Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hour of Code 2016

This month is Hour of Code month.  My Google Calendar is filled to the brim with teachers who have requested me to come in and coach them and their students in coding.  I began coding coaching last year and I have learned many valuable tidbits that will help teachers as they embark on this venture.  I work with teachers in grades TK-8, however it is the elementary teachers (TK-5) who have taken advantage of my coding coaching sessions.  Below I have shared what I have learned.

This week, I created a Multi-Media Text Set (MMTS) on Hour of Code as a reference sheet for my teachers and their students.  CLICK HERE

My Goal in creating this resource is to make it easy for teachers to try Hour of Code and have an easy reference to share with students.  This document gives one click options for trying Hour of Code and/or Coding with K - 8 students.

NOTE: I'm still adding to the MMTS


Here are some tidbits I have learned by providing coaching for teachers and students for Hour of Code the last 2 years:

  • I love using the Courses especially to start with the younger students because it gives them experience navigating the technology - we use chromebooks.
    • The courses have up to 20 stages of learning that allow for continued coding throughout the school year.
    • When students login using their Google Suite for Education accounts, their progress is tracked and they can start exactly where they left off from previous sessions.
  • For K-2 I like starting with Course 1 before working on an Hour of Code activity as mentioned in the MMTS
  • For 3 - 5 I like starting with Hour of Code and then going to Course 2
  • Because many of the district students participated in Hour of Code last year, I am having the 4th and 5th grade students do the Star Wars JavaScript Hour of Code activity.
  • My preference is no headphones because I love watching the collaboration between the students even when they have their own device - but it is always STUDENT preference as to whether or not they wear their headphones.
This is process that I use as an instructional coach to introduce and support my teachers and students with the Hour of Code.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Changing Teachers' Mindsets one Baby Step at a Time

Last year and this year I have had the privilege of being a STEAM coach.  It was not part of my original job description as a Curriculum Coordinator, but I added it because I missed being with the teachers and students.

Since it is Thanksgiving time, I am truly thankful for the small district I work in and the MANY roles and responsibilities I get to experience.  I have shared many STEAM activities on this blog and on Twitter.  One thing I emphasize with the teachers and students I work with is that they will be out of their comfort zone, like Sylvia Duckworth's sketchnote:

With this sketchnote in mind I have witnessed a growth progression in the STEAM teachers I coach weekly:
(this is only a small part of my overall coaching role)

My Coaching Process:
  • Weekly STEAM time with a 5th grade, a 3rd grade, and a 1st/2nd grade class.
  • Give students a Maker or Coding Challenge: (CLICK HERE to see what we've done so far this year)
  • Create a HyperDoc to accompany our activity: (Included in the link above)
  • Get out of the students' way tell them to figure it out and/or make it work (I'm a Project Runway fan)
  • Have the teacher walk around and support but NO helping or rescuing
  • CLICK HERE for some photos of our work this year
What the Teachers Do:
  • See their students' engagement
  • See their students struggle and persevere
  • See that their students are creative and capable problem solvers and critical thinkers
And eventually they step out of their comfort zone and start creating their own HyperDocs and activities with a risk-taking mindset.

The week before Thanksgiving vacation the 1st/2nd grade STEAM teacher created a HyperSlide on Salmon for her students and had the work on it during our STEAM time so I could support her and the students.  The incredible part of the lesson was when she realized she needed their names and so she told the kiddos that she is learning along side of them and that she needed them to "redo" the form with their names.  It was an awesome example of modeling and risk-taking for a self proclaimed "non-techy" teacher and her students.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Power of a Chromebook - A Brick in the Head Moment

Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth

Every once in a while as educators we have what I call the "brick in the head" moments.  Those times when the student literally woke me up in such a startling way that it is like they threw a brick at my head.  After the initial shock and possible disappointment it forces me to take pause, reflect and assess the situation and the job I am doing as an educator.

