Students Take the Lead – Spring 2016

Students Take the Lead – Spring 2016

On Wednesday, February 17, students took the lead for the second time this year with student led conferences. In the fall, students shared their goals with parents and teachers. This time, students ran the show from start to finish. Introducing parents and teachers to one another, the students showcased 5 demonstrations chosen from their e-portfolios.

IMG_8466 IMG_8469 IMG_8470 IMG_8473 IMG_8474 IMG_8482 IMG_8484 IMG_8486 IMG_8489 IMG_8490 Students take the lead

 

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Upon the recommendation of some of our 7th Grade students, I purchased a drone for $40 that was delivered surprisingly on Easter Sunday. The Syma X5C Explorer is the perfect drone for beginners and those prone to rooftop crashing. I was amazed to discover the nearly indestructible design of this little drone. After bouncing it off the pavement a dozen times, the Syma drone operates just as well as its first flight.

Lightweight, inexpensive, and still very precise, the Syma is easy to charge through your computer usb port. The remote control requires 4 AA batteries, and it comes with 4 replacement propellors, which I have not yet needed to use. Bottom line: this product makes drone flight accessible to anyone with $40 and a desire to fly.

With today’s perfect sunny weather and clear blue skies, I took the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) outside with my kids and let them take turns flying. Despite the pollen and gusts of wind, the drone performed very well. As I was flying, I took the craft too far down the street and it was swept up into the wind. I tried to steer it back towards my house, but the wind took the dirigible high above my neighbor’s roof. To avoid a crash landing, I pushed the flying machine higher where it was taken captive by the winds.

The sensational drone was last seen flying at an extremely high altitude eastbound on Pitts Road headed towards the Village. Much like history’s famed aviator and female pioneer Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, the Syma X5C’s current whereabouts are simply unknown. Visibility was lost, but hope is not.

If you see the missing drone, please contact me. 

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Update: Drone Found!

After a quick sprint down the sidewalk of the adjoining neighborhood revealed no sign of the missing drone, I flicked the toggle repeatedly until behold; the green and red lights flickered and the blades spun around with a high-pitched humming noise. The drone suddenly appeared from the roof and sputtered down the side of the large, brick house. It landed in the bushes, just at the tip of my reach. The drone has been recovered, tested, and is ready for its next flight.

Drones: Gateway to Learning, Design, and Impact

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Drones: Gateway to Learning, Design, and Impact

Drones provide a gateway to learning many practical and helpful uses for human-centered problem solving, as well as simple fun and curiosity. Here are a few ideas to consider…

Paint Your House

Advertise your product/company with a flying drone billboard

Ambulance Drone for Medical Emergencies

Submarine Periscope

Save the lives of African babies with HIV testing

Drone Racing is the Sport of the Future

Search for Lost Dogs

Monitor Marine Reserves and Spot Illegal Fishing

Droneport for Africa

A Robot That Flies Like A Bird

Find the Best Waves for Surfing Safely

Avoid Traffic by Flying Yourself to School or Work

Deliver to Ships at Sea

Detect Land Mines

Save People From Drowning

What applications can you share?

Maker Wars: 3D Printer Comes to Life Thanks to Students

Maker Wars: 3D Printer Comes to Life Thanks to Students

A few weeks ago, 3 students approached me and asked if they could use our 3D Printer. “Of course!,” I said, not knowing that the printer wasn’t actually working. The students identified the necessary part and purchased it. They repaired the machine and it has been buzzing ever since, cranking out some cool, preliminary calibration products. 

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How might we encourage our students’ passions and create greater access to maker technology and curriculum? 

Resources: 
What is the Maker movement and why should you care?
Mount Vernon students use 3D Printer to make prosthetic hand
Leading change demands living the change…by Bo Adams

Students Want Access

dig medStudents Want Access

The past couple of mornings, I’ve received several unexpected student visitors to my office. My desk is covered in papers, my nose buried in a laptop while diligently working to accomplish a variety of projects, but thankfully I know when to put all of the ‘important stuff’ on hold. What’s more important than taking the time to listen and talk to a passionate and curious learner?

One student came in to show me the BB-8 robot he got for Christmas. He just walked right in, opened up the box, placed the robot on the floor, and showed me how he controlled it with his phone. Cool!

Another pair of students dropped by to ask if they could print a 3D printer using another 3D printer. They want to print a better printer so they can print drones that they can sell through the business they’ve created. What!? That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. Their enthusiasm is so strong that they offered to pay for the part (our current printer is a hand-me-down from the Upper School and it gets jammed after 15 hours of printing – requiring constant replacement). When student engagement occurs naturally – don’t get in the way!

