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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cooking up some Pi, week 2 (Teaching 3rd grade compsci with Raspberry Pi)

Reviewing learning targets for lesson
Week 2 of our Raspberry Pi unit with the 3rd graders was just as exciting as the 1st, but with quite a few more challenges. As the first major coding and computing project that I've worked on with a primary class, both the students, partnering teachers, and I have learned a lot in the process.

Below, a break down of our successes and challenges in finishing up our Raspberry Pi projects.

Week 2 Successes--
  • Students started using some academic language in conversations about their work (i.e. inputs, outputs, programming, etc.) 
    • We (the classroom teacher, ELA ToSA and I) supported this language acquisition by using a word wall with sketches that support meaning, TPR (total physical response), and language review at the beginning & end of each coding lesson
  • Students demonstrated ability to use debugging strategies when their code didn't work they way that they wanted it to (i.e. rereading their code and analyzing for errors)
  • Students were able to restate a basic explanation of how inputs and outputs work on a computer
  • Students could name some of the parts of the Raspberry Pi computers
  • Students were successful in lighting LEDs with Scratch and programming animations to trigger along with the LEDs lighting up... and some had their cameras working right away!
Programming Pi
Week 2 Challenges--
  • A couple of our monitors did not play nicely with our Pis. We haven't totally figured out why, and were able to fix the problem with one by wiggling cords, but one monitor we ended up having to replace
  • The biggest challenge... frying 3 of the mini SD cards! We're not completely sure how this happened, but have a couple of theories...
    • Unplugging devices without shutting down (which happened numerous times when we couldn't get our monitors to read our Pis... although, thinking back, this might have also been because one of those SD cards was fried early on
    • Bent SD cards... even after explaining to students that they needed to be careful of those cards hanging out the back of the Pis, students had trouble getting the devices in and out of their cases and remembering the cards were there... 
  • Getting the PiCameras working the 1st time, mainly because I forgot that I needed to enable the camera on the Pis before they'd work... once I remembered that step, students got their PiCameras enabled and working on the last day of coding
  • Bits of code not working right... and none of us being able to figure out why. A couple of times we just decided to trash the whole program and start again!
What did we learn?
Working together in Scratch
A ton! Students learned quite a bit about how computers work, what coding is, about the election process, how math and ela concepts relate to coding, how to work as a team, how to communicate in collaborative situations, and more! 

Teachers learned what types of management strategies work (and don't) for this type of project, learned some more troubleshooting techniques, and realized the need for organization of materials and peripherals. I also learned along the way what parts of the programming lesson need to be tweaked a bit and what information I need to add to make instructions more clear.

We ended week 2 excited for the next week's presentation!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cooking up some Pi, week 1! (Teaching 3rd grade compsci with Raspberry Pi)

Passionate about introducing our students to computer science, I teamed this year with a 3rd grade teacher (enthusiastic about all things STEAM) at one of our Title I sites, as well as with one of our district literacy coaches, and we sketched out an interdisciplinary unit plan that consists of instruction in language arts, math, civics and computer science skills.

The students' culminating projects include two components-- creating persuasive videos (advertisements) on California proposition 67 (the plastic bag ban), and then building digital voting booths (using Scratch and a Raspberry Pi) on which the other 3rd grade classes will cast their votes for the proposition.

The ups & downs of week 1 of our project--
To start, there were definitely more ups than downs-- a pleasant surprise!

I wanted to start with the very basics, so we kicked off our day 1 lesson with an introduction to the parts of a computer, and then I asked students to identify which parts our Raspberry Pi still needed before we could use it. I introduced the terms 'input' and 'output' and students were quick to point out the need for a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Then, our teaching team passed out materials, helped student teams plug in the peripherals, and then we powered up!

Once the Pi stations were put together, we introduced the idea of electrical circuits, showed students how to put their Stop Light devices onto the GPIO pins, and walked them through their first lesson-- turning on the GPIO server and programming one light to blink using Scratch.

