Category Archives: Facebook

The Digital Footprint

I had some conversations with a few of the students here in school about what they do online. Most students are on Facebook and Instagram. Some students have ventured into the Twitterverse, and making and posting their own YouTube videos. Very few students I talked to have blogged or even read a blog. None of this surprises me. I live in and work in an urban school where kids have limited resources when it comes to technology. Most of the students I teach or see in the building have a smart phone of some kind, and for some this is the only thing they have since they don’t have a computer and internet at home. They use them to post pictures, or other things on in their life on the sites I mentioned. Something that has occurred to me is this question: has anyone ever told you that what you post on the internet can be there forever?

I read an article today about 10 things students should know about their digital footprint. I believe this is something we need to have our students read. I know my students could learn a lot from this article. Some of the main points I believe are important to stress from this article are:

College admissions and employers do read your online profiles and they do make decisions based upon information they find out about you online.

Keep private information private. 

Build your own positive image and brand yourself in a great way.

According to Cybersmart you can manage your digital footprint by:

Keeping your personal details private. Use a nickname instead of your real name and always ask your parents before giving out your name, address or phone number online.

Not sharing your username or password with anyone.

Thinking before you post. Once posted, it can be difficult to remove.

Not posting things that you don’t want others to know about or that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Being respectful of other people’s content that you post or share. For example, a photo that your friend took is their property, not yours. You should post it online only if you have their permission.

I don’t think we teach our children these ideas as often as we should. We need to teach our children what it means to have a digital citizenship at a young age.  I do know that after the conversations I had I need to teach my students this, or at least remind them. I would hate to have them post something that could potentially ruin their future.

What do you do to teach your students about their digital footprint?

The Naked Truth teen infographic PDF-page-0




The Tears of a Teacher

Last week I wrote about some characteristics of Gifted children. I shared the Neihart and Betts information.  One aspect of that is starting to become more and more evident in one of my classes. That aspect is this: The Underground.

Type 3: The Underground 

These students hide their giftedness. Most of the time, in middle school these students are females. By high school some males fall into this category because of the pressure to pursue sports. By in large this group is female who hide their gifts and talents to fit in with the non-gifted crowd. These girls are anxious and insecure. They begin this change in middle school, and pushing these students can make them abandon their talents and gifts even more.

What makes these students so complicated is the fact they have gifts and talents, and they purposely choose to ignore those just to fit in. They change who they are to be something they are not.

My Gifted Girl

I have a class that mainly made of up of girls. They are a vibrant, creative, and a talkative group.  This group works well together, and  at times goes they go through their own struggles like all students do. What makes me sad about this group is that it is getting smaller. It started out with a mixed group of students around 10 in number. It has shrunk to a small group of four girls. As we were talking this morning, my students were telling me they missed the few other girls that have left the Enrichment class. They left class for a variety of reasons, but for the most part they left because they want to fit in with their other friends.

What makes me sad is the fact that our school district has brilliant, gifted, and motivated girls who would fore go the development of their gifts and talents and settle in to mundane school life just to fit in. I wish I could bring these girls to the realization that it isn’t others who bring you self-worth or identity. It is themselves. It pains me to think about these girls and the decisions they are making when it comes to choosing socializing than to ultimate success not only in school, but in the future. My heart is truly broken.

My Gifted Girl2

One of the most frustrating aspects of this pain that I have for these girls is the fact I don’t know how to change it. As a teacher I talk to them and encourage them, but I don’t think it goes anywhere. I wish that I could show them the mistake they are making like the ghosts show Ebenezer Scrooge his life in the past, present, and future. I am not saying that being in my class is the answer. What I am saying is these girls need to shown that they are a huge asset to their family, school, and community. They have so much potential to do some amazing things in the future, and they are throwing it away. Even as I write this I get that heavy lump in my throat. I want them to see themselves like other teachers along with myself see them.

What do you do to reach these girls who hide themselves to fit in?  I saw the quote above from a really good Facebook Page called My Gifted Girl. It is a wonderful place to go to read about what gifted girls are doing. I have suggested this website to my girls in hope that they understand that they shouldn’t give up on their gifts and talents.

What do you suggest how to reach these talented girls?

Being a Blowhorn

My students tell me I talk to much. That’s fine. I love to teach. I love connecting with students, and getting to know them. I do this, because I want to know them. I have several of them on my Instagram and Twitter. Several of them follow our Classroom Facebook page. I believe that knowing students in and out of the classroom is important. I learn a lot about them from their Instagram, and what they talk about on twitter. The other aspect of that is they get to know me in and out of the classroom.

Many ask why I focus on making meaningful connections with my students. The answer to that is easy. Its easier to stand up and be a voice, a blow horn, or an advocate when you are invested in someone. If you are invested, then those you stand up for are more than numbers or blank faces they are close people. They are connected to you. You feel obligated to do your best for them. That’s how I feel about my students. They are my children.

Being an advocate is like being a blow horn. You are trying to get noticed, to give instruction, or give warnings. I call my self a blow horn. When you are a blow horn, you are rallying to troops around. In my case, I am trying to make sure that my students are getting what they need in their regular classes, and parents are getting information that will beefit their children. I am making sure parents and students  have someone they can talk to when they want to have some experiences like summer camps, internships, or starting a parent group. They can count on me to help them as much as I can.

Being an advocate isn’t always easy. You have to be tactful, calculating, and sometimes cunning. Sometimes I hear my students complaining about a situation in a class they are in, and they are bored, under-challenged, or not engaged. I will try to meet that teacher, and suggest things to do with my students. It has to be done it tactfully. No teacher wants to be told they aren’t meeting the needs of their students. So informing others that their gifted students need to be pushed and stretched has to be done in a way that helps the teacher and students.

What I love about being an advocate is the fact that I get to share my passion, knowledge, and experience about and for gifted children. I try to be an open door for my colleagues to come in and talk about what I can do to help them, or to collaborate with them. I can I share my point of view. I don’t always get to meet with other teachers because of my teaching schedule, but when I do they will hear my views.

Advocacy takes several shapes. They don’t always have to be direct connection between students and teacher. Sometimes it with the public. Advocating is like a form of persuasion. You have to influence someone to get what you need. Sometimes advocacy is writing letters to the editor of your paper, or testifying in a state committee hearing, or going on a local morning show to plead your case.

Advocacy is also helping. Forming parent groups though SENG, or at your local school is one way that parents and schools can work together for the betterment of gifted students. Letting parents know what the gifted program is like, and why it exists is important. It also a good way for parents to find out what their school is offering gifted students like early college classes in high school, to post secondary education options from the local high school. It’s always good to have parents, teachers, and administrators making the suggestions for rules about acceleration of students for whole grade or subject.

Finally, advocacy is being informed. Letting parents, teachers, and administrators about some of the resources on the internet, classes or seminars / webinars, or blogs,books and magazines is an important aspect of advocacy. Parents and GISs need to stay aware of what is going on in the area of Gifted Education so they can share it with others and with administrators.  Joining a gifted association like Ohio Association for Gifted Children, or your state Gifted Association is a great place to start. You could also join the National Association for Gifted Children as well to see what is going on nationally in Gifted Education. Joining a tweetchat on twitter or a gifted related Facebook page, or following several bloggers who write about gifted issues is a great place to start collecting resources to be an informed advocate.

How are you being an advocate for your gifted children? What have you done that has worked? What have you done that didn’t work? PLease share your experiences in the comment section below, or better yet, join the #gtbloghop and post your blog on Twitter using the #gtbloghop hashtag.


How many Watermelons will fill a Volkswagen?

Do you know how many watermelons it would take to fill a Volkswagen? How would you figure that out? What challenges would your students have to figure that out? How creative would your students need to be to figure that out? My students would ask why would you want to know.

While I was at Edcamp over the weekend, I participated in a session where the topic was “how do we get students to change their mindsets to take on challenges”,  and this was a very informative session. There were so many different types of teachers (high school, middle school, elementary) and each had their own view of what to do with their students when it came to challenges, and how to change their mindset to see challenges at positives not something that is a negative.

Many teachers discussed how their students face challenges. Somtimes its all about motivation when it comes to students and facing challenges. Most have students, like mine at times, who shut down when the challenges seemed to be too difficult. Most of the discussion centered on how teachers can be creative in ways they present challenges to students. Sometimes you just have to hide those challenges in a way that is presented in a fun way. Challenges has to have a real world skill application like those posed in project based learning projects. When students see some cross over from school to real life the lessons they learn from those challenges will more likely stick with them. The challenges that teachers face is creating those challenges to fit standards, and yet stretch our students to grow intellectually, and give them real life lessons.


