035: Living on the Edge of Chaos with Todd Flory

In this episode I have the pleasure to chat with Todd Flory. Todd is a 4th grade teacher from Kansas. He is doing some amazing work in regards to global education.

This was a fun episode as we explore the ins and outs of expanding your classroom beyond the four walls. This topic has been covered many times, but Todd brings a new level to the conversation as we discuss

  • How do you find another classroom to connect with?
  • How do you go about finding experts to speak to your students?
  • The benefits of mystery skype
  • What happens when a global learning moment ignites a spark for a student?
  • His latest project of doing a Skype BreakoutEDU
  • How to connect global projects to the standards

There are plenty of examples to get you started.

You can find more about Todd at the following


Check out the show and episodes on iTunes

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Change. Improvement. Technology. Productivity.

Change. Improvement. Technology. Productivity.

These are the words that seem to be a common theme in educational conferences as of late. We are in a point in time where we now have powerful enough technology to pretty much solve any issue that educators have outside of extending the amount of hours in a day.

I had the luxury and privilege to be able to travel to Georgia for the GaETC conference. This was a wonderful conference and one that I really hope to be able to attend again. This will sound a bit conceited, but I have hit a point where I rarely learn new things at conferences anymore. You feel like you sit in a few sessions that continue to be cycled through time and time again.

GaETC was different. I have a boatload of tips, tricks, ideas, and thoughts that I cannot wait to bring back to my school. I cannot wait to process through my thoughts to further develop my ideas. I feel like I was challenged all day long for 48 hours. I have several pages of thoughts, ideas, projects, and more to develop into action.

As I was sitting in the airport I was thinking about why this happened? What was it about GaETC that provided me so many great new things to be better as an educator?

I came up with two reasons

Reason 1: Delivery

You need to be a great presenter. This is an art. I will be honest here. I fully support and work like crazy to get teachers to share their messages. We need more teachers sharing what they are doing in the classroom. With that comes preparation. I did attend two presentations where the topic and idea being shared was powerful and great, but the delivery was poor. It kills the mood. It kills the investment of trying out the idea. Presenting and teaching adults is much different than teaching children. So, this leads to the bigger concept of the need for quality presenters that are great at entertaining and delivery that are not in the school systems vs. a poor presentation from someone in the trenches. What is more important?

This is not a knock on teachers. I know it is a generalization as I also sat in on a few sessions of teachers who were amazing. However, the featured and keynote speakers entertain. They know how to deliver many do this work as a job. There is a reason they have large groups. It is not by chance.

My point with all of this is that you must have something worthwhile to share and you must know how to deliver. I just finished reading Ted Talks by Chris Anderson and his idea of pushing for Presentation Literacy is spot on. We must learn how to deliver words. ( TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson).

I was super impressed by the delivery of Chris Craft @crafty184 and how he put the audience at ease. Leslie Fisher does the same but through sarcastic comments and jokes that people love @lesliefisher. Alice Keeler spins her ideas with her high energy @alicekeeler. I even witnessed a presentation lead by Don Wettrick @donwettrick, Doug Bergman @dougbergmanUSA , and Lou Zulli @lzulli where all three had very different styles, but it worked because they each connected with different people in the audience.

The point here is that everyone has a style, but it is essential that you understand how to read a crowd and deliver. When the delivery is good, the ideas feel even better. When deliver is bad, the best idea can be lost in translation.

This was an important lesson I learned to bring back to students. It was also an important lesson for myself as I continue to figure out how to engage and empower teachers through PD, conferences, and workshops.

Reason 2: Relationships

Social media allows us to develop friendships and connections without ever seeing people in person. When you have the chance to actually connect in person with someone you have been in contact with via social media you already have a sense of who they are and where they stand. You can now break the time suck of getting to know one another and instead dive right into quality conversation. Due to social media I know that there were certain people I wanted to learn from because I knew they had something to offer.

I was so pumped to actually hear Chris Craft speak. I follow his work online and to finally attend a session and later have a short conversation was amazing. I had a few minutes chatting with Vicki Davis after her long day of several presentations, but due to an online friendship and connection we were able to dive right into a conversation about our children that might have been one of the most needed talks I needed to have. This does not happen without relationships.

Many of us fear social media. This is not a plea to get you to use every channel. I am simply suggesting that reaching out online leads to a more powerful personal experience where your conference experience level can rise to new heights.

Let me give you an example. I have been chatting and talking back and forth with Don Wettrick for years. We connect on Facebook and Twitter. He has been a great sounding board for me with ideas over the years. I consider him a friend and yet we have never met in person.

At GaETC we finally connected. It was awesome. We attempted to solve the world problems one night over baseball and it was outstanding. The conversation with him, Doug Bergman, and Lou Zulli(who I have never met in person either) was good. I was pushed in my thinking and beliefs, yet it felt like connecting with long lost friends.

This would have never happened without building a PLN. I would have walked by them in the halls had I not known them from online. I would not have had my beliefs challenged. I would not have grown as a person.

The point here is that often times the greatest growth comes from relationships with the people.

Sandi Adams, an educator who I hold near and dear to my heart helped me at the conference. She made sure I was good to go. She supported me in my session along with many other amazing educators. She included me in a gathering of other outstanding MIE’s. She introduced me to other teachers that I would have never met otherwise(like the @edumigos). Because of her I felt more comfortable, met more people that I would have done myself(surprisingly I am quite an introvert when it comes to that), and I was able to learn more. She is one of the greatest educators I know and because of her I was able to grow as a person and educator. It lead to some good conversation with Lisa Lougheed and Suzy Lolley as a result.

While conferences like these are good to learn the latest technology, apps, extensions, and more, it is not the real power. Over time all of these ideas go away(Prezi anyone?). Technology will change, but being able to deliver content and build relationships do not. These are vital skills that help us stay ahead of the curve and allow us to grow together. Without these skills of speaking and learning how to connect with others we simply fall prey to sitting in our comfort bubble of the same people where we will never grow.

The emphasis of technology in many conferences will never go away because that is what draws people to them. That we cannot change. However, the real power is in people. Learning to communicate and learning to build relationships. That is where you get your bang for your buck.


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Google Calendar: Using Appointment Slots to be Productive

This tip covers how to use the appointment slot feature in Google Calendar. It is time we start to use tools that help automate the communication and planning process.

This tutorial will help you create a calendar, develop the slots, share the calendar, and how to use it in various ways to be productive.

This is great for conferences, tutor sessions, making appointments with other teachers, etc.

How have you used it? Leave a comment.

If you like this video please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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034: Living On The Edge of Chaos Podcast with Ginger Lewman

You are in for a treat with this episode. My great friend and educational hero, Ginger Lewman, was kind enough to spend some quality time discussing project based learning, quality learning, and a ton of other powerful concepts in this latest podcast episode.

If you have not check out her work, then you must check the resources at the bottom of this page.

I recently read her latest book and after reading the book, scribbling mass notes in the margins, and being reminded about the key things we must be doing in schools I just had to pick her brain some more.


In this episode we cover some key questions such as:

  1. What is project based learning?
  2. What are the common misunderstandings of pbl?
  3. Are shorter projects better?
  4. What is the importance of Wows, Hows, and Bows?
  5. How do we get started with pbl?
  6. How do we make pbl work within the confines of the school system?
  7. Why did we get into the profession of teaching in the first place?


Grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and be ready to gain some new ideas to enhance your practice. As always we would love feedback, questions, a nice review on iTunes, and more.


You have two ways to access this podcast episode as well as all previous episodes

  1. Check out the show and episodes on iTunes

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Google Chrome Tip: Picture in Picture

Netflix and Work at the Same Time!

