Ozobot’s ELA lessons in Classroom, here.

Math: There are some great lessons available for math that make it easy for teachers to get started!

Science: Students can program Ozobots to travel different paths while recording their speed, acceleration, and direction using a motion sensor. This activity can be used to teach physics concepts, such as Newton’s laws of motion. Check out Ozobot science lessons here.

Social Studies: Students can create a map of a historical event and program Ozobot to follow the path of a significant figure in that event. Learn more about incorporating social studies into curricula here.

STEM Activities: Ozobot can be used to teach STEM concepts, such as robotics, engineering, and computer science.

There are so many great ways to use Ozobot and the best is that it can be used by anyone and it is easy to get started with. There are so many resources for educators to explore and learn about the activities to engage in with students!

Looking for PD for your school? I provide in-person and virtual training on the following topics. If you want to learn more about and explore AI and ChatGPT, contact me to schedule! Rdene915@gmail.com 

**Interested in writing a guest blog or submitting a sponsored post 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

What Is Imaginative Thinking? How Does It Help Students?

Guest post by Kathleen Fox – ImaginGO

We’re hearing a lot about Imaginative Thinking in the classroom, but what exactly is it? And how does it help our students?
At its core, Imaginative Thinking encourages students to explore beyond boundaries. They generate new concepts using ideas that are real AND imaginary. Imaginative Thinking allows students greater freedom and flexibility to seek out unique possibilities.

Nothing is off the table when students use Imaginative Thinking. All ideas, real or imaginative, are valued. Students produce one-of-a-kind imaginative solutions and then merge those solutions with more methodical applications. The outcome is multi-layered innovation. A fresh idea fueled by imagination but grounded in logic.

Teachers typically see a natural tendency towards Imaginative Thinking in younger children, but as children age, they are taught to “un-learn” the creative process. They tend to become overly convergent in their problem-solving skills leading to one or two solutions that are often unexceptional, ordinary, and most likely similar to the ideas of others. When students are motivated through Imaginative Thinking to seek many different solutions to solve a challenge, they become far more confident in taking risks to create new innovative concepts.

Without innovation, we stand still. We need to train students to seek many solutions to complicated problems that don’t even exist yet. Imaginative Thinking teaches students to imagine what’s around the corner from the corner and gives students a stronger tool for success.

About the Author
Kathleen Fox is the co-creator of ImaginGO. A former public school teacher, school librarian,
and director of her own school. Kathleen authored two children’s books, dozens of educational
games, and several professional development books for teachers. You can reach her at

Artificial Intelligence: Preparing Students for the Future


For the past five years, I have spent time learning about and teaching about AI.  I knew very little when I started back in January of 2018, writing my first blog about AI for Getting Smart.  After diving in and exploring it in my eighth-grade STEAM Emerging Technology class, taking the ISTE U course on AI, and doing lots of reading and research, I become more confident.  I started to present at conferences both in-person and virtually and loved sharing how I got started and helping educators to get started in their classrooms too.

Since the beginning of this year and after the big launch of Open AI’s ChatGPT in December, interest has increased tremendously.  My sessions at FETC and TCEA on AI: What Do Educators Need to Know were well attended.  I present often on the topic and have done some PD sessions and small group sessions focused on AI.

With so much discussion and coverage on the topic, it might seem that if AI isn’t already being used in your classroom that you’re falling behind when it comes to technology. However, it is first important to understand what AI is and establish some guiding questions such as: What role does AI play in our daily lives? And more importantly, what role does it or will it play in the future of education and the future of work?

Fortunately, there are many individuals and organizations throughout the world who are working toward building the knowledge base and available resources. Key areas are focused on researching and gaining a deeper understanding of artificial intelligence, the concerns surrounding it, the challenges that it might present, and how we can use it for good.

Starting with AI

As an educator, the start of the school year brings new opportunities to connect with students and build upon some of our teaching methods and resources from the prior year. It’s also a time to explore topics we learned about during the summer and possibly involve the students by collaboratively learning about a topic—in this case, artificial intelligence.

