4 Benefits of Classroom Podcasting and 4 Ideas to Try Today

“In humans, as in songbirds, the sounds produced by the individuals are essential for normal vocal development.” – Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2000

Podcasts…the not-so-latest buzzword going around in education circles. This is an exciting medium for adding to our teaching toolkit but, as educators, we of course benefit from taking a thoughtful approach. There are many rich reasons why we should integrate audio recording, including podcasts, into the classroom. My suggestion? Get some great implementation ideas from your peers and then, by all means, JUMP!

4 Student Benefits to Understand

When you understand some of the powerful ways audio recording in the classroom can benefit student learning, it will be easy to make a strong case to your administrators, your peers, and, not least of all, to yourself! There are numerous tools that make podcasting and media-making simple for teacher and student alike, but using technology without understanding the specific student needs in play, and why it effectively addresses them, isn’t strategic. Here are some of the important student benefits that are helpful for each of us to understand, to look out for when evaluating our use of recorded audio in the classroom, and to be able to explain to others:

  1. Clarification and Confidence – As your learners listen closely to their tone, learn to include appropriate pauses, and master their speaking through repetition, they will clarify their personal voice and become more confident speakers.
  2. Reflection and Discussion – Working with recorded audio offers students an alternative place and space to reflect on their thinking and engage in candid discussions about their work. These discussions lead students toward the opportunity to construct new and improved ideas.
  3. Read, Revise, Practice, and Present – When your learners record themselves reading their writing, it gives them a new perspective on the written word and an alternative method for revision. Further, as students read and revise their writing, they are engaging in much-needed practice before making the oral presentation to peers. The combination of writing and presenting is authentic practice for what students will have to master when they enter higher education and the workforce.
  4. Assessment Minus Anxiety – If the task at hand is to assess our learners’ understanding, rather than their writing, we can now lower their blood pressure by giving them an alternative space to explain themselves that doesn’t include worrying about spelling errors or sentence structure.

6 Phases of Incorporating Audio Recording

A while back I came across integration coach Corey Holmer’s presentation “Broadcasting Your Story: Podcasting with Chromebooks” and was immediately a) inspired, b) grateful for the work he had already done, and c) excited to share with my teaching peers. He very simply breaks down the podcasting process into six phases for teachers who are interested in incorporating audio recording in the classroom:

  1. Goal Determination
  2. Scripting
  3. Software Acclimation
  4. Planning & Implementing Recording
  5. Editing
  6. Publishing

In addition to explaining each of the steps in detail, Holmer also provided his audience a Podcasting Project Guide. Although this was originally created for a workshop session of educators, it can be easily adapted for any classroom. Even if you have little or no personal experience with podcast creation in the classroom, no problem – I find Mr. Holmer’s explanation easy to understand and a fantastic place to start!

4 Ideas (And Many More) to Try Now!

Need more inspiration on audio recording ideas? Check out the classroom projects, lesson plans and ideas I have compiled here from various educators across the globe. Here are just some of my favorites:

  1. Use podcasts in conjunction with Google Tour Builder to create virtual field trips with student recorded tour guide voice overs.
  2. Build an original soundtrack that compliments the rising action, climax, and resolution of a novel.
  3. Create a “day in the life” documentary that describes the sights, sounds and activities in an ancient metropolis.
  4. On a field trip, students use a voice recorder, such as the one available through the Soundtrap app, to take notes and a digital camera to take photos.

This was published by ASCD and cross-posted here: http://inservice.ascd.org/4-benefits-of-classroom-podcasting-and-4-ideas-to-try-today/.

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Student Radio at The Pingry School in Short Hills, New Jersey

Written by Meredith Allen, Soundtrap Educational Ambassador
Cross posted at: http://edublog.soundtrap.com/2017/04/05/student-radio-at-the-pingry-school-in-short-hills-new-jersey/

I recently met Mr. Thomas Berdos at the Texas Music Education Association annual convention in San Antonio. Mr. Berdos is an 18+ year music educator at The Pingry School in Short Hills, New Jersey. We chatted about a recent cross-curricular project he and his colleague, Jill Driscoll, had been working on.

