50-Take a Peek at your School in 2037…Starring April Domine

Today, I’m celebrating the release of the 50th episode of the Hacking Engagement Podcast, so I thought I’d do something special. I interviewed an expert on the future of this noble profession. What will schools look like in 2027? How about 2037? Today’s episode will not sound like my other programs. This episode is longer than most…almost 40 minutes. This episode does not have the tight little list at the end explaining what you can do tomorrow. You’re certainly encouraged to implement ideas from this conversation into tomorrow’s lesson, but I was more focussed on what your lessons and your school will be like 10 and 20 years down the road!

My problem with retirement is simple…schools are becoming too fascinating to leave! The way I instruct has changed fundamentally over the past decade. I’m a markedly different teacher than I was just last year. I’m closing in on the end of this school year, but I keep thinking about tools, tactics, and strategies I can’t wait to try next fall. In short, I’m nowhere near ready to call it quits!

Then…I go and interview April Domine and I really get stoked!


April is the superintendent of Gahanna Christian Academy. April also has decades of experience as a public educator. She was a teacher, building administrator, and superintendent in the public realm prior to her recent migration to private education. April also worked as an education researcher. This was a pivotal role because if she’s going to advocate a program or policy, it needs to be backed by thorough objective research. April was my superintendent a decade ago. She evolved our district.

Listen to how she’s going to transform her school next year. Understand, this will just be the first step. The portrait that April paints in this episode is important because we’ll all be teaching like this in the near future! I think I just may have to stick around and watch this amazing process unfold.

Next week I’ll be back with the template and great suggestions about tomorrow. But for this auspicious episode…sit back and dream about the future!

Listen to “50-Take a Peek at your School in 2037…Starring April Domine” on Spreaker.


49-Engage as you Grade…Starring Kaizena

How about grading papers like this?

Okay…here’s the way this went down! I was a college freshman and I had a long way to go in the writing department. I needed to cite more, I needed more supportive evidence, and my sources were meager and of low quality. Sound familiar? When I got my paper back, I noticed the grade…which was a C, shoved the paper in my book bag, and went on with my existence. The next class, our professor urged us to read the comments she’d wrote on our papers. I read a few, but then I got discouraged and quit. It seemed like she was yelling at me! I missed some great directives and advice.

Now, I teach 18-year-olds how to write research papers. I totally get the struggle of students not embracing advice on how to evolve as writers. Karma is a beautiful thing! I was frustrated because I knew my students needed help. And then…I met a lovely little app called Kaizena. It detonated my paradigm on providing students with feedback. It transformed grading papers into a collaborative process!

Kaizena is voice grading. You highlight a portion of kid’s paper, hit record, and start enlightening.

There are a bevy of benefits to utilizing your voice as opposed to your default red pen:

  • Your voice is far more emotive than a simple written comment
  • Your voice can be far more encouraging
  • Your voice can better communicate tone and emphasis
  • It’s easier to listen than it is to read, hence kids are more inclined to listen to your comments
  • Most educators can speak a lot faster than they can type or write
  • This method invites collaboration because students respond to comments

Kaizena has the potential to make grading papers engaging for students and teachers

Episode Template

The Problem:

Students don’t read assessment comments.

The Solution:

Utilize Kaizena and transform assessment into an engaging collaborative process.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Sign-up for Kaizena
  2. Generate a student invite code
  3. Commandeer a student guinea pig to help you navigate the process
  4. Designate a future writing prompt for your Kaizena maiden voyage

With Kaizena, students are far more likely to listen and then apply important directives they may have previously ignored. Student writing could become a collaborative process.

Listen to “49-Engage as you Grade…Starring Kaizena” on Spreaker.



48-Google Classroom…Plus Edublogs…Equals Epic Enrichment…Starring Camden Edwards, Emily Kuederle, and Coltrane Matos

I’ll bet you’ve gazed out at your students and thought:

  • I wonder if some kids aren’t being challenged.
  • If I personalize instruction…my your room will be unmanageable.

Last spring, I had a student teacher. He was doing well, but one aspect of his instruction…and mine for that matter, that needed work was personalization. While he was busy teaching, I had some downtime and a chance to observe my kids and think. I came up with a method to personalize by combining 2 powerful tech tools…Google Classroom and Edublogs. We employed these 2 tools to offer enrichment to any student who wanted to go deeper in a particular unit.

A separate section was set-up on Google Classroom for Enrichment. Any student who wanted to go deeper in a particular unit could join, review the prompts…or propose something new, and then dive in…or take a pass and see what’s available next unit.

The students posted their efforts on Edublogs. This platform encourages various methods of expression. Edublogs is visual, expressive, empowering, and public. The public nature of Edublogs facilitates and encouraged student collaboration. Students can review and then comment on one another’s posts.

