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Better Late… Friday Recap

Hi all, I hope you have had a wonderful week!  This is a late night Friday recap- better late than never   This has been a fantastic and exhausting week as I finish the website for the new school I am starting.  For those who are interested, you can take a look at it here: Anastasis Academy (if you...

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Soo Meta: Digital Storytelling Tool

Posted by admin | Posted in Create, Geography, Government, History, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 10-04-2013

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What it is: Soo Meta is an awesome new site that lets students build mixed media stories.  Students can use this storytelling tool to collect, sort, edit and publish web content easily.

There are two options for login, with name/email/password or through Facebook.  For students who don’t have their own email accounts, you can have them login using a temporary inbox like Tempinbox (just type in a word or words followed by @tempinbox.com and you are in business!).

After students have logged in, they will be asked to enter a title for their new story.  Then, they can search for videos, pictures, sounds and text or copy and paste their links into a new story.  Videos can be trimmed and edited, pictures resized and text edited.

Soo Meta is incredibly simple to use.  Just search the web, choose content to remix and off you go!  You can also simply drag and drop content from your computers desktop to create something new.

When finished, just publish the story and you can share it via link on Facebook or Twitter or you can embed the story like I did above.  (I literally spent a grand total of 2 min creating this story!)

How to integrate Soo Meta into the classroom: Soo Meta is a fantastic online tool for digital storytelling. It makes the process incredibly easy and the possibilities are limited only to your student’s imagination.

With Soo Meta, students can compile research on any topic or subject and create their own digital “textbook” of the learning to share with other classmates or students around the world.  I love that Soo Meta combines the research component with the creation piece.  So often students want to skip right to creation…with Soo Meta the two are so interdependent, it would be impossible to do one without the other!

Teachers can use Soo Meta to create learning stories for their students.  Pull together various videos, pictures and articles and mash them up for your students.  Embed finished video stories on a classroom website or blog.

Older students can create interactive video stories for younger “buddy” students.  They can solidify their own learning of history, math, science, geography, etc. by putting together learning opportunities for younger students.

The storytelling aspect of Soo Meta is fantastic!  Students can do story re-tells, current event mashups, historical documentaries, political commentary, science discoveries, etc.

Tips: Don’t be discouraged if your students are too young to create their own Soo Meta stories, create your own mashups for them to enjoy!

I’ve been nominated for a Bammy Award for Educational Blogger.  I’d appreciate your vote to help spread the word about iLearn Technology.  Vote here.  Thank you for your continued support!!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Soo Meta in your classroom.

CompassLearning Learning Profiler: Getting to know your students

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blogs, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 09-04-2013

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What it is: At Anastasis Academy, we individualize curriculum for every student.  We don’t purchase any boxed, one-size-fits-all curriculum.  Instead, we create a learner profile for each student.  I pulled together a variety of learning style inventories, multiple intelligence strength finders, and brain dominance predictors and mashed them up into a child-friendly teacher/student survey.  Our teachers spend two days before the first day of school going through these inventories with students.  I compile the information (along with their interests and passions) and put it all in an at-a-glance document.  I’m just revamping the document a little bit to look more like a big baseball card with learning stats.  We use these learner profiles all year long as a starting point for pulling curriculum, lessons and resources that will best meet the individual child’s needs.  (Learning Genome 1.0)

Educators often ask if we can share this process, unfortunately right now it isn’t pretty or sharable in any meaningful way.  When the Learning Genome is completed and launched, we will be able to share this process with the world.

Today, I ran across a tool that can help bridge the gap for teachers who are seeking a way to better customize the classroom experience for their students.  CompassLearning has created a Learning Profiler that is free to use and the results are easy to share.  While it doesn’t include all of the components of an Anastasis learner profile, it is a great starting point!  Students (who are independent readers) can go through the online survey and learn more about their learning style, interest areas and expression style.  This information would be SO helpful as a starting place for getting to know the students in your classroom better.  It would go a long way in helping you pull resources and tools that will best meet the needs of the individual. When a student is finished going through the profiler, they can share their result “badges” with others through a link to the badges, through Facebook, Twitter, email or a printed report.

