School Snapshot: Harding Academy Memphis

I ran across this photo that I took during a classroom visit a couple of years ago. It’s funny and true.

Video Footage from Electric Substation Explosion

Substation ExplosionAn electrical explosion in the Arlington – Lakeland area outside of Memphis.

A fire started around 12:30 AM on July 11, 2016, at the substation on Highway 70 near Saffron Springs Drive. This video was filmed less than a mile from the event.

Making Thinking Visible: An Introducton

Visible Thinking

Harvard’s Project Zero: Part 3

Visible Thinking is a flexible and systematic research-based approach to integrating the development of students’ thinking with content learning across subject matters. An extensive and adaptable collection of practices, Visible Thinking has a double goal: on the one hand, to cultivate students’ thinking skills and dispositions, and, on the other, to deepen content learning. By thinking dispositions, we mean curiosity, concern for truth and understanding, a creative mindset, not just being skilled but also alert to thinking and learning opportunities and eager to take them” (Source).

“Visible Thinking is a broad and flexible framework for enriching classroom learning in the content areas and fostering students’ intellectual development at the same time. Here are some of its key goals:

  • Deeper understanding of content
  • Greater motivation for learning
  • Development of learners’ thinking and learning abilities.
  • Development of learners’ attitudes toward thinking and learning and their alertness to opportunities for thinking and learning (the “dispositional” side of thinking).
  • A shift in classroom culture toward a community of enthusiastically engaged thinkers and learners” (Source).

“The idea of visible thinking helps to make concrete what a thoughtful classroom might look like. At any moment, we can ask, “Is thinking visible here? Are students explaining things to one another? Are students offering creative ideas? Are they, and I as their teacher, using the language of thinking? Is there a brainstorm about alternative interpretations on the wall? Are students debating a plan?”

When the answers to questions like these are consistently yes, students are more likely to show interest and commitment as learning unfolds in the classroom. They find more meaning in the subject matters and more meaningful connections between school and everyday life. They begin to display the sorts of attitudes toward thinking and learning we would most like to see in young learners — not closed-minded but open-minded, not bored but curious, neither gullible nor sweepingly negative but appropriately skeptical, not satisfied with “just the facts” but wanting to understand” (Source).

A proven program for enhancing
students’ thinking and comprehension abilities

“At the core of Visible Thinking are practices that help make thinking visible: Thinking Routines loosely guide learners’ thought processes and encourage active processing. They are short, easy-to-learn mini-strategies that extend and deepen students’ thinking and become part of the fabric of everyday classroom life” (Source).

About the Research

“Visible Thinking is the product of a number of years of research concerning children’s thinking and learning, along with a sustained research and development process in classrooms.

“One important finding was that skills and abilities are not enough. They are important of course, but alertness to situations that call for thinking and positive attitudes toward thinking and learning are tremendously important as well. Often, we found, children (and adults) think in shallow ways not for lack of ability to think more deeply but because they simply do not notice the opportunity or do not care. To put it all together, we say that really good thinking involves abilities, attitudes, and alertness, all three at once. Technically this is called a dispositional view of thinking. Visible Thinking is designed to foster all three.

“Another important result of this research concerns the practical functionality of the Visible Thinking approach — the thinking routines, the thinking ideals, and other elements. All these were developed in classroom contexts and have been revised and revised again to ensure workability, accessibility, rich thinking results from the activities, and teacher and student engagement” (Source).

Thinking Routines

Visible Thinking makes extensive use of learning routines that are thinking rich.

Technology Integration

Visit this overview of Making Thinking Visible with Technology by Clif Mims, then enjoy the many exemplary lesson plans and wonderful resources at (See screenshot below).

Making Thinking Visible with Technology (

* Much of this content courtesy of Project Zero at Harvard University.


Managing Online Identities

Keeping up with the state of technology is not easy. New social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Diigo, YouTube , Tumblr, Instagram, and AudioBoo continue to emerge and users sign-up and setup profiles without considering the full ramifications of sharing personal information. Practical tips for helping you and your students thoughtfully setup and maintain your online identities will be shared.

Below are my slides for this session. All the workshop materials and resources are available on my wiki, Learning Telecollaboratively.

Sounds Good to Me: Learning and Digital Audio

Yesterday, at the Mississippi Educational Computing Association Conference, I had the opportunity to share ideas for integrating digital audio with teaching and learning. One of my doctoral students, Fair Josey, collaborated with me on this workshop. I’m sharing the workshop information and resources here in response to inquiries I received last night via Twitter and Facebook. I hope that you find this useful and invite you to share your ideas for using digital audio in the classroom and at home.

Workshop Description

Enable students to make their thinking visible through the use of digital audio. Learn how recorded tutorials and messages, storycasts, book trailers, audio chatting and commenting, teacher recorded feedback, and more can enable students to engage with course content inside and outside the classroom and better equip parents to help with homework. Several freely available websites and apps will be demonstrated. Strategies for designing lessons and practical tips for implementation will be shared. Connections to special education, foreign language, and ELL classrooms will also be made.

You can view the workshop slides – which include video tutorials, links to examples of student projects, and more – by clicking on the image below. All the workshop materials and resources are available on my wiki, Learning Telecollaboratively.

Learning with Digital Audio

Making Thinking Visible with Technology

Making Thinking VisibleBackground

Last week I taught a 3-day institute for a school district near Memphis. The forty teachers participating in the professional development represented the full spectrum of grade levels and subject areas. I enjoyed having several special education, PE, and music teachers participate as they helped push everyone’s thinking about teaching every child and broadening our ideas about the classroom environment.

