5 Ideas to Change Teaching with Digital Tools

In today’s show, Meg Ormiston gives us an idea for each of the 5 C’s: creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and computational thinking.

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5 Ideas to Change Teaching with Digital Tools

Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e270
Date: Friday, March 9, 2018

Vicki: I’m so excited. We have Meg Ormiston @megormi with us today.

She’s been in education or 33 years, but for 21 years she’s been helping so many of us with our professional development, keynoting our conferences, speaking, and encouraging us to really use technology in the classroom.

And she does have a series of books that we’ll mention here in a moment.

But today we’re going to talk about five ideas to change teaching with digital tools.

So, Meg, what is our first idea today?

Meg: Awesome! Vicki, I am so happy to be here. This is so fun.

OK. We’re going to talk about the five C’s today:

  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking, and
  • Computational Thinking


I just went to a presentation of one of my co-authors last week, and she presented about how she does her green screen. And it was so creative, I couldn’t believe it. She’s in a K-2 building? She sprayed the inside of pizza boxes with green screen paint, and she used the little Starbucks stirrers. The kids made characters, and they do retellings of stories as they move the characters around. (laughs)

Vicki: (laughs)

Wow, So then they can cut out the background and then put them anywhere, huh?

Meg: It is SO CUTE.

And people are like, “How did you do this?”

We had to stop the whole workshop! (laughs) It was so fun!

But what I really love about Melissa is that she ties every single lesson she does — like that green screen lesson — to an ISTE standard and she ties it to an ELA standard. And that’s posted right in the room so everyone knows it’s not just fluff, it’s embedded into the curriculum.

So that’s my #1 for today. Love that one.

Vicki: Ohhhh, that is awesome. How cute!

OK, what’s our second?


Meg: OK. Collaboration. And I’ll have to tell you… this is so funny. I just wrote a series of five books with 26 practicing educators.

Vicki: Wow.

Meg: Crazy. Yeah. Not easy. It was like herding cats. It was nuts. But it was so funny.

They’d come to my house, and they would write, and I would cook them dinner.

Each day, they’d kind of spread out around the house.

And one night the high school teachers were at the island, and the K-2 teachers were at the kitchen table.

And I was doing something, and all of a sudden, I was doing something, and one of the high school teachers goes, “They can do THAT? In kindergarten?”

Vicki: (laughs)

Meg: What are we doing? They just couldn’t believe that the young kids could do this. And so what’s so cool on this collaboration piece of that one, is that that kindergarten teacher is now partnering with the high school.

They’re actually different districts, but they're across the street. The high school students walked down the street, and they did an afternoon STEM collaboration.

Vicki: Oh, I love it! Multiage collaboration is just so incredible, and the hallmark of what I do in my own classroom. I love that!

What’s next?


Meg: Communication. I love to tell the story of Bill Ferriter’s http://sugarkills.us/

Do you know that project?

Vicki: No! Tell us!

Meg: Oh my gosh. It’s great!

I think it’s been going on for about four years. His kids… I think it might have slowed down a bit. But they have a http://sugarkills.us/ blog.

About 4-5 years ago, Bill brought in a news article about the ban of soda. The big soda in New York City.

Vicki: (agrees)

Meg: And he was just thinking it was a quick activity. And the kids started really getting into it, and figuring out how much sugar is really in the food that they’re eating. And they started to blog about it. It went on for years! I do believe that it’s on its fifth year.

Vicki: Wow.

Meg: But the cool part was that they were communicating all over the globe. If you look at their cluster map, it’s AMAZING how many people they are reaching.

And this was so funny… one day, I was in Houston, Texas, speaking.

I got a text from Bill, and he said, “My class wants to know if you are in Houston, Texas.”

Vicki: (laughs)

Meg: Because when I speak, and I talk about their awesome story, they watch me on their cluster map, and they guess where I am. I feel like I’m being tracked!

Vicki: (laughs) I love that! Kids are so engaged and understand how modern communication works with a virtual audience. Wow, that’s awesome!

What’s our fourth?

Critical Thinking

Meg: OK, critical thinking. I believe, and I love this quote, and I’m giving all the credit to Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy.

