Letters to My Coach: St. Crispin's Day

When I was in high school, I played varsity football for Coach Mike Vertucci. Coach V was a master at finding creative ways to motivate his players through quotes and speeches. We often found photocopies of General George Patton’s speeches or Rocky quotes hanging on the walls of our locker room. Coach took pride in motivating the young men on his team to go to battle each Friday night.

One of Coach's favorite speeches was the St. Crispin's Day speech from Shakespeare's famous play, King Henry V. On October 25, 1415, Henry’s army was in Northern France preparing for the Battle of Agincourt, which happened to fall on the same date as St. Crispin’s Day, commemorating the death of two Christian martyrs.



Henry’s army was beaten, discouraged, and facing insurmountable odds against a French army nearly six times its size. Doubt started creeping within the camp. In fact, the situation seemed so hopeless that his men kissed the ground they stood on, because they felt it would be their final resting place.

Knowing the odds were against them, Henry V tapped into his most significant weapon. Henry V was a master motivator who tapped into his men’s pride and yearning for significance in one of the most famous parts of his monologue:


“From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”



While opinions on this speech may vary, it undeniably touches on a profound aspect of the human experience. We are fragile beings, who fear death and yearn for significance.

Have you ever felt the pressure of confronting overwhelming challenges, much like King Henry V's army? A pending health crisis? Divorce? Financial difficulty? Job loss?

I write this after learning that my former coach faces a difficult battle ahead. It is in these moments when odds seem like giants and hope seems overshadowed and as trivial as the dirt beneath our feet. In moments like this, the battle between the ears can make us feel insignificant and alone, much like King Henry’s troops. However, there is a much more powerful alternative.


 
In the movie The Straight Story, the main character, Alvin Straight, is a 70-year-old man who learns that his estranged brother has had a stroke. Realizing that time is not on his side, he embarks on a 370-mile trip from Iowa to Wisconsin on a riding mower and trailer.

Along the way, he meets a teenage runaway who is scared of what her parents will say when they find out that she’s pregnant. Sitting by a campfire, Alvin is approached by the girl, and he offers her food and conversation. At the campfire, Alvin tells a story about a game he used to play with his children. He would give each of them a stick and say, "Try to break it," and they could because individually we are weak.

Then he would say, "Tie those sticks together and try to break them." And they couldn't. He would explain, "That's family. That's a bundle. That's a family. You can’t break family."

You see, King Henry V and Alvin Straight both knew a powerful secret about overcoming overwhelming odds - the power of WE.

WE need each other.

WE can overcome together. 

Please join me in keeping my coach in your thoughts and prayers! I love you coach and stand with you in your battle! 

Bergy

Digitize and Summarize Written Text with ChatGPT

The more I use artificial intelligence the more I am finding ways to save time and improve accessibility. I recently came across a cool way of using Chat GPT to to extract written text from Post-it notes, whiteboards, and chart paper. This is a game-changer for digitizing text or summarizing notes. Check out two ideas for making this happen!

Idea #1: Digitize Written Text


You can extract text from any image with written text. Take a picture of a Post-it note filled with ideas, chart paper from your last faculty meeting, or written notes from a whiteboard or smartboard. Then ask ChatGPT to “Convert to Text.” Your text will be instantly converted into a digital format, allowing you to import it into Google Docs or Word.




Idea #2: Summarize Text


Need extra support with note-taking? Take a picture of lecture notes from a whiteboard, Smartboard, chart paper, or notebook. Then ask ChatGPT to “summarize the written text.” ChatGPT will instantly produce a summary that saves time and provides additional support for students who struggle with note-taking.





Conclusion


As the features of ChatGPT continue to advance, we can find new ways to make simple tasks even easier, such as organizing ideas, summarizing notes, and digitizing brainstorming sessions. Want to see this in action? Check out my video below for more information.








Matt Bergman (2024)






Combing Formative Assessment and Music with Suno

 Music is a universal language we can combine with formative assessment to engage students and determine their knowledge. Artificial intelligence is making it possible for students to demonstrate their understanding through creative ways like generating songs.

Suno is a tool that allows you to provide a prompt and generate a song for yourself. You can also write your own original lyrics, add the type of music you want, watch it, and create a song. The tool has a free version and a paid version. The free version allows you to generate up to 10 songs daily, which is a good deal.

According to Suno's terms of use, you must be at least 13 years old to use the tool. If you have students under 13, you could collaborate as a class to generate a song about what was learned that day. Then, give students the opportunity to practice their critical thinking skills to see if the information was correct or incorrect or what lyrics should be changed. 

