July 17, 2014

Do you think better barefoot?

Filed under: about me,creativity,deep thoughts,iste14,musing,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:30 am

There is a moment during July when the teaching idea valve reopens. To me it seems to be barefeettriggered by something totally innocent: the feel of cool tile on bare feet, the rush beneath the surface of the water as I push off the pool wall, the sound of a favorite song playing as I sing along in a convertible, the lightning bugs after the fireworks end. At first the valve seems a bit creaky, crying out for WD40 on the brain, but soon enough it lets ideas flow freely again.

As the school year drew to a close, the valve had pretty much seized up. Stuck. I was stuck. Even eight years after leaving the annual school year cycle and moving to a year-round, continuous job, my brain still thinks like a teacher. I talk and “live” among teachers every day, and I need the annual renewal of July. It isn’t so much taking a “vacation.” It is allowing myself to go barefoot in my brain. It is letting myself play with ideas instead of packaging them.

No amount of effort I make can force that moment to come. A fabulous experience like the ISTE conference is so manic it overwhelms. I have learned to “save up” everything I gather at ISTE like pretty shells from the beach. I know I must wait to sort them all out and organize them later… and THEN decide what to DO with them.

I note the feel of cool tile under my bare feet as I write this, and I wonder whether we ever give students a chance to notice what makes their ideas flow. Sadly, many of us don’t figure it out until we are decades beyond school age. I wonder what would happen if each if us spent just one class  period per year talking with our kids about things like the Creative Routines of accomplished writers, artists, and thinkers. What if we asked them to pay attention to what makes their ideas flow… and to ask questions like, “Do I think better barefoot?”



July 3, 2014

Flashes Foretell the ISTE Cloudburst

Filed under: deep thoughts,gifted,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 2:10 pm

ISTE bagMost of us who went to ISTE 2014 in Atlanta have already blogged or sent copious clever tweets about it. We have collected, shared, and digitally packed our ISTE takeaways into a turquoise-tinted ISTE Cloud. Already precipitating from that cloud are favorite gems, sprinkling or pouring down on constituents back home. A long holiday weekend (in the U.S.) may pose a temporary interruption to the ISTE precipitation cycle,  but the ISTE Cloud remains pregnant and ready to burst open again upon the next inservice, staff meeting, or chat.

Since my home ground is everywhere that Thinking Teachers live and work, my ISTE Cloud will rain down over the next few months in many digital spaces from TeachersFirst. But for now I must share a few impressions that struck me at ISTE. These are not the downpour of thoughts and skills, tools and tasks, entire new angles and approaches to learning that are incubating in my ISTE Cloud. These are flash impressions, the lightning that foreshadows a coming storm. I saw each lightning bolt flash before me only briefly, but knew each had more power than anything I could produce on my own — and I can only attempt to explain.

A school board president and tech director from a rural Idaho school district stand outside the Bloggers’ Cafe as I hear the board president ask his tech director, ” So how could I use a blog?” The conversation that ensues (as I pipe in) spans from a 60-something business owner into a world he begins to envision: sharing his business, seeing his grandkids’ pictures and writing about school board issues so the community can understand and converse. Then he asks, ” And how do teachers and kids use blogs?” From the world he knows to the world of school to the world beyond as he SEES it for the first time. He came to ISTE, and he will go home a different leader.  My flash: Not every leader or every school or every teacher has the tech or PD we at ISTE assume they do. I wonder: How can we each turn our ISTE Cloud into PD and learning philanthropy? 

Six twenty-something teachers from a Georgia high school stand in a clump in the GWCC lobby on the first day of ISTE, teachers representing their departments at the same high school: math, science, history, English, etc. They stop me because I have badge ribbons, so surely I know where to go and how to get started. They have the ISTE app, but their eyes are those of a new ninth grader on the first day of school: giddy,  laughing, a little terrified, ready to rock and roll, but already lost without the schedule they know they have here somewhere. My flash: A first ISTE is like first year teaching. Everyone needs a mentor!