Some great conversations came up during our coding lesson around:

  • Fractions/decimals-- one of the teams wanted the wait time between commands to be less than 1 second so I asked them, "What's smaller than 1?" "0?" "Well, if we have zero, then we have nothing, which means no pause time... is there something between 0 & 1 we might try?" "Oh! What about 1/2?" "Great, yes! 1/2 is 0.5... why don't you type that in and see what happens?" "Can we try 0.7 too?"... a student asking me whether he can experiment with decimal fractions for fun?? Um, yes, please do play with fractions to see what happens!!
  • Patterns-- after learning how to light up 1 LED, we challenged students to light up another, and then a 3rd and asked them to find the pattern in the code to repeat the work they did with one LED to light the others
  • Multiples/multiplication-- in addition to having students identify patterns in the code, I also pointed out that in order to light 3 LEDs, they just needed to write the same code they just had, times 3 (x3). "What does x3 mean?", I asked... "It means we have three of those! So we do it 3 times!" Yep!
By the end of lesson 1, students had learned a bit more about how computers work and had lit up multiple LEDs on their Stop Lights-- success!

Day 2 was a little rockier...

Our plan for day 2 was to get buttons programmed to turn our lights on and off. That wasn't exactly the way it worked out. Some monitor troubles that started on day 1 (and that I thought we had fixed at the start of day 2) flared up again. Groups had to be broken up and dispersed into other groups. And, I messed up a couple of our lesson slides, so there were some key blocks missing from the code that students didn't notice on their own. All they knew was that the code they were writing wasn't working quite right. And even when I added in the missing blocks, the code still wasn't working right, and I couldn't find the issue right away, either.

The positives on day 2:
  • Students showed an awful lot of patience and persistence on both days of coding-- an impressive amount of patience for 8 year olds, if you ask me!
  • Students were able to set up their Pi stations much more quickly then on day 1-- I think they've figured out where are the cords and cables go and are feeling pretty confident about how to get their computers set up
  • Although we struggled with the buttons, 1-2 students per group remembered the process on their own for lighting up the LEDs and were already able to recreate this during our 2nd day of programming
  • With some guidance, some have started debugging their own team's code by looking for spelling errors and checking pin numbers
  • About 1/3 of the class remembered some of our new computer science vocabulary from day 1, which was exciting for the teachers to see (we started a word chart so students could access this academic vocabulary during work time)
  • Students remembered their fractions mini-lesson from day 1 (side note-- fractions have not yet been taught at this grade level, so as a math coach, it's exciting to see them latching on to the concept of fractional time as it's discussed and used in the context of wait time in codes)
Next steps:

Well, step 1 is for me to figure out why a code once working for me is now not working for the students. I have a couple of days to play with that before our day 3 lesson. If students can get their buttons up and running on day 3, then next steps are to create our Yes/No variables and add a PiCamera (which I think they're really going to have some fun with!). We're on a bit of a tight deadline now, with election day approaching, so I'm a little nervous, but the students, of course, don't seem even a bit phased-- they just want to know when the next Raspberry Pi day is.

I'm excited to see how the next lessons go!

Resources (a work in progress):

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Humpty Dumpty: Using inquiry-based math tasks in grade 1 to teach addition/problem solving

This week I had the pleasure of demoing/co-teaching a 3-Act math task, created by Graham Fletcher, in a 1st grade classroom in my district. I have always been a big fan of making math relevant to my students, and incorporating open-ended tasks that they can relate to, so when I first learned of Graham Fletcher's 3-Acts for primary age students (inquiry-based math tasks), I was hooked. I am sharing these like crazy at my math trainings, to encourage more inquiry-based math and student-driven problem solving in classrooms, and teachers' interests are piqued!

A reflection on our "Humpty Dumpty" 3-Act lesson in grade 1--

Prepping the Lesson
A common request from the teachers I support is for ideas on how to customize and differentiate our current math curriculum, Eureka Math/EngageNY. With that in mind, the first part of prepping this lesson involved finding the specific grade 1 lessons and math standards that the lesson aligned with. I also identified alignment with specific tasks in the upcoming mid-module assessment, and attached the annotated lessons and assessment to the end of the lesson slide deck for teachers to use with their unit planning.

