Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Work Worth Doing

I know that it's been some time (years) since I have posted. I wish that I had a noble reason for why I haven't, but the reality is that I have simply not made blogging a priority. What I have made a priority is my teaching.

Last school year I had the opportunity to go all in on something big: Project Based Learning. it has been a long time dream of mine to bring PBL to my classroom in a meaningful way and I am grateful to have the opportunity to not only teach using PBL, but to also be an advocate for it, not only in my building, but within my district.

I started researching Project Based Learning a few years ago, and found that I was already sold on some of its components: cross-curricular teaching, student reflection, student voice & choice. As I started to research more, I took to PBL like a fish to the water. It was like I had found my voice.

I want to note that I am still utilizing Gamification in my classroom and I will get a follow up post up sometime in the future with how I have integrated the two into my classroom.

Transitioning to PBL was not easy (is not easy). But as I embarked upon this new adventure, I found that it was hard work that I wanted to do. It is not easy to cross check standards. It is not easy to set formative assessments months in advance. It is not easy to hunt down a community connection or resource. It is not easy to set up pages for your students to easily conduct safe guided research. It is not easy to research critique protocols when the one that you tried did not work. And it is certainly eye opening (and not easy) to realize that the unit that you just taught had components of Project Based Learning, but when compared to the Gold Standard Rubric, did not check all the boxes.

But I would not trade away any of it. Cross checking the standards to get the most out of my lessons and assessments makes every minute of instruction and assessment worth it. Planning my formative assessments months in advance means that when the day of comes, I am not scrambling for an assessment, it's ready to go. Searching for community connections has proven to be one of the biggest bangs for my teaching buck. When the students realize that other people outside of school and their family are interested in what they have to say, it gives them a larger buy in.

And when I reflect back on that first unit, while comparing it to the rubric, I know that I am modeling the same skills that I am teaching my students. It's a work in progress, and I might not be there yet, but I will get there.

When I started this transition to PBL, I knew it would not be easy, but it certainly is worth it. This year and 3/4 teaching and advocating for PBL has been the most meaningful journey yet that I have embarked upon.

As educators, we are often asked, "What's your Why?" or "Why do you teach?" and I have come to say and know that teaching using PBL has allowed me to empower my students in ways that I could not believe were possible.

As Theodore Roosevelt said,
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." 
 This, teaching using Project Based Learning, empowering students, and advocating for others to investigate and explore PBL is, for me at least, the work worth doing.

I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with PBL with you all in the future. And in the mean time... What's your Why? What's your "Work worth doing"?

To learn more about Project Based Learning check out PBLWorks.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

P20 Conference: Reaching for New Heights

P20 Conference: Reaching for New Heights

I had hoped to have all of this posted right after the conference but that didn't work out so I am just now getting to it. The conference was great! One of the best things was getting to see Dave Burgess (Teach Like a Pirate) and M.K. Asante (BUCK).

Now That's Genius!
During the conference I was lucky to present about Genius Hour with a great friend of mine @irishslearners

Have you heard about Genius Hour? It is when students develop their own inquiry question about whatever it is they want to explore. It is passion- and inquiry-based learning all rolled up into one! Come learn how to introduce Genius Hour to your students.


Stop, Collaborate and Listen!

Google Apps for Education (GAFE) allows teachers and students to manage lessons, data, and collaborate in real time. Come explore how to use advanced GAFE tools such as: sites, forms, blogs, and sheets to collaborate with students and colleagues. Additional support will be available for other apps within the GAFE suite such as docs, sheets, classroom and slides.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My How Time Flies...

.. when you're having fun!

This school year has just flown by! I wanted to blog so much more this year and I still have some things that I want to share from my classroom that I'll work on in the coming weeks. All of my state tests are done with the exception of some make ups and tomorrow is our first field trip.

We had a friend/local company print up shirts for all our fourth graders and the end of the year activities. They turned out AMAZING! I have done shirts for my students in the past and I love being able to find my students wherever they are in our activities. It is also a great memento for the students as they head into summer.

This year I've been able to watch an amazing group of 4th graders grow into independent learners. I have seen them explore STEM concepts including things like Hour of Code, LEGO WeDos, NXTs and EV3s. They've explored their passions through 20% time and more. 

