Stephanie is a first grade teacher at Foster Elementary, a Title I school in the Arvada Area. She has graciously penned this blog as a way to share her learning around how she has integrated STEM to transform the learning experience for primary students.
Follow Stephanie on Twitter @STEMphanieTime for more inspiring ideas!
Empathy Inspires Change
My love of STEM came about a couple of years ago. I was in my 11th year teaching, and it was the first time in my career that I was actually considering leaving the profession. I was unhappy, and my passion was gone; how could my students learn if I wasn’t passionate?
Everything changed during a school technology committee meeting when I was tasked with figuring out why teachers were not using our 3D printer. There was just one problem…I had no idea how to use a 3D printer. My school was, and is, a STEM school, but we were still in the very beginning stages of trying to figure out what that meant.
Ideas Create a Path Forward
I started little by little. First, I taught myself how to use the printer; then how to print something. Finally, I tried creating my own model to print. Everyday I was a little bit happier. It was fun, and I started including students in my learning process. We learned how to fail together and succeed together. It was a long and slow process, and I had a lot of help from Jacquie Adkins, a Jeffco TOSA who specializes in science. We found a program called Maker’s Empire that made creating and printing 3D models easy for first graders to use! Students’ behavior improved because they were engaged and motivated to design and print their own models.
Prototyping the Student Experience
I figured if changing the student task through 3D printing was working so well, maybe I should try adding other STEM-related tasks to my students’ learning experience. Through code.org, I learned coding and then taught my students how to code. The more I learned, the more I integrated it into my classroom. As a result, my students’ were more engaged and their behavior continued to improve. Students learned that failure is a part of the learning process and started using it to fix their mistakes. I also noticed that they were much more willing to take risks because they knew that our classroom was a safe place, whether their answers were right or wrong.
Flash forward to my class today; it looks a lot different than it did a few years ago, and my passion for teaching is back! At the beginning of this journey, I would use technology just because I wanted to see how it works. Now I choose digital tools that match my lessons' learning objectives. Students are held accountable with apps like Showbie and Pear Deck. They use the 3D printer for creating beginning of the year nametags, bringing characters to life, and designing products to sell for our economics unit. Our bulletin boards come to life with Augmented Reality, which shows our work and enhances our goals. Even when we aren’t using our iPads, our STEM philosophy always remains: we strive for learning from our failures, adjusting our thinking when something isn’t working, and using collaboration to help us see tasks from a different angle.
Testing our TEaching
STEM is changing the landscape of our teaching in a good way. It allows us to are create an environment where students can learn and fail forward without fear of receiving bad grades. It gives choice to students and encourages them to learn real-world skills that they will be able to transfer to jobs they will have in the future. Teachers can weave STEM into every content area and grade level. It's is not just a subject, it is how I teach and how my students learn. As educators, we need to take a risk to transform the task and continue to better adapt our teaching. STEM changed how I taught and I became a better teacher because of that.
Digital annotations are not new to the realms of technology and education. Digital annotation tools continue to be available and ever changing. The power of digital annotations rests with the user and their abilities to capture their thinking, as well as, share it with others. In K-12 classrooms, digital annotations can be a great tool that empowers learners to begin capturing their thoughts and ideas leading to artifacts of learning which demonstrate understandings. Digital annotations can also be a great source for digital/e-portfolios allowing learners to reflect on their growth and development.
Why use digital Annotations?
Why should digital annotations be a part of every classroom and learning environment? Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are all fundamental components of learning which lead to critical thinking and digital annotations have the ability to cover all four areas. Digital annotations empower us as learners to engage with text, capture our thoughts, share with others, and gain insights from others thinking. Writing is a great way to process our thinking and allows us to begin identifying the process to where our thinking is going. When we digitally annotate and begin to share those annotations in collaborative spaces, our annotations become the center of collaborative dialogue and learning in which we grow collectively. When we begin to learn about annotating for learning, collaborative spaces for sharing and engaging in digital discussion opens doors to understand annotation strategies and processes from other learners with more annotation experience.
