Friday, September 27, 2013

MDE:Sketchup in the Classroom

Doug Paulson, K-12 STEM specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education shared information about the state license Minnesota has for Sketchup Pro, a Computer Aided Design program.
The Pro version can be translated into other CAD programs as well, and it can be shared within presentations to show 3D drawings and build understanding of the real world. 
Paulson shared how the flow of ideas between the practice of science to the practice of engineering to the interactions of science, engineering and society can be set up on each grade level.
Paulson had us open Sketchup and begin learning to use the tools.

He discussed how using these tools, and allowing students to add the colors and textures that they wanted allowed them to explore design. With 4th graders, he had them design solar ovens, and then had them discuss why their design would be the best. Then he had them actually build and test it out.

This can be used to have students build bridges or other structures, and put them into Google Earth, to see how their design works with the world around it. Geolocation can be added to the 3D model. Through the 3D warehouse, other structures already created, like the Minnesota Capital can be added.

Paulson asked the following questions to discuss with colleagues:
  1. How might this support instruction?
  2. How does this scaffold through instruction?
  3. What support systems might need to be developed?

I talked about this with staff from St. Louis Park, and we discussed the great applications for multiple subject levels, but also the need for training of staff and students, as well as the need for this to work on multiple devices. Right now, it is limited to Mac and PC.

We then came back and shared ideas on how Sketchup might be used.

  • Do develop a game space
  • Redesign a space
  • Design a building in your community
  • Use primary sources to recreate buildings from a historical era.
I see this as a great tool for the "maker" in all of us as a way to meet many curricular standards. I was reminded of the Wireframe program, Wireman, I used with my students in the early 1990's, that allowed us to FTP files to a Cray XMP SuperComputer at Lawrence Livermore Labs. After a few hours, we were able to download an 8-bit rendered movie with color and light sources in place. Students motivation to create in that space gave them a better understanding of the X-Y-Z axis than any Geometry class I had taught. They saw the real world application right away,and it made sense to them. Sketchup can do all of that and more, without having to wait hours to see the results!

How might you use it?

MDE GIS for Inquiry in the Classroom

The State of Minnesota Department of Education has a state-wide license for Geographical Information Systems. On September 27th, I had a chance to attend a training at MDE to learn more.
In social studies, Substrand 1 on Geospacial Skills, have two standards where technology is embeded. Students are to formulate questions on topics in geography and use geospatial technology to analyze problems and make decisions within a spatial context. GIS is a great tool for this. 
Authentic problems, like transportation and flooding can be addressed.

In science, students are to use maps, satellite images and other data sets to describe pattersn and make predictions about natural systems in a life science context. Students could use GIS to use online data sets to compare wildlife populations or water quality within Minnesota.

Sara Damon, a social studies teacher from Stillwater Public Schools talked about Spatial Thinking with Geotechnologies. Sheis a strong advocate for real-world tools to prepare our students.
She began by talking about thinking spatially. How people places and phenomena are laid out, organized.

"Put maps in front of your students, no matter what you teach!" "There is a geography to everything!" A Facebook connections map can tell you a lot.

This ties in to the geographic inquiry process :

Geospacial technologies are 
  • GIS (Geographic Information Systems)
  1. Virtual globes (Google Earth) 
  2. Internet Map and image servers (Organizations like Food Environment Atlas, The World Bank, MLA) 
  3. Desktop GIS-"If you want to be the wizard behind the curtain!" (Challenging, but your students CAN do it!!)
  • Global Positioning Systems
  • Remote Sensing
Damon shared this video from the Geospatial Revolution Project at Penn State University on applications:

Students at Stillwater have used GIS data to analyze where cell phone towers are in the St. Croix valley, map the tree inventory in the school forest, map bluebird houses in the Lake Elmo Park Reserve, and FireWise Communities a program designed to reduce wild fires nationally and in Minnesota.
Look at ways you can use this as a service project for your community!

She uses ArcGIS online map viewer to look at census data, look at boundary disputes around the world, and working with "Community Analyst" to pick locations new grocery stores in her community.

Story Maps allow you to use GIS to tell digital stories. She hopes to do a project this year with her AP Geography students after taking the exam in May. She hasn't used this yet, but knows that with some persistence, and working together with her students, she knows she will figure it out! Learning is messy sometimes, but she knows she'll be able to figure it out!

She finished by talking about her Global Service Learning Project, where she has invited one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," to come speak to her class, and then the students create a service learning project around it. Her students have raised over $41,000 for the H2O for Life organization over the last 4 years. There is more to this than just an academic exercise! 
The state license for Minnesota is the desktop version of ArcGIS, but you also get access to all of the online tools. She uses the Map Viewer along with the Explorer Online most often.
She suggests beginning with presentations and demonstrations, move into scripted activities, then expand on the script, create a directed project, and finally move to student directed activities.

Damon's  wiki has lots of useful resources and hands-on activities. Definitely a great place to start and worth checking out! You can also check out some great examples of classroom use at the GeoJourneysGIS wiki.

I appreciated this presentation both for the content, and Damon's passion for learning and attitude towards technology. 

We were then led on an activity where we used the online GIS version to pull data on the Minnesota river, and then add that data to a map, and change the size of the data points based on nitrates in the water. We could then look at questions such as:
What patterns do you see?
What factors could cause these?

View Larger Map
This is a great way for inquiry to happen in the classroom, whether it be social studies, science, math, etc. For those looking for ways integrating technology can truly be transformative, and not just substituting low tech for high, this is a great place to start! I'm excited to see what devices the online version will support. (UPDATE: Doug Paulson from MDE said that the online version DOES work on Chromebooks, and there is a pretty good Android App, but the iOS App is currently very limiting.)

