Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Blogging Challenge

The Librarian at Schluter Elementary has challenged the entire 4th and 5th grade to become bloggers! She started the challenge out by having each class come to the Library. The classes brainstormed what a blog was and what they could blog about. The conversations naturally led to having passions, and that's when the spark was ignited! The second the students realized they had choice in what they were able to blog about, they suddenly got interested in this challenge. Each student had to brainstorm what they wanted to write about and the title. Then used Blogger to execute the challenge!

Mrs. Pospisil used her connections and reached out to people in the district to be mentors for the student blogs. She wanted their voices to be heard! 85 people jumped on board. Principals, Assistant Principals, Librarians, Instructional Coaches, and people at the Administration building all wanted to be a part of the challenge of mentoring students in a digital world. The mentors respond by leaving a comment on their assigned students blog once a week. This ongoing process encourages students to keep writing for their authentic audience, while building a relationship with their district mentor.

Blogging gives students a way to reflect, grow, and learn about themselves as a 21st century learner. We need to vary our methods of reflection and blogging is a great outlet for many people. It offers ongoing documentation and long-term reflection. 

Here are a few student blogs to check out:

Monday, February 5, 2018

Create Your Own Adventure Books: Real Authors with Real Readers

Authors in Mrs. Bass' 5th grade class at Hughes elementary recently published work for an authentic
audience at their own school! 1st grade students were learning about Caribou while 2nd grade was studying Christmas traditions around the world. Knowing their needs, Mrs. Bass allowed her students to write both fiction and nonfiction stories that the younger students could learn from. These were not ordinary stories. Students used their knowledge of story elements and plot to write create your own adventure books. The beginning and middle of the story was written collaboratively as a class, while the ending was written by each individual. Students choose a unique ending and a picture icon that symbolized what their ending was about to hook the reader and give them a hint.

Zoe, Aubree, Lainey, Hailey, and Terrance got a lot out of this project. When asked what they enjoyed most about the project, Aubree stated, "I loved that we got to write to younger students. We knew lots of people would be reading our work. I also enjoyed getting to read other people's stories and seeing how creative they were." Haliey added, "I loved that every ending was completely different." Some stories ended in Canada, while others ended in Hawaii, Times Square, giant homes, and even Krusty Krab's House.

Terrance explained the project in his own words, "At first we wrote as a squad and then we went solo. I'm glad we got to choose between fiction and nonfiction stories." Terrance is new to Hughes this year and said that he learned a lot about Google docs and how to format documents. He has also noticed that he got better at typing the more he wrote. This project allowed students to learn about writing, while simultaneously learning technology standards. Lainey comments, "I learned that every story needs to have a problem and a solution." Aubree adds, "we also learned how to get a shareable link for our Google Doc and copy and paste shortcuts such as Ctrl C and Ctrl V."

"The hardest part of this project was deciding on the beginning of the story with the group," states Lainey. "We all had ideas and had to choose which one would be best."

Perhaps the best part about this project was getting to share writing with others. All of the stories were published on a Padlet wall for readers to not only read the books, but also give them a 1-5 star rating. "My mom loved me story," said Hailey. "Over Christmas break I read everyone's story from the class. They were all so interesting." The class hopes to have the Padlet bookshelf available in the library for others to read. They are hoping that more people read and rate their stories.

Terrance concludes by saying, "I hope next year's 5th grade class gets to have as much fun doing this project as we did. We learned a lot about writing, but we had a lot of fun at the same time. This project was good for everyone, even the students who are shy because we start in a group, but then get to finish on our own. We all got to show our creative side."

These students are excited to present this project at EXPO 2018 in February!

Read and Rate Student Created Stories Here:

Made with Padlet

Highlighted Student ISTE Standards
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

  • 6d Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.
  • 7C Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Teaching Your Future Forgetful Self

From homework, to extra-curriculars, lunch, friendships/other relationships, as well as chores and other duties at home, so much "life" happens in between today's class period and tomorrow's. Units of study are typically scheduled to end on Fridays so that students can cultivate skills throughout the week and test on Friday with the weekend being a mental break and a new unit/topic starting the following Monday. As much as a week-long Thanksgiving Break is desired, it occurred in the middle of a 7th Grade Math Unit causing Medlin Middle School teachers, N. James and B. Salazar, to get creative in overcoming this potential forgetfulness.