On today’s episode, I have 3 magnificent guests:

  • Camden Edwards
  • Emily Kuederle
  • Coltrane Matos

Camden Edwards Emily Kuederle Coltrane Matos

They’ll enlighten listeners about how important it is to offer enrichment and how they endorse my method of doing it. Below are links to examples of their work:

Episode Template

The Problem:

Offering enrichment opportunities is needed, but problematic.

The Solution:

Utilize Google Classroom and Edublogs.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Create a new section of Google Classroom just for enrichment
  2. Provide students with a list of choices
  3. Direct students to post their work on Edublogs

Personalization needn’t disrupt your class. Utilize Google Classroom and Edublogs for epic enrichment!

Listen to “48-Google Classroom…Plus Edublogs…Equals Epic Enrichment…Starring Camden Edwards, Emily Kuederle, and Coltrane Matos” on Spreaker.

47-6 Incredibly Simple and Powerful Student Incentives

Here’s one massive unintentional lesson the world learned from Communism…incentives are necessary to inspire productivity. Here’s where Capitalism falls short. This tired cliche is also lacking:

Competition brings out the best in people!

Granted competition is motivational, but I’ve witnessed competition bring out the WORST in people! Watch parental behavior at your next youth sporting event. Study the history of the Industrial Revolution. Teach a World History unit on Imperialism. Then, reevaluate that cliche. Perhaps it could be reworded as:

Competition is motivational!

When it comes to the classroom, some students love incentives and competition and some kids hate them. It’s been my experience, that incentives motivate many students, but not all. Hence, it’s important to offer the right kind of incentives. It’s been my mission to include the incentives that are:

  • Fun
  • Low-risk
  • Simple
  • Social in nature
  • Non-academic
  • Engaging
  • Relationship-inducing

In this episode, I’ll promote 6 such incentives. Only 2 of these carrots are academic in nature, but even those are promoted and administered in a joyous non-threatening fashion. My objective in unleashing all this academic Capitalism is 2-fold:

  • I want to inspire reserved kids to join the class-participation party
  • I want to coax even more out of students who are already contributing

The key for teachers is to have fun. When you’re having fun, the kids are often having fun. In that spirit, below is a photo essay of how Mr. Sturtevant awards a PLUS +1. Of course, I could just say it…but I like to do things with more style and originality. Listen to the episode to hear a description of the entire dramatic performance.

Plus +1

FOR YOU…my dear student!

Here’s my joyous list of 6:

  1. Plus +1
  2. Questions Off
  3. Potty Pass
  4. Food Pass
  5. Teacher’s Pet for the Day
  6. Verbal Praise Coupon (You have to hear about this one!)

I have 24 hours to come up with something awesome!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Your students need to up their class participation game.

The Solution:

Incorporate some low-risk incentives.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Determine the target audience for your incentives
  2. Decide whether your incentives will be academic, social, or both
  3. Create some non-transferable reward cards or coupons
  4. Consider ways to deliver the goods with style!

Maybe…all your students need to up their participation game is a little Capitalism. Don’t be shocked if you and they have a lot of fun in the process!

Listen to “47-6 Incredibly Simple and Powerful Student Incentives” on Spreaker.

46-Utilize the ENTIRE School Building with this Engaging Scavenger Hunt…Starring Caroline Craig-Bowden and Sandy Smith

As I read through the 20 page assignment on the Industrial Revolution, I kept thinking to myself...Wow, this is boring! If I was feeling that burn, imagine what my students were going to feel. I decided it was time to break out of the box. In this case, literally break out of the box of the four walls of my classroom. I sent my students on a school-wide scavenger hunt utilizing QR-codes, a hint sheet, and provocative prompts from the reading. This episode will detail this EPIC lesson plan from the vantage point of two of my awesome students. I will also offer advice on how you can create a scavenger hunt at your school.

Caroline Craig-Bowden and Sandy Smith

First, secure a QR code reader. I love this simple, but powerful app i-nigma.

Second, produce QR codes. Classroom Tools has a remarkably easy site to utilize in this quest. Merely type in the questions and answers and then Classroom Tools will generate the codes.

And finally, concoct hiding places around the school for your codes. Create a HINT SHEET to help students search. Below, is my list. I’ll bet you could apply many of my hiding places to your building!


  1. Finding this one could take you to another level
  2. On the back of a warning
  3. Where Sturtevant gets his Old Skool messages
  4. These kids looked great in 88
  5. Behind something black and gray
  6. If you find this one…YOU’RE REALLY ON A ROLL!
  7. If you don’t find this code, your prospects of winning will be extinguished
  8. Open this door and find an awesome relationship
  9. If you get to the bottom of where this code is placed…I’ll be shocked
  10. Search this virtual tool we use daily


  1. Elevator
  2. On the back of the “No Firearms” warning on the front door
  3. My mailbox in the main office
  4. The Class of 1988 composite
  5. On the backside of a trashcan in the hallway
  6. On the the large paper rolls in the supply room
  7. On an obscure fire extinguisher
  8. On the backside of my wife’s office door
  9. On the bottom of the defibrillator in the basement
  10. On the “About” section of Google Classroom

Episode Template

The Problem:

Your next lesson looks a bit dry.

The Solution:

Incorporate unit concepts into a scavenger hunt utilizing your entire building.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Download the i-nigma QR reader
  2. Create QR codes on Classroom Tools
  3. Determine hiding places for codes around the building
  4. Craft a Hint Sheet

Morph a dull lesson into challenging your students to hustle around the building formulating wonderful responses to the day’s essential questions.

Listen to “46-Utilize the ENTIRE School Building with this Engaging Scavenger Hunt…Starring Caroline Craig-Bowden and Sandy Smith” on Spreaker.

45-How to Bounce Back from a Bad Day in the Classroom

Just because I’ve authored a couple of books and host a podcast on engagement, does not mean that I don’t have challenging days in the classroom. Last Friday was one of those days! The first 3 periods went great. My students were animated and participatory. The last 3 periods were miserable. My kids were lethargic and crabby. They were not the least bit impressed with my lesson. I left home on Friday defeated!

Now…I’ve been teaching a long time. I’ve learned what to do when I have a miserable day like Friday. I’ve had plenty such days in my career. In this episode, I’ll tell you about my miserable Friday and about 5 coping mechanisms I employ whenever I have a bad day. The good news is that I bounced back on Monday and thoroughly engaged ALL my classes.

This episode will help you bounce back too!

Episode Template

The Problem:

It’s easy to get discouraged when you have a bad day in the classroom.

The Solution:

Bounce back with these 5 coping mechanisms.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Evaluate your lesson plan
  2. Analyze your delivery
  3. Consider your audience
  4. Don’t take a bad day personally
  5. Embrace that you will bounce back

Everyone has bad days. Use such experiences as teachable moments where you can learn to better engage kids!

Listen to “45-How to Bounce Back After a Bad Day in the Classroom” on Spreaker.




44-Stage 27 Student Presentations in 9 Minutes! Starring Kat Brammer and Peter Pohlod

Kat Brammer and Peter Pohlod

A few years ago, my students matriculated through two days of student presentations. IT WAS PAINFUL! I was bored! They were bored! The novelty wore off after about three presentations. It wasn’t that there weren’t some good ones…there were, but many were low energy, filled with endless bullet points, and were rehashing tired topics. Once a student gave their presentation or grasped a concept, they had little incentive to listen to the next gabfest. I vowed I wasn’t going to do this to my kids again!

Enter...the Gallery Walk. Here’s a very brief video on how a large number of students can present simultaneously:

The video presents a scenario where 9 students present simultaneously. You can expand this idea. In my class, I had 27 students presenting simultaneously. And…don’t be afraid if you don’t have a multiple of 3 like 27. I have 27 students, but without fail, two of my kids were absent on presentation day. That will happen!

On today’s episode, two of my students Kat Brammer and Peter Pohlod will discuss their experiences in the Gallery Walk. Here are links to the project prompts before, during, and after the presentations:

The Prompt

Visitor Impressions


This is the cheesy after school special the presentation was based upon:

“The Wave”

Episode Template

The Problem:

Many student presentations are NOT engaging.

The Solution:

Unleash the Gallery Walk.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Watch the Gallery Walk video
  2. Sort students into groups of 3
  3. Designate 3 important concepts from the unit you’re currently studying for presentations
  4. Decide what form the presentations will take

Student presentations do not have to be a tedious marathon. Institute the Gallery Walk and watch engagement soar!

Listen to “44-Stage 27 Student Presentations in 9 Minutes! Starring Kat Brammer and Peter Pohlod” on Spreaker.

43-3 Totally Original, Easy, Powerful, and Joyful Icebreakers to Randomly Sort Students…Tomorrow

Break the Ice…Ice…Baby

February represents the Dog Days in education. All the freshness of the school year are gone. Spring break is still a long way off and the weather…at least in the great state of Ohio…is nothing to write home about! Sometimes, as you watch your kids march in at the beginning of the period, you feel like you’re observing a church congregation full of middle-aged parishioners. Everyone sits in the same pew, shakes hands with the same people, and says pretty much the same things. It’s time to shake things up!

In today’s program, I’m going to give you 3 totally original icebreakers with which you can randomly sort your students. Perhaps, a new seating chart is needed. Or, it’s time get kids working with different peers on the next project. These icebreakers will help you rearrange your students socially…BUT THE REAL DRAW…is your students and you will have a blast working through these easy prompts:

Oscar Night Best Picture Award

Your 30th Birthday Surprise Party

1970s Speed Dating

My Zodiac Description Google Doc  

A Compatibility Table

Episode Template

The Problem:

Teachers assume students know one another well.

