Flipgrid for Literature Circles? Yes, Please!

Screenshot 2017-05-27 06.16.29

Flipgrid is a video discussion community that helps teachers amplify student voice inside (and outside) their classrooms. And it’s perfect for Literature Circles. This secure digital platform allows students to use video as a tool to respond to and connect with literature in a collaborative and secure environment.

Screenshot 2017-06-24 13.23.12

Teachers (or their students) can create “grids” for each Literature Circle book group and easily share the links in Google Classroom or on a class website. A join code is generated by the application and can be customized for each book group.

Screenshot 2017-05-27 06.11.06

Students can then submit video responses to chapters read and engage in virtual Literature Circle book discussions from anywhere they are, at anytime they choose. This component is especially powerful for busy middle and high school students!

Screenshot 2017-05-29 22.54.42

Students can view each other’s videos then “like” and respond to them; all within the secure confines of the Flipgrid platform. As you can see, they absolutely LOVE it!

Screenshot 2017-05-27 06.22.34

Teachers can monitor all student activity from the Flipgrid dashboard. Here, video responses can be assessed and feedback can be given to individual students or the entire group.

Screenshot 2017-05-27 06.24.57

Flipgrid is an excellent tool to add to your repertoire of Literature Circle tools. I highly recommend it! In fact, it is one of the tech tools I’ll be featuring in my sold out ISTE 2017 session,

Literature Circles 2.0: Technology-Infused Book Clubs in the Digital Age

on June 27th in San Antonio, Texas.


Would you like to try Flipgrid Classroom for free this summer? If so, use the following code for an upgrade that is good until September 30:


Click the image below to sign up for Flipgrid Classroom TODAY!


P.S. Flipgrid is also an excellent tool for collecting and sharing Genius Hour reflections.

Screenshot 2017-06-11 07.38.32




Student-Created Google Classroom Classes for Literature Circles

Google Classroom for Lit. Circles 2

Student voice and choice are critical components of the Literature Circle experience and these can be greatly enhanced with technology. In my 6th grade class, students are given multiple opportunities to make important choices that drive their learning process within the Literature Circle dynamic.

Four Elements of Choice in Literature Circles

  1. Book selection – Students choose the books they will read.
  2. Job assignments – Students decide which roles they will assume
  3. Chapters read – Students decide how much they will read for the next session.
  4. Digital platform used – Students decide which digital platform the group will utilize.

Google Classroom for Lit. Circles 1

Since they are very familiar with the Google Classroom platform (I’ve been using it all year), students created Google classroom classes for their Literature Circle book groups. I asked them to add me as a co-teacher so I can monitor the class stream for each group. In some groups, one student assumes the role of teacher for the week and then this position is rotated in addition to the roles in the Literature Circles. This allows students to submit digital evidence in the form of Google Docs, BookSnaps and/or any other application chosen. In other groups, all members join as “teachers” for their class. It’s totally up to the students!

Google Classroom for Lit. Circles 3

Students post reminders in the class stream and comment when necessary. School appropriate chat rules apply and individuals who don’t adhere to our code of conduct can be muted with their comments deleted if necessary.

Google Classroom for Lit. Circles 4

Students are encouraged to select and/or customize the class theme of their Literature Circle Google Classroom class. They can choose from the themes available in Classroom, or upload their own pictures. One group decided to change the class theme each week giving each group member an opportunity to choose it.

Google Classroom for Lit. Circles 5

Students post job assignments (with descriptions) to be completed for upcoming meetings. One group even found a Literature Circle job description document and added it to their class stream.

Google Classroom for Lit. Circles 6

Students post digital resources including links to Audiobooks and PDFs of their books so group members can complete assigned reading at home even if they leave their books in school. They are encouraged to use the digital tools and resources we’ve used in class throughout the school year. It’s amazing to see how easily they apply this knowledge!

Google Classroom for Lit. Circles 7

Do you want to know more about the plethora of digital tools that are available for Literature Circles?


Join me in San Antonio at ISTE 2017 for the following BYOD session:

Screenshot 2017-02-18 08.29.12

Genius Hour 4.0 – Four Pathways to Genius

Genius Hour 4.0

“There exists empirical evidence proving that students who are given the freedom to explore areas based on their personal interests, and who are accompanied in their learning by a supportive, understanding facilitator, not only achieve superior academic results but also develop socially and grow personally.”

