May 2018

Minah Minah: Ed Leadership Lessons from a Muppet

The Edcamp Foundation has reposted this blog with permission from Kathi's Integration Innovation blog. 

Someone shared this video with me this morning, and I haven’t been able to get the song out of my head ever since.  I’m pretty sure I just did the same thing to you – sorry!  It’s such a catchy little tune and it’s been around since I was a little kid, which means it’s been around for a long, LONG time.  It’s old school Sesame Street, it’s the Muppets…it’s Minah Minah.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that this is the PERFECT metaphor for how I approach educational leadership.  Minah Minah……..

See those two fuzzy pink critters?  They do a great job.  They work in harmony.  They have found a schnazzy little number that really just works for them.  People like it. It has caught on.  It makes others feel perky and peppy and good.  BUT – it’s so repetitive.  It is so monotonous.  It’s goes on and on and on…it’s the same old song.

See the shaggy orange-haired rogue rebel?  He’s part of the trio.  He has a voice, and he’s expected to come in and do his scripted part at just the right moments. He goes along with the plan and sings their tune, too…at first.  After a few rounds of the same old chorus, he decides to put his own spin on things.  They stop and look at him funny, so he goes back to doing what is expected and just sings the same old song with them again.

…until he just can’t contain himself and the very NEED to be creative and try something new just explodes out of him!  It’s who he is.  It’s in his nature to take risks, to add a little unexpected magic to the music.

He doesn’t abandon their song altogether, he tries to enhance it.  He just wants to be allowed to get a little creative and perhaps make that same old song a little newer and a  little better.  After getting funny looks (are those reprimands?) several times, we see him walk off into the distance – seemingly giving up.  I think we would all understand if he left to go find a new group because staying would mean continually fighting that resistance to change.

But our shaggy, orange-haired friend comes back!  He has grit, and he’s not afraid to use it!  He’ll keep plugging away to have his inspired, wacky, off-the-cuff little vision be a part of that song.  Yup, that’s grit – and steadfast belief in a vision to make things better.  Not only does he keep plugging away at that monotonous pink duet, but then he goes out and spreads his song!  Okay, it’s just to Kermit in this video, but let’s face it – Kermit knows all the right people.  If he can get Kermit to make a few phone calls in support, pretty soon there will be a whole SNAGGLE of Muppets jamming to a new beat.

If you watch to see what happened at the very, VERY end of the video, you’ll see that even the staunchest, most set-in-their-ways spectators are interested and suddenly asking the question, “What’s a Minah Minah?’

whats a minah minah

This is the work of transformative and visionary leaders in education. Be shaggy.

Kathi Kersnowski serves as a Technology Integration Specialist with several schools within Washington Township. She's passionate about technology and always trying to learn new things. Her greatest hope is to inspire our district's teachers to be enthusiastic, brave and curious learners. Read more of her posts at Integration Innovation

To Teach and to Lead, From This Day Forward, for Better, for Worse

The Edcamp Foundation supports teacher reading over the summer. Dristay Torres offers a number of books here that have inspired her call to teaching. Read more of their posts at

There are a lot of marvelous books out in the world. Unfortunately, no one will ever be able to read them all. One of the main reasons is that reading requires time and time is finite. For busy educators, this time cost of reading typically means reading is left for the summer when school is not in session. Most educators will concede, though, that, although school is not in session, they are still working; especially year-round educators. Year-round educators only have about seven weeks of summer break, in most cases, to both relax and prepare for the next school year. 

The continuous time constraint for both traditional and year-round educators means educators have to be picky about the books they invest in. Here are two excellent book recommendations:

1. Kristi Hedges’ The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day

Although it is tailored for business leaders, The Inspiration Code is a must-read for anyone in the education profession: from teachers and coaches to aspiring and current assistant principals to aspiring and current school district leaders. The book showcases readers how to not only inspire, but empower others to inspire others.