I also decided to take the original task and embed it into a slide deck. For teaching purposes, I found it easier to have each step laid out for me in the deck with discussions/task prompts. The first time I taught a 3-Act last year, I missed a couple of steps that I wished I hadn't. Teaching from the slide deck kept me better organized and allowed me to embed a few additional language supports. The format worked really well for the classroom teacher and I!

(Click to view the lesson slide deck)

Supports for ELL & Language
The classroom we taught this math lesson in has a high population of English language learners (ELL), so extra language supports were imperative (and a good opportunity to model language supports in general for Eureka Math).

I printed the Act 2 images in Fletcher's lesson to tape to our Notice/Wonder chart, included images to support the text in the slide deck, and used TPR (total physical response) along with academic vocabulary (example: when talking about part/whole and number bonds, I usually open up my arms at my sides like I'm holding up two "parts" and then bring them together and clasp my hands when saying/modeling the "whole").

Vocabulary on charts was also accompanied by sketches to help with meaning, and sentence stems were provided to support students with speaking and writing about math.

Other Scaffolding & Differentiation
One of my favorite elements of 3-Act tasks is the low-prep/no-prep differentiation possible within the tasks. For example, early finishers were simply asked to show another strategy (and potentially a third way), or another model, they could use to solve the problem. And while early finishers were getting creative with their math, the classroom teacher had time to support students that were struggling with the task.

Printing the Act 1/Act 2 visuals and taping them to lesson charts served as scaffolding for students, as well. As students got stuck on parts of the problem, we directed them up to the lesson chart, notes, and slide deck to access their resources for help first; our goal was not only to teach content in context, but also to help students learn how to learn and find answers.

Teaching the Lesson
I love using 3-Act lessons to bring a little mystery into math instruction! I started by telling students that I needed their help solving a problem, that a friend of mine sent me a video of something that happened at his house last night, and that I needed their help. Students were immediately hooked-- a math mystery?? "Yes, we want to help!" was the overwhelming response. Throughout, all students were engaged in the mystery and in our task. Aside from the typical fidgetiness of 1st graders, students were excited to work on the problem for a full hour!

I mentioned above that one of the reasons I like using these open-ended tasks in math is that the model shifts the math lesson to more student-centered instruction. In a 3-Act, we open the lesson with a hook/problem/mystery to be solved and then ask students what questions they have, and center instruction around the student questions. This process is a great opportunity to teach students how to ask questions, and how to become more curious about math. The first time students work through this process takes some support-- although we validate all questions as good questions during this process, the teacher also guides students to ask the relevant questions that will help us solve our problem.

Once we get a set of student questions recorded, we use those questions to determine next steps. Again, students are asked how they think we should solve the problem. The whole activity is focused on students driving the work.

Student Work
It doesn't necessarily take a set of 20 math questions for a student to clearly demonstrate their understanding of a math concept. In this case, it took just one math problem for students to demonstrate both their conceptual and procedural understandings and gaps in math.

While the main learning goal was for students to use information to be able to solve a missing addend problem, we also learned, through observation and conversations with students, which students understand the relationship between addition and subtraction, which students need some reteaching in counting and cardinality, and which students fully comprehend the meaning of an equal sign (when a seemingly advanced math student disagreed with one student's 4+5=9 equation and said the answer could only be 9=5+4).

The Closing
We ended up closing our lesson with a modified, hands-on number talk focused on the misunderstanding around equations and equal signs. We asked students to prove (or disprove) whether 5+4=9 and 9=5+4 have the same meaning or not. Students pulled out rekenreks, counting chips, linking cubes, and place value cards, and drew math pictures, to defend their reasoning.

It was an important conceptual misunderstanding that may not have been spotted on a fill in the blank worksheet, but that we were able to diagnose in this student-guided, open task, and during the in-depth math conversations that students engaged in during the problem solving process.

Both the classroom teacher and I were really happy overall with the lesson. Students learned new problem-solving strategies, learned to ask questions in math, were engaged in mathematical conversations, used academic vocabulary in context, practiced counting and addition skills, and defended and modeled their thinking. The language supports that we used for our English language learners were successful, and students needing extensions were appropriately challenged to push their thinking.

