On Building Culture: Anastasis Academy Teacher Handbook

Schools often talk about professional development as if it is the key to a successful school. I’m not convinced more professional development is the answer.  I think it’s all about culture.  When you have people who come together around passion, who enjoy each other, who have a common mission: that changes everything.

Our teacher handbook doesn’t look like most.  It was inspired by creative companies like Valve and Apple.  We are a group of rebels here. Our handbook had to reflect that.

 

We are on a mission to humanize learning.  We are on a mission to make personalized learning available to EVERY child in the world.  Please help us spread the word. Donate, tweet, blog, and email others about the Learning Genome Project.

 

ScootPad: self-paced learning

What it is:  ScootPad is a really neat site that recognize that no two students are alike and that they will master skills in different ways.  ScootPad helps students gain mastery through gradual and thorough practice that is personalized to teach the student.  This personalized practice helps build confidence in learning and keeps students moving forward at a pace that is appropriate to them.  Students can expect a fun learning environment.  Teachers can expect automated practice, real-time progress tracking and assessments that will help you to formulate next steps for students.

All curriculum is based on Common Core Standards, including math and English/language arts for k-5 classrooms.  For students in kindergarten or first grade, there is a voice/read-aloud feature.

The ConceptBank is a free app for Common Core standards and concept review.

Teachers can easily manage a classroom of students from the teacher dashboard.  Curriculum can be customized for a class, group of students or for each student individually.

Parents have access to all of their child’s progress and alerts.  They can encourage their child using customizable rewards.

Best of all…ScootPad is FREE!

How to integrate ScootPad into your curriculum: ScootPad is a really fantastic website for k-5 students and teachers.  Here, students can get personalized practice for learning new concepts.  Teachers and parents receive immediate data about a student’s progress.

ScootPad is a great first step to personalizing the learning experience for students.  I like that it is cross-platform so that it could be easily incorporated into a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) classroom.  Regardless of what device students are using, ScootPad works for them.

Scoot Pad is really a practice site that helps you to inform instruction based on student needs.  The practice is all drill based (not a lot of room for critical thinking or different ways of showing what a student knows) but this could be a great benchmark tool to help you understand where students have strengths and weaknesses in their learning.

Tips: ScootPad is available as an app for the iPad, Android, Chrome, Mac, Windows, Edmodo,  and Schoolology.  Like I said, it is perfect for a BYOD environment!

***Want to do your part as a CHANGE MAKER in personalized education?  Check out, support and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using ScootPad in your classroom!

The Miniature Earth Project

 

What it is:  The Miniature Earth Project is a great website that poses the question: “what if the population of the Earth were reduced into a community of only 100 people?”  Based on this assumption, the site helps students understand what the breakdown of nationalities would be, religious representation, how many people would live in an urban area, how many people would have the majority of the world income, how many would live without clean world, those that live on less than $1.25/day, etc.  The purpose of the site is to break our quickly approaching 7billion people in the world down to a number (100) that we can more easily wrap our minds around.  The point of the site is to help kids (and adults) understand the real landscape of the world and cause positive action.

There is a video on the site that breaks down the infographic in a different way.  Students can submit their own videos about the Miniature Earth.

How to integrate The Miniature Earth Project into your curriculum: Right now the Jr. High at Anastasis Academy is looking at the following line of inquiry: “Understanding our rights and responsibilities as individuals and the similarities and differences of others helps contribute to the development of world citizens.”  The Miniature Earth Project is a great place to put the world’s challenges in perspective for students.  We have been having fantastic conversations about the rights that we enjoy as Americans, and the responsibilities to others around the world that come with those rights.  Students have also been exploring rights they believe all world citizens should enjoy and what responsibility they share in making those rights a reality for those who don’t currently enjoy them.  As you can imagine, the discussion has been fascinating!

A great place to start this discussion is by asking students to create their own personal code of conduct.  What standards will they hold themselves to?  At Anastasis we talk often about managing our freedom.  Freedom comes with responsibility, it isn’t a free-for all.  We also ask students to think about what their actions would look like if it were multiplied by 7 billion people.  What would the world look like?  Is it a place they would want to live?  The Miniature Earth Project is a great place for next steps. Looking at who makes up their world, what kind of challenges are faced.  We ask our students to think about solutions to those challenges.  They are NOT too young to come up with solutions!