When I started, I looked for some resources on AI to help me as well as provide activities for my students. In the fall of 2018, I enrolled in the ISTE U course on artificial intelligence, where I gained new perspectives on AI and gathered many new teaching tools for use with my students. Michelle Zimmerman’s Teaching AI: Exploring New Frontiers for Learning was a tremendous help when working through the course and building my knowledge base. I also visited Montour School District, where students are enrolled in the first public school AI course. By engaging in these two learning opportunities, I felt more confident in understanding what AI is, how it works, the various industries in which it is being used, and ultimately what role it could play in our classrooms today and in the future.

Considerations for Education

We have all likely heard the concerns regarding AI and how it might impact educators. The most common: is whether or not artificial intelligence will replace teachers. Other concerns are whether AI will replace many of the other positions held in different industries of work and if it will continue to evolve to the point where it does in fact take on human capabilities beyond what it has been programmed to do or what it learns how to do as it iterates. We also have to be cautious when it comes to privacy. In particular, when using virtual assistants; for example, Amazon’s Alexa was reported to be recording conversations. All of these are valid questions and concerns that need to be considered.

I’ve been fortunate to teach my course in STEAM to eighth-grade students for the past seven years, and a large part of the course is focused on emerging technologies in the areas of artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality. There is so much information out there, that becoming an instant expert is not too likely. However, we can take the information we find and use it as a starting point of inquiry with our students because chances are they’ll be interacting with AI in the future wherever they decide to go after their high school careers. There is also the likelihood that they will be working alongside AI in the future in some capacity. It is happening now, with ChatGPT as an assistant, a co-blogger, you name it. 

ChatGPT is a new AI chatbot that has been built and is an upgrade from GPT3, which was released in 2020. GPT3 is Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, a trained language model that uses deep learning and can simulate human conversation.  You can learn more about GPT3 from this post that I helped to research in 2020. Now, ChatGPT, which has been released by Open AI, is artificial intelligence that is able to respond to prompts instantly and enable the user to basically engage in what feels like a human conversation. It responds to prompts through the use of 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 and also in different languages.

It is a language model, and it was released fully on November 30th within one week, it had more than 1 million users trying to explore exactly what it does, which led to a slowdown on the site. ChatGPT 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 intelligence.  

How does it differ from Google or voice assistants? Think about when you ask questions to Alexa or Siri. You will receive a response that is limited, yet conversational, whereas ChatGPT is artificial intelligence that enables you to interact with a virtual assistant with the use of natural language. As mentioned, GPT3 is the third generation of this Generative Pre-trained Transformer text. The new ChatGPT is able to generate responses in real-time and without the need to complete Google searches or look through other resources to get information. It streamlines the process completely. Years ago, using the Dewey Decimal System to find books, to flip through pages became easier via Google Searches. Now, ChatGPT converts Google in a similar way. It eliminates the need for sorting and processing information. It decreased originality and creativity from students or people in general. This is why it has some people concerned. 

Not just in the area of education, but in the world of work. ChatGPT and others that are developing as we speak,  are the technologies that could potentially replace the need for many types of jobs. Think things like customer service representatives, coaches, and training providers, where you might need information that you normally would ask of a person and engage in a conversation, chat GPT will be able to complete the same task in far less time potentially. 


So how can we help students and ourselves better understand what AI might look like in the classroom? We use some existing resources and find a way to tie them to the classes and open up a discussion. Years ago I visited Montour School District, and I was really impressed by the students and their work at the middle school level. It was one of the first schools to offer a middle-school curriculum on AI. Justin Aglio (@JustinAglio) has been doing some amazing work in the area of AI. He leads the Penn State Readiness Institute and has done tremendous work with AI. I recommend reading his blog posts or attending a presentation of his if you have the opportunity. Seeing the students excited about what they were learning made a huge difference. In areas like AI, where few people may understand the potential, it’s easy to criticize. Therefore, the first thing, I think we must do as teachers is to help students understand how to make informed decisions, give them opportunities to explore and research topics like this, and then have a conversation.

By attending conferences and other professional learning activities you can find tools that incorporate AI and that are worth exploring. Students should understand how these technologies work because they may very well end up being the ones who are creating AI and developing the technologies that we will be using in the not-too-distant future. We must first seek to understand before making any decisions about the relevance, benefits, or concerns about any type of technology we think about implementing in our classroom.

Some Resources to Explore

Here are a few unique educational resources I learned more about this summer and how they can be used in the classroom.

  • AI4ALL is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in AI education. Through AI4ALL, high school students have access to a free program where they can explore the resources available on the site and even participate in a “build your AI for good” project. Students will better understand AI and its potential through the resources provided.
  • AI World School offers three flagship AI courses for different age groups and also, several micro-courses. AIWS also has a virtual driverless car course. 
  • DAILy from MIT offers a curriculum for students to explore AI as well as other activities and a mini-course  Day of AI is coming up too!

  • ISTE’s AI and STEM Explorations Network has created four free hands-on AI projects for the classroom guides which are available for download from ISTE and GM. I helped to create a lesson on the use of AI in language classrooms. The guides are available in English, Spanish, and Arabic.

  • Microsoft AI for Good offers many resources for educators or anybody to look at how artificial intelligence is being used and to also better prepare teachers

There is a lot to learn about when it comes to AI, and the first step is in deciding the benefits for student learning and make sure that any privacy and security concerns are addressed. It is important that we help our students understand not only the capabilities of using AI in learning but also to develop their own skills to become the creators and innovators of the future.

Looking for PD for your school? I provide in-person and virtual training on the following topics. If you want to learn more about and explore AI and ChatGPT, contact me to schedule! Rdene915@gmail.com 

New AI detection feature via Turnitin

Over the last couple of months, it’s unbelievable how much has changed in the world of artificial intelligence (AI). For the last couple of years, I have spent time researching, writing about, presenting on, and teaching about AI in my classroom and continuing to learn as much as I possibly can each year. When ChatGPT became available to the public in December, I didn’t hesitate to dive in and explore exactly what it was capable of doing. I even co-wrote an article about its potential impact on not just education but other areas of work.

After about 3 hours, I was pretty impressed with what I was seeing. I was also a little bit concerned about what it could be used for, whether by educators, students, or anybody for that matter. ChatGPT and the evolving AI technologies are not something that will impact educators and students, it is something that will impact many areas of the workforce and jobs that are out there. A big concern that has come up during this ChatGPT exploration is plagiarism. How will educators be able to tell when students may be using ChatGPT to complete their assignments especially with something evolving as fast as this technology? Will students begin to rely on this technology and as a result, lose the opportunity to develop essential skills on their own? What policies may need to be in place? Is it plagiarism if it is not citing a specific source? These are some of the many questions on the minds of educators and parents.

Plagiarism detection

There have been plagiarism checkers available for years and many educators and educational institutions use them. In my own experience as a doctoral student now, and when I worked on my Master’s degree five years ago, assignment submissions go through a plagiarism checker instantly. Turnitin is one that has been used. Honestly, there have been times when I’ve been shocked to see the percentage that comes back stating the likelihood of plagiarism, knowing that I did not plagiarize. I work hard to cite my sources but apparently, something that I did was not completely accurate and I used it as a way to evaluate my writing and improve my citations. Now enter ChatGPT.

Three years ago, I helped to do some research for a blog post about GPT-3 and I was impressed with what it was capable of back in 2020. Fast forward to early December 2022, working with and exploring ChatGPT, I was amazed at how much it had evolved since 2020 and the number of ways that you could use it. It didn’t take long for educators and lots of people to express concern about what the impact of this type of powerful technology would have on student learning.

Would it lead students to lose learning opportunities?

Would they rely on everything that they found by using this, and lack skills that they need to be prepared for the future?

What should educators do when it comes to teaching about these technologies in the classroom?

How can you tell whether or not a student has used ChatGPT to complete an assignment or project and how do you handle it?

Learning opportunities

AI writing and the use of ChatGPT and other AI writing tools are increasingly common not only in business. Students are using it and know about it. There are high schools banning its use. Educators are worried it will erode writing skills. But is banning it the solution? Detecting the presence of artificial intelligence in a student’s writing is helpful, but I hope that it is focused not on catching them doing something wrong but rather to use it to improve writing. We should use it to start conversations with students.

