Tuesday, May 9, 2017

BreakoutEDU Artifact Resources

BreakoutEDU is new to my campus, but it is taking off fast!    Digital breakouts seem to be easier to do as we are not limited to group sizes based on the number of physical boxes and locks we have.

We started off our breakout exploration digging through the sandbox of lessons that people have submitted from around the country.   We have found some good ones, but run into problems from time to time as our district does not allow bit.ly links to go through.  This means that we have had to rebuild a few of these breakouts so that all the links would work for our students.   The BreakoutEDU Website has some great tutorials on how to use google to create the websites, the forms, and other cool tricks to create the website.  I hgihly recommend starting there!

After using these breakouts, the teachers are now branching off and starting to build our own breakouts from scratch.   We have also wanted to create some that are part digital and part physical.  So the clues could exist in the room, but the locks and some of the clues are online on the website.

I had been building up my pinterest board of resources and ideas for breakouts.  I  have gone through those pins to compile a list of resources to help teachers (and myself) create artifacts.

Create Artifacts
  • Ransomizer: - create a ransom note - I used this one to introduce the breakout to my STEM girls group. This was a great hook to get them interested.

Some of these artifacts we are leaving digital and using as images on the website, or added to Google Draw and hidden links embedded on them. Other times we are printing them and placing them in room somewhere to be found as a clue.     I am continuing to build our list of resources.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Design Process in Action: Natural Disasters and Littlebits

A few weeks back I was able to work with the 6th grade social studies classes using the design cycle and littelbits.  They were studying Southeast Asia and some of the environmental processes that affect the region, such as monsoons, erosion, and tectonic plate movement.   It went so well and the 4C's were on full display throughout the lesson. 

I wanted to share this idea with others in hopes someone will take this lesson and make it even better!

Each class was divided into 4 groups and each group was assigned a disaster to learn more about and invent something to help the people affected.  We started with the following slides presentation and reviewed what natural disaster were (something they had just studied in science classes) and a brief view of what littlebits were.  

Originally we had a QR code on each table that the group would scan to learn more about their assigned disaster, but connectivity issues proved to be too much so we made a montage clip of the disasters and watched them as a class.

I would emphasize that the bits are fragile and need to not be knocked on the floor. (Things that I see happen when folks move too fast.) On each table there was a list of the group roles and each group will also need a copy of the graphic organizer.  We found the roles to be helpful so that everyone had a job to do. 

Once the graphic organizer was filled in and the group had a plan, the building began.  (Some groups took a bit of coaching to get to that point, but they all made it!)

Each group got one STEM kit of Littlebits and access to paper, tape, markers, and legos.   They were to build a prototype and pitch it on camera.   

Ways to improve or extend this activity:
  • Shark Tank spin - we thought of this later, we could have had them pitch their ideas to a group of "sharks" to see if they could get an investment in their idea.  They would use the persuasive techniques they had learned in ELA classes.
  • Math - another cross-curricular idea would be to give them a budget and charge for each littlebits piece they used along with paper, tape, legos, etc.   They would need to design something that came under budget.

Overall it was a great lesson and all kids were engaged with the process.   

Monday, April 17, 2017

3D Printing Artwork

Back in January I ran across the article  Seven 3D Printing Lessons for Teachers.  I was looking additional ideas for us to use the 3D printer on campus in the academic classroom.   I decided to try out the Roman Coin idea.

First  - start with an image with thick lines.   Skinny lines can get lost in the process.  The image can be drawn, or created with a graphic program, like Google Draw.  

Next the image needs to be saved as a jpeg.  For the drawn images we used the scanner.  for the computer generated ones we downloaded the image as a jpeg file.

Convert the image to an svg file.   We used picsvg.com/ to do this.    It worked well, but some images got the message that they were too large.  For those we took them into pain and resized the image before trying to load them into the website again.

On picsvg.com/  try to get the image as clean and crisp as possible by adjusting the filters.  We found that usually choosing "ready 1" worked the best, but not always.  Once the image was nice a dark, we then downloaded the image as an svg file.