Getting started with Digital Annotations
Where and how to begin using digital annotation tools can be daunting and intimidating however, there are a few simple tools that can empower us as learners to get started on the journey. The comment feature in Google is one of the simplest ways to get started. The feature is available on Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings and a few other tools in the G-Suite. It is even now available on any file housed in Google Drive. Comments can be added to PDF's, images, MS Word documents and more when stored in Google Drive. A simple highlight of targeted text or information allows a user to capture thinking and share thoughts collaboratively.
If you're looking for a more robust tool with increased options, Kami is a great selection. Kami has paid versions with additional features however, the free version has plenty of options that are perfect for learners to get started annotating digitally. Highlighting, underlining, and strikethroughs (in a variety of colors) are all available at no charge. Additional features include adding text, comments, and drawing shapes. Under a 14-day free trial when you begin your account you'll have access to drawing, text to speech and a few other advanced options to try them out. Collaborative annotations with Kami are a breeze and users can save their annotated files in Google Drive if need be. It also works well with Google Classroom.
Digital annotations can occur on web-based material as well. Hypothes.is is a great option to consider for annotating web sites. Hypothes.is is entirely free to all users for all features. The tool was originally created for medical professionals who were collaborating around medical journal readings to increase learning and growth. Hypothes.is requires a login which is fairly simple and free to set up. Users can highlight information on websites and even add annotations (notes) which appear in a side bar. Annotations can be public, private, or in collaborative groups. Tagging annotations is offered as an advanced feature at no charge as well for users to quickly access collaborative discussions or topics. Annotations appear to users when visiting websites while the Hypothes.is extension is enabled.
Digital annotations can be highly beneficial to us as educators along with our students. Collaboration is now easier than ever with access to new technologies and the tools shared above work just as well for adults as they do for kids. Curating and sharing resources saves us all time and energy and digital annotations can be a quick way for us to collaborate across schools, districts, states, and more. How are you thinking about using digital annotations whether for your professional practice or during instruction with students? We'd love to hear your thoughts using the comment section of this post and look forward to learning more about how you are transforming tasks through digital annotations.
BY GUEST BLOGGER Christopher Brannon Church
Brannon Church is a technology teacher at Carmody Middle School. He has been a teacher in Jeffco for 19 Years. For the first 18 years, Mr. Church taught 6th Grade and this year has joined the Carmody team as their Robotics Teacher. Here he shares how he is making impacts in student lives through the development of Jeffco Generations. Mr. Church provides some great examples of how students learn with technology and ways teachers can access resources to begin integrating technology that engages students in creative learning opportunities.
I have always felt the need to incorporate technology into my day. I realized early in my career that very few things can improve student engagement like introducing a new tool or program. However, this usually only works if the teacher is as excited to explore new opportunities with their students. Fortunately, opportunities are much easier to come by nowadays because of the availability of chromebooks and free software. 95% of the curriculum we are exploring at our middle school comes from free programs that coexist with student Google logins. The Jeffco Ed Tech team is extremely supportive, and has equipment/resources for teachers to borrow to show their administration how important purposeful play can be in learning.
With all the free resources out there that appeal to the STEAM driven teacher, there is no excuse for not trying to implement computer science into some aspect of their day. Most educational apps use the Google Identity Platform which eliminates the burden of student login problems. I feel that Jeffco is headed in the right direction when it comes to preparing students for a successful future.
Demonstrating how to use Makey Makey & Scratch:
An Exit Ticket Using Makey Makey. Students were given the opportunity to create a project using Makey Makey and Scratch. I wanted them to see that they are limited only by their imagination. One on my administrators came to me looking for ways to make exit tickets more engaging and relevant. With student input, we created our interactive exit ticket using Makey Makey and Scratch. It was a huge success, and students immediately tried to jump on the “aluminum foil switch” idea for their own projects.
Jeffco Generations Skills:
These are examples of using technology as a tool to develop Self Direction and Personal Responsibility as well as Communication skills from Jeffco Generations. As an initial activity with Makey Makey, students were to research their favorite childhood song, find the sheet music, create a piano in Scratch, and use the controller from Makey Makey to recreate their song. The most amazing part of this activity is that students completed this project with very little guidance. Students relied on each other to figure out how to fix bugs in their program to make their music selection work.
How do I get access? - I am extremely fortunate to have 1:1 chromebooks in all of my Robotics classes, and nowadays there are hundreds of reputable websites that are available at no cost. Many of the hands on materials that I rely on have come from my own pocket, or were funded through the Donors Choose website. Any student can learn to code!
Funding is out there - After borrowing Makey Makey kits from Jeffco Ed Tech I decided that I had to have a set for my class to take our scratch lessons to the next level. Believe it or not, it was fairly simple to acquire the funds needed for a Makey Makey kit. Donors Choose and Google’s CS First are practically giving away money to teachers that complete a few simple activities with their class.
Skill Application Across Content Areas:
One of the favorite parts of my job is giving students an opportunity to show off what they have learned in Robotics/Coding and using those skills in other content areas. An example this year is a 6th grader who decided to retell the entire story of Maniac Magee using Scratch by taking her character on a journey through the story. It was amazing! This clearly demonstrates proficiency in computer science as well as a deep meaningful comprehension of a novel in literacy.
Below are just a few activities where application of the following Jeffco Generations Skills were imperative to complete the activity. As students completed these activities, they developed these Jeffco Generations Skills:
Sphero Bridge Build: Students were to demonstrate Critical and Creative Thinking along with Communication skills as they used the Engineer Design Process to research, design and build a bridge with drinking straws. Bridges needed to support the weight of a Sphero and span over 50 centimeters.
Friday Fly Day: During this activity, students were to research ramp design and create their own ramp to support the weight and acceleration of Sphero. This activity supports Collaboration and Leading by Influence.
Sphero Battle Tanks (captured with a 360 Camera): Students demonstrate Agility and Adaptability during their Sphero Battle Bots competition. Students used the Engineer Design Process to create “tanks” for their Spheros.
Merge Opportunities: During our introduction to 3D design, students were able to use Merge Cubes and AR/VR Goggles to check their 3D Prints. Instead of wasting printer filament, we are able to upload our designs to Object Loader and see if there are any flaws to our design. Students demonstrate Self Direction and Personal Responsibility as they create their own designs using Tinkercad, view their design in Augmented Reality, and print a clean final project.
In conclusion, I would urge all educators who are interested in integrating tech into the classroom to join Twitter. I have found so many creative educators on Twitter that share an endless number of incredible projects or ideas. Feel free to follow me @MrChurch (shameless plug) and make some connections with teachers all over the world that are passionate about integrating technology into their classrooms.
By Guest Blogger Felicia Frantz
Felicia Frantz is a computer science and business teacher at Alameda International Jr/Sr. High School. She is one of 300 teachers certified by Rasberry Pi in the United States and has been teaching at Alameda International for 4 years. Here she shares how she and her colleagues started a successful STEM program that has caught the attention of many, including 9News. Big thanks to Felicia for sharing her amazing expertise and experience!
About ten months ago my principal, Susie Van Scoyk, had submitted for a Title IV grant being offered offered through the district. Me and four of my coworkers were designated as the design team (think The Breakfast Club but much cooler). We were tasked with creating a STEM program, initially for 7th and 8th grade, but our hope was to be able to quickly expand it in to 9th - 12th grade as well.
We were nervous but excited over the opportunities and possibilities this grant afforded our students, and, although each of us had experience with one or multiple STEM focus subjects, we were not sure what exactly a “STEM” program would look like at Alameda International. There were so many options and we felt truly overwhelmed.
The grant consisted of $8,000 to spend on resources and $1,500 for professional development. In order to receive our grant we had to complete a training through the Choice Programming Department which would guide us in designing our program and spending our grant money. After a day of studying the concepts of project based learning and attempting to align it with the International Baccalaureate MYP Design Cycle, we had an idea that we wanted a lab or something that would give as many students and teachers access to the resources as possible, but we still could not visualize what exactly “STEM” was as a program or what this would look like at Alameda.
One of the members of our team, our DTL Dorina Miller, suggested we check out the ideaLab at the Denver Central Library. She had modeled several elements in her redesigned library makerspace after their area. We decided to check it out and were instantly enamoured. We decided we wanted to completely mirror the ideaLab in one of our classrooms. We also decided we would have the lab open before and after school so students could have access to come in and create and design at will. One other thing we decided to do, in order to help encourage the use of STEM in non-STEM classrooms was to offer the space to teachers to use for their classes.
Despite our decision on how to spend the grant, we felt like we were still missing some key elements to drive the idea of STEM at Alameda. As a team and as individuals we tried attending trainings and workshops over the summer, but could not find what we were looking for. We brought back great ideas that would definitely contribute to the enhancement of our program, such as industry contacts, ideas for authentic assessment panels, and the desire to build our own R.A.F.T., but we still felt like something was missing.
When we returned to school we were excited about the new journey we were about to embark upon. We were a newly minted department, in IB language we became the Design Department. Our course offerings had tripled and we had numerous sections being offered from 7-12 grade, including computer science, pre-engineering, imagination by design, to 9-12th grade robotics, computer graphics, and audio/visual production. Despite these wonderful offerings, we were still unsure how to bring STEM and the IB Design cycle into non-STEM classes. This concern plagued me more as I had been the author of our proposal and the IDEA Lab was under my care.
However, as people wandered by my room and as I shared out the resources we were collecting in my room a wonderful thing happened. The teachers started identifying ways in which they could use the resources with their students. An English teacher started talking about how she could have the students actually weave one of the textiles talked about in a book they read. The drama teacher started talking about his students using the sewing machines to create costumes or the resources to create props. The science teachers started talking about using augmented reality to allow the students to bring certain concepts to life, such as the muscular, vascular, and skeletal systems. And a geography teacher wanted to use virtual reality to take her students on field trips of geographical features.
On the outside these probably look just like forms of substitution and adaptation from the SAMR model, but in all honesty these are the examples of STEM we had been looking for all along. By merely sharing the potential resources with our peers, on their own they were able to identify a problem or challenge they had been facing in their classes, in many cases how to make something like literature or reading hands on, tangible, and engaging. From there, they were able to brainstorm ideas on how they could use the resources they now had access to to help solve that problem, as a result, they began to make a plan on how they could incorporate that experience into their lessons. Eventually they will get the chance to reflect on the experience and modify it where necessary.
In time, they will feel comfortable enough with the design cycle to begin letting the students identify their own problems or challenges and developing their own solutions. Because this is really what STEM is. It is not a set curriculum. It is not technology or special set of manipulatives. What STEM is, is teachers digging through recycling boxes looking for resources which students could upcycle into something else. It is providing students and teachers access to resources, skills, and a safe environment where they are free to identify potential problems based on their experiences, where they feel safe and empowered to brainstorm ideas and create solutions to those problems, to design them with guidance when they need it, to fail when things do not go just right (or celebrate the successes when things do go right), and are given the freedom and opportunity to reflect on the experience and what they learned, so that they feel empowered to go out and try again.
Postscript: As I was in the process of writing this post, our school had learned it had been selected by 9News at their first “CoolSchool” of the year because of the cool things we have going on here at Alameda, in particular the addition of our STEM program and that two of our middle school Society for Hispanic Engineer Jr. teams qualified to compete at the Technology Student Associations’ TEAMS competition in Atlanta this past June. 9News came an interviewed some of our STEM teachers and then also held a pep rally to help us celebrate. You can check out the story and the video segments at 9News Cool Schools: Alameda International
If you're interested in developing STEM programs or pathways at your school, contact Heather.Waldron.jeffco.k12.co.us, STEM Pathway Designer for Jeffco Public Schools.
Inspired by a desire to create a unique and valuable experience for students, Kyle Walker- Digital Teacher Librarian at Kullerstrand Elementary, started a robotics club at his school. It is incredible to see how students light up at the opportunity to use their creative and logical brains to solve problems using the robots.
Well why not open that opportunity for students beyond the walls of Kullerstrand? So, Kyle started connecting with teachers around the district and found many that were either already doing robotics, or interested in getting started. His enthusiasm expanded quickly into a VEX and Sphero competition with an open invitation to teams across the district. On December 2, 2017 schools came together with their robotics teams at Three Creeks Elementary to scrimmage using either VEX or Sphero.
There was collective effort and planning to make the event happen because Jeffco teachers got equally as excited once they saw how the students light up.
