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What is Innovation?

Innovation can look like many things…but you probably never thought it could be students creating a mini-golf course featuring robotic droids instead of golf balls!  Greenwood’s 1st through 5th graders have been busy collaborating on a variety of challenges with the support of a terrific tandem of Technology teachers.  The tool of choice is Sphero robots!

Check out the short video below for highlights of their innovation in action!

We believe that if the appropriate support and cutting-edge tools, our students can do more than we ever thought possible.  That’s why we’re committed to innovation and cultivating 21st century skills like collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

We’ll be adding our 31 Sphero robots to our fleet of Mobile MakerSpace carts in the coming days.  Teachers will be able to check out the robots and other MakerSpace carts to support student learning and creativity throughout our school.

A huge thanks to Adam Hinnenkamp and Kate Asmus for helping students to learn the basics of blue-tooth syncing, coding, and more.

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I’ll Never Forget

Our teachers have been doing some truly ground-breaking work. The level of innovation and passion in our school is palpable.  We have classrooms participating in Genius Hour, coding, connecting with other schools, 3D printing, green-screen video production, flipped instruction, team teaching, augmented reality, and re-imagining learning spaces. I thought that I had grown accustomed to the general level of “awesomeness” in our school…but I’ll never forget what happened last week.

This past week Mrs. Kirchner’s 4th graders had the chance to take one of our “Mobile MakerSpace” carts for a test spin. The cart was loaded with Circuit-Scribe kits that enabled students to draw their own working circuits.  As you can see from the short video clip below…student engagement was off the charts!

The most inspiring part of the lesson was the process that Mrs. Kirchner used to introduce the new technology to students. Students were assigned partners and given time to experiment, collaborate, and fail. That’s right…FAIL.

They talked about why their circuits were not working, compared notes, wrestled with frustration and tried again. It was beautiful. When the guided inquiry time was over every single group had successfully created their own working circuit from scratch. Students drew the conductive lines themselves and created unique battery configurations to power their projects.

I was fortunate to be a part of the experience and it was absolutely amazing. I’m talking jaw-dropping amazing.  It’s one thing to be issued a science kit full of wires and directions. It’s another to see a group of kids wrestle with failure and overcome it using skills like collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

I will never forget the power of failure in the learning process!

Skills for Today

When I reflect upon the important work our staff is doing I’m inspired. The commitment we’ve made to creativity is palpable, and we’re seeking new and innovative ways to put students in the center of their learning. I’m seeing our team amplify student voice while providing kids an authentic audience for their work. Some of the “learning work” our team is involved with includes:

  • Genius Hour
  • Passion-Based Learning
  • 3D Printing
  • MakerSpaces
  • Redesigning Learning Spaces
  • Flipped Instruction
  • Social Media as Learning Media
  • Project-Based Learning (Cane’s Arcade, etc.)
  • Augmented Reality
  • Back-Channeling via “TodaysMeet”

Teachers are exploring new ways to help build students capacity to connect responsibly in a digital world.  Best of all…we’ve kept a keen focus on the importance of relationships; our students are responding in amazing ways! Our staff has embraced meaningful technology integration as one of our three school priorities. We know that the work we are doing will help students develop skills for today will ultimately help them excel tomorrow.

Empowered Learning: Transforming the PD Paradigm

Power Plant PD

I’m currently immersed in a doctoral study involving some of the most innovative and effective school leaders in the country.  My research is focused on the Professional Development (PD) experiences of elementary principals in a digital age. The process of reviewing hundreds of peer-reviewed research articles and talking to countless practitioners in the field of education has been a deeply reflective exercise. I’ve been convicted of some of my own personal PD leadership failures, and I’m also gaining clarity on what I believe we need to do to create conditions in which teachers are supported in their learning.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that attending a dynamic presentation or well-organized workshop is the gold standard for PD. The traditional PD paradigm espouses that an “expert” in the field can share information about a topic with an audience, and that this transmission of knowledge will increase an audience’s capacity, motivation, etc.  We’ve relied on this “Power Plant” approach to PD for several decades. This type of PD may recharge our batteries for a period of time, but it is unlikely to cultivate an educator’s long-term ownership of his/her learning.

“Power Plant PD” may have represented best-practice and sound pedagogy in the past. However, it’s the same approach we are asking our classroom teachers to migrate away from. We want students authentically engaged in relevant learning that includes opportunities to hone 21st century skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. To usher in a new learning paradigm the predominant voice in the room must include our students’ voices. Why would principals and PD planners hold themselves to a lesser standard?

Empowered Learning

Image Credit: Tim Lauer

Image Credit: Tim Lauer

The most powerful PD comes when the learner is empowered…not the presenter. Teachers who are empowered are conduits for high-voltage learning. They possess an authentic yearning and fervor for growth that cannot be completely satisfied through traditional presentations.

If we are to foster an ethos in education in which staff learning is truly revered our teachers will no longer be treated like batteries needing a quick recharge. Teachers will be honored as the true “sparks” in our schools and connected with other educators across the globe. A powerful connected-pedagogy will emerge that supports teachers in securing the time and skills needed to collaborate.

In order effectively leverage the student-centric connections made possible by technology including social media, it’s critical that we are engaged in our own digital age learning. Each of us is a digital leader…the only question that remains is, “How effective and relevant are we in this role?” I’d encourage you to check out the Digital Leadership Challenge blog post and sign-up to participate in the personalized mini-challenges using the Google Drive link embedded within. If we don’t walk-the-walk and own our learning how can we expect anyone else to?

Finally, here are four additional PD questions I’m encouraging educational leaders to reflect upon. I’ll be holding myself accountable to the same four questions and encourage you to check back with me. I can’t think of anything more important than empowering the true “sparks” that are working with our students every day. Transforming the PD paradigm is paramount to supporting student learning in the digital age. We need to rethink the very definition of Professional Development; PD can be a conversation, EdChat on Twitter, written reflection on a blog, flipped faculty meeting followed by purposeful face-to-face time, or an asynchronous dialogue via Voxer. We must empower our people!

4 Questions

Powerplant Bar

Image Credit: dispatchesfromthegypsyroller. wordpress.com

1.) If the PD and/or staff meetings you plan were optional would your staff still show up?

2.) How might we more effectively model current-best practices in PD; the same practices we’d expect our students to benefit from in the classroom?

3.) Is the topic of failure regularly discussed and modeled? Do staff understand the explicit value of failure in the learning/growth process?

4.) How are we leveraging technology and social media as tools for personalized learning? How are we supporting staff on this journey?

 

 

 

NEW Podcast: #30SecondTake

30 Second Take Title

Podcast Format

Each week we’ll feature two guest hosts that participate in a digital duel. The podcast focuses on pedagogy, innovation, and educational technology. Our purpose is to engage practitioners in a FUN and interactive experience comprised of dialogue and reflection around a single guiding question.  The show is uptempo and fast-paced. If you blink you just might miss it, but that’s by design. Here’s why…

Creativity is often cultivated by constraints. The time restrictions of the podcast require succinct communication, and participants will certainly need to be creative to share their “take” in 30 seconds or less. After all, if you can’t explain something to somebody in 30 seconds or less you may not understand the issue as well as you think!

Viewers are asked to vote for the most compelling response each week, and add any comments/questions on Twitter using the hashtag #30SecondTake.

Voting

The best part about the podcast is that viewers have a voice in who will host the following week.  After watching the podcast you can vote on Twitter via the #30SecondTake hashtag. The guest host that receives the most votes will remain on the show to defend the title the following week. Your comments and questions are also appreciated and will serve as a catalyst for deeper reflection for us all.

Guest Host Info.

