Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Augmented reality (AR) in the classroom

This blog post originally appeared on the Discovery Education site in my blog,  Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month. It is reprinted here with permission.

I have much more information and updated AR apps on my Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything AR page.

Last year, I wrote a blog post dealing with the use of virtual reality resources to support the instructional process. I started the article with an explanation of the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality, which I feel is important to include again since, this time, the post will be about the use of augmented reality technology to support teaching and learning. The Augment site includes a well-stated overview of the two technologies.

Augmented reality is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements on top of an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it.

Virtual reality is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or re-creation of a real life environment…It immerses the users by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality firsthand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing.


Touchstone Research presents an infographic that showcases how various professions use AR to support learning, access important information in real-time, and for marketing purposes. With the wide-spread use of AR, our students should be provided with the opportunity to become familiar with the the technology and use it in the classroom.


The basic use of AR requires a few things– a smartphone or tablet with a back facing camera, an augmented reality app, and a trigger image. An Internet connection is needed for real-time overlaying of information. The triggers can be something as simple as a QR code, which launches an AR event on the smartphone or tablet, or can be a special printout or photographic images that is viewed through a specialized app. The continued development of great new apps seems to indicate that the use of the app to view a specialized trigger image may be the way things are moving in the AR arena.

One fun app that is popular in schools is Quiver (formerly ColAR Mix) which uses a printed-out and colored-in page to present the student with an interactive experience when viewed through the app. The Quiver Education app (US iOS app store: $7.99 and available on the VPP), includes coloring pages specifically designed for the education market including those for cells, organs of the body, and a specialized set for celebrating “International Dot Day“.
Here is a video demonstrating how this app works.

The EON Experience VR app (iOS and Android), uses the target below to bring the hundreds of simulations included in the app to life. Many simulations can be viewed using both AR and VR. The users simply download the data for the simulation and, through the app, points their smartphone at the target. The great thing about this is the target can be used even from the computer screen!

The trigger image for the EON Experience VR app
 The trigger image for the EON Experience VR app

AR image of a synapse projected from the trigger image on the computer screen.

Marketing agencies have taken to AR to the next level to allow the user to layer furniture, paint, and much more over a live image of a room. IKEA, Houzz, and Home Depot are only some of the many companies using augmented reality to support consumers. Project Color, from Home Depot allows you pick a paint or stain color and virtually paint your home’s walls, as demonstrated in the video below.

[Commercial] The Home Depot – Project Color App ‘Virtual Test Drive’

AR is even used in real-time at this kiosk in a Lego store which shows the customer the completed Lego project by simply holding up the box of Legos to the mirror.


Adding interactivity to a classroom learning experience always enhances student engagement. To be able to view and manipulate a object being learned about can lead to deeper understanding and further exploration and questions. Drew Minock, in an Edutopia article, outlines some ways augmented reality can support instruction. Here are a few of them.
  • Book Reviews: Students record themselves giving a brief review of a novel that they just finished, and then attach that “aura” (assigned digital information) to a book. Afterward, anyone can scan the cover of the book and instantly access the review.
  • Word Walls: Students can record themselves providing the definitions to different vocabulary words on a word wall. Afterward, anyone can use the Aurasma app to make a peer pop up on screen, telling them the definition and using the word in a sentence.
  • Lab Safety: Put triggers…all around a science laboratory so, when students scan them, they can quickly learn the different safety procedures and protocols for the lab equipment.
There are some great educational AR apps to support teaching and learning available.
  • DAQRI Anatomy 4D showcases the human anatomy in augmented reality. (iOS | Android)
  • Science AR has the teacher printing out the trigger Science AR posters which come alive with animation as students use the app to view the posters.
  • Amazing Space Journey allows students to take a trip through the solar system. Available for iOS and Android.
  • Star Chart projects the night sky with all the constellations, planets, and other facts while viewing the sky through a smartphone or tablet. (iOS | Android | Windows)
In addition to students using an app to view material created by others, by using an app called Aurasma, students and teachers  are able to create their own “auras” with links to information for others. (iOS | Android)

Creators take a photo or create an image, which then serves as the AR trigger, which in Aurasma is called an “aura”. Using the Aurasma app, students or teachers link that aura to online content, which may be a video, an image or photograph, or a Web site. When viewers use the Aurasma app and scan over those auras, they are presented with the online content in a floating window.

