Blog Archives

Are We There Yet?

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Submarines are majestic vessels made to go deep. It’s what they do. Education can empower kids do the same if we reframe how we’re currently navigating things, but we’re not there yet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pedagogy and the nature of learning lately. My thoughts have vacillated between two schools of thought. First, we need to ensure students master the vast number of state standards they are responsible for learning. In some ways, these standards are like mile markers, or buoys. The standards help us understand where students need to go.

I’m also in favor of reducing the number of standards so that we can facilitate deeper learning and discovery, and that brings me to my second point. We need to empower our students to innovate throughout their classroom careers. Students should have a voice in their learning, and we need to trust them to actually create some of the mile markers along the way.

This is a matter that is deeply personal to me. I want my own three children to have the tools and space to invent a future that none of us is fully capable of grasping.  When they are navigating their educations alongside their grade-level classmates, I ultimately want them to be able to envision new markers in their journey. I desperately hope there is a space for that. 

I believe kids can learn at a high level while being empowered to pursue their passions and curiosity. We cannot sacrifice curiosity for achievement; kids deserve both. (There really is no dichotomy.) I wonder if one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is not taking away their curiosity.

Are we there yet? How will we know when we get there? What are the critical drivers that will propel us in the right direction? How do you think we can create the conditions where high levels of learning, innovation, and curiosity reside? 

Buzzword or Lifeblood?

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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.

We Are Greenwood (video)

Our 4th grade podcast crew collaborated on a video project that depicts a year’s worth of learning in just four minutes!  Students brainstormed words that described their work and goals for learning.  The kids were amazing, and their video speaks volumes about who they are and what they can become. 

I’m really inspired by our students, and LOVE the fact that our teachers are so committed to teaching the “whole child” through the arts, character education, and so much more. Click HERE to view their video and to see what our artists, mathematicians, readers, writers, and engineers have been up to the past year or so.

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!

 

 

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!

True Learner Empowerment

Drone 3D

We recently had a couple remote controls from our educational drones drop to the ground resulting in broken joysticks.  Accidents happen and we completely understand this, but thanks to our amazing staff and students this is not the end of the story.

An elementary student was empowered to help engineer a new joystick using our school’s 3D printer.  She worked with Mr. Hinnenkamp to create a tiny joystick sleeve that fit over the broken drone remote controls using a design program called Tinkercad.  Everything works as good as new now, and our students had the opportunity to experience authentic innovation and learner empowerment.

This is precisely why we feel it is critical to put students in the center of their learning (even if it means things get messy or broken every once in a while).  Kids have the capacity to innovate, engineer, think critically, and solve a myriad of real problems; they don’t require worksheets to do so!  All students deserve the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology in a safe and supportive learning environment.  If the first time students have the opportunity to innovate and invent using real-world tools is high school or college, then we will have failed them.

This is more than a story about drones or a 3D printer.  I took the opportunity to speak with the student that helped repair her drone remote control.  The pride she exuded when she explained to me how she had fixed something that was accidentally broken was unmistakable.  There was a humble confidence that I had not seen before.  As we finished chatting I asked her how this experience made her feel and her response literally choked me up…I nearly cried.  Suffice it to say, the opportunity she was given to fix her drone remote meant the world to her.  And THAT means the world to me.

Thank you, teachers.  Thank you for truly empowering our students.  I honestly LOVE how our entire team empowers students and supports our kids in learning skills they will need to thrive today and excel tomorrow.

Drone Controls

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.

What Do You Burn For?

One of my favorite songs is “Soul on Fire” by Third Day.  The words speak to my heart and embolden a passion that is deep within me every time I listen.  I think about many things when I hear the song including my family and our students.

The thing I probably love most about “Soul on Fire” is that it requires a response.  It’s impossible not to feel anything after listening.  It’s impossible not to burn.  So what do you burn for?  What drives you?  Who and what define your classroom, school, and work?

I “burn” to call out greatness in our students, and to empower their “voice” and ownership in education.  I want children everywhere, regardless of their address, to experience authentic and relevant learning that fosters essential life skills.  I burn for a new learning paradigm where our kids are supported with cutting-edge opportunities made possible by educators who are committed to cultivating character and digital citizenship through meaningful technology integration.  I long to see a connected pedagogy that inspires new levels of learning for all students; each and every single one of them.

Our students deserve the very best of what this great country has to offer and it is our deepest responsibility to deliver for them.  It’s educational malpractice to limit student opportunity based upon what we refuse to learn.  I burn to learn what’s required of me to help our students be anything they might aspire to be.

“If we don’t stand for something we’ll fall for everything.” ~Peter Marshall (1902)

So what do YOU stand for?  What burns so deep inside that you can hardly wait to wake up each day to drive to work and deliver?

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.

Student Guest Blogger: Greenwood Graduate

The following is a guest blog post from one of our very own Greenwood Grizzlies, Marit. I was recently visiting Marit’s classroom and observed some truly moving graduation speeches. While reading her words below might not be exactly the same as the heartfelt delivery she provided, it does offer a glimpse into the student learning experience at our school.  Marit’s words also speak volumes about the impact of caring teachers, family, and friends.

“Greenwood Graduate”

Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger

Hi my name is Marit, and I got assigned to write an Elementary Graduation Speech that I presented to my class. My class wrote the speeches to reflect on our Elementary experiences, which I thought was very special since we are moving onto Middle School.  My principal, Mr. Gustafson, listened to our speeches in front of our parents and really enjoyed them. He asked me if I’d share my speech on his blog.  I hope you enjoy reading my Graduation Speech as well! Congrats to everyone graduating this spring around the world!

“Don’t be sad it’s over… Be happy it happened.”

This is one quote that really applies to leaving Greenwood or Elementary School in general! Greenwood has been a great school for me, but I’ve only been here for a few years. I really think it’s sad to leave Greenwood because it has been a blast being here. I am going to tell you all about my great years as an Elementary student. I can’t believe that I am already going to be a middle school student.  Most people are nervous but I’m very excited.

Teachers are so important they shape my life by teaching me everything I know and making me a better person. If I didn’t have teachers I wouldn’t know anything near how much I know now.

Some teachers that really were an important part of my life are Mr.Vrudny and Miss Zeman. Mr.Vrudny has really influenced me.  He was an awesome teacher but when he taught he always made it so fun!  Mr.Vrudny was always so nice to the whole class I think he was such an amazing teacher! Miss.Zeman has helped me have a fun, amazing fifth grade experience.  She is super funny and always makes me laugh! Miss Zeman always helped me learn if I didn’t understand she would help me so I understood!  I will be very sad leaving Greenwood and all the great years I had.

Today I want to recognize so many people, but most importantly my family.  My parents are always there for me and can help me with anything!  My parents always have helped me whether its a fight, a hard subject, or basketball! I love my parents so much.  Another person I would like to recognize is my nanny, Joelle.  She always will be there for me and be one of my role models!  I also want to thank all of my good friends for always having my back and being true and loyal friends. One friend that I really want to recognize is Sophie even though she doesn’t go to Greenwood she is still my best friend and I know that we have a strong friendship.

I could talk for hours about basketball but all I really need to say is basketball has shaped my life in many ways and taught me how to be a great team leader!

Elementary School was plain-out a great time in my life and I can’t wait for middle school. I feel prepared for middle school because I am becoming more independent and I am very excited to meet lots of new friends and be in a bigger school. I will miss Greenwood but I have had so many great memories here in Greenwood Elementary!

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