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What it is:  The research process can be a hard one for kids to master.  As a student, I remember thinking that it was a long process of random steps that were supposed to somehow come together as a completed project. I was constantly convinced that I would forget one of those steps and the whole...

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3 Steps to a Living Curriculum

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Classroom Management, collaboration, education reform, For Teachers, Inquiry, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools | Posted on 04-08-2016

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3 Steps to a Living Curriculum

Boxed curriculum does exactly that: it boxes in learning, narrows the scope of possibility, and leads kids to believe that learning is a chore. Living curriculum does the opposite: it unleashes learning, opens up possibility and adjacent possibility, and leaves kids excited to continue learning. Living curriculum grows and adapts for a richer, more meaningful learning experience.

3 Steps to a Living Curriculum:

  1. Know your students! This seems like a really obvious first step, but honestly, if you don’t know your students it will be impossible to break free of the box(ed) curriculum. How do you get to know your students? At Anastasis, we dedicate our first days of school to getting to know our students and building a learner profile. We ask all kinds of interest and passion questions, we play a card game that helps us identify their Learning Style preferences, Multiple Intelligence Strengths, and Brain Dominance, and we build a Learner Profile. To take students beyond pre-fab curriculum, you have to know them first. What are their strengths as a learner? Where do they find struggle? All of this information will make you a better guide in the learning. It will also allow your students to understand themselves as learners and their classmates as learners. It will change the ecosystem in your classroom!
  2. Break free of the box. You have to break free of the boxed curriculum before you can truly experience a living curriculum. Boxed curriculum is like teaching students through paint by number. Or like exploring the world via a map. Sure, maps are a predictable. You can see the whole landscape in a simple, two dimensional layout. They give us answers and a 10,000 foot look at a landscape. They allow us to gather some information about the world: where major landmarks are in relation to other major landmarks, what rivers/lakes/mountains we might encounter. With a map, we can chart a course and head a direction. But it isn’t living. Looking at a map is not the same as exploring the world. With inquiry, you may have a guidebook that helps along the way, but it is actually all about the journey. Where boxed curriculum is about answers, inquiry is about the journey to the answer. Living curriculum is immersive learning where students get to create their own map including the features and nuances that are important to them (this is why knowing them is step 1!). Learning is too complex and beautiful to be captured by boxed curriculum. When students are immersed in the journey, they can appreciate the scale of a mountain, the wildlife and ecosystem of a river. A living curriculum is not prescriptive, it is an autobiography of learning written by the student as they learn. A living curriculum uses inquiry because the path to learning is more about following a direction than arriving at a destination. Each year, I create a new set of inquiry guides for our teachers and students. The main inquiry questions stay the same every year (we love the PYP questions!): “Who We Are,” “Where We Are in Place and Time,” “How We Express Ourselves,” “How the World Works,” “How We Organize Ourselves,” and “Sharing the Planet.” Then, under each line of inquiry, I come up with a direction for our inquiry block and additional suggestions for different lines of inquiry that students could follow. Each block has a Pinterest board where we can collect resources for learning during the block. These are books, videos, apps, lesson ideas, articles, experiments, field trip possibilities, etc.
  3. Invite teaching partners and students to collaborate. This is the LIVING part of living curriculum. This is where the curriculum actually comes alive and changes and adapts organically as the learning process unfolds.  Pinterest is a great place for this to happen and, be honest, you are there anyway! Using our Pinterest boards, I start gathering resources I think might be useful, then I invite teachers and students to collaborate with me. As they follow a direction in inquiry, inevitably it leads their learning in unexpected places that I couldn’t have imagined. Inviting teachers and students who are doing the learning to collaborate, the curriculum comes alive. It adapts and changes and grows with us. Living curriculum. Our learning becomes fully immersive, and rich. Students are creating their own maps as they explore learning.

Want to see an example of Living Curriculum in action? Check out this example from Anastasis!

Where to find the card game we use to build our learner profile: The Learning Genome Project

Follow me on Pinterest to see our Living Curriculum grow!

Digital Badges: credentialing the things that make us fully human

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, Evaluate, inspiration, Middle/High School, Open Source, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 10-07-2016

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Two weeks ago, I attended the Digital Badge Summit in Denver, CO.

I’ve been somewhat hesitant to jump into digital badges world (despite knowing the digital badge ninja, @senorg) because I feared that digital badges were just one more way to categorize and label kids, another carrot to dangle in the classroom. I must admit, that some of this hesitation comes from experience with digital badges within EPIC Kids books, an app we love at Anastasis.

Our students (and teachers) have long been fans of EPIC! because it brings us so many books and expands our classroom libraries and feeds our students desire to read. Toward the end of the school year, EPIC added digital badges. Each time a student reads a book, they earn a badge within EPIC. Pretty quickly our students stopped actually reading the books they had so loved just weeks before. They discovered that if they stayed on each page for a few seconds before flipping, they could get through books really quickly (without actually reading them) and still earn a badge. As educators, we watched our student’s love for reading dissipate in favor of a digital badge. We watched kids go from discussing the books they read, to competing to see who had the most badges. You can read about the full break down on @michellek107‘s blog here.

You can see why it was with some trepidation that I embarked on the Digital Badge Summit, but knowing @senorg as I do, I knew there would be more to digital badging. The Summit was led by Aurora Public Schools who has been on the front end of the digital badge movement. I’m so impressed with the way they have thought about, and are rolling out badging. It is not a replacement for assessment. The badges are not content specific, or task specific. Instead, the APS badges are being used to credential preschool-12th grade students in 21st Century Skills. APS has also partnered with more than 20 Endorsers who are facilitating a currency wherein students who earn endorsed badges, can use them in order to unlock opportunities with employers. Students can earn badges in any order and through a variety of disciplines, making them very customizable to each student’s individual needs, strengths, and experience.

Digital Badges: an autobiography of learning

APS issues badges using Credly. Credly is an end-to-end credential and badge management system. It seamlessly integrates into social media and Open Badge compliance and has an Open Credit API. Badges are fully customizable, it is easy to issue badges to recipients, includes identity verification (to ensure credibility and authenticity), and allows students to share achievements on a variety of sites.

Perhaps my favorite moment of Digital Badge Summit was the bold declaration that digital badges could be a great equalizer in education. @npinkard talked about learning deserts and how digital badging can help us better leverage a youth ecosystem to meet students where they are at (school, community, home, after school, etc.) Students move across multiple learning spaces constantly. These are spaces defined by where learning happens, not a school address. People put their time into learning things that have social capital. Digital badges can be a tool for social and economic justice. They can be a door opener to a successful future.

An APS student spoke toward this reality as he described his own education. As a student with learning needs, he often received a report card that revealed all of the places that he was failing within his education. It revealed every struggle and none of his brilliance. When APS began issuing badges, this student, for the first time, was able to capture and share his brilliance. While he may not be good at the school game, it did not mean that he didn’t have strengths, places where he truly shined. The badges gave this student a way to capture and celebrate what he was good at and share that with others. Now, he is able to take his accomplishments and share with future universities or employers all of the things that make him a standout candidate even if his grades don’t necessarily reflect that. Digital badging can give students a language to promote their skills and experience to future employees or schooling. Digital badges can also be used to facilitate meaningful relationships between students and mentors, they can be used to help guide and motivate students.

A distinction was made between standards (expecting a high-quality) and standardization (repetition, everyone being a cog in the system). As @dajbelshaw said, “I don’t go to two separate Michelin Star restaurants expecting the same dish, but I do expect the same high quality.” This is an important distinction, and one I don’t think we make enough in education. It is also the difference between prescriptive pathways and descriptive pathways. Badges shouldn’t be prescriptive, they should be descriptive of what a student has done. A learning autobiography of what has been accomplished rather than the charted path. “Keep badges weird. Don’t replicate the system we have now with ever more high stake credentials.”-@dajbelshaw

We also heard about how badges can make an e-portfolio more interactive, when badges can be linked directly to learning evidence, students have a powerful map of their learning that is searchable and shareable. Anastasis uses e-portfolios together with our assessment system to help students remember and reflect on their learning journey. The badges can act as a bread-crumb-trail of sorts so that students can go back through and reflect on where they started and all the steps along the way that led to accomplishments. Like growing older, learning often happens as such a pace, that you don’t always know it happened until you look back at pictures. It is only through reflection that you realized that you’ve changed at all. Students need a way to celebrate their small and big wins alike. Badges can help students see the richness of skills that have been learned that isn’t easily captured otherwise.

Several Colorado organizations shared about the ways that they are using digital badging to help students capture learning including the Denver Public Library, Colorado History Museum, and Colorado volunteers. The programs are impressive to be sure, but one of the things that became apparent is that there needs to be a common language in the Digital Badge space. Currently those who are issuing badges are often doing so within their own ecosystem. There isn’t a common ‘currency’ where badges are created and shared. In order for them to reach their full potential, badges need to be more universally shared and accepted so that they exist in a common space. The struggle here is in, “who defines knowledge and gives it a value?”- Paulo Frier This is an important consideration! Badges shouldn’t be controlled by one organization, but rather open, transferable, stackable, and evidence based. Every learner should be able to control their identity and therefore their badges.

“Badging can help credential all things that make us fully human.” @dajbelshaw

Reports and certificates show a very narrow view of what it means to be human. Digital badges open up a wider ability to help us describe who we are and what makes each of us unique. That badges can help us speak toward what makes us more fully human is the reason I left the Digital Badge Summit hopeful. Hopeful that rather than diluting learning with another “carrot” dangled, that digital badges can be a way for students to share their uniqueness, what makes their identity different from anyone else. Used properly, badges can be used to reveal and celebrate our individual humanity. Thanks @senorg and APS for putting on a truly spectacular summit!

Woot Math: Adaptive learning for fractions and decimals

Posted by admin | Posted in 5Sigma, Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Math, Primary Elementary, professional development, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 24-02-2016

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Woot Math- adaptive fraction/decimals

What it is: Woot Math uses adaptive technology to personalize the math learning experience in new ways for 3rd-6th grade students. With a focus on fractions and decimals, Woot Math allows students many inroads to understanding. Flexible implementation options mean that Woot Math can be used in any classroom configuration whether it be 1:1 devices, shared devices, whole-class, or as intervention. The Woot Math system works on the web, iPads, or Chromebooks seamlessly…it truly is a great option for any classroom! It is super user-friendly, and gives teachers the ability to customize for each student in the class as a starting point. Woot Math is adaptive, as students use it, it gets “smart” and creates learning pathways based on the specific needs of the student. Beginning with foundational rational math concepts, Woot Math makes these necessary foundational skills accessible for all students. It is like having a personal tutor sitting beside them as they work through new learning. If a student doesn’t understand a problem, the program adapts to approach the learning in a new way. The illustration of concepts is brilliant! Woot Math gives students a solid understanding of fractions, laying the necessary ground work for algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, and statistics. Sign up TODAY, Woot Math is totally free for the 2015-2016 school year!

How to integrate Woot Math into your classroom: To begin with Woot Math, decide how you will use it in your classroom. Do all of your students have access to a technology device? Do you have a bank of devices that they can rotate through? Do you have a projector/interactive whiteboard? If you are using Woot Math with limited technology access, beginning with the Interactive Problem Bank is best. Here you can quickly access thousands of hands-on fraction and decimal problems for students to work through together. You can project the problems on a whiteboard or use an interactive whiteboard. Problems can be selected by topic or standard and then by model type. Students can either work together in community solving problems, or as a center in a math rotation. If you have better access to technology, and students can work independently on a device, the Adaptive Practice is the place to start. Here you can print out student login cards, assign an initial topic, and the program will adaptively generate and assess thousands of interactive problems. This is also the place where you can track student progress and understanding through concepts and skills. The visual examples and leading through problems is fantastic, it is truly an engaging process for students to learn with! This is the best way (in my humble opinion) to use Woot Math, because it allows students to work in exactly the way they need to increase understanding and build a solid foundation of understanding. Be sure to go through Woot Math independently of your students to truly appreciate the interactive learning modules and visual representation of concepts…they are brilliant!

Tips: Be sure to sign up soon, take advantage of this timing when Woot Math is 100% free! There are some great teacher resources to download to help you as you implement Woot Math.

Hat Tip to @yourkidsteacher for sharing this awesome resource with me!

Wednesday Inspiration

Posted by admin | Posted in 5Sigma, Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration, Maker Space, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays | Posted on 18-11-2015

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You are a genius and the world needs your contribution!

 

 

If you have never had the privilege of hearing Angela Maiers speak, you are missing out!

If Angela’s name isn’t immediately recognizable, her #choose2matter and #youmatter global movements have probably crossed your path.

Angela believes that in today’s world, there are no limits for learners with passion, foresight, and desire to grow. At Anastasis, this message resonates with us.

On February 19, Angela will be the keynote speaker for the 5Sigma Education Conference in Colorado. Angela is the perfect person to kick off a weekend of inspiration, learning, iterating, collaborating, and launching.

5Sigma is unlike any education conference you’ve been to. It begins with a tour of the school I started, Anastasis Academy. This tour is led by Anastasis students of all ages. You’ll get a first hand look at what re-imagined learning looks like. What follows the tour is a weekend of inspiration, passion ignited, collaboration, and fun. We want to introduce you to those (like Angela) who have inspired and shaped us along the way. We have incredible keynotes, sessions, speakers, and panels. On Sunday, we have adult learning excursions that will give you a glimpse of what student field-trips and staff professional development look like at Anastasis.

If you are interested in student voice, starting a school, inquiry, customized assessment solutions, building community, learner profiles, individualized education, 1:1 BYOD environments, learning excursions, professional development that transforms, re-imagined classroom space, design thinking, maker spaces, mentorship, or project-based learning, you will not want to miss this conference! Besides all that, Angela Maiers is our keynote…and that is pretty outstanding!

Wildly Audacious Goals and the Power of One

Posted by admin | Posted in 5Sigma, Anastasis Academy, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays | Posted on 02-11-2015

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In 2010, I thought that technology might be the savior of education. I created the Learning Genome Project as an attempt to make it possible to personalize education for every child. This project took a detour when I realized that, in the United States, we exist within a system that has not been designed to educate the individual. This led to creating a model that honors unique individuals, a model that would make utilizing the Learning Genome Project possible. But this isn’t a post about that story. This is a post about the connections that this project has made possible.

About a month ago, I received an email through the Learning Genome Project’s website. This isn’t unusual, what was unusual was the incredibly serendipitous connection that it enabled.

