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Science Bob

What it is: Science Bob is a great resource library for the elementary science classroom.  It is an excellent place for students to explore science concepts.  Students can get some fun science fair ideas, experiments (that can be done offline), research helpers, science questions/answers, and science...

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#FutureReady starts with Metanoia: doing life together in the journey to change one’s mind

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 20-11-2014

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Metanoia: What it really means to be #futureready

Every morning Anastasis Academy students start with a mile walk. Together. We don’t walk by class, or by age. We walk together in community. Sometimes (when the weather is nicer) whole families join us, dogs included. It is a great way to start off the day. Directly following the walk, our students come together for a morning meeting. We call it “Metanoia” which is an ancient Greek word meaning: the journey to change one’s mind. Again, we do this as a community, not separated by age, grade, or class. They all sit together. Sometimes we bring in guest speakers, sometimes we watch a video together, and sometimes different staff members lead Metanoia. We share stories and take time to do life together. We do a lot of awesome things at Anastasis, but the Metanoia time together in the morning is among the most awesome.

The Metanoia tends to be tied up with the current inquiry block. This block, our students have been intentional about being thankful. Having an attitude of gratitude every day as part of our How We Express Ourselves inquiry block. Early in the week, we had @thewesroberts as our guest speaker. He gave each student a quarter and challenged them to multiply it and then give it away. Wes talked to the kids about the power they have to make an impact on each other’s lives and on our community. Incidentally as Wes was talking to our students, one of my friends lost their house and dogs in a fire. Devastating. I mentioned this to some of the Anastasis staff and before I knew it, our students had determined that they were going to multiply the quarters they were given to help my friend. Wow.

Today during Metanoia, @lancefinkbeiner called up students to the front one at a time and then asked the other students to say something that they appreciated about the student at the front. As a community, our kids told each other why they matter. This was a neat exercise, but what made it extra special was the way that kids of all ages gave input. They know each other. It matters not if they are the same age, or if they are in the same class. They know each other well enough that they can speak to what they appreciate about in each other. The love and grace that they offered each other through their comments was outstanding. “I like the way that you are friends with everyone.” “You are so creative!” “You include people.” “You have a great heart.” “You are really funny.” It was seriously so much awesome. Every student got to hear what others appreciated about them. Happiness.

So much of the time when we talk about education we focus on policy, politics, technology integration, curriculum. I’m learning that the most important thing is often the one that no one talks about. Community. Doing life together. Our kids are really good at thinking deeply, they are creative and innovative, they are incredibly articulate, they are confident, they are smart. I’m convinced that none of this would look the way that it does if we hadn’t been so intentional about building up our community. When kids feel supported by others; when they know that kids who are older and younger than they are care about them; when they can be vulnerable together, this is what leads to all of the rest being possible.

Many of my friends have been having discussions about #FutureReady. I think #FutureReady starts with Metanoia, doing life together in the journey to change one’s mind.

 

Want to see first hand what makes Anastasis such an awesome place to learn? Join us for 5 Sigma in February!

Post-it Plus: Digitize your Post-it Notes and take brainstorming with you!

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 18-11-2014

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Post-it Plus: take your brainstorm sessions with you!

What it is: Post-it Notes are among my very favorite office supplies. I use them for brainstorming, my calendar, to jot down reminders, and to collect the brilliant ideas that happen in the middle of the night. At Anastasis, we use Post It Notes constantly to help organize brainstorm sessions and lines of inquiry during an inquiry block. As you might imagine, we use TONS of Post-it Notes during any given week! They are hard not to love, brightly colored squares just waiting to collect brilliance and post it for the world to see. Recently, I stumbled on an app, Post-it Plus, that takes my love of sticky notes to a whole new level! Post-it Plus is an app that lets you snap pictures of a Post-it note brainstorm session, and then arrange, refine, and organize the notes on a virtual board. The newly organized digital board can then be shared out.  Students can capture 50 Post-it notes at a time and collect and combine ideas from multiple categories. Notes can be organized on a grid, or free form any way that you would like. Boards can be shared via email, PowerPoint, Excel, Dropbox, by PDF, etc. After the work has been shared, anyone can help contribute and arrange the notes to create a great idea! The app is free and optimized for iOS 8.

How to integrate Post-it Plus in your classroom: Post-it Plus is a great way for students to capture their brainstorms and group work so that they can take it with them.

