10 Reasons Why we should start showing Middle Schoolers how to use Social Media

I was recently tagged in a post called, “Ten Reasons Middle Schoolers Don’t Need Social Media” based on a post in Psychology Today and asked about my thoughts. The post was written in a Parenting forum. My response requires more that 280 words, so here are my responses in blue:

1. Social media was not designed for children.

A tween’s underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t manage the distraction nor the temptations that come with social media use.

  1. Although not designed for children, social media is being used by kids at younger and younger ages, Adolescence is also a time where kids are “able to reflect on their own thinking, and are able to observe how they learn and develop strategies to improve their learning, as well as when planning and impulse control is developing (Adolescent Literacy Guide, page 16). Thus, this is the ideal time in an adolescent’s life for mentoring children in the appropriate use of technology.   A 2016 Common Sense Media study talks about many ill effects of unmonitored use of social media recommends adult role-modelling as necessary to prevent problematic media use. 

2. You can not teach the maturity that social media requires.
I hear parents say that they want to teach their child to use social media appropriately, but their midbrains are not developed yet. Like trying to make clothes fit that are way too big, children will use social media inappropriately until they are older and it fits them better.

2. Kids learn and grow in their maturity and understanding of social relationships not just via social media but in face to face situations as well as texting situations. A parent can get an account for/with the child (because 13+ is generally the age requirement) and help a child navigate the space and use it positively.Having an open relationship and conversations with a child and role-playing can help navigate some of these tensions as they happen and can open up a healthy dialogue–no matter what the medium.  

3. Social media is an entertainment technology.
It does not make your child smarter or more prepared for real life or a future job.

3. This is a BIG FALSE. Social media is about who you follow. Middle school is an amazing time to show kids that social media can connect them to organizations, causes they are passionate about, and learning opportunities.  I have met kids who, as a result of social media connections have had opportunities they never would have had otherwise (Michelle Wrona, Aidan Aird, Timmy Sullivan, Hannah Alper ,Olivia Van Ledtje, to name a few), as well as kids who are leveraging social media for GOOD!

4. It is not necessary for healthy social development.
It is entertainment attached to a marketing platform extracting personal information and preferences from your child, not to mention hours of their time and attention.

4. Because so many kids are presently on social media (and I don’t suspect this will change any time soon), it is true that so much of a tween’s social life is connected to their phone. So NOT allowing a phone and/or social media can actually ostracize a child. Yes, social media is a marketing platform; in the same way that kids have to be critical of magazine and television ads, it is important today to have conversations about the media and the techniques they use to sell a product. In a 2016 Stanford study, 80 % of middle school kids could not discern the difference between an ad and an article, which means that we need to stop trying to ban social media, and instead help our kids make sense of it.

5. A tween’s “more is better” mentality is a dangerous match for social media. 

Social media encourages them to overdo their friend connections like they tend to overdo other things in their lives. Does anyone have thousands of friends?

5. Middle school is an ideal time to talk about friendships as well as isolate the difference between a friend and a follower and what makes online and offline relationships the same or different. But we also have to recognize that for kids, online is an extension of offline because they have only known a world with technology in it. It is also important to note that every person has the power to give another person great joy by sending positive and complimentary messages online as well as in person. As adults, are we modelling the positive and constructive ways we can communicate with one another in person and online?

6. Social media is an addictive form of screen entertainment.
Like video game addiction, early use can set up future addiction patterns and habits.

6. danah boyd in It’s Complicated talks about the “addiction narrative” being problematic (negative and a misnomer), stating that what we are calling addiction is more a teen’s dependence on their friends which is a natural physiological part of adolescence. I would also add that  Middle school is an ideal time for families to talk about balance and to keep each other accountable, and to talk about the impact of notifications and responding to them right away. Many parents need to better model their own excessive use and starting these conversations and good habits early will set kids up for success later in life.

7. Social media replaces learning the hard social “work” necessary for success.
The use of social media greatly lessens opportunities requiring children to practice dealing face-to-face with their peers, a skill they need to master to be successful in real life.

7. Face to face interactions are important and need to be continually fostered. This is a good time to teach kids when it is appropriate to respond in person, on the telephone, or on text; helping them to determine what is appropriate in each situation. “Real life” today, however, also increasingly demands that people know how to respond appropriately in electronic formats. I have worked on several collaborative projects without ever having been in the same room as my colleagues.  It is therefore important to mentor kids in both areas.

8. Social media can cause teens to lose connection with family.
They view “friends” as their foundation and since the brain is still being formed, they need healthy family attachment more than with their peers. It is just as important now as when they were preschoolers.

8. Adolescents will typically choose friends over family; it’s part of this developmental stage. But social media use doesn’t mean that family attachments are lost; in fact, it can provide great impetus for conversation and some fun (have you Snapchatted with your teen lately?) and can actually strengthen bonds with family. My own children saw their grandmother once every couple of months, but because of Instagram, they connect far more frequently and she knows what’s happening in their lives far more than she did before. When they see each other face to face, they have much more to talk about.

9. Social media use represents lost potential for teens.
The teen’s brain development is operating at peak performance for learning new things. Studies show that it is nearly impossible for them to balance it all and teens waste too much time and too much of their brain in a digital world.

9. Multi-tasking is not good for anyone (adults or kids) as many research studies have proven, but is a separate conversation from social media which can be a place of connection with new ideas and an abundance of learning. In fact, the reading, posting, creating, and viewing that kids are doing on social media are literacy rich activities, and need to be recognized as such. Literacy has always been impacted by technology. Social media is a part of the world today and we have an obligation to help kids understand the world around them. As adults we can be inquisitive rather than condescending about pop culture, and changes in the usage of langage. 

Today, there is an increasing digital divide not necessarily when it comes to access to devices, but with HOW devices are being used. There are lots of kids doing awesome things online and adult mentors who are showing their tweens & teens how to use social media to follow their passions, follow inspirational people, connect with people in careers they are interested in, and make a positive difference in their communities. Sadly, some have no idea of the potential. That is a reason parents, kids, community, and schools need to work together to show kids there is potential beyond entertainment and that they can create intentional and positive digital identies. Middle school is an ideal age for this, because it occurs before they develop notions of what social media is supposed to be.

10. Do any of us wish we had started earlier?

10. Absolutely. If only I had known that social media could provide me with a network of passionate, committed, and generous educators, when I was a young teacher starting my career, I would have been so much better for it.

I’m not sure why we feel it is an all or nothing situation. We need to recognize that the world is different than it was even 10 years ago, and balance our fears with opportunities to help our kids not just survive but thrive and be leaders in online spaces!

Check out my book, Social LEADia which has tons of examples of students using social media for good!


Having a Positive Impact

I had the honour of keynoting the #iEngageMidWest conference this past weekend in Chicago. It was a wonderful day co-organized by Berwyn South & West 40 ISC

AND it was at Hamburger University. Not too many people know this, but when I graduated from university, at the at of 22, I was at a crossroads. I was offered a full time managerial position at the McDonalds where I was a shift manager. This would have meant a company car, access to the corporate cottage, a handsome salary, and training at Hamburger University. I loved working there and when I saw many people who had graduated from university come to our store to make McDonalds a career, I seriously considered it. On the other hand, I had the impact of a passionat teacher in my life and thought I would be happy as a teacher.

Well, you know what choice I made. But I often think about how different my life would be now if I had made a different choice. I thought about all of the people in my professional life whom I have met who have made a positive impact on my life.  I guess it’s thinking about this that made me challenge the iEngage Midwest participants. I invited them to share their learning on social media and celebrate someone who made an impact on them this weekend. There was lots of great sharing. This was one of my favourites:

We were challenged by @JCasaTodd to thank someone for their impact. I thank @jbagus59 for sitting next to me at #IEngageMidwest, a month from retirement, still learning and growing. You have impacted so many people, Jane. Thank you. 💚#d100pride pic.twitter.com/W1aHLhhIev

— Leah O’Donnell 📖📝 (@leahod) April 29, 2018

It was so heartening to see people celebrate each other!

Everywhere I look these days, teachers and students are stressed and tired. I think that an attitude of gratitude won’t diminish our stress level or our work pile, but it can help lift people up. I am mindful to do this every day in some form or another: on and offline.

Some people are rich with material things, I am rich in blessings: people who inspire me, support me, and lift me up when I need a boost.

So this week, I challenge YOU. Celebrate one (or more) people who have made an impact on you. Do it openly on Twitter or Instagram or in your blog. Let’s flood the internet with gratitude and awesome!

Here’s my gratitude list:

My family. Always.

My school community at Cardinal Carter which feels more and more like my extended family each passing day.

Thank you to Jordan Garett for inviting me to Chicago and the iEngage Midwest team and participants for being so very awesome (and Jordan’s fiance, Matt for driving us at 6 am and even giving me a yummy all-natural protein bar to tide me over).

I am grateful to Jim Stewart for inspiring me to choose teaching and for encouraging me to be a leader.

I am so thankful for Lori Lisi, Cathie Furfaro, and the 21C team for helping me to develop and hone those leadership skills.

I am grateful to George Couros for pushing and pulling and for supporting and mentoring and for a thousand other things.

I am grateful to Robert Cannone, Stephanie Viveiros, Stephanie Corvese, Fran Siracusa, Olivia Van Ledtje, Joshua Williams, Braeden Mannering Quinn, Aidan Aird, Timmy Sullivan, and all of the other teachers and students who have inspired me and allowed me to share their stories in Social LEADia.

I am grateful to the ONEDSschat team led by Leigh Cassell, the GEG Ontario leaders, Edumatch, the 53s, my Sing-off peeps, and the Dig Cit Summit Canada team for doing and being awesome.

And I am thankful that because of so many the people with whom I interact on social media (all of you with whom I have had several DM conversations–too many to list separately), I feel the positive impact that connection with a PLF brings…and with that comes bringing new passiona and learning into my building.


Facebook reflections

In light of the recent breach of data by Facebook, several people have asked me if I am still on Facebook or if I have changed my stance on social media and its importance and relevance in the classroom and for empowering digital leadership. After all, my book Social LEADia is about inspiring people to think differently about social media in school.

My short-response?  Nope.

There is an even greater need than ever before to bring social media into the classroom through our media strand and an even greater need to empower our students to not only understand how social media works but how to be the change.

And so, I began this blogpost this morning to talk about my thoughts on targeted ads and privacy in light of Zuckerberg’s testimony and the recent scandal, but that will have to wait until another day, because in the meantime, I received the following message from a friend on Facebook Messenger:

Hi, I’m Mark Zuckerberg The Director of facebook.

Hello everyone, it seems that all the warnings were real, facebook use will cost money

If you send this string to 18 different from your list, your icon will be blue and it will be free for you.

If you do not believe me tomorrow at 6 pm that facebook will be closed and to open it you will have to pay, this is all by law.

This message is to inform all our users, that our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking for your help to solve this problem. We require that our active users forward this message to each of the people in your contact list in order to confirm our active facebook users if you do not send this message to all your facebook contacts then your account will remain inactive with the consequence of Lose all your cont the transmission of this message. Your SmartPhone will be updated within the next 24 hours, will have a new design and a new color for the chat. Dear Facebook users, we are going to do an update for facebook from 23:00 p.m. until 05:00 a.m. on this day. If you do not send this to all your contacts the update will be canceled and you will not have the possibility to chat with your facebook messages

Will go to pay rate unless you are a frequent user. If you have at least 10 contacts

Send this sms and the logo will turn red to indicate that you are a user

Confirmed … We finish it for free Tomorrow they start to collect the messages for facebook at 0.37 cents Forward this message to more than 9 people of your contacts and it will be free of life for you to watch and it will turn green the ball of above do it and you will see.to 9 of you

and this video:

Both are clearly fake. How do I know?

The letter:

  • riddled with grammatical errors
  • urgency to have you forward the information is typical of a phishing scam
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s official Facebook has no such message

The video:

  • the date it is posted in April 1st (April Fool’s day)
  • a close look at Z’s face suggests doctoring and the voice is robotic
  • there are actually very few close-ups of Mark talking
  • the content does not align with Zuckerberg’s testimony or his public statements about the company

The video’s purpose is very different than the message itself and I would argue that life without Facebook would be similar to life with it and that many other platforms can be places to foster connections, learning, sharing, and promoting positivity. It can also destroy relationships and spread hate. It’s not the tool but the user of the tool that makes a difference.

What I am wondering…

What is my own and collective responsibility to create healthy and positive online environments?

