Friday, February 24, 2017

Design Thinking and Novel Engineering in 5th Grade

I have been working in a 5th grade classroom for the last month. The co-teachers asked me to help them with fresh ideas to make their science block better. My mind immediately went to Novel Engineering. You can read the official definition on the website. I describe it as - a process where students design or engineer a realistic solution to a problem that a character is having in a piece of non-fiction literature. Some books lend themselves to this challenge better than others. The website has a list of elementary and middle school books. I'm sure that you can come up with others. We chose the picture book the Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

As a framework for the students designing a solution we decided to use the LAUNCH Cycle. The LAUNCH Book is written by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer. It gives the teacher and students a simple language to follow using design thinking. 

I read the book to the class two times. The first time I asked them to just listen and enjoy the book. The second time I asked them to close read the book through the lens of trying to discover the Peter's problem or problems in the book. This was L - Look, Listen and Learn.
Next I asked the students to list the problems that Peter had in the story. They came up with three. 
1. Peter wanted to keep his snowball, but it melted in his pocket.
2. Peter was not able to play with the big boys in the neighborhood.
3. Snow fell on Peter's head when he hit the tree with a stick. 

Next we defined the word prototype. I told the class that they were going to design something to solve Peter's problem. They had lots of questions about the parameters of their designs. I told them that we would like something that actually works. They asked about designs that had computers or motors in them. I told them those kinds of things were ok. Their design had to have a basis in fact. One student talked about a force field. I told him that was not realistic.

I asked them to identify one problem they would like to help Peter solve and write or draw some initial thoughts in Notability. I also told them that through out the whole process we would continue to ask the question, "How can we make this better?"

The next time we met I had them do some research. I gave them some links to information on refrigeration, insulation, and how snow is formed in the atmosphere, to get them started and give them some background knowledge. Next they had to look on the Internet to see if their item already existed. If it already existed then they had to improve the existing item.
At this point we met as in small groups to share our ideas. The purpose was two fold here. The first was so that I could see where they were in the process. The other was so that they could receive positive feedback from their peers regarding their solution. Before we broke out into small groups I shared my ideas with students in order to model what I was looking for. 

The calendar said it was time for Winter Break, which was perfect timing. Students had two weeks over break to create the prototype of their solution to Peter's problem. Here is a video showing my prototype. I used Koma Koma, a free stop motion iOS app. 

I had students work on H, highlight and fix, while they were building their prototype. I explained that their design might changed based on a number of factors, available materials. I asked students to write a 1 paragraph reflection on their prototype building process when we returned from Winter Break. 
The final part of the process is to share the final product with a wider audience. The students came up with two suggestions a Google Site, and a You Tube Channel. I also suggested a Padlet Wall. I put up a poll on our Schoology wall and let students vote. The overwhelming choice was a You Tube Channel. Here is the link to the 5CL You Tube Channel. Please enjoy our videos of our solutions.  

If you are interested in the LAUNCH book the District 100 Blogger PD crew did a book study. You can find links to all the blog posts here. You can follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #D100BloggerPD. 

ADE Megan Ryder sketchnoted the book. You can find her sketches at  @MrsRyder58 on Twitter. Here is her sketchnote for Chapter 4 the chapter that I covered for the book study. Thanks Megan!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LAUNCH: #D100bloggerPD Book Study

I was so happy to be asked to be a part of the #D100BloggerPD. It is forcing me to read one of the many titles in my pile of professional books. We're a group of bloggers in Berwyn South District 100 that read and blog. It was started 1 year ago by Colleen Noffsinger and Kristin Richey, two reading teachers in our district, as a way to update and redefine teacher professional development. It is great because unless you're assigned a chapter you can follow along at your own pace. Professional Development on your time!

This time around the blogger crew is reading LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. So far I have learned a lot from reading the first 3 chapters.

Don't seek to be the best, seek to do your best. - Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur

Chapter 4 is all about the first step in design thinking, or the LAUNCH Cycle. The authors Spencer and Juliani have shared the above poster, and more available for download from their website. I think the posters are a great way to attach a visual to each step and remind students where they should be in the process.

The first step is to build awareness or empathy. The authors contend that there are 7 ways for students to LOOK, LISTEN AND LEARN. In each section the authors provide us with a definition, questions to ask your students, sentence stems and a classroom example from personal experiences. Some of the method titles are self explanatory. Each entry below has a summary from the book and a personal reflection or connection from me.

p 70

1. The observation of a phenomenon
This works best for a time when hands-on experiences or using the 5 senses will help students learn more about what they already know or see something new. Allowing for observation and play can be done in a variety of situations. Teachers should try to engage students "... in such a way that they become profoundly and deeply interested in what they are seeing." p 71.
I think this would work best for science and math, but could be done in any subject.  The Questions to Ask Your Students and the Sentence Stems sections could be very helpful in getting started.

p 72

2. Tap into natural wonders
This method will tap into students natural sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. The authors liken it to asking questions, as if you are a four year old child again. 

There is a quote in this section that I think is very important. "Unfortunately schools are more often designed to help students answer questions rather than question answers." p 72. We need to set up situations that make students want to ask questions. We also need to teach students how to ask the right kinds of questions. I was recently in Mike Saracini's social studies classroom. He was starting a new unit. In order to get buy in and build engagement from students he took short video clips that would elicit questions from his students. Questions like who are these people?, What problem(s) are they trying to solve?, and When did this event occur? Instead of spoon feeding the information through lecture he helped his students ask good questions. 

p 74

3. Start with an awareness of a specific issue
Usually students Look, Listen and Learn in this instance with no solution in mind. Building empathy around a specific issue leads to services more than tangible goods. I think it can be issues that have the potential to change the world or at least the students' little corner of the world. Issues like recycling and social justice topics are just a few. This can be likened to service learning projects.

A few years back one of our middle school science teachers did a recycling unit. The students became so passionate about the topic that they asked the question - What can we do to help in our community? After going through the LAUNCH cycle they chose to have a fundraiser that would raise money to buy recycling containers for our city's largest park because it did not have any. 

p 76

4. Start with empathy towards a specific group
This method focuses on specific groups that students already know, or an issue they have faced themselves. Their "...personal experience connects them on a heart level to the issues..." p 76. The end product is created with real people in mind. The issue referred to in this section is poverty. 

"As they seek to understand the attitudes, beliefs, emotions, and mindsets of their potential audience, they develop empathy. The product then, is often even more valuable to the end user because it was created with real people in mind, rather than a theoretical market." p 77. This reminds me of when I heard Jessi Chartier, CEO of Mobile Makers Academy, speak earlier this year. She told the audience that the technology companies in Chicago have a greater return on investment than those in Silicon Valley or Austin because they are solving real world problems for people. This is what we want for our students. 

p 78

5. Start with a specific problem that needs to be solved
Students identify a problem and ask why it matters. This style lends itself to Shark-Tank types of projects that solve a specific consumer issue. 

I think this could be a good place to start. I am going to do some Novel Engineering units with a class that I am working with. Novel engineering is where you take classroom literature then students
engineer design challenges. The end result has the students designing and creating a solution to a specific problem. For instance, one of the books is Keats Snowy Day. Students will need to design something that will keep the snowball from melting in Peter's pocket.

p 80

6. Start with a product idea
"Students have a clear picture of the finished product in mind..." p 80.  During the Look, Listen and Learn stage students should keep their ideas very general. The example in the book is the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project. Here students create an original story after doing research. In this instance they need to take an idea, develop it and make it their own. Another way this could be done is if you have students improve a consumer item that already exists. 

I did an invention unit back in the early 1990's when I was a classroom teacher. Some of the best ideas were those that improved on products that already existed. I had a student who decided that adhesive bandages should have antibacterial medicine on the pad. At the time those did not exist. He was able to design a usable prototype.

p 82

7.  Start with a geeky interest
"The benefit of this approach is that it supports intrinsic motivation through student choice." "... when students begin with their own geeky interests, they can persevere." p 82. 

This method lends itself to the now popular 20% time or Genius Hour. This method taps into student's passions and prior knowledge. This is a great way to increase student talk time and help students be active learners. There are many resources available on the Net on how to get started with Genius Hour in your classroom or school. 

Next the authors discuss the doubts that some educators have about the effectiveness of these methods and the LAUNCH process in general. The concerns are things like, how do you keep kids accountable for their work and their time, how does this go with the curriculum and standards that I have to teach, and there is no way to do this with a whole class of students. It works because each one of these starts with student choice

Finally, the authors provide an Action Plan Template. Click on the link to download or add it to your Google Drive. 
You can also visit to get more information and resources on Phase 1 of the LAUNCH Cycle. 

Thank you to @MrsRyder58 for allowing me to include this awesome sketchnote of Chapter 4 to my blog post.


