Summer EdTech Conference Choices

Summer is a great time for educators to reboot! This blog is focused on some of my favorite EdTech conferences where we can get new ideas  and meet other educators with enhanced teaching strategies and new ways to deliver engaging content. I have broken it down to National, Regional, State and Local conferences, all offering great sessions that will have an impact on your teaching and get you energized for the upcoming year.



ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education.  This one is simply amazing.  It will be held in San Antonio, Texas on July 25th-28th.  The Keynote speakers are Jad Abumrad, Jennie Mageria and Reshma Saujani.  CrossBraining had a booth alongside GoPro last year and I would have to say it was one of the coolest experiences I have had as an educator.  Educators are super excited to be there and the vibe is infectious. There are hundreds of sessions to choose from and you can’t go wrong because the speakers are some of the best educators out there.  If you attend, be sure to catch a Matt Miller session, visit the Google interactive booth, try new gadgets at the CDW-G booth and try the Breakout EDU bus that might be parked outside the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. When sessions are over, go check out the Symbaloo EdTech Karaoke contest. If you can not make it to ISTE, jump on Twitter and follow the #notatISTE to keep an eye on everything that is going on at the conference.


ISTE Karaoke                                              ISTE Booth


Regional- Ditch That Conference


Matt Miller continues his theme of Ditch That Textbook with a conference called Ditch That Conference.  This is the first time that Matt has hosted this event but not the first time where he has pulled in top notch presenters from all over the United States.  Back in December, Matt had a free online Digital Summit.  It was a nine day event where he featured a new presenter each day. Matt and the guest would talk about innovative ideas taking place in education.  I am sure that Matt will deliver the same awesome quality at his conference in September.





MACUL is hosting Michigan's is GoogleFEST in Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 8th and 9th.  This  is an event where attendees will get first-hand knowledge from Google Experts, Google Certified Instructors and Google using teachers.  GoogleFEST conferences have popped up all over the world and it is a time for educators to learn how to incorporate some of the innovative products that Google has to offer educators.


I think we will be seeing more and more of these types of conferences because technology overarches all of education and it is no longer a class at school. Teachers with Google Certifications can present at conferences like this making this type of conference very scalable because there are thousands of Google Certified teachers.


Every teacher needs to know how to use technology in their classrooms and this is a great place for all teachers regardless of their technology abilities.  I like conferences like this because the sessions are designed so the teacher can pick a beginner, novice or expert class.  I will be presenting a session called Digital Storytelling Made Easy at the GoogleFEST in Grand Rapids.  I will show attendees how their students can use the free Google Drive space to store all of their student made videos and how they can share these videos with authentic audiences.

Local- EdTech Kickoff


If you can not not make it to a national conference or don’t have the budget of time to make it to a State conference, find a way to go to a local EdTech conference.  Here is a statement on EdTech Kickoff being held in Brooklyn, Michigan this July. “This conference will showcase the great teaching, learning and innovation happening in Michigan area schools. Sessions range from Google to hands-on Makerspace activities. Your day will be filled with fun and motivation to kick-start the school year.”  These types of conferences are popping up all of the country.  It is a great way for educators to join a PLN (Personal Learning Network) so they can begin exchanging ideas with local teachers, possibly begin coordinating events with each other and to simply learn some new tricks.  I will be presenting at two sessions at this event because it is close to home and because I want to meet more teachers from my area.  Search Google using the key term EdTech Conference and see what pops up.



Attend a conference this summer and get stoked for fall 2017!

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom


We are surrounded by digital technologies, at home, at school, at work, almost everywhere.  By raising awareness of the opportunities and risks inherent in digital technologies, our students will be better prepared in how to act online to avoid inflicting harm on themselves and others. Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. This article addresses digital citizenship and how three themes can be brought together while doing engaging activities in your classroom: digital communication, digital literacy and digital etiquette.


Digital Communication


When students work in groups to complete an engaging task we need to first explain to them why we are even doing the task.  Most teachers spend some time going over  the skills and standards that need to be addressed to pull off the task.  Then the teacher has them apply those skills to complete an engaging task so the students can see how and why those skills and standards are important to their life.  What often is missed is giving the students an authentic audience to share the work they completed.  For example,It could be as simple as sharing their work with their parents or extreme as showing students in another country.  When we start asking our students to share what they have learned to audiences outside the classroom it requires students to be completely aware of the decisions they make while on the computer.  This is an excellent time to help them think about communication avenues.  There are choices like SeeSaw, Google Classroom, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the list grows monthly.  Students are already making these choices on their own everyday at home often with our guidance.  Helping students learn proper channels is our responsibility and if we allow them to explain the choices they make in class to sharing their learning, they will more than likely be excited about the conversation and have plenty to say.  


