Innovation & blended learning

“Education Week”

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Chalkbeat covers education as a non-profit news site Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

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The power of literacy: Author Neil Gaiman for U.S. education secretary? By Valerie Strauss

A mindset that more policymakers should keep in mind.

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A less favorable review of Reign of Errors

See link:
“Rain of Errors”

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Five Research-Driven Education Trends At Work in Classrooms | MindShift

1) Brain-based teaching
2) Game-based learning
3) Power of perseverance
4) Questioning homework
5) Cultivating creativity

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Poster: The fine print of life


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Malala Yousafzai: Hero of Education

Interview with Christiane Amanpour here:


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Bill Nye: “let’s stop blaming students”

“Let’s Stop Blaming Students | In Their Own Words | Big Think”

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Quote on teacher observations/evaluations


Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning

booksFrom the introduction:

“A wide range of activities goes under the broad walkthrough umbrella – some activities supportive of good instruction, other punitive and uninformed.  Some focus attention on instruction and bring together educators in ways that lead to improvement; others are technical, compliance-driven, cursory (referred to derisively by teachers as ‘drive-bys’), and harshly evaluative.

Unfortunately, the practice of walkthroughs has become corrupted in many ways by confounding it with supervision and evaluation of teachers.  The purpose of some walkthroughs has been to identify deficiencies in classroom practice and to ‘fix’ teachers who manifest those deficiencies.  In many instances, judgements about what needs fixing are made on the basis of simplistic checklists that have little or nothing to do with the direct experience of teachers in their classrooms.  Groups of administrators descend on classrooms with clipboards and checklists, caucus briefly in the hallway, and then deliver a set of simplistic messages about what needs fixing.  This kind of practice is both antithetical to the purposes of instructional rounds and profoundly antiprofessional.  The idea behind instructional rounds is that everyone involved is working on their practice, everyone is obliged to be knowledgeable about the common task of instructional improvement, and everyone’s practice should be subject to scrutiny, critique, and improvement.”

A brief book review is here:


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Diane Ravitch: Q&A on her controversial new book

Interview with Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post


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Poster: “Demand evidence and think critically


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Poster: “I teach. What’s your superpower?”


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Classroom Poster: Wayne Dyer Quote

Untitled picture

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New book by Diane Ravitch – “Reign of Error”

Review by Anthony Cody at Education Week

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Article of the day for education leaders

Leadership implications of the brave new blended world, by Tom Vander Ark – Education Week

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New Metric for Colleges: Graduates’ Salaries –

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Why we blame teachers

“Why We Blame Teachers”

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Student: “Why do we have to write today?” (Responses Enclosed)

poetic article shared from Todd Finley at Edutopia

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(Very, Very Old) Video: How to Handle Misbehaving Students

I began watching this thinking it was a joke but it actually brings up some basic points for classroom management with a touch of humor due to its age.  There is room for improvement in the instructional techniques, but it’s a good place to start for learning more about behavior management. Enjoy!

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New review of 8 entrepreneurial educators

“Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don’t Leave | CTQ”

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Barriers to creativity in education

Adobe completed a study of creativity in education and (unsurprisingly) found a serious lack thereof.  The method was an interview of 4,000 teachers and parents and their results are compiled in the infographic below.

I haven’t read the actual study, but I’m a bit confused with the across-the-board perception that a lack of resources is a perceived hindrance to creativity.  A lack of resources (in sort of an unfortunate way) necessitates creativity regarding instruction.  Students often need special resources to complete projects that teachers feel are creative, but I’m not convinced that all of the projects the students would deem “creative” require substantial resources.  It seems that with the rise of technology, accessibility to internet access is really the main concerns as far as resources (along with the skills to utilize that technology).  I’m not arguing we have a great educational infrastructure by any means either (we definitely do not), including internet access in far too many schools.  I just feel that creativity is more of a solution in and of itself to many of our problems rather than something that is inhibited in an absolute sense by any given factor or collection of factors.

The graphic is below, or can be found here: 


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Big Think: How to break the habit of provincial thinking

A quick read for a social studies classroom discussion outlining how to be/stay relatively informed on current issues.  Might be adapted into a good warm-up activity with some thought-provoking questions for the beginning of class one day.

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Niall Ferguson on Technology & Learning

I can’t say that I agree with everything Niall Ferguson says or writes, particularly concerning politics, but he’s got some good points here about technology and learning.  We can compare our school systems against others around the world or instead we can engage in a much more intimate process of ensuring a great education for each student.  Rather than working to structure a system that is designed to (hopefully) produce a well-rounded citizen (after a decade and a half or so of studies), we should work harder with students to maximize their proficiency in technologies that aid their own teaching and learning.

I’m not saying the traditional school system is obsolete, but we surely need to totally rethink how we “do” school.  I also certainly wouldn’t go as far as Ferguson does by claiming that our educational problems will solve themselves due to new technologies.  I think we’ll always need (and desire) a teacher, leader, or learning facilitator within a well-organized system (I’m refraining from saying “bureaucracy” because of negative connotations, but more or less…) who assists students as they use technologies and other new forms of learning created by technologies.  I recommend the article to fans of online learning, the future of ed., ed tech, etc.


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ASCD Inservice Resource: Nervous About Your First Year Teaching?

Found the following article written by Tina Byland at the ASCD Inservice page.  Includes links to lots of ASCD resources including books, daily email briefings, magazine subscriptions, professional development tools, webinars, blogs, social networking sites, etc.  Admittedly its all from ASCD so its a bit of an advertisement, but its still full of good stuff.

New Teacher Supports from ASCD

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Video Games and Education: Primer Sources

I recently came across a handful of resources regarding learning through video games.  Anya Kamenetz at The Hechinger Report provides Four insights into the future of games and technology for learning, which reviews insights from an interview with James Paul Lee as well as an analysis from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center.  Further writing from Kamenetz regarding game-making research is here and a video from Education Week on this topic is available here.

Each article also contains several links for further reading!



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Introducing: Learnist

New, big app for education, teaching, and learning.  I’ll soon be adding my learnist profile somewhere on this blog once I get going.  For now, check out the videos below to learn more.


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Poster: global geography & population


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How to use Google Forms to create your own self-grading quiz

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How to use a rubric without stifling creativity (Grant Wiggins)

Tips from UBD author, Grant Wiggins

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TED on Education

Lots of good stuff here, and a few repeats among playlists.  I won’t go into detail because these are really all worth watching, especially anything Ken Robinson says about teaching and learning…

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5 minutes of inspiration from Ashton Kutcher

Anyone who misses this is really overlooking a golden piece of inspiration to share with students.

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S.S. Content: TED Talks, Maps, and Charts

A few notable things to add to the social studies files to review, think about, and perhaps implement into a lesson plan down the road.

  • 40 maps that explain the world (Max Fisher, Washington Post)
    • *includes link to a video of Fisher discussing a few of the maps.  Good potential for a “guest” modeling activity for learning the intricacies of reading a complex map followed by some scaffolding/guided practice for students to explain a different map.  Lots of possibilities…
  • The Entire History of the World – Really, All of It – Distilled Into a Single Gorgeous Chart (Rebecca Onion, Slate)
    • This is a good one, precisely because it is so bad. Anyone who would remotely consider themselves a historian understands the problems with that title, and we should teach our students that lesson, too.  That being said, the chart is pretty awesome and is definitely worth looking at when talking about empires, global history, change over time, etc.  Originally printed in 1931 (bonus: primary source), the chart identifies most of the major civilizations over the past 4000 years, but notably includes little actual history about any of them.  Still useful to know a thing or two about the empires, but this is mostly a useful document to use when talking about the big picture stuff in history, and perhaps as a starting point for an inquiry project where students pick a civilization and delve a bit deeper based on their interests…
  • TED Playlist: Hans Rosling, 5 talks on global issues
    • Grab bag of videos on fairly specific videos.  I like TED talks for prof. development within the content area and also occasionally you’ll find a talk that high school students will enjoy.  For the most part though, the messages in these will usually have to be slightly repackaged if we want to hold the interest of our students.  Lecture just isn’t going to work with these talks…90% of the time.  Anyway, it includes 5 videos (each 15-25 mins. long) on the “African” economy/poverty issues, Indian progress, young Chinese entrepreneurs, birth control with Melinda Gates, and some thoughts from the ground during the Arab Spring!
  • TED Playlist: The Global Power Shift
    • Caught this on Netflix; all of the praise for TED above still applies.  Actually the Netflix version of the list has perhaps twice as many videos.  A handful of these deal with specific geographical locations, others talk about the big picture ideas, and still others talk about trends impacting the world today.  Enjoy!

