Monday, March 27, 2017

Reflective Conversations About Student Thinking

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in 2 conversations regarding students thinking about their own learning.  Both were excellent reminders of why it's important for students to participate in such activities and strategies to make it happen.

The first conversation was a closing conversation to 5 week activity between CraftEd and Sown to Grow.  During the conversation leaders from each organization and other teacher participants talked about how we had used the 2 products together in our classrooms, what had worked well, next steps, and changes we would suggest to the companies.  Teachers ranged from K through high school and as always it was helpful to hear about experiences from both ends of the spectrum.  In addition I came away with a sentence stem I'm going to use this week with students, "I will ____ (strategy) so that _____."  Hopefully this will encourage students to think about why a particular strategy might be helpful.

The second conversation was a "webshop" with Common Sense Education's Steven Garton and Danny Wagner about formative assessment.  This conversation focused on metacognition and students shaping their own understanding.  It was a great reminder to have students connect learning to past learning, future learning, and their own life and experiences.  Remember to ask students how and why they are learning, not just what they are learning!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Thoughts From Common Sense Education's Teacher Institute

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend and speak at Common Sense Education's Teacher Institute.  The topics this year was Assessment Beyond the Gradebook.  I enjoyed the small conference size (about 100 people) with attendees arranged at tables of 8 and 10 minute breaks in between sessions for conversation.

Here are some brief thoughts on the presentations.

Kari Croft and Erin Whalen from RISE High
  • It must be amazing to have the opportunity to build a school from the ground up and reimagine everything
  • This talk made me think about topics I never imagined would be a problem in school, such as low attendance due to life circumstances
  • Wouldn't it be cool if we could all start teaching from a student's current level of understanding, rather than teaching specific content because of a student's age/grade

Kelly Mendoza from Common Sense Education
  • lateral reading (students read a news article and compare what the read to other sources on that topics)
  •  there has been a significant spike in "fake" news and most students students can't detect the difference between an ad and news
  • media literacy lessons coming in March from Common Sense Education

Adam Bellow and James Sanders from BreakoutEDU
  • learning and fun are not antonyms
  • you can be wrong a lot
  • respect failure
Jeff Knutson and tanner Higgin from Common Sense Education
  • formative assessment should be a green light not a red light
  • formative assessment should be a check for understanding, allow teachers to adapt instruction, and spark metacognition
  • check out their teaching strategies at 
 Ariel Raz from the Stanford d.School
  • use the design thinking model to get students thinking
  • to be empathetic you really have to listen
  • Shadow a Student Challenge can really change your impressions on life as a student (my husband, a high school math teacher, did it last year and he learned a lot)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Makers Empire 3D Printing

As part of Silicon Valley Education Foundations iHub program, a co-worker and I piloted Makers Empire in the fall.  It's a 3D printing app we used on our iPads.  I haven't used any other 3D printing apps so I can't make a comparison, but I've been very impressed with it.

With minimal guidance (a 5 minute basic intro from me) my students were easily able to create objects to print.  We primarily used the Shaper and Blocker  sections of the app, although students have had fun with the Toy Tester.  Creation involves easy drag and drop features along with re-sizing and changing colors of items.

After some initial play time, the first assignment was to create a monster to go with our "I'm Not Scared" literature unit.  That was followed by creating landforms (social studies), a symbol of hope, a healthy snack (science) and a plant (science).

The teacher dashboard allows me to check and comment on student creations as well as send them to the printer.  In addition, there's a lesson plan section with lesson ideas for specific grades and tied to Common Core standards.  My students did one of the suggested 2nd grade lessons, which was to create a device that would allow Ormie (a pig) to get a cookie jar off the top of a refrigerator.

We plan to use Makers Empire for the rest of the year and even my co-worker's kindergarten students have independently created spiders and people.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Using FaceTime to Offer Real World Solutions

This school year rather than having my students FaceTime other classes or professionals to gather information, we've been using FaceTime to solve problems.

I started by identifying real problems and decisions that people I know are currently facing.  The key was to choose problems with multiple viable and desirable solutions and problems that could be understood by 2nd graders.

Next, students FaceTimed with the person who had the problem.  This was an information gathering phase in which the person shared details and the students asked clarifying questions.

Students created groups of 2-4 to work out a solution.  They created a presentation, poster, or mock-up of their solution with evidence to support their reasoning.

At a follow-up FaceTime conference each group presented their advice.

So far we've offered advice about

--creating a video game character that would appeal to elementary age students
--how to organize supplies in a college dorm desk
--options for exercise on a rainy day
--options for replacing an afternoon nanny who was moving
--staying in a current job or accepting a new job offer
--which vacation house to rent for a family reunion

These activities have presented authentic topics for my students to discuss and they've had to listen carefully and work on their empathy skills to clearly understand the problem and the pros/cons.

Seesaw NBC Interview

Last week I had the opportunity, along with Kelly Galante, another teacher at my school, to talk about Seesaw.  We were interviewed on the Asian Pacific America show on NBC.

Here's the clip of what we had to say.  It was part of a longer segment about our school district.