This particular project which spans grades and ties together numerous classrooms and subjects, relies heavily on Soundtrap for audio capture and execution.  I knew as soon as I heard about the magic that was happening at Pingry I needed (and wanted) to share it with other educators asap!

Project: WSHR Radio was created when Music, Library, Language Arts and Technology classes were combined in a unit for the Pingry 5th graders.  Students listen critically and research pieces of music. They write and record a narrative, splice the commentary with important parts of their chosen music and celebrate the created audio files by having their radio segments played over the PA in the hallways of the lower elementary at the start of each day.  These fantastic 5th grade students have now shared their knowledge & interest of music with the rest of the school, leveraging technology in a really awesome way while connecting to their language arts and library classes. I decided to ask Mr. Berdos a few questions about his and the student’s experience thus far.

Meredith: What motivated you to organize this student project?
Mr. Berdos: I have always wanted to find ways for students to see music through the filter of other disciplines. One day on the way to work I was listening to my favorite classical station in the car. As I entered the building, I thought it would have been nice to hear the last selection I heard in the car playing in the hallways of the school, along with the show host’s commentary. It came to me that we could do this with students doing the commentary. Our radio station, WSHR, was born.

Meredith: How did the other teachers in your district react to this project?
Mr. Berdos: Very enthusiastically! Pingry is an independent, private school with a unique and successful learning culture. The faculty members are encouraged to collaborate. So the collaboration of the WSHR unit between numerous disciplines was natural and easily gained traction.

Meredith: Did you encounter any roadblocks?
Mr. Berdos: When we started the WSHR unit, we broadcasted with a small bluetooth speaker on top of a cabinet in the hallway. We have “graduated” to a state-of-the-art bluetooth sound system installed in the ceiling of the hallways, which makes for wonderful sound fidelity. We originally used Audacity for the tech piece of the project. It was more complex than our students needed and we found Soundtrap to have the right mix of capability and user-friendliness. Switching to Soundtrap proved to be the right way to go forward.

Meredith: How did the students react to this project?
Mr. Berdos: Students are very interested in doing the project. All students in the school hear the music in the mornings. The fourth graders look forward to “next year” when they do the broadcasting. Students enjoy being assigned pieces of music, and learn not only about the music, but about their own capacity to appreciate new styles of music. Recently I heard from a student who was in our program a number of years ago, and he still remembers and enjoys his WSHR assigned piece. So the program has a lasting value on our students.

Meredith: How did Soundtrap aid with completion and success of these student projects?
Mr. Berdos: We could not do the unit without a program like Soundtrap. The fifth-grade students can record their own voices and also splice in their music all with little trouble. The recording part of the WSHR unit brings all the learning to life.

Meredith: Did using Soundtrap inspire you, or other content teachers in your building, to attempt or plan to attempt another outside-the-box student project using collaborative audio recording?
Mr. Berdos: I know that since we started using Soundtrap for the WSHR unit, the foreign language department has used Soundtrap for their recording needs.

Lesson & Class Details:

  • General Music – Students learn the skills necessary for listening critically to music and to make observations on the musical characteristics of the piece.
  • Library – Students research their assigned musical selections. They gather information about the piece: when it was composed, for what occasion was it composed, how it fits into the music of its time period, etc. They also gather information about the composers: when/where they lived, and interesting highlights of their lives.
  • Language Arts – Students create narratives based on their research. In addition to standard rules of grammar and punctuation, they learn the skills necessary to quote musical examples, italicize foreign language words, etc.
  • Technology Class – Students learn to use the online digital audio workstation Soundtrap to edit recordings. After their narratives are written, they record them and insert their recordings into the audio project of their piece. The finished product is a narrated mp3 to broadcast which includes the research, in their own voices, to share with the Pingry community.

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In Sync With Soundtrap

How is it possible that I haven’t blogged about Soundtrap yet?! Anyone that personally knows me will understand the ridiculousness of this fact.  I’m here to remedy this absolute travesty. 🙂


Soundtrap was first created by musicians for musicians in Stockholm, Sweden circa 2012. Increased classroom practices using this DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) has now transcended to all content areas, abilities and locations….what is this and why would we be using it in schools?!  Soundtrap is an easy-to-use, online recording studio that can be used across any device to create audio without the necessity of being in the same physical space as your collaborator(s). No more anechoic rooms, mixing consoles, orientation
sessions or booking appointments.

