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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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5-Minute Film Festival: Mobile Learning

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Intrigued by the idea of using mobile devices for instructional purposes in the classroom? This playlist from VideoAmy will give you some tips and insights into the challenges and the promise of mobile learning.
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6 iPad Apps for Creative Writing

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Edutopia blogger Monica Burns, recognizing that written storytelling doesn't come easily to every child, has hunted down six iPad apps that will bring fun and creative challenge to learning this essential real-world skill.
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Dr. Stephanie Hatten's picture
Dr. Stephanie Hatten
District Digital Learning Coordinator, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 Digital Natives

That is true, we always have to use free apps in our district. That is why I recommended Toontastic. We use the free version of this app to inspire students to write. They create their story and script and then get to make their own characters, settings, and record movement and their voices. I use the free version of Popplet to help them plan their story.

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
EdTech & Curriculum Consultant, ADE , ClassTechTips.com

Thanks everyone for sharing some more of your favorite apps!

I love Toontastic! There is a new free storytelling app that is definitely worth checking out - it's called Adobe Voice and I've written about why I think it is perfect for classrooms (and even made my own example!) http://wp.me/p42mcK-RG

Ashley Bown Murray's picture

Thank you all for posting these wonderful ideas on apps to use for writing. My school has iPads that we can check out and I always struggle on how to use them effectively. I love these ideas on using them for writing because not all students like to write and I think this would encourage them to start. I can't wait to explore these suggestions more in depth!

Beth Kersey's picture
Beth Kersey
Passion for sustainable social good, education, and strategic global partnerships. Currently helping kids learn to read at Open Reading

Look forward to checking a lot of these out, most are new to me! I love the real life Story Cubes so I am sure there are some fantastic tools here- wish there were more free options. Any tips or suggestions for innovative & fun reading apps?

hejames1008's picture
A former educator who will always remain interested in the field and have an opinion.

Great thoughts on using apps in the creative writing classroom! It would be great to see a supplementary list that shows only free apps, as I believe it's in educators' best interests to consider the fact that many students may not be allowed to purchase apps, even for school. I worked in educational districts where a $5 app might mean a family would go without food for a day or even two, and while I believe an education is of tantamount importance, we have to consider the fact that more and more families are living below the poverty line.

There's also the budgetary consideration of school districts, as Dr. Hatten pointed to: some may not allow their educators to purchase apps.

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5-Minute Film Festival: Arts Integration Turns STEM to STEAM

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Intrigued by the idea of adding the arts to STEM education? This video playlist highlights programs and projects around the country that are exploring STEAM learning.
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Ashley Gomez's picture
Ashley Gomez
Former Community Engagement & Social Media Marketing Intern

Wow, love this compilation of videos. Makes me wish they had STEAM back when I was in K-12!

raymond rose's picture
raymond rose
Online Learning and Accessibility Evangelist

I wish we'd see the Arts integrated into STEM in a different way. STEAM has interesting connotations, and I frequently see images of steam engines used with STEM and Arts programs. Maybe not as visually appealing, but more 21st century would be to integrate the Arts into STEM as TEAMS -- which is more accurate in describing how the Arts is integrated into STEM in real life.

Evy Roy's picture
Evy Roy
Former Community and Social Media Intern at Edutopia

Raymond rose, I love that idea. STEAM (or TEAMS) is all about collaboration and integration, and the word "teams" conjures up images of kids working together, rather than an industrial steam engine. Thanks for those thoughts.

willa taylor's picture
willa taylor
Director, Education and Community Engagement, Goodman Theatre

It's a blended learning class but I think we could adapt it for online only. It is not specific to Chicago; part of the project is to adapt a show built to scale for us to whatever performance space a school has.

GCE Lab School, our partners in this, have an online "Learn The Model" course for any teachers who are interested in using/teaching the courses on their website.

Kristin Andaya's picture

All the videos are so inspiring! As a second grade teacher, I really enjoyed #9, the Young Audiences video. I definitely want to try the stamps when we're doing life science this year. I'll have them add the technology piece of doing the usual report/poster on an animal of their choice online rather than on paper. Voicethread, Google Slides, Glogster would all be great alternatives to the predictable poster on the wall. Many thanks for this video collection!

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STEM to STEAM: Resource Roundup

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Whether you are looking for resources on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math or on infusing the arts to transform STEM into STEAM, this curated compilation will help you strategize around different approaches to integrated studies.

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SamanthaW's picture

I will be teaching Kindergarten this summer school using the STEAM design. I am also a beginning teacher. This article and videos helped me understand more about what STEAM is all about. Are there any suggestions or advice anyone can give me?

Scott Bedley @scotteach's picture
Scott Bedley @scotteach
Teacher, Creator, Un-Maker, Foodie, Global School Play Day

Hey Samantha, I thinking starting simple and using something like Caine's Arcade https://youtu.be/faIFNkdq96U may be the way to go. Having volunteers there to support the kids but coaching them not to overstep and do things for the kids would be important. When long term planning start by looking at integration to content and limit yourself in the first year to doing one every other month or one a month. It's easy to over-commit yourself and have projects that become challenging to finish without too much adult intervention and work. I love the quote my dad always told me... "If we do something for children that they can do for themselves, we steal an opportunity from them to build responsibility, creativity and confidence." You are going to love going full STEAM ahead!


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Apply for a Teacher Travel Grant This Summer

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Teacher travel grants can be the perfect source to fund professional development, service-learning, and study abroad trips. Here are some resources to help teachers apply and the best sources to look.
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GEEO's picture

Another resource you may want to look at is www.geeo.org. Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that runs summer professional development travel programs designed for teachers.

Educators have the option to earn graduate school credit and professional development credit while seeing the world. The trips are 8 to 24 days in length and are designed and discounted to be interesting and affordable for teachers. GEEO provides teachers educational materials and the structure to help them bring their experiences into the classroom. The trips are open to all nationalities of K-12 and university educators and administrators, as well as retired educators. Educators are also permitted to bring along a non-educator guest.

geoeduktr's picture

For Indiana teachers, I believe the Eli Lilly Teacher Renewal Grants are still available. Just another avenue for travel.

saturdaysun's picture

I just saw this article on my news feed. Isn't it too late to get a grant for this summer?

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

saturdaysun, while this piece focuses on summer, the grants listed don't necessarily share that focus. Their deadlines will vary depending.

Gordon's picture

A great source of paid summer travel for teachers is actually the federal government
Go to http://www.neh.gov/divisions/education/summer-programs
In late October for the following summer teacher seminars, institutes and landmark classes.
Running anywhere from 1-6 weeks you receive a stipend to cover your expenses. 2015 was the last year for international programs but they have them based in the humanities all across the U.S.

Mattie Johnson's picture
Mattie Johnson
Media Specialist for Southern High School

The National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) offer study travel tours for teachers after you complete CEU credit with them. Their main purpose is to provide professional development on East Asia for K-12 teachers nationwide.

Liz's picture

Does anyone know of any no coast summer teacher institutes in Cuba?

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Summer Professional Development With MOOCs

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Summer is a great time for teachers to enroll in a MOOC, a "Massive Open Online Course." Matt Davis has compiled a list of a few summer courses to consider.
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ms. blatteau's picture

As a teacher who works closely with my peers in our own teacher-created professional development, I value these opportunities to learn independently and connect with other educators who are interested in similar topics. The principal at my school informed me of Stanford's online coursework. I have enrolled for the International Women's Health and Human Rights Course. It will inform how I adapt my own syllabus of a human rights course at the high school level in a significant way. Here is the link: https://class.stanford.edu/courses

scottmpetri's picture

While it's not technically offered in the summer, the Canvas Network is hosting Improving Teacher and Student Relationships beginning September 22. This course will give both traditional classroom and virtual teachers resources for improving relationships and interactions with students. After reviewing research and current trends in learning and motivation theory, this course will allow teachers to think-aloud and practice with new tools within a caring community of instructors seeking to improve their classroom practices. https://www.canvas.net/courses/improving-teacher-and-student-relationships

Victoria's picture

For teacher MOOCs- can be a fun and Engaging way to Expand experts and gain new skills develop. , I would also check http://imagiacian.com/, another great site. It searches courses, tutorials, and free online videos, so you're bound to find something interesting on it.

Sydney's picture
Passionate about entrepreneurship, elearning and extreme sports.

Learning how to learn! It's a course that just came out recently on Coursera which I strongly recommend. I think not enough emphasis is being given to learning styles and the course is doing a great job at giving practical knowledge!
Check out my blog www.elearnhero.com we usually mention the last great courses that we found!

Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA's picture
Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA
Advocate, Lawyer, Teacher and Founder of Beyond Tutoring

I can't wait to participate in some of these MOOCs and some of the great courses found in the comment section.

Hilary's picture

Some great courses recommended already! The Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills MOOC run by the University of Melbourne (https://www.coursera.org/course/atc21s) is also currently running. It is near the end of the course but you can still register and access materials and teaching resources etc and get a general feel for how the course works. It puts a focus on developmental assessment and teaching and provides practical tools such as developmental progressions for the classroom.

Priyanga Shimada's picture

Professional development refers to many types of educational experiences related to an individual's work. Many fields require members to participate in ongoing learning approved by the profession, sometimes as a requirement for keeping their jobs. In education, research has shown that teaching quality and school leadership are the most important factors in raising student achievement. For teachers and school and district leaders to be as effective as possible, they continually expand their knowledge and skills to implement the best educational practices. Educators learn to help students learn at the highest levels. Many people may not be aware of their local school system's methods for improving teaching and student learning. Professional development is the only strategy school systems have to strengthen educators' performance levels. Professional development is also the only way educators can learn so that they are able to better their performance and raise student achievement. Many misunderstandings exist about professional development, its purpose, and how it functions. Therefore, I feel MOOCs sounds really good for teachers who are looking for quality PD programs.

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Fun and Free Summer Learning Resources

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To help combat summer learning loss, blogger Matt Davis curated a few fun and free education resources for students and parents to use over summer break.
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NCFL's picture
National Center for Families Learning

Great list! Thank you, Anne.

We also wanted to call attention to Camp Wonderopolis. Starting June 16, Campers and learners of all ages will be able to explore six different subjects of science through 42 Wonders of the Day (How many flowers can a bee pollinate? Why don't oil and water mix? How do boomerangs come back?). Hands-on activities with around-the-house materials and daily lessons will be both fun and challenging for early and middle grade students (and parents!).

Camp Wonderopolis officially open June 16 (pre-registration is open now... Sign up today at www.Wonderopolis.org/camp).

Angela's picture
Parent of 3 high-school students in Chicago, Illinois

"lemonade stand" sounds like a great deal :D

Sarah's picture

I just received a grant to develop resources for students and their parents to prevent the summer slide. I am searching for free resources and any ideas.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

Hi Sarah! Is there a Makerspace in your area? They have lots of great (usually free) resources. I know our public library has a whole bunch of interesting things going on this summer too- my own kids are going to a DIY Stomp Rocket thing tomorrow and they're wicked psyched about it.

I saw this piece from the Atlantic today and bookmarked it- it sounds like something you'd like, too. http://m.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/for-better-school-res...

Susan Chen's picture

It's true that summer break could result in learning loss. I have students coming back to school in September perform poorly on the pre-assessment tests for reading and math. These results are in direct contrast to their year-end report card for the previous academic year. This is a welcomed list of ideas for me to give to parents to help their children continue to learn throughout the summer months. I have had only two standard recommendations in the past. I usually tell them to check the local library for activities and to check our local community college for its kids summer program. Now I am able to broaden their choices.

Story Share's picture

Great list, thanks for sharing Matt!

We would love to add Story Share to the list as a free resource available to parents and educators over the summer to support reading engagement.

Story Share is a collaborative digital literacy hub devoted to providing relevant, engaging, and approachable literature to struggling readers beyond elementary school. We bring together authors, readers, and educators to provide a digital library filled with high interest and age-appropriate stories for students in middle school and beyond. You can browse our new and improved library and filter stories by age, interest and reading level here:


We also recently wrote about the importance of engagement when it comes to beating the 'summer slide' which you can read more about here:


numberock's picture

Kids still gotta have kid time, though. 2 months of learning loss is regrettable, but I wouldn't trade that back if it meant losing summer vacations!

We're just a two-team husband/wife operations here at NUMBEROCK, but we just launched a free library of originally animated music videos that we think are going bring a wave of new enthusiasm into in-class and out-of-class learning to help with summer decline. Parents will probably find them cute, too!

They can be watched here...
or at www.numberock.com

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Resources Toolkit for New Teachers

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From classroom management to working with parents, lesson planning to learning environments, this compilation of blogs, videos, and other resources provides an array of tips and advice for teachers just starting out.

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The Discipline Doctor's picture
The Discipline Doctor
Math teacher, teacher advocate, discipline coach

Great choice here. It can be very difficult for new teachers to get started.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

What a great set of resources! Thanks for passing them along!

Lisa Dabbs's picture
Lisa Dabbs
Educational Consultant. Author. Speaker. Blogger.

Love that as a blogger for Edutopia, I am able to be a part of many of those great resources being shared with new and pre-service teachers!

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Critical Thinking: A Necessary Skill in the Age of Spin

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Attorney and author G. Randy Kasten suggests that educators have an obligation to prepare young minds for the thickening information cloud they're already being forced to navigate.
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Darnelle's picture
Early Childhood Educator from NY

As the article suggests every educator is in a position to teach critical thinking skills, including parents and those who work with younger students. For example, during read alouds with picture storybooks adults can model certain strategies and use scaffolding to teach a child to infer, ask "why?", understand characters, etc. On the playground a teacher can help a child "think through" why a particular spot is not okay to play in.

swatil's picture
I am a parent of a 2nd grader in London,UK

Teaching children to think is a fundamental concept that most early educators strive to introduce to their young learners. Creative and stimulating strategies that cajole them into analyzing objectively any given challenge, topic or a task are critical to this process. For educators the entire process of inculcating this basic skill evolves from being an engaging activity to the most satisfying, when their young wards perfect the rudimentary skills of this vital aspect of learning. With each higher grade of learning it becomes increasingly important for educators to build the necessary skills in their wards to think beyond the face value of vetexts or topics. Viewing a topic or theme from various perspectives, is the KEY to stimulate learners to think BEYOND and reach a 'Higher Order of Thinking' (HOT).
HOT lays the foundations of critical thinking and with each passing academic year becomes the vital key to achieving academic competence. Bloom's Taxonomy is a much appreciated and adopted thumb of rule to structure and develop gradual levels of thinking higher. The six levels are Remembering, Understanding, Application, Analysis, Evaluation and Creation. These six levels of higher thinking provide the much required framework for acquiring strong critiquing and analysis skills for all age groups of learners. Encouraging learners to move from lowest to the highest levels of thinking will help in developing higher order thinking.

Gina's picture
Writer; MA-Forensic Psychology

Very important points, Randy, thanks! One of the best ways to teach critical thinking skills without antagonizing parents (a concern expressed by one comment here) is to show kids through specific exercises how vulnerable they are to cognitive biases and distortions. These exercises can be very simple and non-threatening, while also helping open each child's mind to the need for paying attention to "how" they think rather than simply "what" they think. I would HIGHLY recommend that every educator read Daniel Kahneman's recent book /Thinking, Fast and Slow/. He includes some simple and very concrete examples from his and others' research that make many common cognitive biases very clear. There's no need to attack any child's (or parent's) personal beliefs in doing so, and I would imagine that even educators will be surprised at their own capacity for cognitive distortion after reading this book. I've written a bit more about this on my blog, Family Matters (http://familymatters.vision.org/FamilyMatters/bid/73671/Parenting-Issues...) but I really would recommend picking up the book if you get the chance.

Gina's picture
Writer; MA-Forensic Psychology

I appreciated the link to your blog. As one of your posts mentioned the importance of "focused, individual feedback," I thought I'd take the opportunity to give you some and say thanks very much for that point, especially in the context of teaching critical thinking. It can be too tempting (as you mentioned) to get frustrated when they take the superficial route, and scold them for laziness (which could just end up silencing them from sharing any further attempts at critical thinking). On the other hand, a little coaching can go a long way toward making the skill one they enjoy using.

Robert Swartz's picture
Robert Swartz
Books on teaching critical thinking, staff development trainer

These are fine comments about the need to teach students critical thinking skills. I would want to extend these comments to specifically flag helping students learn how to make discriminating judgments about the reliability of sources of information, the likelihood of predictions, the likelihood of causal explanations, and about the best options and best solutions in decision-making and problem solving -- and doing these with an open mind. Add to these skill at identifying, analyzing, and evaluating arguments, as well as constructing good arguments themselves, and writing good reflective prose -- and we have a core of contexts that call for effective instruction in our schools and colleges on critical thinking.