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What is learning, exactly? by Joanne Yatvin – (Valerie Strauss, Washington Post)

…Not just memorizing a textbook!


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Exploring Techniques to Enhance K-12 Educational Policy Implementation

Nicholas M. Lind

ED406 – Master’s Research Methods, Summer 2013

What I have learned in my many years is what happens from legislation to the school level is a very torturous path…One might as well have traveled to another planet where they speak another language and have another worldview.

– State Department of Education staff person (Datnow, 2006)

An ever-growing divide between policymakers and educators continues to complicate efforts to research, design, implement, and evaluate educational policies at the K-12 level.  Despite a growing body of research aiming to enhance the implementation process of new policies, serious attempts to create meaningful legislation are increasingly met with hesitancy, uncertainty, and reluctance from educators.  Researchers have addressed multiple aspects that positively impact these reform programs, but only the most recent findings have placed those reflections within an accurate understanding of policy formation and execution processes.

In contributing to the ongoing project of advancing educational policy implementation strategies across the United States, the following proposal will provide a historical summary of developments in K-12 educational policy implementation studies and will ultimately advocate for a qualitative case study analysis of educational policy implementation procedures in a selection of schools.  As will be further demonstrated, factors such as a given school environment, the research paradigm used, the agency of stakeholders at multiple levels, or the use of communication and effective training can play a significant role in the successful implementation of educational policies.

An abundance of recent studies have concentrated on designing broad-ranging policies at the K-12 level.  Spillane, Gomez, and Mesler (2009) noted the current, “unprecedented appetite for influencing the core work of schools – teaching and learning (p. 409).”  Datnow and Park (2009) remarked that, “within this decade, we have witnessed several types of large-scale reform efforts…including district-driven change initiatives, state and federal systems of standards and accountability, and comprehensive school reform” (p. 352).  Richly layered with academic underpinnings and data-driven evaluation processes, these policies have greatly impacted educators, administrators, students, and stakeholders.  Honig, a prominent educational policy researcher at the University of Washington, has similarly commented that policies have also become far more broadly inclusive, that is, aiming at guiding all students toward high standards rather than simply at bringing struggling students toward an established academic denominator (2006).

Whereas agents in the policy process had previously employed more distant mechanisms of influence, more recent efforts have suggested and at times even insisted specific instructional methods and content.  This expansion of scale has shed light on the importance of policy implementation studies.  Furthermore, there has been far less focus placed on generalization of results across school environments.  Crucially, as will be expanded upon at length later in this paper, there has been an acceptance that policy outcomes are highly dependent on implementation processes within state and local environments.  Therefore, results of implementation strategies may not be successful across diverse environments even when proving effective within isolated scenarios.  In addition to a growing recognition of the importance of specific actors, environments, and policies in the implementation process, Honig calls for greater inquiry into how and why specific factors influence the execution of policies.  Given early paradigms of implementation research, “critics might consider that confronting complexity has been a positive development,” Honig optimistically remarks (p. 22, 2006).

The earliest paradigm of educational policy implementation research was coined the technical-rational perspective of implementation (Datnow and Park, 2009).  Under this model, policies crafted by legislators were handled in a strict top-down manner to educators for implementation.  Policymakers designed laws and practitioners in the classrooms implemented them.  Concerns that spurred political action were largely determined by legislators rather than educators.

