Survey Says… Blended Learning

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 1.27.31 PM.pngMan Thinking Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Last week the Elementary Tech Integration team surveyed the staff regarding various examples of Blended Learning. In seven different scenarios, teachers were depicted using different types of technology in different ways. The survey was a simple Yes- this is an example of Blended Learning, or No- it is not. While we were glad to see about half of the staff had a solid understanding and correctly categorized the scenarios, that left approximately 60 of our teachers puzzled- a number we would like to improve.

The following afternoon at an all staff technology training, we reviewed the different case studies, provided the answers the staff had chosen- and then showed the “correct answer”, including a brief explanation for why. There were some murmurs among teachers and clarifying questions about why an answer was/was not Blended Learning. Lingering questions even continued the next day. What we tried to convey, was that the case studies needed to be read in black and white. The person answering the question could not insinuate or infer more than what was in words for the particular scenario. Sure, by implementing best practices, a teacher would follow up and adjust his/her teaching based on the results from a formative assessment/response tool. However, if the the example did not state this, one could not assume this was the case. This helped resolve some confusion, while some teachers held firm in their belief, or disbelief, with the answers we provided. Regardless, teachers left this portion of the professional development afternoon thinking at a deeper level about the meaning of Blended Learning and their use of technology to support student learning experiences. Feel like testing your knowledge? Click through the slides below, questions begin on slide 7.

The second section of the meeting included a modified version of Family Feud- in order to review ASFM’s six strands of Blended Learning. Two teaching teams were called to the front of the room to have a face-to-face challenge of identifying the strand of blended learning, based on a technology tool being used in yet another case study. Theme music, clapping, and cheering endured as the energy in the room increased and teachers became anxious to participate. The six strands were uncovered correctly and much quicker than anticipated (just one mistake was made)! However, due to the excitement and noise, not all of the questions could be heard by the audience, and in addition, some eager participants were aware of the answer prior to the question being read in its entirety. Teachers chimed in, answered the question, and we moved on. Upon reflection, we could have asked participants to wait for the question to be read before chiming in, or stated the question fully after the answer had been given. We wanted to be sure teachers were clear on the tools and their correlating strands. However during the excitement of the moment, the opportunity for adjustments was overlooked- and therefore, below I am including the six different questions and answers.

Sandbox Drawing

Below you can view the Google Slide presentation we used to accompany the Family Feud game. The slide is interactive/animated based on where you click- so it may seem a bit clunky for viewing purposes. If you’d like to have a copy of our template, click here to personalize your own game show.

 

To culminate the afternoon, we asked teacher teams to reflect on their progress with Blended Learning by creating three different memes- representing a struggle, success, and next step. The idea stemmed from a session from the Live Curious, Go Beyond conference (2017), where I learned about the “Not So Standardized Assessment” with Mary Wever and Candace Marcotte. Using a unique (and fun) way to reflect on Blended Learning, teachers were also exposed to a type of assessment they may find valuable within their context. While we had varying levels of interpretation and comfort using a technology tool like this, there was 100% participation. You can review a selection of the memes in the slides below.

Overall, the afternoon provided some time for teacher learning, exploring, creating, sharing, and reflecting- something so beneficial but often difficult to manage given the busy lives of teachers! Regardless, it is important to carve out and dedicate time to digging deeper and reflecting on our practices as educators.

Google Certified Educator Levels 1 & 2

 

Google for Education did a great thing this year by revamping some of their certification training and exams. The previous “Google Educator” training and exam, while informative and worth while, focused primarily on the “how to” aspects within the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Suite. The course relied heavily on reading and experimenting independently through lengthy tutorials that provided participants with basic to advanced content knowledge of the features in each individual app. There were some scenarios and case studies provided regarding the use of GAFE in an educational setting, however a majority of the content was tool oriented.

The new (and what I consider improved) training and exams have education and the application of Google tools at the forefront. The tutorials and support for the technical components are still ever-present, but Google bumped up the focus on pedagogy. The training is a bit more reflective and contains some audio files of how practicing educators are intentionally integrating with technology, which are helpful in breaking up the still heavy reading elements. Participants are prompted to take notes and share ideas in Google docs, as well as consider teacher predicaments and how one might use GAFE as a means to address them and improve student achievement.

With the new training modules came a new certification procedure and exams. Rather than the previous process of completing numerous tests based specifically on particular Google tools, you now have the opportunity to take 2 separate leveled exams. Google Certified Educator Level 1, indicates an educator who is proficient with Google tools in the classroom, while Level 2 is described as “… an educator who is a super user and enthusiast of Google tools in the classroom, this certification proves your expertise.” The Level 1 exam is not a predecessor for Level 2, it is based on the desire of the user as to which exams are taken. Regardless of which level you take, the testing format is the same for both exams. Upon registering for the exam, it can take 24-48 hours to be issued and ready. I recommend registering a day before or the morning of the day you would like to take the test. Once issued, you have 7 days to take the test in 1 timed session.

As a previous Google Educator, I found the new process more digestible, engaging, and educationally focused. If you are looking for professional development and growth within the Google Apps for Education department, I recommend stopping by the Google for Education Training Center and checking out the different opportunities Google has to offer.

 

 

Innovative and Creative Learning Spaces

Recently, a team of various staff members from the American School Foundation of Monterrey had the opportunity to explore innovative and creative schools and spaces in the Bay Area. Within the three days of learning walks to multiple campuses, we witnessed a wide variety of physical spaces, pedagogical practices, and core values. While each of these attributes looked different in practice at each site, what stood out between these eight locations were the consistencies between them. Passion, flexibility, a willingness to grow, a sense of community, and student centeredness were easily visible during each visit. (Schools and work spaces are listed in the order we visited them.)

1. Gunn High School, Palo Alto, CA

With a robotics team 20 years old, this was the heart of passion, sense of community, and student centered learning that were visible at Gunn High School. Students work collaboratively on creating a robot that will maneuver through a challenge or set of obstacles in a competition put on by FIRST Robotics. The learning space (which might also be referred to as a Maker Space, though it is used most heavily in the robotics field) is equipped with materials you would find in a professional wood shop or mechanical garage. Students have full privileges to use the equipment and space as they see fit in order to complete the challenge. Local businesses and parents also contribute their assistance to the team by providing guidance to students throughout the process, as well as setting up the mock obstacle course based on the theme of the robotics challenge that year. Students in this facility are in a “real life” scenario- working with professional equipment with professionals practitioners, applying knowledge and learning in the moment.

 

2. Everest Summit School, Redwood City, CA

Blended learning was the highlight of student centered learning at Everest Summit School. Working with programmers from Facebook, Everest has a Learning Management System that is original to the school itself. High school students work through a personalized learning plan and monitor their own learning, with guidance from their teachers as mentors. In math, they are bordering on a system that would eliminate grade levels completely- as students would move at a pace based on their skills and benchmarks, no matter their formal grade level or age.

3. The d.school at Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Everything at the d.school encourages flexibility, creativity and collaboration. Just walking into the building gets you excited to begin creating. In a space well known for its use of Design Thinking it is easy to see why students at Stanford University flock to the building to work, redesign, and learn. The learning space can be made into any type of model the user desires. Whiteboard walls are moveable and nearly every table, storage device and seating arrangement is on wheels, which allows the transformation of an open space to be altered into sectioned off, more private work spaces within a matter of seconds. To assist in keeping organization among rooms that promote chaos, reset displays are posted so users can put the room back together after using it.

 

4. Google Merchandise Store, Mountain View, CA

Since we couldn’t get into the Google offices, we did the next best thing and headed to their flagship merchandise store. Biking around the headquarters, playing around in the Android playground, taking pictures of a Google maps Street View car, and purchasing some Google merchandise was a fun way to end the day.

