Blog Archives

Join Kid President’s Cabinet (video)

IMG_3452

Click the picture to view a short video featuring kids from three different states.

What if kids were empowered to change the world? Let’s make it happen!  Your classroom can join Kid President’s “Unofficial” Cabinet.  Classrooms across the country will be discussing citizenship together on Thursday, March 10th at 9:30am CST using the #StuConnect hashtag on Twitter.

This short (3 minute) video was created by kids from Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.  Their collaborative project sets the stage for the conversation that will occur on the #StuConnect hashtag.  Our focus will be on learning about positive character, digital citizenship, and making a difference for others.  All classrooms are welcome to participate (K-12 and beyond)!

If your classroom would like to preview the questions that we will be sharing on March 10th please see below.  The chat will start at 9:30am CST and last 20-30 minutes.  We will spend about five minutes discussing each question.  Feel free to reach out to the #StuConnect moderators if you need help facilitating this Twitter-based conversation with your students. 

#StuConnect Twitter Chat Topic: Citizenship* 

Q1: If you were on Kid President’s cabinet, what citizenship project would you recommend? How could you involve others? #StuConnect

Q2: What are some ways that students, teachers, and leaders display positive character and citizenship? #StuConnect

Q3: How do you demonstrate digital citizenship? #StuConnect

Q4: How does your classroom show citizenship outside the walls of your school? #StuConnect

*On the day of our Twitter chat, you can reply to each question by starting your classroom Tweets with the letter “A” and number of the corresponding question.  This will help others understand that you are answering a particular question.  Be sure to add the #StuConnect hashtag to all of your responses.  Example: “A4 We show citizenship by….. #stuconnect”

#STUCONNECT

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World Book Talk Championship

There is no doubt about it.  We LOVE to read and we want to cultivate that same love of reading in our students.  One way we can do this is by talking about the books we love and involving our kids in the process.

Jen LaGarde and I are teaming up to bring you the World Book Talk Championship. This is the Super Bowl of book talks.  (We even included a few fun reading-themed commercials to complete the Super Bowl feel.)  We started with 16 incredible educators who each submitted a short book talk video.  We’re down to four finalists and we need your help.  Who will win the coveted “Vince LomBooki” award for best book talk in the world?

#30SecondTake Brackets 2016

It’s “I Love to Read Month” and we’re feeling the love!  Click HERE to view the championship round of the podcast.  In the eight minute video you’ll see two “Literacy Legends” take on two “Lead Learners,” but only one person can hoist the championship trophy.  YOU decide!

Click HERE to cast your vote online…voting is open through February.  We’re also seeing classrooms create their own versions of the #30SecondTake book talks too.  We’d love for you to share these with us as well.  Most importantly…keep reading!

 

Special thanks to Oliver Schinkten…his creative genius elevated our Super Bowl commercials to an entirely new level.

An interactive TouchCast is available at: http://www.touchcast.com/greenwood/30secondtake_podcast_world_book_talk_championship 

Kindergarten Engineers (Video)

Edison 2

Recently, one of our kindergarten classes worked on a standards-based engineering challenge, and the results were incredible.  The truth of the matter is this type of “incredible” is something I see on a daily basis in classrooms across our school.  Sometimes I’m able to take a few pictures (or video) and other times I simply stand in awe of the passion and skill our teachers possess.  I am amazed at how our team cultivates skills that help students thrive today and excel tomorrow.

When all is said and done, the transmission of graphite to paper provides important practice and achievement data.  However, it’s the transmission of curiosity that transcends time.  Learning how to learn, overcoming failure, and working together to create something more beautiful than any of us could create alone is where the magic is.  When digital age skills and a relevant pedagogy are part of the achievement process kids win. 

This three minute VIDEO highlights the process we used for a lesson with Edison robots.  Getting a glimpse of the conversation and steps our kindergarten students followed is pretty special.  I also think that sharing some of the activities that our teachers are facilitating is good for all kids.  When educators share their insights a global ecosystem of learners benefits from the ensuing conversations.  Shining the light on best practices, innovation, and the work our dedicated teachers are doing helps us all understand how we might serve students in a more relevant and relational manner.  It’s not about the robots!

Edison robots are the tool featured in this video, but they are not the reason this learning experience was incredible.  The mindset and approach that Mrs. Amy Westman used made this learning transformational for kids.  (A connected teacher with a growth-mindset is more important than any robotic device.)  Amy and her colleagues demonstrate this on a daily basis.  I’d suggest following @MrsAmyWestman on Twitter.  She’s one of seven phenomenal kindergarten teachers in our school, and she shares some great learning highlights throughout the week.

Standards and Mobile MakerSpaces:

Lastly, one of the kindergarten standards that guided the lesson was 0.8.1.1 1. “Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.”  We used one of our Mobile MakerSpace carts to bring this challenge to students, and to breathe relevance into the standards.

Alternate Endings

This is a guest blog post written by Mrs. Emilie Garwitz.  Emilie is a Kindergarten Teacher at Greenwood Elementary, and this is her first blog post.  Please connect with her on Twitter @MrsGarwitz and throw some support/encouragement her way.  (Emilie and her team are doing some extraordinary work with students.) 

K pic

We all know the endings to familiar stories: the shoe fits, Cinderella marries the prince, and Harry Potter defeats Voldemort to save the wizarding world. We find ourselves often thinking and talking about endings long after we have finished reading. Generations of teachers have challenged learners to use their creative talents to write alternate endings to these beloved tales. But how do we tailor this classic method to our current generation of learners – the next innovators in our world? In what ways can we apply 21st century skills such as collaboration and creativity to the learning experience and standards? And, what if the artifacts of learning lived on beyond the lesson using digital tools relevant to young students?

 

Recently, my kindergarteners have been fascinated by the alternate endings to the gingerbread man story. I wanted to take their energy and dive deeper. The classic method would have been to have my students use their creativity to write a new ending. And the challenge was that kindergartners’ writing skills and stamina are still developing. So I asked myself, what motivates them? What tools can I give them to help them be successful when so many of their skills are still in progress?

 

This is when I turned to our school’s mobile Makerspace carts and challenged my students to build alternate endings to the gingerbread man. The objective was kindergarten friendly: I can create a new ending to the gingerbread man using legos. The results were astounding. My students planned, collaborated, shared, built, created, and reflected for over an hour – a long time our youngest learners. Their creativity stretched well beyond my highest expectations and the experience was authentic and meaningful. They changed the characters, the setting, and more. One group’s version of the story had a copy machine that the gingerbread man used to make twenty copies of himself in order to outfox the fox.

 

“We’re engineering!” one student exclaimed. This was the moment when I started thinking about the possibilities for their future. I was not just teaching a skill, I was imparting on kids a new mindset – an engineering mindset. Building their alternate endings was cross-curricular. During the planning stages, I looked up how many standards connected to this objective and was blown away.

 

While learning to write and practicing writing are critically important, this whole exercise made me reflect on the choices I make as a teacher. Maybe I should not limit their tools in the classroom when it’s time to create. How could using tools that are relevant and motivating to students change the learning experience?

 

After an hour of innovating, it was time to take apart the creations – such a hard thing to do for both teachers and students after so much time, effort, and creativity are spent. But what if the learning does not stop when the last lego brick is cleaned up? What if we could make time in the classroom to help students’ ideas and work live on? Enter, Google Drive. When students take pictures of their own work, upload it, and share via the Drive with their families, they truly own every step of the learning experience. Digital learning is relevant to students and the ability to share learning with families helps connect us.
Every teacher savors that moment when her students achieve bigger things than she ever dreamed possible. Witnessing 5 and 6 year-olds upload photos of their creations to Google Drive was one of those seminal moments. Most people might hear “Google Drive and kindergartners” and think “that can’t end well.” I guess you could say my class created an alternate ending of our own.

Within Reach

Sparkler

The teacher-observation process provides me access and insight into classroom learning experiences that very few people have.  I’m consistently inspired by the relevant and connected learning I observe. Recently I was in a classroom and I didn’t want the lesson to end.  As I was watching the lesson unfold, I knew that what I was experiencing was also within reach of classrooms and schools everywhere.

Here are some of the salient things I observed during the lesson:

  • I observed an elementary Language Arts lesson.
  • A clear learning target based upon state standards guided the learning process.
  • The teacher used one of our Mobile MakerSpace carts to teach students how to create an alternate ending to a text by manipulating various elements of the plot.
  • Students constructed models depicting their alternate story endings using Lego building bricks from the MakerSpace cart.
  • Students were empowered to collaborate on plans for their alternate story endings and projects.
  • Students had opportunities to talk, create, experiment, fail, and redesign.
  • The teacher purposefully connected with individual students and small groups to elicit high-level thinking and scaffold as appropriate.
  • Formative assessment was seamlessly interwoven through the lesson.
  • Students presented their creations to the class near the conclusion of the lesson.  This public speaking provided students time to explain their thinking, and the teacher was able to use some metacognition connected to the learning target.
  • Students used digital tools to curate their work so it could be referenced in the future and shared with parents.
  • As part of this process, students photographed their projects and uploaded them to Google Drive to share their learning with their families.
  • Students did not want the lesson to end.  (Based on what I was seeing, kids would’ve opted to skip recess if given the opportunity.)
  • The teacher ensured that the lesson was led by learning; not tools, technology, or activities.
  • This was an authentic learning experience that was scholarly and highly relational.

Did I mention that this was a kindergarten language arts lesson?! That’s right…our youngest learners were empowered to innovate, collaborate, present, and curate their work using digital tools.

At one point one of the kindergarteners yelled out in exuberence, “Teacher…we’re engineering!” and her amazing teacher responded, “Yes…you are designing and building.”  Kids were making connections to past conversations about design, building, and engineering.

During our observation post-conference I invited the teacher to share her reflections in a blog post instead of the traditional electronic form required by the district.  I knew that we could meet the requirements of the standard district form by copy/pasting reflections from a blog post if the teacher was interested in pursuing this.  (Stay tuned for her reflections and first blog post…)

I am convinced that a paradigm shift is underway in education because I see it every day at Greenwood Elementary.   A new and connected learning paradigm that puts students in the center of their learning is possible.  Deeper learning that’s both relevant and connected is within reach!

Within Reach

Image Credits:

1.) “Sparkler” photo from Pixabay (Creative Commons)

2.) “Kindergarten Collaboration & Digital Curation” photo from Greenwood Elementary

StuConnect Classroom Twitter Chat

#STUCONNECT

Join classrooms across the country as we celebrate student passion on December 1st at 9:30am CST.  Click HERE to watch a short (3 minute) podcast prepared by students in two different states.  Then join the conversation this Tuesday by tagging your classroom Tweets with the hashtag #StuConnect.

The entire chat will only last 20-30 minutes.  Feel free to join us for one question or stick around for the entire chat.  All grade-levels are welcome to participate.  We will share out a new question every 6-7 minutes.  Classrooms can respond to specific questions by starting their Tweets with the letter “A” (stands for Answer) and adding the hashtag #StuConnect to the very end of each Tweet.

A preview of the questions is below:

  • Introduce your classroom or school and share what state you are from. #StuConnect
  • Q1 What are your passions and talents? #StuConnect
  • Q2 Why is knowing what you are talented at important? #StuConnect
  • Q3 How do you get to ‘practice your passion’ in school? #StuConnect
  • Q4 Where else do you get to spend time in an area interest? How might school help with this? #StuConnect

Special thanks to my #StuConnect co-moderators John Fritzky (NJ) and Tony Sinanis (NY) as well as one of our fabulous student-teachers, Ms. Frick, for helping produce the podcast.  We hope you can join us for the Twitter chat at 9:30am CST on Tuesday, December 1st, 2015!

 

 

Perspective

What do you notice about this picture? It doesn’t really bother me that the people are moving in different directions. In fact, I think moving in the same direction without questioning our purpose could be dangerous. In some ways this is analogous to education.

Education is filled with some of the most dedicated and selfless individuals on the planet. These people are trying to make a difference for kids in the best way they know how. Some strive to integrate technology while others question its utility. Neither approach is inherently wrong, but there has to be a purpose and pedagogy behind our teaching that is just as important as the teaching itself.

Before we dip our oars in the water we should be able to identify two things:

  • Purpose: Why is the direction, idea, or path we’re pursuing important to our students?
  • Pedagogy: How might the approach we take be more relevant to the lives of our students?

All students deserve the opportunity to experience a relevant and connected pedagogy that leverages the promises of the digital age. This does not mean that every learning experience needs to involve a device or Wi-Fi.  It does mean that the context in which we are teaching has changed dramatically and the pedagogy we implore must be responsive to these changes. Creativity and collaboration are not soft skills that can be sacrificed in the pursuit of student achievement. The pedagogy we implore must prioritize digital age skills and tools while helping all students learn at a high level.

Perhaps a new direction is warranted. What’s your perspective?

Personalized PD Book is Here!

Box of Books

A fun surprise landed on my doorstep this weekend! The book I co-authored with several educators, Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development, is finally here. I’m really excited to dive into the contributions of the other authors. All in all, the book features seven chapters and a plethora of vignettes written by educators I’ve looked up to for a long time. The icing on the cake is that Principal EL wrote the forward, and the afterward is by Dave Burgess. I feel like a kid in a candy store!

If you’re interested in learning more about the book or ordering a copy please go to my website HERE or click on the picture above. I’m looking forward to many conversations about empowering staff and students through personalized learning experiences. This is going to be awesome!

Feel free to contact me with questions via www.bradgustafson.com as well. Adjusting the course and trajectory of learning in this digitally-connected age is an important conversation to be had.

Global Green-Screen Project

Greenscreen with Brad

CONNECT STUDENTS TO A COLLABORATIVE VIDEO PROJECT #GlobalGSP

Click HERE to View Current Playlist!

Do you remember being a student in elementary school and creating a shared story with your classmates?  The idea was simple…a teacher started by writing down a sentence on a sheet of notebook paper.

The teacher would then pass the paper to a student seated near the front of the class, and that student would add a sentence.  After that, the story would be passed to the next student who would also add a sentence.  The key was to build off each other’s writing to create a cohesive plot.  It was wildly creative and tons of fun!

The Global Green-Screen Project is essentially the same thing.  Instead of adding a sentence to a story your class is adding a 20-30 second video created in green-screen.  This is an opportunity for students to practice creativity, collaboration, digital leadership and more!

OPTION #1: DIRECTIONS

  1. Sign-up to participate HERE.
  2. Wait for your turn (each video “chapter” needs to build upon previous videos).
  3. Watch all of the videos before your chapter to ensure your class connects to the preexisting plot in a logical manner.
  4. If you notice the person ahead of you missed their deadline on the sign-up sheet you may contact them or skip them to keep the project on schedule.
  5. Try to conclude your video with a transition or prompt that sets the next class up for success.  This will increase cohesion in the final production.
  6. Once your video is complete download it to YouTube and title it using the format below: “Chapter (insert number) – Global Green-Screen Project” 
  7. Add a YouTube link to your completed video in the shared google doc HERE.
  8. E-mail the next person on the list when your video is posted so that they may begin production.
  9. Try to complete your video within 2-4 days of being contacted.

We’ll run this first Global Green-Screen Project for six to eight weeks and see what happens.  Please use the hashtag #GlobalGSP on Twitter for sharing.

OPTION #2: FREESTYLIN’

Students can create a short (1 minute or less) green-screen video that goes with the theme, “Let Learning Take You Places.”  The goal is to amplify student voice in a creative way, so encourage kids to dream big as they share their learning.  Once your video is complete download it to YouTube and title it using the format below:

“Your Name – Global Green-Screen Freestyle”

Note: The “Freestyle” option will be run separately from the collaborative video project.  Freestyle videos are not part of the shared story sequence being created across different schools.

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

The Global Green-Screen Project provides students an immersive opportunity to interact with the Common Core State Standards.  Please see an example of the Speaking/Listening Standards this project supports below.  

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.5.4
Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.5.5
Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.

QUESTIONS?! CONTACT OUR KEY COLLABORATORS:

@JenHegna

@NMHS_lms

@MrEricHills

@DerekBell20

@KoryTellers

@GustafsonBrad

#GlobalGSP

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