In reflecting with the classroom teacher, one change that I plan to make is to add a visual of the original 9 eggs to accompany the Act 2 clue about how many eggs there were to start. A handful of students got caught up with the idea that an egg carton has 12 spaces so there must have been 12 eggs to start, whereas the problem stated that the carton only had 9 eggs in it to start. The next time that I teach this lesson, I plan to provide students with an image of the 9 eggs in the carton. I'd also love to have an actual egg carton with the surviving 5 eggs in it to use as a model for students.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Love the New 'Explore' Tool in Google Sheets

Since the conversion to Google Suite this week, I am loving this new Explore tool that has popped up in my Docs and Slides... but, I especially love the Explore tool features in Google Sheets.

So, what's new?

Alternating Colors
Not a feature new to Sheets, but much easier to find thanks to the Explore update (as well as an update to the fill bucket menu). Now, as long as you are clicked in a box containing data, you can open up the Explore menu (found in the bottom, right corner of your screen) and the second option from the top is "Formatting" and a variety of alternating color schemes to choose from.

Don't want the entire spreadsheet alternating? Click on "Edit" first and change the range of data that you want to color.

You can also now find the "Alternating Colors" tool right at the bottom of the "Color Fill" menu. This is also where you go to remove or make changes to the alternating color feature after its been enabled.

Conditional Formatting
Again, not a new feature in Sheets, but now it's easier to find this tool, with the option to open up the
conditional formatting menu via "Format" or the "Color Fill" menus.

Data Analysis with the Explore Tool
And now, for the real fun! Beyond the "Alternating Colors" option, the Explore tool is chock full of all sorts of data analysis and visualization tools automatically generated using the data in your spreadsheet. Interactive and colorful charts and graphs can be dragged into the spreadsheet, and can be still be saved as a separate image file once moved out of the explore tool. Scroll over those pretty little charts in the Explore tool and the associated columns are highlighted in the same color-coding as is used in the auto-generated graphs.

Upon highlighted a group of data, you can also view auto-calculated averages, mean, medians, etc. in the Explore tool, and then drag those calculations into your spreadsheet as well, all without having to manually type in any formulas.

Have a question about the data in your spreadsheet? Type it into the question box in the Explore Tool to learn even more about the data you've collected!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Math Mini-Lessons and Coding in K-5

In the last few years I've recently become very interested in coding-- learning it and teaching it-- and have been working on bringing more coding into our K-5 classrooms (read more in my previous post about coding after the "Hour of Code"). As a math coach and enthusiast, I am also passionate about using coding as a way of teaching, and engaging students in, mathematics. I believe in teaching math in context-- to help students construct lasting connections while learning math, and to help them enjoy learning math.

When it comes to teaching math in context, coding and mathematics are a natural fit.

Direction blocks
Directional terms
Especially for the younger students, coding is a great way to learn directional terminology in context! Asking students to move a robot (or a character on a screen) forward, backward, left or right can be more of a challenge than you think and really pushes students to think about what those terms really mean (i.e. 'forward' is always changing because it means moving in the direction that you are facing).

From metric units to pixels, coding robots to coding video games, coding definitely requires a programmer to work with one, if not multiple, forms of measurement:
  • Distance-- "Forward 10"? "Move 10 steps"? If students want a robot or character to move a certain distance, they need to learn what "10" means in different coding programs (Dash robots move 10 cm. at a time, while a sprite in Scratch is moving 10 pixels, etc.). In either situation, coding activities are a fun way for students to use measurement skills, and practice calculating distances, in a real and useful context.
  • Angle measurements-- Want your robot or sprite to make a turn? You'll have to tell the computer how many degrees to turn the object. 90 degrees? Or 180? Or 35? Give students a mini-lesson in right angles, or teach them how to use those protractors, and then let them figure out what angle they need to program their object to move to get to where they need to go! (SO much more engaging than those silly measurement worksheets where students are supposed to practice measuring random angles out of context!)

Notice a pattern?
Students struggling with the idea of variables? How about playing with variables (values that can change) in a coding task. Looking at variables in coding give students a concrete example of how a value might change.

Coding is all about patterns! One of my favorite Raspberry Pi programming lessons (the "Traffic Lights" lesson) starts by having students learn how to program the red LED on a stop light by copying some code in the instructions. Then students are asked to repeat the code to make the yellow and green lights blink in the same manner. Students have to look for the pattern and then repeat it-- fantastic math task!

