Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Fluttering Through The Butterfly Unit With Digital Notebooks

The spring semester life cycle units create a lot of excitement for elementary campuses in Northwest ISD.  Kindergarten anxiously awaits the arrival of ladybugs, first grade live streams chicks hatching and growing, and second grade celebrates the life cycle and release of butterflies.   Instructional technologist Kelli Sanders and Britt Horn saw these exciting units as a great time to partner with Kelly Suarez, Elementary Science Coordinator. Together these three instructional leaders worked collaboratively to design interactive digital notebooks for kindergarten, first, and second grade life cycle units.  These interactive digital notebooks created many opportunities for our youngest learners to use their digital skills to think critically and communicate the information they have learned throughout the unit.

Kristen Daugherty, 2nd grade educator from Hatfield Elementary is one of many educators from our district who was excited to provide her students with the opportunity to showcase their learning through the digital journal.  Throughout this journal students were recording their observational changes over time, predicting and recording data trends on a picture graph, and using the language of the discipline to explain and justify important vocabulary.  At the completion of this project, students shared what they have learned to a district-wide Flipgrid board as well as had the opportunity to listen to other students sharing about what they have learned during the unit. 

Mrs. Daugherty loved that her students were challenged to dig deep into rigorous thinking while staying engaged in the interactive elements of the digital journal. Mrs. Daugherty also loved the ease of having a district vetted pre-created resource she could easily integrate into her classroom with confidence.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Guiding Today's Learning with the Tools of Tomorrow

We have all heard the saying about “...preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist.” While that may be true, the best preparation for a future yet to materialize is to let go of the idea that we, the educators, are responsible for preparing them for the future, at least in the way traditionally thought. It is more necessary for educators to step out of the way and to let the students take control of their own learning in order to foster engagement, authentic growth, and innovation.

Rob Austin & Lee Devin, the authors of Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know about how Artists Work, describe innovation as a process where managers need to forget about the traditional destination and journey mindset. The idea that someone has to have a crystal clear objective in order to justify movement toward a goal, at least as we know it, is becoming obsolete. In truly innovative environments, collaboration, flexibility, creativity, and growth mindsets can lead to the discovery of new paths rather than a predictable route to success. When we work with our students to facilitate the realization of their creative ideas, our students can develop necessary skills for the modern workplace while becoming leaders that guide their own success. Setting students free to create and innovate is interesting in theory, but how does this look in today’s classroom? 

At Eaton High School, William Gilbert’s Computer Programming students investigated possible uses for innovations in virtual reality technology prior to being tasked with coding and creating their own tools, geared for the same purpose. Students were given the freedom to imagine other applications and uses for this type of technology and began inventing their own VR programs designed to meet real needs predicted for future learners and workers. After learning about the educational benefits or virtual reality, many students began working on utilizing VR technologies in the workplace and school settings and have even begun testing their work in the context of their existing classrooms.

Business Academy students in Tabatha Everett’s Entrepreneurship course were given the challenge of studying and determining future viability of an up and coming technological business model in their Pokemon Go AR Challenge. These students used a case study of Niantic's Pokemon Go app, from a previous Virtual Enterprise International Competition, as a model for mobile augmented reality use in business. They studied usage trends, obstacles for expansion, effects of the app on user quality of life, modifications and additions to the game, as well as the company’s efforts to meet user demand. 

The student led part of this project allowed them to critically explore real questions surrounding the game, the technology used, and future opportunities for AR revealed by Niantic’s venture. Students then created a proposal of their own for marketing with augmented reality integration in other business areas. Some of these proposals explored the potential for business partnerships through integration of AR, virtual dressing rooms for purchasing clothing, and virtual showrooms where consumers experience product features of items like furniture, cars, or appliances. One group even outlined the potential for online AR marketing events with real rewards for consumers. The students exploration of this innovative platform allowed them the ability to dream about untapped ways this technology can be used to impact the future lives of consumers.

