Friday, October 18, 2013

Learning IS Social...Connecting and The Power of the Network!

Today, I was listening to NPR, when the announcer mentioned that coming up on Science Friday, there would be a discussion with author, Matthew Lieberman regarding his new book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect. I was intrigued, as: 

So I sent out this tweet:
I enjoyed the segment and took some notes that will be useful. Then the following happened:

It's not every day that you hear a segment about a book that you are interested in, and a half hour later you're having a dialog with the author. That is the POWER of being connected! 
I am definitely interested in reading Lieberman's book. I think it has great implications for classroom teachers, social learning and connectivist MOOCs. Here is his TED Talk on "The Social Brain and its SuperPowers"

The great thing is, I'm not the only one of my colleagues who had an experience like this today!  Valley View Government teacher, Erik Anderson had his question answered by Historian Michael Beschloss on "Tweet the Press!"

Additional support for the value of being a connected educator!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

EdCampMSP: Lunchtime Conversation

I was having lunch today at EdCampMSP with some great folks from Byron, MN and Little Falls.
Neil Adruschak was commenting on his experience with the Little Falls 1:1 iPad roll out.
In year one, he got a call from a teacher, asking for help learning how to use Keynote on the iPad.
Neil had never used it, and suggested that instead, the teacher ask his kids to show him how it was done.
The next morning 25 out of 25 students showed up in his classroom, eager to share their knowledge of how to make a presentation in Keynote.
A week later, the teacher called again, this time to learn how to use another product. Neil asked, "how did you learn to use Keynote?" "Oh, yeah!," said the teacher as he hung up.

This year, teachers like the one above, who had highly engaged, motivated students in their classrooms, had step-by-step guides on some of the more popular tools they would be using with students, and didn't ask the students for help. What Adruschak has observed, is that those same students who were so engaged the year before, had shut down, as they felt no longer needed.

One of the shifts teachers need to make, is feeling as though they need to be the expert at EVERYTHING in their classroom. They don't! Andruschak notes that they DO need to be experts at their curricular content, the standards, and ways to help students learn. But they don't need to know as much as the kids about everything. It reminds me of this image I found last year:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Letter From the BYOD Trenches

Today, I received an e-mail from Chris Hoffman, one of our 8th Grade Math Teachers at Valley View Middle School. For the last 4 years or so, Chris has been working to flip his curriculum. Last year, he included a project where students created a video example for all of the power standards in his course. He also built an AP Statistics course from scratch, and included many videos to assist students as they worked through the curriculum. Based on his student's performance, it was very successful! I asked him permission to share his note with my readers, and he said it would be ok. 

I do the flipped classroom. After a brief agenda overview and summary from the video lessons I help students with homework for the bulk of the 85 minute block and today, their practice test for the upcoming unit assessment. The two students in the photograph spent a few minutes with me working on reviewing sign changes when solving equations in algebra. I mentioned they should transfer what we reviewed on my mini-white board onto a paper notecard for their test. They asked if they could take pictures of it instead. I said absolutely. Moral of the story, flipped classroom instruction done right is very powerful. Encouraging vs. discouraging use of devices in the classroom to supplement learning is part of that power. I hope that as a district we don’t get overly rule-based with respect to allowing students to access devices in the classroom. If there is a problem with them in the classroom, my guess is that it is a function of classroom management versus the use of personal devices.
Chris Hoffman
Math Teacher

Chris is a shining example of a teacher implementing our eLearning2 initiative to personalize learning for students in Edina! 
We will continue to work with staff on ways they can incorporate devices into their curriculum, and develop classroom management strategies to unleash student's passion for learning!

Well done, Mr. Hoffman!

Friday, October 4, 2013

eLearning2 in the High School Chemistry Classroom

Edina High School Chemistry teacher, Gavin McLean has begun incorporating student devices into his instruction. Last year, 9th grade students were given the option to participate in our eLearning2 initiative.
Last spring, McLean recognized that those students would be coming to the high school with devices, and began brainstorming ways that he could incorporate them.

Early on, he worried about student devices in his lab space. He saw potential for students to enter their observations electronically, but worried about devices getting damaged if they were on the lab surface. He took it upon himself to build stands that students could use in the lab. Color coded for each station, they provide students with a stable platform to set their Chromebook, laptop or tablet on. 4 Chemistry classrooms are now outfitted for students to bring devices.

I had a chance to stop by a lab to see students in action. They have been were doing some identification and entering in data into a shared Google Doc. In other labs, McLean has used Google Forms, depending on how he wants students to interact with the data afterwards. In a measurement unit, he incorporated inquiry by first having students go out into the hall to measure. Some had calipers, some had meter sticks, tape measures, rulers and a trundle wheel. He had them fill out a Google Form with their results, then when students got back into the room, He showed the data. "Who was correct?" This gave the students greater insight into the importance of units when doing observation!

Students in his class with devices commented that they mostly are using it in Chemistry and Pre-AP English, though some are using it for math, as they can access the electronic version of the textbook without having to lug it around. As you can see in the picture, some students still try and get by with just their cell phone. This works well for forms, but is not as effectively if students have to edit a Google Doc. Especially docs that include tables. 

One student in the second period I observed said, "sometimes what I do for homework is so redundant!" He wished one of his teachers incorporated quizzes in Moodle, so that if he scored well on certain problems, he wouldn't be required to do those for homework. 

McLean is excited about the potential, and recognizes that incorporating student devices in the classroom is going to be a process. He has found that almost every student in his 1st hour has a device, but about half in his 5th hour class do. As eLearning2 expands, and more and more teachers incorporate student devices in their instruction, those numbers are bound to increase. McLean notes, It feels a bit more "real world," and "21st Century," even though he knows there is still a place for paper and pencil and always will be.