Repeated addition/multiplication
I've seen students as young as pre-kindergarten pick up on repeated addition or multiplication concepts (on their own!) during coding tasks. For example, in Scratch Jr. students typically first program their cat to move multiple steps by attaching one forward arrow to another to another to another... until they notice that they can change the value of one forward arrow to represent multiple steps. Realizations like this are perfect teachable moments! Teachers can use discoveries like this as the intro to a lesson on repeated addition and it's relationship to multiplication.

Decimals fractions
Sense Hat on Raspberry Pi
Pause times and wait times in a code require students to have some knowledge of decimal fractions. Want the wait time between commands to be less than 1 second? Decimal fractions!

Students can use programs like Scratch to code a character/sprite to move to certain coordinates on the screen, or create a digital image on a Sense Hat on a Raspberry Pi by programming certain coordinates on the hat to light up. Just two examples of the ways that students can learn about graphing and XY coordinates by having to use them.

Positive/Negative Integers
Coding movement using the 4-quadrant coordinate grid in Scratch is a great way for students to learn more about positive and negative integers. Students move their character around by plotting (x,y) coordinates or by changing the value of their "x" or "y" coordinate by a certain positive (move right) or negative (move left) distance.

Created in Scratch by @mshaughs

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bikram Yoga is Teaching Me How to be a Better Coach

Me before Bikram...
Two nights ago I attended my very first Bikram yoga class. For those of you unfamiliar with Bikram yoga, it involves a lot of stretching, a lot of strengthening, a lot of breathing, and an awful lot of heat (110 degrees F, give or take...). I've done different types of yoga in the past, but I'd avoided Bikram for quite a long time, nervous about the heat. I don't love excessive heat and the idea of exercising in that excessive heat turned me off to Bikram even more.

But I'd heard good things, and my friends really like it, and one day I was gifted 10 classes at a local Bikram studio, so I found myself braving the heat and sweat to attend my very 1st Bikram yoga class.

I arrived nervous, and as soon as I opened the studio door and that wall of heat and humidity hit me, I became even more nervous. The first couple of poses were really tough for me, and I found myself opting out and watching more frequently than participating during the first half hour of class.

But the instructor wouldn't let me opt out completely. Even though it annoyed me at times ("I am pushing myself as hard as I can..." I thought to myself, even though I really wasn't, "quit barking at me!"), he kept talking me through the uncomfortableness and the pain, giving me reasons each pose would improve my health and strategies for working through the heat. With his encouragement I did push myself a little harder. And in the end, I not only survived my first class, but I thrived, feeling energized for pushing myself, listening to my instructor, and working through the struggle to complete something that challenged me.

Reflecting on my experience, I thought about the clients that I work with as a math/tech coach. Many of them probably feel the same way about trying a new tech tool as I did about trying Bikram yoga-- nervous, hesitant, reluctant to try. I am passionate about digital technology and as a coach I can sometimes get a little over-excited, pushing too much on people that might not be ready. Remembering the way I felt before my first Bikram yoga class can help me remember how to take baby steps with teachers feeling the same way about trying something new in their classrooms for the first time.

Me after Bikram!
That being said, as a nervous newbie, there were so many points at which I was ready to quit during that first Bikram class. It would have been easier than persevering through something that was so difficult for me. Luckily, my instructor kept encouraging me and pushing me to keep going. As a coach it's my job to meet teachers where they're at, but also to push them just a little to keep going, keep trying, keep improving.

So what happened after that first, challenging experience with Bikram? I went back for more the very next day. And, not surprisingly, knowing more than I did on the first day, I did even better in the 2nd class than I'd done in the first! I didn't get everything right, but my instructor was paying attention, and knowing that I was still learning, she followed-up, checked-in, and supported me when I needed it-- the way a good coach does.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Big Picture-- Understanding the Fractions Progressions in Grades K-5

In 2012, a Carnegie Mellon research team found that a student's mastery of fractions is a direct predictor of how well that student will do in algebra when he/she reaches high school.

