The Read Aloud Handbook #ptchat is Tonight!


The Read Aloud Handbook #ptchat is Tonight!

Please join us for a lively conversation on Twitter at 5:30 P.M. CST tonight (3/4/13). We will be using the #ptchat hashtag. As you can see from the questions written, we will be discussing some important issues, such as the benefits of giving kids time to read, and the pros and cons of reading incentive programs.

Passion-Based Learning, Week 3: Creativity Loves Constraints


In my third post for Powerful Learning Practice’s blog, our after school computer club discovers that limits bring certain advantages when exploring and innovating. In our ever-expanding digital world, applying constraints can actually augment our creative efforts. Seems counter-intuitive, and…

If you find yourself disagreeing with this format, consider how limits have enhanced how we learn online. Look at Twitter. The 140-character rule has produced some of the most interesting posts from our greatest thinkers (and preserved the “mini” blog concept). When the rules are set, the mind is allowed to play. Sir Ken Robinson finds this basic tenet to be true. “The creative achievement and the aesthetic pleasure lie in using standard forms to achieve unique effects and original insights”.

Check out the rest of this post by clicking here, and add to the discussion in the comments.

#PrincipalCast Discusses Digital Student Portfolios


#PrincipalCast Discusses Digital Student Portfolios

I am fortunate and humbled to be a guest on tonight’s (2/23) episode of the #PrincipalCast podcast with Jessica Johnson, Theresa Stager, and Spike Cook. We will be chatting live at 8:30 CST/9:30 EST at (I think that’s the URL). Click here to check out my notes that I may or may not follow during our conversation:

What Stylus Should I Get For My iPad?

I was asked this question recently. Steve Jobs would probably say, “You have ten already”, referring to our fingers. But I would humbly disagree. For me, the stylus has been a great addition to my iPad.

For selecting a stylus, I would first consider what I wanted to use it for. Do I want my students to create content? Am I looking to annotate documents? Or handwrite large amounts of text? The type of investment you make matters on your purpose.

Here are the apps that I have found work best with a stylus on the iPad:


And here are my three suggestions for styluses (styli?), depending on how they might be used.

Classroom Creations: AmPen Hybrid

Value here is the key. This stylus is very receptive to the iPad screen within Explain Everything or one of the Doodlecast apps. They are very reasonably priced, less than $10 per unit. I outfitted our entire kindergarten wing with these to help the students form letters and numbers during center time.


The tip is made with conductive fiber + rubber, providing a smooth writing and drawing experience. This model also has a stretchy cord band on it. The end of the cord is inserted into the headphone jack so the stylus stays with the iPad.

Annotating Documents: Bamboo Stylus and Pen


I used to have this stylus. It has an ink pen on one side and a rubber-tipped stylus on the other. This served me well as a principal when transitioning between digital walkthroughs and signing paperwork. Notability is a great annotation app that integrates well with the Bamboo. Also, the weight of the stylus gave it that real pen feel. I wouldn’t recommend for student use, however, as the tip can wear out and it is twice the price as the AmPen.

Handwriting, Drawing, and Heavy Use: Jot Script

If you use a stylus just about everyday, for taking digital handwritten notes or drawing, then the Jot Script may be worth the $80 price tag. The fine point on the stylus is a first of its kind. It is also battery-powered, providing a signal to connect with your iPad via Bluetooth to eliminate wrist contact. I have read some reviews of the pen not always staying connected, or that Penultimate’s drifting feature when writing is not user-friendly. That has not been my experience, but I will investigate more.


It was developed in partnership between Adonit and Evernote. Although it is designed to pair with Penultimate, it works well with other handwriting apps such as Notability. What I like best is I no longer have to upload any documents to Dropbox. When I conduct a walkthrough in a classroom, I simply open up the teacher’s notebook in Penultimate, write my observations, and it automatically syncs with Evernote. Sharing with staff afterwards is a snap.

What stylus do you prefer? Please share in the comments.

Passion-Based Learning, Day 2: Hello Passion! Meet Frustration…


In my second entry on passion-based learning for the Powerful Learning Practice blog, reality sets in for our after school computer club. Our goal is to balance students’ interests with activities that could lead to meaningful learning.

One thing I’m learning quickly: access alone is not enough. When handed technology with little guidance or supervision, students tend to use it at the lowest common denominator, cognitively speaking. Maybe this tendency was related to the fact that my observations took place in school, where expected outcomes are, well, expected. Would posting goals that connected their interests and relevant projects to specific digital tools be the answer to unleashing the students’ passions?

Click here to check out the rest of this post and witness the ups and downs of our attempt to explore what’s possible with digital tools.

Passion-Based Learning, Day 1: Probing Minecraft’s Appeal

In a post I wrote for Powerful Learning Practice, I explore the reasons why Minecraft is such a hit with kids. I plan on sharing weekly reflections as I co-facilitate an after school computer club with one of my teachers. Just like we expect ourselves to be familiar with the books our kids read, we as educators should become acquainted with some of these 21st century tools our students are so passionate about and engaged in. Who knows, we may even find pathways to high achievement that we had never considered!

Here is how I ended the post:

Passion-based learning should start with our passion, whether student or adult. It’s what we care deeply about, what we value, and how it augments the skills and strategies we use in our pursuit of new learning.

Are we too quick to dismiss these digital games as a waste of our students’ time? Is Minecraft, and related digital games, a significant part of the future of students’ learning experiences? How can collaboration, creativity, and other 21st century skills be enhanced with Minecraft? Click here to read the rest of the post, and add your thoughts in the comments section.