There is a student who is planning to strap a GoPro to his head and film a day in his life, then upload to his e-portfolio. I secured two different devices and he has been stopping the front office to prepare. We ordered a memory card yesterday. We discussed how teachers might use this same technology to capture their lessons for a) self reflection and professional learning or b) posting to their websites for students to review.

Brainstorming Tech Needs

Every year, we have the opportunity to propose a wish list of technology items to be used by students and teachers in our school. What a blessing! I am grateful that we can “say yes” to so many ideas. It seems only fitting to involve a wide range of stakeholders in the conversation as they are the primary users of any emerging technology we purchase. Today, I met with the Digital Media class, as well as a few other students. We brainstormed a great list of ideas.

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Resources: 
Students Invent Thumbprint Scanner Lockers
How a GoPro got my students excited to learn
The best 3D printers of 2016 – reviews
Oculus Rift

How might we give Middle School students greater access to emerging technology, opportunities to start their own businesses, and to make/create/design their wildest ideas?

Drones in Action

Drones in Action

In August, we purchased a drone. Our team designed a digital “Drone” badge that faculty members could earn in pre-planning. We unleashed the drone in chapel for all students to be introduced to our newest interactive tech device. In September, we crashed the drone. While Upper School students were learning how to make minor repairs to the drone, we purchased an additional drone. In October, Mr. Roth took small groups of students outside to learn how to pilot the drone and discuss related science and ethical issues. In November, I worked with a small, volunteer group of students on e-portfolios and badge design. Part of our exploration included flying the drone. In a November social studies R & D meeting, a small group of teachers flew the drone and imagined ways to implement the technology in their classrooms and connect it to their learning outcomes. In December, we temporarily grounded the drones to make sure we are in compliance with all FAA laws and regulations. We hope to be back in the air very soon.

All 6th grade science students learned how to fly the drone outdoors in small groups which included a series of questions and discussion about the ethical decision making issues related to this technology.

A group of five 8th grade students (who volunteered and are working with me to make eportfolios more relevant for students) earned their drone badge while learning how to use the Go Pro to capture and upload videos from flight to their eportfolios (they also learned about the 6 parts of badge design and have designed their own badge prototypes). I love these kids!

On a later date, I took some of the boys who requested a chance to earn the badge outside for a flight. One of the boys received the same drone for Christmas and has since brought his personal drone to school and is showing other students how to use it at recess.

Mr. Tiffin posted a home, trigonometry lesson (#FSBL style) inspired by our drone flight.Drones in Action

Over Thanksgiving, I brought the drone home to learn a bit more and taught my oldest son how to fly the drone and capture video.

Resources: Tampa Bay Elementary Students Learn With Drones
This article is compelling because the drones beings used by the elementary students are smaller and primarily used indoors compared to the drones we use which are a primarily outdoors and of a professional grade. It involves coding and ipads. Very cool! Easy to implement, safer, and accessible.

Other Interactive Tech: MVPS Middle School students learn coding with robot finches in Digital Media

Legal Compliance: As of December, we have temporarily grounded the drones due to concerns about complying with FAA regulations. Of course, we want to comply with all laws and avoid incurring any hefty fines. I expect we will resolve this soon as we likely qualify as using the drone(s) for “hobby and recreational use.”

ArticleLegal Issues related to use of drones in high school sports (excerpt below)…

FAA rules establish three classifications of UAS operations: 1) Public UAS in which a government entity such as a law enforcement agency, a fire department, a border patrol agency, a disaster relief operation, or a search and rescue organization may obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to use a drone; 2) Civil UAS in which a commercial entity may obtain a Special Airworthiness Certificate (SAC) to use a drone for business purposes; and 3) Model Aircraft in which the use of an UAS is permitted for recreational purposes if certain criteria are satisfied by the operator of a drone. The key issue regarding the use of drones by high school sports teams is whether the use of small UAS fit into the FAA’s Model Aircraft classification.

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Prior Post: Ideas to Follow Up On

Kid-Friendly Drones:
Parrots
Drones Aren’t Just Toys Anymore
Parrot Homepage

Hydrofoil
Sumo Drones (no FAA restrictions)

What would you like to see our students do next? What ideas can you share?

