Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Getting Outdoors on Summer Break

It's the Summer Solstice today!  It's always so funny that while the normal world is celebrating the beginning of summer, as a teacher, once this day hits I'm already mourning the end of it!

Before it's totally over I wanted to talk about what I'm doing to relax and rejuvenate. It's a super hectic summer. My next post is going to be about my new job and what my husband and I are doing all summer as teachers to prepare for the next school year.

However, this post is all about getting away from it all and literally disconnecting with tech. My daughter had mentioned earlier this year that she had never been camping other than backyard camping in the tent. She also hadn't been fishing. I decided it was time for the eight year old to experience the great outdoors over night. My hubby isn't huge on camping, yet I love it. So, I planned a girls trip with a friend. Suzy is the ultimate outdoorsy girl who backpacks and kayaks. She's a good one to have on a trip! Anything I forgot, like dinner for the second night, she was prepared for!

I picked a location, Curecanti National Recreation Area, it's about a 3 1/2 hour drive from the Springs. OutDoorsGeek called the reservoir a Kayaker's Paradise. We packed the car, loaded the boats on the car and headed out. We stopped at the visitor's center. I assumed there would be a fee for parking or camping. There is not. This National Park is completely free! We planned on parking at the marina, loading the boats and paddling straight across to the Turtle Rock campsite.  It was recommended instead to drive on further, park on a dirt road near the Lake Fork Bridge, then load the boats and paddle about two miles upstream to the Lake Form Arm campsite.


If you've never kayak camped, loading the boats from your stuff in the car, in my opinion, is by far the worst part. You have to have drybags for everything! You need to pack lightly so it all fits in the boat, yet have enough that you are warm at night, cool in the day, have enough food and water. Between the two adults, we had everything covered. I love this Buzzfeed diagram about packing your kayak. I always have extra bungees in my boat for large items such as wood for the campfire. 

The best part about kayak camping is you get to camp in backcountry areas that you wouldn't want to or might not be able to hike to.  The paddle up Lake Fork Arm was longer than we had wanted, and it was hard to spot the campsite, but it was a pretty perfect campsite once we were settled. The site has two tent pads, two fire pits, a picnic site with a bear box and one vault toilet. Primitive, but at least we weren't digging holes or hanging items in trees! 

My daughter was a trooper. The three hour drive, stop at the visitor center, loading the boats, and paddling to the site made us all super tired and ready to set up the tent and hammock and relax!


Over the three days and two nights we got to explore our little area. I enjoyed taking photos and teaching my kiddo more about camping and paddling. We would take turns paddling, mostly I was on. When we got into a rhythm we flew. Her little arms set a pretty fast pace for me to keep up with. I let her bring an old smartphone as her camera. She enjoyed her own little explorations around the site and on the rocks as we paddled. I have yet to check out her pics, though I really should. 

I kept my drybag in my lap as I shot with my Canon. When the water got choppy or I needed to muscle I rolled it up quick. Other times I just enjoyed having my LG in my phone case around my neck. Here are some of my favorite shots from the weekend.




This isn't white water kayaking. While I've done a little white water canoeing and the required Colorado rafting trips, I really enjoy peaceful floats where I can put my feet up and take breaks when the wind is behind me. 

                                 

All in all it was a super successful first girls paddle trip with my daughter!  I hope for many more paddling adventures!

Thanks for reading. Happy official first day of Summer to every one! 

~Andi






Monday, May 29, 2017

Embracing the Fidget Fight and End of Year Blues!

Revised on 6/9/17 - a combined blog effort with Mrs. Welch Knows!

The 2016-2017 school year is officially over for me!  I am so beyond ready for summer.  I have a girls kayaking trip coming up, a visit back to Nebraska to see family, and another school year to prepare for.

For weeks we’ve been fighting the “fidget spinner battle” and that combined with trying to keep students engaged during the last week of school got our wheels turning. As teachers we tend to understand the last week of school is often something the students aren't going to put much time or effort into, they're "checked-out" and so are we. We were both undecided going into the last full week of school (That's the beauty of teaching for a combined total of 21 years, we could pull something together over the weekend!), then LaDonna, said, "Wanna do a project about Spinners?" Of course the answer was “yes!”