After some time for collaboration among the educators here, we discussed the great authentic learning opportunities with real data, opportunities for collaboration among distant classrooms to compare and contrast data, is huge. Scaffolding is important, but elementary students could use Zip Codes, prior to learning latitude and longitude, and still use these tools. 

In Minnesota, you can set up your account on the MDE Website set up for creating accounts with ESRI. You can also attend GeoFest at Macalester College to learn more.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Innovative Schools...

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a member of our district's Innovation Team,  asking for suggestions of schools both locally, nationally, and internationally that have developed innovative strategies to address the 5 Core Strategies and Vision Outcomes our district identified last year as part of our Secondary Study. The team's mission this year is to develop an implementation plan for how these vision outcomes might be implemented in our "next generation" of schools in Edina.

Here is my list. Please feel free to add others I should have included in the comments below!

  1. Minnesota New Country School, Henderson, Minnesota
  2. Innovation Zone-Spring Lake Park and Farmington Public Schools
  3. Jennings Community Learning Center, St. Paul, MN
  4. Upper Mississippi Academy- Minneapolis, MN
  1. Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia, PA
  2. High Tech High School, San Diego, CA
  3. Anne Frank Inspire Academy, Houston, TX
  4. Quest2Learn, New York, NY

  1. Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  2. Albany Senior High School, Albany, New Zealand
  3. Ressun Lukio Upper School, Helsinki, Finland
  4. Unionville High School, Ontario, Canada
Some of the schools on the list I've known of for years, some have been featured on television programs, others came up in searches, and others, like Science Leadership Academy, I have visited and greatly admire. Which schools would YOU put on your list? Which of mine do you agree with? Which would you leave off? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Bees Can Teach Us About Connecting and Activism...

Recently my wife and I were having a discussion about the lack of "Giants," in today's world. We had just watched this clip from The Daily Show, where Robert Reich was talking to Jon Stewart about having worked for Robert Kennedy, and lamenting that there are no "giants," like Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead us in our world today. 

Then the next day, my wife heard activist, Bill McKibbon interviewed on "The Take-Away," about his new book. He too was talking about the lack of a giant to lead on a topic like climate change.

The excerpt that really stood out comes when he talks about bee colonies, and their lack of a specific leader (2:15). 

They turn out to be remarkable creatures. We think of the queen bee as being really important, but in fact, she's really good at laying eggs. It's the rest of the hive that manages to conduct itself in a kind of leaderless and powerful way. And for me that became a metaphor for the kind of movement that we're trying to build to fight climate change. We don't have any great leaders, no Martin Luther Kings. What we have are an interconnected thousands of groups around the country and around the world, who understand that they're fighting against the fossil fuel industry close to home, but that that fight has a global dimension and we're able to come together...

It got me to thinking about educators, and the importance of educators connecting. Recently, Lisa Nielsen and Tom Whitby, two people who are part of my personal learning network posted about their experience "connecting" with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and being followed by him (By the way Duncan's list of people he is following would be a great start for Open Online Experience Twitter newbies!)
As individual educators, we may not have as much influence, but as we connect and build connections, much like the bees, we can become a driving force!

It was one of the reasons I attended Scott Meech's Edubloggercon session a few years ago that launched EduWin

We may lack giants as leaders in education, (though there are a few folks that Duncan is following who might fit the bill!), but collectively together, we can grow, learn and affect change. It is why I am a connected educator, and why I encourage you to become one too!

Join us for Open Online Experience this year! Next month, we will be hosting events tied to Connected Educator Month, to grow the connections even further. 

We may not be giants, but like the bees, we can work collectively to learn, grow and improve education! 

To learn more about Open Online Experience, please take a moment to view Debbie Morrison's presentation from last night. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An Opportunity to Model Learning in the Open: OOE13

This school year, our district has worked to transform the culture of professional learning to one of Professional Learning Communities and collaboration. One of the aspects of this transformation is the idea that teachers are the "lead learners" in the classroom. On Wednesday, September 4 a year-long professional learning opportunity kicks off for K-16 educators that provides an opportunity for people to become a connected learner.
Open Online Experience ( is an chance for educators to learn about educational technology topics in a Connectivist Massive Open Online Course, or cMOOC. cMOOCs are personalized, self-directed learning opportunities, where learners are invited to create and network in a social learning environment. 
The structure of the experience is intentionally loose, as there are many entry points for people to interact with the content:
AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by langwitches
The course was inspired by Alec Couros's Education Technology MOOC (ETMOOC), who developed the concept of "The Networked Teacher."  Topics have been selected by a group of collaborators who participated in the ETMOOC course, lead by Brendan Murphy.  They include:

First semester topics:
SeptemberTopic 1 Welcome Event & Orientation to working and learning in a blended environment

October – Topic 2 Connected Learning – Tools, Processes & Pedagogy

November – Topic 3 Digital Citizenship – Identity, Footprint

December/January – Topic 4 Digital Literacy – Information, Memes & Attention
Second semester topics
February – Topic 5 Content Curation – Using what is there
March – Topic 6 Digital Storytelling – Multimedia, Remixes & Mashups
April – Topic 7 The Open Movement – Open Access, OERs & Future of Ed.
May – Topic 8 Celebration – Final projects plans for the future

I see OOE13 as an exciting way for educators interested in learning more about technology integration and connecting with fellow educators to do so in a low-stress, open environment. The ability to self-direct learning, and focus on the topics that are most of interest will allow teachers to learn in a way that will be new for many of them. I am excited to be a part of the learning experience, and excited that our district administrators are open to incorporating OOE13 into this year's professional learning options.

Click Here to officially sign up for the course. I look forward to learning with you this year!

Here are some additional links from my fellow collaborators about the course: