Teach Them Kindness

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Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar with a new idea each day!

Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. – Bob Kerrey

Teaching citizenship isn’t an additional part of the curriculum. A good lesson plan or project will get students to learn how to be kind, generous, problem-solving, caring, compassionate, imaginative, creative, emphatic, and/or helpful while also getting them to learn. The goal is to get students to take what they are learning and use the knowledge and skills to somehow improve their current lives or improve the lives of others. These skills are important for their development and necessary to be successful in life. I am sharing activities, resources, tips, web tools and mobile apps that help students learn to be good people and also get them reading, writing, and more.

Ideas and Activities

  • The slideshow below provides students ideas on how to be kind in small quick ways. Get them to brainstorm the digital equivelant of each act like maybe smiling at someone by adding an emoji or sticker.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

  • Make an advent calendar in which everyday you suggest a small way for your students to be kind. Here’s a post and template on how to make an advent calendar with Google Docs and ThingLink.
  • Here’s an online Acts of Kindness advent calendar that emails you suggestions or take ideas from a previous version.
  • Better yet, have your students create their own calendars in which they commit to showing kindness for a week. After they complete the act, they should write a short reflection and post a link to it on their Thinglink advent calendar.
  • Here is a lesson plan I created to get your students to keep a Random Acts of Kindness journal that they later pass on to another student. They also give a presentation on the experience.
  • Inspire them with this 6 minute 40 second presentation (Pecha Kucha) about Kindness. A business student shares how performing random acts of kindness transformed her life.
  • You could get students to post videos, images, audio, or posts that exemplify kindness on a sticky wall like Padlet or LinoIt.
  • Show them any of these videos of kids performing acts of kindness and have them brainstorm ways they can be kind to others. They can add these ideas to a class cognitive map with Popplet. Popplet also has a free IOS app.
  • Have students create a school campaign to inspire others to spread kindness. They can create multimedia posters with Buncee, TackkSmore, Thinglink, Pic-CollageCanva, and Biteslide.
  • They can create a podcast about various acts of kindness. They can invite people around the school to share an anecdote then piece these clips together with an audio editor like Garage Band or Audacity. Find lesson templates and more information in this presentation about podcasting.
  • Read to them a story about kindness and have them share when someone was kind to them or when they witnessed kind acts. They can share these stories on Voicethread.
  • If you teach older students, have them adopt a younger class. They can pair up with the younger kids and teach them something new, read them books, or play games with them.
  • Students can create coupons that help the recipient in some way, such as help a peer study for a test, make lunch for someone, or do a chore.

Other Resources


Inspire your students to perform at least 5 simple acts of kindness and reflect on the experience.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Digital storytelling, by shellyterrell
Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar! Scroll the image below and each day discover free web tools, apps, and resources.

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This Year be an EduHero!

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A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Our world is full of hero potential waiting to be motivated, supported, and skilled. Teachers hold the key to unleashing that potential, yet many are wounded heroes themselves. According to Teachers Count, the average teacher impacts 3000 students within a lifetime. How many students have you already impacted? How many will you impact this year? What kind of impact will your students have on others and the world? We need you inspired, strong, and mission minded so that you inspire your learners to lead heroic lives.

Teachers are everyday heroes going through a journey. In order to become an EduHero you have to continue this journey. This year, I’m presenting keynotes on The EduHero Journey, which is my adaption of Campbell’s monomyth. I’ve been researching Campbell’s hero journey since 1997. According to Joseph Campbell, every hero (Jesus, Buddha, Superheroes, etc.) goes through a similar hero journey. I have outlined the stages below and included a slideshare of my recent closing keynote for the ITDIMOOC. For this initial presentation, I asked Sylvia Guinan, a teacher I consider an EduHero, to co-present my research with me and share her personal EduHero journey.

The EduHero Journey

I shortened the EduHero journey into these stages. If you choose to go on the EduHero Journey this year feel free to download any of these badges I made to go on your blog, eportfolio, or website:

  1. (Call to Adventure) Mission: Your mission this year is to join a League of EduHeroes and go on your EduHero Journey. You are not just a teacher. You have the ability to be a hero and model and guide students to be heroes. What makes a hero isn’t extraordinary talents. If you think of some of your favorite heroes- Spiderman, Ironman, Luke Skywalker, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, etc.- many were living ordinary lives until they answered their missions and endured the journey. Their choice and ability to endure is what makes them heroes. It is up to you to be brave enough to make the difficult, but very meaningful choice to go on the EduHero journey.
  2. Refusal of the Call: Many times I’ve felt like giving up on the journey, even refused the call, and other teachers have, too. I want to tell you that you have the skills, talents, and strength to do this. Understand that reading this post is not by accident. You are either one or a few of the teachers in your school, city, state, or country hearing this call. This isn’t the first time you’ve heard it. When you first decided to be a teacher, something inside you and beyond you called you to this mission and you chose it. Being a teacher is a very difficult journey and I congratulate you for answering the call.
  3. Meet with a Community of Mentors: Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. There is a league of extraordinary EduHeroes ready to offer support, resources, and guidance. These are educators who connect and support each other in online communities and social networks. Find an active community of mission minded teacher to join. These communities will ask you to participate in various events that will help you learn new skills while inspiring other EduHeroes. Some of the EduHero communities I am apart of and founded, include the 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, #Edchat, and the Reform Symposium E-Conference. Find others included in the presentation and via hashtags on Twitter. Cybraryman’s EduChat list will help you find a community of teachers with your specific interests (subject, grade level, country, and city).
  4. Experiencing the Unknown: You will encounter many new terms, trends, and technologies. Don’t worry your EduHero community will provide resources and support.
  5. Tests, Allies, Enemies: You will undergo many tests throughout your journey that will build you up as an EduHero. Each one you overcome will prepare you for a major obstacle. You will need to go to your EduHero Communities for help. You will meet many who will become close friends. You may also meet teachers, leadership, and others who resent your mission and the great things you are accomplishing. Heroes aren’t always loved, respected, or supported.
  6. Supreme Ordeal: You will experience major hurdles. For me these were depression, a cyberbully, my mother’s health, and other ordeals. The tests and support of my Passionate Learning Networks and EduHero communities is what helped me overcome.
  7. Reward: After surviving the ordeal, you will find a new strength, confidence or inspiration within yourself that will help inspire others. It will feel like your superpower!
  8. The Journey Home with the Elixir: As an EduHero who just endured the journey, you get to inspire your students, colleagues, parents, and school community with your newfound inspiration, mission, and skills.

EduHero Badge

It is important as EduHeroes that we inspire our students to also go on heroic journeys. We need our learners to feel like heroes, that it is their duty to care about the world. We need to inspire them to learn math, science, languages, writing, and literacy not to take tests, but because by obtaining these skills along their hero journeys they will be able to find cures, get closer to living in a peaceful world, lead meaningful lives, and solve world issues like hunger, poverty, and illiteracy. The only way that we will raise heroes is if we, their teachers, impart to them this mission and let them know we believe that each one of them has the ability and strength to be a hero if they just choose to endure the journey and learn the skills. Some of our students never hear adults or their everyday heroes they look up to tell them they have the ability to live meaningful lives and so they choose other things like drugs, crime, money, fame, and other things that hurt others. We need them to spread inspiration and care about others.


Ability of teachers to impact lives of individual children. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.teacherscount.org/wannateach/why/impact.shtml

Bronzite, D. (2013). The hero’s journey: Mythic structure of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. Retrieved from http://www.movieoutline.com/articles/the-hero-journey-mythic-structure-of-joseph-campbell-monomyth.html

Campbell, J. (1949). The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New World Library: Navato, CA. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=I1uFuXlvFgMC

Examples of each stage of a hero’s journey. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-each-stage-of-a-hero-s-journey.html

Hamby, Z. (n.d). The hero’s journey. Retrieved from http://www.mythologyteacher.com/The-Hero’s-Journey.php

Monomyth. (2014, July 23). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Monomyth&oldid=618058372


Join a connected community of EduHeroes and begin inspiring your students to lead heroic journeys. Don’t forget to download your EduHero badge.

If you enjoyed these resources, consider purchasing my ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Right now get the PDF and Kindle version for less than a few coffees. You may also want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

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The Conversation We Need To Have With Leadership

This post is part of Scott McLeod’s Leadership Day 2014

Mission: Value Your Time

This year, many of us will spend hours in school meetings feeling demotivated, bored, unappreciated, and stressed. We will spend a lot of time resenting our colleagues and our administrators, which will impact our teaching and our students’ success. It doesn’t have to be this way. You deserve to have your time valued, because you are on a grand mission to help the world learn. We need you inspired! Unfortunately, many of our administrators do not know how to value your time or support you. Therefore, I’m sending you on a mission to have a conversation with your leadership about changing how meetings are organized at your school. By having this one positive conversation with your leadership, you can possibly avoid wasting hours attending ineffective meetings. You will also do your school, staff, and students a tremendous amount of good, since meetings will focus on collaboration with peers to problem solve issues.

Via George Couros, http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/9188

Conversations That Inspire Change

This is an important conversation and we want our leadership to listen. This means you should approach leadership with appreciation for taking the time to consider your ideas, show them real examples of how you want to transform the meetings, and present the benefits of trying your idea. You need to also do this quite quickly in the first 5 to 10 minutes of the conversation. Think of this as your TEDTalk to your leadership. Go in with a set plan, show an example provided by your Personal/ Professional/ Passionate Learning Network (PLNs) and inspire your leadership to try it out for at least one meeting. You might even offer to help organize that meeting to save your leadership time. This means you may have to coordinate with another staff member you possibly might not get along with and you might be given some guidelines that thwart your initial plans, but you can make it work. You might want to try giving your spiel to one of our incredible connected principals who could help you make a better impact with your leadership. Find a list of their blogs and Twitter handle on Cybraryman’s Administrator Page. Remember this will save you hours of boredom and stress and enhance your school atmosphere considerably.

Inspiring Professional Development

In order to be effective you need to walk in with an alternative that works for your setting. Find many ideas in our June 29th #Edchat, where many teachers gathered to discuss ways to improve faculty and department meetings. Some of the ideas shared were flipping the meetings, hosting a meeting on Twitter, backchanneling, following the Edcamp model, hosting technology and app smackdowns, inviting students to introduce technology, doing community building activities, making it more collaborative by having everyone contribute on a Google Doc, hosting the meeting in a different location around the school, letting teachers break into small groups to collaborate, and using the first 5 minutes for teachers to share something great they’re doing. Find many more examples of inspiring leaders supporting their teachers with meaningful professional development at ConnectedPrincipals.com, #CPChat, and the Principal Cast hosted by Teacher Cast.

In the meantime, you can be inspired by one of my favorite principals, Principal EL!




Have a meaningful conversation with leadership that can transform your school environment.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

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Passion, Potential, & Heroes That Fail Us

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 11.35.32 PM“The number one benefit of educational technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.” – Steve Ballmer


Some of you have heard my story. Yesterday, we celebrated my father’s birthday. My father’s passion was that his daughters be part of the first generation of Sanchez to graduate from college. We grew up in a poor neighborhood speaking Chicano English (CHE), in a city with the 2nd highest teen pregnancy in the US, in which Latinos at the time rarely graduated from high school. My grandparents dropped out by 3rd grade. My father has never had money and still struggles. For him to achieve this dream meant he had to cheat the system. My sisters and I all have our degrees. We broke a generation cycle and perpetuated new ones.

My father has always referred to me as his “pioneer.” I was his first born. I’m used to not having precedents, paving the way. I inherited passion and drive from him and I’ll always be incredibly grateful.


I, also, feel incredibly blessed to live at a time when technology strived to achieve the noble goal of putting the most powerful learning and communication tools in the hands of all people. Each day, we are starting to see that anyone, anywhere around the world has the potential to impact the world. I am the result of that potential. Fifty years ago, I would not have been able to share my passion with the world as a member of my race, gender, or social class. I am the first in my generation to have the access and the tools to inspire my world. I don’t take this mission lightly. My passion, sharing, and collaboration are the reason movements like The 30 Goals Challenge, #Edchat, and the Reform Symposium E-Conference exist. Each year, I am blessed to be able to inspire 100,000s of educators worldwide.

