Friday, March 1, 2013


So this blog post idea has been running through my head for a while now.  I’ve tried to really figure out how to say this and what exactly I wanted to say.  I know I’m going to ruffle some feathers, but don’t we need that sometimes? These thoughts are completely my own.  So here it goes....

I try to be creative.  I try to think outside of the box.  I try to prepare my students for the “real-world”.  And isn’t that my job?  Wasn’t I hired to inspire and educate children?  Not to take a test, but to be prepared to interact and change the world around them!

The world we live in today is a technology driven world.  When I was in High School (in the early 2000’s) only a few of my friends had cell phones.  Now, not only do most of my 5th grade students have cell phones, but now many homes, period, no longer have “land-lines”, but use their cell phone as their main phone line.  As a senior in High School in 2003, I took a class on how to write HTML, because my high school was preparing me for a world of technology!  HAHA!  I don’t know many people now who could read HTML, much less write it!  There’s so many more ways that technology has advanced just in the last 5 years.

Technology moves fast, yes.  And as teachers we should be incorporating as much technology into our classrooms as possible.  We should be teaching our students digital citizenship and how to create/share/interact with people from all over the world.  Our students are no longer confined to the walls of their home when they go home.  Whether we like it or not, kids are using technology.  And using it A LOT!

I know some educators are reading this right now and thinking to themselves “You’re RIGHT! But my district’s internet filtering blocks everything!” or “my administration doesn’t support my students using much technology” or “my district encourages technology but they want to make sure that they can control every aspect of everything we use.”  And I know it’s frustrating.  I’ve dealt with it all too!  And I’m fed up.  I’m to the point where I just want to throw my hands up and say, “Why don’t you just block EVERYTHING!?!?”.
Students and Social Media

I’ve fought very hard the last few years for the right to use certain education tools in my classroom.  Nothing good ever comes without a passionate teacher willing to fight.  I’ve had to show time and time again, “Student’s will use technology correctly, IF WE TEACH THEM TO!”  But that is so hard when everything we used is “blocked”.

Do I think we should have absolutely no filtering software at schools?  No, that’s not what I’m saying.  But teachers should have a say.  Far too often we have people in positions of power who decide what can and can’t be used and it’s been YEARS since they’ve been in the classroom.  Teachers are in the classroom NOW, and teachers know how much education has changed just in the last 5 years. 

Social media being blocked is one of my biggest pet peeves.  I’ve heard the reasons..
- It’s to keep the kids safe.
- Kids will write inappropriate/mean/bad things.
- Kids should be learning, not on social media!
- There’s no educational value to social media.
- Well if we un-block it, they’ll just be on social media all the time
- and on and on and on

To that I say, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?”  Whether we like it or not, our students are on social media when they leave school (and in all honest, most are on social media AT school!).  Students are not stupid.  They are figuring out ways around filtered internet.  They have cell phones with data plans and whether you like it or not they’re on social media at school (in the bathroom, hallways, practice, etc).

Today’s parents are busy.  Many don’t train their children how to correctly interact in an online world.  And that’s because growing up, those parents didn’t have to!  But as teachers, since it is our job to TEACH, shouldn’t we be teaching our students how to have good digital citizenship??  I have used a type of social media in my classroom the last few years called “Edmodo”.  Edmodo is similar to facebook in design.  The major difference?  Students can’t send messages to individual students.  Because of that singular fact, I have been allowed to use it in my classroom.  And great, I get it.  I’ve tried my hardest to teach my students how to correctly interact online, but they’re not using Edmodo at home or when they get older.  They’re using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and more.  Yet everyone of those tools are blocked in many districts.  We hear the horror stories of kids bullying others online or posting inappropriate pictures or worse!  But imagine if those kids were TAUGHT that things posted online can never be deleted.  Ever.  More than just TOLD how to act, what if we TAUGHT our students how to use Facebook, how to interact on Twitter, how to share photos with Instagram or videos on YouTube?  If we used that media as instructional tools we could not only teach our students how to use it correctly but also save them from major heartache later down the road from making mistakes.  

