So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide To Differentiation | Authentic Learning | Authentic Teacher Interview 03 Part II with Author and Student Voice Advocate John McCarthy, EdS

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So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation John McCarthy

So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation

by John McCarthy, EdS

My featured guest has written a book and he speaks about differentiation Authentic Learning Experiences, Project-Based Learning, Instruction supported by Technology tools, S.T.E.A.M,  Systemic and Culture building.

I think if I shut the recorder off it will disconnect us. I wanted to talk to you more. Is there anything else?

My website is

There is so much more I could talk about authentic learning and differentiation! I could talk about this it’s a major part of the work that what I do!

I am going to couple of different places in the US then I go to Germany and Egypt

It’s a huge passion especially differentiation, followed by authentic learning and it’s a huge topic globally.

So, I’m just fascinated by this? What is like when you go other places? Khazatstan or Germany? Where else did you say?

I’ve been to

  • Australia
  • Korea
  • Middle East

It’s interesting, the school systems depending where you are that are some are

  • similar
  • different

For example, there are a lot more k-12 buildings per say, in that regards. There are a lot of cultural norms that are different, you get those type of nuances but there are still a lot of passionate teachers and students trying to figure out how to raise student engagement to make learning interesting and appealing to students.

There’s still that challenge trying to figure out but maybe do it a little differently. 

I could say, I think of some of the schools in the Middle East where they do some really amazing events, call it the morning meeting and every morning they will bring all the kids together.

  • school wide morning meeting
  • different groups of kids will make announcements or make performances
  • great community builder before school

They also have similar challenges 

how do you turn a classroom that tends to be traditional into something that is more student centered

some have success and some are still working on it

In some cases I feel like in the US we have far more access to tech tools then in some of the other places but tech shouldn’t be a barrier to authentic learning you don’t need to do the internet for authentic learning or differentiation but it is certainly helpful when you are trying to be authentic if you want to differentiate.

It gets me thinking about where things are progressing in education. There are a lot of schools that are interested in 

21st century skills

In Kazakhstan they see it as important

Kazakhstan the school system I worked with there, they had a lot of success, they don’t need to make many changes based on the results they get from the students who are very 

school smart

but not necessarily to be world navigators to be what I call global citizens at a high level, so they are trying to make those adjustments so they can be more competitive in this 

global economy

The world is shrinking, more and more, we are doing our students a disservice if we are not developing those 21st century skills at a deep level and basically transforming our schools from a teacher centric approach to a more constructivist approach.

That’s interesting. You know when I was back in school in 2002-3 to get my teaching certificate and we were taught the constructivist approach and as soon as we left it went completely out the window! I haven’t heard people mention it as much.

Waldorf Education

The other thing that was interesting I was talking to a friend who sent her kids to a Waldorf school in California which I would consider an extremely authentic type of school and she said it was hard because they had to sign a paper agreeing to no screen time till 8th grade for anyone at home in the house. I think her and her husband could have a cell phone. I grew up with a Waldorf school in my backyard and always watched but it seemed much more authentic.

Different schools and philosophies are out there will look at constructivist and student voice and add their caveats. If that particular school said no tech till 8th grade I can see and respect what they are trying to accomplish and how they feel they need to accomplish.

I also think about and wonder about, what’s unfortunately could be ignored. Biggest thing is

Digital citizenship

see this in social media, we talk about internet trolls, the discourse that happens after an

in twitter

people are disagreeing and not doing it respectfully. I say recently I like to look at the comments and see what’s trending, it’s been nice to see, there is less trollish activity around hot button topics where people are disagreeing. The discourse has been a little bit better.

If we ignore that for students all the way through 8th grade, once they get online it’s going to be difficult to shift or prepare them whereas I have seen schools, the one school I mentioned they believe all students should learn a 2nd language and they use rosetta stone on their tablets.

Rosetta Stone for First Graders

I have a picture of these first graders sitting in the hallway, everyday or three times a week they are practicing Spanish individuality. But they are not being held back in their  progress because the class is on step four and you have to wait to get to step seven till we get there as a class. 

If we have the opportunity for them

other things

respectful discourse digital citizenship


respectfully use the tools learn how to self- manage

this world today, like it or not, it is a digital world

do we lose somethings from the change? Yes, but do we also we gain some things? YES

how we find a balance

things we hold most precious from before

how we incorporate that besides saying either or, because I bet you those kids, when they get past 8th grade  they are like omgosh, new territory!

Media Literacy and Communication

That’s a good point. I am totally into kids learning media literacy and communication, I  feel like it could have a huge impact on bullying, if they use social media properly there’s not going to be any time for bullying because you are going to be out there hanging with kids that you like, why would you spend any time on anyone that wasn’t your friend?

That being said I am so anti-video games. I just feel like if you are on a computer you should be learning something. It’s funny cause I’m really passionate about it. I love that the Rosetta Stone and learning Spanish. I was going to ask what’s that like going to all these countries you go to how many languages do you speak? I wish I could speak another language, my school waited till 7th grade. 

Engaging Non-English Speakers

I am only fluent in English, and then some might disagree with that. Some of these schools I go to are far smarter then me, their kids and staff, are pretty good English speakers. There are occasions where someone on their team will do interpretation. I was just in Honduras working with this passionate educators that spoke English and a significant size of staff that only spoke Spanish.

So it was kind of like at the UN, they had head sets on and someone was translating everything I said. It was my task to ensure I was fielding questions from both those who spoke English and those who did not. It’s pretty easy to keep talking to a group and when you ask questions, I  would notice people were not answering questions, but they were active in small group dialogue. I had to literally just call on tables who were not native speakers, and encourage them to share and  they had these great insights.

Professional eSports

When you talk about video games

  • there are games down
  • professional eSports

League of Legends

They just had their north american championships, the world championships in Korea in couple of weeks. I know because my son and I follow them, he introduced me to this. When you look at eSports, there are parents who are hiring private coaches to be better at those particular games.

In gaming per say, you too much of anything can be a unhealthy thing, but I find like in schools, I know this is not how you feel but we still have these rules about banning cell phones. High schools students were gonna ban your cell phones, you’re not allowed to have them out. 

Airplane Mode

I use this analogy, you know when you get on a plane, they close the cabin door, and tell you to turn them off put them into airplane mode. 

We do that, do the trip, but when the plan lands, everybody gets out their phone.

I made it, I’m safe, pick me up, what gate?

That’s what happens for their students, these schools that ban or limit technology. It’s like when they’re outside of school that’s part of their life, there are these tools they use. So they get into school and it’s like they are in airplane mode, everything is kind of limited until they can leave school. 

When schools choose to go that route, I just wonder about how to help them figure out them, figure out how to address what they are truly concerned about. There is no really strong valid reasons to completely ban these tools. 

An opportunity to teach

It’s really an opportunity to teach these kids how to use them appropriately, to respectfully use them as well as they become tools for differentiation  especially for schools that don’t have one-to-one technology those phones could become a very valuable tool when we teach them.

So adults say when you let them have phones they are just going to abuse them, it’s like OK. So when we ignore that, what do we see when we were at staff meetings. 

We weren’t allowed to have phones at staff meetings. Or I guess we had to put them on vibrate. 

Adults are the worst offenders and adults will continue to be the worst offenders if we don’t teach our students how to use them appropriately.  In some schools are doing that, then we’re gonna have adults who use them respectfully.

Authentic Practice

I’m behind that 1000% I totally think we need to teach kids how to use them respectfully. I’m  a big proponent of letting kids surf the web so you can see what they are interested in. Or if you are going to expect them to type an answer on a test you have to give them time to practice typing about things they are interested in, or using a keyboard.

If the only time they get to use a keyboard or a chromebook is when they are taking an assessment they are going to start looking at that negatively I’m just for quality educational, I just feel like if you are on a computer screen, I guess I feel like physically there’s your eyes you have to worry about, posture and back, if you are online you need to be communicating effectively or learning something.

IDK playing mindless video games, I did hear about that League of Legends  thing and I had a student who was so into chess and I thought this is going to be it for him but then I just couldn’t maybe cause he was too young, IDK it just seemed too violent.

League of Legends too violent? Haha! OK, yes there are games like that. It’s a challenging piece for teaches to wrangle and figure out.

There are these kids who are in school who play these games and have a following of a couple of thousands to a couple of hundred of thousands

Student Influencers

They are influencers and when they get to school and the teachers have  no idea what an impact they are making, and just have them put their phone in airplane mode

It’s interesting the same woman I’m talking about who’s kids went to the Waldorf school is the one who is an influencer making money playing eSports. The other thing I was going to say is, if you don’t let those kids play those games, my goal would be eventually they would become developers of those games. They do need to explore those things they are interested in.

Rewiring Kids Brains

But my other thing I was going to say is I think kids brains are getting rewired thorough things like Snapchat. When my grandkids would send me messages that said pick me up at the Snack Shack after school at 6pm or something. I’m like where, when am I supposed to be there? And if they are communicating and remembering details when that message is gone, and they are using it like this then I think that we have to address those memory changes. I know you can take a screen shot but who has time to do that quick enough? On the flip side maybe they send another message closer to 6pm? IDK.

it’s a brave new world.

I think this excellent we talked a lot about how we both agree kids need to become Digital Citizens. I hadn’t heard that term before but I love that. I think it is so true, I love Facebook, I love podcasting, I love meeting other people and friends the ability to meet other people like you is so great. Does that make sense?

I agree, it’s opened up doors no longer just isolated in our classrooms or our spaces. We have this ability to stay connected.

So, is there anything else, I think I will just break this up into 2 episodes because I never did shut the recorder off? Anything else you want to tell teachers?

The Voices in Our Heads

Just really being open to ideas. We have voices in our head, some encourage us, and some tell us why we shouldn’t do something. There are all these things that are stacked against us to do what we know would be good. Ignore those voices and start with what you can influence. What we can do.

Our locus of control is really in our classroom, we can still shut the door and do what we want. I say that knowing that happens all the time. I just want you to think about what’s the best interest of your students and Be the advocate in your school.

Try what’s best for students, and not what’s best for adults. That’s what opens up differentiation, that’s what opens up Authentic Learning. It’s what happens when we begin with the student in mind instead of the adults in mind.

Maybe that’s what I need to do to rethink League of Legends  because who knows maybe there’s some cooperative learning lessons in there if I would have gone a little further. I signed up for it and everything. I’m in and I was like. Oh, no this is not for me.

The best way to understand League of Legends  instead of sign up and start playing, if you go to twitch or youtube.

What’s twitch? Did you say twitch?

I’ll come back to that. IF you type in NA lcslol on Youtube you will see different games that were played. They just had the North American  championships

 League of Legends   Summer Championships

The games will come up and they just had the North American battle for first place happened on Sunday. I won’t ruin it, between Team Liquid and Cloud 9

When you watch those games you realize how it’s such a team sport.

capture the flag

but as you watch

it will make sense

not even

considered a big sport had their national sport a couple of weeks ago.


team sport

I mentioned twitch, you can watch things on youtube

twitch – live streaming

you can live stream

most cases recorded


live streaming

So for example the North American championship was in Oakland, CA

I live in Michigan, I was at home my son who is a college student on campus and we’re watching the game live from respective and we had the phone on speaker phone so as we were watching we could make comments to each other.

Authentic  League of Legends  Lesson

What would be like an authentic lesson you could get from watching  League of Legends?

Well off the top of my head, in English  they have to write informative writing across different grade levels so let’s watch and report on our website and blog

  • respond to our commentary
  • narrative
  • persuasive
  • write as a fan
  • which player
  • do you agree with who won
  • the game for third and fourth place went 5 games
  • very close
  • which team
  • TSM
  • one hundred thieves
  • key piece is public performance
  • how are we going to publish this to an audience
  • outline and prepare a podcast
  • do the reporting

I LOVE THIS!!! I just think podcasting! You could do it across the board you could do this for a soccer game or we’re going into football season. I bet teachers are thinking all sorts of ideas!

These are things you can explore and I’ll just say, on my website

So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation John McCarthy

So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation

by John McCarthy, EdS

This is fantastic. I am going to give you my call to action, order John’s Book and leave him a five star review so others can learn. I’m sure if you listen to today and the last episode you will get all sorts of ideas and light bulbs going off. 

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