Turnitin has been developing writing and feedback tools for educators for 25 years and has continued to refine the ways that teachers give feedback to students. Turnitin commissioned Atomik Research to conduct an online survey of 1,011 parents and/or guardians of high school students in the United States to understand their perceptions of AI writing tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard. Interestingly, 81% of respondents believe that teachers should use technology tools to detect when something has been written by AI to check homework or test answers to cut down on cheating.

On Tuesday, Turnitin released a new AI detection feature that has the ability to detect AI with 98% accuracy. They are also continuing to monitor the detection settings to watch for false positives. The new AI detection feature works like similarity checking. If something is noted, then teachers can look at the writing and provide feedback to students. It becomes a conversation and a learning opportunity for teachers and students about how to evaluate information and also for properly citing sources that have been used. The software should not be viewed as something that is set to accuse students of plagiarizing.

[image via Turnitin]

Also helpful is the sidebar with resources for educators to explore.

[Similarity report via the AI writing feature]

As educators, we have a responsibility to help our students to develop skills to navigate all of these changes that are happening in the world of education, and that may impact them in their future line of work.

Lessons to learn

I see this new feature as a way to provide information for teachers so they have data for analyzing student writing and providing further instruction and feedback, not as a tool for accusing students of misconduct. We want students to understand the importance of academic integrity while also learning about the tools available, including ChatGPT and other AI technologies. It is a way to also build literacy skills and stress the importance of evaluating our sources and checking information for accuracy.

Now what?

I recommend following the conversation about ChatGPT in the variety of educator spaces and communities. As for tools that detect plagiarism, explore the resources available to assist educators in integrating this new technology into their classrooms. The Turnitin page features a glossary of AI terms, which provides a useful reference guide for educators who are not yet familiar with the technical vocabulary associated with this technology. Additionally, there is a guide on updating an academic integrity policy in the age of AI, which is essential for ensuring that educators have a clear understanding of the ethical considerations surrounding AI-generated text.

And the best advice I can offer is to dive into trying out ChatGPT. Think about questions that you ask your students, projects that you have assigned, assessments that you’ve created, and lesson plans that you’ve written, and put all of those in as prompts. See what it generates and then regenerate the response a few times and look for commonalities. I test this out to see how similar the answers are and also check it for accuracy. I have explored this with my students as well because we know that not everything that we find on the Internet is accurate, which is why we have to embrace this and help students to learn to be digitally literate and model this practice for them.

This post was in collaboration with Pando PR. Opinions expressed are my own.

**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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Unfinished Business: A Different Peer Review Strategy

Guest post by laura steinbrink, posted in education


This strategy is based on Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process, which has amazing potential even outside of its intended use. After reading her book on this process, I have been pondering ways to use this model with students of all ages, and with some restructuring according to the age or grade level of the student, I believe it is possible. To use this, students must be creating, writing, or have a product that is in progress or not complete, or maybe even a rough draft. Then, as students are in the process of creating, whether it be writing, artwork, research, project-based learning (PBL), presentation, etc., this process can help students refine their work with controlled peer feedback. There are three roles for this process, and if you have a small class, then you can do this whole group. For larger classes, you may need to conduct the process with the whole group as a model, and then break it up into smaller groups if necessary.


The purpose of this strategy is not to “fix” the student’s work, but to provide questions to clarify areas that need more work and statements to point out strengths of the work in progress. This is actually the hardest part for me, as I am generally in “fix it” mode. This is also the part that needs to be addressed up front with the students the first time you do this with them. They are not to offer ways to fix any part that the creator is struggling with but to come up with questions to ask the creator about those issues that will help them come up with their own solution. In step 5 below, you could allow an opinion to contain a “here’s what I would do,” but the creator is still the one deciding whether or not to accept or act on those ideas.


