Adding Creativity and Imagination to the Classroom

“Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.” Edward de Bono

creativity

Recently I have been privileged to hear an amazing keynote speaker, Nirvan Mullick about adding creativity and imagination to the schools as it builds imagine, inspiration and the love of learning which then correlates to academic achievement. Mullick is the owner of the imagination foundation but more famously known for where it all started with Caine’s arcade. This is the video Nirvan created:

Below are ways to add creativity and imagination in classroom:

1. Genius Hour allows students to work on something they are passionate about.

2. Makerspaces is a community-driven workspace, where people with common interests, meet and collaborate on ‘Do it Yourself’ (DYI) projects. In schools it would be school-driven. Read more about Makerspaces from my previous blog post: Makerspace in Education. To get started with a makerspace you can use recyclables, crayons, paper, pipe cleaners. It is also great to have technology such as Little BitsSparkfun and MaKey MaKeys.

3. Challenges are a great way to see students add creativity. I loved the days we had challenges in my classroom such as build a boat to hold the most paper slips without sinking, the challenge you only have two pieces of paper and some masking tape. Here are some other challenges that you can add to your classroom activities to build creativity.

4. Books to read aloud or do activities with:

Another great resource full of practical ideas to do in the classroom that take little to no money or prep time are in the book: Sparking Student Creativity: Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving

These are other wonderful books on creativity and imagination for educators:

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within All of Us by  Tom Kelley  and David Kelley

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

Great Sites:

Creativity at Work

P21- Creativity and Innovation

TED Talk Video Playlist on Creativity

What are other ways we can foster creativity so it becomes not just a moment but a  movement in the schools? I would love to hear your feedback, ideas and book suggestions!

Blended Learning Tips and Tricks

“Learning is always rebellion…Every bit of new truth discovered in revolutionary to what was believed before.” Margaret Lee Runbeck

chromebook2

Last week I discussed picking the right model for your blended learning classroom so it is only natural that I now offer some tips and tricks for running a blended learning classroom. 🙂

  • Focus on the lesson or content skill and let the technology be the tool or guide.
  • Start small and in one subject area.
  • Rearrange your classroom so that when you are working with your small group,  the students screens are facing you. (You want to be looking at the back of the students heads) This way you can see if they are on task by looking at their screens.
  • Plan the layout and procedures of your blended learning classroom before you begin.
    • Put students in charge of putting them out and away, letting them take ownership will help them value the use of the devices as well.
    • When the devices are out and you need the student’s attention, say 45 and have the students put their screens to a 45 degree angle like the above picture (not closed so it will have to start over or lose what they have done) or flip it over for devices such as phones.
    • Know what learning management system (ex. Google Classroom, Edmodo etc) and other web tools you plan on using.
  • Be flexible and understand that students might need to be scaffold info this type of environment.

Misconceptions:

  • Blended Learning = 1:1 environment. Not true: a great blended learning model can use only 10-15 computers. (Ex. Station Rotation Model)
  • Blended Learning = No Teacher. Not true: It is critical for a teacher in any learning environment and blended learning allows teachers to have more one on one time with students to help them grow as learners.
  • Blended Learning  = Babysitter. Not True: Students should never be just sitting at a screen but using higher order thinking skills or working with an adaptive learning program like Dreambox or Compass Learning.
  • Blended Learning = Everyday. Not True: You do not need to do blended learning every day, many happen to do it everyday because they like the time it gains them to be with small groups of students focusing on individual needs. I have seen lots of teachers only do a blended approach a few days of the week, while the other days they are doing more Project/Inquiry based learning.

I would love to learn more tips and tricks of a blended learning classroom. Please share in the comment section.

Effective Assessment Retaking Solutions for Mastery Learning

“Mistakes and failures are precisely your means of education. They tell you about your own inadequacies.” By Robert Greene

Retakes

My district has rolled out a new grading system that allows students to retake assessments and I am very excited about this. Some naysayers say this doesn’t teach students responsibility and is not ‘real world’ but I disagree. Not only does it teach responsibility but also strengthen students depositional thinking skills such as perseverance and resilience. There are many assessments that we are allowed to retake in the ‘real world’ such as driving tests, SATs and even the BAR exam. Allowing students to retake an assessment also show true mastery of learning; however if only done effectively.

What does effective assessment retake look like? Below I have shared some of the problems I see and how we can overcome them so we are being purposeful and meaningful when allowing our students to retake an assessment.

Problem #1 : Tests are on Friday because the pacing guide says so. Retakes are on Monday, you have the weekend to learn it.

Solution #1: Learning goals do not depend upon every student reaching the same level of proficiency on the same day. Learning goals DO depend upon every student mastering the goal. Allow students to take the assessment when they know the material, including the retake.

Problem #2: Teachers allow students to retake without any corrective actions in place.

Solution #2: Have students create action plans or steps on how they are going to master the material. This holds them accountable for their learning as well. We don’t learn from our mistakes, we learn from correcting our mistakes.

Problem #3: Teachers teach the material the same way when reteaching.

Solution #3: Albert Einstein definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We need to teach the material a different way in order to help our students.

Rick Wormeli’s Redo’s and Retakes Done Right is also a great read with practical strategies to use in the classroom. I would love to hear any effective tips and tricks you use in your classroom that allow for effective retakes, please share in the comments.

Mystery Skype

“It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.” By Antoine Rivarol

Guest Blog Post by Megan Mehta

We were a few weeks away from a unit centered on the 5 Themes of Geography, and my options were looking like either a) pull the info from the textbook, or b) do something the kids would be excited about.  So I started doing some research and some thinking and this is what I came up with:

We would still use the 5 Themes framework, but I wanted them to branch out beyond the borders of North Carolina.  I also wanted them to work collaboratively while sustaining interest in a project that was going to span a few weeks. I began with a regional map of the United States:

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I split up the kids and let them choose their regions.  Each and every group was excited about their region because someone had some connection to a state, so we were off to a great start!  The next step was to figure out a way to organize our information.  We are a BYOD school, but not all of my kids have devices, so we discussed ways to keep track of our learning and research and decided on a common graphic organizer:

Picture

Hey! That’s only 4 themes! I decided to omit the “movement” theme for the purpose of this unit, as we will be learning about it later in the year.  Anyway, we discussed the themes as they related to Charlotte, North Carolina, and began with Location.  They immediately realized that finding the absolute location of their region was going to be tricky. One group’s solution was to do it just for the capital cities in their respective states; the other groups declared them geniuses, and everyone was happy with the solution. For relative location, some groups chose to describe it for the capital cities, some chose to focus on the region itself.

We went through each of the remaining themes like this: I modeled, they applied. I assessed them with a simple rubric of 3 (mastered), 2 (partially mastered) and 1 (not mastered), and provided support where needed. I expected to be tearing around the room with my hair on fire, but the kids were really into this and did an amazing job of working collaboratively.

We finished our graphic organizers (this took about 4-5 class periods of 45 minutes each) and I was (fairly) confident we were ready to set up our first Mystery Skype. I found a list of jobs and tweaked it to meet our class needs. What we ended up with was this:

1 note taker (records the clues on paper)

2 tweeters (to live tweet the event, of course!)

3 moderators (the faces of our class– asked the questions from the inquirers and relayed answers to the mappers)

4 state experts (answered the questions from the other class)

3 inquirers (asked questions based on the mappers’ notes)

4 mappers (used maps of the U. S. and Google Earth to narrow down the other class’ location)

2 photographers (used iPads to document the experience)

For the first call, I assigned the jobs but in subsequent ones, I have had them pull them out of a hat (a fancy word for “quart-sized storage bag”) and given the option to trade.

