How to Build a Digital Innovation Playground for Educators

“Changes call for innovation, and innovation leads to progress.” By Li Keqiang

I had a goal that I wanted teachers to see technology tools as not as a another thing but how it could enhance lessons. Previously, I would tell educators that technology was a tool but I realized that wasn’t working. I decide to change my thinking and SHOW them HOW technology could be a tool. This is where my idea for creating a digital learning playground came from. I wanted to share my experience so that other schools or districts could build one too. 

  1. Find a space where you could house the technology in a “showroom” type of atmosphere. 
    • We chose to create ours in our Professional Development Center in a classroom. 
  2. Create a list of technology tools that you think teachers would like to utilize in the classroom. 
    • We started our list with items we knew some schools already had but did not know what to do with; they had purchased them because they “looked” fun such as Spheros.
  3. Start to contact technology companies to see if they would donate their technology tool to your playground; understanding the return could potentially be that teachers/schools would purchase the technology for their classroom. 
    • Not many technology companies donated but it was a good place to start
  4. As donations came in and while you make purchases, learn how the technology tool works and start to build lesson plans that incorporate standards. 
    • We played with the tools to learn them and then created lesson plans based on NC standards for all different grade levels and subjects. 
  5. When educators visit the room allow them to play with the resources and see the lesson plans that connect to the curriculum. 
    • We created a schedule to allow teachers to know the times the room would be open. We also created a professional development around the tools and soon had a smaller digital playground “on the go” (via a bin) so we could recreate the room at different schools when giving PD. We also created guidelines to help educators design their own learning experience when they came to the room.

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Multi-functional Learning Spaces in Classrooms

“Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s only way to work, really. Everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board.” By Antony Starr

This past week I went to Edspace 2014. This was a unique experience as I have thought about what furniture a classroom needs but I never knew how much design really goes into schools and furniture. One session I went to I learned a lot about how to turn media centers into learning commons but when I started thinking about it, I realized it shouldn’t be limited to the learning commons but across classrooms.

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David Thornburg wrote an article called ‘Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century‘  (great read) and the presentation I saw was adapted from his work.  Learning Commons or classrooms should have different ‘primordial learning metaphors’ in layman’s terms =  zones. Here are the different zones Thornburg says you should have:

Campfire: This space is where you learn from instruction. It fosters conversation and sharing between teacher and students.

Watering Hole: This space is where you learn from peers. It is a space for collaboration and sharing to take place.

Cave Spaces: This space is where you learn from yourself.  It is a space where you can work on your own, reflect and think. This space is quiet and ‘hideaway’

Life: Is where you bring it all together and apply it to the real world.

I also learned the rooms need to be flexible, adaptable and have a variety. These terms are not interchangeable but have specific distinctions. According to the presenters, these terms were adapted from the book: The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools.

Adaptable: Allows for change over time. Ex. removing a low bearing wall

Flexible: Allows opportunities for users to change the space themselves over the course of a week. Ex. Movable walls, larger furniture that is on casters (bookshelf)

Variety: Allows users to change the quality of their space moving to another area daily. Ex. Chairs and desks that are on casters

I would love to know how you design your classroom space. I would also love to know if you have used Thornburg’s research, what are your thoughts and results from your experience.

Using Consultancy Protocol to Ignite Change

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” by Barack Obama

Using  a consultancy protocol is authentic learning at its best. A consultancy protocol is a structured process for helping an individual or team think more expansively about a particular dilemma or barrier.  I believe this format is a great way to ignite change in a school and/or classroom, as it allows teachers and students voices to be heard. (Norms would have to be set and most take place in a safe environment.) Holding consultancy protocols helps build better school and classroom environments because it builds trust and relationships. Instead of listing problems and complaining like at a typical meeting, everyone becomes part of the solution and time is well spent. This could easily be done for students during morning meeting/class meeting or during a staff meeting for teachers.

