77-Flipgrid is a Powerful Little Tool that’s a Blast…Starring Aharon Rockwell

When evaluating a new tech tool, I must be able to use it within 5 minutes…or I just bag it. If I can’t figure it out by then, my students will be lost. I was conducting a PD session in Ft. Worth this past summer. A young lady called me over and said, Have you heard of Flipgrid and if so, have you used it? My answer was, No and no. I made a mental note to try it when the school year started, but I remember thinking…It has to pass my ease of use test. Last week was 8 weeks in and I finally got around to it. I’m glad I did!

Flipgrid is a cool way to encourage student’s voice. You record a video question and then kids record a 1 to 90-second video on their smartphones or Chromebooks in response. I mastered Flipgrid in about 3 minutes. My students figured it out in 2. This tool is great in terms of providing a creative vehicle for student expression. In last week’s episode, Chrissy Romano warned that ostentatious presentation tools like Flipgrid might unravel introverted kids. My response, which Chrissy liked, by the way, was to take anxiety away by permitting students who were uncomfortable to interview someone.

My first Flipgrid was pure practice. The students were prompted to ask Mr. Sturtevant a question. This accomplished 2 objectives. It got them accustomed to the platform and they learned a lot about their teacher, which makes me more approachable. My second Flipgrid was powerful. I challenged students to interview a friend, family member, coworker, or classmate. They asked their subject if they knew a Muslim and is Islam a religion of peace.

To help me in my Flipgrid explanation quest is an awesome original source. Aharon Rockwell is a freshman and in my Global Studies class. Aharon knew I had a podcast and approached me about being a guest. I jumped at his offer and I’m glad I did. He’s a great guest!

Aharon Rockwell

Episode Template

The Problem:

Student are limited in terms of expression.

The Solution:

Flipgrid will give your kids a new expressive canvas to paint upon…and it’s a lot of fun.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Watch this brief tutorial.
  • To become familiar with this tool, create your own Flipgrid and coerce your family and friends into posting.
  • Prompt your students to use Flipgrid in a trial by challenging them to ask you a basic question…see my first Flipgrid.
  • Prompt students with a question that gauges community attitudes. This will be an interview where introverted students can breathe a sigh of relief. Check out this Flipgrid for ideas.

Flipgrid is a cool tool that’s easy for kids to master. It’s also a lot of fun!

Listen to “77-Flipgrid is a Powerful Little Tool that’s a Blast…Starring Aharon Rockwell.output” on Spreaker.




76-Quit Trying to Turn your Introverts into Extroverts…Starring Chrissy Romano

A number of years ago, I took the Myers & Briggs personality assessment. I was tabbed an ENFP. When I read the description of my type, I was thrilled. I thought, Yup that’s me and I’m glad it’s me. 

My enthusiasm, particularly for the E classification which stands for extrovert, was well-founded. Being an extrovert is the gold standard in America, particularly in our schools. As students, extroverts are the volunteers, the kids who make cheesy videos, the guys who march up to the homecoming queen and ask them out (my wife was a homecoming queen), and the students who inject levity into drab academic settings. As teachers, extroverts are the hams. Even worse, many extroverts seem determined to transform quiet contemplative students into mini versions of themselves. Extroverts say things like, I’m going to pull you out of your shell, or… Put yourself out there. I’ve done this! I must change!

And here’s where my stunning guest, Chrissy Romano from the Garden State, makes her grand entrance.


Chrissy is a veteran teacher with over 25 years experience with students in elementary and middle school. She has spent the bulk of her career teaching in Hackensack where she was born and raised. She graduated from Rutgers University with a double major in Sociology and Psychology and went on to complete the Teacher Certification program and earned a Masters in Counseling from William Paterson University.

She is dedicated to teaching the whole child as well as stimulating and supporting innovation in classrooms. Chrissy continues to be passionate about teaching and infusing technology to engage and motivate students.

Her specialty is G-Suite for Education, effectively integrating technology into the classroom, and PBL/Inquiry-based instruction. She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and provides professional development and consulting services to educators.

She is a co-host of #CoffeeEdu, an informal monthly gathering of educators,  in Westwood, New Jersey, co-director of NJASCD North, a lead organizer of EdCampNJ and overall EdCamp enthusiast!

As impressive as Chrissy truly is, I invited her on this episode because she’s a proud introvert. She’s going to help blowhards like me help the 1/3rd of my students that are introverted.

Chrissy also recommended that those interested should watch the TedTalk by Sarah Cline on the Power of Introverts.

The Problem:

Teachers have a hard time accepting students that process the world differently.

The Solution:

Accept all of your students!

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Build-in some quiet contemplative time in tomorrow’s lesson.
  • Present with a tech tool that encourages anonymous participation. Great choices include Pear Deck, Padlet, and Today’s Meet.
  • If you’re going to employ a more ostentatious tool like Flipgrid, be certain to provide the option for kids to interview someone instead of starring in the video clip.
  • Make a point of interacting regularly with reserved students about non-school issues.

Please accept all students for exactly who they are. Isn’t that what you’d like someone to do for you, or your children?

Listen to “76-Quit Trying to Turn your Introverts into Extroverts…Starring Crissy Romano” on Spreaker.


75-The National Anthem, Code Switching, and an EPIC Teachable Moment…Starring Marlena Gross-Taylor

I became politically aware in 1968…my 7th year of existence. The world seemed on fire. The young Jimmy Sturtevant was busy being a kid, but events kept invading my innocence. In April of that year, Martin Luther King was assassinated. Just weeks later, Robert Kennedy suffered the same fate. The insanity of the Democratic convention in Chicago monopolized TV coverage, but what really captivated the young me was the Mexico City Olympic Games. I watched in wonder as one African-American athlete after another shattered world records in the high altitude of Central Mexico. One black American gold medal winner climbed the podium, donned a black glove, raised his fist in the air, and then bowed his head during the National Anthem. 

This moment came back to me this past week when the NFL/National Anthem controversy descended. I knew that I had to do an episode on this topic. My objective is not to promote my views, but rather to help brother and sister educators navigate the rhetorical minefield that is this issue. I also knew that I needed help. I decided to share my mic with someone who doesn’t look like me…someone who has had a different life experience. And that my dear listener…is where my good buddy Marlena Gross Taylor makes a dramatic entrance. 

Marlena Gross-Taylor @EduGladiators

Marlena Gross-Taylor is the founder of #EduGladiators as well as a district leader in Tennessee. She has a proven track record of improving educational and operational performance through vision, strategic planning, leadership, and team building. A Nashville transplant originally from southern Louisiana, Marlena’s educational experience spans several states allowing her to have served K-12 students in both rural and urban districts including Atlanta, Georgia and Hickory, North Carolina. She has been recognized as a middle school master teacher and innovative administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. 

As a proud Louisiana State University alumni, she is committed to excellence and believes all students can achieve. Follow Marlena on Twitter @mgrosstaylor or visit her websites www.marlenagrosstaylor.com and www.edugladiators.com.

In this episode, Marlena and I will break down this issue and build you up in the process. We’ll give you courage to tackle your fears and take on this controversy confidently.

Ideas for Activities:

  • Practice discussing contentious subjects
  • Encourage students to objectively study all sides of controversial topics
  • Have kids assume roles in simulations that may differ than their personal views
  • Challenge students to back up their statements and convictions with objective sources
  • Teach about code switching (see resources)


Inviting controversial topics like the National Anthem controversy into your curriculum takes courage. Be an EduGladiator and sponsor societal evolution in your class! 

Listen to “75-The National Anthem, Code Switching, and an EPIC Teachable Moment…Starring Marlena Gross-Taylor” on Spreaker.

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.

70-Don’t Just have Kids Read About a Place…SEND THEM THERE…Starring Quin Thomas

Quin Thomas

Friday afternoon hardly seems the time to talk shop, but Quin Thomas and I did exactly that. I’ve always wanted to interview Quin and I finally talked her into it. She’s a dynamic young teacher who gets kids and gets tech. She’s one of my young mentors.

She migrated to the Room 111 Studios to enlighten us about the power of Google Maps. I’d used them a bit before our convo. I love grabbing the little yellow guy in the lower right hand corner and dropping him on a blue dot, or a blue street for a closer view.

I needed someone to give me a shove and use this fantastic tool more…Quin was just the woman for the job!

Picture this…you’re studying really cool places like Machu Picchu, Tiananmen Square, the Coliseum, the Taj Mahal, or Timbuktu. Instead of just yakking about it, or having students read about it, tell kids to hop on their Chromebooks, fly around the world, and then drop in for a close-up view from ground level.

Here’s a link to my introductory assignment I gave to my 9th-grade Geography class.

Here’s another link to the Chinese Geography Challenge I gave to World Civ kids.

I was so motivated by this idea that I downloaded the Google Street View App. I felt that our school not having a street view was a darned shame. I followed the instructions, captured a 360^ image and then uploaded the image which generated a blue dot on Google Maps for Big Walnut High School in Sunbury, Ohio. Why don’t you see if you can find it and drop down for a closer look!

Episode Template

The Problem:

It’s hard for kids to visualize that fascinating places teachers talk about.


Send kids on a virtual journey with Google maps.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Work through one of my docs linked above to familiarize yourself with the tool.
  • Challenge students to map their commute to school.
  • Create a prompt that forces kids to find and then visit some exotic locales from your curriculum.
  • Challenge students to upload an image to Google Maps.

Google Maps is the way to make the fascinating places your kids study come to life!

Listen to “70-Don’t Just have Kids Read About a Place…SEND THEM THERE…Starring Quin Thomas” on Spreaker.

69-Rebel Against the Bell…Starring Melissa Maxson


Kids are just starting to get it, they’re finally opening up in a discussion, they’re finding great resources for a research paper, they’re starting to harmonize in choir, their sculptures are just beginning to take shape, their findings in a science experiment are just about to materialize and then the bell rings.