Bodo Hoenen contacted me because our projects are eerily similar. Our thought process and approach is incredibly similar. But Bodo comes at the problem of education from a very different direction. Bodo recognized the vast number of refugee children (and girls in particular) who have no access to the school system of the country from which they have fled. Additionally, the host countries where these children land often don’t have the necessary resources to educate these children. The result is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million children world-wide who aren’t being educated. At the current pace, UNESCO estimates that it will take until 2086 before we are globally equipped to provide these children with quality education.

Does anyone else see the problem with this? 2086 is a long way off. There is a sense of urgency here. Children around the world cannot wait for us to get this right. They can’t wait until 2086 for this problem to be rectified. Children need us to solve this right now. Current approaches aren’t able to scale quickly enough to make a difference for children who are waiting for an education. Bodo Hoenen through Dev4x is working to change this. They have a fantastically audacious open project that goes beyond current approaches.

This is where Bodo’s vision and the Learning Genome Project overlap. Dev4X is working on a technology solution that will empower these under served children and their communities to take control of their own learning and create better lives for themselves.

Dev4X was founded on the belief that this global challenge can be solved while these children are still young by globally sourcing solutions and open collaboration.

At Anastasis, our students are currently working on an inquiry block, “Power of One.” The kids are exploring change makers, and looking into what it means to be a change maker. They are also investigating ways that they can enact change. They are recognizing their own Power of One.

I cannot say enough about the incredible students at Anastasis. These are kids who live their learning every day. We’ve challenged the kids during this inquiry block. Memorize one, give one, pray for one, serve one. The idea is to make one small change that can actually become a BIG thing. In the first week of this inquiry block, a group of three students came to me and asked if they could stay in for recess. “Mrs. Tenkely, we were talking during the morning walk and realized that we each have $100. We were talking about what we were going to use our money for and realized that we don’t really have anything we really need. So then we thought that maybe we could pool our money and buy a Sphero robot to do random acts of kindness for others. But then we remembered that we have 3 Spheros at school and realized that you would let us use them. So we were wondering if we could use our money to buy little things to hide around the school for other kids as a random act of kindness. Can we stay in for recess and hide things for kids with notes?” I am telling you, AMAZING students!

Power of One

Each of our classes has a charitable organization that they pour into for the year. One of our intermediate classes is connected with a food bank run by adults with special needs called Stepping Stones. Our students are helping to put together boxes of food for Thanksgiving. They’ve agreed to help come up with ideas to raise money for these boxes. The kids split into groups as part of their inquiry block to think about ways that they could raise money. Last week, two girls came into the office to propose their idea: “We were wondering if we could offer horse rides at school to raise money for Stepping Stones?” These girls created a waiver to sign, proposed the idea to the owner of the building we lease space from, created fliers, and organized for horses to be at school today. In 2 hours, these girls raised $400 giving horse rides at school. They organized everything themselves. Change makers!

What does this have to do with Dev4X? Anastasis students are now working on the part they can play in education for kids around the world. They are considering how they can be a part of Bodo’s wildly audacious goal of making education a reality for children all over the world. Students will be considering how they can add to the conversation, and how they can help raise some money to put into the project.

We would like to challenge other schools to do the same. What can you do to raise some money to make education a reality for children everywhere? There are 98,817 public schools in the United States, what would happen if each of them raised $100? Could we enact change for education world-wide that would have incredible implications for our own educational model? Could it be that children are the key to education reform world-wide? Are they the power of one?

Dev4X has a live Indiegogo Campaign. This is an opportunity to transform education, an opportunity to “be the change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi) What can your students do to make a change in the world? How can you empower your students?

Bodo Hoenen is our closing keynote at the 5Sigma Edu Conference in February. You will not want to miss seeing Bodo live, and experiencing the model of education that makes the Power of One stories above possible. Early bird registration ends this week! Sign up now!

 

What makes your school/PD/conference different?

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, For Teachers, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources | Posted on 26-10-2015

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The first question that I get asked when people find out that I’ve started a school: what makes Anastasis Academy different? And this is a tricky one to answer, because the truth is EVERYTHING makes us different. It’s hard to describe something that no one has seen before, so you begin to relate it with ideas and concepts that people are familiar with. The more I’ve talked about Anastasis, the more I’ve begun to really recognize what it is at the heart that makes us so different. It is our starting point and driving force: students-with-names.

That may seem like a strange comment to make, “students-with-names,” because, of course they have names! But in education, we make a lot of decisions without these specific students-with-names in mind. We make decisions for students as if they are a homogeneous group, or worse, a number.

As if they don’t have special interests/passions/gifts.

As if they don’t have something unique that the world needs.

At Anastasis Academy, we see the potential of students-with-names and help them believe that they are capable of realizing that potential. That it is worth the risk of being fully alive. That they can be vulnerable in community.

When we talk about education, too often the focus is on learning all the right things, equipping kids with the right content and answers. But the truth is, a great school is about so much more than learning all the right things. A great school is about connecting humanity. It is about finding the educators who can draw students out, who can foster humanity and connection. Who see potential and help others see it, too. Who help kids embrace their worth and value.

Because we start from this place, from students-with-names, every other decision we make has to honor that.