How to integrate CompassLearning Learning Profiler into the classroom: At the beginning of a new school year (or semester), students who are independent readers could complete the Learning Profiler on classroom computers in a center rotation, or in a computer lab setting.  Results could be printed out or shared with the teacher via email.  I’ve found it helpful to compile these results so that I can see overlapping interests and learning needs in the classroom.  It would also be interesting to create a bulletin board with the different “badges” represented and with a picture of each student.  Students can connect their pictures to the badges using string and push-pins or staples.  It would be neat to have a web of information about your students visual for all students to see.  This would be a good getting-to-know-you activity where students could visually see their similarities displayed. 

For non-independent readers, the process would be a little more arduous.  During a silent reading or independent work time, pull students one at a time to sit and interview them.  I actually prefer the arduous method because you get all of the in-between commentary from the students which gives you a more complete picture of who they are, what they love, fear, get excited about, etc.  Even with our independent readers at Anastasis, we create our learner profiles through teacher interview.  There is something more personal and human about it.  Using this method may take a few weeks to get through all of your students, the information you glean will be invaluable!  If you teach younger students but have an older grade of “buddies,” it may be helpful to have the buddy help conduct the surveys and record the answers of the younger child.  Again, this would be a great way for the students to really get to know each other.

After you have received the results, use the information to help you plan learning activities.  If you have a student struggling in an area of learning, use the strengths and interests you know they have to come at the learning from a different angle.  Education blogs, your PLN, and Pinterest are great places to find the perfect learning opportunity to help the students in your class.  I promise you that when you connect with students this way, you will be showing them that they matter, that you care about them as an individual and that you want what is best for them.  They won’t feel like a number!  If you are looking for a specific technology resource, iLearn Technology is a great place to start the search.  Over there —> in my right side bar you will find a multi category search.  Narrow down the search by Bloom’s Taxonomy, resource type, subject area, etc.  Click search and away you go!  You can also search by keyword in the search box toward the top of the screen.  I try to tag the bejeebers out of all of my posts so that no matter how specific the search, you will find what you are looking for.  Full disclosure, I use that search box ALL the time when I am pulling resources for students at Anastasis.

Tips: Want to see what the future of personalized learning will look like?  Check out the Learning Genome Project.

I’ve been nominated for a Bammy Award for Educational Blogger.  I’d appreciate your vote to help spread the word about iLearn Technology.  Vote here.  Thank you for your continued support!!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  CompassLearning Learning Profiler in your classroom.

If you are so inclined: adventures in humbleness

Posted by admin | Posted in inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources | Posted on 08-04-2013

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I am honored and humbled to have been nominated for a Bammy award for Education Commentator/Blogger.  This blog started out as a way for me to keep track of the incredible education tools and resources that I came across.  Since 2007, it has become SO much more.  It has become a source of inspiration (because I met all of YOU incredible people!), it has become a timeline of my own educational journey, it was the match that started a school, it has become a place where I reflect.

I attended the Bammy Awards last year as a blogger.  I’m excited that there is a movement in education to honor the incredible things that happen in education every day.  I’m excited for the public voice and recognition this award ceremony provides for educators everywhere.  I’m thrilled that there is a way for us to tell each other that what we do every day matters.

If you are so inclined, I would love your votes.  The votes aren’t really what matters though, what matters is that we support each other every day.  Thank you for the ways you have, and continue to support me!  I couldn’t do what I do without you.  Truly, you have NO idea how you all keep me going some days! I am forever indebted to you!

If you are new to the Bammy Awards, you can read more about them below:

Silence is no longer an option.

The relentless national criticism of America’s public schools that is driving the negative public perception of education is leading to a decrease in public confidence and support. This is seen in demands to reduce funding, drives for privatization, highstakes standardized testing  and decreasing influence of frontline educators in the policies that impact you every day.  This is true despite the great work and best efforts of the millions who actually work inside education.

Dilligently working with kids in isolation, while quietly believing that humility is the best posture for educators just assures that  the negative public perception will continue.  To change public perception the voices of educators must be amplified. The stories of what’s right in American education must be told and you can start right now by acknowledging your nomination for a Bammy Award.

Be part of the solution.

“The depth of discouragement among educators in the trenches is at an all-time high and cannot be overstated,” said former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch in a recent BAM Radio interview.

This was backed up by Gail Connelly, executive director at the National Association of Elementary School Principals, who said, “I have never seen anything like it in 30 years.”

Educators are being intensely scrutinized, but not as intensely recognized for the great work being done. Together we can change this.