The last step was to take the svg file into Tinkercad.  We have student sign in with their Google account, which is a bit hidden in this program.   Choose to Sign In and not Sign Up.  Click on More Providers and then Google is an option.   

In Tinkercad the students need to import their svg file and then adjust the image.
  • Click on "create a new design"
  • Import your svg file (drag from downloads bar is the easiest way) and choose import
  • Resize your image and make it taller if you want the design to stand out from the base. 
  • Drag in a cube and make it 10 mm tall and the adjust the size by clicking and dragging it from the corner to fit the design.
  • Export your file - be sure to move it to a location where it can be found and printed.  This can be in Google Classroom or in a shared folder somewhere.
  • We went with 15mm for the design and 10 mm for the base.
  • It takes about an hour+ to print each design if one side is 7cm long.   So keep the base as close to the design as possible.
  • You can engrave the image by lifting it off the platform and using the hole tool in tinkercad.
  • There are many great Tinkercad tutorials out there to get familiar with the tools.  
  • It takes a LONG time to get all the student work printed.  Allow for that before booking another project on the printer.  
Lesson Ideas:
  • 8th Grade Language Arts have students design an image for "hope" as part of their Mythology project, this year one of the teachers then had students turn their image into 3D printed art.   
  • The art teachers have both run with this idea and all art students have turned a piece of artwork into either an engraving or an embossment.
  • For Texas History we have thought about having students create their own cattle brand.

I would love to hear what other ideas people have for using 3D printing in the classroom.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

6 Simple Ideas for Online Collaboration

 What if I told you that online collaboration can be simple and could be done in a few minutes of a class period?  Really it can be done!

Time is always a factor in the classroom. Online collaboration is often shown off at it's biggest and boldest.   Examples on the internet tell of students working with classrooms across the globe, conferencing with experts and publishing their work online for all to see.  The projects sound awesome and the learning is authentic, but for teachers venturing into this area, it also sounds big and time consuming.

Another concern I hear when working with teachers is that online collaboration is group work where a group of students work on a presentation for the classroom.  This type of assignment can result in one student doing all the work and parents calling to  complain about the assignment being unfair.

In an effort to make online collaboration attainable for the novice teacher, I have compiled a list of ideas to incorporate this skill in the classroom.

Ideas for students to collaborate with other students:

  • Allow students to peer review work using the comments feature the in Google Docs.   Students can share their document with comment access only.  Have students read and leave comments based on criteria of the assignment.  
  • Host an online discussion in Google Classroom.   Provide a discussion prompt in Google Classroom and after students have answered for themselves, have them comment on 3 other student comments.  Teach good comment format along the way for digital citizenship.  
  • Have students share their learning in a Google Slideshow.  Post a blank presentation in Google Classroom and give students edit rights in the options list.  Students open the google slide and add a new slide to add their thinking or reflection based on the prompt given. - Idea from Alice Keeler's blog

Ideas for students to collaborate with the teacher:

  • The teacher can take a part in the online conversations.   Take a few minutes to comment on a Google Classroom prompt you gave to the classroom, or use the private message feature in Classroom to send notes to the students about assignments.
  • Choose 3 Problems/Questions for feedback.  In this post from Alice Keeler she describes the process for students to choose 3 questions from the assignment they want feedback on and to have them add them to a google presentation using the web cam and turning it in through Google Classroom.
  • Use Google Classroom to comment on Student Work.    In google classroom, provide a template doc to begin with so teachers can comment and view throughout the process instead of when it is turned in. This is one of my favorite tricks that I have been showing teachers for the last year or so.  (See directions below)

Creating a template and adding it in Google Classroom:

1.  In Google Drive create a new document, sheet or presentation you want the students to work on.

2.  Name the document and close it out.  

3. In Google Classroom add an assignment:

4.  Give the assignment a name and attach the Google Drive doc you just created.

5. Navigate to the file:

6. Choose to Make a Copy for each student.

Once students log in and click on the document a copy will be made with their name at the end of the file name.  All student documents can be found in your google drive so you can access these files any time and leave comments and feedback throughout the assignment and not just at the end.

