Half Time High

I have often written about how over the last decade—or so—I’ve lost at least 1/3 of my curriculum.  How could this possibly happen?  It’s a variety of factors, including mandatory, high stakes testing and the mindless drilling it mandates, benchmark tests, “common assessments,” endless interruptions for assemblies, programs, athletic team “send offs,” state mandates of all kinds for teachers and kids, lock down drills, and the list is endless.  This year, due to the overreaction to Covid-19, I lost an additional 25% of the school year for my full year classes, and 50% of class time for my semester classes.

As I’m retiring at the end of this disastrous school year, I’ll no longer be on the front lines, but nonetheless, I worry our public school administrators and school boards—keep in mind teachers have little or no power over the schools in most places–will learn all the wrong lessons from this unpleasant experience.  The signs are they’re doing just that, as Michael J. Petrillie, writing at Bloomberg.com, explains:

The shutdown of America’s high schools has deprived millions of students of rites we previously took for granted. Coursework can be transferred online to some degree, but no virtual environment can replace football games, choir concerts, musicals and so much more that’s part of the American high school experience. We may continue to yearn for such things well into the autumn, especially in communities that face additional closures, and where public officials want students and educators to stay ‘socially distant’ even when at school. Say goodbye to Friday Night Lights.

Yet while there’s much to rue about what the pandemic has taken away, it’s possible to glimpse a future in which technology liberates high school students — or at least some of them — from the six or seven-hour school day that has been crushing teenage souls for generations. That’s worth celebrating because so much of the school day amounts to wasted time.

Students only learn when they are focused, engaged and putting in effort. Yet surveys have long shown that teenagers spend most of their day bored, zoned out and only pretending to listen. For many students — especially the most motivated ones — they’d be better off, not to mention happier, if they spent much more of their time reading, writing and completing projects than going through the motions in our industrial-style schools.

Perhaps unwillingly, Petrillie argues against his own thesis.  Highly motivated students will always read, write and do their work.  That’s virtually never who educators must consider when planning. Cutting learning time in half will not encourage the incorrigible to redouble their nonexistent efforts.  Petrillie argues against the normal school schedule, considering the time they spend in school all but soul-destroying.

But then something wonderful happens in the lives of teenagers: they go to college and the chains drop away. Their in-person class time drops to 15 hours a week, even with a full course load. Just three hours a day! But in return, they’re expected to do loads of independent work, participate in group projects and show up for office hours if they need additional help. In recent years, college students have also been watching some lectures online so class time can be spent on small-group discussions and doing hands-on laboratory work.

All this raises an obvious question: Why can’t our high schools look more like college? Does every high school course really need to meet in person, every day, given the technology available to us? What if kids could choose an every-other-day schedule, where they attend class in person on even days and stay home (or work from the school library or computer lab or do an apprenticeship) on odd days? Or they select a morning or afternoon schedule rather than attending all day long?

credit: choicemedia.tv

Oh dear.  First and foremost, human beings don’t develop the ability to reason abstractly until the very late teens or early 20s.  High school age kids just aren’t intellectually capable of doing college level work until they are, at the least, at college age.  Consider this from an earlier article:   

Charles Murray, the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute is a prolific writer on education issues.  One of his most interesting works (PDF available here), written in 2009, is entitled Intelligence and Education.  Murray referred to a survey that found high school guidance counselors encouraged 90% of high school students to attend college.  It is not surprising, therefore, to discover:

‘For 40 years, American leaders have been unwilling to discuss the underlying differences in academic ability that children bring to the classroom. Over the same period, federal policy, backed by billions of taxpayer dollars in loans and grants, has aggressively encouraged more and more students to try to obtain a college education. As a result, about half of all high-school graduates now enroll in four-year colleges, despite the ample evidence that just a small minority of American students — about 10-15% — have the academic ability to do well in college.’

Using his own research and that of others, Murray came to an interesting conclusion about what is necessary for genuine success in college: an IQ of at least 115.  He wrote:

‘There is no inconsistency between Kobrin’s results and a 115 mean IQ among white college graduates. The students who make salient points in classroom discussions, who write well-researched term papers, and whose final exams demonstrate that they understood the material are usually well into the upper half of the distribution of academic ability among those who go to college. In other words, they are somewhere in the top 15% of the population — and usually in the top 10%.’

No gentle readers, not everyone should go to college, and we don’t want them to.  Neither do they.  Consider also, gentle readers, high school kids are famously immature—look up “sophomoric”–not only intellectually but socially and emotionally.  Indeed, many struggle to pay attention in high school, but there is no reason to think that immaturity and inability to focus will disappear when they are plopped down in front of a computer screen.  Cell phones and computers of all kinds are, in the school setting, far more weapons of mass distraction than miraculous achievement provokers.  “Technology” is not a panacea.  Children need close supervision, guidance, and to forge relationships with their teachers, which computers cannot and never will supply.

And as for college?  All have remedial high schools on campus, where many  incoming freshmen are forced to take high school level classes at full tuition for no credit.  Bad for them; great for colleges. This is necessary because colleges accept people they know are incapable of genuine college level work.  As long as their tuition checks clear the bank, they’re in.  Far too many kids major in waking up in pools of their, or other people’s, vomit, and/or drop out with massive debt and no ability to pay it back.

At least for the upcoming fall semester, moving to Half-Time High will be a necessity. The only way for schools to maintain social distance in crowded buildings is to operate well below capacity. This may mean running two shifts a day, morning and afternoon, or asking kids to show up in person every other day. If we don’t want kids to learn half as much, that means continuing with online learning — and lots more independent study — while at home.

No doubt, D/S/C politicians want everyone to believe America has changed forever and we can never return to a “normal” pre-Covid-19 way of life.  The heavy hand of government must forever be applied to everyone’s life, and school will be no exception, for they know the earlier they can begin political indoctrination, the easier it will be to “fundamentally transform” America.

“Half-time” high is not going to be a necessity.  We know the young are not susceptible to the virus, and schools in general are essential to building the immune systems of Americans. Already, competent evidence is making clear we have badly and destructively over reacted to the Covid-19 virus.  We should not extend that disaster to every American school.

credit: eschoolnews.com

“Independent study” assumes a reality that simply doesn’t exist.  I don’t know Petrillie’s politics, but I do know that one trait education theorists and administrators share with D/S/C political theorists is ignoring human nature entirely, or believing their policies so brilliant they can change it.  Schools have, more and more, backed away from homework because kids just won’t do it.  “Technology” is as easily ignored as textbooks, perhaps even more so, because with computers and cell phones, the Internet, video games, texting and social media always beckon, and far more powerfully than school work.

Other forms of ‘competency-based education’ could work as well, such as asking students to tackle real-world projects or write a senior thesis.

Riiiight.  As regular readers know, I struggle to get kids to complete a 3 page research paper, even though they’re given intensive instruction and all the help they could possibly need over a three month period.  Highly motivated kids have no problems with such things, most kids? That’s a very different story.  Human nature will not be denied.

As with so many things in K-12 education, the major barrier to this innovation is outdated policy and deeply ingrained habit. Every state requires students to attend school in person for a certain number of hours or days a year, and most fund their schools based at least in part on how many kids show up each day. Those systems would need to be reworked long term, just as they have been during the current crisis.

Indeed, we do many things wrong, but not those Petrillie thinks.  Mandatory high stakes testing with related benchmark tests, interminable drilling, and all the other changes to every facet of schooling they demand are a major drain on class time, which is always a teacher’s most precious resource.  In addition, the data culture, which values the production of data—testing, processes, fads and other useless and wasteful ephemera—over actual teaching and learning, is also terribly destructive.  The “no one can drop out or fail” culture is also destructive.  Commonly, kids are given 50% or more for no work at all, ostensibly to encourage them to do better.  Kids that don’t want to be in school, kids that disrupt learning opportunities for others, even commit felony level crimes, are kept in school at all costs that the proper data may be produced.