R & D Stations

R & D Stations

R & D Stations

Today, the Social Studies Research & Design Team met (as did R & D teams from several other disciplines). Teachers were given 3 choices:

  • Pick something that interests you from last session’s brainstorm (related to the 4 guiding priorities)
  • Work on the 9th Grade Humanities pilot (learning outcomes, ideas, etc.)
  • Teach social studies through interactive tech (drone w/camera) and badges

Team members collaborated in small groups and as individuals, sharing out at the end of the session…

  • Humanities: who will teach it? will it just be a combo of lit and history or will it include other disciplines like arts, theater, etc.? idea for teaching through geographical areas, idea for have the mindsets be a stronger, guiding factor throughout the course.
  •  1st Grade – each week a new country featured in a key doc. this week, Burundi – they have NO schools, “hurts my soul” – gives new empathy and informs how I teach
  • 7th & 8th Grade – Assessing a new unit, looking at last year’s exam, revising, “when you don’t get to claim your ‘rights.’
  • Lower School revisions of curriculum maps
  • Lower School – finalizing government assessment & proficiency scales

While it is a busy time of year and few folks want to stay late, I am proud to be part of this team. Also, I am grateful for all of the people who worked behind the scenes to make this session happen. I am grateful for the rough drafts and iterations. I am grateful for the feedback and brainstorming. I am thankful for the minutes and hours spent in preparation, and most of all for the positive attitudes. Thank you!

10 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning10 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning

In schools, the use of e-portfolios is increasing as a way to enable learning, as well as a means to measure it. See Admissions Revolution (80 colleges and universities move towards use of online portfolios). There are a variety of types and purposes of e-portfolios including workspace, showcase, academic, employment, etc. This post focuses primarily on the blog as student workspace – designed as a tool to accelerate learning at any age, as well as to build capacity for being globally competitive beyond schooling. How might e-portfolios increase learning?

1) Writing – Does the importance of writing need to be explained or defended? It’s connection and value to learning is self-evident. Blogs and online journals (via e-portfolios) are a fantastic platform for encouraging and facilitating writing for learners. Whether one is expressing ideas, posing questions, or making arguments, here are more than a dozen reasons why writing is vitally important to learning.

2) Storytelling – More than just a mode of writing, storytelling precedes writing in the history of humanity. Storytelling is a powerful connector of people. Oral stories and parables are incredibly effective modes of communicating very complex ideas in a form that is accessible to the common learner. Today, exciting possibilities exist with digital storytelling, while the classic archetypes of storytelling remain as relevant as ever. Let’s teach both to our students!

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning 3) Meta-cognition – It goes by many names. Thinking about thinking. Reflecting on learning. Self-regulation. The monitoring and control of thought. The gift that keeps giving. Despite its importance in the learning process, it is not well practiced in today’s classrooms. How can e-portfolios be used to build these muscles? Teachers can supply prompts for reflection. Students can capture their reflections in writing, in voice memo, on video, on podcast, through art, etc. All of these are ripe candidates for e-portfolio demonstrations. See these K-8 meta-cognitive strategies.

The ability to learn is not a fixed quantity (read Dweck’s ‘Mindset’). Members of our team have modeled meta-cognition through the reconfiguring of physical space, as well as the emotional environment as key elements of teaching and learning.

If we are to teach students that a growth mindset is not only possible, but desirable, then we must first embody and exemplify a growth mindset as educators. If we expect students to reflect and curate their learning, should we not also be practitioners ourselves? This is why the blog you are now reading exists.

4) Multi-media Technology – We often read about the mistakes educators make when using (or not using) technology. With e-portfolios, there is an opportunity for students (and teachers) to learn a variety of valuable skills including embedding presentations, video creation, graphic creation, font and style choice, podcasts, stop-motion video, voice memos, google hangouts – with screen capture, 3D printing, etc. What specific technologies should students be learning in schools? Why do these technologies need to be learned? How frequently does this list change as technology advances? Is it a futile effort and is time wasted learning technologies that will be obsolete in a few years? Is it more about the mindsets that are required and developed by the pursuit of learning new technologies?

5) Feedback – Here is a skill that was not formally taught when I was in school. And what a mistake it is that we don’t teach how to give and receive feedback intentionally! I highly recommend ‘Thanks for the Feedback’ for anyone interested in learning about the 3 types of feedback and how every human needs them, yet they are often as cross-purposes. With e-portfolios, students can receive feedback on their demonstrations of learning from teachers, peers, parents, and external experts. Students can learn how to deliver feedback by providing it to one another in the form of comments, uploaded directly to the e-portfolio.

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning 6) Assessment of Learning – If your goal is to expand the ways in which you measure student learning beyond numerical, quantitative grades, you should take a good, long look at e-portfolios. They provide a qualitative, longitudinal measure. Students can post a writing sample from September next to one written in November and we should be able to visibly see the progression of learning. If we don’t, then the measure is still helpful because it tells us where the student stands in relation to learning outcomes. E-portfolios can be the perfect platform for displaying digital badges earned for demonstrating specific knowledge, skills, or transfer of skills. Badging is yet another fantastic measure of learning that can accomplish the same, if not much more, than a numerical grade.

7) Choice & Ownership – When designed properly, students can pursue their own topics of interest and curiosity through e-portfolios. They can share their learning with others. E-portfolios allow students a much greater audience for their learning which in turn generates a stronger sense of ownership and urgency. We all want to ‘be seen’ – acknowledged and appreciated by others. Students should have the freedom to add their own demonstrations, in addition to being assigned demonstrations by teachers. It is not an ‘either or’ proposition. Students should ‘have permission’ to customize the look of their e-portfolios and include demos that may not be related to school.

8) Digital Citizenship – As the author of one’s own blog, website, or e-portfolio, students learn the importance of ethical decision making and wise choices. See the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship as food for thought.

9) Graphic Organizer(s) – There is no shortage of graphic organizers available online. Can teachers use e-portfolio assignments as advance organizers? How might this increase the mastery and measurement of specific learning outcomes in a school? How might graphic organizers be used with e-portfolios to introduce new concepts? Or to formatively assess student learning via entry, transfer, and exit tickets?

9 Ways e-Portfolios Increase Learning10) Communications/Branding – At least one school I know has explicitly written into their mission statement the goal to prepare students to be globally competitive and engaged citizen leaders, though I assume a lot of schools would say they aspire to do the same. In the age of the internet and marketing, being savvy with one’s web presence, branding, and social media strategy seems like an important set of skills to begin ‘baking in’ early in our students formal educational journey. Experience curating one’s own e-portfolio can position students much further along than their global competitors. Conversely, it can leave them at a great disadvantage if these skills and mindsets are missing.

What other ways do you see e-portfolios can increase learning?

For more on e-portfolios, read these posts and resources.

Building Our Learning Measures

PL

Building Our Learning Measures
This morning, our monthly vertical team meeting focused on building our capacity with two of our ‘expanded learning measures’ – formative assessment and e-portfolios. Here is the agenda with some data added…

Essential Questions
What are the limitations of numerical grades as a single measure of learning?
How will we develop our understanding of e-portfolios as an effective measure ‘for’ and ‘of’ learning?

Desired Outcomes
Vertical Teams collaborate to implement formative assessment and e-portfolios.

Learning Opportunities
In advance, read Edutopia article: 11 Essentials for Excellent Eportfolios

    • Entry Ticket: Upon arrival, write on 3 separate post-it notes…
      • 1 idea this article sparked
      • 1 question this article sparked
      • the # of e-portfolio demonstrations you have currently assigned to your class

  • Create an entry ticket with your vertical team, using your learning outcome process standards, that you all agree to use for formative assessment in the next few weeks, that students will upload to their e-portfolios.
  • Share out your ticket with the whole team. Receive feedback. Iterate to improve.

Vertical Team Guiding Questions

How can you formatively assess one of these process standards as a vertical team?

How can students demonstrate their learning of one of these process standards? And make their thinking visible via e-portfolio?

How can we help students build the muscles of reflecting on their learning?

PL Team=============

Teacher Reflection on Understanding and Implementation of student e-portfolios

Backward-looking
What problems have you encountered while implementing e-portfolios with students? How did you solve them?

Does student’s work tell a story?

Inward-looking
What do the demonstrations of learning that students post in their e-portfolios reveal about what they are learning in your class?

Outward-looking
If someone else were looking at the demonstrations that students post in their e-portfolios, what might they learn about the design of your class?

Forward-looking
What things you might want more help with?

What’s the one thing that you have seen in your colleague’s work or process that you would like to try related to e-portfolios?

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Post-it Note Results…

Questions
Why?
HMW entice students to see e-portfolios as ‘theirs’ rather than something the Ts want them to do?
What’s a simple and effective way for me to promote and support e-portfolios with student buy-in?
How do we continue to empower students to want to curate their e-portfolios?
Why/how do we spark interest?
How to get students/teachers to care about e-portfolios?
How effective are e-portfolios in increasing learning? (I loved this question so much I wrote a response!)
What is our e-portfolio purpose?
What is our purpose?

