"We are living a public life on a global stage, the ones who can express themselves best, will be heard." -Laura Hill, Author The Great Story World Mix-Up, co-creator #whatisschool

Read the books I write with my children.

Monday, November 27, 2017

#whatisschool The Interactive Classtroom

#whatisschool Thursday, November 30 6PM EST
The Interactive Classroom

Interactivity in the classroom, building stronger teacher-student 
and student to student relations.

Thomas sits at his desk and picks up his entry ticket, today's question is on whether environmental changes are effecting the local marine life population.  Halfway around the world Maria studies for a test by playing Kahoot with her friends while Adam, an elementary autism student, used Nearpod  to explore a 3D immersive panoramic of a farm and answer questions with his classmates. These are just a few examples of the ways educators are pairing interactivity with education to enhance learning, get feedback and gather data on student learning.

Classroom interactivity increases student's ability to think critically, problem solve and analyze.  It can provide important feedback for teachers allowing them to adjust pacing or teaching style to better engage their student community.  It creates stronger bonds between students and the teacher-student community and allows children to practice team building strategies in low risk settings.

Diversified learning models and technology have increased opportunities for classroom interactivity, but can also leave educators pressed for time and faced with mounting class loads wondering how to most effectively blend traditional and technological platforms  to increase interactivity in the classroom.  

This week #whatisschool explores the interactive classroom.   Join me, Laura Hill (@candylandcaper) and co-host Mark Weston (@shiftparadigm) , as we take a closer look at ways to engage students, foster community and build collaborative classroom platforms using technology. 

#whatisschool Questions

Q1: How can you engage students to foster community amongst peers and with teaching staff?
Q2: What types of interactive strategies (enter/exit tickets, pair/share, debate, role play) have you used, how did they work out?
Q3: What technologies have you employed (Nearpod, Kahoot) to increase interactivity, what were the results?
Q4: How can traditional strategies and technology be blended to enhance lessons and provide critical feedback to educators?
Q5: What tools, training or environmental enhancements would be most helpful to educators creating an interactive classroom?
Q6: How can interactivity foster skills that will help students succeed in school and post school life, and cope with a sometimes isolating technological world.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cyberbullying and Digital Citizenship, Privacy and Safety

#WHATISSCHOOL Thursday, October 5, 7PM EST

Cyberbullying and Digital Citizenship, Privacy and Safety

Cyberbullying, Privacy and Safety, are just some of the digital dilemmas challenging the world’s schools. At the same time, technology continues to expand and enhance the ways students can learn, connect, create, and collaborate. How do we help instill a sense of global citizenship, of civic-mindedness, and respect on the internet? What are some of the best strategies you have seen in practice in your school communities?

Join me Laura Hill @candylandcaper this Thursday, October 5 at 7pm EST as I team up with my #whatisschool co-creator Craig Kemp @mrkempnz to explore ways to increase student community and communication while decreasing the negative and sometimes deadly impact cyberbullying can have.

#WHATISSCHOOL Thursday, October 5, 7PM EST 

Q1 What does digital citizenship look like in a school?

Q2 How do we effectively teach digital citizenship in a sustainable fashion?

Q3 What are the BIG issues in schools in regards to digital citizenship?

Q4 What does your ‘digital citizenship curriculum’ look like?

Q5 What strategies are used to engage the whole school community in digital citizenship best practice?

Q6 What is the difference between digital citizenship and global citizenship?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

#WHATISSCHOOL Thursday, September 21, 7PM EST


Parents and families are a child’s first teachers, supporters, coaches, cheerleaders, tutors, confidantes, conspirators and advocates. They are the experts about their children and the authors of what they want for their future.

But when it comes to school, families are often left out of the discussion regarding the needs of their children in receiving the best education possible. 

Throughout the scholastic experience many parents can list examples of the positive and negative impact scholastic policy, social engagement, cultural understanding and teaching strategies have had on their children.  These experiences often leave parents frustrated, and they are compelled to advocate for their children but are left feeling shut out and helpless when they do.  

Stress and harmonic imbalance at home can decrease student's ability to enjoy school and perform to the best of their abilities.  So what can we, as educators do?

Join me Laura Hill @candylandcaper this Thursday, September 21 at 7pm EST as #whatisschool welcomes co-host and family learning expert John MacLeod, Community Manager at NCFL, @Wonderopolis. along with ELA Consultant, Wonder Lead Ambassador, #NYEDChat Moderator, Carol Varsalona, @cvarsalona @cvarsalona as we explore ways to increase family, student and community engagement in the learning process.

#WHATISSCHOOL Thursday, September 21, 7PM EST 

Q1 How can you integrate cultural values into lessons learned in school?

Q2 How can family or community input bring added value to in-school lessons?

Q3 How can technology bridge the gap between what students learn at home and in school?

Q4 What role does global citizenship play in reinforcing values at home and in school?

Q5 How can families and teachers work together to create lessons that improve their community?

Q6 How can students lead in collaborative programs between schools and communities?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Contemporary Art In Education Spotlight

Memes, Dreams and Genes 

The spread of information likened to a virus, worshiped as an art, able to shape opinions and bring down or elevate the great and small alike.  Memes are the voice of a generation and their appeal is contagious.  

We live surrounded by art. It is fed directly to us every day.  We hold it in our hand.  It's allure determines where our attention is placed.  It shapes what we stand for, has changed to way we spend our time and the way we go to business. 

Art is the central focus of our world and as our ability to communicate on a global platform expands we find ourselves increasingly immersed in shared experiences rich in culture, color, sound and tone.  The art we view on visual platforms help determine which experiences we choose to partake in.  More and more the influencers are not large companies but diverse groups of youth and adults drawn together by media such as memes. 

So why is art one of the most diminished curriculum in many schools today?

It may surprise you to learn the term “meme” was first used in biology. It was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his famous book, The Selfish Gene. The premise behind the phrase is that cultural ideas replicate and transmit from one person to another much like the way genes replicate and are passed on through generations. 

Memes reflect our innate desire to not only mimic but to belong and to build upon an idea that is presented adding our own unique twist.    Starting with small pockets of individuals the art mutates and changes as it is shared.  The audience grows and becomes global.

Memes as a learning tool can help students master and build on lessons.

The initial art can be a simple cartoon or an intricate painting.  It can be an everyday object, or celebrity photo.  Often the initial art uses animals or regular people. Regardless of its imagery the art is used to convey an emotional reaction that is tied to a popular statement or situation that is often thought provoking or controversial in nature.  As the meme becomes more popular its ability to deliver information increases rapidly infiltrating many disparate cultures with its message.  

Memes can stimulate discussion on controversial topics.  

Memes have evolved pop art so it is no longer a passive experience, images are no longer created simply to be admired and analyzed.  They take art to a new level of experience in which the audience shares in the role of artist and, as technology continues to evolve and the rules of creation are thrown away to make room for new techniques, the mediums of expression will continue to change promising to bring breathe taking innovations to the art experience and the way we communicate in the future.

Laura Hill (Timpanaro)

Monday, May 1, 2017

#Whatisschool Thursday, March 2, 2017 6pm EST
Creativity in the classroom, a tool for educators and future leaders.

What if the classroom you imagine was suddenly yours, what would it be like? 

How would you put the wheels in motion to create your classroom? Who would you enlist to help?

Entertainers, The Blue Man Group, sensing a gap in how schools operated strove to bring their love of creativity and inquiry to the classroom by creating the NYC based BlueMan School.  As part of the curriculum, students in grades 2 to 8 come up with ways to improve recycling, create 3D models of New York City, and fix home appliances.  It's a system of "dynamic learning" where students are taught that creating and implementing novel ideas is a critical set of skills.