Indeed, we misuse a great deal of time for meaningless and destructive fads.  True school reform will, and must encompass returning to an earlier ethic, where qualified, dedicated and capable teachers do their best to provide the best educational opportunity possible.  Principals, administrators and school board’s only excuse for existing is to see they hire the best teachers and give them everything necessary to do their jobs, which means doing everything possible to give them every possible minute of class time.  “Wouldn’t it be nice for this program, or that lecture, or this test, or this politically inspired presentation” must give way to saying: “No.  The kids need to stay in class.”

credit: mothenaturenetwork

I lost 33%–probably more—of my curriculum to that kind of nonsense.  Were I teaching next year and lost another 50%–well, I wouldn’t be teaching, and I suspect a great many of America’s best and most effective teachers would not either.  Worse, kids wouldn’t be learning.  Take away 50% of their educational opportunity, and no combination of technology or brilliant new fads will help.

It might be good to consider this just may be what some people want: education delivered via computer, a universally approved “curriculum” that will inevitably become little more than political indoctrination, the “fundamental transformation” so many want.  Can’t have utopia without it; can’t have liberty and independent minds with it.

COVID-19 …. Setting the ‘New Normal’ …

COVID – 19 has affected the world like nothing else ever had in our lifetime. It is setting ‘New Normal’ in our daily life. Caution has become integral to every action we do. It is like word Corona has been added to the ‘Drop down menu’ of the mind and whenever we set out to do anything the menu drops down and a question is asked “Is what I intend to do going to expose me to ‘Corona virus’ in anyway”? There is a detailed in-house deliberation in the mind and if and only if the answer is ‘No’ then only we go ahead to execute what we intend doing. Such a fear had never affected the human minds before. Mask & sanitiser have become the permanent content of every briefcase and the handbag. Now more than’ Khana Khaaya?’ (‘Had food’) the mothers are heard asking the kids ‘Haath dhoya?’ (Have you washed hands?).


My profession gives me the privilege of moving out and interact with people, exercising due precautions, so I admit that I may not be able to fully empathise with people who are experiencing the ‘locked down’ in real sense. My article is based less on my personal experiences and more on experiences of my close family members and friends.

My small family of four is normally split between four places due to our professional and educational commitments/ requirements. Kind courtesy the lockdown, my wife and son are staying alone at Delhi and Chennai respectively. I was a bit lucky as the daughter had come visiting just before the lockdown was announced and is with me as the college remains closed.

Being Single (With no help available)

My son is now managing his life and work from his one room apartment. He has learnt to divide his time between work, wash, cook, eat and rest. The single room functions as the workstation, bedroom and kitchen. Just goes out once a week, face covered, maintaining physical distance to get his supplies from local grocery. He has not felt the need of the ‘Swiggy’ or the ‘Zomato’ to come to his aid. I understand that like him many other single men and women must be similarly managing their lives but in his case the transformation has been so fast, and he has adopted to the new normal so quickly and easily. The young generation has adopted to the changing situation in no time, they are ready to face any adversity.

My wife also, like many other working women, is managing her office work and home single all by herself without any help at hand. Frankly, it is after ages that she has been caught in such a situation and she is managing it well.

Homes are the Safest & the Best

The homes have become the safest place to be in. The offices have shifted to home. The elders, kids, the pets, and the office have learnt to happily co-exist in a two-bedroom flat. The kids are not persisting with demands to go out and play in the park or go to a restaurant. Everyone seems to have understood the need of the hour – precaution (Except some men who were badly missing ‘The bottle’ and could not control the urge as soon the restriction was lifted).

My salutations to the ladies specially the ‘working mothers’ who are juggling the role of mother, wife, home maker and a professional within the four walls of the home without relief and still managing to smile.

Working mothers

Homes have become the best holiday destination too. It is not just the school/ college going kids in India but also those who had preferred foreign shores for studies/ work have either flown back or are desperate to fly back home.

Re-discovering the Lost Talent

In the absence of the maid, the mothers (in some cases fathers too) are exhibiting the cooking skills and the kids are loving it (hopefully). Many would have realised how much money they unnecessarily wasted in those restaurants when better food could be prepared at home. People are learning to ‘Live with less’. Brilliant recipes are being dished out with ‘Whatever available’. Fear of weight gain has put caution to eating habits too.

Besides cooking many more hidden talents are being re-discovered in each home. ‘Har ghar kuch kehta hai’ or Har insaan mein talent bhara hai’ is being realised. (every home (family) has a story to tell and every man has a hidden talent)

The Malls,Markets,Schools & The Internet

The Malls are closed, Gyms/ parlours shut and the movie halls non- functional; I, for one, am not missing them at all. I do not like too much crowd, do not have much hairs left on the head and was always happy with my ‘Zero Pack’. The E-Commerce is knocking at the door to become the way of life. Netflix and other OTT platforms have replaced the movie halls & TV soap operas with professional ease (Thank God, we have a break from those never-ending soap operas).

Online classes and the webinars have become the style statements of the educational institutes. Internet is connecting the world like it had never done before. The office, education, relationships, and friendships are all dependent on the Internet for survival. Now it should be easier to ‘Date’ two (or more) people in real time, isn’t it?

Survival of the Fittest- Immunity is back in Business

Darwin’s theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’ is coming true. Anyone and everyone who was prepared for ‘A rainy day’ both health and wealth wise has not been affected the way the ones who never bothered to save. Immunity is back in business but, not the type promised by all the packaged food makers who are trying to encash the opportunity provided by the pandemic by labelling every food product as ‘Immunity booster’; It is the ‘Stamina’ fuelled by the savings & good mental/ physical health which will take one through; provide the immunity. Optimal utilisation of available resources and surviving with minimum is the new norm for survival.


Moving from ‘Religion to Responsibility’

Heard ‘Sadhguru’ speaking on the subject on one the TV channels. India, like many other, is a country of believers. Each culture, community, religion propagating their own belief. Two places where there was never a dearth of crowd (Should I say ‘Bhakts’?) was a Religious or a Political congregation. What one gained from there is a matter of debate, but people went there. ‘Corona’ has put an end, may be temporary, to all that. People, in general, have started taking the responsibility of their lives. The ‘GOD’ has come back to where HE belonged, The home. People have (hopefully) realised the true worth of the existing leadership, most of them ran out of ideas (Did most have any?) at the word ‘go’ itself. People are learning to live their lives their own way, within their own means. I hope this becomes ‘The way of life… A New Normal’.

Hugs & Kisses

The hugs and kisses have been put on hold. Though, I am sure, a new ‘sanitised version’ of the hug will soon hit the market but Kiss (outdoors) specially the French version might have to wait. Amir Khan was finding a simple spectacle to be an obstacle in kissing in the ‘Three Idiots’ here we have two masks in between and the fear of passing on the ‘Corona’. One never knows, the French Kiss may end up becoming the most ‘deadliest murder tool’ (Killing me softly with his love…becoming a reality?).


Change is what we all resist; Change is what the pandemic is persisting to bring; The choice is obvious; Change man change.

Emotional Check-Ins in a Teaching Webinar

I always start my classes with some form of emotional check-in regardless of age or grade level. I do so in my college classes as well as in my elementary gifted classes. I think this is even more imperative given the stress students are experiencing due to COVID19. The 10 to 15 minutes it takes is so worth the class time.

Some of the benefits of emotional check-ins discussed in the Edutopia article, A Simple but Powerful Class Opening Activity, include:

Students know that every voice matters: The emotional check-in gets every student’s voice into the room at the start of each class. Although students can always say “pass” instead of sharing, each student has the opportunity to be heard every class session. The check-in is also a great opportunity to practice active listening, turn-taking, and following group norms.

Students develop awareness of others’ emotions—and how to respond to them: When students share their emotions during the check-in, they give their classmates a snapshot of their emotional state. And if I hear a student say that “I didn’t sleep much last night” or “I feel like I can’t focus today,” I can adjust my interactions with that person accordingly.

The check-ins also acknowledge that how students are feeling is important to the educator, that they matter as human beings who have feelings and emotions.

One of my college classes moved from face-to-face to Zoom this semester. What follows are some of the check-in activities I have done with them.

