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

Tech PD and Speed Geeking with Digital Teachers at ASFM

Since the implementation of the first Technology Integration Specialist and Technology Vision at ASFM 4 years ago, so much has changed. Professional Development went from nothing… to teachers reflecting on adopted tools and using staff created video tutorials to improve their tech knowledge and purposeful use of technology in lessons and units. Whether most of the staff know it or not, the teachers at ASFM are in a very good place, especially considering where we were just 4 years ago.

This year, we have 3 Tech Integration Specialists and 1 Director of Technology Integration- all who work collaboratively with IT, administration, curriculum coaches, teachers, and students to make the learning experience at ASFM the best it can be for everyone.

For our first “official” Tech PD session of the 2014-15 school year, the Tech Integration team decided it was time to move away from our standard PD practice. In the past we met together as a full staff for a few nuts and bolts and then headed in separate directions for teachers’ individual needs. Again, while this has helped develop staff knowledge and capability, we wanted to begin the year with energy and excitement and something different. We decided on Speed Geeking- ASFM Style.

6 volunteer Digital Teachers were each willing to showcase and share what they were doing with technology in their classrooms, a solid start. With these 6 volunteers leading different Tech Sessions, we were able to divide the 100+ staff into groups of approximately 18 teachers per group. Since we decided to showcase the talent in ASFM, we wanted to be sure every staff member was able to see exactly what each DT was implementing. Therefore, we set up a time table for our Speed Geeking:

  • 6, 2 minute presentations
  • 2 minutes for staff to travel from classroom to classroom (a chance to see each DT session)
  • 6 tools/practices would be showcased
  • 24 minutes to complete the entire cycle

Following the 24 minute Speed Geeking format, grade level teams met to discuss their individual needs and to reflect on how they would be able to implement/adapt one of the ideas presented during the Speed Geeking time into a lesson, assessment, or unit.

There were multiple reasons why the TIS team chose to follow this Speed Geeking PD style.

1. Being a risk taker. Sure- things could go exceedingly well, and we could celebrate innovation, staff learning, and DT leadership. Or- they could completely fail, especially during our first attempt at something new. But no matter what- we spoke to teachers about how we would reflect on the experience and work on improving the portions that did not work so well, and work even harder to replicate the sections that did prove successful.

2. Learning from Within. We can pay a lot of money for consultants and outside sources of knowledge to come in an guide us- and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that- when it’s needed. However, there are such power practices coming from right within the walls of our school, this was a great time to give exposure to those practices, and recognize the fact that- we have experts right in our building!

3. Developing Leadership Skills. DTs had the chance to lead a PD session, and for some of them this was their first experience in participating in such a task. It was a great time to provide them with an opportunity for planning and executing their own session, in a supportive and comfortable environment.

4. Enjoying learning. The teachers at ASFM work harder than in any other school I have witnessed. If there is any chance to take a moment and have fun learning during a PD session, take it! Why not sing and dance between sessions? Why not Tweet your learnings? Why not leave an afternoon of PD feeling energized and inspired?

5. Promoting Creativity. Not only were the 2 minute presentations in need of being creative and energetic, but how teachers ended up adapting what they learned from the Speed Geeking sessions proved creative as well. The very next day, teachers were implementing tools and practices into their lessons in ways we hadn’t imagined.

Based on feedback from teachers, it appears as though Speed Geeking at ASFM proved a valuable learning experience.

6 Sessions Presented:

  1. Use of iPad app Coaches Eye by P.E. teacher, Ernesto. @ernestoer5
  2. Flipping the Classroom with librarian, Fiona. @FiMora71
  3. Clamation and Stop Motion with art teacher Babbi and Monica. @BabbiArt @MonyGdD
  4. SMARTBoard usage by Nursery and Kindergarten aides, Paula and Miriam.
  5. Use of Chatterpix app by 1st grade teacher, Mireya.
  6. Appsmash of Explain Everything and ThingLink by 5th grade teacher, Laura.

Quick Fire Challenge with Digital Teachers @ ASFM

This morning the Digital Teachers (DTs) at the American School Foundation of Monterrey, met for our bi-monthly morning meeting. The DT role at ASFM is an applied position for teachers interested in taking on leadership responsibilities with technology. DTs are their grade level’s “go to” person for technology needs, they provide staff with professional development, and are often the school’s guinea pigs for sandboxing tools in the early adoption phase.

QuickFire 8/19/14

Today, the Tech Integration Specialists provided the 14 member DT team, with a Quick Fire Challenge. A Quick Fire Challenge (adapted from the TV show “Top Chef”) is a task presented to a group with a limited amount of time and particular parameters for completion. Prior to the meeting, digital teachers were split into 4 groups and pre-assigned an article to read, taken from one of our favorite resources, Edudemic – Connecting Education and Technology. After a few nuts and bolts were discussed, groups were given 20 minutes to create a visual of the key points from their article. They were then given 2 minutes to present their creation to the rest of the team. We provided DTs with the choice between 3 different creation tools/apps for an iPad to present their findings: Penultimate, Haiku Deck, and iMovie.

Creation Tools

Following the presentations, we reflected on the Quick Fire. Some of the ideas were:

  • It is okay to be outside of your comfort zone. When testing new tools and being rushed with time, learning still takes place and we let go of the need for perfection. Learn from the mistakes.
  • It is important to test tools prior to using them in the classroom. Some DTs found it difficult to use a particular presentation tool they had committed to, and reflected on the importance of choosing the best tool to match the content that is to be presented.
  • There was a common theme among each group beginning the activity. They started out by discussing the content they would present, then selected a tool to host the content. This is especially important to consider when selecting tools for learning. Think content and pedagogy, then find the appropriate technology.
  • Taking risks is important, especially as leaders of technology use at ASFM. We need to be a model for testing tools out, learning, unlearning, and relearning.

The Quick Fire was a new activity to the DT meeting this week, and based on the reflections from teachers, it was an activity that proved valuable and one we may return to later down the road.

Below are links to the articles and results the DTs produced and shared.
Article: 10 Things Every Teacher Should Know How To Do With Google Docs


Article: 7 Characteristics of A Digitally Competent Teacher


Article: 3 Must-Know Tips For Anyone Nervous About EdTech


Article: 5 Time-Saving Ways Teachers Can Use Google FormsPenultimate

Day Two: “Quickfire Challenge” PLN

Today we were asked to make a mind map of our Professional Learning Network. This is common language at ASFM, and something we discuss quite often- therefore the topic was nothing new to me. However, as I worked on creating my PLN visual, I became aware of how much I gain professionally, solely from ASFM.

At ASFM, we are up to date with research based lesson design and instructional strategies, leaders in the field of education visit and revisit our school quite frequently offering multiple professional development opportunities. Personally, I utilize principals, instructional coaches, and digital teachers. And my teammates and I are sharing ideas constantly. Last year, I attended the Principal’s Training Center for a course, at the recommendation of a few colleagues. Yet, creating this visual made me realize how “unconnected” I really am to other professional organizations, outside of the ASFM realm.

Of course, I added MSU, MAET. And while looking for other learning networks is a possibility, I also realized that I am part of another organization already. One that a fellow educator and I are in the midst of creating, the SIG1to1DC: A Special Interest Group for 1:1 Digital Citizenship. Together we are working to create an online location for professionals looking for (and looking to share) ideas on how to promote digital citizenship in a 1:1 program. Increasing my confidence and leadership in educational technology is one goal I have for myself throughout my time in MSU, MAET. The creation of this SIG, is something that will help me achieve that goal. I am sure that while conducting the research and list of resources for this special interest group, my senses will be heightened in search for organizations that may be added to my PLN.

At the beginning of this quickfire challenge, I had no idea how much I would come to realize after just 30 minutes. In addition to the appreciation of this activity for bringing me this new state of mind, I also experienced using a new (for me) tech tool.

The tools we explored were to act as a platform to host our PLN mind map. I have seen younger students, and even some of my own students use different mind mapping tools, including Popplet, which is what I ended up giving a try (there is also an app for this tool). I did not feel rushed at all during this 30 minute challenge, as Popplet is very simple to use. Pictures, video, and changing font colors are all easy to add and edit. Best of all, you can present your content in a clean, student friendly format. Again, overall a great learning experience- both with technology and reflecting on my PLN.

You can view my Professional Learning Network Mind Map full screen here.PLN Mind Map