Monday, December 14, 2015

"What if..."

I started off my evening reading the NMC 2015 Higher Education Report where trends, challenges and developments in educational technology are identified.  It was fascinating to read about where we are and how quickly the landscape is changing.  Things that we never would have imagined even 10 years ago are now commonplace - makerspaces and wearable technology being within the 2-3 year timeframe.

This led me to this really great article on innovation + culture = culture of innovation.  It was a piece that caused me to reflect on all the facets of not just building, but maintaining a culture of innovation. There was even a self-reflection tool where I went through considering all of these facets in my practice, context, and setting.  Leadership, capacity, policy, structure, process and more all play into this culture of innovation.

Then, I somehow ended up in this amazing space through some miracle of time travel...Stanford 2025.


Here, I explored several possible future models of education:
1)  Open Loop University - instead of 4 years of learning, a lifetime of learning
Here is another video on this concept...
2)  Paced Education  - instead of freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior that is based on age, the move to an adaptive model of calibrate (immersive experiences of a micro-course nature), elevate (focus and deeper experience), and activate (knowledge applied in real-world situations)

3)  Axis-flip so that skills are of primary importance.  Instead of a 'transcript,' emphasis is on a 'skill print.  Rather than focusing on what you taken, the focus is on what you can give.  It's not so much about what you know, but how you use it.

4)  Purpose Learning where having a social impact is given priority much sooner by students pursuing missions through projects

I love this part of future Stanford - the invitation to participate in rethinking and ensuring that learning remain at the center of educational institutions by reflecting, imagining, and perhaps most importantly, trying...and not being afraid to ask ourselves, "What if..."



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Limitless Creativity

Buster the dog, a disco room, and a talking, chopping fruit ninja?  What do these all have in common?  They were all made by middle school students using Hummingbird robotics.  It was amazing to witness the journey.  First, seeing them all learn the basics of programming, then seeing teams of students collaborate to sketch out their robot designs.  This was followed by the process and journey of selecting and using a variety of materials to create their team's unique robot.

Throughout the process, they kept an engineering-design journal with entries that focused on what they accomplished, challenges they faced and how they plan to overcome their challenges.  They also used their phones to document their robot-building captured in photos and videos.
Here is a reflection from a team member:

"If you have an imagination, a computer, and a HummingBird robotics set, you can make anything you want to  make. HummingBird Robotics is a series of wires, lights, vibrators, sensors and motors. Throughout all of our  series of making the disco room, we ran into a few problems. For instance, making the motor work with the record player was a challenge, because we needed to have a pencil lead in the disc so it will work. Also, we were going to make a whole series of notes on the Piano, and time it to every second to make the song work. Also, our LED lights were ripped, and my group tried to fix it. "

Collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, and debugging - all right here.

Buster the dog

Meet the Fruit Ninja
Disco Room robotics

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Visionary Girls

This was a tremendous week for girls and computer science.  It kicked off with one of my former students winning a Visionary Girl award for her work with robotics, creating an award-winning app and technology leadership.  Visionary Girls are recognized for innovation in the community, "create new ways of engaging with the world around them, or have a unique vision that will make a difference now and in the future."

It continued with the release of the preview of Codegirl, a documentary about teams of girls who participated in the global Technovation challenge.  I decided to hold screenings of excerpts of it in my middle school classroom during lunchtime.  It was great to be able to show them these stories of teens who are changing the world with their innovative apps.  After the viewing, I arranged a call via telepresence with a college student who had graduated a few years earlier from my district and asked her to share about her journey and how she decided to major in computer science.  It was an incredible conversation about how she got hooked by her experience with Hour of Code.  She had so much fun with those coding puzzles that she decided to study computer science as her major as a senior in high school.

Here is part of the mentoring conversation she had with girls in my classroom this week:



Big takeaways?  If you love coding, just do it!  And all you need to do to code is to have ideas, be creative, think out of the box and have the courage to try things.  And, most importantly - never give up!

Then, to finish off the whole week, we had our first Girls Who Code introductory session where our guest instructor talked about the field of computer science and the opportunities available in this field for careers.  So inspiring to be able to work with this initiative and connect with local industry to bring this content to the community. Code on!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Technovating Girls

This has been a tremendous week.  A preview of CODEGIRL was made available on Youtube Nov. 1-5 before its theatrical debut.  Here is the official trailer:





It is all about teams of girls from around the world who participated in the Technovation Challenge to create apps to solve a problem in their community.  What do they do?  They persevere as they solve problems by creating, building and becoming entrepreneurs.

