Behavior, Education, K-12, Language Arts, Motivation, Parenting, Reading, Teaching Tools

I Wonder if We Could all Be a Bit Kinder

Read this book!
Read this book!

Just like most brains, mine constantly searches for patterns and connections.  Lately, I’ve observed an underlying theme in many of the resources that I’ve been culling for teaching next year – the importance of kindness.

After seeing a book recommendation on several blogs, including one of my favorites, “Not Just Child’s Play,” I finally read it during my recent vacation.  The book is  Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.  It is a novel about a boy who is born with a severe facial deformity.  After years of being home schooled, he and his family make the decision for him to attend school in 5th grade.  The story chronicles his year dealing with ignorant bullies (including students and parents) as well as big-hearted heroes. (Check out the “Choose Kind” Tumblr here.)

I was reminded, near the end of the story, of recent posts on two other blogs, Larry Ferlazzo’s and Sonya Terborg’s, referencing a graduation speech given by George Saunders.  George Saunders, during his speech, says, “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”

In Wonder, during a graduation speech, one of the main characters offers a quote from J.M. Barrie, “Shall we make a new rule of life…always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?”

Those quotes led me back to two other great speeches I have featured on this blog – by Jeff and Mark Bezos.  Mark Bezos, in his simple story about an experience as a volunteer firefighter, gives us this,  “Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save somebody’s life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one.”

And Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, gave this powerful quote that I feel is an excellent reminder for my gifted students, “What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.”

The question I asked myself (and many of you may also confess to thinking) as I read Wonder and George Saunders’ speech was, “Which one am I – the kind person or the bully?”  The truth is, unfortunately, that most of the time as a child I was the one who did nothing.  In the eyes of some people, that is even worse.

I like to believe that I am stronger than that now.  I like to believe that I model choosing kindness on a regular basis for my students and my own daughter.  I like to believe that I show them that it is not always the easiest decision, but it is the best.

I recommend sharing Wonder with your students.  Have some genuine discussions about the importance – and the difficulty – of bestowing kindness.  Let them share their stories, and, whenever you can, share your own stories about kindnesses you gave, didn’t give, or wish you had received.  The world needs more conversations like these.

Mark Bezos quote

Education, Fun Friday, Games, K-12, Parenting, Science, Videos

Domino Chain Reaction

For today’s Fun Friday post, I am sharing a video I originally found on The Kid Should See This.
I must admit that I’ve always found it fascinating to watch domino chain reactions, but never really thought about the physics involved.

While I was grabbing the embed code for this video, I noticed quite a few other video suggestions on the side. As always, I would caution adults to preview any videos before showing them to the class. Another video that employs the use of a domino chain reaction that has been making the internet rounds recently is “Dog Goldberg Machine.” It’s an advertisement for Beneful, but quite clever (and cute!)

Got any dominoes around the house? Playing the game or making the chain reaction are both great activities for a rainy – or super hot – day!

Education, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites


Click on your profile pic at the top right of your Educlipper page to see your dashboard.
Click on your profile pic at the top right of your Educlipper page to see your dashboard.

Adam Bellow, the man behind Educlipper,  is now my top Education Rock Star.  The man is amazing, engaging, and generous.  I was fortunate to witness two of his sessions at ISTE this week, and I was inspired to fill two pages of Pages on my my iPad with new ideas for the upcoming school year.

One project that is near and dear to Adam’s heart is Educlipper.  I have seen Educlipper mentioned on several other blogs, but basically dismissed it as a “Pinterest for Education.”  However, I realize now that it is so much more.

This robust tool is free, and Adam assured us that it will always be free.

How is Educlipper different from Pinterest?  Wow.  Let me count the ways:

1.)  As a teacher, you can add classes.   Similar to Edmodo, your students receive group codes that allows them to join your class, and then you can share boards.  This means that you can easily share resources with them, they can create digital portfolios, they can collaborate with each other.

2.)  Educlipper is not limited to images.  Any file format can be “clipped.”

3.)  If you are interested in using Educlipper as a portfolio tool, you might want to know that Adam is currently working on an app that would allow you to take pictures of work and instantly upload it to your board.

