Introducing Faculty Badges: Winter Edition 2017

Today was the grand unveiling of the new suite of badges designed for faculty by Amy Wilkes and Katie Cain. Like a kid at Christmas, I still get excited when new badges are designed and introduced. These badges are only available through the end of April, so don’t let them pass by you.

Remember, a badge has six elements to its design. Although the artwork is often the most visible and appealing aspect of a badge, it is only 1/6 of the design. Like a quarterback who gets all the credit when a team wins, the artwork can overshadow the other 5/6 of the badge. 

There are a number of things I really like and wish to highlight about these particular badges. First, I love how we have developed specific ‘families’ of badges. For example, there are now 3 badges related to PBL (project based learning). They look very similar, yet they are distinctive. True learners and die hard badgers will collect them all.






Next, notice how the badges offered are not only highly relevant to the larger mission and work of the whole school, but also how they combine multiple school initiatives. For example, the Spotlight on the 4 C’s incorporates the wildly important Mount Vernon Mindsets (4 of the 6 21st century core competencies) AND the spotlight feature of Folio Collaborative along with the important practice of learning walks (see more on learning walks).

Finally, the Random Act of Kindness badge breaks new ground by being the first badge you cannot apply for yourself. A colleague must apply on your behalf. I’m interested to see how this one plays out in the weeks ahead.

And on a final, final note…I think my favorite ‘family’ of badges currently are the Challenge Badges. I love the colors and ‘look’ of these badges. And, I love each of the challenges associated with them. To me, they are the most ‘fun’ of all the criteria. The Blogger Challenge was an early success last summer. The Visible Thinking Routine Challenge was equally fun as teachers posted their classes in action to twitter and Ann Plumer featured the work on bulletin boards in middle school spaces on each campus. I hope our teachers will go for it with the Virtual Reality challenge. 

MV Mindsets: Start with 34 Questions

Seeking to gain greater clarification on each of the 6 MV Mindsets and the sub-sets that define them, in order to more effectively infuse, assess, and communicate student learning and progress, here are a series of questions…

Critical Thinker/Solution Seeker
– What makes a question ‘meaningful’?
– In a culture that does teaches no tolerance for “judging” others, how can we teach students to ‘evaluate’ ideas, etc.?
– How does one learn and demonstrate ‘discernment’?
– How do educators approach ‘cross-disciplinary’ knowledge?
– How do students approach it?
– What are the best practices of goal setting with students? SMART goals and/vs. DUMB goals?

– What does it mean to listen ‘attentively’?
– …to speak effectively?
– …to write clearly?
– What are the various types of audiences a communicator might encounter?
– How does a communicator ‘understand’ an audience?
– Can a group of individuals be understood?
– Within any group, there are a lot of differences.
– What are the various types of media a communicator needs to understand?
– What does ‘formats’ mean?
– What are interpersonal skills and how to best ‘self cultivate’?

Creative Thinker
– What is an assumption?
– How does one identify an assumption?
– How do you then challenge an assumption?
– How, why, and when should you suspend judgement?
– What is the difference between judgement and evaluation?
– How do you build ‘imagination’ muscles?
– How do you build ‘improvisation’ skills?
– How do you adapt to new challenges and opportunities?
– How do you foresee and identify new challenges and opportunities that others might not?
– How do you know when to ‘let this one go’?

– What is a partnership? What makes it strong?
– What defines diversity? How might we expand our definition?
– How do you teach, coach, and lead by example?
– What are the types of feedback?
– How, when, and why might/does one accept or reject different types of feedback?
– How do you implement a decision?

Star Wars Characters Who Embody the MV Mindsets

Star Wars Characters Who Embody the MV Mindsets

line divider

Solution Seeker – R2 D2 saves the day countless times with his resourcefulness and high intelligence. The small, lovable droid definitely fits this mindset as he evaluates, discerns, and tests solutions that are more often than not successful. The video below makes the case better than description.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 4.25.03 PMR2D2


line dividerEthical Decision Maker- Luke Skywalker has such great empathy that he can sense when his friends are suffering on Cloud City (before it happens). His compassion for his friends leads him to put aside his own training as a Jedi and race to their rescue. He demonstrates his sense of personal responsibility when he returns to finish his training with Yoda. When Luke is tempted to give in to the dark side, he resists the pull of the evil Darth Sidious, exhibiting his integrity, and even convinces his very evil father, Darth Vader, to return to the light side of the force.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 4.32.59 PM

Luke Skywalker

line dividerCommunicator – C3P0 is fluent in over 6,000,000 forms of communication. He’s kinda got this one in the bag. And yet his body language, tone, and bluntness are often received as annoying or awkward, revealing how difficult and complex the art of effective communication truly is to master.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 4.40.17 PMc3po

line dividerCreative Thinker – Han Solo adapts, improvises, imagines, and challenges assumptions. He’s the greatest character in the Star Wars universe. Han challenges assumptions by scoffing at Obi Wan and questioning the existence of the Force, the very thing that holds and binds the whole universe together. He suspends judgement, sometimes recklessly, like when he flies the Falcon head first into the asteroid field or chases the stormtroopers around the Death Star. He never asks if something is possible until after he’s done it. In the cantina, when Greedo cornered him to collect Jabba’s bounty, Han improvised and adapted by shooting first.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 4.45.33 PMHan-Solo-Movie-021016

line divider

Innovator – Princess Leia may seem like an unlikely choice. And the case could be made that her mother, Queen Amidala (Padme’) has an even greater influence on the galaxy. So hear me out. Princess Leia leads a rebellion in a climate of change and uncertainty. Almost hopeless (hence ‘A New Hope). She builds resilience through risk-taking and setbacks to deliver the stolen plans to the Death Star, as her ship is captured by the Empire, she is held prisoner and tortured in the cell block by Darth Vader, and her planet Alderaan is blown up before her very eyes, possibly making Star Wars a contender for ‘movie with the highest death count.’ And what idea could have more value or meaning that leading a rebellion for freedom? Sounds like an innovator to me.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 9.05.25 AM


line divider

Collaborator – Chewbacca is the ultimate co-pilot, friend, and team player. He shares the credit – in fact he didn’t even get a medal at the ceremony at the end of Episode IV. He leads by example – maybe because only Han can understand him. His team is certainly diverse (smuggler, droid, moisture farmer, retired jedi master, princess) and who can question his loyalty and strong partnership with Captain Solo? If you were walking down a dark alley at midnight, who else would you want to ‘collaborate’ with?

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 9.05.12 AMchewie

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 3.38.04 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 10.10.17 AM

Prior Post: Ideas to Follow Up On

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

Sumo Drones (no FAA restrictions)

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

4 Characteristics of a Quality ePortfolio


4 Characteristics of a Quality ePortfolio

1) Easy to Use – We launched our first version of a student eportfolio using Google sites two years ago. It was the result of a collaborative summer grant with a team representing Preschool, Lower, Middle, and Upper School. The product was visually appealing and featured two major sections: Collection and Showcase. The Collection was for everything. Finished, unfinished, polished, and imperfect. The Showcase was reserved for only the finest works. All of the learning demonstrations and reflections were curated by the 6 MV Mindsets (Collaborator, Communicator, Solution Seeker, Ethical Decision Maker, Creative Thinker, and Innovator).

While I’m still a fan of this first prototype and many of its features, it struggled to catch on with students (and teachers) across the entire School. Even in Middle School, where we made it a major focus, our team discovered that the Sites platform was difficult to upload, challenging to access and share, and there was a lack of student ownership. After two years, and as the result of a second XLR8 summer grant, we are pivoting to a second iteration ePortfolio platform with Digication.

2) Customizable – The obstacle of student ownership is not one to be ignored. Not only is the new platform more intuitive and easier to use, but it allows a much greater degree of user customization. The students can change the look and layout to suite their style, thus helping to make it feel more like “their” ePortfolio rather than “the School’s.” We will continue to explore other ways to expand student choice as we go.

3) Storytelling – Perhaps the most important (and currently untapped) power of ePortfolios is “the why.” Why should students (or anyone for that matter) create, curate, and maintain an ePortfolio? Many reasons come to mind including…

  • Measure student learning (qualitative, thinking made visible)
  • Use as a tool for college admissions or job interview
  • Reflection and record keeping

These are all compelling reasons, however, I’m starting to think the most powerful reason to create an ePortfolio is for storytelling. Each entry should tell a story. Each learning demonstration has its own story arc and together, all of the cumulative entries build their own story arc. The story is about your life. It’s about your impact on the world. It’s about your learning journey. What could be more important or significant to share with others?

storytellingstorytelling 3 storytelling arc

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 7.31.55 AM

4) Blend of Showcase and “Work in Progress” (WIP) – One final, key ingredient is what I believe was inherent in the design of our first version, but that I continue to hear discussions and debates about among our team. It is often communicated as an “either or” paradigm. I believe it should be both. A quality ePortfolio contains both pristine, perfect showcase works AND messy, dirty samples of failure and or halfway learning – what I call “work in progress.” I have modeled my own blog after this approach – often posting half thoughts and snapshots of ideas that I may or may not come back to in the future. This allows freedom to capture ideas before they escape without having to make sure they are perfect before shipping.

What other characteristics do you think are important for quality ePortfolios?

Drones in Schools

Drones could be used for learning in schools.
Drones could be used for learning in schools.

How might drones be used in schools? As the use of drones becomes increasingly more prevalent, educators must ask how they will expose students to yet another cutting edge technology. The applications are fun to think about. Here are a few ideas I brainstormed this morning. How would you envision drones being used in classrooms and schools? What are the possibilities of drones in schools?

Video Production
– Individual and Group Projects
– School news shows

Science Experiments
– Physics
– Meteorology
– Space Aviation

Coordinates and Geometric Shapes (see video)

– Exposure to cutting edge

Ethical Decision Making
– Spying and Surveillance
– Military Use
– Targeted Assassinations

– Recreate historical scenarios to gain empathy
– U2 incident, Cuban Missile Crisis, etc.

Marketplace Applications
– Advertising
– Commercial package delivery
– Mapping
– Communication

Visual Arts
– Aerial Photography

Related Articles:
NJ high school uses drones in the classroom

Are Drones Ethical?

Rolls Royce Drone Ships

Drone Video Marketing – Barnes Creative Studios

Legal issues related to use of drones to video sports (great description of other current uses)