Yes, kindergarten can code!

I’m tired of hearing from educators that five-year-old’s “can’t.”  Five-year-old’s can do much more than we all give them credit for.


Last week I was at the third convening of INNOVATE-NJ, where a teacher spoke about all of the things her first graders are doing including the following:

  • coding
  • blogging
  • flipped classroom IN class
  • use of Chromebooks/iPads daily
  • creating and using QR codes daily

I was fascinated by the presentation.  It tied into what I had witnessed in person just a couple of days before, when I had the chance to attend (and not present at) Ed-Camp South Jersey. The board was packed as always, but I wanted to see something that I could take away and use in my craft.

My first takeaway was the Ozobot presentation by Kim Mattina who conducted a fantastic conversation on how any student on any level can code.  The simplicity of such was somewhat ridiculous.


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Ozobot works on a simple key coloring system; when the ozobot goes over a pattern of colors, it does something.  Thus, if you draw a pattern with a black line, the ozobot will follow that.  If you create a pattern of green and black squares, the ozobot will accelerate. Various color patterns created various tricks, and, within four minutes of Kim’s presentation, all of us were experimenting with patterns…or what the edu-hipsters call “coding.”

Kim then branched out into how different subjects could use the ozobots.  She covered everything from health classes to science.  The creativity was infectious.  My brain was doing cartwheels, always circling back to how kindergarten students can do this. Yes, a five-year-old can code.

To recap, in less than 48 hours, I saw two demonstrations of how teachers use coding in class.  They don’t know each other, they don’t share any educational commonalities, and they weren’t told to do it, yet both presented clear examples of 5-year-old’s who can code.

Love it!



Scheduling: stop, collaborate, and listen.

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Yes, I, along with every other 6th grader, knew Vanilla Ice and could most likely still rap his songs today.  While I never thought I would be referencing his lyrics (except for the lesson I used to do on plagiarism), some came to mind when I recently sat down with a scheduling committee in my current district.

A few months back, at a BOE meeting, I announced a myriad of changes for realigning the upcoming 16-17 school year, one of which was a complete revamping of the elementary school that feeds into the middle school.  In addition to all of the other changes I announced, I proposed a schedule and then found myself two steps away from being burned at the stake.  Folks wanted a committee which was formed the next day by the administrator overseeing the building.

I wanted to stay out as much as I could.  This committee was not my decision; it was the building administrator’s.  The team met and established several goals to be implemented into the schedule.  They came up with some ideas, I gave the administrators some input, and a schedule was made.  When it was presented at the next board meeting, it was met with another round of boos.  Afterwards, one of the parents came up to me and said, “You are hearing us, but you are not listening.”  That was a very powerful statement.

Two days later I called the entire committee together and gave some parameters which were conducive to the requests that parents and teachers were making.  Once I gave them the feedback from the BOE meeting, I simply said, “Get to work.”  They did, and they did well.

This new schedule will be presented at the next BOE meeting, and I am hoping it will meet an easier crowd.  Mostly, I am hoping it will show off all of the hard work that the committee did.

I stopped; they collaborated; all of us listened.

Instructional Coaches Make a Huge Impact

Lee has become one of my favorites to read. Fantastic stuff; check it out!

The Golden Age of Education

Instructional coaches do AWESOME things. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1.  Provide job-embedded professional development.
  2.  Model and demonstrate highly-effective best practices.
  3. Off non-evaluative, objective feedback on a regular basis.
  4. Create an environment where student needs drive professional development.
  5. Offer guidance and feedback at the exact time teachers need it most – in the classroom.My Instructional Coaches Quote
  6. Inspire teachers to try new learning strategies and tools.
  7. Facilitate the transition from teacher-centered to learner-driven classrooms.
  8. Are site-based teacher leaders who support both students and their teachers.
  9. Collaborate with teachers in order to engage students in innovative ways.
  10. Help to close the digital use divide by ensuring that all students understand how to use technology to create content.


Click the image below to view my Instructional Coaches Smore digital flyer.


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Have You Thanked A Former Teacher Today?

I think I have mentioned it quite a few times on here, but I am from Union.  It was quite a big school system which included two middle schools and a high school with over 2400 bodies an any given day.  I was in the first class of Burnet Middle School (formerly Burnet Junior High) as a 7th grader and had your typical 7th-grade awkward experience.  My saving grace was the variety of clubs we had.  The one that had my interest from day one was the Kiwanis Builders Club.