Using a Feeling Chart

Students use a feeling chart to describe how they are feeling. A side benefit of using feeling charts is that they help students increase their feelings vocabulary.

Source: Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry

Share a Rose; Share a Thorn

Each student shares a Rose, something good or positive, from the day or week; and a Thorn, something not-so-good or positive, from the day or week.

Four Types of Care

Students, during the check-in, take turns using the four types of self care graphic to describe strategies they are doing or would like to do to be physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually healthy.

5 Step Check-In Process

The teacher leads students through the 5 step check-in process described in Emotional Check-ins: Why You Need Them:

  1. Tune into your body.
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. Ask the question. Use the simple question, “How am I feeling?” Make it even more specific by tacking on the phrase “right now” or “in this moment.” 
  4. Use descriptive words to capture how you feel. 
  5. Brainstorm what might be contributing to those emotions.

Then each student is given an opportunity to share what came up for them during the exercise.

Pear Deck

Pear Decks are very similar to a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation. But instead of simply static, informational slides, you get to create Interactive Slides that let every student respond to your questions or prompts. Once PearDeck is activated, through the Google Slides add-on, students are given a code to access the Pear Deck. There they interact with each slide through typing, drawing, and using a draggable icon depending how the teacher set up the slide. What follows is the Pear Deck I used for a check-in at the start of one of my classes.

Create an Image Based Timeline of Feelings

Students create a timeline of images that represent: how you felt last week; how you feel today; how you want to feel this coming week; and finally, what strategies you can use to get to how you want to feel this coming week. Students then share their images via their webinar cameras and discuss their meaning with the rest of the class. What follows are (1) the prompt for this activity, and (2) sample student pictures:

Gif Image

Using Giphy students do a search for different feelings and emotions they are currently experiencing, and then select one or more Gifs that represent those feelings. They then take turns to do a screenshare of their selected Giphy and explain why they selected it.

<div class="wp-block-jetpack-gif">
                        <div class="wp-block-jetpack-gif-wrapper" style="padding-top:54%">
                <iframe src="https://giphy.com/embed/3o6Mp9r1uXCnXCwoN2" title="https://giphy.com/gifs/season-9-episode-17-bravo-3o6Mp9r1uXCnXCwoN2"></iframe>
                                    <figcaption class="wp-block-jetpack-gif-caption gallery-caption"><em>Excited, Overjoyed, Very Happy</em></figcaption>

Padlet Check-In

Padlet is an application to create an online bulletin board that you can use to display information for any topic. You can add images, links, videos, text, and drawings. Below is a Padlet I created for an emotional check-in.


Menitmeter allows teachers to engage and interact with students in real-time. It is a polling tool wherein teachers can set the questions and your students can give their input using a mobile phone or any other device connected to the Internet. Their input is displayed on a slide in a selected format: Word Cloud, Speech Bubbles, One-By-One, and Flowchart. In the case of check-ins, it can be used to have students put in responses to a question related to how they feeling at the start of class and their responses then are shown to the class via a slide. The example below shows a slide with a Word Cloud of emotional check-in responses.


Flipgrid is a website that allows teachers to create “grids” to facilitate video discussions. Each grid is like a message board where teachers can pose questions, called “topics,” and their students can post video responses. For an emotional check-in, students record a short video about how they are feeling.

Educate; not just feed…


The teachers are always running against time and hard pressed for completing the syllabus for respective classes but is all that effort actually worth it? Is all that effort actually leading to educating the mind , which it is supposed to? The syllabus are vast, so much to learn in a limited time followed by tests and tests and more tests to test the retention (certainly not understanding) capability of a child’s mind. Some schools and Board of Education go a step further and believe that more difficult the question paper better it is for testing the mind.

Damn it! Job of the schools and all these Education boards is to educate the minds and not just to ‘Test and grade’ . Marks can be obtained through rote learning( which most students resort to ) But education comes through understanding (There is no time to understand nor much efforts is made by schools/ teachers towards that). Ease out the syllabus, give time to teachers & students to make the teaching / learning process more practical.

‘Information by itself has little meaning unless the mind knows how to use it practically’.

I’ll Serve Buhari To The Best Of My Ability, Says Gambiri

Prof. Gambari emerged as the Chief of Staff after the demise of the former occupant of the seat, Mallam Abba Kyari who died on April 17 as a result of complications from the coronavirus infection. Speaking to State House correspondents, the former Minister of External Affairs under the military regime of the then Major GeneralContinue reading "I’ll Serve Buhari To The Best Of My Ability, Says Gambiri"

Lesson Ideas for Online Physical Education

Taking a break from travel and running posts to give an update on what distance learning looks like for the 200 Smootents in my middle school physical education classes.  

JCPS KY Non-Traditional Instruction:  It was a challenge to grasp how I would deliver videos with meaningful content for physical education.  There are also the concerns of various living arrangements, the amount of movement space, and the lack of equipment. 

I tried to make everything as easy as possible for the students and the parents.  Let’s face it, P.E. is not considered a priority when students are trying to grow in literacy and numeracy.  Despite the opposition, I want to deliver quality instruction as if we were still inside of the gym.  

These are the images of Google Slides and videos shortened into gifs of my use of Google Classroom to teach physical education for digital learners. 

Physical Education lessons will be uploaded every Thursday so you can plan out your Friday Related Arts.  There will be three assignments that you may work on throughout the week.  Please work around your schedule.

Let’s Go, Smootents!  You got this!!!

Repetitions:  My P.E. classes always begin with students in squads (larger classes) or restorative circles for smaller groups.  We would have an exercise leader(s) get the day started with warm ups.  Students are familiar with these exercises, so I put them into an As Many Reps As Possible activity. 

Flexibility:  I always stress the importance of dynamic and static stretching for warm-ups and cool-downs.  Students had to practice each stretch based on directions from Spark PE Skill Cards.  Afterwards, they recorded which were the easiest and the most challenging.

TikTok Dance Challenges:  My 8th grade young ladies love to dance.  They were given their own area away from the gym floor to turn up with their friends.  For NTI, I provided a video that demonstrated the Renegade dance in slow motion, medium speed and full speed.  The students had to answer what speed they were able to master.

The Pacer Run:  The FitnessGram Pacer Test is something my students look forward to due to incentives.  I shot a video challenging students to maintain their cardiovascular fitness.  Some students used their driveways, hallways and backyards to record their number of laps.  When school is back in session, the learning focus will be on heart rate.

Alphabet Workout: This activity has a lot of variations.  The main goal is to spell your name by doing an exercise assigned for each letter.  My video demonstrated each exercise with modifications.  Students had to respond if they did their first and last name, first name, or not able to get past the first letter of their name.

Basketball Sit-Ups:  I found this activity online.  The object is to score as many points as possible in 1 minute using socks.

Fitness Walking:  “Walk and Talk” is always an option for students in class.  Student choice to walk the perimeter of the gym is preferred over being inactive in the bleachers.  For this lesson, I talked about how walking is a way to burn calories with less stress on the joints compared to other sports.  The task was to walk outside, socially distanced, with parent/guardian permission for at least 30 minutes.

Aerobic Capacity:  For this lesson, I used skill cards from SparkPE with overlapping GIFs to make them more interesting.  The trick is to search GIFs with transparent backgrounds.  It was a technique I learned in a Google professional development last summer.  John Pedigo, from Wagner HS taught me how to spice up my slides and docs.

Zumba Shake 1, 2, 3: While I was editing videos, I came across an older Zumba clip from the Louisville Hike, Bike, and Paddle.  Bingo!  Another lesson idea.  I found a kid friendly link on Youtube of the same song.  For credit, students had to share a song that would be good for Zumba.  I got everything from Rush, “Athem” to Beyonce, “Before I Let Go.”

National Field Day:  The team at OpenPhyEd was gracious enough to organize a virtual field day for students to participate in safely at home.  There were around 20 activities utilizing common household items.  I created a choice board with embedded links to video instructions.  My Smootents had to participate in at least five events in order to earn a certificate. 

