Tuesday, August 23, 2016

3 Ways Classroom Design Impacts Student Learning

Research on classroom design with Peter Barrett

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Peter Barrett gives us an overview of his classroom design research in today’s show. Peter and his co-authors found a 16% impact of classroom design on the learning of 3766 primary school students in the UK. Peter breaks down the study into individual factors like light, air quality, and nature. But, perhaps the most astounding impact is the power of personalization and helping students “own” the classroom on learning. This personalization aspect impacts all teachers!

Listen to this show on: BAM Radio Network | iTunes | Stitcher

Today’s Sponsor: Carson Dellosa

As you design your classroom, use the fantastic resources by today’s sponsor Carson-Dellosa. As can be seen by the points made in today’s show, we should all check out these tools and resources at Carson-Dellosa. Additionally, they have great tips on decluttering their classroom and a first-year teacher’s guide. This week, Carson Dellosa is featuring a set of interactive notebooks that allow students to show what they know.

Get Classroom Design Info at Carson Dellosa

Show Notes:

  • The studies he conducted looked at primary children in the United Kingdom.
  • To understand the impact of classroom designs they tried to incorporate as many aspects of the classroom as possible. Everything from lighting to air to what’s on the walls, it was all included in the study.
  • They found a 16% impact of school design on student learning in this study.

Questions We Discussed

  • What are the important factors of classroom design realting to the learning of younger children?
  • What is the impact of students feeling like they own their own classroom learning?
  • What is the impact of natural light on the classroom? And isn’t enough just to do big windows can big windows actually decrease learning in the classroom?
  • What is the impact of air quality?
  • What kind of light is best for children?
  • Is there such a thing as overstimulation? What colors are best?
  • How can student personalization of the learning space amp up learning?
  • What are common misconceptions by teachers of younger children on classroom design?

 Who is Peter Barrett?

Peter Barrett MSc PhD DSc is Emeritus Professor at Salford University in the UK and and an Honorary Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Department of Education. After initially training as a surveyor he has since carried out academic research in many areas, most recently around the impact of buildings on people, and more specifically of school design on pupils’ learning rates.

Educator Resources from this Episode

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.button-itunes

The post 3 Ways Classroom Design Impacts Student Learning appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

FREE WEBINAR: 9 Ways Writing Has Been Reinvented in the Classroom

Join me, August 25 at 7pm EDT

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

9 Ways Writing is Reinvented Webinar

Writing has been reinvented. Learn about the tools, techniques and writing tips that are changing everything.

Thursday, August 25, 7pm EDT

Register Now

The webinar is live and free. As with the other webinars, I’ll be recording and posting this on the store.

Check out my book Reinventing Writing.

Reinventing Writing book

Reinventing WRiting teaches you about the 9 tools that are changing writing, learning and living forever and how to teach with them.


The post FREE WEBINAR: 9 Ways Writing Has Been Reinvented in the Classroom appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Monday, August 22, 2016

3 Ways to Teach the Way the Brain Wants to Learn

A best selling neurologist shares how the brain really works

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

How do exercise, sleep, and the unique composition of the human brain impact learning? Today’s guest, neuroscientist John Medina, shares his views on where schools are falling short. Today’s show is a thought-provoking and edgy discussion sure to evoke a lively discussion in your PLC. If you love Brain Rules, listen to today’s show.

brain friendly schools


Listen to this show on BAM Radio Network | iTunes | Stitcher

Plan an Exciting Student Trip with Rustic Pathways

See Rustic Pathways Student Trips

Today’s Sponsor: Rustic PathwaysThe most memorable experiences in my teaching career happened on trips with students. Today’s sponsor Rustic Pathways can help plan your trip and make learning meaningful. Take time now to plan an incredible trip with your students. Go to groups.rusticpathways.com/cool-cat/ to learn more about the exciting trips you can plan with students.

Show Notes:

  • How do schools ignore brain differences?
  • Can you teach to the norm of a class?
  • Why does the current grade structure in schools cause concern?
  • Is there an optimal student-to-teacher ratio according to neuroscience?
  • How do exercise and learning relate?
  • What did a group of engineers do to increase their rate of Mandarin Chinese language acquisition 20% faster?
  • How do you optimize your brain for learning?
  • What impact does the loss of sleep have on student achievement?

Who is John Medina?

John Medina NeuroscienceDr. John J. Medina @brainrulesbooks, a developmental molecular biologist, has a lifelong fascination with how the mind reacts to and organizes information. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School — a provocative book that takes on the way our schools and work environments are designed. His latest book is Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.button-itunes

The post 3 Ways to Teach the Way the Brain Wants to Learn appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

To Think or Not To Think (Tank)?

Is there an inverse relationship between transparency and the number of times Policy Exchange are quoted in the press? If http://www.teachertoolkit.me/2016/08/22/policy-exchange/ first seen on http://teachertoolkit.me

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Middle Leaders

What can we assume about some middle leaders working in schools? I reflect on middle leadership in schools, one that was probably the most http://www.teachertoolkit.me/2016/08/21/10-things-middle-leaders/ first seen on http://teachertoolkit.me

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tips for Teachers to Start Blogging in the Classroom

How can teachers start blogging in the classroom so that it is safe for students? Tips for Teachers: Whether you http://www.teachertoolkit.me/2016/08/20/classroom-blogging/ first seen on http://teachertoolkit.me

Errors in Innovation and Call-Out Culture of Edtech

This exchange happened at a SMART Global Summit two years ago…

Setting: SMART Exec surrounded by teachers brought in to give feedback on SMART Amp

Exec: So what do you think about Amp? Would you take this back to your school district as a recommendation?