Collaboratively brainstorm with your class or explore some different lines of inquiry and record each new thought on a sticky note. Students can then take a picture of the group on their iOS devices and arrange and group in a way that best makes sense to them. Now all of your students can manipulate the sticky notes individually and bring their learning with them.

As students are writing (either creative or informational), they can write each new idea or paragraph on a different sticky note. Then they can arrange their notes and take a picture. As they create different arrangements, they can use the digital version to compare with the original to make decisions about the flow of their writing.

Teach young students? Write down the different parts of a story (beginning, middle, supporting details, end) on several sticky notes. Students can snap a picture of the notes and practice sequencing the story. Each student has the digital version, so each can practice ordering and you can quickly assess their understanding.

Post-it Plus could also be used for phonics work. Write phonemes on individual sticky notes and ask students to take pictures of each phoneme with the app. Then call out words that students can create with their phonemes in the app.

Post-it Plus is also fantastic for students learning math processes (order of operations anyone?) and algebraic thinking. Write each part of an equation down and students can manipulate the digital sticky notes to show process.

Students can also use Post-it Plus to categorize and organize ideas and events in history, science, government, etc. How We Got to Now anyone? :)

Tips: I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve been to that we used Sticky notes to brainstorm ideas. Post-it Plus makes it easy to take that thinking and learning with you in a very practical form that you can interact with later! Speaking of conferences, the 5 Sigma Edu Conference is a great one to test out this app!

StackUp: Get professional development credit for Twitter edchats

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Classroom Management, education reform, Grade Level, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Reform Symposium Conference, Secondary Elementary, Software, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 13-11-2014

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StackUp: Get credit for everything you read and learn online

What it is: StackUp is a really neat new web app that automatically scores online reading and learning. As you work online, StackUp captures data through the free web app and plugin which can be used on Mac and Windows (iOS and Android coming soon). When active, StackUp captures and attributes a score time that is spent anywhere online. It then categorizes it into 60 different subject areas including: news, finance, engineering, fashion, technology, sports, and online classes. StackUp is a metric that can offer insight into the commitment and study of a certain field.

How to integrate StackUp into the classroom: In the increasing digital landscape of the world (and classrooms) it is important to offer the opportunity for students to research and direct their own learning. StackUp offers students a way to share the commitment of learning with teachers and other stake holders. So often, we think about time spent online as “wasted” because, let’s face it, there can be lots of moments of wasted time online. But, the Internet is also a rich landscape for learning and continued learning in areas of passion. StackUp is a way for students to offer proof of this time spent learning so that teachers can appreciate and offer credit for that learning. Often classrooms have certain parameters and reading expectations for students. What if instead, we offered kids the ability to spend time researching, reading, and exploring things that they are passionate about…and then offer credit for it! StackUp could be the catalyst for more independent learning opportunities and studies within areas of passion. One of the things that I find holds teachers back from allowing this type of reading, is the inability to measure whether a student has really spent time on task.

I’ve often lamented about how I wish that the time spent in online education chats and reading educational blogs, articles, and whitepapers counted as professional development and credit hours. Seriously, I rack up the hours and it is always time well spent. As an administrator, I would happily accept a StackUp record of the time that my teachers engage in online material and offer credit and professional development hours for that time. I’ve gotten more out of the connections, chats, and learning that I’ve done with all of you online, than most of the required professional development. This could be transformational for helping tell the story of the learning that we do independently.

Imagine “Stacking” up the learning from a young age in areas of passion, and continue throughout their lifetime giving students another way to distinguish themselves. Tools like StackUp could start to change the landscape of learning and how we decide who the “experts” are. Hint: it isn’t always the person with the most letters behind their name.

Tips: Worried that one of your students might be able to cheat the system and simply open a webpage and walk away? No need to worry! StackUp is built on a patent-pending software system that can detect the difference between a student who just opens a webpage versus the student who is actually engaged.

StackUp doesn’t always have to run in the background and record every single move you or your students make online, it allows users to turn it on or off at any time and delete time spent on a website or in any category…you know, for those of us who spend an embarrassing amount of time on Pinterest. :)

 

Want to really amp up your professional development with the best education conference you’ve ever been to? Join us for the 5 Sigma Edu Conference!