Want to check out my song about UDL? Click here! 

Music has the power to engage students on a whole different level. This tool could be a great resource to help students connect with learning and exercise their creative side. Want to see how it works? Check out my video below.




The SCARF Model and Reflections on Leadership and Teaching

 When I was a young high school teacher, I had a student named Scott in one of my classes. He and I usually got along, but there was always an underlying tension because he was the only 10th grader in a predominantly 9th grade class.

My students were accustomed to making presentations in class from time to time. On the day of one of our class presentations, a group of 9th grade students commanded the attention of their classmates from the front of the classroom. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Scott had his hood up and his head was down on his desk.


I quietly walked over to Scott and whispered, "Is everything okay?" When I didn't get an answer, I tapped his desk and repeated my question. Suddenly, Scott exploded in a tirade of emotion. He flipped over his chair, screamed obscenities, and walked right out the door. My class and I were stunned and confused by Scott's behavior.

Looking back, I was always confused by what happened that day. However, a recent article about the SCARF model immediately grabbed my attention and made me recall that distant day.

The SCARF Model

The SCARF model was designed by neuroscience researcher David Rock. The model is an acronym representing the different areas influencing human behavior and the triggers we experience as children and adults. Understanding this information can help us become better leaders, teachers, parents, and members of society. Let's dig into this acronym to learn more about the triggers that impact our behavior and reactions toward others.



  • Status: Status refers to our perception of our personal worth and importance to other people. When we feel of high status, we may feel comfortable and confident in a group. However, if our status is threatened, we may become defensive and even combative. This can happen when we're criticized or receive unsolicited advice. We can positively affect someone triggered by status by providing positive feedback, showing respect, and offering public acknowledgment.


  • Certainty: Certainty refers to the ability to predict the future or the stability we feel about the people, events, and environments in our lives. When we feel that others are non-transparent, unpredictable, and even dishonest, it can disrupt our sense of certainty. If certainty is lost, it can create aggravation and agitation inside, and we will do anything to regain a level of certainty. Therefore, it's very important to provide clarity, stability, and safety so that our followers, students, and peers feel certain.


  • Autonomy: Autonomy refers to our sense of control over events and people in the world around us. We are wired to desire autonomy and choice over the circumstances in our lives. When this is disrupted, it can often take the form of micromanagement, restrictions, and even manipulative behavior. We can foster a positive relationship with someone triggered by autonomy by providing choices that empower them and giving them responsibility.


  • Relatedness: Humans have been wired for connection since the dawn of time. Our ancient ancestors found safety in numbers, tribes, colonies, and groups. Being separated from the group meant certain death and isolation. We live in a world that is highly connected digitally but are extremely isolated and often lack the types of relationships our grandparents had. Relatedness means feeling safe around other people. When we don't feel safe around others physically, emotionally, and psychologically, it can trigger a response to protect ourselves—often a fight or flight response. We can support someone triggered by relatedness by developing positive relationships, being supportive, building trust, and even mentoring.


  • Fairness: A sense of fairness is ingrained in our human existence. Disagreements, social movements, protests, broken relationships, and even wars are created when there is a sense of unfairness and injustice. We yearn for equality and value in our peers' eyes. This can be quickly broken by unequal conditions, a lack of consistency, and preferential treatment. Therefore, it's very important to ensure we're transparent in our decisions and communication, have clear boundaries, and consider all perspectives when making decisions.

Conclusion

When I look back on that day, I realize I made several mistakes. First of all, I grew angry with Scott for his emotional outburst because my status was challenged. I called the office and wrote a scathing discipline referral. I didn't want to hear Scott's perspective or address the situation. I simply wrote Scott off and ignored him. Whenever Scott acted out again, I sent him to the office and wrote him up.

I never considered that Scott had a variety of factors influencing his outburst. There was an underlying tension throughout that semester based on his status. He was a 10th-grade student in a predominantly 9th-grade class, which most certainly hurt his sense of importance and value among others. He perceived himself as less than his classmates because he had failed the previous year and had to repeat the class.

I also didn't consider that Scott had a very difficult morning before he even walked into my classroom. There was a sense of uncertainty in his household that was still triggering him hours later. There's an expression I absolutely love that says, "Everyone's fighting a battle that others know nothing about. Be kind." I was unaware of many of the battles Scott was facing before he came into my classroom, such as a broken relationship with his parents, issues with friends, no food, and a variety of other factors.