To set up the call, I turned to the Great and Powerful Twitter. Within hours, we had three classes wanting to connect. I learned quickly that scheduling can be a challenge with our regimented days, but with some creative rearranging we managed to find a time to connect with a class in Iowa. I told them from the get-go that we were completely new to this in case we breached some Mystery Skype protocol or etiquette that we were unaware of. We took our cues from them and we were off and running! Their first question asked us if we were in the U.S. and where we were in relation to the Mississippi River. It took all I had to restrain myself and let the kids figure out the strategy! I’d like to say that everyone stuck to their job and their assigned classroom area the whole time and everything went perfectly… However… we had sound issues which made it all much more difficult than it should have been. We couldn’t get skype to work on our desktop, so we were using an iPad. The speakers I had weren’t working, so the only audio we had were the tiny sounds coming from the iPad speakers. In a room full of excited 8 year olds, this is not ideal. At one point, I was leaning in to the speaker to listen, not realizing my face was right in the camera. Not exactly the big screen debut I was hoping for, and I’m pretty sure I reappeared in a subsequent nightmare or two because that was one intense close-up. Also, the kids were SO excited that they were (of course) all over the room, talking over each other, doing each other’s jobs, and often doing everything but paying attention to the clues. BUT, we made it! After 45 minutes, they had guessed our location and we figured out theirs (with a little help).

In all, it was and continues to be an amazing learning experience for these kids. They are learning so much about U. S. geography, and thrilled about connecting with other kids across the country. We will definitely continue this throughout the year! If you are looking to connect with us, our Twitter handle is @MehtasBESpandas.

**Update! This process has evolved throughout the year, and I’m sure it will continue to do so next year. I’ve since added the job of “back channellers” where we set up a room on TodaysMeet.com and ask questions about how many kids they have in their school or class, what their school mascot is, etc. We also use Google maps to find out how long it would take us to travel to their school by car. Something we may do next year is come up with a short bio about us and the Charlotte area to use as a wrap up or conversation starter once the locations have been correctly identified. We also need to talk about time zones and the 13 original colonies– both those questions came up a few times and stymied our state experts. I’ve also learned that guessing the state is the easy part– guessing the town or city is really tough! I think the biggest take-away I have from doing these this year are how quickly my kids took over and rocked it out. There was a lot of initial coaching, but by the end of the year, THEY were the ones taking the lead, keeping each other in check, critically thinking, and collaborating. And no one will ever be able to say one of our Pandas can’t find xyz on a map of the U.S.!

Using Booktrack in the Classroom

“There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.” By Maurice Sendak

Booktrack aims to improve student literacy through encompassing technology and Common Core Standards. It can be used two different ways: One is students can read stories, poems and other texts that are associated with a ‘movie-style’ soundtrack or two, students can create Booktracks, using their own writing.

How does it work?

You choose a book. As you read, you’ll see an arrow going down the right-hand margin of the page. This arrow moves down the page as you read so that your reading speed goes with the soundtrack. If the arrow moves too fast or slow, use the plus and minus icons at the bottom of the page to change the speed.

If you want students to create their own book, they can do so in a few easy steps:

1. Click on the icon create

2. Type the story

3. Add the sound track by highlighting the text you want to each part of the story from the library of over 20,000 sound clips.

4. Preview and then publish!

Here are my ten reasons why I like Booktrack:

1. FREE

2. Lesson plan library created by teachers, for teachers

3.  It is easy to create a class account. To enroll your students into your class add their name and select add or just upload a CSV file – Booktrack will set them up for you.

4. Books for all levels of students elementary, middle and high.

5. If you have any questions or need assistance just click on “Help” in the upper right hand corner. There are video tutorials to help guide you as well, which makes it very user-friendly.

6. Works on all devices! (Great for BYOT classrooms)

7. The books are all labeled with genre, type, language and ratings.

 

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8. Students can create their own books and publish them so others can read as well.

9.  The sound track can distract some students but you can mute it and read it just like a regular e-book.

10. Teachers can use the books as their read alouds; modeling on an eReader can help promote 21st century digital literacy skills.

Articles about Booktrack:

Booktrack Raises $3M To Add Soundtracks To E-Books, Launches Classroom Version

Booktrack – Create and Listen to Soundtracks for Books

 

Pixar Pitches in Education

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.” By Joss Whedon

This summer I learned a new way to present information in a quick manner called Pixar Pitch. The concept is that if you only have 60 seconds (elevator speech) to ‘sell/tell’ your idea, you need to know the key important information. To help condense your story into a single paragraph, Daniel Pink, the author of “To Sell Is Human,” suggests using this  6 sentence formula original created by Emma Coats.
 

Pixar Pitch Formula:
– Once upon a time…
– Every day or year…
– Then one day…
– Because of that…
– After That…
– Until Finally…

 
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Here is an education example that I created. The topic: Personalized Learning.
 

