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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Break down your classroom walls: Global Debate

It is here!


One of my favorite projects is almost underway. Over 700 students are involved in our Revolution Debate project are about ready to embark in a powerful learning project.

This is a project that started small two years ago. Two years ago teachers in our building created a debate on the topic: Revolution – Is It Justified? At this time we had students debate each other from separate classrooms. This was a great start, but we knew there was something special and could go bigger.

Last year we opened up the debate to the world. We had over 800 students involved. We had 9 different locations from around the USA. We had students doing all the judging to eliminate bias and another 800 debating the topic. It was powerful. We saw a spark in the eyes of students we had never seen before. There is that moment when you state your opening remarks and someone you don’t know voices a rebuttal stating how everything is wrong that just fires you up. And in a good way. It is something that is difficult to replicate alone in your classroom.

In a post from October 2015 I posted the following

PLN Support #1: I am helping operate a debate project on the American Revolution. During this process leading up to recording the first speakers this week we had a few classes drop out. It was not a big deal. After a crazy set of circumstances we had another teacher drop and with that left us with over 180 students and 60 teams empty with nobody to debate. I put out a plea asking for any teachers to possibly jump in and help last minute. Within 48 hours I had two teachers who I have never met before or worked with in my life step in and make things happen to allow students to learn, develop their skills, and not be let down. Because of my PLN who read the plea and then went to their schools to connect with other educators we now have a debate of over 800 students pushing their thinking and learning to new levels. We also have educators building their own PLN through this debate sharing resources, teaching ideas, and learning together. Without my PLN, this debate fails and a lot of students lose out on a quality learning opportunity.

The beauty and headache of a global project that goes beyond surface level learning is the coordination of events. Already this year, we have a teacher who has lost internet. We will all rally to help make things happen and work for everyone. And this is what I love. A built in global powerhouse of educators coming together working hard to do what is best for kids. Students and teachers are involved in a process where real world(I hate to use that phrase, but much of education is simply simulation) learning takes place. Teachers have to collaborate. Students have to adjust. Technology breaks down. People don’t do work. And through it all perseverance is developed and powerful learning takes hold.

As an instructional coach I am able to sit(not really sit, but deal with logistics) behind the scenes and watch it all develop. It ignites my love for educators who bend over backwards to make things work. It ignites my passion for showcasing that students can do more than we ever imagined if just given the chance.

Speaking of bending over backwards, this project would never happen or work without Voicethread. There is no tool on the market that currently allows us to do what we are doing. Voicethread works smoothly and flawlessly. The ability to record audio, load up text to showcase our research, and leaving a space for judge feedback is amazing. Students can record to Voicethread using any device, tool, or phone as long as they have internet. Mix this tool with an amazing help support from the company we simply could not do this project. If you have not used Voicethread, then I suggest you check it out. It is a tool that leverages the power of global collaboration.

Looking forward to this year we are currently sitting at over 700 students with classes that span all over the USA as well as India. We will be debating asynchronously, but still mimicking a live debate. Students will listen to one speaker and respond within one hour of listening to mimic live debates as much as possible.

We will have room to add other classrooms. At this point we could really use about 60 more students to balance the sides of the debate.

My challenge to you is to bust down the walls of your classroom. Allow your students to connect with other students. Allow them to showcase their learning and skills. Allow yourself as an educator to build up your PLN by connecting with other powerful teachers who share your passion for teaching. Allow the learning in the classroom to have a built in real audience. Allow the the learning to have a purpose. Allow it all to happen with tools that readily available like Voicethread.

130 debates are ready to rock and roll. Students are building up their cases or will be soon. Speakers will begin recording in the next week and the games will begin. Which side will win – Affirmative or Negative? A lot is on the line and all in the power of learning. Come join us. Sign your students up or let them be a judge, or simply follow along on the journey. Each year we scale and build. None of this could happen without the teachers who are involved pushing the boundaries of learning and teaching. None of this could happen without the technology that bridges the classrooms like Voicethread. None of this was possible 10 years ago, but it is all at our fingertips today. Don’t make excuses anymore.