That’s all fine and good for musicians and music producers, but what about this “across-content” classroom business I spoke of earlier that is influencing our schools at exponential rates in 2017?  Now that Soundtrap has put these once-complicated, hard-to-obtain tools in the hands of babes, babes can now benefit for the first time – from their phones, Chromebooks, computers or tablets.  And those same babes can create in minutes (it’s that easy!) and invite other babes (from other schools, states, countries!) to collaborate on their project – in real, friggin’ time. I know, it’s incredible.

Basically this is a Google Doc for audio recording.  It has never been done and is now being done beautifully by Soundtrap.

What does this mean for our schools?

  • School districts can now connect and create with other school districts. Think about how impactful this could be to our rural districts.
  • Students can keep creating outside of the 45-minute class period – on their own phone or at home…as long as they have an internet connection. Heck, they could even work on their project from their dentist’s computer if it was online (and said dentist was ok with their computer being hijacked:-)
  • Budding musicians and music producers now have access to a very robust platform, bridging the gap between secondary and post-secondary school programs which will continue to cultivate their passions through school.
  • Speech Language Pathologists have an easy-to-use tool to capture and archive student progress, as well as have an opportunity to invite parents and teachers to access their audio growth portfolio.
  • Foreign language teachers have a slick way of recording their voice (or student’s voice) and inviting collaborators to add comments and/or edit in real time or asynchronously.
  • Countless uses in music classrooms…rehearsal recordings to evaluate and reflect on, practice tool using accompaniments, audition recordings, composition projects, playing assessments, etc.
  • Interviews, podcasts, commercials….the list just keeps going on.


Soundtrap is about all about creating and connecting.  It is simple yet monumental, and this is the time to take hold and experience.  The most recent
NMC/CoSN Report: 2016 K-12 Edition, which examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in schools, understands the importance.  This report charts the horizon for emerging technologies in school communities across the globe by an organization that has the world’s longest-running exploration of technology trends in education.  One major mid-term trend from this report that focuses on driving EdTech adoption in the next 3-5 years…..yep, you called it: Collaborative Learning.  This social construct places the learner at the center, encourages interaction, group work and develops solutions to actual, real-world problems.

When applied in the spirit of deeper collaboration, technology can unite students around big ideas and projects, while integrating web-based resources that will expand their learning. Digital tools are fundamental ingredients in the facilitation of collaborative learning approaches, offering platforms for communication and activities in synchronous as well as asynchronous environments. Cloud computing has been particularly lauded for its role in bolstering collaboration as it instills unlimited potential for teacher, student, and parent communication.  People can easily access and share learning materials with each other, making updates in real time….[encouraging] increased student achievement, discussion, confidence, and active learning. (NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, 2016, p. 12)

There it is.

And that, my dear friends, is why I shout Soundtrap from the rooftops.  


This post was republished by EdCircuit on 1.12.17

NMC/CoSN Horizon Report. (2016). 2016 K-12 Edition. Retrieved from https://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-cosn-horizon-report-2016-k-12-edition/

 

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Check Yourself

I recently had an opportunity to listen to Mr. Kevin Brookhouser’s speak on the 20time Project at the Toronto GAFE Summit. His message: teachers who offer choice can meet learning goals while creating powerful experiences that lead to increased motivation, creativity and divergent critical thinking. Simple yet very profound. I wrote the following thoughts while on my plane ride home.

My teaching career started when I was in high school during a job shadowing experience.  A real-world learning experience inspired me as opposed to memorizing facts and figures in my core subjects…who knew!  Imagine 16-year-old me, I liked music, I was pretty good at it, the music rooms were my second home. When I had the opportunity to mentor someone, it just seemed natural to shadow my band director.  I had my “lightbulb” a-ha moment when I was presented with an opportunity to teach a rhythm lesson to 10-year-old budding percussionist. I helped her through grasping a concept and when she got it, I got it…I want to teach. 

Little did I know, that moment would lead me down a very interesting path in education.  It has been a path that has engrossed me, a path that is unfinished, a path that if you squint hard enough drops off to…where?  

Prior to seeing clarity with the scary (yet awesome) realization that our 21st century educational thoroughfare is being built as we travel it, I taught instrumental music in a very rural and high-poverty school for almost a decade.  I loved it, was good at it, and kids usually liked coming to my class.  Naïve-me thought their engagement in my class was a reflection on my teaching – ha!  I eventually figured out they liked coming to the band room for the same reasons I liked it when I was in high school – they enjoy music, they like playing an instrument, and my classroom felt safe.  One could argue that none of those reasons are because of me.  This is where my mother’s voice pipes up and says, “Now Meredith, they feel safe and secure in your room because you fostered that. They love music because you have inspired them. Etc., etc., etc.” Ok Mom, I’ll take a tiny bit of it but it really comes down to the fact that they felt empowered in my classroom. 

Learners felt safe – check.
Learners felt supported – check.
Learners were given autonomy – check.
Learners were given an authentic audience – check.
Learners were passionate and interested in the content – check.
Learners saw a potential future with the work they completed – check. 

Here’s the kicker – my learners chose to be in my class.  That’s huge. It wasn’t until I was out of the classroom teaching teachers, facilitating professional learning, presenting to all content area educators that I realized most educators don’t get to experience the luxury of being an elective teacher and how absolute key that was to my (accidental) classroom success. 

Now and probably for the rest of my time on this earth, I will encourage all educators (and leaders!) to pattern after or emulate an elective class by giving student voice, choice, and ownership on their learning while also providing some authentic audience and networking outside of the classroom walls.  Technology obviously provides an accessible avenue to achieve this work.

I’ll sign off by asking one simple question: Do you want to take your class?

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364 Days Ago

“You need to start blogging.” These wise words, casually mentioned to me last summer, helped kickstart my documentation of an amazing year that has been filled with gains, losses, surprises and most of all – pushed me to reflect on my work (something I am finding is absolutely imperative to the learning process). Thank you Scott for mentioning it nonchalantly last year at ISTE on our walk to the MLTS screening. Thank you Tim for reading my drafts and providing very helpful feedback (you are so smart).  And thank you subscribers for reading my two cents every so often.

On June 26th, 2015 I bought msmeredithallen.org, subscribed to WordPress (a program I have spent countless hours you-tubing tutorials and learning more code I care to admit) and started my blogging adventure.  Originally I thought my blogging would be for others (naive thought – I know!) but blogging turned into something beautiful for me.  It is now a meditative exercise (although, like most exercise regimens, my consistency and discipline could be improved;-). I highly recommend this exercise and would encourage all educators to have students blogging about what is happening in the classroom, their process throughout a project, their reading journal, whatever – expand outside the spiral notebook or Friday Folder. As a mother of two elementary kids, please. Please digitize more – less paper in my house would be fantastic and I would love to share my children’s gains, losses, surprises, etc. with family and friends electronically.

One lesson learned fairly quickly – if you want people to read what you write, you need to promote your posts. The avenue in which I promoted depended on who my intended audience was.  I am sure the social media promenade will eventually change to some other awesome program(s) but for now I use Facebook for more personal posts and Twitter for professional posts. And then there are the posts that have never left draft form…and never will.  They are equally important (albeit one might argue more important) but not to be shared publicly. What I am getting at: I could do whatever I wanted in whatever way I needed. It is the beauty of creating original works. I own my writing….it only took 33 years to figure that out. Ouch.

364 days ago I started something that should have been encouraged, cultivated and fostered 10,585 days ago. One might argue that the technology was not available for teachers and students 10,585 days ago.  Ok, I will give them that but lack of technological opportunity does not apply to the here and now.

Ready? Set? Blog.

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“Saved the Day”

I put this title in quotations because 6 people think I saved their day from 4,057 miles away….Instead, I did what any high school (maybe even middle school) student could, would, and should do if given the access and reason.

Back story: Meet my parents – Robin and Steve.  My mom is a retired English teacher and my dad is a farmer that will never retire. In 2011 they went on their first international trip to the UK.  That was the first of many.  My role has been their travel agent, something I quite enjoy.  I get to surf the Internet for cool B&B’s, make reservations, map out pretty and practical routes and then live vicariously through them via their agenda and Facebook posts.  They just returned from their 5th trip, (this time going with 4 friends) which I had the pleasure of planning.

Break to: SUPERMAN JUMPS OUT OF THE PHONE BOOTH!!!  Or, rather, Meredith answers a panicked FaceTime call over the noon hour.

Robin: “Meredith, we have a problem. This B&B only has one room available for tomorrow night, we need three!” (First thought, uh-oh I messed up…mom assured me not, their mixup, blah, blah….second thought, maps.google.com).
Me: “Hang on mom, we’ll get it figured out – no worries.”
Robin: “Steve, look how cute she is when she’s concentrating.” (Remember, this was FaceTime, I was on a mission and these are my parents)
Me: “Mother. ” You get the idea of how the rest of the conversation might have went between a daughter and her parents…

Fast-forward 15 minutes: I had done a quick online search of the area they were traveling, found the desired route for their next booked B&B (taking into consideration the roads my dad felt comfortable driving on), split the difference of mileage (based on how much drive time they wanted to get done the next day), clicked my favorite “Hotels Nearby” button, cross-referenced that list with tripadvisor.com (over 320 million user reviews of anything travel related-seriously, check it out), found two possible B&B contenders, viewed their respective websites, read reviews, made a decision, called the winner (using my computer I’ll have you know) and made the reservation with a very nice English-accented woman named Vanessa, whom the traveling party met the next day and adored!

Did  I remember the date of the signing of Magna Carta?  No. (June 19, 1215)
Did I remember the name of the current Prime Minister? No. (David Cameron)
Did I do a crazy algebraic equation to get my mileage? Nope.

What I did do was:

  • Apply critical reading and thinking strategies.
  • Determine importance of information and its relevance to essential questions.
  • Separate information and ideas into component parts.
  • Make inferences, identify trends, and interpret data.
  • Separate information and ideas into component parts.
  • Exercise flexibility in information seeking and collaborated with peers.

In shorter terms, I analyzed, evaluated, interpreted, and inferred. All wonderful, great skills we want our bright, 21st century learners to be practicing and applying. I used what resources I had to solve a problem, a real problem. It wasn’t rocket science and it wasn’t fancy-dancy Academia stuff but those 15 minutes of clicking and surfing “saved the day” for 6 people on vacation. It put their minds at ease and I played a role with that, which makes me feel good.  

I want students to feel good about the work they are doing in schools. Are they helping someone or something? Are they solving a a real problem? What work are they doing in school to be part of a solution? What are you doing to be part of a solution?

 

 

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Playing With Circuitry

Math and Science were not my strong subjects in school. I gravitated more towards English, Social Studies and, of course, Band. Why do certain subjects resonate more with some students than others? Multiple intelligences, right vs. left brain dominance, disengaging or un-relatable instruction? Any, all, and other factors probably play a mix of roles with children leaning toward particular subjects throughout their schooling. Regardless, I do consider myself a life-long learner and have had some amazing opportunities to do just that through my position as an Instructional Technology Consultant for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency.

One such opportunity to learn has been through recent circuitry “toys” and the amazing and incredible process of making the light light up or the fan to whir.  My first experience was with littleBits (more to come on that later) at TICL last June and the list grows every day.  I decided to offer a quick synopsis of each one I have had contact with so far.  I tried to list them in a chronological order by grade level but quickly realized that one “toy” can be easily adaptable to a wide range of ages, depending on the activity/learning goal.  Here goes…

  • littleBits – These Bits snap together with magnets, no soldering, no wiring, no programming.  Color coded (Blue=power, Green=output, Pink=input, Orange=expands) modules lend for hours of exploration and limitless possibilities.
  • Snap Circuits – These components snap together instead of magnetize. Color coded as well but create circuit boards just like the ones found in electronic devices.  The sets come with a project manual but the real fun comes when the user gets comfortable enough to deviate from the manual and make their own creations.
  • Makey Makey – This video [2:12] captures the Makey Makey capabilities much better than I could – super cool.
  • Squishy Circuits – Using two different doughs (which the user gets to make!) as circuit building materials to connect the components (buzzer, LEDs, motor). Engineering students from the University of St. Thomas started this program and include lots of videos for classroom use here.
    • Ages: “Allows kids of all ages to create circuits and explore electronics.”
    • Classroom Ideas
  • Arduino – A bit different than the above mentioned but still requires a shout out. This is an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software (I even managed to get the light to light up!) Users can study the hardware to understand how it works and make changes to it. The company encourages users to share under their Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License.
    • Ages:”The 10 year old me would have been all over this!”
    • Classroom Ideas

It’s not about the “toy”…tool, program, app, whatever. It’s about the magic that happens when a student is allowed the freedom to explore, create, problem-solve, make something work, and relate it to the real world.

