Daylight vs. Artificial: A Classroom Lighting Dilemma

If there's one thing that I've learned from my 18+ years of school, it’s that concentration and the ability to focus can be incredibly difficult. After four and a half years of receiving my degree in Elementary Education with a Specialization in Reading, I wanted to make sure that my own classroom would foster a community that not only supported my students social and emotional well being, but also created the energy and focus of a hard working student. When stepping foot into my own first grade classroom, the very first thing that I noticed was that I had an entire wall space filled with windows. I opened the blinds and immediately soaked in the future grounds of learning and curiosity. I was very grateful for the classroom I was given, and here is why: 

The Problem:
There's one major problem that schools are encountering today. According to Healthy Schools Network, based out of New York, studies show that poor or inappropriate lighting in schools can adversely affect children's health and their ability to learn. Stated clear as day, no pun intended, natural light is the most important source of light and energy for human beings. On average, children spend up to 40 hours a week in a school building that is usually fully lit by artificial lighting. Due to this type of lighting, studies show that more students are absent throughout the year, inhibiting students’ potential academic growth. 

The Solution:
It's simple. As Healthy Schools Network puts it, "studies conducted on schools have reported that the use of 'daylight' or 'full-spectrum lighting' is associated with healthier students." Healthier is not only judged by the student's well being, but also their work habits. Students who work under natural lighting have fewer cavities, gain a healthy weight and grow taller more than students who work under artificial lighting. These same students develop a better work ethic, have increased academic growth, are more easily able to fight off fatigue, and generally have a more positive attitude. 

While completing my Reading Practicum in Iowa City, I was pleasantly surprised to see the remarkable source of natural lighting. This particular school had updated its building with a "daylighting" design that utilized skylights and strategically placed windows to accurately obtain daylight. As I learned from Healthy Schools Network, these "full-spectrum lighting" designs use full-spectrum florescent lamps that are placed at a calculated location to mimic daylight; "improved lighting in schools is a large part in the effort to promote "higher performance" schools that provide a healthy and productive learning environment,” the study reports.

So while I am cognizant of the fact that not all schools and districts are in a position to revamp their building designs, I suggest opening the blinds and turning off the florescent lights. Explore the power of the sun and how it can impact your students' overall performance. Let's appreciate the nature of our sun and allow it to do its' job; warm our days and brighten our futures. 

“Daylighting.” Healthy Schools Network Inc., 2012.

By: Carly Michlin

7 Education Podcasts To Tune Into (If You Haven't Already)

Creating a classroom that is all your own is among the most rewarding tasks that all teachers must face. Whether it’s gearing up for your first September or just preparing for the new quarter after years of experience, being an educator brings its own unique set of challenges and no one person has the correct answer on how to tackle all of them. Therefore, we humbly present here seven podcasts that are full of useful insights and fascinating pointers that may give you some inspiration to bring into your own classroom.

#EdChat Radio

Hosted by Tom Whitby and Nancy Blair, #EdChat Radio serves as a weekly roundup to the widespread Twitter discussion spurred by the podcast’s eponymous hashtag. The show’s hosts are unafraid to grapple with some of education’s hardest hitting issues, such as the usefulness of report cards, the ability to educate all students with or without standardized tests, and the concept of formative assessment. The podcast’s pace of releasing an episode every week has seemingly slowed down of late, but with more than 170 episodes already in the books, you should have no problem obtaining knowledge from the show’s archives.

Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers

Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers podcast is designed on a seemingly personal level with teachers specifically in mind. Serving as a companion piece to Watson’s Cornerstone for Teachers website and narrated by Watson’s soothing tone, the show offers encouragement, reassurance, and tips on being the best teacher you can be for the benefit of your students. Watson typically releases a new episode every Sunday in order to energize teachers for the coming week, though she does take a hiatus from new episodes twice throughout the year to focus on her classroom and other priorities.

The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast

Jennifer Gonzalez draws on her years of experience in the classroom to create this podcast that covers a wide variety of tips and tricks for teachers in modern classrooms. The episodes within cover everything from practical ways to maintain a safe, efficient space for students, to the best technology tools to use or try, to bigger picture topics surrounding the system such as education reform. To this end, Gonzalez occasionally brings on guests that can provide further insight into the given episode’s topic. The podcast is not seemingly released on any sort of schedule, so be sure to subscribe and check in periodically for the newest episodes.