Fractions fun in grade 3
I first heard this news two spring semesters ago, during a Eureka Math training that I was attending, as I was preparing to move into my current role as the elementary math/tech coach for my district. The trainers were explaining the progression of instruction in their curriculum to the group, talking about the build from basic number sense, to fractions understanding, and into algebra, when they mentioned that a student's understanding of fractions can directly predict their understanding of algebra down the line.

This absolutely blew my mind! Aside from knowing that yes, it is important for students to know how to perform operations with fractions, I had not fully considered the connection between fractions concepts and the more complex math that students would encounter in high school.

Part of this, I realized, was due to my surface level understanding of math upon leaving college. I'd done fine in math, up until about Trig and Calculus in high school (and the one college Calculus class that I was forced to take in order to graduate, and barely passed), and for the most part thought of myself as an okay math student. But I was well aware of the holes in my math learning, and I definitely had not learned math in terms of the patterns and many connections across concepts that mathematics is actually made up of. And so, as an elementary math teacher, I felt fairly inept at teaching math well, and have spent numerous hours since my first year teaching, learning more math and learning how to be a better math teacher.

Analyzing math progressions
And that brings me back to the importance of fractions. Knowing that a student's understanding of fractions would act as the infrastructure to support their algebra comprehension, I decided to make fractions instruction a focus of my work as a math coach.

One way that I hope to help teachers and parents better support students' work with fractions is to help them understand the bigger picture. We need to know where our students are coming from, and where they are going, in order to best support their learning while they are in our class. And so I've begun to work with teachers and parents on studying the math progressions documents and actually doing the math while learning more about the connections made across grade level spans. In my last math training, teachers studied the Numbers & Operations in Base Ten progressions for their grade level and then created posters that we analyzed for connections and patterns across the grade levels.

My most recent project (below)-- a visual representation of the fractions progressions from Kinder through 5th grade. I'll be sharing this document with teachers in my next math training this month as well as during an episode of my webinar series, the "Math/Tech Minute", to hopefully help teachers develop a better understanding of fractions concepts and the connections between the skills taught across the grade levels. Feedback and suggestions for improvement are welcomed!

(Click to view full size presentation in Piktochart; visit this folder for copy of infographic blocks)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rethinking math instruction: designing lessons for a 21st century math classroom

As a still pretty new classroom teacher about 6 years ago, teaching 3rd grade at the time, I didn't think of myself as a very good math teacher. I noticed very early on that I wasn't really reaching my students. And so I made it my mission to learn more math, to learn how to be a better math teacher, and how to interest my students in math.

I attended all the trainings, started reading all the books, and next thing you know I'm presenting to my colleagues on math instruction.

Now, I find myself a math and technology coach for the K-5 teachers in my district, and I notice that, like myself, many others, even if they want to change the way they teach math, have a hard time getting started.

Modern lesson design
Math is a subject that seems to have been taught just about the same way for the last 100 years or so. Facts, memorization, algorithms, etc. Even when we know it's not working, math is a subject that we teachers seem to struggle to change.

Our students should be learning math via experiences, not flash cards. We are not training our students to
become regurgitaters of facts. We need to teach them how to be creators, how to be critical thinkers, how to be problem solvers.

This week I led a 3-day workshop for my K-5 teachers on shifting mindsets around math instruction. The goals:
  • Empower teachers to design lessons & learning experiences in math
  • Shift instruction from teacher-led to student-centered
  • Move math to inquiry-based
  • Make learning hands-on math
  • Design for 21st century learners
By the end of the our 3-days, I was pumped to see teachers excited about math this year! Teachers used what they learned about hyperdocs; interactive math activities using Google tools; self-directed lessons using PBS LearningMedia storyboards, EdPuzzle, and others; Estimation180; number and fraction talks; Which One Doesn't Belong; among other resources to start designing math experiences for their students. And at the end of day 3, all the 'thank yous' and hugs let me know that this might have been just what some of us needed!

Below is the presentation I used with my teachers. (Some is Eureka Math/ENY specific since that's our current curriculum, but scroll past that for most of the good stuff!) Feel free to modify and use as desired!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

My Top 5 from ISTE 2016

This year I was lucky enough to be able to attend my second ISTE conference. Last year, I attended just Sunday and Monday's festivities with the PBS Lead Digital Innovators, and even after only a couple of days of the conference, I left so affected that I knew I needed to return this year.