This is not to say that my decision to address Scott's behavior was wrong, but I think I would have handled it differently. I probably would have had an honest conversation with him, giving him the opportunity to speak and allowing myself to listen to create a sense of relatedness and autonomy. I still would have communicated my expectations, but giving Scott the opportunity to be heard and to save face might have been a better approach.

Reflecting on my mistakes as a leader through the SCARF model, I remember the time I challenged a well-established veteran in the middle of a meeting, creating discomfort for everyone in the room. My ego was triggered because I felt that my status was threatened, so I returned the favor by threatening the status of this individual. Things were never the same between us, and people within the organization quickly took sides. There is no winner in that situation.

There was also the time when I felt completely mistreated because I had taken a position where I was paid poorly and overworked. I communicated the unfairness to anyone who would listen and eventually quit that position. When the position was opened for others within the organization to apply for, I quickly discouraged anyone from applying because it was completely unfair and not worth the money. My boss quickly caught wind of my campaign, and I was firmly told to change my approach. The negative interaction with this person has created professional roadblocks for me ever since. If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would educate them on trying to view things from a different perspective and taking a different approach.

If I had known about the SCARF model, I believe I would be a completely different educator, leader, father, husband, son, and person. Not only would I have been more aware of my triggers, I would have been more aware of how my actions and words impact others.





5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

Phillip Schlechty (2011) theorized that the highest levels of learner engagement require learners' full attention and commitment. While some learners may exhibit "ritual compliance," simply meeting minimum expectations without true investment, educators strive to cultivate a deeper level of engagement. Building on Schlechty's (2011) framework, which emphasizes both attention and commitment, the goal is to guide learners toward a state of high engagement where they are actively involved and deeply invested in the learning process.


 
Learner engagement is paramount to learning. When learners are engaged, they are not passively receiving information but actively participating in the learning process through asking questions, making connections, and applying what they have learned. This deeper involvement leads to better understanding and retention. Educators can design a curriculum and learning environment that effectively cultivates both affect and cognition by providing Multiple Means of Engagement,

5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

Imagine that you have noticed a gradual decline in student engagement and participation as an educator. To create a dynamic learning environment, you are ready to modify your approach with a few new strategies:


Learner Profiles: Using a learner profile can be an effective way to understand the interests, strengths, challenges, preferences, and needs of your learners. This knowledge can help you design a curriculum that is engaging and tailored to their needs, and ultimately help them grow as learners.




Relevance: Making learning relevant and culturally responsive is an essential aspect of education. When educational materials lack relevance and fail to resonate with learners' cultural backgrounds, engagement becomes challenging. Aligning the curriculum with students' diverse perspectives cultivates active participation and advanced cognitive skills. For example, are there ways to connect math problems to student interests? Do you provide materials and resources that offer different perspectives? Are there opportunities to connect student’s native languages and backgrounds to learning?



Flexible Options: Providing learners with autonomy and choice leads to increased engagement. Find ways to give learners flexible content, materials, and assessment options. For example, can learners have options for learning content through digital and printed materials? Can learners have options for how they demonstrate their understanding or skills? Do learners have helpful scaffolds and supports such as templates, video tutorials, hyperlinks, speech-to-text technology, etc.?


Learner-Centered Approach: A learner-centered approach prioritizes student ownership of their learning, shifting from a teacher-centered approach. This approach fosters autonomy and gives students a deeper role in the educational process, which leads to increased engagement and a more meaningful learning experience. Teachers can act as guides to students by providing them with personalized support they need to succeed.


Social Emotional Learning: Teaching Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills can help learners handle learning challenges, manage emotions, develop relationships, and collaborate effectively with others.



Conclusion


Engaged learners are motivated and interested in the topic because they are curious, eager to learn more, and willing to put effort into the required material. In addition, research consistently shows a positive correlation between learner engagement and academic achievement because engaged learners perform better on tests, have higher grades, and are more likely to graduate. We can make a tremendous impact by providing learners with options for engaging in learning and in the learning environment. 




The Medium is the Message: Using UDL to Provide Multiple Means of Representation

Canadian philosopher and author Marshall McLuhan introduced the popular phrase “the medium is the message” in his groundbreaking 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. McLuhan suggested that mediums carry more than just a message; they also can shape our learning experiences, memories, and comprehension.

 

Michael and Just (2001) of Carnegie Mellon University used brain imaging to show that our brains process spoken and written language differently. The study suggested that listening and reading create different memories and activate different brain regions. For instance, listening activates more working memory than reading, likely because spoken language is fleeting and requires immediate processing. The study doesn't say which method is better, but rather that the best method depends on the individual, the content, and the purpose.