Digital Literacy


When students are given an opportunity to share their learning they have an awesome opportunity to explore digital literacy.  Imagine if we asked our student to Screencastify their 3D modeling design on Tinkercad and they incorporated Explain Everything to share what they had done?  What if they wanted to narrate what they were doing (with the microphone on their computer by using the Tab Resize app in Chromestore) so they could split screen their narration and pull up Explain Everything App up right next to it, so they could read it fluently?  This is definitely App Smashing; but it is also giving students a safe place to learn about and use digital tools to show their knowledge and show their proficiency.


Digital Etiquette


I bring up Digital Etiquette a lot in my class.  It comes up because my students are using so many forms of communication tools and often combining them to show their proficiency.  This is such a great time to discuss the importance of their digital footprint along with having great conversations about why so many schools decide to ban things.  The students need to know the power of the Internet and they need to be in a safe place like a classroom to explore communication options and how to explore the responsibility associated with such an amazing tool like the internet.  A great place to find resources is Common Sense education.

When students are so close to technology and the digital world, they must know or know how to examine the impact of their online activities. Teachers must model ethical technology use for their students on a daily basis, and they must include conversations about it whenever technology is part of their lesson plan (everyday).

Three Ways Digital Storytelling Supports Formative Assessment

Three Ways Digital Storytelling Supports Formative Assessment


Here are three ways that digital storytelling supports formative assessment:


  • Digital Media/Snapshots of student learning, while they are learning.
  • Reflections that help students pivot and make new iterations.
  • Summarizes the experience to help students review and see their growth.


Digital Media/Snapshots

I have students take small video recordings (5-8 seconds) of moments they deem important.  I emphasize “deem important” because this forces them to reflect on what they are doing and how they are going to do it.  I then have them make a plan on what they will take snapshots of.  They can use a GoPro, smartphone, tablet or their Chromebook camera.  Next they should  capture those key moments in the lesson and think about how they are going to explain them.  When they see their product, work, collaboration, or lack thereof, they realize that the truth is staring right at them.  They have a visual artifact of what they did while they were doing it.  They are observing themselves.  This certainly supports the purpose of improving their learning.



Rusul Alrubail made a list of the benefits of student reflection.  I think in order to believe that reflection can help improve student learning, it is important to see its benefits.  When students are given a guide/template on how to reflect on their learning, it becomes the center of their learning.  Eric Patnoudes says students begin seeing the difference between “good” and “good enough”.  They are forced to be truthful with themselves.  Reflection templates help them analyze all of their decisions.  These reflections should be written out or narrated alongside a video so that that their group members, parents and teacher can give feedback on their learning.  This helps them improve on what they are doing.



After every game, a coach has to think about what they are going to say to their team, win or lose.  A great coach lets their players have a voice during this time.  Education is no different.  If teachers give their students the opportunity and time to summarize the learning that just took place it gives other students an insight to what other students are thinking.  Many students will say things like this, “I never thought of that” or “I was thinking the same thing”.  When students summarize, they are owning their learning.  


Adding It All Together

Teachers that have their students take snapshots of their learning, reflect on that learning and then summarize it, they are creating an artifact of their learning.  They are telling a story of what and how they learned.  The student can now use that artifact to see their growth over time.  They can “SEE” their growth and they can make iterations along the way.  The digital portfolio supports formative assessment because when you implement these three suggestions, it WILL improve student learning.

Three Reasons Digital Portfolios are Important



Today there are emerging technologies that make it very easy for students to tell their story.  Students have access to devices; and video editing tools like GoPro Splice are abundant.  There are speech-to-text apps to help students who struggle with writing. Storing data on Google Drive for students is unlimited.  With so many digital tools available, it is easy to create a digital portfolio of their learning. Here are three reasons why digital portfolios are important:  


  • Standardized tests to do not tell the whole story.
  • Students can look back and reflect on their learning which helps them own it.
  • Sharing their story with an authentic audience results in more learning.


Many teachers and parents are frustrated with standardized tests.  I have taught for twenty years and I have mixed feelings. Many of my students perform very well on standardized tests; and I do think they have value.  There are students who are good at recalling information and answering questions with paper and pencil; and I do believe that there are wonderful careers for students that have these skills.  


Teachers, including me, get frustrated because we know that a standardized test doesn’t give all students a chance to show their proficiency.   Many of the students who don’t perform well on standardized tests have beautiful, curious  minds, ask thought provoking questions, are brave and courageous risk takers, and just need an alternative way to demonstrate their learning.

What if students were allowed to “show” their learning? What if students could demonstrate their proficiency using a digital portfolio by defending what they have learned?  The Coalition of Essential Schools points out that some states are beginning to do this. “Portfolios are gaining currency as an assessment alternative to report cards and transcripts; numbers of schools, and even entire states -- notably Kentucky and Vermont -- are using portfolios to get a more accurate description of a student's capabilities.”  With digital learning on the rise and states beginning to look closely at portfolios as an assessment alternative, we are entering a time where all students can show their proficiency.  


Digital Portfolios set the stage for student reflection. Reflection is often overlooked in the classroom yet it is an essential ingredient to student learning.  Beth Holland wrote an article called Digital Portfolios: The Art of Reflection.  She said, “through the act of collecting learning artifacts and compiling them into portfolios, students should have an opportunity to reflect upon their experiences and see their own growth.”  I agree with Beth.  Digital Portfolios offer an amazing opportunity for students to reflect on their learning. Students need teachers and parents to teach them how to reflect.  I have found that students love reflecting and that makes them very cognitive about their thinking which amplifies metacognition. I read an article by Karen Barnstable  called Four Dimensions of Reflective Learning and I adapted it to share with my students.  I explain to them that there are four types of reflection: inward, outward, forward and backward.  Here is something I write on my whiteboard:


Backward- Does your work and video tell a story of your learning?

Inward- What are your standards?  Are you meeting them?

Outward- Did you do your work as well as the others in your group?

Foreward- Was there a character trait from another student that you want to copy or emulate during your next task?


This reflection guides the students toward capturing the right artifacts and thoughts that should be included in their digital portfolio.  This is valuable because students can look back and see how they were thinking.  Looking back on a document, video, picture or drawing is good, but looking back on how they reflected helps the student see what they learned and how they were thinking.


Digital Portfolios offer students the opportunity to share their work with authentic audiences.  Monica Burns simply states in her article The Value of an Authentic Audience why students should have authentic audiences. “When we establish authentic audiences for students, they can see the purpose for their work.” The magic happens when students have purpose.  I explain to my students that the videos that they put in their digital portfolios are for parents, other teachers, students from other schools and the list can be long.  I also explain that when you show others how you did something, you have become part of the learning system.  You are now a contributor.  Students watch Youtube videos to absorb something and I explain to them that you can’t always be the person who absorbs, you also have to give back to that system.  When students add videos to their digital portfolios, they are creating a learning journal of what they did and can contribute it to system.  I love analogies and I feel students need to take care of their portfolios like a garden.  They need to water them, take the weeds out, and share the crop when it grows.  Students take better care of their digital portfolio because there is purpose.  This past fall I had the privilege to listen to Eric Patnoudes run a session at the Fall CUE conference in Napa Valley.  Eric showed this video with teachers to show them the power of giving your students an authentic audience. Check out what the students and teacher say about authentic audiences at the six minute mark.
Have your students start creating a digital portfolio and guide them on how to take care of it. Explain why they are important and have them begin reflecting on their learning!

Three Ways To Use A Drone At School

Three Ways To Use A Drone At School


Students love drones and there are a lot of ways to incorporate them into the classroom.  I have the GoPro Karma Drone and it is incredibly easy to fly, gives you awesome footage and students can fly it on day one, so there are no reasons not to have one!

Three easy lessons might be:  measurement, collaboration,  and estimation.


Measurement.  All students in all grades work on measurement.  I was recently talking to a wind turbine repairman from Las Vegas who said he climbs turbines to check if they are working properly.  He said, “ I wish our company had a drone.  If we had a drone, I could fly it up there and determine any problems the turbine has without risking injury.”  I said, “For safety reasons?”  He replied, “Yes”.  That brings us to our first way to introduce drones, safety!


All new quality drones like the GoPro Karma will tell you how high they are flying and how much flying time you have to operate the drone.  In this lesson, take four eight-foot PVC poles (wind turbines) with a red or blue colored cap on each and place them at least 100 feet apart from each other.  Students will fly the drone over each pole and record them.  All red top poles indicate  the pole is working correctly and the blue colored tops indicate there is a problem.

