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Empower Learning


Education Empower Learning featured Inspiration Leadership Luminous Culture

L.E.A.P. Tips: An Opportunity to Amplify Your Voice

In my book, Take the L.E.A.P.: Ignite a Culture of Innovation, I share L.E.A.P. Tips and Takeaways, along with questions for reflection and discussion at the conclusion of each chapter. The thoughtfully crafted questions encourage educators in all roles to reflect on the essential ingredients that inspire every individual to Take the L.E.A.P. and create the conditions to empower learning. Each chapter is designed to support educators where they’re at in their journey, allowing each of us to move at our own pace and take steps to grow beyond traditional and self-imposed boundaries. Ultimately, my goal is to support you in creating the innovative learning experiences today’s learners need to flourish.

In his powerful foreword for the book, Tom Murray writes:

“When filled with agency and empowered by dynamic learning experiences, today’s learners can undoubtedly change the world. They are up to the challenge. Are we?”

Read the entire foreword by Tom Murray here and preview the first few chapters of the book (scroll to bottom).

Our learners are eager for us to reimagine learning by sparking curiosity, inspiring creativity, and promoting student agency. In doing so, let’s be sure to involve students as co-pilots who actively share their voice on what this could look like to empower meaningful learning.

The acronym of L.E.A.P. is broken down as:

  • L.uminous Culture—Shine a light on every individual’s creative potential.
  • E.mpowered Learning—Encourage students to take ownership of their education.
  • A.uthenticity in Learning—Tap into passions to create relevant learning experiences.
  • P.otential Soars—Ignite a movement of inspired, confident learners.

In the upcoming months, I’ll be sharing L.E.A.P. Tips from my book and from fellow educators in connection with the overall message. My hope is that you’ll share tips you’ve learned along your journey and that have been most impactful for you. Each month, a new survey will go out so that you can contribute your insights to support and encourage others in our professional learning network. You can check out the first survey and contribute by clicking on this link. I will be featuring different educators to amplify your voice and develop a community that uplifts our profession, creating the #LEAPeffect in our schools.

Get ready to L.E.A.P.!

Education Empower Learning featured Inspiration

Leveraging Technology to Empower Learning

With the constant innovation occurring within EdTech, it can leave educators scratching their heads on which way to turn. Some educators opt to utilize technology as a substitution for paper and pencil tasks while others are seeking tech tools that engage and empower learning to transform experiences. Many educators use a combination of approaches to infuse technology in a meaningful demeanor. There’s not a right or wrong way to leverage technology per se, but what we need to be cognizant of is how it’s being used to create deeper or transformational learning. Technology can deeply engage, leading to empowered learning that fosters competencies in our learners in combination with honing in on developing skills.

As Eric Sheninger shares on IGTV, “Competencies are a dynamic combination of abilities, attributes, and behavior, as well as knowledge that is fundamental to use the skill aligned to learner outcomes.” We need to be intentional at helping learners become competent in the skills we’re fostering.

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Education Empower Learning Uncategorized

KOOV: Coding Robotics to Empower Learning

A Review of KOOV Coding Robotics for SONY

Cultivating opportunities that spark curiosity in students, inspires the desire to learn- increasing intrinsic motivation. Students who desire learning and growth, are more likely to persevere through challenges and develop agency over learning. Engagement vs. empowerment can become a little sticky as kids need to be engaged in order to become empowered. When we see kids who appear engaged, are we taking it a step further to empower students through the conditions we create in our learning environments? Carving out time to ask questions, explore and create can open the doors to empowerment. However, teachers often ask how they can allow for this within the constraints of the day. Connecting exploration and creation to content requires us to reimagine the structure of learning, but it doesn’t mean that we need to drop what we have previously done. Rather, let’s take time to identify what works best and combine it with opportunities to reimagine learning experiences.

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Take the L.E.A.P. Ignite a Culture of Innovation

Truth be told, in my first few years of teaching, I didn’t completely love my career because I spent an abundance of time focusing on the mandates and considering if I was doing everything “right” according to the opinion of everyone else. My focus was on surviving the pressures of all that accompanies education rather than seizing the opportunities before me to leverage the strengths and interests of our most precious commodity, our youth. And, even though I fostered relationships with learners, it wasn’t to the depth that encouraged responsible risk-taking as I do today. Early on, something seemed to be missing. What I thought education should entail and what was actually happening in school didn’t match up. In looking at the graphic below (the Gallup student poll from Engaged Today – Ready for tomorrow) we can readily notice that our modern learners desperately need us to explore how to take action and then create the conditions to empower learning and get our youth actively involved through authentic experiences.

I knew that I had to make a change. Have you ever felt similar?

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Learners on the Go with Technology in Tow? No Problem!

