74-Peergrade takes Student Collaboration to an Unprecedented Level…Starring David Kofoed Wind and Kristen Spayde

I like to think that I have a wonderful rapport with my students. And yet…I’m still their teacher which is a significant barrier. I also have 40 years on my kids. To them, I’m someone who has a lot more yesterdays than tomorrows. My observations on their lives, while I hope respected and valued, does not carry the weight of a peer.

Just 4 sentences into this intro, the wonderful word peer makes its grand entrance. Peer acceptance, peer constructive criticism, peer praise, and peer collaboration are the powerful fuels that ignite and propel the outstanding education tool called Peergrade. Anyone who’s taught for more than 5 minutes knows the power of peer influence.

In this episode, I’ll interview David Kofoed Wind the founder of Peergrade. Peergrade is a marvelous way to capitalize on kid’s natural inclination to listen to their peers. This tool randomly assigns student creations to classmates and then guides and monitors evaluations. Peer feedback is not only highly valued but it’s also welcomed because it’s often couched in contemporary youth vernacular. Kids understand how to communicate with other kids. And finally, a student evaluator who focuses on just one narrative written by just one peer does not suffer eye-strain and fatigue that teachers often experience wading through 100 student narratives. A 1 on1 evaluation experience is a fresher, focused, and perhaps more useful interaction.

Joining me in the Room 111 Studios is Kristen Spayde. Kristen may sound familiar. She starred in Episode 39 about going paperless and in Episode 58 when we dished with the HyperDocs Girls. Please give this awesome tool a try!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Students don’t give your feedback the time of day!

The Solution:

Utilize Peergrade to foster profound student collaboration.

Watch this brief tutorial:

What you can do Tomorrow:

  1. Choose an assignment that calls for the creation of a student reflection, evaluation, or narrative
  2. Pull a couple of student guinea pigs out of study hall to test Peergrade
  3. Schedule your Peergrade maiden voyage.

Kids value what other kids say. Embrace this natural tendency for the benefit of all!

Listen to “74-Peergrade takes Student Collaboration to an Unprecedented Level…Starring David Kofoed Wind and Kristen Spayde” on Spreaker.


73-Impose the 15-Word Gauntlet on your Students…Starring Arielle Brown and Ashlynn Hathaway

Ashlynn Hathaway…Arielle Brown

If you’ve taught for any time what so ever, you’ve probably suffered through painfully boring student presentations. And if you were bored, think of the other students. Let’s strive to make such presentations are:

  • More attractive
  • More engaging
  • Less time-consuming
  • More interactive

In order to create such presentations, your kids must first run the gauntlet.

According to various sources, fifteen to twenty words is the average sentence length. That seemed long, till I actually wrote a sentence:

When I was in high school, I would have laughed uproariously

if anyone had informed me that I was destined to be a teacher. (24 words)

This will be a wonderful challenge for your students. They may revolt. Not only is it important to reduce the number of words, the limit will also hopefully dissuade copying and pasting. This awful practice flirts with plagiarism and makes for exceedingly dull presentations as students drone the words of another.

The fifteen-word limit encourages creativity. Students must populate slides with attractive images. They must animate slides with captivating stories. This leads to far more engaging presentations. 

As explained in the episode, another powerful engagement tactic is to have kids present to one another through Pear Deck. This will boost engagement ten-fold. The student presenter will monopolize the screens of his or her audience and that audience will have a front row seat to the presentation’s compelling images.

Episode Template

The Problem:

Student presentations are filled with boring slides that are text rich and image poor.

What you can do Tomorrow?

  • Direct students to create a one-sentence description of themselves. 
  • Create the 15-word Berlin Wall or, the 15-word 38th Parallel. 
  • Display fifteen-word examples on the board. 
  • Display the longest and shortest sentences. 
  • Inform students about the fifteen word maximum for the next presentation. 

Student presentations tend to be boring. Let’s make them engaging instead. Foster student creativity and ignite storytelling passion by limiting kids to fifteen words per slide.

Listen to “73-Impose the 15-Word Gauntlet on your Students…Starring Arielle Brown and Ashlynn Hathaway” on Spreaker.