5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

How We Got to Now: 6 Innovations That Made the Modern World

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Art, Evaluate, Geography, History, Inquiry, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 05-11-2014

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How We Got to Now: 6 innovations that made the modern world

At Anastasis Academy, we are in the middle of the inquiry block “Where We Are in Place and Time.” During this block our students are exploring orientation in place and time, personal histories, explorations and migrations of humankind, and the relationships between the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations from local and global perspectives.  Serendipitously, Steven Johnson’s new book “How We Got to Now” just came out along with a PBS documentary. The timing could not have been better!! Steven looks at 6 innovations that made the modern world. In his telling about these 6 innovations, he demonstrates the inquiry approach in really brilliant ways. The interdisciplinary nature of this series is fantastic! I’ve been reading “How We Got to Now” (I highly recommend it!) and the students have been watching the new PBS documentary series by the same name as part of the inquiry unit. In addition to the book and documentary series, PBS has a brilliant How We Got to Now website for the classroom!

What it is: How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson is a website from PBS. The resources on the site are meant to support the documentary series (or book) and recommended for 6th-12th grade. At Anastasis, we are using it with students as young as 3rd grade and they are all getting something out of it and loving the connections of history and these innovations.

How to use How We Got to Now in the classroom: I love the way that Johnson explores innovation through these 6 lenses. Instead of offering up the typical “heroes” of invention, Johnson introduces students to concepts that span hundreds of years of invention and many of the unsung heroes. The six innovations include: glass, time, clean, light, sound, and cold. I’m telling you, the way that Johnson helps kids see connections in innovation and invention is brilliant! So much the way that inquiry works. :)

The How We Got to Now site has a great “Big Ideas” section that leads students to dig deeper into the six innovations and has provocations for students to continue making connections, learning, asking questions, and even coming up with their own innovations.

Students can explore and discuss how change happens and think about how we get to “next.”

As I mentioned, our students at Anastasis are really loving this block. They are enjoying exploring Where We Are in Place and Time with the help of Steven Johnson and through the lens of these six innovations. It has led to a lot of additional lines of inquiry and has also prompted our students to create their own innovations and inventions for the “next.”

As I was reading “How We Got to Now,” I couldn’t help but imagine a set of dominoes. Each innovation connects to something prior that sets off a chain reaction like the domino effect. I suggested to our classes that the students choose one of the six innovations to illustrate this way. The students will create a mini museum for our families to go through that is full of large cardboard dominoes with the inventions and catalysts of the chain reaction. The last domino will be their invention. I’m excited to see this come together!

Tips: Watch full episodes of How We Got to Now online here.

Are you interested in learning more about the inquiry model we use at Anastasis Academy? Join our conference in February! Early bird registration now available.

Anastasis Academy hosting the education conference you don’t want to miss!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, collaboration, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, professional development, Subject, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 20-10-2014

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5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

At Anastasis Academy, we are continually considering the assumptions made in education. We regularly seek to step away from those assumptions about how education must look, and dream together. Many of you have seen this dreaming (we do it pretty publicly), and have asked LOTS of questions about how we do what we do.

As a staff, we’ve asked questions about how assessment must look. We’ve asked questions about what a report card looks like and about what their purpose is. We’ve asked questions about how learning space must look. We’ve reconsidered the timing of the school day. We’ve questioned standards and testing. We’ve questioned the purpose of school. We’ve looked at the part that community plays in a school setting. Most of what we do at Anastasis every day looks very different from what most schools look like, and yet, what we do is not so revolutionary that it can’t be implemented in classrooms everywhere. In fact, our larger goal is to help educators everywhere do what we do.

Dreaming is nice, but in order to really transform education (and classrooms) we must go beyond dreaming . We have to learn, iterate and find a way to launch. It is only when all three of these happen that we can truly transform education and learning.

This February, Anastasis Academy is hosting a 3-day conference to facilitate this transformation in education. We chose 5-Sigma Edu Con as the name for our conference. Why 5-Sigma? 5-Sigma is a declaration of discovery. In science, it is used as a measure of confidence in a result. At Anastasis Academy, we are in a continual process of discovery. We call our conference the 5-Sigma Edu Con because that is what we hope for, declarations of discovery. Our goal is to transform education to be the very best that it can be for kids everywhere. We want to offer a conference experience where educators can come together to learn with world-changing thinkers and innovators. This conference will go beyond the typical how-to sessions; we will be hosting conversations where educators can come together to learn, iterate, and launch. There is something for everyone! This conference is for educators (of any level), administrators, and anyone involved in education.