If you have a subscription to Discovery Education Streaming, you can create auras that showcase video clips from the collection and items from the other multimedia collections including image and photos. Students can also create an aura to share their projects which utilize any of these same assets from Discovery Education Streaming.

There are also some fun AR apps that allow the creation of place-based AR pop-ups. Two that are easy to use for teachers and students are Metaverse and Traces. Users can create quests, descriptors for places, and much more. 

Imagine the incoming freshman walking around the school and learning all about the building, or a student creating an AR overview of the local businesses as a service learning project. If you are familiar with PokémonGo, you will realize how engaging these pop-ups would be for students to create and share! Below is a place-based locator I discovered at my local coffee shop!

Place-based locator


There are many other ways teachers and students are using augmented reality in schools. Here are two creative examples that I discovered.

Northwest High School has made  the use of Aurasma an integral part of their school culture.

This educator provides a unique way to use Aurasma and Powerpoint to create interactive experiences.

There is also a new type of reality called “Mixed Reality” or simply MR, which combines some of the aspects of both VR and AR. Dr. Simon Taylor, the Co-founder of Zappar which has created ZapBox, an MR solution, states “in MR, virtual  objects or environments are anchored to things in the real world providing a new and intuitive way for users to interact with virtual content”. This started as a Kickstarter project and is now available for a very low cost.  Watch the video below to get a feel for the exciting new projects that are coming to schools soon!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


With cable television and Internet at two homes, I was paying a total of $378 per month to the cable providers. I knew there had to be a way to trim that cost. 

I spent the last week investigating some options that would meet my needs. I wanted to share what I found out, in case you are considering doing something similar. One caveat: all of the options are updated quite frequently and some options are locale-specific, so your experience may differ! 

I did not have a list of questions I wanted answers to before I started the process, but now that I have settled on a option, I realize the questions to ask may help you out!

  1. Can the service be cancelled at any time?
  2. Can the service be used in more than one location?
  3. What networks does the service offer?
  4. Are local network channels (ABC, CBS, and NBC) available through the service?
  5. Do I need any hardware to use the service?
  6. Can I share the service with another family member outside of the house?
  7. Is there a DVR option available with the service?
  8. Are there add-on packages for specific wants?
  9. What is the cost of the service?
  10. What is the cost of the add-ons?
  11. Is there a free trial of the service?
  12. What devices can be used to access the service?
  13. How many family members can use the service at one time?

My goal was to no longer use Comcast (in MA) and Charter Spectrum (in CT) for my television providers. There were many channels I never used, and I felt the cost was too high.

LATEST UPDATES FROM 1/12/18, 1/19/18, 1/22/18, AND 2/218 ARE IN RED


I have used a Slingbox for many years to watch my home TV while I was traveling, so I had trust in Sling. Their service is interesting. There are two choices, Orange ($20) and Blue ($25). There are some channels that are in both choices, but the main difference is that Blue allows three streams of channels at once (for example, for a house that has three TV's or mobile devices) and the Orange option only allows a single stream. You can use a mobile device while on the road to use the service, and, Airplay with a TV-connected Apple TV. Some smart TV's also have the SlingTV app included.

The channel lineup, when purchasing both Orange and Blue ($40) and the DVR ($5) met most of my needs, but there were no local versions of the big three network channels (at least in my area). Matter of fact, there was no ABC or CBS at all, and NBC was only "on demand". 

There is a cloud DVR available for $5 more per month. I tried the service for a few days of the free trial, and I liked the interface, which includes a grid as well as a search and a browse function.

There are also add-on packs that are available for SlingTV for specific wants such as sports, news, comedy and kids. However, because I really wanted to be able to watch local news, and did not want to keep the basic channel package from the cable company, I looked for another option.