Tae Bo Cardio Fat Burn:  With most of the basics covered, I had to decide on something upbeat to keep students engaged.  To my suprise, Billy Blanks is still out here killing it with new Tae Bo videos filmed in his living room during quarantine. 

Yoga For Beginners:  My friend, Steve Sexton, invited me to a virtual yoga class.  My plan was to tighten up my yoga skills and do a video.  I can teach Yoga, but there are others who can do it so much better.  I scraped the video idea and linked to a Youtuber instead.  My Smootents know that I at least tried.

Mindful Breathing:  Although my primary duties are to teach P.E. standards, I love to incorporate elements of Health education into my pedagogy.  

Student Choice:  For the last week of NTI, students will be given three options on a choice board along with this last gif and Bitmoji.

Bitmoji Image

Teacher Reflection:  Online teaching and distance learning has reinforced my work ethic of working smarter and not harder.  I have all of these tools at my fingertips that I am finally using and learning more about each day.  This could mean a lot moving forward for hosting online parent teacher conferences, being a paperless classroom, virtual office hours, intentional instruction during snow days, providing real-time feedback, and strategizing how my work flows.  While I much prefer face-to-face teaching interactions, I have enjoyed growing through non-traditional instruction.

Ms. Smoot

Source: Lesson Ideas for Online Physical Education

Lecture on Basics of Urban Planning

Urban planning is a technical and political process concerned with the development and design of land use in an urban environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTUjNz9wVGE&t=6s

Reforming the Indian Education System – A Way Ahead…

Indian education system is in dire need of reforms. Equal opportunities need to be provided, weight from mind & shoulders of students need to be removed, examination policy needs a thorough review, major up-gradation required in government schools especially in rural areas, caste & community based reservation system definitely needs a re-look, the fee structure being charged in private schools needs to be brought under control, dependency on costly tutorial classes to clear the competitive exams has to be systematically removed, all schools including the ones in rural/ remote areas got to go digital. The list is long, and a thorough deliberation is required before action worthy solutions are found. But one thing is

Edn reforms

for sure, the Education system needs urgent attention of people in power and time is running out.

Pragmatic reform process requires a deliberation by unbiased minds without any political considerations with only the future of students and the nation remaining the focus of attention.

What is required to be done?

Syllabus. The syllabus requires a thorough revision. The weight on the shoulders of students (in the form of school bags) and on the minds (in the form of exams & grades) has been constantly on the increase over past few years. The content of the textbooks must be reduced. The methodology of imparting education must undergo a change. The syllabus must be divided into ‘must learn’ & ‘could learn’ in terms of importance and students be taught and tested accordingly. Important subjects should be covered in class while online data / videos be provided of ‘could know’ topics to students to learn in their own time.

Exams. Our examination system is the cause of maximum stress in the minds of students. There should not be any exams upto class IXth and for class XIth while for class Xth and XIIth only internal exams be conducted by schools. Boards exams conducted centrally by State Education boards and CBSE/ ICSE to be done away with. This will bring in tremendous financial saving for boards as also save time and effort. Teachers & Parents will certainly raise objections against implementation of such a proposal, but a careful analysis will easily establish that the laborious process of conducting exams has not brought in much change in the quality of students being produced. Let us stop ‘force educating’ and shift the onus of learning to the students; anybody who wants to learn will learn and anybody who does not want to, will not learn under any pressure. Instead of tutoring and mentoring few ‘Arjunas’ the schools should look at finding, encouraging, and developing more ‘Eklavyas’. Focus must shift from ‘testing and grading’ to ‘educating and igniting’ the mind.

forced education

Quality of Schools. The difference in quality of education being imparted in private and government schools can be easily made out. Given the present circumstances a student of Government school cannot or will find it very difficult to compete with a private school student in any competitive exams, given that both have not had the benefit of Tutorial classes. The governments must give due importance to education and make requisite funds available to government schools. It is not difficult to bring in a qualitative change, only a will to do is required. The quality of the teacher matters more than anything else. ‘Training of the trainer’ is the sole responsibility of the management and all-out effort must be made towards achieving this. Most of Government schools specially in rural areas are deficient of teachers, this should not be acceptable at any cost; especially when you are dealing with the future of the nation.

Primary Education. A vast divide exists between private schools and the government schools specially the ones in rural/remote areas. Primary education is the base on which depends the height which a student will attain later in life. The child has to be conditioned to think big and this cannot happen in dingy seepage affected classrooms under the guidance of some uninterested teacher. This area requires immediate attention and improvement; teacher deficiency and adhoc arrangements must be done away with.

Equal Opportunities. Governments must ensure that equal opportunities are provided to students from any background in the field of education. The ‘visible divide’ existing between the rich and the poor, city and villages must be removed. I know it is not easy to accomplish but know for sure that it is not impossible. Certain actions like implementation of Right to Education Act have already being taken by the government and require a greater push.

Reservations. Reservation, based on caste, creed, race, income in professional institutes has been a bone of contention since years. Reservation which was started in 1951 as a 10 years package for upliftment of certain class of citizens was very much a need then. But instead of seeing an end, it has gone on and now includes many more classes and castes in its fold with total reservation being 59.5 %. It has seemingly become more of an appeasement tool for all political parties. If reservation was the best method for upliftment of any caste or class, then why it has not succeeded till now in achieving the aim? It only creates further divide among citizens; there are students belonging to so called ‘upper classes’ studying in government schools, having no access to high standard resources being from rural areas or lower income group (not covered under economically backward sections) families and don’t qualify for any reservations too. It is well understood that reservation cannot and should not be abolished in a hurry, it has to be a gradual well thought out process. Reservation based on caste or class has never benefitted anyone, what is required are equal opportunities and a level playing field to compete.


Governments must undertake the undermentioned measures to provide a level playing field for all to compete.

(a) Free education to all ‘backward’ class and rural students in government schools. Implement Right to Education Act ruthlessly.

(b) Improve the quality of education in government schools.

(c) Ensure subsidised coaching facilities to backward class & rural students in renowned coaching classes in cities.

(d) Open Government run coaching classes for backward class & rural, students. Quality of educators has to be ensured. Students should be selected for these classes based on their performance in schools.

(e) Admissions in all colleges to be based on entrance exams so that only desirous candidates join.

(f) More Poly-technique colleges and facilities for earning professional diplomas be opened. Quality must be ensured in such institutes.

(g) Graduation should not be essential for all Class A jobs. Certain diplomas should also be made eligible. This will reduce the mad rush for college admission to an extent.

(h) Psychological counselling/ conditioning should be made compulsory for all students from VIII standard to build their mental strength and shape them towards a better future.

(j) Once adequate measures to provide level playing field in competitive exams have been institutionalised then gradually the process of reducing reservations should come into effect. A start can be made by raising the ‘cut off’ marks laid down for reserved category students for admissions. Any reserved category seat left vacant due to non-availability of suitable candidates must be offered to general category candidate.

Fee Structure. While it is understood that Government must not interfere in every issue but in matter of education, which is a right of every child, it must. The fee being charged by private schools must be governed by a legislation and they should not be allowed to charge whatever they want, at will. Commercialisation of education should be curbed at all costs.

Digital Connect. Online education is the need of the hour. COVID -19 has forced it on the schools and it is here to stay. While private schools, due to the location and the facilities available can manage but the schools in rural/ remote areas are lagging. These schools must be provided with all possible support to implement e – education otherwise there may develop a great ‘digital divide’ and students from rural/ remote areas are bound to suffer. CBSE and state Education boards should develop and host their own e-education portals for benefit of government school students. The facility can be made available to other schools too on payment. High speed internet facility must be provided to all schools and all areas to help teacher and students connect. The teachers need to be empowered to help them in handling online classes.


