Friday, October 30, 2015

Mystery Skype

Okay, if someone mentions Skyping with your class, you must ask, “Is this a Mystery Skype?” Twice now I have just assumed it was a Skype session and twice I have been wrong. 

If I had realized beforehand it was a Mystery Skype session, I would have done my homework!!

The fabulous Paul Solarz has everything you need to know right here: How to Set Up and Run a Mystery Skype Session.
I thought I was doing a five-ten minute “Hey, how are you?” session.  This turned into a forty minute activity and it was great! The children went back to class telling the other students what we had done.

Steve Auslander’s fifth graders taught us how to question the other school.  I loved how the students were in charge of everything – introductions, questions, answers, and so much more. We loved their signs - Your Turn, Our Turn, We’re Thinking, Thank You! You can tell that he really empowers his students. They are also an Imagination Chapter and I hope we get to collaborate again.

Their biggest suggestion was to start with, “Are you west of the Mississippi River?” so that you narrow it down.  “Are you in the (Southeast, Northeast, Northwest, Southwest?” could come next. 

Pernille Ripp has listed some great questions for Mystery Skype here: Great Mystery Skype Questions to Get You Started.

My friend Rebecca has done a lot of Mystery Skypes and we Skyped together on International Dot Day. She recommends Mystery Skypes for third grade and up.

I feel like I am late to the game with Mystery Skype, but I’ve probably done thirty or forty videoconferences with a Tandberg system and ALL were super valuable.

Skype can also be used for more than the Mystery Skype sessions.  You can do author visits, virtual field trips, ask an expert, and much more.

Seven years ago my friend and fellow media coordinator Stephanie Bode first introduced our PLC to Skype. At the time we had a young lady in Pre-K who was homebound.  She was able to Skype daily with her Pre-K class.  It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

A few years ago we sent out our morning news to all of our classrooms via Skype. (It was pre-recorded and sent as a movie file.) It was a great way for our staff to stay in touch. Questions, reminders, and requests all came through the group chat feature.

Franklin second graders in Sheila McHone’s class regularly Skype with a class at Cedar Ridge. Last year they had an end of year field trip together.  How fun!

Skype and Google Hangouts are free and work with an Internet connected device and webcam.  I did one Google Hangout on an iPad mini.  There are occasional technical snafus, but it usually takes just a couple of minutes to get going. Google Hangouts is great for when you have three or more sites.

When toddlers can figure out how to FaceTime, it’s something that we educators can do, too!

More Resources

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Going Global

It was five or so years ago when our principal asked me to give a presentation about technology and 21st Century Skills at our staff’s first meeting of the school year. 

At the time, one of my sons was exploring Youtube videos at the tender age of four. My other son was building Minecraft worlds with new friends from across America and even Europe.

As a staff we talked about how our society had gone from an Agricultural Age to an Industrial Age to the Information Age. The current time period could now be called the Connected Age or the Global Age. I still see it as part of the Information Age, but we truly are becoming a global community.

“Technology provides today’s students with unprecedented access to information about people, places, cultures and events around the world. Young people have grown to expect that their everyday tools will allow them to go to the Internet for information, make phone calls to and from almost anywhere in the world, and communicate with people in other countries with ease via e-mail and instant messaging.”

Where will you see global mentioned in education?
  • 21st Century Content includes global awareness.
  • Our Standard Course of Study includes it multiple times across all grade levels.
  • It’s mentioned several times in North Carolina’s educator evaluations.
  • Global is included in our school system’s mission statement and goals. Surry County Schools’ motto is “Lighting Pathways to Global Success”!
Becoming global is not just geography and culture. It’s also about language. (Our school system’s students begin learning a second language in the third grade.) It’s about being able to work with people who are different than us. It’s about our children growing up and helping to solve global problems. How can we work together to build a better future?

Last year our principal took the staff to Renfro Corporation one afternoon. It is a leading global manufacturer, designer, distributor and marketer of legwear products. With 5500 employees around the world and sales offices in six countries, it is truly a global corporation. And it is headquartered in our little town.

Being an Imagination Chapter leader has already brought changes to my teaching and my students’ learning.  We are going global this year.  It’s not just a little, it’s a lot! The Global Cardboard Challenge has been so much fun.  We’ve learned geography, compared similarities and differences, and connected with others via Skype and Google Hangouts. It is a natural fit.
My son and I just watched TomorrowLand last night. In it the main character asks, “What are we doing to fix it (the world)?” Our school’s first step is going global.

Further Reading

From the University of North Carolina’s Center for International Understanding

Personalized Education

Personalized education is our system's mantra. Differentiation has been around longer than I’ve been alive, but this is so much more.

I attended schools in this system and it was just the tip of the iceberg. We had two AP classes offered twenty years ago.  I used the Internet for the first time in my high school library.

Students may still take classes through our local community college in addition to multiple AP classes offered. But now students also have opportunities to attend a magnet middle school, an early college, a virtual academy, or a traditional school. Students in middle school may earn high school credits. The most promising personalization is that they are able to earn career certificates while still in high school or follow along one of many pathways to a college degree.

Even at the elementary level you hear more about genius hour projects and project-based learning. Our fifth graders choose which club they want to join for Friday special areas time. We are starting a robotics club and student council. This will be offered in addition to our Battle of the Books program.

With all this talk of being global and having a personalized education, this 2012 infographic really seemed to pull everything together for me. Click the image to see the full-sized version.

The Imagination Chapter activities fit into this future of learning. I love that students are making individual choices, coding with robotics, connecting with others from around the globe, thinking critically, and being creative.

I recently told some visitors that the Imagination Chapter program ties everything together for me: STEM, makerspaces, open-ended projects, etc.

It is sometimes hard to justify what looks like play when students must pass standardized tests.  I understand the importance of learning the basics. I just hope there becomes more and more room for these creative, open-ended projects in our classrooms and schools.

An instructor at a spring LEGO Symposium said that when her students use the LEGO Story Starter sets that they WANT to write their stories. Dave Hartzell spoke to me about how excited kids are to write in their journals. A chapter leader wrote that her student made the connection from a math lesson to a maker project. I see this in our open-ended projects. Most importantly, students are engaged and excited about learning.

I am ready to explore this movement. It is for our Generation Imagination. It is for all of our futures.

More Reading
2020 Forecast Update (mentions the Maker Economy as one of several trends)

Creating a New World of Learning: A Toolkit for Change Makers

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Global Cardboard Challenge - Our Original Guidelines

I had a few guidelines for students when introducing the Global Cardboard Challenge.

Be nice to others.
You may work together.
Try not to waste lots of paper. (This one should really say supplies.)
No swords or other weapons.
Don’t destroy other people’s work.
Sorry, but you can’t take it with you.
Someone may end up adding to yours later this week.

While students were a bit disappointed to find out they were not going to get to take these creations home with them, most of them seemed to understand.  There is just no way we could send these things home on the buses. I did not want to let some people take theirs while others couldn't. To ease the pain I have taken hundreds of photos. 

There had not been a problem with the rules until today, the fourth day. The biggest concern was that students wanted to take home their creations.  It seemed like EVERYONE wanted to take theirs home with them!  I wanted to be fair and since the other students (Days 1-3) couldn’t, I didn’t want to change my rules mid-way. I know where I messed up with one class. They were a few minutes late and it was the last class of my week in the art room. I hurried through the introduction and did not get to my rules. (Note to self: Guidelines/rules are very important!)

Some other “Aha! Moments”:

My K/1 students had so much fun playing with the older students’ creations and then dismantling them.  I wanted to save the MakeDo screws for next year and we needed to clean up some today. (Thanks to my fellow Imagination Chapter leader who posted this idea.) Students did have a choice to create or to work with the screws and creations.

I also had some second graders help me move some of the projects from the art room to my building. It looked like a parade and it looked AWESOME.

Some students pleaded with me to let them take their game out to the playground next week. They want to bring in their own toys as prizes.  :D

I was very, very impressed with the fourth graders’ projects. I will be seeing 3rd and 5th grade next week, so I can’t wait to see what they make.

So many classes want to continue these projects the next time they come to media. Many kids would have been happy to work all day on their projects.

The best part is that so many kids are going home and making new creations! 

So thoughts for next year…

Now that teachers have seen it, is there a way to incorporate this as a classroom activity? One teacher asked if she could bring her class back for some extra time to build. I have a resource room near the media center that is used by tutors.  I have wanted to turn it into a full-time makerspace but I haven't had time yet.

Is there a way to add paint? We did not have time to get out the paint this week. 

Could there be a size restriction so that students could take home their projects?  (Example: It has to fit in your bookbag.)

Will I stick to the upper grades for next year’s challenge?

I need to add more time for others’ to play the games and check out other students’ designs.

Could we add a parade?  That was really the most exciting part!

But yes, most definitely, I see a 2016 Global Cardboard Challenge in our future.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Connections, World Space Week, Just Say Yes!

Some things just seem so much harder than what they should be.  Technology for example. Sometimes troubleshooting is a quick fix. Other times I try and try and still can't get something working.  It should take five minutes to fix and it takes an hour and it still doesn't work!

This Imagination Chapter has led to some moments that seem to come very easily. Dot Day went off without any problems. The Ozobots were easy peasy. Then today I just happened upon Steve Sherman's post about an upcoming video chat with a Pluto scientist. There was an open invitation to join them and it was during my lunch/planning time. This Pluto girl quickly said yes!

Steve runs Living Maths out of Cape Town, South Africa. He was an original Imagination Chapter leader and continues to run his chapter in Africa. His guest was Dr. Henry Throop, Senior Scientist at Planetary Science Institute. Dr. Throop was actually in Mumbai, India (if I heard that correctly!) It's World Space Week so Steve has been interviewing space scientists.

A fourth grade class happened to be in the media center to use the computers so I invited them over. Another fourth grade class from America and a student in Nepal were also involved in the video chat.  The call included information about New Horizon's mission to Pluto, the resulting high resolution photos, space, Pluto's geology, technology, and much more. We learned it took nine and a half years for New Horizon to reach Pluto! Our students were really interested in learning about that heart shape on Pluto. It's nitrogen. I felt like this experience was a worthy addition to our day.

Dr. Throop

The Awesome Steve Sherman

Fingers crossed that the technology works! Steve and Henry used a combination of Skype and Google Hangouts to get us connected! (I really need to fix my webcam's focus!)

I am just so excited that being an Imagination Chapter leader has provided yet another opportunity to connect with people from around the world. This morning when I headed to school I never would have guessed that I would end up chatting with people in Africa and India today. I think both of these guys are pretty special people, too, and I have much to learn from them.

Last year I started a new motto. I would say yes to opportunities to that came my way. I encourage you to be mindful of opportunities for personal growth and growth for your students. Today made me realize that I am very blessed to be able to do my job and have exciting moments such as these! Happy World Space Week!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Global Cardboard Challenge - Days 1 and 2

As a media coordinator at a large elementary school I have plenty of willing participants who love to do anything creative. With about 560 K-5 students it was a struggle to find the best way to implement the global cardboard challenge.

I did not mind doing an event that included families, but I really wanted all of our students to be able to participate. Doing a special event in the gym on one day and inviting each grade level for an hour or so seemed a bit much.  One group has more than 100 students. I finally settled on using my regular media classes to fit in the global cardboard challenge.  I will see about two-thirds of the school this week and I will catch the rest of the students next week.