Another session I went to that really stuck with me was “how to be creative in the world of restrictive education.” This one was very interesting to me for the fact that our school lives have aspects of things we can control and not control. We made a list of all of the things that keep us from being creative. Many we have control over; many we don’t.  (You can zoom in on the picture above to see the list.)

This conversation was very informative for me just because I found that I am not the only one who struggles to understand creativity. We had a debate about  creativity being something your are born with, or being born with the ability to be creative. We looked at creativity on the teacher side,and the student side. Some quoted from Carol Dweck’s book Mind set, which I haven’t read yet, but on Amazon, here is the book synopsis:

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea–the power of our mindset.

Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success–but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals–personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.

(The discussion of talent also created a debate. We talked about how talent and creativity aren’t necessarily the same thing, or exclusive of each other. We had to develop a working definition of not only creativity but also talent.)

We found that as teachers most of what we face everyday in some form can be influenced by us to either be a hinderance or a stepping stone. It’s all about mindset. No matter what you are faced with you will have to chose if it is an obstacle or stepping stone. Once you do that you will find you don’t have too many obstacles that will hinder your creativity.

One aspect we focused on was social media to help with getting over many of the aspects we listed on the white board. Some of the best resources teachers can use is Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook,and Instagram. I know personally and professionally, social media has given me many different ideas and resources to help me create my units for gifted students.

So to sum things up, what is hindering your creativity? What do you have influence on? What are those aspects that you don’t have influence on, but can make as an asset for your creativity? Remember, this kind of thinking isn’t that “sexy” or “edgy” retrospective thing, but it can change how you view things about your creativity, and that will benefit your students.

So go out there and fill that Volkswagen with watermelons.

Hoodies, Headphones, and Axe Spray

I love being a Middle School teacher. I feel like this is the place where I am supposed to be. There are certain things about middle schoolers that make them a special population regardless of their intelligence and ability. This became clear this morning as I was at my morning bus assignment. Every morning I stand out front and I greet the students coming to school as they get off the bus. As I was greeting students some things about them just stood out. I highlighted them in my title.



You can tell a lot by the hoodies that our students wear. Most of the time, they wear hoodies with sports logos, school spirit, brand names, music artists, and images that they really like. Our students here in my school district wear school uniforms. They don’t have a lot of choices. That’s why I really like to see the hoodies they wear to school. It’s easy to see what students like. You get and idea of the music they like, and the brand names they like. Sometimes they wear those things to fit in with their peers. Sometimes they are the trend leaders in our school. I like to see students wear our school spirit wear. It gives me the chance to see what kind of sport they played or are currently playing.


I bet when you walk by a teenager you will find they have some headphones in or on their ears. They are either listening to music, a Vine, or YouTube video they found on Twitter or Facebook. Today’s teens love listening to music or watching videos. Some students can afford the Beats headphones. Some can’t. Some prefer the headphones that came with their phone or iPod. Some like the portable speakers they can carry around. I have found those students like to more vocal about their music than others.

Sometimes, students wear headphones to block out stress, or so they don’t have to socialize with other students. Headphones can be a wall that a teenager sets up for any number of reasons, some may not be school related at all. The next time you see a teenager sitting in the cafeteria alone listening to some music sit down with them and ask them what they are listening to. Break the walls down. You may find that you have somethings in common.

Axe Spray.

If you walk down any hall of any middle school right before home room starts and you hear that familiar sound of spray coming from aerosol can. Then you can smell the Axe in the air and you eyes will burn. Middle school boys in particular will wear the famous body spray. Most of the time to is too much. So why do they do it? They are trying to get the attention of girls. They are at that stage in life when they are trying to figure out who they are, and how they relate to girls.

There is so much behind the Axe. Many students are unsure of themselves. Some are just trying to fit in. Some are hiding their insecurities. it not until we get past the cloud of smell that we can see that some of our students need attention just as much as they think they need to smell good. How do we do that? We have to create safe, inviting, and open classrooms where students don’t feel like they have to be someone else to succeed or fit in. As a teacher, I try to greet every student that comes in to my classroom right of the bat so they know I am glad to see them. I have done this for years. It’s the best way to start off class right. It also shows students that you are interested in them. It’s not about what they look like or how they smell. It’s about them as a whole. Once students know that about you students will be more open with you.

So if you are a middle school teacher have fun with your students. Let them know they are valued, and not judged by what they wear and what they listen to. Enjoy it all…even the Axe Spray.

Infusing Project Based Learning into the Gifted Classroom

This is an article I wrote for the OAGC Review. It was published in the Spring 2013 edition 

Being a Gifted Intervention Specialist for the past 8 years in an urban school district, I have found that my students are looking for real life experiences that can be translated into experiences outside of the classroom. I feel that our students need to be taught the skills to handle experiences outside of the classroom. I believe that we as GIS, need to focus on four overarching skills (you may tweak them based on your students), and technology skills. These skills will help students to be successful in a Project Based Learning classroom.

Before we can begin to discuss how to infuse Project Based Learning into the classroom, we first need to discuss what it is. According to  Project Based Learning (PBL) is “a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning,  students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of subjects they’re studying.” Every teacher should want this from their students.There is a difference from doing projects and PBL. The major difference is that when you do PBL you are teaching through a project, not so much teaching to do a project. You are developing skills while working in PBL.

Why would PBL be good for Gifted Education? There are several reasons. One such reason is the obvious, it is engaging and goes in depth. The addition of the complexity it adds to the depth of study is one of my favorite aspects of PBL. For example, if your student’s project requires them to do research you may have to teach them how to collect data, organize data, and how to use that data in a way that makes sense.

PBL also adds choices for students. Students can take a variety of ways to answer the overall driving question of the unit.

Another reason PBL is important to Gifted Education is the fact it makes the student accountable for their learning and teaches them organization. I feel these go together, because keeping a journal, portfolio, or using a plain old manilla folder to hold all of your work is important. It saves time and keeps students from re-doing unnecessary work.

Finally, PBL incorporates real world skills into the classroom. By doing some of the same type of collaboration, study, and testing that professionals do in their field in the classroom makes PBL come to life for students.

On the other side of that engaging and in depth learning comes the need to know and use technology. In our day and age we are surrounded by technology that keeps improving every day. So we need to not only teach our students how to use technology we need to teach them how to use them in the context of learning. I feel there are four major skills that we need to impart in our gifted children. They are organization skills, collaboration skills, interpersonal skills, and divergent and convergent thinking skills. We know many of the characteristics of gifted children. One of them is the fact that so many are unorganized. Many find it mundane, and not needed. But in the real world, organization skills can help you get a job done faster and more efficient.  Teachers along with myself, need to show students the importance of good record keeping, labeling data, and organizing all of this into a portfolio of some sort so they can get to what they need at any time.

Collaboration skills and interpersonal skills are connected. Gifted students need to know how to collaborate in a group. They need to know they don’t have all of the good ideas, but by listening to the ideas of others, and collaborating with each other they can all come up with several good ideas. Those interpersonal skills are so important. Gifted students have to know when they can take control of a collaboration session, and when not to. We need to show them not to sit back and listen too much and not contribute to a session, because they don’t like the trajectory of the conversation. They need to know that everyone may have an idea, some just need more revision than others. As a side note, if they fail, the group as a whole fails. Many gifted students fall apart when they fail. They take that failure as they did something wrong. Sometimes by going back to a point and seeing where the failure stemmed from and being able to fix it can be a success. They need to be shown that.

Finally, divergent and convergent thinking skills are important for the fact that many gifted students can do these well by themselves, but demonstrating that for a group or in a group can be a bit difficult. Which is why all the other skills mentioned above, I believe, are so important. To me they build on each other. Divergent thinking is defined as “out-of-the-box thinking; thinking that moves away in diverging directions so as to involve a variety of aspects and which sometimes lead to novel ideas and solutions; associated with creativity” according to Wordnet. Also, convergent thinking is defined as “thinking that brings together information focussed on solving a problem; especially solving problems that have a single correct solution.” Both of these have to be used to solve problems in the real world. So we need to show our students how to use these skills effectively.  By being able to use these skills gifted students can investigate a topic in depth.

Continuing on the technology side of things. Teachers need to give our students skills they need to be successful in today’s society and in tomorrow’s world. One of those skills needed in a PBL classroom is research skills. We all use Google, but do your students do it effectively? Teach your students how to use the advanced search option. This will help to keep down the unusable websites.

Another aspect of technology that students need to master is using the cloud. Cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive are great examples.  These services are free and they are easy to use.