Hulu Live TV

Hulu has been an established provider of archived TV shows and movies for a few years. A Hulu Live TV subscription ($40) includes all of that archived streaming service (with limited commercials) as well as live TV on many of the same channels offered by the Blue and Orange package from SlingTV. (The only channel I wanted that was missing from Hulu Live TV was ESPN3. However, I have found out I can authenticate the WatchESPN iOS app with a Hulu login.

There is a DVR included, but there is an extra cost for a larger one with the ability to fast forward, pause, and rewind a recorded programs. ($15)

I decided to go with Hulu Live TV because it did include all the major networks and the local versions of these channels when I was in either house -- Boston channels and Hartford Channels. I was able to cancel both the Comcast cable service and the Charter Spectrum cable service. 

After a week with Hulu TV, I cannot ignore my loathing of the interface. Maybe because I like a grid, but I find the Hulu apps really hard to both navigate and find things. There are WAY too many clicks. However, it still is the service that best meets my needs.

Update 1/22/18: Hulu announced at CES that they WILL be putting in a grid screen in spring of 2008! Yay!

However, Hulu Live TV is tied to your zip code as your "home". The company gives you the ability to change your "home" location four times per year. This is for great for people who move, but can also be useful for those that spend extended time in another locale.

The home location means you can use Hulu Live TV on the app of one smart TV or via the Hulu app on an Apple TV. You can use any device in your home to watch TV, but only one one person can stream Hulu content at a time.

When I am away from my "home" base for Hulu Live TV, I can stream from a single mobile device through a Google Chromecast attached to a television, or simply just watch content on the mobile device (while a person at home can still use the "home" stream). Apparently Hulu is working on the ability to use an Apple TV and Airplay from a mobile device, but it is not available yet. 

There is also a beta version  of Hulu Live TV service which allows you to watch live television and the DVR recordings within the Web browser on a computer. Once it is in the Web browser, you can Airplay it to the television screen via the Apple TV.

PlayStation VUE

I did not investigate PlayStation VUE last week since I read online that, unless you were using the VUE service on a PS3 or PS4 gaming machine, the interface was not very good. One of my friends wrote to tell me the interface had been updated, so I thought I would give it a try.

The Playstation VUE service does include, at least here in Boston, the local news affiliates. (You can get a 5-day trial to test it out in your area.) In addition, in the Boston area, we also get NESN, the New England Sports Network. 

PlayStation VUE has four different plans to pick from-- 

  • Access: popular live tv ($39.99)
  • Core: sports and popular live TV ($44.99)
  • Elite: movies, sports, and popular live TV ($54.99)
  • Ultra: movies, sports, popular TV and premium channels ($74.99)

I signed up for the trial of the Core service, since I already have Netflix and Amazon Prime for movie-watching. (It had all the channels that I wanted except the CW, and I probably should not waste any more time watching Riverdale, anyway, so it was no loss.)

I can log into WatchESPN with my credentials, so I would be fine getting the games I want to watch on ESPN3. And PlayStation VUE allows you to authenticate with your credentials in many mobile TV apps.

There are a few weird things about PlayStation VUE. If you want to use a mobile device to use PS VUE while you are away from home, you first have to open the app while on your home network and it will authenticate with a PS3, PS4, Roku, or FireTV. So you would have to have one of these set-top boxes/sticks  in your home. There is a Playstation VUE app you can use on Apple TV, but the Apple TV cannot be used for authenticating a mobile device.

Differing from Hulu, if you log-on to the app when you are away from home, you cannot get CBS, NBS, ABC, or FOX in the PS VUE app. You can authenticate to the network mobile apps with your PS VUE login,, but cannot watch live TV. For my purposes of watching live TV while I am at the condo in CT, this does not work.

The Playstation VUE service allows 5 local streams. However, if you need to have more streams while at home, you have to log-out of a set-top box and wait 3 hours to use the other device. Sounds like a "first world problem", and re-authenticating is not hard, but waiting three hours could be a problem if you want to watch a specific television set in your home. There are three mobile streams available and I am unsure if they count as part of the 5 when in the home. I am a little weary of testing at this time!