This will be a difficult school year to see end because I have had so much fun watching my students learn and grow! But there's always a new year and a new group of students to feverishly get ready for once school is out in June. For now, it's feet on the ground and field trip season!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Site changes are complete

Thank you all for bearing with me while we updated the site. I have noticed that some of the images on the older posts didn't all copy over but that's not the end of the world. This week I am working on my proposal for the P20 Conference this summer as well as preparing for the end of the quarter.

Next quarter we will begin  a STEM unit that incorporates two different LEGO robotics sets: WeDos and NXT/EV3s. I'm really excited to see what the students come up with during these lessons. For many of them it will be their first exposure to LEGO Robotics and hopefully not their last!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pardon My Mess...

I thank you for your patience while I handle some website changes. Hopefully it will bring a better experience for all of my readers out there! Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

IETA 16 Day 1 Recap

After the first day of the conference, I am so energized and ready to get back into my classroom! That is the effect that a great conference can have on an educator. So here are my favorite takeaways from day 1!

Student Voice & Student Choice
In the past, I was able to be a part of the Idaho Leads Project (#expectsuccess) and through that, I was able to learn a lot from Dr. Russ Quaglia and his people at the Quaglia institute. In one of the sessions today we watched the video  Ned's Gr8 8. There were two big things that struck me about this video: Students cannot be successful if they are not okay and we need to get back to a focus on mastery based learning. You can check out the video below or here.

Office 365
It's Microsoft Office... and it's FREE for educators and students! This is awesome! In the past I've purchased educator licences of Microsoft Office and installed it at home, but with Office 365 you can get it for free if you're an educator or a student. You'll just need to use your school email to get to it. Office 365 has a TON of features so I'm just going to highlight my favorites from the session today.
  • Groups - allows shared calendar and documents through One Note. It also puts all your emails from that group in one place.
  • Yammer - like Facebook for business but safe and secured within the organization. Turned on by default. All stored in case it is needed for tracking issues with students, teachers, or parents
  • Word has an Add in called Office Planner. It pulls in standards and brings up a template and incorporates those in the document. It even includes activity ideas!
  • Within One Note - working with Canvas and Blackboard to add the assignments directly. Grading done in One Note will go directly to these LMS
  • Sharing! Check out! It's a place where you can share any kind of Office document with the world.

StopMotion Math
This was just one tidbit found in Kim Miller's presentation about STEM and inquiry in the elementary classroom but it seems like something that I can easily implement within my classroom. The premise is that students create Stop Motion videos using an app that allows them to share their process and understanding of a math concept.

Answer Garden
I stumbled across Answer Garden on Twitter. It was featured at another session but I just thought that it was so awesome and something that I could easily implement in my classroom. You post a question and people answer it. Then the site produces a word cloud (like Wordle or Tagxedo) of the responses. This is great for a quick check of understanding or an alternative to polling the class with fixed answers.

For years I have done screen captures. My software of choice is the SMART capture that comes with the SMART Notebook suite. Until today! Today I learned about Snagit which is an extension for the Chrome browser that does EVERYTHING that SMART capture and other screen capture software does. You can pick a window, an area on your screen, or a tab. This is simple enough that I think that I will even use it with my students. I think it's pretty powerful when students are able to share and explain their thinking/reasoning and this extension will help get my class there.
The best part is this is free and it works with Chromebooks!

Monday, February 8, 2016

IETA 2016

It's the night before IETA and I am here in Boise. This conference is the one that I look forward to all year. This year's keynote is Darren Hudgins who is the Director of Instructional Technology for the OETC. I am really looking forward to tomorrows chance to hear his keynote: "The Merchant of Someday." I'm also looking forward to the chance to meet up with folks from the #IDEdChat weekly twitter. Look out for some great new information from the sessions this week!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Takeaways from Magic Valley Tech Expo

July 28th and 29th was the first every Magic Valley Tech Expo. It was put on in partnership by three districts in the area. In addition to sharing with you my presentation and information, I want to share with you some of the great things that I learned there as well. I am really looking forward to seeing this conference grow in the coming years.

MaKey MaKey - An Invention Kit for Everyone from jay silver on Vimeo.
Makerspaces are places where students can experiment, build, and foster their creativity. We found out that there is a wonderful program offered at the local library which has tons of supplies for students to come in and enjoy their makerspace. One of my favorite new things from this session was the MakeyMakey. MakeyMakey bills itself as "an invention kit for the 21st century," and with it we were able to control our computer screens, build circuits and even play a digital piano! (Once we figured out that the floor was messing up the grounding. I really want to get one of these kits for my classroom.