If you want to learn how to get started, then you can start here or simply join this project and we will support you along the way.




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Africa Story Part 2: School Supplies Are Heading To Uganda

Yesterday, we delivered on our promise. It has been a long journey, but one very important and exciting one that will continue to develop and grow stronger over time.

Over a year ago we established connection with a village in Uganda, Africa. We collaborated on a project comparing what success means between students and have worked to provide school supplies to the village. As we worked to make this happen we have joined forces with Pencils of Promise in hopes of raising enough money to build a school. We have a long way to go and so far not made much progress.

However, we made huge progress in finally getting supplies to the village in Uganda.

The goal of this project is to help students think about others, care about others, and do good deeds to inspire more positive actions among one another.

Since our last post updating everyone with our friends in Uganda, I want to continue the story with the result being the supplies heading to Africa as we speak.

May 2014 

If we go back to May/June and the end of our school year we did a school wide locker cleanout which every school probably does. What we did differently this year is ask that any decent supplies not used or not in terrible condition be donated to gathering school supplies for our friends in Uganda and hopefully to other areas in need. I could not believe how many supplies we were given. It was both amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. Amazing in that we have so much supplies to help others in need. Heartbreaking that many students don’t care about the supplies and would just toss them out and not think twice, or worse yet were not used to enhance their learning.

Regardless, we have over 500 lbs of supplies

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.16.39 PM

June and July

Not much was done due to summer break. I did not want to move things forward because that would be me doing the work and not students. During this time I worked to contact other organizations, try to develop a plan to expand our work, and from new connections and ideas.

It was during this time that I decided to jump on board with Pencils of Promise. I was meeting with many people about creating my own platform, but with a full time job, kids, coaching, etc. I needed to join a cause. Pencils of Promise was a perfect fit as you can read about on the Build a Schools page.

During this time I connected with the amazing people who have helped so much – Eddy and Eden. I learned from Eddy that

Towards the end of January Eddy shared with me that the cool rains were returning. I asked him what that means for the people and how it affects life.

Eddy shared with me the following which I found quite fascinating:

Rain can affects life, here in Uganda in such away that , 
 Weather always changes to be cool and many fall sick closes changes to wetter 
 Heavy rains accompanied by storms normally destroy crops and affect harvest 
 Mountainous places experience landslides eg eastern Uganda 
 Heavy storms destroy crops 
 Heavy winds in rain always makes people homeless by destroying roofs of houses
 Floods normally displace people who are at lower places such as swamps and when rain destroy electric poles and they fall it affect the production of goods in factories 

Here is Iowa we love rain to help crops, cool off the temps, etc. Rains don’t affect us like they can in Uganda. It was another reminder of how important it is that we understand other cultures, landscapes, and people. It further fueled my drive to help the kids and to provide them materials to help with education.


School started back up. I shared with the staff the goals for the year. I updated them on all the supplies. During this time I had two teachers help with packaging. They took on the task of organizing, sorting, and putting together the care packages. While they were working assembling I finally connect with the headmaster via email. This has been a long time coming and was so happy to finally connect. Communication is vital, but not as easy as one might think. We are oblivious to easy communication with email, texts, and social media, but when you move beyond your circle to areas that are not as quick to communicate with it can be tricky.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 1.33.32 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 1.33.56 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 1.34.20 PM

