Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Future is Now - from my students

Today we used our awesome, advanced high-tech 3D printer for the very first time. We love our 3D printer.The 3D printer is important to our school because it can help us with our future careers.
Today we made a glossy, layered chain that printed slowly from the machine. The plastic, opaque chain was white and gray


. In the future, we will use this educational tool to create fabulous models, props, and diagrams for school projects.

Thank you so much for donating money for the 3D printer.

We used our GLAD Sentence Patterning chart and collaborative groups to create this shared post.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Silicon Valley Reads part 1

This past fall, our fourth and fifth graders participated in Global Real Aloud #GRA13, reading Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper along with students across the globe.  We connected with other classes using +Skype, GHO, and Edmodo and we shared our responses to literature using KidBlog.  In addition to reading an amazing book, our students learned about digital citizenship, geography, problem solving and cooperation, using  21st century tools.

Silicon Valley Reads is an annual community program that selects books focused on a contemporary theme and offers free events throughout Santa Clara County to engage the public in reading, thinking and discussing the topic. The goals of the program are to encourage the love of reading and learning and to have a welcoming forum where our diverse community can come together to share different perspectives.

It seemed like a natural progression to incorporate lessons learned in Global Readaloud to our own local, Silicon Valley Reads (SVR) initiative.  This year, SVR is exploring the relationship between books and the internet.  The two books adults are reading include What the Internet is Doing to our Brains:The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book Store, by Robin Sloan. (Which, by the way, has me staying up well past my school day bedtime!) SVR also selects companion books for children from pre-K to middle school.

I decided to reach out to my on-line communities to create a community for our students; sharing our thoughts, impressions and insights about the book.  I created an Edmodo group for teachers to connect. In addition, I shared the titles with my parent community in our private Facebook group. I use a lot of technology in my educational practices, so the topic is quite appropriate for our population.

SVR has companion book choices for children.  Last week I showed  the academy award winning short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. It was amazing. My students were totally engaged and intent on the meaning and nuances of the film. At one point (you'll know when you see it), one student whispered, "it's just like Wizard of Oz!". And indeed, the story was influenced by Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz and Hurricane Katrina.

The film became a picture book, The Fantastic Flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, (what a switch) which is the SVR selection for 4-8 year olds. After viewing the film, without discussing it, my students journaled their reflections while listening to the film's soundtrack.  
Emma wrote, "That movie showed how a book could bring an adventure each time you turn the page. To think that the books were alive gives me the more respect from books. I think the book that Morris had was emptied because they wanted him to write about how wonderful books can be. They wanted him to show how they are your gateway to imagination. Books are like none-other. They make movies seem just like a picture that moves but doesn't explain a lot. When Mr. Morris Lessmore died I was very moved. That taught me something. When something ends, another takes it's place. The music in the movie seemed to be explaining it all. Books are your greatest friends."

Then I read them the book, and we compared the two. Students posted their ideas to +Edmodo and +Kidblog 

Mason said "The world that Mr. Morris lives is a colorless world without any books. Once he has books, his world had color, and he was happy. The book had a lot more detail and meaning of what Mr. Morris felt. The one thing that I liked most about the movie is that the music made it feel calm."

Maya adds, "The theme of the story is that a person's greatest friend can be their books. Even though they have unspoken words they can have the greatest meaning of all. A story can bring you into another world just through words. The words in the book make the story more understandable. Like a dictionary gives definitions."

Next we will start reading Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

STEAM School part 1

I have been asked to participate in the early stages of discussions around building a STEAM (Science, Technology. Engineering, Arts, and Math) school in our district.  We are on a very tight time-line for the design of the physical space and so I have been gathering as much data as I can about what works and what doesn't.

I put out feelers to my PLN, I tweeted, Google +'ed, +Edmodo'd  and surfed.  I received an immediate tweet back from my friend +Jason Borgen  at TiCal  who suggested I contact +Skip Johnson. I had seen Skip present some innovative work his school was doing with iPods a few years back at Lead3.0 and then at a few TiCal gatherings.  Jason told me that Skip would be a good resource, so I reached out to him.

Skip is the Principal at El Crystal School  in the San Bruno Park School District. About a year ago, he and a very committed group of teachers "STEMmed" their school. I wanted to know how they did it, what worked and what they'd change. He referred me to a blog post, All Stemmed Up he'd written on the subject, and then we chatted on the phone. I can't wait to go up to his school and see what they are doing.
The good news, for us right now, is that they made very few facilities changes when they converted to a STEM Magnet school.  The did take the shelves out of the middle of their media center to allow for building of K'nex and Lego projects and other PBL (problem based learning) activities. But for the most part, the classroom walls have stayed physically the same. All of their classrooms have short throw projectors, interactive white board and document cameras.

As it should be, their efforts were less in the facilities department, and more in curriculum development and parent education.  The walls will be there, what really matters is the learning that occurs within and beyond them.

I've also created a group +Pinterest Learning Spaces board to start gather ideas.  Edutopia lists 8 tips for re-designing your classroom  starting with Involving Your Students. Which is exactly what I did! First I had our kids tweet about their idea of an ideal school.

Then I told them about the proposed STEAM school and showed them the facilities plan and asked them to design their ideal STEAM school. They are so excited and their ideas, and methods are as individual as they are.  I can't wait to see their ideas gel, and of course, I'll share them here.