4.)  Adam built in an “export” feature so that you can export your boards and never have to worry that your hard work will be lost forever in cyberspace.

5.)  Every single pin offers instant sharing options that include:  Edmodo, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Tumblr, and even an embed code.

6.)  Students do not need to have an e-mail, or any kind of social networking account to join.

7.)  Adam’s “customer service” is amazing.  I e-mailed a question to him last night, and immediately got a response – even though he is probably getting thousands of e-mails after his week at ISTE.

Can you imagine what a great differentiation tool this could be in your classroom?  Or, how wonderful it would work as a digital portfolio?  Or, how it will promote collaboration between students?

I want to thank Adam Bellow for this awesome resource.  I’m only sorry I didn’t check it out sooner!  Help to spread the word about Educlipper by clicking here for a handout, presentation, or video!

Creative Thinking, Education, Games, Gamification, K-12, Parenting, Problem Solving, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites



I intended to spend this week posting about what I have learned at ISTE, but I came across this site last night, and could not wait to share it.  It combines quite a few of the educational topics that are near and dear to my heart: creativity, self-designed learning, gamifying the classroom, and even programming for kids.

What is Gamekit?  According to their site, “Each month, Gamekit will bring you a new game development challenge to stretch and build your creative muscles.”

The site has four warmups, currently, and I can’t wait to see what they add.  My favorite one, so far, is “Mod a Board Game.”  I’ve actually done an activity similar to this in my classroom, asking the kids to take an old board game they no longer play and to make it into a new game.  You can use a lot of the tools from S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to do this.

Each warmup describes the steps, gives suggestions for how to “dive deeper”, and gives tips for educators.  Under each warmup is an area for comments, where the community can give examples of how they completed the challenge.

In the “Design a Play Space” warmup, Gamekit has teamed up with Gamestar Mechanic to create a challenge – perfect for those aspiring video game designers.

I am really looking forward to seeing the evolution of Gamekit.  I love this idea, and will be sharing it with the parents of my students to encourage some creative thinking during the summer months!

Apps, Education, K-12

I’m a Tweeter!


I’ve had a Twitter account for awhile, but have only been following other people.  I finally took the plunge and started tweeting.  You can follow me @terrieichholz. (engagetheirminds was one character too long, and I couldn’t really figure out which letter I wanted to take out!) Or, you can just take a look at the new Twitter timeline that is on the right margin of this blog!  I promise not to tweet about mundane things like the dinner I had last night 😉

Creative Thinking, Education, Games, Gamification, K-12, Teaching Tools

What Does Massive Multiplayer Thumb Wrestling Have to Do With Teaching?

courtesy of Dr. McGonigal at ISTE 2013 Keynote, San Antonio, TX
courtesy of Dr. McGonigal at ISTE 2013 Keynote, San Antonio, TX

I have the good fortune of attending the International Society for Technology in Education annual conference in San Antonio this week. Last night, Dr. Jane McGonigal gave the opening keynote to around 6000 of us, and we might have broken a world record for thumb wrestling.

If you have not heard of Dr. McGonigal, you might want to see my previous post about her or go directly to her TED talk.  Her studies on the effect of gaming in education are fascinating.  In last night’s lecture, she made a good case for how we can utilize the positive aspects of gaming to our advantage in the classroom.  She spoke a lot about the importance of engagement in learning, and the fact that our students become less engaged as they move higher in our educational system.  Integrating gaming with our lessons could help us to change that.  The picture above shows one of her slides on the 10 positive effects of gaming, and I think every teacher would like to see that mirrored in the classroom.

McGonigal’s work is controversial because so many people have pre-conceived notions about gaming.  What’s important to note, though, is that you do not have to use actual video games to reproduce their significant qualities.  By convincing her entire audience to participate in a massive multiplayer thumb wrestling game for 60 seconds, McGonigal was able to evoke the same emotions.  We can do this in our classrooms by emulating the positive characteristics of popular video games – choice, control, collaboration, challenge, problem solving.  There are some great educational video games that can be used, but we can also create the type of environment that will have virtually the same effect with less dependence on technology.  Whether you choose to use electronics or do it the old-fashioned way, you can “gamify” your classroom  and aim to awaken all 10 of the emotions above in every student each and every day.