What is particularly striking about this process or strategy is the potential for students to truly see that the process of creating is important, there’s usually more than one right way to do something, the class can truly be a learning community, and that revising work is a natural part of the creating process. Students often get into the rut of the “one and done” mode. We write a paper, create a product, paint a picture, and then turn it in and move on. This occurs even when we use our beloved rubrics. I have conducted workshops on how to effectively use rubrics, like the single-point rubric, and teachers have complained that they hand back a rubric and the student looks at it and tosses it in the trash. My question to all who have experienced this is, “Was there a grade on it?” If so, that’s the feedback the student wanted. No need to reflect. A teacher in my previous district pointed out that she handed back the rubrics and a student looked at it and crumpled it up, and that the student was my son. I asked him about it later, and he said, “It had a 100% on it. What did I need to look at or do with the rubric?” Right. No need to reflect at that point is a common student reaction. I encourage not putting grades on rubrics, instead, it is better to use them to guide instruction and feedback in the process of creating the work.


The Unfinished Business strategy can help students see that revising as we go is a common and productive practice. Research shows us that reflecting is a powerful learning strategy, so what better way to teach it than to have students reflect on feedback to find ways to improve and revise the work in progress? According to John Hattie and Helen Timperly, feedback is the “consequence of performance.” So to elicit strong feedback to help learners value the creation and revision process, try the strategy below and adjust as needed to fit your learners.

Role 1: Artist/Maker

Offers a work-in-progress for review and is prepared to examine the work critically in conversation with other people.

Role 2: Responder

Commits to the artist/maker’s intent to make excellent work. They question and respond to questions. They want the artist/maker to do their best work.

Role 3: Facilitator

Initiates each step, keeps the process and students on track, and works to help the artist/maker and responders frame useful questions and responses. The project rubric, if you have one, would be helpful here. Students can either form questions based on the criteria or you can have premade questions from the criteria that students can ask. Giving students a question to ask when first trying this or each time it is tried can really help get a productive conversation going. Those questions would be scaffolds for the responders. Most questions they will need to generate independently and need to be useful to the artist/maker.

Step 1: Artist/Maker shares the work in progress or a part of the work that they are struggling with or aren’t sure of at that moment in the creation process, or even after a draft or prototype has been completed.

Step 2: Responders then respond to what was meaningful, surprising, interesting, exciting, and/or striking in the work they have just witnessed, heard, read, etc. Each responder verbally or on a sticky note writes one positive response to the work. They cannot use “I like” or “I love” in the statement. Instead of saying/writing “I like the way you…” students write or say things like “Your thesis statement is strong and engaging” or “The color choice really complements the piece,” depending on the type of work being reviewed.

Step 3: The artist/maker then asks any questions they may have about the work. In answering, responders must stay on topic with the question and may only express opinions in direct response to the artist’s questions. This might be tricky, so after a practice round or two, determining a limit on the questions the artist/maker may ask might help with the facilitation. Time constraints in general mean that having the artist ask 1-3 questions would prevent the process from dragging on, which is important for the engagement of the responders. All responders should write down a response and the artist/maker can choose one or two to call on verbally. The artist receives all written responses also. On the same sticky note, (Use one or two per student responder for each session.)

Step 4: Responders write out neutral questions about the work on the same sticky note, and the artist chooses 1-3 students to ask their questions and then they respond to those questions.

Questions are neutral when they do not have an opinion added to them. This step is one of the most fundamental, challenging, and misunderstood steps of the Critical Response Process as noted by Liz Lerman. The questions are focused on anything unclear, confusing, complicated, or too simplistic about the work and should promote critical thinking among the responders. This part of the process is meant to provide the artist/maker with areas to consider for improving the work. The artist/maker has ultimate control over the end product, and responders are not there to “fix” the work, so they should not include solutions. The “fixers” in your classroom may struggle with this, so be prepared to help them suppress that instinct.

Step 5: (Optional-if time permits) Responders state opinions about the work in progress, given permission from the artist; the artist/maker considers the opinions but has the option to say no. Here is where you could include “fix it” ideas from those students who are your “fixers.” This round may be best if it is oral and not written down. The artist/maker calls on one or two responders, and again, the decisions lie with the artist/maker to accept one, some, all, or none of the proffered suggestions.


Students who are in the role of responder will still get a lot out of this process. The artist/maker will as well. This will provide the motivation to reflect on the work and then revise it. This is the beauty in this strategy for me, as there are times when getting students to review, edit, or revise their work is like Sisyphus rolling his rock up the hill each day. Again, revise this as needed for younger learners. This strategy can also promote an inclusive and safe learning environment when done properly (manage unhelpful criticisms), which can lead to students taking academic risks. Set up time in your pacing guide for this in place or in addition to any peer review feedback activities that are already built-in, and then do the strategy. It could work as a one-day weekly activity or as needed. The goal is for students to manage their own learning, and you will know you have achieved that goal when students start requesting the strategy to receive help with their work. Good luck, and tag me on Twitter or comment below if you find it useful.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2016). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research. https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487


Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Bobby Dall / Bret Michaels / Bruce Anthony Johannesson / Rikki Rocket
Every Rose Has Its Thorn lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc

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How to Build Your Team

Guest post from Henry Turner @turnerhj

Coalition Building is perhaps the most important step that you should be thinking about right now in building your DEI team. In Change the Narrative: Fostering an Antiracist Culture in Your School and the companion course Kathy Lopes and I discuss coalition building as an important part of strategic thinking.

As we planned our next “Change the Narrative” videos, I asked Kathy what topics she thought were the most important to cover. Without a pause, Kathy responded, “Coalition Building!”

So check out this video and build your team!

Why this Matters

Build a stronger coalition. Energize and develop the advocates of DEI initiatives. Resistance will form among some community members in dealing with any DEI initiative. In response to this resistance, we need to build up the voices of advocates for the work.

Build a broader coalition. Who are the groups that may not immediately jump on board with DEI work but may support some of the initiatives or changes you are advocating for? Find natural partners in this work.

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How students access core SEL competencies at school

In Collaboration with @x2VOL 

What is Social Emotional Learning

Social emotional learning (SEL) is the process in which people develop interrelational skills that include self-awareness, social and relationship skills, responsibility, empathy, and more. Social-emotional learning has become an important piece of high school education, as educators see improved student outcomes because of an emphasis on SEL. More and more schools and districts are adopting SEL programs or tracking social-emotional development during a student’s high school career in order to prepare a student for future success whether that is in a university or the workforce. 

What Constitutes SEL

According to CASEL’S SEL framework, there are 5 elements that constitute social-emotional learning. 

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Responsible decision-making.

Why is this important?

Social-emotional development is a vital part of a student’s upbringing. This kind of development impacts how a student shows up in the world, how they interact with their peers, how they approach school and jobs, and how they develop meaningful relationships. Social-emotional development is crucial in positive student outcomes because they are learning valuable life skills and concepts. Additionally, universities seek students who possess a broadened perspective on the world and developed self-awareness. 

How do students develop social-emotional learning? 

There are a number of ways students grow in these areas and they don’t come from just one thing! Many of these competencies are developed through school-related activities and programs. Five days out of the week and 7-8 hours a day, students are in school. They spend additional time with their classmates in after-school programs, sports, extracurriculars, etc. Tracking and encouraging social-emotional learning has become a priority for educators as they know so much of this comes from school or school-related activities. 

There are three overarching ways students engage in social-emotional development through school:

  1. Community service requirements, programs or clubs. 

When they become active members of their communities through service, students are able to see outside of their small world bubble, and understand needs and different ways of life. Through service projects, students work with their peers, local or even national organizations, service activity coordinators, and individuals they are directly serving. This exposes them to needs and circumstances outside their normal bubble widening their world view. They are also learning valuable skills such as teamwork, communication, collaboration, and respect. 

Many schools have a service requirement for graduation. Others highly encourage student involvement in the community and award it at graduation, while others have clubs and programs where students can engage in community service. 

  1. Work-based learning and internship programs 

In part-time jobs, apprenticeships, internships, etc. students learn valuable workplace skills but they also learn the soft skills of problem-solving, relationship-building, empathy, understanding, cooperation, and collaboration. These school-based programs connect students with a job or internship and then have regular check-ins and assessments to evaluate a student’s development. It goes beyond a student just showing up for a shift, they are learning valuable skills they can take into the workforce in the future. 

  1. Service learning classes, humanities, or religion classes

Some schools have dedicated service learning classes or incorporate service and service learning in a humanities course. Private schools often incorporate service and service learning in their religion classes as it ties back to their faith and the mission of the school to encourage spiritual formation in students. 