And so, my fellow math/tech ToSA and I booked our trip in September and found ourselves in Denver in June. We paid our own way just to be in the same room as some of the greatest, smartest, most innovative minds in education; to be inspired and reinvigorated; to be with our tribe and surrounded by people with the same visions and goals for education that we have.

We were not disappointed...

Several major threads seemed to tie this year's event together, including:
I'm trying, Sylvia :)
  • Making and maker spaces
  • Minecraft (yes, Minecraft gets it's own listing, as the number of Minecraft sessions and playgrounds was staggering!)
  • Coaching
  • Professional Learning Networks
  • Computer Science
  • Virtual Reality
  • Creativity... in a variety of forms
In short, there was something for everyone.

So, what did I take away from this year's conference? Plenty! So much so, that it's taken me the last five days to process the entire experience! But after some sketching, reflecting, and notetaking, I was finally able to determine the most influential and memorable ISTE moments for myself and how that learning will drive my work in the coming school year.

Drum roll please...

    My ISTE Top 5

  1. The people!
  2. A snapshot of my PLN
    • Connecting with my PLN friends, both new and old, is always my favorite part of a conference... shout out to all my #cuerockstar, #TOSAchat, #connectedtl, #picademy and #pbsdigitalinnovator friends!
    • There is just something so special about getting to chat face to face with the people that you've already connected with online based on similar passions
    • Being surrounded by people who are just as passionate about changing education as I am is re-energizing and reminds me that my tribe is out there, and we are all pushing change forward together.
  3. Presenting at ISTE
    • I am a nervous public speaker... I always have been, and even though I do more of it all the time, it doesn't seem to get any easier.
    • ISTE is by far one of the biggest events that I've ever had the pleasure of presenting at, and it was invigorating!
    • The best part of presenting at conferences is how much I learn in the process. I always learn something during a presentation-- from the audience, from co-presenters, from myself during a moment of self-realization-- and this experience was no exception! I learned so much from my co-panelists (@mjgormans & @jjwestenskow)... about speaking, about making, about play in schools, about developing a mindset over a space...
    • There is also something validating about being asked to speak at a conference. As a "lone nut" of sorts at my site and in my district, it's hard to know whether you're doing the right thing. But when you're asked to share your work at an international conference and the people on your panel share the same mindset that you do, it's a good reminder that what you're doing is important. Maybe I am moving my students and teachers in the right direction...
  4. It's time to get creative
    • Photo walks and photography apps, Sketchnoting, designing, engineering, computing, coding, digital drawings and paintings, video production...
    • Creativity of all sorts was showcased at this year's ISTE, and seeing all of the digital art and being surrounded by all those creations, was a good reminder about the importance of art and creativity in education. The last few decades have seen creativity squeezed out of education and we need to bring it back... for the students' sake and for the teachers' sake.
  5. Minecraft... learn it
    • It's been on my to-do list forever, and doesn't seem to be going away, so I think it's finally time to learn a little Minecraft.
    • I took a little time while at ISTE to attend a Minecraft playground hosted by Microsoft and had quite a bit of fun learning better how to navigate Minecraft... I have to say, I'm pretty proud of the self-portrait I was able to create ;)
    • I also attended a session on Minecraft in the classroom and was able to hear some of the amazing ways that educators are incorporating Minecraft in their classrooms... alright, I think I can do this!
  6. Shoot for the Moon!
    • I dropped in Mark Wagner's "Moonshot Thinking" session for a few moments on day 1 to learn a little more about this problem-solving, design thinking strategy inspired by Google's X Lab.
    • The name may seem a little obvious, but sometimes it takes hearing someone tell you that it's okay to think big that somehow makes it so.