I have to share a glaring "brick in the head moment" that happened 19 years ago (OUCH)!  I was teaching a multi-age 3rd - 6th grade class that had seven students at each grade level and the students looped up with me for four years.  Needless to say the beginning of the year was tough on the incoming 3rd graders as the rest of us hit the ground running.  I did not realize the extent of their suffering and frustration until one day during reading groups.  As I worked with a group, I noticed Rory packing up her backpack carefully.  Being the scientist that I am, I watched and let the scene unfold.  When she finished, she slung her backpack over her shoulders and headed for the door.  It was at that moment that I headed out after her.  I caught her at the bottom of the portable ramp,

"Rory, where are you going sweetheart?"  I asked her
"Third grade is too HARD!  I Quit!  I'm going back to Mrs. Ruppert's Class."  Rory replied

Brick in the Head...  Thanks to Rory's brave move all of the third graders released a huge a sigh of relief as we slowed down and gave them a chance to catch their breath and join the class.

Now back to October 2016 and the brick that hit me on Friday from a frustrated teacher at one of our elementary schools:

Today, my class used chrome books to use compass learning.
Upon students opening each of their c books, the screen was different for different students. 
  1. Signing in all my students with the help of another teacher in the room took a total of 25 minutes!
  2. Multiple students somehow were bumped out of compass and had to sign in again , and some more than once.
  3. Some students did not have to sign in with their google account and were able to just go straight to compass because the purple compass screen came on automatically.
  4. The compass sign in had ODySSEY and should have auburn. Last year that was added to the drop-down and it is not there now.So I had to type it for several students. 
  5. Do I really need to write a grant to get headphones for my class? The kids had a hard time listening to their own computer and that would be ideal. If not, please let me know asap so i can get my grant app in by next week.
  6. This is frustrating and subsequently I want to just go into the computer lab and not use chrome books if this is how it will be.... 
  7. Is it possible to have the books open and my students be able to touch or click on an app or icon to go to the site I want them to?
  8. I had to type in the url for compass on several computers to get to the compass sign in page.
Thank you so much for all your help 
Becky Hawkins

How and Why is this a "brick in the head moment"?  It is something that many of us facilitating a Chromebook roll out experience: the teacher's comfort zone.

Our district has increased the Chromebook ratio to 2:1 at our elementary schools and 1.something:1 at our middle school.  We have worked hard to effectively introduce and support the integration of technology use for instruction.  However, there are the occasional hiccups.  As a STEAM and instructional technology coach, I have to come along side the teachers who are struggling to support them as they exit their comfort zones for the benefit of their students.

As the brick was hitting me in the head, I appreciated the fact that the teacher felt comfortable enough to vent to me and honestly share her frustrations.  We had a nice chat/meeting a few days after she sent the email and we began the process of supporting her Chromebook integration in a way that was meaningful for her and her students.  

Thanks to all of you brick throwers who jolt us out of our comfort zone and cause us question and reflect on how, what and why we do things the way we do.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

International Dot Day 2016 STEAM Style

Auburn Union is celebrating International Dot Day in STEAM style this week.

Here is the link to the HyperDoc I created - CLICK HERE

I'm using the HyperDoc for my STEAM coaching classes and then sharing it with all of my teachers if they want to tackle it on their own.  

I'm letting the teachers do the first two activities without me.  The kiddos can create and color their dots.  The second activity is based on the collaborative classroom mural where you cut each student's dot in half and put it together with another student's dot to create the mural.

STEAM Activities:  (We will use Chromebooks for these)
  • For the first STEAM Dot activity, I'm having the students explore Google Draw to create their dots electronically.  The teacher and I will provide little guidance as we want them to explore, create and collaborate with each other.
  • The second STEAM Dot activity will be for the students to create a Dot animation using Scratch.  Again this will be an exploration and we will provide information as needed but we really want the students to explore and figure it out.
Happy International Dot Day/Week - ish!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Is There a Time to Quit?

Yesterday after my sixth rejection from the Google Teacher Academy/Google for Education Innovator Academy a thought entered my mind.  The thought/word is one that as a risk taker, problem solver, challenge embracer, failure learner, and determined succeeder (do you like my two new words?) never crosses my mind as I model for ALL in my district.  However, I think I have come upon my time to QUIT applying and putting myself through this process.

I put a positive spin on my first few failures, no rejections.  I learn from failures because failures provide meaningful feedback and enable a person to make tweaks and improvements.  As a standards based grading enthusiast, I turned my students so called "failures" into learning opportunities and pushed the kiddos to work on the specific areas needed to improve.  I gave my students daily feedback on their understanding so that they could make adjustments and improve instead of waiting until the unit test.

