It’s Here! Class Dojo Student Stories

Everyone’s buzzing about student portfolios!  This summer it was one of the most requested sessions for summer professional development and I’m really excited about how they’ll increase student ownership in the classrooms in my district this year!

Today ClassDojo released Student Stories, an easy way for students to add photos and videos of their classroom work to a digital portfolio.  So it’s kinda like Instagram for school.  Parents will now be able to follow along with their child’s learning — a photo of a poem they wrote, a video of their volcano erupting, a message on how exciting it was to finally solve a tough math problem. Just one photo can now spark hours of conversation at home. Parents, students, and teachers become part of a shared classroom experience.

Made with young learners in mind, Student Stories is incredibly easy to use. After a quick scan of a classroom QR code, students use a shared classroom iPad (Chromebooks and Androids coming soon!) to take photos or videos of their work and add a reflection or comment.

A simple tagging feature allows any student to add the work to their digital portfolio – along with others in the classroom for those projects done in groups. Nothing is saved or sent home without teacher approval, after which the images are instantly shared with parents wherever they are.

For more information on Student Stories, check out I think you, your students, and their parents are going to love it! And if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help 🙂

Until the next time,


Failure to Connect or And You Wonder Why They Don’t Like You….

This post has been weighing on me for at least a week now.  As I’ve gotten angrier and angrier, I blamed myself – I should have NEVER engaged in a Facebook post, it’s only what I deserved.  The post, from a former coworker, insinuated that the #BlackLiveMatters movement was created on the basis of hate and that it will cause for America to be lawless, because in essence it was THOSE men’s fault that they were killed and we’re wrong for defending the bias and racism that initiated the initial action and subsequent reaction.  I shared my feelings on the reality behind the movement, the fact that NOTHING those men did warranted the death penalty without judge and jury, and how black lives have not been valued for as long as we have been in this country. Slavery, Jim Crow, the influx of crack into black neighborhoods, anyone?

The response?  “As long as everyone stays calm and respectful, there shouldn’t be any problems”.  And I call straight up bull on that!  How long has this been the preference – the quiet negro….the mild negro…..the “go along to get along” negro….?  But what happens when enough is enough?

Meek Negro

Once the “Negro/Black Man/Person of Color” has had enough and initiates a movement, they are considered disrespectful, hate filled, dangerous.  Whatever happens – they “had it coming to them”, right? A comment on that particular post said this:

The whole reason the police were called is because a homeless man was asking Alton Sterling for money and he couldn’t give it to him.  Instead, he flashed his illegal gun.  So the homeless man had the cops called.  I bet now he wishes he had been a literal more generous with his CD money, or at the very least, been cooperative with the police.

Wait, what?  Alton Sterling didn’t want to give a homeless person money and he deserved the DEATH SENTENCE?? Seriously…..

In a state of denial, I asked a friend to look at the post.  I had to ask, was it just me?  Am I wrong in my thinking? Her response:

Well I’ll be!  And I’m not so ignorant to believe that everyone will understand our plight, but to be an educator and to have this mindset, let alone publicize it, parallels perfectly with her inability to have never been able to build a relationship with her students of color.

I immediately thought of this quote by the incomparable Rita Pierson from her 2013 TedTalk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion”.

Rita Pierson

If you refuse to understand your kids….if you refuse to empathize with them…make connections with them, what are you doing?  Why are you even here? Being an effective educator, no matter the race, color, or creed, depends on not only having a mastery of the subject matter but mastery of what it takes to build positive relationships. And as long as we make no effort to do better….be better – we are a part of the long suffering and corruptive system that all those years ago as pre-service teachers we passionately said we wanted to change. If you are going to do the work in those places, it is imperative that you understand the plight of children of color….children of poverty.  And not only understand it, but digest it, use it, believe in it to make this world a better place for us all.  Or, as a 50+ year sorority sister member said to us (in something totally related)….”Get the HELL out!”

Until the next time,






We Gotta Wake Up Ya’ll!

My heart is so heavy. So so heavy.  I’m emotionally….spiritually…..physically drained with the events that have transpired this week.  Last night I was so exhausted I couldn’t even talk….literally. I crawled in the bed and was asleep by 9:30.

On the way to work today, I was listening to the Steve Harvey Morning Show and there was an officer who was on as an interviewed guest. There was a question asked of him about things that could be done to better prepare officers so that they’re not afraid and don’t overreact when they encounter people of color.

Immediately I thought about a conversation I’d just had yesterday with a few colleagues of mine about teachers who are afraid and/or overreact when they deal with children of color. We talked about how sometimes people get into this profession for the wrong reasons, how frequently they’re ill equipped to handle difficult students who are not like them, how sometimes they become jaded and apathetic to the needs of children, or how truthfully…..I don’t even think they even LIKE kids.

The correlation between our conversation and that interview was startling! Do we all think that preparation programs (higher ed and police academy) do an effective job of getting these babies (and I mean no offense by that) ready for what they’ll encounter when they walk into that classroom, police car, office on their very first day? Heck No! They come in bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to change the world. And then that exuberance is beat out of them through the pressures of being overwhelmed and under supported, lack of mentoring, and sometimes being led astray by cynical colleagues who just don’t give a crap anymore.

