Transform Educational Consulting We help schools grow and develop 21st century learners Mon, 08 Jun 2020 15:44:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Black Lives Matter: Three Ways to Discuss Racism With Students Sun, 07 Jun 2020 11:50:26 +0000 For every event of such blatant racism caught on video, there are a thousand more incidents of racism lying beneath the surface.

As educators, how do we help address and discuss such a difficult topic with our students?

Activity #1: Picture Discussion Protocol 

This is an activity allows students to uncover the underlying causes of inequity.

The setup: Project a picture at the front of your classroom, or if meeting with online learners- on a shared screen in Zoom. I like this picture:

The Discussion: Ask students to answer these three questions in this order:

What do you see? What do you infer? How might this picture represent our society? First they reflect silently in a journal; next with a partner, and lastly as a class.

Activity #2: Walk the Line 

This activity allows students to address issues of institutionalised racism by seeing it visibly represented by the class.

The Setup: Create a taped line that says ‘start.’ Create a taped line 10 meters away that says ‘finish.’

The Activity: Read a series of statements and have students take one step forward if it represents their situation.

Sample statements: (List of statements here)

1. All those whose parents spoke English as a first language, take one step forward.
2. All those who have vacationed in a foreign country, take one step forward.
3. All those whose parent or parents have completed college take one step forward.
4. All those who commonly see people of their race or ethnicity on television or movies in roles you consider degrading, take one step back.

The Discussion: Use these following questions for reflection.

What do you think the ‘finish line’ represents? Where did you end up in this activity? How has this activity changed the way you think about race?

Activity #3: Underlying Bias Gallery Walk Activity

This is an activity that helps students uncover underlying biases and impressions they have of people based on race, clothes, culture, or background.

The setup: Find, print out and place 10 pictures of different people around the classroom. Tell students they are going to complete an activity on ‘trust.’

The Activity: Give students two minutes to silently move to the picture of the person they deem to be ‘most trustworthy.’ It’s very important that students do not talk until after the two minutes is up.

The Discussion: After every student has taken their place, ask the following questions:

What about this person seems ‘trustworthy?’ What do you think this person has in common with you? Does this person remind you of someone you know? Why does this person look ‘distrust-worthy?’ What biases did this activity uncover for you?

After having time to discuss, share the short narratives of each person around the room.

Going Deeper

There are a lot of powerful discussions happening around the topic of racism right now.

If you are looking for a place to start, my friend and educational Danny Bauer has put out a few great ‘podcast episodes addressing the topic in schools here – – – -> Antiracist Podcast Episodes

On Twitter, I suggest joining a Twitter chat to hear how other educators are addressing the topic. Here is one I really like.

Thanks for all you do for kids and for continuing to speak out against racism.

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How to Create a Culture of Continual Feedback and Reflection in Your Classroom Mon, 25 May 2020 08:28:14 +0000

Last week we discussed beautiful work, and how to ensure our students create it.

And while it’s easy for us to strive for beautiful work, it’s just as easy to forget that this work is oftentimes the result of hours upon hours of continual feedback and reflection.

Albert Einstein once famously said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem, and 5 minutes thinking about a solution.”

How do we help students take the same methodical approach in their project work?

I spoke with Alfie Cheung (, an incredible educator and design based thinking expert about strategies he uses to create a culture of continual reflection and feedback in his classroom. Using a simple, repeatable process, Alfie has students as young as 11 designing innovative solutions to problems ranging from traffic congestion, to limited exercise activity at local parks. He teaches us as teachers how to help students shift from…

Focusing on Product – – – – – – – – – – > Focusing on Process

In our short interview, you will learn:

👍🏼 How to create a culture of continual reflection and revision

👍🏼 How to provide high-quality feedback for students using simple strategies

👍🏼 Why to never throw away ‘first drafts’

👍🏼 How to help students become as comfortable with failure as they are with success

👍🏼 The simple way to capture student’s imagination, and retain it

👍🏼 How to lighten your burden as a teacher and get the students doing the heavy lifting in projects

Watch the whole interview and get access to the 12 shifts for student- centered learning below.

12 Shifts for Student- Centered Classrooms

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How to get students to submit beautiful work Sat, 23 May 2020 11:57:57 +0000

What is beautiful work?

This was the question on the minds of two extraordinary elementary and secondary innovators during this period of remote learning. More specifically:

How do we shift students from completing work for a worksheet or exam to producing professional, beautiful work for a real-world audience?

They both created something truly unprecedented.

Imagine your students creating and curating a virtual museum of artifacts that included their performances, artwork, presentations and musical compositions. Or compiling a digital cookbook with professionally recorded videos, interviews, and recipes from their family’s most famed meals.