So we can’t think about curriculum as a one-size-fits all.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t assess in a way that minimizes the individual and the learning journey that is happening.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t have large class sizes that prohibit us from getting to know the stories of students.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t pretend that worksheets, tests, and grades are what learning is about.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t let technology be the teacher.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t have restrictive classroom space.

Because, students-with-names.

We can’t rely on typical professional development to prepare teachers.

Because, students (and teachers)-with-names.

When your goal is honoring the humanity, EVERYTHING else must shift to help meet that goal. Everything must be adjusted outside of the assumptions we make as adults about what education “should” look like.

Last week, I asked every Anastasis teacher to come to school on Tuesday with sub plans with one caveat- don’t “dumb it down” for the sub! Just continue on with whatever you were doing. That was all of the information I shared. On Tuesday morning, we all met in the office. I had slips of paper with every class name on it. Each teacher chose a name. This was to be their class for the morning.

Teacher Swap!

My goal was a simple one, build community and empathy among the staff. If you’ve met the staff at Anastasis, you may have wondered at this goal (these are the most amazing people who have incredible empathy and we have a pretty tight community). Something different happens when you are in a classroom that isn’t yours, teaching students you don’t normally teach. You begin to see things through new lenses, different perspectives. You begin to problem solve differently. We had a Jr. High teacher with our 2nd-3rd grade, our 4th-6th teacher with our kindergarten. Teachers who normally teach young students, teaching some of the oldest. It was outstanding!

During our Wednesday staff meeting, we talked about the successes and challenges that were faced. We remembered what it is like to be a “new” teacher again, the fish-out-of-water feeling that comes from having a loose inquiry plan with a different age group. It revealed the way that each class ladders up and prepares these students-with-names for the next part of their learning journey. It reminded us not to set boundaries and expectations too low; these kids are capable of greatness! It revealed to the teachers of the older students why the teachers of the younger students are ready for recess at 10:00am on the button. 🙂

In a few weeks, teachers will begin to go into each other’s classrooms as an observer. My hope is, that the time spent teaching in each other’s classes will provide them with greater insight and more thoughtful observation.

 

In February, we invite you to come visit us. Join us to see first hand how a focus on students-with-names impacts everything that we do (including our approach to conference PD!)  The 5Sigma Education Conference is an opportunity for you to see first hand what makes Anastasis such a different learning environment. On February 19th, our students will tour you through our building, they’ll walk you through classes and talk to you about their learning experiences. We have two incredible keynotes by equally incredible people. Angela Maiers is our opening keynote. If you aren’t familiar with Angela’s work, I encourage you to take a look at her here, and learn why she is the perfect person to kick off our “students-with-names” focused conference. Bodo Hoenen is our closing keynote. Bodo has a passion for making individualized learning possible for children who have been largely forgotten.  In between those keynotes, will be sessions, panels, featured speakers, conversations, and plenty of inspiration. On February 21st we’ll take a field trip together.

This is our second 5Sigma Education Conference, if you were at the first, you know what a powerful weekend this is. If you weren’t with us last year, you will not want to miss out this year! Check out what last year’s attendees had to say about the weekend here.

Register today and take advantage of early-bird pricing!

Have something that needs to be added to our conversations? The call for proposals is still open! Click on the link above and head over to the “Propose a Session” tab.

Technology: the savior of education?

Posted by admin | Posted in 5Sigma, Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary | Posted on 05-10-2015

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In 2009, I left teaching. I didn’t do it because I was fed up with the system, or because I didn’t like my job. Quite the opposite. I really loved being a computer teacher. I loved the freedom of writing my own curriculum every day, and getting to know my students. I had a great time helping other teachers learn how to use technology, and coming up with ideas for how they could integrate it into their classrooms. In 2009, I left teaching for health reasons. I have auto immune disorders (Rheumatoid Arthritis and Raynaud’s Syndrome) and in 2009, my rheumatologist recommended that I take a year off to see if my body would stop attacking itself. Get away from the germs the wreak havoc on the system.

So, that is what I did. I took a year off, fully anticipating that this little experiment would not work and that I would be back in the classroom by 2010.

In 2008 (I know, I’m doing this in the wrong order!), I was teaching my students how to build a website using Wix. This is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) platform, but also allowed for some basic HTML embedding and tweaking. I was demonstrating for students how they could embed a Google Map onto their websites and asked the question, “if I wanted to put a map of the capital of the United States on my website, what would I need to type in?” Blank. Stares.

To clarify, these were 10 and 11-year-old students who are living IN the United States of America. I tried again, “You guys! The capital of the United States, you know, the country we live in?” At this point a few hands raised. “New York?” “San Francisco?” This was one of those face-palm teacher moments. In the interest of time, I gave them the answer. This scenario happened with 2 more classes. Out of 74 fifth grade students, not one of them knew the capital of their own country!!! At this point I started to panic a little. How could our social studies curriculum fail to mention the capital of the United States? I decided that I was going to take all of the curriculum home over the summer and create supplemental guides using technology to help teach what wasn’t in the curriculum. I didn’t stop at social studies, I took the reading, writing, math, and science curriculum home for kindergarten through fifth grade. The back of my MDX filled, I had a goal: to leverage technology to solve this problem.

As I poured over pages and pages of curriculum, one thing became abundantly clear…this was not a problem with the curriculum. At least not in the way I had assumed. It was all there. The kids had even done worksheets and taken tests on the information! When it came time to retrieve the information for a practical purpose, they couldn’t do it. Analyzing the curriculum, I could see why. The way that these skills were being taught was not going to reach my students. I knew these kids. I had taught them for years. As I looked at what the curriculum offered as “learning” I knew that it wouldn’t work for the majority of the students I saw each week in my computer lab. These are brilliant kids, but the only thing that the curriculum required of them was that they look at something, and then regurgitate what they had seen right back on paper. None of it ever had to take long-term residence in the brain. It went directly from the eyes to the hand. My pursuit of a technology supplement guide took on a new goal: take what was in the curriculum, and use technology to bring the learning to life. I had the added benefit of knowing each of the kids I was writing this for. I had their faces in my mind as I wrote these technology guides. I could picture their excitement over learning with what I was pulling together.

Fast forward again to 2009. I hadn’t finished the tech guides, so I was hired as a consultant to finish them for the remainder of the curriculum. I picked up a few other consulting gigs at other schools in the area. As I went through their curriculum I realized that this wasn’t a localized problem. This was a one-size-fits-all problem. At the end of the day, the real trouble was that curriculum isn’t designed for the individual, but for the masses. And in creating for the masses, it completely forgot its goal of teaching students. Who are individuals.

One day as I was working on these technology supplement guides and flipping through curriculum, a song came on Pandora (internet radio) that I had never heard before. I frantically looked for a sticky note to jot down the name of the artist. I stopped for a minute after I got the artist’s name down (Zee Avi, for those who are interested), and had a true geek out moment over how far technology had come. I marveled at the way that technology was so advanced that it could predict what music I would like, all based on one piece of information. It felt like a terribly intimate thing for technology to be able to do (particularly because at the time, I had no idea how the background technology worked!). In the midst of my geeking out, I had a thought: what if curriculum worked more like Pandora? What if we could input one piece of information about a student, and have technology predict ways they might like to learn? I could not shake this idea, and Tweeted it out. My PLN instantly retweeted that thought. I emailed an app developer in Australia that I had been working with and asked if technology was advanced enough to do something like that with curriculum. His response was somewhere along the lines of, “if you can think it up, anything is possible.” I couldn’t let the idea go, so this app developer pointed me toward Balsamiq and told me to learn what I could about how Pandora worked and then prototype my idea. Since I had all the time in the world on my hands, I did exactly that. Pandora called itself the music genome project, based on the human genome project. Essentially, it identifies attributes of music (over 400 of them) and tags each piece of music with those attributes. A map of music. Clearly learning has attributes, so I set out naming those, planning the way that learning could be broken down into the minutia so that an algorithm could identify the perfect resource for a student. At this point I had convinced myself that technology would be the savior of education. All we need is to better individualize for students! Problem solved! Clearly I’m a genius! 😉

Only, the more that I talked to teachers, the more I talked with administrators, the more I looked for investors, the more that I examined the system, the more I realized…education isn’t quite ready for this genius.

The trouble is, we have a one-size-fits-all system. We have classes of 25+ students. We have teachers who are overworked and underpaid. We have a limited amount of time. We have limited budgets. The idea of mass education, in some ways, locks us into the one-size-fits-all. Standards and testing have become hallmarks of education. I started to recognize that even if I get the Learning Genome Project built, I still have to find a way for teachers to use it for students. With the current setup, that would mean the very top students in a class, those considered ‘gifted,’ and the very bottom of the class, those considered ‘low,’ would get to use it. The vast majority of students, those in the middle of the bell curve, would never get the individualized plan. Yet, they deserved it just as much.

This is where the Learning Genome Project took a small (read: enormous) detour. In order for this technology to be used to create a learning map for every student, a new system was needed. I began to consider what type of learning model this type of technology would be best utilized in. I couldn’t find a fit. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything that recognized that every student was a unique individual. One with unique learning patterns. Unique gifts. A unique worldview. I couldn’t find anything that recognized students with names. Everything was geared toward “students,” as if that one word can capture the genius of the individuals it claims. We needed a new system. One that honored humanity. That honored the students with names. I began to dream about what such a school would look like. I talked with other brilliant educators about what that would be like. The result: a new school. A new school model. A brand new way of approaching learning: I started a k-8 school, Anastasis Academy.