Once upon a time…we wanted to maximize student academic achievement in the 21st century through innovation.
Every day…we took notice that the world was changing. We were preparing our students for jobs that were not even invented.
Then one day…we realized we needed to make an instructional shift and personalize the students learning.
Because of that…we created a cohort of schools that would focus on an instructional design that requires a fundamental shift from a traditional teaching model, to a classroom that empowers and nurtures the social, emotional, academic, and developmental needs of each self-directed 21st century learner.
After That…the schools focused on the whole child, student ownership, mastery learning and paces, playlists and pathways.
Until Finally…we changed the classroom experience and raised student achievement.

 

Here is another example by Jay Connor from his blog. The topic: The community is seeking to dramatically improve early childhood reading outcomes.

 

Once upon a time there was … an education crisis haunting our schools and communities across North America.
Every day … large percentages of our children were not achieving proficiency in vital literacy skills to the point that some in our community even doubted whether they ever could.
One day … we developed a simple and shared definition of what children had to know to be ready for school.
Because of that … our early childhood centers and parents became better at helping all children enter kindergarten ready to learn
Because of that … teachers were free to work more on skill development for each individual child.
Until finally … every child, irrespective of ethnic or economic circumstance, became a proficient reader by the end of third grade.

 

I would love to hear your examples of using Pixar Pitches in education. Please share in the comments.

Design Thinking and Challenges

“It’s no longer enough simply to outperform the competition; to thrive in a world of ceaseless and rapid change, business people have to out-imagine the competition as well. They must begin to think-to become-more like designers.” by Roger Martin

Design challenges uses the design thinking process to find a solution to a challenge. Design thinking takes on a problem solving mindset. Design challenges create real world opportunities for students  be innovative and creative while using their higher order thinking and 21st century learning skills. Design thinking and challenges provides a student centric learning experience to happen in the classroom. Below is the design process that Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (all rights reserved) uses:

Design Thinking Process

Design Challenge Ideas for the Classroom:

  • How might we create ways for younger students to better understand how important digital citizenship is?
  • Create an app that would help you solve a problem you encounter daily?
  • Knex: Design Challenge
  • Design a clothing product that allows for heating and cooling of materials for different sports. (Example of standards based Design Challenge – Science: 5.P.3)

Other resources on Design Thinking and Challenges:

Museum of Science, Boston Design Challenges

Design Challenge Lessons from The Tech Museum: Museum of Innovation

A Design Challenge to Students: Solve a Real-World Problem!

Design Squad – PBS (Great for 3-8th graders)

Real World Design Challenges (HS Level)

Threadless Design Challenge – Real world application

K12 Lab Wiki for Design Challenges

Design Thinking for Educators

IDEO Design Thinking

Great article by Forbes: Design Thinking: A Unified Framework for Innovation

I would love to hear design thinking and challenges ideas from your classrooms.

My Learnings Digested from #ISTE2014

“Actions speak louder than buzzwords. ” Adam Bellows

ISTE2014 Bound
ISTE2014 Bound

It is hard to believe a week ago I was at #ISTE2014 with 16,039 conference goers, from all 50 states along with 67 nations! It has taken me some time to process and digest what I learned from the conference that is now a check off my bucket list!

Top 3 Takeaways:

1. I want to be like Kevin Carroll! Why? He believed in himself, he was a change agent and a catalyst. By far  Kevin’s keynote was the most inspirational and best session I attended. His keynote speech has not been released yet but when it does, if you have not seen it, you need too. Here is a quick interview with him: Kevin Carroll at ISTE 2014 and his book: Rules of the Red Rubber Ball

2. Relationships and collaboration of ideas are the most important part of learning. My second favorite part about ISTE was the people, sharing ideas in lines, at meals and at events. I loved meeting my virtual PLN face to face and collaborating with educators from my own district that I don’t get to see so often and ones that I do!

3.  There is a lot of misconceptions about what Personalized Learning is. Personalized Learning encompasses many best practices that teachers already do such as conferring/conferencing with students, build relationships and allowing students to own their learning. What it is NOT: Personalized Learning does not mean technology. Technology is a tool to help the instructional shift that needs to be made in the classroom. There is no one Learning Management System (LMS), web tool, app or device that is the magic bullet for personalized leaning.