What critical set of skills would you like to see implemented in your school?  And how can creativity be used not just artistically, but as a mindset through which educators seek out new ways to bring their ideas to life? 

This Thursday join me, Laura Hill (@candylandcaper) and celebrated educator and guest host Mark Weston (@shiftparadigm) as #whatisschool explores ways to implement "out-of-the-box" education that fosters creativity and won’t make you go out of your mind.

Questions #whatisschool Thursday March 2, 2017

1) How can you apply creativity to education to find new and better ways to teach students?

2) What resources could you use to help students and educators bring creative learning to life?

3) How can you foster and sustain a culture of creative learning in your classroom? 

4) How can you integrate a culture of creative problem solving into faculty meetings, PD days and peer-to-peer learning?

5) What resources, technologies, experts, entities or celebrities could you enlist to model and bring a culture of creativity to life in your classroom?

6) What is the singular, critical change you could make today that would make the classroom you envision a reality?

Got a creative school?  We want to know!  Post a link to your school's creativity in the comments section below and share it with the #whatisschool PLN and the world!  No idea is ever too big or too small and besides, one small seed can grow a mammoth tree.

Here are some of our favorites https://tinyurl.com/glx8h2n

Please support Mark and I as we share our views and our own creative expressions at

Join me, Laura Hill, for a new art show the month of MARCH at PJFL

Sunday, April 30, 2017

#Whatisschool Thursday March 16, 7 PM EDT
Turning Students Into Global Digital Citizens

For the first time in history nearly half the world’s population is under the age of 26.  While that might not seem significant to you to future governments, economies and the environment this shift can have far reaching implications.  Why?  Because only some segments of the population are keeping pace with the rapid technological development transforming our world.  How people collaborate, invent and work together in the future will have a profound effect on future generations.

Carl Sagan once defined an ideal citizenry as people “...with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.”  Change that to define the ideal global digital citizen and you might add ethical connection and contribution, the ability to leverage technology on a global scale, and fostering community through compassion.  And since students today have a duo existence both in the technological world being created and the physical world we reside in, the ability to be a global digital citizen is crucial.

So how can we ensure that there is balance and that ALL students grow up with the opportunity to use their talents to shape the future?  Who will make the rules that govern how technology is used and how reality is blended?  Will it be for the common good or the enrichment of an elite few?

Join me Laura Hill (@candylandcaper) and Craig Kemp (@mrkempnz) March 16, 7PM EDT as #whatisschool explores ways to educate students to be Global Digital Citizens.

Questions #whatisschool March 16, 2017

1) How can we use technology to connect students with community on the local and global scale?
2) What roles can we create in the classroom to foster skills like project and digital management to build student’s capabilities?
3) How can we use technology to help students form their own critical, ethical questions and research solutions to real world problems?
4) How can we assist students in building Student Learning Networks (SNLs) that allow them to assess and realize their ideas?
5) What strategies can we use to help students become independent, collaborative learners?
6) How can we use our roles as educators, parents and leaders to work with students to build our global digital skills together?

Chat times for around the world are:
Thursday 4pm Pacific Time
Thursday 6pm Central Time
Thursday 7pm EDT
Thursday 11pm GMT
Friday 7am Singapore/WA (Perth) Time
Friday 9am AEST

Please Support The Arts www.laurahillbooks.com

Contemporary Art In Education Focus

Digital Painting

As an artist I have worked in many mediums, oils, watercolor, acrylics, pen and ink as well as video and graphic design.  But I am currently finding my stride as a digital painter.  Digital painting can be crude but in my case it allows me to apply my fine art background quickly and easily anywhere I am. I can express my ideas as I have them, revise and finish with the art printed on canvass or poster.  Many of you have asked how I create me paintings.  Here is a brief "how to" of the creation of the piece "Misty Veil Of Re-birth" which was part of a 31 Night Challenge hosted by notorious American Painter Michael Bell.  This painting was complete in several hours.