Final Hands

Below is the process to hold a consultancy but know there are different variations out there as well. I adapted this one from a Bill Gates Convening I attended. Below are approximate times but I have done “mini” versions of this in 30 minutes. There are different roles and responsibilities for each person participating:

  • Presenter:  Person who brings the dilemma or barrier to the group and whose work is being discussed by group (Staff Member or Student)
  • Facilitator: Person who facilitates discussion and moves group through the Consultancy Phases (Facilitator can also participate in discussion) (Principal or Teacher)
  • Consultancy Group: Group of individuals that discuss the problem and provide the Presenter with feedback. (School Staff or Classroom of Students)

The Consultancy Process

Step 1: Presenter Overview  (5 – 10 mins)

The Presenter gives an overview of the dilemma or barrier with which s/he is struggling and frames a question to the Consultancy Group to consider  A write-up of the problem may be shared as well but the problem must be presented orally. Here are steps in writing about the dilemma or barrier:

  • Step 1: Consider the Dilemma This should be an issue with which you are struggling, that has a way to go before being resolved, that is up to you to control, and that it is critical to your work. It is important that your problem is authentic and fresh – that is, not already solved or nearly solved.
  • Step 2: Write about the Dilemma Here are questions to guide your writing:
  1.  Why is this a dilemma or barrier for you? Why is this dilemma or barrier important to you?
  2. If you could take a snapshot of this dilemma, what would you/we see?
  3. What have you done already to try to remedy or manage the dilemma or barrier? If so, what have been the results of those attempts?
  4. What do you assume to be true about this dilemma or barrier, and how have these assumptions influenced your thinking about the problem?

The framing of this question is key to the effectiveness of the Protocol. The focus of the Group’s conversation will be on this dilemma and barrier.

Step 2: Clarifying Questions (5 – 10 mins)

The group asks clarifying questions of the Presenter, that is, questions that have brief, factual answers. Clarifying questions ask the Presenter the “who, what, where, when, and how” of their problem. These are not “why” questions, and generally can be answered quickly and succinctly, often in a sentence or two. These questions are not meant to fuel discussion, but rather to make clear any important points of reference.

Step 3: Probing Questions (5 – 10 mins)

The group asks probing questions of the Presenter. These questions should be worded to help the Presenter clarify and expand his/her thinking about the dilemma or barrier presented to the Consultancy Group.  Probing questions get to the “why” of the Presenter’s problem. These may be open-ended inquiries, requiring answers based both in factual detail and the subjective understanding of the Presenter. The purpose of a probing question is to push the Presenter’s thinking about his/her problem to a deep level of analysis. The Presenter may respond to the questions, but there is no discussion by the Consultancy Group of the Presenter’s responses.  At the end of the 10 minutes, the Facilitator will ask the Presenter to restate his/her question to the Group.

Step 4: Group Dilemma Discussion (15 – 20 mins)

The Consultancy Group analyzes the problem while the Presenter moves back from the circle, remains quiet, does not interrupt or add information, and takes notes during the discussion. Possible questions to frame the discussion:

  • What did we hear?
  • What didn’t we hear?
  • What assumptions seem to be operating?
  • What questions does the dilemma or barrier raise for us?
  • What do we think about the dilemma or barrier?
  • What might we do or try to do if faced with the same dilemma or barrier?

Members of the Group sometimes suggest actions the Presenter might consider taking.  However, they work to define the issue more thoroughly and objectively.

Step 5: Presenter Reflection (5 – 10 mins) 

The Presenter reflects on what s/he heard and on what s/he is now thinking. S/he shares with the group anything that particularly resonated during the Consultancy.

Step 6: Facilitator Debrief (2 – 5 mins) 

The Facilitator leads a brief discussion about the group’s observation of the Consultancy Process.

This format allows issues to be addressed and solutions created. It allow students to use all their 21st century skills (Communication, Collaboration, Critically Thinking and Creating) no matter if they are the presenter or in the group. If you have done a consultancy protocol in your school or classroom, I would love to hear what worked and what didn’t, please share int he comments.

 

CIPA, COPPA, FERPA, Oh My!

“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” Bill Gates

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CIPA, COPPA, FERPA, Oh My! These are the laws and policies that help to protect our students online that many teacher’s are not aware of. Below is an overview of each law along with some resources to better understand them.

