Walk into Becky Wilson’s STEAM or Robotics class at Three Creeks K-8 and you will see engaged students, seamless technology use, and computer science in action. Students are collaborating, designing, iterating and problem solving. This week's Ed Tech blog highlights a morning spent with Becky Wilson, STEM teacher at Three Creeks K-8 in Arvada. Becky teaches STEAM, Robotics, and Digital Design classes.
First Period: STEAM and IF/ELSE Statements
Her morning kicks off with her STEAM class of 6th graders, focusing on conditionals in programming. What better way to learn this than an active game of Red Light, Green Light with a twist? Students adjourned to the basketball court to partake in a quick warm up. With Becky Wilson at the forefront, students practiced conditionals in action--
"If you are wearing long pants take one step forward, else take 1 step backward". Utilizing this game, students learn in an unplugged manner, incorporating movement, and reaching kinesthetic learners to help create transfer for a difficult concept.
When they came in students were given 6 minutes to illustrate IF/Then statements about the weather. They chose different mediums to answer- some answered on paper, some on the table, some on an ipad app. Whichever the medium, the result was imported into their journal in Book Creator.
Next, students learned about variables by programming micro:Bits to play the classic game, “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. Becky asked her students, “What is the variable that changes each time you play? How do we program the computer to select this variable randomly?”. Students programmed micro:Bits, a pocket sized microcontroller that holds one program at a time. Using MakeCode students can code in block-based or text-based programming. Since her students gave her feedback that they appreciated when they had a choice in their learning, they were given a choice board of different tasks that they could program the micro:Bit to do after programming their game.
Second Period: ROBOTICS- CUE to the rescue!
Next her class of Robotics students arrived, consisting of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Students were given a real-life scenario, using robots in search and rescue missions. Using cardboard and legos, pairs of students needed to program a CUE robot to sense obstacles and rescue a mini Lego figure. Teams needed to follow the design process to ideate, plan, build, test, and refine their mission.
They have to work with constraints- the robot should be able to perform the rescue by themselves from the code, humans can't get into all places for rescue, we need to code the robot to assist.
Good instruction is evident in everything the kids are doing; real world tasks, learning for a purpose, using the design cycle, dealing with constraints and persevering through a problem. Teams presented their rescue mission to the class, talking through their design process, planning with pseudocode. and casting their code to the projector for other students to see. They were frustrated with constraints from time and materials, but they learn to work through them. They have some video footage of successful runs in case it does not work correctly when they are presenting.
"They learn that the end product does not have to be perfect but that what they learned and how they solved the problem is the focus and the real winner."- Becky Wilson
ready for the rescue
A Reflection from Becky
"The authenticity of learning is so evident when kids are problem solving through robotics. The immediate feedback that they get from video games and their world, they get with robots, which leads to a higher level of engagement. At first, I designed this big complex project but stopped and said why am I doing all the work? I put the cognitive load on the students, the assignment was better because I put it on them.
I have been finding ways to differentiate for my students that need to be pushed. Most are willing to persevere, some have that and are ready for the next piece. I think you need to keep kids where they need to be so they are not overwhelmed, and keep them working toward creating intrinsic motivation to challenge themselves to take on the next level."
When asked how they would change their search and rescue mission--most said they would have added more obstacles to make their code more complex.
You gotta love when students say they would do more work and make it harder! Thanks Becky!!!
Simple - team with your DTL. DTLs are not only your go-to for library books and resources, but they are also the best go-to collaborator, co-teacher and co-planner for your whole staff. DTLs are the best way to move towards collective teacher efficacy.
Some important work your DTL does:
DTLs working with teachers on Research Skills:
DTLs are collaborating, co-teaching and co-planning at all levels to increase student learning, share the workload, and drive curriculum through use of our TechEd tools and our Jeffco Library resources.
So, if you really want to make a change in student effect size?
Team with your DTL.
Tech-empowered learners, requires ongoing opportunities to learn and practice in a safe environment where mistakes are encouraged.
However, we know that students will not master collaboration skills in simple, one-and-done lessons. Above all, they will need your guidance and support on this learning journey.