Service learning connects service to what students are learning in the classroom – this gives students context for their work and provides deeper connections beyond checking service hours off a list. They can see and understand the impact of their work and reflect on their experiences in a meaningful way. 

Measuring and encouraging development

These school-based programs ensure students are given the opportunity to experience growth on a deeper level. Success and development come when educators can see a student’s progress month after month, year after year. Tracking their experiences, reflections, and areas of growth is an important step in advancing social-emotional learning. 

x2VOL becomes an extension of schools’ student programs to ensure students can track their progress and educators have insight into student development. With x2VOL, students and administrators track and manage these experiences and reflections all online, in one easy-to-use platform. Click below to watch our 1-minute demo of how x2VOL works.

How x2VOL Works

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Spring Ideas to Boost Engagement!

The start of a new year is a great time to ​think about the progress we have made so far this year and consider trying some different methods and tools in our classrooms. Taking time to reflect on what has worked, what we have not tried, and areas, where we may be having some challenges, is important. We want to continue to reflect and implement new strategies and tools that will benefit our students and transform learning.

Just like at the beginning of a new school year, focusing on the continued building of relationships is essential year-round. To do so, we have to be intentional about evaluating our teaching practice and the opportunities that we provide for our students. For our personal and professional growth, we need to make time for ​reflecting on our daily work as ​​educators​. What are some areas that we notice where we have grown in our practice? Are there some methods or tools that we have on our list but have lacked the time to try? Have we asked students for feedback about their experiences in our classroom and what helps them to learn best? I think that this is important for our practice. Using surveys and having conversations with students makes a difference. There are even great tools available for educators to use such as LessonLoop, which helps teachers to better understand student engagement and their specific needs in our classrooms.  Another tool that helps educators to really focus on their methods and classroom interactions is Edthena, a virtual coaching platform. Teachers can record themselves teaching a lesson and then the AI Coach uses prompts to guide you about your lesson and what your perception of their effectiveness was. With videos, we can go back and focus on specific parts of our lesson, and our delivery and then use this to guide our reflection.

Taking time to reflect is important so that we can start the new year fresh. Now is the perfect opportunity to dive in and start the new year off with some fresh ideas! By choosing some methods or focus areas and then leveraging different tools, we can transform student learning and provide opportunities for building essential skills such as SEL. The power of choice not only helps students to build content area skills but also will lead them forward into their future careers with a variety of skill sets. With different tools and methods, we can spark curiosity for learning and foster creativity in learning!

For educators, this means we have to be willing to try new ideas, make mistakes and try again. Doing this sets a good model for our students. We want them to become more comfortable with learning and making mistakes and the process of learning itself.

Choosing methods in our classrooms that help to foster joy in learning and also foster the development of social-emotional learning (SEL) skills, will benefit students now and in the future. Being able to master the content while also developing skills that enable students to collaborate and develop strong and supportive relationships are important for future workplace success.

One thing to keep in mind is to find ways to streamline the workflow and the types of methods and tools that we are using. We want to provide choices but not overwhelm students in the process. Finding methods and tools that are versatile and applicable to different content areas and grade levels is key.  Here are four ideas to start with:

