Educational Leadership

Attending E2!

I’m still letting this sink in – an international exchange of educators or E2!  I have been invited to attend the E2 Educator Exchange in Singapore. It means taking a few days away from my students, and literally a couple of days of travel, but I am so excited to participate in a global conversation about learning.E2 Invite

I have always been impressed, inspired, and in just plain awe of the many educators I meet who present at conferences and forums. They do so many cool and creative things for their students and I just want to learn as much as a I can from them. Typically, the conferences I attend are regional, pulling educators from the nearby area or in the case of ISTE from around our country.

In a few weeks, I will be attending a global conference of educators and my mind is completely blown. I can’t wait to learn from them, I want to know as much as I possibly can about their students, schools, community, and how they weave creativity and innovation into their classrooms.

For now, I need to focus on the logistics of lesson planning, travel planning, as well as what am I going to wear planning 😉. I am hoping I will be organized enough to coordinate lessons and communication from Singapore for my students back home. No matter what, it should be an adventure and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.pexels-photo-356043.jpeg

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MIE Expert Summit in Redmond

Recently, I had the privilege to participate in a regional MIE Expert and Showcase School Leader Summit in Redmond, WA (on the Microsoft Campus). I was reminded, once again, how cool it is to be part of a such an amazing network of educator friends who have a passion for education, technology, and innovative thinking. This educator network provides me the feeling that I have known my fellow MIE Experts for a multitude of years, when in fact sometimes we’ve only met a summer ago at a conference. This network stays in touch digitally, over Twitter, Facebook, as well as messaging apps. The digital conversations range from technical issues for the best ed-tech apps, laptop hardware questions, planning for an upcoming conference session, and just fun conversations about the amount of snow fall in their area. Although we may be geographically apart, we are close as a collective innovative educator mindset as we can be. The greetings and hugs are genuine and authentic and there is never a “dumb” question that can’t be asked and answered.

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Getting settled at MIE Summit

This year’s summit had a couple recurring themes, first a reminder this is a reinvigorating group, a group that can provide an essential opportunity to refresh and nurture ourselves in our fast-paced world. This reminder to slow down and take time when we need to is notable, as educators, we are often on the innovative cutting edge, we need to be mindful of “champion burn-out.” The opportunity to laugh and have camaraderie goes a long way to support the work we do in and outside of the classroom. It is a two-way street, we need the network to reduce stress, and the network needs us for our ideas and inspiration for our best student learning.

MIE Summit Group

MIE Summit in Redmond

The other theme, of course, was educational innovation. As a group of tech-geeky teachers, we thrive on seeing and learning about how best to encourage and support our students with computational thinking to understanding concepts contain within the sustainable development goals. We played with Arduinos and Microsoft’s MakeCode to create a LED-blinking circuit playground that followed our coded instructions. It was fun creating the code and seeing our creations literally come to light. We also had laughed and geeked out with paper, glitter, ribbons and stickers as we created a coded paint-stick wand that blinked on command.

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Showing off our MakeCode LED Wands

We also spent time discussing educational content, more aptly a hashtag #SDG, known as Sustainable Development Goals. We divided up into small teams and competed in an OneNote EDU Breakout. We systematically figured out a series of puzzles in OneNote, unlocking section by section, to learn the how and the why sustainable development goals are important. I would like to say we were first in breaking out, but second place is a still a worthy silver medal. The ability to be the learner, communicating and collaborating as a team, to collectively finding the solution is a fantastic experience, something we all strive to create for our students.

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Putting the pieces together for EDU Breakout

Lastly, we wrapped up our summit learning with a presentation on new tools for accessibility – once again, poof, mind blown! The technology is rapidly providing the avenues to connect our students’, families’, and our schools’ worlds closer together. As we were shown how to utilize these learning tools that translate, dictate, as well as an immersive reader, our conversations quickly picked up pace about implementing into our classrooms. As the conversations increased, so did our questions about what’s next and how quickly will everyone have access, to which we were greeted with smiles and a request for patience.

I feel lucky to be a part of such an amazing network of friends, so glad to have the opportunity to have fun and grow as an educator. I look forward to the next time we gather.