Our Eastern Hemisphere teacher also got in on the action. So, we started creating it on a Thursday, and continued adding pieces over the weekend.  However, we’re really proud of what we came up with: 
Learning Objectives
Math
Students will:
  • Collect data.
  • Graph and analyze data using circle graphs, scatter plots and box plots.
  • Calculate mean/average.
  • Convert time (minutes to seconds) using proportions.
ELA
Students will:
  • Collect evidence for and against spinners as fidget toys
  • Present an argument to:
    • Persuade your teachers and principals to accept and see the benefits of fidget spinners
    • Convince your peers to stop spinning and to see the challenges it causes for others
E.H.
Students will:
  • Research toys through the 20th-21st centuries
  • Generate a list of the top 20 toys of the 21st century
  • Design a toy






You can find the Math piece here and the ELA piece FREE here. The projects were actually pretty great! The students loved working together for the four days, and even though we only had four school days left in the year, a lot of the students really worked hard to create a solid presentation for our last full day. They took ownership of their learning and their projects. 


For ELA, I wanted the students to focus on one last argument piece. Articles were chosen to outline positives and negatives of spinners as a useful fidget. The students also needed to create a survey to track their argument.  Some of the groups were surprised. They thought everyone would vote yes in favor of spinners in the classroom, however about half of the students they surveyed were against them. After gathering all the data and creating displays, students were expected to present their math data and their argument showing evidence to support their stance on spinners.



For math, Mrs. Welch wanted to focus on applying useful math skills in a meaningful way. I also wanted students to apply skills that they had learned this school year. I not only wanted students to take ownership, I wanted them to answer that age old question, “When am I ever going to use this?” Students were given opportunities of choice and were able to share their opinion of this hot topic. Although the ELA focused on the debate of the topic, students had to take a stance and develop a survey question for their position of “To spin or Not to spin?” with statistics in mind. The math of this project focused on collecting and analyzing data to back up their argument and test the quality of these overnight sensations. The price of these little gadgets range from $5 to $40 and are made from a plethora of materials. After gathering all the data and creating displays, students were expected to analyze their data in such a way to decide if price and materials plays a role in how well a fidget spinner spins.




This brought us to this blog post today. I thought of how we embraced this item that has become the bane of teacher's existence.  We took something that challenged us and turned it around on the students. As many say, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” 

What we as teachers need to do is help our students take ownership of their learning. We need to help them make that shift.  I think Ownership is the biggest shift in education. Ownership is by definition the “fact of being an owner.” This may not be true for all but when you own something, you have a sense of pride about it. You want to show everyone and you sometimes brag about it.  When you think about all of the buzzwords and phrases that have been around for the past 10 years: project-based learning, one-to-one, flipped learning, blended learning, flexible seating, flexible spaces, genius hour, makerspace, growth mindset... What do they all have in common?  We're trying to put the student in charge of the learning. All of these things were also created with the student in mind  and tend to promote a student centered environment.

Why do we get so frustrated over small objects spinning in our peripheral vision?  It's because we feel like they are distractions from the learning. They usually are, but that's because the students are taking ownership of everything in front of them instead of their own learning. It is also frustrating to see the way fidget spinners are being marketed. Let’s face the fact that they are indeed toys.

If you want to continue teaching the way you were taught and the way your parents were taught, stop reading NOW.  If you want to embrace this shift:  Try, and really do it, don't just say it, but try to focus on one of those phrases from above.  If you already do one, add in another! All of these practices are meant to help students take ownership of their learning. Which should be the ultimate goal, to get the students to care equally or even more than you, as an educator, do about their learning or education.

I had a principal a few years back who constantly said, "Focus on only what you can control." This means if you are the only teacher embracing student ownership, so be it. You can't control the others in your building or on your grade level team.  You can also say over and over that you wish the parents would instill this concept themselves, but you can't control that either.  You can only control your classroom. 

So, when the next annoying fad comes in, embrace it. Your students will love you for it and will learn so much from it.  Show your students how they take ownership of that fad, and they can take ownership of their learning too. Enjoy the end of the school year if you are finishing up. Rest, Relax, and Rejuvenate over the next few weeks.  


Thanks for reading!

Update! This was posted on the @EdTechTeam blog!



Sunday, May 7, 2017

How to Become an EdTechTeam Summit Presenter

Last weekend I had the privilege of presenting at my third EdtechTeam Summit.  As an educator, you may know of these as GAFE Summits (#gafesummit). GAFE stands for Google Apps For Education. Since Google has rebranded their apps as the GSuite for Education there's not a sweet acronym that can be used anymore. The Edtech team has had to rebrand their summit name as well (#edtechteam).
I attended my first summit in the fall of 2015 at Monarch High School in Boulder, CO. This is where I learned about OrangeSlice, ActivelyLearn, Symbaloo, and so much more.  I also learned, I had a wealth of knowledge to share myself.  There are things I have learned in my classroom from trial and error.  I am able to share these ideas with others via my blog, Twitter, TeacherspayTeachers, and at summits.
How does one become a presenter?