Education is the basic pillar on which the society stands. The ‘quality of life’ index of a nation is directly dependent on the education standards of the citizens. This sector cannot be neglected. The school going students may not be voters who affect the outcome of elections but on them depends the future and the quality of future leadership of this great nation. I request the people in power to pay attention and work towards bringing in qualitative changes in the education system and make available high-quality infrastructure and resources to students and teachers.

neglect education

PS: I am not a schoolteacher or an administrator, I am just a parent who has a limited knowledge of management of educational institutes/ schools (having been part of the management of some government run schools). I have had privilege of experiencing school education only till 10th standard (that is the only Board Exam I have faced) beyond that it was more of ‘On the job training’ (I have never been to a college). The views I have expressed are solely personal, part based on my own experiences gained from being a proud father of two children who have gone through the paces of acquiring formal education and from being married to a lady who has been working in the field of education last nearly 26 years with some breaks here and there.

My Final Lecture, May, 2020

The end of the school year is a bittersweet time for teachers. It’s satisfying to complete a year—or semester–of hard work. Accomplishment is satisfying. But it’s always sad, because our classes have met for the final time. Each class with its unique personality, comprised of the unique personalities of each of you, will die, never to be reborn.

This year is particularly bittersweet.  After more than a quarter century of teaching, Mrs. McDaniel and I are leaving, retiring.  It’s sad too because when we left for a well deserved Spring Break, we had no idea we would never see you again.  Never would we all be together with a common purpose.  Never again would you all make it so easy for me to smile and to have hope for the future.  It’s like losing an old, beloved friend many times over.

Does this surprise you? You didn’t know I felt that way about you? I do, and so do all dedicated teachers.  We don’t do this because it makes us younger and prettier.

Teaching is not about the princely salary and the unlimited love and respect of the public. It’s about being a part of something bigger than oneself, something with the potential to change lives, to build a better future. It’s about giving that others might become more than they are, that they might build bigger, better, more capable brains. It’s about helping my students become smart, thoughtful, observant citizens, people who produce, who contribute to America’s future rather than taking from those that do.  Someone is going to have to pay for my Social Security checks so I can retire in unimaginable luxury.

credit: bostononlyricopera.blogspot.com

Most of all, it’s about the sheer wonder of having a hand in your growth.  I don’t mean physical growth—though that’s always amazing and often, surprising—but the intellectual and emotional growth the study of literature and writing makes possible.

I delight in each shy, quiet girl who becomes confident and outgoing, more woman than girl. I take great pleasure in each rambunctious boy that discovers that reading might not be so bad after all, that he might even like poetry and there might be something to that whole “thinking about stuff” thing.  Maybe those old dead, white guys just might have had something worthwhile to say after all.

By the way guys, I understand you can’t really admit that out loud. As you become more man than boy that will get easier, but for now, it will be our secret. And I smile with satisfaction at each student who remembers that “there is a tide,” means to take advantage of one’s opportunities. It’s always good to carry a little Shakespeare (Julius Caesar) with us.

All year–all semester–I worried I was not exposing you to enough great literature. I worried that I was not giving you sufficient opportunity to write, and that I was not writing back to you with sufficient understanding and insight, or as often as I should. I worried that I wasn’t adequate to the task with which your parents entrusted me: providing the best educational opportunity I could manage. I had less time to do that every year, but I never stopped trying.  Imagine how I felt when I lost a quarter of my year long classes and half of my second semester classes.

As I look back on this year, at missed opportunities, and at what might have been, I see your faces, and I smile, because I know you’re going to be fine as long as you remember what Mark Twain said:

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.

Your education is, well, yours.  It really is up to you.  All the best teacher that ever lived could do is provide the best educational opportunities their abilities and resources allowed.  That’s what I tried to do.  You missed a great deal of opportunity this year.  It’s up to you to make that up.  You might start with…oh, I don’t know…READING?!!!

Do you know what great kids you are? Every day I read about the horrors of kids in schools elsewhere in the nation, and then I look at you as we start each class. I tell you it’s good to see you because it is.  You’re smart, polite, caring, and good to each other, and of course, to me. I’m proud of you; we all are, not just for your academic accomplishments, but for who you are, for your everyday tender mercies.

credit: greenwichlibrary.org

As I’ve told you from our first day together, school is about more than the materials we study.  You maintained portfolios to get into the habit of dealing with small details, because life is mostly about getting small things right. You were required to learn to listen and to be quiet at the appropriate times because that too is what life is about. You studied vocabulary because words are thoughts made manifest, and you needed to become more than you were at the beginning of the year. Benjamin Franklin was right:

Don’t squander time, because that’s what life is made of.

You remember that daily saying, don’t you? We did daily sayings because you needed to learn to think, to see the important lessons in the small things of life, because that’s where most of them are found.

Everything we did, from “Name That Tune” on Fridays, to “Talk Like A Pirate Day,” to every writing assignment, had a purpose: to help you build skills, to help you become a more effective and competent human being. We studied science fiction because it expands your possibilities; it helps you think more broadly. Someday, you’ll understand why we did some assignments you didn’t particularly appreciate at the time. You may never appreciate them, but you’ll be better for the experience anyway. That’s because part of what we did was to stress you, to make you think, to work and to accomplish new things, word by new word, paragraph by paragraph, essay by essay. That’s how we grow, become adults, become more than we were on the first day we entered a classroom, wondering what kind of lunatic this English teacher would turn out to be.

When I taught earnest young men and women to be police officers, I taught them the seven magic words: “please, thank you,” and “you are under arrest.” Hopefully, you’ll never need or hear the last four magic words, but we emphasized the first three because being polite is also what life is about. Some of you even learned that it’s possible to survive for 45 minutes at a time without manipulating a cell phone, or without something stuck in your ears. You even managed to avoid going into texting withdrawal seizures, though for some of you it was a near thing.

Perhaps the most important thing you learned is the necessity of paying attention, a lesson many of you only began in earnest this year, and if you’re wise, will work toward the rest of your life.  Did you hear what I just said? Ha ha! That’s a little English teacher joke!

You’ll have other teachers in your life, and since I’m moving back to Wyoming, where the deer and the antelope play, and the skies are not cloudy all day (hey, that rhymed!), you’re not going to be able to stop by my classroom to see your old—and getting older—English teacher. I understand. It’s time for you to move on. That too is a part of life. You’ve learned what you can from me and it’s time to learn from others. If I did it right, you’ll be better able to learn from them. You’ll be as important to them as you are to me, and for the rest, we’ll have to make do with our memories.  If you paid attention, you’re better able to remember too.

Before I close this final lesson, a few questions (you could see that coming, couldn’t you?): Did you pay attention as often and as fully as you should; were you in the instant? Did you take full advantage of your learning opportunities (did you catch the tide?)? Were you as kind and helpful to others as you could and should have been? Did you decide, like me, to approach each day happy and smiling? That’s a conscious choice you know. We can’t control everything that happens to us, but how we deal with life is a choice over which we have absolute control. Your success in this class depended upon it; so will your success in life (did you notice how I used that semicolon?).

It has been an honor and pleasure to be your teacher this year, particularly since you were my final classes.

Thanks for reading this final assignment, and for being such great kids. I’ll miss you more than you know.  Godspeed, and remember:

Sic transit Gloria mundi  (if you have to look it up, shame on you!)

New Workshop at VTC 2020: Reducing the Distance in Distance Learning

I’m excited to announce that I’m leading a new workshop, Reducing the Distance in Distance Learning, at the Vietnam Tech Conference 2020! It is all online, it’s free, and you can learn more or sign-up, here.

You can also check out the accompanying articles for the workshop:

Reducing the Distance in Distance Learning

The Unproductive Debate of Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning


Click to view slideshow.

If you’re attending VTC 2020, I hope to connect with you, or see you there. Be sure to pick my session for the 9:35 slot. Research, theory, and practical applications; It’ll be fun!

– Zach Groshell, @mrzachg

Why is Unemployment higher among the Educated?

By Prerna Vaishnav Unemployed means the situation of actively looking for employment but not being currently employed. The unemployment rate is a measure of the prevalence of unemployment and it is calculated as a percentage by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by all individuals currently in the labor force. One of the reasons for … Continue reading Why is Unemployment higher among the Educated?