This viewpoint, although accurately describing the perception of contemporary teachers who are frustrated with current policies and implementation strategies, fails to encompass several aspects of the policy process.  Notably, it disregards prior negotiations made by stakeholders during the formation of policy (McLaughlin, 2006).  In many cases, educators or administrators played a significant role in forming policies through directly or indirectly advising relevant policymakers.  Although policies were in some cases presented to schools in a top-down manner, prior communication with stakeholders at regional, state, and local levels played a significant role in the policy process as well, calling into question the authenticity of a supposedly rigid top-down model.  Indeed, a three-year study by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania found that communication throughout the implementation process produced markedly more successful programs (Weinbaum and Supovitz, 2010).  Communication between policymakers and educators is an integral part of the implementation process.

A revised outlook acknowledged the interaction between actors during implementation.  This modified research embraced a mutual adaptation perspective, which recognized the inevitable and indeed desirable practice of contact when crafting and executing policies (Datnow, 2006).  In many cases, these ongoing relations are inseparable from the implementation process and aim to clarify specific aspects of policies.  In some situations, deficient policy communication has produced unwanted policy outcomes.  Ali (2011) described a case in which, “improper communication of policy severely compromised the achievement of intended policy objectives” (p.1).  Lacking ongoing support from policymakers, educators were unable to implement all aspects of a policy, thereby hindering change and yielding unreliable evaluations of the policy.  Mutual adaptation perspective recognizes deficiencies in communication as well as their potential to influence policy implementation.

Indeed, mutual adaptation perspective was significantly more reflective of current policy implementation practices.  Nevertheless, it failed to place enough emphasis on the role of educators in policy implementation.  Cohen, Moffitt, and Goldin (2007) point out that policymakers typically don’t face the problems in education so much as they merely make solutions based on knowledge of the situation.  While, as noted above, that knowledge is informed by practitioners in the field (i.e. educators), it lacks the primary experience of daily classroom activities that truly dictate how policies are implemented.  Honig (2006) similarly writes, “If such information and recommendations gloss over public school systems’ complex day-to-day realities they run the risk of missing their mark and actually undermining progress” (p. 3).  Genuinely-effective policies must embrace a deep understanding of the conditions within which policies will be implemented, a perspective that most policymakers simply are not accustomed to providing.

In this way, the process of making policies is both a top-down as well as a bottom-up process.  Mutual adaptation recognized this movement in the design phase, but failed to acknowledge bottom-up agency during the execution process as well.  Honig (2009) reiterates that the primary factor determining the successfulness of a policy is the, “interaction between that policy, [the] people who matter in its implementation, and the conditions in the places in which people operate” (p. 333).  Spillane, Gomez, and Mesler (2009) as well as Datnow and Park (2009) both emphasize the role of local educational actors in this interactive implementation process.  Feedback from teachers and administrators, when evaluated by actors working to implement policy from a top-down perspective, plays a significant role in shaping how specific initiatives take root in schools.

Most recently, researchers have captured this significant phenomenon in the co-construction model of educational policy implementation (Datnow and Park, 2009).  Co-construction, as defined by Datnow (2006), embodies a “premise of multidirectionality: that multiple levels of educational systems may constrain or enable implementation and that implementation may affect those broader levels” (p. 107).  In a fluid and ongoing process of implementation, policymakers and educators at various levels of bureaucracy and schools work together to develop and apply policies to classrooms as they fit best in those environments, and simultaneously work together to provide feedback and support to other levels of the field.  Policymakers can reflect on this feedback and apply successful strategies to similar environments so long as they carefully implement measures to address diverse school districts and don’t over-value generalization of strategies (Cohen-Vogel and Ingle, 2013).  Weinbaum and Supovitz (2010) posit that policy designers must consistently emphasize and engage with school officials in terms of how programs will impact their practices and in turn establish early nonnegotiable principles of the reform innovation up front as well as maintain an ongoing communication relationship with school clients in order to best-ensure that the programs are implemented effectively.  By gathering a better understanding of the essential practices of teachers, policymakers are better-equipped to create policies and likewise by maintaining ongoing dialogues with teaching professionals, they’re better-able to address incoming and otherwise unforeseen concerns as they develop.

Research in the co-construction model has recently highlighted several growing concerns in policy research.  Honig (2007) reviews the role of central office staff in the K-12 setting as facilitators of feedback from teachers as well as learning organizations tasked with supporting educators when new policies are implemented.  In an ongoing process of searching for relevant methods to support educators, encoding those materials into circulation among teachers for review and professional development, and subsequently applying it to their professional repertoire, central office staff work to establish practices and cultures in schools for teachers to retrieve relevant information in order to maintain support as new policies are implemented and adapted.

Another aspect that forms the basis of ongoing construction of policies is the strain between policy expectations and realistic capabilities (Spillane, 2009).  Policies are often deemed unfeasible if they stretch the capacity of schools in terms of excessive financial burdens, human resource constraints, or seemingly unreachable academic outcomes.  Schools have especially struggled to provide resources with recent policy trends that aim to set exceedingly high expectations for all students (Cohen, 2007).

In spite of these problems, educational policy implementation research at the K-12 level has nevertheless made significant strides in recent decades.  Contemporary research has increasingly shifted the focus of implementation strategies from top-down approaches to collaborative efforts amongst the education community and throughout schools.  Researchers have gradually acknowledged that implementation is far from a straightforward dissemination of instructions.  Reform measures include a highly complex and ongoing process between stakeholders in roles of policymaking, researchers who inform and analyze recent trends, school administrators and mediators who synthesize feedback from teachers, and of course teachers and students who work to implement new innovations and techniques into daily life in classrooms throughout the country.  Educators play a significant role in forming, adapting, and evaluating how policies impact learning, and policymakers are increasingly more successful as that feedback is incorporated into the ongoing policymaking process.

Honig (2009) reflects on the state of implementation research and suggests three specific avenues for further inquiry.  Whereas variation is recognized across diverse settings, which greatly impacts the success of specific policies and implementation methods and strategies, researchers should attempt to identify patterns in distinctions in order to better-understand environmental aspects that impact policy implementation.  A key problem faced by school reformers is the plague of improperly or incompletely implemented policies, which are unreliable or unfeasible to measure in terms of effectiveness.  These patterns may inform Honig’s second recommendation, which is to further-develop theoretical frameworks for analyzing policy implementation.  Co-Construction presents a compelling case that policies are crafted on an ongoing basis according to the needs of actors as state and local levels of education.  Further research should aim to distinguish how and why those actors impact implementation efforts.  Finally, Honig advocates that further-developed theories work to document the process of policy implementation in order to build the understanding of how to craft policies in such a manner that implementation is more accessible at a district level where they can be easily adapted to fit the needs of the given environment.

Whereas Honig (2009) suggests that further studies review the policy implementation process at the K-12 level in order to determine practices policymakers can take to craft policies that are adaptable to fit the needs of diverse school environments, this research proposal will aim to examine contemporary policy implementation techniques, distinguish specific practices adopted by a sample of districts, and highlight pragmatic methods for policymakers to adopt to ensure feasible policies are designed and implemented in a manner that respects the needs of teachers and learners within diverse settings.

A qualitative case study approach will be adopted wherein the unit of analysis for the case is represented by one group of three school districts located within a similar environment.  Observing Yin’s (2009) suggested steps in developing a case study design, the process begins with an appropriate research question which is: What are the steps in communicating educational policies from policymakers (widely defined) to school administrators and teachers and how do (rural) school districts adapt policies to best-fit the needs of their diverse school settings?

It is expected that this analysis will determine that, often times, too little information is provided to educators when new policies are implemented.  This in turn produces confusion and places limitations on implementation procedures.  Additionally, policies are crafted which do too little to respect the needs of diverse school districts, which also limits implementation and necessitates practices to adapt policies ensuring the most-effective results within any given district.

To limit the scope of this research, a sample of districts from a similar environment will be evaluated in order to suggest methods for that particular setting.  Further research must focus on alternative environments to suggest methods most-effective within those specific settings as well as to highlight methods to differentiate between district environments in order to continue building a framework for policy implementation studies.

Given the importance on environment in implementation procedures, this research will focus on specific school districts as independent case studies.  The initial analysis will focus or rural districts whereas subsequent case studies will evaluate urban and suburban environments.  Contingent on approval from specific districts, the study will analyze three rural districts in the Greater Rochester region.  Upon approval, data collection from each district will proceed, which will include information Stake (2005) recommends such as: the nature of the case; its historical background; the physical setting; other contexts such as economic, political, legal, and aesthetic; other cases through which this case is recognized; and those informants through whom the case can be known.

