Technology

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.

 

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

New to Ed-Tech? 10 Steps to Begin.

EdublogsClub – short #7 Listicle for the How To #EdTech

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.

Are you new to #EdTech? Here are ten steps to incorporate Educational Technology for Learning in your classroom:

  1. Start small – consider one tech idea or app to increase technology and learning your classroom.
  2. Be willing to move out of your Comfort Zone.
  3. Join the #edtech conversation on Twitter* – contribute to tweet-meets and chats.
  4. Be Inspired to list future #edtech ideas – make the list accessible (see #10 on this list).
  5. Join a #edtech Network – join a school PLC or join an online community such as Microsoft Educator Community.
  6. Be Accountable to yourself – schedule weekly checks with colleagues or create a weekly “To Do’s” checklist and then check off that you tried something new.
  7. Just Do It – don’t wait, jump in and try (see #1 and #2 on this list).
  8. Monitor and adjust – you know your students, if students are engaged and learning then keep the #edtech, if not then don’t use it. Model a Growth Mindset to students that it is okay to try something new, learn what you can and move on if it doesn’t work.
  9. Share – be willing to share your new #edtech with your colleagues and students.
  10. Rinse and Repeat – don’t stop with just one idea, grow your inspiration and focus on student learning and technology in the classroom. Return to step #1 on this list.

*New to Twitter?  See Teacher Twitter 101.

Teacher Twitter 101

 

New to Twitter?  Get Tweeting in 5 Steps.

There is a whole side conversation about teaching and learning on Twitter. Many educators use Twitter to chat, share, and reflect about teaching and learning. There are a multitude of conversations happening involving every aspect of the classroom, some inspirational, some thought provoking, some funny, and some even critical. Following educators and using a content area #hashtag is one of the easiest ways to converse in the Twitter universe.

If you’re interested in joining in the conversation, it is not as daunting as it may seem once you know the basics.

Teacher Twitter 101

  1. Sign up and create a Twitter account Sign up for Twitter – you will need to choose a username. Since Twitter allows for multiple accounts, you can create a personal account first and then a professional or classroom account later.
  2. Add a profile and a picture – these can be updated, so don’t stress about this now.
  3. Write your first Tweet – it can be as simple as “Hello, this is my first tweet.”
  4. Follow others – this is where you begin to connect and learn from others. You can begin with a “who to follow” list, follow a colleague or use a #hashtag for a content area of interest such as #edtech
  5. Reply & Retweet – once you have a few people to follow then jump in and begin a conversation.

To learn more, check out these educator guide to Twitter resources:

New To Twitter – Set up Guides

How to Use Twitter for Teaching and Learning

 Tips for Teachers New to Twitter

Twitter Resources

The Teacher’s Guide To Twitter

Twitter #hashtags Infographic

Challenge of Time

EdublogsClub – short #6 Challenge

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.

Time.

The challenge of time: Being full-time Tech and full-time Teacher.

I find the lack of time to be challenging. Specifically, the lack of time to do all the things I want and need to do as an educator such as;

  • synthesize science content into small bite size concepts
  • present engaging technology
  • concoct creative lessons
  • provide timely feedback
  • prep lab activities
  • write student growth goals
  • build routines to solidify learning targets
  • lead SEL (social and emotional learning) lessons
  • formulate efficiencies for grade data entry
  • articulate how awesome middle school students can be
  • encourage participation
  • teach digital citizenship
  • communicate how cool crafting minds can be
  • research and review content and concepts

Full-time Tech

I have always truly enjoyed sharing technology in the classroom. If used appropriately technology can enhance and supplement learning, but it takes time to teach how to use technology for both students and teachers. It takes time to learn the technology of an online curriculum. It takes time to teach teachers how to use digital technology devices. It takes time to walk students through accessing technology resources. It all takes time, but it can be well worth the time to do so.

Full-time Teach

I am a full-time middle school science teacher who happens to love technology. Throughout the school year my students gain proficiencies in using a digital notebook called OneNote, creating presentations in Sway, and sharing and posting on Docs.com. They also build their basic coding skills with lessons from Code.org and create programs from Project Guts in Star Logo Nova. They can successfully navigate within a digital environment whether it is in an online science curriculum with graphs and simulations or even just having fun in Minecraft. Teaching technology skills is important; it is critical for students’ future college and career endeavors. Today’s students need to be able to embrace and command their use of (academic) technology. As important as these skills are, they are not primary to my teaching science concepts that are essential to being a science literate life learner. The art of teaching science content lessons in conceptual chunks that are applicable to a student’s daily life takes time to create and foster. Again, the time is so worthwhile.

Question of Time

The challenge is to find enough quality time for both technology and teaching. The challenge is best solved by setting priorities, being organized, delegating when applicable, and occasionally saying “no” when you can’t do more. Of course, even as I write this, I am multi-tasking which means the above solution is easier said than done. I have wondered what if I cut back on the technology? If I did cut back on classroom technology would I simplify my schedule and create more time? Or if I cut back on technology would I narrow the scope of experiences in teaching science? The question of time is answered over time, for me it is striving to find balance between the “shiny new” technology and the status quo of science content.

To be an educator is to always be learning, particularly learning to master challenges. My challenge is to look for solutions to the challenge of time, learning how others master the time challenge. So, I’m curious, what do you do to master the challenge of time?

Free Favorites Web Resources

EdublogsClub – short #5 Web Tools. This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.

“Free” is a magic word for teachers. If there is a recommended free web resource then it is like gravity, we are drawn to explore. This week’s blog highlights a few of my favorite web tools I use in my science classes.

Web tools for teaching Coding – Code.org has a wealth of resources to learn and teach basic coding skills to students. The tutorials begin with visual block coding games to teaching computational thinking skills. If you are interested in introducing and sparking coding and computational thinking skills, I highly recommend these resources as a starting place.

Scratch is another kid-friendly coding resource site. Originally developed as a project from the MIT Media Lab, it provides a platform for kids to create, code, and share stories, games, and animations in an online community.

Science learning fun – Gravity Toy is a simple adobe flash player program that was created a few years ago. A player can place particle dot masses and explore the effects of gravity and velocity.

Classroom presentation tool – Docs.com is an awesome site where students can explore and upload class projects to share. Although it is available on the web, the caveat is that it is free as part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite supporting uploading Word documents, PowerPoint, Sways, and URLs.

If your school or organization is supported with Office 365, Docs.com is an amazingly easy way to share and collaborate student or teacher project work. In a previous blog I shared an example of sharing my students’ work: Office Blog – Cross-classroom Collaboration

Classroom review fun – Kahoot is simply a fun way to review. It is a boldly colorful and interactive online game. Players answer questions and points are tallied and projected. It is an easy way for staff and students alike to enjoy competitive questions in a round or two of Kahoots.

Content lesson resources – TedEd Lessons are wonderfully told and animated stories of history, science, and other tidbits of information. There is a plethora of lessons from which to choose, introduce, or expand content detail concepts.

Study Jams is a middle level science and math review web resource for students from Scholastic. Easily accessible as an introduction or review to content concepts in a short “cheesy” animated video, vocab, and key concepts.

Cubes in Space – version 1.5

My email to my students stated, “the cubes have arrived…” and in an after school flurry of fun, fascination, and excitement the box containing two cubes that flew into space was unceremoniously opened.

cis-open1

Let’s open our Cubes!

 

This is the second school year my 7th grade science classes have participated in the Cubes in Space program. Students are provided an opportunity to propose an experiment to be launched into space on a NASA rocket or balloon. The project requires students to design an experiment that will fit inside a 4cm sized cube. If the experiment proposal is accepted, the students’ cubes will be launched via sounding rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia in late June 2017 or on a high altitude balloon launched from the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility at Fort Sumner, New Mexico in August 2017.

Last year was our first year to participate and we were fortunate to have four student proposals accepted. The first two cubes launched on the sounding rocket the first week after school released for the summer. The second two cubes were scheduled to launch on the research balloon in late August but the launch was weather delayed until early October this school year. Although we are still patiently awaiting the final two cubes to review and analyze data, my students have shared their experiences with our local newspaper. It was delightful to hear what my students learned about the scientific process and the amount of collaboration and communication that is necessary to be successful with completing their experimental designs and proposals.

Bellevue students send science experiments to space

To be completely honest, it was extremely difficult to not open the delivered parcel that contained the first two (rocket) cubes this summer. I needed to be patient and wait until school resumed and let my student scientists open the package first. Since then my (now former, who are 8th grade) students have been periodically checking in at lunch or after school to provide updates on their summary and presentation of results, as this is a requirement of the Cubes in Space project.

cis-delivery

Just delivery – Cubes from rocket launch

 

This year’s new 7th grade science students have just been introduced to the Cubes in Space project. We have begun the initial work of gathering ideas for objects that could be tested in space. A range of questions from “What materials will NASA allow?” “How much does gravity decrease as the rocket launches?” to even “What is a variable?” There is genuine interest and excitement to think scientifically about what can be tested in space.

