Monthly Archives: October 2013

When things get Messy

Creative and Messy Learning Pic

Any parent will tell you that the term “messy” is not such a good thing when it’s describing the condition of their children’s bedrooms.  However, as a principal I need to clarify one thing; when learning gets “messy” there is potential for creativity to be unleashed!

I recently observed how magical “messy” can be.  3rd grade students were learning about the phases of the moon, and small groups were participating in multiple conversations occurring simultaneously (gasp!).  They had clear learning targets and plenty of choices to immerse themselves in.  There were songs being composed, iMovies being created, and sculptures of the moon being carved out of Oreo cookies.  Click on the video below to see for yourself…it was marvelous!

Click the video above to see how our students collaborated!

Click the video above to see the action for yourself!

The introduction of the iPads in our school has been a game-changer.  They are tools for learning and offer limitless potential for research, collaboration, and creation.  The Wayzata Public Schools’ MyWay approach is truly transforming the student learning experience and providing increasing levels of personalization.

Don’t just take my word for it!  A parent recently sent me an e-mail sharing how her child was at a birthday party when somebody noticed the moon and said, “Look you guys, the moon is a waxing Gibbous!”  The parent went on to explain that the kids at the birthday party carried on an animated discussion for 5-10 minutes about whether the moon was waxing or waning.  I’m told there were some younger children at the party and the 3rd graders took time to teach them all about the moon’s phases too.  Students really are talking about their learning.  It seems as if technology is fostering some of the engaging conversations about their learning!

A research study focusing on the technology explosion in early childhood classrooms found that young students’ spoken words DOUBLED while working with computers, and were twice as high as other activities like art, games, play dough, etc. (Hertzog & Klein, 2005).  We are seeing high levels of engagement in our school as well!

Messy learning really sticks…and inspires!  When highly-skilled teachers integrate technology and the arts in meaningful ways the creative genius in EVERY child is celebrated.  Kids are communicating like never before and exploring new mediums to connect in safe and supported environments.

Augmented Reality in Education: The Video

Watch planets as they jump off the page!

Click the photo above to watch the video:    AR in Education.

Our school is innovating to enhance the student learning experience.  Click on the photo above to see how!

We’re utilizing Augmented Reality (AR) to connect at a deeper level with stakeholders while relying upon meaningful technology integration to promote 21st century skills.  AR in education is about possibilities and relationships.

In case you were wondering, AR is defined as a live direct or indirect view of a real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input like sound, video or graphics (, 2013).  We are seeing more and more value in this cutting-edge educational tool.

We’re connecting with parents and school systems across the country in unprecedented ways.  My vision is to engage each and every student in a personalized 21st century educational experience marked by high levels of learning, creativity, positive character development and unceasing opportunities to collaborate in a technology-rich environment.

AR is one way we’re connecting with students.  The technology itself is astoundingly immersive and we are seeing that first-hand.  Share your AR story and questions by leaving a comment.

AR Collaborative: World Book Talk Tips & Project Letter

#WorldBookTalk Channel

Welcome to the AR Collaborative: A World Book Talk.  I’m including a parent letter below for any school or classroom wishing to participate.  The informational letter provides key details of the project and allows parents the option of opting out of the video submission portion of the World Book Talk.  Click the link below to print a Project Letter PDF:

World Book Talk Project Letter

Who:     Students, teachers, principals, authors, grandparents; anyone that loves reading!

What:    Record a 60 second book talk video of your favorite book.  Any book you’ve read will do.

Where:   Send book talk videos along with a clear photo of the book’s cover to

When:    We are launching the AR Collaborative now.  Feel free to e-mail your videos anytime.

Why:      To foster a lifelong appreciation of reading while modeling meaningful technology integration.  Book talks also activate students’ prior knowledge and help them make important connections to a text.

Top 10 Book Talk Tips:

  1. Speak loudly and be clear while creating your 60 second video.
  2. The target audience is PreK – 12 students.
  3. Be creative & have fun.  Your audience will sense your passion for the book and its theme.
  4. Mention the title and author during your book talk.
  5. Students creating videos should only mention their first name.
  6. The beginning of your book talk video should include a “hook” or attention grabber.
  7. If you have a special connection to the book or author you could mention that.
  8. Plan your closing in advance so it’s clear and keeps potential readers interested.
  9. Book talks help readers make decisions about what to read; do not give away your book’s ending.
  10. Please remember to keep videos to 60 seconds or less.

Never Stop Learning

It is crazy how often times the most AMAZING things happen when we take time and let them happen!  Being fully-present is usually a prerequisite for these special moments.

Bird I

Recently, a 4th grade teacher in our school shared an inspiring story with me.  She had encouraged her students to think like writers by using all of their senses to observe the world at home and outside.  Well, one student had an unexpected guest join her as she paused to observe.  (This is a TRUE story that ACTUALLY happened!)

Bird II

From there, students were asked to record their observations while honing in on their senses; jotting down brief snippets to help in the process of ideation.  That’s exactly what this student did…with her new feathered friend.  Can you IMAGINE the story she was able to write?!

I love this story because it’s a perfect illustration of the “Never Stop Learning” mantra I’ve come to embrace.  It also demonstrates how impactful a teacher and our students’ parents can be.  The experience and wisdom of the adults in our students’ lives helps bring learning to life, and sets the stage for unforgettable moments.

It’s critical that we see learning as a “life thing” and not just a “school thing.”  Students are longing to interact and connect with authentic learning experiences that are both relevant and engaging.  Their learning continues both in and outside of school and it’s important that there’s congruence between the two!

10,000 Lights

10000 Light Pic

Sometimes parents share special stories about how a staff member has been a “light” in their child’s life.  It’s a privilege for me personally to see our staff do inspiring things each day for our students, and it’s also really inspiring to hear from families that are seeing the same amazing things.

This past month one of our teachers had a chance to share a truly special moment with her students.  It was a moment full of light in every sense of the word.  Students in Miss Jechorek’s classroom were included in a unique proposal, and they helped make the moment memorable by being their teacher’s “light.”  After the proposal I asked Miss Jechorek’s fiancé, Zac, what the significance of the lights was.  I wanted to share some of his comments and planning because it was a neat moment that our students played an important role in.

Several months ago, Miss Jechorek and Zac were talking and she pondered how she might know when he’d propose. He spontaneously replied, “You will know when you see 10,000 lights.”  (He had just watched a breath-taking advertisement for a diamond company that showed a couple under a tree that was lit with what appeared to be 10,000 lights.)

Zac also knew how important Miss Jechorek’s students are to her, so he wanted to include them in his plan to propose to their teacher with “10,000 lights.”  He found some small flashlights at a local store and the plan began to come together.  Each flashlight had seven LEDs and when multiplied by 25 students (then multiplied again by all the facets in her diamond ring) brought the total close to his goal of 10,000 lights.

Life is full of defining moments; they take our breath away and are sources of great light!  One of the many blessings we get to experience as educators is sharing this light and these collective defining moments with our students.  Just like the proposal story…students are our light.  They are the reason we aspire to be better than we were yesterday.  We want to make a difference for our kids.  So…on behalf of our entire school….thanks for sharing your 10,000 lights with us every day!

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