Our art and music teachers rotate back and forth between two schools.  The art teacher is a wonderful friend and we have enjoyed 17 years of working together. She welcomed me to use her art room.

I prepped the space by putting out the MakeDo tools and screws, lots of tape (masking and invisible), glue, scissors, lids, corks, popsicle sticks, brads, paper clips, cardboard tubes (Thanks, Mrs. Dowell!), and anything else I could find.  As I emptied out the boxes of paperclips and other small items I found myself realizing the tiny boxes are a great size for creating. Our local bargain store had a great deal on construction paper and poster board. I needed lots of cardboard so off to the cardboard bin I went.  :)

I had previously shared part of the Caine's Arcade video with all of the classes. We have spent time reading books such as A Box Can Be Many Things and It's Not a Box. I also prepared a slideshow of ideas for students. We were off! 

The first three groups went exceedingly well. Students acted like it was Christmas and I was not surprised when they were very engaged. Volcanoes, robots, Minecraft men, games, airplanes, miniature objects, animals...  It was going even better than I had hoped.

My original plan was for other students to keep adding to the creations. How on earth would I have space for all of the projects?  Furthermore, many of our students ride the bus home, so I knew it would be nearly impossible for them to take their creations home. I also did not want to hunt down 500 boxes.  

Day 2 came and I realized the students all want to start with a fresh box.  Back to the cardboard bin I will go tomorrow morning.

Here are some of the issues I have encountered. It is nothing major, but just something to consider for next year or if someone else does the GCC.   

Our K/1st classes are split so instead of one fifty minute block like 2nd-5th, they have two 25 minute blocks. One boy cried because by the time he started building it was time to go.  He will get to come back tomorrow, but I know that a longer block of time would have been better for him. I was a bit apprehensive about giving Kindergarteners the big boxes (and we were short on supplies) so they used tagboard. I was impressed with their ingenuity.  Several made 3-D designs even with my mediocre directions.

Students wanted to paint and we simply did not have enough time.

One student asked me to help him make a crown. It was near the end of the day, but the next thing I knew I was helping make twenty-plus crowns. Whew!  I am still not sure how to handle that one.

Another issue - I am already running low on glue and tape.  I am sure the art teacher would have reminded students to use just a bit of glue and just enough tape to get the job done. I sometimes forget that some children have simply not had lots of experience with using supplies like that.  Thank goodness for art teachers, elementary schools, and Global Cardboard Challenges.  I should have asked local stores for donations, but it will be okay.  There is still time!

So several growing moments for me with this project, but there have been countless shining moments. 
  • The time when a first grader brought me a book she wrote about aliens and robots (to go along with her creation)
  • The biggest hugs because the kids simply LOVE doing this. They seem so appreciative.
  • Witnessing the creativity that this has unleashed
  • Hearing about what the kids are building at home
  • The team-building that has happened
I really love that everyone is on a level playing field.  It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, a good reader or not quite yet, outgoing or introverted.... everyone is finding success in this activity.
Honestly, I know that when this is over I will look back and say that this has been the most meaningful activity that I have ever done with students.

Two days down, six days to go! 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Why a Makerspace in the Library?

Why are libraries hosting makerspaces?  I was fine with the addition, but I do realize some people may question it. I was reading School Libraries and Makerspaces: Can They Coexist? when I had that light bulb moment.  

Author Josh Weisgrau states, "Libraries and makerspaces provide equitable access to materials and resources." We provide a wide range of resources that our patrons probably could not afford to purchase on their own. Many of our students do not have access to these makerspace resources either. 

Our school's makerspace primarily consisted of items from my boys' collections of LEGO, Duplo, and Thomas.  I added some arts and crafts materials and have slowly added coding resources.  

We are fortunate to have the additions of the MakeDo tools and the Ozobots donated by partners of the Imagination Foundation. As we expand the offerings of our makerspace, I will take into account the materials that meet our students need.  Much like Dinosaur