Next up is the fabulous Miss Kayla Kaczmarek to blog about Phase 2 and asking questions. Stay tuned! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Building Relationships with Colleagues

Today's #BTBC16 topic is about building relationships. 

I'm at the end of my fourth full year of coaching in my district. When our team was formed coaching was not as popular or as common as it is now. Our superintendent gave us a framework for our job, and we had a job description. We weren't really sure how it was all going to play out. Despite what our superintendent thought, we knew it was about gaining the trust of the person(s) we were coaching. In reality it was about more than trust, it was about building a relationship with our coachee or client. As the job has evolved that has become more and more apparent to me. The first three years, my year in review presentation was about the apps and the content that the students created. 

Tales of an iCoach 2014 - 2015  

This year it was just about the relationships that were created, with both the students and the staff (because it is not just teachers that I work with).

15-16 Year in Review

Building relationships is paramount in a coaching position. How does one go about building relationships? I think there are a lot of ways to go about doing it. Some of my suggestions may work for you and your personality, or the structure of your district, and some may not. 

1.     Be honest and in the moment
a.     If you say you are going to be at a meeting at 8 am. Be there on time. Everyone is busy. Everyone's time is important. 
b.     When you are at a meeting or an observation be there and only there. Do not look at other emails, or phone messages. Work with the person you are coaching! It is easy to get distracted by other things. 
2.     Listen more, talk less
a.     This was my biggest goal as a coach this year. I tend to talk a lot, so this one was a challenge for me.
b.     Listen for emotions from the person you are coaching. Is there something getting in the way of them moving forward? What are they passionate about?       
c.      Listen for their wants and needs. How can you help them move forward with the things that they want and need in their classroom?
3.     Make sure your coachee knows that you are there to prop them up.
a.     Coaching is a very personal and private process. 
b.     I tell my coachees that I will only sing their praises to the administrators. That means I will always highlight everything that is going well. The issue that we are working on, or the challenges that we face are private between us. I tell them that I am there to make them look good!
4.     ISTE Standard for Coaches 3e states: Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, & connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.
a.     You may work for an administrator who says leave the box and wires stuff to the tech department. Now you don't have to, it is an ISTE Standard for Coaches. I don't mean for you to learn how to administer active directory accounts or anything like that. If the fix is within your skill set, take the time to do it. It will go a long way to helping build that relationship. If it is beyond your technical skills then have a talk with one of the people on your tech staff. Tell them if they put this request to the top of the list it may go a long way to getting this person "off their back" so to speak. In return you can do something nice for your tech staff. I find bringing food works best.
5.     Take the time to find out the strengths and learning style of the teachers you are working with.
a.     This can be done through observations and conversations.
6.     Remember teachers want to be the best that they can be.
a.     I don’t think any of your colleagues wake up in the morning and say, "When I get to work today I want to suck."
7.     Remember reward what you want more of.
a.     If they are good at an app or skill make sure that you praise them for it and encourage them to share their expertise with other staff members in whatever outlets they have available to them (staff meetings, after school or professional development day presentations etc.).
b.     Teachers who feel appreciated will do more than what is expected of them – George Couros
8.     Remember - teachers don’t resist change, they resist BEING changed. - Karen Marklein
a.     So take it slow. Don’t try to change too much at once. This will only overwhelm everyone, including you. If you remember all the points above this one should just fall into place.

How do you build relationships in your school? 

Thanks for the inspiration Michelle. This is one blog post I have been meaning to write for a long time

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tech Tools for Reading/Writing Workshop 2 of 2

Here is the link to Part 1 of Tech Tools for Reading/Writing Workshop in case you missed it. 

More on tech tools that could be used in Reading and Writing Workshop. As I reflected on the last post I realized that the tools can change from time to time. Teachers should start to integrate tech tools into the Reading and Writing Workshop model. It is not integrating tech for tech's sake. The tools are out there. Their integration can benefit students, and help you meet your objective. 
Today we will look at:
Annotating Text

Why you should integrate technology:

  • Individualized
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences
  • RTI/PST/IEP Meetings
  • More than handwritten notes
    • Record voices
    • Capture photos
  • Review previous notes
  • Plan for instruction
  • Easily shared with parents and the team

Digital Tool to Consider:
Evernote (@evernote) is a fabulous tool to use for conferring with students. Your Evernote account can sync across multiple devices. You get 2 devices with the free plan and unlimited with the premium. I know quite a few teachers who love it so much they pay for the premium. A new feature  - it integrates with Google Drive too! 