It was so incredibly inspiring to see these teams of girls who were not only coding, but ideating, creating, iterating, and researching to make their dreams of a better future a reality.  From an app to swap items to one that mobilizes and coordinates volunteerism to one that locates sources of water, these girls have thought of ways to improve life and society with unique perspectives.  The ideals embodied in the Technovation Challenge is what I strive to bring into the classroom everyday.  Starting with ideating where they do a needs analysis by surveying, they are guided through the process of brainstorming solutions, doing competitive analysis, branding, and pitching their idea.  Entrepreneurship is blended seamlessly in with the actual coding of the app and mentorship components. I love how the entrepreneurship brings in the feasibility aspect of the app creation process in terms of meeting the needs of users in a measurable way.  So, putting together the definition of technology: the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry
with innovation: a new method, idea, product
Together, we have the powerful combination of technovation embodied in this challenge new apps are invented to solve very real and present problems in the world today.  

Here's another short video outlining the incredible journey the teams undertake:



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Drive

As a teacher, I definitely take pedagogy and content knowledge seriously as I plan learning experiences for my students.  But, as we all know, teaching is much more than that.  It involves thinking about how to motivate and engage my students, how to ignite their curiosity, and how to answer that deeper question of 'so what?'  or 'why am I learning this?'

I had the opportunity to read the book Drive by Dan Pink recently and it was such an interesting experience.  It put into words what I somehow knew to be true intuitively as a teacher.  What drives or motivates people to do great, innovative things?



Pink hones in on three words:  autonomy, mastery and purpose.  So, after reading this book, I find myself asking these questions: How am I providing opportunities for my students to have autonomy in their learning?  Do my students have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work that requires them time and hard work to master the skills that go into it?  Are my students motivated by a greater purpose - do they see that their work in my class extends beyond the four walls to making a difference in not only their future, but the world around them?
These are real questions and there is no better time to ask them than now.  A friend and colleague just emailed me a video of Heidi Hayes Jacob where she asks: What year are you actually preparing your students for?  I see it as my job to prepare them for a world that is changing more quickly than we realize. To this end, I have some learning to code, others creating an app for a greener earth, others designing buildings, and still others learning about the importance of having a growth mindset.  Why?  Because "around here...we don't look backwards for very long.  We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keep leading us down new paths" (Walt Disney).




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Biomania

I got inspired by this lesson on biomimicry found here.  Before getting into biomimicry, though, I had my students first explore nature right on our schoolyard by going out and taking pictures.  I registered the class for our first Project Noah mission - Global Schoolyard Bioblitz.  We then uploaded the pictures and made observations about the colors, structures, and functions of organisms.


After this, we explored biomimicry through a few resources.  One of the videos is shown above.
I then introduced the quest to the students:  How can we use reverse-engineering to learn from nature and innovate solutions?
I reminded them of how we used reverse-engineering when taking apart a video game to figure out how it works.  They then went on to reverse-engineer a sunflower, taking it apart into its component part in order to get inspired by nature to come up with an innovative solution based on the color, structure, or function of the sunflower.  Their ideas were great!  I used dotstorming to crowdsource the ideas.  Students had the opportunity to vote on their top 3 after which I used the ranking function to organize the ideas.



Friday, September 18, 2015

Ignite-ing It!

I shared recently how I came to give my first Ignite talk at ISTE this past summer. It was such a valuable process to go through - to reflect on what is really important to say (or not to say), prioritize order of importance, organize information, strategically select images to best 'show' not tell my story, not to mention work on presentation skills.

Since research, speaking and listening skills are such a huge part of what I do in this class, I thought to myself, what better way to target all of these through having my students plan, practice, and give an Ignite talk?  20 slides, 15 seconds each for each of them to tell their story.  I struggled with how to pitch it to my students and kept thinking - how will I get buy-in?  how can I model this for them and help them see the value in it?  I got the aha moment I was seeking last week.

I decided to start off by giving my students the same Ignite talk I gave at ISTE this summer and shared all the challenges and fears that I faced.  At the same time, I handed them the same rubric that I was going to use to evaluate their Ignite talks and let them evaluate me first.  They were thrilled at the prospect of 'grading their teacher' and I am relieved to say that every class applauded for me after my talk.  Maybe it was because they got to see a little bit more about me and the heart I have as a teacher through the talk.

I then shared this document with them - an Ignite planning document to help them organize their thoughts.  The topics they came up with were amazing and creative.  They ranged from 'the best sports plays ever,' to 'the life of a perfectionist.'  One was on 'the science of happiness' and another was on 'the history of Apple.'  Everything from baseball to coding and robotics.  Here's one a student gave on the science of superpowers.


As a reflection to the whole Ignite experience, I had each student create a page to add to their digital portfolios where they uploaded their presentation and script.  They then had to write 5 tips that they would give someone who was giving their first ignite talk.
Here's what one student had to say:

Okay, twenty slides, fifteen seconds to talk for each, GO! Starting an Ignite Talk can be quite nerve racking but with these five easy tips it's sure to be a success. For example lets say you love cooking, you cook everyday, this would probably be a better topic over  Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (which is the fear of long words). This will make the process much easier and faster.  Second, do your script before your slides, this way you can relate what you talking about directly to the picture you are presenting. Third, when making your script try to make more notes than actual sentences. This will make it easier to memorize and be less tempting to read completely off your paper. Fourth, practice, practice, practice! When you practice your presentation at home you are more likely to stay in sync with your slides and you will seem like you're practically an expert on your topic. The fifth and final tip is be confident in yourself and have fun! With confidence you will speak clearly and loud, which will help your audience to engage in your topic. So remember,
  1. Already know a lot about your topic.
  2. Script before the slides.
  3. Make the script notes, not actual sentences.
  4. Practice.
  5. Be confident and have fun!



Thursday, August 27, 2015

The importance of mindset

I've been working on ways to have my students explore and reflect on the importance of mindset in the classroom.  To this end, they took Jo Boaler's course called "How to Learn Math" last spring.  It was definitely a highlight for many of my students. Many had never realized the importance of having a growth mindset and to not be afraid of making mistakes.  It was a freeing and empowering moment for so many of them.
Image link


I really got to thinking about I address standards and practices (mathematical practices and science and engineering practices) in the classroom, but what about mindset?  So, to start off the school year, I returned to a series of videos from IDEO that I watched when I took a Human-Centered Design course.  It's a set of seven videos addressing mindsets that we must have as we design solutions:

  •  learn from failure
  • iterate, iterate, iterate
  • make it
  • empathy
  • creative confidence
  • optimism
  • embrace ambiguity

They can be found here.  I then introduced sketchnoting to the students and introduced them to Braindoodles   They worked in groups to watch the videos and sketchnote their way through them.  It was inspiring to see them communicate their ideas with one another and how to represent them in a visually engaging and memorable way.










Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Navigating Our Digital World

Starting a new school year, establishing safe and appropriate online behavior is always a priority for me as a middle school teacher.  I searched many options for my students and it was not an easy task. Many of the secondary digital citizenship games and interactive sites covered topics such as phishing with details that I did not want to bring into my class.  Many of the elementary sites, however, were too simplistic and my students needed more content.  So, I was thrilled when I found Common Sense Media's Digital Compass.  It was in an interactive game format that required students to made decisions as the characters went through their day.  Each character faced unique challenges from citing sources to facing peer pressures.  Opportunities to explore the pitfalls as well as the 'upside' of digital media are included, which makes for a great learning experience for all students.

The Educator Guide is full of great ideas to extend and the content covered in the site.  I adapted the reflection questions and extension tasks for use with my students.  They worked in small groups of three to four students so they had plenty of opportunity to share ideas and discuss the digital media choices they make in their own lives.

Here are the tasks, questions and rubrics adapted from the Digital Compass Educator Guide.

Link to Digital Compass Game:  https://www.digitalcompass.org/game/index.html
Rubrics, questions and tasks adapted from the Educator Guide

Extension Activities:
Reflective Writing Prompts
Think back upon your decisions.

  1. Which choice did you make that led you the most astray? How applicable do you think that scenario is to your daily life? Provide an example from your own life.

  1. How does playing with negative outcomes, even the fantastical ones, help you apply new thinking to your real world?

  1. Why is the digital world filled with so many ups and downs? What do you think are the best opportunities in the digital world? What are the pitfalls that you and your peers need to watch out for? Provide one or two examples.

  1. Did you find that you played with the positive or negative choices first? Why?

  1. What lessons stood out to you, and how do they apply to your own life?

  1. What other digital dilemmas or ordeals were not covered in this story? What is another related issue that you see your peers grappling with quite often?

