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Detox: the most important event of the school year

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, education reform, Evaluate, Fun & Games, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 13-08-2013

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Anastasis is in the midst of gearing up for the start of a new school year.  It is year number 3!  In some ways, we are still very much a start-up (I think this will always be the case in some respect, it’s part of our philosophy to keep innovating!).  We are also beginning to establish some nice traditions and events that we look forward to each year at the start of school.

Each year, we take a few days to meet with each student individually to build a Learning Profile.  Teachers sit down with each student and  go through a survey that helps them better understand a student’s interests and passions as well as gain a glimpse at multiple intelligence strengths, learning style preferences, and brain dominance.  These Learning Profile days give students a chance to meet their new teacher in a safe space, help the teacher to learn about the student, and ultimately are used to help Team Anastasis individualize instruction for each learner.  I’ve played around with different ways to gather this information: Google forms that the teacher fills in during an interview, Bento for gathering information in one place, an interactive PDF.  This year I took a different approach, I am hopeful that it will be more fun for the students.  I created a set of cards to sort of gamify the process, giving students a tangible and visual way to think through each statement as it relates to them.  Teachers will record this process and then hand the data collected off to me for future planning.  I used my new favorite find http://thenounproject.com to help me illustrate these cards.  Fun fact: I have an ACTUAL artist working on the next version of these cards that I will be able to share with the world!  @mdusing is creating illustrations for each card to help students better understand what each card represents, some of the concepts can be pretty abstract (empathy is always a tough one for kids to connect with…even when they are VERY empathetic!).  This version will be available for all of you as a download; it will also be woven into The Learning Genome Project.

Learning Profile Interests/passion survey

Learning style preference cards

Multiple intelligence cards

Brain Dominance cards

Because our philosophy and model are so different, we start each year with a week of detox (fitting since our initials are AA) ;).  During this week, we help students “stand up again” in who they are as learners, as creators, as individuals.  We undo some of the messages they have learned about learning: that it happens in specific ways and at specific times, that the goal is answers, that the teacher knows it all, that a test is the only way to measure success, that they are bad at learning certain things, that they can’t be friends with kids who are a different age than they are, that only some people are creative…the list could go on and on!

Our detox week is a time for students to remember that they matter.  It is an opportunity for them to re-frame the ways that they think about learning.  It is a time for them to share their passions with each other.  It is a chance to realize the working together is more productive than competing in learning.  It is a safe time to explore creativity.  It is also the week that new students start to discover that the relationship with their teacher is different here.  That the goal of coming to school isn’t an “A” at the end of the semester.

I love this week!  We see kids who begin to come back to life.  The spark in their eye that can only come through discovering something new.  For some kids, this week is life changing.  Others are a little more hesitant, they don’t trust the freedom that we offer.  They wonder when the “real work” will start and they will settle back into mediocrity.  For these students, the detox week is a glimpse of things to come that they aren’t sure if they can trust.  It usually takes about a month to really settle in and see that we really do mean what we say.

Individual classes explore what it means to be vulnerable.  How to be proud of the individual talents and gifts that make up a class.  How to work together to do hard things.  We also bring the whole Anastasis community together for some activities.  Our first year, students worked together to create iPad styluses out of sponge and wire for less than 10 cents.  Last year we held an all-school day of play (highly recommend that!) and marshmallow/spaghetti tower challenge.  This year we have some fun group art projects and challenges planned.

At the end of second week, we will hold our third annual identity day.  This is an opportunity for students to share an area of passion with the school community.  Students can choose to share anything they want to in a way that they want to.  We hold a school-wide fair and invite families to attend.  The set up almost looks like a science fair when all is said and done.  We spend the day getting to know each other- apart from classroom constraints.  We take a moment to see the world from another point of view.  It is a spectacular day of honoring each child for who they are (teachers participate, too!).  After a half day of sharing ourselves, we spend the rest of the day building community at a local park where we go ice-blocking.  For those who have never had the privilege of ice-blocking, it involves purchasing a block of ice from a grocery store, finding a large grassy hill, sitting on the block of ice, and sledding down the hill in the sunshine.  We have a blast!  Parents, teachers, and students get involved in the fun.  Barriers are broken down, friendships forged and a community bound together for a year of life and learning together.

Our detox week may be the single most important week of the entire year.  It sets the tone, letting students know that this is a safe place to be who they are.  That this is a place where learning looks like life.  That the questions this year will be as important as the answers.  I’m not sure Anastasis would be the incredible place of learning it is without our detox week.

I collect ideas for inquiry units and our detox week on Pinterest.  If you are interested in hosting your own “detox,” check out the ideas saved here!

Of course, you can always follow all of my boards on Pinterest here.