A recent comment from one of last year’s student said it best, “It was the highlight of science last year.” By the smiles and questions from this year’s students, it looking like Cubes in Space is on track to be a science highlight again.

The Lightbulb Moment

During the summer teachers take time to review lessons, collaborate with other educators, set up classrooms, buy supplies and review new curriculum and applications. And as such, I have been talking with the folks at Lifeliqe, an amazing ed-tech company focused on 3D STEM models.

We set up a skype call to discuss piloting Lifeliqe in my classroom this fall, discussing the benefits of utilizing 3D models and the augmented reality behind the models.  During our conversation, we talked about the “light bulb moment” all teachers hope to occur in their classrooms. The moment when students begin to say “Ahh, I get it now” or “Ohh, that makes sense” which in turn makes their teachers smile brightly. We all want our students to succeed. So in asking ourselves how do we spark a light bulb moment, we must also ask;

* Do teachers create the initial spark?

* Do we have to first make a student connection and that is what causes the spark?

* Do we need to have fantastic lectures and applications to create a spark?

The questions made me think about my own student light bulb moments and the order of events necessary for these moments to grow to full content comprehension. I’m curious, what do other educators think about sparking a lightbulb moment? For me, in a middle school classroom, most students need to feel a connection to the teacher. Middle school years are most notably an emotional period of time, students need to feel connected and respected. Teachers need to create an environment that fosters connections and respect but also builds up high expectations and accountability to learn content, organization, and skills necessary to move forward to the next level of learning.

I imagine connections are made from the teacher’s passion and excitement to teach students their subject area. It makes me giggle when I tell adults I am a middle school science teacher they either respond with “Oh my, I REMEMBER what I was like back then” or “Oh, I LOVED science because I had a really great time.” Typically, adults remember their middle school experience rather than the content learned during those years. How cool would it be to remember the experience AND the learning? How do we create more lightbulb memories that stay lit over time?

The connections that are made in the classroom are the catalyst for learning. With technology at our fingertips, teachers have access to a multitude of cool applications and heaps of crazy knowledge curriculum. If fully utilized these applications and curriculum can be the switch of the lightbulb – the initial “Ah-ha” sparking moment that ignites student comprehension.  So as I prepare for fall, I am looking forward to piloting new NGSS aligned curriculum, working on collaborating with other science and technology educators and trying out Lifeliqe’s 3D models. I am excited to the see the spark in my students’ eyes when they use their fingertips to spin a cell model on their screens and fully analyze the organelles. I wonder if they will feel an Ironman “Tony Stark” moment when they create an image on their laptop screen with their head inside an atom? Or will they exclaim in glee that they understand the how the knee works when they overlay the leg anatomy and motion over their own?

I hope in the future my students will tell me that they remember my class AND that they have never lost the bright glow of the lightbulb moment.

Cross-classroom collaboration—student scientists as teachers

Sharing a blog for a blog – specifically, sharing my classroom collaboration project as shared on the OneNote Education Office Blog.

https://blogs.office.com/2016/08/09/cross-classroom-collaboration-student-scientists-as-teachers/

I presented this classroom collaboration partnership at the MIEE U.S. Forum in Denver and at a Redefining Learning Conference at Sammamish High School. Watch a short clip here: cross-classroom collaboration demo or see the Sway here: school partnerships Sway on Docs.com.

 

 

 

Learning to Code

When I was kid my dad and I had fun with binary puzzles. My dad taught electronics at a vocational education school and it was part of his job and passion to understand the future of programming in relation to electronics. Back then we talked a lot about computer programing, I thought it was interesting and agreed it was important. However, after our conversations I’d just go back to playing in the backyard, my interest not equating to his passion.  As I grew up and began to focus on my career I diverged more and more from the path of computer science, tending more towards teaching middle school science, though I never lost that interest my dad instilled in me.

Fast forward to the present, technology as well as computer science is rapidly being integrated into learning science. As a parent I am talking to my teenager about learning how to code as an important skill set in today’s world. As an educator I now need to learn the basic principles of coding so I can better help guide my students’ learning as well provide an introduction to computer science so that they can keep up with evolving technology.

The world is driven by technology and everyone needs to have basic fundamental skills in both science and technology. If we expect our students to learn new concepts then it is imperative we expect the same of ourselves. If you’re not putting yourself outside your comfort zone then you aren’t learning.

So this summer, I’m taking baby steps in learning to code. I know my son will giggle at my pace but he will also grin at my successes.  You don’t need to be the expert who teaches every step of the process as long as you can facilitate your students’ drive to learn it for themselves. In that way, we can all be the students working together.