Respectful and Ethical Minds

I really enjoyed watching the interview with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, because reading about a Flat Classroom versus just reading about it online made a tremendous difference in my understanding of how it truly works. The idea is incredibly exciting to me, and I love that students are broadening their horizons, connecting with others, and reaching out to places in the world they might have never even thought of. So many of the things that they discussed connected directly to Gardner’s respectful and ethical minds. Using the Flat Classroom model, students aren’t learning to just not just tolerate others, but truly understand, connect, create, communicate, and respect them.

An idea that I recently implemented in my classroom that helps foster collaborating and helps develop students’ respectful and ethical minds was a project using Google Apps. Over the course of two plus months, my students worked in groups to create documents and slideshows using Google Drive. I teach third grade, so the process took a lot of time to first teach my students how to use the Gmail addresses, how to open a document, how to create a slide, etc. Teaching them to use the tools was important to me though, since I knew they were going to need them in the future. The next step was breaking down our social studies chapter, and having students each complete a fact sheet they shared and added to, and then they created their slideshow. When all of the projects were completed, they presented to the class. Each student needed to talk to others via email, on the documents, and in person. They did a great job in the end (but it took a really long time). The talk regarding Flat Classrooms really made me feel more confident about my collaborative classroom project. Vicki Davis said, “you don’t eat watermelon whole, you eat it in bites” (2013). I very quickly learned students at my grade level could only take so many steps at once, and teaching them to use Google Apps took a lot of time and dedication. They mentioned having a flexible schedule and not being afraid of lengthy projects was something we need to not be afraid of as teachers in order to really connect and collaborate. I was happy to hear this, because it can be discouraging when something takes so much time. I just have to remind myself of it’s importance and keep working toward what I think is best for my students.

The project we completed in my classroom really helped my students connect and learn to work together effectively. The groups I chose were purposeful, so students had to understand how to overcome differences between learners, both academic and personal. I also taught the implications of not doing your own work, copying out of our textbook, or not participating and letting the rest of the group do your part. They understood how to use their respectful mind better than their ethical mind during the project. Doing the right thing, and working hard for the greater good is a hard concept, because some students just don’t “get” that yet. Some never do, which is why I think it is important to try and teach. In addition, certain leaders in groups would move forward without considering how much or what type of participation all members of the group gave. The ethical mind is harder for me to teach, it is something I recognize now I should be working on. Creating more respectful minds is something I feel that I have concentrated more on. Gardner mentions that as teachers we are the most important models for students seeing and understanding respect; the way we treat other teachers, support personnel, students, and parents is all being soaked up by our students (2008). We need to be conscious of the way we talk to and treat others, because that is what our students will learn as acceptable forms of behavior. Gardner also makes the point that respect isn’t just “tolerating” others, it’s a deep and genuine understanding reflected in our language and behaviors (2008). We can’t just “deal” with those that are different than us, we need to teach our children what genuine respect looks like. The project we worked on taught my students how to respect and understand each other on a very small scale. In regards to fosterings the development of their ethical minds, there were reminders to compliment each other, work honestly, and “fill others’ buckets”. Doing the “good work” and making decisions based on not just your own good, but for others as well, is much harder for elementary schoolers. Developing their ethical minds, and the intrinsic motivation to do the “good works” is an ongoing, constant lesson we are trying to teach them as people. Gardner explains that respect is a little bit more tangible, and that it can be practiced easily in elementary school, but the ethical mind I think is more of a challenge for me (2008).

Gardner, H. (2008). Five minds for the future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Juliani, A. (2013, February 18). Education Is my life: Interview with vicki davis and julie lindsay. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from

Spotlight on Strategies

Spotlight on Strategies – Jigsaw

The strategy I chose to discuss and present was the Jigsaw strategy. The goal of the Jigsaw is to allow cooperative group work, but with individual students still needing to maintain personal responsibility for their work and learning due to the way the activity is designed. It’s a great way to introduce information, activate prior knowledge, review, and have fun. It can be used across subject areas and in so many different ways. I challenged other teachers to use this strategy in their own classrooms. It’s not the easiest activity to organize, but it can be so worth it! It also requires a lot of monitoring by the instructor, especially in elementary school settings. In order to make sure all the students are participating and that they are reading, researching, or discussing the correct idea or topic. The activity provides a great opportunity for small group, individual participation, and whole group interactions.

The use of digital media in my flyer is there to aid in the lesson example I created. The pictures and videos I chose for the example lesson are important to use in our whole group discussion. They provide examples for students to look at that are teacher chosen, unlike the material they will see in their group work. In order to reinforce the concepts, I chose examples I liked for rural, urban, and suburban communities. I also chose a short video to present to my students so that they had another visual example of what the three communities are like. Our textbook has very few examples in it, so I wanted to incorporate digital media elements to help student understanding of the concept.

I also included resources in my “challenge” that might be useful to other educators when trying to create a lesson or activity with the jigsaw strategy. I included an example video and a easy steps list into the “challenge” category on my flyer. Without ever seeing or reading about the jigsaw strategy before, it might sound a little confusing. I thought by adding some extra examples, it might help make the process a little bit easier to understand!

Content Creation

Being that it’s the summertime, I interviewed a third grader who is participating in a summer program (camp) at my school. She was in my class this past year, and is moving onto 4th grade. To get started, the first question I asked her was about what she values and loves about what we did in our classroom learning environment. I asked her to name at least three things. She responded by telling me that she liked when we have recess in our classroom (I knew that first answer was coming!). The second thing she answered was that she loved when we did projects together (she referenced a video we made together as a class), and the third thing she said she loved was Writer’s Workshop and Writer’s Celebration.

I then asked her what she would like to change about our classroom learning environment, but I didn’t require her to list three things. She responded quickly by saying that she wished we didn’t have math ALL morning. I was interested in this answer because she is a very strong math student, and I never got the impression that she didn’t enjoy our math class. We have math from 8:30 when school starts till my students leave for physical education at 9:50. From a teacher’s perspective it’s wonderful, but I know that’s a very long time to sit when you’re 8 or 9 years old. The second thing she said she didn’t really like was Study Island. We have benchmark tests required by administration that need to be administered several times per year in our computer lab as a whole group. I have gotten the impression several of my students are overwhelmed by Study Island due to it’s formatting. Many students move up from second grade and have to adjust to taking assessments on the computer.

My student mentioned several parts of our learning environment and classroom procedures that involved digital media, technology, and personal creativity, so then I asked her what she liked and disliked about the different types of technology she likes in our classroom, and if she thinks she can be creative with them. She said she loved using the Activboard, loved when we learned how to make a video, loved using camera and video camera, and loved using Discovery Ed in science class (but not Social Studies). She said she felt very creative when we got to shoot the video, make our online collages, and take pictures in class. She said she dislikes taking tests in the computer lab, which was something she expressed earlier in the conversation. She also said she doesn’t dislike typing, but feels like she isn’t good at it and wants to practice typing on the computer more frequently. She said she feels creative when we get to use the computer in our computer class every tuesday, because my students got the chance to type letters, make powerpoints, search for pictures, make collages, and play games. She said she doesn’t think it’s very creative for me to put up slides during reading and grammar on the Activboard. She said, “Come on Mrs. Gardner, everybody does that!”

The discussion with my student was predictable in some ways, and enlightening in others. Not very many of my students have expressed their distaste for taking assessments on the computer, but her admission makes complete sense. Most of their assessments are in a paper-pencil format, and then they are randomly requested to be assessed on the computer. I think it’s important I take the time to make them more comfortable with online assessments, especially since NJ is moving to the PAARC test this year. I had my students on the computers so frequently, but I need to invest even more time there this year. In addition, I learned that my students in elementary school have never not had a day or lesson that hasn’t had an Activboard in it. What they think is a standard, boring, typical slide on the Activboard, is actually something some seasoned teachers find difficult to produce and practice every day. They are lucky to be familiarized with these technologies at such young ages, but to remain creative and spark their creative interests, we have to constantly reinvent and amp up the “same old” things we use in our classrooms. Her comments about slides have made me realize I need to transfer a lot of slides and files to be more creative and dynamic presentations. When we have an online resource like Prezi available, it obviously would be beneficial to our students and ourselves as teachers to move away from PowerPoints that have been saved from years past. I was happy to hear that my student loved Writer’s Workshop, because it involves a lot of drafting and typing. The student I interviewed was encouraging about project based practices I have in my classroom, and our conversation also served as a great reminder to check myself in my everyday uses of technology. It is important to be more creative with the every day, and not just when we are actually creating something new as a class.

Role of Creativity in Schools

I think “schools” in this question is a broad term. Do teachers kill creativity? Does administration kill creativity? Do state/federal laws kill creativity? I think that most schools don’t want to kill creativity, but unfortunately, the politics of education can kill creativity. Schools are required to implement standards, value results of high stakes testing, and even judge educator success based on student academic achievement, regardless of student location, socioeconomic status, and special needs. Despite these parameters, I think that teachers and schools do care about creativity. Our system of education doesn’t necessarily seem to value creativity anymore, but that makes our job of fostering creativity in our classrooms even more important. Ken Robinson’s talk was hilarious, thoughtful, and poignant. I don’t usually feel so affected by academic presentations; I felt like he was actually talking to me. He make some really amazing points that stayed with me.

“Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go” (Robinson, 2006). This is a really simple but true statement. Kids in elementary school aren’t as afraid as we are as adults. They often say and do things naturally; they aren’t embarrassed like us to ask the questions and find answers. At some point in time, this ends. We no longer just ask or say what we feel, and I think Sir Robinson makes an excellent point about this, and it needs to change. We need to make learners throughout their lives feel that participating, asking questions, and being wrong is okay. It’s totally fine. That has to start in the classroom. His idea to lengthen this time of exploring and asking really stayed with me. In the talk he also said, “we are educated out of creativity” (Robinson, 2006). We concentrate so much on standards and academic subjects like literacy and mathematics, and it is crushing potential creative minds and their talents and creations. Most of us have all heard we should go to school for something that will result in a job. We have been steered away from passions and dreams knowing that educating ourselves further in something “useless” won’t result in prosperity or happiness. As teachers, we need to steer away from this. We have to teach students that we value whatever it is that they’re good at.

A final thought Robinson had that was important to me was that as teachers we need to use the gift of human imagination (Robinson, 2006). Creating is important, no matter what it is. We need to teach our students that it’s okay to like things others don’t. It’s okay to stay after school for a club their friends might not like, draw pictures at night if they’re bored, or to not quit dance class because they’re too worried about their reading homework. I thought a lot about my sister throughout Robinson’s talk. She was average (maybe a little below average!) academically in high school. It was all due to a lack of effort, not because she wasn’t intelligent. The only thing she cared about was acting. Despite the cost and fear it might not work out, my parents encouraged her and supported her dreams of going to school for musical theater. As a teacher, and as a parent, I hope to be that open minded. Teaching students to use their imagination, and encouraging them to follow their passions will help our amazing little thinkers and creators be successful in the future, no matter what academic or career path they choose to take.

Robinson, K. (2006, February). How schools kill creativity. Retrieved July 14, 2014, from

Media Infused Presentation

force and mottion



Synthesizing information is the way of putting it together n a way that you can hold onto it and remember it. Gardner (2007) noted, “The ability to knit together information from disparate sources into a coherent whole is vital today” (p. 46). This idea tells us that learning to piece together information and remember it is something we need to give our students, an actual learned skill. The mess and clutter of information is coming from so many angles, we synthesize to scaffold upon prior knowledge and learn new things. We are creating a way to store information so it “sticks”. An important part of this process for teachers, is to be able to explain our synthesis of information. We need to effectively explain the things we have stored and synthesized. Gardner’s chapter on the synthesizing mind is broke down in a way that is incredibly useful to reference and use for ideas in the classroom. First, giving types of synthesis, and then breaking down the steps necessary to synthesize information. Reading this chapter while I created the presentation helped guide what type of information I added in, and in what order I added it in.

There are several practical ways that a presentation like this can help foster the development of both the disciplined and synthesizing minds in my classroom. Taking into consideration fostering the disciplined mind, I identified important concepts within the discipline, in this case, our force and motion unit. This presentation isn’t meant to be used in one lesson, it’s to be followed throughout our unit. It will be paired with our text, activities, and other longer videos I like to watch with my students. There is a significant amount of time spent on each part of the topic. The way that the presentation is created approaches the topic from a number of ways. I presented information with text, videos, images, and of course, there will be a lot of discussion. In regards to fostering the development of the synthesizing mind, I really thought about how to organize information in a way that would help students hold onto the new information. I hope the presentation allows them to see and hear the important facts, because I tried to eliminate a lot of the clutter. It’s easy to put a lot of text and pump information into presentations, but I hoped that simplicity would help them knit together the important things without having too sort through an overwhelming amount of facts. In addition, I created a specific starting point so that we created a goal for the unit. I usually practice this, but it’s a great reminder to put it on a slide and create a visual of the goals for the kids.

I was excited to use Prezi, because even though I told myself I needed to start using it this past year, I had yet to create an account. I think presentations like this allow so many great resources to be streamlined together, which is why they are great for helping to foster disciplined and synthesizing minds in our classrooms. I am happy to understand it, and I see how user friendly it is. I think these presentations look amazing and can make such a wonderful impact compared to my some of my old PowerPoints.

Gardner, H. (2007). Five minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.



I chose to “clip” about the solar system because in 3rd grade we concentrate a lot on this topic. We go on two field trips that help us learn about the solar system. I use Discovery Education to organize and store a lot of my resources for the unit, but this is a great way to organize different resources from other places than Discovery Ed. I really like the icons that identify what kind of resource each “clip” is. When I’m on Pinterest and I click on a picture I get frustrated if it’s a video when I expected an article, a picture when I expected a recipe, a dead end link when an image really caught my eye, etc.  I love knowing exactly what type of resource I’m getting when I click here. I appreciate this being simple educational resources. I can create boards and easily bring it up in my classroom to click through a board about the solar system, fractions, or writing ideas, without students getting a social media feel. In addition, I really enjoy scrolling through resources and not having to think of a million topics at once. This site is a nice change of pace that allows me not to be distracted by “DIY Stainless Steel Cleaner”, “10 Great Core Exercises”, or “Delicious Recipes for Summer” pins when I’m looking for educational resources.


Erin 🙂