Top 3 Websites to check out:

1. Tackk : is a simple way to create beautiful pages on the web. It’s your very own page, flyer, blog post, or poster.

2. Graphite: Is a great site by Common Sense Media  that make it easier for educators to find the best apps, games, and websites for the classroom, making sure they are common core aligned and the rigor and relevance is there.

3.  Tammy Wocester : I used to visit Tammy’s site often a few years ago as I loved her ideas. I am glad I went to her session and was reminded how great it is.

Top 3 ideas to implement: 

1. #youmatter: I have heard about you matter by watching the TED talk but going to the session helped me realize it’s about personalizing the students learning through whole child approach. It is a movement. Here are more sites to add to your #youmatter resources:  http://choose2matter.org,  http://www.classroomchampions.org  and you matter day using #mattergrams

2. App Speed Dating: Is where students teach educators about apps they like to use in the classroom.  A great way to offer PD to teachers and allow student leadership.

3. Edtechwomen: One of the events I went to at ISTE was the #edtechwomen dinner. It was a favorite for me as I was inspired by so many amazing women; learning about their stories and journeys. I also learned the most about myself during this event as I never realized how much I ‘downgrade’ things I have accomplished in my life, such as when I introduced myself, I stated what my job was but I neglected to also state that I own my own company. That is something that is apart of me that I don’t share often enough, yet it is a huge accomplishment. I am slowly learning that I need to be proud of all that I have done. I’m in the process of starting a chapter of #edtechwomen for the charlotte area. Once I learn more I will be sure to share as I hope you will be involved and yes, men are welcome as they are our ‘malallies’ – male + allies.

Other great reflections and posts from ISTE2014:

Anibal Pacheco’s – Interviews w/ Presenters and Special Guests

Erin Klein’s: Reflections from #iste2014

Rafranz DavisPassion Fueled Connection

Lisa Pagano’s: Beginning to Process #iste2014

ISTE 2014 Sessions with Published Handout Links

Google Doc: ISTE 2014 Session Notes

Melissa  Edwards Reflections

If you would like to experience #iste2015 in Philly you can start checking out ISTE’s site.

Classroom: Google in Education’s Learning Management System

David Lee EdTech

With Google in Education’s Classroom teachers can:
-Create a class
-Add students from your Google Apps account or with a class code, create assignments
-Add a file from Drive, YouTube or webpage onto Classroom
-Allow students to see assignments and complete them in Google Docs
-Allow students to submit work automatically
-See who turned in what in real time
-Provide grades and feedback from Classroom

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Takeaways From #edcampusa From Afar

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” By Abigail Adams

On June 6th, #edcampUSA took place in Washington, DC at the Department of Education. I’m sure like me most of us couldn’t attend as I was busy working but that didn’t stop me from learning from it as I read the archives later. Below are my three takeaways from #edcampUSA from the tweets and Gdocs of the participants.

1. Voxer is a walkie-talkie like app where you can hold discussions with many people. It is great to hear voices of people you have been tweeting with. Voxer can be used many different ways in the classroom and in education. Check out the list that was started at a session during #edcampUSA. I have joined many voxer chats in the past few days such as an ASCD Emerging Leader one where we are discussing the importance of education needing to change. I am also excited to do a book study using this app this summer as well. My voxer id is: jthomp56629

2. Our schools, more than ever, need to be redesigned to fit the learners needs. You can tell from the #edcampUSA session board as 4 of the 20 topics were about it. We need to change our classroom and libraries to include spaces such as makerspaces. You would think this is an easy fix but I have learned that there are a lot of furniture regulations from not only districts but the state as well but this is a topic that needs to continue to be pursued. I know I will continue to try to push the envelope.

3. We are the change makers! Edcamp was started four years ago by a group of educators and now look at what has happened. Professional development is changing, educators are becoming more connected and issues that were not always discussed are being talked about. Together change can happen!

Other articles and blogs from #edcampUSA I liked:

The Positive Power of #Edcamp Hits The US Department of Education

#edcampuse Tagboard

How EdCamps Break the Rules of Professional Development

Tom Murray: 5 Take aways for #edcampUSA