Child Internet Protection Act: The school is required by CIPA to have technology measures and policies in place that protect students from harmful materials including those that are obscene and pornographic. Any harmful content contained from inappropriate sites will be blocked. http://fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cipa.html

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act: COPPA applies to commercial companies and limits their ability to collect personal information from children under 13. By default, Google advertising is turned off for Apps for Education users. No personal student information is collected for commercial purposes. This permission form allows the school to act as an agent for parents in the collection of information within the school context. The school’s use of student information is solely for education purposes.http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppafaqs.shtm

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act: FERPA protects the privacy of student education records and gives parents the right to review student records. Under FERPA, schools may disclose directory information (name, phone, address, grade level, etc…) but parents may request that the school not disclose this information.

  • The school will not publish confidential education records (grades, student ID #, etc) for public viewing on the Internet. The school may publish student work and photos for public viewing but will not publish student last names or other personally identifiable information.
  • Parents may request that photos, names and general directory information about their children not be published. Parents have the right at any time to investigate the contents of their child’s email or web tools. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa

Resource: 

Due to these laws, but also wanting our students to create using web tools and apps, we created a Webtool Permission Slip. This permission slip helps parents be informed as well.

Knowledge is Freedom: CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA Explained Succinctly

CIPA, COPPA & FERPA: Requirements Reexamined

World’s Simplest Online Safety Policy

Work Cited:

“Children’s Internet Protection Act | FCC.gov.” 2002. 1 Dec. 2013 <http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cipa.html>

“Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.” 1 Dec. 2013 <http://www.ftc.gov/ogc/coppa1.htm>

“FERPA for Students – U.S. Department of Education.” 2010. 1 Dec. 2013 <http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html>

Take-Aways from Visiting Schools Implementing Personalized Learning

“Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.” By Doug Firebaugh

As many of you know, for the past few months I have been working as project manager for the Bill Gates NextGen Innovative grant. This past week we was able to travel to San Francisco and visit multiple schools that have started the process in their schools to personalize learning.

One school we were able to visit was Summit Public Schools. What I enjoyed must about this school visit was the students were empowered to drive their own learning, ensuring they are prepared for success in colleges and career. How Summit became invested in making sure students were driving their own learning was because they noticed that 100% of their students were attending a 4 year college but not a 100% were graduating from a four-year college; many dropping out within the first year. This sparked them to look at their teaching practice and realize that they were providing too much assistance to the students so that once ‘on their own’ they didn’t have the skills to be successful. To support the Personalized Learning cycle, Summit has changed classroom design and added personalized learning time.

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Summits classroom design is very open and most of the furniture is on wheels including the students desks and tables. This allows the teachers and students to redesign the room daily.

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In this picture you can see students are working on individual learning tasks while the teacher is working 1 on 1 with a student. Notice there are devices but also there are books too. I think a fear many teachers have is that ‘traditional’ things will go away when they implement personalized learning and that is not the case.

We visited other school districts that also started implementing personalized learning and during these visits we had other take aways along with some revelations such as:

– There are lots of FREE edtech tools such as Khan that you can start using to transition into personalizing the students learning

– We are already doing a lot of personalization but it is not consistent such as balanced literacy, PBL’s and flipped classroom

– New support staff roles will help teachers optimize their instruction

– Training for everyone involved is a critical success factor for personalized learning

– Blended learning is apart of personalized learning and not  separate entity

These visits really drove home that the intentional shift to personalized learning is about fundamentally changing our approach to learning and teaching; technology is an important enabler but the devices we use are just one tool for delivering this instruction. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing more about personalized learning and starting to share my thoughts and resources on making this shift.

Makerspace in Education

“In a general way, you can shake the world.” by Ghandi

A typical Makerspace 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. (The concept reminds me a lot of what Camp Invention is all about, which is a summer camp, I used to teach) If we created a workspace that had materials such as computers, makey makeys, Raspberry Pi and other tools for a hands-on learning; I can only image the ideas students would come up with if they had this space available. Here are three reason why I think schools should have Makerspaces:

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Teachers using a Makey-Makey to play Mindcraft that a student built.

1. Authentic Learning: DIY projects are real world and authentic. In Makerspaces, students can solve real-world problems with innovative solutions. Some Makerspace innovative ideas that have been successful and you probably have heard of or even used are: Square, Makerbot and Pebble Watch.

2. 21st Century Skills: Makerspaces allow students to critically think, create, collaborate and communicate. The student’s are able to work together to learn new skills, share expertise while developing their thinking and discovering new solutions. It allows students to have choice and voice.

3. STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math = STEM. By adding in Art Design and you get STEAM. Makerspaces allow all subjects to seamless work together. Art Design is the visual standpoint and can range from the art of coding a website to the esthetic of a project.

I am helping some schools set up there Makerspace area and I am excited to see what happens ( I am sure I will blog again about this topic with the results). One middle school is even making it a ‘special/elective’ the students can sign up for. I think this is a revolutionary idea and will happen more often in schools.

If you want to get started or learn more about Makerspaces for your school, I highly suggestion going to Makerspaces.com and also review their Makerspace Playbook Guide.

Other Great Resources:

Mt. Elliot Makerspace (Love his Makerspace section of his site)

www.makermedia.com

http://makerfaire.com

Makezine.com

A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources

Creating Makerspaces in Schools

Livebinder on Makerspace

Tedx: Makerspaces – The Future of Education by Marc Teusch (4:35)

If you have a Makerspace in your classroom or in your school, I would love to hear your thoughts. I am excited to see where the Maker Movement will go.

Integrating Social Emotional Curricula and the Common Core

“Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.” By Alice Miller

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Tonight’s #21stedchat (On Twitter Sundays @ 8:00 PM EST US with @dprindle and I – @Edu_Thompson) is discussing Social Emotional Curriculum vs. Integrated Empathy. This is apart of what I refer to as ‘hidden curriculum’. To me there shouldn’t be a ‘verse’ between Social Emotional Curriculum/Integrated Empathy tonight but an ‘and’.

Developing students’ social and emotional skills helps schools/classrooms create safe learning environments that help increase academic achievement. I believe that empathy falls within social emotional curriculum and it should be integrated into the Common Core with a focus on 21st century skills so it is cohesive. Below are some suggestions on how you can integrate social and emotional curricula with Common Core standards. My ideas are based on the An Educational Leaders Guide to Evidence-Based Social and Emotional Learning Programs, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL, 2013)’ and Common Core.

  • Self-Awareness/Management: focuses on identifying and recognizing emotions; self-efficacy; control of oneself; self-motivation and discipline; goal setting; and organizational skills. Connection to Common Core:  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • Relationship Skills: encompasses communication; social engagement and relationship building; working cooperatively; negotiation; conflict management; and help seeking. Connection to Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • Responsible Decision Making: includes problem identification and problem solving; evaluation and reflection; personal, social, and ethical responsibility. Connection to Common Core: CCSS.Math.Practice.MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • Social Awareness: empathy; difference recognition; and respect for others. Connection to Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

There are many other Common Core Standards that these social and emotional basic skills can be integrated with. Many of these skills can also be taught and discussed within books, history and the arts. Below are more resources on this topic:

Social and emotional learning gaining new focus under Common Core

Building Social and Emotional Skills in Elementary Students: Empathy

Empathy: the Key to Social and Emotional Learning

Teaching Social and Emotional Skills in Schools

CASEL website

I would to hear ways that you think social and emotional curricula should be integrated or how you have integrated it. Please share in the comments section

5 Tips in Getting Parents Involved

“A positive parent-teacher relationship helps your child feel good about school and be successful in school” by Diane Levin, Ph.D.

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One of the most important things a school can do to help raise student achievement scores is getting parents involved. There needs to be a partnership  between school and parents, working together to better the students academic lives. How can you get parents involved? Below are my top 5 ways.

1. Ask: Often times educators don’t ask parents about volunteering because they don’t want to impose on a parent. Using a site like SignUp Genius, allows parents to sign up for what they feel comfortable doing and have time for. Having multiple volunteer opportunities from brining in snacks, to helping with filing, to creating a bulletin board gives all parents options.

2. Website: Every educator should have a website that has basic information for the parents such as grading polices, helpful websites and class schedule. Embed calendars so parents can record upcoming events, assignments and dates to check to help their children’s progress is also beneficial. If your school doesn’t supply you with a website option, you can create free owns with Weebly, Google Sites  or Wix.

3. Social Media: Communication is huge in getting parents involved and having a school Facebook Page and Twitter is a great way for parents to stay updated.  Don’t believe me: check out these Facebook Stats. Here is a schools Faceebook page from Charlotte, NC: Grand Oak Elementary and a Twitter Page from New Jersey: New Milford HS.