Mr. Walker is building on this collaborative success and hosting another event in February. Thirty teams will represent Jeffco schools on February 10th from 9:30-2:30 at Three Creeks K-8 in a VEX robotics competition. Event participants have an opportunity for official entry into the world-wide VEX competition.
The Hour of Code is organized by Code.org, a public non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. The Hour of Code is celebrated during the annual Computer Science Education Week in December. Code.org®,
The Hour of Code for 2017 is coming December 4th-10th!
Looking for ideas to host an event in your classroom or entire school?
This week's blog is a special edition, sharing resources and news from the founder of code.org, Hadi Partovi.
Planning on hosting an event? Share out your school's Hour of Code pictures on Twitter and mention @jeffcoedtech #HourofCode
It is a definition that tells the story of our teacher spotlight this week. Tobye Ertelt, Digital Teacher Librarian at Oberon Middle School embodies the definition of flexible: "characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements". It is the combination of adaptation, innovation and flexible exploration that led Tobye to be the spotlight of today’s blog post. Over the past year, Tobye was motivated to explore innovation after meeting retired lawyer Reshma Saujani, who took a chance to pursue a passion and as a result, inspired thousands of young ladies around the world. Additionally, Tobye found herself moved by the story of Logan Smalley, a TED Fellow, who is the brains behind TED-Ed (TED's youth and education initiative). These two inspiring stories incited a passion for exploration and innovation leading to new opportunities for Oberon students today.
In the spring of 2016, after a visit to a TED-Ed conference, Tobye filled out a feedback form and applied to become a TED-Ed Innovator. The questions posed in that feedback form opened a door to share a topic that has been core to Ms. Ertelt's heart, "What is ethical behavior in the 21st century?" She inherently believes that we, as educators and adults, have done a great disservice to our students separating digital behavior from everyday behavior. And so it is with this essential question that a new door opened for Tobye, leading her to become 1 of 30 educators from 11 different countries selected for the honor of joining the third cohort of TED-Ed Innovative Educators. Our own Tobye Ertelt is one out of an initial group of over 1100 educators who took a chance to challenge each other to collaboratively find solutions to questions and issues facing today's students.
teaching with passion
Kyle Walker, the Digital Teacher Librarian at Kullerstrand Elementary, shares the passion of robotics and coding with his students. This year, with the help of a generous donor, Kyle started the Robotics and Coding club at his school. Every Monday afternoon, students collaborate and work together to engineer a robot that can be coded to perform unique tasks.
Kyle has reached out to various community members to help build career connections between computer science and robotics. The School of Mines Robotics Club made a visit earlier this year and shared their own robotics project and mentored the students. Jason Roadman, an engineer at NREL visited the club and shared some of his own engineering expertise with wind turbines, allowing students to build real world connections.
You’ve probably heard the word thrown around in certain circles. People casually dropping the catchy word, MakerSpace, like it’s no big deal. You smile and nod but don’t really know what they’re talking about. It sounds fun and STEM-like but it sounds a little intimidating.
So what IS all this buzz about a MakerSpace?
A MakerSpace is just what it sounds like...a SPACE to MAKE! Makerspaces provide students with the opportunity to create, learn, invent and make, using a variety of different resources. From Legos to robots, straws to 3D printers, the sky's the limit when it comes to innovation. And even with tight budgets - scrappy DTLs and teachers have found great ways to include some incredible resources.
So you might be wondering, “How does that work in a school?”
Keri Douglas is the DTL at Deane Elementary School located in Lakewood, CO. She got her MakerSpace up and running in the library this year. She’s a rookie, too, so hopefully her journey can inspire you, as you embark down the MakerSpace road.
Genius Hour = Engagement x Learning2
Fourth graders at Van Arsdale participated in Genius Hour, based on Google's 20% time. This is part of a movement to promote self-directed learning, innovation, creativity, and sharing. Students spend time devoted to a topic of their choice. It is more about the process than the product. Fourth grade teacher, Dawn Wiley worked with her DTL, Michelle McHugh, to tie Genius Hour to CAP. "Students were the ones recognizing the cross-curricular connections. They were the ones leading the learning,” remarked Dawn. "I was so impressed with them. Genius Hour brings learning full circle.”