  • First, if you've never attended a summit, I would recommend attending one.  Get to know the format of the sessions and enjoy a weekend of learning among your edtechie tribe!   Check out the EdtechTeam website to find a Google, iPad, or Apple summit near you.
  • Next, think about your passions and expertise.  Then, apply!  What's the worst that could happen? They don't chose your session? Everyone gets told no at some point. It doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing. It means you may need to revamp, rethink, then reapply.

I have heard from colleagues, "I have nothing new or groundbreaking to present."
I have presented twice about using graphic novels in the classroom and once about tips and tricks for grading in docs and forms.
Here's what I have learned:

1) There's always going to be someone who comes to your session who is just learning to embrace technology in the classroom or is willing to try new things.  You are the expert in the room for the time being.
2) Give time for exploration. It's just like being in your classroom, if your group suddenly is into the material and talking with one another and sharing ideas, you've done your job!
The first time I presented about graphic novels I was guilty of too much talk.  For my second presentation about grading with Google extensions I shared out ideas and let people try things. My feedback was much better.  For my third presentation the EdtechTeam selected my graphic novel presentation again. This time I was able to build in more time to play with extensions such as Bitmoji and websites such as Pixton.

Here are my slide show presentations and documents to give you ideas.






I'm not a professional speaker by any means, but I do feel like I'm finding my voice.  I get better each time I have the opportunity to share. Don't be afraid to share your knowledge.  I hope you find this advice helpful. Enjoy your next summit!

Update! This was posted on the @EdTechTeam blog!

Thanks!
~Andi
@aadamsELA
English Middle School Mania

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Yearbook Layouts a "Design Thinking" Challenge




Hello Readers,
As I've mentioned. This year I have been part of an innovator cohort in my district. In January (yeah, I've been a blogging slacker) we were asked to create a "Design Thinking" challenge. This was our 2nd challenge in the Future Classroom Cohort. As a group we learned about John Spencer’s Design Challenge and the Launch Cycle.  

There are five phases of the design process: Discovery, Interpretation, Ideation, Experimentation,  and Evolution. How can this be used with students? Even more so, how can I use this in my classroom?


This challenge was a little trickier for me because I have a student teacher this semester. She was just starting the argument writing unit that she fully designed and created, so I didn't want to come back from my cohort meeting and say, "Hey, I need my classes back for a couple days to try something."
Instead, I created a Design Challenge for my middle school yearbook class.  We meet each day at the end of the day for 30 minutes.  This year I had two returning yearbook staff members (8th graders) and 23 new staff members. With such a huge turnaround, I found that students were lacking many of the design elements required for creating a quality yearbook.  We have used the tutorials in the yearbook software, however, using the LAUNCH cycle gave students the ability to see the elements being manipulated on a page.


Here is my Layout Design Challenge activity.

I had the students manipulating paper and gluing.  I felt like this was old school yearbook creation instead of innovation.  However, my students were really excited to work in groups to discuss and create new layouts using this “mystery folder” full of materials.  One student asked, "Why didn't we do this at the beginning of the year. I responded that I simply hadn't thought of it. We will however definitely start next year with this process. Originally I had planned on the students somehow connecting their layouts to our theme. However students were struggling with that concept because the mystery folders just contained random images, headlines, body text, and captions. None of these even related to each other, let alone a theme. I took that requirement out. For the launch, we posted the layouts around the room. Students gave each other really amazing feedback and suggestions to improve the layout before I even had to.

I spoke with a colleague and voiced that I was afraid I was doing this assignment incorrectly.  It didn’t seem innovative.  She said, it seemed like good teaching practices.  Are we sometimes confusing best practices with innovation because it doesn’t happen across the board?  It was hard to align standards to this because we used no technology at all.  This leads to another argument. It doesn’t have to use technology to be innovative. We defined Innovation at the beginning of our cohort. We’re doing something in a new way, or looking at something differently.

So, there it is. This challenge once again helped me to reflect on my teaching. There are practices that I have gotten away from because they didn't include technology such as creating foldables or pop-ups to learn story elements or find theme. The students loved cutting and pasting, they loved creating when I did these activities. This challenge was a reminder that just because I teach in a one-to-one classroom not everything innovative or creative has to revolve around the iPad. Students should and need to explore a variety of mediums. I'm going to work to do a better job of finding the right tools for the job instead of trying to make one tool fit every job!

