Browsing Tag Presentation

Things That Suck: an Epic #EdCamp Session

History of Suck

Things That Suck is a staple session at most EdCamps (an EdCamp is a participant-driven professional development gathering). I was introduced to Things That Suck at EdCampOC by Dan Callahan. I was in a different session, but read so many tweets about Things That Suck, that I ran over to that room. It turns out, Things That Suck is a debate, a discussion, a conversation. Dan announced a controversial educational topic, and people moved to one side of the room if that topic sucks or to the other side of the room if that topic rocks  (see topics below).

Dan led discussions about why people felt strongly one way or the other. Initially, I was surprised by how polarizing most of the topics are. More than once, I thought I would be in the minority, but wasn’t. Most teachers at EdCampOC believed that homework sucks–it’s a waste of time for teachers, parents, and students.

Teachers love this session because it gives them a voice. Most conferences follow the Sage on the Stage model–they talk, you listen. This creates an environment where discussion is the session.

Dan has traveled to dozens of EdCamps across the U.S. leading Things That Suck sessions. Like any good franchise, Things That Suck has taken on a life of its own (Dan bequeathed Things That Suck to me at EdCampSFBay). If you’re at an unconference like EdCamp and someone isn’t leading Things That Suck, run the session yourself!

How to Run a Session

Ideally, two people lead Things That Suck: an impartial moderator, and a person timing It’s important to have another person keeping track of time. The first time I led it, Dan was my timer/wingman and always gave me a one minute warning. Each topic should last 5-7 minutes. When time is up, cut off the conversation, and move on. Begin by announcing the topic, then walk to one side of room and hear their thoughts. Stay impartial, and always hear from both sides. Keep the tone respectful, and have fun.

Eventually, you will notice a gradation of beliefs. People will stay towards the middle if they’re undecided, and will move as arguments persuade them in one direction.

Play the Things That Suck session for immediately after lunch. It’s a great time to keep people moving and talking. Don’t run this session early in the morning.

Suggested Topics

A good topic is one that elicits different views. Here’s a list to get you started:

  1. Homework
  2. Network filters
  3. Student Teachers
  4. Computer Labs
  5. Scantrons
  6. Cell phones in the classroom
  7. Report cards
  8. Uniforms for Students
  9. Interactive whiteboards
  10. Merit pay
  11. State standards
  12. Tenure
  13. Textbooks
  14. Parent Conferences
  15. iPads in the classroom
  16. Schools organized by districts
  17. Back to School Night
  18. Open House
  19. Holiday Programs
  20. Facebook with students
  21. Testing, especially high stakes
  22. BYOD (bring your own device)
  23. Control


I created a Keynote version of Things That Suck for when I led the session on my own. Each topic has its own slide with a timer set to five minutes. Download the Keynote template here.

View the Google Presentation template. There aren’t timers on it, though.

Use the embedded Google Presentation:

Apply it to the Classroom

My wife has modified this to use with her high school senior government class. She calls it Awesome or Lame. She announces an historical topic and asks them to walk towards a side of the room (“That’s awesome!” or “That’s lame!”). Surprisingly, many students stayed in the middle at first. She took this as an opportunity to teach them more about the topic. Rather than lecturing to bored students, she explained the intricacies of the topic so students could make a more informed decision. They were eager, not bored, to learn more. If you apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to your lesson, this makes perfect sense. This lesson requires students to evaluate, and defend their position. This is a higher-ordered thinking activity, far more useful in assessing student understanding than a scantron test.

If you have led a Things That Suck session and used different topics that rocked, please add them to the comments below.

TeachMeet Kentucky: Tagul

TeachMeet Kentucky: Tagul

If you’ve seen word clouds like Wordle, you will love Tagul. It is designed to make gorgeous, interactive word clouds. Paste text or a ULR into Tagul, and it makes a dynamic word cloud. Embed the could on a website, and the words are clickable and searchable. Here is an example:

Get Adobe Flash player


You can customize the fonts, cloud shape, and colors. You can even customize the search source–a Google search is default when they click on a word, but you can have the search on your website when they click on a word. This is excellent for websites you’ve created that are full of resources. When a student click on a word in your Tagul, it searches your website and displays relevant posts and pages.

Here are my notes from my TeachMeet presentation in Kentucky on Tagul:


View more presentations from Bill.

Here’s the workflow for using Tagul:

1. Sign up

You need an account to create a Tagul. You are able to create up to 20 clouds (recently increased from ten!).

2. Paste information

You can paste text or a URL to generate the cloud. URLs are great for displaying hierarchical ideas because Tagul makes more frequent words bigger in the could. Pasted text could be useful if you are studying a book or article. Important words will pop out, and students will immediately see the big ideas from the text.

3. Customize

You can eliminate frequent or unimportant words (like: the, as, I, we, so, etc.). Customize fonts, shapes, and colors to match your website or the mood of the text.

4. Preview

Click Generate Cloud to see a preview. Every time you click this, a unique cloud is created. If you don’t like the look, either click Generate again or go back and modify the cloud.

5. Embed

Be sure to click save to keep your updates. Tagul gives you embed code that you can paste into your website or blog.



Integrate into the Classroom

  • analyze text
  • introduce a new book
  • home page of teacher website/blog