Late afternoon in a windowless room of tables nearly full.  About 150 ed tech coaches — with at least 40 different job titles — gulp down collaboration with peers from all over the U.S. and a few other countries. They exchange problems/solutions, Twitter handles, “kryptonite,” and verbal/Google Drawing pictures of what their coaching looks like. The sound of the room is beyond hum or buzz. It is a the sound of water tumbling powerfully at the base of the waterfall, ready to rush forward. My flash: The Ed Tech Coaches Network has all the energy we could ever need. Let it spill forth! We’ll just manage the flood control.

Mid-morning in the subdued light beneath a busy escalator, eight stations of Superhero Ed Tech Coaches are doing far more than “Saving the Day.” At the newbie coaches demo area, there isn’t even standing room left. The other stations are 3-4 rows deep. My flash: The ed tech coaching waters are deep, and the superheroes will allow no one to drown. 

Two hundred teachers look up at us from perfect rows of convention-center-latched chairs. They lean into their devices or hold them up to scan QR codes on the screen as they listen, chat back, and multitask with our enthusiastic endorsement. I glance beside me at my colleague and once-mentoree as she explains about dozens of ways to differentiate and meet the needs of gifted kiddos using great, free tools. Heads nod, and occasional Ooos escape. I chime in with my portion of the presentation as she chats back to the questions and comments on Todaysmeet. My flash: Not everyone has forgotten about the gifted kids in today’s test-driven world after all, but we have a whole new generation of teachers who may never have been given permission to think about them.  

May your July 4th bring you both independence and incubation time so you can share in the outpourings from ISTE 2014 over the months to come, whether you were there or not!

I will be posting a bit less often during July as I ease my schedule a bit to enjoy summer fun. Weekly madness resumes in August.

June 27, 2014

Beyond the sinkhole: Score the next web tools

Filed under: edtech,edtech coaching,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:55 am

Web tools/apps that disappear unexpectedly can be a real challenge. Choosing their replacements can be a way to turn your frustration into something positive. Having done this scores of times, here is my advice for finding the best NEW, FREE, sink-proof replacements and grading them on a 100 point scale:scorecard

Look for FREE tools that are truly free, not free trials or free for exactly ONE project. Add 25 points for tools that allow at least 25 (or a class set) of truly FREE projects. For each additional class set, add 5 bonus points. If you are a secondary teacher with 150-200 students who are allowed to create their own accounts, award 25 points if students can create at least 10 projects per individual account.

Look for longevity. If the tool has been around without changing its terms for at least a year, it might last long enough for your kids to get several projects out of it. Allow up to 20 points for longevity.

Look for ways to keep offline copies. If the tool allows you to share via url and embed code, that’s great for allowing others to se it and for making kids care about the quality of their work because others will SEE it. If it also allows you to download an offline copy, add twenty five bonus points for the ability to KEEP the things your kids create even if the tools drops down a sinkhole.

Look for ways to direct students ONLY to the “create” area without stopping by public galleries filled with inappropriate to offensive projects made by bored 16 year olds at 3 am. SUBTRACT up to 10 points for readily accessible and potentially inappropriate galleries. If you teach elementary,  subtract up to 20 points.

Look for education-only features such as quick registration for students WITHOUT email, options to moderate student work, options to keep student work behind a password. These will allow you to stay within restrictive school policies without tricky workarounds or permissions. Add up to 10 points for teacher-friendly options.

Look for silent, how-to videos that are less than 2 minutes long. If they can demonstrate the tool in less than two minutes with only a silent screencast, even your least savvy student can handle it. More importantly, even the least savvy TEACH can handle it! Up to 10 points for a rock solid video demo and easy-to-understand interface.

Look for membership free , quick start tools. If you teach students younger than age 13 or in a school that prohibits students from creating accounts, add 10 points for membership-free use. If you have older students or freer school policies, add 1-5 points.