How?
How do we help students preserve portfolios for future endeavors?
Will e-portfolios be out-of-date tomorrow? (technology changes so rapidly)
If they lose their ’email’ account at the end of high school, does it have longevity?
Do students know how this will be used?
How might I use two different approaches to e-portfolios over the next 9 weeks?
QR Code – love it! Wonder how to use?
Clarify positivist/constructivist approach?
Need to focus e-portfolios to ensure demonstration of learning (learning outcomes)
Timeline?
How do we get videos in to make it easy?
Have we learned to add video? Who will help us?
Are we using the positivist or constructivist approach?

Ideas
e-portfolios can be used for a short-term learning project
projects on e-portfolios
I would love to make my 2nd semester project tie directly to e-portfolio
design students demos to really showcase a learning progression throughout the year
HMW ensure that e-portfolio updates are relevant to demonstration of learning (learning outcomes)?
the portfolio for learning, as learning
Enhance student meta-cognition, reflection, ownership
I would like to ‘practice’ demos in advisory
I can meet with 1 kid per day in advisory on e-portfolios, match with goals (for SLC)
Student Blog: maybe have students start a blog instead of their journal I have them do? They could keep a blog and blog every week about topics of interest.
Check out One Note and other resources
Instead of weekly journaling, students can add to One Note or Evernote – culmination activity is uploading unit post-its up with a reflection
Students can keep a hard copy of all work done in a 9 week period. At the end of the period, upload 2 pieces of work that were significant. This gives students more time to reflect and choose two of their best pieces.
Students write class blog and link e-portfolios there? Allow a specific timeline to post.
Still love video aspect, but it’s too hard to upload
Our NPS is good with timeline (?)
Use as a student website/blog
We should publish to parents.
Digital Media = blog? Do we want to use e-portfolios like this?

1 Demo – 6
2 Demos – 9
3 Demos – 2
5 Demos – 1

What are your questions about e-portfolios and formative assessment? What are your ideas? Please share with us!

Prepare to Launch

Prepare to LaunchPrepare to Launch

I count myself fortunate to be part of an organization that encourages the launching and shipping of ideas, that embraces a ‘fail up’ culture of learning and achievement. This has empowered my colleagues and I to boldly try new ideas. Reflecting on the last few years, I can recall numerous wins and successes as well as a few that I’d love to ‘redo.’

Why do some initiatives go so well while others struggle or fail? What makes the difference?

Fail Ups
In my first year as a division head, I recall our team was eager to help teachers give feedback to students about the newly created “mindsets.” Since the 6 mindsets were not yet reflected in the report cards, we decided it would be great for teachers to write comments about each of the mindsets for each student. We had heard other schools talk about similar approaches. We had a discussion in a team meeting and next thing you know, the decision was made and the initiative launched. And it was hugely unpopular. Teachers were upset. The amount of comments that actually had to be written were well beyond what they were used to writing. In fact, when we did the math, we realized it was a pretty unrealistic expectation. We regrouped, with feedback, and pivoted to designing rubrics that all teachers could use. Teachers gave input on the rubrics. In retrospect, we could have taken more time to enroll stakeholders and talk to other schools. We could have done the math. We could have piloted smaller versions of the comment writing with a select few volunteers. Or we could have thought of rubrics first.

Victorious Launches
In my second year, we launched a 1:1 Chromebook program. We took months researching, chatting with other schools, meeting with our Director of IT, and comparing different attributes of devices. We made a sound decision. We are still using Chromebooks today and they are appropriate for middle schoolers. The success was in the research and selection of the program. There were some folks who were not in favor of the decision, but we had solid and compelling reasons to share and ultimately, the majority of our community supported the initiative. We could have done a better job in the rollout, specifically, how we shared the info with parents. I recall a rather lengthy rising parent meeting where questions took over the agenda. And while we prepared for the classroom management portion with Hapara, we spent the next year or so reconfiguring the network and internet access to make sure it didn’t slow or crash.

In my fourth year, we finally cracked the code on summer grants. We chose 4 initiatives that were all interconnected. We went with pairs instead of individuals so there was always an element of collaboration. We met as a whole group and launched the initiatives with the faculty before school ended so they were all part of the process. We clarified the expectations by having grant recipients follow the design thinking process. We had dates set in advance for monthly check-ins and we provided resources in between. Each grant was allotted time in pre-planning to workshop with the whole team. These 4 grants allowed our team to go further faster. We are making great strides as each of these grants is part of our team’s wildly important goal to ‘expand learning measures.’

These are just a few reflections. I have many more. What reflections do you have? What initiatives have you launched? What made some victories and others fail ups?