Hacked Leadership: Innovation Acceleration
Let’s Change the Future: Important Insights from Small Business Owner Tarek Kamil

Let’s Change the Future: Important Insights from Small Business Owner Tarek Kamil

July 1, 2017

Understanding what employers want and how we can improve education for students remains a constant pursuit for educators around the globe. Changing the future of education requires that we hone our craft as educators. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to interview Tarek Kamil, the CEO and founder of Cerkl, and current member of the Madeira Board of Education. Tarek, like many entrepreneurs, has a history of building innovative products and services ranging from a metric driven performance enhancement basketball to a fantasy sports simulation application. In our interview, we discussed his product, Cerkl, as well as what employers want and need today and in the future and what we, as educators, should be doing to help create the employee of tomorrow.



Open Source Educational Software with Innovator Zach VanderVeen

Open Source Educational Software with Innovator Zach VanderVeen

May 30, 2017

Zach VanderVeen and Chris Rose from Hamilton City Schools (Cincinnati) created software called Abre that rivals most educational technology software on the market today. Most importantly, it is open source and free for anyone to use. Learn more about Abre at http://www.abre.io.


If you like the content of this podcast, visit my blog at http://www.hackEDleadership.com and read EdCircuit where I'm a contributor.

Using Sketchnote in the Classroom

Using Sketchnote in the Classroom

May 20, 2017

Listen to this interview with Mindy Trujilo, a high school ELA teacher that uses Sketchnoting in her classes as an alternative form of assessment, even with her AP students. 

Sunday Spark: Biomimicry

Sunday Spark: Biomimicry

April 9, 2017
bi·o·mim·ic·ry ˌbīōˈmiməkrē/ noun
 the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes. -Google

Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.

-Biomimicry Institute

Nature provides the best examples of working processes yet we often engage in our world mindlessly or use brute force methods to problem-solving and innovating. How can we harness and learn from the world around us? Last week, I blogged about the Power of a Question. The question I would ask is, "Has nature found a solution to this problem?" This question opens up a world of action research, and an opportunity to look at the environment in a new way.

Below are some great examples of biomimicry in action. Read more examples here.

VELCRO: George de Mestral invented Velcro after his dog returned covered in burdock burrs. He looked at them under the microscope and noticed hook-like structures, and after years of experimenting, he patented velcro in 1955.

SUPER ADHESIVE: Geckos scale walls and even walk upside down on surfaces using millions of microscopic hairs on their toes. Scientists used this methodology to create an adhesive where an index-card-size strip can hold up to 700 pounds holding promise as a new medical adhesive to replace sutures and staples.

VACCINES - NO REFRIGERATION REQUIRED: Tardigrades, relatives of the arthropod take up to 120 years to dry out after dying. A process called anhydrobiosis protects them. Biomatrica, through an adaptation of anhydrobiosis, realized how to apply this knowledge to live vaccines, preventing the need for refrigeration for up to six months.

 Resources for educators:

Look through the lens of curiosity



Hennighausen, Amelia, and Eric Roston. "14 Smart Inventions Inspired by Nature: Biomimicry." Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.

"What Is Biomimicry? – Biomimicry Institute." Biomimicry Institute. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.

Student-Led Innovation Conference

Student-Led Innovation Conference

April 8, 2017

The day before spring break in my elementary school (40 years ago) equated to extra recess, movies, and killing time. Not at Forest Hills. At Forest Hills, students were busy teaching and earning “street cred.” Yes, I said that right, students were teaching. They were teaching other students and staff in a Student Led Innovation Conference. The conference felt like an adult conference complete with two keynotes and a host of sessions from which to choose. Here are some of the sessions:

  • Coding with Finch Robots
  • Videography Process
  • Tricks and Tips for Animoto and Google Slides
  • How to Turn Your Slideshow Into a Movie
  • Ctrl Your Fun (cute title)
  • Cool Tips You Might Not Know About Google Drive
  • Take a Virtual Reality Field Trip with Google Cardboard
  • Make a Monster MOVE
  • Stop Motion
  • Snap Circuits
  • Sphero Driving
  • Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Gaming for Good
  • Animator Inc.
  • Coding with Python
  • Magic Music
  • How to Fly a Drone

Students beamed with pride, kneeling down to help fellow students, navigating the technology, and imparting their knowledge. Today was their day not just to show what they know, but to show what they enjoy. Many of the topics students covered were difficult. I’ve developed software for over 20 years and don’t know how to code in Python.

The Student-Led Conference was the brainchild of Wilson Elementary. Last year, Bob Buck, the principal, almost off-handedly said they were planning a Student-Led “Google” Conference. I immediately fell in love with the idea. In true Bob Buck style, he rallied a great team to pull it off. Students received presentation training, learned how to think through their resource needs, and received some “coaching” from their media specialist, Angie Garber. Bob secured two keynotes because he wanted students and staff to have a memorable and more importantly, valuable, day. I remember him telling me, “Well, what are students usually doing before spring break? Either leaving early or watching movies.” He wanted more for his students.

This year, the remaining elementary buildings joined in the fun and hosted their own version of the conference. Each building managed it in their own way, some watching the keynotes and others filled the day with student-led sessions.

The day was personalized, fueled by passion, filled with laughter, and LEARNING. There were bumps in the road, but students handled it. I watched students effectively fix (or respectfully dismiss) the issues. What may have sent me over the edge wasn’t even a blip on the students’ radar.

Guess what? The office was silent – free from referrals despite the lack of bells and formal structure.

Students lights were shining brightly today at Forest Hills Elementary Buildings! What a great start to spring break!


Get Organized with Google Keep

Get Organized with Google Keep

April 6, 2017

Use Google Keep to stay organized, manage your time, simplify communication and make commenting on student work even easier! Google continues its tradition of simple, functional software flanked by second-to-none search capability with this Evernote competitor. For educators entrenched in the Google ecosystem, Google Keep beats Evernote hands down due to its tight integration with G Suite. Recently, Google Keep built integration into Google Docs seamlessly as well as offering a mobile version extending its utility.

As I listened to a podcast by Lee Cockerell, author of Creating Magic, he relentlessly focused on the importance of time management. There's one guarantee: we all receive the same 24 hours in a day. What are you doing with your time and how can you spend more time doing what you want to do versus doing what you have to do?

Google Keep offers the following functionality:

  • Stay organized. Making lists, an age-old tradition simply works. Celebrate a job well done, when you've checked off elements within your list.
  • Collaborative list building. Build a list and share it with your team for rudimentary project management.
  • Store photographs. Use the mobile app to snap a picture and store it for use later and add notes relative to the photo. Ideal for capturing the moment for use later in a blog, LMS, or newsletter.
  • Set reminders relative to a list to ensure your personal accountability.
  • Integration with Google Docs. Save comments in a Google Keep list and then while reviewing their Google Doc copy them over for detailed feedback. See the video Eric Curts created below to learn more.

Some students struggle because they cannot manage their time well. Introduce them to Google Keep, so they can effectively organize their time just like you.

Watch Eric Curts video here.

Sunday Spark: The Power of a Question

Sunday Spark: The Power of a Question

April 1, 2017

What impact would it have on students if they stopped doing homework?

What is the value of homework?

Those are big, hairy, audacious, and possibly frightening questions but questions that teachers of Biz Stone were forced to answer.

Biz Stone, one of four Twitter co-founders, found himself running straight from school to lacrosse practice, then work for a couple of hours, forcing him to start his homework at 8 PM. He continued working on his homework until 4 AM in the morning. The cycle continued until one day; he decided that the cycle wasn’t working for him. He realized that he wanted to implement a “No Homework Policy.”

Excerpt from Things a Little Bird Told me: Confessions of a Creative Mind:

My plan was simple. I would work as hard as possible to pay attention and be completely focused in each class, but I would not bring my books home, and I would not do any of the homework assigned to me. If the homework was intended to reinforce what was taught in class, I would be fine—because I would make sure to absorb it all during the school day.

Most of his teachers told him his final grade might suffer, but he was ok with the consequence. Ultimately, in the end, his grades didn’t suffer. He listened attentively in class and in the end, received a scholarship.

How would you react to the questions above?

It is ok to be uncomfortable. Good questions can bring discomfort but lead to self-discovery and innovation.

How I found inspiration from a single question

In December of 2016, my superintendent, curriculum director, and I listened to Yong Zhao speak on the topics of Education Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. His latest work is a three-part book series, The Take-Action Guide to World Class Learners, and he’s a Foundation Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas. Yong, one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, provided rich content flawlessly delivered while we listened attentively. He talked to us about the importance of students solving real-world problems, creating a school within a school, focusing on student’s strengths and ultimately retooling the American educational system. After he finished, we headed to lunch. While at lunch the superintendent looked at us and said,

“How can we accomplish this in our district?”

I heard the question, and the gears in my head went into overdrive brainstorming possible ways our district accomplish this task. This broad, audacious question pushed me to think deeply and critically. There was an element of, I want my superintendent to be impressed and an element of, this is a big hairy problem, and I want to help solve it.

From that single question, I built the Sustainable Innovation Framework. First, I built a quick Google Drawing (below left) to receive feedback from my professional success champions. Then, I refined it and created the final product, shown on the right.:

Sustainable InnovationMost importantly, that single question inspired me. It inspired me to create and ultimately, begin writing. The ideas swirled in my head so quickly, writing them down yielded the only release. The words continued to flow, and months later, I persist in my quest for innovation and the education retooling.

What questions can you ask to change your life and the life of your students? As you think of compelling questions:

Be bold.

Stretch yourself.

Inspire others.

Make the world a better place!



Source:  “The no-homework policy (excerpt from Twitter founder Biz Stone’s book).” 3 Apr. 2014, http://venturebeat.com/2014/04/03/the-no-homework-policy-excerpt-from-twitter-founder-biz-stones-book/. Accessed 1 Apr. 2017.

Personalized Learning, UDL, and Innovation with Kathleen McClaskey

Personalized Learning, UDL, and Innovation with Kathleen McClaskey

March 31, 2017

Kathleen McClaskey co-author of How to Personalize Learning, joins me to discuss personalized learning through the UDL lens of access, engage and express and how personalized learning connects to and inspires innovation. Kathleen, inspired by the work of Chris Watkins built numerous frameworks to help educators learn to personalize learning in the classroom. Her books, co-authored with Barbara Bray, provide easy-to-follow steps for educators and leaders.

In this episode, Kathleen inspires us to promise agency to every learner in the classroom. She talks to me about how students achieve learner agency and the importance of changing our vernacular to use the word learner instead of the word student. 

Kathleen and I cover:

  • How schools and teachers can start personalizing learning in their classrooms.
  • Understanding the UDL lens and how learners Access, Engage and Express information in the classroom to achieve agency.
  • How students achieve learner agency.
  • How personalized learning increases and connects to innovation.



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