The well-known Radiolab podcast isn’t expressly tailored for educators, but it is all the same an intriguing and engaging way to expand your mind outside of the classroom. Many of Radiolab’s episodes explore extraordinary stories of the human condition that ask its listeners to reflect on what it might mean within the scope of their own lives. Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich elicit these insights through interviews from people of all walks of life and cover topics such as the psychology of heroics, the effectiveness of brainstorming, and have even touched on educational topics like combating negative stereotypes in the classroom. This podcast will challenge your mind and will hopefully inspire you to pass on the lessons to your students, whether explicitly or implicitly.

The 10-Minute Teacher Show

Efficiency is the name of the game in this podcast series, as Vicki Davis -- aka the Cool Cat Teacher -- delivers short, to-the-point episodes five days a week. The idea behind The 10-Minute Teacher Show is that teachers are really busy and may want to get some quick tips or ideas without having to commit too much time away from the classroom. In each episode, Davis explores a different facet of the education world through interviews with many prominent names from around the community. Many episodes contain helpful tips gained from experience in the classroom, while others contain broader topics relating to education from across the spectrum. If you’re looking to get a quick, informative helping of teaching advice, this is the podcast for you.

Google Teacher Tribe Podcast

If you are an educator who heavily implements G Suite and other Google tools into your classroom, the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast is a wonderful compliment to your lesson plan. The series, hosted by Matt Miller and Kasey Bell, explores the full range of Google products and how they can be used in new and creative ways to expand the capabilities of digital learning in your classroom; you may think you know everything about how to use Google’s catalog, but you are bound to learn something new here! Additionally, Miller and Bell often bring on guests that can speak to the usefulness of these methods and shed some more perspective on teaching in the 21st century classroom. As Google continues to grow, so too can your knowledge of how to use it to further your teaching methods.

The Creative Classroom with John Spencer

A relative newcomer to the scene, The Creative Classroom, hosted by former middle school teacher and current college professor John Spencer, takes on a more outside of the box approach to talking about education. Spencer believes that classrooms should be “spaces of imagination and wonder,” so each edition of the series is dedicated to methods for how to get your students thinking beyond the boundaries of the school walls and thinking more independently. Topics in this podcast include how to draw inspiration from the natural world, how to boost student engagement, and how to get students to ask better questions. Teachers looking to add some spice to their lesson plans should give this series a try.


Article By: Doug Greenberg

Doug Greenberg
Books To Check Out This Summer Break

With summer well underway and a bit of free time on your hands, it is time to grab a drink, sit by the pool, and engage in a nice book! If your goal is to continue learning about education and the many ways it is evolving, check out this list of 3 books that we feel are both interesting and thought provoking for educators. From advancing technology to developing yourself as a professional, this list has something for everybody looking to learn more about the classroom and ways we can improve teaching.

ThinkWrite Summer Book Recommendations:

One of the most influential books for people wanting to learn more about the psychology of learning and teaching how to reach one’s potential is titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Written by a world-renowned Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Phd., this book takes a deep dive into the psychology behind our mindset and how it can influence our capabilities as humans. Library Journal called it “An essential read for parents, teachers [and] coaches”. Decades of research went into the writing of this book, and thousands have claimed it has helped them to understand how to achieve a growth mindset, and has equipped them with the tools to train others to adopt this mentality. This book is available in paperback for only $11.85 on amazon, with digital versions offered as well.

Cognitive scientist and Northwestern University Professor Allan Collins teamed with Richard Halverson, a Phd in Learning Sciences, to write Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. This book is an excellent starting place for educators to learn more about the potential for technology to completely shift the classroom and how we look at education in the future. The authors argue that the technology shift has had a much larger effect on our jobs and homes than they have on our schools and classrooms. Collins and Halverson tackle the great potential for distance learning, online networking, video-game learning environments, and many more in the book, and a highly organized table of contents helps for finding areas of interest at ease. This book is available on amazon for around $20, with digital formats also available.

Nancy Sulla, president and founder of IDE Corp (Innovative Designs for Education), wrote a highly rated book titled Students Taking Charge: Inside the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom. This book is an excellent blend of classroom learning techniques, tips for instructors in increasing engagement, and utilizing technology in the classroom. One great thing about this book compared to many like it is that it includes actual examples that can be used in a classroom with guidelines on how to properly execute these learning activities. If you are looking for a book to not solely use generalities and theory, but dives right into what you can do as an instructor today, this book is an excellent choice. Again, a nicely organized table of contents aids in finding information you want to know without having to read every little detail. It is available on Amazon for around $32, and digitally as well.

Stay tuned for more blogs covering similar topics in the ever continuing conversation on the future of education and technology!

How to ITSE

With ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education) just around the corner, the time to plan is now! This year is shaping up to be an excellent one for the convention, which runs from June 25-28th, with a number of exciting keynote speakers and workshops to visit. This blog will serve as an unofficial guide to ISTE to help you to navigate through the many opportunities provided at the conference and expo!

1. Attend a Keynote Speaker

One of the best parts of ISTE is listening to the highly engaging keynote speakers at the event. All 3 speakers this year come from very diverse backgrounds in the industry and will provide different takeaways. Jad Abumrad, the creator of the award winning “RadioLab” radio program, will speak first on June 25th, followed by Jennie Magiera, the chief innovation officer at Des Plaines public schools, on the 27th. Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, will close the event on June 28th, which is sure to be one you won’t want to miss! Her vast experience in the industry as well as her fantastic speaking abilities outlined in her viral TED Talk “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection” make her our top pick to see!

2. Attend FREE Workshops To Learn and Build Skills

ISTE offers a variety of workshops and lectures which provide educators with the opportunity to “engage, connect, explore, create, listen, learn, participate, and share”. Different workshops will provide you with the opportunity to try these activities. We found that the “Learn and listen” sessions were the most valuable as many of them are free of charge and cover a variety of interesting topics. We suggest you check out the following workshops:

  • “From Ideas to Innovation with Google tools” on Monday, June 26th, 10:30-11:30am
  • “Welcome to Education in the Age of Disrupted Learning” on Tuesday, June 27th, 12:15-1:15pm
  • “Bring the World to Your Students with Skype in the Classroom!” on Wednesday, June 28th, 11:30am-12:30pm

From using Chromebooks to enable creative ways to teach, to an overall look at the changing education landscape, to taking virtual field trips on Skype, this selection of events is sure to give a diverse look at technology’s impact on education.

3. Visit the Exhibition Hall

See an interesting piece of technology in action at one of your workshops but want to learn more about it? Visit the Exhibition Hall to see a showcase of hundreds of pieces of technology used to aid education. Free samples will be offered in abundance here, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to bring equipment back home to your school or district! Make sure to stop by ThinkWrite’s booth #1360  for free giveaways and daily raffles of classroom headsets! We are proud to be attending ISTE for our 4th year in a row and hope that you will include us in your experience.

ThinkWrite Headsets: A Collaboration Tool

I received an email from a good friend of mine Lisa Dabbs about writing a blog post for ThinkWrite.  I reached out to ThinkWrite and they sent some headsets for me to try and write a blog about.  I received the ThinkWrite headset in the mail and the first thing I noticed was they were really big.  Sorta like the Beats or JBL earphones.  I have become accustomed to smaller ear buds and wasn’t too sure how I would use this ThinkWrite headset.  However, I noticed right away the headset had a microphone that was physically attached. I thought it was a cool feature because people have a hard time hearing me at times with my current ear buds.  I tried it out and actually really enjoyed the microphone feature.  I started using the headsets to listen and engage in my many conversation with fellow educators on Voxer.  I now use the ThinkWrite headsets as a means to collaborate on video conference calls such as google, and even adobe connect.  During online conversations, people are able to hear me clearly and the headset have a pretty good sound quality.  

These ThinkWrite headsets are perfect if you want to collaborate on an audio or video call where you have to dialogue and listen. They come in some really cool colors including Black, Blue, Red, Green, and Teal. Blue happens to be my favorite and the one I used during a recent periscope.

Toutoule Ntoya, Ed.D

Toutoule Ntoya, Ed.D.jpg

Toutoule Ntoya, Ed.D

Toutoule Ntoya, Ed.D is a passionate educator looking to rethink how education is delivered. Dr. Ntoya works to facilitate the intentional implementation of the school’s vision.

Follow @toutoulentoya on Twitter

Literacy Thrives in Speaking & Listening

Language arts has always been what I love to teach the most. I love teaching the love and reading and the skill of writing, but I equally feel speaking and listening is important when getting a balanced literacy approach in place. Students must be able to listen to others, as well as articulate their own thinking in ways that others can see and understand. To say the least I believe this is something we must work on with students alongside the reading and writing component of our literacy instruction.

