Guest Blog: Lou Montiel

It’s the start of a new year for us here at Big Ideas. We are all very excited to start the journey with you and look forward to this year’s blog and the blog entries we have in store for all of you. This week, our guest blog comes from one of our consultants, Lou Montiel.


Out with the Old…

The pendulum swings, the twelfth bell rings, the ball drops, and just like that it’s a new year!  For me, the new year is an inflection point. It is a new iteration. It’s an opportunity for reflection and perhaps redirection.  For many in the teaching profession, we set goals for ourselves and our students at the beginning of the school year.  The new year is a great time reevaluate those goals, or to start anew.  Here are some things you might consider as you continue the journey forward and show that you CARE:

 Celebrate!  Revel in the things that have been successful for you.  Identify your successes and think about what things contributed to creating that success for you.  Can these things be replicated across other arenas, or with other individuals?  For example, I had a student once that had a difficult time understanding how to solve a proportion.  I taught this student the rule for solving a proportion using a body kinesthetic math cheer.  Once I saw how well she understood using this method, I applied it to other students with equal success!

Analyze!  Have you ever stopped to consider how you spend your time during a typical class?  What behaviors are you engaging in that are productive? What behaviors are wasting time? What things have a high positive impact on students? What things have a low positive impact or even a negative impact on students? The answers to these questions are revealing and can often lead to changed behaviors with higher student success outcomes. I once had a trusted colleague observe my class while I was teaching and keep track of the percentage of students engaged during various parts of my lesson.  It turned out that when I spent too much time explaining things that did not need explanation a high percentage of students became disengaged, but when I was teaching something new the interest level went up.

Refresh!  AHHH, just saying this word makes me feel better!  To refresh is to renew energy, to reactivate memory, to replenish, or to update.  All of these things are important when we teach. And when it comes to setting goals, sometimes we need to refresh our motivation to strive for those things which we set out at the onset with such great vigor only to have that vitality wane away over the course of time. Sometimes all it takes is to keep our goals in front of us, visible, tangible, and intentional.  My wife often teases me about all the silly sticky notes she finds in various places where we live. She finds them on my bathroom mirror, on my nightstand, on the dashboard of my car, on my computer lid, on the refrigerator door and in other places. But for me, these notes refresh my memory and help me keep motivated towards goal attainment.

Eliminate!  Out with the old in with the new!  Stop doing things that don’t work. It’s crazy to expect bad practices to lead to good results.  Replace behaviors that bear no fruit with new seeds of hope and possibility.  Try something new this year.  You may be surprised it could become your new favorite thing.

Best wishes for a successful start of the new year!

Print Textbook vs. E-Textbook in the Classroom – Which Works for You?

Print Textbooks vs. E-Textbooks

With the recent rise in technology and increased focus on the 21st century classroom, most kids today have access to smart phones, tablets and the knowledge of how to operate them. It comes with no surprise that many schools have decided to switch from print textbooks to electronic textbooks (e-textbooks) for their classroom.

I’d like to turn this blog into somewhat of a discussion; exploring both textbooks and e-textbooks and letting you, the reader, decide which you prefer to use.


In a nutshell, e-textbooks are digital copies of books that contain the same information and arrangement as hardcopy versions. E-textbooks often include an audio component or full audio versions, closed captioned videos for the hearing impaired, and the format of many electronic files are compatible with adaptive or support technology. Some are made for online use only while others can be downloaded and placed on tablets (Kindle, iPad, etc.) or computers.  E-textbooks can also be interactive with opportunities for increased student engagement embedded with the text itself. This allows students and educators to utilize point-of-use videos, lesson tutorials, interactive exercises and other resources.

Print Textbooks:

According to TeacherVision, “Textbooks provide organized units of work; it (textbook) gives you all the plans and lessons you need to cover in a topic.”  In addition, it goes onto describe that people who read textbooks tend to comprehend and learn more. Textbooks don’t require power, so concerns regarding battery life on tablets or computers are eliminated.  Since they don’t require any special equipment (batteries, chargers etc.) they are completely portable allowing for students to take them home and complete assignments without worrying about owning or damaging expensive electronic equipment. In addition, textbooks also provide a normal progression of information and lesson difficulty. Finally, all the concepts in a textbook build on each other allowing for prior knowledge to help aid in the learning process.

Each delivery method provides students and teachers with access to the course materials, but there are advantages to each method that are not seen in the other. Ultimately, the decision to use e-textbook vs. print textbook boils down to personal preference and teaching style. Knowing the advantages of each delivery method is essential to making an informed decision for your classroom. Do you prefer to have your students get their hands on physical textbooks every day or have students watch videos that are embedded in their e-textbooks.

The choice is yours, what do you prefer? Let us know!


Set SMART Goals This Year!

Smart Goals

The beginning of a new school year is a great time to set goals for yourself or your class. Unfortunately, too many educators set goals that end up being pushed aside after the hustle and bustle of the new year takes full stride.

You will be more likely to accomplish your objective if you remember to be SMART about your goal setting.

Keep your goals:
Relevant, and

Specific goals are more likely to be achieved than general goals. Specific goals state exactly what will be achieved when the goal is accomplished. Specific goals will answer the questions Who, What, Where, When, and How.

Goals should have a Measurable component to allow for progress tracking. For example, if you are setting out to improve your students’ overall classroom average, make your goal to improve by a specific percentage or to reach a specific GPA.

A new goal should be realistic. An Attainable goal is one that is challenging, but not so far out of reach that accomplishing the goal will take an exorbitant amount of effort. You should be able to lay out exactly how you will be able to accomplish your goal when it is set.

When setting your goals be sure that they are Relevant to your long-term plans and current role in your school’s education system. For instructors this is especially important as you set goals for your class – you should ensure your short-term goals are in line with your goals for the semester and school year.

Finally, all goals should be Time-bound, or include a time frame in which the goal should be achieved. By the end of the semester or school year is an excellent time frame for educators and students.

What are your SMART goals for the 2013-14 school year?

Free Resources and Professional Development

Summer may be your time to relax, get some sun, go on vacation…. or catch up on your professional development and other school-related tasks. If you’re looking for creative and useful resources and information, then SimpleK12 is hosting a Day of Learning just for you!

On July 20th, SimpleK12 is offering 7 free webinar sessions plus a keynote. Registration is free. You can attend all of the sessions or pick which ones are of highest interest to you.

Do you have any teacher friends that might be interested? Share this with them and round up a few fellow teachers for a fun day of learning!