At TIES#13 last week, George Couros presented an amazing session, “Involving Parents in the Process of Learning.” He just posted a blog post, “5 Ideas to Bring Parents into the Learning Process” that sort of summarizes his session.

I was too busy listening to take notes in the session, but am so impressed by what he has to say and by his attitude towards parents:

Parents are a great untapped resource in our schools…

George talks about how he communicates regularly with parents, how he invites and involves parents into the school on a regular basis. Five points from his blog:

  • Use what the kids use: use communication tools the kids are using. He blogs regularly to communicate with parents.
  • Have an open mind: he shared a story of a time he was explaining the plans for the tech rollout. He expected a pushback from parents — when instead they asked why he wasn’t moving faster!
  • Tap into parent leadership: he encourages school leaders to bring parents in to honestly listen to the feedback and input, then work with these parent leaders to teach other parents.
  • Focus on open communication: he shares what he’s learning and what he’s doing with parents as well as teachers.
  • Create Learning Opportunities: Couros talks about modeling the tools, teaching parents how to use the communication tools the kids use.

I was so encouraged after Couros’s session. His attitude is certainly not the one I see from the administration at my kids’ schools. Parents are tolerated, but not really listened to. There is little openness, little embracing of trying new communication technologies.

In his session, Couros had an amazing way of stating the reasons why schools need to adopt digital tools — basically, you need to do what’s right for kids. Using examples like the need for a positive digital footprint, Couros shows why kids need to learn using digital tools. He gave incredible examples of the power of using blogs, Twitter, and more.

This post doesn’t do his session justice. I wish it had been recorded. I’m hoping he repeats it at ISTE so I can see it again.

And, he asked the question I’ve been asking for a couple of years — where are the parents at these tech conferences??

TIES Day 2, Many Days Later

Over a week later, here are the highlights of TIES#13, Day 2:

Session 1

Great session on “The STEM of Social Studies” by Elk River teacher Ron Hustvedt. Ron teaches 6th grade social studies in a STEM school, and I was overjoyed to watch him compare the work of historians to the scientific method! Ron said, “Inquiry is the scientific method” and showed how doing the work of a historian mimics the work of a scientist. It is an important perspective to share in this world that values tested subjects over the humanities.

My session

I presented a poster along with Craig Roble on our favorite topic, digital primary sources. Here’s our poster description:

A win-win situation: museum curators + creative educators = great digital content for your classroom. Learn how collaborating with local history organizations can benefit you and your students.

This is my second poster session, and I think I’ll stick with that format for awhile. It is tons of fun to talk with people, rather than talk at them. We had 15 people or so stop by, and had some really good conversations.

One teacher asked if MNHS will translate primary source documents into other languages. This is not something we can do, for a variety of reasons. (It’s expensive, way too many documents, and then the document is no longer actually a primary source!) We suggested she use visual primary sources with her students learning English. There are many powerful activities you could do with students using photographs or objects that don’t rely on strong English reading skills. For many native English speakers younger than high school, reading primary source written documents is a challenge. Use visuals! This seemed to be a new idea to many of the teachers who were talking with us. Hopefully they’ll try it! We definitely see teachers focusing on written primary sources.


Pinterest Board with links to Digital Primary Source resources

We know teachers want new sources and places to find digital primary sources. Craig and I started a Pinterest board linking to various resources. It’s not a perfect solution, but we really liked the visual nature of Pinterest vs. a Google doc with a list of links.


Parent Session

George Couros presented a session, “Involving Parents in the Process of Learning.” See next post for a more detailed discussion of this powerful and motivating talk.

TIES#13 Day One

TIES is off to a great start! As usual, I’m both exhausted and invigorated by being at an edtech conference. Here’s a brief summary of what I learned today:


I fully intended to go to a session right off the bat, but ran into my co-presenter for tomorrow’s poster session. We had a great conversation about the session and about other ways of delivering content using iTunesU. This is what TIES is about – the connecting and sharing ideas.

