#AMLE2017 Pre-Conference thoughts


I leave tomorrow for Philadelphia. I am excited to be presenting at the AMLE annual conference in front of incredible educators from all over the world. I wonder if there will be enough time in the two days that I am at the conference to do everything I desire. I want to attend ALL the sessions, connect with everyone and learn new things. I have to contain myself and remember a few guiding principals.

  1. Slow down– Don’t rush from moment to moment but just live in the moment. It will be over way to fast if you rush. Make all connections meaningful. Learn in the moment and don’t worry about the getting to the next moment.
  2. Talk to teachers– The conference will be full of incredible experts, authors and leaders. I enjoy connecting with all of them, but to hear about practical classroom practice, I need to connect with classroom educators. I need to make time in my busy schedule to make sure I sit in a few session with current classroom teachers. They know what works and the ins and outs of practice best, especially if they are presenting at a national conference.
  3. Say Hi– As I go through the conference I need to look for the attendees who seem to be by themselves. (Like me) I need to slow down say high and spark a conversation. During past conferences this is how I have meet some incredible people. Nobody wants to be alone, so I need to find my tribe. I also can’t assume people will recognize me from twitter. I am not a handle but a person.
  4. Follow twitter– This will allow me to not miss incredible stuff going on. I can see the retweets and interactions. If it was worth hearing, it will show up on the #AMLE2017 twitter feed. After I return home Tuesday night I will search the feed to continue learning.
  5. Use the APP– AMLE has invested money in creating a handy app. In the all presenters can upload all their resources. So even if you can’t make a session you can still find resources to use and help you grow. The APP has all the contact information you need to follow up with presenters and gives you a space to take notes.
  6. Have FUN– If learning isn’t fun it won’t be meaningful. I need to not stress about my sessions or who I connect with (I hope all of you!!) but enjoy the moment and the opportunity the conference provides.

See you all in Philly! Please stop me and Say HI if I don’t first!



Anchor: Endless possibilities


Recently I noticed a member of my Twitter community using Anchor FM. At first I was a skeptic, do we really need another tool to reflect or blog with? I already write this blog, I keep a blog for my classroom, I connect on many social media platforms. Would this be worth my time? Knowing my writing limitations and feeling more confidant as a public speaker, there was no harm in checking it out.

Once downloaded I gave the app a try. I found the tool easy to use and straight forward. Just speak in the phone to record you voice, add music to the background, preview and publish. The app connects to other social media accounts to allow for audience. Anchor was what I had been dreaming about. I can blog while driving just by talking into my bluetooth! I can quickly record my thoughts to save for later. I can choose to share or just keep them private. Anchor even allows you to create your own podcasts! The coolest part is listeners can call in to comment on your Anchor posts, giving instant feedback! Could I use this tool in the classroom?

My brain is swirling with ideas of how to have my middle school students use Anchor! We have 4 Ipads and 10 Ipods at school. With Anchor I can have students record their thoughts on learning activities, call-in to reflect on others recordings and have students create podcasts about their learning. Anchor can be used in many ways in the classroom. It can help student articulate their thinking, practice public speaking and ultimately become better writers when listening to their work.

Recently I discovered that Anchor has the ability to take spoken word and turn it into a video. Here is one created from my post today:

I did need to edit some of the transcription. My students will love this feature and it will help them work on proof reading skills. (Which I need too!) This video is such an improvement over my talking head Video Logs (Vlogs).

Check out Anchor, this tool has endless possibilities in classroom Anchoring our students learning!

Anchor can be used to:

  • Reflect
  • Retell/Restate
  • Summarize
  • Expand on ideas
  • Debate
  • Hypothesize
  • Predict
  •  Practice speaking
  • Give students an authentic audience

Please share your ideas of how you might use Anchor.

Finished with School?

finished with school

As I was listening to the radio the other day, I heard a call exclaim how glad they were to be entering their final year of school. Excited to be done, the DJ’s response caught my attention: “Then what? Your excited to be finished with the best years of your life and to go to a job everyday!” As a teacher I feel the excitement of school being out for summer and hear about student’s desires to be “done” with school. We have all heard the Alice Cooper’s anthem School’s Out for Summer.

Is school being out forever something to celebrate? Sure it is great to celebrate the accomplishment of graduation and moving on to new challenges but the end of learning? Most people want school over to get “into the real world”. Isn’t school part of the real world? Now that I am in my mid-forties reflections of school bring back the fondest memories. When will you only work 40 weeks out of the year again? Heck I wish I could JUST be a students again.

Students fail to see how school connects to life. They see it as a right of passage that they all have to get through. School has many similarities to jobs. Show up on time, complete task by deadlines and be respectful to your co-workers and boss. Luckily for students school is different than most jobs in that it is ever changing. Each year different boss and co-workers. During the day different subjects are tackled. Only professional careers look similar, most jobs are more mundane. The school year looks very different than most job years. Schools have more breaks and planned time off. Most jobs only have 2 weeks of vacation the first year and make new comers work holidays and weekends. So why are students in such a hurry to get done?

Society has created schools to be a task that has to be completed. Forgetting that being educated is a life long task. Grade levels have been arbitrarily created to match up with ages not knowledge level. Students see school completion as being an adult not being educated with core knowledge. When a person starts any job they start with a training program and mentors that mimic school. Our society needs to shift how we look at school, we need to focus on life long knowledge growth rather than school being out forever! Are we ever finished with learning? When my students ask this question my answer is “You are finished learning when you are finished living!”   

Now it is time for a school is in session anthem!

Give a hoot don’t pollute! #Trash Challenge

give a hoot
From: llerrah.com

As I took a walk this afternoon with my kids, I couldn’t help but notice how much garbage could be found along the roadside. As I stopped to pick up the first item, my wife who walks daily said “I usually pick up stuff on the way home.” By the time we reached our school a quarter mile up the road I had a handful of trash and had left plenty of pieces behind. Do we give a hoot anymore?

Being a child of the late 1970’s I remember Woodsy being on every Saturday during cartoons. It seems people today spend more time driving around looking for a good parking space than picking up trash. Over my 17 years as a classroom teacher it has astonished me how much trash can end up on the hallway floor by the end of the day. I ask students to pick it up frequently. The most common retort is “I didn’t drop it!” Well no but somebody did and it needs to be picked up! Our world is covered in trash, If you take a moment you can find it everywhere. Cigarette butts by doorways, plastic bags stuck in trees, bits of paper stuck in the grass.


A friend of mine recently posted this during his recent trip to Bolsa Chica State Beach in California. This is a challenge everyone in the world should take! We should take 10 minutes and pick up trash once a week/month. Think of what a difference this could make on our world! Just think about walking into your school or place of business, what if we stopped staring at cell phones and pick up trash on our way? Eventually we wouldn’t find trash on our short walks. Our youth haven’t heard Woodsy’s message from the 1970’s but they can see it modeled from us everyday!

Since seeing Anthony’s post, I have pick up trash everyday. Usually when walking through a parking lot. This is what I found yesterday in the Dollar General parking lot:


Sure some people stare at me as I pick up trash or pull plastic bags from the trees. Hopefully it inspires others to do the same. Here is the challenge that I hope goes viral:

Pick up trash, Take a picture of what you pick up and post to social media with the hashtag #trash and your commentary about it. Include as many others as you can in this. It could become contagious! Schools could take one period a month to clean their campuses and post pictures to inspire others.

Then maybe every waterway will have a trash wheel like this:

Overcoming media stereotypes 



From NationalStereoType.com

This morning I was doing my daily Facebook feed scan, A friend of mine had posted a link to the calendar for the up coming school year. I clicked the link wanting to see how my children’s district matched up to the district where I teach. I figured the link would take to a calendar filled with dates of breaks. Instead I was greeted with the following paragraph:

I was shocked! “Feel free to mark your calendar as one of the most dreaded days of the year for teachers and students” Really!! Way to show the community how teachers are committed! and telling students they should dread the start of school? This is not the way a newspaper should report the school district’s calendar adding typical stereotypes to the simple reporting of a calendar! Patch you should know better! After quickly checking the site I noticed the same introductory paragraph was used to share all of the districts calendars for the Patch reading area. What does this say to the readership?