Cape Leader Roles

Trying something new this week, harnessing the power of purple capes to motivate leadership roles in my science classes. Since I teach middle school, I have a bit of latitude to be silly and hence make use of a super hero themes. The idea is to utilize a purple OneNote cape to designate student “Cape Leader” status. I instructed each lab group to nominate a team leader who could help with technology and learning questions. I told them to nominate someone who could help lead discussions, at their lab table, about our science topic for the class period. And if they nominated more than one individual who met the qualifications, then they would need to solve it scientifically. They asked “how?” I answered with the only reasonable decision maker solution known, by rock, paper, scissors, of course. Once newly elected, the Cape Leaders garnered the coveted purple cape. To set expectations, we discussed the leadership responsibility that comes with the cape. We talked about how the group can also help support their Cape Leader as well, that leadership is a two-way street. We also discussed the safety considerations about wearing a cape and acknowledged the wisdom of Edna Mode, from the Incredibles, about flying too close to jet engines. We agreed we would stay inside the classroom to alleviate this risk.Call Super Hero

The first trial of Cape Leaders was a success, the last class of the day agreed they wanted to continue the opportunity to nominate a new cadre of Cape Leaders next week. It was obvious watching the faces and animated conversations that students were having fun having caped leaders in class, but I also watched how many of the Cape Leaders embrace the leadership role. In our 6th grade class, the Cape Leaders were the team leaders who received clarifying instructions about the cellular metabolism whole classroom model. These leaders helped their group members understand how the molecules would need to move to the various body systems to demonstrate a functioning healthy body. In 7th grade, the Cape Leaders assisted leading group members with a vocabulary review. They led their team to discuss how geology terms could be broken down so an elementary student could understand how to use the academic science word in context with their plate boundary map analysis work.purple capes.jpg

Teaching middle school science is not always about teaching science content. Sometimes teaching science means providing opportunities for students to practice leadership skills, even if its cloaked in a cape. Science in the classroom is also about making scientific thinking visible to others, sharing ideas, revising ideas, and demonstrating how to understand a scientific process. I don’t think we would want to have Cape Leaders every day, but if well timed, the power of the purple cape portends potential for prevailing positive effects.

Teacher in Space

More specifically, a Teacher Learning about Space Education 

Recently I was invited to a NASA & CASIS presentation about the International Space Station at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, WA. As a science teacher, the nerd meter was off the charts, “What, me? Take an afternoon to listen about being in space? You bet!”

NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) exhibit have been on a “Destination Station” Northwest roadshow. The purpose of their presentation is to share the wealth of ISS information readily available and how companies and students can take advantage of ISS research opportunities. Small breakout Q&A sessions for the local STEM educator community provide time to talk and share. For me, the afternoon provided a list of NASA/ISS/CASIS connections for my curriculum next year. It was stated that the “possibilities are endless; the rewards could be outstanding,” and I couldn’t agree more.

CASIS, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, is a non-profit manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, and its aim is to create public awareness of National Lab research by making space science more accessible to the world. The US Lab on ISS is currently conducting research and development from big companies to small schools, with their focus ranging from STEM to life science to physical science. The question is, “Why do research on ISS at all?” The answer is supremely simple, the US Lab on ISS is like no other lab on Earth. The vantage, perspective, and conditions are not constrained by gravity. Experiments can be tested in a micro-gravity environment, thereby providing excellent environmental controls or removing the limiting factor of gravity. In the extreme conditions of space, forces and fluids will be less constrained, fluids will take a spherical shape, there is no “up” or “down” and sedimentation and solidification are not determined by gravity. There is much to learn, test, discover, and invent in a home laboratory that is away from home.

Astronaut Mike Barratt spent 6 months on ISS and shared a day in the life of living on the Space Station, traveling in both Shuttle Discovery and Russian Soyuz. It was “Zero to 15,000 mph in 8 minutes 45 seconds for orbital velocity.”

The dominant factor of being on the ISS is weightlessness. Apparently it takes a bit of effort and time to coordinate moving around, from flying “superman style” to using hands to locomote. I was surprised to learn how big the Space Station is, particularly when you shift your thinking from a traditional “square footage” to a 3D or cubic footage view. All available space is utilized and there is no up or down. It is a funny idea (prank) that if a crew member was carefully guided to the middle of a compartment, ensuring they were not in motion and where they could not touch walls, then they would be stuck. In micro-gravity, Newton’s laws of motion (or lack of motion) are in affect.

Since Mike is also a medical doctor, he spoke of anthropometry, recycling urine to water, and various medical tests and blood draws. In space, the neutral body position is not straight and thus requires rethinking work and sleep stations. In space, the internal organs are not affected by gravity and thus their positions are changed. In space, toilets require directed airflow since there is no gravity…let that sink in. In space, bone and muscle mass will decrease unless astronauts exercise daily with countermeasures, since there is no gravity to lift or move your body’s own weight against.

Astronaut Mike Barratt

Astronaut Mike Barratt

As a science teacher, learning more about ISS meant learning there is a wealth of student opportunities for my science classroom. There is so much happening on the station that the challenge is narrowing down which lesson, research, or connection to utilize. To assist with this, I had the pleasure of meeting with Pete Hasbrook from the ISS Program Science Office to discuss NASA and ISS resources available to educators. I am excited to spend time organizing my curriculum to make room for these research opportunities for my students next year.

MS Edu NASA-ISS Pete and Cheryl Chat

ISS Chat with NASA’s Pete Hosbrook

For more information about NASA or ISS or CASIS in Education go to;