Look for tools that require kids to do more than a quick copy/paste and announce “I’m done!” For instance, look for tools that require them to write their own words (e.g. Fakebook) or tools where they must annotate and curate anything they collect (Diigo). Even better are tools that have them build something new from scratch, such as comic creators where they must add their own images, text, etc. to a blank set of frames. Add up to 10 points for higher level, original thinking required.

Look for tools that will allow you to adapt for different levels of students. These tools allow you to make a starter template for your students who need a little more scaffolding and also allow you to set a higher bar or greater freedom and expansiveness for your most able student. This expansiveness can include collaboration features for your kids to work with small groups or collaborate with others OUTSIDE your school. Add up to 10 points for adaptability.

Look for tools that are just plain cool. If you have never seen anything quite like it, add up to 5 points. (Sorry, virtual flash card and quiz makers, but you automatically lose out on these points!)

If you really want this process to be fun and to teach your students to be good digital consumers. have your class create their own point system to rate new tools. You could start with this one and let them add/subtract, multiply, or divide! You MIGHT want to seed the process with tools from the TeachersFirst Edge.

Happy hunting… and watch out for those sinkholes.

June 20, 2014

Down the sinkhole: Disappearing web tools/apps

Filed under: edtech,edtech coaching,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:58 am

potholeFree web tools and apps are like sinkholes. They drop to oblivion without any warning. This week I lost one of the core tools I planned to share in my presentation at ISTE 2014 NEXT week! (At least they posted a warning that they were going to close down.) Another sinkhole, now on to the next available path.

More resistant or reluctant teachers sometimes hear stories like mine and use the precariousness of free, creative tools as an excuse to never learn any of them. I think we should use the sinkholes as opportunities to look deep and discover buried treasures.

For every web tool/app that dies, there are at least three new ones that may even have better features. And some tools, when they sense their foundations are slipping, are able to reinforce the ground around them so they will last. A select few, such as Wikispaces, Dropbox, and Evernote, seem to have selected better ground in the first place. Longevity makes them at least appear beyond the risk of sinking. But teachers are not likely to ever have a full complement of free, sink-proof tools. So we as teachers should take the moment when a tool sinks to peer into the depths of the hole — and to other ground — for new possibilities.

As we built the TeachersFirst Edge, beginning back in 2006, we included a way to categorize tools by what they can do. That’s pretty tough, since new tools always add new “types” of products they can create or combinations of features. Yes, Timemapper makes timelines, but it also creates associated maps. So we tag it into both timelines and geo/maps. We try to be there for teachers who don’t have a lot of time to replace the sunken favorite tool, ready with another option.

When the next tool dies on you, what will you do?

To take out your exasperation, feel free to collect the names of all the tools you have lost to sinkholes – kind of like carving a set of notches on your techie teacher toolbelt. It might make for some funny discussion or party games with your savvy peers: “Remember Springpad? It sprung a leak!” (That’s the one I lost this week!)

But the immediacy of teaching means you will need to shift your directions a bit and turn the kids loose to find an alternative. I don’t recommend telling students below about 10th grade to “go explore for a tool,” only because less mature kids will waste a lot of time playing and less being critical consumers of what they need. Better to give them a list of possible new tools you have had a few moments to peer into… long enough to know these tools don’t have a public gallery of examples filled with naked women, neo-Nazis, or profanities. Alternatively, you can grab a tool or two from the TeachersFirst Edge and have them “tech it out.” Ultimately, have your kids keep a running list of the tools they have found successful and even of possible substitutes if one goes the way of the sinkhole. A graffiti wall, either electronic or actual, would be great for this.

Next time: Some criteria to watch for as you peer beyond the sink hole.


June 12, 2014

ISTE: To plan or not to plan, that is the question.