How can I model positivity and digital leadership with my own accounts? How many people forwarded this message vs ignored it vs reported it?

What role do educators, leaders, and parents have in empowering our students to understand how to detect fake messages?

What might kids do to lead change if we have these conversations with them and educate them about the way media works?

How do Districts support teachers via professional learning around social media: the risks, as well as the affordances and opportunities?

How can we educate our children about the world around them (a world that includes social media) if we block and ban social media from school?

If you do get that message forwarded to you, don’t just ignore it. Add this blog link or a quick message and report the message to Facebook.

Would love to hear your thoughts.



Parenting Today: Brickwall, Jellyfish, & Backbone

Several years ago, I was a part of a community network of parents who brought Barbara Coloroso to our school community to talk about parenting from her book, “Kids are Worth It”.

I will NEVER forget her talk as it really resonated with me as a daughter, a mother, and an educator. Now, as I prepare my own talk for a school community in a few weeks (kind of crazy how it has come full circle for me), I am thinking about Coloroso’s parenting message as it applies to cell phone conversations.

She talks about three kinds of parenting styles: the brickwall parent, the jellyfish parent and the backbone parent. 

In this video, Coloroso elaborates on these styles.

I was raised in a brick-wall parent environment. The first response by my parents was always no. And while I did not revert to a jellyfish parenting style in rebellion, I know that since I saw Coloroso speak about 12 years ago, I always strived to be a backbone parent. And I think for the most part, this worked!

EXCEPT…when it came to the initial cellphone use of my kids! You see I allowed the media to scare me into rigidity. I set parent controls, and was very absolute about rules that I HAD SET. It is not surprising, that my kids engaged in media use behind my back (they admitted to me later that they had learned how to circumvent my Safety controls). I share lots of my parenting fails in my book, Social LEADia.

I have seen MANY parents engage in Jellyfish parenting when it comes to cell phones: laughing about how kids these days just seem to know all this stuff, not having any kind of guidelines for time spent online, or allowing kids to play 18+ games at the age of 10. When something goes wrong, these parents jump into “brick wall parent mode” because they don’t have strategies to fall back on; often banning kids from devices for long periods of time.

I think I have finally reached the point where I feel like I am a back bone parent when it comes to use of devices. This is not true all the time and I definitely don’t think I’ve got it all figured out, but here is what I am thinking about it right now:


A few tips for being a back bone parent when it comes to device use:

  • Co-create family guidelines for cell phone use
  • Moderate time spent online vs time spent offline and have conversations about balance
  • Encourage exploration of online communities for creating and connecting
  • Have ongoing conversations about what kids are seeing, learning, and excited about, and uncomfortable with or wondering about. Model this by engaging in your own “think aloud” about what you are seeing, learning, excited about, uncomfortable with and wondering about
  • Ask questions and learn about what your kids are learning, seeing, and doing online
  • Model the behaviour you would like to see and admit your own shortcomings and struggles

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Are you a Drainer or a Charger?

I just came back from Spring Cue in Palm Springs. While I have so much to reflect on about my experience, I really wanted to jot down my thoughts on something I tweeted while watching Ann Kozma during the #CUEBoom event (a rapid-fire 3 minute inspiring talk with a maximum of 9 slides).  It was AnnKozma quoting Julie Adams #FULLYCHARGED Keynote about the importance of charging up our students & staff by meeting their Maslow needs, when we don’t, we act as drainers. Schools can be uplifting (Disneyland-like) & the place people WANT to be when we do so.  I tweeted:

For many, this tweet resonated, but for Brenna, in Australia, such an absolute statement proved problematic. (Take a look at the whole thread as she expands upon her point of view).

This is unrealistic at best, harmful at worst.
Is it better to pretend to be posiitve when we’re not feeling positive? Push down negative feelings when we’re having a tough time? Always put on brave face? Ignore our feelings in the hope they’ll go away? https://t.co/0MdzV57vkW

— Brenna McNeil (@msbmcneil) March 17, 2018

Brenna is referring to the mental well-being of teachers. I appreciated the conversation. I clarified my thinking and Brenna expanded upon hers. Even with 280 characters on Twitter, we were still able to see each other’s point of view.

Another person, Malcolm responded:

“No. That’s how a very bad school got away with keeping its staff in miserable acquiescence. Everyone seemed to be ‘happy’ and the parents thought everything was okay. ‘Negativity’ can be resistance.

