Sunday, November 22, 2009

Innovative Educators Don’t Say, “Hand It In.” They say, “Publish It!

During a recent visit to a school I was disappointed because although the school is noted as being a model technology school I was hearing from students, teachers, and leaders that the students had “handed in” a lot of great work, but none of it was being published. Instead their writing, videos, and podcasts lived mainly in obsolescence in a hard to find folder on their various teacher's computers or in obscurity, tattered on a bulletin board sadly with only some educator chicken scratch on it as its insignificant and sole form of comments and ratings.

I see schools like this all too often. Educators, parents, families are dazzled by their flashy assessment and data systems, charts showing kids progress, and fancy, static, one-dimensional bulletin boards. All this is evidence of what their kids are “capable” of achieving. Isn’t it ironic? All this data, assessment, and evidence that lives nowhere that is authentic, relevant, or important to the actual student we are trying to develop. It takes more than collecting data or creating on computers to be a 21st century school. If educators are not having students publish regularly in thoughtful, authentic, and relevant places they are NOT preparing them for today or tomorrow.

If the first decade of the 21st century was about data driven instruction and assessment, can we make the next decade about realizing potential of the student behind the data and publishing to authentic audience as part of student’s school lives?

When I tweeted, “Educators who ask students to, "Hand it in" rather than, "Publish it" are stuck in the past and not preparing 21st century students.” I received a lot of kudos and retweets, but I also received a bit of push back along the lines that it’s not realistic to expect all student work to be published. My response is this. The authentic publication of student work should be a part of EVERY SINGLE UNIT OF STUDY. If an educator can’t figure out a way to help students publish anything in a unit of study they need to either 1) Rethink the unit or 2) Rethink the assessment. While data in an expensive database may be impressive to educators, leaders, and test prep companies, it is not intrinsically meaningful for students or helping them in an authentic way. So how can teachers change practice and move from a “Hand it in” to a “Publish it” culture? Here are some ideas.

6 Ways Innovative Educators Can Move from “Hand It In” to “Publish it” Teaching

Hand it in teaching:
Write a report about [place boring topic or classic book title here] and hand it in to the teacher. If you’re lucky, we’ll place one
copy of your final work on the bulletin board or in the class library.
Publish it teaching:
Publish your own book or work in a group to publish a real book for a real audience,
that can be purchased by anyone in the world who is interested in your topic. After you write your book I will help you promote it in appropriate places. In addition to well-known authors, student written books will also be offered for purchase in book fairs and during fund raising efforts.
Technology used:
Lulu or Blurb
Hand it in teaching:
Read the book I tell you and write a book report which I will read and hand back to you with some comments. Some papers will end up in the trash and some our bulletin board.
Publish it teaching:Join our class online learning network where you will join a group based on the book you are reading. You will select a character from the book whose profile you will take on in the learning network. In the network you will create your profile page, engage in discussions and contribute blog posts as if you were the assigned character.
Technology used:
Hand it in teaching:
Read the chapter and answer the questions at the end. Or, complete this worksheet.
Publish it teaching:
Students demonstrate their knowledge of mathematical concepts by creating screencast tutorials that other students can view, rate, and comment on and discuss. Here is an example:
Technology used:
Either Jing, Screentoaster, or Screenjelly
Hand it in teaching:
Translate this passage in your workbook.
Publish it teaching:
Have students create a Voki or use Google voice to share an oral presentation that shares something about themselves that they want other people to know in the language being studied. Set up a place where the Vokis or recordings can be published and where students can comment upon one another’s work. This enables to listen to and respond to each other’s work and even respond with another Voki recording.
This is what a Voki from a French class might look like. Don't forget to click on the comment bubble. This could be comments from the teacher or other students.
Here is what a Google Voice assignment might look like:
Hello class 7-403. Please submit your oral French report to me by clicking on the Google Voice icon below and entering your phone number. Remember your report should be 1 - 3 minutes.

