7 Things Every Educator Needs to Know About Online Learning

An Every Classroom Matters Episode

Online learning is growing. How do online classrooms differ from the face to face classroom? What about the student/teacher relationship? Jade Ballek is a principal of an online K12 school in Canada. She tells all: the challenges of online learning and the strengths.

Sylvia Duckworth made a sketchnote to go with this show! Thanks Sylvia! (See below.)

Important Takeaways

  • How do you know if a student is “really” learning?
  • How do you measure and improve student engagement? (Some of us can use these tips in our face to face classrooms.)
  • How does the support structure differ from the face to face classroom? (It was interesting to see what they do to help teachers help students.)
  • Ways students have to be trained to interact with online instructors to make the relationship better.
  • How Jade analyzes course content to improve it.
  • The benefits of online learning, particularly for kids who are shy or quiet.
  • The challenges of online learning and what Jade does to level up course content and teaching.

If you’re a blended classroom (or flipped), like me, you’ll learn lots of handy tips to help you improve your online classroom. Most 21st century classrooms are comprised of bricks (f2f) and clicks (online) and our ability to meld the two into a powerful learning experience will determine our success as teachers.

Interview Links


  • Lesley University has an impressive line-up of online programs specifically designed for busy teachers. If you’re interested in strengthening your professional training, your resume or your career options, you’ll want to take a look at what Lesley has to offer.

    Lesley’s programs include: •creative learning environments •experienced faculty •small classes, and •the kind of supportive online community that we all value and want.

Take a moment to check out Lesley’s programs for teachers by going to Online.Lesley.edu/BamRadio.

Check out Lesley University’s programs.

7 Things Every Educator Needs to Know About Online Learning

7 Things Every Educator Needs to Know about Online Learning – drawn by Sylvia Duckworth.

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The post 7 Things Every Educator Needs to Know About Online Learning appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

from Cool Cat Teacher Blog http://www.coolcatteacher.com/online-learning-success/


Must-see Waterfalls in Hamilton

The end of summer is near, so it’s time to make the most of summer and explore the natural beauty of Hamilton’s waterfalls. There are over a hundred to visit, so we have picked six that you should definitely check out.

Albion Falls, Hamilton Ontario//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

1. Webster’s Falls

The most charming waterfall in Hamilton is Webster’s Falls. At 20 meters high, it is the largest and most-visited waterfall in the area. If you decide to see it, you should definitely also explore Spencer Gorge and Webster’s Falls Conservation area in Greensville. This waterfall was named after Joseph Webster who purchased the fall and its surrounding area in 1820. websters falls//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The legend says that there was an indigenous woman named Evening Star, who fell in love with a European settler, which was a taboo. An indigenous man who was enamoured with her beauty killed the European man. Feeling severely heartbroken and desolate, she went over Webster’s Falls with the corpse of her lover.

Tip: Visit Webster’s Falls in winter to see beautiful ice formations.

2. Tew’s Falls

Tew’s Falls is a ribbon type of waterfall and, at 41 meters, it is the tallest waterfall in Hamilton. It was named after a waterfall that had a height notably greater than its crest width. It is located in Webster’s Falls Conversation area.

Tew's Falls//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

3. Tiffany Falls

Tiffany Falls are 21 meters high and located in the Tiffany Falls Conservation Area in Ancaster. You had better visit this waterfall during the autumn, as the colourful leaves make it very picturesque. It is named after Dr. Oliver Tiffany, the district’s first doctor. Climbing the Falls//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Tip: Ice climbing is allowed at Tiffany Falls, making it a fun winter attraction for all rock climbers.

4. Sherman Falls

Sherman’s Falls, also known as Fairy Falls or Angel Falls, is a terraced ribbon type of waterfall. It is 17 meters high and the surrounding area is ideal for hiking. It is named after the Sherman family who had a farm on this beautiful property.
Sherman Falls, Hamilton//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

5. Buttermilk Falls

This 23-meter high waterfall streams into a deep gorge. After a day of heavy rainfall, this waterfall offers the best views. Mattatuck Trail - Near Buttermilk Falls//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

6. Devil’s Punch Bowl

This 35-meter waterfall offers a stunning view of both Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour. You may be curious why this waterfall has such a strange name. Mythology has it that the waterfall was created by God, who didn’t want to use His name, so he decided to name it after his fallen angel, the Devil.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We hope that you enjoyed this guide to just a few of our favourites among the many waterfalls in and around Hamilton. Many of the ones mentioned above are close to one another, so first check out a map then plan your trip accordingly. If you pay close attention, you will notice that, on the map, the waterfalls are arranged in the shape of a flower.