By proliferating the stereotypes of teachers and students it hurts education! Readers will assume that teachers dread day 1 because they are lazy. When in fact most teachers spend weeks if not their entire summer working to make the first day of school (and all 180 after)  special! Teachers are excited for the new beginning that the school year brings. Parents will pass the dread to their students after reading the Patch calendar. “Johnny I know you don’t want to hear it but school is coming!” Might be a common conversation at a dinner table. I challenge the Patch staff writer to attend a final day of school in Macomb county. At my middle school students were crying, not wanting to walk out of the building because they were sad the school year was over. Many not knowing what their summer will bring. First days of school are exciting, full of promise and energy not dread.

“And feel free not to feel guilty about marking it as one of your favorites.”  What? The start of the school year is a day full of guilt for parents. Whether they are dropping of a kindergartner for their first day of school or seeing a senior off for their last year. YES, Parents should feel guilt. They are handing off their precious child for their education. Many parents ask themselves; ‘Is my child ready? Did they slide during summer or did we do enough?” Should a newspaper be expressing this much opinion when reporting a school calendar?

NO! These types of stereotypes are expected in films and on TV. There is no place in journalism for using them. Schools need to be free of stereotypes, teaching the diverse population that attends them. A simple calendar report like this makes our job infinitely more difficult.  For parents it makes schools like a day care system. For students it makes school dreaded. For teachers it devalues our hard work and jobs.

Dear Media: Do your job, report the facts with out stereotypical commentary, it will help us all in the end!


Tricks and Tips for Effective Video-Based Learning

Video based learning

*Guest Blog Post by Ethan Miller

Videos are not just a source of entertainment anymore. In the past decade or so, video based learning has become one of the most preferred methods of online learning. Ever since the advent of social media, videos are accessible to anyone and everyone irrespective of their geographical location and the devices they use. With such a wide reach, it is not surprising that video based learning is ruling the e-learning market.


Let’s first take some time to understand what video-based learning is. It’s the process of gaining knowledge by watching an informative video. In video-based learning, the instructor puts together all the information that he/she wants to convey through audio-visual medium, in such a manner that it catches the attention of the audience. Be it recording yourself lecturing about a topic or explaining through enacting a scenario or just using plain text with voiceovers, these are all varied examples of video-based learning.    


Now let’s focus on what makes video based learning popular:  


  • Videos provide a great platform to convey information in a captivating manner with the help of audio-visual aids.
  • It also allows teachers and instructors to delve in deep on a particular topic without the fear of students losing interest.
  • Images and sounds have great impact on human minds, and thus it helps students to retain what they have learnt for a longer period of time.
  • One of the biggest plus points of video based learning is that it allows students to learn at their own pace. It is a big step towards personalized learning.



Now that we have seen why video-based learning is so big in the e-learning market, it’s time to discuss how to make video learning effective for students so that they can get more out of the entire process. The only key to effective video based learning is creating a video that powerfully drives the idea into the minds of its audience. So let’s focus on how one can create a powerful video lesson from scratch.


Here are a few tricks and tips on creating an effective video for successful video-based learning:


Pre-defined Goals

Video-based learning is a goal-driven method to learning. So before you create a video lesson, you need to be clear about what the end goal is. Once you have the answers to questions like what should students take away from this lesson or how this lesson is going to benefit students, you can focus on planning your video around the end objective.    


Unconventional Lesson plan

Creating a lesson plan around videos is rather different from what you would create for traditional classroom learning. As video gives you a wide range to explore and experiment with your lesson, don’t feel shy to add unconventional ideas in your lesson plan. Video-based learning gives instructors an opportunity to show different aspects of a lesson that are not possible to address in textbook style teaching. So chuck out the conventional lesson plan and go crazy with your video lesson.  


Short and Sweet

One of the problems with video based learning is that the video can meander into off page topics if the instructor doesn’t pay close attention. With so many cool things that you can incorporate in your video, it is quite easy for an instructor to digress into subjects that are not related to the main topic. And when a video lesson shifts its focus from the main topic at hand, it leads to the audience losing interest and thus dilutes the entire learning experience. Apart from the obvious drawback of losing out on the audience, lengthy videos take up more size and are difficult to upload or access from different devices. So, it is better keep it short and sweet.   


