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Wall of Intolerance- What if….

During my visit this past January to the Graded School, in São Paulo, Brazil, I met Jamie Tuttle  Middle School Guidance Counselor. He told me about an incident at their International School and the response as a community:

We found our world map defaced with several derogatory and racist remarks. The following words and statements were written on the map:


It shocked our international school and we knew that something needed to be done. An 8th grade student brought up the idea of working together as a school to create a new world map. As the conversations about this idea grew, we felt that we needed to confront the issue of bullying and how racist and derogatory words can be very damaging to an individual and a community. We decided to confront these issues by creating a Wall of Intolerance.

Jamie also shared with me their idea of documenting and sharing the occurrence and the process of “doing something about it” in order to not let a problem being hushed up.  The Graded community produced a documentary and I am thrilled to be able to share it with Langwitches’ readers.

In addition, Jeff Lippman, the Middle School principal of the Graded School also created a flipped lesson on Ted Ed for the Wall of Intolerance documentary.

This documentary shows the process that our Middle School went through when we discovered that our world map had been defaced with racist, xenophobic and classist graffiti. In a truly collaborative effort between students, teachers and administration, we confronted issues of discrimination and bullying and moved forward together as a community by tearing down hatred and building a new world map

I am wondering how other schools could benefit beyond just taking the idea of the “Wall of Intolerance” as a resource or model for their own schools?  I am thinking… what if….

  • What if… we create a collaborative Wall of Intolerance?
  • What if … we connect students across geography and tear down their Wall of Intolerance  (via Skype or Google Hangout)?
  • What if … we crowdsourced testimonials/how to guides on how to grow from being a (passive) bystander to a(n) (active) ally.
  • What if… we create a meme, a chain that is being passed on to other schools to add their perspectives, stories, solutions, actions, thoughts.

Entrepreneurialism, Student Voices and Authentic Work

Our 4th and 5th grade students(9-10 year olds) have been working with Mike Fisher, co-author of Upgrading your Curriculum and author of children’s poems. The goal of their collaboration is to create an eBook of Mike’s poems with students’ illustrations. Once produced, students will work on marketing, advertising and disseminating the eBook. Over the course of the last few months, they:

  • emailed
  • skyped
  • tweeted
  • blogged
  • worked on shared Google Docs

in order to:

  • introduce themselves to each other
  • hold a conversation about their ideas and upcoming work
  • document their work
  • disseminate their work
  • give and receive feedback

Mike wrote about his experience up until now in detail on his blog post Contextual and Authentic

Then, we discovered something. Something big.
Because of the depth of instruction and the built in time to negotiate new roles for the students and the upgrade of seeing themselves as collaborators rather than passive learners, we struck oil! Silver! Gold! Students began to self identify interests that were related to their planned learning and lead us down paths of unplanned learning that enriched the designed project.

I have been using the experience to take a closer look at upgrading assessment in modern learning environments.

Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about an authentic tasks, that allows students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.

In my recent post of  Students Are Speed Geeking at edJEWcon, I highlighted the need  and an example of exposing and involving our students in authentic learning experiences. There was another opportunity for our students to participate and share their learning with conference attendees, when Mike Fisher and our students were able to meet in person for the first time, as he was traveling as a presenter to Jacksonville.


The session “Modern Learning”, facilitated by Mike himself and Stephanie Teitelbaum, their language Arts teacher, focused, not necessarily on the students as teachers of teachers (as did the SpeedGeeking), but on the collaboration journey between adults and students, the authentic learning that has unfolded and will continue to develop for the rest of the school year and into next year.

Session Description: Modern Learning

Come and see what students learn
When we change the roles and rules.
Come and see what students do
With modern learning tools.
See the process and the product,
The depth and the extension,
The whole collaborative way we worked,
And our new inventions.
Prepare to be amazed and awed
By our globally connected team.
Join us as we launch the next phase
Of our collaborative dream.

Six students were selected to be part of a panel to explain the different jobs they held during Skype calls and to talk about the process of developing the idea of the eBook.


Each student created a few slides in a collaborative Google Presentations to be able to visually share with the attendees the poem, their corresponding illustration and any artifact that showed their role in the collaboration process.


At the end of the session, attendees were treated to a sneak preview of the eBook.


All students were eloquent in sharing their learning, but one in particular surprised us with her statement of “It’s not one and done” when referring to the importance, care and quality of the work they are doing. She pointed out that the work is not done until it is done, which most likely will continue next school year.

Take a “read” at the tweets below coming from the audience during the session:





WE are on a path to experiencing authentic learning. I say WE on purpose, since teachers are experiencing this kind of learning alongside with our students. I don’t know about your experiences, but I don’t remember learning in this shape or form when I was going to school. I don’t remember authentic learning EVER coming up in my educational classes at the University.

Steve Hargadon, our closing keynote speaker at edJEWcon, was talking about the need for preparing our students for entrepreneurialism.

commonly used to describe an individual who organizes and operates a business

Better yet, think John Dewey (“Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.“) when we not only prepare students for entrepreneurialism, but letting them live and experience it in school.

Our students are excited and ready to be in business. In the Book Publishing business! Now that the content is created, they are working on writing their resumes in order to apply for different positions that will put them in charge of leading or being hired to work under the

  • Publishing Department
    How do we prepare/format the eBook or a Hard Copy? What are the terms of self-publishing services (Lulu.com/iTunes/Amazon, etc.)
  • Financial Department
    How much will it cost to produce and publish the book?How much is feasible to charge for the eBook/hard copy? What will be cut for the author? The School? What are some projections?
  • Marketing Department
    How will the product be marketed? Disseminated? Who is a potential audience? Should we organize a local book tour to promote the book?
  • Graphic Designers
    How will we produce flyers to be physically distributed to our local bookstore, among the school community?
  • Writers
    How will we write press-releases to be placed on classroom blogs, the school website? How can we promote the book through strategically written Tweets? What are other venues/platforms to contribute in writing? Guest blogging?
  • Multimedia Team
    How will we produce multimedia (book trailers, commercials, etc.) to help advertise the product?

If you have made it this far in reading the blog post. Ask yourself, HOW could you amplify these young entrepreneurs to LEARN through real life experiences?

  • Would you be willing to consult with them, if you have any life experience in any of the departments mentioned above?
  • Would you skype in for a few minutes to give them advice?
  • Could you help the financial department in figuring out how much would you be willing to pay for their poetry book?
  • Could you imagine a potential audience our marketing department could target?
  • Are we forgetting a vital part of our business structure?
  • Do you have any other thoughts or tips for us? (Please leave a comment)

By the way… anyone still think this is about technology or learning specific tools, platforms or apps (Google Docs, Skype, Twitter, Blogging, Comic Life, Pixie, iMovie, Skitch, etc.)








Out of Eden: Paul Salopek’s Walk from Ethiopia to Patagonia

I am thrilled to share with Langwitches’ readers an amazing learning opportunity. Take a look at the Out of Eden site and let your imagination run wild how you could get your students excited about learning via the resources available the Pulitzer Center.


In early 2013, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek will set out on foot from the birthplace of humanity, the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia, and walk in the footsteps of the first modern humans who left Africa to settle the unknown world.

This immense narrative journey spans roughly 50,000 years of human history and 22,000 miles of the planet’s surface—from our paleoanthropological “Eden” in East Africa north into the Levant; across the steppes of Central Asia to China; by sea from Siberia to Alaska; and then down the length of the Americas to the continental “Land’s End” of our species in Patagonia. This continuous walk will last seven years.

The goal of the world walk—and the Out of Eden project—is to slow readers down and allow them to reflect on current events as a form of pilgrimage. By using the history of our migration as a backdrop for international news, Salopek will examine the most important global stories of our day from ground level, at three miles an hour—walking into stories as diverse as human conflict and local innovations, mass migration and the Internet revolution, climate change and cultural survival. A worldwide audience is invited to “walk along” via quality Web reportage that includes articles, video, audio and blogs. Salopek is a National Geographic Fellow.

I am proud to say that, I was involved in creating the curriculum guides for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12, complete with big ideas, essential questions, Common Core standards & NETS standards alignment, content, skills & strategies, suggested learning plan and activities.

Take a look, think about the possibilities for connections and collaboration across geographic borders and over time. How can we get students so excited that they will continue following Paul over the next seven years long past the time they will be spending in our own classrooms?


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