Renate Motschnig

It is imperative for teachers to provide opportunities for student voice and choice in the 21st-century classroom. If students have some control over what is covered, they’re more likely to stay tuned in and actively engage in the learning process. Thankfully, there’s a movement that promotes student choice and innovation in learning that has been sweeping the nation. This passion- driven movement, which is known as Genius Hour, or 20% Time, allows students to become innovative creators of content rather than just consumers of it

Selecting a Genius Hour topic is obviously of critical importance.  However, this is not always easy for students. They don’t always know or realize what they are interested in and what they want to inquire about. Thankfully, there are a number of excellent digital tools and resources that can be used to help students select a topic that will make Genius Hour one of the best projects they’ve ever done.

The video below by Jason Silva offers excellent brainstorming tips.

How to Find Your Passion

Students are encouraged to select one of the Four Pathways to Genius below as they begin their Genius Hour brainstorming sessions.


Screenshot 2017-04-01 13.37.51

  1. Create – You want to make/invent something new and share it.

  2. Change – You want to start a movement and make a difference in the world.

  3. Expert – You want to share something you are great at with the rest of the world.

  4. Inquiry You are curious about a topic and want to learn more about it.

    After students choose the pathway to genius they’d like to pursue, students are directed to come up with five essential questions to drive the research process. Since Genius Hour is an interdisciplinary project in our school, students are asked to come up with one essential question in each of the following subject areas:

    1. Mathematics
    2. Science
    3. Social Studies
    4. Student choice
    5. Student choice


    The remaining questions are the students’ choice and do not have to reflect a particular subject area.

    The key to crafting a good essential question is making sure it’s “un-Google-able”. This means the question cannot be easily answered by a quick Google search. This can be quite challenging for students at first and teachers need to plan accordingly. Some students need more assistance with this than others and a key factor for success is making sure you check in with students on a regular basis. They should not be able to begin the research process until their essential questions have been checked and revised if necessary. We encourage our students to conference with a peer before submitting their essential questions to the teacher for review.
    Students are now ready to begin researching their Genius Hour topics using their essential questions to drive the process.

Do you want to learn more about Genius Hour 4.0?

Click the image below to access my Genius Hour Resources page. 

Genius Hour Resources Pic

Click the links below to register for my online in-service or graduate course.

Genius Hour: Passion-Based, Technology-Infused PD/In-Service Course

EDCI 639-009  Genius Hour: Passion-Based, Technology-Infused Learning in the Classroom


The 50-50 Rule of Technology Integration

Technology, when used to create content and connect students with authentic audiences, empowers learners and prepares them for jobs that don’t even exist yet. It is critical for schools to facilitate and promote a culture of content creation. Educators that teach students how to use tech tools to actively create content are EMPOWERING these learners by giving them the skills, strategies, and experiences they’ll need as they move into the future.

To begin, schools must work to create an equal balance of content consumption and content creation in their classrooms. Too many school systems have spent millions of dollars to equip students and teachers with the latest tech tools only to utilize them in the wrong ways.


Rows of silent students completing digital worksheets on their Chromebooks or iPads is not what one would call effective technology integration.  The digital use divide between passive consumption and active creation must be closed!


Teachers in classrooms should subscribe to the 50-50 Rule of technology integration. If students CONSUME content in the classroom for 25 minutes, they then need to CREATE content for the same amount of time in that classroom. For example, if I direct my students to passively consume content by completing assignments in Castle Learning, IXL or ReadWorks Digital, I must allow them to spend the same amount of time creating content using their devices.


This can be done in a variety of innovative ways including creating How-To Videos for Genius Hour projects, making Google Slides presentations for Iron Chef Jigsaw lessons or writing a new post for the class blog. It’s very important to strike this balance between consumption of content and creation of content on a regular basis. It could also include students putting tech devices away for the remainder of the class and making something in a Makerspace-like environment.


What do you think about the 50-50 Rule of Technology Integration? Would you suggest a different ratio? Please write a reply in the comment section at the end of this post.


Fear vs. Exhilaration


Fear = I don’t know if I should share/try/deploy this new tech tool/teaching strategy/business model. It could fail catastrophically!

Exhilaration = I can’t wait to try this out with my students/teachers/employees. This is going to make things so much better!

I used to worry about sharing my work here on this blog and on social media. I was afraid that someone would “steal” my stuff. I imagined that another educator would scoop up my idea and claim it as their own in an article, a book or a tweet. But then I read Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work by Austin Kleon and my mindset was TRANSFORMED!