I received the address of the headmaster. I learned that the phone number is the most important part of the address because many people don’t have a usable address. Eden informed me that the post office will call them and let them know that a package has arrived. This is important and to be honest something I am bit scared of as I don’t think I wrote the phone number on the label. My fingers are crossed that it arrives safely. The package will arrive in Entebbe which is close to the international airport. From there, the headmaster will travel about 8 hours to arrive at the school.
The most important part of the address is the phone number. People don’t have a usable address per se, the post office calls them on their phone and tells them to pick items up. Entebbe is near the international airport so they should arrive with him within 10 days of sending.
We bundled the packages for 20 students. They will have to show good grades and hard work to earn the materials. These are not free handouts. We want to reward those who are working hard. Through our communication we have learned that the students in Uganda all have one pencil or one pen, no more and no less. If the pen runs out they buy another one, but not before. The model of ecological. Stationary awards would be like winning a competition for the winning students.
Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.17.54 PMScreen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.18.09 PMScreen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.18.03 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.18.14 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.18.35 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.18.43 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.17.46 PM
September 8th we mailed the package. It was a bit under 30lbs and the cost to ship these school supplies from Bettendorf, Iowa to Uganda, Africa was $190. I paid for this out of pocket because I believe in the cause. We have not raised money. I have sold some books to help with the cost, but we need more. We have more supplies and we have more schools in need. In order to help we need more funds. Please check the Build a School page. I am currently selling books to help. We are taking donations as well as getting ready to sell more books. We want to help and we need your help to make it happen.
This has been the most inspiring thing I have done. More kids need to be exposed to this type of work. We need to learn from others. Every culture has something to offer and what I learn from Uganda is the power of family, working together, and not taking things for granted. These are skills that we can all learn here in America.
I will update as soon as I hear word of the package arriving. Until then we will work to establish our next school supply drop and how to raise money to send the next box.


Africa Story: Part 1 http://coffeeforthebrain.com/the-power-of-international-collaboration-iowa-africa/

Images of the kids packing the supplies https://www.flickr.com/photos/coffeechug/sets/72157647002521337/

Build a School http://coffeeforthebrain.com/build-a-school/

Books for Sale http://coffeeforthebrain.com/build-a-school-books/


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The Power of International Collaboration: Iowa – Africa

This will take time to properly develop, but I wanted to
Uganda - America.png
keep a running log of what we are learning and doing.
We have connected with a village in

Uganda, Africa where we are examining success, education, and life between our location and theirs. It is becoming very powerful as we learn that not everything operates like it does in our little bubble in Bettendorf. This is so powerful and when connections are made, the kids really gain a sense of what the world has in store.

Project Goal

The question that we are working with for the unit on Africa is something like this

“What does success look like to you?”

Our goal here is to force students to look at what traits or values they believe personally captures the essence of success. We will then move them towards looking at people they know, local, country, and then global. We would then like for them to find a country or location in Africa that is successful based on their personal definition. The goal here is to connect their personal beliefs and ideas with a country they know very little about and to try to bring down the walls to some of their American mindsets.

As I worked with Eden we started to think deeper. Here is an email from Eden, where he has really upped the thinking to the project. This showcases the power of collaboration.
“That is a great question to start a unit with. There are so many levels to it.

Perhaps you could ask your students to do a video interview type project, they could interview their peers or teachers or members of society focusing on that question. Then wrap it up in a short video.
Then, you could ask what success means to people in an African country focusing on the children and/or adults.

I think the contrast in answers would shock your students and be a good education to them. Also, it is a realistic project that your students could do. They could develop skills in interviewing and video work.Flag-Pins-Uganda-USA.jpg

As part of the project, you could also turn the question around and ask “Who does success look like?” They could point out their hero and then research why they became successful.

Example of Success in Uganda:A boy who I taught to in Uganda in 2007 called Ronald met my friend Crystal who came to visit me. Crystal was impressed by this boy and decided to sponsor him. He didn’t disappoint, five years later he came second in the entire state in his exams recently.

The reason for his success: he got up at 4am everyday to start studying and didn’t finish until 10pm at night.

So that is how you get some of the best scores in the state, get up before dawn and start revising, stop studying when the electricity is switched off in the evening at your boarding school.

Ronald = Focus, determination and the understanding that he was given a chance in life which he took with both hands and didn’t look back. You could even turn the question around again and ask “What does failure look like to you?” For Ronald it would have been ‘missed opportunity’ if he hadn’t done his very best he would have missed a great opportunity to do well in life. He plans to become a teacher in the future.”
Eden shared with us a video of students talking about their school from 2008. This was a good video to give us and our students a sense of school in Africa where we would be communicating.