Filed under: edtech,iste14,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 2:35 pm

will-ISTEISTE fair, so overwhelmed am I
And wond’ring as Atlanta draws us nigh…

To plan or not to plan, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the ISTE world to suffer
The slings and elbows of filled BYOD’s and Spotlights
Or to link arms against a sea on escalators
And by ignoring, defy them. To wander, to plan
No more–and thus by wand’ring seek ideas
Anew, and feel the thousand techie sparks
That ISTE’s known to light. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To learn, to steep–
To tweet–perchance to blog: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that steeping, plan-less blog what loss may be?
Could I have shuffled off and thus erased
My purpose in this techie learned place?
So I must pause. There’s the respect
That makes me yearn for sages of edtech.
For who would snap the fears and thorns of few,
As well as ISTE’s gurus — perhaps you?
The pangs of program app I must delay,
For insolence of tasks yet due TODAY.
That patient merit of unplanned bliss,
Shall en route to ISTE overwhelm
This mere munchkin in face of such uncertainty.
To grunt and sweat and plan again,
For that the dread of something I could miss,
The session skipped, and by whose words
This traveller returns, erased by will,
And makes me rather bear those things I plan
Than fly to others that I know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Wins o’er the lure of serendipity.
I’ll plan and fav’ with iPad armed with app
And Evernote the sessions all the days
And steer the course of action. — Soft you now,
Oh fair edtechers! — in thy Twitter catchers
May all our ISTE be remember-ed.

For now, the plan is void, the app eschewed.
But in Atlanta, I will be prepared!

If you didn’t figure it out, this is adapted from the text at http://www.monologuearchive.com/s/shakespeare_001.html#2SjhFeODwUMci76R.99.

My apologies, Will.


Photo Credit: tonynetone via Compfight cc

June 6, 2014

Ed Tech? Choose your superpower

Filed under: edtech,edtech coaching,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:05 am

superpowerOK, superheroes and superhero wannabes, now is the time to choose or renew your superpowers. It is summer, time for professional development and personal improvement among educators. The fortunate among us will be traveling to ISTE later this month, but most teachers and ed tech coaches must find their own PD to sharpen our powers. Ed tech coaches, in particular, have quite a challenge finding meaningful formal PD, and most of us turn to Twitter, edcamps, unconferences, and online collaboration/sharing to hone our superpowers. Now is the time to ask yourself:

If I could carry just ONE superpower into next school year to rescue LEARNING for my teachers and students, what would it be?

Here is a starter list from which to choose:

Filter Flummoxing: This fantastic flummoxing capability allows the superhero to perplex arbitrary or obtrusive web filters so they defer to the superhero’s wisdom, thereby allowing the powers of web-based learning into any classroom. The superhero can instantly fend off the filter without filling out forms, attending administrative meetings, or enduring tedious time delays. Note: If the superhero abuses this power, it will fade away, so use it wisely.

Parent Persuasion: This power permits the superhero to cast a spell over the most skeptical parent, instilling a glow of understanding that signs off on GOOD uses of technology and eschews frivolous or glitzy projects. As with all superpowers, the superhero should think carefully before using (or abusing) it.

Administrative Awe and Buy in: Imagine an administration that looks in awe upon student-directed learning, technology-infused projects, and collaborations that connect classrooms via Twitter and other “scary” tools. Imagine an administration in awe of the positive powers of technology and willing to learn it themselves as a model for their teachers, parents, and students, all within a framework of good digital citizenship that charges students (and teachers) to use resources ethically and demonstrate positive online behavior. If you choose this as your superpower, you will have administrative support at the wave of your cape.

Super Spider-webbed PD: As a superhero, you can swoop in only where professional development parameters allow you to go. By casting a spider-web onto all PD, you can incorporate technology as a logical pat of ALL teacher PD instead of separating it out. This superpower lets you tie technology into its logical place in support of any learning. Superpower spider webs never let go!

Time Control: Just as it sounds, this power allows the superhero to stop the sands of time long enough for a teacher to take a breather and make a few mistakes along the way to infusing technology  in support of learning. Think of Superman holding back the hands of the gigantic clock over Gotham City Hall (or the one on the school hall).  Wouldn’t that come in hand-y?

Envisioning Glasses: Give these high-powered glasses to any teacher, and he/she will see what you can see. Teachers will be able to focus on what technology does, not the work it takes. Think of these envisioning glasses as the heads-up display teachers can wear as they guide their craft wisely into the sky.

Gumby mental flexibility: Superheroes must be able to bend their plans, reshape their thinking (and that of others), and adapt to limitations at a moment’s notice, never straining a mental muscle. Stretch yourself as far as you need to go and around corners with this superpower. Amazingly, you will be able to shrink back to normal dimensions after the stress abates.

Access Prowess: The ability to provide access to functioning technology anywhere and anytime it is needed. Use this Prowess to enable any teacher or student to have a fully-functioning, web-connected device whenever learning demands it. This Prowess extends outside the school walls to home access for learning and inside school facilities, demolishing barriers from scheduling debacles, drill-and-kill test prep, or online testing monopolies.

Tech Invisibility Cloak: Most superheroes secretly enjoy flaunting their powers, but making technology invisible will ultimately win more battles over ignorance. If you had this power, you could make technology a seamless and appropriate part of learning, and no one would notice it as technology. They would see only the learning.

Glitch force field: Fend off the forces of Glitch with this amazing force field. Need the Internet? It will work on ALL machines. Need Google docs/drive/apps? No problem. Just deploy the force field, and things magically WORK! Of course, you have to recharge it periodically by actually maintaining equipment and network, but the time you save fixing weird glitches will provide plenty for prevention.

Can’t find your superpower of choice?  Please share it in a comment or at the Coaching Playground at ISTE later this month. We’ll be there, caped and ready!


May 30, 2014

Morphing a critic into a superhero sidekick at ISTE

Filed under: edtech coaching,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:39 am

Any ed tech coach superhero loves suggestions, and Dawn Wilson’s tweet in response to my recent post offers a great idea for morphing the ed tech coach’s nemesis into a sidekick. Her tweet says it all: Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.36.30 AM

Since every superhero needs a sidekick, I propose that we each adopt a reluctant teacher as our new sidekick. Here is a list of possible casting qualifications for the role of critic-turned-sidekick:

  • General attitude of skepticism
  • Profound dedication to education, though somewhat entrenched in doing it “the way I have always done it”
  • Communicatio skills: Vocal, strong communicator and dissenter
  • Leadership: Able to draw in other teachers, most often with biting remarks or loud questions in staff meetings
  •  Critical thinking skills: able to detect an unsupported or incomplete argument, such as vague explanations of new initiatives
  • Hidden flexibility: Can come around to a new point of view (well supported, of course) and make it sound like his/her own idea

We can each name teachers we work with who display these qualifications to be a great sidekick. I have true tales of nemeses turned sidekick, and I am sure most coaches do. Mine was a second grade teacher who griped so loudly in the faculty room about “having” to make a teacher web page that she sucked the entire primary hallway into the depths of disgruntlement. I asked her to be the teacher-trainer for the building. After a bit of convincing, she agreed. (Time passes. Workshops happen.) After six months, she was more proud of “her” teachers and their web pages than any other teacher-trainer in the district.  Such SUPERPOWERS!

The kryptonite lies in the transformation process from critic to sidekick. The solution: ISTE!Slide1

Imagine if we could submit a Sidekick Transformation application together with a nemesis teacher-leader to attend ISTE two-for-one. We might even get a corporate sponsor or two to pick up the tab on expenses (much more productive than giveaway doo-dads and exhibit hall junk that we give to our kids and grandkids). ISTE should be willing to waive the conference fees for Superhero Sidekicks who submit compelling applications. Imagine what that new sidekick might do to draw in others back at school after the ISTE experience. We could even have badge ribbons: “Sidekick in Training”? Or maybe “Superhero Sidekick”?