But we need to be discriminating ourselves in how we do this. Many teachers think that it is enough to give students critical thinking challenges: What is the best energy source for our country to rely on as its dominant energy source? Why did Huck Finn's father abduct him? What caused the Titanic to hit that iceberg? Which internet sources about the moon landing are reliable? These are challenging questions, but unless students have a sense of how to answer these questions, they are usually invitations for hasty non-critical responses. In order for these challenges to be effective invitations to careful critical thinking we need to teach students so that they use effective thinking strategies in answering them with an open mind, e.g. they know what kind of evidence is needed to support their judgments, and they don't rush to judgment until they have all the evidence on both sides of an issue.

I have found many many teachers wanting to do this who are not sure how to. That has been the focus of my work over the past 25 years -- infusing instruction in critical and creative thinking into their content instruction -- and most teachers I have worked with have had dramatic results -- great lessons that not only improve their students critical thinking abilities but significantly elevate their level of real content understanding. This is not too hard for a teacher to master. My experience has convinced me that while infusing such instruction into all classrooms is achievable, it will take many alerts like we find in Randy Kasten's article to wake the world of education up to the need to do this. I urge you all to make spreading this word a priority! Our future may depend on it.

Tim's picture
Educator and political activist designing learning opportunities for the ge

I'm inwhole-hearted agreement with you here Randy, but would spin you further along by countering that Critical Spinning is Necessary in an Age of Thoughtlessness. Standing in the forum arguing "truth" against doxa gets you killed (Socrates) or, in the best case, a 20 point trouncing in the polls (been ther, done that!) Yes, students need to think critically, but not by wielding Occam's Razor to hack out the truth through a jungle of spin. The 21st century 24-7 spin machine moves too fast for that ancient approach. Once they have found their truths, students need to learn to produce "realities" that "fight fire with fire," or they will just be engaged in academic fiddling while Rome burns (been there, and done that, too!)

Jeff's picture
Professor, entreprenueur, author, life alchemist

Unfortunately, even though many if not most colleges place critical thinking high on the mission statement list, too many employers still complain that students are missing this critical skill, if I may. In order to teach it and make sure students learn it, we must use critical thinking itself to problem solve. First, education cannot be forced. The student must be motivated or choose to learn, and by learn I am referring to the stickiness of knowledge. All to often A's are obtained, even 4.0's with little learning. Personally, I ignore these biased indicators. In addition, I don't check to see if students have learned. I do check, however, to see if they are paying attention and enthralled with the priceless, all encompassing, purifying, freeing, empowering nature of critical thinking, even critical, creative, intuitive thinking (all that I teach and coach are in these three words). Yet I do see its acquisition in the focus and attention paid, the statements made, the enlivening seen, and the greatest of being, be-ing.

We MUST create awareness and free the student to learn critical thinking, anything, for that matter. WE must have a passion for critical thinking. But more than that we must CARE. Care about the students, first and foremost. Once this equation is satisfied, success follows. Academia often fails for many inherent reasons. Even the former president of Harvard, Derek Bok, tells us that we do well by our students; however, we still fall far short of passing on the critical skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed by all of today's citizens. And that's the key. All must have access to CT and be able to not only obtain it but master it to greatest intellectual, emotional, physical, even spiritual effect. And that will only be solved by freeing the teaching of it from academic bureaucracy and state corruption, only by placing it where all have access to it free of these corruptions will the gaining of this critical knowledge begin to reach the heights of acquisition and application it so justly deserves.

April B.'s picture

Great topic and very timely with the "information age" we are in! I think it's so important for students to learn to think critically and to question everything... Understanding the motivations of those behind the information is huge and with so much information and mis-information out there this is a must. ~April (www.vingapp.com)

ExpectMore24's picture

I decided to make critical thinking one of my "core pillars" this year. However, I found embedding it within my curriculum was much more difficult than I expected, especially when trying to keep it engaging. http://listencurrent.com has great lessons built around current events and public radio pieces that push kids to critically listen and evaluate stories.

Jayro's picture
Mindfulness-based teacher and student education facilitator

Great article Randy. There is some interesting research outlined in the article below about transcend limiting beliefs and ideas we may have picked up unconsciously or via advertising/media, as you point out.

It's a research piece about limiting beliefs and the practice of affirmations, however the findings can be applied in the situations you speak of and used effectively with children to help them move beyond limiting beliefs and stories through the use of properly formed/structured questions that get the mind to expand beyond its limits.

I have applied the findings in my mindfulness work with students and teachers with great success. The power of questions continue to amaze me and are powerful tools in the push for teaching critical thinking skills, among other things.


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