Gabriela Jandova

from ILAC English Tips http://www.ilac.com/blog/must-see-waterfalls-in-hamilton/

Successful Parent Teacher Communication Tips

3 Important Times We Have to Talk

Students need parent teacher communication. We need to work together to help kids. There are three essential times for parent teacher communication.

Parent Teacher Communication success tips

The Global Search for Education has a monthly question. This month: “What are the best ways parents can help teachers and that teachers can help parents?”
  • Introductions
  • Ongoing communications
  • When problems or unforeseen circumstances happen

I’ve been a teacher for fourteen years and a Mom for twenty. I’ve seen the good and bad from both sides. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Introductions: Parent Teacher Communication Point #1

Teachers to Parents.

Seasoned educators stress that the first parent communication should be positive. Make a phone call. Host a meeting. First impressions are everything. If the first time you call a parent, it is for bad news, they are going to dread hearing your name.

Set expectations for ongoing and emergency communications.

Parents to Teachers.

Make your first communication positive too. Send a note. Be helpful. Set the tone. Even if you’re busy, a quick email to say you’re excited will help.

Tip #1: Start strong, eager to get along.

Ongoing Communications: Parent Teacher Communication Point #2

Teachers to Parents.

Keep parents informed, but keep it short. I start off with email, but I’ve found that linking with a parent’s cell phone is vital. (Just texting them anytime is NOT the way. Use a tool like Bloomz.)

Share pictures, stories, and successes. Tell parents when a child succeeds at something. I try to communicate with parents every 7-10 days or when a major project is happening.

Go to ballgames. Be where the kids are. You can build great relationships at events.

Parents to Teachers.

Give teachers time to respond. If you email, realize that they are teaching during the day. If you text, be respectful and don’t do it too late.

Communicate concerns with the teacher first before taking it to the principal. When you don’t, you aren’t partnering, you’re trying to coerce.

Tip #2: Communicate consistently. Know how the other person likes to communicate. Listen.

When Problems Happen: Parent Teacher Communication Point #3

Teachers to Parents

I have a rule. If I have bad news to tell someone, they will hear it from me first. Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo says,

“In the absence of knowledge, people tend to make up their own.”

A child gets teased. Something happens, and the teacher is involved. Nowadays, people who gossip have fingers of fire. Rumors fly.

When problems happen, I tell the principal and quickly call the parent. I want them to hear it from me first. I prefer verbal conversations over email.

Parents to Teachers

Problems at home. If a close family member is ill, a new child is born, or parents are divorcing — tell the teacher. Children internalize hurt. Eventually, it comes out in behavior. When teachers know, we can better understand a child. We can be more understanding.

Problems with the teacher. Listen to your child’s complaint. Before you communicate your thoughts with the child, contact the teacher. Hear the teacher’s side.

Advocate for your child. But realize that children need to be in a successful mindset to succeed with that teacher. You destroy that mindset when you criticize the teacher in front of the child. Teachers aren’t the enemy.

And realize this:

  • your child is not the only child in the classroom
  • the teacher is not a mind reader and may not know about this problem
  • you may not be hearing the whole story
We can work it out if we give each other the benefit of the doubt. But in the end, kids need people who care more about doing right than being right.

In Conclusion

The success of our children is in our hands. Let’s clasp hands in helpfulness. Let’s work together to help kid’s lives be awesome.

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from Cool Cat Teacher Blog http://www.coolcatteacher.com/parent-teacher-communication/

Want kids to love school? Stop telling them they stink and find their strength.

The Teacher as a Talent Scout

Good schools don’t just teach you subjects. Good schools teach you about yourself.  A focus on strengths is the secret to a better school. We want students to be leaders, but we never let them lead. Let’s change that! Here’s how.

Talent Plus Passion equals purpose. Dr. Brad Johnson

Do you want your teachers to be six times more engaged in teaching? Do you want your students 30 times more likely to be engaged in school? Would you like to triple your teachers’ quality of life? Then, focus on strengths, not weaknesses.

Recently, I sat down with, Dr. Brad Johnson on Every Classroom Matters. He says

“When you combine student talents with their passion you’ll find their purpose.”

We must move the emphasis from standards to strengths. Sure, we need to help kids with their weaknesses. Most people need basic math, reading, and writing.  But when we hyper-focus on weaknesses, we forget to nurture talent.

If Baryshnikov was born to dance, why should he die in trigonometry?

While I’ve already written up the show that inspired this post, I’ve been thinking about three of the ways Brad says we can focus on student strengths and make our schools stronger. (Read more, in his book What Schools Don’t Teach.) Here are some thoughts on what all of our schools should be doing.

1. Encourage teachers need to bring their talents to their teaching.


Figure out a way to teach with what you love. You’ll be more excited. Your students will too.

If you want to be more exciting, be excited. Think of what you love. Use it to teach.

2. Help students enjoy and appreciate their strengths and the strengths of other students.

A grade is not a measure of value as a person. Everyone matters or no one matters. (Hat tip Harry Bosch.)

Sadly, ask a student about where they stink, and they’ll answer.

Ask them about their strengths, and they’ll shrug.

What’s wrong with this picture? Don’t we give genuine compliments? And we only focus on the weaknesses? If a parent did that, we’d say they were a bad parent. Why are some schools getting away with it?

3. Create leadership positions for students.

Instead of giving strict instructions, we should be appointing leaders. Brad says,

Here are some of the job titles from my classroom this past year:

  • Project Manager (PM)
  • Assistant Project Manager (APM)
  • Lead Graphic Designer
  • Production Coordinator
  • Lead Programmer
  • Database Auditor
  • Audio Engineer

In my classroom, if there’s a job we create a title for it. Jobs have a responsibility. If there is responsibility, there is accountability. Accountability and responsibility cause incredible learning activity.

To teach leadership, we have to have leadership positions. Yes, it changes our classrooms. It makes us more of a coach. But that’s the way it should be.

Let students lead. Give them responsibility. Don’t be a dictator.

How Do You Measure Up?

Do you give tests to help students find their strengths? (I do.) Are you only looking for weaknesses you can “fix”?

A 2007 neuroimaging study by Arnaud D’Argembeau of Belgium found the forward most region of the medial prefrontal cortex is important in

“Helping a person reflect on their traits and abilities versus those of others.”

How do we help students know themselves? Look for their strengths first.

Strength-finding is part of the brain that we can develop. We can shift from standards to strengths, from standardization to personalization, from weakness to wonderful.

As we look for strengths, we’ll build stronger schools.

As I started this year, I showed a picture of an uncut diamond to my students. I asked them what it was. Most didn’t know. I said it was valuable, but sometimes didn’t look like it. I said it represented them and it was an uncut diamond. My job this year is to help them find their talent. We might only find a few facets but that we’d look for it. I will know I have succeeded when I have told every parent and student something truthful that I’ve noticed that student does well.

The mentality of looking for strengths instead of deficits changes everything. The classroom becomes a place where we rejoice in talent. We celebrate talent. Students point out strengths of each student. I would daresay, it even makes class more fun.

How do you look for talent? How do you spot strengths? How do you communicate such a mindset to your students? Empower students with hope, don’t crush them with their incompetence. We can do this. We can help students find their talents. If you look at people who tell stories about great teachers, it was almost always those teachers who saw something in the student they didn’t see in themselves.

Be that kind of teacher. Be the noble teacher. Be a talent scout.

The post Want kids to love school? Stop telling them they stink and find their strength. appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

from Cool Cat Teacher Blog http://www.coolcatteacher.com/want-kids-to-love-school/

10 Ways to Build Powerful Parent Partnerships from Day One

An Every Classroom Matters Episode on Building Parent-Teacher Relationships sponsored by Bloomz

parent communications

First-rate teachers value parents. Jumpstart positive parent partnerships from day one.   Show parents how much they matter. Principal Amy Fadeji and Superintendent Joe Sanfellipo have a collection of simple ideas.

Important Takeaways

  • How to Connect. Four ways Amy encourages teachers to connect with parents. (Check out our show sponsor Bloomz too!)
  • First contact. First-rate teachers value parents. Jumpstart positive parent partnerships from day one.   Show parents how much they matter. Principal Amy Fadeji and Superintendent Joe Sanfellipo have a collection of simple ideas. Joe stresses the first contact with the parent should be positive. He has a method that seemed like more work the first time they did it. Now teachers do it willingly. It makes a huge difference.
  • Fab Fridays. How Joe ends every Friday on a positive note with five important phone calls.
  • Helping Parents Love Phone Calls from the Principal. Amy has a fantastic idea. Her teachers give her information that lets her make positive phone calls to parents. Parents don’t dread a phone call from the principal now.
  • Make Social Media Work for You. How to use social media to help improve perception of your school in the community.
  • I made some of the best quotes into images at the bottom. Take them to share on social media.
  • More solutions…

Don’t just plan lessons. Plan for positive parent relationships. Set up communications. Two-way. Pave the way with positivity. Take time to be kind. Share this show with superintendents, principals, and teachers. If isn’t the start of the year for you, it is never too late to start again.

