Blog Archives

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 

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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.

unearthED

unearthED logo

If you had ten minutes to talk about anything you wanted to what would it be?  What if you could join a conversation that educators halfway across the country were having about the very same topic?

I’m co-hosting a new show on the BAM Radio Network called, unearthED. The show premiered in iTunes this week and was listed on the “new and noteworthy” list.  We’ll be following the energy behind different conversations that teachers and school leaders are having on social media, and then taking them deeper.

We think students deserve a new narrative because many of the conversations on Twitter are too important to skim over. My good friend and co-host, Ben Gilpin, and I are committed to delving further into the issues that every educator confronts.  The show is less about answers and more about questions, vulnerability, and authenticity.

Our show is part of the BAM Radio Network’s TweetED Channel covering the best Twitter education chats of the week.  We hope you’ll listen and subscribe, but most of all we hope you will join us in moving beyond the echo chamber.  We think kids will benefit when we continue these conversations together.

You can subscribe to “unearthED” by clicking HERE or copying the link below into your browser.

unearthED itunes logo

 https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/unearthed/id1073709918

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

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!

Join the Conversation

CE15

You’re invited to join an interactive Twitter chat about innovation in our schools.  Mark your calendar for October 21st at 7:00pm CST.  Ben Gilpin, Dr. Kaylen Tucker, and I will be co-moderating a National Conversation about Innovation.  We want to hear your innovation “Dos & Don’ts”!

As a precursor to the chat, check out the NAESP Principal Magazine article titled, “Leadership for Tomorrow” by clicking HERE.  The article features innovative insights from respected educators across the country including Rafranz Davis, Dr. Joe Mazza, Jennie Magiera, and Sarah Thomas.

If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat feel free to reach out for support.  We will tweet out a question every five minutes to the hashtags #CE15 and #NAESP.  Chat participants can respond to the questions and interact with one another.  Be sure to include the hashtags in your tweets as well!

For a sneak preview of the chat questions check out the flyer above.  We’re looking forward to connecting!

Mobile MakerSpaces in Action (Video)

The entire concept is really quite simple.  The Mobile MakerSpace carts that line the hallway leading into our Media Center are capable of transporting new opportunities and tools to virtually any space in our school.  Whether it’s high-tech 3D printing and modular robotics or low-tech knitting and plastic construction blocks…the carts contain tools that elicit collaboration and unleash student creativity.

When coupled with our amazing team of teachers the impact is quite profound. 

Click the Picture of our Mobile MakerSpace Fleet above to View Video.

Click the Picture of our Mobile MakerSpace Fleet above to View Video.

Our teachers continue to integrate collaboration, creativity, and ‘making’ into the student learning experience in a variety of ways.  In addition to our Mobile MakerSpace Fleet, new instructional approaches like Genius Hour, flipped instruction, connected learning, and math workshop contribute to a relevant pedagogy.  Best practices in literacy instruction, assessment, and classroom discussions further contribute to meaningful learning experiences.  Staff are engaged in a variety of passions that contribute to a culture of learning and innovative school ethos.

The time, energy, and learning that our team invests into reinventing themselves for kids each year is nothing short of inspiring.

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

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

We continue to expand upon student opportunities based on input from our students and staff.  This year we’re adding another five or six carts that students will have access to.  Be sure to watch the short video in this blog post to see how our Mobile MakerSpaces work.

Finally, stay tuned for a unique opportunity for YOUR students to design and propose our next Mobile MakerSpace cart!  It’s going to be AWESOME!

Talking Business Cards

2015-16 Art Trading CardEach year I share a principal baseball card with families prior to school starting.  It’s a great way to make an initial connection and help students see who their principal is prior to school starting; call it an initial investment in the relationship.

The cards typically portray me participating in a hobby I enjoy.  Past cards have featured reading, football, soccer, writing, technology, basketball, and more.  (When one of our students was ‘Principal for a Day’ we created principal baseball cards for her sitting at my desk.)  The back of my card always shares some ‘stats’ too (i.e. favorite book and school lunch).  However, if you read the back of the cards carefully you’ll notice a fun surprise.

The back of the card includes directions for accessing bonus video content powered by augmented reality technology.  Augmented reality is simply supplemental digital content that is overlaid directly on top of the business card.  This is comparable to watching an NFL football game on television and being able to see the digital first down lines and video replays on the television set.  Those who are in attendance at the football game do not see the digital first down lines or video highlights on the actual football field, but technology allows users at home to enjoy an enhanced viewing experience.

Sometimes the bonus video I embed in the business cards via augmented reality includes a special message to students and other times it incorporates humor or special effects.  One year I ended my video greeting on the baseball cards by telling students, “All we need for this to be a great school year is YOU!”  I had parents of kindergarten students approaching me sharing that their children were super excited to come to school, in part, because “The principal said he needs me.”  It was so cool!

Well…we still need our fantastic kids to make our school the special place that it is.  However, this year I’m highlighting some of the amazing work of staff as well as pedagogy in the augmented reality videos.  To access the bonus video content you need a tablet or smartphone and an augmented reality app.  Simply download the Daqri app and scan the photo on the baseball card in the Daqri app’s viewfinder.

2015-16 Computer Trading Card

Trading Card Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**Occasionally educators will inquire about how the cards are created.  This year I designed the cards in MS Publisher and sent the file to a local printing press for production.  The cards are printed on cheap cardboard (just like real baseball cards) and I’ll pass them out to families at Open House.

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.

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