Hosts are asked to film their “30 Second Take” in front of a green-screen (could be green construction paper, green fabric, green paint, etc.) in a well lit room without background shadows. I will communicate the show topic (guiding question) a few days in advance.  Be sure to speak loudly and do not exceed 30 seconds when sharing your “take.” Please send a close-up photograph of yourself as well. Guest hosts can submit their 30 second video “takes” and photographs via e-mail or DropBox at brad.gustafson@wayzata.k12.mn.us Guest hosts will receive a digital badge for display on their blogs or personal websites.

 

Episode I

Duel Pics

Click image to view Episode I.

Guiding Question: What is the Role of Technology in Education

@611Spartan received 63% of the votes

@GustafsonBrad received 22% of the votes

Viewers voted “tie” with 12% of the votes

The Robot received 2% of the votes

Top Tweets on #30SecondTake

(DM me your school address & I’ll mail a TouchCast stylus/pen and card.)

 

11 Questions We Need to Ask

3d 2

  1. What are the chances that our children would choose school over another preferred activity?
  2. What are the chances a student will always love school? (Not just tolerate it…but literally LOVE it.)
  3. What should we do if a child is not captivated by school now?
  4. What if we gave our kids more opportunities to create and engineer in elementary school?
  5. How might we amplify student voice and foster a deep appreciation for authentic learning that transcends age or grade-level?
  6. Better yet…how can we make learning in school MORE authentic now?
  7. What if school was less about worksheets and filling in bubbles and more about creating and inventing?
  8. What might we have to give up to make school more student-centric, and are we truly willing to take that risk?
  9. Can students learn as much through experimentation and failure as they can through traditional means?
  10. How might we create a more personalized student learning experience where critical thinking and “dreaming big” were the norm?
  11. What would the dinnertime conversation feel like if you were able to ask your child, “What did you invent today and what challenges did you persevere through to make it happen?

The best part about education is that not only do WE get to ask the questions…WE get to answer them because WE are part of the solution! You can be part of a pilot project that is part of the work we are doing at Greenwood Elementary. Teachers are doing some amazing things and truly intent on fostering conditions that support an AMAZING learning experience for kids.

Will you help us usher in a new era of learning that builds upon the tradition of excellence in our district? We refuse to accept a disconnect between “real life” and school. We want our students to have limitless options and access to cutting-edge technology in a safe and supportive environment.

Will you please consider supporting our MakerBot 3D Printer for a new Mobile MakerSpace project on DonorsChoose.org?

If you donate by June 18, 2014 your contribution will receive matching funds. (Use the promo code INSPIRE to have your donation doubled!) If you know of anyone else that may be interested in supporting this project please pass this blog post along.

 

Image Credit: MakerSchmitt.blogspot.com

Amplify Student Voice through Digital Project-Based Learning

 

Use the hashtag #GWinnovation to connect on Twitter.

Use the hashtag #GWinnovation on Twitter to connect with other classrooms involved.

I often tell people that being a principal is one of the most inspiring jobs in the world.  I get to visit classrooms each day and see phenomenal teachers helping their students do extraordinary things.  Some of the work our students are doing is mind-blowing…the creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, leadership, and global awareness being fostered is the epitome of what it means to prepare students for their future.  There are days when I literally do “fist-pumps” as I leave classrooms filled with excitement!

The past few months we’ve had a group of students collaborating on an innovative concept.  Their goal is to connect with other students and classrooms across the country and world through a shared “Project Based Learning” experience.  Their Innovation Station blog will serve as a global hub for these Project-Based Challenges.

Over the course of the planning and preparation our students were the drivers of the work.  They had a seat at the table as meetings were held to develop the concept, create permissions/forms, and launch the first video challenge.  There were meetings when I was giddy seeing our kids literally guide the conversation and direction of the project as their teacher, principal, and district technology leadership listened.  LOVE it!

We hope you’ll consider participating.  Each challenge will be presented in a digital format (video, podcast, etc.) that students create.  We’re inviting you to check-out their initial “Milk Carton Challenge” and can’t wait to see the creativity in YOUR students!  The submission deadline for the first challenge is May 23rd.  Connect with us on Twitter using the #GWinnovation hashtag.  All aboard!!

