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Buzzword or Lifeblood?

IMG_5058

Image Credit: Jason Jenkins

I’ve heard some say that “student voice” is becoming a buzzword in education.  I’m hopeful this is not true.  We can’t let it be true.

Student voice should be the lifeblood of our schools.  Our kids’ needs, aspirations, and voices should be predominant in education; from the boardroom to the classroom.  (The same should be true of professional development!)

EdCampEC will be cranking up the volume and amplifying student voice on April 9th.  Greenwood Elementary (MN) students will be teaching teachers through a hands-on and student-led MakerSpace challenge.

Recently, some of our 3rd graders participated in a BattleDome experience using 3D printed exo-skeletons. The exo-skeletons fit around Sphero robotic droids that teams navigated during the competition.  Engineering and collaboration were interwoven throughout the experience, as students added different offensive and defensive capabilities to their exo-skeletons.  Kids were “making” with a purpose and the entire experience was nothing short of spectacular.

You can read more about the experience HERE…OR you can make the trek to Eau Claire, Wisconsin on April 9th to hear directly from the students involved!  They can tell you about their design process, and how different tools from our school’s Mobile MakerSpace fleet were used to unleash creativity and learning.

Student voice is alive and well!  We couldn’t be prouder of our kids, and we look forward to seeing their leadership and communication skills shine at EdCampEC.

If you have questions before April 9th (or can’t make the trip) don’t hesitate to reach out to the teachers who organized the Sphero-Exo event.

Are You the next MakerStar?!

Students showcase their Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Students showcase their Sphero Mobile MakerSpace.

Our school is looking for somebody to design the next Mobile MakerSpace cart at Greenwood.  We’ll supply the budget and pay for the materials, but we need kids, teachers, and parents to provide the creativity, voice, and ideas!  Who knows….your class or students just might be the next #MakerStar!  To submit an idea for a new cart follow the rules below:

Rules:

  • Be persuasive…WHY would your idea be great for our students?!
  • Stay on budget with supplies ($750 max.)
  • Stay succinct (provide a focused plan, drawing, or video)
  • Include costs, quantities, and any relevant ordering information
  • Your idea must fit inside (or on top of) the cart pictured below. Shelves are removable.
  • This design opportunity is open to students, groups of students, classrooms, parents, and educators everywhere.
  • Submit your idea to hashtag #MakerStar on Twitter by January 15, 2016.
  • We’ll be empowering our students to make the final decision and to announce the winners!

Maker Cart

Ready to Take the Design Plunge?!

Are you ready to dive in? If not, click HERE to see an inspiring motivational video by Steve Harvey! His “Jump” video applies to many things in life, but it gets me fired up every time I watch it.

Now that you’re ready to jump, just remember to post design submissions to hashtag #MakerStar on Twitter.  Submissions can be in any format (short video, diagram, photo, etc.).  If you don’t do Twitter don’t worry! Feel free to contact me and we can arrange a way for the design(s) to be e-mailed. The video below demonstrates how our students and staff are using some of the different carts, so be sure to check it out for possible design ideas.

Background Information

We currently have a fleet of carts capable of transporting hands-on, collaborative learning tools to virtually every classroom and hallway in our school.  Click HERE to see our carts in action.  A complete list of all our current carts is below.

Cart 1: Cardboard Construction – Makedo Kits

Cart 2: Circuit Scribe – Conducive Ink and Writable Circuitry

Cart 3: Edison Robots

Cart 4: K’Nex

Cart 5: Knitting – Yarn and Assorted Looms

Cart 6: Legos – Motors, Creative Tubs, Base-plates, and Education Kit

Cart 7: Legos – Simple and Powered Machines, Wheels, and Creative Tubs

Cart 8: Lego Friends Kits

Cart 9: MakerBot 3D Printer – with 14 colors of filament

Cart 10: Makey-Makey Kits and Bee-Bots

Cart 11: Modular Robotics – Cubelets

Cart 12: Sphero – 31 Robot Droids, Turbo Covers, and Accessories

**Special thanks to my summer administrative intern, EmaKate, for collaborating with me on this student design opportunity.  We’re excited to see what kids can create!

3 Questions I Hope my Children’s Teachers are Asking

I often reflect upon how to empower students to learn at a high level while navigating the digitally-connected landscape we find ourselves in.  I ask questions and strive to serve our students better today than I did yesterday.

In addition to being a principal I’m also dad to three pretty spectacular kids.  My wife and I pray our children grow up to be loving people with humble hearts and curious minds.  We also understand that their world is different than ours was, so we think about other important things too.  My hope is that my children’s teachers are reflecting on some of the same questions I ask myself.

3 Questions I Hope my Children’s Teachers Are Asking

  1. How might I model digital leadership for my students?
  2. How might I help my students express their ideas in powerfully creative and appropriate ways using social media?
  3. How might I leverage the transformative power of technology to fuel collaborative conversations between students about their learning?

#STUCONNECT

For the past couple years I’ve collaborated with Tony Sinanis and John Fritzky (principals in New York and New Jersey) to create cross-state collaborative podcasts.  The podcasts feature our students sharing their favorite books, vision for education, and other creative endeavors led by kids.

This year we are adding an interactive Twitter-based chat to the collaboration.  We’d like to invite you to join us as we strive to model how to leverage technology as a tool to connect, inspire, and amplify student voice.

The four chat dates for the 2015-2016 school year are below, and we’re planning to share out a student-created podcast prior to each chat.  Please join us and include your classroom or school in the conversation.  We’ll be using the hashtag #StuConnect on Twitter starting at 9:30am CST on the dates below.

#StuConnect Chat Dates

October 8, 2015

December 1, 2015

January 15, 2016

March 10, 2016

What’s Your One Book?

We teamed up with the kids from Cantiague Elementary in New York and Byram Intermediate School in New Jersey to share our favorite books.  Our kids created their collaborative podcast to inspire the most awesome summer of reading EVER.  They packed nearly 30 book recommendations into this action-packed five minute podcast.  Checkout what K-8 students are reading across the country!

We hope you will share what you plan to read this summer too.  You can start by answering the same question our students responded to, “What’s your one book?”  Post a picture of your book to the hashtag #StuConnect on Twitter.  Let’s celebrate with our students and join them in their reading awesomeness!

3Leaders Mug Shot

*Special thanks to my friends Mr. John Fritzky and Dr. Tony Sinanis who helped amplify student voice and create this cross-state podcast.  

Flipped School Board Meeting

Background Information: We believe that the most important voices in a school are those of its students; they are central to our mission.  The purpose for highlighting pedagogy via video is to amplify student voice when we are together in person.  We want the walls of the Wayzata City Hall to reverberate with authentic student sharing and stories about their learning experiences at Greenwood Elementary.

Providing content prior to a lesson or presentation is often referred to as “flipped” instruction.  We’re applying the same basic principles to maximize our face-to-face time and to facilitate deeper conversation at the School Board meeting.  Please watch our five minute video before April 13.

Focus: Meaningful Technology Integration

Learning Targets:

  • I can identify at least two approaches teachers are using to help students discover their unique talents.
  • I can evaluate how students are experiencing a “connected pedagogy” by articulating how technology is being used to transform learning in order to prepare students for their future.

School Board Presentation Agenda

Students will share two-three minute presentations with the support of their teachers. A copy of the PowerPoint we’ll be using is below.

  1. Sphero Robotic Droids featuring students taught by Carrie Lunetta & Joe McAuliff
  2. Mobile MakerSpace Carts featuring students taught by Ginny Adams
  3. Genius Hour featuring students taught by Joe Vrudny & Elle Zeman
  4. 3D Printing featuring students taught by Adam Hinnenkamp
  5. Drone Technology featuring students taught by Madeline Ray & Brad Gustafson
  6. EPIC Reading featuring students taught by Ashley Drill & Jamie Tewksbury
  7. Question & Answer Time facilitated by Greenwood students and staff

Additional Resources:

It Started with a Teacher

Recently, I was walking down a hallway in our school and stumbled upon an amazing turn of events…and it all started with a teacher.