Students should be taught how to collaborate using wikis, Google Docs, Twitter,  Facebook,  Skype,  or Google Hangouts.  All of these allow for interaction between students in and outside of the classroom.  Gifted students need to know that learning isn’t confined to a classroom. It can be anywhere.

Finally, we need to teach our gifted students to communicate.  In our society,  communication is important. In a PBL classroom students use real audiences. They should be encouraged to blog, create YouTube videos, or podcasts using Voicethread or Soundcloud.  Interaction with a real audience is important.  It gives real feedback. That’s where real learning is experienced.

In conclusion,  if we are expecting our gifted students to lead and succeed in the 21st century then we need to give them real life, engaging and diverse experiences along with the skills needed. There needs to be some choice in their learning. Gifted students need to be given the opportunity to see there is more than one solution, and more than one way to get an answer for a project. That’s the gift of Project Based Learning.





Project Based Learning for Gifted Students: A Handbook for the 21st century classroom by Todd Stanley

Fostering Uncommon Experiences in your Classroom

The last few days I have begun to read the book Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost your Creativity, and Transform your Life as an Educator.  I was struck by a section of his book that made me think about how I teach and my classroom environment. To be honest, I would have to say that every chapter of this book has made me re-evaluate my teaching and my classroom environment. Dave Burgess makes this statement:

I am selling education…a life-altering product that can transform the human spirit and literally change the world one student at a time.

As educators, we are sellers of wares that will change the lives of our students. That phrase above, got me thinking about the product that I am selling to my students. Is it something that I am proud of? Is it something that, in the words of Dave Burgess, “something I would sell tickets to?” Then I began to think what is it that makes a product that we are selling life-altering? I came up with this idea. I think the lesson has to be special. Something that students are drawn to like a moth to a flame. You and I both know that every lesson can’t be extraordinary. But, there are aspects of lessons that can be inserted that will help make them special.

One aspect I use with my gifted students to kick off a unit is the hook. When I start out any lesson, I try to use something that my students can relate to. Sometimes its a picture, a short video clip, music, art work, section of a book, or something I pull off Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I try to use anything I think my students can relate to. That way I can go back to that hook and link everything we do in our unit to that hook. The hook is important. It is what gets the students interested in the unit. It opens the door for you, but you and I know once the door is open its our job to keep the journey exciting.

An activity that I like to do is called “Caption This.” I saw this on Facebook a few times. I will show a picture to my students, and ask the students to write down something they think could be going on in the mind of subject. For example, here is a picture that my wife took of me at the Viet Nam Memorial. I would ask the students to imagine what I was thinking, or feeling in that moment. I am always amazed at what students will say when they Caption This. When I put a picture up on the board, I ask my students to write something on a post-it note. Once everyone has had the chance to make a caption as a class we sort through the answers and see if there is a theme, or a string of similar thoughts. I try not to all students to discuss the picture before hand. Once we are done with our conversation I link the picture or whatever I have up on the board as an intro into their new unit. Sometimes I will copy out the picture or artwork and at put the post-it notes on it somewhere in the room. If I have a video I will make a QR Code and post that somewhere in my room so students can access it.

me at the wall1

Another aspect that can make a lesson special is built-in Project Based Learning Classroom, which is the same thing that Dave Burgess calls “Life Changing Lesson” and that is shedding some light on how this material we are selling to our students relates to them, and the real world.  This is important. This kind of thing goes beyond answering questions on a test near the end of the year. It’s about how to use this information in real life. If you can’t defend what you are teaching other than telling students it’s on the test, then you need change your focus.

Students learn best and remember more when they are excited about learning, and they can see how it is used in real life. They need to see connections to themselves. Our job is to get that excitement back into our students. I know my gifted students sometimes feel like their talents are not utilized in the classroom. I feel it is my responsibility to teach them, and to cultivate their talents so they are prepared for the real world.

For me, using hooks and Real World Learning or Life Changing Lessons can make a lesson special. The students will be engaged and learning, then we as educators must bring the energy, and activities to link the hook to the lessons of the unit to the final assessments. I know some have called it edu-tainment. I call it uncommon moments. It’s those moments when students care connected, and learning from what you are selling them.

I want to leave you with this quote from Dave Burgess: “Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.” I know I have a lot of improvement in this kind of thinking. But how are you doing in it? How are your providing uncommon experiences for your students?