Kids LOVE technology, that’s why they’re using it at home.  And when they come to school and are told to put everything away and get out a sheet of paper and a pencil, of course they won’t like coming to school!  We aren’t meeting the student’s needs at all.  We’re actually hurting them.  Those districts that are blocking every single thing or making it almost impossible for teachers to even use great educational websites, are hurting their students more than they even realize.  And I really believe with all this high stakes testing, many administrators or school districts have lost sight of what our job is.  NOT to teach a test, but more to teach a whole child.


Education is shifting.  More and more schools are starting to unblock Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more because they see the educational value that those tools CAN hold.  Students are social beings.  They want to interact and share with people from all over the world.  When we as teachers bring those tools into the classroom we have that “hook” that gets those kids interested in learning!

Imagine if students were tweeting out what they were learning that day from a class Twitter account, or if parents were keeping up to date with their child’s teacher by checking a school/class facebook page, or a homework assignment that required a student to take pictures and upload them to their instagram account, or find/create a video and upload it to a class YouTube account?  Now hold on.  I know what some School Districts may be thinking as they read this, “Well as an educator, can’t you just find another tool/website that will do the same thing, that’s ‘safer’”?  And my answer to that is, what’s the point?  Why introduce a ‘safer’ alternative to the students that they will never use again in the real world?  It makes absolutely no sense.

The possibilities really are limitless.  School districts, superintendents, technology directors, administrators, school boards, I beg you...WAKE UP!  Stop being so afraid of the social media world.  Our students are on it.  Period.  End of story.  And as educators we should be using it to teach our students and prepare them so that they don’t keep making those mistakes we hear about all the time on the news.  Now, will there be mistakes?  Will kids post or find mean/inappropriate things?  Of course, they’re kids.  But we need to stop, evaluate the situation, and use it as a LEARNING opportunity to teach the kids about consequences and what is and isn’t accepted.

Teachers and Social Media


Now on the same hand, it also confuses me why some districts have the ability to block things for students that are different then they block for teachers, yet tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube are still blocked.

And again I’ve heard the arguments...”teachers will just spend all their time on social media” or “why do they need it unblocked at school?  Can’t they just get on at home?”

And again I say, just like students, teachers are getting on social media at school whether it is blocked or not.  They’re using their phones just like students are.  Will teachers sometimes spend too much time pinning on Pinterest?  Yes they will.  Teachers are human, and they make mistakes.  But a whole district should not be punished for one teacher’s mistake.  That teacher may also need to be TAUGHT what is expected.

Is there educational value in Social Media? To that I shout a resounding YES.

Take YouTube.  Our district had it unblocked for teachers for the first few months of school.  Every teacher on my campus was using it to find awesome ways to use Media to teach.  I was also using it to post instructional videos my students created on our class YouTube account.  It was great!  Then a decision was made to block it.  For fear that students could get on a teacher’s computer and access something inappropriate.  And I understand that fear.  I really do.  We need to protect our children.  But when they go home they can access YouTube...anyway.  But while it was unblocked in my class I was using it to showcase the power that Sharing knowledge online with a global audience can do.  My students made some INCREDIBLE videos when they knew people from around the world were watching and commenting on their creations.  They wanted that positive feedback.  They wanted to know that people they had never met enjoyed and were using what they created.  They loved watching their ‘view count’ go up.  It was amazing!  And after it was blocked and trying to explain to them why, they still didn’t understand.  They said “Well why can’t we use it?  There’s bad things yes, but we weren’t looking at those bad things”  And I had to explain to them, that yes, they weren’t but someone could have.  And their response was “Well then why couldn’t THAT PERSON be punished” and I thought, wow, so true.  Out of the mouths of babes.