Another group of students in Donny Pharr’s Introduction to Aircraft Technology courses researched commercial drone use and considered business models, laws restricting flight areas, and other logistical factors related to commercial drone aviation. After completing the initial research process, students were given the task of creating their own plan to re-purpose drone technology for the benefit of school district sponsored events. They were given the freedom to invent ways this technology could enhance experiences at high school sporting events. The process resulted in groups outlining utilization of drones for concession stand food delivery at NISD football games. They mapped out geofencing boundaries around the NISD stadium as a foundation for designing their delivery service, via drone technology. This real world scenario was conceptualized by allowing students to creatively think about solutions for the problem of crowded venues and long concession lines at NISD events. They met various obstacles and limitations while working their way through the learning process, which resulted in them constructing their own ideas for innovative and practical use of existing technology while visualizing the potential for drones to breed entirely new careers. 

While these classes are just small examples of student exploration and innovation, they are prime instances of the ways learners can begin to dream about the future and how their own educational journey can forge a new path that previously did not exist. Of course, just removing all classroom guidance and parameters for students is not what is being suggested. Whether your students are part of specialized areas such as these, or whether they are searching to connect existing content and skills to real life, giving them the freedom to explore possibilities for applying skills beyond the classroom is what will open up their imaginations to new ideas. Simply put, if we present problems for our students to solve and then step out of their way in order to let them dream, fail, learn, and innovate, we can facilitate results that outshine anything previously imagined and students can forge incredible new paths for their futures.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Learning is Contagious at Sendera Ranch ES

When the spring Technology Bingo Challenge was introduced several weeks ago across the district a group of 5th-grade teachers at Sendera Ranch Elementary grabbed their bingo daubers and jumped on board quick, so quick that all four blacked out their bingo board in four weeks. The bingo board contained 25 technology infused challenges which allowed for choice, creativity, job-embedded professional development, and in this case, team collaboration. The unique aspect of this activity is that this team is not self-contained. They are a group of dedicated educators that represent all four core content areas: math, science, social studies, and ELA.

Each teacher knew that participation in this challenge would not only help them to learn how to incorporate technology, but also strengthen their designed lessons. Their favorite tools from the challenge they integrated included Google Draw, Google Maps, Genially, Adobe Spark, and Book Creator. One might ask, what does technology integration mean or look like? Walk into any one of the teachers classrooms at Sendera Ranch and you will see:

  • Access to the up-to-date primary source material
  • Methods of collecting/recording data
  • Collaboration between students and teachers
  • Opportunities for expressing understanding of content via multimedia creation
  • Learning that is relevant and assessment that is authentic
  • Training for publishing and presenting their new knowledge through their eportfolios

Mrs. Gomez stated, “Google Draw allowed students to compare the structures and functions of different species that help them live and survive in a specific environment such as hooves on prairie animals or webbed feet in aquatic animals which is Science TEKS 5.10(A).”

Micah, a 5th grader in Mrs. Gomez’s class points out, “I liked that you get to tell the reader how the animal stays alive and protect themselves in the wild by using icons. This was better than my journal because it was interactive.”

Evy added, “I liked the Google Draw activity because it gave us the freedom to be able to try something new and we were able to decide what we liked or disliked about a new technology platform. It was also a cool way to show facts about an animal.”

In Mrs. Young’s class, Flipgrid facilitated student reflections utilizing the depth and complexity icon of change over time.  Flipgrid allowed students to reflect on their learning and think about future goals pertaining to their growth as a learner.

Xavier G.
Emma W.
Reagan W. 

Italia G. says, “Flipgrid is fun. It gives you the freedom to say what you want in a fun way because you get to record yourself.”

Lindsey K. says, “I like that you can add sticky notes to write things you want to talk about.”

In Mrs. Swearingen's class, Google Maps has been a great tool used to locate important political features such as the 50 states and capitals, which is TEKS Social Studies 5.7(C). Mrs. Swearingen states, “It goes beyond the flat maps and allows the user to see landforms and the climate of the states and capitals.”
Mrs. Swearingen also has loved Book Creator to have her students create multi-paragraph essays to convey information about a topic, TEKS ELA 5.18A.

Student Chloe states, “I enjoyed using Book Creator because you have different options of what to put on the book. There is no limit! It was faster than writing on paper and you get to change backgrounds.”