In these two short interviews, you will learn from Director of Visual and Performing Arts Matt Neylon and 5th Grade Teacher/ PBL coach Alexa Lepp to guide students in producing this kind of ‘beautiful work’ and how to:

  • Get students to hold themselves to higher expectations and save you from ‘working all hours of the day’
  • Get students to ‘fall in love’ with reading and writing using by using real world models’
  • Connect students to experts in the field for critique and review within your own Facebook and Twitter communities
  • Create virtual exhibitions to showcase student work that are more intriguing than Minecraft
  • Stop aiming for perfection and accept that your students’ work is beautiful and deserves to be seen

Get the full interview and the 12 other shifts for student- centered learning here:

12 Shifts for Student- Centered Learning 

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How to Motivate Students Without Awarding a Single Grade Mon, 18 May 2020 11:20:42 +0000

Marc Shulman (website) of High Tech High had one of those students who seemed impossible to reach.

He never turned in any homework. Tuned out during class. And didn’t seem to care whether his grade was an ‘F’ or an ‘A.’ Marc tried everything to motivate this student; from lowered grades, to parent phone calls, to personal one on one chats. Nothing worked.

And then Marc tried something different. This simple, yet incredibly powerful thing he did got not only this troubled student working late hours into the night; but the rest of his class as well.

And it had nothing to do with grades.

In this short interview, you will learn what student motivation expert and 8th grade Math/ Science teacher Marc did, as well as how to:

 Motivate your most troubled students
 Build relationships before building content
 Seamlessly move from the ‘sage on the stage’  to the architect behind the scenes
 Get students as young as 12 to produce professional work for real clients…and get paid for it
 Create a classroom of high expectations where every student plays a part

Get access to the full interview and the 12 other shifts here. 

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How to Lead With Inquiry, Not Content Thu, 14 May 2020 08:13:55 +0000 When we return to our classrooms post CoVid 19, whether it’s a blended classroom, or the one we left when this whole tragedy began, it will be tempting to try and make up for lost time.

Pound the books.

Over-schedule, over-structure, and immediately immerse students in academic content.

But as student- centered innovators, we know this isn’t the way to rebuild.

How do we start instead with student inquiry? 

Rosie Westall (, a kindergarten teacher and ‘democratic classrooms’ expert, teaches us how to make this shift. In this short interview, you will learn as a fellow student- centered educator how to:

  • Use simple classroom routines to put students in charge of the learning process
  • Masterfully guide learning in whatever direction your students want to take it
  • Use student passion and interest as a starting point for the learning process- and still be able to teach them how to read, write and do arithmetic
  • ‘Trust in the Process’
  • Get students to ask questions that would baffle full grown adults
  • “Sit back and listen and watch the little people in this world blow you away.”

This interview is part of a 12 series shift to student- centered classrooms. Start making your classroom more student- centered and get access to all the shifts below:

12 Shift Series

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How to Create a Co-designed and Co-Curated Classroom Mon, 11 May 2020 07:40:59 +0000 Imagine your students, in firmly pressed suits and colourful dresses, standing next to their re- constructed models of ancient civilisations, articulating in detail to a room full of adults reasons why they fell.

Imagine their work being so impressive that a local museum curator asked to feature it in an upcoming exhibition.

This is the kind of work Linda Amici (@LindaAmici), a fifth grade teacher gets 10 year old gets students to produce in her co-created and co-designed classroom. In her classroom, students choose how they work, who they work with, and what they work on.

I sat down with Linda to learn how she creates this kind of co-designed space, and how teachers new to this kind of learning can make the shift as well.

In this short interview, Linda teaches us how to:

Develop and deepen student questions
Gently guide without overpowering
Save ourselves time and headaches by letting go
Set up simple routines to help students direct their own learning
Get students to produce work that makes adults’ jaws drop

Get access to this shift and start making the shift to a student centered classroom below:

12 Shifts for Student- Centered Classrooms.

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How to Create a Connected, Interdisciplinary Classroom Wed, 06 May 2020 07:36:02 +0000 When our students return post CoVid 19, they are going to require learning that moves beyond the four walls of our classrooms.

As global problem solvers, they will need skills that run across multiple subjects, disciplines and areas of expertise.

How as innovative, student-centered educators do we create these kinds of experiences for our students? 