We started communication between teachers. We were working on the issues and how to make sure we could connect.

Over the summer the Atiira School was being built and updated when a lack of funds has kept it from being completed. Below are some images of the village and school.

Inline images 1
Inline images 1

The teacher’s accommodation that fell down.

How far we have built:

Inline images 2
Inline images 2



Inline images 3
Inline images 3


We prepared our materials, packed a camera with batteries and memory cards as well as some other goods and mailed off a package to Uganda.

Atiira Primary School is located in Soroti, central Uganda. It is seven hours north of Entebbe. Entebbe is where the largest airport in Uganda is located. It is a nice town and many rich people have their home there, including the President. It is half an hour from the capital, Kampala City.
We were trying to figure out the mailing system and this is something our students are still intrigued with. We learned that the post can be unreliable and the process can take a long time of sometimes months to reach certain areas. We had learned patience which is a good thing in our culture of instant and now. We wanted to make sure we provided money to send goods back to us. We learned that teachers make about $100 a month, so shipping costs of $5 – $10 are just not feasible for them. It was interesting packaging everything and hoping we hid money and the goods properly.


As we waited for our package to arrive, we viewed another video to teach some lessons about Uganda. Students received a complete view of what Uganda is like and began to understand the reasons why the meaning of ‘success’ is different. 

We watched Midian’s story. The video had a huge impact on students and really opened their eyes and lead to some great class discussions. Most have no idea what the life of a child in Uganda is like day-to-day.

Here is what I shared after viewing the video.

I am eternally grateful for what you are helping us do. We have one of our students who is considered one of the biggest bullies in the grade completely absorbed in this project. It has been an eye opener for her in ways that no other platform has been able to reach her.

I showed the video you linked of the beautiful Midian to the teachers doing this project. They were caught off guard a bit by what they saw. We have decided to show this in our 7th grade classes as well as the 8th grade group working on soccer equipment.

We were discussing a few things today and not sure if you have any answers or insights.

1. What are the possibilities of establishing a pen pal type structure to this project? I think if our students can connect to one person at the school they will be emotionally connected. I was thinking a picture and letter (very basic) might be something we could pull off if we supplied the materials and template of a letter. I don’t know enough yet about the school and the community to know if this would be too difficult or not.

2. We were also talking about transportation. How often do vehicles come to the village? We were on Google maps and just trying to make sense of the area. Do people in the village leave and travel elsewhere or remain permanently where they are located?

Thanks again for everything. I love it when the teachers are as excited and devoted to the project as the kids. That is when you know you have something special developing.

We later learned that the School location is here
All the children walk to school. Some walk for up to 45minutes to an hour to get to class. There is a main road near the school that vehicles pass along. This school is lucky in that fact, some schools are miles away from the nearest good road.

If a family is very rich they may have a car, rich family = motorcycle, middle class = bicycle, poor = no transport. People travel to the nearest town for supplies, using a friend’s motorcycle, cycling, or in the back of a truck.

On November 2nd the package finally arrived! We were so excited because we were starting to worry about it not making it to our friends.
As we continued to move forward with our project here locally we watched

Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset

On November 22nd, 2013 we received their video. It is AMAZING! And I cannot help but watch with a smile each and every single time.
The video was sent by a young man named Eddy, who is helping with video, editing, and communicating. He is working hard to ensure things are being done between schools. He has been fantastic in helping despite our minor setbacks due to the language barrier and technology needs. I am hoping to help him out as he is working hard to rise above and make something of himself.


Due to crazy weather, winter break, and other things to wrap up first semester the project stalled a bit

January 2014

We worked to capture photos and videos of our area and what success means to us. Students brought in thousands of images and videos. After sorting through it all, a computer crashing, then crashing again, and issues with audio we finally had our video ready in……

2.13.14: Our video in response to our friends in Africa


We received word today that the video is in the hands of our good friend Eddy. The issue we have now is once again waiting. It is hard for the students and our friends to see our students on a small phone screen. He is working to find a laptop that could be borrowed so the village can view our video properly. Once again this proves to be a powerful reminder that we are quite fortunate to have what we have. We often complain that our 11 laptop carts are just not enough to do proper learning. Perhaps we need another reality check.


