"We are living a public life on a global stage, the ones who can express themselves best, will be heard." -Laura Hill Timpanaro, Artist, Author, Educator

Thursday, November 29, 2018

#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.

Monday, November 26, 2018

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. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

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. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

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, October 2, 2018

Making Dreams Come True

Author Laura Hill
by Laura Hill

Last week I attended Book Expo America. This is the largest gathering of publishers, authors, agents and industry insiders who come to educate, do business and generally mix with book buyers, teachers, librarians, fans, bloggers and press. It’s a pricey endeavor but well worth the venture. This is because at Book Expo business is not just being done.  Dreams are being launched, heroes are being met and determinations about the future of our most powerful creation, sharing stories with words, are being decided.

For any fan old or young, an opportunity to meet your heroes, in this case literary heroes, is a dream come true.  I watched as a tween girl dressed in Olympus garb approached Rick Riordan, the author of the international bestselling Percy Jackson series. Her voice shook as she told him her name, then she started to cry.  John Rocco, who creates the amazing cover illustrations for Rick’s books was nearby. He put his arm around the girl’s shoulders and steered her in for a picture. 

It was a moment where a dream came true and I felt almost voyeuristic in my observation.

Selfies with author Rick Riordan and cover artist John Rocco
When my co-author daughters join me at Book Expo, they are not only meeting heroes, they are learning the ropes of a business they may very well play a part in.  It is amazing to watch as they hand their business cards to publishers and talk shop about our upcoming titles, speaking in schools and how we create our illustrations. My youngest, at 8 years old is the bolder one, introducing herself as an author, shaking hands and asking questions.  I watched her skip off on her own and come back with the card of Vell Sweeny, author, publishing veteran and co-owner of a new press.  After talking with my daughter a few minutes, I knew she had met someone who would be a good fit for our books.

Co-author daughters at Book Expo America
It’s important for children to have dreams and to have opportunities to get close to those who inspire, intrigue and shape their worlds.   It makes their hope real.  When I speak in front of a crowd of students I know what they are thinking. They are looking at my daughters and thinking, that girl is my age, if she can make her dreams come true so can I.  I give them a formula; an idea that is self empowering and let them know they can indeed make their dreams come true.  And this is the thought I want to leave you with today.

You, as teachers, parents and influencers, have the opportunity to fan these dreams and ignite inspiration or to squash them in a heap of shattered confidence.

With Dork Diaries Author Rachel Renee Russell, Kate DiCamillo, Jan Brett and Capstone
As we turn our focus in education from a model that developed skills for an industrial age to one that is creating skills for an undefined future we need to embrace curiosity, experimentation and discovery.  And we need to help children find their talents. If we show students that anything is possible, anyone is accessible and any dream obtainable if they are willing to go the distance, we will be raising a generation of great thinkers and innovators. And who knows, a student you teach today may be traveling through space to other worlds tomorrow.  You’ll never know if you don’t try. 

Inspire, dream, connect, do it today...what have you got to lose?

Laura Hill is an author and producer known for helping children find their talents and getting their ideas into the world.  To find out how you can bring her programs to your school email Laura Hill or tweet @candylandcaper.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

#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?

Monday, September 3, 2018

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.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Fearless Teaching: Failing Your Way To Success

by Laura Hill

Yesterday my daughter came home from school glum. She is a good student and very social so I was surprised by the long face.  When I questioned her she pulled out her math test. “I bombed my test,” she said, handing it to me.

Bombing a test is not a big thing. As you get older you realize you will fail in many things before you succeed.  Tony Hawk tried 12 times before he stuck a 900 at the X Games in San Francisco.  J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by dozens of publishers before being printed.  Michael Jordan was cut from his HS basketball team.  Thomas Edison claimed he never once made a discovery, instead working lines of logic until they reached their natural end, discarding the failures and trying again. 

He failed all the time, but he never gave up.

When my daughters and I write our Great Story World Mix-Up books it can take anywhere from a few days to six months to pen a manuscript.  Before that we spend weeks in group brainstorming sessions coming up with story arcs.  Many of the plot lines we develop are discarded, not because the ideas are bad, they just weren’t the best ones to move the story forward.

Our bad mistakes don’t end there.  I do a whole program on how we turn bad art into beautiful illustrations, reworking and rethinking each one until we feel a picture is just right.  Once we’ve got the story and the pictures together we still aren’t done because our editor hands us revisions that can be as simple as spelling errors or more extensive like suggestions on whole passages.  I have gone through manuscripts and scrapped entire chapters after putting them aside for a few months to gain perspective.

When I tell this to students they are really surprised.

I think students have a misconception that everything they do has to be successful. I’ve often wondered if this is due to the culture of instant gratification and overnight celebrity we live in, or if there is something more.  The focus on high stakes testing and measured learning has its place but maybe we are hampering a higher thought process that could lead students to even greater success.

If you aren’t willing to fail you will probably never succeed. 

I think that’s an important message to send to students.  I do a workshop where the project has no outcome, building a structure collaboratively only to tear it down or watch it fall apart.  Students are really surprised that I have them plan, problem solve and create to no end. The post project talk is about what worked, what failed and how we can co-op the best parts into an even greater creation.  The project is about the process, not the product.

I think if  students were less worried about failing they would be willing to take more risks, ask surprising questions and test theories that had never been tried before. This is the type of thinking that’s responsible for the amazing advances in technology and innovation we see today.  You have the opportunity to create a fearless culture in your classroom encouraging students to use new tools, technology and learning processes to explore and re-explore the world around them.  And that’s what will lead to higher thinking and change.

Today, educators are not just pillars of knowledge; they are leaders in teaching thought and building confidence so students can blow us away with their ideas.  After my daughter’s failure we talked and I realized she bombed the test because she didn’t ask for help, she was afraid not understanding would be perceived as failure.  I discussed this with her teacher and on the next test she was the only one to get 100% right.  Not because she was smarter, but because her teacher had build up her confidence and opened a path to dialogue that was unthreatening.

 You have the power, you have the tools, create a culture of fearless learning where failing to succeed is part of the project.  You’ll be surprised at the way your students respond and the brilliant ideas they come up with.
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. 

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)

Friday, August 31, 2018

#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


Read the books I write with my children.