DraftEDU: With the Number 1 Pick Hack Learning Selects

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I live in Cleveland, and for Cleveland Browns fans, NFL draft time is the best time of the year, because it is the “season of hope.”

Shortly after the Super Bowl, we begin discussing the draft and the potential next “great” player who might land in the #Cle and save one of the worst franchises in all of sports.

This year, with the Browns having the Number 1 and Number 12 picks overall, the draft chatter has been louder than ever. This omnipresent discussion got me thinking about what I’m calling, DraftEDU.

If you could pick your “players” — those players being blogs, EdTech tools, and rapport-building strategies — and you had picks in the Top 3 for each category, which would you select? Which of these would forever change the future of your franchise?

For #DraftEDU 2017, I’ve selected three positions of need and have target my Top 3 in each area.

Now, drafting is not a legitimate science. There’s always guesswork and opinion involved. So, check out my picks, and let me know the ones I didn’t pick that you would select and which you’d add to your own draft.

Top 3 Blogs for Educators

1 – Cult of Pedagogy — Cult is the blog where “Teachers nerds unite,” says Cult of Pedagogy creator Jennifer Gonzalez. Cult brings you insights on education technology, books, and best practices, presented in gracefully-written posts and podcasts. Plus, Gonzalez writes with an engaging style that few other bloggers have.

2 – Edutopia — The George Lucas Foundation’s informative site provides a vast library of articles and resources from great educators, like Lisa Dabbs, who shares The Power of the Morning Meeting — one example of the kind of unique content you can find at Edutopia.org.

3 – We Are Teachers — Separated by Topics and Grades, We Are Teachers gives new meaning to “teacher life.”

Top 3 EdTech Tools for Teachers

1 – Voxer — I’ve been touting this walkie-talkie app for years. Voxer gives all students a voice.

2 – Twitter — The ultimate social channel for connecting with your Personal Learning Network (PLN), Twitter is constantly updating its features, making microbloging the easiest way to connect with students in and out of class.

3 – SurveyMonkey — Arguably the best formative assessment tool available, SurveyMonkey empowers teachers to quickly and easily create surveys and polls that make assessment easy and fun. Beware, though, if you use SurveyMonkey, your kids might just ask you to give them a quiz.

Top 3 Rapport-Building Strategies

1 – Celebrity Couple Nickname Game — Remember Brangelina? That’s former married celebs Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Hacking Engagement author James Sturtevant combines his students names in a similar fashion in his Celebrity Nickname Game — a fabulous rapport builder and great way to remember your students.

2 – Greet Kids at the Door — In his article 10 Reasons to Greet Kids at the Door, Virginia school principal Reed Gillespie says that this excellent rapport-builder is a simple way to have brief conversations with all students. For some, this may be the only meaningful conversation they have in a given day.

3 – Give students choice — Ask, “How would you like to learn this?” In many cases, you’ll find that the paths students choose to learn are not too far from how you’d enjoy teaching your lesson. Give kids choice, and they’ll feel better about your teaching methods and about you as a person.

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3 Incredible Icebreakers Your Students Will Love

Break the Ice…Ice…Baby

3 Incredible Icebreakers Your Students Will Love

by James Alan Sturtevant

February represents the Dog Days in education. All the freshness of the school year are gone. Spring break is still a long way off and the weather — at least in the great state of Ohio — is nothing to write home about!

Sometimes, as you watch your kids march in at the beginning of the period, you feel like you’re observing a church congregation full of middle-aged parishioners.

Look inside

Everyone sits in the same pew, shakes hands with the same people, and says pretty much the same things. It’s time to shake things up!

Here are three totally original icebreakers to help you randomly sort your students. Perhaps, a new seating chart is needed. Or, maybe it’s time get kids working with different peers on the next project.

These icebreakers will help you rearrange your students socially, but the real draw is your students and you will have a blast working through these easy prompts (listen to more details on the podcast episode embedded below):

  1. Oscar Night Best Picture Award
  2. Your 30th Birthday Surprise Party
  3. 1970s Speed Dating

A Compatibility Table

Let’s Hack Learning

The Problem

Teachers assume students know one another well.

The Solution

A student icebreaker.