We received a video from the children of Atiira Primary School produced by Eddy!

It was great to see the children’s reaction to our video from Bettendorf. We also saw glimpses of their life, for example, how they collect drinking water.

A fascinating video! Thank you Atiira for making and sending it!


As we wrap up the year we are hosting a school supply drive. As students clean out their lockers we are having boxes placed in the social studies classrooms. We are working with the headmaster to reward the students in Atiira for working hard in school. We are learning some very important lessons in human connection. We have learned that we just don’t give out freebies because what is there to be gained for them in the long run? We are currently developing the system now to deliver the supplies to the school and continue an international communication between two schools who are very different, but are striving for the same thing – excellence in character and academics for their students.

We have larger and bigger plans for the next that we don’t want to unveil yet, but this has been one incredible journey this year. We have learned more than expected and are so excited to work together as a school to provide supplies to others who can really benefit.

I will continue with the updates throughout the summer as things develop.

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(this post is a cross post from my ALCOA Eagle Eye to the World blog)

It has been sometime since I have last posted here on the blog. Things are going as fast as the development and growth of Rudy.

Ever since the beginning of the year we have had students from all over the world connected using tools like Edmodo, blogs, Google Hangouts, Voicethread, and other tools to help share the power in watching and observing the ALCOA Bald Eagle Nest.

The last few months students have been working to connect and make a global collaborative project. This is not as easy as it sounds. I know we read all the time about technology and how simple it is, but there are many factors that come into play.

When working with various classrooms we must consider


-vacation days of school districts

-weather implications

-requirements of a regular school

-age differences

Despite these factors the teachers and students involved in this project (you can check them out here) made it happen. It has been a pleasure and honor to work with so many amazing educators and students.

This is only the second year of doing this project and once again I have learned so much. I will be sharing these thoughts soon, but today I want to unveil the projects created by the kids.

They used their research, their voices, and their artwork to showcase to the world what they have learned. We have students from kindergarten on up to 5th grade represented.

If you go to our project page  and on the menu locate Student Pages you will see several categories. Each category has Voicethreads created by the students. These are voices from all the classrooms.

I would love for you to take a listen and to provide any feedback you can. I am always striving to improve as a leader of this project, but more importantly it is vital that these students understand their voices are being heard by the world.

So, please leave a comment on this blog or email me at aarmau@gmail.com

I will share it all with the teachers so the students can gain feedback as well.

I have a few more things I will be sharing as we continue to watch Rudy grow and test the boundaries of the nest.

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Reflecting on my Global Classroom presentation at #wcgtc13 #coffeechugPLN

Today at the WCGTC13 I presented my first presentation. I am going to be 100% real when I say I was nervous. My poor wife had to read and respond to all my negative texts about how I was not ready to present at this conference. Thank goodness she is amazing and honest and set me straight.

This conference is loaded with many Ph.D’s, university people, consultants, and administrators. There are very little educators here(to clarify, the people mentioned above are educators. I mean classroom teachers). Most presentations are quite heavy on stats, research, and studies. My presentation had none of that, but spoke from real world experience and my heart.

I had to wait for three other speakers in my room to speak before I spoke. It was nerve wracking to say the least. I was very nervous and had the shakes before speaking. We actually had a pretty good crowd. However, once I stood up and started speaking it just took off. I was in my groove speaking about what I love and believe in as a teacher. From that point on I was good to go.

I think the presentation went well.

Thanks to +Ginger Lewman who tweeted during my presentation and has been amazing at challenging all my thinking at this conference for some tweets to give me real feedback. If you know Ginger she is very honest and straight forward so I respect all of her ideas!

@coffeechugbooks Laying it down so simply and do-able. Nods and quiet “ah’s” from the audience. Good laughs. Relaxed learning. #wcgtc13
— Ginger Lewman (@GingerLewman) August 11, 2013

@GingerLewman @coffeechugbooks talking abt how 2 stir up intrinsic motivation by removing grades 4 feedback #wcgtc13 pic.twitter.com/tmPzrwVqXs
— gtchat (@gtchatmod) August 11, 2013

@coffeechugbooks “If you’re asking me if a project is ‘good enough’ you’re saying already that it’s probably not.” #wcgtc13
— Ginger Lewman (@GingerLewman) August 11, 2013

In my short time I had to speak I think I made my point clear about the importance of a global classroom. This should really be essential for every classroom. If we want students to be ready for the real world why are we not bringing the real world to the classroom? It just makes sense. I hope that I inspired my audience to think about how they teach and what their schools are doing. We have to give our students full engagement and in order to do that we must bring the real world to the room so they see the practical use in what we are teaching.

You can see my slides below. This is a new presentation and angle that I previously have not used. I think it is much more polished than some previous presentations.

The best part about presenting are the conversations that happen afterwards. I feel blessed that so many connected with me after to investigate more insight and ideas. This is the best part. I feel successful as a presenter because of the many conversations I had as a result of the presentation. I can only hope my presentation tomorrow morning goes as smoothly. It is a new presentation, but one I hold quite dear to my heart and soul as a person and teacher.

Here are my slides, but they won’t provide much without my words. I will speak on slide styles at a later date. But, if my slides tell the whole story, then what use it for me to speak?

Below is the handout I created for the session. I hope that many will answer questions and give suggestions on the Google Doc.

It was a success. I feel good. My many hours of work to get ready paid off. Now off to get ready for the next presentation which is quite early! Get some sleep and be ready to think about your own passion!

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0002: Coffeechug Cafe – Why Classrooms Need To Go Global and Real World

Click to Listen

I do apologize for my voice during this podcast. I had a bit of a head cold as of late. I hope to be back to normal soon.

In order to go global in your classroom and develop a real world audience, you have to first understand WHY you need to go global and bring in a real world audience. I believe there are four key reasons WHY you need to connect with the world and bring down your classroom walls before you learn HOW to accomplish this goal.

  • 1. Power of One

  • 2. Idea Generated Jobs

  • 3. Real World Skills

  • 4. It is our reality

This podcast will address why these four reasons are so important for understanding why we need to expand our classroom boundaries to a global perspective.

I will be creating a future podcast about HOW to do this and share my experience and journey from starting very small to where I am today. There is not enough time in one podcast to do both.

Listener Questions

Brett Murrey @Sciology asked two great questions

  1. How do you increase your audience to reach more people in a global classroom?
  2. How can I develop myself as an educator to bring exposure to my teaching practices for real world or global classrooms?


  • Still looking for suggestions for a 10-15 second theme song.
  • If you are interested in connecting for a podcast let me know. I am always open to ideas so if there is something I share online via the #coffeechugPLN, this blog or elsewhere that you want to know more about please let me know.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Subscription Links

Your Feedback

If you have an idea for a podcast you would like to see or a question about an upcoming episode, please email me at aarmau (@) gmail (dot) com or you can leave a comment.

Also, if you enjoyed the show, please rate it on the iTunes Channel and write a brief review. That would help tremendously in getting the word out! Thanks.

Question: “What is the right kind of education to prepare our students for the future?” Please leave a comment with your answer!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on what I shared. Thanks for listening.

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@FlatClassroom @EracismProject Global Debate Learning From Teacher Perspective

I know, you are probably thinking what in the world can I possibly have to talk about in regards to the Eracism Global Debate project?

I have blogged about this project several times(see the end of post to see past reflections). Well, I have some more ideas to share. I have learned that I am not good enough yet and have made preparations to be better as an educator. Talk about a model learner! Yes, I admit that I could have been better as a teacher. That is the truth and I accept that.

Doing this project for the second time, but with a younger group of students was essential for me to realize that I have more to learn. Without this opportunity I would have never known.