A Bammy Award nomination  is meaningful recognition that matters. 

Bammy nominations are made by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International, comprised of very accomplished, respected and recognized education leaders. The aggregate achievements and contributions of the Academy’s members makes recognition by this group a substantive and unparalleled honor to be highly valued, coveted and respected across the education community and beyond.

Your nomination means that you have made enough of a difference in education that you have caught the attention of a member of the Academy and are a leader in the field yourself. You help bring positive recognition to the education  field, yourself and your organization by spreading the word.

 

You can Vote Here

Nominations for the amazing educators you know can be Made Here

An End N-1: Making Way for New Beginnings

Posted by admin | Posted in Project PLN | Posted on 08-04-2013

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In 2010 @thenerdyteacher asked if I would be interested in starting a collaborative online magazine with him.  Of course I said yes!  Project PLN was born.  The passion behind Project PLN was to reach out to the education network and give everyone a voice.  Nick and I can be rather prolific and enjoy keeping a blog and keeping up a constant chatter on Twitter, but that isn’t for everyone.  We knew that there was this whole section of our PLN that had incredible ideas, amazing insight into education, but it wasn’t being shared widely.  Project PLN was our attempt to provide a place for all of those voices to be heard.  We wanted to help bring our PLN together, to introduce new voices and to solidify relationships.

N-1 is a concept that I read about on Seth’s Blog.  Seth says:

N-1. There are tons of things on your to do list, in your portfolio, on your desk.  They clamor for attention and so perhaps you compromise things to get them all done.  What would happen if you did one fewer thing?  What if leaving that off the agenda allowed you to do a world-class job on the rest?  What if you repeated N-1 thinking until you found a breakthrough?

I am a perfectionist with a pinch of OCD thrown in for good measure.  When I do something I go at it full speed ahead 110%.  The problem is lately, I can’t give 110% to everything that I would like to because I am always adding one more thing (N+1).  These things are good things, they are worthy things, important things.  I feel that way about each one of them or I wouldn’t have taken them on in the first place.  But lately I am finding that I am giving each less than what they deserve and not feeling a sense of accomplishment in any of them as a result.  I think this is a common feeling among teachers.  We always tend to be functioning in the N+1 model.  We give everything the best we’ve got and often feel stretched too thin.

After two years Nick and I are in new places.  We have LOVED Project PLN, even when we were at our busiest.  Over the last two years schools have been started, families expanded, new job titles added, speaking engagements, the list goes on and on.  It is time for us to employ N-1.  This is a difficult concept for us.  We are project adders…not project eliminators.  And yet, Project PLN’s time is coming to an end.  It has accomplished the purpose that we set out for it.  It connected our PLN when it needed to be connected.  With the increased use of social media and blogs, we aren’t seeing the need for it that we once did.  It is time for us to let go of one so that we have room for others.  Both Nick and I are sad to see Project PLN end.  It has kept us working together month after month.  It has given us a reason to plan after school Skype sessions.  It has been FUN.  It is our hope that in letting Project PLN go, we will have room for the next BIG thing that we can work on together.  (Stay tuned, we are always dreaming up crazy great ideas together!)

I suspect that this isn’t really an end, that it will be a beginning.  Now we have ourselves freed up for the next dream.

Thank you to all of you who supported us in Project PLN.  Thank you for contributing, for sharing yourself with us. We hope that this will be multiplied in new ways.  Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, our blogs.  Keep sharing your good ideas because YOU are an inspiration and YOU matter!

 

Mural.ly: Google Docs for Visual People

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 03-04-2013

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What it is: Murally is a tool I learned about from my friends over at House of GeniusMurally’s tagline is: “Google Docs for visual people.”  Being highly visual, that description immediately resonates with me!  Murally reminds me a little bit of Wallwisher (now Padlet), it is a way for learners to come together to think, imagine and discuss their ideas.  With Murally, students can create murals and include any content they want in them.  Learners can drag and drop images, video, etc. from any website (or from their computer) onto their mural.   Learners can create presentations from within a mural they have already created.  The best part: this all happens with the ability to collaborate with others.  Murally makes it easy for students to collect, think, imagine, show and discuss learning.  Murals can be made public (shared live with a link) or private (only friends granted permission can access the mural).

*** email address, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus account required for login.  You know what that means: 13 or older!