YouTube TV is another cutting-the-cord option. (Initial channels here. There is an app for Roku, Apple TV, newer Samsung TVs, and other devices. You can also use your Chromecast to cast from your phone or computer. It is $35/month with unlimited DVR storage (programs available for 9 months) and includes local news channels in some geographic areas. 

The service can be shared with six family members, who have to authenticate their device once every three months, and can streamed by three members at a time. Some channels are not included, such as HGTV, CNN, TBS, TNT, History, AMC, A&E, and Comedy Central.


When eliminating the cable box on both Comcast and Charter Spectrum, each company charged more for the "Internet alone" option since the Internet was no longer a part of a bundle. However, on Comcast, my costs dropped from $277 to $102 per month. On Charter Spectrum, the costs went from $101 to $65 per month. So, the savings from cutting the cable company "cord" was $211 per month. Not too shabby!

The cost for the Hulu Live TV service with the expanded size cloud DVR is $55 per month. So, my net yearly savings from all of these changes is $1872 per year!

For a family, I would probably recommend the SlingTV Blue and Orange services and the shared DVR, which would allow several family members to watch television at a time. However, most families may want to keep the "basic cable" package to have access to their local big three networks and PBS.

Some of my friends have suggested other options, too, like DirectTV Now, and the use of an HD over-the-air antenna for the local channels (if that is available in your area) and adding on a streaming service. 

It is like comparing apples and oranges since it depends on where you live, if you have decent Internet bandwidth, and the type of networks you are interested in. 

One other thing to be aware of. Some cable providers have a monthly cap on streaming usage. Xfinity does in some states. You can find out more about the 1 TB cap from Xfinity here. If you want to see your current data usage on Xfinity, log-in to your account, pick the SERVICES tab, the INTERNET choice, and you will see VIEW DATA usage on the right.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Gamifying financial literacy education with Star Banks Adventure

In the past, I have had the occasion to write blog posts about various aspects of financial literacy. There are many well-done Web sites created by experts in the field of personal finance that can be helpful to ensure students master the financial literacy skillset.


There is now a no-cost, engaging and informational online game from T. Rowe Price titled Star Banks Adventure available for teachers and students to instruct and learn about financial concepts within a gamified environment. Star Banks Adventure is also available as an iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire app. Just go to the Star Banks Adventure game site for links to them all.

The Star Banks Adventure game targets students in grades 5-8 and it includes puzzles and quick quizzes dealing with financial and personal finance concepts and is set in a sci-fi environment. I am not an experienced gamer, but the Star Banks Adventure game provides live demos right within the game, so I was able to catch on quickly how to maneuver and move through the levels. Each level builds upon the concepts in the previous level, so students get a deep-dive into each concept.


The Star Banks Adventure game was intended to help teachers introduce real world money concepts to students in middle school. There is a great curriculum matrix included within the teacher section of the Classroom Edition. The concepts taught in the game are mapped to national standards in personal finance, national standards in economics, and the Common Core State Standards. Below is a section of the curriculum matrix for levels one and two of the Star Banks Adventure game.

T. Rowe Price offers many additional financial resources for educators on their Money Confident Kids site. This site provides background information on financial concepts and includes downloadable magazines for students, print resources, videos, activators, and more. I suggest starting at the Teaching Tools and Activities page of the site, which includes PDF guides for both middle school and high school teachers. The Money Confident Kids site also includes a parent section to help parents reinforce some of these personal finance concepts at home.


The Classroom Edition of the Star Banks Adventure game includes an administrative dashboard for the teacher. Teachers create their own account on this page. In addition to including how-to tutorials for the Dashboard itself, the Dashboard allows the teacher to create online classroom groups, manage these  groups, monitor their students' progress, and compare their students' data with other classrooms in the United States. In the Teacher Dashboard area there are also tutorials introducing each of the six financial concepts included in the game -- setting a financial goal, prioritizing spending, rate of return, asset allocation, inflation and time horizon, and diversification.