I also connected with a few other folks that I’ve been meaning to contact. It’s always easier to send that email after seeing them at TIES. I missed a few too, so hope to connect with them tomorrow.


The keynotes are usually more inspiring that full of new things. This was a bit of both. Marc Prensky introduced his new idea, “Future-cation” as opposed to “Past-ication.” He talked about the need to teach to the future – not the past. “While we need to honor the past, we do not need to repeat it.” Even though I am a historian, I agree! We need to learn about  the past, but we do not need to learn as if it were the past. We need to learn for the future. Prensky argues that content areas (math, science, English, etc., even social studies!) aren’t necessary if we teach “verbs.” (Details on this were in a later session I wasn’t able to attend, sadly.) I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from Marc about this.


I talked to a few vendors about the project I have at work. Seems we’re still seeing the same issues in delivering digital content that is beyond a pdf…..  I did see a booth about an interesting site,, that was built by a couple of early elementary teachers who were frustrated that they couldn’t find safe, appropriate, leveled content online. They built curated content with images and information about a number of subjects. I was intrigued because it’s exactly what we’ve been hearing from teachers!\


My favorite session today was by Scott Barry Kaufman talking about redefining how we measure intelligence. As he talked, I had a feeling I’d heard some of it before… turns out I had seen an article about his book and had blogged about it. Must read his book!


One session today went through 50 websites to try! I wrote down a few that I’ll test, including Google Tour Builder, a couple of free image sources.



RSA Animate — Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Daniel Pink’s talk on Motivation doesn’t address education at all. But it should. It applies directly – and it’s all the things we don’t see in the traditional school model.

Pink says three things drive motivation:
1. Autonomy
2. Mastery
3. Purpose

Are any of these three things currently honored in the traditional high school model? Nope. Not in my experience.

Autonomy: kids aren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom when they want. Bells tell them when to go where. they are penalized for not being in a certain place at a certain time. they are heavily penalized for not memorizing the type of content the school tells them they need to know. they often have limited choice of classes.

Mastery: how can you possibly master a subject when you skim over content in a big hurry to get to the next unit? When you teach all of World History in two trimesters, spending 12 minutes on slavery? (My daughter’s example.) When you teach math separately from science, when you teach all subjects as separate entities?

Purpose: Ask any high school student why they’re learning what they’re learning. Is it for the betterment of society? to improve themselves? Nope – it’s likely for a good test score, to get into college, or for those already disengaged, it’s to get through school. Wow. That’s real purpose.

Smart, intelligent, motivated kids get disengaged from school. They are smart enough to see that playing the game of working for a standardized test score isn’t enough. The game of college admissions isn’t enough. We’re making them disengage by forcing them into a setting void of purpose.

Hopefully they make it through high school with enough self-esteem left to find a place that allows them to reach their potential.


▶Teaching Science

Love this video. What a great thing to use to teach. How could students be assigned a project to demonstrate this principal (or any scientific principal – wouldn’t want them to sink in quicksand!) and make a video?

What Happened To This Car? – YouTube

Do kids have a voice? The power of choice | Connected Principals

Just ran across a great blog post: Do kids have a voice? The power of choice | Connected Principals by Sam LeDeaux.

Mr. LeDeaux recently attended an EdCamp and experienced the power of choice learning. I applaud him for doing this training with the staff at his school!

I further applaud him for this thought:

Do we provide our kids these same learning opportunities?  Do we allow our kids to have a voice?  Do we grant our kids the power and responsibility of choice?  Do we empower them to take ownership of their learning and be active participants?


That sure isn’t what I see happening in my daughter’s experience. She’s funneled through a system with some choice of classes, but not much. Classes are structured for what sometimes seems the ease of teaching (multiple choice, machine graded exams that are reused every trimester), not for student exploration of content or student directed learning. There’s more rote memorization than content creation. It’s not engaging to her, it’s suffocating and defeating. She does not feel successful and by this age, she and her peers totally see through the game and the test score hamster wheel. They deserve more.