Designing Accessible Materials and Methods:

Learners are highly variable in how they perceive information and construct meaning, meaning the way information is presented (text, video, lecture, etc.) dramatically impacts how well we learn it. This idea echoes the famous quote, "The medium is the message," meaning the format can shape the content. Research indicates that the Recognition Network, a specialized region located in the back portion of the brain, is heavily involved in how learners process information and turn it into learning.

The Recognition Network is like a filing system in the brain, helping learners identify, interpret, and build connections, which ultimately help construct meaning. This brain region excels at interpreting information and recognizing patterns in new information, such as identifying a red apple. Then, information is further broken down into categories (red color, round shape) and connected with background information and similar patterns stored in your memory (other red objects). The initial groundwork of identifying familiar elements lays the foundation for higher-level brain regions to operate.


Apple


Therefore, educators should consider providing learners with multiple options and formats to represent new information. This approach can assist learners in identifying, interpreting, making connections, and constructing meaning more efficiently. Additionally, the accessibility of materials and communication mediums should be considered, as each has its distinct advantages and limitations. For instance, offering learners only printed text can create unintentional barriers to learning (see graphic below).



Multiple Means of Representation

Educators can create a more inclusive and engaging learning environment if they understand that each communication medium has distinct characteristics. Additionally, learners need information offered through multiple formats through the UDL principle of Multiple Means of Representation and its supporting guidelines.


A table containing tips for applying UDL

Applying UDL


Here are a few tips and tricks for increasing the accessibility of instructional materials.
  • Multiple Formats: Offer information in various formats beyond just text. Include audio recordings of written content, captions and transcripts for videos, and visuals with clear descriptions.
  • Closed Captioning. Utilize closed-captioning when showing videos or having a synchronous video discussion through platforms like Zoom.
  • Digital Accessibility. Ensure digital materials are compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies. Use clear formatting, proper heading structures, and alt text for images.
  • Visual Design: Use high-contrast colors and clear fonts in presentations and documents. Avoid relying solely on color to convey information.
  • Variety of Instruction: Present information in multiple ways, using verbal explanations, written instructions, and visual aids.
  • Flexible Learning Materials: Offer options for taking notes or completing assignments. This could include allowing recordings of lectures, providing graphic organizers, or offering alternative assignment formats.

Here is a blog post on 5 Tips for Redesigning Your Reading Assignments with UDL in Mind.

Links to an external site.

 




Matt Bergman (2024)






Blended Learning and UDL Lesson Planning Flowchart

If you are a UDL practitioner, Blended Learning is an excellent student-centered approach that can be incorporated into the classroom. It emphasizes the importance of using technology to personalize learning and give students autonomy over their path, pace, time, and place. There are seven different Blended Learning models, which require educators to make the shift from a teacher-centered to a learner-centered approach to learning. 

However, how do you plan with UDL and Blended Learning in mind? I developed the following flowchart to guide educators through the process of planning blended lessons with accessibility, flexibility, and student engagement in mind! 

Want a PDF version? Click here





Matt Bergman (2024)








10 Tips for Building Better Learning Goals

Goals are not just the foundation; they are the roadmap for effectively planning a UDL lesson. They often serve as a roadmap, providing students with a clear direction for their learning journey. They answer the essential question: "What will I be able to know or do by the end of this lesson/unit/course?"

Goals are often derived from broader academic standards designed to help students develop essential skills and knowledge over the long term. For example, a science goal might be "Students will be able to explain the water cycle and its impact on weather patterns." This aligns with a specific science standard that emphasizes understanding core environmental processes.

Clear learning goals are not just tools, they are powerful tools for educators and students. They provide a sense of purpose, allowing students to track their progress and celebrate their achievements. Students who understand the "why" behind their learning become more engaged and motivated to reach their full potential.

With this in mind, here are ten tips for building better learning goals. Click here for access to the PDF with active links. 




Matt Bergman (2024)





4 Ways to Use Brisk AI in Teaching

I recently came across an AI tool called Brisk, which operates as a Chrome Extension that you can use to inspect student work, detect AI, and generate content! Brisk has four important features:

1. Create 

Teachers can used Brisk to create lesson plans, exemplars, quizzes, and more! Note: There is a free and a paid version of this tool, so some of the paid features are identified by a lock icon. 