Now, take Twitter.  I started using Twitter professionally in May of 2012.  I tweet often about articles I’m reading, things I’m learning, what my class is doing, and so on.  But more than posting I’m LEARNING from other educators from around the world.  As of this writing I have over 1,600 people who value my tweet enough that they were willing to “follow” me.  People from Australia, UK, Canada, Venezuela, Turkey, Russia, and more.  Through my time on Twitter I’ve been able to connect with, interact with, and learn with people from all over the world.  It has been the greatest Professional Development I have ever received and will ever receive and all for FREE! 

I have been able to meet and have my class Skype with an Olympic Gold Medalist (@SteveMesler), a 15 year old who invented a test to identify pancreatic cancer that costs 3 cents (@JackAndraka), Classes from Sweden, Canada, Venezuela, Australia, and the UK.  I’ve been able to speak with Ron Clark (@RonClarkAcademy) and attend the Ron Clark Academy and more...all because I sent out a Tweet.

I have participated in countless Twitter chats (#satchat, #txed, #21stedchat, #flipclass, #5thchat, #IAedchat, and more!) and those have provided me with just about every single idea I have used in class this year.

I can’t express enough the professional power there is in Twitter.  I have done training after training on how to use Twitter, yet I still hear of MANY districts who refuse to unblock it, even for their teachers (my district included).

And image a class Facebook account!  I know just about every one of my student’s parents are on Facebook.  Do I have to “Friend” them?  NO WAY!  Do I want to “Friend” them? NO WAY! haha, but imagine if I created a class Facebook account that they could “Like”.  I could post info about upcoming events, pictures from field trips, links to homework and so much more.  “Well on Edmodo or a School Website you could do that too, right???”  Well, yes, but what parent wants to remember 20 different logins for all the sites that their kids are on?  If our parents are on Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram why can’t we just meet them where they are and not require them to create an account for another website they either won’t access or won’t use ever again when their child is out of your class?

So what can we do?  How can we make School Boards, Administrators, District Technologists, Superintendents and more see the power that Social Media holds?  I’m not quite sure what the answer is to that (Though Theresa Shafer @TheresaShafer wrote a GREAT article here ).

There seems to be a very deep seated fear in giving any power to the teachers in the classroom.  We live in a world where every time we turn around someone is suing someone else.  But as a teacher, as an innovator, as a out of the box thinker, I refuse to stand by and watch my students gain an education that isn’t preparing them for the world they are entering when they leave my classroom.  I will continue to speak everywhere I can about the power of social media and how if we take the time to teach our students how to use it, they will surprise even us with the things they’re capable of.  So, I close with asking, will you join me?

***I would LOVE to hear other ideas you may have with how to use social media in your school/class.  Please leave a comment below, Tweet me (@TechNinjaTodd), or email me

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ninja Lessons from 2012

So I figured what better way to end 2012, then to write a blog about the many things I learned in 2012, and to share what I look forward to the most in 2013!  So, here goes...

Sophia Logo Hor 01 
and the
flipped and the Flipped Classroom were two of the first great things I learned about in late February of 2012.  I had started hearing more and more about the Flipped Classroom.  I was getting tired of what I was doing in my class, and had begun to feel like all I was doing was worksheets or "teaching a test".  I was burning out, and fast.  Then my friend, and co-worker, Stacey Huffine (@TechNinjaStacey) told me about the flipped classroom idea and that was doing a FREE Webinar with someone called Crystal Kirch.  I later came to learn that Crystal Kirch (@CrystalKirch) is one of the "Flipping" Geniuses!  I signed up, and watched the webinar and fell in love with the idea of Flipping the Classroom.  I then learned that Sophia offers FREE Flipped Classroom Certification programs.  I went through their program immediately, got certified, and headed off from there.  Little did I know that 11 months later I would be flipping my entire math curriculum (and to great results! You can read about it weekly here  Through my work on Twitter I got to really know a lot of the "faces" behind Sophia (@tpettis and @cfruin) and this past December I was asked to lead my OWN Flipped Class webinar for Sophia (you can check it out here... (  Sophia is an amazing online tool that offers "learning paths" for students and adults.  I use Sophia DAILY in my Flipped Classroom, and every one of my students has an account with them.  They are an amazing FREE resource and they have some great people that work there to help you along your way!!  I've even been asked to lead other Webinars and create my own version of a Flipped Classroom Certification learning path for Sophia, so look for that soon!

