Ten Favorite Things

“We need to make the positives so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.” George Curous – TCEA 2016

2016 is a GREAT year to be part of education. From inspiring minds to incredible advances in technology, there’s no limit to new materials, tools, methodologies, and thoughts available to transform our classrooms and communities. We’ve had the opportunity to converse, play, and observe – in the spirit of shouting out the positives, these are some of our favorites from the conference circuit to date.


Genius – Angela Maiers: http://www.angelamaiers.com “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution” is her message to students and teachers alike. No one should sit on the sidelines because they don’t have time. We will lose our kids if they keep being spoken at instead of engaged in thought changing/provoking exercise, hence the “Genius Hour.” In collaboration with Microsoft, Maiers is offering a free e-book to help teachers implement a “Genius Hour:”

Transformation – Most Likely To Succeed, by Best Buy Education: mltsfilm.org. This film shows what can happen when teachers and students re-imagine possibilities.

Positive Connection – George Curous: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/about-me Make a connection to the heart so that you can make a connection to the mind. “We need to make the positives so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.”

Community – At TechNinjaTodd’s school, every teacher sent out an encouraging welcome letter to each student prior to the first day of school. He went out into the community and invited business owners to come to the open house to see what the school was doing. The result? A thriving community. Check out his blog for more inspiring ideas.


Create – Want an online game that aligns specifically with your teaching?? With an easy creation interface and the ability to add media, etc., you can create your own learning game in minutes: Kahoot!

Learn – Who doesn’t love a great math game? One of our favorites is www.prodigygame.com. It’s adaptive, fun, and free! Each student is placed at the correct level and advances according to their personal needs.

Develop – There are so many things we wish we’d had when we were kids – coding games are at the top of the list. CodeMonkey is a fantastic start to learning coding.

Experience – 3D Printing may be the coolest thing. Ever. We watched visions come to life at a conference in January. What a way to bring home the lesson – truly experiencing a vision with a 3D printer like the Variquest Trifecta.

Engage – With all the inspiration and cool technology out there, it’s more important than ever to keep family and community in the loop. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention ourselves! We’re still passionate about LivingTree’s full community network approach for truly engaging all levels of an organization – https://learn.livingtree.com/

It’s only February and there’s already so much to share. 2016 is a great time to be in education!!

7 Ways the LivingTree App Increases Parent Engagement


Let’s get real: It’s time for us to implement a teacher-to-parent communication app that is used on both sides of the conversation. And not just the über-involved room parents or those glued to their smartphones—all the parents.

We think LivingTree can be the answer.

LivingTree is a free desktop and mobile app that is easy to install, intuitive to use and therefore increases the actual usage by your students’ parents, allowing you to reach and connect with every family. When we ask parents and caregivers to use multiple apps—one for classroom sign-ups, another for behavior reports, still another for text notifications—total use goes down. LivingTree enables us to wipe the slate clean and give our parents one place to get all the information they need, fostering a true partnership between school and home.

Here are the LivingTree features we think you and your students’ families will appreciate:

1. Text Notifications
If there is one way to make parents’ lives easier, it’s quick, efficient texts such as “Reminder: No instrumental music tomorrow!” or “Remember to bring a sack lunch for the field trip.” We like how LivingTree gives teachers complete control over how to send notifications to parents, so you can tailor those updates for your classroom culture and students’ ages.

2. Calendar
Parents receive numerous calendars—from you the teacher, from school, from the PTA, even after-school clubs. Give your parent community the gift of all events and schedules in one central location. The LivingTree calendar is easy for teachers to update (you can easily load iCals and sync with Outlook and Google Calendar), and the calendar is front and center on the app for parents.

3. Options for District Integration
Unlike some apps that focus only on stand-alone classrooms, LivingTree has the ability to set up school- and district-wide integration. This long-game thinking can increase communication beyond the single school year, as well as successfully connect with parents who have children in multiple classrooms and schools. District and school leadership can set up accounts and provide teachers with logins, truly centralizing information.

4. Closed Network for Group Conversations
Forget establishing a separate Facebook, Google or Yahoo! group for your classroom. Instead, house your class “list serv” right on the app the parents are already checking for updates and assignments. The conversation feature increases engagement with your students’ parents as well as creates a community of your classroom’s families.

5. Direct Messaging
In addition to the group convos, LivingTree allows parents to directly message you with their suggestions and concerns. The ease of one-to-one communication within the app makes true connections with the parents easier and more likely to happen; now they will not have to leave your classroom app in order to e-mail you in a separate tab. It’s just another way to deepen trust and relationships with parents.

6. Language Translation
How many different languages are spoken in your school community? Want to connect with all of them? LivingTree has translation capabilities for 40+ different languages. Whether your parents speak Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese or Farsi, you can count on being able to communicate with them when you use LivingTree. There’s no better way to build relationships than to reach out to people in their own language.

7. Photo Sharing
Want to really connect with families? Post regular photos of the students in the classroom! LivingTree provides an easy-to-access hub for images of student activities. Parents are sure to log on and feel more connected if there is the potential to catch a glimpse of their kids learning and exploring.

Parents’ engagement in their children’s education is the single biggest marker for improved literacy and students’ long-term success. Anything that provides an easily navigable path for increased parent involvement and fosters greater community between school and home is worth trying, and LivingTree does both well.

Check out the free LivingTree app.

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