Library of features


2. Inspect

Teachers can use the Inspect feature to see a video history of the creation of a Google Doc, which is perfect for identifying potential plagiarism issues by copy and paste. In addition, there is an AI detection tool that identifies potential use of AI in the assignment. 


 

3. Change Reading Level

Did you know that you can change the reading level and language of a Google Doc? This is perfect for providing students with differentiated options for reading a text. 

Change reading level box


4. Give Feedback 


Need a tool for providing better feedback to students? Brisk provides a variety of options for providing the right type of feedback for students. I personally like the Glow and Grow option! 


Feedback styles box

Conclusion

Brisk is a simple, but powerful tool that teachers can use to save time, increase efficiency, and provide valuable feedback through a variety of means. It saves you time, while increasing your effectiveness as a teacher. Check it out today! 




Speechify: An AI Text-to-Speech Game Changer

Did you know that AI can be a useful tool for increasing accessibility in the classroom?

You may have had a student who has struggled with reading comprehension and needs additional scaffolding and support, such as an audio version of a text. Although this accommodation is helpful, it can be time-consuming and sometimes challenging to manage as a teacher.


Speechify: An AI Text-to-Speech Game Changer!

Luckily, there are various tools out there that can convert text-to-speech; however, I want to share with you a free AI tool called Speechify that is changing the way that we can support students. I like the application for various reasons.



First, it is available in multiple formats and across multiple devices as a web application, Chrome Extension, Mac application, and more.

Secondly, Speechify provides users with text-to-speech support in Google Docs, websites, email, Canvas, PDFs, images, and more. One of the most powerful tools is its ability to take a screenshot and read from it! For example, I took a screenshot of a Google Slide, and it read it to me!

Finally, I love that it provides both free and paid versions, which is economically feasible for students who may not have the financial resources to access.


Video Tutorial on Speechify's Text-to-Speech Feature

Want to learn more? Check out this free video tutorial for more!



The First Five is an SEL Gamechanger!

Although many of us see the value of building relationships with our students, researching, planning, and implementing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) activities can be time-consuming. 

The First Five is a daily resource designed to make educators' lives easier! Just sign up, and it will be delivered to your email inbox, filled with practical ideas that can be implemented in the first five minutes of class. Whether you are a primary or secondary educator, you will receive 18 new activities and ideas daily that focus on connecting with students, self-care, and character development.

Still not sure? You can take a look at today's First 5 for yourself. Simply choose whether you are a primary or secondary teacher to see! 


Each First Five contains nine vetted SEL activities. Simply select the best option in your classroom that day and go! It's literally that easy. For example, check out today's check-in activity: 



Check out the video below for more information: 





Quillbot: An Amazing AI Tool for Writing Support and Paraphrasing

Quillbot is an artificial intelligence tool aimed at helping users improve their writing. Unlike generative AI tools like Chat GPT, users provide the original text to Quillbot, and it supplies suggestions, much like spelling and grammar checkers in word processing tools. However, QuillBot can be used to help users with a variety of tasks, such as paraphrasing, grammar and plagiarism checking, summarizing, and translating.


Writing is a valuable exercise in translating thoughts and ideas into language; however, many of our students struggle with writing because they are intimidated, uncertain, and confused about the writing process. Quillbot is designed to provide students with helpful suggestions aimed at refining their original ideas.





In addition, Quillbot can be used to rephrase reading passages that students have difficulties understanding. For instance, imagine that students are struggling with understanding a particular reading passage. They could use Quillbot to rewrite content in a way that makes sense.




Audio Note: Using AI to Organize Your Notes and Ideas!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more than Chat GPT writing prompts, driverless cars, and chatbots. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of AI is that it can help us organize our thoughts more effectively. Take for instance a new AI application I recently came across called Audio Note



What is Audio Note? 

Audio Note allows you a place to record voice notes (up to one minute on the free version) or provide text notes (unlimited in the free version), then use AI to rewrite in whatever format you need. You can currently use AI to rewrite your thoughts as a(n):

  • Note
  • List
  • Email
  • Journal
  • Tweet 
  • Linked In


How to Use it With Students? 

When I look at Audio Note, I see endless possibilities for helping students. Imagine a student who vigorously typed and copied down your class notes from a recent lecture, but they are still struggling with everything or trying to put it all together. With Audio Note, they could use AI to organize and rewrite their notes, making studying a breeze.




Letters to My Coach: St. Crispin's Day

When I was in high school, I played varsity football for Coach Mike Vertucci. Coach V was a master at finding creative ways to motivate his ...