I can boldly tell you this is like NO education conference you have ever been to. Some special features you can look forward to:

  • Tour Anastasis Academy- if you’ve wanted to see Anastasis Academy in action, this is your opportunity! Get a first hand view of the innovative learning that takes place at Anastasis Academy. Our students will offer an inside look at learning, free from assumptions. Tour our space, ask questions, meet our team, and see education re-imagined.
  • Learning Excursions- At Anastasis Academy, we seek to help our students understand that learning happens everywhere, not just within the four walls of our school building. We have reserved February 22 for adult learning excursions. These are opportunities to experience Colorado, think outside the box, and consider different ways of approaching learning. We cannot WAIT to let you experience learning the way that our students do.
  • No last names or titles rule- We all have an inherently unique perspective about the world, teaching, and learning. Yet, when we interact in our society (or education circles) these can get lost as we operate from the perspective that some people’s ideas are more important. We tend to give more weight to people on a stage, those who have been published, and people who hold titles of authority. The truth is, we all have something that only we can contribute to the discussion. We want to create a level playing field where ideas can be shared freely and everyone is comfortable to network. The labels shouldn’t own us. Before our final keynote, there will be a “grand reveal” where we will share our last names and titles.
  • AWESOME keynotes, sessions, and panel discussions: Christian Long will be the opening Keynote and will kick us off for a fantastic weekend of learning, panel discussions will include Team Anastasis and Anastasis alumni, and sessions are being led by incredible educators and thinkers from around the country.

Registration for 5 Sigma Edu Con is now open. Also open, calls for session proposals. You have something to contribute, please consider presenting! Registration and proposal for a session can be found on the 5 Sigma Edu Con website.

To learn more about the 5-Sigma Edu Conference, visit http://5sigmaeducon.com!

 

5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

 

Ozobot: game pieces with brains

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, Fun & Games, iPod, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 14-10-2014

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What it is: “Oh my gosh! This is SO AWESOME!!” – Exclamation from a student upon playing with the Ozobot for the first time.

Last week, I got an Ozobot in the mail…I couldn’t wait to play! These little robots are game pieces with brains. They are about the size of a large bouncy ball and kids can interact with these little robots in a variety of ways. Right out of the box, the Ozobot is ready to use. After a quick calibration (which consists of holding down the power button and setting on a “dot” card) the Ozobot is ready to play and learn with. Ozobot reacts to color codes. The color codes have already been programmed which means that your students can use those codes to create their own games and challenges. Red, blue, green, and black markers can be used to create their own challenges, games, and courses for the Ozobot. In addition to your student’s imaginations, the Ozobot website has pre-made mazes and games that can be downloaded and printed out. The Ozobot can also interact with your iPad or Android devices, download the Ozobot app and you suddenly have a lot more ways to interact with the Ozobot!

How to integrate the Ozobot into your classroom for learning: The Ozobot is a great way to teach your students the basic building blocks of coding. While they won’t actually use code to make Ozobot move, the color codes teach students to think like a programmer. Students start to realize that they can make the Ozobot move and react based on their input of different colors. Before you give your students the OzoCode sheet (which can be downloaded from the Ozobot website), use the color card included with the Ozobot and ask your “scientists” to observe this strange new discovery. Students can play the part of scientist and record observations about what Ozobot does in reaction to the different colors and codes on the maze. Can they reproduce some of these behaviors on their own drawings for Ozobot? Next, give them the color code reference chart and let them experiment with the different color codes. IF they make a red and blue dot next to each other THEN what does Ozobot do? Help students think in terms of IF/THEN and not only will they get practice with the scientific method, they will also get some great building blocks for coding. Students can use the color codes to design their own mazes and challenges for the Ozobot, they can even create their own games! The Ozobot kit that I received is from the Competition Series and included two Ozobots and some Ozoskins (so that you can tell them apart). Students could create large self correcting math or vocabulary puzzles for Ozobot to solve. They can write down the question and try to “beat” Ozobot to the correct answer. Each student can create a problem and they can be used as a center game…Beat Ozobot. Ozobot can move, set timers, pause, exit and win, count down, walk backward, spin, zigzag, etc. While it travels to the correct answer on the sheet of paper based on the path drawn, students have to try to solve the problem first. A fun digital buddy to practice math, vocabulary, geography, etc. with!