I began this journey believing that technology was going to solve the problems of education, I suppose that is a natural path for someone so saturated in current educational technology. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that the problem wasn’t one that technology, like the Learning Genome Project, could solve but rather, one that technology could support. At the heart of what isn’t working is a system. A system that sees “students,” and not students with names. A system aimed at teaching the masses in a way that ends up minimizing humanity. Minimizing what makes us unique. Minimizing the genius that each of us alone brings to the world. I set out to create technology that would revolutionize learning, and instead detoured to the real game changer: a model that recognizes the individual, that honors it. Beginning from this place, students with names, learning can grow. Technology that supports that learning can grow.

The Learning Genome Project has taken a 5 year back seat, not because it isn’t important. Not because it can’t work. It has taken a back seat because first we need to recognize the humanity. When we really see the kids with names, the technology can support. It can help us reach each of those unique individuals. It can transform.

Anastasis Academy has been the single greatest “accident” of my life. In many ways I stumbled into starting a school. Seeing the way everything grows out of ‘students with names,’ the humanity, I’m able to again look at the Learning Genome Project with new eyes. In and of itself, the Learning Genome  Project (technology) won’t be the savior of education. Coupled with a model that honors humanity, it is unstoppable. I know this to be true. I’ve had the luxury of 5 years in Anastasis Academy. I’ve seen students come alive. I’ve seen them #standagain in who they are as learners, in who they are as the unique individuals they were created to be. If you’d like to see Anastasis Academy first hand, I hope you will join us for our education conference, 5Sigma. If you were a supporter of my Indiegogo campaign, I’d like to waive your conference fee! Just email me for a special code! I’d love for you to be my guest!

Last week, I had the great privilege of virtually meeting Bodo Hoenen. We share an eerily similar vision, come at from very different angles. Bodo is launching his own Indiegogo campaign. It is one that I will support because I so strongly believe that the world needs this. Bodo will be our closing keynote at 5Sigma Edu Conference. I cannot wait! I’m interested in partnering with those who share the vision. In those who know that we have to do better for kids now. Please help us BLOW UP the Internet with a new message about education reform. One about students with names. Individuals who are uniquely gifted and set apart to do something important in the world. If you’ve taught for any amount of time, you know that you are among genius waiting to be unleashed! It is time to empower kids. It is time to stop limiting with labels. It is time to stand again.

Follow Anastasis Students in the upcoming weeks as they work to transform education. As we begin our new inquiry unit, students are exploring the power of one. They are learning that they have an unique voice and worldview. They have the power to transform. I hope you’ll join us!

Virtual Escape Room

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Character Education, collaboration, Evaluate, Fun & Games, Inquiry, Interactive Whiteboard, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 14-09-2015

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Virtual Escape Room

What it is: I’m telling you, the edublog alliance I created in 2010 is like the gift that keeps on giving. Year after year I continue to be inspired, excited, and made to think by my edublog alliance PLN! These are my go to blogs before all others! Karen Ogen recently posted about a Virtual Escape room. It is so much fun, I had to share here as well on the off-chance you don’t already follow Karen’s blog (iTeach with Technology). Virtual Escape Room is reminiscent of the Clue Rooms or Escape Rooms that are popping up all over the US (I assume they are happening overseas, can anyone confirm that?). These real-life rooms are not only fun, they are a great way for students to think critically and problem solve together. The premies of the rooms is this: You find yourself locked in a room and, using the clues in the room, must find your way out. There are props, puzzles, and clues all over the room and a time limit. The Arizona Science Collaborative has created a virtual version of the escape room (cue cheers from me!). While a real-life escape room would be amazing, often this is not a realistic school field-trip because of funding, class size, and transportation. Enter the virtual version!

How to use Virtual Escape Room in your classroom: The Virtual Escape Room is a great way for your students to work in small groups to solve a mystery together using critical thinking and problem solving. Students must work together to find their way out of a dark virtual room using the clues in the room and solving some puzzles. Students learn how to work together in teams, communicate effectively, go through the scientific method, and solve problems creatively. Put students together in groups of 3-4 students to solve these problems on classroom computers, using an interactive whiteboard as a center, or on individual devices. Before completing the room, discuss what makes a good team member. How can we best solve problems together quickly? Students can go through the room together. Find out which team can get through the virtual challenge the most quickly. Follow up with discussion about what clues they used, how the students worked together as a team, and what things slowed them down. How was the scientific method used?

Tips: If you aren’t familiar with Breakout/Escape rooms, check out http://www.breakoutedu.com to find out how other teachers are creating their own! The virtual room could be a great introduction to a larger room. Even better, introduce your students to this idea using the virtual room, and ask them to create their own escape room challenge (in-real-life) for each other!

Seesaw: The ultimate ePortfolio for every classroom!

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management, Create, Evaluate, For Teachers, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Web2.0 | Posted on 01-09-2015

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Seesaw: the ultimate eportfolio for every classroom

What it is: Seesaw is the first truly student centered/driven digital portfolio tool that I’ve seen. What makes Seesaw such an awesome option as a digital portfolio is the way that it empowers kids to build and keep a digital portfolio totally independently with features like QR code login for young students. Students can log their learning using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. Seesaw also has direct import features from lots of popular apps. From the teacher perspective, Seesaw makes it simple to access student work immediately from their own device. Content is easily searchable by student and makes it simple to review student progress over time and keep track of growth. In addition to browsing by student, teachers can use folders to organize work by subject area or project. There is also an awesome flag feature that makes it easy to highlight work that you want to go back to for conferences or follow-up with the student. The built in audio recording and drawing tools mean that students can reflect on what they’ve learned or explain how they reached an answer. Parents are also able to login to see work and give feedback on it (you as the teacher can control who sees what and what feedback can be given. Teachers can approve peer feedback before it is seen by students or parents.

