Blog Archives

The Pedagogy of Skydiving

Click image to View Video

Click Image to View Video

I often hear people talk about the drastic changes needed in education to prepare students for their future.  However, I tend to believe that the right people to do the job are already in our schools.  To respond to the needs of the 21st century student we need subtle shifts in thinking and pedagogy.  These subtle shifts will lead to transformational results.

Just. Like. Skydiving.

I had the opportunity to go indoor skydiving with a couple friends in Chicago recently.  Our experience in the immense wind-tunnel was a pure adrenaline rush.  Although the skydiving took place indoors the speed and force of the air blasting upwards was very real.

Indoor skydiving wind-tunnels are capable of blasting air that reaches speeds of 175+ mph.  I found the mechanics of this high octane sport fascinating.  The air speeds are so intense that super slight adjustments to body position can lead to jolting movements.

When I was in the standard neutral belly position (chin up and arms out) a subtle adjustment of my hands could have propelled me into a 360 degree rotation.  This subtle shift in my wrists would have been indiscernible to the casual onlooker, but it could have had me resembling a human helicopter blade!

Understanding the impact of subtle shifts is critical in skydiving; it’s critical in education too. 

The proper subtle shifts can lead to a transformative experience.  Be sure to watch the two minute video of our indoor skydiving adventure that’s embedded above.  (The end of the video contains raw footage of our highly trained instructors applying the principle of ‘subtle shifts’ that led to a jaw-dropping aerial acrobatic show.)

What subtle shifts do YOU think our students deserve?

Share your thoughts in the comments section.  I started with a few subtle shifts in thinking that will serve our students well:

  • How can I enhance the frequency and depth of collaboration in my classroom or school?
  • In what ways can I give up more control so that students truly own their learning?
  • How might we tap into the transformational power of technology to move beyond the prevailing belief that an interactive whiteboard is the pinnacle of technology integration.
  • Am I teaching a lesson or facilitating a lasting learning experience for students?

NAESP National Panel on Innovation

Click Flyer to View Video

Click Flyer to View Video

We’ve got an NAESP National Panel planned with some spectacular surprises.  Join us for a conversation about innovation and connectivity in education.  To get to know the presenters before the conference, simply click on the image above or download the DAQRI augmented reality app on a mobile device. (Just hover over the flyer while in the DAQRI app to launch into a 4D experience!)

Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Time: 2:00pm – 3:15pm

Location: Long Beach Convention Center, Room 201B

Presenters Include:

Amy Fadeji

Ben Gilpin

Brad Gustafson

Joe Mazza

Todd Nesloney

Theresa Stager

Can’t travel to NAESP in Long Beach? Watch for a Periscope link via Twitter to join us virtually!


Pumpkin Pic 2014 group

Each year our school displays several “Literacy-O-Lanterns” in the Media Center for students to enjoy. Armed with only a Sharpie and some acrylic paint, I decorate the pumpkins with characters or cover art from popular children’s books. This year’s crop features some new titles and old favorites. Our ultimate goal is to foster a genuine love of reading, and to get kids talking about their favorite books.

How many of the characters & books represented on the pumpkins can YOU guess?


  1. One of the pumpkins above is connected to the 2014 Global Read Aloud created by Pernille Ripp. Check out the hashtag on Twitter #GRA14 and be sure to follow @PernilleRipp for more global literacy opportunities for students.
  2. One of the pumpkins features a boy named Wendell (who also happens to be the world’s worst wizard). The title is also part of the #WorldBookTalk project. The book’s cover is a trigger image powered by Augmented Reality. Huge shout-out to John Spencer for co-authoring this enchanting read! Be sure to follow @EdRethink on Twitter to catch all of John’s blog posts too.
  3. One of the pumpkins pictured above is part of a series that my daughters LOVED. With more than 100 titles, the series kept them reading, and reading, and reading…it was awesome!
  4. One of the books below was written by my friend, Todd Nesloney. The message of the book is that we all have something important to offer the world. You can read more about the book, Spruce and Lucy, in this blog post.

Pumpkin pic 2013Pumpkins 2012PumpkinsPumpkins Mosiac 2014

Big on the Inside

Spruce and Lucy 91113

Photo Credit: Lauren Ingwaldson

The first couple weeks of school our social worker and I visited classrooms to read a children’s book, Spruce and Lucy, written by teacher/author Todd Nesloney. The theme of the book is simple, yet profound; everyone has something to offer the world.  After sharing with dozens of classrooms I’m still struck by the wisdom shared by one of our youngest learners who said, “We can be big on the inside.”

Before reading the book we used Augmented Reality to share a personal message created just for Greenwood Elementary students. Using the Aurasma app and our iPads we linked to Todd Nesloney’s uplifting greeting via the “About the Author” picture in his book. The video greeting featured an inspiring message where individual students were encouraged to, “Own their genius.” Nesloney credited Angela Maiers for the mantra, and it aligns perfectly with our school’s anti-bullying plan.

Our school is taking a stand against bullying! The approach we will use is based on the Olweus Anti-bullying program. Parents can support our efforts by familiarizing themselves with the definition of bullying and supporting terms below.

Bullying: “Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself.” It’s important to note that a person can be a target in one setting and then demonstrate bullying behaviors in another setting.

Target: A person that is experiencing bullying (we do not use the term victim).

Bystander: A person that is nearby when bullying occurs. We are empowering students to take-a-stand instead of standing by.

Take-a-Stand: Students should use the three steps we taught them about during our classroom visits; “stop, walk and tell.”

  • Stop: A bystander or target can tell a person that is bullying to “stop.” Pointing out that a bullying behavior is “not cool” and “not funny” is another way to show support for somebody being targeted.
  • Walk: Students that are targeted should walk to the nearest adult for support. Bystanders may also accompany them for support and encouragement.
  • Tell: Explain the situation to an adult. In addition to parents and teachers, our school social worker and the principal can help. Talking about a problem is an effective way to begin addressing it, and we will join with our school community to take-a-stand against bullying.

After sharing the definition of bullying with students and reflecting on the book, students began to make connections. This was a powerful thing to experience, and I’ll share just a couple examples:

One student openly reflected: “I’m going to make an inference…I think that Mr. Oak was bullying because even though there was only one example of an unkind comment that hurt Spruce in the story, it’s quite possible that he had a history of bullying and could have been repeatedly hurting Spruce.”

In a different classroom a student approached me after the presentation and quietly shared, “I learned from the story that even though we are kids and small on the outside, we can be big on the inside.” I was SO PROUD of this student’s courage and thinking. My sense was that he would be a champion on the playground throughout his elementary years; a perfect example of what an empowered bystander can be.

It was humbling, inspiring and amazing all rolled into one. On behalf of our entire school, please know that we posses an unswerving commitment to supporting the growth of your child’s “whole person.” Creating a safe learning environment where your child’s unique talents and attributes are understood and celebrated is just part of this endeavor.

In Kids' Shoes

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Reading By Example

Thoughts on Literacy & Leadership in Education

Adjusting Course

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On The Leaders Edge

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Digital Eyes

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Shelley Burgess

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A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.


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Pernille Ripp

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