Mr. Kleon writes that you don’t have to be a genius (I’m definitely not) to share your work. He claims that we should make an effort to share something small every day emphasizing that you can’t find your voice if you don’t use it. Kleon also states that you should stick around and not give up so easily. It takes time to build a following and those of us who have continued to share, post and tweet are reaping the benefits of establishing and maintaining a vibrant PLN (Personal Learning Network).

This quote has inspired me to transform my fear into exhilaration and I plan to reflect on it when the “worry whispers” begin to create feelings of anxiety and doubt.

A Connected Educator is a Better Educator

Teaching isn’t just a job for me, it’s a calling – a career I’ve always wanted and one I am deeply proud of. I’m passionate about my profession and I make an effort to improve upon and add to my pedagogical repertoire on a daily basis. As someone famous once said, “The best teachers are also the best learners,” and I strive to learn as much as I can about education in the 21st century.

In order to become a better educator, I suggest that teachers and administrators do the following:

1. Stay Connected via Social Media – The education community is thriving on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (to a lesser extent). I credit my Personal Learning Network (PLN) for keeping me abreast of the latest education technology trends and pedagogical strategies. Professional development on Twitter has been a game-changer for me and I highly recommend you read the graphic below and join us. I also wrote about the awesome power of Twitter PD here.


2. Read and Discuss Professional Literature on a Daily Basis – This can be in the form of the most recent education books, journal articles, and blog posts. My goal is to read 25 pages a day. Some days I read more and some days I read less, but it evens out over the course of the year. Read the following article for more information on how to read more, “The Simple Plan To Read More”.

Some of my favorite titles read are:

The End of Average by Todd Rose

The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath

The Formative Five by Thomas R. Hoerr

Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World by Adam Grant

Dive Into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice by Trevor MacKenzie

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

Start a book club at your school in order to collaborate with colleagues as you dive deeper into the books you read. Can’t find anyone to join you? Head over to Twitter and/or Voxer to join one of the hundreds of book chats currently underway. You can connect and collaborate with like-minded educators while discussing the latest thought-provoking titles. This is a true game-changer!


3. Blog Consistently – I make an effort to write a blog post per week, and this helps to keep my creative juices flowing and allows me to share some of the innovative teaching strategies (with and without tech) I use with the rest of the education community around the world. I find the process of writing to be therapeutic and it allows me to record important events in my career, reflect upon them and set goals for the future. I only wish I wrote more frequently and was happy to come across this blogging challenge:

30 Days of Blogging Challenge (are you in?)

Why don’t you join us?

4. Share Your Work – My goal for 2016 was to present and speak at education conferences, workshops, and PD courses at least once a month. By pushing myself to write proposals to local, regional, national and international conferences, I have been able to meet and exceed that goal. This has greatly inspired and invigorated my teaching and leadership. I’m excited and honored to be speaking at my first international conference this June at ISTE 2017 in San Antonio.


5. Maximize Face-To-Face (F2F) Interactions – I believe it’s really important for educators to spend time with other members of our profession. It is refreshing to step out of the comfort zone of one’s school or district and meet teachers from different locales. I do this by attending education conferences, workshops, and EdCamps by myself so I’m forced to make new connections. Social media makes it easy to keep in touch with each other and continue to share innovative teaching ideas throughout the school year. I’ve made many valuable connections this way.


I’m sure there are many other ways you stay current in your teaching and keep the learning going 365 days a year. Please leave a comment on this post if you’d like to add to the list I’ve started.

A Christmas Carol For EDUs: Three Lessons From the Ghosts

I’ve always been mesmerized by A Christmas Carol.  Since I was a child, I’ve read the story countless times and continue to find new connections to my pesonal and professional life.  I love how Dickens vividly drives home the themes of change and redemption using the messages of the three ghosts.  These timeless lessons can certainly be applied to the field of education in three main ways:

Lesson 1:

Lesson 2:

Lesson 3:

The ability to continually monitor and adjust one’s thinking is a characteristic I strive to instill in my students.  Teachers can learn valuable messages from each of Dickens’ Christmas ghosts which can in turn be shared with their students.  We must always be aware of the lessons from the past and the present as we make an effort to grow personally and professionally in order to optimize future learning experiences for ourselves and our charges.

I believe it’s important to avoid complacency at all costs!

Click the image below for further reading.

Sage on the StagetoGuide on the Side-2