Technology Used:
Voki or Google Voice
Technology used:blog, video, photos

Further reading / ideas:,

Hand it in teaching:
Students learn to cook something. Write down the recipe and cook the meal. At the end of the class they have a cook book of meals with their notes. The teacher grades this and gives it back to the student with comments.
Publish it teaching:
Students learn to cook something. They post on a blog the recipe, how to make it, nutritional facts, and for what a teenager might want to make this meal. They embed a cooking show like video of a different “Kid in the Kitchen” with each post as well as a photo of the finished product. Class members comment on the blog entry and rate and comment on the video. The blog is shared with other cooks and students around the world for feedback, rating and comments.
Technology used:
blog, video, photos
Hand it in teaching:
Read the chapter or read the website and complete this worksheet or complete the questions at the end of the chapter.
Publish it teaching:
The Entire Span of Human History Is In Your Hands! Dominate 6,000 years of history from the Ancient Age to the Information Age. Which forces will you deploy to lead your nation to global prominence? Trade, espionage, diplomacy…war? Whichever path you choose, you’ll experience the pulse pounding thrill and speed of real-time gaming combined with the epic scope and depth of turn-based strategy games – brought together for the first time ever in Rise of Nations. Rise of Nations is a historical real time strategy game. In Rise of Nations, you'll create new cities, improve city infrastructures and expand national borders. Conquer foes through military might using everything from sling-shots to cannons to stealth bombers to nuclear weapons; corner the market on key commodities and consolidate power under your rule; wheel and deal across time with history's eminent cultures.
How often do we tell our students, “The Entire Span of Human History Is In Your Hands!” How exciting is that for students to know? For those wondering why I’m considering this “Publish it teaching” it is because this is a real-time online game. Students are playing just with a computer game. The other game characters are other people…perhaps classmates, perhaps not. The students literally becoming a part of an immersive historical environment where in real time they are a part of history…interacting, chatting, strategizing. They must know the historical ages, conduct research, and be familiar with society at the time period they are in to succeed. And…this is available in multiple languages allowing students with a variety of different languages to interact together.

Take a look at the video that explains the game.
Rise of Nations Video from Ted 21C on Vimeo.


  1. This is a well written blog post about a topic I believe in whole-heartedly. I appreciate your "lesson conversion" examples as well. I'm tired of seeing "cookie cutter projects" taped to the hallways and classroom walls throughout schools. Lets all vow to give our kids the voice they deserve. Don't you think that if we taught proper reflection, evaluation, and publishing techniques to our students, we would have less issues poor postings in areas like Facebook?

  2. @cwebbtech, Yes! Yes! Yes again! Thank you for the feedback.

  3. Really impressed by this. Such 'common sense' when you really step back and ask what all of this 2.0 tech can accomplish in our classrooms. But far more important than the tech is the inspired "Let's publish" call-to-arms. I know that it's a constant push in my own classroom, a major part of what drives my students' "Alice Project" Thanks for the great piece, esp. the way you scaffolded the options!

  4. @Christian Long, thank you so much for the comment, kudos, and the call-to-arms. This needs to become the important way we assess students. I saw a few tweets about the Alice Project and invite a guest blog post here if you want to introduce my readers to it.

  5. i find all of these fabulous ideas of using technology in our schools exciting. the problem is that we have yet to see the technology become the mainstay in assessment in our schools. too few teachers actually use technology well. we still rely on state tests and 19th century schedules and education curriculum.

    we see so many innovative ways to make learning work and make learning happen with technology. i know our problem is that teachers who use technology still don't have an advocate at the political level to help make technology an important part of our schools. technology is still unrecognized as a viable tool in education. we still don't see schools in this country use "publish it" ideas like portfolios or webfolios as tools of education. we are still in the minority and that is too bad. schools are always doing pilot programs taht rarely become anything more.

    good stuff here lisa. now if we can only find some educational leaders who will take a chance on not only trying technology in some of their schools, but actually use the technology as the means for proper assessment instead of these awful tests we are currently using.

    publishing student work has so many advantages, i never understood why we don't do it on a larger scale.

  6. Ted, I hope educators like you start publishing and sharing student work to enlighten leaders to incorporate this into their assessment. Until then, I still hope passionate and innovative educators will teach this way. I don’t believe that allowing students to publish authentically will result in lower test scores or take more time. It is a different and more relevant way of teaching. It also meets the ideal of differentiating instruction. Technology allows teachers to teach and students to learn in ways never before possible. There is a mind shift that has to take place. It can happen one classroom and one school at a time. There really is no good reason for making students engage in meaningless assignments. I don’t believe this will help to increase test scores or decrease drop out rates.

  7. Well, there are countless resources on the web we can use to publish and share our work. I heard that the patent system was created so that others can make further innovation based on findings by the original patent holder.
    In my attempt to make a world a better place, I used Google Knol to publish papers I have written.

    Use of unified Internet work flow system to drive collaboration on CSR efforts / public policy making.

  8. This site is awesome! What an innovative and engaging addition to a teacher's repertoire of strategies and methods! I am sending this link to academic coaches (and teachers). Thanks.

  9. Great article!
    I work in Paris, France, and am trying to implement the "publish it" system. Your article encourages and validates my work, but it is also helping me clarify some of my ideas.
    One extra advantage of publishing students work that I think you do not address in your article is that students work more seriously on their projects. Since they know they will have to publish their work, they feel more compelled to produce a better quality work.
    Are there any groups of educators working on the subject of your article? If not, would people be interested in creating the "publish it" group?

  10. itteaching, thank you so much for your contribution. What a great and important point you make about publishing resulting in students taking their work more seriously. That is so intrinsically in my mind, that I neglected to state it, but you are right! It must be explicitly mentioned. I don’t know if anyone is working on this subject, but I do invite you to start a group or discussion on our group. There are over 300 innovative educators there and you might very well find some who would be interested in participating in such a group. I would certainly do my best to promote it and it goes beautifully with the theme of a grant I am working on called, “Partnering with Our Digital Natives.”

  11. dear innovative educator,

    start publishing? i've been publishing on their webpages since 1993. I have had conversations with politicians like Al Gore when he ran for prez about this, but he would have continued the way it is now if he had been elected. i have had many conversations with joel klein about this. many educators have picked up on my work over the years and many have had conversations with politicians and others. the main problem is we teach the way were taught and too many voters understand education only as student sand not as teachers. oh and let's not forget that the book and test publishers have a very large lobby.


  12. Ted, thank you for your response. And, my error, I should not have used the word "start," but rather "continue" in my initial response. I didn't realize it was Cyber English Ted writing. Those thumbnails are getting a little small for my 40-something eyes. I absolutely support educator voice and advocacy and say kudos to you for that. I know you are a pioneer and thought leader in doing that with your students too and I look forward to connecting with others who follow your lead. I invite you to contribute a future post exposing others to the great work you are doing and how they can follow your lead. Thank you again for contributing your thoughts.

  13. This is a great new way to teach, especially for kids who can't make it to school.
    Sarah Morris

  14. This is awesome information. Do you mind if I share with my school--giving you full credit?

  15. @pirategirl, I would love for you to share these ideas far and wide.

  16. At Teaching Matters we couldnt agree more..Publish it Dont just turn it in!

    However, teachers may need an environment that makes this easy and gives them choices about how far they want to go. so we created TEXT our free ezines and blogging tools for ELA teachers ...

    Teachers from 48 states are now using this tool to publish this work. Created for NY city teachers with support from NY Community Trust.. we started getting teachers from all over the country.. This tool allows teachers to make all teh choices as to whether students have passwords or not, make work public to the world or just their class, comment and rate or not.. its about creating a space for teachers to test drive these tools in as controlled or unrestricted environment as they deem comfortable... join us!!!! And get your kids work online.. (Text is recommended by the Partnership for 21st century skills.

    There is an easy online tutorial on the site and every teacher who signs up for an account will be verified by one of our staff to ensure the safety of the site.

  17. Thanks for your reply! I just became a member of the group you suggested and posted the question.
    In the meantime, I have a another question.
    I will be teaching a marketing/business class in English to MBA students (native French speakers). I am looking for ideas about online projects I can have them develop. Do you know of any sites I could find any ideas?
    Thanks again.

  18. @itteaching, I'm glad you became a member. I think for this question too, the learning network is your best bet. It would also be helpful if on the network you provide more detail about what you mean by online projects.

  19. Great post, Lisa. When students publish their work for a real audience, they are highly motivated to make their project "look good" and typically more engaged with their work. I recently taught a course with a colleague entitled "Extreme Makeover: Curriculum Edition." Teachers came to the course with a traditional lesson or curriculum project, and we helped them "makeover" their project by enhancing it with technology, changing the nature of the assignment to explicitly incorporate critical thinkging and creativity, etc. All of the makeovers involved publishing student work to an audience beyond the classroom. This ia a fundamental shift that teacher have to make if they are going to embrace "21st Century" teaching.

    Jerry Crisci
    Director of Technology
    Scarsdale Public Schools, NY

  20. i love all the passion expressed about the concept of publishing student work, whether it be an old idea or a new idea, BUT passion alone is not enough. We need educational leaders to adopt the ideas, to incorporate the ideas into real assessment and educational policy. We do not have one political ally in this venture. Not since sec of ed Riley have we had an important voice in technology use in schools at such a high political level. Not since the days when Prez Clinton and VP Gore pulled wire on netdays have we had a leader lead the technology educational bandwagon. Heck Obama really duped us when he had linda darling hammond speak for him during the campaign and then choose duncan as sec of ed. Talk about bait and switch, what a lousy move and he is definitely sending a message that he will continue the ways of W's NCLB. Tom Sobel left the dept of ed in ny state with 50% of final assessment as portfolio and 50% as regents and then Mills changed all of that. Bloomklein has his own agenda as we know, and technology is not on it and never will be.

    Teachers who do use technology use it because they know how. it is like owning a car in 1910, you had to be a mechanic too. We do not have a healthy technology culture in our schools. too few of use it, support is weak, and training is non existent.

    Consider, too, that our schools of education do not train teachers to use technology as teachers, let alone use much technology in their training or classes. When and how do teachers learn about technology?

    we have had great technology in nyc schools since the 80's and yet we have not proceeded very far in those 30 years. We still see too much teaching as we were taught, especially from our new teachers which really shocks me.

    Then we have filters and no technology policies in schools. We take one step forward and two steps backward constantly when it comes to technology use in our schools.

    Passion is not enough, we need real political leaders to make real educational policy that includes technology on a major scale. Until that happens all of this passion is just that passion and not real on a large scale.

  21. Well, I agree with Ted but we need to start somewhere, and I think that this article is a very good start.
    Can someone point to other resources on the same topic?
    In my comment above, I proposed to start a group.
    thanks again for your post.

  22. Hello Lisa,

    This is a great post, with excellent examples, and I am glad to see that NYC has found a way for some of its students to blog, via teaching matters. From what I can see, it is not possibe to comment if you are not a teacher or student with an account. It's great that students have an online audience, but even better if the outside world could make a comment.

    Also, in my experience in a number of NYC schools, I've found a huge lack of resources and PD training to successfully implement these kinds of activities. Hopefully in your capacity, that will change.

    Keep up the visioning!

  23. I agree, wonderful post and I enjoyed all of the ideas. With my sixth graders, I am asking students to post writing assignments to my blog, and they are taking more care in their editing due to the fact that more than just me will be looking at it. This trend is going to increase, I believe, and as students become more digitally inclined, it is important to teach them to publish so their work is well done.

  24. Great wiki of students publishing their writing at the #Comments4Kids wiki:

  25. I'm sorry, but this is quite possibly the snowflake-iest idea I've ever seen. The only marker of educational value is that output is 'publishable' on a blog or a vanity press book? Are you daft? High school kids, on the whole, aren't yet capable of creating original scholarship. And you know this - you read their book reports, their history assignments, etc. So why create the pernicious myth that even ordinary homework assignments must be lauded as being 'authentically publishable' if done correctly? Doesn't this simply reinforce their (currently innate) snowflake personas, so that everything they do is great! swell! awesome! so long as effort is made?

    I'm all for using technology creatively. Get them to do a group blog. Whatever. But let's not pretend that it's anything more than a new way to present their work to be graded.

  26. @anonymous, Are you really saying it is too much to think students can create one publish-worthy artifact every 1 - 2 months? If so, then perhaps we need to rethink our assignments. I agree that coursework you mention like book reports and history assignments which are created for the teacher are usually those in which students are disinterested so they will produce something that is not publish-worthy. It is the responsibility of educators to create assignments that incorporate student passions, talent, expression style and focus on an audience that is authentic to the student. Doing this will result in educators, students, families, and others happily surprised with more publish-worthy outcomes.

  27. Randy VanvolkinburgJanuary 9, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    I love the idea of publishing rather than simply handing in. Being a social studies teacher I am always looking to make real world connections to the material I am utilizing in class. This assignment would allow the students to actually create civilization making the same triumphs and mistakes that other leaders have made in the past.

    The idea of a computer game on history is excellent. Much of the conversation I hear daily is based on video games and electronic entertainment. I believe that the students would enjoy this method of "teaching" and actually learn something in the process. If the students are interested it is much easier to teach them and they are more likely to produce a strong assignment rather than simply doing the bare minimum to get a grade.

  28. The idea of having students publish their work for all to see is an innovative idea which has definite benefits. Providing students with the opportunity to publish their work and expose it to others would serve as a motivational tool. It would also serve to entice students to put more effort and thought into an assignment since it is not just the teacher who will be viewing it.

    I have some concerns about publishing. First, how do we ensure the safety of our students when we put their work out there for all to see? I have students who can not be photographed. I can just envision the turmoil when a student has published a piece with their name attached to it.Secondly, do we, as educators, screen a student's post before it gets posted? Would this diminish the enthusiasm generated by the "my work will be published so I need to do my best work" theory? How do we publish work that is noticably below grade level? For example, what do I do with my learning support students who are included in my class, yet are really graded according to their own level of proficiency? If I publish their work, it is now out there for all of the student body to read. Is this beneficial to that student?