  1. Elementari is a tool we started to use this year and it has been fun seeing what the students create. There are many options available with Elementari, including the option for students to create an interactive story and build their skills in coding. There are more than 10,000 illustrations and sounds available to choose from.
  2. Genially can be used for genius hour, project-based learning (PBL), interactive lessons, and more. We have used it in my Spanish and STEAM classes for projects and I have used it personally for creating resumes, digital portfolios, and even presentations. Students can work individually or together on a collaborative presentation which also promotes digital citizenship skills too! Genially has thousands of templates to choose from with options for STEM and more.
  3. Spaces EDU is a great tool that teachers can use individually and create different types of “spaces.” There are individual, class, and group spaces through which teachers and students can collaborate and communicate using multimedia options. With an individual space, students can share their learning with teachers in a space where they are able to build confidence in learning. Individual spaces work well for methods like genius hour and PBL or for checking in with students.  A group space has been fun for doing activities in stations or a collaborative PBL or even something fun like a scavenger hunt. Spaces EDU also has curriculum tags and more that help teachers to connect the curriculum to the activities created in Spaces.
  4. STEM-related: There are some new resources we have explored this year including iBlocksPBL which helps educators to dive into PBL and students can learn about relevant topics related to the SDGs that help them to develop essential SEL skills, especially in the competencies of self-awareness and self-management. A few years ago I used Hummingbird Robots with my STEAM class and more recently, we used the Finch robots from Birdbrain Technologies. Teachers can use these tools in any content area and have students create something to reflect what they are learning in class while building coding skills and even learning about AI. These are just a few to explore in your classroom.  If you are interested in PBL, SEL, and STEM, any of these options would help to focus on those areas with the use of one tool. Involve students in the conversation and see what the impact is of using the different methods like genius hour or PBL or trying one of these tools. And for our own growth, using a survey created with Google or Microsoft Forms, or trying the LessonLoop student engagement survey, can help us to plan with our students’ interests in mind and continue to reflect on our practice. Taking risks and facing challenges along the way is a great model to set for students!

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 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” and her newest book “Things I Wish […] Knew” is now available at bit.ly/thingsiwishedu.

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

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5 Ways to Bring Augmented and Virtual Reality into the Classroom

My prior post for Getting Smart

We have thousands of resources to choose from, and ideas we can gather from the different learning communities that we belong to, however, it can be overwhelming and time-consuming to sort through all of our options. It is always important when we consider our options to think about the purpose for using them. I try to find tools that have benefits beyond their educational use and that are applicable to the real world and will help students to prepare for the future. 

As we look for activities and new ideas to keep students engaged, I think it is the perfect opportunity to explore some of the emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality. While traveling around the world or exploring objects up close is limited during this time, we can use some of the AR and VR tools available to explore and also to have students create their own. Giving students the chance to engage in a more meaningful way with the content they are studying and move from consumers to creators using these tools helps to increase student engagement and leads to higher student achievement.  

Using tools for exploring and immersing more in learning through AR and VR enables students to connect more closely with what they are studying. Having choices for creating with these tools, also enables us to meet specific student needs and interests. As a bonus, these tools are also fantastic options for anyone interested in learning about these emerging technologies. 

 Here are eight options to get started with: 

  1. Big Bang AR.  Download the Big Bang AR app to learn about the big bang theory and engage in an interactive journey in mixed reality. Travel back 13.8 billion years and see the formation of the universe happen right in your real-world space. Imagine seeing the stars as they form right in front of your eyes.
  2. Devar: Choose from one of the lively characters to bring into your classroom or home. Devar is easy to get started with and is a fun way for students or anyone to learn more about what augmented reality is and how it can be used for storytelling. Start by selecting a character and add music or your own narration to it and record. Share the video with students or have students create their own to tell a story. Check out the other resources available from Devar such as games and books related to different content areas and grade levels. 
  3. DisruptED. Provides augmented and virtual reality tools for students in pre-K through third grade. I recently learned about this one from Jaime Donally and had a chance to see the possibilities for engaging students through AR books. The new starter kit includes activity books, gamified activities, a headset and more. The newest AR book “Bee Safe” is available for a free download
  4. Google AR/VR. A website full of resources for learning about augmented and virtual reality through Google. Check out the experiences which include opportunities to learn about math, science, the human body, and more in AR. Bring prehistoric creatures or other animals into your environment. You can even create your own AR experience by downloading the software development kit (SDK) to create with Google ARCore. With the SDK, you can create new AR experiences or enhance existing apps with AR features.
  5. Nearpod: Offers many options for promoting student engagement through its interactive multimedia platform. My first VR experiences were with Nearpod and there are thousands of lessons to choose from which include 3D objects and VR field trips. Lessons through Nearpod are great options for immersing students in different learning experiences and traveling around the world or exploring places and objects more closely.

It is important to offer multiple options to students that lead to more meaningful experiences that promote the development of essential skills for the future and empower them through self-driven learning. We have an opportunity to innovate and reimagine learning as we embrace the new school year. We can use these immersive tools to create new learning experiences for our students and empower them to create their own!

**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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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