Also random side note, I’m trying to convince Anastasis staff that it is a good idea for us to start an Extreme Combat Juggling team.  It’s a real thing, which is awesome.  Feel free to help me in this encouragement, on Twitter they are: @michellek107, @dweissmo, @bestmscott, @nancybabbitt, @matthewquigley, @lancefinkbeiner.  :)

 

Atlantis Remixed: Inquiry based virtual world

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Virtual Field Trips, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 15-04-2013

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What it is: Atlantis Remixed is a great interactive virtual world that supports students and teachers in conducting rich, inquiry-based explorations during which students learn standards related content and develop pro-social attitudes regarding environmental and social issues.  More than just making learning fun, project Atlantis Remixed aims to help kids realize that they can make a real difference in the world.  Atlantis Remixed is really a combination of education, entertainment/gaming and social action.  The game environment has been designed to support students in social commitment and real-world action.  Atlantis Remixed was created for children ages 9-16 to engage in transformational play in both online and offline learning activities.  The storyline in the online activities inspires students toward social action.

Atlantis Remixed is a combination of a 3D multi-user virtual environment, learning quests and unit plans, a storyline (presented through an introductory video, novel and comic book), a global community of participants, and a narrative programming toolkit that kids can use to remix user-created stories.  The storyline helps bridge the virtual, fictional, world of Atlantis with the real-world.  Students can travel to virtual places to perform authentic activities (Quests), talk with other students from around the world, build virtual characters and professions, and demonstrate learning through multi-media portfolios.  The platform is transdisciplinary including math, science and literacy. Students are sent on virtual social missions that reflect global ideals such as social responsibility, compassionate wisdom, creative expression, diversity affirmation, environmental awareness, healthy communities, and personal agency.

How to integrate Atlantis Remixed into the classroom: Atlantis Remixed has full units ready to use. Each unit is aligned to standards, inquiry based and meets multiple domains of learning. A single water-quality unit puts students in role of scientists hired by a national park, to come to the forest to help explain fish decline in the area.  Students interact with virtual park rangers, loggers, fishermen and indigenous people and discover multiple perspectives.  After decisions have been made, students can log back in and see the impact of their decisions.  They can reflect on the consequences (and unintended consequences) of their decisions, and make changes as needed.

In addition to the virtual component, there is guided offline learning that can take place including discussions and in class activities.  Teachers can modify curriculum to fit their own classroom needs.

Units include: Taiga- a water quality unit, Virtual Mesa Verde- a social studies unit, Plague World- a persuasive writing unit, Ander City- a statistics unit, Spacenik- a planetary science unit, Biological Indicators Mission, Rights & Responsibility Mission, Two Cells-One World Mission, and Diversity Mission.  You can look at a snapshot of any of these missions to learn more about it.

Think about the added components you could layer on Atlantis Remixed Quests and missions.  Are your students practicing writing business letters?  Who could they write to in the virtual world or real world?  Are your students learning how to use a new tech tool?  What tie-in is there to the inquiry?  How can you integrate other learning and customize the Atlantis Remixed environment to best fit your needs?

Tips: On the Educators Page, you can choose to login to the 2D gateway without logging into the 3D world.

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  Atlantis Remixed in your classroom.

Scholastic’s Listen and Read: Free non-fiction ebooks for primary students

Posted by admin | Posted in Government, History, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Science, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 17-07-2012

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What it is:  Scholastic is constantly sneaking new great resources for the classroom onto their site.  The other day I learned about one that I haven’t seen before from @rmbyrne on his great blog Free Tech for Teachers.  Listen and Read has fantastic online reading activities for early learners.  There are 54 nonfiction read-along books that include words, images and sound.  You can sort books by subject including: Community, American History, Animals, Civics and Government, Environmental Studies, Plants and Flowers, Science and Social Studies.  You can also sort books by level (A or B).

How to integrate Listen and Read into your curriculum: Non-fiction can be hard to read in the early years.  It often includes unfamiliar words and vocabulary and concepts that students don’t have a lot of prior knowledge of.  Scholastic’s Listen and Read is fantastic because it helps students navigate their way through non-fiction with the support of a read-aloud, sounds and images.  These interactive books help students better comprehend content because they aren’t focused on the words they are stumbling through.  At the end of the book students can click on the unfamiliar new vocabulary to hear the word said again.  This follow-up exposure reinforces word recognition, vocabulary and ideas.

Scholastic Listen and Read can be set up on classroom computers as a reading center.  Students can read and listen independently with headphones.  After reading through the story, students can discuss with a partner (or as a whole class) what they remember about each of the “sound it out” words from the story.