Mooney Changes Everything

After learning about Sophia and The Flipped Classroom, I then got what I consider to be my biggest "lesson learned" from my friend Troy Mooney (@TroyMooney).  Troy met with Stacey Huffine and all (also seen in the picture above) and talked with us about the amazing things he said we were doing with tech, and about how we should begin "branding" ourselves and branching out more.  He taught us about the power of Twitter, Scoopit, LinkedIn, Blogging, and more.  He encouraged us to take our brand "global" and share what we know and learn with other from around the world.  Through the talks with Troy, Stacey and I formed "The 3 Tech Ninjas" (  We now have a "fully functioning" company that not only seeks to teach and train teachers and school districts across the state of Texas, but we also created a website for teachers to use when looking for great online tools, we have a heavy presence on Twitter, and we've spoken all over the state at different conferences (TCEA, Waller ISD, EdCampDallas, and more).  I can honestly say that my biggest lesson learned this year was learned from Troy Mooney.  He encouraged me to think outside the box and think "global".  And because of his pushing and encouragement I have had experiences and opportunities like no other this year.

So like I mentioned before Troy Mooney introduced me to Twitter, or better yet taught me how to use it to my professional advantage.  I had previously just thought Twitter was a tool to talk about random things you were doing throughout your day.  Little did I realize the power there was to be harnessed by using Twitter.  I know have an online PLN group of over 800 educators from around the world who follow me on Twitter.  I have a group of people I can go to for advice, teaching ideas, or just to vent.  The amount of knowledge I have gained from Twitter is immeasurable and I have had so many opportunities open up because of it.  You can read more about my learning from Twitter at my first Blog Post I did for Texas Principal (which has been seen by almost 10,000 people.  Are you kidding??!?!)

In July I was attending CAMT (Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teachers) and in one of my sessions I heard about this program called Remind101.  Remind101 is a FREE online tool that allows you text students and parents without ever needing their phone number, and they never needing yours.  This has made communication SO much easier now.  I have presented on Remind101 at every single training I do, and I can say that Waller ISD has fully implemented using it because it really is that great!  I've even gotten to speak with the co-founder of Remind101, Brett Kopf (@BrettKopf) when he called me to ask me some things about what I thought.  Talk about feeling famous and important when the co-founder of a company calls you!  Now I work often with the people of Remind101, writing blog posts, spreading the word, and was asked by Christine Garland (@CAGarland) to be on their "Evangelist Team".  I was honored.  So definitely check out Remind101 if you haven't already.

Ed what?

Ed Camps.  Something I had never heard of until this year.  I was following a guy on Twitter named Matt Gomez (@mattBgomez) and saw him tweet one day about EdCamps, and more specifically EdCampDallas.  I learned that EdCamps are FREE conferences, that are vendor free, and where sessions aren't formed until the day OF the conference.  I thought it was a genius idea.  So Stacey Huffine and I signed up right away to attend was INCREDIBLE.  I learned so much at the conference.  And it was FUN!  I also got to meet several of the people I follow in Twitter and Stacey and I were able to lead to training sessions (one over Flipped Classroom and one over Web 2.0 Tools).  We were so inspired by the ideas of EdCamps and how great EdCampDallas was that we KNEW we had to bring EdCamps back to our "neck of the woods".  So when we returned in September we immediately began planning EdCampWaller!  With full support from our district we now have EdCampWaller planned for April 27th, 2013 at Waller High School!  YOU can sign up and get more info here We already have almost 200 people signed up and over 40 companies who have committed door prizes.  We are really excited about it, so sign up today before all the spots are filled, and help us spread the word to all educators!!

What's Next?
So, what's next for 2013?  I have no idea what the future may hold.  All I know is that 2012 completely changed the way I view my career.  I now interact with people from all over the world, I run a technology training company for teachers, I write blogs and help education companies with spread their word, and best of all I'm teaching kids in a new and exciting way that is not only fun for me, but is even more importantly fun for THEM.  I can honestly say that 2012 was the best year of my career yet and I can't wait to see what I'm going to accomplish in 2013.  You can join me on my crazy ride by following me on Twitter (@TechNinjaTodd), following my Flipped Class Blog ( or keeping up with The 3 Tech Ninjas ( or please plan to join me and catch up with me in person at EdCampWaller in April (

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It Takes One

It Takes One

I have always been a firm believer that every one of us holds the power to dramatically impact a life.  As educators, we have that unique opportunity to impact many lives, and every year that impact grows drastically.  Whether you teach kindergarten students, coach Jr. High kids, answer the phones in the office, or clean the floors, you have the opportunity to change a life.  

I know we’ve all heard how important of an impact educators have on kids.  Sometimes though I feel we forget the power we possess as teachers.  The power to change lives.  Sometimes we don’t get to see the impact we’ve had until many years later. Sometimes we don’t ever get to hear about or see the impact we’ve made.  As a new school year approaches, I felt now was a good time to remind ourselves and to prepare ourselves to change lives.

How can we do that?  How can we change a life?  Well here are a few things that I’ve found really make a difference with kids...

Start from day one.  
I try to spend the first couple days of school (yes, more than just the first day!) just getting to know my kids. I also don’t shy away from letting the kids get to know about my personal life. When the kids see that you aren’t afraid to let them into your life they are much more likely to open up and let you into theirs.  Play team building games, do art, go outside, just spend time getting to know your kids!

Don’t be afraid to show your “kid” side.  
We all have a playful side. A side that we’re definitely afraid to show in public. Don’t be afraid to show that side in your classroom or school. Sometimes we just need to let loose and act silly with our kids and show them that there are times that it’s ok to be a little silly. It gives your students another perspective on who their teacher is.

Find what they’re passionate about and bring that into the class/school.
 This one is huge. To be an educator that impacts students you have to have your finger somewhat on the pulse of what is “cool” to them.  Take the time to find out what they like to do for fun or what sport they like to play.  For boys, bringing in problems with their sports heroes is always huge!  Find out what music they like to listen to or some of their favorite artists.  Download a few songs and play them in class (the appropriate songs of course).  Kids light up when they hear a song they know playing in class, and many times they work even harder on things when music they enjoy is playing in the background.
When you begin to really invest in your students you begin to learn about things they do outside of the classroom.  If you can, find the time to attend their dance recital, baseball/football game, whatever!  The most difficult students often become dream students when they see you’ve taken time out of your day to come to something they were involved in that had nothing to do with school (you can also easily win over difficult parents with this one!)

Eat lunch with your students.  
You don’t have to do this one every day.  But I’ve seen the difference eating lunch with my students makes.  It also gives me a little more time to get to know my students in an environment that they may feel more comfortable in.  

Play at recess.

 If you have elementary students, this one is a biggie.  As teachers many times we take our kids out to recess and just stand/sit there and watch them play. It means so much more to the kids to have you out there playing with them then standing there watching.  Administrators should also find time to do this!  The kids LOVE playing games outside with their admins!

Finally, actually care.

As educators our days can get crazy, busy, and sometimes overwhelming.  The kids sense all of that.  Kids are also excellent at being able to tell if you actually care about them.  When a kid knows that you care about them on a level that’s more than just their teacher, they work ten times harder to reach your expectations.

I believe that we truly underestimate the power we have as educators.  It only takes one person to change a life.  Will you be that one person to a student this year? Or will you blend in with all the faces they’ll see.  Now’s the time to decide.