Hedges’ main claim in The Inspiration Code is that people are inspiring when they are: present, personal, passionate, and purposeful. The book breaks down each of these four components which Hedges calls “the inspire path”; all of which are pivotal for educators to know. The investments educators make in their student and colleague relationships take time to become visible, and sometimes a lot of time. Hedges’ ideas, hence, show educators how to make the correct investments, so they do not later regret what they did or did not do or say to help a student, fellow colleague, or our Professional Learning Community.

For example, one specific idea Hedges discusses that is particularly relatable to the education profession is potential. Hedges explains that one way to invest in and inspire an individual is by sharing the potential you may see in her. Saying something, such as “I see __ in you” or “Let me share what is possible for you”, can be highly uplifting (Hedges 92). The leader’s statements show the other person she has a champion who supports her and that she has inherent worth. In other words, the statements promote what Albert Bandura termed self-efficacy and increase motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000); things that can highly benefit students.

Another nice feature of The Inspiration Code is that it is structured in a way that supports educators’ overscheduled calendars. At the end of every chapter is a bulleted summary of the main ideas. The end of chapter summaries make the book digestible and easy to return to if you only have time to read at sporadic intervals. 

2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is a very influential stoic text that has inspired generations of leaders. For example, according to The Atlantic, it is one of Bill Clinton’s favorite books. If you want to take that next big step in your teaching career and enhance your leadership presence among your students, staff, district, and greater community, this book is for you.

Essentially, Meditations is a series of journal entries that Aurelius wrote to himself in his later years as Roman emperor. His entries cover things from responding to loss to education to dealing with people one dislikes. They help readers reflect on how to maintain equanimity and remain humble when presented with both defeat and victory.

Here is an excerpt from the first paragraph of chapter five:

At break of day, when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind: ‘I am getting up for man’s work. Do I still then resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for, the purpose for which I was brought in to the world? Or was I created to wrap myself in blankets and keep warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant.’ Were you then born for pleasure - all for feeling, not for action? Can you not see plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world? And then you do not want to do the work of a human being - you do not hurry to the demands of your own nature. ‘But one needs rest too.’ One does indeed: I agree. But nature has set limits to this too, just as it has to eating and drinking, and yet you go beyond these limits, beyond what you need. Not in your actions, though, not any longer: here you stay below your capability.

Needless to say, helping you gain perspective and reevaluate your approach to life are some of the many responses Meditations catalyzes in its readers. 

As the wedding vows in America go, hopefully all the educators in the field are better equipped to teach and to lead, “from this day forward, for better, for worse,” with these two books.

Dristay Torres earned her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) and her teaching credentials in California.

This June! Edcamp Foundation Releases Evaluation Survey

As the Edcamp Foundation continues to grow, it recognizes the value of identifying and documenting not only the impact of the Edcamp movement, but the impact of it’s programs within the community. For this reason, the Edcamp Foundation is excited to announce it’s implementing a participatory evaluation process in the months of June 2018 and January 2019. We’re taking the time to integrate evaluative thinking and approaches to our practice, keying in on community needs, wants, and gains.

Beginning in June 2018, a participatory survey will be sent out to all June organizers and attendees. The survey in question has been carefully created by our staff and a team of expert consultants, geared to measure the impact Edcamp has on an educator’s professional development, teacher practice, and teacher networking. In January, the following year, a follow up survey will be sent out to the same individuals, measuring both short-term and long-term impact.

We’re incredibly excited for our research to be implemented and are even more excited to share our findings with the Edcamp community. We hope our evaluation will help us better improve upon our programs, increase the Edcamp model’s credibility, and continue to build up the Edcamp movement. Stay tuned for our results!

Intriguing Idea for Summer Reflection: Going Gradeless

Removing the fear for students and parents about grades during the learning process has brought me one step closer to the idea of achieving a gradeless environment where learning is the focus instead of points while ensuring that all students complete our learning activities to enhance their understanding of science concepts.

The idea of going gradeless in my 6th grade Science classroom is intriguing. We are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, and proficiency is the ability to demonstrate knowledge or skills. In my second year of using the standards, it is easy to determine that a student can either do the assigned performance tasks or cannot. So, it is the learning that leads up to the tasks that has become the focus of my exploration in going gradeless.  I am not at a gradeless point yet, but I have made a change where the scores given for these activities represent a student’s true learning process rather than a specific grade. 

The activities we do in class build necessary knowledge, so it is important that students experience the learning.

One of my biggest concerns in going gradeless is how to give students and parents feedback. The activities we do in class build necessary knowledge, so it is important that students experience the learning. How many times have students not done an assignment to receive a score of a zero, and then never get the opportunity to be part of the learning experience? As we journey toward being gradeless, I still need to keep track of who has completed activities, not to be punitive, but to ensure that each student’s understanding has had the opportunity to grow. By default, grades are the easiest, but they are arbitrary. How is a 95% different from a 94%? How is a rubric score of proficient not a type of grade? If I merely give students feedback, how do they use that to improve their understanding? How does the phrase “developing” impacting their learning? 

If I merely give students feedback, how do they use that to improve their understanding? How does the phrase “developing” impacting their learning? 

Having experimented with different assessment scenarios, I have come to the conclusion that a grade of some sort- whether it be a percent, letter, word, feedback- has to be given to students. And perhaps the word “grade” itself should be changed to “score”, “feedback”, or “level of understanding.” Whatever data is given to students and parents has to be valuable and understandable. Unfortunately, to most, that equates to a percentage and letter grade.

My solution to that has been to change the meaning of the “grades” used with the learning activities that we do; instead of final points, I use them as markers. 6th graders come in to our middle school and are shell-shocked by how much responsibility they have to take on. Students have a hard time developing study skills and organizational habits because their day is completely different than what it was in elementary school. So, in an attempt to make the traditional idea of grades meaningless, I allow students to redo any assignments that lead up to our summatives. Because it is the learning that is important, this gives students and parents time to figure out what strategies work best for that student in their academic journey. And, because it is possible for students to get a 100% on anything, there are no questions about extra credit, there is no worry if someone didn’t understand a concept; they can still develop. I have seen students who never received a “good” score on things suddenly become more self-efficacious because they could and they did, he or she just needed a little more time to develop an understanding. 

This is not truly going gradeless, because there is still a grade, but the grade is more of a placeholder regarding a certain skill or concept. Removing the fear for students and parents about grades during the learning process has brought me one step closer to the idea of achieving a gradeless environment where learning is the focus instead of points while ensuring that all students complete our learning activities to enhance their understanding of science concepts.

Dr. Sheila Kohl is a 6th grade teacher in the West De Pere School District. She remains interested in exploring teacher self-efficacy and teacher leadership to determine how they impact student learning. Read more of her work at her Genius Hour blog. 

Edcamp Hillsborough, FL

Hillsborough County held its own EdCamp with a gathering of 123 dedicated and interested EdCamp attendees to learn new things or share their years of experience. In the EdCamp tradition campers gathered to enjoy breakfast and build the board of topics that would soon become the scheduled sessions that would make up our day.

Follow the whole recap post at The Twitter History Teacher.


Watch the recap video.

PBS, Edcamp, WCTE, and the Putnam County School System are partnering to build rich early learning educator communities by providing a time for educators to hold conversations, network and broaden their personal learning networks. At the center of this partnership is a shared belief that teachers are the heart of the learning ecosystem and deserve focused allies who can help them enhance their craft.

EdcampND, ND

Check out the session board from the Edcamp. Since we hosted two Edcamps simultaneously in two locations, we did our opening together had our session board on Padlet so attendees at both sites could see all the topic ideas.  Here's the link.  East topics were in Mayville; West topics are from Mandan. 

"Roughly 90% of our attendees had never heard of Edcamp before, so we are excited that we were able to bring this event to more teachers in North Dakota." 

Learn More about Edcamp Encore

Edcamp Encore is an unconference day, with a focus. It is organized to further the learning that started at an Edcamp. Edcamp Encore is an opportunity for educators to learn more about a topic they started exploring at an Edcamp. It is a day that provides valuable time to increase one's understanding and develop strategies for implementation. 

