Blog Archives

Stop the Madness

We asked seven incredible educators to share one thing schools need to STOP doing….and we only gave them 30 seconds to respond! You’ll be surprised what they shared in this high octane episode of the #30SecondTake podcast!

Click the logo to view Episode 26.

Click logo to view Episode 26

Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #30SecondTake. Be sure to vote for one of the guest hosts from Episode 26 to return next episode to tackle a new guiding question!

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30 Second Take: NAESP Special Edition

Episode 25

Todd Whitaker advises, “Ask what your best people think and base decisions on their input.”

This past week I attended the NAESP National Convention in Long Beach, California.  In addition to attending numerous breakout sessions and keynotes, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel of school leaders from across the country about innovation and connectivity.  I also had the chance to interview numerous school leaders to get their advice for new principals.  I have to admit that the advice that was shared was phenomenal, and it had me reflecting on my own leadership practices.  The seven minute podcast is embedded below from YouTube.

Click HERE if you are a subscriber to this blog and accessing this post via e-mail.  You can also subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.  Please take a moment to share your advice for school leaders using the hashtag #30SecondTake on Twitter.

Special thanks to Theresa Stager (co-host of the Principal PLN podcast) for collaborating on this NAESP special edition of the 30 Second Take podcast.  It was a blast producing this together!

Why Mindset Matters

Maker Blog

It’s a funny thing.  All a child really requires to change the world is permission…and maybe a sheet of paper.  When we give kids permission to create we unleash a whole new world of possibilities.  When we provide kids tools (paper, technology, sticks, whatever) and the conditions to create their inclination is to do just that.  All it really takes is removing some of the compliance-based restraints we’ve systematized in our homes and schools.

Our family was recently enjoying lunch together on a local restaurant patio.  It was undeniably HOT outside, but the precious sunshine that makes a cameo each summer in Minnesota was too much to pass up.  There were also some regular gusts of wind that provided the perfect balance to the scorching sun.

After fielding a few initial complaints about the heat from our children we settled in and ordered some lemonade.  It wasn’t more than five minutes later that one of our children began tearing apart her kids’ menu.  My visceral reaction would normally include a reminder about restaurant etiquette, but I bit my tongue and proceeded to soak in the rays while enjoying my wife’s company.

It wasn’t long until my daughter produced the creative hat pictured above.  I’m not sure if the hat actually provided any semblance of shade, but it did include a chin strap to guard against the sudden bursts of wind that occasionally greeted us over the course of our lunch outside.  Needless to say, I was impressed.

Fast-forward to today, where I’m sitting inside listening to a summer rainstorm…

As I occasionally check the stream of tweets coming from the #ISTE15 and #NAESP15 hashtags, a part of me is really excited for what our kids can look forward to this coming school year.

When school resumes in the fall educators will bring back a mindset that has been impacted by a community of educators that will not rest until student creativity is celebrated.  They will return to their schools armed with the understanding that the transformative power of technology is something that can actually bring people together.

I know that the educators who are connecting and spending time together at ISTE and NAESP will ultimately bring something more valuable than any device, tablet, or initiative back to their respective schools.  “Best-practice” doesn’t start with a tool or tablet, and it’s certainly not a program.  Our kids are counting on us to embrace a learner’s mindset.  In doing so we may need to unlearn approaches we once held dear.  We need to give our students permission to create, make, engineer, paint, invent, tinker, connect, collaborate, and grow.

Our kids are counting on us. This is precisely why mindset matters.

Their Names

North Branch Area High School Class of 2015

North Branch Area High School Class of 2015

I recently traveled back to North Branch Area High School to watch my former 2nd grade students graduate.  Just seeing their names in the commencement program was enough to bring me to tears.

Reading their names immediately transported me back 10 years to our time together in the classroom.  It seems like yesterday that we were engaged in animated read alouds, recess games, and exploring different passions.  As time has passed I’m certain that my former students have become less interested in LEGOs, Hot Wheels cars, and knock-knock jokes.  Yet these will be the memories I cling to because my heart explodes with a sense of wonderment just reflecting on our time together…and how far they’ve come.

After the graduation ceremony I received an e-mail from one of my student’s parents.  She shared an uplifting update about her son, and also mentioned how he was touched that I was able to make it to his graduation.  What she didn’t realize was that I will always count seeing her son’s name in the commencement program, shaking his hand after the ceremony, and reflecting on all of the time we spent learning together as a “lifetime highlight.”

It’s funny how we can take for granted the infinite number of times that we may write our students’ names down in the course of a regular school year.  It always seemed that there was an unlimited number of names that needed to be written and attached to locker assignments, name tags, books, and countless other items we personalized for students.  However, as time passes we are called upon less often to write their names.

Perhaps this is why nothing prepares a teacher (or principal) for reading a student’s name in a graduation program after so many years apart. It is magical.

NAESP National Panel on Innovation

Click Flyer to View Video

Click Flyer to View Video

We’ve got an NAESP National Panel planned with some spectacular surprises.  Join us for a conversation about innovation and connectivity in education.  To get to know the presenters before the conference, simply click on the image above or download the DAQRI augmented reality app on a mobile device. (Just hover over the flyer while in the DAQRI app to launch into a 4D experience!)

Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Time: 2:00pm – 3:15pm

Location: Long Beach Convention Center, Room 201B

Presenters Include:

Amy Fadeji

Ben Gilpin

Brad Gustafson

Joe Mazza

Todd Nesloney

Theresa Stager

Can’t travel to NAESP in Long Beach? Watch for a Periscope link via Twitter to join us virtually!

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.  

And One

Image Credit: imgkid.com

Image Credit: imgkid.com

In basketball, you might hear a player yell the phrase, “And one” after somebody is fouled attempting to make a basket.  If a player makes the basket in the process of being fouled, the referee can award an additional shot attempt.   In other words, “And one” can be unexpectedly awesome because it means that a player made a basket and gets the chance to score again.

Life is full of “And one” opportunities, but you have to be purposeful in creating them. 

University teacher preparation programs play a significant role in education.  Earlier this year, our school welcomed a busload of more than 20 future educators.  The undergrads were taking their first education class.  Our goal in engaging with the university and undergraduate students at such an early stage of their preparation was simple; we wanted to provide an authentic glimpse into the 21st century student learning experience in a way that no single semester-long technology class ever could.

Our students will be better served if we are more intentional about formal & informal induction processes.

Teacher preparation programs must interact with the mind-blowing possibilities that a relevant and connected pedagogy represent.  Technology can be a transformational tool and future educators should be made aware of this expectation early in their studies.  The moment we pigeonhole technology to an app or electronic worksheet we limit student potential.  We need to shine the light on current best-practice!  Hence, our “And one” moment was born.

After the busload of future educators arrived, we started our day by convening in our media center to review the rotations we’d set-up in advance.  Flanked by a few of our Mobile MakerSpace carts we conversed about pedagogy and discussed important “look fors” prior to visiting classrooms.  Then, we initiated some rotations that provided university students a variety of opportunities to observe what our teachers were doing to cultivate skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.  Towards the end of the visit we reconvened to reflect on the rotations and discuss important questions.  The entire experience was an “And one” moment for me.

NW College 1

When we invest in the capacity of others we’re not only living in the moment, but we’re adding value to tomorrow’s generation of learners.

I knew that the 20 or more future teachers on that bus would be profoundly impacted by seeing the inspiring everyday work occurring in our classrooms, but I didn’t expect to be so deeply moved by the experience myself.  I am convinced that schools need to be more actively engaged with universities and teacher preparation programs if we are to collectively rise to the challenges we face together.

What’s an “And one” moment you experienced this school year?  What was unexpectedly awesome and how did you make a difference for kids?

I challenge you to respond by sharing your #AndOneMoment. Then tag two additional educators you respect to add to the conversation!

TOP PD CHEF — flipped PD video

We believe that our students are at the heart of all we do, and inherent in this reality is the opportunity to further amplify student voice.  This school year we’ve had students teach us about Sphero programmable robot droids at a PD breakout session, and we even had kids present to our School Board as part of our site curriculum presentation.  Now our students are helping us flip a faculty PD session!

The flipped PD video that’s linked above features students from the principal’s podcast crew that elected to give up one recess period to spend a working lunch with their principal creating a video for us.  Teachers are asked to watch the four minute video and reflect on their learning and PD this school year. That’s all that needs to happen prior to our PD session on May 18th.  The video provides an overview that will allow us to maximize our time together.

I’m really looking forward to our next PD session.  We’re serving up an innovative PD experience using a format made popular by the hit TV show: CHOPPED! Come hungry to collaborate and bring your appetite too!  We’ll be using a semi-structured format to facilitate cross grade-level collaboration with a relaxed culinary backdrop.

Words in Action

IMG_3016

Our school district is celebrating National Volunteer Week in a big way!  Wayzata Public Schools created a series of Facebook posts highlighting volunteers across the district.

At Greenwood Elementary we couldn’t select just one volunteer to honor, so we invited all our amazing volunteers to be part of a school picture.  It was really fun to see how many people were able to stop by school on short notice for the photograph.  The inspiring volunteers in the picture actually represent the hundreds and hundreds of parents that make a difference in our school.

We asked some of our volunteers to share what volunteering means to them.  A few of the quotes brought tears to my eyes because I see the words in action every day at our school.

 

“I’m thankful for the many volunteer opportunities at Greenwood, both in the classroom and behind the scenes with PTA.  Volunteering is a fun way to stay connected to our school community and I think the time we give really makes a difference for the children at Greenwood.”

~Becky P.

“I so enjoy being a volunteer at Greenwood. As a former teacher, I am always happy to be back in a school setting and as a parent I am happy to help at school events as I know they are making the students’ experience better. I am always amazed at the wonderful support of parents and faculty and feel that Greenwood is truly a very special elementary school.”

~Deb B.