iPad screen shot

Each file is called a Note and you can put notes together to make a Notebook. Let's look at the power of Evernote by going over the tool bar at the top. You can schedule reminders. A great way to stay organized and remember who's turn it is to see you, when conferring. You can add photo examples of students written work. You can write a note with your finger or a stylus if you prefer that over typing, or take a sample of a students writing if you wanted. You can record your voice notes or the voice of your students' reading. Emailing the note is the next feature. You can search a long note for key words or phrases. The sharo (share-o) gives you the ability to push the note to another app on the iPad. Presentation mode is a premium feature but you can use it for 30 days for free. Add to Shortcuts is basically the same as making it a favorite. Star it to put it the Shortcuts category. You can duplicate the note. Simplifying the format means removing text formatting or changing to plain text. Finally, you can delete the note. All of these features combined make it a very powerful tool for conferring with students. As you can see by my notes in the left-hand column you can also tag notes in order to search for them more quickly. 

Why you should integrate technology:

  • Capture student fluency
  • Practicing
  • Archived
  • Allows the text to come to life
  • Sharing their voice

Digital Tools to Consider: 
Evernote, Notability, or Garage Band
I used to have students use Sound Cloud or audioBoom but with the resurgence in podcasting those services have changed. Students can record their voices independently and share it with you later. This is a great way to make the accountable during their independent time while you are conferring with other students. Take the time to play around with these apps a bit. The work flow of getting files out of them and into another app has become easier on the iPad. 

Annotating Text

  • Save money on sticky notes
  • Organized thinking
  • Searchable
  • Dates
  • Share with others
  • Visually track ideas
  • Never lose another sticky note 

Digital Tools to Consider:
Lino, Padlet, or Post-it Plus (for iOS)

All three of the these are sticky note creation and organization apps. Lino is web based. Padlet works on both web browsers and an iOS app. Finally, Post-it Plus is an iOS app. With these you will not have sticky notes all over the floor in your classroom and you will not have students saying, "I lost that note." ever again.  The Post-it Plus app is my favorite of the three, but any of them will work depending on your platform or your needs. 

There are many You Tube and Vimeo videos out there that will show you how to use the basics on any of the platforms that I have mentioned. I would love to hear how you have integrated tech into your workshop model. Are there any apps that you like better than the ones that I have mentioned in my last two posts? Please share them. I am always looking for new and better tools. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tech Tools for Reading/Writing Workshop 1 of 2

I haven't written all week because summer school started the this week. I am the tech director for our 5 summer school programs. We are rolling out 1,000 new iPads with the new Apple School Manager Configuration. More on that in an up coming blog post. 

Today's post is supposed to be about Conferring during the Workshop Model. I thought I would let you know what tech tools might be used during Reading and Writing Workshop. 

Student Response
Why you should integrate technology:
  • Interactive
  • Increased participation
  • Increased engagement
  • Increased reflection
  • Immediate feedback
  • Useful data to drive instruction 
Digital Tools to Consider:
Everyone loves Kahoot (@GetKahoot) because it feels like being on a game show.  They continue to make improvements to their site, like Ghost Mode. This is when students play again to beat their previous score and get immediate feeback.

My favorite is Socrative (Sa krat ive) (@Socrative). You get more options with Socrative, multiple choice, true/false and short answer. You even have a team competition option called Space Race. They recently announced a PRO version with lots more features and analytics. I like it because there is a teacher and student app for iOS.

A list of a few different options to consider from Richard Byrne - FreeTech4Teachers for student response systems.

Reader's Response
Why you should integrate technology:
  • Teacher access
  • Student access
  • Dialogue
  • Photos
  • Archivable
  • Sharable
  • Explain thinking
  • Sense of audience

Digital Tools to Consider for Blogging:
Seesaw (@Seesaw) is a little over a year old and was launched as a digital portfolio system. They have added a blogging feature that is easy to use. There is an iOS app available for Seesaw.

Weebly (@weebly) is another great option for blogging. You get 40 free accounts for students and there is no Terms of Use restriction for students under age 13. Weebly has an iOS app. 

Kidblog used to be a good option till they went subscription based. 

Please see this chart from Richard Byrne - FreeTech4Teachers on more info on blogging platforms.

It is getting late. I want to post before midnight and have more to write about tomorrow. I will write post 2 tomorrow with suggestions for 
Annotating Text. 

Stay Tuned-
Here is the link for the 2nd part of this series
Tech Tools for Reading/Writing Workshop 2 of 2