Passion-Based Learning, Week 5: Can Minecraft Foster a Growth Mindset?

In the fifth installment for the Powerful Learning Blog, we explore how and why a growth mindset might be encouraged when learners play Minecraft.



We are also considering how these types of digital tools could be a part of our daily learning activities within the school day.

But the question still remains: Is there any possibility in harnessing the motivational factor of Minecraft and instilling it within the general curriculum? For example, could the structures they are developing resemble ruins from ancient civilizations, or famous battlefields of U.S. history? If the answer is yes, how do we guide our students to realize the potential in these tools not only for creation and innovation, but also for integration within important curricular topics?

I know a lot of teachers out there are ahead of the game in this area. How have you increased engagement through the integration of Minecraft into your daily instruction? Click here to read the original post and add your ideas in the comments.

Passion Based Learning, Week 4: Do One Thing Really Well

In this most recent installment on the Powerful Learning Practice Blog, our focus turns to helping our students dig more deeply into one tool (screencasts). Because our students are engaged, we have found they are more likely to persist with a task that doesn’t come easily at first. Add a strong, supportive learning community via Edmodo, and we are starting to see success!



Teaching and guiding students to use this one tool has helped in other ways, too.

While the two of us were becoming more learners than teachers, we also wanted to move our students to become teachers for each other. Our learning environment needed more balance.

Any time when we can put students in the role of teacher can be a benefit to everyone. I wouldn’t say passion-based, student-driven learning is any less work than a more traditional model of instruction, but in this context, I could not image a better way to teach.

Five Cool Things You Can Do on Your MacBook Air

This post is not necessarily for those who own and have owned a MacBook Air or Macbook Pro for some time (I think, anyway). This post is for those of you who are considering purchasing a MacBook, or, like me, just purchased one. The following five tips are my initial discoveries as I have played with this new toy.


1. Collaborate Online with Pages, Keynote, and Numbers

The best thing is not that these apps are free (very cool, by the way), but that they work similarly to Google Docs. Share out the link of your document with anyone, and they can revise and edit the same file from their web browser. No Apple products needed on their end. I used this feature to have someone else review and revise a staff social flyer.

2. Mirror Your Screen Via Apple TV, Reflector, or Air Play

I didn’t realize I could do this with a MacBook, until I saw the rectangle with the triangle inside it on the top right of my screen. I knew iPads worked well with this technology, but hadn’t considered it for my laptop. I have already used this feature to project minutes I was taking during a staff meeting.

3. Dictate Speech

My son has a book blog for his independent reading. When we opened up the browser to post his next entry, I found under the “Edit” menu the option to “Start Dictation”. He spoke, and the words rolled out. It was very accurate, and it allowed us to fix any simple errors. This can be a huge benefit for students with special needs, ELL students, and just disengaged writers.

4. Use Your iPhone to Control your Keynotes on the MacBook

I saw someone do this at a conference and had to try it out for myself. Download Keynote on your iPhone, and it will also serve as a slide remote for the presentation you have on your MacBook. No longer do you have to mirror your content from your iPad to the computer, which can be tricky if you are presenting in a conference center with poor wireless reception.

5. iCloud

This might be the biggest reason I went with a MacBook Air over a Windows-based laptop. The images I capture with my iPhone or iPad are collected in my iCloud account, which can be accessed  from my MacBook. I don’t have to upload anything; they’re just there.

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.