Since the 100 person Earth is such a manageable number, ask students to create graphical representations of each figure presented in the Miniature Earth Project.  What questions do they have based on the data?  What challenges do they see?  What common ground do we have?  What are our responsibilities?  What rights should we claim for all humans?  What are ways that we can make the world a better place for all?  What impact can a small change make on such a large population (does it change when you think about it on a smaller scale)?

Want to show students how their actions can change the world?  Share the story of the 13 year old who has the world planting a million trees!  The story of Felix Finkbeiner is an awesome one!  Equally cool for our students: we have a Mr. Finkbeiner who teaches at Anastasis.

Tips: There are great links to more information about our population approaching 7 billion.  Be sure to have your students dig into those resources to learn more!

***Want to do your part as a CHANGE MAKER in education?  Check out, support and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Miniature Earth Project in your classroom!

Transforming Education in 40 Days: A Call to Action

*** If you need the cliff notes version of this post, skip down to the Call to Action section!

Last year I had a “hunch” about learning…specifically about curriculum.  That hunch turned into a full fledged idea and a mission to do better for kids.  Everywhere.  Along the line I met some truly incredible people who taught me things I didn’t know how to do before.  Like wire framing (thanks @ianchia), and pitching ideas (thanks @houseofgenius), and how to go about picking up programmers (thanks @toma_bedolla).  Now I’m ready to share the culmination of all this work with you.

This isn’t just a post to tell you about what I’m doing, it is a call to action for everyone (yes, even you).  It is a request for you to join me in this mission in whatever form that may take.

I have a vision: to make personalized learning a reality for EVERY child. 

I know, it is big.  It is also doable.

For those who are new to following me, here was my original “hunch” written on my other blog, Dreams of Education:

“The problem with curriculum and textbooks is that they complete thoughts.  Curriculum and textbooks give the impression that learning has an end.  That when you have made it from cover to cover, the job is done.  I know in my own schooling this was true, I thought that school was teaching me what was important and that anything outside of the curriculum wasn’t important or relevant to my life…wouldn’t they have included it otherwise?  How did curriculum get this way?  Well, people realized that there was no possible way to cover every facet of learning, so they stripped it down to what they thought was important.  The problem? What is important to you may not be what is important to me.  What’s more, something that is very important to me may have been cut all together so I don’t even get the chance to know that it is important to me.  Humans tend to like things that are definable, we like things that we can put into a neat, orderly box and carry out in a predictable way.  It feels safe and manageable.  This is what led me to the following hunch:

What if curriculum was more flexible?  What if curriculum/schools/learning looked more like Pandora.  If you aren’t familiar with Pandora, it is an online radio station that plays the music that it thinks you will like.  You type in an artist or song and it creates a customized radio station just for you.  It is remarkably accurate.  Pandora almost never gets it wrong for me.  It is like they have a direct line to my brain and can predict what song I would like to hear next.  When it is wrong, I can give the song a thumbs down and it apologizes profusely for the error and promises never to play that song again on my station.  The other thing I love about Pandora: I can have multiple radio stations.  Because sometimes I really couldn’t think of anything in the world better than Frank, Dean, and Sammy; but other times  I also want a little Timberlake, Whitestripes, or Bangles.  What if curriculum looked like that?  What if learning happened as a result of typing in one subject or topic that a student was enamored with and a completely personalize learning journey began playing out for them?  What if students were led through a journey that was completely customized?  What if they had several stations mapped out for them?”

I believe this is possible.  I believe it is within our reach to create a completely personalized learning experience to every unique child.  I believe that we can honor humanity instead of treating our kids like widgets in a factory.  I believe that teachers should be teachers, focused on the needs and development of the child instead of teaching the masses through scripted curriculum.

This is The Learning Genome Project.

The Learning Genome Project will empower teachers and parents to become engineers of learning by providing each individual student the exact content they need, at the exact moment they need it.  The Learning Genome will enable students to explore the process of inquiry, experimentation, discovery and problem solving.  Instead of learning how to pass the next test, we will enable students to construct meaning and learn how to transfer that meaning to new life context.  At the hub, the Learning Genome is a platform that aggregates resources and, using a series of algorithms, provide recommendations of the BEST resources to meet the individual learning needs of a specific child.  The Learning Genome creates those serendipitous moments of finding just the right learning tool to meet the needs of children at the right time.

Much like Pandora finds that perfect piece of music, the Learning Genome will find the perfect piece of learning material to aid the student in learning.  The key to the Learning Genome’s success is crowd sourcing.  I will be drawing on educators around the world (that’s you!) to help me tag curriculum, books, lessons, videos, apps, websites and other educational content.  This collection of tagged content lives in the centralized “cloud” and wil allow users around the world to find and access materials that best suit student needs.  By gathering information about the individual student’s learning style preferences, multiple intelligence strengths, social/emotional levels, interests and passion, the Learning Genome can help teachers to create customized learning maps for each individual.  This portion will be free. Every child deserves a unique learning experience.

In addition to the Learning Genome Hub (the aggregate), the site will include a complete Student Information System, planning tools, e-portfolios, e-learning, individual learning plans, assessment and blogging tools.  All of these will work seamlessly together for you go-to for learning and planning.

Changing the world here.

Call to Action

So…how can you help?  I’m glad you asked!

1.  Learn more about the Learning Genome at indiegogo.

2. Please consider investing in this mission (see the awesome perks that includes below).

3.  Blog about the Learning Genome with a link back to the indiegogo campaign (be sure to link to those posts you write in the comments below!)

4. Tweet about this project…a lot.  Let’s completely take over the Internet with tweets about the Learning Genome and taking over education for kids! Please make sure to link back to the indiegogo campaign so that others can learn about it! Use the hashtag #standagain (because after all, we are helping children “stand again” in their learning)

5. Offer your time as a Learning Genome Content tagger or beta tester

6.  Mention us on Facebook and like us on Facebook!

7.  Did I mention spread the word? Seriously, that is SO helpful!  You never know who might see that tweet and drop a couple thousand (or more) to make this project go!

8.  Time is of the essence.  I have 40 days starting NOW to make this happen.  eeek!  I need your help!

So, what are the perks to helping with this project?  

$5  gets your name on the Learning Genome Change Makers page.  You are changing education. That makes you a big deal.  I want everyone to know what a big deal you are!  I know many of you don’t think that your $5 can do anything.  Wrong.  According to my cluster map, I have hundreds of thousands of visits to this blog.  If each of you pitches in…we all win fast!

$10 Remember all those cool Bloom’s Taxonomy posters I made?  This campaign is now the ONLY place you can get them.  These are 8.5″ x 11″ versions of the poster.

$30 Learning Genome beta tester. You get the inside scoop and ability to play before ANYONE else.  I know, pretty cool.

$60 EXCLUSIVE A full size large-format print of my Bloomin’ Peacock mailed to you.  That awesome little Peacock looks even better large.  Did I mention this is the ONLY place you will get a big version of this?

$500 Even more EXCLUSIVE  you get all of my Bloom’s re-imagine posters in the large format.  Perfect for your classroom, library or as a gift to your favorite teachers.

$1000  My Searching for daVinci webinar for your school.  What better way to spend your professional development dollars than learning how to create a daVinci like culture of learning at your school?  Worth it!

$5000 For my corporate friends who want to see their logo in lights as a company that supports education and changing the world.  If you have an education company, The Learning Genome Project will be the place to be seen.

 

We have $85,000 to raise.  It sounds like a big number.  We can do it together.  I figured if I am going to lean on crowdsourcing to transform education, the funding should be crowdsourced too.  How awesome will it be to join together as an education community to say, together we transformed the way learning is done.  We changed things for every child in the world.  Yeah, it’s big.


 

Claco: United We Teach, build lessons collaboratively

What it is:  Claco is a new website that makes it simple to build, organize and share lessons. Your lessons can be dynamic including weblinks, embed codes, online videos, files and more.  In addition to creating and uploading your own lessons, you can also search and use lessons that other teachers around the world have built.  There is no better way to stretch and grow professionally than to learn from each other!  Claco makes it easy to work with other educators in a collaborative environment to streamline the lesson planning process.  I love the vision behind Claco, they have even created a movement called “United We Teach” that encourages educators to share and enhance each other’s resources.  I learn SO much from my PLN, creating a place where this is encouraged as part of the process is fantastic!