Use this four-step process to help design repeated learning opportunities that will empower your students with the critical life skill of confidently being an "Internet Awesome" citizen.
4 STEP Steps to Empowered Citizens
Internet Awesome REsources
Self-described as “not techy,” Stephanie Flynn is one of the top Book Creator users in Jeffco Public Schools.
How did Stephanie get to be one of the top users? She has been using Book Creator for the past three years at Vanderhoof Elementary School. After learning about the digital tool from an Ed Tech specialist, she was given time to explore the tool. She and her fourth grade team realized the platform would be a great way to publish and present student work.
Digital Citizen- Best Practices
Stephanie presented the tool to her own students. “Kids know what to do. Show them the tool. Give them parameters to use it, and they will figure it out more than you.” She planned out the lesson, set expectations for students and parameters for a new tool’s “best practice.”
TIPS From Stephanie for behavior management in a digital age:
Empowered Learner- Teach the Teacher
Students were given time to explore the tool and dig into its resources with a clear question in mind:
How could we use this tool for our own learning?
While we typically pair digital tools with content, sometimes the learning should be about the tool and its potential uses. This provided Stephanie’s students with the WOW factor and engagement. Exploring also gave Stephanie’s 4th graders not only the confidence to navigate the tool themselves, but a platform to construct their own ideas of how Book Creator could support their learning. Stephanie reflected that her students ended up “teaching the teacher” about the tool and felt confident moving forward with this new tool.
Knowledge Constructor - 4th Grade Natural Disasters Unit
At first, they used Book Creator to publish writing. Students conducted research from books and websites to hand write their drafts before publishing with Book Creator.
The 4th grade team team created a mentor text/exemplar for students to follow.
Creative Communicator - Book Creator Evolved during Remote Learning
During Covid, the students shifted from a publishing tool to a creation tool. Students created Word Work notebooks to take notes on different figures of speech. Stephanie kept track of their work through the Book Creator dashboard and provided timely feedback to her students.
In another unit, students conducted a research project. They were paired up to teach a younger class and recorded their voices to provide support for younger students. Not only did their younger students learn, but Stephanie learned about the students’ fluency skills.
Student Use of the Tool Changed during Covid
Students needed a way to present their learning to parents. Using Book Creator, the students created a “Learning Portfolio” for the year including;
Empowered Learner- Resistant Writers
“This tool is very motivating for resistant writers.”
One student of hers was a twice exceptional student who refused to write in class. This student was so engaged with the tool, they “produced more with Book Creator than they ever did on paper.” It gave them a platform to not only type but also use speech to text and recordings to share their thinking. In addition, the photos and pictures feature gave them more motivation to write. After experiencing a newly-found interest in writing, Stephanie’s student realized that they have the capability to write, but needed a platform that allowed them to reach their potential.
After COVID, Stephanie sees the potential that Book Creator has to continue elevating her students’ learning. Upcoming projects planned:
Up your Book Creator Game
As we begin thinking about next month’s parent teacher conferences, things will probably look different. Virtual conferences will be a probable solution to safety concerns as well as being convenient for busy families. Most likely schools will be offering a virtual option for conferences this year. Below, you’ll find guidelines for parent-teacher conferences during remote learning, tips for getting students involved, and more!
Getting students involved
With district provided tools available to all students, put them to work. When students are involved in sharing their own work in parent teacher conferences, it encourages them to take responsibility and ownership of their learning. Family and teacher conversations become more rich and transparent when students have had time to prepare material and reflect on their own learning. Teachers can set the criteria for what is to be presented to parents. Students can then choose a tool that helps communicate their learning. Here are some tools with samples and ideas.
Students can use Google Slides to share work exemplars, content from multiple subject areas, MAP & other assessment data, and any other creative ideas that teachers have empowered the students to share. Here is an example from the 5th grade team from Deane Elementary.
Wevideo has powerful communication opportunities for students. Students can upload images of their work, slides they have created, pictures of class projects and so much more into a video that they can narrate (with or without sentence stems). See this powerful blog on using WeVideo for student voice in Conferences.
