Let’s Build a School!


If you enjoy Twitter conversations on education and you’re not yet familiar with #slowchatED, I highly recommend having a look. Rather than juggling questions and answers at the breakneck pace of many popular discussions, the #slowchatED model offers the opportunity for conversations that may benefit from a little more reflection. We push out one question per day over the course of a week, and throughout the week, participants are welcome to share their ideas as they are able and at their own pace.

Using the #slowchatED model, I’d like for us to design a school together, looking at individual aspects of school models over the course of the discussion. We’ve discussed similar questions in other Twitter groups, but I don’t believe that we’ve given ourselves sufficient time to explore our own ideas in depth, nor have I see much discussion of what an actual schedule, org chart, etc. would look like, if we had a say in their creation. With this particular discussion, I’m hoping to see not just theoretical ideas but actual concrete and specific solutions to the problems we’ve all dealt with. It’s one thing to give our opinions as critics, but it’s another thing altogether to offer real solutions to the problems we regularly discuss from the point of view of designers—we need to start doing more of this kind of work. Though each question below is broad enough for a Twitter discussion of its own, we’ll use them to work toward our own designs for successful school models in this way:

Q1 What does your ideal school calendar look like (i.e., daily schedule, teaching vs. service days, etc.)?
Q2 What does your ideal physical space look like (e.g., classrooms, offices, community space, etc.)?
Q3 Describe the ideal organizational structure of your school. Who makes decisions and how?
Q4 How do you hire, train, and retain quality teaching talent? Outline your ideal supporting PD program.
Q5 What else makes your ideal school unique or what wild idea would you love to try? What did we miss?
Q6 Write your school’s mission statement.

I’m eager to hear a variety of thoughts on these questions, but I’m even more excited for the ancillary conversations that will be born from our discussion. In particular, I’m curious to know what I haven’t yet thought of as being of central importance for school design. It will certainly be the case that the room will be smarter than any individual, and thanks to the variety of points of view and the general diversity of opinion on Twitter, I expect that these questions will be just starting points allowing us to explore school design more deeply. I hope that we push each other’s ideas to give us the opportunity to dive deeply into what we think is fundamental for school design. There will be no wrong answers!

With these questions as our starting point, how might we design a school? This is your perfect world in which you get to build your perfect school. Assume that there are no restrictions or limits for our designs; but however imaginative and revolutionary they may be, let’s also try to build a school that’s feasible. At the end of the week, I’ll invite everyone to reflect on our respective school designs and capture your model in a blog post of your own to share what you learned in the process. I can’t wait to see what we each build over the course of the week of Feb. 9 on #slowchatED.


#SlowchatED: Educators Empowering Student Voice

My summary from moderating #SlowchatED week of February 2, Educators Empowering Student Voice

Heart of a Teacher

This past week I had the lovely honour of moderating #slowchatED, and the topic was Student Voice.

There was a lot of energy especially the first few days of the chat. Participants were driven to empower each other and discuss strategies and techniques they use in their classrooms to empower student voice. Let me preface this and say that the entire chat and everyone, and I mean *everyone* literally had the best ideas and most genuine participation, they were truly there because they’re invested in their students. So my highlights will not do the chat justice.

Here are some of my favourite highlights of the chat:

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#SlowchatED: Empowering Student Voice in the Classroom & Beyond

i always wondereed

Rusul Alrubail‘s guest blog post for #slowchatED Week of February 2.

Student voice and autonomy is so important to foster in a learning environment. When students are empowered in the learning process their motivation and engagement with learning automatically increases. The results are positive for both the teacher and students when students take charge and become active agents in their own learning.

I wrote about student autonomy a few months ago here: https://medium.com/teaching-learning/student-autonomy-e56bd45a7f51

This was my most recommended and viewed post for a while, and I think it’s because so many of us believe in the power of student voice.

Student voice is important because:

  • It allows students to be empowered to learn.
  • It creates active agents in the classroom, school and community.
  • It tailored knowledge, learning, process to the needs of the learner.
  • It defines the future of education.
  • It has the power to change the world.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts this week when you join us at #SlowchatEd.

CHANGE is in the air

Sometimes, you could use a little change. PARKING METER WITH TIME EXPIRED FLAG

But then, other times, you’re like, “No. No thanks. You can keep the change.”The Patrice Alegre Affair

One thing is for certain, though: Change is ubiquitous.

We can fight it. We can try to deny the inevitability of it. But change is a constant, a force of nature, and something that, in the end, we must either embrace or risk being left behind.

The topic for this week’s #slowchatED came from a number of changes impending in my life, but the impetus in the moment I decided to Tweet the first question

was something that may seem like a small thing, but even now, nearly twelve hours later, I’m still plagued by the tendrils of it.

Our district is changing email servers. We are finally embracing all that Google has to offer educators and leaving the world of Microsoft Exchange behind. As someone trusted to pilot this change, I am now stuck in the middle of the two platforms receiving some messages here, others there, some on both, and find myself constantly locked out of the overall system due to some device somewhere that is still banging away with the password I was using before this change entered my life.

When I add this to the possibility of leaving the classroom for an administrative position, a new superintendent being sought by our Board of Managers, and the many changes that Board has brought to our district, I find myself thinking more and more often recently about what change means to us. How do people deal with major change in healthy ways? What kind of people embrace change? What kind of people fear it? Why do we fear it?

These questions in one form or another will guide our discussion through this week. Be sure to check back every day through Saturday for a new question. And take your time. It’s #slowchatED.

Photos courtesy of Corbis Images

For the love of reading…

Image from Personal Excellence

Image from Personal Excellence

Reading. It’s the key to much of what we do as educators. Even the subjects that aren’t about “learning to read” such as Math, Science, and Physical Education still require “reading to learn.” And, of course, reading isn’t just about books. Reading is the key to digital learning, too. Heck, you’re reading right now so you will know what is happening when you read the #SlowChatEd tweets all week.

How do we become readers? How can we encourage our students to become readers? We’ll spend the week sharing titles and links to books, articles, and blog posts. Hopefully, these examples will reveal some of our personal experiences as readers and the experiences we create for students to turn them on to reading. (more…)

Unfortunately there will be daily problems for you to solve, Fortunately….

Hi everyone. Our daily stories are built upon a torrent of conflicts.

  • How to get rid of those ants.
  • How to motivate the unmotivated.
  • How to share something new.
  • How to stay healthy.
  • How to spend more time becoming a better teacher, while spending enough time with friends and family.

I started #slowchatED last year because I wanted to create a deep pocket of learning in the sometimes shallow pool of Twitter chats. As of now #slowchatED is one of the few regular slow chats on Twitter. A chat that runs an entire week instead of an entire hour. Where other chats are a waterpark ride, #slowchatED is a lap pool. Well, for some people that’s not enough. Some people want to practice scuba diving in our lap pool and go deep. I’m going to blow out the bottom of the pool and allow each of you to explore the story of your problems using a children’s book. This book:

Final Edit Fortunately

Go to this blog post to read more about using Remy Charlip’s book in your class. 

So here’s the technique:

Each day I will pose an “Unfortunately” problem for you to solve. You can solve the problem with words, links, blog posts, songs, videos, photos, drawings… whatever. Once you tweet your “Fortunately” answer then the fun begins. Either myself or someone else will throw an “Unfortunately” at your solution and take the discussion deeper. All stories are a series of conflict, resolution, new conflict, attempt at resolution, resolution that makes things worse, conflicts that make things unexpectedly better and so on.


Who knows where our story will lead?

We will continue this for the entire day. Solutions being provided and new challenges getting in the way of easy solutions. We will add depth to the width of our exploration. Once I throw down the initial “Unfortunately” feel free to play antagonist or protagonist. You can even come to the aid of one of your fellow teachers and save the day… for now.

Then the next day a new “Unfortunately” problem will raise it’s ugly head.


Hey relax…. you’ve got more than an hour to answer these questions. That’s why they call it #SLOWchatED


Can’t wait to see what rises to the surface. Enjoy the moment and get ready for #slowchatED starting Monday Jan. 12th.

The Topic: A chat about how “Unfortunately” the problems in your life are neither simple nor finite.

PS if you have any particular “Unfortunately” dilemmas you would like me to propose for a day please DM or Google DM me your ideas. Thanks…. your faithful skipper and the old man of the #slowchatED sea,  David Theriault 


Monday 1/12/15: Q1 “Unfortunately” Your boss put you in charge of the new [terrible idea] “task force” Your first meeting is this Friday. #slowchatED


Tuesday 1/13/15: Q2: You wanted to create an awesome classroom environment but UNFORTUNATELY you are the traveling teacher this year. #threerooms #slowchatED


Wednesday 1/14/15: Q3: 

Q3bThursday Jan 15th, 2015: Q4


Q5: Friday 1/16/15 Use the #slowchatED to participate


Here is the archive of the entire #slowchatED chat: there was no question six on Saturday because I attended edcampLA. Hope you enjoyed the topic and discussion. See you soon.