Another feature I love about Claco: no need to download lessons, you can view and use all lessons directly from your Claco profile.  That means that lessons are available from anywhere (because they are in the cloud) and can be used from computers, iPads, and smartphones…super handy!

How to integrate Claco into your curriculum: Use Claco to save yourself time.  I tend to get lost in the OCEAN of amazing lesson ideas and resources on the web.  I like that Claco can be a one-stop shop for resources and lessons.  The ability to organize all of my findings in one easy-to-use place that can be accessed by all of my devices is also very helpful.

Aside from the time saving, Claco makes it possible to collaborate on lessons with other teachers in the building, or from anywhere in the world.  Lessons can be constructed with teammates and enhanced by anyone.  Lessons can also be easily shared with students, parents and colleagues.

Tips: You may recognize some features of Claco.  Class Connect (which I wrote about here) has morphed into Claco. The genius behind Claco, Eric Simons who created the sites after some frustrations with his own school experience.  Instead of being disenfranchised, he set out to make it better.  You gotta love that!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Claco in your classroom!

Construct 2: A WYSIWYG editor for HTML5

What it is:  Construct 2 is a free program that makes it possible for ANYONE (kids too!) to make HTML5 games without any programming experience.  Construct 2 is available for free download for Windows XP, Vista and 7.  The approach to game creation is pretty intuitive.  It is easy enough for beginners but is robust enough to make some pretty impressive games.  This editor makes it possible for your students to take their ideas to production.  SO cool! Construct 2 also has physics elements that can be added to games that adds dimension and another aspect of learning in game design.

Construct 2 has a free version, as well as two tiers of paid versions.  The free version doesn’t allow students to create iOS native apps, Android native apps and has a few limitations in organization of a project.  Other than that, it is fully loaded and pretty impressive!

How to integrate Construct 2 into your curriculum: I don’t know about you, but our students are programming crazy!  The only problem: programming comes with a pretty steep learning curve and our kids want to make their ideas come to life now.  I’ve found that students respond well to these kind of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors.  The great thing about these type of editors: students get to see their ideas come to life and those that are interested in pushing the limits are motivated to learn more coding/programming language.  It is the best of all worlds!  The downfall of Construct 2: WINDOWS.  Yeah, no version for Apple yet.  I have no idea what that is like…my world is Apple.  BUT, I know many of you are in Windows environments (sorry) and many of our students still have Windows at home.  This post is for you!

Construct 2 can be used to create games and HTML5 apps.  This means your students can fully flesh out their learning with choose-their-own adventure stories, history explanations, science simulations/games, design thinking, etc.  Taking learning to “publish” this way is pretty amazing.  I can’t tell you how awesome it is to see students take what they have learned and create something new with it.  I highly recommend it!

Consider offering game construction as an option for students to show what they know.  You will be impressed!

Tips: There are some great tutorials on the Construct 2 website.  This is a great way for your students to engage in a little self-directed learning and exploration. 🙂

Looking for some ways to teach kids about coding?

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Construct 2 in your classroom!

Nanoogo: Online ePortfolio solution

What it is:  Nanoogo is a place for students to create and share.  Nanoogo has a digital canvas that lets student share their knowledge and ideas with classmates.  Parents can easily login to view and comment on student work.  As a teacher, you can create a custom channel where you can provide secure access to parents and students and moderate or suggest changes to content before it gets posted.  Nanoogo is currently FREE to all schools, they mention on their information page that this may not be the case forever…I vote to sign up while it is free!

When students view each other’s work, they can rate it with a “like, genius, inspiring, cool, helpful, cute, funny or beautiful” badge.

Student can take screen shots of websites for their canvas.  Here they can add a sentence about what they learned/did.

How to integrate Nanoogo into your curriculum: At Anastasis Academy, we have a digital learning environment with 1 to 1 iPads.  We are largely paperless which has been WONDERFUL!  We don’t do worksheets…ever.  Bliss!  Most of what we do is digital, project based, design thinking, or discussions.  One of the problems this creates is a lack of bread crumbs of evidences of learning.  When you aren’t sending home a constant stream of graded worksheets, quizzes and tests, how can parents follow along and see what learning has been done?  What are the evidences?  Nanoogo could be a great place for students to create and keep an eportfolio.  Students can take screen shots and pictures of the projects and websites they have worked on and add a short reflection sentence about what was learned.  Everything can be shared with parents and classmates through the Nanoogo website.  Parents, students and parents can comment on student work and give it badges.  For everything that students upload on Nanoogo, they earn GoPoints.  These are displayed on a leader board.  Instead of ranking students based on grades, they are ranked based on how much of their learning they share.  I like this distinction…I’m not sure I love that we are still ranking students at all.  I think it might be more useful for students to compete against themselves in the points instead of against others.

