Month: April 2017

Fostering Project Collaborative Learning

My middle school science classes often just blow me away with their creativity and energy. To capture this, I strive to foster collaborative and creative projects. Specifically, this year, I have been setting up science projects that require students to productively function in teams, more specifically to shine within a team.

Project 1 – Step 1

For the first big group project, I offered students their choice of medium to create a weather “lesson.” Although there was choice in presentation, the group worked in a traditional project team. The students were excited to try out new tech for an audio-visual “Ted-Ed” style weather lesson, but without specific work to coach the soft skills of team collaboration, there were the usual pitfalls of who does what work, how much work, and whether the work was of good quality. The product of the “lessons” was amazing in the style and variety of creativity, but the downside was we didn’t work on improving how the team collaborative functions.

Project 2 – Step 2

The next big group project team experience gave us the reason for the next step in team collaboration a “Team Contract.” Students were to write a proposal for a small cube experiment to travel on a space flight. As students choose their teams, I asked them to review, discuss, and define their requirements to be a successfully functioning team. When we had group class time to work on our “Cubes in Space” projects, students referred to their Team Contract when a team member didn’t meet their work requirements. Students began to hone the essential skills of collaboration and communication that are so vital in our everyday world.

Project 3 – Step 3

Our current project, an Earth Safety Challenge PSA, takes all of the above and moves it beyond team collaboration to group creativity. Students initially completed background research on local earth science events such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Students were grouped into 3 large “company” teams based on their research area. Their task is to create a company and assign the roles of research scientists, engineers, media specialists, and project managers. Their job is to create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to inform the public about the science and safety of their assigned earth event. This project is majority student designed and managed. Students are using a variety of skills, research, technology, modeling, communication, collaboration, and creativity. I am so impressed with their level of positive engagement, motivation, and the direction of each company team to produce a creative and effective earth science PSA. Although I can’t wait to the see the final products, I am already extremely proud of the collaborative learning in which these students are engaged.

Lesson Details If you’re interested in the specifics of our Earth Safety Challenge Project, please see my lesson plans here: Earth Safety Challenge Project Lesson Plan

Lesson technology – for this project we utilized the following technology;

Since we are a 1:1 school (students are issued district laptops for the school year), we are comfortable with utilizing technology in our classroom. Class notes, agendas, and group project work is all conducted in OneNote. The final Earth Safety Challenge PSA will be posted in Docs.com for other grade level science classes to review and offer feedback. We also use Class Policy to group team members and monitor technology on task time. Modeling in Minecraft is an awesome way for students to use their analytic thinking in a creative format to make a 3D model – of anything. Making use of student voice was easy with FlipGrid and Forms. FlipGrid offers accessible technology for students to video respond and reply, it is fun and informative. Forms provides an easy means to access or survey online, providing accessible data to share. My students are using a variety of tech tools to make their PSA presentations, including PowerPoint, Office Mix, Sway, and video, to be posted in class collections in Docs.com. If used appropriately, technology can enable and amplify student knowledge and voice on any project. Totally amazing collaboration.

 

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NCCE ’17 Review – People Inspiration

Attending and presenting at NCCE this year was a most awesome, information packed, technology infused, and energized event. Over the course of the conference my colleagues quickly shared our thoughts about sessions over Slack, a super easy team building and sharing app. We gained so many ideas for technology, curriculum, learning, networking, and most of important of all, we gained inspiration to continue striving to be awesome educators.

My takeaways for NCCE were mainly threefold, which I will divide into parts over 3 blogs:

  • Part 1 – People who inspire us to do more in the classroom
  • Part 2 – Technology ideas that inspire our curriculum
  • Part 3 – Network of educators who give us confidence to foster higher aspirations for our students

People Inspiration

The NCCE 2017 Keynote speakers were amazingly inspiring, encouraging us to think differently to do more in the classroom.

Jaime Casap, Education Evangelist at Google: ” I believe education disrupts poverty.”

Jamie spoke about the impact of education, stating the impact on students goes on for generations. He reminded us that our national super power was built on the backbone of education. Hearing clearly and concisely “Education is not broken,” was inspiring to hear, especially considering today’s propensity for education bashing by the public.

Jamie also made us think about revising our educational perspective, asking the question, “what is the right path to prepare for a future that doesn’t exist yet?” Today’s generation is not necessarily different, but rather it is how they think about learning that IS different. Simply put, a generation or two ago students waited to be taught. However, today’s generation doesn’t need to wait, they think of learning as a part of their daily routine. Just watch a student pull up a YouTube video to figure out a game or an app. It just may be that we, as educators, need to think about learning differently too.NCCE keynote 1

By now we are all familiar with how rapidly technology changes and updates. There was a time that computers were as large as a classroom and the focus was on teaching basic programming skills. Now we look at data (from much smaller computers) and we need to compare what good learning looks like. Our questions today center around how to implement tech, how embedded tech can help students understand concepts, and how to teach computational thinking and skills to solve problems.

Jamie made us laugh in reflection, reminding us that a few years ago we might have gotten a busy signal when we called someone. If we juxtapose that idea into today’s lingo, we can see how our thinking has changed “I tried to call the internet today and it was busy.” It is important that education is iterative, that we understand what good learning looks like, and we understand how learning will change. So we ask ourselves, do we have the best educational model for our students? If yes, we are on the path to meeting the essential goal of education.

Kevin Carroll, founder of Kevin Carroll Katalyst/LLC, author, speaker, and agent for social change.

Kevin’s keynote focused on story tellers. “Story tellers are powerful, each of us has a narrative.” Kevin illustrated by telling us a powerful story of his youth, family, and life lessons. He shared that he learned that curiosity and play are important in life, finding his sanctuary on the playground with a red ball. He also found sanctuary in the library, which fostered his curiosity for learning. A ball, play, catalyst, connection, and community were the key words of his story.NCCE keynote 2

He spoke of his connections with his community, including his grandparents, highlighting a couple of life gems: First, playing is an important virtue, aptly supported by Plato’s observation that “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.” Second, he grew up with, “lots of talkers and doers, which one are you?” An important question from his formative years that shaped his unique way of looking at the world. Listening to Kevin and considering our own connections, community, and pondering our personal catalysts, it was apparent that play and laughter are the change makers for us as educators and for our students.

Play or joyous connections can provide a venue for discussion afterwards, which is when moments with big ideas, innovations, and inspiration can spring forth. Over the course of his story he challenged us to raise our game, to level up. From this conference, or from any life event, we take away new connections, inspire others, and tell the stories. Our ideas and actions matter. Although my actions may seem small, collectively they are great.

In the end, it is always about a DREAM:

D=dedication

R=responsibility

E=education

A=attitude

M=motivation

 

*Stay tuned for Part 2 – Technology and Part 3 – Networking.

NCCE 2017 Keynote Bios http://www.ncce.org/attend/keynote-speakers

Focus Week: Making of Minecraft – Part 2

Minecraft Part 2 – The How

At International School we have a Focus Week every spring, a one week, one class, CTE (Career Technical Education) focused week of study. The intent is to foster the opportunity for students to have quality work experiences, develop strong relationships with adults, and to cultivate relationships with students outside of their usual social group and outside of the regular curriculum and classroom. This year I offered a middle school “Making of Minecraft” focus week.

The pitch for my Minecraft focus week was: “What does it take to build, develop, test, and market new features in Minecraft? Come participate in a behind the scenes week with the Microsoft Minecraft Education Team. Try your skills at developing, marketing, and pitching your idea for a feature in Minecraft to the makers of Minecraft at Microsoft.”

Coordinating a focus week is as challenging as it is rewarding. The logistics basically mean you must create and schedule a massive, one week long field trip with all the backend planning, paperwork, permission forms, and prepping that encompasses, all while teaching a regular classroom schedule. Once planned and the focus week arrives, you only have one focus and that is what you prepped for previously.

To simplify things, I created a new focus week “class” in Microsoft Classroom and in Class Policy. Classroom allowed me to easily have a class OneNote, an associated Outlook calendar, and to promote group conversations all in one space. Class Policy, on the other hand, is a one-to-one technology management tool. Class Policy allowed me to monitor, and if necessary, lock student screens to help “focus” our Minecraft learning tasks during our daily schedule.

This week, we made creative use of the Minecraft Education Edition. As an Office 365 school district running Windows 10 laptops, we are able to take advantage of the classroom collaboration features within Minecraft.Edu. Specifically, my students found it helpful that they could see their (real) names within their Minecraft worlds and that it was easy to join and work within the worlds we created for Focus Week. Additionally, I also made use of the Minecraft “Classroom Mode tool, which allowed me to check-in on the progress of our challenge builds. Classroom Mode provided me a glimpse of who was where, what world, and what were they were working on, whether it was in the challenge build or in the survival game.

Our Minecraft Education Lead, Meenoo Rami, and I utilized our Minecraft class OneNote to post the daily schedule, warm up prompts, brainstorm pages, and links to FlipGrid questions. Since our focus week was tech-based, it only made sense to utilize technology for ease of communication and collaboration. Being smart with tech was especially important to me since half of my Focus Week students were not in my regular science classes. Since we are an Office 365 district using Classroom and Class Policy, it was pretty easy to do and absolutely essential in getting schedules and permission forms out to students and parents!

As the week progressed and my students were preparing to share their ideas for new features, we created a Docs.com page to foster online sharing with the Minecraft Education Team. My students had two in-person opportunities to present their new feature “Design Ideas” and then later to also do a “Marketing Pitch.” Each student team was responsible for posting their Design Ideas and Marketing Pitches into Docs.com. The Minecraft Education Team members were excellent with their feedback, it was honest, targeted to middle school understanding, and futuristic with helping my student strive to improve. The skills my students learned and practiced were the real deal; they had to figure out how to concisely explain their ideas and they had to be ready when technology didn’t cooperate quickly or when someone forgot to update their presentation. We all learn from mistakes and feedback, and so did my students this week. It was a good week of teacher collaboration between Meenoo and me as well as student to student. It was truly amazing to see the ease of communication, the skill, and the cooperation that happened during our focused week of Minecraft.

 Interested in learning more?

Meenoo’s Focus Week in Review

Minecraft Education

Focus Week: Making of Minecraft – Part 1

Minecraft Part 1 – The What & The Why

At International School we have a Focus Week every spring, a one week, one class, CTE (Career Technical Education) focused week of study. The intent is to foster the opportunity for students to have quality work experiences, develop strong relationships with adults, and to cultivate relationships with students outside of their usual social group and outside of the regular curriculum and classroom. This year I offered a middle school “Making of Minecraft” focus week.

The pitch for my Minecraft focus week was: “What does it take to build, develop, test, and market new features in Minecraft? Come participate in a behind the scenes week with the Microsoft Minecraft Education Team. Try your skills at developing, marketing, and pitching your idea for a feature in Minecraft to the makers of Minecraft at Microsoft.”

Now, truth be told, the fact is my school is close to the Microsoft Minecraft offices and this made it easy to ask if they would be willing to lead Minecraft focus week. To my happy surprise they exuberantly said, “Yes, we’d love to!” The thing is, the Minecraft Education Team is comprised of an awesome group of engineers, developers, marketers, and former teachers, this team understands how to connect to education. I am also fortunate to know two amazing Minecraft Team members, Neal Manegold and Meenoo Rami, both former teachers who ironically told me they were excited to create lesson plans for the week. Neal was instrumental in coordinating initial logistics and Meenoo was our amazing Minecraft lead in the classroom.

Over the course of a week my students brainstormed new features for Minecraft.Edu, shared and developed their ideas with developers, worked on their pitches to market their Minecraft features to a wide variety of audiences, discussed the business side of Minecraft, toured the Minecraft office, and participated in a community livestream.

During break times my students accepted the challenge of building a detailed Minecraft model of our school, complete with a working library and cars in the parking lot. The community aspect of working together for such a challenge is so apparent in Minecraft. My students had to figure out the who, the how, the measurements, the design, and the architectural structure of our school building. During the week they had multiple restarts, discussions, revisions, and a few accidental fires in their model library that caused some grief and rework. I look forward to seeing their final model – that is, if their creativity ever deems it finished, but then again that is the beauty of Minecraft, will it ever be finished?

Overall, it was a good week. Sure, my kids played a lot of Minecraft, but they also explored the work world of Minecraft too. One memorable comment made during a feedback session by one Minecraft Team Developer was, “You just did my job!” How awesome is it to provide an opportunity for students to preview their potential to the world! It was truly amazing to watch the wonder, the skill, and the learning that happened during their focused week of Minecraft.

Interested in learning more?

Meenoo’s Focus Week in Review

 Minecraft Education