No, we didn’t physically build stuff.  It was a community service club where we volunteered around town.  It was the basis for the high school Key Club, Circle K in college, and Kiwanis International for us who eventually grow up.  I was always looking to help out where I could.  As much as I helped out that club, that club helped me.  It helped me realize that service was going to be my path in life.

The advisor was Joan Estis.  Miss Estis was awesome.  She was a huge fan of the comic Ziggy, always smiling, always talking about how we could help others both  in school and around Union.  From food drives to Easter-egg hunts, members of the community appreciated our efforts.  It was never the quantity with Miss Estis; it was the what and the why.

For my two years in Builders Club, I did everything I could.  At the middle-school graduation, I earned one of the most prestigious honors, the Nicholas Dispinziere Award, for outstanding community service.  I still have my plaque and the speech that Miss Estis read.  My mom still talks about it.  It was, and still is, that cool.  Again, it wasn’t about the award; it was the what and the why

I was an officer in both Key Club and Circle K, but once out of college, I never found a club that I could join.  That was OK, though.  It wasn’t about the club; it was about giving back.  As a police officer, I gave back.  As a teacher, I gave back.  As an administrator and now a superintendent of schools, I still give back.  It’s who I am and who I will always be.  I owe that to Miss Estis, a teacher I never had for a class yet the one who taught me so much about life.

I just read that Miss Estis is retiring in June.  From the bottom of my heart, I say, “Thank You!”  You’ll never know how many lives you’ve been a part of.  Besides students, you’ve influenced so many in showing scads of club attendees that we can be good people.

I hope retirement is everything and more for you, Miss Estis.  If it’s not, there’s always a club where you can become involved.

A response to “Why My Tech-Infused Presentation Stinks”

Recently, colleague Ross Cooper (RossCoops31) posted a piece on EduSurge that focused on why technology-infused tech sessions stink.  I’ll be the first to admit that one of my presentations which I do around the entire country is focused on tech in the classroom.  I call it “The Dirty 30,” and, not to brag, but it always has a packed house.  Like standing room only!  I remember that, at EdCampNJ two years ago, one of the organizers walked by my session, saw the overflow into the halls, and tried to look in.  

 It was also featured for the recent  NJASATechspo 2016 Conference in Atlantic City and even introduced by NJASA Technology Co-chair Dr. Scott Rocco.

Now, all that being said, it’s one of the reasons why I have been able to travel so much to different places in order to share with fellow superintendents, administrators, and teachers.  Ironically, it’s the one presentation I wish never to do again.  Why?  Because I am constantly shocked that fellow colleagues in my capacity and other administrators do not know about all of these.  How can you not?!?

I’m in a tough spot.  Of course, I’ll keep on doing and updating the presentation, but I’m always saddened to see  the reaction to some of the “oldies but goldies” apps that have been around for years.  In some instances, when I talk about Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you would think I’m introducing a new line of computer programming.

I read Ross’s post twice and then sat down and looked at my presentation.  From now on, I plan on injecting the following as a part of my dialogue:

  • How to apply it in the school setting
  • The CCCS standards it could apply to
  • Assessment potentials
  • Any research tied to the style of learning that the app/extension provides

It is my hope that the next time I present, it’s not seen as some flash in the pan. And…I will warn people that I will be piling on the pedagogy in the process.



A Lesson in Empathy, Tolerance & Respect

So happy to feature one of Waterford’s finest teachers really rocking it on her blog! Check it out!


Inspirational to say the least…

Inviting Chase and his mother into my second grade classroom was an incredible experience! I am grateful to have know this determined little Superhero and I wanted to share his story with my students. Chase’s mom wrote a book called The Blueprint of a Little Superhero. What happened that day was so amazing; it was a lesson in empathy, tolerance, and respect unfolded before there eyes. A lesson they will probably never forget. Chase and his mom walked into the classroom ready to share their story. There is only one word to summarize the experience: Inspirational! Chase passed around his superhero arm and then showed us his running legs! He even answered questions and danced the Whip & Nae Nae with our class!


Empathy, Tolerance & Respect

Is empathy part of your day to day instruction? Does it stand alone or is it a component of your…

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