Power-up Digital Learning

Amplify Icon

One of my passions is finding ways to amplify student voice.  Our staff has embraced the goal to meaningfully integrate technology into the student learning experience.  This has translated into deep and dynamic learning for our school.

Students are collaborating with each other and reflecting on their learning using online forums, shared documents in Google Drive, and more.  They’re extending their learning through hands-on projects requiring critical thinking and creativity.  The combination of digital learning and face-to-face collaboration has been nothing short of inspiring.

We continue to have conversations about how to enhance students’ communication and achievement in this new learning paradigm.  Our goal is to move our kids from basic responses to more in-depth analysis.  We understand this is a process involving many variables.  The tool below is intended to scaffold this process.  The tool could help power-up students who are responding to a text, replying in a forum, or providing a partner feedback about his/her writing.

Providing students additional “choice and voice” in their learning will empower them to reach levels that were previously unimaginable.  It’s amazing what our kids can do when we give them the opportunity and support them when they fall!

Digital Response Power-ups

Digital Response Power-ups

About this Document:

  • The tool is based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.  The icons get progressively more involved as a student works his way towards the bottom of the document.
  • The tool is based on basic tenets of gamification.  Students’ natural inclination for achievement, self-expression, and closure have been packaged into several digital badges.
  • It is suggested that teachers allow students choice in what badges they will select to respond to a classmate/text.
  • The recommended number of badges per assignment is 2-4 for initial responses to a text, and 1-3 for online forum feedback to classmates.
  • Students should be asked to conclude each posting with the code letters indicating what badges they selected to their teacher.  (E.g. “?H+”)

What did I miss? How might we improve this tool to facilitate high levels of learning for each and every student? I look forward to your comments and sharing.

 

Image Credits: FotoSearch.com

Becoming David

David v Goliath

When I was younger I heard stories about a young boy named David.  He defeated a strong adversary named Goliath.  Growing up I learned about other unlikely triumphs as well:

  • The New York Giants faced their Goliath in Super Bowl XLII.  They went toe-to-toe with the undefeated New England Patriots, and scored two touchdowns in the 4th quarter to pull off a dramatic upset.
  • Thomas Edison invented the light bulb after facing his Goliath hundreds and hundreds of times.  If you had asked Edison, he’d have said that he did not fail 1,000 times, but instead he learned 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb.  What a perspective!
  • Truman eventually triumphed over Dewey in the 1948 Presidential Election, but only after being counted out early by the Chicago Tribune.  They were so certain of his demise that they ran headlines that were incorrect.

Each of the examples above involves an epic upset from the past, but what would the educational headlines say today?  Would they mistakenly predict a victory for Goliath?

A vast number of conversations are currently being dedicated to assessment and accountability.  My concern is that assessment for the purpose of ranking students or comparing kids is not sound pedagogy.  How a student fills in his bubbles should not be the sole purpose of education or the single determinant of his success.  Is this best for kids, and who is responsible for this storyline?

In many ways we are responsible and may indirectly perpetuate some of the very things we care deeply about changing.  The good news is that we can all aspire to be like David in confronting the status quo; we are the New York Giants, Thomas Edison, and Harry S. Truman rolled into one.

Against all odds, I believe the status quo is in for a whooping!  The greatest comeback story in education is playing out right now in innovative classrooms across the country.  Inspiring educators are focused on high achievement for each and every child, and we’re writing a new educational narrative at the same time.

Through personalized learning, meaningful technology integration, and establishing authentic relationships our focus is on student passion, potential, collaboration, critical-thinking, creation, and sharing.

I bet Goliath never saw this coming!  It’s rally time and we must persevere.

We are David and our students are counting on us to see this through!

**Photo Credit: GreenhousesportsBlogspot.com

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 (Wikipedia.org, 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.

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