ISTE should really think about supporting the sidekicks. It would make a great superhero story for ISTE to tell.

May 23, 2014

ISTE and the cape: An edtech coach nemesis?

Filed under: edtech coaching,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:37 am

True superheroes know the evil forces they face, and they can name their most powerful nemesis. The mania of preparing for ISTE 2014 is nothing to an Ed Tech Coach or tech-evangelist educator. We replenish our powers via the rush of seeing learning happen, especially if the technology supporting that learning makes good sense.  ISTE is a megajolt on the superhero power grid. Our most powerful Nemesis League will not be there to sap any of that energy. Dangerously, ISTEphoria often makes us forget that we will return to face the Nemesis League of the Reluctant, the Skeptical,  the Exhausted, and the Fearful. They will be there, lurking in our schools when we get back. And if we are not cautiously aware of the dangers, we will leave ISTE unprepared to face them. Although they do not attend ISTE, the Nemesis League has power there. It is the force of Them-and-Us, the prideful temptation to join other ISTE-attending superheroes in maligning the Reluctant, the Skeptical,  the Exhausted, and the Fearful:

“My teachers would never try this.”

They would want us to do it for them.”

“My xx teacher won’t even…”

“Some of mine will try it, but I’ll never get xx to yy.”

Our superhero capes can be dangerous. At ISTE, everyone we talk to “gets it.” We are the points on the pencil, the early adopters, the willing, the connectors, the movers and shakers of  learning (with technology). We LOVE the stuff. No Reluctants, Skepticals, Exhausteds, or Fearfuls would spend time or money on ISTE. So it is very easy to fall into talking about them. ISTE is edtech segregation — and can be a true danger to the powers of superhero edtech evangelists. Beware the pride of our own capes as a superheroes. We must vow to remind each other:

Fear is real.

Skepticism is a parasite that thrives on a perception of personal threat.

Time saps ALL teachers.

We are on their side, not fighting against them.

capeWe must know our nemesis but vow not to malign him/her behind his back. If we do, we have lost to the Nemesis League’s insidious plot of pride. If we spend our time maligning our nemesis, we will never know them or win them over. Please help me in this vow, and I will help you. Let us don our capes wisely so they do not fall away to pride.

May 16, 2014

Who is your superhero?

Filed under: about me,edtech coaching,iste14,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:05 am

As the ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network prepares for the conclave of superheroes at the Ed Tech Coaching Playground: Coaches save the day!  event at ISTE next month, I have been thinking about all the people who “save the day” for teachers and students.  May is a time to reflect back on the school year and say thanks to those who ward off evil on our behalf, supporting our students’ success. These are the unsung superheroes who selflessly strike out to fend off the evil forces of pernicious policies, traumatizing technophobia, ferocious web filters, glitch goonies, or logistical lunacy. Their capes are invisible and their superpowers oft unrecognized. Your superhero may be colleague, student, supervisor, principal, parent, best friend, custodian, tech guy, or even a complete stranger.


For most teachers — and for me– there are many superheroes who save the day:

The parent who takes care of the rest of the kids during a field trip emergency.

The colleague who volunteers to plan the team day events.

The kid who crawls under the table and finds the unplugged projector cable adapter amid the spaghetti.

Slide2The supervisor with a sense of humor about your crazy ideas.

The principal who allows you try a whole new way of teaching.

The kid who shows you how the tool works.



The stranger at ISTE who offers up a power strip for your dying device.

The other stranger at ISTE who pops out a hotspot when the wifi drops to tortoise pace.

The colleague who gives up her laptop cart days so your kids can finish their projects.

The MySciLife teacher-ambassadors who collaborate and problem solve their way through two years using a mismatched platform (another story…).

The very-much-veteran teacher who comes to a school board meeting to tell her superhero impact story, a tale of how her entire view of technology AND teaching changed because of an ed tech coach (thereby preserving the coaching program!).

Slide4The teacher who writes into the TeachersFirst webmaster account simply to wish the TeachersFirst team a Happy Mother’s Day!

The stranger in the Walmart checkout line who asks a question about the school stuff in your cart… and sparks a whole new idea in your head for Monday’s class!


We each have our superheroes. Don’t let them go unrecognized.

Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc



May 9, 2014

Ideas for Gifted: A handful for the handful

Filed under: creativity,gifted,iste14,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:31 am

Consider this post part of the “think out loud” planning phase of our ISTE presentation. Melissa Henning and I are presenting at ISTE Atlanta next month on Nourishing gifted through technology in any classroom. We have collected scores of our “favorite” resources to share with teachers, but time will limit us to sharing a number roughly proportionate to the number of gifted among the general population (< 2%). Well, maybe we’ll do a little better than that.

One of the things I learned from teaching gifted kiddos is that given choices, they’ll take forever to decide.  They LOVE choice, but they can generate more criteria to weigh their decision than the President of the U.S. in deciding whether to ask Congress for a declaration of war. But maybe this… and what about that… and this could happen, etc. Choice can sometimes mean paralysis for a gifted kid. They do need to learn HOW to select the best tool for the task, but the best we can do is offer them both limited choices and limited time to decide. So one strategy I will suggest in my part of the presentation is to offer a handful to the handful…then let them decide hands-on during the time at hand.hand

Here is an example for teachers of elementary gifted kiddos. Since most web tools (and U.S. law) say kids must be 13 to set up memberships without parent permission, the path of least resistance is either no-membership-required or teacher-controlled accounts. No membership is the quickest. So you want the kiddos to work on a gifted level challenge about plants on their own while you are reteaching the basics to students who are struggling or having most of the class do a reinforcement activity. Here is a sample handful for your handful of munchkin (gr 1-5) gifted ones. Note that with very young ones (K-2) or those with no technology experience, you might want to limit the choices to the topics and just TWO options from the “show what you know” group.

1. Choose a project topic: (You have five minutes to think or search online and decide. You MAY suggest another topic of your own choice.)

  • A year in the life of a specific plant
  • Life without bees (is this going to happen soon?)
  • The weird and the wild (strange plants and how they live)
  • People who work with plants
  • Incredible edibles:  the plants we eat and how they make us grow

2. Choose a way that you will SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW after you research and learn: You must decide before  you come to class tomorrow.

  • A sticky note board with images, links, and your own written information, tips, questions, and more. Your board could be an activity for people to do or an organized online “display.” Use a tool called Lino.
  • One to three online drawings or whiteboards with words included. Use Draw It Live, but be SURE you copy the urls for your boards or mark them in Favorites so we can find them again!
  • A blog post using Loose Leaves (written as if the author were you or someone/something else). Note that this tool is for WORDS only!
  • A talking exhibit with recorded sound downloaded from Online Voice Recorder to go with an actual display of drawings or models you make.
  • An image (up to 3 images) with speech bubbles and more . Use a tool called PhraseIt and images you find with help using Compfight.

3. Make a  Strike To-do list of the steps for your project, mark it in Favorites, and have it approved before you start. You may play with any of the tools listed (or suggest your own alternative), but you must commit to your tool/project choice in the To-do list.

That should give the handful a headful of possibilities AND a plan to dig in. Having a clock or timer around to remind them of real world time couldn’t hurt, either. Unfortunately, gifted or creative people do not deal well with being creative in 40 minute increments!

Wondering how to evaluate what they do ? We will talk about rubrics in our presentation, too. For now, I am still collecting and curating FAVORITE ideas and tools. Stay tuned.

Oh, and about the post title… yes, I know that gifted kids can also BE a handful. But isn’t that the joy of teaching them?