Here at Hoodlum Central, we believe in Design Thinking. We integrate it into most things we do and it’s been pretty fruitful both in our day jobs and in our business practices.

No matter which flavor of Design Thinking one subscribes to, ideation is essential. You can’t prototype anything if you don’t have a smorgasbord of ideas to play with. While Webs and I generally do this with the Googles, I recently came across a tool I hope to use during my 9-5 hustle. Pitchcard seems like a promising tool to use in a classroom looking to encourage designing.

Pitchcard allows you to ideate publicly if you wish. You title your idea, choose a color, and then write a brief (200 word) description, which I think is awesome. Being forced into being concise allows one to hone the “spirit” of the idea more authentically in my opinion.

Once your idea is placed on the card, you can distribute it publicly on social media or privately via email.

The feedback that your idea garners is sent to the email that was entered which hopefully allows one to refine the idea into a better concept.

Classroom Applications


If you are at a GAFE school, one could utilize this tool pretty easily. Everyone of your students would have an email address, giving them the ability to send ideas to classmates efficiently and to archive the feedback so that it could be referred to when needed. Generating feedback on ideas for projects and writing assignments just got #mosexy.

Exit Tickets

Looking for thoughts about what students learned during class? Don’t want to create a Google Form or use Exittix? This is a pretty streamlined way to gather information from your students about what they learned or struggled with during the school day.

Lesson Feedback

So you want to know if your lesson was the bomb or just bombed? Send a Pitchcard to your students and allow for feedback.

Lesson Plan ideas

Send a Pitchcard to colleagues about an idea for your have for that quantum physics lesson and see what they say.

A Open Ear to the World

Say you’re a teacher with very little technology at her disposal and you’d like to use the tool. If you had a classroom email or social media setup, you could have students generate ideas that could be posted for feedback and then disseminate that feedback to students. Class project could be #mosexy if you sent a Pitchcard rather than used snail mail or limited contributions to conversations in the room.

In short, Pitchcard is a tool I hope to roll out next week during my day job. Students will be pitching video game ideas and Pitch could be a very slick way of making students feel even more empowered.

Words? Word.

Task: Write a blog about building vocabulary

Audience: Teachers in classrooms with kids

Purpose: To take something that has worked well for my students and provide instructions, ideas, and guidelines that might benefit other teachers and students

We’ve all heard that statistic about the dramatic difference in vocabulary between students of low socioeconomic backgrounds and students of high socioeconomic backgrounds. We’ve heard about how vocabulary has been linked with academic success (correlation =/= causation, though, people, keep that in mind).

I argue it is not the number of words they know but a passion and awareness for the beauty of words that we should share. Here’s how I do it:

1) Words do not exist only in school.
A major flaw in our current system is the way that we refer to and categorize the dichotomous life students have. They’re like crappy superheroes – forced to live in two worlds without the laser eyes. They have an in school life and life outside school.

I start my kids with bribery, like every good teacher.

I give them a vocabulary card (that link is to our Gumroad where you can download a template for free or throw us some change if you like the product. Just type 0 for the price.)or two every day for the first month or so of school. It’s just a slip of paper. On it, they write the word they found, where they found it, and their name. In exchange, they get an extra pull for the ones and tens chart or some classroom cash for the classroom economy.

This gets them looking. They start listening more actively when they are not at school for words they don’t know. It builds their awareness.



That is THEIR word wall. Not yours. It is not for you to make it look pretty like an adult did it so you can get a gold star from the principal.

It is THEIRS. Say it with me now: IT IS THEIRS.

Do it in alphabetical order, sure. Have them make the letter headings and add their words to it. Do not predetermine a SINGLE vocabulary word. Got that? NOT A SINGLE ONE. Sure, you can look ahead and make a guess about what words they don’t know, but you do not add a word to that wall without confirming that they do not know it already.

Here’s what my word wall looks like:
[Mostly it’s my coffee, but you can see the wall in the background]

word wall

[These are some of the words we have up there.]

It is theirs and we use those words allllllll the time. When we speak to one another we talk about how dapper a person looks or ask why they’re acting like such a crackpot or why they’re being so aloof.

We say, “That test was horrendous!!” or “That was an egregious error on my part, sorry.”

I use those words so they use those words. I don’t dumb things down for them.

Finally, C)
Observe and STEAL.
Read for reading’s sake then go back and read through the lens of a writer.
Need help with the punctuation for dialogue?
Pull a book off the shelf and look at how Magic Treehouse does it.

Study and dissect how works are built and then steal, steal, steal. Replicate and pay homage to the works you love.

Do this as a teacher and model it for your students. If you want them to be consumers of words, YOU must be a consumer of words.

When you read aloud (which you should do often), point out the beautiful things the author does:
The plump tangerine moon rose in the October sky.
(A line poorly quoted from the novel we’re currently reading, Chasing Vermeer)
The author could have said, “The moon was orange.” Is that as good?

Point out similes, metaphors, hyperbole, even before you explicitly teach it. Even if they can’t classify it, kids can still understand that’s what makes a text beautiful and they can replicate it.

How is nonfiction text built? If you’re trying to convey an idea, what tool is best? Chart? Graph? Timeline? How does the author do it? How can you steal that idea?

I’ve gotten a bit off track, but sometimes that’s what happens and that’s ok. That’s how real learning happens.

If you hate this, please leave comments below or tweet me @weberswords

If you love this, please share with others.

Webs out.

E Highlighter for Close Reading

by @chocolateteacher

eHighligher is a pretty nifty way to integrate both physical books and technology into your close reading activities.  The app is reasonably priced at $1.99 and offers real value with minimal risk.

Say you are using a text book, reading a novel with your students, engaging in research, or having students read independently with certain goals in mind.  You have iDevices at your disposal and you want to integrate notetaking and transcription into the activity.  eHighlighter could be a tool you might employ.

Have Barcode? Will Scan

The first thing I love about the app is that you can acquire a books bona fides (title, Author’s name, and publisher) by just scanning the book’s barcode.  The app uses WorldCat, “The World’s Largest Library Catalog,” for reference and the speed in which it returns results is impressive.

If you’d rather search for the book and edition you possess, that option is available as well as just manual entering the information.

You scan a barcode and..."Voila!"

You scan a barcode and…”Voila!”

If you can take a picture…

Then you can bring in your text pretty easily.  Once the picture is added, you’ll have options to add page numbers, any notes and tags, which will give you the ability to organize any work you’ve done.

Take picture, bring in your text

Take picture, bring in your text

Adding a Note (for Metacognition)

Want a response to a text dependent question?  Want to record an “Aha!” moment, a question about the text, or something to bring up during class discussion? Make a note of it.

Notes for Metacognition? That's convenient.

Notes for Metacognition? That’s convenient.


You’ll be prompted to add highlights to the beginning and ending of the text you’d like to have transcribed.  This is my only real beef with the app.  It can take a while to transcribe something.  The good thing is that I wouldn’t necessarily be using the device for transcription as the original image and note you take are always available for viewing.

Even if the transcription process is labored, the functionality of the app makes it one that both teachers and students could use effectively.

It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn close

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn close