Featured Post

Web Tools 4U2 Use

What it is: Web Tools 4U2 Use is an incredible wiki created for school library media specialists to learn about cool new web tools, learn how they can be used in school library media programs, and share ideas and success stories. The links, tips, and information on this site are valuable for school...

Read More

Host an RSCON4 Meetup Party- Introduce Colleagues to Your PLN!

Posted by admin | Posted in collaboration, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Reform Symposium Conference | Posted on 01-10-2013

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

Reform Symposium Free Worldwide Conference

If you have never attended an online conference, you should definitely take the opportunity to try one out on October 11-13 for the Reform Symposium Conference.  The line up of keynote speakers, presenters, and panel discussions is FANTASTIC.  It is like traveling around the world for inspiration from the comfort of your living room.  I really can’t say enough about how excited I am for this awesome weekend of learning!  Please join us for as much as you can, you will not be disappointed!  Plus, what could be better than learning with a bunch of friends from your living room?  You don’t even have to worry about what attire you should wear (I’ll be in PJs for sure!).

Be sure to join @michellek, @nancybabbitt and me for our session Connections Through Inquiry on Sunday! We’ll be talking up strategies that we use at Anastasis Academy as teachers and learners.  Check out the online schedule in your timezone and plan to join us!

If you are an online conference regular who is constantly working to get other teachers at your school to attend (with no luck), why not consider hosting a Reform Symposium Conference meetup party?  If they won’t engage in online community on their own, bring the community to them!  This would be a great way to help those who are less tech savvy get involved in some professional development in a way that feels ‘safe.’  Choose a location with good wifi (this could be a room at school, your living room, a local coffee shop), load up on fun snacks, invite some friends and learn together!  I have done this in the past with great success! It is all kinds of fun and adds a level of safety for first timers.  Use this event as an opportunity to introduce your offline colleagues to your online PLN (personal learning network).  I find that people are more likely to engage online for learning when they feel like they have a connection to others going in.  When they start a great conversation during a session, help them continue it by signing up for Twitter.

If you want to get really fancy, share my Twitter posters as a party gift.  Help those who haven’t signed up to sign up and connect to those they met during the conference.  Following the conference, send others at your school a “Learning Moment of the Day” along with a link to the community (member) that shared it with you.

Sometimes all it takes to connect people is a new approach to the invitation delivery. :)

 

We are still looking for volunteers to help with the conference!

Volunteer to Moderate Sessions for the Reform Symposium E-Conference (RSCON4)

RSCON would not be so inspiring without a highly devoted group of volunteer moderators to keep the conference running with as few hiccups as possible. Moderators play one of the most important roles by jumping into various sessions and helping presenters and participants have a great experience. Additionally, volunteers get to meet our inspiring presenters and introduce them to the audience. To become part of this super amazing team, sign up at http://www.futureofeducation.com/group/2013-rscon-volunteers and use the booking calendar to schedule volunteer time, http://rsconvolunteers.youcanbook.me

Also, attend one of our Blackboard Collaborate training sessions so you are familiar with the platform, http://bit.ly/rscon4trainingpg

Thank you for helping us inspire educators worldwide!

If you have questions about volunteering for the conference, one of our volunteer organizers would be happy to help!  Tweet your questions to one of the awesome organizers listed below!
Peggy George (@Pgeorge), Marcia Lima (@Bamarcia), Chiew Pang (@AClilToClimb), Jo Hart  (@JoHart), Phil Hart (@PhilHart)

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2

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…

12 Days of Dreaming #12DOD

Posted by admin | Posted in education reform, For Teachers, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources | Posted on 03-12-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

0

Badge

I love this time of year. Everything seems so full of possibility and optimism.  @Mr_Brett_Clark took hold of that feeling and started Education Dreamer: 12 Days of Dreaming.  Today was the big launch!  From Brett: “There is no greater time than now to share our dreams for education. Everything great that has ever happened, started as a dream.
Education Dreamer will post a new post on Monday through Thursday the first three weeks of December beginning December 3rd.
You can support this project by sharing out the post using #12DOD, adding a badge to your website, and leaving comments.”

I fully support this 12 days of dreaming and added my own dreams which were posted on day number one.  Lucky me!

Follow along, dream with your fellow educators and be inspired to make those dreams a reality!

My contribution is called: Dreaming of a Better Education.  Click the link to have a read.

Thank you for including me Brett!  Happy Everything :)

Do Lectures: Ideas + Energy = Change

Posted by admin | Posted in education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video | Posted on 05-07-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

2

What it is:  Summer is a great time to be inspired, laugh and gather ideas.  TED has been my go-to place for video inspiration, but recently I found a new source: Do Lectures.  Do Lectures are like TED Talk videos, they are inspiring talks from people who are changing the world.  The talks are broken down into talks about Big Ideas, Challenging talks, Funny talks, Informative talks, Inspiring talks, and Soulful talks.  You can also search by topic (business, creativity, environment, food, sport, technology, or well being) or by speaker.

Do Lectures started out of West Wales and is moving to the good old USA in 2012.  They call themselves a mash-up, a village of ideas.  They take great talks, yummy local food, great un-signed bands, workshops and bring them together in one place. They switch the Internet off so that people talk (in real life) because ideas need conversation.  The idea is to create an eco-system for ideas to be born, shared and acted on.  The next event is happening in California September 20-13.

How to integrate Do Lectures into the classroom: Do Lectures don’t focus on education specifically.  I kind of love that they don’t.  I find that my BEST ideas for the classroom and education come from outside of education.  Often, we become an echo chamber within education.  Hearing ideas from any field sparks ideas and creative approaches to teaching/learning for me.  Do Lectures are a great place to find inspiration and new ideas for your classroom.

Do Lectures can also be the perfect supplement or launching point for units of study in your classroom.  You may find a video that supports the learning happening in your classroom.

Tips:  Be sure to share those great videos you stumble on with the rest of us!

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

The Literacy Shed: a treasure trove of ideas

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Character Education, Create, Evaluate, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, video, Websites | Posted on 25-06-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2

What it is:  The Literacy Shed is a fantastic blog/site I learned about on Twitter from @missmac100, thanks Carol! The Literacy Shed is maintained by primary teacher Rob Smith and is packed full of teaching ideas all related to literacy.  The site is separated into “sheds,” each with a different genre.  There are short films images and book suggestions that are each accompanied by a teaching idea that includes discussion questions and writing prompts.  The Literacy Shed has plenty of ideas to keep you going all year long!   This truly is a treasure trove that will keep you coming back again and again. You will find the following “sheds” on the Literacy Shed:

  • Fantasy
  • Ghostly
  • Other Cultures
  • Inspiration
  • Moral
  • Picture Book
  • Great Animation
  • Love
  • Inventors
  • Fairytales
  • Reading
  • Poetry
  • Adventure
  • Mystery
  • Film Trailer
  • Fun
  • Lighthouse
  • Flying Books
  • Resource
  • Non-literacy
  • Weblinks

How to integrate The Literacy Shed into the classroom: The Literacy Shed is a great one-stop-shop for inspiration and ideas to improve literacy and critical thinking in your classroom.  The ideas can be used with a variety of age groups, different ages will pick up on different themes and discussions using the same videos/images/books.  Students will become familiar with a variety of genres and become comfortable with the characteristics of each.

There is something here for every classroom and unit.  As I said, it is a treasure trove of resources!  Use the ideas in the Literacy Shed to spark meaningful discussions and writing direction for your students.  I always like to start with discussion and end with a written reflection because it gives students the opportunity to listen to other ideas, and then solidify their own ideas and reflections in writing.

Tips: You can follow the Literacy Shed on Twitter: @redgierob

Please leave a comment and share how you are using The Literacy Shed in  your classroom!

Pinterest: My new obsession

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 01-08-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

33

What it is:  Pinterest is a new obsession of mine.  I signed up for the invite-only version a while ago but hadn’t done anything with the service since.  In between Reform Symposium sessions I wandered back on to check it out.  Wow. I know there are other tools out there that do what Pinterest do but none that are so immediately user friendly and visually appealing.  I am impressed and addicted.  Pinterest lets you “pin” things from around the web on virtual pin boards.  You can create as many boards as you want and share them with others.  Each time you pin something you can give it a description and tags if you want. Pinterest does the rest and automatically cites the source and provides a trail to get back to the original.  As a teacher I love Pinterest for pinning all of those great ideas I find around the web visually.  I can write a quick reminder to myself about what I was thinking when I pinned it or how I want to use the tool.   SO great!  A lot of times I come across some random craft or picture that spurs an idea for something I want to do for the classroom.  Because it isn’t a tech-tool or related to education it often gets lost.  Pinterest is helping me grab all of those ideas and keep them around so I actually put them to use.  Very nice.

How to integrate Pinterest into the classroom: Pinterest is a great way to organize yourself as a teacher.  Gather up all those ideas you see online and then share them with other teachers (who may or may not be Pinterest users…it really doesn’t matter).

Because you can share Pinterest boards with non-Pinterest users, this is a great way to share things with students.  The resource could be anything- pictures, a website, a video.  Create a board for every unit that you do and share those boards with students so that they can continue exploring and learning.

Students can use Pinterest too, invite young students to help build boards in a class Pinterest account.  Create a board for every letter of the alphabet and let students add pictures that they come across to the letter board that it matches.  Pinterest has a bookmark tool that you can put in your bookmark bar to make this as easy as one click!  Students can put their first name in the description so you (and other students) can keep track of who found what.  Like a year-long web scavenger hunt!

Older students can create their own Pinterest boards.  Pinterest would be a great place for them to collect images that they feel say something about them-an identity board.  These boards can be shared with others and added to all year.  Not only will you get to know your students better, but other students will find connections they didn’t know they had.

Pinterest is a nice visual way for students to share their web findings.  Pinterest even lets students decide if they want to be the only contributor to their board or if they want to open it up for collaboration so others can add their findings to the board.  Way cool.

I have two Pinterest boards that may be of interest to you, one is Classroom Inspiration where I am keeping ideas of things I want to do with students or for our classroom.  The other is School Design where I am collecting inspirational designs that I want to see in our school when we build our own building.

Tips: Right now Pinterest is an invitation only site.  You can sign up to receive an invitation (I received mine in about 10 min) or you can let me know you are interested in an invite and I can get you on the list.  See that? It is worth reading to the bottom of posts- VIP access! Leave a comment if you want an invite and be sure to use a real email address because that is how the invite gets to you.

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

Project Global Inform

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Blogs, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 03-12-2010

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11

What it is: Project Global Inform is an incredible movement bringing together education and a mission to do something about human rights.  Project Global Inform “is an in-school project where students use media to spread awareness about human rights violations. PGI came out of the idea that we too often “teach” our students about genocide and human rights violations, but never “do” anything about it. This project’s main objective is to create awareness about current human rights violations in our schools, communities, and abroad. Through the use of media and technology students have the power to make a difference.”  This is education and learning at it’s finest, it is a call to action and an invitation for students to do something important.  The project is made up of eight steps.  First, students learn about human rights issues through media and literature.  Next students form groups based on the humans rights issue they are passionate about.  Each group learns about the history of the human rights issue they chose including the current political stance, media, etc.  Students come up with an action plan for creating awareness.  Students use the action plan as the base for their project where they will choose a media outlet to spread awareness about the issue.  At the end of the campaign, students will collect data on the effectiveness of the campaign (based on website hits, video views, “likes” on Facebook, etc.).  Each team writes up a report detailing and reflecting on the project, success, and failures. Each student creates a video or slideshow (a kind of documentary) of their project.   This is an opportunity for your students to learn about humans rights issues and to get involved in an authentic way that has the potential to directly impact those suffering from human rights issues.

How to integrate Project Global Inform into your curriculum: Project Global Inform is an incredible resource and movement that get students involved in impacting their world in real and meaningful ways.  As a result of this project, your students will be more informed about humans rights issues, have a better understanding of social networking and how to virally spread a message, how to use media as a communication tool, how to track web 2.0 data and statistics, collaboration, and reflection.  This would make a great project for an ethics class, but could be used as a transdiciplinary project including literature, math, and technology (to name a few). Project Global Inform literally meets every single level of Blooms Taxonomy from knowledge and understanding to creating, apply, analyzing, and evaluating.

While the project appears to be focused on the middle school or high school age group, I think that it could be tailored to the elementary classroom.  For example, I had my students use Free Rice as the basis for a similar project.  They learned about hunger, created a video slideshow that we uploaded to YouTube and played on Free Rice to earn grains of rice.  If using Project Global Inform with younger students, choose a humans rights issue to study as a class.  Make sure the information you gather is age appropriate.  Students can create posters or pictures for a local coffee shop, create slideshow videos that they upload to YouTube, or hold an information day for the local community.  These are they type of projects that will make an impact on your students and the world.

If you decide to take part in Project Global Inform, make sure you let your local news organizations know about it.  They love covering stories of children impacting the world and it helps spread the message.  Here is our Free Rice story in the local paper.  I can’t tell you how this project transformed these two boys featured in the article. They became “celebrities” in the school and were so proud of their hard work.  Two average students became two of my top students after this project.  Give your students something important and meaningful to do, it makes a huge impact on them.

Tips: Even if you don’t have time for the full project, make sure to take the “Plus Two Pledge”.  As your students are learning about human rights violations have them sign the pledge to tell at least two people about what they have learned.  I told my two…hopefully more are reading this…who are you going to tell?

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Project Global Inform in  your classroom!

Um-bloom-ra Bloom’s Taxonomy

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Blooms Taxonomy, Create, Evaluate, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), professional development, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 07-09-2010

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

18

Last week I blogged about my Bloomin’ Peacock, a new Bloom’s Taxonomy visual I made to share with teachers in a training.  Over the years, I have created a number of Bloom’s Taxonomy pictures to hang in my classroom for students to refer to.  My Bloomin’ Peacock was such a hit with you all, I thought I would start sharing the others I’ve made.   Today I revived one that I created for my classroom and added the digital version (again the digital tools displayed relate directly to the Treasures reading curriculum).  This is my Um-bloom-ra Bloom’s Taxonomy:

…and the digital version:

Here are the digital tools included in my taxonomy:

Remember:

BBC Skillwise- http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/

Spelling City- http://spellingcity.com

Starfall- http://starfall.com

Discovery Streaming- http://streaming.discoveryeducation.com

Lexipedia- http://lexipedia.com

YouTube- http://youtube.com

Gamegoo- http://www.earobics.com/gamegoo/gooey.html

PBS Kids- http://pbskids.org

Understand:

Into the Book- http://reading.ecb.org

Skype- http://skype.com

Treasures- http://activities.macmillanmh.com/reading/treasures/

Book Adventure- http://bookadventure.org

Twitter- http://twitter.com

Apply:

Kerpoof- http://kerpoof.com

PhotoBooth- Software

Scholastic- http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/learn.jsp

Fotobabble- http://fotobabble.com

Google Earth- http://google.com/earth

Analyze:

Read Write Think- http://readwritethink.org

Cool Iris- http://cooliris.com

Wordle- http://wordle.net

Creaza- http://creaza.com

Mindomo- http://mindomo.com

Evaluate:

Shelfari- http://shelfari.com

Wikipedia- http://wikipedia.com

Think.com- http://think.com

Nota- http://notaland.com

Create:

Pic-Lits- http://piclits.com

Kerpoof- http://kerpoof.com

ZimmerTwins- http://zimmertwins.com

Wiki Spaces- http://wikispaces.com

DomoNation- http://domonation.com

Glogster- http://edu.glogster.com

Creaza- http://creaza.com

Voicethread- http://voicethread.com

Kidblog- http://kidblog.org

Wetpaint- http://www.wetpaint.com

edublogs- http://edublogs.org

Stage’d- http://stagedproject.com/

Garageband- Software

iMovie- Software

Some of you have asked what program I use to create my Bloom’s Taxonomy re-imagines, I use Apple’s Pages to create them (it is SO much more than a word processor!).  Pages makes creating easy, the only downside is that the images aren’t big enough to make into posters larger than 8.5″ x 11″.  Luckily I married a graphic artist and after the initial laughter that I used Pages instead of something like Photoshop or Illustrator, he agreed to help me make a larger poster happen.

If you are interested in my Bloom’s images on a mug, mousepad, tote bag, etc. you can find it in my store.

Dr. Seuss Inspired Classroom Theme

Posted by admin | Posted in inspiration, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 20-08-2010

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

29

Since I don’t have a classroom of my own to set up this year, I dropped into a friends classroom to offer my bulletin board expertise (I LOVE decorating for the year and begged for her to let me help).  She is teaching first grade for the first time this year and wanted a fun theme.  Dr. Seuss is perfect!  I hunted down some good Dr. Seuss quotes that would tie in with what she wanted to display on the bulletin boards and we set to work pulling it all together.  I think it looks great!

This is right next to the clock, it says "How did it get late so soon?"

Above the door to the classroom it says: Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.

This is the classroom jobs board and morning message board.

Over the jobs board it says: This mess is too big and too deep and too tall. But, we can clean it up! We can clean it up all!

Kings Kid is like a Star Student or VIP, they make a poster all about them to hang up for the week. This quote says: Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.

This is the reading corner, it turned out so cozy!

Another angle of the reading center with the Cat in the Hat on the back of a bookshelf.

On the closet door is Thing 2.

Horton is on the girls bathroom door.

Two fish is on the boys bathroom door.

The backside of two bookcases in the reading center.

This is where student work will be displayed. The quote above says: Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh the Thinks you can think up if only you try!

Front of the classroom with the Promethean board.

Back of the classroom.

Toward the reading center.

Teacher desk

The room turned out so cute!  Right now the calendar has purchased numbers on it, I suggested that she take pictures of all of the kids holding up their class number and using those as numbers on the calendar.  She only has 19 students this year so for the additional numbers she is going to have specialist teachers and admin hold up numbers.  To tie in with the Dr. Seuss theme, she is going to use Photo Booth’s green screen background to insert a Dr. Seuss background for the kids.  The kids will wear a Cat in the Hat hat for the pictures.  :)  It is going to be cute!

My favorite touches in the room are that each bulletin board is designed for student interaction or to display student work or accomplishments.  I can’t wait to see it when all of the student work is up!

The Goal of Education

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, Character Education, collaboration, education reform, Fun & Games, inspiration, Internet Safety, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0 | Posted on 20-07-2010

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

26

Tonight’s #edchat topic on Twitter was: Can we agree on a common goal of education?

My response:

The goal of education is to provide the conditions for learning.  I think that it is a broad enough goal for everything else to fall into place.  I engaged in some discussion about how current conditions keep us from that goal.  While I agree to some extent, I think that excuses are an easy way to stay where we are.  We can create conditions for learning without administrative support, without funding for technology, without the best conditions.  How do I know this?  Because I had teachers who did it for me.  They used what they had, within the system they were in, to provide us with the conditions for learning.  And guess what?  We learned.

Now, this is not to say that the goal wouldn’t be more attainable if we weren’t mired in a system that is run by testing and policies.  It is better to have ubiquitous use of technology and freedom within our classrooms.   I believe that those things will come.  But right now we are working within this system.  For now we can create conditions of learning for our students using what we have available to us.  Is it ideal?  No.  Is it possible?  Of course.  All it takes is some creativity.

I want to be clear, creating conditions for learning does not mean that every classroom looks the same.  It means that the conditions created match that unique student population.  The conditions that I learn best in may look different from the conditions that you learn best in.  This means that teachers have to know and understand the needs of their students.  The conditions of learning may change every year, every month, every day, and even every hour.  We are human, our needs are constantly changing.

Someone mentioned during the #edchat, that it would be great to see how students answered this question.  I actually know how my students answered this question, because I asked my 3rd-5th grade students to answer it last year.  My students answered something like this: the goal of education is to get good grades and pass tests so you can go to college.   Not the answer most of us would like to hear but there it is.  Did we really expect differently?  This is what our school system breaths.  This is the current goal of education, to move students through so that they graduate and go to college.

Being the computer teacher has some major advantages, one of which is that there is no curriculum to follow.  I write my own curriculum every year.  I have a scope and sequence of skills that I want my students to gain and I use a different path to get there each and every year.  I didn’t originally intend for this to be a year-long project, but that is what it became because it made my students think differently, creatively.  It made them question, discuss, and debate.  It was brilliant.

We had just finished learning the Internet safety rules, and were practicing netiquette.  I wanted my students to have an authentic place to practice their newly acquired skills so I sent them on their way to write their first blog entry.  The topic: Write about your dream school.  If you could make a school look like whatever you wanted it to, what would it look like?  How would learning happen there?

After the students had a chance to blog their dreams, I asked them to pick their favorite idea and add it to our class Wallwisher.  I cannot tell you how disappointed I was with the answers.  They were the most unimaginative answers I had ever seen.  I’m talking zero in the creativity department.  It was as if they were writing what they thought I wanted to hear.  Then it hit me, they were writing what they thought I wanted to hear.  Isn’t that what their education has primed them for?  Guess what the teacher is thinking.  There is only one right answer and then we move on to the next thing.

Not willing to let the project go, the next week I sat all of my students down and asked them again what their dream schools would look like.  They hadn’t gotten more creative with their answers in the week they had to think about them.  The look of utter confusion on their faces was obvious.  They couldn’t figure out what the right answer was, the one that I wanted to hear that would move us on to the next topic.  I showed my students pictures of the inside of Googleplex and Pixar.  You have never heard so many “oohs” and “awwws”.  By the end of the slide show, every kid was declaring that they were going to work at Google or Pixar some day.  I asked them why they would want to work there?

“Because it is SO cool!”

“Did you see the Lego room?”

“They get to play all day!”

“It is so colorful.”

“It looks like a playground.”

“They have a chef that cooks lunch for them.”

We talked about why Googleplex and Pixar look the way they do and the philosophy that each company has.  We talked about what it means to be creative and the things that help us get in that creative element.  Then I showed them some pictures of schools,  one had a slide in the building, another had students singing and dancing on top of desks, another of students sitting on exercise balls instead of chairs.  The common phrase uttered was “they are so lucky!”  I also showed them the YouTube video of the piano stairs.

I asked them to go back to their seats and blog about their dream school again.   I told them that there was no right answer.  The right answer was their answer.  The sky was the limit.  This time the ideas were infinitely more exciting.  Some students still played it safe and stuck to what was possible in the confines of the school system they knew.  Others wanted anti-gravity classrooms.  There were common threads in every one of my students blog posts: they all wanted flexible learning spaces, they all wanted more hands on/active learning, they wanted school to feel like play, and they all wanted animals to be involved in some fashion.

You can see some of their answers on these Wallwishers:

3rd Grade1

4th Grade1

4th Grade2

5th Grade 1

My students got so excited about this little blogging activity that they continued to post about what their dream schools would look like (even though I hadn’t assigned it).  I had students stop by my classroom and tell me another idea they had for a dream school.  Then I had students start asking if I would ask the administration to make our school a dream school.  I can only imagine how that would go, so instead I expanded the project.

I asked my students to imagine that they actually got the go ahead for their school, and now they had to advertise for it.  They had to convince me to send my imaginary children to their imaginary school.  They had to make a convincing case for why their school made the best place to learn.  Each student made a brochure advertising their school.  They highlighted the features of their school, promised amazing things, and sold it!  I am telling you, I have never seen such amazing work out of my students!  I would have sent my imaginary kids to any one of their schools.  Boy did they sell it!  The brochures looked amazing.  I brought them into the teacher’s lounge to pass around.  The teachers couldn’t believe what their students were capable of.  It was great!  A few of the kids brought the brochure they created to the administration to show off.

The kids hadn’t had enough, they wanted to explore the idea further.  I had them create commercials for their school.  I showed them the Kaplan University commercials and told them they could be inspiring like Kaplan, factual, funny, or any combination of the three.  They set to work using their method of choice.  Some used Keynote, others recorded in Photobooth and edited in iMovie, some used Xtranormal, some GoAnimate, and others used the ZimmerTwins.  The commercials were fabulous.

Toward the end of the year I had the kids create websites for their imaginary dream schools.  They used Weebly to create the websites.  I cannot tell you how impressed I was with the level of creativity, innovation, and fun that showed up on those sites.  The kids were convincing, but more than that, they were right.  They may have started with every student having a laptop, pony, and anti-gravity rooms, but where they ended was with rich learning experiences.  At the core what our students want is an opportunity to discover, play, and experiment with their learning.  They want to feel safe.  They want to be active.  I wish I could share the finished sites and commercials with you, I can’t because they contain pictures of students and other identifying information.

I learned a lot from my students as a result of the project, at the heart of it is this: provide conditions where we can learn.