Bonus-- Michelle Cordy's closing keynote

Michelle Cordy's keynote was just the message I needed at the end my ISTE experience. It is often hard for me to leave a conference; after spending days surrounded by all the excitement and passion, it's hard to go home to the naysayers and bureacracy that can sometimes overshadow the things that we love about teaching. Cordy's message was a powerful one, and refreshingly simple to execute in our own schools.
Cordy is a public school teacher (just like many of us) who works to figure out how, among all the testing requirements and government initiatives, she can make education exciting and memorable for her students. Cordy's call to action-- "Show up and refuse to leave"-- was an important reminder that we are responsible for doing what it takes to help students love learning. Do not back down; rather, do what you know is right for your students. And let's shift from focusing on disruption in education to becoming the stewards for change that our students need.

More favorites from ISTE2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Making-- it's about developing culture & mindset, not a space

This past week I had the pleasure of joining education and Project Based Learning (PBL) consultant, Michael Gorman (@mjgormans); Institute of Play educator, Jackson Westenskow (@jjwestenskow); and PBS Learning Media (@pbslrnmedia) at ISTE 2016 to talk about building a maker culture in classrooms and schools. And not only do we need to support teachers in shifting the design of their lessons and classrooms, we also need to support students who are so used to finding the one right answer to a problem, or telling teachers what they think we want to hear in order to earn a good grade, that working on open-ended design projects can be extremely stressful.

Although the types of making happening in our various organizations differs (PBL and Genius Hour for Michael, gamification and play for Jackson, and digital making in my own classrooms), there was one major thread that tied all of our experiences and projects together-- our belief in the importance of first developing a maker culture and mindset in our classrooms before jumping into buying fancy maker tools or building makerspaces.

This year’s ISTE event in Denver was inundated with gadgets and gizmos aplenty to help schools deck out the growing number of makerspaces taking over old classrooms and computer labs, but how effective will a shiny new makerspace be in your school if no one walks their class across campus to use it?

Digital making via 3D design
Until teachers fully understand the importance of allowing students to create; to analyze problems and come up with their own solutions; to reflect on their thinking and their work; and how to integrate making and design processes into their standards-aligned lesson design, making will remain the “extra” that only gets done during free time or “choice time”.

So, how do we as teachers, coaches, principals, and district administrators grow a maker culture at our sites and help develop maker mindsets in our teachers and students?

Here are some highlights from our presentation on how to get started:
  • “Making is a mindset, not a space” (@mjgormans)
    • Maker spaces or carts or corners or useless if we do not first develop a maker mindset and way of thinking
  • Teachers need training on how to incorporate play and making into learning
    • Training format should mirror what teachers’ classrooms should look like
    • Want more to see more play in classrooms? Then teachers should be playing in PD!
  • Teachers learning CS hands on!
    Everything is interconnected!
    • Cross-curricular and interdisciplinary instruction is part of the PBL, play, and making culture
  • Coaching and ongoing support is key!
    • “One and done” trainings do not transform classrooms and schools
    • Coaches are so important for providing the ongoing support teachers need while changing their practice
    • Coaches should be in classrooms to help teachers and students feel safe to “fail foward”, knowing there is someone standing by to jump is as needed or just to be a cheerleader during the growing process
  • Making shouldn’t be an “extra”
    • Making and play should be standards-aligned and a regular part of good instruction and student learning

Some of our favorite resources for maker/play/PBL classrooms:
    • Professional development and lesson videos, games, lesson plans, interactives, simulations and more… for free!
    • The “Makers” collection includes videos and lesson plans focused on STEM topics and their relationship to the “real world”
    • Daily news rewritten at various reading levels for students in grades 3-12
    • All of my maker projects are embedded as a part of interdisciplinary instruction, many of which we also connected to current events read about via Newsela
    • An organization dedicated to designing new models of learning and instruction
    • Offers professional development for teachers/schools
    • The Exploratorium is a San Francisco museum providing hands-on learning and experiences in the STEM fields
    • Resources and lessons on tinkering and making to learn
    • Organization dedicated to project-based learning
    • provides free PBL resources, lesson plans, and tools and resources to support teachers in designing their own PBL units
    • Also offers professional development on PBL
  • Raspberry Pi
    • The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to digital making and computer science education
    • These low-cost computers can help educators incorporate more hands-on computer science, coding, making, and problem-solving activities in classrooms
    • In addition to selling devices, the Raspberry Pi website provides access to free learning kits and lesson plans