As I was traversing the hallways I noticed two students collaborating on a podcast using their iPads.  I stopped to chat and learned that their project was part of a classroom presentation for Genius Hour.  Their teacher, Ms. Elle Zeman, empowered them to explore their passions, and on this day their passion was exploring an algorithm to solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than one minute!

I walked away from our hallway conversation impressed with our students, and even more impressed that our staff consistently put kids in positions to research, create, and communicate new information using cutting edge tools.  It just so happens that this particular teacher also tweeted out a picture of her students’ Genius Hour presentation that same morning. The tweet was shared to our school hashtag #GWgreats and retweeted.

What happened next was pretty incredible.  John Fritzky, an educator in New Jersey, contacted our school and asked if our students could teach students from his school how to solve a Rubik’s Cube using the same algorithm.  After working out the logistics and scheduling a Google Hangout (GHO video conference) our elementary students were presenting to students at Byram Intermediate School in New Jersey.

Many of our students marveled at the notion that somebody else truly valued their work and learning.  Even students who were not presenting shared in the excitement.

If you are an educator that is not using Social Media yet, I encourage you to reflect upon the opportunities that abound in this digitally connected age.  Never underestimate the power of an authentic audience.  Our students are counting on us to provide them authentic opportunities to practice 21st century skills in a safe environment accompanied by scaffolding from discerning adults.

This is a story about a teacher that amplified her students’ voices.  She shared their learning on Twitter, and the resulting connections contributed to an experience her class won’t soon forget.  Check-out the one minute video clip below to see our students in action.

Good Things come in Small Packages

Red cube

It might not look like much, but it is ours. We printed the small red cube on our school’s 3D printer, but that’s really not the important part. What’s important is what’s inside. The cube contains part of our school’s story. You can access it by scanning the QR code inside the cube or by simply watching the video below.

The most amazing thing is that our school’s story will soon become part of a larger narrative. Schools around the planet have the opportunity to print their own 3D cubes and send them to a central location for display. The collaborative work of art will feature cubes of different shapes and sizes from kids all over the world. We hope you’ll consider joining us on this epic adventure. Click HERE for more information on the #ThatsMyCube project.

Our cube may be small, but our students’ voices are not…and their stories matter. Good things come in small packages!
That's my cube

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!!

Getting Connected

Click the pic to view episode #11 of the "2 Guys Show."

Click the pic to view episode #11 of the show.

Greenwood Elementary is filled with talented professionals committed to the success of each and every child.  Connecting with students and staff on a daily basis is one of the priceless privileges I have as principal.  

Lately, I’ve also had the opportunity to share some of the things our school is doing to engage students via Twitter.  It’s difficult to explain the magic our teachers bring to their classrooms in under 140 characters, so some of the collaboration has spilled over into video-conferencing and direct messaging.  (Twitter has been invaluable to my own professional development and getting connected was one of the best moves of my career as a leader/learner.)  

I recently had the opportunity to visit with two game-changing educators, Drew Minock and Brad Waid, from Bloomfield Hills Schools in Michigan.  We met on a popular podcast they host called the “2 Guys Show.”  They also have a website www.twoguysandsomeipads.com 

Click on the photo above to view a recording of the live show.  We had a blast discussing meaningful technology integration, Augmented Reality (AR) and making a difference for kids!  A memorable moment from the show for me was the “AR Ambush” that occurred.  You won’t believe how cool Brad Waid was under pressure and how he reacted to the Augmented Reality surprise!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the entire team at Greenwood Elementary for the passion they bring to our shared journey together, as well as the countless others that enrich my Professional Learning Network (PLN).

You can follow Brad and Drew on Twitter at:

@TechMinock

@TechBradWaid

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