 

5. Brightworks, San Francisco, CA

Gever Tulley himself, co-creator of Brightworks school provided us with a tour and description of how things work at this “extraordinary school.” With five years in its history and approximately sixty students in total, Brightworks offers a unique learning experience where passion, flexibility, a sense of community and student centeredness are definitely present. Teachers are referred to as “collaborators,” and students advance, and sometimes move back, through “bands,” versus traditional grade levels- depending on their skill set and maturity. Students have a large amount of autonomy over the direction their learning will take them. The physical space in Brightworks is just as unique- it resembles a maker space and indeed there are multiple tools to be used for making. It has an open concept which encourages collaboration among bands, while smaller, more private work spaces are also incorporated. Students learning in Brightworks will without a doubt feel comfortable moving into a creative professional working environment.

 

6. Double Robotics, San Francisco, CA

The office at Double Robotics is another unique and creative space. We had the opportunity to test out a Double and have a conversation around how the robots might be used in an educational setting. Another young company, just five years in making, Double Robotics provides employees with a physically open concept with smaller workspaces also available. It is easy to witness flexibility, collaboration, and a sense of community.

7. New Technology High School, Napa, CA

Student Centeredness and community are at the forefront of what can be seen at New Tech High, with Problem Based Learning at the center of the school’s pedagogical approach. Students collaboratively work through the PBL model with the opportunity to take classes at a local community college to prepare them for college careers. Students are given privileges to reserve rooms throughout the school to work on projects or present information to peers- rooms that may be completely empty or fully equipped with production technologies.

8. Remind Offices, San Francisco, CA

Culminating our visit were the Remind Offices- a very flexible, collaborative, fun, and “teacher-obsessed” space. Walking into this office invites you to be playful and creative. By approaching a ruler-lined desk with hopscotch, swings, and enlarged paper airplanes hanging from the ceilings, it promotes creativity from the very beginning. The Remind app encourages collaboration between teachers, parents and students- and their offices encourage the same collaborative theme. Again, open rooms and flexible furniture allows the space to morph to any format the user desires. It is easy to feel the sense of community the employees have while walking around this innovative and creative work space.

A HUGE thank you to the EdTechTeam and Amanda Hensley who did an amazing job scheduling each day, driving us around, providing facts about the Bay Area, supplying great snacks, and being a wonderful guide.

Breakout of Traditional Education with Breakout EDU

Our Technology Integration team spent a significant amount of time developing the year’s outlook, with initiatives toward Student Creation & Innovation and Innovative Teaching & Learning Pilots- to name a few. These particular project initiatives are based on the combination and repurposing of multiple tools to support student learning while developing critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills. When piloting new technologies or educational tools, there is consistently a focus on matching the appropriate pedagogies with content and learning styles. In addition, a Makerspace has been developed, and while it is currently in beta (as I feel they always should be), multiple maker-kits and supplies have been added to support these initiatives toward student achievement. A recent highlight, a Breakout EDU kit, has been put to the test with groups of third grade students as they worked to solve “The Simple Machine Mystery.” 

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What is Breakout EDU?

Breakout EDU is a kit that primarily contains multiple boxes and locks. Similar to “Escape Rooms,” participants need to use clues to solve problems or challenges to unlock the locks and open a series of boxes in order to “escape” from the room within a given time limit. Each box contains a clue to either opening the following box or clues that work together to solve a larger problem. Breakout challenges are typically based around educational content areas in terms of the clues, yet while working through the game, learners are simultaneously developing problem solving, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and troubleshooting skills.

Description of the Breakout.

In this particular Breakout, The Simple Machine Mystery, third grade students needed to determine which simple machine had gone missing from the classroom. Learners followed the clues on prepared envelopes to determine the code to unlocking the locks and boxes at five different stations. Inside each box was a clue that helped them put together a puzzle that guided them in determining which simple machine was missing. After unlocking every box, and solving the riddle at the end, students put an end to the mystery and were able to breakout! In support of a school-wide Blended Learning initiative, challenges contained a mix of both physical and digital challenges. Students worked in four groups of five, and had forty-five minutes to complete the challenge.

Video used to introduce the challenge to students:

Unpacking of the developed skills.

This Breakout challenge was used to review the Simple Machine content explored during the unit, students were engaged entirely throughout the forty-five minute activity, while additional skills were further developed. Following the team building experience, students were facilitated through an unpacking to discuss which particular skills were developed and how they might be transferred to different areas in life and learning. Naturally, and occasionally with some necessary scaffolding, students were mindful about the experience and able to articulate these skills on their own. Top reflections included:

Collaboration

“We needed to work together. Sometimes one person would read the challenge while others were trying to unlock the lock- and they were just guessing. We needed to make a plan first and then do it together.”

Problem Solving

“We did not read the clue! We just watched the BrainPop video and did not know we had to listen for a certain word. After we tried lots of words for the word lock, we looked at the challenge and then knew what we had to do. But then we did not listen to each other. Everyone thought it was a different word. Then we looked at the clue and saw it was a four letter word. We didn’t give up and had to try many times, but finally we got it.”

Critical Thinking

“When we got to the challenge we had to make a compound machine and we weren’t sure if we each needed to make our own or if we had to do one together. So we each made a simple machine and figured out how we could combine them all together. That way if we each needed one we would get the key to the lock, or if we needed one for the group we would get the key to the lock too.”

Troubleshooting

“The final step was to write the missing simple machine in the Google Form. We wrote the word “door stopper” because that is what it was, but it didn’t work. So then we tried “Wedge” with a capital W, that didn’t work. So next we did “wedge” with a lowercase w. That did it, and we broke out!

Innovation

“We had to think differently. Even though there was one final answer we had to solve, we could figure out the answers to the clues anyway we wanted. No one told us what to do. We were in charge of how we went about the challenge.”

Upon my own reflection and unpacking of the experience, particularly linking the challenge to our Tech Integration initiatives, the Breakout EDU challenge was right on target. Students leveraged content knowledge and utilized transferable skills in multiple scenarios while using both technology and the physical world to successfully complete the challenge- all along piloting a new and innovative educational tool.

Video used to explain the challenge for teachers:

Where Are You in Your PLN?

We are now in the middle of Connected Educator month 2016. This is a great time for educators to reflect on their Personal Learning Networks. In my opinion PLNs run in three stages. While it is definitely possible to flow between different stages depending on what is going on in life, take some time to reflect on where you are momentarily. Now might be the time to take it to another level.

Develop

1. Development. Teachers are constantly learning from each other within the school walls. This is a great thing, as there is a wealth of knowledge and experience we can learn from. It takes about the same amount of effort as walking down the hall to a colleague’s classroom, as it does to begin learning from educators beyond the brick and mortar of a school building. Once the development of your PLN is underway, the process eases as you can begin blending your learning and can grow from information on any mobile or digital device. To develop your PLN and become a connected educator, decide which tools work best for you personally. If social media is your venue, try Twitter, Facebook groups, Google+, Pinterest, or Linkedin. For alternatives to social media, check out educational blogs, webinars, or curating articles through bookmarking websites. There are plenty of avenues to take in terms of developing or broadening your PLN. Decide which you tool(s) you want to use, how you want to learn, and when you want to learn. If you already find yourself in this developmental stage, I challenge you to broaden your reach. Stretch yourself to find people to connect with outside of your immediate region or even outside of your content or grade level. Push yourself to connect.

Consume

2. Consumption. Most people enter the digitally connected arena by participating through consumption. This may include reading Tweets, searching for articles, maneuvering through blog posts, watching YouTube videos, or viewing webinars. The learning and growth generally comes as a result of what is being read or taken in by the user. The learning, while more passive in the digital sense, may be shared with colleagues actively or implemented into daily practice in the physical world. If you identify yourself within this stage, I challenge you to consider sharing content or articles of your own. Try Retweeting an article you read, or reflecting and writing a blog post about a lesson that went well. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there, but take an initial step and begin to go beyond consumption.

Contribute

3. Contribution. The natural next step after consuming content is a progression of participation within the PLN. Contribution may grow in the form of writing Tweets, sharing articles, or reflecting on learning through blog posts- to hosting a webinar or sharing educational videos created on YouTube. The individual at this point is in a give and take environment, where they are not only learning from others- but others are learning from them. If you already contribute within your PLN, I challenge you to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Try creating and sharing beyond the medium you are accustomed to. If you are a YouTube creator, try writing a blog post about your learning, or vice versa. If you solely learn through Twitter, try Google+ for a change. Experiment with not only broadening your PLN but also yourself as a contributor to open educational resources.

PLN

If you are finding it tough to define yourself within any of the categories above, it is never too late to exercise your growth mindset and learn from those around you. Connected Educator month is a great time to begin, as you are among many educators who are ready and willing to provide you with the support you need.

Maker Movement Comes to ASFM with the Open Mind Zone

The Maker Movement has come to ASFM. The “Open Mind Zone” is the name given to the makerspace on the elementary campus, and its name is part of what makes this particular space unique to other spaces within the maker community.

lego

What is the maker movement? The maker movement is a trend where individuals or groups of people come together to create some type of product. Often the creations are made from combining multiple resources, several of which may be seemingly unrelated. From items that have been discarded or recycled, to dissembled pieces of technology, a “maker” looks for different ways to repurpose nearly any item put before them. For younger builders and creators, various maker kits provide safe tools to assemble pieces of cardboard, plastic, Legos, paper, etc. Makers naturally filter through steps of the design thinking cycle, where they ideate, prototype, and test their creations. Due to this exploration of ideas and prototyping, makers know the meaning of failure and do not view it with a negative connotation. Failure means learning from what went wrong and making adjustments to a product in order to make it that much better.

How is the Open Mind Zone unique? Along with being stocked with multiple resources, the ASFM makerspace has an additional resource- a focus on social and emotional development. While students are coached with creating, rebuilding, and repurposing by tech integration specialists, they are also being guided by a school counselor who prompts them with questions to encourage the development of collaboration and problem solving skills in a positive and inclusive manner. With upwards of twenty students creating in the Open Mind Zone at one time, accidents happen. Lego towers topple, roller coasters made of blocks crumble, artwork gets destroyed and at times tempers rise and feelings get hurt. Having guidance from a counselor helps to get through those frustrating times. The reinforcement of these skills and mindsets are directly transferable to both the classroom and life outside the school walls. With lives full of structure, in the Open Mind Zone, students have the opportunity to experience relationship building through play and exploration.

What’s next? The Open Mind Zone has been in action for about five weeks. Ahead, there are plans to: hold team building sessions, add tech materials such as a 3D printer and production equipment, and to begin encouraging students to document and share their creations with a global audience.

To stay up to date with what is going on in the Open Mind Zone, follow us on Twitter: @OpenMindZone

Weeks 1-5

Flat Stanley Redefined

This Flat Stanley traveled among 22 cities and 10 countries including Brazil, Chile, China, England, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, and the United States!

A group of second grade teachers was looking to reach a broader range of friends and global connections with the Flat Stanley project. They had progressed from the traditional stamp and envelop model to emailing and receiving Microsoft Word Documents that contained text and photos from different countries around the world. While this switch did increase the breadth of connections- the organization of emails, ever increasing size of Word Documents with numerous images added, and desire to compile all of the incoming information in one location proved a hassle. Upon sitting down and investigating which universal collaboration tool might create a more streamlined experience, we decided on Google Slides. The free tool allows for real-time collaboration and the only thing needed for functionality is an internet connection, as Slides is cloud based and software is not necessary.

The process was as follows:

1. The team of 8 teachers collaboratively created a single Google Slides template.

2. Each teacher “made a copy” of the original document, adding some minor personal adjustments pertaining to their classroom.

3. The presentation’s share setting was set to “anyone with the link can edit.”

4. A screen cast tutorial was made to provide directions for recipients on how to add content to the Google Slides presentation.

5. An email was sent out to parents introducing the project, and parents assisted in forwarding the link of the presentation and tutorial out to friends and family living abroad.

6. Friends and family added to the presentation.

7. As the presentation was updated, students and teachers witnessed how far their digital Flat Stanley was traveling.

8. Students and teachers broadened their global connections and understanding of different cultures.

Here is the “Travel Journal”