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Kelli Etheredge: Introducing My Column


by Kelli Etheredge
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

“Whatwha whawha whawha”

Yes, ma’am. I am paying attention.

“Whatwha whatwha whawha whatwha whawha”

You would like me to tell you the metaphor you just said? Okay. “My love is a rose.”

“Whatwha whawha whawha whawha whawha…”

As you read the above dialogue, the Charlie Brown cartoon may have popped in your mind. If not, in Charlie Brown, when Charlie and his friends speak to adults, the adults’ responses are always nonsensical to the audience. (What this video if you have never seen the cartoon.) Charlie and his friends, however, understand perfectly, and we, the audience, get the gist of what the adults say by the way the children react.

As a young child watching the cartoon, I always wondered why Charles Schulz, the cartoon’s creator, did this. In my teens, I thought Mr. Schulz chose this method to keep the focus on the children rather than the adults. When I began teaching, I was convinced Mr. Schulz was commenting on the insignificance of adults in the eyes of pre-teens and teens.

In my first year of teaching, I felt like I had many “Charlie Brown” moments – I was talking, but the students were only hearing, “Whatwha whatwha whawha.” (To be honest, even after 15 years, I still have this feeling every now and again). I stood at the front of the room – explaining a concept, discussing a novel, sharing a story – eyes fixed on me, and a moment later a raised hand asked a question indicating all they heard for the last 5 minutes was “Whatwha whatwha whawha.”

Not my goal in teaching. By a long stretch.

Never one to just accept the unacceptable, I set out to change my teaching style.   Through research, observations, workshops, and trial and error, my style began to evolve and, thankfully, the “Charlie Brown” moments became fewer and farther between. I had lots of help along the way – moving to a 1:1 learning environment, backward design training, peer coaching training, twitter, Microsoft Innovative Educator Forums, Kevin Washburn’s book Architecture of Learning, OneNote (to name a few). Essentially, I have evolved as a teacher because I am continuously asking myself: “How do I make this unit’s content significant in the eyes of my students?”

From mock trials, parodies, “I Believe” essays, character Facebook and Twitter posts, to media campaigns, my unit goals focus on making learning relevant.

Hi everyone. I am Kelli Etheredge, and I am excited to join the ranks of the wonderful columnists on the What’s Fresh platform. I am the Teaching and Learning Resources Director at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, Alabama. In my role, I support PK-12 teachers in effective integration of technology and innovative lesson design. In my fifteen years of teaching, I have taught 6th grade Spanish, 8th grade Law & Society, 9th grade English, History, and Composition, 10th grade English, Spanish 1, and 11th and 12th grade Composition. While that sounds like a lot, my main focus was 9th and 10th grade English (teaching each for 7 years). For 14 years, I have taught in a 1:1 environment (in which every student in the room has either a laptop or a tablet device.) This is the first year to be without my own classroom. Instead, I now work with teachers in lesson design and team teach with faculty on various subjects and at various grade levels. I love it!

Because I believe innovation in teaching and learning is the key ingredient in effective instruction, my column focus will be just that. I will share research as well as practices from the classrooms I work in every day. Topics will include:

  • 21st Century Learning Design
  • 1:1 tips and tricks
  • Lync in the classroom
  • OneNote and Office 365 for collaboration
  • OneNote as a method for creating your own textbooks
  • Open source resources for the classroom
  • Real world projects in the classroom
  • Musings about teaching and learning
  • Risk taking adventures

I hope you join me and share your experiences of innovation in your classroom.

To begin, I’ll ask – What methods do you implement to make your content area relevant for your students?

All the best,



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