Google Meet platform has made some changes over the past few months. Getting familiar with this tool will help make conferences more effective. Here is a help guide for creating a Meet link just for conferences, preparing families, and other helpful tips. As always, you can reach out to your EdTech specialist for additional support and resources.
A Learning Management System (LMS) is a structure to provide consistent access to instruction and resources. It provides a pathway for students, families and teachers to access the learning and feedback at all times. Many teachers and families had their first experiences with an LMS in response to Covid-19. However, a Learning Management System, whether it be Schoology, Google Classroom, or Seesaw has a purpose and a place far beyond a pandemic.
In a world where all educators are working to guide students to become Global Collaborators, Creative Communicators, Knowledge Constructors, Empowered Learners, and engaged Digital Citizens we need to provide the structures and spaces that authentically deliver these opportunities on a daily basis. A well organized and thoughtfully implemented LMS is the foundation to this work.
Access to a Learning Management System provides students:
For Our Families
Use of a consistent LMS means that caretakers will have peace of mind knowing their students have access to all the resources listed above. It also means that families will:
Learning Management Systems in jeffco
Over the past few months Google has made some updates that will allow users in Jeffco to be more productive in the classroom. Students and teachers both can benefit from the updates.
Ed Tech recommends scheduling your Meets using Google Calendar. Using the calendar to schedule meets adds the following functionality to the meet:
Meet controls all in one place at the bottom bar of the meeting window. The leave call button has been relocated to prevent accidental hangups.
Meeting details, participants, chat and activities are all on the bottom bar.
See what you're presenting
When you present your screen, you can see other participants—and what you’re presenting—at the same time.
In the meeting window, point to your presentation feed to:
While we were all enjoying some fun in the sun, vendors were making upgrades to some of our favorite Jeffco Digital Tools. From new functionality in Screencastify to a whole new facelift in Actively Learn, some incredible changes have taken place over the summer. Read below to get the "What's New" with our Jeffco Tier 1 Supported Tools.
Read & Write PDF Reader Is now OrbitDoc
Here is some information about Read & Write. The PDF Reader that is a part of the Read & Write extension pack has changed to OrbitDoc. The old PDF Reader extension looked like a bird, now it looks like an Orbit! OrbitDoc is still an extension but it also a progressive web application now as well.
Click below for more information:
READ&WRITE'S ORBITDOC PDF EDITOR AND GOOGLE CLASSROOM/SCHOOLOGY
You can annotate PDFs using Read & Write's PDF extension and web-based application called OrbitDoc. These PDFs can be distributed via Google Classroom and Schoology so that students can easily mark up their own copies or work together to annotate a single PDF.
Google Classroom Directions
Here is what the new extension looks like. We pushed it to all users in Jeffco. If you are using a Chromebook-it will automatically be there. If you are using a laptop or desktop, you will need to go to the Chrome Webstore to add it, or use the web version. Make sure you are logged into chrome and Google with your @jeffcoschools.us
It doesn't matter if you build a “Geek Squad” of K-5th graders, a middle school full of “Cyber Kids” or a high school-led “Virtual Help Desk,” any flourishing student tech assistant program will share common attributes.(See below)
1. Recruit and promote- Seek out students who seem interested in how technology works or who value helping others. Invite them to join personally or ask for teacher nominations. Post an application on your school registration form. Tend a table at Back To School Night encouraging students to complete an online application or post a QR code. Muster your troop by searching through the technology clubs e.g. robotics, coding, etc.
2. Provide a value-added program- Both the student assistants and the people they support need to benefit. Through hands-on experience and practice, students can gain valuable technical skills and workforce experience for years to come. Members of the team should walk away with problem solving abilities as well as technical and personal skills which are sought after by future employers.
3. Empower the student- Invite students on the ground level of developing the team. Listen to and encompass their ideas and insights. Build boundaries and expectations of the team together.
4. Provide various training opportunities- Uphold a variety of scaffolded training options that the students can choose from such as, hands-on practice, videos, visuals, infographics, flow maps, step-by-step directions. Encourage other students to teach a training session or to create resources and videos. Often our students are our best teaching resources.
5. Keep it basic- Start with clear, concise tasks. e.g. Provide a video and written instructions explaining how to reset a Chromebook. Let them practice. Access their understanding and celebrate their success (virtual badge, certification chart, etc.) Then, mobilize your troops. Allow students to train and move forward as they gain experience, expertise and confidence.
Helpful Tools and Ideas From Teachers:
Elementary-Christy Yacano, DTL at Sierra has a “Geek Squad” composed of 1-2 students per class, K-5th. Students are sometimes recommended, but all students can apply via a Google form. The Geek Squad meets monthly, has lunch together, and trains. Their main focus is to assist their classmates, teacher and substitute teacher with technology issues. They also help orient new students to Sierra. New student checklist (Yacano,2020) Other supports they offer include: troubleshooting interactive boards, AV equipment, connections, and Chromebooks The skills the students gain and share, can easily be transferred to learning and leadership opportunities in the future.
Middle School- Karrie Zanetti, DTL at Deer Creek Middle School empowers her 6th, 7th and 8th graders differently. She invests time upfront to develop step-by-step resources and video tutorials equipping all students, families and staff to troubleshoot technical issues independently. Deer Creek launches a Tech Help Page, (Zanetti, 2021) on their library website full of ideas which includes: video tutorials, flowcharts, Infographics and checklists to provide a self-service IT pitstop . Karrie also provides next steps and avenues if further assistance is needed.
High School- Leah Linblom @Arvada West HS and Jim Bartuska @Chatfield HS both teach and certify Cyber Crew high school students (see video above) upon completion of a credited technology class. They recruit students who seem “techy”, love learning, and/or enjoy helping others. They offer industry certifications upon completion of each of the courses they provide. (Instructor Agreement and Instructions, Lindbolm,2020)
The big event that CyberCats and CyberChargers look forward to attending each year is Jeffcon.net This is a tech conference designed for students interested in “all things technology.” All Jeffco high school students are welcome to attend. Jeffco.net launches in late January, 2022. Be on the lookout!
Students of all ages can be valuable members of a technology assistant team. Every program looks different and each student obtains real-life skills and experiences that carry over into nearly every other avenue of their life.
Image- Four Boys and Wires- Edsurge.com Beyond the Genius Bar: Cultivating Leadership With a Student-Led Tech Team. 2016
Image- Students in line with device- tophat.com How Does Technology Impact Student Learning? Vawn Himmelsbach. 2019.
Image- Students gathered around a laptop- The Edvocate, 2016
Tynan, Dan. School Focus K-12. Schools Tap Students to Provide Enough IT Support. October, 2017.
Our students are not like us. They have never lived in a world where almost everyone has a device in their hands almost all of the time. They are digital natives, but that does not mean they inherently know how to use a device in a healthy and productive manner. It is a collective responsibility to teach digital citizenship. It cannot be left to parents or the digital teacher librarian. Just like we are all trying to help students live in a social society properly, we all have to collectively show them how to navigate the digital world too.
you are off to a good start
Fear not! It is not something that has to be added to curriculum as a burden. As a teacher, you are probably already teaching some aspects of digital citizenship. For example, classes involving research and writing typically include how to evaluate a website’s credibility and writing proper citations. Any time students need to search the internet, direct and explicit instruction on the credibility and reliability of information, as well as research tips, are helpful to steer students toward useful information while disregarding inaccurate or unnecessary information. This is organically digital citizenship. But we also need to be intentional.
Did you know our district has monthly topics? Take some time to familiarize yourself with these topics so that you can support the systemic message in Jeffco.
It is our collective responsibility to teach digital citizenship. These skills are essential to ensure students' safety and protection. While kids today may have no problem navigating the web, they're less likely to know how to vet sources, understand the sensitivity of the information they're sharing and take in the gravity of conversations they're having online. It's up to us and families to reinforce these concepts. There are several distinct resources available. JEFFCO EDTECH WEBSITE
More resources in Seesaw, Actively Learn, Newsela, Google Classroom and Common Sense Media are coming for Jeffco teachers in August. For now, please start thinking about how you can have everyday conversations with students knowing you make a difference daily.