Big Ideas

You can see from the title slide (the slides are embedded below) that the name of the institute is long, but it conveys the three big concepts that were woven through this immersive experience.

“I believe that if we keep the focus on learning, embrace the thinking routines,
and dedicate our efforts to teaching for understanding
then learners will exceed the benchmarks.”

Making Thinking Visible (MTV)

The Teaching for Understanding framework provides a nice frame for a deep exploration of teaching and learning. It helps put the primary focus back on thinking, learning, understanding, and creativity, rather than on technology, standards, etc. which sometime seem to drive teaching and learning. The Visible Thinking Routines are excellent strategies for encouraging deep, reflective thinking and making it evident. While engaging with thinking routines students can make their thinking visible through conversation or the use of pen and paper, art supplies, Post-It notes, music, drama, etc. The routines are easy to use because the reflection and higher-order thinking are “baked in.” The instruction and management are also integrated into the routines.

MTV with Technology

Technology provides many additional possibilities for making thinking visible. When connected with the visible thinking routines word clouds, digital posters, videos, podcasts, slideshows, digital sketches, online concept maps, cartoon strips, timelines, and much more can be used to help students provide evidence of their thinking and understanding. With a bit of strategic planning it’s possible for teachers to integrate the curriculum, use of technology to promote thinking and learning, digital citizenship, and 21st century skills into a single activity built around a thinking routine. These can sometimes be seemingly disparate items that many teachers describe struggling to “fit in” to the school year. Integrating them around thinking routines as described and exemplified in the slides below can minimize these obstacles.

Exceeding Standards

I have never been a teacher that wanted students to simply “meet” the standards. I may be oversimplifying things a bit, but I view standards as benchmarks — as the minimum level of “acceptable.” Simply meeting the minimum isn’t what we should be aspiring to achieve; it won’t make one competitive when it comes to some extracurricular opportunities, advanced course placement, college admissions, scholarship opportunities, or in the marketplace. I admit that my point-of-view can cause even more anxiety for some teachers who already feel overwhelmed by all the transition to and expectations of the Common Core Standards. However, I encourage teachers to consider what it means to cultivate a culture of thinking with their students. I believe that if we keep the focus on learning, embrace the thinking routines, and dedicate our efforts to teaching for understanding then learners will exceed the benchmarks. They won’t just be minimally proficient, but rather they will develop true understanding. This isn’t simply a pep talk, my opinion, or platitudes. I make these recommendations based on the decades of rigorous research from Harvard and on the personal stories I’ve heard from many teachers that have embraced these principles — two of whom helped me develop this workshop and you can “meet” in the slides below.

Share Your Ideas and Examples

I’m always looking for examples of student thinking being made evident through the use of technology. This can be accomplished through the use of software and websites, but it can also be done with connections to more traditional means. For example, students might demonstrate their thinking with markers and poster paper, or they may accomplish this with modeling clay, wooden blocks, and pipe cleaners. These wonderful, non-electronic artifacts can be captured (archived, curated) and shared through digital photos, videos, or even through an audio narrative or interview. I invite you and your students to consider sharing examples of thinking being made visible through technology, so that it can serve as examples and inspiration to other educators.

There’s More

I intend for this to be part 1 in a series of posts around these ideas. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts with recommended strategies for implementation, a discussion of some of the implications for professional development, the connections to multiple intelligences, and more.


I’d like to acknowledge the important contributions that Amy Lange, Julia Shaffer, and Fair Wicker made as guest speakers and teaching assistants during the institute.

I would also like to thank Sande Dawes, Par Wohlin, and Jessica Ross for being thought partners as I’ve batted these ideas around for the past couple of years. I’ve enjoyed the conversations, meals, and phone calls. Each of you have impacted my ideas about learning in significant ways and I am greatly appreciative.

Thanks also goes to Philip Cummings for helping me make some of the practical classroom connections and for sharing some of his ideas and experiences.

Event Tags: #pzc2013 #hgsepzfol

Managing Online Identities Session at #MSMECA13

Keeping up with the state of technology is not easy. New social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Diigo, YouTube , Tumblr, Instagram, and AudioBoo continue to emerge and users sign-up and setup profiles without considering the full ramifications of sharing personal information. Practical tips for helping you and your students thoughtfully setup and maintain your online identities will be shared.

Below are my slides for this session. All the workshop materials and resources are available on my wiki, Learning Telecollaboratively.


View more presentations from Clif Mims

Resources from Storybird Hands-On Workshop at #MSMECA13

StorybirdStorybirds are short, art-inspired stories, presentations, reports, or tutorials you and your students make to share, read, and print. Storybird is a fun, collaborative website that can be integrated in all content areas and at all grade levels. It can be an effective resource for teaching parts of a story, the writing process, promoting creativity, and more. STEM and social studies teachers can use Storybird for engaging alternatives to traditional lessons, reports and presentations. Storybird also seamlessly keeps a portfolio of each student’s work.

Participants will be guided in setting up accounts and helped as they begin using’s tools and services. Participants will learn how to use the teacher-specific tools.

Below are my slides from the workshop that I’ve taught a couple of times this week at the Mississippi Educational Communications Conference (MECA) in Jackson, MS. All the workshop materials and resources (including a video tutorial, additional examples, notes, etc.) are available on my wiki, Learning Telecollaboratively.