This is his quote that he let me use, “If you assign a project and get back thirty of the exact same thing, that’s not a project. That’s a recipe.”

Vicki: Mmmmmm.

Meg: And I love that. You know, when you walk down the hall of a school, and you just have thirty of the exact same things in a row, and then you go to the next room?

I’m working with a school, and I’m calling it the “Over Rubricked High School.” That’s not even a real word, I think. But these students are super high performing, but all they’re doing is checking boxes on rubrics, and they’re not critically thinking.

And it’s so important to get some creativity into our classrooms, into our projects.

I presented this at a workshop on Friday, and I start by saying, “I’m going to upset some of you. We have to change the projects we’re asking kids to do.”


You should have seen the body language!

Vicki: Hmmmm.

Meg: I had fifty people in this room. Ooooooooh! That is not the ____ to make samples. How many poster boards must die from these elementary years?

Ugh. So I am calling it the “Over Rubricked School.”

I think we are “over-rubricking,” and we’re forgetting about the creativity and the critical thinking.

Vicki: Yeah. And you know, I’ve seen some projects that I just call the “Wikipedia Copy Project.”

Meg: Ohhh!

Vicki: Because they’re supposed to do this research, and they’re like, “If I can Google it?”

I mean authentic research? They can’t use… Do something like, “What if Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela had a conversation about modern politics? What would they say?”

They can’t Google that! They have to actually think!

Meg: Exactly! That’s the point.

The school brought me in because they found their kids were graduating like at 98%. But they weren’t finishing college. They didn’t know how to think, because we…


I’m doing a session at ISTE with my son. I’m really excited about that.

“There’s No Rubric For Your First Job”

How about that?

Vicki: Ohhhhh. Love it.

OK, what’s our fifth?

Computational Thinking

Meg: The fifth one is computational thinking.

There, we wrote about coding, all the way through…

So the books go — they’re great books. There’s a K-2, a 3-5, a 6-8, a 9-12, and a leadership book. And we wrote about coding all the way through — starting in kindergarten.

Again, that was something the high school teachers could not believe — truly, could not believe — that the kindergarteners could code.

And it was funny because they were so hung up on, “Where do we put coding in our curriculum?”

Instead of, you know, embracing that we’ve got to (prepare) these kids for the real world. Get them ready with real thinking about future jobs.

So my fifth one is computational thinking.

Vicki: That is so important. And you know, sometimes, it would be nice if we kind of communicated across the board and people could understand that sometimes kindergarteners and first and second and third graders may transfer schools, and they feel like they’re stepping backwards. We’re selling kids short. Just because it’s new to the teacher, doesn’t mean that it’s new to the kids. You know?

Meg: Exactly! And, we’re not going to be able to find enough computer science teachers in our classrooms. We’ve got to figure out how to be able to use our technology to teach this computational thinking. That’s my opinion.

Vicki: We do.

OK, so we have five ideas to change things teaching with digital tools.

Now, Meg, tell us quickly, where we can find some more information about the books?

Meg: OK. Go to Amazon. And please give us a great review. (No, I’m kidding.) (laughs)

But just do “now classroom” Search “now classroom”

And you will see — our website’s http://nowclassrooms.com/

We’re trying to blog. We’re trying to stay on top of things, but I would LOVE to hear what you have to say. Thank you!

Vicki: Awesome! Thank you, Meg!

And keep inspiring educators all around the world. I just find you so exciting and engaging. I appreciate all that you do, because you know all that traveling is not for everybody.

I travel a little bit, but it’s really dedication to travel.


Meg: (laughs)

Vicki: A lot of people want to do it until they start, right?

Meg: Ohhhh… Yeah. I’m going to Singapore next week. It’s 27 hours each way. Ugh!

Vicki: Oh my goodness, no. It’s not for me and my knees.

Well, thank you, educators, for having a listen.

I know that you have some ideas that you can use this weekend as you plan your lessons for Monday!

Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Bio as submitted

Meg was a classroom teacher, school board president, and now she is an international keynote speaker focused on teaching and learning with digital tools. Meg is also an author of twelve books that include the five book NOW Classrooms series she co-authored with 26 practicing educators.

Twitter: @megormi

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere