Monday, September 08, 2014

Students Learn Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

Here is a great opportunity to involve your high school students in a fun competition where they can learn finance and earn REAL money. When tested on general financial knowledge, nearly 50% of high school seniors fail. H&R Block working on changing that and is committed to helping teens learn how to manage finances.

The H&R Block Budget Challenge is a simulation and interactive competition for high school students. Teens act as recent college graduates who've started their first job. They receive regular paychecks and have to make decisions about cell phone plans, where to live, credit card offers, etc. They must pay their bills on time and earn points for making smart financial decisions. The H&R Block Budget Challenge is free to play and H&R Block is offering both classroom grants and student scholarships to the winning students.
Tweet: Enter to win and learn about finances! Fun, free to earn $ prizes for HS stu & tchrs. Join @HRBlock Budget Challenge
Click to Tweet This!

Over $3 million will be awarded in total prizes:
  • 60 opportunities for classroom grants up to $5K 
  • 132 opportunities for student scholarships of $20K 
  • Grand prize scholarship of $100K 
  • Student incentive during game play
When teachers sign up they will receive a free print kit to get them started, including a classroom poster and lesson plans. They have also developed videos that teachers can use to teach some of the financial concepts. This is a great opportunity to dip your toes into a "Flipped Classroom" concept. Kids can play "Would You Rather?" with Justin Long Play the Would You Rather game by texting START to 38383. You'll answer outrageous questions and learn real tips to stack your cash. Then challenge your friends to play and see their answers.

Parents and Students:
H&R Block Budget Challenge is free to all teachers and students, but since Budget Challenge is limited to those students playing in a classroom registered by their teacher, be sure to tell your teachers to enroll your class for the chance to win some big bucks to put towards your future. Just copy the text below and send your teacher this message:

Dear _________, 
I learned about this great competition where we can learn about finance and earn real money at the same time. There is even an opportunity for you to win a classroom grant of $5000. My classmates and I would really love to participate but you must register our class first. It's time-sensitive and I'll be happy to assist, so please let me know how I can help get this going. Thank you for considering this. To learn more, check out:
I'd love to hear what you think about this challenge. Please let me know if you participate. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How To Study: An Infographic

Photo Credit: Amy Dunayevich
As the new school year begins, many students bring along old, and sometimes bad, study habits. Spend some time with your students sharing study tips and strategies. Most students do not know HOW to study and have never been taught. It will be time well-spent.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

EdTech Jargon BINGO

Here's a game to play at your next conference session, meeting, webinar, or sales pitch. You can even play in the comfort of your home while reading educational blogs, Facebook posts, or Tweets by educators.

You may find it interesting to know that it took me less than 15 minutes to create these BINGO cards using words off the top of my head.

Why do these words annoy me so much? Because they are being used as FLUFF. When used correctly, they are fine. Here's how I define "correctly:"

There is other contextual information to support the use of the word or phrase. Don't just tell me your program transforms education. Tell me what you mean by "transform" and then show me an example. Hint: using an iPad to create videos is not transformational, and neither is using technology to engage students. Teachers have been engaging students for years. 

What words would you add?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

One More Thing…Please, No Worksheets

A must-read!
"Based on what I’ve learned over the past 18 years in the field, I have to tell you, I don’t care if he walks out of your room at the end of the year and he can’t write numbers up to 20. He will pick that skill up as his life requires it."
Read the entire Open Letter To My Son's Kindergarten Teacher by Phillip Kovacs

If you were his son's kindergarten teacher, how would you respond?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Share Students With ClassDojo

With ClassDojo, teachers can now collaborate to improve student skills and behaviors and students build important skills across all of their classes and grade levels. ClassDojo, the popular behavior and skills development app used by millions of teachers around the world, recently released a new set of features aimed at teachers eager to work together on the application. Teachers across 180 countries already use ClassDojo daily to give feedback to students for important behaviors and skills like curiosity, participation, and grit. 

Until now, teachers could only encourage students in their own classes. With this new set of collaboration features, teachers within a school can safely connect with each other, give feedback within each other’s classes or for specific students, and even review student reports from other classes. Students will benefit greatly, too, as it becomes possible to track and reflect on their development across all classes, and even grade levels. 

Image Source: classdojo
With the release, ClassDojo takes one step towards realizing its mission of helping students build character strengths in schools and homes everywhere. Over the course of 2014, ClassDojo has launched multiple features which strengthen relationships between teachers, parents and students. As research shows, students learn important behaviors and skills faster when there is strong alignment and encouragement from all their teachers, peers and parents. Just as ClassDojo Messaging strengthens the parent-teacher relationship, Shared Classes and Shared Students creates stronger teacherteacher networks within schools: 