Motivating Students With “Secret Writing”

by Laura Hill
Previously posted as a guest blog for the amazing @mrkempnz, an education "must follow" on twitter.

Motivating students can be tough.  I talk to thousands of students during the school year and consistently I find that as the students get older they become more cynical about writing.  I think the reason for this is two-fold; on one hand they are less bold about their writing due to experiences that have shaken their confidence like failed tests or poor presentations, on the other hand, they just aren’t motivated.  Since I can’t change their past experiences I try to concentrate on creating a new perspective. So how do you motivate students to write? 

I use many methodologies based on PBL and inquiry learning to get students going, but the most motivating factor I have found is in “secret writing.”  Secret writing isn’t a singular thing it’s more of a realization, an idea that exemplifies what writing is really all about.  This is how it works.

When I stand in front of a large group of students the first thing I typically discuss with them are chocolate chip cookies. Not the store bought kind, but rich chewy chocolaty home made ones that melt in your mouth and stick to your fingertips.  And since most students like chocolate chip cookies it’s not too hard to get them to rattle off the ingredients to make a batch-flour, sugar, water, salt, butter, baking powder, eggs and chocolate chips.  I create a mock batch of cookies letting them cook until someone says “ding!” To the student’s surprise our pretend batch of cookies is usually a disgusting mess.  This is because no one bothered to tell me how much of each ingredient to put in.  Secret writing.

I start to clue students in with a story about the many years I spent working as a television producer.  They are always surprised when I describe the amount of writing that goes on before a shot is laid to film.  Storyboards, set design, lighting, scripting, costumes…you get the picture, secret writing.  I start to relate this to everything they are interested in from cartoons to sports plays, instructions for massive
Lego structures to video games.

Now, if you’ve never written a video game or iPad app you probably don’t realize that these are some of the most complex ideas to put to paper. This is because games are based on rules making it necessary to write a reaction for every possible action while following the game’s strategy.  This is on top of writing about the setting, characters, costumes, dialogue and backstory.

At this point I have the student’s attention, I can almost hear them thinking, so I tell them to look around.  Secret writing is on their shirts, shoes, notebooks; it’s on signs, billboards and posters.  Even more can be found on books, smart boards and on candy bar wrappers. We are literally immersed in secret writing!  All done by people just like them.  This is when their eyes begin to spark. 

When students realize that writing is at the core of almost everything they do it takes on a whole new meaning that is personal.  This is really important because today’s students aren’t going to have the opportunity to avoid writing. They are part of a culture that is living a personal public narrative and the people who are best able to tell their story are the ones who are going to be heard.

We are in an amazing moment, experiencing a shift in social perspective, where we see for the first time some very young people having an impact on the global stage.  They are writing books, championing social good, making films, publishing scientific theory and soon they will be creating technology; it’s just a matter of time and opportunity.  And they are talking to peers around the world.  You have a chance to play a huge part in this.  By creating a culture of writers, thinkers and inventors in your classroom you are giving your students the ability to share their ideas with people around the world.   The kids are up for it, in fact they are more than ready for it, and who knows?  You may be inspiring a student who will one day change the world.

Laura Hill is an author and producer known for helping children find their voice and talents through creative arts and technology. To find out how you can bring her writing programs to your school email Laura Hill or tweet @candylandcaper. 