From Meetings to Prototypes: The Importance of Being Experimental

Educators are problem-solvers in a profession riddled with instructional and non-instructional problems. In any one school, countless problems need to be solved concurrently; Maybe one grade level needs help with improving students’ decoding skills, while the specialist teachers are curious how adjusting class periods would affect learning, while at the same time, despite heavy investment by the school, the virtual learning platform is not being adopted. Once one problem is addressed, another inevitably rises to take its place at the top of the queue.

Something I read lately that is especially relevant to problem-solving and decision-making in education is “The Controlled Experiment” by Timo Hannay. It’s a two page essay from “This Will Make You Smarter,” edited by John Brockman. Hannay makes the argument that professionals in all fields, including education, would be wise to take a more scientific approach to solving problems.

The Controlled Experiment

While most of us understand the basic principles underlying experimentation as they relate to the lab, few educational leaders are used to the idea of conducting controlled experiments of their own in order to generate knowledge about how to solve problems. Most school leaders’ default mode, in my experience, is to call meetings to facilitate collaborative brainstorming in a small group. This introspective approach to problem-solving follows a predictable sequence that I’m sure all teachers will be familiar with:

  1. Principal assumes there is a problem.
  2. Principal calls a meeting between a small group of relevant leaders and they think, think, think.
  3. Then he/she calls a larger meeting between relevant teachers and stakeholders and they think, think some more.
  4. A solution to the problem is selected, sometimes by consensus, sometimes loudest voice wins, or sometimes it’s clear that all of this was for show because the solution had already been determined by the principal long before the meetings took place.
  5. The solution is implemented.

The main disadvantage to this non-scientific, consensus-based method is that the solution that ends up being chosen is limited by the beliefs, biases, intuitions, and imaginations of the team members that were present at the meetings. Of course, this issue could be mitigated if the meetings consisted of participants conducting thorough reviews of research related to the problem and choosing between others’ ready-made solutions. But, as we know, research requires time and specialized knowledge and skills, both of which can be lacking, so decisions are usually made hastily, based entirely on the available knowledge and skills of those present at the meetings; Not ideal. 

Rather than relying on what Hannay described as, “instinct or partially informed debate” (p. 25) to solve problems in our schools, we should consider conducting controlled experiments in which only one variable is manipulated at a time. At my school we call this prototyping, and I’ve written about it before. Hannay described how such experimentation is already happening in other fields:

Online companies, such as Amazon and Google, don’t anguish over how to design their Web sites. Instead, they conduct controlled experiments by showing different versions to different groups of users until they have iterated to an optimal solution (p. 26).

Deploying a prototype or conducting an experiment can look different depending on the nature of the problem and the context, but the part that tends to be forgotten is the controlled part. Whenever we test something in our schools, we should do our best to organize a business-as-usual group, and we should change only one variable at a time. If we roll out everything for everyone all at once and keep changing it, how can we expect to learn from the results?

Maybe schools should reconsider the effectiveness of “deep thinking around tables” for solving educational problems. Instead of looking no further than that which we already know, schools should consider expanding our knowledge by conducting controlled experiments (prototyping) in tandem with group literature review (research). It may not be how schools have traditionally done things, and it may be frustrating in instances where results come back inconclusive, but, as Hannay explains, “None of this takes away from the fact that the controlled experiment is the best method yet devised to reveal truths about the world, and we should use them wherever they can be sensibly applied (p. 27).

– Zach Groshell, tweetz @mrzachg


Brockman, John. This Will Make You Smarter. Transworld, 2013.

Civic Engagement for Young People During Social Distancing

Many of us feel a bit helpless to help others out during these coronavirus social distancing and isolation times. This also true for kids and young people. There are actions they can take as part of their home schooling. They can participate in civic engagement and activism activities.

Civic engagement is defined as “working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference (https://youth.gov/youth-topics/civic-engagement-and-volunteering).”

Quite frequently, not only do state standards permit teachers and schools to support student activism, but they encourage student activism as a means by which to develop civic understanding. Although standards vary from state to state, many of them are modeled on the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS, 2013), which specifically endorses student activism:  “Civics is not limited to the study of politics and society; it also encompasses participation in classrooms and schools, neighborhoods, groups, and organizations . . . In civics, students learn to contribute appropriately to public processes and discussions of real issues. Their contributions to public discussions may take many forms, ranging from personal testimony to abstract arguments. They will also learn civic practices such as voting, volunteering, jury service, and joining with others to improve society. Civics enables students not only to study how others participate, but also to practice participating and taking informed action themselves” (https://kappanonline.org/student-activism-civics-school-response-singer/).

Civic engagement and activism in normal times has benefits, but in these times of coronavirus and social distancing-isolation, the benefits are amplified as such engagement can move young people from feelings of helplessness to feelings of empowerment.

Even in social isolation, there are actions young people and kids can do. The following activity guide can provide ideas and give some structure to civics activity engagement.

The following PDF has links with more information about how to do that challenge:

Increasing Student Participation During Zoom Synchronous Teaching Meetings

Due to Coronavirus, many schools are moving online, and teaching through Zoom meetings. If it is only being used to present content to students, then why not just record videos and have students watch them on their own? The value of Zoom meetings is that the educator can create synchronous interactive conversations and activities. My goal is to have all my students actively engaged throughout the meeting. Below are some the activities I have used during my. teacher education Zoom meetings although they can be adapted for any age group and age level (3rd grade and up), and in training professionals. Along with the tools that come with Zoom, I also use online web tools and applications to increase interactivity and engagement. All tools I describe below are free and work on any device, any browser.

Whole Group Discussions

Whole group discussions should be just that – discussions. I believe that the teacher can use this forum for short lectures but, again, they should be short as the power of synchronous Zoom meetings is that it permits interactivity and active learning. Questions about class content can be posed with student responses elicited through verbal responses and/or through the Zoom group chat.

A favorite whole group activity I do is to have a group video viewing party. For this activity, I begin with a short overview of the video and a question of what they should look for during the video. Student responses are put in the chat during and/or after the video.

Whole group activities and discussions can also be used for Breakout Groups follow-up to share what they discussed and did. In this case, I inform the Breakout Groups to decide on a spokesperson or two to report to the whole group.

Breakout Groups

One of the best tools in Zoom is the ability to put students into smaller, self-contained breakout groups. Some ways to use the Breakout Rooms include:

  • To discuss a prompt or questions provided by the teacher or another student.
  • To do online research about a given topic.
  • To discuss a real life scenario or case study. This can be done in a jigsaw strategy whereby different groups are given different case studies. When they are brought back into the whole group, each Breakout Group shares their thoughts and conclusions.
  • To create projects using some of the web tools such as Google Slides, webbing tools, or comics that I discuss later. Time is then given to each group to share what they produced with the rest of the class in a whole group setting.


My students of all ages, kids and adults, absolutely love the competitive, real time quizzes – Kahoot and Quizziz. Both of these online tools – applications have huge archives of teacher created quizzes. They also let teachers create their own and remix the quizzes other teachers have created.


Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform, used as educational technology in schools and other educational institutions. Its learning games, “Kahoots”, are multiple-choice quizzes that allow user responses.

Mentioned Kahoot and any student who has played it just lights up. I like using it at the beginning of a session prime students about what they will be exploring during the session or in the middle to re-energize them.


Quizziz offers self-paced quizzes to students. During my Zoom sessions, I do live Quizziz quizzes where the students answer quiz questions on their own yet compete with one another. It is similar to Kahoot but Kahoot is teacher directed, it displays the questions and answers on the teacher’s device; whereas Quizizz is student directed, it displays all the information on the student’s device.


Polling web tools can get real time information about students’ opinions, thoughts, and ideas which can be shared with them immediately.

Google Form

Google Forms can be used for student surveys and polling. More information about how to do this can be found at How to Make a Survey With Google Docs Forms. What I really love about using Google Forms for surveys and polls is that immediate feedback can be presented to the students through the response tab.

I like using Google Forms to check in with students and to inquire about what topics they would like to discuss.

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is a live student-response tool that offers whole-class participation and assessment through teacher-designed surveys, polls, and discussion boards. Tutorial guides can be found at https://www.polleverywhere.com/guides and video tutorials at https://www.polleverywhere.com/videos.

An example I did recently was polling the student teachers with who I work about special education services at their respective schools (see screenshots below).

Web Tools

There are lots of free, relatively easy-to-use web tools that students can use in Breakout Groups to create products about a class topic. The benefits of doing so include:

  • Students get to be creative during the synchronous meeting.
  • Creating products with visual elements helps deepen the learning.
  • Students have fun during the synchronous meeting.
  • Community is built as students work together on such tasks.

Before I give them their task and send them into their Breakout Groups, I give a screen share tutorial on how to use the tool. There are also lots of online video tutorials that can be shared with students.

As mentioned above, the smaller Breakout Groups share what they did with the whole group. To insure that the others pay attention, I ask them to share in the chat the favorite thing or what they learned from the smaller group presentations.

Shared Google Slides and Docs

Having students help create a shared Google slide show is one of my favorite activities. Individual or small groups are asked to take a slide of a shared Google Slide presentation to report on a given topic. I give some broad guidelines including finding and adding both content and images. The following video explains this process.

Below is an example that focuses on classroom management. In Breakout Groups, they were give a topic. Breakout groups 1 and 2 were given the topic. , groups 3 and 4 Classroom Environment, and 5 and 6 Instructional Strategies. They were given several online articles as references and also encouraged to use their own experiences.

Padlet – A Collaborative Sticky Note Board

Padlet is a website and app that allows kids to curate information onto virtual bulletin boards using a simple drag-and-drop system. Students, alone or in groups, can start with a template or a blank page and add videos, text, links, documents, images — basically anything — to the wall and organize it, like a page full of Post-it notes (https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/padlet).

I typically use Padlet as a whole group activity. What I like about it is that the students can easily see the responses, images, links that their classmates have posted.

For example, I love starting my first Zoom meeting with the Padlet: Time to Take a Selfie Icebreaker developed by Catlin Tucker. Below is one I did with a group of teachers with whom I worked.

Made with Padlet

I have also created and used Padlets for partner interviews, where they posted the results of their partner interviews, SEL strategies, technology in the classroom, classroom management, and collaborating with the community.

Collaborative Webbing – Mind Mapping

“A mind map is a diagram for representing tasks, words, concepts, or items linked to and arranged around a central concept or subject using a non-linear graphical layout that allows the user to build an intuitive framework around a central concept (https://www.mindmapping.com/mind-map.php).

I like to use Coggle in Zoom Breakout Groups. Coggle is an online tool for creating and sharing mind maps and flow charts. It works online in your browser. It is easy to use and permits real time collaborative.

To collaborate, one of the group members starts a Coggle and then invites others by clicking on the + sign in the upper right hand corner and sends email invites.

Below is an example the student teachers did in a breakout about SEL strategies for the classroom.

Comic Creator

Students can be asked to create a comic strip in their Breakout Groups to depict a given topic. My favorite is comic creator is Storyboard That but it has a bit of a learning curve for those who are less technology savvy. Although Make Belief Comix lacks some of the tools and options that Storyboard That has, it is much easier for students to use, so I have moved to using Make Belief Comix in my Zoom meetings. For more technology savvy groups, though, I recommend Storyboard That.

Once back in the whole group. students do a screen share of their product and explain it’s content to the rest of the group. For example, a here is a comic about differentiating instruction using Storyboard That.

As mentioned earlier, Breakout Groups then do a show and tell of their mind maps, comics. The following video shows how to do a screen share. The teacher needs to make sure they have “All Participants” enabled under the sharing settings.

High performing kids return high scores from brainpage modules of knowledge transfer

Smart brainpage of knowledge transfer is necessary to secure high grades in the exams

High grade performance

Students are misguided that they should acquire high quality education but grades are not important for learning quality, skill development and problem solving abilities. It is suggested that the achievement of knowledge transfer is not related to the grades of academic results. The success of education can’t be arbitrary for learning hardships and classroom performance. Learning is the acquisition of knowledge, skill and experience in school education. It is evaluated in the exams and students are awarded with marks, grades and merit for their academic performance. Knowledge is transferred to student’s brain from teaching performance, book reading and problem solving activities.

Cingulate amygdala circuitry

It is fact that the learning drives of knowledge transfer are acquired from the cingulate amygdala circuitry of brain mechanism and it may be also suicidal in the state of extreme fear and depression. Teaching is the first dimension of education system but the function matrix of questions is the first dimension of evaluation, tests and exams. The quality and question of education both are synonymous in the reality of school ecosystem. You can ask simple questions to a person and observe the face reactance of amygdala activation. Function matrix of the questions is very powerful to activate the learning mechanism of student’s brain.

First dimension of learning transfer

Students need to apply the learning dimensions of knowledge transfer in the classroom to achieve outstanding success in life. The set of questions is important for the evaluation of exams but it is not important for classroom learning transfer. It’s true that question is the first dimension of knowledge transfer used to develop brainpage modules in the learning circuits of student’s brain. It reflects the function matrix of knowledge contents and academic test is also conducted by asking the set of questions to decide the standard evaluation of brainpage development.

Brainpage in home learning

The brainpage modules of subject matter are prepared to meet the questions, challenges and scores of academic tests. Brainpage school is procedural learning school where learning by doing is encouraged and students get chance to learn knowledge from mistakes. It’s true that students make the brainpage of subject matter in home learning before exams and the teacher makes the brainpage of chapter topics before classroom performance. Obviously, brainpage is the software of learning transfer which is used in reading, writing and understanding. There is lack of brainpage development in school system, so right answers are not made in the exams to obtain high grades for academic achievement.

FAQs and Data Science

The practice of questions and answers are not arranged in active classroom, so students attend coaching centers for the preparation of tests or exams. In school system, the chapter of knowledge is required to write the replies of questions. The quality of learning is evaluated by asking questions, so knowledge problem is restructured in the set of questions. Hence, query is the matrix of formatted tasks but solution is the modulation of brain learning. FAQs technology has been designed on the internet to improve communication and it is extensively used in collecting information and data for feedback and corresponding updates. Data science is a new course in the world of information technology which is based on the function matrix of targeted questions.

Machine language and user’s choice

Queries are elaborated to give information about application, functions and user’s choice . This is the science of user’s brainpage utilized in the design of FAQs technology. Machine language has been derived also from the modulation of functional brainpage. Brainpage school is procedural learning school where learning by doing is encouraged in school and students get chance to learn knowledge from mistakes. We know that learning from mistakes is powerful in academy to improve the quality of achievement. A teacher performs the function of task moderator to show the pathway of brainpage development. One day it may happen that classroom learning will run without teaching and children will be transformed into small teachers.

Alternate form of education

Learnography is the alternate form of education which deals with the learning mechanism of brain. It is advanced in learning process and task is moderated in school hour instead of teaching. We know that a new chapter is always uneasy for understanding and learning. It is often discussed that teaching can simplify difficult lessons and students will know the new chapter without hardships. It’s not true because student’s brain learning remains incomplete because of weak synaptic potentials and so teaching can’t help in problem solving activities. In fact, the brainpage of task formator recognizes the necessary pattern of subject matter and block solver is prepared to know new knowledge and hard tasks.

Shiva Narayan
Golden Star Secondary School
Rajbiraj, Nepal

Brainpage School

Happiness Classroom ! Book is the transfer source of knowledge and student’s brain is the transfer target of learning. To be high performing students, make brainpage in collaborative classroom by applying the seven dimensions of knowledge transfer. The motor science of knowledge transfer should be launched in the classroom for the learning development and brainpage modules of Autistic or ADHD students. Let the students use motor knowledge to make smart brainpage in the classroom from book to brain direct learning transfer. The cyclozeid of knowledge transfer is rehearsed in the classroom to produce high speed zeidstream in the working mechanism of brain circuits.

My Educational Learning Plan for the Coronavirus-Induced Hiatus

I, like many of you, have gone into a somewhat involuntary social distancing and isolation (mostly) due to my school and health club closures and recommendation to stay away from crowds. It’s just my cats and I (gives new meaning to home alone). Having a plan to engage my mind and body is of utmost importance. I am sharing my plan of activities, which are almost all free, as it may give other educators some ideas. If you have additional ideas, please share them in the comments.

Working Remotely with My Gifted Elementary Students

I work with gifted students one day a week. Our state and thus my district made an extremely quick decision to close the schools – heard last Thursday night and was told to send home with students Chromebooks along with lessons on Friday, a half day. Obviously most of the teachers didn’t have time to develop lesson plans and learning activities. I met with my learners quickly on Friday, as so much was going on, and asked them to check in with a shared Google doc and our Google Classroom. What follows are the general tasks they are being asked to do during our regularly scheduled gifted day.

  • Writing Children’s Book Narrative – Prior to the school closing, my learners spent quite a bit of time learning how to write a children’s book using a Dr. Seuss type of writing style (yes, I know he is controversial but I like his writing style). The goal is to have them write their stories, illustrate them with cut out shapes made with a Cricut or a laser cutter, and then create Makey Makey Talking Books out of them. They just reached the point of writing their own narratives when the school closed. I asked each of them to share their stories with me via a Google doc. They were instructed to add to their stories during our hiatus, that I would provide feedback and suggestions directly on their shared Google docs. Then when we return, we can jump into creating the illustrations.
  • Newsela – For those who don’t know, Newsela is best-in-class library of high-interest, cross-curricular current news and nonfiction texts.. They have offered all teachers access to Newsela ELA, Newsela Social Studies, Newsela Science and the SEL Collection for FREE for the rest of the school year. At home, my learners are being asked to do the same thing they do in class – pick an article of personal interest, read it, and take the quiz where they need to get at least 3 out of 4 correct. If they don’t, they need to choose another article to read and follow the same procedure.
  • Prodigy Math Game – For those who don’t know, Prodigy is no-cost math game where kids can earn prizes, go on quests and play with friends — all while learning math. With Prodigy math homework is disguised as a video-game. My learners love it. I typically don’t give them class time to play it as I prefer hands-on, learner-to-learner interactive math activities. Since they will be at home, I asked them to play it for an hour during our typical gifted days to keep up with and improve their math skills.
  • Code.org – My 4th graders have working through the Code.org Course F . They were asked to continue working on this through our hiatus while my 5th and 6th graders were asked to join and work on the Code.org CS in Algebra.
  • Maker Camphttps://makercamp.com/project-paths/ and the Maker Stations Home Pack (see download below) : Since we do a lot of making in my gifted classes, I am requesting that my learners pick a project or two to try at home. It has been posted as an assignment via Google Classroom and they have been asked to post pictures of it. I will later (at school or at home depending how long the school closing lasts) ask them to blog about their processes.

Here is their schedule that I posted in Google Classroom for them.

The online applications – Newsela, Prodigy, and Code.org – have teacher dashboards so I can track progress and give them feedback. For their writing, I can give feedback directly on their Google docs, and for their maker projects, they are to post pictures to Google classroom.

Professional Development – Virtual Style

I plan on doing some PD in my pajamas – in other words, virtual style.

Attending Some Virtual Conferences

  • 2020 Share My Lesson Virtual Conference – is a free virtual conference from March 24-26, with over over 30 webinars focusing on instructional strategies across the curriculum, social-emotional learning, activism, STEM, and trauma-informed practices. This is a fantastic conference. I attend every year. The sessions and presenters from professional organizations are top notch!
  • CUE Spring Conference – Computer-Using Educators (CUE) is a California-based non-profit that offers a premiere educational technology conference each spring. This year, because of coronavirus, they are going virtual offering sessions from March 19 through April 5. There is a $75 fee for the virtual conference.

Taking Some Online Classes

  • The Power of Mathematics Visualization – There is a nominal fee for this course but it looks good and might help me develop some interesting strategies for teaching mathematics to my gifted students.
  • Code Academy Pro – They are offering Pro free to students and teachers. It’ll give me an opportunity to learn some advanced code.

Doing Some Maker Projects

Because I use lots of maker education projects in my gifted education classes and our school has a new STEAM lab, this forced hiatus is giving me the opportunity to try out some new projects including:

My Physical Health

I work out in group fitness classes several days a week. It verges on addiction. When I don’t get to do so, I get stressed out. Plus, it provides me with needed social interactions. So when my health club decided to limit their services, I became distraught. Luckily, though, I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, so I plan to go on lots of hikes and am fixing up my bicycle to ride – hoping that the weather permits it. I am going to do online fitness classes. Oh, and, of course, cleaning my house from top to bottom will add an other fitness element. I absolutely know my physical workouts and health will positively affect my mental health.

Stay healthy, happy, and wise!

Sometimes Kids Just Need to Play During School

Teachers get so much pressure to meet standards and prepare students for state mandated tests, that I believe they forget their students are just kids. Because of this pressure, too many teacher education and professional development strategies stress the concept of time on task. For example, see Identifying (and Engaging Students in), Time-on-Task Activities, Increasing Time on Task, and Time on Task. This has some importance in teaching and learning but it shouldn’t always be the professed key to good instruction. This leaves little time for play. Play is important for students of all ages and grades.

This week I was reminded of the importance of playing and having fun; and that play and fun are determined by the kids, themselves. I planned a math lesson based on visual patterning, The concluding activity was for them to make a Fractal Tetrahedron, a marshmallow-toothpick tower. I had planned to have them work on it during a series of math classes, but they asked to stay through lunch and recess to work on it.

I started working with this group of gifted middle school students in January. I always have a goal of engaging learners as I believe it is the foundation of all good learning. I have had difficulty engaging them even with the use of Breakout EDU escape boxes, art activities, and games. Some engaged. Some did not. This marshmallow-toothpick activity brought a new energy into this group. All of them participated. They worked together. They laughed. They excitedly kept building and building. They added pieces to it that weren’t part of the plan. They played and had fun. A new group and classroom dynamic emerged which I believe was due with just letting them play with this project.

I discussed the beauty of spontaneous play (lots of play is spontaneous) in An Education Filled with Wonder:

One day I was substituting for a 2nd grade class.  It had begun to snow as we arrived to school that morning.  By mid-morning, a few inches covered the ground.  It was time for recess but, as expected, a voice came over the intercom to state that recess would be inside within each teacher’s classroom.  I heard the kids moan as they came to school dressed for snow with boots and winter jackets.  I threw caution into the wind.  I asked the kids to bundle up so we could go outside.  The kids became . . . well, kids.  They ran through the fresh snow in the huge back-of-the-school play area with no other students out there. They examined the footprints they created in the snow.  When one found something of interest, they called the others over to see.  They caught snow flakes with their tongues and made snow angles.  There were no conflicts nor arguing as was common to this group of kids.  They just ran, played, and laughed together as a unified group reminding me of a flock of geese.  I watched them with a tear in my eye, one that reflected the beauty I was witnessing. 

I wonder (even though I intuitively know the answer) whether learners in their adulthoods will better remember the types of activities I described above or their very structured time-on-task classroom activities.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education discussed the importance of play in Playing to Learn: How a pedagogy of play can enliven the classroom, for students of all ages:

Play and school can seem diametrically opposed. School is structured, often focused on order; play, by definition, is not.

But within this paradox of play and school, educators can find meaningful learning opportunities, advancing students’ academic skills as well as the social skills that will allow them to thrive in adulthood and enjoy their childhood now, according to researchers from Project Zero (PZ), a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“Play is a strategy for learning at any age,” says Project Zero’s researcher Mara Krechevsky. While older students and their teachers might have more curricular demands than younger students, playful learning still has an important role to play — it might just look different.

There is a universality to play: children are often more relaxed and engaged during play, and it’s enjoyable — all aspects that facilitate learning.

I think most educators innately know about the importance of play but according to many of them, they don’t have the time during the school day to permit kids to play outside of recess . . . but I ask, “What are the costs of not permitting them to play?”