Last month, I worked on listening and speaking lessons with first grade using Toontastic focusing on story elements through creating their very own digital story. I used @iThinkWrite headphones and discovered so much about teaching little ones speaking and listening.

What I like about these, particularly when using them with 6 year olds, is that they are quite durable. Sure, I reviewed care of the headphones, but I was really impressed with how they held up when shared among several students. With little hands using them, then passing them off, I always wait for something to break. These held up great with kids taking their own initiative to use and share. I also loved not hearing “these hurt my ears”. It is really hard to find headphones that fit snug on little ones, while not being uncomfortable. The fact that I had no complaints in the comfort department for once was a big win!

While comfort and durability is important, at the end of the day, we as teachers want to know how this will make our students stronger learners, and you know of course I looked for that while these kiddos worked. I compared the students not using the headphones to those who were. Those not using them were using a shouting voice to record. They felt they needed to get over the background noise in the room, which  didn’t allow for clear speaking voices in their story. On the other hand, once the headphones removed that background noise, students instead spoke softer and with better clarity. It was as if they could actually hear themselves think, and as a result, they could put their story together more clearly.  That is a big win in my book! While I think I would want to teach students to speak a bit louder even when using the microphone, I loved that they showed more focus and ability to deliver a good story to share. Think Write Headphones will be a big part of next year when **spoiler alert** I make a bold move out of teaching technology back to my first love.. teaching in the classroom. That my friends, is a blog to come. It is simple things like these that make me certain I have a huge journey ahead that I can’t wait to share more of!

Jaime Vangergrift


Jaime Vandergrift.png

Jaime Vandergrift

Jaime Vandergrift is an experienced educator, speaker, and advocate for advancing educational practices through digital literacy and blended learning experiences. She holds an EdS and certification in Instructional Technology and Media, and believes in the power of personalized professional learning and collaboration in education.

Follow @jaimevanderg on Twitter

Easy on the Ears: A Review by C. Yang

There are times when “learning at your own pace” means having to listen to videos or instructions. In a classroom of 36 students, having all students at their own pace could possibly mean 36 different locations on a video or learning module. Allowing students to have a comfortable listening device is essential to those kinds of lessons or activities.

I had students test ThinkWrite’s Ultra Durable Headsets against the headsets that were of similar design that our school site uses. With a side-by-side comparison, students all expressed that the comfort level of ThinkWrite’s headsets were much higher than those of the ones they compared it with.

The Feel

The cushioning was enough so that they were comfortable, and not pinching (remember my students are in high school) the ears or the hair of my students. High school students have a variety of head shapes, sizes and hair and thus important for the headsets to have flexibility in sizing. The headsets were adjustable for various head sizes, from it fitting the smaller 9th grade students’ head to the larger 12th grade students’ head. I even had students with a lot of hair test them out and it fit comfortably around the bun on her hair.

The Listening Experience

I don’t know about other teachers, but my students constantly listen to music at a high volume. This means that some students have some loss of hearing before they even enter my classroom. ThinkWrite’s headsets are loud enough for students to be able to hear clearly and comfortably, unlike some cheap headphones that you can’t hear very well, even if you have the volume at the highest setting on your device. One thing that I really appreciate about these headsets was that I didn’t have to hear what they were listening to. Often times with earphones or other headsets, I could hear what they were listening to across the room. With ThinkWrite’s headsets, sound isolation is not advertized on the description of the headsets, but students next to each other didn’t have to deal with overhearing the sound coming out of another student’s headsets.

The Look

If you look at the headsets online, they look like any other headsets that are in the market, but one of my favorite features is that there are different colors available! There are several color choices available and as a classroom teacher, it’s nice to be able to tell my class set apart from another teacher’s set. Another option is to have the color match your school colors. It’s just a little more “fun” than the boring black headsets that are out there. I chose green and it’s a nice dark green that stands out nicely against any color heads in the room.

I used them with chromebooks and laptops and they worked really well with both. They look like they are sturdy enough to last in a public school setting.

I would highly recommend the headsets!


High School Science Teacher, Ontario, CA
Currently trying to integrate more technology effectively into the classroom.

@hellomsyang on Twitter

Dani DunnReviews