This tip will make your life so much easier. Don’t you hate it when you only have one screen, but really need two? Have you ever needed to have two things going on at once to get a job done? Do you need to work on a document while watching a tutorial or movie? Do you need a screen in the corner while you are working?

This tip will walk you through how to set it all up quickly and easily so you can watch Netflix while working…..I mean have two vital pieces of work information up and going at once to be more productive.

If you like please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to the channel.

UPDATE – This tip works only works on Chrome OS(Chromebooks). The new Chrome updated 54 has disabled panel enabling. If you are Windows 10 machine or other platform this may not work anymore.

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Everything Matters

Until it doesn't anymore

Being a parent and an educator in the same school district is tough. I would go so far to say that being a parent and educator no matter the school district is tough. Heck, just being a parent OR an educator is tough.

However, having children in school district where you work does help to provide little subtle reminders about the power of being an educator.

As a family, we are in a year of transition. My son has now entered 6th grade and attends the middle school where I work. My oldest daughter is in 4th grade while my youngest has entered kindergarten.

As an educator I love learning. My wife and I are both teachers and we just have a deep passion for learning and for kids. We want our children to be happy, to love learning, and to feel successful. We also want that for every student that we come in contact with as an educator.

As an educator it is easy to lose sight of the idea that everything matters. We become so used to the routine and atmosphere of our school and our classroom that we sometimes lose sight of the small details that are the most vital for successful learning. We become so stressed to meet the needs of data, standards, spreadsheets, forms, and other elements that we all know are not always the answer. Because of this we don’t pay much attention to the pieces that have long lasting impacts on a student. We feel rushed to get through more and more and more that we sometimes skip over or gloss over the little moments that can make monumental gains in the life a child. We simply strive to survive a job that is proving to be more and more difficult each day.

My daughter, the one in kindergarten, is just a spitfire in life. She says the craziest things, holds her own to anyone, and can go from giggling to pure anger in a nanosecond. As tough as the tries to act she is very sensitive and thrives off emotion. And so it has been an interesting year as she has moved to kindergarten. Letters and numbers are not her thing because they don’t come easy. She has had problems with speech and a few other things. She tries her best to not act like anything is wrong, but there are times when she shifts from acting angry to tears. She wants to be like her brother. She wants to be successful like her sister. She wants it all to come naturally and easy as it appears it does for her siblings. She is five, but is smart enough to know that mom and dad are intelligent and wants us to approve of her work.

She does not want to disappoint.


Her mom and dad

Her family

In one of these moments of anger the other day my heart broke as a parent. You see my daughter wakes up every single day during the week and instantly starts yelling. She throws a fit about her clothes. They don’t fit. Therefore, she won’t be able to go to school. Her socks don’t fit right. Her hair is a mess. She won’t eat breakfast. She yells. She screams. She is angry. Why? Is it because these things are true? No, it is because this is how she copes with the idea of heading to school where she does want to go. She wakes with stress. She wakes with fear. She wakes not with excitement to learn, but fear of what she can’t or won’t be able to learn. And this hurts me to the core.

She celebrates days when her class does not have centers. She was talking about school one day and she broke into tears. She was sharing how she always gets smaller stars on her paper because she is not as smart as the other kids. I don’t for one second believe this is intentional. I believe what happens is that during the work time the teacher simply marks the papers with stars as they finish and get things correct. However, in the eyes of a five year old who lacks confidence these stars are everything. They mean the world to her and are a gauge of her self esteem. These five pointed symbols are a sign of how others view her in her mind. It explains why she draws monster size stars at home when she plays school for hours upon hours on end.

Even if it is intentional to showcase the difference between right and wrong this small act, this small nanosecond of a quick scribbled shape on a piece of paper is the difference in the outlook and feeling of school to a child. This split second moment is everything.

Yes, we talked with her. Yes, we are working on things at home, but it is tough because she does not like to work on them because she “knows it already! DAD!”