Edcamp organizers are encouraged to host an Edcamp Encore after their Edcamp. The first step would be to analyze the session board from your initial Edcamp and then survey the participants about their expertise in that topic. Next, the organizers reach out to the Edcamp Foundation for help in finding other experts in the areas identified. Then it is time to start planning your Encore Edcamp.

The Edcamp Foundation will support the organizers with the necessary resources: materials, funding for refreshments, and strategies for identifying teacher experts. Contact if you would like more information or if you want to host an Edcamp Encore.

Booksnaps, Innovative Reader Response, and #AlwaysInBeta

Booksnaps allow students to mark the text with Snapchat or Snapchat "features". There is brain research behind it. Booksnaps help students with retention, comprehension and engagement while marking the text. In a nutshell, Booksnaps combines something students often dislike, reading, with something they love, Snapchat.

If you happened to be at CUE last week, you would have been able to see the queen and inventor of Booksnaps, Tara Martin, demonstrate how to do Booksnaps in Google Slides. Booksnaps, originally was done exclusively with Snapchat. But many innovative educators, who are #AlwaysInBeta,  "hacked" Booksnaps by devising ways to booksnap with Google Drawings & Slides, Seesaw and more. 

For those of you unfamiliar with Booksnaps, they are not just some flashy gimmick. Booksnaps allow students to mark the text with Snapchat or Snapchat "features". There is brain research behind it. Booksnaps help students with retention, comprehension and engagement while marking the text. In a nutshell, Booksnaps combines something students often dislike, reading, with something they love, Snapchat. On a personal note, I now take much longer to read because I find so many points I want to booksnap.

One of the coolest features of Snapchat is the integration of Bitmoji. Bitmoji is a fun little app that allows you to "cartoonify" yourself. Within Snapchat, you can insert your Bitmoji "cartoonified" self into your images. The question remains, how does this work with Booksnaps?

Booksnaps combines something students often dislike, reading, with something they love, Snapchat.

If you have students using Snapchat to do Booksnaps, they are already experts. They simply take pictures of text, mark it Snapchat's annotation tool and add stickers and Bitmojis. But what if cellphones are banned at your site and or students do not have Snapchat. Never fear, Google Slides (Drawings too) is here!

Many Snapchat features can be emulated with Google Slides (Drawings too). For images of text, you can use the webcam to take the picture or you can insert a screenshot of digital text. Once you have the image of text, use Slides' line tool and scribble function to "annotate" and circle the part of the text that resounded with you. From there, draw a text box across the width of the image to write your claim or opinion. The final step is to find png stickers and emojis from the internet to paste onto the slide to support the text you circled and statement or opinion. 

Now where does Bitmoji fit in with the Google Slides version of Booksnaps? It lies in the Bitmoji Chrome extension. It is free on the Chrome Web Store. You may need to talk to your Google Domain Super Admin to push the extension to student accounts. Once pushed to their accounts and browsers, students click on the extension, a drop down menu of Bitmoji appears and they simply copy and paste the appropriate Bitmoji to their slides. 

One hiccup you may encounter is your network's filter. The easiest way for students to login to Bitmoji is via Snapchat. If Snapchat is blocked, ask IT to briefly allow so kids can get signed in to use Bitmoji. Where I work, IT allows teachers to use a special login and password to temporarily bypass the network filter for situations like this.

Here is what it looks like when kids use Google Slides and Bitmoji (Chrome Extension ) to do Booksnaps.

I am sure there will be new ways to improve the Booksnaps process. Keep your eyes and ears open to the next innovation. Doing this helps us to stay #AlwaysInBeta.

Watch the tutorial for mobile. Watch the tutorial for Google Drawings. 

Adam Juarez is a Technology Coach and World History Teacher at Orosi High School in Orosi, CA. His job is to train teachers and students in Google Suite for Education and to help teachers embed technology into their lessons and units. Read more of his blog at