Working with sixth grade students on this project has really changed the operations of this project. Here are some issues that I did not discuss in the first 6th grade reflection.

1. They need more strict guidance and focus because they are just too immature mentally and socially.
2. Many don’t use Facebook or social media tools so this just debunks the whole notion of them all being online using these tools.
3. Wait……why are they not online connecting to learn besides the apps that lead to nowhere good?
4. Structure on how to do research because they really have no idea how to gather research and piece it together as a team.
5. Teach them how to listen. They don’t know how.

So, what I am going to do about it?

1. Google Research in Google Drive – I recently realized that I am an idiot for not using this tool. I will require this tool for them to research. I will teach them and the first thing we will do is create an annotated bibliography using the tool to gather research and work through the How-To’s. I made the mistake of assuming that they could find an article, extract the proper information and share it with their team. They made a feeble attempt, but I needed to give more step by step direction and then let them go. I left it too open too soon and we struggled in this area during the first round.

2. From the annotated bibliographies of each student I will have them critique the information provided to get them ready to create rebuttals in the debate. Having them look critically will help them listen. I think by doing this activity throughout in terms of arguing the merits of the article or book will help them process the information while at the same time working on persuasive skills needed to debate. While debating we wanted to talk like it was a summary and not really sell our ideas.

3. Teach them to create a chart and how to document the information shared by the other team. As opposed to just a blank piece of paper to capture ideas I will give them a template to follow. I have found that the open piece of paper is too broad and they miss out on key phrases and facts to respond to. There is not enough time to listen to the debates twice so they have to be on the spot. When I judge debates for this project I use a grid system and for some reason I never thought to teach my students the method. We used it second round and it worked so much better. It forces them to key in on key facts and phrases and learn to scheme and strategize much more efficiently.

4. Evaluate their scripts and statements for grammar and spelling. We often don’t have time to cover this in great detail, but with so much time on speaking, listening, writing, and research why am I not hammering this big time? Time to bring out the guns and teach them. This will help them in organizing ideas as well as speaking.

5. Kick kids out who don’t work. I give them several chances to work and warnings, but this is not a required class. If you are just going to goof around and mess up the document, leave immature comments in the Google comments, and not contribute…..see you later. Grow up and try again. Sometimes I need to be a bit more harsh. I like to let them learn and let the group bring them in, but 6th grade they don’t do this. In 8th grade they will call the person out, but not at this level. I need to be that person. I think if I remove them after giving some warnings and vision about what to do, then they have had their chance. If it continues, then remove them. They need to realize this is a great opportunity to learn. If you don’t want to be passionate about it, then perhaps this is not for you. I really believe that sometimes removing a student from an opportunity like this can be a wake up call that they need to take advantage of what is being provided to them. I don’t think they always understand this. Once they have lost that chance, they will realize it and next time around they will be more focused. And yes, I have that luxury over most teachers as this is an enrichment opportunity. I am blessed to hold that over their heads which I know most classroom teachers don’t have this, but I need to use this when needed.

It has been an interesting journey for me. I have found myself more frustrated with the sixth grade compared to 8th grade, but I have to remember they are lacking several key tools, skill sets, and thought processes that 8th grade came to me with. My frustrations stem from me not preparing them as well as I should have and therefore I point the finger at myself and not them. I have to step back and teach them. I assumed too much and that lead to my frustration. Next time I will take care of the gaps and I know that it will resolve the frustrations I felt during this sixth grade enrichment. I have high expectations and I need to remember that if don’t equip them properly how will they ever achieve this status?

With that all being said, I am so proud of how much we turned things around from the first round to the second round. I implemented some of these ideas and the students realized they did not quite work to their potential. I think it was a great wake up call to not win the first round. It knocked them down a notch and made them realize they had to improve and I had to do the same. We were in this together as a unit, the students and I, and as a unit we modified our system to make it work.