These are just a few ideas to get started with online collaboration in the classroom.  What are your ideas?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Definitions, Connections and Reflections - #IMMOOC Week 6

As the IMMOOC course draws to a close I am grateful for being a part of it.   Through the last few weeks I have taken time to think through my own mindset about education.  

I like that I now have a good working definition of what innovation is and is not.  It is a word that is thrown around a lot in school without a good grasp on what they are really saying.  I struggle with helping teachers move forward to new practices and now I have a clearer picture of what I am looking for in a lesson and a web tool.  

Connections is another take away for me from this course. It is important to connect with the people in the building, teachers and students.    I have also been challenged to push past all the busy work and get into the classrooms and get with teachers.    I have ideas on how to make this happen and have implemented a few this year and am looking forward to starting off the year next school year with these practices in place.  Connections outside the building are also important.  I have enjoyed reading other people's blogs and following new people on twitter.  These connections help push my thinking and encourage me to try new things.

The practice of reflection has also been beneficial.  I rarely take time to reflect in writing on what I am doing and thinking.   Taking the time has helped me to make connections between different theories, ideas and practices.  It has also helped me look at what I am doing and see if it meets the goals I have for my position on campus.   Taking time to reflect on a lesson that I took a lot of time to create also shares that lesson with other people who are interested.  I have learned so much from others who have shared that I need to add to that conversation.

I have enjoyed the challenges of this course and I plan to continue the practices I have learned and hope to look back in a year and see the growth that has occurred by putting these into place.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How do we know? - IMMOOC Week 5

How might we measure the impact of innovative practices in education?  How do you know you are headed in the right direction?  

Image result for checklistI struggle with this question  all the time.  As the Instructional Technology Specialist I work with teachers to use technology in innovative ways.  I have to address the question of  "Why should I give up the "tried and true" lessons and try something new and different?" Fortunately I work with quite a few teachers that see that their students need to be engaged in a different way and are willing to try new ideas, but the curriculum has to always be the focus.    

Here are some things I look for in each lesson to measure the impact of the innovation:

Student Engagement as seen in:
  • Student conversation:   I listen to what students are talking about during the lesson.  Many times the conversation will tell you whether the lesson is having a positive impact on comprehension or not.   I love hearing students discuss math as they are trying to race through a minecraft world that has math problems as obstacles.  The students will talk out the problem and find solutions.   They are motivated to keep trying to get the right answer and not just an answer to move on.  If the conversations stray to other topics, I know the students are not engaged and therefore are not learning.
  • Student Feedback:   I make sure to tell the students goodbye at the end of the class and I listen to what they are saying to each other as they leave.  Often  I have students tell me how much they enjoyed the lesson and how it tied into a passion they have at home. I also hear students continue to talk about the lesson and content as they leave the room. Too many complaints or grumbles means it did not hit the mark with the students and needs to be rethought.   
  • Discipline:  I often hear from teachers that certain classes are difficult and to be ready.  If the lesson can engage that group, then I know we are hitting the content in a way that they don't normally get.  It captures their attention and discipline issues go down.   If I am having continuing problems with student behavior, I know that the lesson is not working.  

Evidence of the 4C's:  Are students thinking critically?  Are they communicating?  Are they collaborating?  Are they being creative?   If I see these happening I know that we are on the right track for students overall.

Test Scores:  I hate to put this in here, but it is a reality.  I do ask teachers to let me know how the students do on the topic we are learning once the test rolls around.    I have been told that students have scored higher than the students who did not take part in the innovative lesson.   

Recently I watched Todd Rose's TedTalk, The Myth of Average, he talks about designing for the edges - designing for all students no matter their level.   I have been keeping this in mind as I design learning experiences for students. 

Reflection is Important - IMMOOC Week 4 #2

G. Couros - Innovator's Mindset
Over the years I have discovered twitter, Pinterest, G+ and other social networks to connect with people that also want to grow professionally and challenge what they know and do.  Looking through this list I am pleasantly surprised that I am practicing most of it.  I have voice and choice  in what I learn and how I learn it.   I am provided with opportunities for innovation and am able to find areas in the curriculum that would benefit from innovation and technology.  Today I am teaching 6th grade students how to use design thinking to solve problems caused by natural disasters in Southeast Asia using Littlebits.

What I am NOT doing is purposefully reflecting on what I am doing and learning. I am always assessing and making changes to improve the lesson throughout the day (and days as I often tech the lesson 10-20 times to get all the students in a grade level).     I do not take time to publicly reflect and share what is happening so that I am contributing to the global conversation.  I am hoping that this blog will become my place for reflection and sharing.  I have learned so much from others that maybe it is time that I venture out and share what I have learned with those outside my campus and district.

Learning Comes First! - IMMOOC Week 4

My job is to help teachers integrate technology into their lessons so it might come as odd when I say students should not be on computers every day for every lesson.  When I sit down to help teachers design a lesson I always start with,    Although I think it is important to include technology, it is more important to thoughtfully include it in ways that make sense.   Once we know what the outcomes should be we can see if technology is  good fit and then what tools work the best.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Risk Takers Wanted! - IMMOOC Week 3 - Post 3

What if we promoted risk-taking to our staff and students and modeled it openly as administrators? 

One of my favorite administrators used to tell the staff, "Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward."  That inspired me to try new things and see what happened.  Now as a instructional technology specialist I am continually looking for teachers that will take a risk with me.  

It is sometimes hard to find those risk takers when the focus is on test scores, or the pressure exists to not stray from the prescribed lesson plan and time frame.  I try to publicly celebrate those that are willing to take the risks with me, brag on what they were willing to try in order to encourage others to take a risk as well. I am encouraged to keep taking those risks that put students in the forefront and make learning more relevant.

Trust is Earned - IMMOOC Week 3 - Post 2

I have worked at my campus since 2001 in my position as Instructional Technology Specialist.  Over the years I have worked on gaining trust of those that I work with day in and day out. Some days I feel more successful about this than others.  What I have learned is that trust is earned over time. Here is my top three ways I have earned trust from the teachers I work with:
  • Do what you say you are going to do.  If I tell a teacher I am going to find a good resource for them, I need to do it.  
  • Be on the front lines with those you are working with.  I co-teach classes with teachers on a regular basis and I teach lessons in clubs and other activities to show teachers that I too am a teacher and I understand the struggles and realities that come with the job.   I am not there to judge, criticize or shame. I am there to help and walk alongside them.
  • Be kind.   I am human and get frustrated at times with situations and people.  Those I work with need to feel like I am not going to take my frustrations out on them or speak badly about them but will work with them to understand the situation and help reach a reasonable outcome.   

Fresh Coat of Paint? - IMMOOC Week 3 - Post 1

Photo Credit William Felker @ Unsplash
This past week was Spring Break and I took some time to fix up my son's room to make it function better for him.  We took everything out and put a fresh coat of paint on the walls.   If I stopped there we would not had made real improvements to the room for him.

This made me wonder how often do we slap fresh paint on what we do without considering how well the strategy functions?  We change the name, add technology, or some other superficial change and march it out as the latest and greatest.

What I have liked about Innovator's Mindset is that it challenges us to take a look at what we are doing and make intentional choices.  Looking forward to making more of those choices!