4. Workshops: Having professional development for parents helps them feel comfortable with curriculum and programs helps build trust. An example of workshops that you can have are BYOT  or Common Core so parents can see how they are implemented.

5. Having a Space for Parents: Designing a space for parents helps parents feel welcomed and apart of the school. This space also allows the parents to help the school or teacher without getting in the way of the students learning.

Want more information of getting parents involved read: Education World: Parent Involvement in Schools. Please share any successful tips that have worked for you in the comment section.

 

 

Teaching the Hidden Curriculum: Compassion

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” By John Holmes

Character education may not be in the Common Core but as a teacher I often think about the ‘hidden curriculum’ of teaching a well-rounded student. Learning about our differences can be a powerful way for children to see from another person’s point of view helping them understand cultures; becoming more globally aware. Many wonder, ‘Can Compassion Be Taught’?

I believe compassion can be but it also needs to be modeled. This is a wonderful time of year to help teach and model compassion in the classroom. Having the class help a charity or run a food drive can teach compassion. Past service learning projects I have done with my students:

– Collecting Tabs for the Ronald McDonald House (My favorite service learning project because we do it all year and the students graph the number of tabs each month and we can see how much we have made a difference.

Toys for Tots

– Food drives for different soup kitchens

– Wrote letters of persuasion to a tree farmer asking to donate a few trees to those who couldn’t afford them.

– Reading Buddies and Tutoring help with a different grade level

– Coat drives

This is a great site to find more service learning ideas for the classroom: National Service Learning Organization

Books that help teach students about  compassion:

The Book Thief   by Markus Zusak

Wonder by R.J. Palacio 

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Yoko by Rosemary Wells

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Great article on teaching compassion: Instilling Compassion

An Infographic by www.OpenColleges.edu.au

I would love to know what others have done in the classroom to help teach compassion and service learning project ideas.

I wish all my readers Happy Holidays! ♥

The 21st Century Classroom Environment

“The things surrounding you in your home (classroom) serve as subliminal reminders of who you (we) are. They will continue to direct you towards old patterns of behavior. Subconscious beliefs are generally so deep-seated that one is not aware of them. ” By Denise Linn, Feng Shui for the Soul

The more I keep preaching about how our teaching needs to change to fit our learners needs, the more I realize so does our classroom layout. For the last few years, teachers have started to change their seating arrangements so the classroom is not rows of desks but small groups of  desks together but I think we need to change it beyond that. I did not come to the realization alone but actually from a  second year teacher who I mentor; which proves how much we all can teach each other no matter how long we have been teaching. Thanks @Jenn_TeachLearn and her class @MissBrinnsClass. (Many of the below photos’ are from her room.) Through our conversations, reading articles and blogs I have come to realize I believe students need an environment that is organized, stimulating, and comfortable in order to learn effectively. I think classrooms and media centers need to be more like Paneras or book stores, where there are several different areas you can sit; from tables, to booths to couches and chairs. Creating such a classroom entails arranging a practical layout and supplying various materials/supplies. This layout  promotes students to have a sense of ownership along with an easier way for students to communicate and collaborate with each other.  Below are a few classroom photos’ from my school who have their rooms set up this way.

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Tables with yoga balls and chairs so students have choice of what works for them.

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Lighting is important. Using more natural light with soft light from lamps helps make the room feel more welcoming then the harsh  fluorescent lights most classrooms have.

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Having different ‘nooks’ and areas for students to choice what is most comfortable for them to learn helps promote ownership of the students learning.

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Letting students bring their own devices allows for students to have more of an authentic learning experience and letting them chose where they want to work.

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Having items to share adds a calming effect to the classroom. Brining the outdoors in or an outside learning classroom is great for student learning.

Other articles and blog posts about changing the classroom set up:

Redesigning the 21st Century Classroom

21st Learning Environments 

The 21st Century Classroom Demonstrates Model Learning Environment 

Designing the 21st Century K12 Classroom

Creativity Thrives in the Outdoor Classroom

6 ingredients for the 21st Century Classroom

The School Supply Addict – Room Set Up

The Project Approach – Classroom as a Learning Environment 

Feng Shui Your Classroom For a Academic Success