 

Tips: Ozobot is also a pretty great dancer. It should definitely be included in any classroom dance party!

 

SNAP Learning Close Reading System

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 16-09-2014

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Recently, SNAP Learning invited me to review their Close Reading Portfolio. Wow! I’m so glad they did! The SNAP Close Reading Portfolio is really great.

Close Reading

What it is: SNAP Learning Close Reading Portfolio is a complete online program comprised of a series of interactive exercises that guide students in the meaning of words and sentences, how sentences are sequenced and arranged, and how ideas are developed in a text. The books online are engaging and all of the tools are so well integrated that students learn about strategies that should be employed while reading and are not just left reading text that is online. As a teacher, you can create student groups and assign reading collections to groups based on their needs. Online books can be filtered by Lexile level, FP level, grade level, fiction/non/fiction, etc. Create a collection for students easily and assign it to them so that they can choose a book that interests them within the parameters of their reading needs.

Close Reading

Close Reading

 

How to integrate SNAP Learning Close Reading Portfolio into your classroom: This online program is a fantastic addition to your literacy program.  When I taught 2nd grade, I loved getting to meet with small reading groups throughout the week. My goal was to meet with every group of 4 students twice in a week so that I could guide reading and help students build skills on a more one-on-one basis. While I led these small reading groups, I created tub work that students could work on independently to help build literacy skills (basically literacy centers that came to the students). At the beginning of the week, I would introduce this tub work for students. Each day of the week the tubs rotated to a different group and students would complete the activities. (To read more about how I organized tub work, read this post.) This was a great way for me to keep my students learning even though I was unavailable for guided learning or direct instruction because I was working with a reading group. I would have LOVED adding SNAP Learning Close Reading Portfolio into my rotation on classroom computers. SNAP Learning Close Reading Portfolio leads students step by step through close reading; it helps them build skills to help them understand a text. Students can highlight words that are difficult (that automatically get added to flash cards that help them learn later), answer main and supporting detail questions, and reflect on what they learned through the reading. The greatest part is the way that the program does “guided” reading and reads aloud to students while highlighting words. Truly, this is a great way for students to learn the skills necessary for reading and comprehension. As an add-on to your reading program (and certainly as a rotation for students to do while you work with individual students) it is awesome! The other benefit is all of the data collected for you. You can assign students stories to read, and see which words they highlighted, and all of their written responses. You now have some great background information for when you meet with students one-on-one.

SNAP Learning Close Reading portfolio makes it infinitely easier to collect information about how your students are reading when you aren’t able to sit right with them. This makes it a great companion to any reading program. I like the idea of using it as a center rotation (in classes with one or two computers) or independently in a 1-1 setting. While students are working through the close reading activities, you can work in smaller reading groups or one on one with students. The SNAP Reading portfolio keeps you and your students organized!

Because SNAP Learning let’s students create word lists while they read, each of your students could have a customized spelling list each week. A step into individualizing your curriculum for your students.Close Reading

Tips: There is all kinds of customization within SNAP reading to fit the needs of your classroom and each child. For example: when you assign reading, you can also assign reading timers for first, second, third, and fourth close reading.

You can request a demo of the close reading portfolio here- www.snaplearning.co/request_demo

News-O-Matic: New non-fiction delivered to your classroom every day!

Posted by admin | Posted in Geography, Government, History, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 14-07-2014

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News-O-Matic: New non-fiction delivered to your class every day!

What it is: Press 4 Kids, News-O-Matic is both a subscription-based app and a free daily email delivered in pdf format. News-O-Matic is a fantastic current event, news source for elementary students. It is a great resource for fresh, non-fiction material for your classroom. Recall, discussion, and comprehension questions are included in each News-O-Matic. You can purchase an app subscription for your class in the 1:1 iDevice setting, or you can subscribe for the FREE daily school edition which is delivered by email. The PDF can be printed out to share with your students, or to keep your class paperless, you can share it on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.