If you don’t have the ability for students to read these non-fiction books independently, use a projector connected computer or interactive whiteboard to read as a whole class.

Tips: Some of the titles are offered in both A and B level.  This is great for a little differentiation within the classroom (while gaining the same concepts).

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Scholastic’s Listen and Read in your classroom!

A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 16-06-2011

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What it is: The Periodic Table of Visualization Methods is a brilliant collection of visualization methods for displaying, understanding and using information.  The periodic table is broken down into data visualization, information visualization, concept visualization, strategy visualization, metaphor visualization, and compound visualization.  Each “element” of the table includes information about the element such as if it is a process visualization or a structure visualization.  Each “element” also includes cues about what kind of thinking the visualization requires (divergent or convergent).  As you move your mouse over the table, an example of the “element” pops up.  As I said, brilliant!  The Periodic Table of Visualization is an excellent way to help students (and teachers) understand and explore visual literacy.

How to integrate A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods into the classroom: A Periodic Table of Visualization is a great place to start helping your students understand how to decode visual information as well as how to create visual representations of information.  I’m a HUGE fan of infographics, graphic organizers, charts, graphs, mind maps, etc.- definitely a visual learner!  Students often come across visual information graphics in their reading for the classroom.  Unfortunately, we don’t always spend time helping students understand that visual information because we are SO focused on the text.  The Periodic Table of Visualization gives you a one-stop-shop to discuss the different kinds of visual data, helping students understand how to “read” and decode that information.  These are great critical thinking activities because they ask students to process information in a different way.  Use the Periodic Table with an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer to expose students to examples of different types of visual information.  Talk about each one and how information is being conveyed.  If you have interactive whiteboard software, use the annotation feature to “stamp” or keep track of the different kinds of visual data students come across during the year in their reading.  Make it a year-long goal to find an example of each type of visualization.  This will keep your students looking for and engaging with visual literacy.

Take it a step further and encourage your students to create their own information graphics and visualizations.  After some learning that was completed, ask students to choose one of the “elements” from the table of visualization and create their own graphic or table.

I love the way that a Periodic Table collects and organizes information.  Currently I am working on the first unit of inquiry for students at Anastasis Academy.  From first through eighth grade, all of the units are focused around community.  I thought it might be fun to create our own periodic table of community.  Each student can add an “element” that makes up community.  Instead of just pictures popping up on our periodic table, I thought students could add video, photos, text, or audio.  Each student will add to the community periodic table and we will use this as part of our school code of conduct.  Here is what I am thinking: Each student will learn about community and choose a method of sharing what they learned (video, audio, text, photo).  They will create their “element” using their iPad and add it to their online portfolio at edu 2.0.  I can easily access all files from one place (edu 2.0) and add the projects to a periodic table of elements that I create on Wix.com.  I’ll link from the Table to the student projects and voila, a Periodic Table of Community.  I’ll let you know how it works in practice :)

Another related idea: create a Periodic Table of Students during the first weeks of schools.  Add each student’s picture to the periodic table along with their class room number and initials as their Element information.  This can be printed out and turned into a bulletin board for the classroom or shared on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer with parents at back to school night.  If you have “star” students in your classroom (or VIP) you might add the student picture to the periodic table when it is their week to share and shine.

Tips: Thank you to my friend @artysteph26 for sharing this awesome resource on Twitter yesterday.  Thanks Steph!  **Reminder: if you don’t have a personal learning network on Twitter, I highly recommend spending some time on that this summer.  That small time investment is worth it’s weight in gold I tell ya!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using  A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods in your classroom!

What’s Your News?

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, collaboration, Fun & Games, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 13-04-2010

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What it is: What’s Your News is an online newsroom staffed by ants.  Complete with anchormen and a studio, What’s Your News is a “news show” aimed at 4-7 year old students that introduces them to the wider world.  The news covered is kids news, and it comes right from their homes (or classrooms).  News stories could be anything from the arrival of a new pet, to a lost tooth, or being able to play a new tune on the piano.  Students can submit their own Breaking News with the help of a teacher or a parent.  There are fun games to play that teach students about how news gets reported.  Learn about all of the characters by visiting them backstage.  Watch fun clips from the What’s Your News Nick Jr. TV show.  Print some fun activities including a make your own newspaper, build a What’s Your News studio, or download a special reporter pack that helps your students become roving reporters.  

How to integrate What’s Your News into the classroom: This site is just so cute, you can’t help but fall in love with it (and the characters).  What’s Your News is perfect for a communities/neighbors unit.  Students will learn about what is happening from news reports created by other kids.  I love the way this site involves kids in sharing news.  It would be fun to share classroom news on What’s Your News each week.  Download the special reporter pack for your students and have them put on their own weekly news show for your classroom.  Introduce your students to the wider world through this kid-friendly news show.