As a STEAM coach and Instructional Technology Coordinator, I model taking risks and failing forward daily for the teachers, students, administrators, and parents.  An example is the straw towers we are building this week in 1 - 5th grade classrooms: This photo is from a 2nd/3rd grade class
One of our new comer students who speaks little English built the structure that can be reversed and still hold the golf ball, can you pick that one out?

I differentiate between rejections and failures because of what I have learned from the rejections.  Because there is no meaningful feedback on the actual application, I have tried to revise and iterate without knowing what I have done well and not so well and tried to base those improvements by researching those who have been accepted.  When I look at "Famous Failures" (CLICK HERE to watch the video I show my students) they all succeeded because they had determination and feedback to drive their growth.  Even Jose Hernandez the astronaut who failed 12 times before getting in to the space program received feedback that got him one step closer after each failed attempt.

Because I like to model for my learners, it is time for me to QUIT and turn this rejection into an opportunity to model guiding our students and teachers to succeed by providing meaningful feedback and support.  I embrace failure because it really does provide for incredible learning experiences. 

My son asked me if I was going to quit trying last night.  He told me he is not a quitter and I told him I am not either.  So, this morning on our drive to school, we will have a wonderful discussion on if/when there is a time to quit and why I have chosen to do so in this instance.

Again, Google for Education has given me a GIFT in this rejection.  I have realized that everything I do as an educator is to keep my learners from giving up and quitting.  How ironic, I have what would have been my next project: Using Google Tools and Technology to Keep Learners from Quitting.  

As the Late and Great Rita Pierson said, "-18 sucks the life out of a kid, but +2 says they're not all bad"

I love Google, I love Google for Education, I love being a Google Certified Trainer, I am lucky to have many Google Certified Innovators and Trainers as friends and colleagues and I have the highest regard and respect for them all. However, to quote Samantha from Sex in the City: "I love me more."

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Toothpick Structures STEAM Activity #2

Our first activity Straw Building was a sort of pre-assessment for our STEAM classes.  It enabled us to get a glimpse of the students and how they ARE in an environment that is open-ended, unstructured, and driven by inquiry.  We gave the students 30 straws and tape and let them build, create and struggle.  Most students embraced the lack of constraints placed upon them, however, there is a select group of students who struggle in this situation - the compliant, rule following, success seeking students.

The STEAM activities at the beginning of the school year expose those students who are used to succeeding with little effort and/or risk taking.  These students crumble in an environment that is open.  They play it safe and know exactly what to do to "get the A" in a traditional setting.  Outside of the classroom, these kiddos can be extremely creative, but in class they want to know exactly what and how to do everything.

At the same time STEAM activities are extremely freeing for those students who struggle to comply in a traditional classroom setting.  The open-endedness provides a no holds barred situation for the kiddos who feel confined in the traditional setting.  That being said here is our next lesson:

Toothpick Building CLICK HERE to access HyperDoc
First and Second Graders

From now on, our STEAM activities will have a HyperDoc or Multi-Media Text Sets to engage and inspire and push the students thinking.  I am gathering the lesson on this spreadsheet so that the AUSD teachers and all others can easily access the lessons etc... CLICK HERE to access STEAM Lesson Spreadsheet.  Have  a great week!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Straw Building Maker Activity #1

Straw Building in a 1st/2nd grade class

Straw Building Maker Activity #1 - CLICK HERE

30 straws for every 2 students
Masking tape

Goal: Students will make the tallest, freestanding structure using only 30 straws and tape.

Grade Levels: I did this activity with 1st - 5th grades.  I would love to see what a kindergarten class does with this!

The plan is simple, give the students the supplies, and tell them the rules:  I challenge you to build:

  1. Tallest structure
  2. Freestanding (we discuss what freestanding means, I ask the students what they think it means and let them tell me: no taping to desks, walls, or the floor.  We need to be able to pick it up and move it and have it stand after doing that.)
  3. Then I ask the students if there are any questions or clarifications they need
Side note: (in the 1st/2nd grade class they also Counted the straws and figured out if they had an even or odd amount of straws, a question the students were curious about.)

The great thing about doing this activity at the beginning of the year is that you get a great glimpse of your students.  You will see the ones who struggle working with others, those who are used to getting an answer easily and struggle with the unknown, those who fail and quit, those who fail and persevere, those who love building and creating, those who embrace openness, those who struggle with openness, etc…  I look at this as a pre-assessment or baseline data as you begin your journey integrating maker activities into your classroom.  If you record some information about the kiddos as you do this, it will be great data to compare to the end of the year!

Do this activity with an open mind and do not interfere.  Hand the students tape when they need it and reply “I don’t know” when they ask you something.  DO NOT tell them what to do or how to do it!

Here are some photos:
More 1st/2nd Grade Straw Towers
2nd/3rd Grade Straw Towers

Saturday, July 2, 2016

What Is Your Summer PD?

CLICK HERE to Open the Interactive Slide

Here is an image of my summer Professional Development Slides I will be creating during the summer as I troll my social media sources.  I will pick 5 articles, blog posts, etc... to share with whomever wants to check them out.  I only have two slides so far, but once you click on the link, the slide show will live in your Google Drive account.  As I add slides you will be able to check them out.  Enjoy, Share, Repeat.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Homework in a Standards Based Learning Environment

Yesterday I was sucked into a discussion about homework on Twitter.  My colleague John Walkup likes to challenge my thinking on things which I appreciate because it makes me reflect on my practice.  In doing so, I found that I could no longer participate on twitter because I needed more characters.  So here is a brief explanation of how homework went in my middle school math classroom:
  • When the students entered my classroom, there was an activity for them to complete.  (If the students are engaged, I can touch base with all of them).
  • The "warm up" is based on THE ONE problem they had for homework the night before and is strategically chosen for it's learning value for all students.
  • I ENCOURAGED the students to copy, cheat, and steal ideas from their group members as they communicate and collaborate and get their minds on math.
  • As they worked, I "checked homework" by going to each group and checking in with EACH student. 
  • If a student did not have their work, their book, their notebook or other materials, I made eye contact and ask them why (with empathy).  I had a coding system so I could keep track of each student's work patterns and level of understanding and look for work behavior patterns.  
  • I also made sure that I smiled genuinely at each student and acknowledged their successes or understood their anxiety, frustrations, and/or confusions.
  • This formative check I did with EACH student in EACH class EVERYDAY also enabled me to make sure the students knew I was there to challenge and support their learning in a respectful collaborative environment.
  • I allowed for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class to accomplish this task and build relationships.  It was the most valuable time of the day for establishing a foundation for trust and risk taking in a middle school math class.
I found that formatively assessing my students, providing a safe environment to make mistakes, learning from failure and building relationships were the driving forces behind all that happened in OUR math classes.  

Oh and by the way, when students were able to let go of their math anxiety by "copying" or "cheating" or "stealing" from a classmate a few things resulted:
  • their math anxiety decreased
  • their confidence increased
  • they took risks and began trying difficult problems on their own
  • they asked more questions and sought help and support 
  • they increased their scores on unit assessments (which they could NOT "copy" or "cheat" or "steal" on.
Meaningful learning for all is my goal.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sphero Art with a Chromebook

Our Paint Covered Spheros
For our final STEAM Parent Day in Chelsea's class we finally created a Sphero Art Mural:

Here are the instructions to save frustration when using Chromebooks with Spheros:

STEP 1: Enable the Bluetooth and connect it to a specific Sphero and have your students remember which color code they are connected to. (We had 6 spheros connected to 6 Chromebooks in the small space yous see in the videos with no problems or conflicts).

STEP 2: Add the Sphero Blockly Chrome App to your Chromebooks (I am our GAFE Admin so I added it to all of our student and teacher accounts).

STEP 3: Have the kiddos open the app and make sure they have their Sphero chosen:

STEP 4: Have the students practice using the Sphero Blockly App to code their Sphero (if they are not familiar with block coding you made need to do this with them a few times before you let them paint)

STEP 5: Find or build a box that will contain the Spheros and the paint and remind the students that they may need to put constraints on their programs.

Coding Spheros with Chromebooks is not the same as using the Tickle App on an iPad, however, it works nicely and the students get a great experience.  Oh and the paint washes right off!

Our next challenge will be Sphero Golf with the Chromebooks!