How to integrate News-O-Matic in your classroom: News-O-Matic delivers a daily newspaper written especially for elementary-age students. Each edition comes with 5 current-event, news stories that cover the latest news, science, sports, and wacky kids stories. Students get a chance to not only read the news, but also rate articles, submit questions, and submit their drawings. News-O-Matic is  a great way to keep your students reading regularly. Each day they will get engaging non-fiction reading that helps build a global perspective. Use News-O-Matic daily, as a class discussion starter. Challenge your students to make connections between the current events they are reading about, and the learning they are doing in class. Integrate geography study with reading each day. If you have a classroom map, put a place marker on it each time you read an article that is location specific. This could also be done virtually with Google Earth. This practice will help students visualize where each event takes place, while at the same time building geography skills.

Tips: All publications are ad free, so you never have to worry about inappropriate content.

The school app edition of News-O-Matic is $9.99 and can be found here.

We choose the moon: assessment without labels

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 10-07-2014

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“With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.”- unknown

Yesterday, @Kevreadenn shared the quote above with me on Twitter. It had me thinking about assessment and John F. Kennedy’s, “we choose the moon” (embedded above – you should watch it again). The declaration that we WOULD send a man to the moon, that we would do the impossible, seemed like an unworkable task given the technology of 1969. It is astounding to me that the technology I hold in my pocket is significantly more capable than the technology that sent a man to the moon. Kennedy inspired a nation to dream together, to achieve the impossible using the resources that were available. How can we inspire kids in this way as they quest for learning? How can we help those students who look at the goal of reaching the moon and think, “this is impossible, I only have 1969 technology,” to be inspired, to look at their resources in new ways and believe that they can do the impossible?

Everyone wants to know that they are “winning” and contributing to something meaningful. The declaration that a man would go to the moon was a lofty goal. It seemed incredibly  important, as a nation, that we achieve this goal together.

It strikes me as strange that the majority of assessment that we focus on in education only shows lag data. The lag data reveals to us where a student landed in a given moment, but doesn’t offer any opportunity for course correction. It also doesn’t take into account outside influences (not enough sleep, home struggles, lack of nutrition, friendship stresses, etc.). If our goals are lofty, and we want learning to be better, we will stop focusing on the lag data as the most important, and instead focus on the lead data. Lead data shows us what leads up to the learning, it gives us insight in the journey and process so that we can adjust as we go.

The majority of grading systems fail to compel action from students because they show historical data only. Students are left believing, “I’ve failed, and now I have to move on knowing I already fall short. Now I have to continue forward from a deficit.” Or they may be left believing, “I aced this, I already know it all, I don’t have anything more to learn.” Traditional grades tend to end learning. Traditional grades also measure students against everyone else with the goal being a perfect score. (Notice that I did NOT say that the goal was learning.) This comparison can be demoralizing for students who know they will fall short of the perfect score. They begin to label themselves as “stupid” and often arrive at the apathetic stance of, “it’s not even worth trying.” The other scenario is the student that believes the goal of the perfect score signals that they learned everything they need to know. For these students, apathy comes in already having hit the mark. “I know everything I need to about x.” This line of thinking closes down creativity and the drive to learn more. Apathy is the killer of learning. It matters not if you are a straight A student, or a D student, traditional grade systems breed apathy and don’t encourage kids to go for the lofty goals. There will be no choosing the moon.

Grading systems need to be upgraded so that they engage students in the process of reaching lofty goals. When students are able to help set their own goals and the assessment happens as a part of learning, students are continually pulled forward in their learning. Each small win adds learning momentum that begins to snowball into something bigger. For those who struggle, the small victories reveal that they can win and they are making forward progress. This gives the confidence that all learning is possible and worth engaging (even when the end goal feels impossible). The students who find that learning comes easily aren’t halted by artificial ceilings. They aren’t left believing that the learning has ended and are encouraged to keep moving forward.

In starting Anastasis Academy, we quickly found that no traditional grading system could adequately assess students as they were learning. We ditched formal A-F grading and instead used standards based grading. The idea was that if we assessed students based on standards (which we used as some of our learning goals), stakeholders would be able to better map progress as they went. We use standards differently, at Anastasis the standards aren’t organized by grade levels, they are simply a continuum of foundational skills. It didn’t take long before the standards based grading was also falling short. There is SO much more to learning than simply meeting the standard. We were interested in helping students understand how their attitudes toward learning impacted academic progress. We wanted to help them understand how character spills into everything else that they do. We wanted them to see that more important than a “Math” grade, was the ability to think like a mathematician. We wanted students to be able to “choose to go to the moon” and contribute to something meaningful. We needed something more holistic that helped students see the intricacies of how learning works. We wanted them to be able to make correlations between their attitudes toward learning and the outcomes that they could see.