72-A Harvard MBA Inspires Educators to Reach out to People…Just Like Him…Starring Brent Wilkinson

Brent Wilkinson NOW and THEN

If you’re married to your high school sweetheart this doesn’t apply to you, but for most of us, our high school flames are murky memories. That’s certainly the case for me. I didn’t marry a girl from my hometown, but one from Mt. Vernon a pretty little town on the edge of the Appalachian foothills in North Central Ohio. About a decade ago, I attended the Mt. Vernon High School Class of 1981 Reunion. It was a lot of fun for a while, but as the night wore on, my ability to follow and contribute to stories that were unfamiliar…with people I didn’t know, became problematic. My wife was having a blast and was certainly entitled to uncompromised nostalgic bliss, so I had to step-up my social game.

Penny, fortunately, introduced me to her old friend…Brent Wilkinson. The next 90 minutes simply evaporated. Brent is a fascinating guy with a wonderful Horatio Alger story. He left Mt. Vernon in 1981 bound for Boston. He went on to captain the Harvard football team, earn his MBA, and thrive as a corporate officer and entrepreneur in Boston’s highly competitive private sector. I loved his story, but what impressed me more was his humble recounting of it. Penny and I visited Brent in Boston this past summer. As we strolled the city and interacted with this fascinating guy, I knew I had to get Brent on my podcast.

When educators and private sector types collaborate, it creates opportunities not just for students. My experience interacting with business folk has revealed that problems of communication, motivation, and management are largely universal. What’s also universal is the value of growing human capital which is exactly what can happen if teachers reach out. Brent and his colleagues will absolutely collaborate with my kids before year’s end! Why don’t you create such an opportunity for your students?

Episode Template

The Problem: There’s little collaboration between schools and the private sector.

The Solution: Form your own school-business partnership.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  1. Scan your curriculum for a collaboration opportunity.
  2. Network with friends and acquaintances in the private sector.
  3. Set a date when collaboration will materialize.

School and business collaboration will obviously benefit kids, but fostering such relationships could also be transformative for adults. Be a prime mover in this equation! Listen to “72-A Harvard MBA Inspires Educators to Reach out to People…Just Like Him…Starring Brent Wilkinson” on Spreaker. 

71-Issue the Nonverbal Communication Challenge to your Kids

WELCOME! I’m not threatened by you!

It’s hard to believe, but humans communicated before there were words. We may not realize it, but we still use pre-verbal methods of communicating. There’s an entire language that we unknowingly transmit with each interaction…it’s nonverbal! It comes naturally to us. All we have to do is tune in to an ancient frequency. Think of when you’re trying to communicate with someone who can’t speak your language. You default to expressive arm gestures and facial expressions. You probably also do this when communicating to your four legged pal. Dogs are champs at reading nonverbals.

As teachers, students come at us in waves. It’s hard to give kids our undivided attention, but that’s precisely what we should TRY to do. Transmitting the right nonverbals is an essential skill that teachers should master. The good news is that mastering such skills is a blast! You can even get your students in on the game.

I learned about nonverbal communication while writing my first book You’ve Gotta Connect.

I devoted an entire chapter to nonverbals, but I also featured them in Hack 73 of my new book Hacking Engagement Again. My favorite book on body language is the Definitive Book on Body Language by Barbara and Allan Pease. Not only is this book informative, it’s also hilarious!

This episode is so much fun. Please give some of my ideas a try and deputize your students in the process.

Episode Template

The Problem: We’re unaware of nonverbal signals which can encourage, or undermine, relationships with kids.

The Solution: Become fluent in this ancient form of communication.

What you can do Tomorrow: 

  1. Practice on your significant other.
  2. Enlighten students about your goal.
  3. Play an active listening game.
  4. Have student performers demonstrate effective listening techniques.
  5. Practice nonverbal listening in one-on-one interactions.

Students who don’t feel like you’re engaged with them will feel totally undervalued.

Listen to “71-Issue the Nonverbal Communication Challenge to your Kids” on Spreaker.