Lead from the middle - Hack Learning

Hacking School Culture: Lead from the Middle

In Hacking School Culture, school district superintendent Joe Sanfelippo and professor emeritus John Bennett explain how old-school mandates that stifle teacher autonomy can destroy school and work place culture.

Hack Learning creator Mark Barnes rants about outdated leadership practices and challenges leaders to trust the people they hire to do the job the best way they know how.

Learn how autonomy can help eliminate outdated practice and create a positive school and work place culture.

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Hack Learning

Hacking Class Participation: 5 Ways to Engage Every Single Student

Class participation is critical to successful learning. Sadly, we often go at it the wrong way.

When we’re engaged in something, we do better at it. That’s as true of learning as it is anything else: an engaged student is more likely to learn and succeed than a disengaged one. Technology can play a huge part in this: motivating, involving, inspiring. — TeachKit.net

What To Do Tomorrow

As Mark Barnes explains in the Hack Learning podcast episode embedded above, the best way to engage even shy students and reluctant learners, so your class participation balloons to 100 percent is to use a backchannel–a digital discussion platform.

The easiest way to digitize class participation to create a conversation with a simple online tool like TodaysMeet, Twitter or another social network.

Put students on desktops, laptops, tablets, a mobile device or a combination of these. You can build your environment for a lively online, mobile chat in seconds and have all students “talking” in minutes. Here are a few easy steps to launch this hack immediately:

  1. Decide on a platform: TodaysMeet is easy, because it requires no registration. Just create a web address, like BarnesClassPeriod1, and TodaysMeet will set up a virtual chat room. If your students are on Twitter, use a hashtag to aggregate all tweets into the same Twitter feed–something like, #CivilWarChat. Be sure all students tweet to the hashtag.
  2. Explain the activity: At first students may think it’s weird to chat online, when everyone is in the same room. No need to tell them that your goal is 100 percent participation (don’t worry, they’ll participate). If you feel the need to justify the activity, tell students you want to create a digital record of they thoughts. You can easily archive the chat. TodaysMeet has a download chat feature and there are tons of tools to help you save your Twitter hashtag conversation (Storify) is a great one.
  3. Set simple guidelines: I had two basic rules for digital chats: 1-Students must contribute at least one original thought to the chat. 2-Students must respond to at least one other comment–this doesn’t mean simply retweeting it. If you have 25 students, this gets you 50 comments immediately. Now, that’s a powerful classroom chat.
  4. Discuss appropriate use: In a couple of minutes prior to beginning your online discussion, remind students of their responsibility when chatting in cyberspace. Here’s a very simple approach that applies to everyone, including adults. Tell students to ask themselves this question before posting any comment: “Would I say this in front of everyone in a public setting?” If there’s even a moment of pause before posting, then don’t do it.
  5. Teachers talk too: For there to be legitimate 100 percent participation in this amazing mobile conversation, teachers must post to the conversation. Students love this. Ask questions. Respond to individual’s comments. Add graphics, when possible. Identify comments you love and say simple things like “Yes!” or “Hmm., can you clarify this?” Oh, and don’t forget the occasional smiley face or thumbs up. Everyone enjoys emoticons.

Tell us your “hacks” for inspiring 100 percent participation in your class.

Check out other episodes in the Hack Learning Podcast — a Spreaker Staff Favorite.

photo credit: Kathy Cassidy via Flickr

Hack Learning

5 Ways to Get 100 Percent Participation in Every Class

twitter in the classroom

Photo Credit: Kathy Cassidy via Flickr Creative Commons

The Problem–all’s quiet

The whole-class discussion scares the bejesus out of many teachers, especially newbies. Why? Simple, many students won’t participate. Is it even realistic to expect 100 percent of your students to join in-class discussions? Can we honestly believe that all students will speak or even raise their hands? We can bribe them with candy or participation points, but even this age-old strategy won’t entice the shy kids or those who walk into class with that “I’m-not-talking-under-any-circumstance” attitude.

Most likely, you’ll get a 20 to 30 percent participation rate; on really good days, maybe half of your kids will humor you. This leaves 10-20 students staring into space, doing nothing or, worse, being a thorn in your side. Engagement is critical to the success of any lesson. In order to engage all students in the room, they must first be willing to participate.

The Hack–go mobile

Move your classroom chat to the web, either on mobile devices or desktop computers. Mobilizing your in-class discussion may seem strange. If all students and the teacher are together in a face-to-face setting, you may wonder, what sense does it make to chat online? The simple solution (we love these here at Hack Learning) lies directly within the name of this Hack: every single student in the room will flock to the online chat. The logic behind this is a bit more complex.

There’s very little solid research explaining why your shiest kid–the one who will never open her mouth no matter how much you goad her–makes huge contributions to a digital chat. Trust me, though, she will. I used the digital chat with a classroom blog, message board or web tool like, TodaysMeeet, and every single student participated. That’s right, 100 percent participation.

I asked many students why they’d communicate online but not when called upon, and I was often met with shrugs and a simple, “I don’t know; I just like posting online.”

What To Do Tomorrow

The easiest way to take your conversation mobile is to create a conversation with a simple online tool like TodaysMeet, Twitter or another social network.

Put students on desktops, laptops, tablets, a mobile device or a combination of these. You can build your environment for a lively online, mobile chat in seconds and have all students “talking” in minutes. Here are a few easy steps to launch this hack immediately:

  1. Decide on a platform: TodaysMeet is easy, because it requires no registration. Just create a web address, like BarnesClassPeriod1, and TodaysMeet will set up a virtual chat room. If your students are on Twitter, use a hashtag to aggregate all tweets into the same Twitter feed–something like, #CivilWarChat. Be sure all students tweet to the hashtag.
  2. Explain the activity: At first students may think it’s weird to chat online, when everyone is in the same room. No need to tell them that your goal is 100 percent participation (don’t worry, they’ll participate). If you feel the need to justify the activity, tell students you want to create a digital record of they thoughts. You can easily archive the chat. TodaysMeet has a download chat feature and there are tons of tools to help you save your Twitter hashtag conversation (Storify) is a great one.
  3. Set simple guidelines: I had two basic rules for digital chats: 1-Students must contribute at least one original thought to the chat. 2-Students must respond to at least one other comment–this doesn’t mean simply retweeting it. If you have 25 students, this gets you 50 comments immediately. Now, that’s a powerful classroom chat.
  4. Discuss appropriate use: In a couple of minutes prior to beginning your online discussion, remind students of their responsibility when chatting in cyberspace. Here’s a very simple approach that applies to everyone, including adults. Tell students to ask themselves this question before posting any comment: “Would I say this in front of everyone in a public setting?” If there’s even a moment of pause before posting, then don’t do it.
  5. Teachers talk too: For there to be legitimate 100 percent participation in this amazing mobile conversation, teachers must post to the conversation. Students love this. Ask questions. Respond to individual’s comments. Add graphics, when possible. Identify comments you love and say simple things like “Yes!” or “Hmm., can you clarify this?” Oh, and don’t forget the occasional smiley face or thumbs up. Everyone enjoys emoticons.

Tell us your “hacks” for inspiring 100 percent participation in your class.

Hack Learning

4 Qualities of a Great Hackers: They Have PEEP

Hackers have PEEP

Hackers have PEEP

What’s a hacker? Some people think of hackers only as nefarious people who try to steal your identity or break into your computer files. These aren’t hackers, though; they are criminals.

Real Hackers are people who improve the world. They take existing ideas or products and make them better than they are.

Here, at Hack Learning, we create amazing hacks every day. We share them on Twitter, Facebook and in blog posts. Best of all, we put them into books, contained in the Hack Learning Series. Still not sure what makes someone a Hacker? Simple. Great Hackers have PEEP.

4 Qualities of a great Hacker–PEEP

1-Perspective: A Hacker looks at problems objectively, combining experience with a unique view of the problem. In many professions, especially education, shareholders are too invested to maintain objectivity. If I believe reading is the most important thing in school, I want more books at all costs and I’m not going to hear that there isn’t enough money for more books. I’ll just stomp my feed and say, “Dammit, get me the books.” The great education Hacker may love reading as much as anyone, but she will take a step back and see this issue in ways that the English teacher or librarian may not. This objectivity brings a powerful perspective to every problem. The Hacker knows how much teachers want those books, while understanding the fiscal constraints that the administrator is considering. She’ll find a simple solution that satisfies both.

2-Experience: Hackers have experience not only with problem solving but in the field they are hacking. An Education hacker is or has been a teacher, counselor, principal, or thought-leader. I can’t hack education if I’m a politician. Hackers aren’t politicians, and they aren’t opportunists. They have been in the trenches and have a laser-focused understanding of the problem and how it impacts all shareholders.

3-Expertise: Sure, doing something for 20 years gives a person experience, but it doesn’t make them an expert. Hackers not only hone their crafts over decades, they look, listen, read, practice, experiment and lie awake at night thinking of how to do the job better than everyone else. This unique combination leads to expertise.

4-Perseverance: The true Hacker will not stop until the problem is solved. Barriers only embolden hackers. When they hear, “This is how it is and we can’t change it,” hackers become inspired; they view seemingly insurmountable mountains as just one more challenge they can conquer. Hackers breathe problem solving. They won’t be denied.

Great Hackers have PEEP. Without these qualities, you may be an onlooker; you may be a shareholder, but you can’t be a hacker.

What do you think? Do you have PEEP?

teacher time

3 Ways to Hack Teacher Time

Teacher time is a problem that needs to be hacked.

The Center for Teaching Quality recently considered the problem of teacher time. After discussing this problem, representatives from the CTQ challenged educators to consider major changes in how teacher time is handled in schools.

Here is what the CTQ suggests for creating more teacher time:

1. Redesign school schedules to prioritize learning for students and teachers

2. Promote teacher-driven Professional Learning Communities

3. Rethink classroom structures and needs

This infographic contains more details on these strategies. Are these reasonable solutions to the problem of teacher time? What stumbling blocks do they present? Are there better ways to increase teacher time?

Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Rethinking-Teacher-Time-Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

A version of this first appeared at Brilliant or Insane.

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