What You Can Do Tomorrow

  1. Decide on a pretext for randomly sorting students
  2. Try either the Oscar Night or Birthday Party icebreaker
  3. Debrief students to find out what they learned about their peers

Teachers and students sometimes get in a rut. Randomly sort your students with a fun icebreaker and shake things up in the process.

Listen to “43-3 Totally Original, Easy, Powerful, and Joyful Icebreakers to Randomly Sort Students…Tomorrow” on Spreaker.


A version of this first appeared at JamesAlanSturtevant.com

Hacking Powerful People: Inspiration from Meryl Streep

Listen to “Hacking Powerful People: Inspiration from Meryl Streep” on Spreaker.

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Meryl Streep is right. We must push back against those who exert power over the powerless. We must model empathy, even when our leaders do not. We must encourage those who have big voices to speak loudly against what’s wrong and in favor of what’s right.

Streep, the three-time Oscar-winning actress condemned the actions of a man she chose not to name and who shall remain nameless here.

During her acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement award at the Golden Globes, Streep stood as tall as ever, as she set her sights on the most powerful man in the world and fired back like no one has since the 2016 presidential election. Here’s what she said:

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter — someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back — it kind of broke my heart…. This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Hacking Powerful People

I have remained silent for too long, but now I’m inspired by the brilliant and eloquent Meryl Streep. Not only will I reply publicly on social media to, as Streep puts it, “the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country,” but I will share ways to defeat him and those like him regularly on other public platforms.

Like Streep, I encourage you to do the same and to stand against the bullies in power and make them know that we are not going away. And teach our kids to do the same.

What You Can Do Tomorrow

1 — Acknowledge the problem: When the most powerful man in the world — the man who will soon reside in the White House — hurts people who are powerless to fight back, we must acknowledge this atrocity boldly and loudly.

It’s not okay to sit idly by and ignore bullies, racists, and misogynists. As parents and educators, we must explain to kids how inappropriate the behavior is, no matter where it comes from.

2 — Face the oppressors on their own playground: If powerful people employ Twitter and other social channels to amplify their egregious actions, we must meet them there and push back in a dignified manner. Rather than composing hateful posts on your social channels, expose the wrongdoer and his acts and remind people to do all they can to spark change.

There are numerous streams and accounts to follow on Twitter that inspire activists to speak up.

3 — Recruit the strong to help: We teach students to stand up for the weak — to defend those who can’t defend themselves. If your voice isn’t enough, then find others with larger audiences to help you shine a bright light on every horrible thing our more powerful oppressors say and do.

Ask your friend or colleague who has a large Twitter following or a popular Facebook page to post about the dangers of people in the White House bullying others.

Hack Learning

Remember, Hack Learning isn’t just about books for educators or podcast episodes about edtech, homework, reading, or leadership. Hack Learning is about solving problems with logical, practical strategies.

There is nothing more logical than telling hateful leaders that their hate is not making us better. It’s only creating more hate.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post and podcast episode do not necessarily represent the opinions of other Hack Learning Team members and employees of Times 10 Publications.

Featured photo credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks. Meryl Streep – Berlin Berlinale 66 via photopin (license)

How to write a book

Nail Your New Year’s Resolution: Published Author Shares Her How to Write a Book Blueprint

Connie Hamilton wrote a book. What’s the big deal? Like most would-be writers, Connie wondered if she could do it.

In Episode 79 of the Hack Learning Podcast, educator/presenter and popular Twitter influencer Connie Hamilton explains how she went from self-doubting, wannabe writer to a published author whose book hit Number 1 on Amazon in its first week. Best of all, she gives you a success plan with some hacks you probably didn’t know.
Listen to “79: Nail Your New Year’s Resolution: Learn how to write a book” on Spreaker.

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An Author’s Journey

I’m trying to remember how long I’ve been saying this. Years, for sure. I had the typical negative talk inside my head keeping this dream from becoming a realistic goal.

  • Who would read your book?
  • What do you have to say that hasn’t already been said?
  • You’re not a very good writer.
  • Where would you find the time?

When a friend of mine, Laura Pitari, pointed out how my mindset was preventing me from making this wish a goal, I consciously tried to be more growth-minded and shifted my thinking to:

  • Teachers and administrators are interested in my perspective on educational topics.
  • I have fresh thoughts to share.
  • My writing skills can grow through this process. An editor can help me.
  • When something is made a priority, I always get it done.