How to integrate Murally into the classroom: Murally is brilliant in the way that it enables learners to work and dream together.  My FAVORITE feature: you can drag and drop content from ANYWHERE!!! It works like the spring-loaded folders in Apple’s iOS.  LOVE this feature.  Honestly, this ability to clip content is a game changer.  It makes creating a mural incredibly easy.  Stinking brilliant!  

Murally is the tool that I wish existed when I was doing research projects in school.  Students can conduct and collect their research solo or invite friends to contribute to their research mural.  Students can add text, drag and drop links, pictures, video and other content.  After they have gone through the hunting/gathering phase of research, Murally makes it easy for students to go through and mindmap it all into some sort of order.  This tool is going to make me a better writer.  Visually being able to organize research and thoughts is HUGE.

Being inquiry based, I love the idea of beginning a mural for students with the driving inquiry alone on the board.  The learners job: be curious together.  Ask questions, explore, research, collect evidences collaboratively.  Capture all of that learning in one place.

Murally could be used for any mind-mapping appropriate project.  This is mind-mapping in the future.  Truly amazing!  The collaborative nature of Murally is fantastic.

Students could begin a Murally with a novel as the base.  As they read, they can include quotes, related thoughts, pictures, video clips, discussion, and related research.  I’m always amazed by the connections that our students make to other learning, a commercial they have seen, or a song.  Murally is a great way to visually collect all of this to share with others.

Murally would be an outstanding way to hypothesize about what will happen in a science experiment.  Students can then add in any research, class notes, discussion, etc.  After students have conducted the experiment they can include observations, photos, and final conclusions.

Use Murally with a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard for class notes.  As class discussions unfold, notes can be taken for the whole class and shared later.  Students can add to these later with additional learning, thoughts, and plans.

Because Murally can be used to show learning, consider creating map boards where students link what they know of Geography with the cultures, habitats, religions, politics of that area.

Murally would make the COOLEST “textbook” alternative.  Student created, mashup of all different tools, collaborative, discussion included, and organized in the way that makes sense to the learner.

This is one of those tools that has my mind spinning.  The possibilities overlap all subject areas and are endless.

Tips: The collaborative feature of Murally is so well thought out, see history and message collaborators quickly and easily.  Wonderful!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Murally in your classroom.

Math Trail: Powered by GoogleMaps

Posted by admin | Posted in Geography, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 02-04-2013

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What it is: Math Trail is a neat way for students to explore virtual trails that lead to a variety of locations connected by a theme.  Along the way, students put their math and geography skills to the test.  The trail list currently has eight trails to choose from, with varying degrees of difficulty.  Students can choose an Olympic trail, 7 Wonders, Towers, Rivers, Eminent Mathematicians, Famous Islands, Cricket or Ramanujan trails. To begin, students choose a trail and then click on the “start” button.  A list of instructions pops up.  In each trail, math questions are hidden around the map.  Students zoom in within the map to the location suggested by the clue.  There are little balloons located all over the map.  If students struggle to find the location, they can click the “show location” button at the bottom.  At the bottom of the page, there is a white box that holds clues.  When students reach a location, they are given a math challenge to complete.  At each location, students have the opportunity to earn a gold coin.

How to integrate Math Trail into the classroom:  I like the integration of history, geography, social studies and math in this game.  Students aren’t just going through a series of multiple choice math problems.  Instead, students are set forth on a journey and asked to locate various places according to the clues given.  This means that as their math skills are put to the test, they are exercising that geography muscle as well!  I don’t know what it is about maps, but they are just fun to explore.  The treasure hunt nature of Math Trail keeps it interesting.  Students get math practice and geography practice along the way.  This beats the practice set that is in the textbook!

I found some of the “low” and “medium” level questions to be challenging.  Before playing with students, go through the trails to find the challenge that is most appropriate for your students.  This could mean that you have students playing different trails.  The low end seems to be 6th-7th grade math with the Medium being middle school and the High being high school.

These trails are great for exploring on their own, but you could have students go through a trail together using the interactive whiteboard.  Give each student an opportunity help the class search for the location (the class can help or bring in a Google search for particularly difficult clues).  Each student can work out the math problem on their own and then come to a consensus of which answer to play in the game.

Tips: I wish that Math Trail provided a cheat sheet of all of questions in the game so that teachers could choose a trail for their students at-a-glance.  If anyone has done this, let us know where to find it!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Math Trail in your classroom.