Tips: At Anastasis, we use Evernote for our ePortfolio.  You can learn more about that here:

Evernote as an ePortfolio in a 1-to-1 iPad setting

 

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Nanogoo in your classroom!

Place Value apps, ideas and activities

One of our classes needed some ideas for teaching place value.  I gathered up some ideas, activities, games and app suggestions for them.  Since sharing is caring, I thought I’d share them with you all as well!  If you have great suggestions for teaching and practicing place value, leave us a comment!

 

New issue of #ProjectPLN: Back to School Tips

Holy smokes, you all completely blow me away!  We received an incredible number of submissions for our “Back to School” issue of Project PLN.  You all are pretty amazing, thank you for sharing with the rest of us! Project PLN literally wouldn’t exist without our PLN…we count on you to share and make this happen.  Thank you!

I loved going through all of these posts.  I finally took out a notepad to keep track of my favorite new ideas 🙂  Don’t keep these great ideas to yourself, share them with a friend.  Sharing is caring you know!

Nick and I are now accepting submissions for the November Issue. We have decided to label it the “Sharing Issue”. There are many great lesson plans, resources and tools out there and it is tough for teachers to find the time to look for them. We want Project PLN to be a place where people can share their awesome lesson plans or resources with everyone out there.

If you think you have something awesome to share, please send an email to ProjectPLN10@gmail.com and we will add it to the November Issue. Please follow the guidelines for submissions below so we can quickly and easily load your posts to the site.

Please email the article or link to the article to ProjectPLN10@gmail.com

Please include a small bio that includes your blog, Twitter handle and other information you would like to share. A picture is encouraged, but not required.

It may be a piece you have published on your blog already. A good idea is still a good idea even if you had it a few months ago.

Please submit posts by Monday November 5. We expect for the issue to go live on Tuesday November 13.

Thanks again for all of the support you have given Project PLN over the years.

Have an awesome school year,

Nick and Kelly

Co-Editors – Project PLN

PowToon: AMAZING free animation tool

What it is:  I have discovered my new favorite creation site.  Holy wow this is a cool tool.  Basically, it makes you (and your students) look like rockstars when they present.  You know all of those super cool animated videos that tell a story through drawings on a whiteboard?  Now you can make those all on your own with a super simple drag-drop tool.  Meet PowToon.  It is awesome.  I’m a little addicted to playing with video creation…no joke.

PowToon has a great mission: “to address all the frustrations that people have with power point and keynote and add animation and killer design.”  You don’t have to be super tech savvy or design skills to create spectacular animated presentations.   The goal here is to help people communicate in a way that conveys ideas.  Best of all…it is FREE!  Woot!  Also, PowToon loves education, they want to help teachers and students create great content that is visually engaging, captivating and fun to make.

Right now PowToon has 5 design styles (with more coming).  Added with your student’s creativity, these animations are going to be fabulous.  Finished videos can be shared all over: YouTube, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, Twitter, exported or embedded.

PowToon is currently in Beta version. Sign up for an early look at this super cool creation tool.  I got my invitation within a few hours.  #bam

How to integrate PowToon into your curriculum: PowToon is a fantastic way to share ideas and story.  Communication is a vital skill.  The ability to express ideas and story in a succinct, clear manner is crucial.  Today, students have another facet of communication to learn…visual communication.

PowToon would be a great addition to the design thinking routine.  Students can use PowToon to share their ideas or to “prototype” an idea.  Students can create videos to show math processes, explanations of complex concepts, review new learning, teach others, explain processes, tell stories, or present research.  The possibilities are really endless and students will come up with hundreds of other creative uses.

Teachers can use PowToon to create animations for students.  This is a great way to present new information or ideas for discussion.

Tips: The PowToon Interactive Tour and How to Create series are very helpful to watch prior to creating your first animations.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using PowToon in your classroom!