“Greenwood Elementary has become a second home to me. Serving in the PTA as a volunteer, Vice President and now as President has become very rewarding. I love having an impact on the education my children receive and the many other children at the school now and in coming years.  I realized that if I wanted to know what was going on I needed to get involved. A bit reluctant at first, but now I understand what volunteering means. We have the power to change lives in small and big ways. It’s truly amazing! I feel good about everything we do to help support our teachers and staff in making a better place for our children to be educated.”

~Jennifer V.

“If there is any small thing that I can do that can help make a young person enthusiastic about reading, interested in school, or excited about learning; how can I avoid staying involved?”

~James P.

“I’m a strong believer in the team approach of parents, teachers and staff working together for the educational success of our Greenwood students.   Volunteering is my way of giving back with the added benefit of showing my kids I care about their school and value their education.   I truly enjoy working with other parents, students and staff, whether in the classroom, serving on PTA committees or participating in school events. It’s great to be part of the Greenwood community!”

~Tracy B.

“I’m very blessed in my life and volunteer in a variety of ways as a means to give back to the community.  Volunteers at school allow kids to be able to participate in a whole host of activities that might not otherwise be available to them.”

~Linda G.

“Through volunteering at my children’s school I have gotten to know the wonderful staff and some terrific moms too! It’s very satisfying providing students and teachers with the positive parental interaction and support.  I like being part of the message to the larger community that Wayzata parents really do care and want the very best for our kids.  And working to organize and run the fundraising events is just plain fun while helping our schools cover costs of activities and supplies.  And, I hope it is setting a good example for my children.”

~Pam C.

“I love to volunteer at Greenwood because I truly believe the saying is true that it takes a village to raise a child.  School is more than just the place where academics are learned.  I like helping to be a part of a community where kids are given unique opportunities where they can grow and thrive as individuals.”

~Erin B.

“Volunteering at Greenwood is a great way to show our kids how much we value their education and that we consider school a worthwhile cause.”

~Michael H.

“I like to volunteer because it gives me the opportunity to share my talents, skills and experiences. I hope I can impact student lives in a positive way and invest in their future.  I believe it is very important for my children to see that I am giving of my time, so when they have the opportunity to volunteer, they will see the importance of volunteering and the cycle will continue!”

~Kari P.

“What I love the most about volunteering at Greenwood is the connection I make with the teachers and staff, the students and other parents. I love knowing that my contribution directly impacts the experience my children and others have at school.”

~Amy A.

Mobile MakerSpaces

Click picture to link to cart ordering options.

Click picture to link to cart ordering options.

This year we introduced Mobile MakerSpaces at our school.  A team of Greenwood teachers and I collaborated on the concept over the past year, and I earmarked some funding in our budget that we invested into the Mobile MakerSpace fleet and supplies.  Our goal was to create an ethos of innovation and design-thinking.  We wanted students to have the opportunity to create, build, tinker, fail, and think critically from any classroom or hallway in our school.  At our summer teacher workshops we embedded the “welcome back” content into a MakerSpace approach to demonstrate how learning and sharing through creative construction was possible.  Fast-forward to today…

Student-led Professional Development using our Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Student-led Professional Development using our Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Our Mobile MakerSpace fleet is one of the many things our students LOVE about school!  Combined with the Genius Hour time that many teachers are doing…I sometimes catch myself wishing that I was an elementary student again!  Students are creating mini-golf courses using coding and Spheros. They are knitting, building, drawing, constructing, collaborating, and communicating their way through the school day.  Students have world-class opportunities and they are learning right alongside a dedicated team of teachers that continues to learn as well.  We even had a group of students lead professional development for some teachers and their principal (me). The student-ownership was AWESOME!

We’ve also had some classrooms start their own MakerSpaces and MakerSpace challenges to continue providing students opportunities to unleash their passions and creativity throughout the day.  During observations, I’ve observed firsthand how teachers are seamlessly integrating Mobile MakerSpaces into the student learning experience using clear learning targets and standards.  The creative materials and opportunities for student design-thinking have taken student engagement to levels I had not previously observed while students were completing worksheets.

Students have responded with a tenacity for learning.  One of our grade-levels schedules MakerSpace time 1st thing each morning, and our students can’t wait to get to school!  You do NOT need fancy supplies or expensive carts to create an ethos of innovation in your school.  (You can use everyday objects and miscellaneous supplies from home.)  However, I am including a list of our Mobile MakerSpace fleet supplies in case you’d like to bring any of the opportunities to your classroom or school.

Cart 1: MakerBot 3D Printer

Cart 2: LEGO

Cart 3: LEGO

Cart 4: K’Nex

Cart 5: CircuitScribe (Writeable Circuits)

Cart 6: Knitting Looms and Yarn

Cart 7: Sphero Robotic Droids

Cart 8: Modular Robotics Educator Pack

Cart 9: Edison Robotics (compatible with LEGO)

Cart 10: Bee-Bots & Makey-Makey Kits

Cart 11: Makedo Guided Kits & Creative Construction Bundles

Please feel free to view the videos below showing our students in action.  To see more of our students’ work, you can go to our school’s hashtag on Twitter #GWgreats.

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Shelley Burgess

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