Screenr: Instant Web-based Screencasts

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Blogs, Classroom Management, Create, Download, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, web tools, Websites | Posted on 01-04-2013

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What it is: Have you tried to type the following into Google: “school makes me”?  If you haven’t, it is a sobering reminder of the state of education as perceived by students and society.  I started Anastasis Academy to change this reality for students.  My hope is that one day soon, the automatic suggestions that Google pulls are overwhelmingly positive.  Last week, I asked students at Anastasis Academy to finish the statement “school makes me…”  I didn’t prompt them or give them any additional details about how I would be using it.  The answers that we got are in the video above.  Pretty cool to see how even one year of freedom in learning leads to different perspectives.  I can assure you, these are not the words most students would have used about school prior to coming to Anastasis Academy.  In fact, in full disclosure, we have 2 students that are new to Anastasis.  They started only a few months ago.  They finished the statement with “bored” and “tired.”  *sigh* This was a sad moment for me.  I want more for these boys.  Later in the day they both happened to be hanging with me in the office for a few minutes.  One of the boys asked me why I had asked the question.  I showed them what happens when you type the words into Google.  “Oh, that is really depressing. So why did you ask us?”  I told them that I cared about what they thought because if there was something we could do differently as a school, we would do it.  Both boys asked if they could change their answers, “we were thinking school in general…this place isn’t really like that.”  There were no GRAND statements of how much they loved it and we are changing their world…give it time!

To create the video above, I needed to screen capture my Google experience.  I’ve long been a fan of Screenium but for some reason, it has decided to throw in the towel and is not interested in recording anything but audio.  Frustrating.  So, I set out to see if I could find an online screencast recorder that I could use.  Jackpot!  I found Screenr and it is my new go-to for screencasting.

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Screener is a web-based screen recorder that makes it really easy to create and share screencasts.  There is nothing to install or download (always a plus!), you can record on a Mac or PC, the video plays on all devices, and it is totally FREE!  Just click the record button, capture your screen and voice (if you want) and then share the link or download the video to use in other programs.  I downloaded my finished screencast so that I could make a little video in Keynote with our words.

How to integrate Screenr into the classroom:  Screenr is a fantastically simple tool that allows teachers to create detailed screencast instructions in minutes.  This free-to-use application can capture video of anything that is on your computer screen.  Audio can be included (or not) for any screencast.  The resulting video can be embedded on a webpage or blog, sent to students via email, or downloaded.  Screencasting is a great way to teach students how to use e-Learning tools or how to complete any computer assignment.  When I taught in the technology lab, there was never enough of me to go around.  Screencasting made SUCH a difference in how I spent my time with students!  Students could self direct learning, or remind themselves of that one step they forgot.  Instead of waiting for me to be available, students could keep working and my time was spent working to help students make connections in learning instead of just on answering process questions.

Screenr would be useful for students who want to share something new they learned.  Have a student who is JAZZED about coding?  Let them show off that passion by creating tutorial videos for other students.  Anything that is computer based and could use some explanation is perfect for Screenr.  Because you can embed videos, you can share them on a class blog or website.  If you tag your videos and posts, it will be easy for students to quickly search and find what they need as they work.

Screenr can be used for more than just tutorials.  Remember this video?  This is such a cool, creative use of a screencast.  Students could similarly show off their learning through screencasts of various programs on their computer.  Just takes a little inspiration and creative thinking!

Tips: There is a pro version of Screenr, I’ve found the free version to meet all of my needs for school/classroom use.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Screenr in your classroom.

Padlet: now with the ability to download and print!

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, collaboration, Create, Download, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Spelling, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 27-03-2013

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What it is: Wallwisher has long been one of my go-to cool tools.  Recently, Wallwisher got a bit of a facelift as well as a new name: Padlet. Padlet is a fantastic little web application that provides a virtual bulletin board of sorts. Teachers can pose questions or ideas for students to answer or think about. Students are sent the unique wall URL and can leave virtual sticky notes answering the question. Students do not have to login to use Padlet, a simple double click allows them to add any thoughts they need to the wall. The platform is very simple to use but provides the opportunity for discussion and collaboration between students.  In addition to a brand new look, Padlet will now let you print or download your walls.  STINKING AWESOME!  Now you can take all of your Padlet walls and save them as an image, PDF, Excel or CSV format.  Just click the share/export button and you are in business!  Another fun new feature is the ability to keep up with what has been posted to your digital wall using email notifications.  You can sign up to get a daily update of all activity on the wall.