#EdTechWish, Jan 5- Jan 10 #SlowChatEd Topic

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

Do you have a wish? As a former Special Education Teacher working in high-needs districts around the country, my wish in 2015 was for all schools to have the technology they so desperately need to create engaging schools and learners. Too often the highest needs schools have the least access to technology.  Why is that? This question (and a dinner conversation with my brother) prompted #EdTechWish.

Read the original #EdTechWish blog post here.

The entire premise of #EdTechWish centered around the thought that much of what comes out of Technology Design today usually is an education “accident” (hello iPads and Chromebooks). The business of technology design is, more times than not, just not centered around the classroom environment.

My twin brother, Ash, works for a high-tech Design and User Experience Firm here in Chicago and is an amazing technical designer and overall great person. While discussing new technology design over dinner one evening, my question to him was simple:

“Why does it seem like new technology keeps coming out that “accidentally” works well in the classroom? Shouldn’t Tech Developers (such as yourself) be reaching out to Schools/ Teachers/ Districts FIRST to create and design tech rather than the other way around?”

You can read a more tongue-in cheek version of this conversation in the original post.

The conversation got me thinking–What would happen if we started a chat on Twitter asking EDUCATORS what THEY want to see for new Tech in 2015 for help in their classrooms? Might this have an impact on the way technology is designed? Rather than having large Tech giants start projects that just so happen to work well for our classrooms, why not start by asking what schools/ teachers/ and classrooms need first?

And thus,  #EdTechWish was born.

Margaret Mead writes, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” With that in mind, how can we change the way Tech is designed for Education?

Please join us for the #SlowEdChat this week on #EdTechWish. Share your ideas and wishes for what technology you’d like to see in the new year, and maybe– just maybe, we can change how technology is designed for the classroom.

Please join the #EdTechWish conversation or follow me on twitter @lindseylipsky.


A big thank you to @ecsaibel for this amazing invite and @FarleyJeffrey for introducing me to #SlowChatEd. Can’t wait for our conversations this week! It’s an honor to work with you all!


The Patient Art (and Flow) of Influence: #SlowchatED Dec 15-21


Courtesy of Maddie, @HallMiddle 8th grader

We often talk about influence as a commodity – something to be “peddled.” People make careers out of influencing others (e.g. lobbyists), yet the concept of “influence” can also have an unsavory undertone. Influence as a contagion, something difficult to contain once let out into the open; an idea or mentality (or substance) that sullies something pure.

What if we took more time to think and talk about influence as a spirit of connection, a frame of mind – one that encourages us to both share ideas with others (and perhaps see them take root) and open ourselves up to what other people think and believe (and to feel those ideas take root in us)? (more…)

Making ideas real (December 8 – 12)

For connected educators, it seems like there is a never-ending flow of new ideas. From education websites and blogs to the ‘drinking from the firehose’ experience of trying to keep up with all things education on Twitter, you can find great ideas any way you turn. How do you take those ideas and make them into reality?

Monday: Share an idea you recently implemented in your school.

Tuesday: What are your favorite sources for new ideas?

Wednesday: How do you manage the flow of ideas?

Thursday: Share an idea you are working on now. How are you moving from idea to reality?

Friday: How can we support each other and our colleagues to implement new ideas?

With everyone sharing their ideas you may pick up some new ones of your own. Hopefully, it’s worth the risk.

Defining Our #EduFuture (August 18-24)

 old school

“The future” is a loaded term – one that evokes tremendous flights of imagination AND trepidation in myriad art forms.  Most science fiction looks into the future (or, like Star Wars, looks at societies from “long ago” that are clearly more technologically advanced than we are) and sees a mixture of fantastical technology and dystopic social realities.  The list is long: in the recent film Elysium, the technology exists to cure terminal cancer by simply lying down in a machine for a few moments, but this is only accessible to the wealthy who have fled Earth to live on a (really cool looking) space station; the rest of humanity lives in squalor and disease.

Our vision for the future – at least through the lens of science fiction – is rife with deep anxiety and stark dichotomies.

Is science fiction arguing that, the more powerful our technology becomes, the more fractured our social dynamic?   (more…)