The Solution:

A student icebreaker.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Decide on a pretext for randomly sorting students
  2. Try either the Oscar Night or Birthday Party icebreaker
  3. Debrief students to find out what they learned about their peers

Teachers and students sometimes get in a rut. Randomly sort your students with a fun icebreaker and shake things up in the process.

Listen to “43-3 Totally Original, Easy, Powerful, and Joyful Icebreakers to Randomly Sort Students…Tomorrow” on Spreaker.

42-Revolutionize the way your Students Watch Videos…Starring Hannah Fox, Ali Iannucci, Eduardo Lopez, and Tracy Enos

Ali Iannucci…Hanah Fox…Tracy Enos…Eduardo Lopez

Teachers need to go where the kids are. When in Rome…do like the Romans. When it comes to reaching contemporary youth, please understand that they love video. Whenever there’s downtime, kids immediately start watching video on their devices. Educators need to embrace this tendency.

Unfortunately, in many classrooms, video is handled in much the same way as it was in the 1950s. The entire class watches on a big screen at the same time. I loved “Movie Day” in high school. It was a great opportunity to zone out for 50 minutes!

In this episode, Tracy Enos and her adolescent posse will clue you in on an amazing free tool which will revolutionize the way you present video. EDpuzzle allows you to embed questions inside a video.

Kids watch and then interact with you while they answer your questions. It’s an awesome way to introduce collaboration and participation, engaging kids in the process! It’s also an amazing accountability factor. You can see just how much a student has watched and their responses to your prompts. Also…kids cannot fast-forward. They can pause and rewind, but not skip ahead. It’s similar to on-demand programming. Another huge selling point to EDpuzzle is how it works in concert with Google Classroom.

Tracy also advocates that teachers create their own content. I agree! Here are two examples of homemade flipped presentations that are EDpuzzle ready! The first is from Tracy Enos. The second is from your humble narrator.

Video 1


Here’s a screen shot of responses submitted via EDpuzzle to Tracy’s prompt, “What did you learn from the story?”

Video 2: 

Episode Template

The Problem:

Teachers need to update the way they show video.

The Solution:

Utilize EDpuzzle.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Select a short video to assign through EDpuzzle
  2. Embed a few questions into the video
  3. Collaborate with students as they respond
  4. Plan to create your own video

It’s time to revamp the way students watch video. EDpuzzle will make “Movie Day” collaborative and engaging!

Listen to “42-Revolutionize the way your Students Watch Videos…Starring Hannah Fox, Ali Iannucci, Eduardo Lopez, and Tracy Enos” on Spreaker.



41-Feng Shui your Students

Last month…I was chilling in my room 2 days prior to Christmas break. As I surveyed my digs, I became disgusted with myself! My room was a mess. I had just been enlightening my students about the awesome Asian concept of Chi…an invisible source of energy that permeates the universe. Chi flows through the environment, animals and people, as well as man-made structures. Acupuncture and Tai Chi stimulate the life-giving flow of Chi through a person. The ancient interior decoration practice of Feng Shui can do the same for your home or work-space. I felt like a hypocrite.

Before: My room was a mess…I couldn’t get out of my own way…Chi was blocked

I decided my room was in desperate need of a Feng Shui makeover! This exercise had great informational power for many parties:

  • I could apply a complex topic from class in a demonstrable way
  • I could become more approachable to my students as they cheered me on in my noble quest
  • I could inspire kids to apply Feng Shui to some aspect of their lives
  • My room would become more livable

This is EXACTLY what happened! When they returned in January, my students were impressed with my orderly flowing room.

After: Sweet relief!

I issued the Feng Shui Challenge in my maiden January student blog prompt. They could Feng Shui their rooms, or lockers, or cars, or phones. Here’s the link.

This activity inspired me to sponsor other self-improvement challenges to my students like incorporating To-Do lists:

Time to get organized kid!

Please be aware…this doesn’t have to just be a social studies thing. Listen to the episode and get some ideas on how you might include such a demonstration in your curriculum.

Episode Template

The Problem:

Our curriculums seem irrelevant!

The Solution:

Apply a complex class concept in a demonstrable way…right in front of your student’s eyes! Then, challenge them to do the same.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Search your curriculum for a concept you could apply
  • Brainstorm a way to demonstrate your application
  • Concoct a way to challenge students to do the same
  • Have them share their experience in a demonstrable way

If you want to engage students, find ways to make your curriculum relevant. A great way to do this is to have kids apply class concepts to their lives.

Listen to “41-Feng Shui your Students” on Spreaker.