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!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 Edina High School Passion Project Fair

On Tuesday, April 28, Edina High School Sophomores shared their year-long passion projects with staff, fellow students and community members. This project is part of their Pre-AP English 10 course, and also involved completing a research paper, service learning, and digital age learning. This authentic learning experience has led to recognition for students beyond the school walls in the past, and I believe this year's sophomores will be continuing that tradition.
Here are some highlights that were shared out during the presentations.

It was great to see EHS alumni, Alec Fischer and Gabe Aderhold come back to encourage students to continue to foster their passions beyond their projects, as you never know how far it can take you!

This year's "Passion Fair" was the best yet, and it was great to see school and community leaders turn out to learn from the students. 

It was also rewarding to see the different ways students incorporated the use of their eLearning2 1:1 devices and digital age learning into their work. Students started the process using NoodleTools for research and Google Docs for writing.
As they declared their passion, several posted to social media:

All of the students maintained a blog for the class (Accessible Here), which allowed them to reflect on not only their passion project, but also the books they read and reflection on their learning. 

For the last two years, service learning has become an important component of the project. Students are asked to take action on their passion in some way. One student raised money by holding a pancake breakfast for the St. Joseph's Home for Children, an organization that helped him out when he was younger, another created this video to raise awareness around standardized testing:

Students used a variety of tools for presenting at the fair, including PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, Prezi, Screencasting, and Piktochart, and built Websites using Weebly, Google Sites and Wix.

The Passsion Project is a great way that Edina students are able to personalize their learning and follow their interests in authentic ways. The service component builds on work students completed in the 7th grade Apathy project and 9th grade Government project. As we continue to evolve the Next Generation of Learning in Edina, I hope the Passion Project continues to be a vital component.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Digital Learning Day 2015....Just another day of learning in Edina

Last Friday, March 13, was the 2015 Digital Learning Day, an effort to promote innovation and technology integration. With our eLearning2 Digital Age Learning initiative, it felt like just another day of learning! To me, every day is "Digital Learning Day!" I asked staff to Tweet out pictures of their students accessing content, collaborating and creating using both the #DLDay and #eLearning2 hashtags. The result was a great mix of activities from all grade levels, K-12. 

In addition, Jackie Roehl and Rachel Hatten had their Pre-AP English 10 students create a "Twitter Tableaux" around themes in the book, Slaughterhouse Five. Here were their instructions for students:

   Twitter Tableaux

  • A tableau (tableaux is the plural form) is a group of motionless models representing a scene from a story.
  • As a group discuss your chapter to determine the three scenes that illustrate war themes and then create one tableau per scene for a total of three tableaux.
  • Have someone take photos of the tableaux and tweet them with two hashtags #DLDay #s5tab.  With the remaining characters write a theme statement for your tableau. What are you trying to say here about war?
  • You will present your images and explain your motivations to the class.  You have to be back here in 25 minutes to present or you get a 0.
  • Chapter 5 is split pp. 87-113 and pp. 114 to 135
This is what the students came up with!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

COSN15: Preparing Globally Competitive Students-Dallas Dance, Superintendent of Baltimore County Schools

Dallas Dance, Superintendent of Baltimore County Schools shared how his district is developing Globally Competitive Students at COSN15.

Baltimore County has a 87.6% graduation rate. It's mostly urban and diverse. 

  • 2nd Highest Grad rate umong large school districts
  • More than half of the schools are among the best in the nation 
  • 17 Blue Ribbon Schools
  • Multiple Wards
  • 91% of families say the school is effective or highly effective
Good is not Good enough! 12% of students not graduating, 18% of African American Males not graduating

ALL MEANS ALL is their Motto! 
Brainpower does not discriminate

How they began...
  • Reaching out to the community stakeholders
  • Previous Admin-Blueprint for Progress
  • Stagnant in academic approach
BluePrint 2.0 Developing their purpose
  • Prepare students to be globally competitive and globally prepared
  • Define what the diploma means when they leave the school system
  • Access to an equitable digital learning environment
  • 2nd Language prior to graduation starting in 4th grade (Leveraging Tech to do so)
68% of Building Administrators thought that the academic program was set up to meet the needs of all students.
1/3 didnt' think students had the instructional technology to succeed.
Conversations around equity and leveling the playing field took place.

  • Globally competitive
  • Rigorous
  • Relevant
  • Accessible
  • Responsive
What do we mean to get kids engaged?

Classrooms NEED to be Learning Centered!

Learner Centered Environments
  • Students have independent choice
  • Students develop responsibility to evaluate learning
  • Removes artificial barriers 
  • Teacher takes into account what they know and create responsive environment for students
  • Teacher has freedom to focus on students struggling
  • More student collaboration
  • Student "experts"
  • Technology now used as an integral part of learning rather than an add-on

Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (Link to site)

Students owning the classroom, K-12
18 months focusing on Curriculum First
  • Curriculum created by and for BCPS educators
  • Digitally enhanced in Core content areas
  • Redefining delivery
  • Greater emphasis on Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills
STAT Transformation involved:
  1. Curriculum Conversion-Needs to happen first
  2. Instructional Conversion-Looking at transforming pedagogy
  3. Assessment Conversion-Moving away from pencil/paper, formative daily
  4. Organizational Conversion-About people, everyone needs to be on board (Buses, Food Service, School Board) Full Time STAT teachers in each building (lesson planning and student centered first, then Tech
  5. Infrastructure conversion-System level updates ($12 million)
  6. Policy Conversion-Responsible Use rather that Appropriate, Grading conversion
  7. Budget Conversion-85% of the budget is people, weekly fiscal issues meeting, 
  8. Communications Conversion
Principal Leadership and Teacher devices were the focus first
Decided that 1:1 would start with Elementary because learner centered is easier there. k-3 first, and then 4-5 next year. 

Lighthouse Schools started this year.
Start slow to go fast.
10 Laboratory Schools, so teachers can see what it looks like
Maryland chose 5, the District chose 5

Dance shared a video highlighting the shifts that have been made 1/2 way through the year. Teachers see the transformation and how equity is being addressed. Students and teachers are exhibiting more passion for their learning.

Expansion in 2015
Schoolwide at current Lighthouse Schools
All elementary schools, grades K-3
7 Lighthouse schools, Grade 6 only
Ensuring support

They have single sign on, BCPS One, that ties Digital Resources (Discovery, Brainpop, NBCone, Learning Management, Student Information, etc...

Students log in and see calendar and see progress. 
Assessment taken goes into gradebook and teacher than customizes the learning plan for that student.

Todos Adelante-Middlebury Interactive is what they are using for 2nd Language in Grade 4.


Dance, who started with Mark Edwards in Henrico County, VA,  notes that they are changing classrooms, but they are also changing the community. 

Never underestimate culture! People need to be valued, and work as a team to make things work.

Engrade is their single signon vendor, and Infinite Campus will be their Student Information System.

Maryland has become a competency based state, so seat time is no longer an issue.