The collection of data will require the use of multiple methods in order to produce the most holistic perspective of policy implementation practices.  After introducing the research project and gaining permission from district administration, researchers would conduct a documentation review of any available paperwork involving the implementation of policies specific to instruction and curriculum, especially those involving the recent Common Core State Standards.  These documents may include communiqués from state education officials, announcements from teacher’s union officials, memos between educators, minutes from meetings, and other documents related to communication of recent educational policies.  This information will vary per district, but will nonetheless provide useful information regarding implementation practices within each school.

All information gained from reviewing documents would be used to inform researchers how to proceed.  As the data are analyzed, researchers will tailor the qualitative methods in order to work toward approaching a comprehensive understanding of policy implementation procedures within each district.  One proposal researchers will consider will be to design a survey to be administered to all district educators seeking their personal and professional insights into the implementation process.  The survey results may form the basis for interviews with specific individuals who provided especially insightful reviews such as administrators or educators particularly involved in the process.  Alternatively, researchers could conduct focus group interviews depending on which style is most appropriate and productive within each district.

A complete analysis of the document review, survey results, and interviews will provide researchers with important insights on the K-12 policy implementation process from the perspective of educators in rural school districts.  As stated above, subsequent case study analyses would be conducted observing similar methods in urban and suburban districts order to evaluate perceptions from educators in those settings.  All of the knowledge and materials gained from these data collections will allow researchers to draw conclusions of the implementation process within the specific case studies, which will be further analyzed for generalizable practices for educational policy implementation research.  Once vetted against the growing body of research in K-12 educational policy implementation, this research will afford substantial insights into factors that influence the execution of policies from the perspective of those who implement them: educators.



Ali, S. (2011). Deficient policy communication deficient outcomes – capacity building policy under education reforms in Sindh, Pakistan. Bulletin of Education and Research, 33(1), 1-19.

Cohen, D., Moffitt, S., & Goldin, S. (2007) Policy and practice: The dilemma. American Journal of Education, 113 (4), 515-548.

Cohen-Vogel, L., & Ingle, W.K. (2007). When neighbours matter most: Innovation, diffusion and state policy adoption in tertiary education. Journal of Educational Policy, 22 (3), 241-262.

Datnow, A. (2006) Connections in the policy chain: the “co-construction” of implementation in comprehensive school reform. In M. Honig (Ed.), New directions in education policy implementation: confronting complexity (pp. 105-123). Albany: State University of New York Press.

Datnow, A. & Park, V. (2009) Conceptualizing policy implementation: large-scale reform in an era of complexity. In G. Sykes, B. Schneider, & D. Plank (Eds.), Handbook of education policy research (pp.348-361). New York: Routledge.

Honig, M. (2006) Complexity and policy implementation challenges and opportunities for the field. In M. Honig (Ed.), New directions in education policy implementation: confronting complexity (pp. 1- 23). Albany: State University of New York Press.

Honig, M. (2007) Policy implementation and learning: How organizations and socio-cultural learning theories elaborate district central office roles in complex educational improvement efforts. Seattle, WA: University of Washington, Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy.

Honig, M. (2009) What works in defining “what works” in educational improvement. In G. Sykes, B. Schneider, & D. Plank (Eds.), Handbook of education policy research (pp.333-347). New York: Routledge.

McLaughlin, M. (2006) Implementation research in education: lessons learned, lingering questions, and new opportunities. In M. Honig (Ed.), New directions in education policy implementation: confronting complexity (pp. 209-228). Albany: State University of New York Press.

Mead, J. (2009) The role of law in educational policy formation, implementation, and research. In G. Sykes, B. Schneider, & D. Plank (Eds.), Handbook of education policy research (pp.286-295). New York: Routledge.

Spillane, J., Reiser, B., & Reimer, T. (2002) Policy implementation and cognition: Reframing and refocusing implementation research. Review of Educational Research, 72 (3), 387-431.