    Another concern I have has to do with the availability of computer access for my students. I know several students do not have a computer, and, sadly, their parents would not take them to the library to use one. Which poses the question: how do I get them to post without missing instructional time? Like every other classroom, every minute of my day is accounted for.

    I think publishing is a terrific idea and I truly enjoyed the assignment 'revisions'provided in this blog. I would also love to see my students create blogs, video tutorials and utilize technology as a method of assessment. I will definitely try rethinking some of my activities in order to provide the opportunity for my students to feel the joy and pride of publishing something that others will see.

  29. This is an amazing article, a really solid take on how to prepare students for the world.

    I teach Judaic Studies in SCY High School ( in San Diego, CA and over the course of my 2 years here I have tried to engages my students to "publish" their work. Some examples:
    -Contributing to Wikipedia's Wikisource translation of texts for Talmud and Mishna
    -Create Google SketchUp models of the Jewish Temples for Bible and History class and then upload them, complete with YouTube tours, for the world to see
    -Contact local businesses and offer to redesign there web sites as part of Web Design class.

  30. I was encouraged to comment here after disagreeing with the tweet mentioned in the article (it lives on as a retweet, evidently, months after its first appearance).

    I currently teach in the College of Media at the University of Applied Sciences in Leipzig in the field of electronic publishing and multimedia. Personally I am extensively engaged in new media, having blogged for years in various places and for a variety of purposes, among other Web 2.0ish activities. One of my main goals during my time here is to encourage students in Germany to become much more open to the possibilities presented by modern Web technologies. Germany, in general, is slower to adapt new technologies, something I used to mock but now find somewhat refreshing because it means questions get asked and discussed. But, in general, I am the furthest thing from a Luddite.

    My typical role is as a librarian in the United States. As such, I have a professional interest in the organization and dissemination of information. Of course I support the notion that all should have the right to choose whether or not they put their work out there for the world to see, but the implication of this post is that this should not be a choice, but an imperative. That goes too far.

    Personal choice matters a great deal. While some are comfortable--perhaps too comfortable--letting it all hang out on the Web, many people are not, or are at least highly selective about what they choose to share. I agree, to an extent, with the sentiment here, to the extent that students should understand these publishing platforms both from the creation and consumption sides in order to be capable of processing and filtering the information ocean. But to imply that it is time for everyone to publish everything removes any notions of personal choice from the equation.

    Think back to your own days as a student. I did some stellar work as a student, but would be mortified if even the better work were publicly available. Why? Because I was learning, and got better. I choose deliberately when to expose my writing or other creative work to the world, and this is a personal right and a good thing, to boot. Some of the work I did was crap, pure and simple, cranked out to get a grade and move on. That material has, thankfully, died a quiet death in some box or trashcan, and that is also a good thing.

    Believe me, librarians love to preserve everything, but even we understand the need for selectivity. Were one to amass everything just because it is there, we would have no ability to process it intellectually.

    So, yes, teach the tools and skills students need, by all means. I do this both here in Leipzig and in libraries. But advocating that we toss everything out there to exacerbate an already vexing overdose of information is a bit too enthusiastic, and tramples the notion that students take varying views about their work.

  31. Hello Innovative Educator!
    A great post! I would also add "Go GREEN!" Last semester I announced to my graduate and undergraduate Curricular Planning classes that no paper handouts would be brought in class, all materials would be posted on Moodle course site and teacher candidates would be designing their unit plans on pbworks -- we would go GREEN. It was hard in the beginning... but it was interesting, that teacher candidates took this suggestion seriously and were referring to my first introduction of the course in their later blogs or reflections. They were so proud of the work they created on their wikis.

    Ludmilla Smirnova, Ph.D

  32. Yes! Yes! YES!

    I teach the writing process to college students, ad I have long been saying that we often forget the final and most important step: PUBLISH!

    I love your practical examples of "Hand it in teaching" and "Publish it teaching", bravo!

    So often students go through their entire high school experience without ever seeing other students' work. They have no idea what their peers are capable of producing, and how their own work compares, and thus they miss out on so many opportunities for growth and self-reflection.

    Great piece. Thank you.

  33. I love this post! I've noticed over the last few years that I don't post student assignments anymore in my classroom because there is nothing to post! Everything is done on-line and electronically, but I love the idea of reaching a wider audience through blogs, etc.

    I'm interested in Google voice. I'm having difficulty seeing how that works, exactly. How do students record themselves and how do I receive the recordings?

    Mme Martin