Developing and Using Tech Tools (For Teachers)

Sometimes the tech scene can be hard to navigate.

Developing and Using Tech Tools (For Teachers)

March 7, 2013  |  Teaching  |  24 Comments

Editor’s Note: I originally designed this post as an in-house thing for the members of my think-tank, but then I was thinking how cool it would be to toss this out to the world so see what all of you think. Shoot me your ideas in the comments section or tweet me @MisterMinor Tag your tweet #TCRWP so everyone can get in on the action…



What a week for the EdTech crew! All the news coming out of South by Southwest has been incredible. People have been sharing best practices all over the place. The #HipHopEd weekly chats (Tuesday nights, twitter heads) have been powerful and fun. To top that all off, I’m in a think tank with some amazing educators at #TCRWP, and we are trying to sythesize all these good ideas into something sustainably powerful for teachers.

Here are a few ideas that we’ve got cooking (this is not a resource page as much as it is a think aloud/lit review):

  • Video or audio podcasting can be a big thing. We just have to figure out what the best use for it is. We are thinking that the use of podcasting can vary by community. Aside from it’s traditional use as a subscription/RSS based outlet for audio or digital content, we’ve been thinking that for teachers and coaches it’s more practical to view podcasts as possible one-time dispatches to your people. Kind of like email, but better… For example, if you have something special that you want to share with your team or if you want to celebrate student/staff accomplishments, one can consider podcasts over email. Additionally you can use them to share student work. Everyone wants to be famous, so creating an audience of parents or community members and podcasting work out to them can be powerful. We found that one of the best ways to get podcasts out to parents is by using QR codes. (More on that soon.) The easiest podcasting tools for teachers seem to be the iMove and GarageBand software that is already on your Mac. Money invested = $0.00. That is what we love the most about all of this.
  • Scan me with your cell phone, and I will take you to my leader.

    Scan me with your cell phone, and I will take you to my leader.

    Using QR codes to give fast access to digital content is perfect for school. QR codes are everywhere, and it’s a cool way to get all of our mostly analog friends (some parents, community members, principals, that teacher down the hall that calculates grades with an abacus) in on the action without having to explain to them what we are talking about. You’ve seen them. they look like E.T.’s fingerprint or something (Photo below). Basically, you can assign this visual code to any web-based content, (think of it as a visual web address) and when someone scans it with the camera of their smartphone, it takes them directly to your content. You can put these things everywhere — on notes home to parents, bulletin boards, flash cards… If you don’t mind ads, one of the best free sites for creating QR codes is QuikQR.

  • My Colleague Brianna has an awesome blog that she started during our think tank sessions. I’m starting to think now that if you are a teacher, you need a blog. You have an audience (students, caregivers, community). You have something to say (you are an educator). You need a venue. This can be that venue… There are a few different paths you can take. Everyone has different preferences. I tend to roll with WordPress. If you want lots of kids and parents involved, Edublogs is a great option. Google’s blogger suite is easy enough to master during a prep and robust enough to make you feel like you could work for Facebook. (Don’t go work for Facebook. Their founder tried to teach middle school. We should all keep our day jobs.)
  • We’ve also been thinking about gear… What is the minimum amount of stuff that you might need to get your classroom/practice decently into the 21st century? I’ve tried to just stick to the hardware that most schools have already invested in… I really think you can do a lot of cool teaching moves with just a:
    • Computer or Laptop
    • iPad
    • Projector or Smart Board
    • Mini Speakers

We’ll keep thinking about this. Let us know what you think.

For Teachers: Design Lab Sites and Study Groups to Raise the Level of Engagement, Volume, and Rigor

What we do here dramatically impacts what happens in the classroom.

For Teachers: Design Lab Sites and Study Groups to Raise the Level of Engagement, Volume, and Rigor

March 7, 2013  |  Teaching  |  No Comments

Teachers, so I’ve been off the grid for a while. While I’ve been away, I’ve been cooking up a few ideas. Today I gave a presentation to about 40 educational leaders from all over the country about the value of coaching when it comes to raising the level of rigor and engagement in a classroom. We got a lot done — here are some of the highlights…

Today’s presentation was all about organizing teachers into study groups and then planning study groups and lab sites that aim to raise the level of:

  • Student engagement
  • Student writing volume
  • Classroom rigor or cognitive demand

Here are a few things that we made during today’s session (clicking the link will allow you to quickly download the file):

Hope you find this helpful! I’m looking forward to thinking and writing more about coaching this month.


Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

February 19, 2013  |  Family, Uncategorized  |  5 Comments

Seven years ago, Cornelius and I used to ride the train together every morning on our way to work, bring each other hot tea during lunch time, and pop into one another’s classroom at the end of the day to see what our kiddos had been up to.  People used to ask us if we ever got sick of each other, and the answer was always no.  We never did.  Minor, as Cornelius was known then, was as friendly as ever, full of jokes, and it was the ultimate strength to our relationship that we got to share students.  He was the Minor to my Ms. Kass, and we loved it.

If you asked us back then, I’m not sure we would have described our future lives as they are now-Me, still teaching-but this time a Working Mom.  Him, still educating, but this time as a Staff Developer.  Me, fufilling two parent duty and curating the house while Him, enduring grueling 16 hour work days walking around as a famous Black person in China.  This life is one of sustenance, but this shiznit is HARD. For the both of us.

Although this being married on dual sides of the world thing is difficult, we both know the dual sides of the world part is temporary.  And as much tenacity as all this involves, we both know it’s good for us.  We enjoy the challenge.


Just yesterday, Cornelius was describing the ride-your-moped to work schtick that was a completely pleasant surprise.  Upon arriving to his hotel, they handed him the keys to as he described it “One of those Chinatown Delivery Bikes”.  And that Shanghai is 8th Ave Brooklyn times 100.  Or, more accurately speaking, times 1,000,000.  The work in itself is no easy task.  There’s all that immense pressure, educational rigor blah blah blah that he has endure.  But it always makes him stronger, brighter.

Cornelius, in his “Rental Vehicle”. Shanghai, China Feb 18, 2013

As for me, Soleil and I completed our first solo jet journey! We went on a three day, two night, Mom and Child adventure to Springboro, Ohio to see my best friend, Kristen, that I’ve been pleased to know since age 11. Soleil is the sweetest, most perfect side kick any mama could ask for.  She basically could coach other babies on the Principles of Good Flying Behavior.  When we arrived to Ohio, we learned the tenants of carseat riding, toddler wisdom (Kristen has a tiny cohort of 3 kids ages 18 months, 3, and 6), and billygoat petting.  Soleil was down with the toddler wisdom, not so much with the carseat and billygoats.  She is definitely our Brooklyn Baby.

Soleil and I, somewhere in the atmosphere between Ohio and New York City, Feb 18, 2013

Soleil and I, somewhere in the atmosphere between Ohio and New York City, Feb 18, 2013


While Cornelius is gone, I learn to be dynamic in Mother Wisdom ways that I never thought I would be, or could be.  I know how to clean the catbox ever so gingerly, scooping up disgusting nuggets like a whisper while Soleil naps,waiting 2o minutes in so she doesn’t wake up.  Doing laundry is one of Soleil’s favorite events-the laundry basket turns into a car, with warm, ventilated clothes heaping in beside her.  Taking out the trash is the first leg of the walk to the playground, and doing dishes is part of our breakfast routine.

Although Cornelius and I are challenged and strengthened by the absence of each other, I can’t say that I miss him any less with each trip that approaches.  But I will say with each trip that comes, every day he that is here and that our family is together is approached with complete humility and love.