Monthly Archives: March 2015

30 Second Take…National Championship Podcast

Our March Madness podcast series started with 16 talented educators willing to share their “take” on a single guiding question.  Now we’re down to the Final Four and we need your vote to determine who will be named the “30 Second Take National Champion.”  Fasten your seatbelt because the entire Final Four podcast is less than five minutes long.

Click HERE to vote via an anonymous Google form. You can also vote by posting a tweet to the hashtag #30SecondTake.

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Passport to Passion

This is a guest blog post written by Greenwood Elementary School’s Music Specialist, Mr. Brian Westgard.  Our team of Specialists recently planned and organized an amazing experience for our students.  The entire evening was a HUGE celebration of student creativity. I asked Brian if he’d be willing to provide a snapshot of the “Passport to Passion” event and he graciously agreed. Mr. Westgard is newer to Twitter, and you can connect with him at @MrWestgard.


Unpacking Passport to Passion
The “Passport to Passion” event was created to highlight the student talent and achievement taking place in the specialist subject areas of Music, Art, Physical Education, Technology, Spanish, Media, and Vision 21. In the weeks preceding the event, students spent time working with their specialist teachers to prepare material to showcase and share with family members, friends, and guests who were able to attend. The name “Passport to Passion” was derived from the process in which students shared their experiences with their guests throughout the evening. Upon arrival, students were issued a “passport” to use as a guide for the event. The passport was a folded piece of paper containing learning objectives for each subject area. While visiting a particular subject area, students were awarded a star sticker for their passport if they were able to explain the learning objective to their guests. As students and guests made the rounds throughout the evening, their goal was to successfully fill their passport with stars for each subject area.  

The event as a whole was beneficial to all parties involved. While students had a chance to showcase their hard work and achievement, teachers and staff members were in turn able to interact with parents and family members regarding curriculum and the learning process. For specialist teachers in particular this opportunity was incredibly valuable. Every experience as students and guests traveled from area to area was something new, as each subject area prepared and showcased material for the event in a different way. For example, the art department worked with students to feature artwork, sculptures, and other creations. Media and literacy teachers prepared a scavenger hunt throughout the media center for students and their guests. 

As the music specialist, I wanted to prepare students for the “Passport to Passion” event by utilizing technology to work with students on the concepts of steady beat, rhythm, and teamwork. This year, our technology department introduced Sphero (a spherical robot controlled by a mobile device) to aid students in the learning process. While collaborating with our technology specialist I became aware of Sphero’s ability to illuminate, and the ability to manipulate the color and timing of of the color change by tapping the mobile controlling device with a finger. In music lessons leading up to the event, I worked with 3rd and 4th grade students on their ability to change Sphero’s color with regard to musical beat and rhythm. I composed and recorded a song to go with the lesson (aptly titled “The Sphero Jam”), and assigned students a variety of beat and rhythm patterns to coincide with the musical nature of the song. Throughout the lessons I captured various video clips of students learning and working together in an effort to succeed. I then compiled the video clips and arranged them into a video presentation for students and guests to watch when they arrived for the music subject area portion of the “Passport to Passion” event. I also made available a handful of Sphero devices for students to demonstrate to guests how what they were seeing in the video was done. 

The link to the video is included above. Though I was involved primarily with the music subject area of the event, “Passport to Passion” led to a destination for all specialist areas of academic excellence for students, staff, and guests alike.  

Brian M. Westgard
Music Specialist – Greenwood Elementary School

EduDrone Challenge

Image Credit: Oberwelzdesign.com

Image Credit: OberwelzDesign.com

You might be surprised to learn that your school can purchase a drone for less than $50 dollars! If you’re interested in connecting with other schools that are cultivating critical thinking and creativity using these cutting-edge “quadcopters” this is the blog post for you! Welcome to the “EduDrone Challenge!”

Here’s how it works: Teams of students create a Challenge Course for their drone to maneuver through.  Each Challenge Course should feature 4-8 mini-challenges for drones to navigate. Students need to create detailed plans that are drawn to scale, and use precise mathematical terms so that schools across the country can replicate the same Challenge Course design.  (Please read the academic standards information below for explicit learning objectives.)

After a team of students has created their Challenge Course plans, they should select a creative theme and write a narrative that describes the Challenge Course in imaginative terms.  For example, students that incorporate a hula-hoop as one mini-challenge could describe the hoop as “a black hole that the Drone must jettison through in a distant galaxy.”  (Please read the Common Core writing standards below for explicit learning objectives.)

