Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Data We Should Be Collecting...

Modified from
At the start of the school year, Burnsville Tech Director, Doug Johnson had a great post, titled, "Getting To Know You As More Than A Number." In it, he shared the work of Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez in Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes For Every School 

The post resonated with me, because for a long time, I feel like the focus on data in education has been about knowing the standardized test results, instead of REALLY getting to know the student, their likes, dislikes, passions, values and dreams.

It was just after our district kick-off workshops, where I heard about trying to be respectful of students who are either trans-gender or are questioning, and starting the year by asking the students what they would like to be called as they're first name. In addition, Sharocky Hollie had opened our district-wide staff development on Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Instruction. He spoke to the need to provide opportunities for learning in all three of the following domains:

After Dr. Hollie's sessions, I happened into Edina High School Social Studies teacher, Brad Dahlman's classroom. Taking what he learned about Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Instruction, he asked students to share their favorite song on a form, and then he found each song on YouTube. Each day, the students come into class and Brad plays the next song in the list. This provides a culturally responsive intro to each class, which is pretty cool! 

I decided to take the information from Doug's post, and what I learned during our workshops, and Brad's idea and put together a form that teachers could use to gather data to really get to know their students. 

Here is the link to the response sheet if you'd like to make a copy and/or modify the form.

My hope is that this can be a tool we can use to better know our students, be culturally & linguistically responsive , make connections with them, and assist them to personalize their learning experience and connect their passions with our curricular area. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Edina High School Staff and eLearning2

Yesterday I met with staff at Edina High School to share some updates on our eLearning2 initiative for 2015-16. While the program is entering its 4th year, this is the second year that all students are required to have a device for their learning.

We talked about our Digital Age Learning Framework and how it ties into our Educational Competencies and Next Generation learning, as well as using the SAMR framework for thinking about how students are using devices in their classrooms. 

During the session I asked the staff to share at their tables ways that they had incorporated devices in their instruction. I gave them a Google Form to record their answers and share what they discussed. Here are the questions they asked and a visual representation of the responses:

How did you incorporate student devices in your instruction last year?

It was rewarding to see so many different ways devices had been used for learning! Not just for consuming information, but collaboration and creation in all curricular areas! 

What growth steps do you hope to take this year?

It was great to walk around and hear the conversations as staff shared their stories. This coming year, staff are excited to take advantage of Google Classroom's new features and go deeper in the "SAMR Pool"  
I am excited for the coming year, and working with a staff willing to "live in beta," and grow!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Edina Learning Institute Keynote: Rafranz Davis "To Learn is to Wonder About Possibilities"

Rafranz Davis, author of the book, The Missing Voice in EdTech Conversations, Bringing Diversity into EdTech" was our keynote speaker at the Edina Learning Institute.

All of us as teachers have had times where we were NOT innovative, creative, brilliant!

She is the first college graduate in her family, and comes from a very supportive close knit family.

She comes from a "Minecraft Family," as a way to create as a family, both at home and outside. She loves that she can bring that outside activity into her classroom.

As a student, in 5th grade she realized that she couldn't focus in class, as she began to day-dream. She felt like she didn't belong, and didn't have the platform to do creative things. It fueled her desire to become a teacher, to help students just as herself.

She remembers the Tandy 1000 and AOL, and the first time she logged on to the Internet. It was the greatest thing ever to have access! It reminded me of waiting 4 hours to download a picture of Shaquille O'Neil. 

Her early years of teaching were very teacher directed, with a SMART Board and tools that only she used, rather than being more student directed.

Why is Math Different? Why do we need to do these worksheets? How is this a part of our lives? 

She started with games. Play the skill, test the skill, mini-game...

Back to Basics
She needed to get to know her students. To find out what made them tick. She found there were so many things that were connections from curriculum to their real life, but we weren't making those connections. 
She shared stories of students that she is still connected to, who became pregnant at an early age, or survived a stabbing, or were told they couldn't be something further on due to low grades, or were questioning their orientation and was beaten at home.

These stories put things in perspective on how getting to know your students can give greater understanding of what they are going through, and how you can help them.

New Tech High
Davis attended a conference, where she got to visit New Tech High in Coppell, Texas where they focus on Project Based Learning and was transformed.

She encouraged people to visit other schools and 

She was transformed by the ability to connect with other teachers around the world through her personal learning network

Ask Questions that lead to more questions...
Classrooms need to be a safe place to learn. 

Empower learning through student interest
What is your students "thing?" What keeps them up at night that is of interest?
She started playing emersive games in her classroom, like SIMS build and Farmville and Angry Birds, which taught students design and application.

Emilio, loved rap, which allowed her to talk about beats per minute/measure as he used Garage Band to make music. 

Chonston, who loved dentistry, and was able to do internships in high school in the dentist office, and is close to having his degree.

Braeden, her nephew, who is 10, at 8 taught himself how to handmake puppets. He struggles with homework folders that take 3 hours per night, but taught himself via YouTube how to design and build amazing puppets. He has now presented at conferences, and even created a mascot costume, which provided great opportunities for problem solving, creativity and innovation. It didn't come from a packet or a teacher at a SMART Board. He blogs about his passion here.

Learning is fueled by curiosity and passion.
We do need to learn somethings that may not be part of that, but as teachers, we need to connect our curriculum to our student's passions!

Braxton's Story
Her niece shared in Rafranz's book how she did not have access to technology besides her phone. Her teacher didn't allow it. The teacher wanted a 20 slide PowerPoint, with paragraphs on each slide. Braxton wanted to make a video, but the teacher said she didn't have a rubric for a video, only the PowerPoint lesson that she has been doing for the last 10 years. She discussed how powering down at school was such a struggle. 

Davis challenged us to listen to what our students are saying. Learning should be happening while you are doing the homework, not after the homework.
At the end of the day, our students want to be better people, students and scholars!

At the end of the day, it isn't about the technology, it's about the relationships we build with our students!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thoughts on Vacation: Is Anything Truly Summative?

This summer, our family had the opportunity to spend time in the Andalusia region of Spain on our vacation. We visited Granada, where we toured the Alhambra as well as the Cathedral of the Incarnation. I was struck by the beauty of both of these architectural marvels as well as the cultural differences in design represented. It also struck me at how many years each took to build, and how even today, the structures are being updated, refurbished and added to. Some of the techniques used to preserve the structures 100 years ago were found to actually cause damage, and were being updated with the latest advances in preservation.


Cathedral of the Incarnation

These buildings were truly "works of art," and a testament to the people who designed and built them, and to those who continue to maintain them. 

On the last day of our trip, we toured the Pablo Picasso Museum in Malaga. In one of the rooms, there was a quote from the painter that gave me pause...
“To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.”  
-Pablo Picasso
It got me to thinking about assessment in schools today. Summative assessment is often defined as "at the conclusion of instruction/learning." How often do our assessments kill our student's love of learning about a subject, or rid THEM of their soul?" What if, much like the buildings I saw that have been "under construction" for hundreds of years, we thought of ALL assessment as formative, and allowed children to continue to grow and build on their understanding of a topic? 

Just something I thought about while on vacation...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#CLMOOC: Make Cycle 1-Unmake an Introduction

This summer, I am participating in Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration, #CLMOOC, a collaboration between the National Writing Project and the MacArthur Foundation. The theme this year is Make Cycles, an opportunity to make, create, learn and explore as a way to experience Connected Learning. Over the last 8 years, I have experienced connected learning in many ways, and I am excited to spend some time learning with colleagues all over the world this summer!

Make Cycle #1: Unmake an Introduction

This week in Make Cycle #1, we have been asked to deconstruct something we have created as a way to break down barriers as a way to promote equity and participation among participants, a principle of Connected Learning.

The other day, while walking around Lake Harriet, near my home, I spotted this Great Blue Heron perched on a dead limb. I decided to snap a photo, as one of my favorite pastimes is photography. I thought it would make for a good subject for my Make Cycle #1 project! Using Pixlr, an online photo editing tool, I added the Kaleidoscope, Posterize, and Hope fllters to alter the image. You can see the before and after below. 

I've used Pixlr before, and love that it is FREE, and contains similar tools to Photoshop. At the same time, this MOOC is about learning, and so I wanted to try a new tool as well. I decided to play with PicPac Stop-Motion and Timelapse to see how it might work as a tool for this project, as well as for digital storytelling for students. 
Recently, I took down the tree house I had built when my kids were younger. I took a few photos of the process and used PicPac to put the short movie together. Since this make cycle is about "unmaking," it seemed like fitting subject matter! Here is the final product:

If you haven't joined #CLMOOC, there's still time! I encourage you to join me to connect and learn this summer! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

BreakoutEDU at the MN #gafesummit

How do we bring more fun and learning to the classroom?
A kit that would fit into a toolbox to transform any room into a game to teach concepts.
Themed for whatever is trying to be accomplished
Open or close units,

Currently looking at designing a collection of games from the box. You can buy from BreakoutEDU, or create your own.

He wanted to see what it was like to set up and play in a space he hadn't been in yet.


  1. Don't destroy the room!
  2. Defined space that may contain objects

Move around the room, solve the puzzle, win the game.

He showed us how to reset the lock and then sent us back to our seats.
There were HINT cards that could be accessed.
Probably best played by 6-10 people. What does that mean for a classroom of 30?

This game has been played 4 times previously.

"Dr. Johnson" is the name of the game. He's a bad guy trying to take over the world. There is an airbourne virus that would turn everyone into Zombies. If we move the box, it will create a mess. We need to get it open w/o moving it, or the antidote will be spilled. We have 35 minutes to open the lockbox.
Someone was designated as the "Captain" with the HINT cards. As the teacher, he created the game, and now can sit back and watch.

