21st Century, Tech

Change the Conversation

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This is today’s gem from Hugh at GapingVoid.  Of this image he says:

“If your company isn’t innovating, it’s likely because no one is facilitating the right conversations.”

So what are the right conversations?

Well, one conversation I would like to be having is with practical innovator, Marc Prensky.  Marc has been an advocate for innovation in education for some time.  His latest conversation embraces the idea of Future Oriented Education. He challenges us to ask ourselves the question: “Is this future-oriented education or is it ‘past-ucation’:

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 11.30.27 PM

There is nothing Marc would rather do than change the conversation about the way we educate in schools. His writing on technology, innovation, 21st century learning, digital natives, and the changing teaching paradigm are all priceless – and so worth reading. I started highlighting the points that really resonated with me from the following four articles and was soon swimming in a sea of neon.  It is all worth reading. Check out his Global Future Education Advisory Archive.

His thinking about technology really resonates with me.  Read this excerpt from his third GFEA:

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 11.56.14 PM

 

It’s not about stuff.  It’s not about different ways to do what we do now. Technology is an extension of our brains.  It is a new way of thinking. And it is a conversation worth having if you hope to lead an innovative school.  In the same way that no teacher who dismissed writing or reading or math as “unimportant” or something to be scheduled once a week, would ever get hired, should someone who is not willing to embrace the use of technology as an extension of thinking be given a job as an educator? Is it ok for teachers to say, “That’s not for me”.  “I am not comfortable with that” and continue with their past-ucation ways?

Today in a problem-solving math class I asked the students if they should be allowed to use laptops and calculators when solving the problems.  There was a resounding “No!” and cries of “Cheating!”. Really?  Further discussion led to some children conceding that perhaps it would be ok….sometimes….but only for really hard problems.  I suggested that in using technology to help solve the problem, they would still be required to think like mathematicians and evaluate the reasonableness of their answer before submitting it. Does it look right?  Does it seem possible?  A few more converted.

In thinking about the future of education and where we need to be heading, it is pretty clear that what we do need to keep doing is having conversations that push us closer to innovation. If a one-woman schoolhouse that is actually a boat equipped with solar panels to juice up the internet floating from house to house to pick up students and bobble around teaching them all day on water can move ahead from ‘how things were done’, why can’t we?

For your reading pleasure: Carl Hooker on How Technology Trends Have Influenced the Classroom.

 

 

 

21st Century, Inspiration

Write Your Story – Change History

All the great things that haven’t happened yet, are history waiting to happen.

Brad Meltzer presents this idea and more in his passionate, inspired TED talk: Write Your Story, Change History

His three main points:

Dream Big

Martin Luther King Jr. was 26, Amelia Earhart was 25 and Steve Jobs was 21 when they all made their mark on the world. If you dream big, no matter how old you are, you can change history.

Work Hard

The hardest work of all is being resilient in the face of failure. Every time the Wright brothers went out to fly their aircraft, they took extra materials for all the crashes.  They knew they were going to fail and they kept trying anyway.

Stay Humble

No one likes a jerk and the world needs fewer loudmouths – so stay humble.

All history is is stories. To change history, all you have to do is write your story. You will change history – in big ways or in small ways – and both are equally important.  History is changed when you write your story.  You will have moments when you will doubt, wonder if you will succeed, or wonder if you should give up.  The good news?  You don’t have to create a multi-million dollar change overnight. You can start by being kind to one person. And you will change the world if you do something beyond yourself.

Every life makes history and every life is a story. What is yours?

What makes your heros important to you?

How have you ever changed history?

Do you agree with Meltzer that simple things done by ordinary people can help change history forever?

21st Century, Innovation, Internet

Google Apps for Education: EDCANVAS

This morning I was taking a look through Google Apps for Education.  Here is one I thought was pretty interesting and worth sharing:

EDCANVAS

If you are familiar with Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher), this is fairly similar. It is a place for you to store your research on a particular topic.  Sources of information can come from: your Google Drive (documents you have saved), YouTube, Flickr, Dropbox, Google Images and Searches, specific web addresses, files uploaded from your computer, and previously bookmarked links. Basically, anywhere! When you find the resource you want, simply drag and drop to your canvas, add a description of the resource and move on to adding more.