Directions:

  • Brainstorm objects for your Challenge Course (i.e. cones, hula-hoops, etc.).
  • Develop a detailed plan using graph paper or drawing paper. Click HERE to see a sample plan.
  • Be sure to include measurements and the appropriate mathematical terms.
  • Select a creative theme and write a narrative describing your team’s Challenge Course.
  • Practice navigating your Challenge Course and make adjustments to your detailed plan or narrative as needed.
  • Share your classroom or team’s detailed plan and written narrative with other schools. Use the #EduDroneChallenge hashtag on Twitter.
  • Try to recreate Challenge Courses from other schools using the detailed plans they create and share.

We will be posting plans and video that our students create in the coming weeks and look forward to connecting with other schools.

Academic Standards Information:

  1. I can understand fractions in real-world situations by creating a detailed plan for a drone Challenge Course using fractions/percentages, and successfully building the Challenge Course. (Math: Number/Operation 3.1.3.1)
  2. I can draw a representation of a three dimensional figure, and create an authentic drone Challenge Course that utilizes the same measurements and points represented by my drawing.  Each mini-challenge in my Challenge Course represents one vertex or point in the 3D object. (Math: Geometry & Measurement 5.3.1.1)
  3. I can write a narrative to develop a real or imagined experience using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. (Writing: Common Core College & Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Writing)
  4. I can use technology resources for problem solving, self-directed learning, and extended learning activities. (ISTE Nets & WPS Technology Standards 5, 6)
  5. I can reflect on and adapt to the ever-changing nature of technology and understand how and why technology works. (WPS Technology Standards C & D)

Additional Resources:

Watch this TED Talk to see the science of drones!

Our school started by purchasing a Parrot AR Drone for about $300, but we are also investing in durable mini-drones for much less.

Connect with @GWtechWPS or @GustafsonBrad with questions!

ConnectED BINGO

Classroom BINGO Winners! Photo from @GTMarrone

#StuConnect BINGO Winners! Photo via @GTMarrone

This past month a team of educators from across the country collaborated to create an epic ConnectED BINGO game for students.  The opportunity was created by John Fritzky (NJ), Tony Sinanis (NY), and me.  Our students have been connecting for close to two years now on collaborative cross-state podcasts.  The ConnectED BINGO game was our attempt to include EVERYONE in a connected celebration of literacy and learning.

We know that many classrooms are still plugging away on their BINGO boards, and we encourage everyone to keep connecting and sharing.  You can see all the exciting work kids are doing on the Twitter hashtag #StuConnect.  We’re also excited to announce the first round of winners from the collaborative cross-state BINGO game.  More winners will be announced soon.

To claim your prize please send me a direct message (DM) on Twitter with your school’s address.  Please share a Tweet with a picture of your book/prize to the #StuConnect hashtag on Twitter after you receive it. (We had some amazing authors donate books, and it would be great to thank them for their support.) More prizes will be randomly drawn soon.

2015 ConnectED BINGO Winners

Grand Prize (1):

Signed copy of Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard by John Spencer AND

original framed illustration!

@CassieJanda

First Place Book Prizes (10):

Signed copies of Spruce and Lucy book written by Todd Nesloney

@NESblazerLIB

@MissMartinTCE

@GTMarrone

@MsFelan

@Morgret_Class

@MongioviMoore

@MrsCarlson30

@LaffingLibrary

@SchoolMediaMom

@MrsLavelle

What Do You Burn For?

One of my favorite songs is “Soul on Fire” by Third Day.  The words speak to my heart and embolden a passion that is deep within me every time I listen.  I think about many things when I hear the song including my family and our students.

The thing I probably love most about “Soul on Fire” is that it requires a response.  It’s impossible not to feel anything after listening.  It’s impossible not to burn.  So what do you burn for?  What drives you?  Who and what define your classroom, school, and work?

I “burn” to call out greatness in our students, and to empower their “voice” and ownership in education.  I want children everywhere, regardless of their address, to experience authentic and relevant learning that fosters essential life skills.  I burn for a new learning paradigm where our kids are supported with cutting-edge opportunities made possible by educators who are committed to cultivating character and digital citizenship through meaningful technology integration.  I long to see a connected pedagogy that inspires new levels of learning for all students; each and every single one of them.

Our students deserve the very best of what this great country has to offer and it is our deepest responsibility to deliver for them.  It’s educational malpractice to limit student opportunity based upon what we refuse to learn.  I burn to learn what’s required of me to help our students be anything they might aspire to be.

“If we don’t stand for something we’ll fall for everything.” ~Peter Marshall (1902)

So what do YOU stand for?  What burns so deep inside that you can hardly wait to wake up each day to drive to work and deliver?

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