Make a Plan

With a can-do attitude and recharged motivation, I began to organize and plan. Here’s my 5-point how to write a book and get it published plan:

  1. Get specific with a book topic

Many authors have multiple passions and interests.  Narrowing down the specific focus for a future book is an important step to prepare a pitch to a publisher.

Making a list of possible topics can help a writer determine where to begin, if there is enough content to fill a book, and consider how the topic has already been shared.

  1.  Check publishers’ requirements

Most publishers have a link on their website that lays out how a writer can prepare a submission for review. Companies like ASCD and Corwin provide guidelines on how to prepare a manuscript and the process for submitting a proposal.  

Hack Learning offers a Hack Learning Author Handbook that provides potential Hack Learning authors with a manuscript template, some specific do’s and don’ts and even a list of current topics of interest.

  1. Take advantage of connections

Reach out to current authors and ask them about their involvement with different publishers. Seek advice from first-time authors and use their experiences to guide you in your selection process.

Writers like Starr Sackstein who have written books for multiple publishers are especially helpful in sharing key points for consideration. Even if you don’t know an author or publisher personally, what better way to introduce yourself than by reaching out and asking for some advice about getting published. If you aren’t too pushy, most authors will reply to a quick tweet.

Learn more

ASCD has offered a breakout session at their national conference for aspiring authors. One year I attended and Doug Fisher spoke about publishing and offered to review a summary of an idea and give his opinion on if it was “book-worthy”. ASCD had editors at the session who also provided honest feedback.

  1. Give publishers both the big idea and the details

An overview of the components of the book helps a writer determine if there is enough content to justify a complete book. A powerful message can be shared through a blog or journal article without a full book if the focus is narrow and brief.

Only having an outline of the ideas probably doesn’t provide a publisher with enough of a sample. A completed chapter highlights the writer’s style and provides a more detailed summary of the content.

The “elevator speech” approach is what landed a deal for me with Mark Barnes and Hack Learning. A two-minute pitch with a glimpse at half of the hacks was my foot in the door for Hacking Homework. Mark was interested and offered Starr and me a contract.

  1. Don’t quit — seek feedback

If your book is turned down, rinse and repeat steps 1-4. Don’t trash your idea. Perhaps a publisher already has a book with similar content. Maybe your style is a better match for a different audience. Don’t leave yourself wondering. Ask for feedback and consider it.

If you hear repeatedly, “this topic is exhausted,” then either give your perspective a facelift or consider one of your other passions and try again. My first pitch to Hack Learning was Hacking Questions. Barnes quickly informed me that the topic was saturated; plus, he showed his loyalty to current Hack Learning authors. If he were to take on a project about questioning, he said that Starr Sackstein, Hack Learning’s assessment guru, would have first dibs. This feedback was invaluable.

What about co-authoring?

You may be wondering if my dialogue with the publisher is what led to Sackstein and I partnering to create Hacking Homework. Something like that. Writing with a co-author is a risk. My experience writing with Starr was amazing — a true collaboration and a real friendship formed. 

From Hacking Homework

Now that the process is complete, we have shared the fears we held privately during the initial stages of the project: 

  • Would we get along?
  • Do our work styles mesh?
  • Can we blend our two voices into one?
  • When considering a writing partner, consider the pros and cons. I can’t speak from experience about disagreement or conflict because we simply didn’t have any, but I can imagine how these struggles could sour the process.

Getting started

If you’re ready to launch your New Year’s Resolution to write a book, here are a three quick tips to start immediately. 

  1. Carve out some time to make your dream a reality.
  2. Dedicate a couple of hours a week to narrow your focus.
  3. Research publishers and prepare your submission the way they want it; this will move you closer to becoming a published author.

The pride you’ll feel when other educators tweet out your words, blog about your ideas, or put your strategies into action is marvelous.

The process from idea to publication is challenging and rewarding and certainly worth the time and effort that goes into it.

I’ve learned how to write a book and get it published. Now I can say with confidence, “I’ll write another one someday.”

Connie Hamilton - Hack Learning AuthorConnie Hamilton Ed.S. is the Curriculum Director in Saranac Community Schools and national presenter specializing in best practice instructional strategies, leadership, and questioning. She is the author of Hacking Homework: 10 Ways to Inspire Learning Outside the Classroom. Connect with her on Twitter @conniehamilton and on her website.

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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