Sign-up is through your google account – which all my students have – so is seamless and easy, and upon signing up you are invited to watch a 30 second video explaining how it works.  I would recommend watching as it really is 30 seconds and it really will answer any questions you might have.

Once created, you have options for sharing your Canvas publicly, sharing it with select people, or keeping it private.  You can email, tweet, facebook or embed your canvas – or even share via QR code. My only complaint is that the embed code doesn’t appear to work with WordPress (grrr).

In addition to simply being a place to store resources, you can play your canvas to share your work with others.  Videos you have placed on the canvas will play within your presentation, documents will load up from your Google drive, websites will open and can be navigated on screen within the presentation before moving on to the next part of your canvas. I find there is a slightly higher quality to adding downloaded documents as opposed to uploading from your Google Drive, but that might just be me.

Here is my first canvas: Passion

For further information, check out the ABOUT EDCANVAS GUIDE

21st Century

The Playbook in Action

The Playbook

Over the last two days, I have introduced the Playbook to my class.  I started on Wednesday with a group of seven or so kids who were ready to move on.  They took to it like bees to honey! On Thursday, I had a couple of kids from that initial group share it with the rest of the class.

Like most things in my class, there was a large spectrum of engagement and interest.  Some saw it as a chore (“Do we have to do the whole thing?”), some were inspired (“Can I start now? Do I have to ask you to do the next play?), others wanted to share the love (“Can I take one home for my dad? I know he would want to do it with me!”).

My initial reaction:

  • they like that it is different and that their responses are going to be unique to them
  • kids do a way better job of inspiring kids than I can!
  • when left to their own devices, it is quite inspiring to see what they will create
  • this is what school should be like – a journey of self in which learning is intrinsically built in

The Playbook ‘plays’ are split into five categories.  As they progress through the book, your kids will be:

Five Categories of Action

 

The skills they will be ‘forced’ to use will stretch their thinking and challenge them intellectually, socially, creatively and emotionally.  They will make connections across different subject areas and in different parts of their lives inside and outside of school, humanly and digitally.

Here are some examples from the first play in the book:

What if....?

 

Manifesto 1

 

Manifesto 2

 

These manifestos are popping up all over the school.  One of my kids, without prompting, wrote his manifesto and posted it at the place he takes after-school vocal lessons. Inspired by him, I have challenged others to post an additional copy of their manifesto somewhere outside of the school in the spirit of “putting themselves out there”.

It’s only in it’s infancy, yet the Playbook is moving up the ranks to one of my favorite things.

Thanks FutureProject!

21st Century, Creativity, Internet

Voki – Giving Students a Voice

In our previous unit under the theme How We Express Ourselves my students were asked to create a Voki avatar to persuade people to send their kids kids to our school – essentially answering the question “Why Riverstone?” from their perspective.  We had used Voki in the past, and I wanted to revisit it in a more formal (rather than optional) way to really see if this was something worthwhile to do.

My class has Voki Classroom accounts.  This is different to the regular, free version of Voki.  What it does differently, is that it allows you access to your kids work prior to publishing.  As the teacher, you set the assignment and send this to each child’s account.  They log in (with usernames and passwords that you have access to) and click on the appropriate task, read the instructions and carry out the assignment. When they are finished, they submit it to you for review.  You can ‘approve’ it or send it back to them to work on it some more.

Here are what I consider the key strengths of Voki:

  • you get an oral presentation without the pressure of performing live in front of an audience. Yes, I know performing live is valuable, but so is hearing people applaud your clear, confident, expressive speech that normally may have been muffled and quiet and spoken into your armpit. 
  • some kids will knock your socks off! I was crazy impressed with the majority of the Voki’s that were produced for this assignment and some kids really stood out from the rest – and not necessarily the kids you would expect either.  I love that.
  • it is really intuitive.  We had used it before but even then, all it took was one class lesson on the Smartboard and they were off.  There were a few glitches along the way but that was my doing – not Voki’s or my kids!

Which leads me to my recommendations:

  • make sure you set the assignment up first!  I know, this seems simple, but in all the organizing, actually sending out the last assignment to their accounts was missed off my to-do list.  Major bummer.
  • keep a printed list of usernames and passwords – they are easy to remember but we use a lot of sites and so having them handy is a must so those who forget can quickly access them
  • start with some fun, non-assessed assignments – let them play with Voki!  I started with a book review from a character’s perspective and each child introducing themselves.