Art as Inspiration #whatisschool

Last night at #whatisschool we shared ways to bring your creativity to the classroom.  My whole life has revolved around creative expression and its application to art, movies, television, publishing and most recently education.  As my own daughters move through the scholastic system during this amazing time of upheaval and technological revolution I continually find them, and myself, straddling a line between old and new ways of teaching, learning and expression.  What I am finding is both are needed and necessary to inspire, create and to get great ideas into the world.  Thank you ALL for your inspiration last night #whatisschool, especially my co-host @shift paradigm who also is exploring his own truth through creative expression.  I encourage you all to take a moment to pause today, close your eyes and consider what inspires you.  That one moment of quiet may give you insight and inspiration that will spread like wildfire to those you influence today.  Please support the arts and the dreamers who let their secret thoughts out of their heads for all the world to love, hate, cheer and reject.  It tales strength and it helps us grow as individuals and transformers in our communities.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why I Write With Children

by Laura Hill

“Everyone says the sky is blue but I know its purple and orange and pink.  I’ve met dogs that can talk and seen diamonds wash ashore because I see what’s there, not what I’ve been told too.” –Laura Hill

When my daughters first asked me to help them write a book I thought, ghads! how do I do that.  I was working under deadline to finish an article for a magazine and I didn’t want to stop.  But Ava and Kayla kept asking me and when children are persistent you know that it’s important.  We brainstormed for three months to write King Arthur and the Werewolves of Camelot, which is the second book in the series but the first one we wrote.  Ava, who was five made up the character of Jilly, a fairytale expert who could solve any magical mystery.  Kayla was 8 and much more mature, she wrote about Penelope a real world minded girl who solved her problems like puzzles with science and logic.

Now, five books later, Ava and Kayla have become experts at story writing and illustration, researching and fleshing out their own story lines that we all collaborate on.  I am left with the task of pulling it all together. It’s been a lot of work but has come with many perks. Ava and Kayla have gotten to meet some of their favorite authors, they have been on a TV talk show, attended big book conventions in NYC and learned the ropes of publishing as well as web design and promotion.

But I think the best thing that’s happened to us is that together we pull this off.  We win together, we lose together and we bring our knowledge and inspiration to children in schools all across America.  We know that if we can follow our dreams and do this, other children can too!  And we are happy our books make other people smile.

I speak in a lot of schools during the year and often times my daughters join me.  When we first arrive at a school we are excited and nervous. So are the students, neither of us knows what to expect.  But we break the ice using our imagination, and sometimes a microphone, to make fireworks explode and birds fly across the room. Then we begin to talk about how we write our books. 

The enthusiasm is contagious but sometimes, in the older grades, the cynicism is palpable too.  But as the conversation develops with humor and self-effacing confessions the atmosphere begins to change.  Slowly the children start to see that we aren’t talking at them about what we have done and we aren’t telling them what they should do.  We are giving them a formula to get their great ideas out into the world, just like we did. 

You can almost hear a click as their eyes light up when they make this connection.  To see my daughters present an author visit is too see themselves reflected on stage.  And we tell them, if we can do this, you can too.

I’ve talked to thousands of children across the United States.  The number one thing they want is for you to believe in them.  We give them confidence that their dreams are possible, and courage to make them come true.  And we do one other thing, we believe that their ideas are great.  This is a hard thing to do.

If I had not really listened to my daughter’s ideas conceding the lead when their concepts were better, we would not have this book series.  If they had not trusted me guiding them through revisions, pitches and press they wouldn’t be the kids they are today.  It takes a lot of vision, guts and trust to work together.

And that’s the thought I would leave you with.  When teachers and parents ask me how I write with kids I would say set up an environment of trust and mutual respect then the stories just flow.  Sure I use lots of techniques to coax higher thinking but the basis is you.  You are the only one who can teach them to take a chance on their own great ideas, and the one who can help them get those ideas into the world.

Laura Hill is an author and producer known for helping children find their voice and talents through creative arts and technology. To find out how you can bring her writing programs to your school email Laura Hill or tweet @candylandcaper. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Why Shared Experience Is Crucial To Creative Writing With Students

by Laura Hill

Recently, I've had the opportunity to be involved in chats regarding the evolution of modern education. The focus of many of these conversations are the changes happening in schools through the introduction of technology, and it's creating a lot of excitement. One idea that keeps resurfacing is the shift in student experience from knowledge acquisition to creative expression of thoughts and ideas.  This got me thinking.

As an author,  illustrator and speaker I am creating for public audiences all the time.  The process never begins with methodology though it often ends there.  It starts with an idea that is followed by an experience. 

In my new book, The Boy Who Cried Sea Monster, I needed to find out what it would feel like to be lost on a deserted beach.  And since I write the series with my daughters Ava and Kayla, who are 8 and 11, we headed out to a remote location called Pirate's Cove with no food or water to find out.

 During our two hour walk we explored the shore noting how the light played on the waves and colored the sand in shallow waters.  We worried about how the tide washed away our path becoming so high we couldn't go back the way we had come. We took pictures of the contours of the cliffs and ran our fingers over the smooth sides of driftwood that had been bleached white in the sun.  

We shivered in icy waters, sand grating between our toes and spread our arms to the wind that whipped over sand dunes rising five stories high to meet the sky.  The smell of salt and brine hung thickly around us and we breathed it in deeply through parched lips, wishing for the relief of a sip of fresh water.  By the time we were done we felt ready to write from the perspective of two children lost in a strange land at the edge of the sea.

Back at the studio we continued our exploration sharing experiences and perspective while sitting at a huge table covered with butcher block paper. This is our "think tank" where we can write, doodle and record all our ideas.  We were surprised to find that each of us had a very different take on what had happened on our walk.  For us that's a good thing as it brings our heroes, Penelope the science girl and Jilly the magic lover, to life in unique ways.

So what's the point?

In my work I do a lot of creative writing with students.  What I often find is they are frozen by the rules of writing, spending more time trying to fit their ideas into a model than letting them flow.  This makes writing hard.

I use many methodologies to loosen students up, creating equalizing shared experiences, that I feel produce richer writing results than culling from memories, which can be very two dimensional like a photograph.  The detail is there but it is not rich.

Achieving a richer experience doesn't have to be a hard thing.  One visiting workshop I like to do in schools involves staging a sour lemon eating contest. If you've never tried to suck on a lemon wedge longer than your friend, let me tell you it's a very powerful experience.  When students write about this experience they all have different points of view.  Some like it, some hate it, but more importantly they begin to describe the experience from their unique perspective.  This is where the creation magic happens!

What I end up with is twenty different students and twenty experiences all with common threads yet completely unique. Students find it is easy to write because there is so much to talk about;  the smell of the lemons, the taste, the texture.  How the brightly colored, sweet smelling fruits were so pleasant until they were popped into the mouth. The student's emotions are fresh; feelings of fear and the exaggeration of the experience of sucking on a  lemon, the feeling of determination to stay the course until the end. 

I help students express their experience using one of several methods presented electronically or in more traditional forms as each adds value and develops different skill sets. The feedback is amazing and students are surprised at how their peers viewed the same experience so differently.

This type of creation from shared experience echoes the mindset of a technologically integrated society working together to create solutions.

When I began writing a very smart agent named Donald Maass told me that you can't convey your thoughts without knowing the details of that which you write about. I learned the same thing as an art student at Parson's School Of Design where the first lesson was to draw what you see, not what you think you see. 

A healthy shift in mindset is a good thing. Technology lets us choose to use our minds to create and to share ideas in exciting new ways.  And though I use technology often in my work I also use pencils, paper and paint just as frequently.  In the end, however we express it, what we can't replace is the experience of "doing" that makes our writing rich and expressive, a point I believe we should think deeply and often about when discussing creative writing with students.  

It's easier to write about a field of flowers covered in dew when you've plunged your hand into a bucket of fresh cut blooms. It's easier and more believable to write a villain when you've stood in his shoes, acting out what he would say and do.  So why would we hand students a blank sheet and ask them to create without giving them the opportunity to explore?  

It's something to think about.

Laura Hill is an author and producer known for helping children find their voice and talents through creative arts and technology. To find out how you can bring her writing programs to your school email Laura Hill or tweet @candylandcaper.