“When I think of what could be
If we let our hearts believe
That it takes just one
Just one could turn this all around
And if we’re living history
How will they think of you and me
If it takes just one, just one
What if, what if, what if I’m the one”
- Brandon Heath

Friday, August 3, 2012

EdmodoCon 2012

Hey guys!!  The 3 Tech Ninjas are hosting a viewing party for EdmodoCon 2012 on August 8th! EdmodoCon is an online conference about all things Edmodo!  It would not only be a great intro to Edmodo (for the uninitiated) but it's free and sounds great!  It's all day and we're hosting the viewing party at Fields Store Elementary in Waller, Texas.  If you want to attend PLEASE RSVP to .   DO NOT MapQuest directions, email us and we'll send you directions. BRING YOUR LAPTOP!!  We hope to see you there!!

Please visit the link below to see the schedule for the day; keep in mind the times are Eastern:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Twitter - A Necessity for Educators in 2012

A Necessity for Educators in 2012
“Twitter won’t change your life, but it might make your job more fun and a little easier” - NEA

What is Twitter?  Twitter is an online social networking site which allows users to send and receive messages of up to 140 characters.  

Why should I join Twitter?  Twitter has really become an extensive online community for anyone to quickly share and gain ideas on any topic.  It’s FREE and very easy to use.

What role does Twitter have in Education?  Twitter is a really great way to communicate short and concise thoughts.  Some great ways Twitter can be used in education are:

  • Have your students and parents follow you on Twitter where you can post reminders about quizzes/tests, upcoming field trips, websites to check out, reminders about homework, etc.
  • Hold “Twitter Chats” with your students.  Allow them to ask questions or have discussions over particular topics after class with predesignated hashtags!
  • When attending or leading, trainings and conferences, you can put a hashtag at the end of all of your tweets to organize them for easy access later.  For example, a few weeks ago the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teachers (CAMT) was taking place, and people who were attending the conference tweeted and ended their tweets with #CAMT12.  Attendees could easily find tweets about the CAMT conference just by searching the official CAMT hashtag.
  • Follow other educators!  There are so many educators and educational companies on Twitter who post so many incredible links and ideas daily!  Some even host “Twitter Chats” on particular nights with certain hashtags!  Great way to communicate brief ideas with people from around the world!
  • Use Twitter to build a Professional Learning Network (PLN) so that you can learn about the latest trends in teaching!

Key Lingo:
Tweet - a tweet is just the way to say you posted something on Twitter.  “I just tweeted that out” means “I just wrote about that on my twitter account”.
Follow - You can “follow” particular people on Twitter to keep updated on all of their posts.  It’s kind of like friending someone on Facebook.
Trending - When something is “trending” on Twitter it means that many people are talking about the same thing.
@ - The “@” symbol always comes before someone’s Twitter name.  If you want to “tag” someone in a tweet, or tweet something to a particular person you just put the @ symbol and their name.  For example: “@The3TechNinjas lead a great presentation today!”
Hashtag - a hashtag is a “#” followed by any series of words.  You can use hashtags at the end of posts to categorize your post.  Hashtags make it very easy to search for posts on particular topics, as opposed to searching on the web where you would have to sift through a lot of garbage to actually find what you are looking for.
Some great hashtags to follow are #edchat #edtech #ntchat

Educators really can’t afford to NOT be on Twitter.  Our educational landscape is changing very rapidly.  Our students are using this technology every day, and as educators we must continually be growing and finding new ways to learn and to reach our students.  Is Twitter perfect?  By no means.  But used correctly, Twitter can really become a catalyst in transforming your classroom, your school, and your teaching.  So be bold, step outside the box, and start tweeting today!

Follow us on Twitter!

Need more ideas on how to use Twitter?  Check out this great website for more ideas!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Just Getting Started...

We are so excited about the many possibilities that our new blog will bring!  Help us spread the word!  We'll be posting our first official blog soon!