How to integrate Padlet into the classroom: Padlet can be used to create a flexible online space where students can create virtual posters, brainstorming boards, virtual project portfolios, and share learning with others.  Students can work together on the same Padlet space for group projects.

Padlet offers an exceptional opportunity for students to brainstorm, collaborate, and group ideas.  Students can use Padlet to brainstorm ideas for writing, explore lines of inquiry, collect research, for grouping ideas, and collaborating on group projects. Create a Padlet board for your students and ask them to group like ideas, sort, and expand on thoughts.  This could be done for any historical event, literature, science concept, and even phonics.  Students could practice spelling by typing out their spelling words along with a sentence or synonyms on sticky notes.  Then, they can group words by spelling pattern or common phoneme blends.  Create a Padlet of sticky notes with English words and sticky notes with a foreign language word on them.  Students can work together to group words with their meanings.   In math, create Padlet stickys with word problems on one color of sticky note and answers on another set of sticky notes.  Students can work to create groups of problems and their solutions.  Padlet can be used for whole class activities using an interactive whiteboard, the class can brainstorm together and collect ideas or use the grouping feature in an activity created by the teacher or students.

Students could even use Padlet to create “bucket lists.”  They could create a bucket list of books they would like to read, places they would like to travel, imaginary literary places they would like to travel, things they want to learn about, etc.

Padlet boards are SO versatile. If you need a way for students/teachers/parents to collaborate digitally, Padlet is the place.  Now that boards can be downloaded and printed…the possibilities for use are even greater!

Tips: See how others are using Padlet by visiting the new Padlet gallery.  You are sure to pick up some new great ideas for use!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Padlet in your classroom.

This blog post brought to you in association with MyFactorySchweiz

The Future We Will Create: all the in-between important stuff

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Inquiry, inspiration, Middle/High School, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video | Posted on 20-03-2013

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A few years ago I watched the documentary TED: The Future We Will Create.  Being a fan of TED talks, I was curious to learn more about the behind the scenes of TED talks and how the conference came to be.  I had heard snippets here and there that the TED conference was like a boys club…you had to have money and “be” somebody to get into a live event.  The documentary pulled back the curtain a little on the intentionality of the way that TED conferences are set up.  They are intentionally packed with entrepreneurs and successful people from various walks of life to bring together change makers.  The actual speakers may not be well known (at least not prior to the talk), they have a limited time to speak, and they share an inspirational message.  But TED isn’t really about the talks, TED is really about the talks that happen in between the talks.  It is about those serendipitous moments that happen when people are exposed to a shared inspiration and then have opportunity to dream about it together.  The magic is in those moments when people with different perspectives come together and share their thinking from that unique vantage point.  It is really about the in between moments, that seemingly empty and unimportant time.  TED does something else that I wasn’t aware of, they offer one TED speaker a “prize”.  Only the prize isn’t really a prize (not in the way we typically think about prizes), instead it is that this person gets to make a wish.  They get to cast a vision and a “what-if.”  They get to challenge the audience to solve a problem that matters to them.  Then comes the incredible part- these people actually use their unique gifts and talents and perspective to help make it so.  World changing.  A future that we create.  Together.

 

As I was pulling together resources for our current inquiry block about “sharing the planet,” I came across several fantastic TED talks that could act like a catalyst for deeper thinking and additional curiosity.  As I watched each video, I kept thinking about the behind the scenes, the in-between talks that aren’t documented.  The change happening as a result.

Then it hit me, we could do this at Anastasis.  We could watch these talks together, and then allow for the in-between talks.  We could be intentional and let our students engage in the discussion, the serendipitous moments of one thing leading to another, and another.  We could give our students time to just talk and wonder and discover together.  We could narrow it down to 3 or 4 TED talks and provide our students with serendipitous in-between.  We could open up the opportunity for our students to come up with the “wish” or challenge that the others would work to make happen.  We could empower our students to go through this same process and then watch them use their unique perspective, gifts and talents to find solutions and dream up new possibilities.