Prior to beginning the assignment, I shared the following with my class.  Click on the image to enlarge.  Click to download a PDF version.

Voki Rubric Voki Assignment Planner

After you have approved their work, it is very easy to embed the finished Voki in your blog.  I have found in the past that there are many embedding codes that don’t work with WordPress (the blogging platform we use at school) but Voki is not one of them.  At the conclusion of the assignment I was able to easily export the Voki’s to our class website to share with the students and their families.  Here are a couple of examples of our Voki’s:

 

When they were uploaded, each student was tasked with drawing five names from a hat, finding that Voki online, and reviewing their work using the following form.  The grid of persuasive strategies is from the awesome website, ReadWriteThink.

Voki Review

In addition to this personalized, specific feedback, we watched all the Voki’s as a class and rated them ‘live’ using the online student response tool: Socrative.If you have not used Socrative before, please check it out!  It is really cool – and as the byline says, “as easy as raising your hand”.  Once you set up a teacher account, students log on with any device and plug in your ‘room number’.  You control the pace of the questions or allow them to go at their own pace.  As they answer your questions, their responses show up live on screen.  We watched each Voki together and then rated them on persuasive effectiveness on a scale of 1-5.  Check this video out for further information:

Socrative introduction video (new) from Socrative Inc. on Vimeo.

In Summary:

I would highly recommend the use of Voki in your classroom.  I like the education version, Voki Classroom, mostly because of it’s editing/reviewing options and because your recordings can be up to 90 seconds (as opposed to 60 seconds in the free version).  It is easy to see where each student is at on the project and feedback can be delivered instantly to them from your account to theirs. I love that you can embed the finished Voki’s and the quality of both the avatar and the voice options are excellent.  In addition to the stock backgrounds, you can also upload your own images = the first Voki featured in this post actually has a photo of the front of our school as the background.  This feature allows you to incorporate aspects of visual language into your curriculum by challenging students to come up with the most appropriate look to their Voki that suits their message.

To compare Voki with Voki Classroom – click here.

To download a user guide to getting started with Voki Classroom – click here.

21st Century, Creativity, Inspiration, PYP

Gearing up for Passion!

In a few weeks, we will kick off our fifth grade Exhibition unit: The Passion Project. It was our first year doing this last year and over the summer, I put a lot of work into the Passion Project – it was (and is) my passion. In addition to pulling out the ‘tried and true’ of last year, I have been looking for ways to connect this project with my new class of students.  They are different to my kids last year and I am different to how I was last year and the world as we know it is different to last year – so it only makes sense that the Passion Project be different too.

We are keeping our Passion Tour – a day trip around our city in which we meet people who love what they do and love how what they do, connects them to their community. Here are some other resources that we will be taking a look at:

The Future Project: Playbook

The Playbook

This became known to me this week (yesterday!) and I love it.  The playbook is designed to be used over a couple of months which is perfect for our project.  Every kid will have one and I will encourage them to take one for their family members as well – the more the merrier! What I like about the Playbook is that it is a way to inspire thinking about yourself, your passions, your possibilities.  It looks at things from a different perspective and gives you multiple ways of tapping into what makes you uniquely you.  Download the 60 page Playbook.   Follow The Future Project on Twitter or check out their website for more information.

Inspirational Videos – Inspire My Kids

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is priceless.  If you are looking for really great videos that show awesome kids doing awesome things, you really can’t go past the amazing website, Inspire My Kids.  I can’t say enough about this site.  Over the years I have seen it expand its content and the teaching materials/ideas/question starters that they offer are great. It is inspiring, well organized, current and uplifting.  I was reminded of this website when a friend sent me the following video which I had first seen through Inspire My Kids.  This website is packed with videos like this one that are perfect for showing kids what kids can do.

Short and Powerful

Another great resource is the Zen Habits Short but Powerful Guide to Finding Your Passion.  It is great.  Last year, I found it about two weeks after we started and I wished I had found it sooner.  This guide won’t be comprehensive, and it won’t find your passion for you. But it will help you in your journey to find it. It does so by asking 10 questions. Read the full post to have these ten points explained:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What excites you?
  3. What do you read about?
  4. What have you secretly dreamed of?
  5. Learn, Ask, Take Notes.
  6. Experiment, Try.
  7. Narrow things down.
  8. Banish your fears.
  9. Find the time.
  10. How to make a living doing it.

Oflow – App

Oflow is a combination Playbook and Zen Guide – it offers over 120 tips for having more ideas and being more creative. From creating a mind map and drawing in the dark, to re-organizing your thinking and utilizing help from strangers, Oflow has enough creative methods to make sure you’ll be thinking like a creative genius. When you first open the app you’re presented with a random idea – a new random idea every time you open the app. From there you can browse the other creative methods, bookmark your favorites to use again later, email any of the creative methods to yourself or anyone in your address book, and create a note to store ideas or random thoughts. The app is created by Tanner Christensen, a creativity expert, entrepreneur, and author. He currently writes for the  creative inspiration blog, Creative Something, and founded the creative ebook publishing house Aspindle. You can follow him on Twitter @tannerc or learn more about him and his work by visiting TannerChristensen.com

A quick browse of Creative Something, led me to this gem, “What Makes A Genius?”

What Makes a Genius

There is a lot more buzzing inside my head with regard to what is arguably my favorite part of the year.  I will endeavor to keep posting as we move forward! Until then, one final gem:

Rules of a Creator's Life

21st Century, Creativity

A World Class Education in Idaho

Over the last 12 months, I have been fortunate to hear Sir Ken Robinson, Mike Rowe and Sal Khan speak in Boise thanks to the J&KAlbertson Foundation.  The Foundation is passionate about education and has been helping to fund education initiatives in Idaho for quite some time.  They do so to pay homage to the Albertson family values and to help grow the great state of Idaho.

 

One of the ways they are hoping to bring about this change is through the ID21 Awards.

On behalf of my school, Riverstone International, my colleague and I entered our Passion Project ( the Fifth Grade PYP Exhibition Unit) for consideration for the following award:

In addition to the questions asked by the Foundation, we shared our Passion Project website with them. We have moved through to the final round of nominees and are among the top 24 of entries submitted for consideration across the three award categories.

Next week, I will be working on establishing the Passion Project for Adults.  We want to experiment with the idea of pursuing our passions as adults.  For more information on what this might look like, take a look at the Passion Project website.  If you are interested in joining with members of the Riverstone community to pursue your passion in a supportive environment we would love for you to join us.  It would be fabulous to have people from outside our local community join in too = and thanks to the power of technology, this would be entirely possible! If you are interested, leave a comment below or email me.  More information will come next week!

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for The Passion Project!

21st Century, Creativity, Innovation, Inspiration

Curiosity Abounds!

The landing of Curiosity on Mars was beyond amazing.  Here are five cool finds to share the awesomeness and bask in the wonder of Curiosity:

Mars Panoramic

Click on the image to access the interactive, panoramic photo

EDS Systems have stitched together a high-resolution interactive panorama of Curiosity’s landing site from where she’ll soon embark on at least two years of research and investigation of the red planet. (via Colossal)

7 Years in the Making

Thanks to Samaritan Blog, I watched this video is produced by an engineer working on JPL NASA’s Mars Rover.  In Mark’s own words:

I was able to work on NASA JPL’s Curiosity Mars Rover for 7 years. This video is an attempt to capture what it felt like to have 7 years of your life vindicated in the 7 minute landing. Honestly one of the coolest moments of my life so far.

All the pictures of hardware you see in the video are things that I worked on designing or testing or building. I got to work on the Sky Crane for 3-4 years then with some hardware on the Rover itself for the rest. My background in school is Mechanical Engineering.

We’re NASA and We Know It

A great take off of a well-known tune.  I think I like this one so much as it makes me think of the video my kids made last year of this song!  Very clever!

Words from the President

Upon hearing the news about the landing of Curiosity, President Obama spoke with the engineers at JPL and NASA.  He thanked the people for their “passion and commitment that is making a difference”. I love that. Imagine being thanked by the President for the passion and commitment you show in your place of work – your classroom!  President Obama concluded his conversation with these words:

“Really what makes us best as a species is this curiosity that we have and this yearning to discover more and more, and to push the boundaries of knowledge, and you are a perfect example of that.” – President Obama

Bobak Ferdowsi

Bobak who?  You may know him as “the mohawk guy”.  The guy admired by the President and parodied in the NASA and We Know It video.  Meet Bobak Ferdowsi and hear the story behind the hairstyle!