Mrs. Stepp’s science classes had a blast completing their HyperDocs on Ecosystems. Students were actively engaged during the work time and loved the many different ways the information was presented: videos, games, blogs, podcasts, etc. One student, Ian, said, “I liked that I could go to different websites and explore what producers, consumers, and decomposers do in an ecosystem. “ His classmate, Ava, added, “I liked that it was self-paced and we could use different websites to learn. I liked how you could watch videos to get information or play games and learn through interacting.”

All four teachers mentioned the students were excited to try new things, especially when they admitted they were not experts with the technology platform. The students loved showing the teachers how to do different challenges with the tools. Mrs. Young stated, “The students were definitely engaged because it was a new way to present information.”

Mrs. Gomez said, “We are a competitive group, but once we started seeing the benefits that these tools brought to our classroom, we continued to try to BINGO. I continued to include our students in the BINGO fun then entire time. When you would walk into the classroom for observation, it was great to see how the teachers were able to share ideas with each other and encourage each other to try new things. Hearing each other say “my students loved this” or “this one was so easy” was motivating and made the teachers want to try MORE! Not only were students exposed to new ways to showcase their learning, but they got several artifacts that could be added and reflected upon into their ePortfolio! Mrs. Young stated, “Students saw me trying new things. They saw me not being afraid to say I don’t have all the answers, would you try and then teach me!”

The challenge has built relationships, provided collaboration, and job-embedded professional development. All in all, the BINGO challenge provided these teachers with just the right resources to provide an authentic and fun learning experience for their students.

This article was written as a collaborative team effort: Mrs. Rene’ Egle - Instructional Technologist, Mrs. Amy Swearingen - SS/ELA, Mrs. Nicole Young - Math/Science, Mrs. Tracie Gomez - Math/Science, and Mrs. Heather Stepp - self-contained. This learning experience supports ISTE Standard for Teachers: (4) Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Philanthropy Partners: A Collaboration Between Elementary Schools

The spring semester brings about a lot of change. One of the biggest changes is the anticipation for current fifth graders, as they begin to think about and prepare for middle school. The transition into middle school can be challenging. To help ease that transition, the GATES teachers at Lakeview Elementary (Mrs. Andrews & Mrs. Blake) and Beck Elementary (Mrs. Moses & Mrs. Pickett) teamed up for a dual campus philanthropy project. 
By definition, a philanthropy project promotes the welfare of others, expressed especially by the donation of money and goods. Students were tasked with choosing a nonprofit organization within the community that aligned with their own unique passions and interests. For Ella, having a voice and choice was very important. “I like that we got to pick our own interests and that we didn’t have to do one thing and one thing only.” A variety of organizations were researched, with the primary focus being children, women, senior citizens, the homeless, veterans, animals (domestic and wild), literacy, environmental issues, and sports. Once students had a general idea on the type of organization they wanted to pursue, they completed a Google Form which helped teachers group them with peers. 

The groups were made up of students from both campuses. This meant some of their group members would not be available for face to face collaboration on a daily basis because they were at another school. Nakkitha was especially excited about the cross-campus collaboration. “I loved how we got to collaborate with people outside of our school because we got to meet new people and make new friends”. As group members dove into more specific research on their common interests, they utilized Flipgrid and Google Slides to communicate. These platforms allowed group members to continue the “conversation” even after their scheduled GATES time was over. Check out this Mixtape to hear a sampling of the group interactions. A walking field trip from Lakeview to Beck was also planned into their work time to allow groups face to face interaction.

Click the image above to view Shark Tank presentation
Groups were tasked with creating a digital presentation and pitch to be presented Shark Tank style. Their presentation would introduce the organization, explain why that organization was selected, and share how the community could get involved. They would also have an opportunity to present their marketing plan, which would include plans for advertising their project at both campuses. Groups created mockup flyers, commercials, scripts for announcements, dress up day calendars, bulletin board plans, and social media posts for the panel of “sharks” to consider. 