Following a rigorous Scope-and-Sequence, students began studying TEKS 11A (model and solve one-variable, two-step equations and inequalities) and 11B (determine if the given value(s) make(s) one-variable, two-step equations and inequalities true) with only three days remaining before Break. In having this unit resume upon return, James and Salazar wanted to find a way for students to not only learn the foundational skills within the limited time, but also retain the information post-break to maximize instructional time focused on next-steps with minimal review.

What better way to remember content than become your own future self's tutor! To do so, students were tasked with creating a video tutorial utilizing Sketch IO and Screencastify that included the following requirements.

Multiple scaffolds were put in place to ensure students were reinforcing correct information. To start, these on-level students were allowed to be in groups no larger than 3 so peer-teaching could be utilized to support and clarify learning. Additionally, students were tasked with prewriting a script which encouraged planning and preparation instead of an on-the-fly performance; furthermore, this script had to include a few Key Terms in order to provide structure to the video whose remaining components were largely decided by student-choice.

Upon return from the week-long Thanksgiving Break, students had access to their own tutorial as well as a shared Google Folder containing their classmate's videos. This repository was valuable because students could hear and see explanations in student-friendly language from multiple viewpoints and problem sets. Creation of this video is at the highest level of Blooms Taxonomy in which students must synthesize information to create their own original work. Through creating a tutorial to teach yourself and others, students not only had to remember, understand, and apply these math concepts, but then use this to analyze the required steps and evaluate their order and purpose so that they could formulate this video. Applying higher level thinking commonly solidifies the learning to long-term memory so that instruction could resume right where they left off before Break with the tutorial videos available for memory jogging and review.

This activity meets ISTE's standard of being a 'Knowledge Constructor' in which "Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions." (3c)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kinder CAN Code: Exploring Computer Science Week With Our Youngest Learners

The 2017 Computer Science Education Week took place this year December 4th - 10th. Originally the Hour of Code was designed as an introduction to computer science and to reveal that anybody can learn the basics of coding. Computer Science Education Week is held each year in December to celebrate the birthday of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906).

Library Media Specialist, Kelley Valdez, at Roanoke Elementary recently led her campus through a month-long exploration of Computer Science. When planning for kindergarten Hour of Code, Mrs. Valdez said she wanted to make sure that the exploration not only hit on aspects of computer science education but also incorporated kindergarten specific TEKS. The lesson had a hands-on Robotics component where students had to collaborate, problem-solve, and communicate with a team to move their robot mouse through an alphabet "maze" and then she provided an opportunity for "solo" time to put their hands-on learning to practice via the app Beebot and for some classes, the app The Foos.

Mrs. Valdez approached her library lesson with a few goals in mind for her youngest learners. She explained that she wanted students to understand that computers and robots do not work on their own. During the lesson, she shared with her learners that robots and computers need human interaction (programming) to give them the needed steps to perform the task. She also wanted students to have the opportunity to work with a team as well as working on their own.

Katelyn Cole is a Kindergarten teacher whose students experienced the coding lesson taught by Mrs. Valdez. Mrs. Cole explained that during the library lesson Mrs. Valdez talked about how computers don't speak English like us, they speak in a different way called code. Mrs. Cole explained that the kids were taught to program what they wanted the mouse to do with arrows and entry buttons. Mrs. Cole also shared that Mrs. Valdez taught her students that computers will remember all steps you tell it until you "clear their minds". The Foos and BeeBot were apps that carried over into the classroom and both incorporate programming and coding in order to make a character move to reach their destination.
Through the two activities, students were able to work on letter identification, observing and describing the location of an object and ways that object can move, as well as use terms to describe the location. Luckily for these kindergarteners, the learning did not stop in the library.

Mrs. Cole continued what her students had learned in the library into her own classroom Her Students were challenged to think more critically and collaborate with each other in order to reach a goal. Mrs. Cole believes that “not only is this a growing job for our future kids, but it is also an opportunity to use our Ranger Learner Actions- Listen, Think, Wonder, Connect, Persevere, Collaborate, and Reflect. These are skills that are crucial to the development of young learners! At Roanoke Elementary we believe in instilling all of these learner actions early, to help develop well-rounded and problem- solving students.”

While working with the hands-on robot, Mrs. Valdez set her kids up for success by skillfully designing her lesson with great management and instructional strategies One key point that made the experience powerful was her use of color-coded jobs to allow everyone to participate in the activity. One student (color) might be the programmer, while others are in charge of positioning objects in the maze and providing feedback to the programmer as they work to figure out the program to get their robot to complete the assigned task. When Mrs. Valdez reflected on her coding lessons she shared, “It is always heart-warming to see how students really pull together during the Hour of Code to help each other out of the "pit" or a struggle."

For the learners at Roanoke Elementary their experiences with coding do not stop in Kindergarten Mrs. Valdez explains that she makes plans to build upon each grade level experiences during the Hour of Code to increases the rigor from year to year. All grade levels have a hands-on robotics component and a solo app/program based component. Each year students graduate to a more complex robot or a more rigorous task that increases the level of coding required to complete the task.

Mrs. Cole’s class practices coding during small group days in math and in the mornings before school starts. Mrs. Cole’s students look forward to their time working on The Foos and BeeBot. This has been a positive reinforcement tool she has used to help students stay focused on other jobs and complete work. It's also been a great tool to practice teamwork and collaboration. Mrs. Cole believes coding has been wonderful for emphasizing that talking about ideas solves the problem faster than arguing or trying to solve the problem alone. Mrs. Cole will be submitting this experience to Expo 2018, she said: “she hopes that she can share with a larger audience what our experiences have been as young programmers.”

According to Mrs. Valdez, the Kindergarten students at Roanoke Elementary were actively engaged in problem-solving throughout the hour and put their Ranger Learner Actions into practice. They were able to make the connection between their thinking and action to the way that their robot or app bot moved. Mrs. Valdez did a phenomenal job in December designing her lessons to use technology as a tool to enhance the learning experience for her students while building a bridge to what can happen in kindergarten classroom when we believe in the power of coding.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Revelation about Resolutions

Watching a short TED talk on “Grit” by Angela Duckworth, a former consultant turned middle school math teacher, brought about thoughts of personal goal setting and perseverance, thoughts of new years resolutions, thoughts of never-ending attempts at self-improvement, thoughts lacking follow through, and thoughts of failure. It didn’t take long for those thoughts to bring on an overwhelming feeling of defeat with reminders of past inadequacies and ineptitude. As a new year begins, many will set personal and professional goals while trying to figure out how to keep from losing sight of those intentions and eventually abandoning them altogether. In that TED talk, Ms. Duckworth said one thing that began to turn lingering self-defeat into clarity and motivation: “…the ability to learn is not can change with your effort…We have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.” She very eloquently explained that the key to success and growth is not viewing failure as a permanent condition but as an opportunity for growth and forward progress.

Humans are conditioned to view failure in a very negative light and taught to take steps to avoid it at all cost. When failure is experienced, it is often seen as an endpoint in a journey instead of a brief detour or change in route. The question of how to change this mindset is one that is often neglected when working to facilitate skills for student success and, ultimately, life. However, when searching for solutions to this challenge, it becomes obvious that key elements for success must include clear and attainable goal setting and a frequent and effective self-reflection process.

Sticking with the traveling analogy, it stands to reason that experiential learning is a journey and beginning that journey without a clear destination in mind is futile and pointless. Even if the goal is to aimlessly explore and enjoy wherever life takes you, there is a destination, or goal, of some sort. While traveling, it is also good to keep in mind that when construction, a traffic problem, or an obstacle in a planned route arises, a detour can bring about many new and helpful experiences. The discovery of new places, the skill sets of flexibility and problem solving, and the knowledge of a better way of traveling for the future are all benefits to diverging from a planned path. Whatever it is that alters the planned route to a destination, the “failure” experienced in the pursuit of that original route is ultimately beneficial and one can only know this by reflecting on those experiences, understanding lessons learned, and setting a new course for success.