Students use measurement wheels to map out their flight and use the recordings to determine which poles work and which poles don’t.  The students record their flight and explain why their team did a great job of identifying the working and nonworking poles.  Teachers could implement a number of math standards into this real life assignment.

Collaboration.  21st Century Skills require people to collaborate.  Drones are becoming a solution to many companies.  Look at  Amazon Prime Air.  Drones are here to stay and it is the responsibility of teachers to incorporate this fascinating technology into the classroom.  


In this lesson, students will incorporate weather and math to determine which day of the week they should guarantee delivery based on weather and time.  Students need to prepare by mapping out the weather for the week and then based on the day they choose, they perform a simple take off and landing to simulate a package drop off to a three different customers.  Students will determine who gets the first delivery, second delivery and third delivery.  Students will collaborate with each other to come up with a plan and execute it.  All the teacher needs to do is map out where the deliveries are and the students do the the rest.  To take this to another level, give students the GPS locations of the deliveries and have them find the spots.


Estimation:  School parking lots can get jammed up at times.  Schools usually have protocols in place to maximize efficiency in student drop off and pick up.  Teachers should have their students fly drones over the parking lot during different times of the day to capture footage of what is happening with buses and cars to make decisions and rules. You are probably asking, “Who is flying the drone when the buses are picking up and dropping off?”  The students are.  Teachers will need to plan this in advance and see if some of the walkers are willing to come in early or stay after to get the footage (they will be begging).  You could also ask students who use the bus to get footage during the day to prove there are times during the day that have much less traffic congestion.  When students have the footage before, during and after school, they can estimate the amount of traffic during multiple times during the day.  Students will then use that footage to make a plan of the best way buses, cars and packages are to come in and out of school.  Students will present this to the class and to the Board of Education.


Drones will change the way we live.  Now is the time to get them into the classroom to prepare students for the future.  Plus, drones are a lot of fun, too!

5 Tips When Managing a Digital Classroom

Five Tips for Managing a Digital Classroom


Every day, schools across the country are adding more devices to the classroom.  Here are five tips on how to manage the digital classroom.  


  1. Whether your school is 1:1 or you have ipads on a cart, I strongly suggest that you have groups of two or three students working on one computer.  The reason behind this is to maximize their work.  When students are on their own device, it can be very difficult to:
  • monitor what sites they are on
  • keep them focused on the tasks at hand
  • prevent them from drifting to other sites (kids don’t want to watch their partner surf the web)

When students are sharing a computer they are collaborating and that is a 21st century skill that all students need.  So tomorrow, get your students in groups and set the extra Chromebooks and ipads off to the side.


  1. Students need to know where to store devices, how to store them, and which one is theirs.  Most teachers number the devices.  I find this useful for many reasons. 1. If my students are using Lego EV3 #1, I want them to also use ipad #1 and GoPro #1.  They will always know where there device is, where their codes are and where their footage is.  If my students are using the Lego EV3 #1 and it is synced by Bluetooth with Ipad #1, I won’t have to to sync them again and they will be ready to go for the rest of the year.  This goes for syncing GoPro #1 with ipad #1.  This allows for an easy workflow.  They also know where to return their devices.  Most schools agree that when a student feels ownership of a device, they will take better care of it.  


  1. Digital Citizenship needs to be addressed every day.  We can not manage a digital classroom by saying, “you were just texting, so everyone needs to put away their cell phones.”  This is not teaching digital citizenship. Teachers must  explain and reinforce  good digital citizenship.  Because students are learning how to use digital equipment in the classroom, this is a great way to introduce debates and open forums.  Don’t get irritated with a student when they make a poor choice with their device, help them understand what went wrong and how it impacts them.  Students will love talking about this!


  1. Use a student management system to organize your day and your students.  I use Google Classroom and SeeSaw to help manage my class.  These systems help cut down on paper, give your parents a window into the classroom, allow students to share and collaborate creatively and make your life easier because they can save time.  There are so many features on Google Classroom and SeeSaw but don’t be nervous, there are many webinars, videos and tutorials to get you started.  Just try one new thing each week or two and before you know it, you will have the hang of it.


  1. Time, Time, Time!  Tell your students when they are on their device, there are time limits.  Put up a timer on your projector using the website Classroom Timers.  This will help your students and groups stay focused on the goal.  Students should be using their device as a tool.  If it is not a tool to complete the job, then it should be closed or put away.  If I tell my students to look something up, build a model on Tinkercad or edit a video, I always put up a classroom timer and give them an allotted time.  We discuss how long it should take so they have ownership of the time which is another great skill for them to develop when sitting in front of a computer.  This prevents surfing the web and rabbit hole syndrome where students are just searching and looking.


Technology is overarching education, it is not going away.  It is our responsibility to teach students how to manage it and use it effectively.  CrossBraining is very interested in how you manage the digital classrooms and we would love to hear your tips!


Digital Storytelling in the Classroom


The Importance of Digital Storytelling


Digital storytelling is going to transform education. Technology is the overarching tool that drives all industries and education is no exception.  Teachers and students have access to smartphones, computers and GoPro cameras in their school or classrooms.  Some schools are putting a device in every student's hands.  

I teach in rural Michigan and every student has a Chromebook, 40 percent of my 5th grade students have a smartphone, 65 percent of my 6th grade students have a smartphone and 92 percent of my 7th grade students have a smartphone.  This means that every student in our school has the ability to take pictures, record video, add music and edit video and tell a wonderful story and share it with an authentic audience.


Students already use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now Snapchat to communicate with each other.  Video and images have dramatically changed HOW communication takes place. Facebook allows for longer videos and longer stories where Twitter only allows for 140 characters which forces the user to make a pitch.  Snapchat only allows 10-second videos and when it is opened it only stays on for 10-seconds.  However, expeditioness plays a critical role in how students communicate their story.  


Here are some interesting facts about video:



Schools across the country want their students to focus on the four C’s (critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity) for 21st century skills and; digital/video storytelling bridges these learning skills across subjects and disciplines.  


Digital storytelling offers a unique, personalized authentic experience for the student and it is student-driven.  It gives the student an opportunity to SHOW their learning on a platform they are comfortable with and  like to use with their friends.  Digital storytelling is great for:


  • Personalized instruction and learning
  • Metacognition (students think about their thinking when they create a video of their learning)
  • Sharing learning with parents, teachers, administrators and community
  • Engagement
  • Portfolios
  • Formative assessment


Digital Storytelling also documents the lesson that is being taught.  Every time a student captures their learning they are essentially capturing the lesson being taught.  When teachers share those videos with each other, the world will have access to lessons that are being taught across the world.  The facts already say that one billion unique users are using YouTube each month.  Teachers would be able to review and rate lessons and it would not matter where they were teaching, they would have access to the best lessons on the planet.

CrossBraining understands the power of video.  CrossBraining shows teachers and students how to create 45-second narrated videos of the learning that takes place in the classroom. We have a template that steps both students and teachers through the process to learn, capture, and share. But it gets even better, our new app will be coming out soon! Stay tuned.

MACUL 2017


Here is a breakdown of MACUL 2017 at Cobo Center.


Sir Ken Robinson KeyNote Speaker

Each year thousands of teachers join together to share great ideas and tools with each other at MACUL.  MACUL is the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning.  Teachers come from all over to:

  • Attend engaging sessions
  • Go to the Makerspace Area
  • Learn about new STEM products
  • Learn how to incorporate new Google tools into their lessons
  • How to use video in the classroom
  • How to transform education


This year’s tagline was Learning Forward.  This amazing conference started with one of the world’s most forward thinkers, Sir Ken Robinison.  Michigan teachers packed Cobo to hear Sir Ken Robinson spread his message about change and how it starts right in their classroom.  He talked about miracles and how they happen everyday in our classrooms.  He also shared how education and standardized tests are not working.  He showed the packed crowd a picture of parents in India climbing a building to help their child cheat on tests.  He then said, “customize, not standardize!”


I don’t think there could have been a more fitting person to amp up the crowd before the teachers headed off to sessions.  I had anticipated watching Sir Ken in person since MACUL mentioned this last year.  He certainly moved me and I choked up a number of times.  


Here are some of my favorite quotes he said:

“There is something in the system that obstructs the learning.”  

“Humanize education.”

"A school is a community of learners; everything else is negotiable.”

“How do we change the education system? Don't think someone else is the system. You are the system.”


The last one was powerful.  You could just tell that every teacher in that hall went to their sessions with a purpose.