Me: Absolutely not. There’s nothing that this product does that can’t be accomplished with google apps. Why would we pay $7 per student for something that we can already accomplish at zero cost? Frankly, I think that you need to seek input from teachers beyond your core community.

Many other teachers agreed and added to this feedback, until…

Teacher: The only tools that I want in my classroom are SMART. I don’t care what they are and what you make, this is all that I need and I won’t teach without them. I don’t use google or anything else. I only want SMART and I think this tool is awesome!

Me: (Mouth drops to floor, turns head to roll eyes, throws up in mouth,  internally screams nope, vows to never become a zombie to a brand)

Sometimes tech companies get it wrong and too often, we as a collective of educators stick a bit too closely to “brand loyalty” to call them out on it. We stick too closely to our embedded social media norms to use the tool that personally connects us to those creating for our classrooms. We haven’t yet learned how to create a movement that isn’t celebratory but is the right amount of critical to garner change.

…and that saddens me

Let’s do better.

Yesterday, Google released some pretty useful and amazing tools for classrooms as they often do. Forms with images? LOVE! I love the parent notification piece too. It’s just the right mix of “Remind” to get teachers using Classroom, even when kids lack consistent access to devices.

A teacher online said, “now I can stop posting my assignments to my web page. Parents can simply access them from Google Classroom!” For that teacher’s sake, let’s just hope that every parent has a smart phone with messaging. Parents of the flip phone generation…beware! (I know you’re out there flip phoners… especially since so many of our students carry them. Or maybe we’re the only community that needs the FCCs Lifeline for mobile support)

There was one more announcement that from what I heard almost drove a room of “Google Innovators” into cheers and tears of joy at ISTE. Google Classroom now has support for those that are about that worksheet life! Students can now annotate assignments when given a google doc or pdf which technically means that kids can draw digitally, create math/science charts and highlight/markup text.

Teachers that are dying over going digital when they desperately NEED to assign those 30 math problems can do so with confidence because the effort on the part of teachers is minimal. You just have to upload that worksheet!! (So excited when tech companies create pathways for those reluctant to use tech teachers. Pathways that have no end like this make our jobs as support staff awesome!!!)

One more thing…

When students click to annotate and save, the document is converted to a pdf that is no longer editable or collaborative. What that means is that this “innovative release” creates a system where mistakes and ideas are permanent. You can’t re-open the pdf to erase, move text, images…anything. Students have to start all over again or if there is still room on the original page, cross it out and write around. This also creates a brand spanking new pdf! Every edit creates a new PDF that is more non-editable than the last.

Also, this is a completely non-collaborative venture.

…so perfect for those who just needed a bit of “5 years ago” in order to leverage digital tools.

As others online have stated…”This is a start and sometimes teachers need a start!”



Dear Google Classroom Team,

I’ve been far too tough on you through my barrage of memes on twitter. My gosh, it was even lower of me to point out the “how to be more innovative” video that was recently posted on the Google for Work youtube page. Maybe that wasn’t the exact title, but you get the gist. I think that you were honestly trying to create a tool that would enable some annotated creativity (worksheet work really) and yes as Jonathan Rochelle exclaimed in my most favorite twitter exchange of all time…this is one feature that I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with. But to imply that you aren’t innovative is a bit of a stretch.


With that said, I need you to understand that even as you seem completely super human, you too make mistakes. (Let’s go with it that this “one feature” is a first iteration of possibilities, shall we?)

I get that people have been demanding some form of annotation in classroom. What I do not get is why you felt that releasing it in this form of finiteness was great.

Why not lean on what is great about Google Draw and make a mobile interpretation of that? Why for the love of all things “kids need iteration” would you make a tool that says “the first time is the best time”? Why, for the love of “my gosh, we’ve been trying to get teachers to not stick to worksheets as planned” would you make a tool that screams…


And why get upset with me for pointing out what others lack the courage to do? And yes there are others. They are in my DMs, facebook messages, voxer and texts…but are too afraid/aware of pushback to say it aloud.

What bothers me most is that you will see usage data on this tool and in your space, this will seem like a success…except for that whole part about going against everything that makes google apps awesome. Then again, perhaps this is your stab at inclusivity because all worksheets matter…even those that cannot be erased after iteration 1 but must be started entirely over again for every iteration thereafter.

For Teachers: Alternatives to Google Classroom’s New Annotation Tool 

Please, do not use this feature unless you need a document signed! It’s terrible for anything else. This tool is the equivalent of writing in pen in math class which to be fair was never problematic for me but you get it!

  1. Interactive Google Document ( I’ll even go with hyperdocs here. It’s that real)
  2. Adobe Acrobat (If you must have a PDF, open it in Acrobat. Kids can annotate and type but more importantly, they can always return to this document to make revisions…which is all of what Google’s new tool lacks and it’s important)
  3. On IOS (any drawing app that will will write on an image. Who cares about resolution when you’re grading 135 of these as a high school teacher)
  4. Explain Everything…Here, you can at least make a video! Definitely will be purchasing this for our domain.
  5. Microsoft One Note with the Office Lens App for converting worksheets to images or PDFs.

PS: Before you start screaming about having the ability for kids to include diagrams in their work, please don’t forget that when doing this, the diagram must be done LAST because if they do the diagram before completing their written portion or reflection…they’ll have a PDF of that drawing as a separate document from their other work which makes zero sense when students can use a drawing app on their device instead that they can save as an image and then insert into their very active and collaborative google document.

As a teacher, if you are reading this and not questioning this…I can’t even.