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Can MakerSpaces Invent the Future? (Video)

YouTube SpheroExoIt is incredible what kids can do when we believe in them, coach them, and get out of their way! Our students recently participated in a robotics competition that was invented from the ground up by staff and students.  We designed and printed 3D “exoskeletons” that fit over our Sphero robotic droids…and SpheroExo was born.  The rest is history.

Check out the 5 minute video below and prepare to be amazed at what kids can do.

http://tinyurl.com/SpheroExo

We are so proud of our students and all they are creating, engineering, and achieving.  Watch for our students next week as they present SpheroExo to teachers at EdCamp Eau Claire!  Students will be sharing their design process and how they’re inventing the future at #EdCampEC.

I’m not sure that MakerSpaces can actually invent the future, but I’m very confident that cutting-edge tools and a culture conducive to innovation helps.  A relevant and connected pedagogy empowers all kids to create, connect, and dream bigger.

 

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.

When Worlds Collide

Most people are willing to concede the world is changing for the better.  Education is changing. I tend to agree and I also think our students would benefit from some additional urgency and intentionality on our part.

We have opportunities to connect and learn from others that were unfathomable a decade ago.  We simply need to accelerate the merger between how ‘school’ has always been done and what it needs to be for our kids.

The evolution of technology has unleashed new levels of learning, creativity, content-creation, and sharing.  However, pedagogy has not been as nimble.  We have barely begun to scratch the surface of how ‘traditional best-practice’ should co-mingle with the digitally connected age.  We need these two worlds to collide.

This week I attended an EdCamp Leadership Conference in Chicago where I co-facilitated a session that delved into this very topic.  As part of the session we integrated some quadcopters and robotics, but the primary focus was on learning and connectivity.

The picture below doesn’t begin to describe the depth of the conversations that transpired.  However, if you click HERE you can read a reflective piece by Jeff Herb who was also part of the session.

EdCamp Leader Chicago 2015

The energy and sense of wonderment in the session were palpable.  This had me reflecting on the degree to which we are giving traditional best-practice a ‘free pass.’  Are we more prone to question and criticize new ideas, technology, and innovations than we are to examine the status quo?  Sometimes it feels as if past-practice has been placed in a protected vacuum chamber that absolves it from any scrutiny whatsoever.

What if we were able to realize a breakthrough and find a way to merge the digitally connected age with best-practice? What if we created a culture of innovation and risk-taking that made it OK to question things we’ve always done in schools?

Analyzing every inefficiency.

Advocating for students before we thought about maintaining the predictable practices we’ve come to accept as the only way.

How far could we go?

How deep would the learning and relevance be?

What’s the best thing that could happen?

Are you with me?!

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.

Passport to Passion

This is a guest blog post written by Greenwood Elementary School’s Music Specialist, Mr. Brian Westgard.  Our team of Specialists recently planned and organized an amazing experience for our students.  The entire evening was a HUGE celebration of student creativity. I asked Brian if he’d be willing to provide a snapshot of the “Passport to Passion” event and he graciously agreed. Mr. Westgard is newer to Twitter, and you can connect with him at @MrWestgard.


Unpacking Passport to Passion
The “Passport to Passion” event was created to highlight the student talent and achievement taking place in the specialist subject areas of Music, Art, Physical Education, Technology, Spanish, Media, and Vision 21. In the weeks preceding the event, students spent time working with their specialist teachers to prepare material to showcase and share with family members, friends, and guests who were able to attend. The name “Passport to Passion” was derived from the process in which students shared their experiences with their guests throughout the evening. Upon arrival, students were issued a “passport” to use as a guide for the event. The passport was a folded piece of paper containing learning objectives for each subject area. While visiting a particular subject area, students were awarded a star sticker for their passport if they were able to explain the learning objective to their guests. As students and guests made the rounds throughout the evening, their goal was to successfully fill their passport with stars for each subject area.  

The event as a whole was beneficial to all parties involved. While students had a chance to showcase their hard work and achievement, teachers and staff members were in turn able to interact with parents and family members regarding curriculum and the learning process. For specialist teachers in particular this opportunity was incredibly valuable. Every experience as students and guests traveled from area to area was something new, as each subject area prepared and showcased material for the event in a different way. For example, the art department worked with students to feature artwork, sculptures, and other creations. Media and literacy teachers prepared a scavenger hunt throughout the media center for students and their guests. 

As the music specialist, I wanted to prepare students for the “Passport to Passion” event by utilizing technology to work with students on the concepts of steady beat, rhythm, and teamwork. This year, our technology department introduced Sphero (a spherical robot controlled by a mobile device) to aid students in the learning process. While collaborating with our technology specialist I became aware of Sphero’s ability to illuminate, and the ability to manipulate the color and timing of of the color change by tapping the mobile controlling device with a finger. In music lessons leading up to the event, I worked with 3rd and 4th grade students on their ability to change Sphero’s color with regard to musical beat and rhythm. I composed and recorded a song to go with the lesson (aptly titled “The Sphero Jam”), and assigned students a variety of beat and rhythm patterns to coincide with the musical nature of the song. Throughout the lessons I captured various video clips of students learning and working together in an effort to succeed. I then compiled the video clips and arranged them into a video presentation for students and guests to watch when they arrived for the music subject area portion of the “Passport to Passion” event. I also made available a handful of Sphero devices for students to demonstrate to guests how what they were seeing in the video was done. 

The link to the video is included above. Though I was involved primarily with the music subject area of the event, “Passport to Passion” led to a destination for all specialist areas of academic excellence for students, staff, and guests alike.  

Brian M. Westgard
Music Specialist – Greenwood Elementary School

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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