Their comments made me ponder whether or not I should have made such an absolute statement. And so I wondered about the impact of the two possibilities in a school:

Imagine if a school leader said, our school is going to ensure that we provide a positive culture for our learners. We approach everything from a growth-mindset perspective. We smile. We don’t complain for the sake of complaining. We don’t gossip. We are never malicious. We presume positive intentions. We motivate, celebrate, and re-charge our students and each other.

vs a school where a leader either doesn’t overtly address negativity, gossip, or malicious attitudes, or doesn’t care about this at all.

I would like to work and learn in the first school. Here’s the other thing. I just came back from a conference where I got to hang out with my #PLF–people who inspire me and re-charge me with their own positivity. And I smiled for two days straight.

I am also reading Learner-Centered Innovation by Katie Martin. So many lines in that book resonate with me, but in particular, for this conversation this one does:

“We can’t change who we serve, but we can change how we serve them.”

–Katie Martin

Katie often talks about the learning environment and how important it is for the vision to align with the reality.

I try to lift others up and be a positive force on others. But do I do it at the expense of my own well-being or the well-being of others? When I approach a situation with positivity, I am often rewarded with positivity coming right back at me. And my students have commented that they always feel happier when they leave my Library Learning Commons. Sometimes, I give out stickers, just because everyone can use a sticker every once in a while. Other times, when kids have their heads down, I check in with them and ask if I can help them in any way. And every day I greet my students and colleagues with a Happy Monday (insert day of week here). Am I masking my own fatigue or stress to put on a smile for them? Sometimes. But sometimes, that fake-in-the-moment smile, leads into genuine happiness. A recent Stanford study suggests that our brain works better on positivity.

But the counter-argument does have validity. If we are trying to make our school the happiest place on earth, are we undermining those who are struggling with anxiety or depression? I recently saw a similar charge/vs drain image. It was shared at a self-care presentation. It showed an image of a cell phone and asked:

“Would you ever let your phone totally drain down to 0%? But for some reason we may allow ourselves to drain down to 0%”

This really resonated with me. So here is the new image I came up with.

What do you think? Please check out the comments below and add your own. 

Student Digital Leadership in action

Sometimes, I use my blog as a space to reflect on what I experience in order to make sense of it. This is one of those times.

I have been watching the #NeverAgain movement over the past week. I am always reluctant to share anything overly political; especially when it comes to American politics, because I know that as an outsider things look simplistic when indeed they may be very complicated.

So politics aside, I want to focus on what I see as the epitome of what I mean by student digital leadership in Social LEADia. The students who are leading the movement are indeed using the vast reach of technology and social media to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others (Couros 2013)–in this case any future schools who will go through what they are going through. They are using their voices and leading change. They are doing this in person, but they are also leveraging social media networks to mobilize support and even funds.

Regardless of your political affiliations, we need to acknowledge that this group of students are succeeding in using their voices to stand up for a cause about which they care deeply and emotionally.

As adults, why do we bristle? It may be because we don’t truly believe that students have the confidence or ability to lead. How can they possibly know what to do? They are just kids; adults must be behind this.

I know this to be untrue. I know it because I have met students who are changing their world and the world of others.

In Social LEADia, I feature Mari Copeny (@LittleMissFlint), who kept the #FlintWaterCrisis in the consciousness of people even after the headlines stopped reporting about it. I also feature Joshua Williams and Braeden Quinn and their conviction to stomp out hunger at very young ages and into their teenage years. Wizard Ayush, a 15 year old Indian boy who is so passionate about the UN’s sustainable development goals that he created @SDGsforChildren.  Wizard reminds  us that age does not matter when it comes to leadership. And I can’t help but agree.

What can we do?

As adult mentors, let’s make sure that we comport ourselves on and offline with a lens of empathy and perspective taking: that we may disagree with an idea, but that we model how we expect others (kids and adults) to behave online.

I for one will continue to respond positively to the kids who are taking a risk to express their passion for a cause about which they are truly convicted. I will be mindful of the grief and suffering they have experienced. I will report any inappropriate or hostile behaviour I see towards any of these students.

I think there is another important aspect to this. We have spent very little time in school helping students to respond to each other respectfully online.  Although rich in literacy potential, have we helped students consider multiple perspectives or seek clarification on their social media posts?  We tell them what NOT to do, but don’t actually allow them the opportunity to use those communication skills under our guidance. And so, the other thing I will do is respond to kids who are lashing out in inappropriate ways online and help them to reflect on their choices.




Let’s Talk: Social media and mental health

Last week I had the honour of being involved in a Mental Health Summit which was organized by Lisa Craveiro and the Jack.org committee at my school, along with Natalie Rovere and the student leads at her school.

It was a day dedicated to eliminating stigma and having open and frank conversations about mental illness.

The morning began with Leah Parsons sharing the story leading up to the suicide death of her daughter. We all sat in stony silence as she shared the details leading to her daughter’s suicide. Parsons urged us to talk about consent with our daughters and sons and the extent to which we can all make a difference when we see something inappropriate shared online.

Sam Fiorelli, another speaker shared the story of his son’s suicide. What was so interesting about his story is that his son was seemingly put together, popular, accomplished, and good looking. and no one actually knew he had mental health issues. After his death, Sam was approached by so many people who shared that Lucas had helped them with their mental health; one even saying that Lucas had even inspHis main message: “One ‘hello’ can start a conversation that saves a life,” He said, “We have the power to connect to those who are suffering in silence and all it takes is a simple ‘hello.'”

For my session I wanted students to talk. They had been talked to for almost two hours and I wanted them to explore the idea of social media and how it contributes to their own mental wellness; but also how it CAN contribute in ways they may not have thought about. I began with 3 random facts (an activity that I saw on Twitter a few weeks earlier). Students shared 3 random facts with one another and then introduced each other to the group.  We then played, Like Me (an adaptive schools technique I picked up a million years ago). Students stand up when they hear a statement that reflects a truth about them. The protocol is meant to show participants that they are similar to others in the room; I made sure to include some light and silly ones (I have a ridiculous fear of spiders, I used to have a favourite stuffed animal, etc…). I didn’t have in front of me a class with whom I had developed a relationship; many of the students in the group did not know each other so I needed to make sure they felt comfortable sharing for the main activity.

Next I used a tried-and-true literacy strategy that had helped me chunk reading for students to elicit class discussion. I have always called it a Gallery Walk.  I wanted to be sure that I was not initiating or leading the conversation (as we often do as adults) and that students had time to think about what they would say. I had printed out slides and taped them onto chart paper. On the slides I included quotes or images and nothing else. Students, in partners, visited each chart paper with one marker. They needed to:

  1. read or view what was there;
  2. talk about what is there and what they think of it;
  3. agree to write a question, comment, or draw an image.

They moved clockwise in the room, spending about 3 minutes at each station. When they came back to their original, they had to go back around, this time responding to the quotes or questions of others. The prompts were designed to balance positive with negative.

The resulting conversation was so good. The students did most of the talking but I also shared my Social LEADia perspective, which you could tell they never considered. Adults are mostly reinforcing the negative instead of redirecting to what positive things they can do online to help with their mental health. I shared some of the ways technology and social media has connected me to the perspective of others and how when I had a concussion and in the depths of depression, people reached out to me via Twitter and Voxer to check in on how I was doing and how much that meant to me.

We then discussed strategies. Again, students took the lead on this discussion. One student shared how she started following famous photographers instead of only friends and how that has changed what she posts but also what she sees online. Another student shared her journey to recognizing that her true self cannot be affected by the edited self of others. I did have access to a psychology support in case some of the conversations got too personal, which I would recommend.

We ran out of time for the final activity which was to create a poster that represents a positive way teens can act online. I deeply regret this. Conversations are great, but positive action is necessary.

Here is a copy of my slide deck. Please modify it and use it to start your own conversations. If you add something that really works well, please let me know!



Learning, Complexity, & Scaffolding

About a month ago, we got an extra-large chess game in our Library Learning Commons. It currently sits on the floor while we await the Woodworking class to make us a table for it. I bought it because on any given day, the four chess boards in the Library are being used by students playing chess.

Since September, I have wanted to learn how to play. I will sometimes join the other students gathered around to watch to see if I could pick up the game, but the learning doesn’t stick. There are too many pieces and it is too complex. I am going to admit, I felt kind of stupid not being able to pick up the game.

So the other day, I picked up a Quick Chess game that touts, “The Quick & Easy Way to Learn Chess!” The game takes each chess piece and creates a mini-game out of it so that you learn the role and function of each.

It also provides Quick-reference diagrams. My husband and I first played the Pawns game–learning about the role of the pawns, followed by short games isolating each of the other pieces (rook, bishop, king, queen, & knight). I was not nearly as frustrated as I had been trying to watch a Youtube video or watching others; I learn by doing. Each time I played a mini-game I felt more and more confident and the role of each piece became committed to my memory.

After I would say about two hours, my husband and I were ready to play an actual game. I’m not going to be a pro any time soon, but I feel confident enough in my abilities, that I may challenge a student to a game sometime this week. I will also bring this game in for the students, who like me, are watching all of the students and longing to play the game, but are too scared to try or feel it’s too complicated to learn.

Real learning is fun. It’s not about worksheets but about trial and error, the iterative process and feeling successful.

This experience has prompted me to wonder:

-How do we scaffold learning for students in a way that is easier for them to grasp complex topics, but not necessarily boring?

-What role do anchor charts play in teaching and learning?

-How might we incorporate gamification and game-based learning in the classroom to make challenging information more fun?

-How might we use this approach with professional learning?

I think about my Amazing Race EDU collaborative game and Breakout EDU games, as well as Design Thinking challenges (check out Global Day of Design created by AJ Juliani and John Spenser) and recognize that there is really positive movement towards active learning and a plethora of resources to support teachers to try this.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.



Today I think of love

Today I think of love

amidst red and pink flowers


and romantic gestures 

Today I think of those who feel unlovable,


and alone.

and those whose homes are not so happy

circumstances grim.

Today I can be the hope

the love

the warm smile.

Today I think of love 

that costs nothing

that means everything

Today I don’t think of love; I show it.


Jennifer Casa-Todd


Random Acts of Kindness Week

Kindness is my #oneword (well technically one of my two) for 2018 and today marks the beginning of Random Acts of Kindness Week.   I am not a fan of isolating one day or one week to engage in what should be a daily practice. Nonetheless, it does provide a good impetus to begin.

As this week begins, however, let’s not just limit our acts of kindness to in-person (though these are extremely important).  Every day, we have opportunities  both online and in person to make someone’s day brighter.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see positivity and kindness take over the internet??

Ideas for RAK Week and beyond

  • Tell your students that every day you will, as a class, connect with someone to let them know they are special by sending them a direct message or a tweet or an email or a post-it note
  • Have students write their name in fancy letters on a sheet of cardstock and pass it around for students to write positive adjectives on it
  • Do an extra special clean up of your desk or area so that your mom, dad, guardian, or the caretaker at school doesn’t have to do it
  • Send someone a GIF that will brighten their day
  • Bake a batch of cookies and surprise someone with it
  • Leave $2 for the next senior citizen in line at a coffee shop to get a free coffee
  • Send someone a special note on one of your social media platforms
  • Invite someone who is sitting alone to come and sit with you
  • Go out of your way to say hello and smile to every person you meet for a day
  • Check out the tweets by the students in Rachel Murat’s class by searching the hashtag #positivelykind


  • Check out the RAK website for ideas and inspiration
  • Check out the PSA these kids created:

Check out our #RAKWeek2018 PSA!! Teamed up with my heroes @lauriesmcintosh @MrsMacsKinders & @bmilla84 & their Ss to challenge YOU & your Ss to spread KINDNESS next week! Be sure to share w/ us @ #thekindclub & #bekindEDU! https://t.co/1WzENubSMA#kidsdeserveit #tlap #engagechat pic.twitter.com/4HVonxa1Ho

— Roman Nowak (@NowakRo) February 10, 2018

  • How about making kindness go viral? Check out this Kindness passion project created by Tamara Letter (She is all about kindness and depending on when you are reading this, will be moderating #tlap chat Monday night focusing on this topic)
  • A video which really emphasizes the simplicity of spreading kindness is, Color Your World with Kindness, which shows how small actions can have a powerful impact
  • Check out my ideas from a previous post, Creating a Culture of Kindness

Created using Visme. The Easy Visual Communication Tool.

What will you do?