Blog Archives

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.

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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

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

Dear Tony

IMG_5374

Dear Tony,

(An open response to a parent who shared some great questions/concerns in the comment section of this blog.)

I want to thank you for sharing your concerns about social media and its potential impact on foundational learning.  When I first read your comment on my blog I was struck by your authenticity and the importance of what you were asking.  My visceral response was to craft a comprehensive (and maybe even eloquent) reply.

In attempting to do so, I quickly realized that I was prioritizing my own answer over your very valid concerns.  If I’m being honest, I think that I was trying to insert my “expertness” (perceived or otherwise) into a reply because I wanted you to be as confident about the learning experiences we are trying to facilitate as I am.  This prompted me to pause.

When our answers become more important than the questions others ask we will have done a disservice to the very nature of learning.  Please know that I will carry your questions and perspective with me to conversations we have as a school about Vision, pedagogy, and student achievement.  Most importantly, I will never lose sight of the hopes, dreams, and expectations that parents have for their children and their children’s schools.

One day many of our children will have social media accounts of their own.  I can only hope that the modeling that you, Tony, have done by showing integrity, inquisitiveness, and concern in your original blog comment to me helps our kids understand the potential value of social media and other important communication tools.

I believe that the questions you’ve asked should also be part of a larger conversation about the nature of foundational learning.  For this reason I’m inviting others to join us in the conversation.  If at any point you’d like to connect directly please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail.

Sincerely,

Brad

ConnectED BINGO

February is “I Love to Read” month and we’re inviting classrooms everywhere to join us in playing ConnectED BINGO. We collaborated with authors and educators across North America to create an epic reading opportunity! The goal is to foster a genuine love of reading through social interaction and great literature.  We are striving to facilitate student-centered connections between authors, educators, and classrooms.

BINGO pic

ConnectED BINGO

Click the blue link above to print a PDF of the game board. Some activities should be completed with guidance from a teacher or parent. Cultivating good character through digital citizenship is a shared responsibility.  Students will be best served if the adults in their lives take an active role in modeling and discussing responsible use of social media, sharing, and online interactions.  We hope you have a BLAST reading and connecting.

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