I’m excited to try this.  I believe that we are in the midst of genius every day at Anastasis.  These kids are really incredible.  I want to see what unfolds when we offer just a little inspiration related to our inquiry and then give them some space to just explore and talk.  I want them to see that when hunches collide, BIG world changing ideas happen.  I want them to understand that they are world changers.

Has anyone else done this with students?

I think that this will be a starting point.  For now we will watch talks.  Next year, I would love to have our students plan their own talks.  I want to invite the best-and-brightest from around the world to come listen to our talks.  I want to provide the in-between moments where change is enacted.

Stay tuned…

An inquiry into sharing the planet: embodied energy awesomeness

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, Inquiry, inspiration, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 18-03-2013

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You may think that when I’m not posting here regularly, it is because I’ve run out of cool new technology to share…or maybe I’m just being lazy…or tired of blogging.  While I’ve had moments of the latter two, it really boils down to the 24 hours I have in a day.  Sometimes I choose sleep!

This week, I’ve been pulling together our last inquiry block of the year at Anastasis.  I can’t believe that we are down to counting weeks before we say goodbye for the summer.

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Our last inquiry block is an inquiry into sharing the planet.  For our 6th through 8th graders the focus is: “People can choose to take specific actions to help conserve Earth’s resources.”  Each time I put together an inquiry guide for teachers, I am sure to offer plenty of more detailed questions that they can use to help guide the inquiry.  Below are some of the questions I included.

  • What can people do to help conserve Earth’s resources?
  • What are other countries doing to help/hurt conservation?
  • How does United States demand impact Earth’s resources?
  • What country has the most impact on Earth’s resources/the least? Why do you think this is?
  • Is conservation a political issue?
  • What is ecological overshoot?
  • What is embodied energy?

I love helping teachers craft the opportunities for students to be curious, to dig into learning.  During this planning, I found the following resources that are too good not to share!

What it is: Embodied Energy free ebook download.  Created by a design firm, this ebook does a nice job explaining embodied energy.

How to use the Embodied Energy ebook in the classroom:  This ebook is a well designed book that will introduce students to the energy that we don’t see in the objects around us.  This pdf can be projected for a whole class, downloaded on individual student devices or, if you must, printed out.  Use this ebook along with the Sustainability by Design TED talk playlist to spark student interest into embodied energy and how it can impact the decisions we make every day.

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These introductory activities led me to the Energy Trumps project.  This is a design project by the Agency of Design that looked at using design to help people better understand, and take-in-to-account, the way that we build, design and consume.  I absolutely love the idea of students working together as a class to study a variety of materials.  Each student could create one (or several) of their own embodied energy trading  cards to help others understand the environmental impacts of materials.  Students can research key environmental properties of materials including embodied energy, embodied carbon, embodied water, recycled content, extraction intensity and years of reserves.  These can be used to compare materials at a glance.  (If you purchase the cards created by Agency of Design, you get the added bonus of an augmented reality feature that brings the material properties to life to explore in 3D.  Students can test out the different amounts of material they can get for one megajoule of energy.)

Take this a step further and ask students how they can use that information to help design a more sustainable future.  How can they hack every day objects?  How can they change the way that society builds, consumes, etc.?

How can the idea of embodied energy be communicated to a larger audience so that more of the picture is taken into account by the average consumer?

Any time I create a new inquiry block, I work to remember that we are in the business of apprenticing change makers.  These students matter and WILL change the world.  I love reminding students that age does not have to act as a restriction for world change.

Felix Finkbeiner is a student in Germany (similar in age to these Anastasis students) who is changing the world in HUGE ways.  Felix’s Plant for the Planet initiative has started a movement of planting trees…millions of them!  Read the an article about Felix here.

Felix has also addressed the United Nations with a speech to open the International Year of Forests which can be viewed here. 

Students can use this embodied energy calculator to explore their own curiosities.

The Happy Planet Index is a fantastic way to discover the extent to which 151 countries across the globe live happy and sustainable lives based on their efficiency, how many long and happy lives each produces per unit of environmental input.  Data can be viewed in map or table format.

 

I love the potential that a new inquiry block holds.  We offer guidance and some starting places to spark interest, but where students find passion is always exciting to watch unfold.  We truly are in the midst of genius in our students!

The other reason to love inquiry? The brilliant way that it allows room for transdisciplinary exploration, and touches each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I mean really, how can you beat learning that looks like life?

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