Anastasis Report Card

This is the “report card” that I created. It is our attempt to help kids better understand what contributes to learning. It is a helpful way to show students that they aren’t “stupid in math,” but instead help them realize that they aren’t risk takers in math. The aversion to risk taking in math is what really holds them back.

The Latin root of Assessment is assidere, which means “to sit beside.” At Anastasis, we believe that assessment is more than just a measurement, it is an opportunity for apprenticeship, a time for us “to sit beside” and guide. We’ve used various tools for assessment in our short history, our search was for the assessment tool that would offer a more holistic picture of learning. We’ve used Mastery Connect and Jump Rope, but they fell short in giving us that holistic picture because they were tied to Common Core Standards alone (and limited by grade levels). What our students do at Anastasis every day is SO much bigger and deeper than these standards, and yet we didn’t have a good way to demonstrate that. Beginning in January, we rolled out our own grading system. We call it UpGrade because that is what it felt like, an upgrade!

Our goal for feedback on the UpGrade report is twofold:

1. To give students feedback that causes them to think, engage, and reflect on their own learning process as they learn.

2. To give families a detailed account of the student’s learning journey and forward progress.

The UpGrade reports are designed to explain what students know and are able to do, rather than determining grades based on point averages. This kind of grading allows teachers to more effectively tailor instruction to students based on what they actually know and can do, no floors and no ceilings.

The UpGrade report contains the proficiency marks 1-5 (explained below). These numbers are intended to demonstrate the process of learning, students move through the levels of proficiency as learning progresses. A “1” indicates that a child is new to the learning or requires a lot of guidance. A “5” indicates that the student is able to apply the learning to new situations and make connections to other learning.

1- Novice Concept and/or skill is brand new, student is just getting started in the learning. Student requires much teacher guidance and prompting.
2- Apprentice Some prompting or guidance is needed for the new concept and/or skill.
3- Practitioner Concept and/or skill can be done consistently and independently. Student may require occasional prompting or guidance.
4- Scholar Student can apply concept and/or skill to new and/or different situations with little guidance. Student is ready to build on the learning (next level of standard). 
5- Change Maker Concept and/or skill come second nature and can be used to make connections with other learning. Students understand concept/skill and can apply, evaluate, analyze, and create using the skill/concept. Student can use skill/concept for in-depth inferences and applications.

Of course when you create a report card that looks like this, you also have to craft a grading system to populate the report card. Dang it.

This is where I had to get creative and use my limited resources to make something (that seems impossible) work. I used Apple’s Numbers as the method for creating the grading system. It is tedious work, the user interface is messy, but it allows lofty goals and the impossible.

On the back end, teachers can fill in rubrics, or learning evidence pages. These compile and end up as the final 1-5 on the image that you see above. Why did I use Numbers? It is the only spreadsheet program robust enough to incorporate the graphic above. The evidences of learning (assignments) and scores are the easy part. Getting the rubrics to work the way I wanted them to, not so much! I sent out a call for help the other night on Twitter and had some AMAZING spreadsheet ninjas step in to help me find solutions. I promised to share what I figured out…for those not interested in the technical bits, feel free to skip ahead. :)

Anastasis self-grading Writing Rubric in Numbers

This is the rubric that I was working on. I wanted it to “self grade” and then for the score to transfer as a learning evidence. It seemed like it should be simple, but this honestly stumped me for days. Thankfully my PLN stepped in to point me in the right direction!

I started out by creating a highlighting rule. This is simple in Numbers, just click on the cell(s) that you want the rule on and in the “cell formatting” pane, choose “Conditional Highlighting.” In each cell where teachers could leave a score, I wanted the cell to highlight when the score was added. I chose to add the rule “Text contains” and then the number that corresponded to the row of the rubric. Then I chose a color to highlight.

Next came the tricky part. In the cells full of text, I wanted the last cell to recognize when a teacher had typed in a number, and to add up all the numbers of the row so that we could get a total that would populate on the Learning Evidence sheet. I could find all kinds of ways to accomplish this in a Google Spreadsheet or in Excel, but none of the solutions seemed to work in Numbers. I kept getting a syntax error. I finally solved it by using the following format: =COUNTIF(B2:H2,”=*1″) In each row, I changed the number to reflect the score that it would count. This got me most of the way to what I needed, but it was only giving me a count of how many of the number were in the row, not giving me the sum (=SUMIF didn’t work). SO, I added another column to find the product of the “Countif” with the row number. Success! I’ll hide these two columns for the final grade system and just have the total at the bottom show up. This total is easy to then transfer to the Learning Evidence sheet.