21st Century, Inspiration, Play

There Is No Purpose Without Play

This great cartoon just arrived in my inbox from GapingVoid. Here is the text that accompanied the image.  It is worth reading through – and clicking through the links.  Really interesting stuff to help you answer the question, “Are you having fun yet?”

“Purpose” is a big deal in business these days. Finding and having a strong sense of purpose is an important part of having a strong company culture. The blogosphere is utterly awash with it.

My friend, Tony Hsieh of Zappos, really nailed this idea in his New York Times bestseller, “Delivering Happiness”. And another friend, Mark Earls, nailed this idea sooner than most of us with his whole “Purpose-Idea” thing.

With the Olympic GAMES upon us, I was thinking about the idea of “play” in the world of work… (What my favorite future-shocker, Pat Kane calls “The PlayEthic”)…. and how The Play Ethic is so necessary for said “purpose”.

In my experience, the big ideas come from play, not from pressure. Any half-decent artist, hacker, inventor or scientist will tell you the same.

Playing is how we learn to hack, how we learn to invent, how we teach ourselves to create.

How we teach ourselves to SURVIVE.

So as wonderful as the Olympic athletes are to watch, I think maybe it’s time to rethink The Games, not in terms of “achievement,” “excellence,” “competition,” “glory,” but a celebration of PLAY itself.

Just an idea.

-Hugh McLeod

 

It would seem Nike are on a similar train of thought.  Their non-Olympic, Olympic commercial, showcases “all the little leaguers, backyard champions, and living room gymnasts doing what they do for the love of sport with no expectations of being exalted on high and showered with accolades in the form of lucrative endorsements.” (KC Ifeanyi) They are playing. With guts and spirit and determination.  But ultimately, for the love of play.

 

So, how do we embrace this culture as educators at school? I think it has to be a conscious decision. We need to choose play.  We need to make sure we are looking for ways to learn through play – and this is not breaking news!  There will be achievement, excellent, competition and glory.  There will also be failure, mistakes, recalculations and second-tries. There will also be a whole lot of learning.

Millions of people watched Caine Monroy make his cardboard arcade.  We are nearing the one-year anniversary of the flash-mob surprise for the boy with a passion for play and a huge imagination.  In honor of this, everyone has the chance to participate in the Cardboard Box Challenge, culminating in the Global Day of Play.  I have signed up to join in and hope others in my school will want to play too.

I had an interesting conversation recently about “Global Day of _______” type events.  Does having a one-off event hold meaning for a school that is supposed to provide an integrated, student-led, inquiry-based curriculum?  Some would argue that days of fun that support a cause are good fun, a good idea and as teachers, we should be exposing kids to what is ‘out there’.  Totally agree.  But I think we need to go deeper.  If it is good enough for one day, why not all days?  If we are prepared to forgo “normal” school for a day of play, we must think it is important.  If it is important, why not include it every day?  I love the idea of a Global Day of Play.  I just hope it doesn’t start – or stop – there.  I plan on introducing the value of play from the get-go.  It is something I have been looking into and reading about all summer and something I feel passionate about incorporating into my classroom – on the Global Day and Every Day. A new daily question in  my classroom:

 

Are we having fun yet?

21st Century

How Do We Connect in the Classroom?

 

 

I just watched the opening ceremony of the London Olympics™.  I loved it.  It might not have been everyone’s cup of tea but I love the beginning of this iconic event. All throughout the ceremony, I kept wondering what those copper ‘things’ were that the kids were carrying.  When I saw them come together to represent each country coming together in peace as the cauldron….perfection. What a great way to represent the unique differences of each nation combining as one.

I read a great post which introduced me to the Köhler motivation effect – the idea that when people work together as a team, the weaker members become stronger. I thought about this in relation to our classrooms.  Many would argue that group work is an integral part of the modern classroom, but what about the introverts?  The kids who excel when working on their own?

My take on it…

By it’s nature as a ‘class’, our kids are already grouped together.  As teachers, we need to turn that group into a team – people who will support, encourage, question and connect with each other through (to steal from Barrie, above) ideas, hopes, faces, dreams, actions, stories, and memories.  When it comes to ‘working’ wether kids choose to do this in groups or individually, they should know that they are connected to and supported by the other members of our team.

How do you bring your class together as a team?