The moral of this story is to make sure we take notice of the small things. Do we say hello to everyone? Do we acknowledge all kids regardless of how they act, perform, and behave? Do we provide positive reinforcements to help bring a smile to their faces? Do we do the things necessary to create positive relationships? Do we ensure that the stars we draw for our students are big and beautiful?

Because without relationships nothing else matters.

But with a relationship everything matters. With a relationship these small moments can be the difference between a smile and tear on the face of a child in which these two factors can be the greatest impact on any spreadsheet or data set that everyone seems to require these days.


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The Powerful Learning in Making a LEGO Duck

One of the activities I have used time and time again is building a LEGO duck to showcase the power of hands on learning, thinking with parameters, and to revisit the power of being a kid again. This simple activity is a quick and yet powerful way to engage the brain into thinking and learning. I have used it to serve several purposes that I would like to share with you in hopes that it inspires you to give it a try.

Teaching Moment #1: Makerspace Workshop


When I run a makerspace workshop I always start with a making challenge right away. Before I even introduce myself or anything else I toss out whatever the materials are needed for the day and we build. The goal is to model the way and not just talk about making. I want to break the traditional PD/session routine. So we build. We build quick. Here is how it works.


I used to have hundreds of these small duck kits of six pieces. If you can find these kits go for it. However, they are not required at all. I also know that is not practical so just give everyone the same pieces from the LEGO pieces you own. Pull random ones. Take the image above and try to find these type of pieces. Less is more to challenge the brain. If not, then grab some of the same pieces and don’t worry about the color.

If you don’t have LEGO pieces sitting around, then you have a few options

  1. Send out an email blast to parents. It is amazing how many middle school and high school parents will donate LEGO bins as they just sit and collect dust in their homes.
  2. Buy some. I recommend
    1. LEGO Classic Creative Supplement 10693 by LEGO http://amzn.to/2dK2Nbv 
    2. 500 Random Lego Pieces Washed Sanitized and… by LEGO http://amzn.to/2eLujbe
    3. Check Ebay, Craigslist, or Facebook Community Swaps

How It Works

We are jumping in right away. You will be thinking with your hands. Are you ready because here we go. No time to ease into things. We are getting after it right now. Put on your thinking caps boys and girls because this maker train is about to take off.

Here is your challenge: 

You will be given 60 seconds to make the best duck you can. Are you ready to do some thinking with your hands?

Get the timer ready. Put on your thinking hat and…….


It is amazing what they will come up with. Here are some examples of ducks created by students and my own kids when I was piloting and testing out the idea to make sure it was successful.

Post Duck Reflection

It is always good to reflect so I pose these questions for conversation with the whole group.


What did you make? Go ahead and snap a picture and email it to aarmau@gmail.com so I can add it to our collection page.

  1. What skills are used to make a LEGO duck? https://answergarden.ch/view
  2. Are any ducks the same?
  3. What lessons did you learn?
  4. What would you try next time?
  5. How else could we document this process?

Wrap Up

I go on to show them how my daughter who was 4 at the time did the same challenge. My son even jumps in towards the end. I show this video because it is a good reminder how quickly the adult brain puts in parameters and sometimes limits creativity. She is not timed as she was only 4, but watching the process is pretty cool and a magical moment of being a kid. I apologize for her crazy hair.

LEGO Duck Challenge Part 2: Group Collaboration

Once we do this quick 3 minute activity you will witness the audience(adults, students, whoever) continue to build. Their eyes are down. They are tinkering with the pieces. What if I do this….. Or what if I change this piece…….What if I start all over…….

It is awesome. Instead of moving into the ho hum lecture style teaching and presenting we move quickly into another challenge. They have a bit of confidence. They have smiles. They are laughing.

So we go again


I remind them of the following essential elements to making

  • Just start building. Trust your hands.
  • Let them pick the bricks they want.
  • If you are not sure where to start, then just let your hands do the work. The brain will catch up.

The Challenge

They will now be working as a team. No longer can they just think alone. They have to communicate, collaborate, and process how to make it work. Pay close attention to how the groups work. There are so many methods it is amazing and a great conversational piece.


Post Team Duck Reflection


Next Steps

By now they are good. They are content and ready to move on into substance. They have their fix. Theirs brains have been primed and juiced, but now they are ready for more. They want content. Connections. Proof of application.

You have them hooked. I quickly jump into a short discussion about play with the following ideas.

Play Allows Us To…..

  • Team build
  • Unleash creative thinking for accelerated innovation
  • Work out a solution to a shared problem
  • Create a shared mindset about something
  • Constructive discussions where everybody is heard
  • Build a shared vision
  • Leadership development
  • One-on-one coaching and team coaching
  • Use with your children, family, school, …


At this point you can move into your next activity. If you are in the classroom, then where would you go? If you are teaching teachers, then where would you go? I am interested in your next steps.

What do you think? I will be sharing part 2 next week with some other school wide building challenges, but for now I would love to know how you can incorporate this idea into your classroom and school?



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How to Split screen on Mac, PC, and Chromebook

I have been asked several times how to split screen on multiple devices. There are several extensions, apps, and more that can help with this. However, I wanted to share how to easily do this task on all platforms with no extra tools.

I cover how to do so on a Mac, Chromebook, and PC.

What other shortcuts, tools, tips, etc. do you use to split screen or to make your productivity flow smoother and easier when you work?

Leave a comment and if you like please subscribe.


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033: Living on the Edge of Chaos with Tammy Dunbar

Season 3 of Living on the Edge of Chaos podcast is ready to knock your socks off with none other than Tammy Dunbar talking Genius Hour.

It has been a long time since season 2 ended. In that void of episodes I had a series of small side podcasts(all on the same channel) testing things out.

After some learning, revision, and moving into action Living on the Edge of Chaos is here.

I cannot be more excited to start off season 3 with anyone other than Tammy Dunbar. Tammy is a 5th grade teacher from California who also teaches technology and does a ton of trainings for teachers around the world. She is one who not just talks the talk, but walks the walk.

In this episode we discuss Genius Hour. Genius Hour has been covered many times, but this episode looks at the bigger picture of Genius Hour.

  • How does one connect this concept to the standards?
  • How do we move away from it being a “pocket of innovation” into the culture of innovation for a school?
  • Can implementing a program like this actually raise test scores?
  • What happens when we treat students as more than simply a number and data plot?

Below are the links to all references in the podcast to learn more.

We hope you enjoy. As always please reach out with questions, ideas, thoughts, and reviews by leaving a comment on iTunes or leaving a comment on the blog(coffeeforthebrain.com)

Last, you can reach out to Tammy on her website or on Twitter.

Enjoy this episode and be ready for an amazing season of pushing our thoughts on the status quo of education.

You have three ways to access this podcast episode as well as all previous episodes

  1. Check out the show and episodes on iTunes


3. If  you care to watch the video version, then here you go!


Show Notes

CV: https://docs.com/tammy-dunbar/about

Liberating Genius OneNote Journals/Lessons by Tammy


Liberating Genius Into Sways by Tammy


Free eBook “Liberating Genius” By Angela Maiers & Mark Moran


Liberating Genius by Angela Maiers


If looking for a list of pretty much everything Genius Hour, then check out this LiveBinder put together by Joy Kirr

A list of all previous episodes can be found here

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Google Tip: Making the Most of Action Item Feature

Google recently announced some pretty cool updates on the horizon with Google G Suites.

One of these new features is the Action Item. While it is already working I think this is just going to be the tip of the iceberg of what is coming down the pipeline.

This video will showcase how it works and how educators and students can use this feature to be more productive in the classroom.

Let me know what you think and how you think it can help streamline the classroom.

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