Click image to view the student created commercial
Both campuses came together for pitch day. Groups were able to share their presentation with the panel and their peers. The shark vote, coupled with the student vote, determined which project would be selected and rolled out at both campuses. The group representing the organization Sixty and Better was selected. At that point, the marketing plan from the student presentation began coming to life at Beck and Lakeview through campus-wide dress up days and a donation drive. Students in the GATES classes were each assigned a role in ensuring the logistics for the project were handled appropriately on their campus. Shashwat was one of the project managers. “I was in charge of keeping everything organized and well managed. This has taught me how to be a good leader and that as a good leader, patience is important”. It did not take long for all students involved to get plugged in. They were eager to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Check out what some of these students at Lakeview had to say. They made their podcast debut with an episode dedicated to the work being done for Sixty and Better.

Service learning projects are powerful learning experiences for all students. As Social Emotional Learning becomes a bigger focus throughout the district, these types of projects help students become responsible decision makers. They build social awareness, self-awareness, and relationship skills. They foster one’s personal well-being and the importance of self-management. They impact the whole child. For more information on other service learning projects happening at Beck Elementary, take a listen to the latest episode of the Bulldog Bulletin.

Final numbers from the campus donations will be posted to the blog upon the project’s completion. Please check back soon!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Raiders of the Lost STAAR

For many NISD teachers, Spring has been marked by the self-paced BINGO challenge. Cassie Brewton, a fifth grade teacher at Hughes elementary especially enjoyed the choice, self pacing, and excitement that came along with the challenge. Cassie soon began to think, “My students would enjoy a challenge like this, especially as they get ready for STAAR.” Using the format created by IT Coaches Jillian, Kelli, and Shelly, Cassie began creating tasks that would help students review for their upcoming STAAR test.

The tasks that Cassie created were an intentional hybrid of individual and group collaboration, digital and face to face work, and all levels of rigor. When walking into Cassie’s class during review, it was clear that each student was working at their own pace and that the tasks were differentiated for all of her learners.  It was also evident that the students were enjoying the challenge.

Ethan, Kellon, and Makena all agreed that the BINGO board was a fun way to prepare for STAAR. Not only was the challenge fun, but it pushed students to work through questions and problems that they may find difficult. Kellon points out, “My favorite part was the challenge in general.” Makena states, “B4 was really challenging. The picture was really hard to figure out. You have to figure out what’s happening and make observations and a claim. I skipped a few, but then made a note to go back.” Kellon added, “I don’t like skipping a challenge, so I kept trying until I figure it out.”

Each student was eager to share their favorite task on the board. For Makena, this was N3. “We made several STAAR questions and created a quiz on Google Forms for the class.” Ethan enjoyed I3 which prompted him to create a Tweet from a template in Google Classroom. The tweet would sum up the main idea and supporting details from the story "Library Lion." Ethan would have an authentic audience as the tweet was posted to the class Twitter Feed (AKA: Padlet Wall). What Ethan may not have realized, was that I3 provided scaffolding for him as he decided to complete G5 first. G5 helped students define main and supporting details to give them a better understanding of the concept.

Other tools integrated into the tasks include: Prism, Pear Deck, Epic, News ELA, and a variety of GSuite tools (Docs, Slides, Forms).

Differentiation was a key aspect of this challenge. Cassie points out, “I made changes to the board daily based on student responses. For example, After noticing kids struggling on I3, one student realized that another task on the board was a great scaffolding activity, so we created a few additions to the ‘task card’ to explain where they could go to practice the skill before completing that specific activity.”

While the Raiders of the Lost STAAR was a student centered and student paced challenge, it was the intentionality of Mrs. Brewton that made it a success. The articles that she choose for students to read were at the appropriate lexile level, the resources that students used to answer questions encompassed relevant information that they needed to know, and the independent reading time helped with literacy and comprehension.

Not only were students review key terms, concepts, and skills for STAAR, but they were also becoming problem solvers. Mrs. Brewton states, ”I think my favorite part about the Bingo board was seeing the students work so well with their self-management. They were great at managing their time, choosing tasks that fit their schedule, and taking time to stop and reflect on their work before coming to me for a code. They wanted to make sure it was their best before asking for a code because they knew the expectations were high, so the incentive to work hard was powerful!”