THANK YOU @mathlioness @katieregan88 @mrmatera @alicekeeler @royanlee @jasonschmidt123 @benlouey @malynmawby @thomascmurray, you all are truly wonderful for spending time to help me solve this. I am seriously elated that there was a solution! Anastasis teachers will be thrilled as well! :) YOU ARE NINJAS!!

When people ask about Anastasis, they are usually curious to know how we’ve broken past the barrier of labels. We have students who are dyslexic, twice exceptional, have struggled in school, are gifted, know how to play the game of school, etc. Everyone of these kids chooses the moon. They choose to do the impossible and keep moving forward. They aren’t stifled by the learning labels. They know they are more than an “A” or “F.” They start to understand that learning is not the same as a grade. They begin to understand where their hangups actually are and can work on adjusting those instead of believing they are failures.  It is amazing what happens when you take away the labels and help kids understand that no matter where they start from, there is something to be learned, forward progress to be made. They choose lofty goals. They do the impossible.

Pixel Press Floors: draw a video game on paper, snap a picture and play it!

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Foreign Language, Fun & Games, Geography, Government, History, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 18-06-2014

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What it is: Pixel Press Floors is a seriously magical (currently free) app that brings a child’s imagination to life. With the Pixel Press Floors creation platform, students can literally dream up and draw their own video game without any coding. Students draw their ideas out on paper, and the Floors app turns the drawing into an actual video game that can be played. Print out the special paper so that the app can recognize the shapes “glyphs” that are drawn, or use the in app drawing tools. The drawing is instantly turned into a game that can be tested, designed, played, and even published to the “Arcade” where others can play it.

How to integrate Pixel Press Floors into learning: The first step of creation is to download the Pixel Press Floors app on the iPad. Next, go to projectpixelpress.com to download and print the free sketch guide. Students draw up the game of their dreams and then take a picture of what they drew from the Pixel Press Floors app.

The glyphs (shapes) that students draw are magically transformed into game play objects. After glyphs have been created, students can apply a design to the element, test it, and play it. Within the app, students can create games with:

  • Run and jump game play (Mario-style)
  • Create with 14 creator glyphs: terrain, moving blocks, ladders, portals, monkey bars, power-ups, coins, super coins, falling blocks, spikes, exploding blocks, start and end positions, pits and fireballs, keys.
  • Two original themes to get the creativity jump-started: “Save the Parents” and “Fiddleheads: Stones of Eden”
  • Publishing and sharing in the Arcade

Pixel Press Floors is a fantastic “maker space” element to add to your classroom. This app is perfect for prototyping ideas, design thinking (ideation and prototyping), teamwork and collaboration, and to build creativity. In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.

There is so much to learn from digital games.  As a player, students learn to think strategically, persist through failure and experience epic wins that can translate to what they do and are willing to try out in real life. As a designer students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, digital art and aesthetics, and storytelling and writing. Students love being able to bring their creations and ideas to life in the form of a game. Video game creation could be the key to unlocking the storytelling genius in your reluctant writers. It has been my experience that a student faced with a blank paper and a writing assignment can be daunting. Introduce the idea of designing their own game and suddenly a storyline pours forth. It is pretty neat to watch!

Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary!

Students can create games that help them build skills. Instead of simply playing those drill/skill games on other websites/apps, they can create their own! This is visual notes 3.0. Instead of simply practicing math facts, students can create a customized game to help them learn and remember those facts! This type of game is perfect for creating games to practice: math facts, spelling, vocabulary, foreign languages, letter recognition, geography, history facts, etc.

Instead of passively playing games in their free time, students can create their own! The blend of the hand-drawn and technology is seamless and brilliant. Kids will have such fun creating their own games and bringing their imagination to life.

Tips: Game Star Mechanic would be an outstanding place to start, here kids can learn the thinking process behind designing their own video games.

Are you using Pixel Press Floors in your classroom? Leave a comment below and share the ways that you use it with students!

Rodan + Fields Consultant