Spillane, J., Gomez, L., & Mesler, L. (2009) Notes on reframing the role of organizations in policy implementation. In G. Sykes, B. Schneider, & D. Plank (Eds.), Handbook of education policy research (pp.409-425). New York: Routledge.

Stake, R. E. (2005) Qualitative case studies. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 443-466). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Weinbaum, E.H., & Supovitz, J.A. (2010). Planning ahead: Make program implementation more predictable. The Phi Delta Kappan, 91(7), 68-71.

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Designs and methods (4th ed.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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Using Zombies to teach STEM (and other awesome zombie stuff)

I’m not a huge fan of FOX News, but this story caught my eye and I just had to read on.  Texas Instruments and The National Academy of Sciences have teamed to produce STEM Behind Hollywood, a series of highly entertaining activities aiming to facilitate real-world problem solving in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  The website for the project includes many activity plans which are accessible via download.


The project also uses superheros, forensic investigations, space inquiries, and neuroscience experiments to hook kids’ interest, but really it’s all about the zombies these days.  Speaking of zombies, I can’t help but mention two pieces of Zombie literature that are awesome resources to use in the social studies classroom.  The first is the novel (wayyyyy, wayyyyyy, indescribably better than the movie) World War Z, by Max Brooks.  The book is a series of interviews conducted by Max Brooks following a global war against zombies.  Brooks interviews a long list of exotic characters from around the world to gain a retrospect of the events that took place during and after the war.  A variety of (real-world) global conflicts are touched upon (i.e. Israel & Palestine, sex trafficking, rampant unrestrained consumerism, and Kashmir just to name a few…) within a narrative that will capture the attention of anyone remotely interested in the world around them.  I’d especially recommend the audiobook version, which used a different reader for each character.

I also must recommend Theories of International Relations and Zombies, by Daniel W. Drezner.  Although this is definitely an academic book, the topic brings a serious text within the grasps of accessibility to many adolescents.  To be sure, this is a type of book I’d only recommend to students who were already interested in the topic of global politics and/or international relations because hidden beneath the zombie narrative is a very clear analysis of real-world international relations theories.

As much as I admire the content and the analysis of theories, what really caught my attention with Drezner’s work was his incredible ability to organize an argument and convey it in concise yet highly elegant terms.  If I wanted to teach a kid who already likes social studies how to write more effectively, hands down this is the number one resource I would use.  This is a skill that (unfortunately) not enough adolescent students really excel at, and Drezner’s work provides us with an opportunity to teach students how to form a really fantastic argument.  Drezner’s own comments on this book, including how to use it in an undergraduate setting and how he managed to write it without “drowning in puns,” are available here.

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Highly recommend: “We Need to Treat Children as the Complex Thinkers They Are”

Excellent article by John Hunter

– Necessary reading for anyone who works with kids, especially teachers

In Their Own Words | Big Think”

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This is an awesome bunch of schools

“4 High Schools Using Projects to Promote Deeper Learning”

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Sneak peak at common core-aligned assessments for 2014-15

“Smarter Balanced Practice Tests Help Teachers Prepare for the Common Core”

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50 Little-Known Ways Google Docs Can Help In Education | Edudemic

This is another one of my favorite tools – makes group projects (out of the classroom) much easier for students

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Reading Posters, Quotes and Motivation

It’s challenging to keep up here with the number of excellent posters on pinterest…these are great.

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20 Must-Have Educational Resources For All Teachers | Edudemic

Some of my favorites have made the list! Can’t wait to play brief clips of audio books to my students…Audible is the best

Categories: Education in the 21st Century, Social Studies Texts, Teaching Resources | Leave a comment

Virtual Field Trip Resources | mattBgomez

Virtual field trips made easy..a collection of awesome resources to explore the world with!

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5 Free Twitter Curation Tools To Enhance Your PLN | Edudemic

Lots of potential for using social media in the classroom with these helpful tools

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Poster: Pledge of Allegiance


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Classroom Poster: Invention & Innovation


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24 Awesome Short Stories for Middle Schoolers


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The Teacher’s Job


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Memes for Learning!


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“Educating yourself does not mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means that you are intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn.”


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Getting Kids Engaged with Primary Sources | Cool Tools – The Digital Shift

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