Thanks for reading!
~Andi

@aadamsELA

English Middle School Mania



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Trip of a Lifetime" Applying November's Transformational Six to a Research Project

The last time I blogged it was about using VR in the classroom, taking virtual lit trips. I mentioned the all encompassing project that I was working on with my math teaching partner, Mrs. Welch.
I created a “Trip of a Lifetime” research unit about five years ago, but it needed revamping. My math partner had a "Road Trip" project which we thought we could bring together. This year Mrs. Welch and I were able to put our combined project into play. We were able to collaborate and have our students research and create their journeys around the world.  
I have also been part of an innovator cohort in my district, and we were asked to create a unit that answers the 6 transformational questions by Alan November:
  1. Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
  2. Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
  3. Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
  4. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
  5. Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
  6. Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?
This cohort assignment really made me think about transforming the thinking of my students. I once heard during a conference, don't ask students a question they can Google. With so many pieces involved in this project and the ability to choose the delivery method students could Google pieces of the information required, however, they could not Google their final product. They had to sift through information to fulfill the expectations of this project.
November's Transformational Six go beyond SAMR when it comes to technology and innovation. This lead to a great discussion with a colleague who also teaches in a one to one iPad classroom. There will always be days when you are the S, substituting an online document for a paper document. I don't believe a teacher can be at the highest level of SAMR or can fulfill all six transformations in innovation on a daily basis. There will always be days when as a teacher you must be the "sage on the stage." I think the key take-away is don't be the direct lesson teacher each and every day. Be the "guide on the side" much of the time. I actually try to apply SAMR to each unit as a gradual release method. We use to hear, "I do, We do, You do" all the time to have students demonstrate proficiency. Substitution very much applies to the direct instruction lesson the "I Do." The Augmentation part connects to the "We do." The tech may be the tool, perhaps we are on a google doc or a reading program where I can interact directly with you. Modification and Redefinition come into play as the "You Do." If you are a teacher utilizing technology your units of learning should always end with the students taking ownership of their learning and demonstrating this.
One of the articles I read about the six transformational questions stated that many teachers believe they are at the Redefinition level, but can not apply a project to the six questions. Trying to apply all six questions to a project takes time and you may have to look at what you have always done in a new way.
I believe our combined ELA/Math research project does answer, or comes close to answering, these six questions. Here's what I got:

  1. The assignment did build capacity for critical thinking on the web by requiring students to research population, primary language, climate, terrain, three attractions to visit with prices included, a hotel, and the distance traveled in this location.  The first four can easily be found with a google search.  The part that makes the students think critically is finding the hotel, attractions, cost, and distance.  This requires students to utilize an attraction’s website, sometimes translating it to find cost. Students also had to convert foreign currency and measurement. In math class students had to calculate gas mileage for a rental car, money required for hotels and food. Students were applying math to their researched locations seeing how algebra will in-fact play a larger role in their life than they believe it will.
  2. The assignment developed new lines of inquiry by requiring students to choose a location, then finding out more about it.  Sometimes students would choose a location such as France for the Eiffel Tower or China for the Great Wall, but they would know nothing else about the country or what city to visit.  The research would build upon itself as students learned more about their chosen locations.
  3. Students were making their thinking visible throughout this entire project by mapping their locations, mapping their travels within a location and choosing a variety of ways to present their research. Students also had to explain their decisions for choosing a rental car based on their math.
  4. Students were able to edit errors and post their final slides and their reflection of the unit on their blogs. For their presentations other classes, admin, and teachers were invited in to listen to presentations and evaluate. In the future we would like to open this up to the social studies teacher to incorporate the appropriate standards and further connect cross-curricular content.I’m not sure how to bring this into the global community more than we are.
  5. Students were able to create a travel itinerary.  Many said they would like to actually take their trip or at least part of it some day. Students were also tasked with presenting three of their locations in a way to inform others of their “journey” such as posts on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest (real or fake). Other methods of presentation included blogging, podcasts, travel films, commercials, and Google Maps tours.  
  6. This does demonstrate “best in the world” examples of this type of learning. We searched through for examples and linked many in our document for the students, however we couldn’t find anything that was as comprehensive as our requirements. Here are a few great examples of student work and curriculum connections found on the internet before our project: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Here are some student examples to show how the students created HyperSlides to share their research findings and trip planning:


Students Examples:



I found this assignment challenging and rewarding. I definitely plan on revising my thematic units again this summer and working to apply these six transformational questions to my final projects. I hope this has inspired someone, anyone!

Thanks for reading! To make your life easier, purchase my "Trip of a Lifetime" project or my full Around the World in Eighty Days unit. Check out my Teachers pay Teachers store for lots more!

~Andi

@aadamsELA
English Middle School Mania