It has been another wonderful experience for myself as a teacher and creating a classroom that was able to see growth in learning and engagement. The learning did not stop with a letter grade as I did not give a grade. I told them the world was listening to them and that should be all they needed in order to do well because who wants to sound unprepared to the world? The learning has continued beyond the debate class and I am so excited to work with these students on new projects this year and the years to come.

Any suggestions or thoughts? I would love to hear them. Especially on how to teach listening?

6th Grade Debate Project: Eracism

March 15th, 2013: Flat Classroom Global Debate Project: Eracism
“How do I operate my classroom and run the day to day operations of preparing for a global debate?” 

8th Grade Debate Project: Eracism 

December 19th, 2012

December 14th, 2012
December 12th, 2012

October 25th, 2012
Flat Classroom: Eracism Round 1: AMAZING!

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Our Words Matter – A Personal Example

I am sorting through my Gmail account trying to get back to an empty inbox and organized online and real world life. As I was sorting through all these links, emails to myself(I send myself emails all the time), and just general decluttering I was reminded of a very special and cool moment for me.

Vicki Davis a.k.a. Cool Cat Teacher who is an education extrodainer and someone who has really helped me find my passion for flattening classrooms and making global connections bookmarked one of my projects via her Diigo account. I know not a big deal as many people do this, but her words mean so much

Here is the link to her blog and this page – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2013/01/daily-education-and-technology-news-for_22.html

If you don’t follow Vicki, then you have missed out on some integral thoughts, visions, and ideas that can really help  you as a teacher.

A few days before this she had posted a really insight blog post – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2013/01/3-characteristics-of-people-builder.html

I left a comment in regards to her post because I felt that I needed to. Her words spoke to me. What stood out was her taking time to respond and I cannot tell how good her words felt to me.

I am not sharing this to toot my own horn. I am showcasing this to get to an even more important idea.


It might be that one sideline comment that students overhears or that one little phrase that we don’t think twice about that can make all the difference – good or bad. Her words helped me. They still help me and still hold a place in my mind(obviously here I am writing about it a month later). It is a reminder about how we phrase our words and statements to students, family, friends. Are we really delivering the true message that we want to get across?

Sometimes we need these little positive urges to continue our journey. There are times where I question why I am up late working and up early prepping for the day. I question if it is all worth it when I sit and converse with educators and other professionals around the world to find something to make me better in my classroom. I connect and hear positive things and I am reminded that it is worth it. I always go back to my own kids and what would I want? I would want that teacher always striving to be their best and expecting the same for their students and my own children. I want my kids to come home and tell me that their teacher(s) have a burning passion for what they do. I want to provide this same feeling as an educator.

This weekend I will return the favor of positive words. I am going to handwrite a few positive notes to people and send out. I need to remember how important these words from Vicki were to me and return the favor. Maybe, just maybe, that is all that person needs to keep the journey alive with whatever their passions might be.

And maybe sharing this will spawn others to do the same.

Have a good weekend.

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Liberty and Justice – 2 Eggs!!! We have another Egg!

2.10.13 Sunday night around 6 pm the world was given another great surprise as Liberty and Justice brought us another egg. That brings us up to two eggs in the nest.

The eggs are about 4 days apart. Eagles will produce anywhere from 1-3 eggs so there is still a chance of one more egg, but no more after that.

Last night I took a picture around 10 pm showing how the eagles were burying their faces to stay warm and trying to get some sleep. They are not nocturnal so sleep at night is a must just like us humans. I don’t know how they sleep in this wind. The wind has been crazy lately with the nest swaying all over the place.

Sunday also brought us a ton of rain. The eagles were soaking wet and had to endure the rain and wind all day.

As the day went on the camera was blurry from rain so it was hard to track the eagles for a few hours.

Monday, 2.11.13 I was finally able to see both eggs. How exciting! This is just too cool and these eagles are slowly taking over all my free time!
The wind is giving them a bad hair day!

Here they are exchanging egg warming duties. It is always a quick transition. One flies in, they do a little shifting around and off they go their separate ways doing whatever it is eagles do when they don’t sit on the eggs.

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