  1. Were there any characters or situations that prompted you to think twice about particular digital behaviors? How so?

  1. Which lessons would you pass along to a younger sibling or friend?

  1. Which character do you most relate to? Why? How are you similar? In what ways are you different? Can you make any personal connections to the story?

  1. Think about a particular decision or ending. How did it relate to your real life?


Tech it up:
Consider recording your thoughts digitally. You could even journal in a podcast, video, or multimedia format. • Explain Everything • Educreations • VoiceThread • QuadBlogging • Mural.ly • Prezi • Mozilla Popcorn Maker • Animoto


Extension Projects:

  1. Give a snapshot of a day in the life of a teenager. How does digital media play a role (for better or worse) from sunup to sundown?

Use Make Beliefs Comix to bring your narrative to life as a graphic novel.

B.  What if you were to write a “Dear Abby” advice column for your peers? What questions would you want to tackle? And what would your suggestions and recommendations be?

Choose a character in Tellagami to dispense your sage advice.
OR
Write and publish your own advice column in a newspaper format

C.  Create your own choose-your-own-adventure story. Start with a positive, a neutral, and a negative ending and work backwards to map out a story tree. Then, pick a character and a theme to craft an engaging narrative using the second-person point of view (“you”).

Build interactive webpages using Office Mix (new from PPT) or Keynote. Create two decision buttons on each page, and hyperlink each button to other story slides.
OR
Use inklewriter to write your choose-your-own-adventure story.





Reflective Writing Rubric


Attributes
4
Strong, Consistent
3
Effective;
Reasonable
2
Developing;
Inconsistent
1
Emerging;
Limited
Organization & Structure
  • Focus
  • Sequencing
  • Transitions
  • Fluency
  • Progression




Development
  • Ideas
  • Details
  • Techniques
  • Pacing




Craft
  • Voice
  • Word Choice
  • Description
  • Dialogue
  • Style




Conventions
  • Grammar -
mechanics & usage
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation









Creative Writing Rubric

Evidence of writing process:

  • Brainstorming    
  • Drafting
  • Revisions
  • Editing
  • Publishing

Attributes
4
Strong, Consistent
3
Effective;
Reasonable
2
Developing;
Inconsistent
1
Emerging;
Limited
Organization & Structure
  • Focus
  • Sequencing
  • Transitions
  • Fluency
  • Progression




Development
  • Ideas
  • Details
  • Techniques
  • Pacing




Craft
  • Voice
  • Word Choice
  • Description
  • Dialogue
  • Style




Conventions
  • Grammar -
mechanics & usage
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation





Saturday, August 8, 2015

Resource Site

It's back to school time and with that, comes lesson planning and looking for new things to try in the classroom.  I just realized the other day that everything I share on this blog has to do with half of my job which is as a middle school STEM teacher currently.  The other half of my job, though, is as a teacher-on-assignment to support K-6 teachers.  To this end, I have created a resource site called TeachCreateInnovate, I made it my goal to provide links to quality instructional material.  I also included links to numerous STEM competitions and tech tools that they might find useful to integrate into their classrooms.  Here's the link to this site:



Monday, July 20, 2015

Maker Summer

Back in the spring, I was asked to direct a STEM summer academy.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to create a summer experience for grades 4-8 learners that would be the best STEM experience they could ever have!  As I was brainstorming ideas, I decided it would have to be all about the kids having a maker experience in every sense of the word - three strands all centered on making and creating.
1)  Code-makers:  Here, the students used Google CS-First and App Inventor to create games and apps.  They engaged in pair-programming and had a lot of fun 'making' with code.


2)  STEM-makers:  In this strand, the students created using science, technology, engineering, and math.  The room was full of "junk" that they used to make Rube Goldberg devices.  They had Ozobot and Sphero challenges.  For Ozobot, they had to design the longest course in black marker on an 8.5 x 11 inch size sheet of paper.  Then, they ran their ozobots on the course and the robot that took the longest amount of to finish each day was put on the leaderboard.  For the Spheros, we created an obstacle course through which they had to manipulate it.  A separate leaderboard was kept for those who completed the course the fastest.  They also worked with Hummingbird robotics to program their creations to follow their code and experiment with the Macrolab app for Sphero.













3)  Design-makers:  Here, the students designed in Google draw and had their designs laser engraved onto wood plaques that I picked up at Home Depot cut to size, metal dog tags from Oriental Trading and metal water bottles from 4imprint.  They also designed in Tinkercad and 3D printed their designs.