But since these situations aren’t just happening with young fresh faced darlings, that cannot be the entire problem. So what’s really missing is tolerance, empathy, and a refusal to acknowledge our own biases. Someone shared a Facebook post where a teacher shared her passion and desire to teach her kids to be color blind. Frankly, that’s straight up bull. 9 times out of 10, race is the most effective way of identifying someone. No one should be afraid to say that someone is White or Black or Hispanic as a way to describe them. That’s NOT the problem. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, it’s not the fact that someone is a different color, race, or religion than us that’s the problem. It’s the biases that we associate with those differences that are the problem. It is unrealistic to say that we are completely unbiased. It is only when we acknowledge those biases and work towards changing them and healing our country.

Our country is in peril and we will all perish if we don’t work towards being better….each and every one of us.

Until the next time,


The Revolution Will Be Periscoped (My Thoughts on #ISTE16)


Photo by LatheeshMahe © CC BY-SA 4.0

Exciting….exhausting….empowering….are all words that I would use to describe my first ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference experience.  First of all, I think I bit off waaaay more than I could chew with my commitment to the ISTE Digital Equity PLN and my EdTech Coaches panel…plus my desire to DO IT ALL….attend every meeting, luncheon, breakfast, and meet-up planned for this amazing experience.  CRAZY!

As I’ve spent the past few days attempting to process my trip, I wavered on the focus for this post.  Should I talk about the meet ups and my sessions? Should I talk about my work with #ISTEDEPLN? Or should I talk about what’s been tugging at my heart strings since Tuesday?  My Tuesday  experiences are totally unrelated, yet significantly parallel activities – watching Jesse Williams’ BET Humanities Award speech that morning right before heading into the Keynote Address of Ruha Benjamin and the miraculous conversation that occurred with her, Rusula, Mustafa, and Ymasumac.

rhua convo

Anyone who knows me – knows that I have a weakness for the underdog. I’ve spent all my years in education in high poverty/low income schools where the odds are sometimes stacked impossibly high against them even before they exit the wombs of their mothers.  I know without a doubt this comes from growing up with parents who instilled in me a pride in who I am and the charge to make this world a better place.  My parents were activists in every sense of the word – my mother was actually arrested and imprisoned during the Civil Rights movement for her work while she was a student at Claflin.  Both of them were extremely active in our local NAACP, which meant that my brother and I were as well.  “Service and Equality for All” are words that I live by.  Action – Make this world a better place by being a better person.

Last Tuesday morning, I wasn’t sure if I was going to that morning’s keynote.  Most times I have difficulty focusing for that long – so why bother.  I sat downstairs in the lobby of a hotel waiting on a friend and as I was surfing through Facebook, I saw the link to Jesse Williams’ BET Award’s speech.  I had the time….so I clicked.  Oh  my gosh….I was blown away!

Now, this award – this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country – the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. – Jesse Williams (2016 BET Awards)

And after watching that….hearing that….digesting that…. I was compelled to go to that keynote. And I am so glad that I did.  To hear Hadi talk about Hour of Code and CS for All and then Levar Burton discuss the power or reading was powerful – but to hear Ruha……no words….none.

I was spellbound.  Her words were a direct connection to what I’d heard that morning and it deeply resonated with me.

Why is it that we can imagine building heart cells in a lab, but not empathy for others who are not like us?……..Children today live in parallel worlds where some are nurtured and others crushed. – Ruha Benhamin (#ISTE16 Keynote)

If you’re interested in reading the full transcript, click here.

Later in the day, still pumped up from the keynote, I found out that my sweet friend Rusul was granted the opportunity to Periscope Ruha. I IMMEDIATELY sent her a message.

Me:  You’re interviewing Ruha tonight? Are groupies welcome?

Rusul:  You can join us!


That conversation and the subsequent periscope in that nondescript restaurant was EVERYTHING to me.  Ruha’s words, quickly gathered after two hours of us just talking about our place in this world….our responsibility to make it a better place, was so powerful the sky opened up.  Seriously.  A quickly passing thunderstorm showered rain and hail down abundantly.  For real.

My heart was so full after that and I was armed with a newfound strength to do what my parents, my mentors, my family and friends expected of me….change the world.  Not to get bogged down in the logistics of devices, tech tools, and help desk issues – but to focus on how I can use my influence to provide a better world for our children!

Whether you’ve been actually verbally told that or not…..I believe that we have a responsibility to make this world a better place than it was when we entered it.  And whether we want to believe it or not….in some ways….in so many ways – it’s not.  We can no longer put our heads in the sand….

As Jesse so eloquently stated….

Now… I got more y’all – yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12 year old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better than it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that toEric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt.
Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money – that alone isn’t gonna stop this. Alright, now dedicating our lives, dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.

Or should I say…..badges on our profile?

Until the next time,