Seesaw: the ultimate eportfolio for every classroom

How to integrate Seesaw into the classroom: We’ve long used Evernote as our eportfolio of choice, because it was a simple (enough) entry point and gave students enough flexibility to show what they were working on. With each new release of features, Seesaw is quickly winning me over. This is an app that was clearly created with students and teachers in mind. It has incredible flexibility while equipping with just the right tools and features to make it extra valuable in a school setting. I love the options for feedback that teachers can give, and that all stakeholders are able to login and see what kids are working on. The way that Seesaw enables teachers to give quick feedback to students is incredible. I am also impressed with the integrated audio and drawing features that allow students (even young students) to comment and reflect on their own learning and thinking process. The metacognition implications of Seesaw are awesome!

At Anastasis, even non-digital native assignments get captured in our eportfolio through the camera or video. This means that work “travels” with students from year to year. Future teachers can go back through their progress, but students also have this incredible “bread crumb trail” of learning that they can go back through. It is always fun for us to hear students exclaim over the difference in their writing from day one to day 100. Often the learning process is so infinitesimal that students (and sometimes parents) have a hard time seeing the growth. An eportfolio is a great way to capture all learning so that those baby steps can be seen over time. This has been encouraging for our struggling students especially.

Seesaw supports a variety of platforms making it super simple to use in any classroom environment and particularly in a BYOD setting. Supported platforms include iOS devices, Android devices, Chromebooks, and any computer with a Chrome web browser.

Best of all: Seesaw is FREE!!! If you want to store and organize a child’s portfolio beyond the current year, a Plus account can be purchased by parents for $9.99/year OR a school account.

Tips: Seesaw also has Google App integration, if your school uses Google in Education, they can login with the same Google login they use for everything else!

123D Design: The simplest (FREE) way to get ideas into 3D

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Art, Create, Inquiry, iPod, Maker Space, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Technology, Video Tutorials, web tools, Websites | Posted on 07-04-2015

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123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!

What it is: 123D Design is a free super powerful, but simple to use, 3D creation and editing tool. As if that wasn’t great enough, it also supports many new 3D printers! The 3D creation tool is available for PC, Mac, and iPad download ensuring that no matter what devices you have at your disposal, you can take advantage of this awesome tool. The 123D app is incredibly intuitive, within just a few minutes, you can be creating like a pro (really!). Not feeling like a pro? There is also a quick start guide and a library of video tutorials that will explain how the different tools within the app work. The app has lots of 3D designs to start with that can be altered, but it also gives students complete creative license to create all on their own. So cool!

123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!

How to integrate 123D Design into your classroom: 123D Design is a fantastic tool that brings the principles of geometry to life while giving students an outlet for creative design and invention. The app is easy enough to use that even young primary students can use it successfully to create.

123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!I introduced this app to some of our students who have been learning the basics about coordinate planes. They quickly were able to identify the coordinate planes and were able to understand x, y, and z! This is the type of creation tool that helps students understand the application possibilities of the math they are learning (math in context, what a novel idea!)

At Anastasis, we’ve been playing with the iPad version of 123D Design. In the app version, students begin by choosing a basic shape and then can edit it to be exactly what they want it to be. They can easily connect shapes to make really detailed creations. Example projects help them to play with the tools in the app until they understand and can start from scratch on their own. When students are finished, they save it to “My Projects” which is accessible in the 123D Design web and desktop app. If you are lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer, the kids can even print out their creations!

This is a great addition to any maker space/prototype lab/design thinking routine. Don’t have any of that fanciness at your school? No problem! Adding this app to your classroom gives students an outlet to do some design thinking and work through ideas and inventions right in your classroom. Instant prototype lab!

Our students often engage in design thinking as they engage inquiry. Right now one of our 4th grade students is inquiring into how much water is wasted in our daily activities. One area of waste is when we brush our teeth. This student is designing and creating a toothbrush with the water built-in so that the faucet doesn’t have to be turned on to wet the toothbrush. She’s been experimenting to find out how much waste there is in this activity in our prototype lab. Next, she’ll begin to bring her designs to life with 123D Design and we’re hopeful that she’ll be able to print out a prototype on our Printrbot (still experimenting with how to do that!).

Tips: Sign up to become a member of Autodesk 123D. This gives you access to 3D models, tutorials, 10 free premium models each month, ability to send the 3D model directly to your own 3D printer (or if you don’t have one, to a printing service), unlimited cloud storage of your student designs, and access to the Autodesk forums.