Teachers can create as many classrooms as they need in the Dashboard and also view each student's progress and well as the aggregated classroom progress. Students have both a Classroom ID and User ID, neither of which include the real name of the student. Fun pseudonyms for the student names are generated as the teacher creates the User IDs.

Starting at the beginning of the game and moving through the levels helps reinforce the skills as they are learned. However teachers can have students work on a specific subject if they wish and jump to a specific topic.


I tried out the online version of the game on both Mac and Windows laptops and and on iOS, Android, and Google Fire devices. It worked flawlessly on all of these. It does not seem to run on the Chromebook nor with the Google Play Store install on my Asus Flip Chromebook. 

The Star Banks Adventure game provides a fun, engaging, educational, and informative way for students to learn about personal finance and becoming financially literate. Give it a try with your students!

This is a sponsored post on behalf of We Are Teachers and T. Rowe Price.
I received compensation for this post, however all opinions stated are my own.
STAR BANKS ADVENTURE and MONEY CONFIDENT KIDS are registered trademarks of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The importance of financial literacy

Financial and economic literacy is about understanding the importance of making appropriate economic choices on a personal level, as well as understanding the connection that personal, business, and governmental decisions have on individuals, society, and the economy.  

I have blogged about programs that help students develop their financial literacy skills. However, it is important teachers are also knowledgeable about the various aspects of financial literacy, as well as the best way to help students attain the knowledge they need to succeed.


There is a comprehensive program that can help educators learn about the aspects of personal finance and allows them to earn micro-credentials upon completion of modules and, in some states, credits or points to use for recertification.

Digital Promise, in partnership with the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University, has developed twenty financial literacy micro-credentials, appropriate for teachers grades 7-12, that provide open access to professional development resources for use across the content areas. These micro-credentials support educators development of their students’ personal finance skills. (If you want to learn more about the process of micro-credentialing, Digital Promise has published a great overview!)

These twenty, competency-based, micro-credentials cover the following.
  • Discussing risk and return
  • Credit cards
  • Buying or leasing
  • Saving for retirement
  • Learning investing
  • Understanding credit scores
  • Financial decision making
  • Building credit
  • Saving strategies
  • Student loan borrowing
  • Tax basics for teens
  • Protecting identity online
  • Comparing banking options
  • Exploring career options
  • Financial management 
  • Comparison shopping
  • Compound interest 
  • Automobile insurance
The modules in the Digital Promise Financial Literacy program include many different modes of learning to help middle and high school students attain the knowledge they need. These include digital game-based learning, online discussions, graphic organizers, learning-by-doing, simulation based learning, problem based learning, applied learning, and performance based learning.

The modules also target the higher order thinking skills as students reactivate their prior knowledge, compare and contrast, analyze, make decisions, and reflect.


The content of the personal finance program is separated into manageable chunks as modules. I explored all the modules, and wanted to share one that targets content I am passionate about - identity protection. I signed up for my free account at Digital Promise which brought me to their micro-credentialing platform, BloomBoard.

The introduction to the module included an overview of the method of instruction and links to supporting research for the instructional method for this module which is game-based learning. The introduction also included a suggested implementation of the lesson as well as links to a choice of digital games to use for the lesson.

This was followed by a list of the submission requirements for evaluation and earning of the micro-credential. These are shown below and also included a downloadable document which included the scoring guide rubric.

Once I had read the background material and investigated the included online financial games, I felt confident to teach the lesson about identify theft to the students. I would allow them to complete one of the games and then to collaborate in pairs, and with the class, about their experiences and gained knowledge.

To attain the micro-credential, I needed to go back to the questions above and complete the sections discussing how I introduced the topic, upload two artifacts, and (the most important part) reflect on game-based learning and its impact on student acquisition of content. There was also an optional survey to provide the resource creators with additional information.

I was very impressed with both the content and the platform of the module. The choices included allowed me, as an educator, to determine what was best for my students. The included research information and additional resources made me feel comfortable I had attained enough knowledge to teach the topic in an way to help students learn. The assessments to earn my micro-credential were meaningful and prompted me to think and reflect on both the method of delivery and student learning.