Monday, March 6, 2017

#IMMOOC Week 2

Innovation: Newer and Better 

A few years back my admin challenged me with coming up with ways for technology to help the ESL  and the at-risk students.   Th main concern was vocabulary development in these groups of kids. As I started researching and thinking this through it occurred to me that these students may not have the same kind of experiences as some of the other students.  My own children have traveled to 25 states and have been exposed to various types of land forms, climates, historical venues, etc.  When their teachers talk about The Battle of Gettysburg, or mountains and rock formations, they have prior knowledge to pull from.    After talking with the librarian we decided that we needed to create more experiences for all students to have them better understand what was being taught,  We were not given a budget for this and needed to work within the school day with the technology and programs we already had access to (this is our box).    What came out of this was a newer and better way to introduce students to units of study. We started taking them on virtual field trips.  Keeping the experience to just one class period we have set up trips where we took students to Pakistan and to a carpet factory so that they were better able to relate to the story of Iqbal.   We have taken them to fight in the battle of Gettysburg so that they understand the importance of the battle and of the Gettysburg Address.  We have set up museums so students were introduced to the 60s for The Outsiders novel or explored the Holocaust to prepare to read The Diary of Anne Frank.  Food and music is involved whenever appropriate to appeal to all 5 senses.  These lessons and experiences are probably one of the things I have created for my campus with the students in mind that I am most proud of.   We took the information they needed to learn and introduced it to them in an innovative way - newer and better.

Critical Questions for Educators

We have to know who our students are and how to connect with them.   The critical questions outlined in Chapter 2 are a good reference in considering who we are teaching to and how to make sure they are part of the equation.  Here are a few more questions that I might add:

  •  "What has the student been asked to do in other classes that day."  This is based on a conversation I had with a teacher who was shadowing a student for the day.  She remarked how the student was asked to do the same thing in multiple classes.  We talked about how we need to shake things up for them so that they are not in "school" mode and are more engaged in the day.   
  • "How have I designed for the edges?"  I just watched "The Myth of Average" TedxTalk by Todd Rose. (Please watch this is you have not.)    He talked about their is no such thing as an average student and we should be designing lessons for students that addressed their varying needs and interests.   I was curious what that looked like in a classroom and found another website that said it was about creating authentic learning experiences, differentiation in instruction and giving students a choice in product.  
Although the questions in the book hint towards these, I would need to ask myself these 2 questions directly. I think these questions are important to me since I have been passionate about designing different learning experiences since the 90s when I attended professional development about Multiple Intelligence and Differentiation and when I implemented these ideas I saw the engagement levels of my students increase.   

Characteristics of the Innovator's Mindset

Networking has been crucial to my development as an Instructional Technology Specialist.  Recently the 8th grade math teachers wanted me to present ideas for integrating technology into their classes.  This is an area that I have struggled with for a while since my background is in history.  I turned to social media for ideas.   I posted on twitter and on a Google+ community that I belonged to and asked for ideas.  Within a day I had enough ideas and several concrete examples that in the end I was very proud of the final product and the math teachers were happy with their training.  If I had been isolated I would have drug out the same old ideas and tried to sell them again.  Instead I was able to deliver some good ideas that have continued the conversation between us about technology integration.  In fact I agreed today to help develop a minecraft review session for them.    We are also in talks about trying out a BreakoutEdu game soon.    Opportunities that would not have existed without my network of amazing folks.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

#IMMOOC Week 1 - Being More Dog

After writing my answers to these questions I could see some clarity taking shape as to my educational philosophy.   I appreciated the opportunity to be forced to reflect and bring the different pieces that resonated with me together.   I am looking forward to continuing this process throughout the IMMOOC course.

The purpose of education is to provide access and opportunities to all students.  I recently heard Nadia Lopez (@The LopezEffect) tell a large group of educators that and it made sense to me.  I was impressed at her drive to empower students to learn and believe in themselves, not matter what their circumstances.   If we only offer opportunities to sit in rows and answer multiple choice questions, we are limiting the students' access to greater opportunities in the future.  Ones that require critical thinkers and problem-finders to get the job done.  I think as educators we must seek innovation to change what is available to our students so they are equipped in the best possible way for whatever their future holds.

Change can be scary and changing an entire organization can be daunting.  What I have come to realize is that I need to make small changes that are within my realm and not worry about the big things I cannot control.  I sometimes become paralyzed when the task seems too big or the system seems set against me.  By focusing in on what changes I can make that keep my focus on  what is truly best for students.  I am an instructional technology specialist and I am based on a campus to work with staff on integrating technology into their lessons.  I have also chosen (based on later chapters in this book and ideas gained from Kids Deserve It) to focus on the strengths of the staff I work with.  They have such great skills and ideas to offer and I should be seeking those out in a more intentional manner.  I believe that by changing my focus, I will have a greater impact.

If I would start a school from scratch I would want

  • To be able to put the right people in the right places and the flexibility to move those folks around as needed.   
  • I would want to work with a staff of those willing to say "Why not!"   I had a principal years ago that encouraged innovation and trying something new.   He told us that even if we fell on our face, we were making progress.  
  • I would want people to have time to truly implement something with fidelity before racing off on the next best trend or buzzword.   I think we abandon ideas and thoughts too quickly and then we lose the trust of those we work with.
  • I would want to develop a common set of skills and vocabulary to go with those skills so no matter what class students were in they would hear the same strategies.  I worked in a building where that happened and we were then able to focus on content and deeper understanding, instead of the activity itself.
  • A Genius Hour concept or 20% time would be built into the school for students and staff.  I want everyone to have an opportunity to grow in areas that interest them and to be able to see how those areas tie into school.
As I read through the Introduction, many things hit home and made me say shake my head in agreement.  One thing that challenged me was the commercial mentioned on page 7 "Be More Dog." We all have choices in how we want to spend our time and energy each day.    I would want the staff I work with to look at how I approach my job and my support of them and say I am more dog than cat.   I want to spend my days providing access and opportunities to the staff and students at my school so that great things can happen. 

I am looking forward to week two of the IMMOOC!

Friday, February 24, 2017


I heard about booksnaps on twitter, introduced by Tara Martin and wanted to try them out.  This is a strategy where you take a photo of the portion of the text that you want to annotate and then add graphics and write some text to explain that piece of the text.   This could be done as a way to analyze primary documents in history class as well.  Vocabsnaps is another take on it this strategy.

The problem was i did not want to encourage the use of snap SnapChat with my middle schoolers and not everyone is using SeeSaw so I needed a more universal approach.  Adobe Spark seemed promising, but the user policy states you need to be 13 to create an account.    I read suggestions that Google Draw could be a possibility and we are a GAFE district so that seemed to be a good solution.  I could not find examples or directions with using Google Draw, so I decided to make some.

I am introducing this to teachers next week and am hopeful that I will be seeing Booksnaps  and vocabsnaps on campus soon.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A place to reflect and share

My word of the year is "intentional," and adjective that means to do something on purpose or done on deliberately.   I am trying to do my job with intention, not to just let things happen, but to plan and have a purpose for what I am doing and how I am doing it.   As part of this plan I have implemented the use of a bullet journal to keep me focused on what needs to happen and what I would like to happen each day.  This is working well and I may share my system in a future post.  Another thing I am doing is finishing the educational books I started reading earlier this school year.   Kid's Deserve It and Innovator's Mindset are the two that I was half way through and had stalled out due to lack of time.  I have since finished the first book and two-thirds of the way though the other. Both of these books have helped me refocus on what is most important about my job, the students!   
Sunset at Newport, RI - photo Credit Dale Young

Being an Instructional Technology Specialist, my students include both the kids in the school and the teachers that I work with.  The teachers are the ones that I have been called upon to teach and facilitate growth in the area of technology integration. I have longed struggled with how do I do a good job working with the students and the teachers and have come to the conclusion multiple times, I cannot do both well.     One or the other usually suffers.  Lately I feel like the teachers are suffering the most and I need to refocus my attention on them.  I have a plan in place to address teachers these last 4 months of the school year and I am looking forward to working through that plan and seeing the results.

Another thing those books have made me think about is the power of reflection, something I do not take enough time to do.  I have started this blog with the intention (see - there is my word again) of reflecting on systems I put in place at school, technology I share, and my thoughts as I work through how to serve the needs of the students and the teachers on my campus.  I also hope to connect with a few folks along the way to challenge my thinking and keep me growing.