This frequently happens to Melissa Maxson’s devoted art students. You know you’ve engaged kids when they say, “Dang, I can’t believe the period is over.” Melissa hears this daily.

In this episode, hear Melissa’s solution to her frustrations with the uniform 50-minute modules. Listen to her recipe to detonate space/time limitations. 

Look up!

Episode Template

The Problem: The fifty minute class period undermines engagement.

The Hack: Create an extracurricular club for your class.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Create an extracurricular club for your class.
  • Investigate a project opportunity.
  • List ways to promote your club, your class club, and your club’s project.

Don’t be limited by the traditional fifty minute class period. Create an after-school club based on your class.

Listen to “69-Rebel Against the Bell…Starring Melissa Maxson” on Spreaker.

68-BattleVant and SturteVingo…Two Zero Tech Ways to Engage Kids

A great way to engage students is to just have some fun with content. Accomplish this by mimicking two iconic American board games…Battleship and Bingo. Certainly, most of your kids have played, or at least are familiar with both. I reworked both games for my classroom. Of course, I renamed them Battlevant and Sturtevingo. I encourage you to create your own labels for your versions of these activities.

Any time there’s material you’d like to review, Sturtevingo and Battlevant are wonderful engaging options that can be employed frequently. Battlevant is a team game. I’ll demonstrate it as a two team contest, but it could be used with multiple teams. In Sturtevingo, every man and woman is on their own.

Two team Battlevant is played in the following way:

  • Divide the class into 2 teams
  • Secretly assign students in Team 1 a number from 1-20. Select 5 numbers as misses and assign the other 15 numbers. If there are less than 15 students in Team 1, you can award extra numbers to various kids. Repeat the same process for Team 2 with numbers 21-40.  
  • Prior to the contest, project the game board.

Battlevant Game Board

Team 1 Team 2
1 2 3 4 5

6 7 8 9 10

11 12 13 14 15

16 17 18 19 20

21 22 23 24 25

26 27 28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35

36 37 38 39 40

  • Ask individual students questions about the material. If they get it right, they can select a number from the other team’s range of numbers. (Team 1 kids will select numbers from 21 to 40)
  • If they successfully uncover a student’s number, you cheerfully announce that Johnny or Janey has been sunk and put an X through their number. If a student guesses a number that is a miss, circle that number. 
  • Johnny or Janey, if sunk, must then slightly turn their desks to demonstrate their damaged status. They may not answer general questions, but I like to issue “Back from the Dead” questions periodically to keep the sunk students engaged.
  • The contest ends when the questions are exhausted, or all the kids on one side are sunk.

Sturtevingo is a game that takes a bit more prep, but is easy to execute. Create at least 25 matching questions. I like to create 30 because it makes obtaining Sturtevingos even more challenging. The first portion of the period, students are working individually, or in small groups, matching concepts with descriptions like below:

  1. ______ Karma
  2. ______ Dharma
  3. ______ Khyber Pass
  4. ______ Aryans
  5. ______ Bhagavad Gita

a. Northwestern passageway for invasion and migration

b. The Hindu concept of duty

c. The law of action and reaction

d. The Hindu scripture that describes and promotes Dharma and Karma

e. Invaders, or migrants, from the west that transformed the culture of the Subcontinent

After kids have answered as many as they can, or the allotted time has expired, handout a blank Sturtevingo board:

Students will then populate the board with number letter matches. Encourage students to place the matches in a random fashion. That way, each student’s Sturtevingo board will be unique. The matches must be accurate to count. If a student put the letter A with number 1 when the answer should be C, they cannot be awarded the square if “1C” is called. Once kids have their game boards arranged, play commences in the following fashion:

  • The teacher asks a question from the list. If a student guesses correctly, “I think letter C goes with question 1” all the students that have the 1C match on their board can place an X on that square. You write 1C on the board.
  • The student that answered correctly then walks up to the teacher and subtly points to the next question they want asked. I frequently limit the number of times any student can answer to share the wealth.
  • Play continues till a student get 5 Xs in a row.

  • Unlike regular bingo however, don’t instruct kids to clear the board after the first Sturtevingo. Just keep asking questions and announcing number letter matches. It’s even okay if some kids get 2 Sturtevingos.
  • I like to up the intensity by rewarding Sturtevingo winners. It could be classroom privileges, a free homework coupon, or any coveted reward you can think of.


The Problem:

Teachers struggle making dull content engaging.

The Solution:

Play Battlevant, or Sturtevingo.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Create a number of questions based on the content. If you’re going to play Sturtevingo, make the questions matching.
  • Decide if you want teams…Battlevant, or every man and woman for themselves…Sturtevingo.
  • Craft some additional questions (trivial and or interesting) that can be thrown out to supplement the materialThese could be used to engage students sunk in Battlevant, or could spice up the competition of either game.

These games are a way to take dull content and make it fun and engaging.

Listen to “68-BattleVant and SturteVingo…Two Zero Tech Ways to Engage Kids” on Spreaker.