The Digital Promise/GFLEC financial literacy program can be used across the curriculum, and, in addition to helping students attain the financial literacy skills, it provides educators with the time to reflect on methods of instructional delivery, which can help frame practice in any content area!
This is a sponsored post on behalf of We Are Teachers and Digital Promise
I received compensation for this post, however all opinions stated are my own.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Promoting inventiveness in the classroom

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in June 2017 and is re-posted here with permission.


We are all familiar with invention—the process of creating something new and useful. But what about the creativity factors that play a large role in this process? The form of creativity leading to invention is called inventiveness. How can you lead your teachers or colleagues to promote inventiveness in the classroom?

The Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa includes a great overview of inventiveness in their “Invent Iowa Curriculum Guide”. Invent Iowa, started in 1987, was created to help teachers promote the invention process in their classrooms as well as allow students to showcase their inventions at state and local conventions. The Invent Iowa guide states inventiveness includes four components.
  1. Fluency– the ability to brainstorm
  2. Flexibility– the ability to think in new and different ways
  3. Elaboration– the ability to add details or missing parts
  4. Originality– the ability to create things that are new
In this program, the grade 3-8 students are encouraged to use a series of problem-solving steps when during the invention process.
  • They begin by identifying or finding a problem that might be solved or lessened with an invention.
  • They then gather information about related inventions.
  • Before an inventor begins creating, he/she explores the idea in-depth.
  • Finally, the student inventor imagines their invention idea and begins creating it.
As the student inventor explores their idea in depth, he/she needs to answer the common thinking questions to prompt them to think of all the aspects – who, what, where, when, and why. There is an additional question the inventor needs to think about, and that is “how” – “How can I make the invention?” “How can I get investors?” “How can I market the invention?”
The Invent Iowa Curriculum Guide includes a rubric which can help the classroom teacher develop the timelines and task goals with the students. It includes the problem, the solution, the explanation, the uniqueness, the benefits, the inventor’s log, and the invention itself. The higher order thinking skills of evaluating, analyzing, and creating, as well as the importance of reflection, comprise a large part of this process.

The curriculum guide also provides some tips for teachers for instilling a climate for inventiveness in the classroom.
  • Create challenge and motivation
    • Stimulate student questioning
    • Asking questions calling for creative thought
    • Discuss the “unknowns”
  • Encourage students to challenge their assumptions
  • Provide freedom for exploration
    • Establish trust and openness
    • Defer judgment whenever possible
  • Use affirmative judgment
  • Permit liveliness and dynamism
    • Encourage student involvement and ownership
  • Encourage playfulness and humor
  • Allow for examining differing ideas and viewpoints
  • Minimize conflicts
  • Encourage risk-taking, rather than “safe” responses and conformity
  • Provide time for thought and action
However, to spur the creativity and have students adopt the inventiveness mindset, there some interesting ways for the classroom teacher to foster creativity in the classroom. Kristin Hicks, in an Edudemic blog post, provides five ways to bring this about. Her thoughts and ideas deal with student choice, and include:
  1. Allow students choice in the format of their assessments. Even have them mix and match formats, for example, a video with a recorded podcast review.
  2. Try to set aside some time each day for students to follow their passions. Create a “genius hour”.
  3. Use technology to broaden your idea of assignments. For instance, use Google Maps along with a novel, have students interview experts on Skype and follow experts on Twitter or in a Reddit group to gather their information for a research paper, etc.
  4. Make sure your tech toolbox includes some unconventional tech tools. Have students create a TED talk about a chapter in the science book, have them draw an XKCD-like comic strip, or create a Fakebook page for an explorer. (I have tons of categorized online tools on this page for you to investigate!)
  5. Encourage discussion among students, using the Socratic seminar method, so students are not afraid to take a risk, learn how to formulate good questions, and how to respect the opinions of others. (Take a look at a recent Kathy’s Katch blog post I penned, Civil Discourse in the Classroom, to investigate more about helping students learn to value someone else’s point of view.)
I also am a fan of Stacey Goodman’s methods of encouraging divergent thinking in his classroom. His expected results would lead to a climate of inventiveness, too.
  • Problem-based learning: Instead of giving the students the problem to solve, have them create the problem questions based on their own knowledge and passions.
  • Setting norms: Develop activities that encourage students to defer judgement. If students know they will not be immediately judged, they are more likely to offer divergent ideas.
  • Inquiry and observation: Have students spend time observing, hold back on expressing their likes and dislikes, and follow-up with statements or questions such as “I noticed…”, “Why…?”, and “How…?”.
  • Encouraging play and managing failure: Develop activities that encourage students to play and experiment, followed by reflection and iteration until they are satisfied with the result. Help them learn not to be afraid to make mistakes.
  • Use art strategies: Goodman is an art teacher, and he presents some art activities in the article that would easily work across the content areas to promote inventiveness.
Another succinct overview of the components that can help lead to creativity and inventiveness has been developed by Tanner Christensen.