Twenty Five task challenges can be quite a bit to create, but the aspect of self-paced lessons and units, can be created on any scale using Hyperdocs. Check out this Basic Hyperdoc Lesson Plan Template (The HyperDoc Girls)

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Game of Life: A Financial Literacy Project

At Adams Middle School, Hanna Patredis and Ashley Dacus wanted to turn their financial literacy project that was all paper and pencil into a interactive hyperdoc for the students to really engage in real world situations. They wanted their students to truly see how their choices affect their future wealth. Students were asked to estimate the cost of a college education, calculate the school loans, determine simple and compound interest formulas, and make a household budget.

The lesson was created on a hyperdoc where students were able to interact and input their answers in the google slide that was copied for each student. The teachers used the grey space in slides to give instructions and place extra information needed. A YouTube video of dice being rolled was used when the students were asked to roll dice. All of these intentional moves set up by the teachers, created an experience for the students that was interactive. Lucy, a student on Mrs. Dacus’ class said, “I like designing my own life using math skills throughout the year. The digital format helped my

ideas stay organized and I could access it anywhere.” Check out Lucy’s work here.

At the end of the experience, students had voice and choice in how they wanted to represent their knowledge of the financial literacy unit. Students choose from a menu board on how they want to present their work creatively. Check out some of their work below:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

These Documentaries Are KILLER!

We are led by example. 

Think about it: Have you ever... Put together a puzzle without first looking at the cover to see what it's supposed to look like once complete? Made a craft or home improvement project without first looking up inspiration or instructions on Google or Pinterest? Saw a movie without watching the trailer or reading the synopsis? The answer is mostly likely no, as we are driven by seeing something that we can connect with.

Because of this need for inspiration to draw from and even deviate from, it is often challenging to ask our students to create - the highest level of Bloom's - without giving them any sort of frame of reference. Couple that with asking students to use a new tech tool, conduct a research project on an unknown individual, and apply taught curricular concepts to a new creation may feel daunting for even our traditionally higher performing students. 

Recognizing all of these factors, Becky Ainsworth - Forensics Science teacher at Byron Nelson High School, created multiple resources to set her students up for success. Students in this upper level class were tasked with creating a mini-documentary that detailed the forensic psychology of an infamous serial killer, and were to present the information in a video format using Adobe Spark to make it view like a true documentary. 

Click to view Mrs. Ainsworth's Spark Project Instructions.
In previous years, students presented this content in a traditional format by standing in front of the class and retelling their information. This type of presentation lacked student engagement, was time consuming, and the success of a exemplar product was confined to that class periods' limited audience. To elevate this experience, Becky then replaced the traditional presentation format with the documentary style project requirement. With any first year project, there aren't a bank of examples to pull from, so it was a genius idea that Mrs. Ainsworth created and delivered the project instructions using the exact tool, Adobe Spark Video, she was asking students to use. Additional relevant information, including required content and the grading rubric, were showcased on a traditional document project outline.

Next, students were empowered with full creative freedom to add content from any reliable source (with a minimum of at least 3) as they conducted their own research. The documentary is a visual, video presentation, so the main premise requires a series of photos and videos that have a voice-over to tell the story using very little, if any, text on screen. Students used sites such as Pixabay to find free stock photo and video clips, as well as truly realistic clips that depicted the actual serial killer in photo or video. Check out these top two mini-documentary creations:

Ian Brady: As told by Lauren
Jeffrey Dahmer: As told by Kai and Tony

Once video creation was complete within Adobe Spark, students downloaded their videos and then uploaded them onto a collaborative YouTube Playlist that would house projects for all Forensic Science students at BNHS. By uploading to this platform, students were able to share their creation beyond the walls of their class period and could in turn view documentaries created by students studying the same content in a completely different class period. Publishing to YouTube allowed students to have a broader audience, made the presentation format more engaging as students got to watch multiple mini-documentaries, and created a wealth of examples to draw from for the following school year. Since Mrs. Ainsworth's classes in all had 57 videos on their Playlist, Mrs. Ainsworth plans to pick the top exemplars, as well as non-examples, from this collaborative playlist to make a new, shortened, and focused playlist to support next year's students as they, too, begin this exciting creative project.

This project meets ISTE Student Standard of being a Knowledge Constructor (3) in which students
  • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
  • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
  • 3c: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.