Educator Resources

Interview Links


  • Bloomz is your one-stop solution for parent-teacher communications. More than just connecting with their cell phones, you can send long or short messages. You can send pictures and links. You can even coordinate volunteer schedules, donations, and parent teacher conferences. I’m using Bloomz in my classroom.

Set up Your Bloomz Classroom today

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Amy Fadeji

Joe Sanfelippo

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from Cool Cat Teacher Blog http://www.coolcatteacher.com/10-ways-to-build-powerful-parent-partnerships-from-day-one/

Back to School: 4 Ways to Get Ready and Save Money

Sponsored by Staples

Now is the time. I start back to school. So does my son. Lots of you will soon too. How do we get totally ready?

Start by making a list. But sometimes I don’t know everything that is out there. So, I headed down to my local Staples store in Albany, and my son and I did some shopping.

1.   Help Your Child Get Ready

For quite some time, I’ve had my son look at his list and shop for what he needs. I do this for several reasons:

  • I want him to know how much things cost and
  • One day he’ll be in college and doing his own preparations.

You can see a pic of his basket below. I also encouraged him to buy extras to last through December. I get stressed and don’t have time to run back to the store, so we stock extras in a supply drawer in the house.

My son's back to school basket at Staples

My son’s Back to School Shopping Basket. I had him use the list and gave him a budget. He used his calculator and purchased what he needed for the day. I find that since I’ve been doing this, he takes better care of everything he has.

I also plan ahead for encouraging him. I found these lunch notes that I’m keeping in my kitchen. I know the first few weeks will be busy, so I’m going ahead and writing funny/inspirational thoughts on them so I can grab and put them in his lunch.

Lunch box notes for my son

Lunch notes I found on the Less List display at the entrance of Staples. I’m writing this over the weekend and will have two weeks worth ready to go into lunches. As a busy Mom, you have to plan ahead to encourage your child.

2. Think About Workflow as You Organize your Desk

Getting organized and ready is important. I recently wrote a blog post over at Edutopia about the habits and workflow that I use. So, as I organize my desk, I’m always thinking about flow.

Some of my essential tools are:

  • a labeler,
  • a laminator,
  • colored file folders,
  • different colored pens that write well,
  • highlighters,
  • sharpies, and
  • awesome dry erase markers.

You can see from the pictures of my desk and bins, that I label everything. I also think that it is very helpful to have a bin behind your desk that is like a quick launch toolbar. (see pic) I have everything there that I can grab and go. You’ll need metal vertical files to do this, particularly if you keep your textbooks there like I do.

My command center in my classroom

My quick launch toolbar behind my desk. ARC punch, labeler, and my lesson plans, gradebook, and reward stickers. Everything is there to grab and go.

Organize your desk for workflow, but also consider your health. One of my biggest excitements was when my son found this double walled water bottle. (pic) It is clear (as our school requires) but also won’t have a condensation problem (I work in a computer lab, so water could harm the computer). I also keep idea journals handy that I review each week as I plan my lessons for the next week.

My husband bought me a really comfortable chair a few years ago. Tons of post it notes, pens, and everything right next to my desk.

My desk

My water bottle, journal, and computer are ready to go.

The first day of school, I will take a picture of each class. I’ll print these out and laminate them and put them on the wall. Erin Klein suggested this on our #moreforteachers Twitter Chat and it is a fantastic idea.

3. Look for New Ideas

When I’m planning to get ready for the year, I take time to go through every aisle of Staples. I just don’t know what has come out. For example, I keep my laptop, iPad and iPhone with me all the time. But it is so easy for them to get dirty.

I found the cute screen cleaners on the first aisle in my Staples by the Ink Cartridges. If I had run through the store, I never would have found these. I’ve put these in my school bag.

electronic wipes

This is the cutest thing of electronic cleaner/wipes! I bought this one and now keep it in my bag so I can keep my electronics clean. So, when I have my iPhone in the car and it gets dirty, it is clean right away. I so love this.

I also found this cute little notebook in the Less List display at the entrance of the store. It tears off. I’m using this for planning my week at home. I take these out and use my ARC punch to insert them in my planner in the right place. This is one (of the many) ways that I customize my own planner to the way that suits me. While I do use apps, I like to hand write my list items for the week out of my master list in OmniFocus.

to do list

I found this cute notebook in the Less List Display at the front of my Staples store. I use this to plan the week, but punch it with my ARC punch to put it in my custom planner.

4. Get Help for Student Projects

The biggest thing that public school teachers in the US can do to save on classroom projects is to register your projects at DonorsChoose.org. This past week, Staples funded more than 200 classroom projects in Atlanta as part of its recent $10 million pledge to Think It Up™, a new national initiative of the Entertainment Industry Foundation that seeks to inaugurate a new movement in support of students, teachers and schools, helping to create a culture of excitement about learning everywhere in America. If you are planning classroom projects, register now!