Eaton High School’s current resolution, or “problem of practice,” is to help students “demonstrate goal setting and reflection to foster critical thinking.” With this goal at the forefront of instruction, EHS provides prime examples of students utilizing digital resources for experiential learning, goal setting, and reflection. One of those examples can be seen in Jennifer Hamzy’s Psychology classes. Mrs. Hamzy uses Google Suite in two ways to provide EHS students with opportunities to reflect on content as well as course progress.
By copying a Google slide deck template, students receive detailed notes over chapter readings and lessons. In addition, these slide decks ask students to respond to reflection questions individually in their copy of the slide deck. They not only are able to increase understanding by making connections to complex psychology concepts but they can also go back to see their answers as they review information for course activities and assessments. Mrs. Hamzy’s students also receive a Google sheet that includes built-in fields and formulas for tracking assessment results and course progress.
This creates more student independence and allows students to see measured progress and areas of need or growth in one quick glance. By frequently documenting personal course data, students who find themselves in situations where they are facing an obstacle or failure, of sorts, can begin to see areas where they can alter their course and focus on a change in strategy for progress and growth, thus correcting previous failures and pushing forward.

While many students have the opportunity to learn practical lessons associated with experiential learning, some have thrived and begun to acquire the “grit” and perseverance necessary to push toward their goals. E-portfolios are an amazing tool for accomplishing this and for providing students with a platform for self-branding, goal setting, self-assessment, and reflection. One student who is an ideal example of utilizing digital resources for goal setting and reflection through experiential learning is Megan, a student in Kristal Holmes’ architecture course. Megan has set goals for herself related to professional architecture, design preparation, and future employment. She utilizes Google Sites to house her e-portfolio showcasing her collection of designs and floor plans as artifacts documenting her work and progress over the course of her studies.
Megan’s work with tiny house design is exemplary of how she documents her design experiences, reflects on them in her portfolio and makes new and improved designs that incorporate lessons she learns from previous architectural designs. Megan’s experiences in Mrs. Holmes’ course have also offered her the chance to develop skills and resources for her professional goals by participating in mock interviews and professional document preparation while constantly receiving feedback for improvement. All of these experiences with goal related tasks give Megan a chance to experience field specific work and tools that teach necessary skills and aid in driving her toward her destination.

Curtis Aguirre’s Spanish I students also utilize digital feedback and reflection tools as they practice using the Spanish language orally. These students use a web-based video tool called Recap where they are able to record themselves speaking Spanish and then receive video feedback concerning their recordings from their instructor and peers. Students can also record self-reflections regarding what they are working on and about their progress with course content. This feedback and reflective work are key to students seeing any challenges as areas needing focus rather than permanent set backs and failure.

Kathryn Watson’s French students are also frequently provided with opportunities to reflect on course assessments and grow through use of Poll Everywhere for informal personal and class reflection. Mrs. Watson uses this online survey tool for in-class reflections, discussions, and exit tickets assessing student feelings and understanding of course content. By allowing students to regularly utilize this tool for reflective tasks, they are being given the opportunity to think back on learning experiences and to contemplate how they dealt with previous assessments and challenges before attempting new ones.

With a true growth mindset at the forefront, anyone can find value in working through obstacles and reflecting on failure, which then facilitates independence, positive behavior changes, life-long learning, and permanent skill development. The learning process is incomplete without reflection. Rather than spending the new year resolving to learn knitting, overcome a personal fear, or lose weight, it would be beneficial to reflect on previously abandoned resolutions and begin to see failure as a temporary road block or detour pushing toward growth rather than a dead end. If we hope to see our students begin to drive themselves into the future, we must help them change views of failure and learn the “rules of the road” by discovering new perspectives and unearthing new routes along their journey to success.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Mastering the Madness of Mythology

Mythology is a genre most students enjoy reading and studying, however few truly comprehend.  In order to help students deeply analyze the elements of this genre and demonstrate their understanding of the structure, Mrs. Davis, 7th grade GT ELA teacher at Chisholm Trail Middle School, challenged students to write their own original myth.

Students were asked to collaborate with peers to craft creation myths.  Through each unique tale, students explained how a natural phenomena came to be, while teaching the audience a valuable lesson about the choices we make and the impact they can have.  Students spent a week working through the process described below.  

Planning and Drafting
A key part of this project involved students collaborating on all aspects of the myth.  In order to easily facilitate collaboration, Mrs. Davis shared template resources with students through Google Classroom.  Student groups were then able to access the files from their own Google Drive and work together  to develop a solid plan.  Students also relied on Google Drive as they drafted the first version of their myth.  Google Docs allowed students to simultaneously access the same document so all group members could serve as active participants.  The use of the “History” feature available with this tool enabled the teacher to clearly see the individual contribution of each group member.  This encouraged full participation and aided in the assignment of individual student grades.

When it came time to publish, students were given the option of using Adobe Spark Video or Pages.  Spark considers itself, “a one-stop content shop for creating and sharing visual stories that will wow any audience on any device.”  This was the perfect tool for students to blend their text with images, bringing their stories to life!  Click on the images below to see their creations.

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Reflection & Feedback
Mrs. Davis utilized Lino sticky canvas for students to provide feedback to one another.  The canvas was created by the teacher and then shared with students.  Each group created a note with their names and a link to their presentation.  Groups were required to view at least 2 projects and use the TAG feedback strategy to provide authentic peer feedback.  The collaborative aspect of Lino allowed all students to view one another’s projects, as well as access the feedback.  While Mrs. Davis was happy with the overall experience Lino provided students, she did mention that she would set things up differently if she utilized the tool again in the future.  She suggests creating the original notes for each groups and then allowing students to comment around them.  This would allow the teacher to lock the notes in place and prevent any confusion caused by a lack of organization.

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In years past, students completed this project using paper and art supplies.  It’s always been a project students love, but this year, the integration of technology took things to an entirely new level.  A common frustration reported previously was the limited time students had to complete the myth.  With the use of collaborative tools, students could access their work anytime, anywhere.  The increased accessibility, improved the overall quality of the projects and provided students a deeper understanding of the content.  While all of these benefits make the project worthwhile, the most meaningful benefit would be the ability to instantly provide students with a global audience.  Since the assignment was completed using a digital tool, students were able to link their Adobe Spark Videos or Pages to their ePortfolios.  This will be an experience students can look back on and share for years to come.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Discovering Jamestown – a Multi Grade Level Approach

Mrs. Swearingen, Mrs. Franco, and Mrs. Ahmad , all fifth grade teachers at Sendera Ranch
Elementary, know the power of feedback and praise.  They wanted their students to experience learning about Jamestown in a new and exciting way.  Mrs. Swearingen contacted an eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Kristen Mouser from Wilson Middle School.  The two teachers began to brainstorm to take the learning outside the four walls of the classroom.

First, the students in fifth grade classes were presented with the two learning targets for this project.
  • I will analyze a DBQ document, so I can answer the question, “Why did so many colonists die?”
  • I am successful when I can write a paragraph to explain my thinking.
Immediately students went to work and created a collaborative slideshow to brainstorm questions they wanted to know about Jamestown. The next day, students found out Mrs. Swearingen and Mrs. Mouser had set up a time for the eighth graders and fifth graders to Zoom to have conversations. Zoom is a web-based tool that allows anyone to virtually connect and host a video web conference.  

5th Grade, 8th Grade, Google Docs, Sendera Elementary, Wilson Middle School, Zoom, Fifth Grade, Eighth Grade, Collaboration, Peer Feedback, Social Studies, Jamestown, DBQ, ELA

A few days later students began to write their paragraphs using Google Docs.   Using Google Docs allowed communications and collaboration for students to receive comments

and feedback from their peers.

“I liked reading what the 8th graders said.  They had some good ideas of how to make my DBQ
better.” said Brooke

“It was fun to see the 8th graders and hear what 8th grade was like and what an 8th grade DBQ was like.  They do it a lot faster than we do.” stated Logan

Research supports the value of peer collaboration and discussion across all content areas and concepts. By providing students the opportunity for peer feedback on their writing, students were able to offer one another constructive critique in order to improve their own communication skills. Extending, receiving, and evaluating feedback is a critical skill for all 21st Century Learners.  
1. Empowered Learner - Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning
 - 1b. build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
 - 1c. use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways

2. Digital Citizenship - Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
 - 2b. Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.

3. Knowledge Constructor - Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
 - 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.
 - 3d. Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.