I’m Sorry, I Failed You

I am one of the pioneers of my profession, as an educator, female, minority, and technology leader. My passion and sharing have paved the way. Mostly, I get it right. Sometimes, I get it wrong. This year, I’ve gotten it very wrong. I’m sorry. We hold the weight of the messages we spread. No matter how defeated or broken we feel, we do not have the right to share messages that wound or hurt. I’ve seen too many of my heroes fall and never apologize or take the responsibility for their actions. I’m still healing from a very tough year, one I will gladly take, because I’ve also experienced so many magical moments. They say you learn best from failures and mistakes so I feel more confident in continuing this journey.

I want you to know I will commit to continuing the edumovements I help organize. And I will commit to inspiring. However, you should also know today begins one of the toughest trials for my family. I’ve made decisions to enable me to go through this. As my community and friends, please don’t ask questions or make colored assumptions.

A Generation Lacking Heroes

Now is the most critical time we need heroes and role models to make us feel the weight of our potential. Anyone, anywhere in the world has the potential to be viral. They can be the next Idol, X-Factor, Youtuber, Viner, Meme, gif, trend, or hashtag. They carry that potential with them everyday. It’s a staple of our digital society that shapes our routines, habits, and communication. Kids and teens already use it to impact millions with the messages they spread. They don’t have my 50,000 followers. They have 100,000s  to over a million. The most followed Viner is 15 years-old with over 6 million followers. They have the power to incite their followers to action. Their followers create memes and videos they spread. I struggle with my public role and choices everyday. I can’t imagine what a teenager or child in my position experiences.

The education system has failed them. Even now as they craft their next 6-second video, tweet, snap, post, status update, hashtag, and meme they won’t carry the weight or compassion of their privilege and position to be the first generation able to create viral action and messages. The movements they incite have the potential to heal, inspire, or destroy people. We will feel this as another cyberbullying incident or sexting scandal arises. Our schools don’t care. Policies and curriculums don’t change to include digital citizenship. They rather waste time on teaching to tests, banning devices, and filtering. We have taken one of the most noble experiences and achievements in history and turned it into something ugly. Schools did this, not technology.

Justin Beiber, is the most famous pioneer of this digital society. He took on his leadership role at age 12, being discovered on Youtube. In one of his earliest interviews, he shared, “My world got very big, very fast and based on a lot of sad examples—people expect me to get lost in it.” Sadly, his words  became the prophecy of his generation.


BIO. (1974). Justin Bieber Biography. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.biography.com/people/justin-bieber-522504 [Accessed: 31 Mar 2014].

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Reblog? Vine? Memes? Sharing Bite-sized Narratives

“The most important thing any teacher has to learn can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” – John Holt

The way we learn, share, and communicate has been impacted by mobile devices. In my recent webinar, Sharing the Narratives of Our Lives: Meaningful Learning with Mobile Devices, I shared examples of the different ways individuals are using apps and mobile devices to communicate, connect, and express themselves. We can take these learning rituals and help support our students in being authors, producers, directors, and creators. I also talked about the new ways millions of us are sharing the narratives of our lives, through trends like reblogging, memes, vines, animated gifs, emojis, and ephemeral apps.

If you missed it, here’s the recording http://itdipro.adobeconnect.com/p9tg9nlbyv6/ and download the slides.

Many of us are unaware of the way millions (including our students) create, produce, direct, summarize, translate, and share stories outside of learning institutions. All around the world, millions share the narratives of their lives through text, status updates on Facebook, tweets, images, and short videos. We share bite-sized chunks of our life stories in 140 characters, six second-videos, or memed images with a few words. That is why I created the 15 second video trailer below. This is the maximum time allowed to create Instagram videos. If you want to create a Vine video, you only get six seconds.

Summarizing a story into meaningful bite-sized chunks takes skill. According to David Crystal, students are writing more with technology than we could have ever written in the past (Spotlight-verlag.de/aktionen/pdf/spotlight/magazin.pdf). They are blogging, microblogging, reblogging, videocasting, and texting constantly throughout the day. Their daily rituals include scanning streams of bite-sized information and responding to these narratives and knowledge through likes, comments, retweets, reposts, or reblogs.


Crystal, D. (2008, November). The joy of txt. Spotlight, 16-21. From:  http://ww.davidcrystal.com/David_Crystal/internet.htm


Travel around the web and observe the way people communicate and learn in different social networks like Vine, Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. What trends do you notice?

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