Discovery Education has material to support creative thinking in your classroom.
  • The Spotlight on Strategies (SOS) “Take a walk” activity is based on a Stanford University study which found that creative thinking improves as you walk and for a short time after.
  • The video “Above & Beyond“, created by Fablevision, showcases how a collaborative project can lead to some creative results!
  • The “Teaching to inspire creativity” video segment is a short professional development video for educators.
After looking at both the Hicks and Goodman criteria and the Discovery Education resources, I don’t believe inventiveness is tied just to the invention process. I think it is a natural part of the creative and divergent thinking processes, too. For some fascinating reading, the Creative Something blog, written by Tanner Christensen, explores the science of how creative thinking works to help his audience “use it every day to create, empower, and motivate”. Isn’t that what we want for students?

Allowing students to pursue their passions, in a way meaningful to them, is a process that can be mentored and practiced in the classroom. By giving students both time and practice in questioning, collaborating, researching, designing, iterating, re-designing, and reflecting, we will be empowering and motivating them to apply the process of inventiveness both in and out of the classroom!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Civil discourse in the classroom

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in November 2016 and is re-posted here with permission.

During this season of debates and political commercials, the stereotypes, biases, and negativity seem to have taken over civil discourse. As our students watch the televised political debates, read the responses on Twitter or Reddit, or view the video responses from those with an agenda, they need to understand how to value someone else’s point of view and balance it with their own thoughts and beliefs to form an opinion.


Learning how to look at things from a different point of view and how a point of view can change someone’s version of an event, can start with our youngest students. The ILA/NCTE site has several lesson plans that target point-of view.
  • Teaching Point of View With Two Bad Ants has students reading the story in small groups, analyzing the illustrations and text, comparing an ant’s view with a human’s view, and then writing a short story from an ant’s perspective. (Grades 3-5)
  • The Big Bad Wolf: Analyzing Point of Views in Texts, in addition to an opening activity where students are assigned a point of view when listening to a story, the teacher reads aloud two different versions of the traditional fairy tale, The Three Little Pigs. Using a Venn diagram, students compare and contrast the story’s events from the various points of view presented in the two books. The teacher follows-up with a reading of the The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Scieszka), which is told from the point-of-view of the wolf. Students then have to re-write a fairy tale from the point of view of an object or character in the tale, such as the pea in The Princess and the Pea or the bean in Jack and the Beanstalk. (Grades 6-8)
Discovery Education offers a video segment and supporting materials for teaching point of view for grades 3-5.
  • Point of View : “This segment presents a facts about circus master P.T. Barnum and compares two author’s points of view about the entertainer. A follow-up activity asks students to analyze point of view in a magazine article.” (4:43)


I have always believed, when responding to others in a public forum, my comments should be positive or neutral– never negative. If I have a critical response to the author of an article or post, I simply send it to them directly, whether in a direct message in Twitter or via email. I try to be constructive in my criticism and also want to have the chance to use as many characters and words as I need to to get my point across. I don’t want to get in a debate over something in a public venue and only have 140 characters to respond with!
A popular method of feedback I use when responding to my graduate students comes  John Wooden, famous college basketball coach. His coaching methodology is sometimes referred to as The Sandwich Method.

