Students are layers, cells, constellations…and so are we!

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

Anaïs Nin

This quote popped into my head recently in reference to my expectations of my students.  I worry and plan for ISTEP, our state’s standardized assessment, but I struggle to still teach the individual, whole child as a result.  Students, like us adults, are layers…cells…constellations.  They are all growing and learning unevenly both within themselves and in comparison to their peers.

So what do we do?  I don’t have any concrete answers for this, but this is one example that I think technology allows me to address the issue.  By occasionally creating individualized lessons and sharing them through our LMS, I free myself up to work together with a particular student so I can engage them in the content through their personal interests.

EXAMPLE:  River Valley Civilizations aren’t the most interesting topic in the world.  I think they’re awesome, but you get my point…  So I gave students options, and what happened blew me away!  A student chose to create his own online game using the HopScotch app to show his understanding of the lesson; one student created their own civilization in Minecraft; another student went home and examined arrowheads to better understand the Stone Age.  Bangarang!

I may want each and every student to develop a passion for history and geography, but the reality of the situation is that my real objective and deepest wish is that I empower students to do whatever they’re called to do–Shake up the world!



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Tech Timeout

Let me preface this post with the fact that I LOVE TECHNOLOGY!  I’m an Apple Watch wearing, Hour of Code learning, paperless classroom loving, GAFE obsessed, “techy” teacher.  But…over the past year (yes, the year it’s been since my last blog post here), I’ve practiced something I call a “Tech Timeout!”

Take a Tech Timeout to pause and reflect like Zack Morris would.


What led me to take a timeout?  My students.  I teach 7th grade Social Studies in a 1:1 iPad school district.  The iPad allows me to journey around the world with my students without leaving our classroom, but sometimes students need to move and experience the lesson instead of curating their information into the newest web tool or downloading the latest app in order to truly comprehend the meaning behind a lesson.  Our iPads let us explore the wonders of the world through Google Earth, access ancient artifacts in the British Museum, FaceTime with pen pals in Kazakhstan, etc…but there’s also value in our archeology cake excavation, tasting cultural foods, experiencing economic systems with Skittles, service projects etc!  Technology, like all the activities and simulations, is just a tool.

I’ve been much more intentional during planning to choose the tool that is best for students for this particular lesson.  I often skim over the SAMR model to help guide my thinking (I’ve included it below especially for all my Pumpkin Spice Latte loving teacher friends); it’s not perfect, but it helps me focus on whether tech will make the lesson better or just serve as a distraction.


Tech Time-outs have become one of my favorite things.  They allow more discussion and interaction in the classroom…I’d been blind to how isolated our iPad’s and my technology-based lessons made us.  Now tech lessons have become more about our individual practice, eLearning lessons, bell work…they are a piece of the puzzle that engages students and bring the classroom to life.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still that Apple Watch wearing, GAFE obsessed tech nerd.  I’ve got data to prove that my students have done better in some units due, in part, to the tech tools we utilize…but there’s some truth to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.  Perhaps if all of us tech-loving Millenials slowed down a tad then our non-digital native colleagues would be more inclined to try out technology as a tool to engage.

Time In!

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