My First CrossBraining Session

I applied this past fall to have a Session on “Using GoPro Cameras in the Classroom”.  This session focused on Collaborating, Creating and Communicating.  It was an absolute honor to be able to hold this session and to show teachers how to get students to make 45-second videos of their learning using key terms from the standards.  The teachers became students and made their own narrated 45-second videos of Mixtures and Solutions.  Mixtures and Solutions can confuse students but when they plan, perform, make changes to a video creation that is student driven, they simply don’t forget.  Here are some of the videos that were made in that session.  Note, the competition was fierce because the winning team each got a GoPro Session.


 Winning team
MACUL is doing everything it can to help motivate and inspire the attendees to be the game changers because “we are the system”.  It takes volunteers and presenters like Andy Losik @mrlosik and Ron Madison @madison_ron Brad Wilson @dreambition and many more to pull this off and CrossBraining is stoked to continue learning from the great teachers in Michigan and to do its part in sharing tools that help create positive change.

Let The Student's Teach and The Teacher Facilitate

I am going to start off by saying that I know enough about computers to get by, but I am far from an expert.  I have taught for twenty years and I remember getting my first access to the Internet in 2000.  The boundaries between education and technology are becoming blurred and there is one thing that seems to be stuck in the mud:computer education.  Yes, we let students USE computers but there is little to no teaching taking place on what is inside them.  For years, I rested on the crutch of simply saying, “I don’t know how they work, so how could I teach computers.”  That has all changed and this article is about how it happened.


The third grade teacher across the hall from me had a student named “Ted”who was fascinated by copy machines.  He told me that “Ted” would be in my class next year and that Ted loved hanging with the tech guys who came and fixed the machines.  I thought it was cool that the teacher let Ted do that.  He told me again that Ted was going to be in my room next year and that he wanted Ted to have an opportunity to keep working on computers.


The following year, in my fourth grade class, the copier broke.  I asked Ted if he could fix it, even though I didn’t really think he could. Well, he did, and our lives has never been the same since.  Ted has fixed the copiers, whiteboards, coolers for the fish tank, computers, cameras and the list goes on.  I let him try to fix everything.  Yes, he still hangs with the copy guys to brush up on new technologies.  He craves up to date information. The company that sells and fixes the copiers went as far as giving Ted a one hour tour of their company and to end the tour told him they would send him a full size copy machine delivered to his house.  Not the ones that go in your home office, the ones that go in a school.  His mom said it was a dream come true because he used to ask for one for Christmas and that he had drawings of them on his wall.

When Ted was in 5th grade I had a group of adults come to observe my class.  One of them happened to be an advisor to our Governor.  Ted showed him a circuit board that he was working on and the advisor pointed to it and asked what it was. Ted looked at him, but didn’t speak for almost 30 seconds, which seemed like eternity.  Finally, Ted looked at me and said, “Mr. Nichols, this is tough to answer because it is a capacitor and those are not easy to explain to people who don’t know what they are.”  Everyone cracked up but even I really didn’t know how they worked. He looked at the Advisor and said, “It is like a battery but only works when it is needed. They are more complicated than that but that is the simplest way I can explain it.”

Ted is now in 7th grade and I am lucky to have been teaching him for the past four years because I am a STEM teacher.  So let’s circle back to the beginning.  I had never taught a computer class but I really thought it was time.  But I wasn’t going to teach the class, Ted was.  I told Ted and his buddy to make a list on Amazon of everything they would need to make a computer.  Their eyes nearly popped out of their heads as they tried to say “serious?”

My plan was to get them what they wanted so they could build a computer...on the condition they would teach the other students.  I baited them.   One became two and two became four and now ‘Ted’ has 8 which by the end of this school year needs to be 10-16.  That was the deal.

Right now you are probably wondering  how I graded them.  The answer is simple.  CrossBraining.

I told them to write out what they wanted the newbies to learn first, and how they pass in order to go to phase 2, 3 and 4.  I was thinking that question would take a few days to answer but it actually took three seconds.  They said, “Newbies have to take apart a computer and put it back together naming all the parts and what they do.  They must submit a short video to you about each phase and tell the audience what they are doing.  They must capture their plan on video, showing how they are going to take the computer apart and put it back together.  They need to point out mistakes and how they fix them.   That video will become a tutorial for the next newbie.”  They get it.

What makes this story so powerful is that school has not been easy for Ted.  Tests don't accurately describe his proficiency but now he is running the computer class like an awesome boss and keeps me informed about every move his students make.  I became the facilitator.  Do you want to know who is taking his next class?  Me!

Teachers are facilitators of a student’s journey.  Let the the students go.  Yes, it is uncomfortable at times and yes it can be a little dangerous and messy.  If you have a process in place, can guide them, and have them report back to you what they are doing and how they are learning, both you and the students win.  The CrossBraining Learning Solution gives teachers the tools they need to let their students explore their passions while giving the teacher a template that manages the learning process.
P.S.  The Advisor never forgot “Ted”.  The Advisory Board asked me yesterday if Ted would meet with the Governor.   I said, “Sure, and he can tell the governor how he teaches my computer class :)”  

Student Made Videos

Here are seven reasons why teachers should join the CrossBraining Nation in using powerful student made videos in the classroom:

  1. Promotes Creativity
  2. Promotes Student Metacognition
  3. Student Review
  4. Motivates Teachers
  5. Formative Assessment
  6. Informs Administration
  7. Instant Lesson Database

Reason 1. Creativity.  Giving a student the opportunity to be creative is not always easy but it is incredibly important.  Teachers are often nervous about giving their students the freedom to explore ways in showing their learning because, let’s face it, it means that they might not be able to do it, there are risks involved.  If a teacher guides them and gives them some tools to show off their learning, the students might just surprise you, in fact, it happens all the time.  

Yes, there will be a few students who need explicit instructions on how to create their video but when you see what some of your students do with little to no guidance, that is when you will realize that it is worth it.  Last week, my class was given the task to create a beverage container along with a 3D printed cap that went on top of their bottle.  They also needed to create their own label and make a 15 or 30 second commercial promoting their drink.  I had a group of girls who did not ask me one question all week and simply needed me out of their way.  They approached me on Friday and said, “do you want to see what we did?” I was a little nervous because remember, they were basically on their own all week, of their own choosing.  I thought, “I’m not sure.”  I asked them what their beverage was called and they said, “Ghost Water.”  What they showed me (their video), gave me chills. It was awesome.  They let their creativity go wild and you could tell they had a blast making this and putting it all together.  I started giving them high fives and all the students wanted to see it.  I told the students that they would have to wait until we unveiled all the videos the following week.  Even though not one other student saw the video yet, I could tell that others knew and wanted to up their game.  Creativity encourages competition, excites students, and reveals talents.  Teachers who give their students the space and tools to be creative are the ones who are giving their students the opportunity to find out who they are and what talents they have.  

Reason 2. Metacognition.  CrossBraining centers its lessons around metacognition.  We can't say this enough that when a student is in charge of demonstrating their learning, they catch mistakes and make improvements on their own. They think about what they learned and they own it. When teachers give them an authentic audience, metacognition goes into overdrive.

Reason 3.  Review.  Student review usually consists of going back through papers and locating the right information to review. If a student has multiple short 35 second videos of their learning and used key terms from the standards, review is now a simple touch of the button. Here is a scenario I would like you to think about. What if a teacher said, "go back and watch the videos you made on September 5th to review the Science and Language Arts concepts we went over and feel free to watch other student videos that were made in class." CrossBraining believes this is idea needs to be explored and we believe it is a method that students will respond to and love as an option for review.

Reason 4. Teacher Motivation.  Teachers rise up when they are talking about one of their favorite lessons and even get pumped when talking about it. If teachers have their students capturing their learning taking place in the classroom, you better believe that the lesson is going to be great. No teacher is going to have their students capture boring lessons. When districts adopt the Crossbraining Method, the teachers’ metacognition kicks in as well and the teachers instinctively demand more of themselves because they know there is a window to their classrooms.

When teachers begin sharing videos, great lessons rise up and become the expectation that the teachers have placed on themselves.  No principal or building administrator will have to tell them to step up, it happens authentically.  Let’s also talk about what happens when a teacher starts seeing the creative ways that students demonstrate the learning in their room.  When my students showed me “Ghost Water” and nailed every expectation, you better believe that I was pumped.  The teacher will see their lessons come alive through the interpretation of the student.  The teacher gets stoked and it drives them to go harder on the next lesson.  It is cool when an administrator says, “nice job”. It feels good, but when you get students high fiving you and other students, that is over the top.

We will explore the next three reasons later this week.  Give student made videos a try.  Let your students show their learning! The CrossBraining Method really works!