Sandwich (Color) . Clip Art. Discovery Education. Web. 10 October 2016. .

The Sandwich Method of Feedback
  1. Start with positive feedback about someone’s idea
  2. Provide the constructive criticism you want to share
  3. End on a positive note
Ashely Hurley, a professional development specialist, penned a useful post in 2014 titled “The A-B-Cs of Giving Feedback to a colleague“. She provides examples and methods of how to keep the feedback accessible and action-oriented, how to focus on the basic information, and connecting the feedback to the content. Ashley also includes links to additional information about feedback. Even though this post is about teachers giving peer feedback, the same tenets can easily be applied to support students during student-student feedback.
Debating is a form of targeted feedback and there are some great resources for those who wish to debate, whether in person or online, and do so with clarity and purpose. I love this strategy from Marco Witzmann in an article about how to become a great debater. The article goes into much more depth than the following, but the main components of the strategy are:
  • State: use clear wording in one short phrase, stating your point
  • Explain: Use the word because to explain why your point is valid.
  • Illustrate: Use examples to illustrate your point and make the audience identify with your arguments
Students can learn about this strategy and then, while re-watching a political debate, keep a tally on how well the debaters did in each of these three areas. Was their main point understood? Did they explain why they took that stance? Did their examples help or hinder their presentation of their main point?
Simon Frasier University, located in Canada, offers this concise overview of how to debate which includes the basic debating skills of style, speed, tone, volume, clarity and eye contact as well as the content components of the argument including the case and the rebuttal. Again, once students understand the parts of a debate, they can dissect a political debate using this information as a starting point.

Discovery Education, in their Spotlight on Strategies collection, has several great activities that target both point of view and debate.
  • Essentially Speaking “is a teaching strategy that provides a structure for students to prepare for a debate after encountering a new piece of media or collection of information. Students identify their key points and evidence that supports them before arguing one side of the debate.”
  • Tug of War “is a teaching strategy that develops students’ abilities in the arts of deliberation and debate. To create a tug-of-war activity, students are placed in two groups to argue opposing sides of an issue, using reasoning and evidence.”
  • 3 truths…1 Lie “is a teaching strategy that helps students focus on the key takeaway of a particular concept. Students will create three truths and one lie, based on the digital selection.”
  • Gone Fishin’ “is a teaching strategy that allows students to practice presenting their opinions in a respectful and productive manner. Students are given deep and debatable questions and small groups have informed discussions in front of the rest of the class.”


Of course, in order to understand someone else’s point of view or dissect a debate, students need to know how to listen. It is too easy to get caught up in wanting to respond and interrupt with your own opinion. Learning how to listen is a practiced skill and Discovery Education offers resources to help students attain this important skill.
  • Listen Up “is a teaching strategy that encourages students to either watch or listen carefully…Students switch roles between viewer and listener and assist each other in putting the pieces together to understand a piece of media.”
  • Developing Your Listening Skills: In this 1:53 video segment “Slim Goodbody gives examples of how to become a better listener. He also explains that when you are a good listener you hear the meaning and feeling behind the words which lead to better communication.” (Grades K-5)
  • Active Listening: “This 4:11 segment presents a short piece about Monument Valley and discusses active listening techniques.” (Grades 3-5)
  • Communication Skills: “Through a series of role-plays, two students resolve a conflict by using active listening skills and I statements.” Grades 6-8 (7:33)
  • Becoming a Better Listener and Communicator: This 3:09 video segment provides tips the important communication skill of listening. Grades 6-12
Other good lessons plans I found dealing with active listening include:
  • Active Listening: “Students practice active listening by paraphrasing what they hear.” Grades 3-6
  • Are you listening?: This lesson plan takes students through two different ways to listen. Grades 7-9
  • Social Skill- Active Listening: This is a 23-page packet which teaches students about active listening and has them actively listening during both the lesson and in real-life situations. Grades 9-12

These practical skills of thinking about point of view, learning how to deliver critical feedback, and the process of actively listening to others are important as our students grow to be the voters and leaders of the future!