With all of the activity that occurs throughout the day in our classroom as we explore, create, and make within all areas of learning, it’s essential that our technology is protected to the fullest extent. As active participants, students leverage technology in meaningful ways by developing videos to capture their learning and then editing accordingly to share the best version of their final product. Additionally, as we deepen our understanding through STEAM exploration, learners capture moments to share out on Seesaw and collaborate in Google Classroom. It’s not uncommon to see children who are jumping with excitement to learn that their code for Sphero did just as they had planned or students pairing SamLabs with the Bluetooth of an iPad to create ‘curious cars’ that they can remotely drive around the room. All of these dynamic experiences require learners to be on the go – with technology in tow! Read More »

Education featured Inspiration Luminous Culture

Create a SHINEtastic School Year with Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.®!



Every child has unique strengths and interests. As educators, do we take the time to honor each child for their individuality, encouraging them to S.H.I.N.E. in their own way? Developing cultures where every individual is embraced for their individuality may feel like quite a feat considering all of the demands we face. Yet doing so is exactly what supports all learners to flourish. The more people feel appreciated and have a sense of belonging, the more likely they are to contribute.


Why Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.® in the classroom?

Each year, students arrive at school looking ahead to the new year. Excited faces ready to start fresh!  Along with this comes anxiety and uncertainty for some students, while others adjust more quickly. Some students come in ahead of the game either in academics or socially, while others hold back with apprehension or in trying to figure out how to make it through the day. No matter what your students come with, having a culture where every individual is valued is the core of Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.® As an educator for 10 years, a struggling student myself, and then watching my daughter experience some challenges in school, I (LaVonna) knew we had to break down the box in which we put students in and that is typically a box of reading, writing, math and science. Our students are way more than that and deserve more than that!

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Education featured Leadership Uncategorized

Five Characteristics of the Divergent Teacher


The idea of divergence is occasionally envisioned as two paths diverging in the wood, perhaps thanks to our friend Robert Frost. However, the idea of divergent teaching is much more than choosing the road less traveled. To clearly define what a divergent teacher is, I (Mandy) adapted the psychological definition of divergent: (of thought) using a variety of premises, especially unfamiliar premises, as bases for inference, and avoiding common limiting assumptions in making deductions. Therefore, the definition I’ve developed for divergent teaching is:

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Education Empower Learning featured Inspiration Luminous Culture

Connecting With Learners: The Power Behind Cultivating Strengths and Interests

School is in full swing, and enthusiasm continues to soar as learners create, make, and learn through exploring their curiosities. All the while, we dedicate time to cultivating authentic relationships with each and every child entrusted in our care to support them in their journey toward personal excellence. In anticipation of all that will unfold this school year as my learners develop greater autonomy, I continue to revel in my experiences this past summer that contributed to my personal and professional growth, and created some of the very best memories.


My summer kicked off with a bang as I collaborated with educators at the PBS Digital Innovator Summit in Chicago, made a quick turn around to present at Model Schools in Orlando, and then connected with nine highly respected friends and passionate educators back in Chicago to co-author Volume II of Education Write Now, Top Strategies for Improving Relationships and Culture. Together, we learned about the Will To Live Foundation, in which all of our proceeds will go towards, to awareness and increase education to prevent teen suicide.

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Education Empower Learning featured

Maker Mornings Empower Learning

Maker Mornings Empower Learning

From the moment they enter the classroom, learners are on the go! Each day, we spend the first twenty-five minutes of class engaging in any activity of choice. A few years back, a ten-year-old girl in my class suggested that we should have maker mornings. Rather than visiting the makerspace here and there throughout the week, learners were seeking the opportunity to create, make and explore on a daily basis. Considering that it was a flexible time in our day since learners could arrive at 8:00 am, but the class didn’t officially start until 8:25, how could I say no? After all, there are incredible benefits to maker education!

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Education Empower Learning featured

Empowering Learning Through Science Exploration

This study was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn Initiative, led by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS. It was conducted by EDC and SRI International, long-standing evaluation partners for the Ready To Learn Initiative.

Empowering Learning Through Science Exploration: Educators Inspire Families to Develop Science Skills in Young Children

Whether it was observing the sway of leaves and branches due to the wind or mixing paint to create new colors, my two sons were deeply curious about the world around them, particularly when they were young. At age 4, I recall my son Julian asking, “When we drive through fog, are we driving through a cloud?” Young children persistently ask questions. In response to this question from my son, I responded, “What do you think?” I wanted him to continue thinking, questioning and articulating his thoughts. Parents play a pivotal role in their child’s education from early bonding interactions in infancy through helping them navigate the waters of growing into adulthood.

A study conducted by EDC/SRI and funded by the Ready To Learn Initiative found that 99% of parents want to be involved in their children’s education. The first-of-its-kind study entitled What Parents Talk About When They Talk About Learning: A National Survey About Young Children and Science claims that ‘the early years in a child’s life are the most transformative and essential to laying the groundwork for later success in life.”

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