I sat down with student-centered guru Loni Berqvist, a former High Tech High Educator and Founder of ‘Imagine If,’ to answer this question. In this short interview Loni teaches us:

 The starting point for interdisciplinary planning (spoiler alert: it’s usually not subject specific standards)

 How to seamlessly connect content across 3-5 subject areas in a short 5 minute meeting with fellow colleagues

 How the best project ideas come from places you’d least expect them

 Why it’s ok not to know everything

 How to design experiences that have even the toughest students begging you for more learning

Get access to the interview and the whole 12 shift learning series on creating student-centered classrooms below:

12 Shift Learning Series 

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The Twelve Shifts for Student Centered Learning Wed, 06 May 2020 06:35:14 +0000 In a few weeks to the next few months, many of us will begin the biggest project of our lives.

Re-opening our classrooms. 

Some of us have already started. My friend Kevin Zou, a school leader in Dali, China has already disinfected the hallways; installed temperature monitoring checkpoints at the front of school; created staff protocols to ensure student safety; and communicated new procedures to parents and other key stakeholders.

And while like us, he will try his best to create a sense of ‘normalcy,’ post CoVid 19, he knows that school as he knew it before will never return to ‘normal.’

The post CoVid student will emerge more resilient, independent, self- assured and self- aware than ever before. As a result, they will demand a new kind of schooling.

One centered around their needs, passions, interests and inquiry.

The Twelve Shifts Necessary for Student- Centered Learning

As a commitment to you and the work you lead, for the next six weeks, I will share the twelve teacher shifts to transform our classrooms from places where students wait for us, to places where students lead each other; seek out and explore answers independently; act empathetically; engage in deep and meaningful work; and collaborate seamlessly with peers and adults in the real world.

The twelve shifts are community curated from research and interviews with some of the most innovative leaders and schools in the world.

Preparing to Make the Shifts

The first step is to re-imagine or re-visit our collective vision for student learning.

What kind of students are we hoping to create? What activities/ things will the ‘ideal’ student be doing? How will they think? How will they behave? 

Work together with your subject or grade level teacher team to explore these questions. Provide everyone an opportunity to share, and use stories from your classrooms or remote learning experiences to serve as inspiration.


Next, identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in relationship to this collective vision. (examples above).

You are now ready for the twelve shifts. I look forward to sharing the first one with you in Wednesday’s email!

<<First Name>>, thanks for all you do for kids.

Your PBL and School- Reopening Coach,

p.s. Need support shifting to student centered learning? I would love to add you to the list of teachers I’m supporting in the 2020-2021 school year. Schedule a short 30 minute discovery call to discuss your challenges and I will share ways I can help!

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Five Ways to Increase Collaboration Online Wed, 06 May 2020 06:32:17 +0000 There is nothing worse than feeling isolated.

At times it happens on our school campuses. But online, it happens all the time. Some students are spending entire days without seeing a single peer.

How do you build community and foster collaboration between students online?

This is the question our group of innovators explored during our weekly call. Here’s what we came up with:

1. Create smaller student groups: Connect smaller student groups via Microsoft Teams or Zoom small meetings. Provide them with some activities or weekly check-ins. Watch your online community transform.

2. Hold ‘Watch Parties’ on watch2gether.comStruggling with viewership of your video lessons? Hold ‘watch parties.’ Love this example from innovator Matt Neylson. On this website, you can watch recorded content together. Even better, you can hold big online celebrations like assemblies!

3. Peer Support Mentors: Students might not feel comfortable in big groups, but with one other peer mentor, watch them come alive. Maria, a teacher in Qingdao has created a peer mentorship program where students mentor and teach other through video content. She said it has transformed her level of participation.

4. Use Collaborative ‘asychronous’ online tools: Padlet, Flipgrid, Teams, and Google Docs or all great collaborative tools to help students connect throughout the week.

5. Collaborative WhiteBoards: The Zoom whiteboard feature works wonders. But away from meetings, awwapp is a great whiteboard tool to continue connecting learners. Use it to brainstorm possible class names, ways to exhibit work, or even ideas to celebrate completing exams. Watch even your shyest students come to life!

(our brainstorm process via Zoom)

Have a favorite tool you use to increase collaboration online? I would love to feature it in a future email.

Thanks for all you do!

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Resources and Ideas to Further Engage Your Online Learners Fri, 03 Apr 2020 04:27:29 +0000 Are you having trouble engaging your online learners?

So is everybody else. (me included)

Here are the five biggest challenges teachers just like you are facing:

  1. Getting students to actively participate
  2. Keeping the attention of their Early Years Learners (ages 4-6)
  3. Differentiating for their learners
  4. Getting students to submit quality work
  5. Setting up an engaging platform/ system for students

I’ve crowd- sourced some of the best teachers across Hong Kong to find some answers to each of these questions for you. The community padlet below is full of tips and strategies to keep remote learners engaged, I hope you find them useful:

Tips and Strategies to Keep Learners Engaged and Empowered

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