Tips: Before you post student pictures online, please make sure that you have school and parent permission to do so.  If you can’t post students pictures online, consider taking pictures and reporting on special class projects, a class pet, or a science experiment.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using What’s Your News in your classroom.

Emerald Island

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Fun & Games, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Internet Safety, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Virtual Field Trips, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 20-04-2009

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What it is: Emerald Island is a great place for kids to play and learn more about the earth and ways that they can help the earth, perfect for Earth Day!  Emerald Island is a virtual world created specifically for kids (6-12).  Students can pioneer, prevail over, and protect the Island.  Emerald Island is more than just a game, it is a story that students take part in.  The students job is to help Tamino (the hero) to save Emerald Island (a green island) from Pirats (pirate rats).  Each player plants seeds and cultivates gardens to replenish Emerald Island.  Emerald Island helps students to learn about and experience important contributions that are part of an interconnected world.  It provides young students with a sense of community and a beginning understanding of a global society.  Students begin to build knowledge, empathy, and appreciation for an environment that emulates earth.  While playing, students are empowered to make a difference and become true eco-heroes as they take on challenges to save the world.  Along the way students meet other citizens of Emerald Island, many of whom give students tips about how they can save energy and be more responsible citizens.

How to integrate Emerald Island into the classroom:   Emerald Island is a great game for students to play throughout the month of April as they learn about Earth Day and how to become more earth-conscious citizens.  I love how Emerald Island involves students in a story and a quest to save a planet.  On the way they learn about how they can be better citizens of our planet with helpful tips from the Emerald Island citizens.  The games and activities help students to develop problem solving, reasoning, social, and computer skills.   Emerald Island can be played as a whole class exploring and reading clues together with an interactive whiteboard or individually in a computer lab setting. You can expand on what students are learning in Emerald Island by keeping a class notebook of green tips that students learn in Emerald Island.

 

Tips:  Emerald Island provides an outstanding introduction to registering for a website, it is easy enough to use with young students and reinforces Internet safety rules before the game begins.

 

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

Ed.VoiceThread

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, Geography, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Video Tutorials, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 05-08-2008

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What it is: I have posted about Voice Thread in the past, but Voice Thread has added a new education community that has some pretty incredible features. Ed.VoiceThread is a secure collaborative network designed specifically for the k-12 school environment. Teachers and students can collaborate around almost any type of media including voice, text, webcam, and drawing commentary in a secure environment. Access is restricted to k-12 educators, students, and administrators to ensure safe classroom collaboration. Ed.VoiceThread is an accountable environment, which means that all users are responsible for their content and behavior. Some added features that you will find on Ed.VoiceThread are, students have individual accounts that are easily viewable to educators, students can create, edit, and manage their own portfolio, students cannot add contacts or send invitations to any users outside of the Ed.Voice Thread community, and they cannot view any content that is not created by an Ed.Voice Thread member. Teachers can quickly view and access all students’ Voice Threads. Voice Threads can be made private or public depending on the assignment and requirements. Ed.VoiceThread comes in two packages one free and the other, called Pro, for $60/year. Free users can only create 3 VoiceThreads, have 75 MB of storage, no uploading of MP3 comments, 30 min of webcam commenting, advertising will be present, single file size limit of 25 MB, and no downloads of the media. In the Pro version, students can create an unlimited number of Voice Threads, get 10GB of storage, can upload MP3 comments, have unlimited webcam commenting, 30 archival movie exports, no advertising, single file size limit of 100MB and allows downloads of media.

How to integrate Ed.VoiceThread into the classroom: Ed.VoiceThread is the ideal place for students and teachers to collaborate and interact with digital media. The added functionality for schools with Ed.VoiceThread is very useful. Students can use Ed.VoiceThread to create digital stories, documentaries, practice and document language skills, explore geography and culture, solve math problems, and much more. As a teacher, I like VoiceThread as a place to teach. Because everything is web-based, you can upload a days lessons to Ed.VoiceThread for students to refer to and collaborate with while doing homework. I well remember the days when I would sit in math class learning the days equations. Everything made perfect sense to me while I was sitting in the classroom watching problems being worked. But at home, with no guide homework seemed impossible. Ed.VoiceThread makes you your students personal tutor. The self paced learning is amazing! I love giving students tools that allow them to be in charge of their own learning. Is there any better lesson in life than knowing how to learn?

Tips: Try out the free Ed.VoiceThread account and see how it could work for your classroom. If you are like me, it becomes addicting and 3 VoiceThreads won’t be enough!

Leave a comment and share how you are using Ed.VoiceThread in your classroom.