  • Shared Classes lets multiple educators teach the same class. This feature is especially useful for elementary school teachers, teaching assistants, and any situation where an entire class is taught by multiple teachers. 
  • Shared Students enables teachers in the same school to share students across different classes and view their student reports. Individual students can now move between different teachers and classes, but still build on their progress over time. This makes ClassDojo much more feasible for older grades, allowing teachers to better understand how their students are performing in other classes very quickly. Indeed, the company says this has been middle school and high school teachers’ greatest request. 
These two features have been beta-tested for some time ahead of this latest widespread release. As they are already well-received by early testers, the company expects to roll out many enhancements in the coming months, ultimately leading to easier sharing and collaboration between teachers in the same school. 
“The launch of Shared Classes and Shared Students is a huge moment for our teachers,” said Sam Chaudhary, CEO and cofounder of ClassDojo. “So far, millions of teachers have enjoyed using ClassDojo individually within their classrooms, and though it’s been effective, we believe teachers working together can unleash greater power from the platform. With today’s launch, for the first time, teachers are able to easily use ClassDojo together across their whole school or grade level. Teachers have a simple, nohassle, schoolwide system they can use to help students build skills and behaviors, students get more consistency across the school day, and parents finally get a unified view of what’s happening at school.” 

Shared Classes and Shared Students are available now, and teachers can access them by signing up for a free account at


As a ClassDojo Thought Partner, I receive information, updates, and pre-release information so that I may (at my own choosing) share on my own blog. There is no compensation from ClassDojo for anything I post here on

As a ClassDojo Thought Partner, I do write original content for ClassDojo to post to their site. For those posts, I do receive a monetary honorarium. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ISTE2014, LeVar Burton, and Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media Hosts Speaker Spotlight at ISTE 2014 Featuring LeVar Burton -- Actor and Co-Founder of Reading Rainbow -- on Kids and Reading in the Digital Age

Burton's "Inspiring Learning with Technology & Storytelling" presentation is part of Common Sense Media's focus on helping teachers discover the best tech tools for K-12 during the annual edtech conference starting this week in Atlanta.

On June 29, Common Sense Media, the national nonprofit dedicated to helping kids, parents, and educators thrive with media and technology, welcomes Emmy Award-winning actor and children's literacy advocate LeVar Burton to speak at ISTE 2014. Burton will address a capacity crowd at the Common Sense Media spotlight session about inspiring today's tech-savvy students to develop a lifelong love of reading.

"LeVar's message is timely and the audience at ISTE ideal for a discussion about technology's potential to engage and advance learning," said Mike Lorion, General Manager of Education at Common Sense Media. "Research suggests that adolescents are reading less for enjoyment, and that a significant reading achievement gap persists between white and minority students. How might technology inspire kids to read more or become enthusiastic about any subject and skill?"

Burton has dedicated himself to inspiring millions of children to read both through his beloved long-standing PBS children's series, Reading Rainbow, and more recently through the Reading Rainbow digital library, currently available on the iPad and Kindle Fire. Some 184,000 books are read each week through these platforms, which were launched in 2011.

"What we know is that reading is as important--if not more so--as it has ever been and our kids are falling behind,” said LeVar Burton. “But we also know that it is possible to use technology to foster a passion for reading that lasts a lifetime."

Burton will present his spotlight presentation at 4:30 p.m

From 2-2:30 p.m., Burton will join Shira Lee Katz, Senior Director of Education Content at Common Sense Media, and Dr. Kris Mitzner, Principal of Diane Winborn Elementary School in Katy, Texas in a 30-minute panel conversation on "Engaging Learners with Digital Content." The discussion will focus on the qualities of digital learning media that make it effective in the K-12 classroom. Press questions are welcome. Please contact Crista Sumanik at to reserve a space in the pressroom.

Throughout the conference from June 29 through July 1, Common Sense Media will conduct workshops and demonstrations of various digital educator resources that have received our highest rating for learning potential:
  • At booth #1526 on the convention floor, Common Sense Media will present the latest updates and features of Graphite, the trusted site to help educators source and use the best educational technology for K-12 classrooms. Developers of the industry's hottest educational technologies -- and winners of Common Sense Media ON for Learning Awards, including iCivics, Dreambox Learning, BrainPop, Khan Academy, MinecraftEdu, and more -- will demonstrate their popular learning products.
  • In room B311, Common Sense Media experts and certified educators will lead sessions focused on the best technology tools to enhance student learning.
  • At the Ed Tech Start-Up Pitch Fest, Common Sense Media will judge both the hotly contested preliminary rounds on Sunday, June 29, as well as the final round on Monday, June 30.
Please find the full schedule of Common Sense Media events at ISTE here: 

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is a leading independent nonprofit organization offering the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for everything kids want to watch, play, read, and learn. We provide comprehensive, free resources for schools and trustworthy information for parents to ensure kids learn how to be safe, smart, and responsible digital citizens who thrive in a world of media and technology. 

For more information, go to:

About LeVar Burton and RRKidz
Best known for his distinguished TV roles, most notably Kunta Kinte on “Roots,” Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Reading Rainbow,” LeVar Burton is widely recognized for his lifelong advocacy of children’s literacy. In 2011 he formed RRKidz with his business partner Mark Wolfe and launched the award-winning Reading Rainbow’s unlimited library of books and video field trips. They hold the global rights to the Reading Rainbow brand through a partnership with series creator, WNED/Buffalo.

Press Contacts:
Crista Sumanik
W: 415.553.6780

Alexis Vanni
W: 415-553-6728