Publishing Student Work
This session focused on two different story writing platforms: Story Jumper and Storybird. Both of these websites allow students to write and design their own books which can later be purchased for download or even as a hardcover book! One of the biggest differences between the two is that Story Jumper will allow students to create their own pictures while Storybird provides premade pictures. I cannot wait to use Story Jumper in my classroom this year to publish my student's work! I wish I had taken a picture of the books that my teacher friend brought that her 2nd grade students made with Story Jumper.

Google Forms
I am in love with Google Forms. I use them regularly for student survey and quizzes (that I would grade manually). One of the best takeaways from this was Flubaroo. A teacher friend told me about Flubaroo shortly before the session and I was very intrigued to see it in action. Flubaroo is an addon for Google Forms that will grade your form results for you. This makes Google Forms even more powerful!

Google Docs/Slides and the Research Tool
I thought I knew all the best tips and tricks for using Google Docs but here I was learning something new! Thanks to my friend @IrishsLearners for sharing this tip with me! The research tool is embedded into Google Docs and Google Slides. All you have to do is highlight the word that you want to research such as reptiles, then click Tools, and finally Research. This will create a pop up on the side of the window that has a Google Search that is devoid of a lot of unneeded information that happens when you just go to Google and type in reptiles.
Students can drag photos over to the document or slide and a citation will automatically be added as a footnote. Additionally, you can hover over a resource that comes up and choose to cite it, which will create the citation for you again. You can choose between many common formats such as APA and MLA. 

Robotics for grades 4-8
For the last 4 years I have had the opportunity to be a an advisor for both an after school robotics program as well a coach for FLL. During this time I have also used robotics in my science curriculum to reinforce topics such as renewable energies.  Here is a copy of my Prezi, but I feel like the real takeaway was the opportunity that teachers had to play with the robots and see how easy the programming can be. I believe that demystifying robotics and programming for teachers will open the door for others who want to get into it. If our students can do it, so can we!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Adventures in 4th Grade

The end of last school year brought some changes. I accepted a position that was closer to home and cut my commute time in half. Yay! With it comes a whole host of changes, like a new classroom, new teammates, and new grade level. I'll be teaching 4th grade starting at the end of next month and I am SUPER excited for it.

Going from a 1:1 environment to a room with 3 computers, access to a laptop cart weekly and an interactive board ( I had one of those too the last 6 years), I feel like I get to take all the good things that I know work for a lot of kids and really hone in on my center skills. I hope to be able to write a grant or two this year to get some more tech in the classroom but it's not a bad start.

The end of this month is busy too. I'll be speaking at a local Tech Expo about robotics both in the classroom (grades 4-8) and as an after school program. Luckily the new school that I am at also has a robotics team so hopefully I will still be able to help out with that. At the very least I hope to be able to help my new teammates (and anyone else who needs it) with their technology.

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting some pictures, ideas, and progress of my new classroom and technologies that I plan to incorporate. One of the first things that I made were brag tags, or physical badges. In the past I used an online medium (3D Game Lab) to facilitate the gamification of my classroom. Because I do not have enough computers to do this right now, I was so excited when I found a teacher on atozteacherstuff (I feel so bad that I cannot find the exact link to her post because hers were adorable!) that uses them also. She used dog tags, but I opted for book rings. This year I am doing a whole Mario theme and so here are my Mario inspired badges for this year.

Here's a screenshot of the PowerPoint that I started with then saved it as a .PDF for printing. I tried to align them both behavioral things but also some of the Common Core Math and ELA standards.

Here they are ready to be cut. I should have about 28 students so I printed out 20 copies of each page on cardstock. 

Here they are all done and in baggies ready to go. Thankfully I had a teacher friend to help me cut out the 1,000+ badges

I am really looking forward to this next year and the chance to introduce my love of gamification with a whole new bunch of students.

Here's to our new Adventures in 4th Grade!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Filling Up Buckets

Teaching students about community and citizenship isn't always in one of  your standards, but it is something that I love to foster within my classroom. One way that I do this is by using Bucker Fillers. During the first week of school I read the book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" to my students. If you haven't read this book I definitely recommend it. To reinforce these concepts throughout the year, we have a student created bulletin board that is fueled by our Bucket and the Bucket Fillers that the students fill out for one another throughout the year.