Staples funded 200 teachers in Atlanta

Staples funded more than 200 projects in Atlanta this past week. If you want to take advantage of the excitement building around thinkitup.org, you need to register your classroom projects NOW. If you want to do some cool things, go ahead and do this now.

So, it is officially back to school. There’s so much going on! Take time to plan ahead and get #110Ready at Staples. I’ve been excited to share all of these ideas with you as part of their Back to School Council. I hope you’ll share your ideas in the comments, on Facebook, and on Twitter! Get organized and get ready!

My Back to School School Supplies

We bought lots at Staples. Here was our table of goodies when we came home.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to edit and post it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

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from Cool Cat Teacher Blog http://www.coolcatteacher.com/back-to-school-4-ways-to-get-ready-and-save-money/

Vocabulary: Let’s Go To The CNE!

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), also known as The Ex, is one North America’s popular fairs and ultimate fun experiences, happening annually at the end of summer at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

In this article you’ll find out a bit about the history of the CNE and its fun and “delicious” vocabulary, which you will definitely need while visiting the exhibit.

Toronto skyline from CNE

About the CNE and its History

The first Canadian National Exhibition took place in 1879 and promoted agriculture and technology in Canada. It has been already 75 years since the CNE first started to attract the young and young at heart, and throw annual acrobatic, air and ice skating shows.

Even though the CNE has changed a lot over the years, it still remains a dominant platform for scientists, engineers and agriculturists to exhibit their inventions to Canada. Various city communities take this annual gathering as a family tradition. Lost children's tent, Canadian National Exhibition (CNE)

This year Labor Day* weekend features the amazing Canadian International Air show, with unbelievable planes zooming across the sky and performing incredible stunts.

Nowadays, the exhibition offers a wide variety of colourful interactive experiences. Classic food and culinary arts fairs are one of them. Here you can try some typical Canadian treats, such as candy floss (also known as cotton candy), toffee apples, a corn dog or funnel cakes.

If you have never heard of these delicacies, check out the CNE “delicious” vocabulary we have prepared especially for you, so you can make the right choice on the spot.

The CNE “Delicious” Vocabulary

1. Candy floss or cotton candy is primarily made of spun sugar. You may see it in many different colours. A huge cloud of a cotton candy is a true pleasure for both children and their parents.

2. Toffee apples or candy apples are basically apples covered with sugar, chocolate, caramel or toffee. You can find many varieties of them at the CNE. Red-Toffee-Apples__39653
3. Everybody knows what a hot dog is, but have you ever tried a corn dog? It is sausage coated in a cornmeal batter and served on a stick. Pretty yummy!

4. Funnel cakes are made of batter, poured into boiling oil and served with powdered sugar. This fried treat has many calories, so if you are on a diet we would not recommend it. funnel cake
5. Our last delicious treat is Beaver tails, also known in French as Queueses de Castor. It is basically another type of pastry made from fried dough, which resembles a beaver’s tail, and topped with whipped cream, Nutella, marmalade, banana or crumbled Oreos. The pastry’s namesake food chain currently operates 33 stores and 43 BeaverTails and Queues de Castor stands. Beaver Tails

The CNE Fun Vocabulary

Food is just a part of the CNE experience. At the fair, you will definitely want to try all kinds of carnival games and rides. So, master your vocabulary with us!

1. Bumper cars are those small electric cars that people drive in an enclosed area, bumping into each other. Each car has a large rubber bumper, so driving them is safe and lots of fun.

2. Roller coasters  are a great attraction at any amusement or theme park, including the CNE. A roller coaster is basically a railroad system with a track that makes some loops, briefly turning the rider upside down. Since a roller coaster goes up and down you may feel some butterflies in your stomach, so do not eat much before the ride! The Xcelerator

3. Ferris wheel, sometimes also called a big wheel, giant wheel or observation wheel. It is an upright, rotating wheel that offers passengers an almost a bird’s-eye view of the surroundings.

4. Merry-go-rounds or carousels are one of the typical attractions at the CNE. These are great for kids who are afraid of roller coasters. A merry-go-round offers a fun and relaxing ride on flying horses or other similar constructions.

day 3 - Merry-Go-Round

Now that you know what’s what at the CNE, you can get out there fully enjoy its food and attractions.

  *Labor day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. It originally gave workers a chance to campaign for better working conditions or pay. The day is now part of a long weekend for many Canadians.

Gabriela Jandova

from ILAC English Tips http://www.ilac.com/blog/vocabulary-lets-go-to-the-cne/