First step teachers: eliminate that worksheet activity you have done every year that’s getting stale. Instead, have your students “play” with a “toy.” I recommend having your students reflect, document their learning/failing process and celebrate by sharing their learning/failing through your school website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.

Enjoy the mind shift I promise you will witness and experience!

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Working Together ~ Achieving Success

The Laurens-Marathon School District has always been proud of “Working Together to Achieve Success” and Friday’s first elementary MakerDay was a wonderful example of their building motto.  After months of planning, preparing, compiling community donations of supplies and organizing helpers & volunteers, the day went off fabulously. I can’t say that there weren’t hiccups but as a whole, the day was very positive. Student engagement was near 100% and learning was at a high.

What would one see if they walked the halls that day?

  • Students jabbering – lots of it. (“Did you see what happened when I did this?! Where do you think the marble will go if I do this?”)
  • Students are NOT sitting in desks in rows. They might be sprawled on the floor, in groups, running to keep up with their Sphero or jumping up and down in celebration (“My tower didn’t topple! My engineered car worked! Woo-hoo, my chariot can carry my Lego-guy!”).
  • Creating, lots and lots of creating (cutting, pasting, attaching, coloring, drawing, coding, the list goes on…)
  • The teacher is NOT at the front of the room lecturing. Instead he/she is off to the side, providing support and asking the important questions.
  • Students are asking questions AND teachers are asking questions.
  • Students were in groups, collaborating, Working Together.
  • Smiles – happy students and happy teachers.

It was a beautiful thing.  Success?  I think so.

Not on Twitter but want to see images and videos of the day? Click here for our Storify!

 

 

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The Art of APEX

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to visit an extremely forward thinking school in the Des Moines area, Waukee APEX (Aspiring Professional Experience). After circling the downtown block with the correct address several times, I finally committed to parking… “Really? This is the school?” There was no school signage, business people were going in and out, and there wasn’t a student in sight (at least, upon first assumption). My world was about to be rocked. Inside was, indeed, a business. Most of the people I saw were employees but mixed in were junior and senior students from the Waukee school district, dressed and definitely acting the part of an employee.  Their “classroom” is housed the business space of DLR Group and without prior knowledge, one would think of these young individuals as paid employees doing regular work.  They was 17 students, an instructor and a buzz of activity. This particular course was Designing Communication Solutions which is within the APEX Business, Technology & Communications Strand (other strands can be found here). Throughout the semester, these students are paired with businesses to complete requested projects and work for a few hours every afternoon instead of attending conventional, bell-to-bell classes.  I would normally put air quotes around work but I can’t, they are doing real, actual work for real, actual businesses.  They have clients to consult and deadlines to meet. Sounds familiar – like my job – but they are high school students. LOVE!

Through inquiry-based learning and authentic experiences, students build skills in key areas: productivity/accountability, complex communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and flexibility/adaptability. They are featured below (graphic art/design credit: Brandon Vacco, APEX Student).Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.33.09 PM

As a mother, educator, community member and regular ‘ol human being – I want this opportunity for ALL kids. Rural or urban. Small or large district. Financially stable or financially struggling. How do we make this happen? If you are a parent, ask your child’s teacher what real-world applications are happening in your their classroom. Volunteer your business or expertise if you see a fit.  If you are an educator, keep doing awesome things but #makeitbetter – there is always room for improvement. If you see an opportunity to work outside the 4 walls of your classroom, take it! Only good can come from students seeing the relevance and real-world application of the work they are doing in their classroom. And if you are removed from the local educational institution for whatever reason (kids have graduated, etc.) – get back in there, attend a school board meeting, ask questions, offer your services, listen, volunteer, be active! It takes a village.

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