Voiceovers and Captions

One of the simplest tricks to make your video lesson way better is by adding voice-overs and captions to the video. It might sound like a very small addition to the video, but it does wonders to the overall quality of your video lesson. Voice-overs and captions make it simpler for your audience to understand better and also benefits students with hearing or visual impairments. However, one must understand when to use voice-overs in order to avoid overusing them. Captions and voice-over at right places can magically enhance the experience of video-based learning.     


Audio-Video Quality

It might sound very basic but a lot of instructors overlook the audio-video quality of the lesson. You might have created an amazing video lesson with interesting analysis but all the effort will go down the drain if your audio-video quality is not good. Watching a poor quality video is an instant turn off for the audience. So there needs to be great emphasis on creating a decent quality video with good quality sound to go with it. You don’t need a high end camera and audio mike to create an effective video. You can record a decent quality video on your cell phone camera and use voice recorders to get clear audio sans interference.     


Record Examples


Video lessons are not just meant to impart theoretical knowledge. They can be used to show practical applications as well. For example if you are teaching about how to use a software or an app, you can pepper your video lesson with practical examples by just recording the screen while you use the software/app. This gives your audience a clearer picture about the lesson and minimizes chances of making mistakes while they use the software in real life.  


Apart from the aforementioned tips, one can even use animation tools or get in touch with a graphic designer to add extra spark to your video lesson. Although animation is not everyone’s cup of tea, it adds additional value to your video lesson.


Even without animation, you can ensure an impactful video based learning by following the simple tips that I have mentioned above. I hope this article helps instructors and teachers who are new to the world of video based learning.  


  • Ethan is a dedicated private ESL teacher who also works as an online tutor at various education portals. Apart from his passion for teaching, Ethan loves to write and holds a degree in creative writing. When he is not teaching or writing his book, Ethan loves to blog and is a huge fan of educational technology. You can follow Ethan on FacebookTwitter and check out his blog on WordPress.



#OneWord2016 TIME


I am a teacher, husband, and parent of 3. Time is of the essences to me.

As Steve Miller expresses so well in “Fly Like An Eagle”, time is slipping into the future. So many things I want to accomplish, so many best intentions, I just seem to run out of time for all of them. I care, I give my time to so many causes. I often forget about myself and my family. For 2016 I hope to find a balance in my time so it stops slipping away.

Time for myself. Over the years this has been one of the most neglected areas of time. My health has slipped because I never find the time for proper exercise and doctors visits for regular body maintenance. 27 years of failing to give my surgically repaired back finds me scheduling a surgery for March. After being told it would place me on the sidelines for 12 weeks, I freaked out. After some reflection, it will give me time away from the teaching game to reflect and come back stronger. If we fail to give ourselves time: We won’t be here to give it to others.

Time for my family. For ten years I took my family for granted. Working hard as a provider as my better half stayed home on tending to their needs. When she returned to work last year, I didn’t realize how much it would affect me. We have worked hard to find a balance (Not without many challenges) I now need to help my wife as she advances her career. In doing so I will be there for my lovely three children. All any child wants is time with their parents. I need to make the most of it being an example for my children.

Time for my students. In the classroom we have so much to do, so little time. Teachers often focus on cover all the curriculum that they forget their true purpose: educating children. Instead of rushing to judge my students and their actions, I need to give them time. Time to process their learning, time to understand WHY they might be acting out, time to listen to THEIR concerns, time to HEAR their desires. All Teachers need to slow down and remember they are CHILDREN that need our time. Forgetting test scores and political mandates, teachers need to go with their guts and give students TIME.

Time for my colleagues. Working in an educational setting leads to a team approach. All the teachers have the same goal, educating our students. We need to give each other time to accomplish this task. Teachers need to share what reaches the toughest students in their classes. Sharing the tricks of our trades so students can learn. I need to spend more time working with my team of teachers, discussing our students and how to make sure learning occurs. It is too easy just to close the door and teach only my subject, but I was hired to teach students. Taking time to collaborate is essential for schools success.

As I have read so many great One Word Posts for 2016: Equity, trust, respect, etc… to get to every word I need TIME.

Thanks for taking your time to read this, hope you found it valuable and a good use of your TIME. Allocate yours well my friends because you only have so much.