The plan is to create games on different types of subject areas and get kids to leverage problem solving strategies to solve the game.

The rest now is up to us...

The Play

(Spoiler Alert!: Don't read if you'd like to play the game sometime!)
  1. We started looking at the walls around the room that had numbers created with post-it-notes in different colors, and arrows pointing in different directions. 
  2. A chair next to me had a pile of paperclips. 9 red, 7 blue and 2 yellow

There was a roll of tickets that had 2 circles, 7 triangles and 9 squares.

Based on the clues with the arrows down and up, and the colors, we then Googled this video:

Sara found something on the floor that had a flash drive that we put into Sanders computer, and it took us to

Then I found a fake rock, with batteries in it for the flashlight. We used that in the darkened room to explore and found paper.

The eyes on the Statue of Liberty picture on the Website gave us further clues about the order.

A few clicks of the lock in the direction based on the numbers and...we had solved the puzzle in about 16 minutes! In the end, we saved the world from the "Zombie Apocolypse!" (A glass of orange juice and a glass of coffee!)

We started by going to the end, rather than looking at all the objects. When we used our strength in numbers, and spread out, it we were more successful. Some clues like the papers with the magic ink to see "red herring."

Sanders talked about the overall goal of the project is to get people to develop and create games (70% should work with the base kit) and share with the community. If you develop a game, and there is a cost, the developer gets 70% in return. The goal is also to involve students in the development of the game, which would be really cool!

I see many applications for this, and am hopeful I can be a BetaTester! The initial kit can be purchased for about $100. It would be a great addition to any Makerspace!! 

Minnesota #GAFESummit Keynote: James Sanders- A Resume of Failure

James SandersDirector of Innovation for EdTechTeam and co-founder of Future Ready Schools, was the keynote speaker at the 3rd Minnesota Google Summit.

He discussed the ways that he has failed in his life, iterated, and moved forward, learning and growing. There were 3 main themes:

  • Take resks
  • Reimagine
  • Put Yourself Out There

The first story of failure has to do with a "little green pill." To prepare for a long flight, he took a sleeping pill, and overslept because of it.

In high school, he learned that just because something was a certain way, didn't make it right. He often shared too much of his opinions, and ended up spending a lot of time in the principals office... Most of what he learned was "non-academic." A lack of adherence...

Tried becoming a professional golfer...failed.
Went to work in the mill in his home town for 3 summers. Learned how to drive a fork lift and bobcat, but not very good at physical labor...3 trips to the ER...

In order to find out who you are, you have to make mistakes...

He talked about the mistakes he made in the classroom, as a history teacher, he made several

The Butterfly Effect
In 2010, this happened...
For the first time in his life, he got to work at something he was passionate about. He was able to partner with a school in Prague, and connect with other schools around the world. Artifacts were assigned to teams of students to research who they belonged to. On KIVA, students made recommendations on who they should give loans too. Authentic learning...

But he forgot the basics....The Chromebooks started to break... "Chromebook Classroom," started. He put himself out there, and looked for ways that students could as well.

He had the students start "KIPP Student News," for students to create and put themselves out there:

Watching 12 year olds do the news is much more interesting..
Decided EVERY studnent should have a YouTube channel.

Unfortunately, on a class trip, students posted video that was a wasn't the most appropriate... One of the students had over 1,000,000 hits! The student asked, don't you make money from this? 

He was taking risks, and knew if he kept pushing, it would be ok. He had students create Web Portfolios. 

Put yourself out there. 
He created, "EduNationCast," to put himself out there and promoted it with the hashtag, "#penismightierthanthesword"..... #Fail

What if we push it further...
He went up to Google to share his vision for the future of Google and education.
Teachers need help, what can Google do...
Google Teacher, Google Classroom,...
Rather than telling people what to do, ask what YOU can do?

He went to work for YouTube, and started "ClassBadges." 
Then he went to work at the Whitehouse, as an "Innovation Fellow."
He helped create the Whitehouse Student Film Festival, as a way to allow students to share their learning, and allow students to talk about what is possible. 

Sanders talked about the problems that we have in the world today. the United States prison population has skyrockedted 400% in the last 30 years...
Prince Charming isn't coming. It's up to us as teachers to create new learning environments and putting the questions out there.
It's when you take risks and put yourself out there is when change happens. Sanders recommended author Austin Kleon, "Steal like an Artist," and "Show Your Work" as worth looking at.  
How big is your Dung Ball? As you fail, and try again, who knows how big it can get?!!

His next risks are "Future Ready Schools..."

He's also looking at bringing Breakout (Escape Rooms), and Game Based Learning into the classroom, with BreakoutEDU.

He'll be leading a session on BreakoutEdu here at the Summit later this afternoon, and I'm excited to be signed up!