Global Collaboration Day

Last Thursday, September 17th, was Global Collaboration Day. Classrooms around the world connected through a series of projects, events, Google Hangouts, and more. According to their website, the “primary goals of this whole day event are to demonstrate the power of global connectivity in classrooms, schools, institutions of formal learning, and universities around the world, and to introduce others to the tools, resources, and products that are available to educators today.”

There were a ton of different events held on the 17th – from book studies to Twitter chats and collaborative documents designed to end discrimination. You can see the full list of events here. Technology sometimes gets a bad rap for making us more isolated, but I love events like these, that would simply not be possible without technology. Just as we can use spray paint for destructive or helpful purposes, so too with technology.

Check out the map of all the different events taking place on the same day! So neat!

Check out the map of all the different events taking place on the same day! So neat!

Cavanaugh STEAM Elementary – one of the schools I work with – chose to collaborate with classrooms across the United States around the book, Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. The premise of the book is that Rosie needs to help her uncle, Zookeeper Fred, solve a problem. She designs a hat to help him keep snakes off his head. On Wednesday, Mrs. Stevens read the book to 1st grade students, and then we discussed it.

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We brainstormed some problems students had that could be solved by creating a special hat. Mrs. Stevens shared the hat she made and explained that she has a hard time seeing in the dark when she is taking her dog out in the morning. She has a big dog and it’s too hard to hold the leash and a flashlight. So, she designed a hat that lights up.

Once students had their designs sketched out, drawing and creating was next! Students were very creative and excited to share their ideas with me! On Thursday, students were excited and ready to share their designs with seven different classrooms in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Mississippi. We used Google Hangouts to connect. It’s always so much fun to see students get super excited about seeing themselves “on TV” and sharing with others.

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Each classroom chose 4-5 students to speak and share their hats. Students everywhere were VERY creative. Some designed hats that held all their art and school supplies. Another student made a Buddy Hat. This hat let you blow a bubble, which turned into a buddy you could play with! Others wer more practical; one boy lives with two sisters and his house is always LOUD! He made a hat that muffles sound.

This was the first Global Collaboration Day I participated in, but it won’t be the last. It is crucial for us as teachers to continue to provide these types of learning opportunities for students. Not only did they have fun, but they got to see students in other parts of the country. In addition, they got to make real world connections to what they read. As a STEAM school, we focus a lot on the arts, literacy, and the engineering design process. It was fun to bring all of those elements together!

What about you? What did you or your school do to participate in the Global Collaboration Day? 

The Scientific Method – Robotics and Cars

I remember being in science class and having to come up with a problem to solve using the scientific method. I remember trying to come up with something (science-related) that I cared enough about to create a project that would solve that problem. My partner and I came up with a silly question about whether a seed would grow better with plain water or with carbonated water. Yawn.

Fast forward about 15 years, and students in “science” class are coming up with far more complex problems. I use quotes because in this particular STEM school, the science curriculum is integrated into all the learning as a whole. Students are using an app on their iPad called Canvas as part of Project Lead the Way curriculum to build and test robots. In this particular challenge, students were given tools and had to watch videos which gave them the steps they needed to build a car.

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Students then built a ramp and had to come up with predictions on how far they thought their car would go based on the angle of the ramp. Then, students tested their hypotheses and recorded their results.

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Students then recorded their results using the Showbie app on the iPads. Their teacher had created this chart and shared the document with all the students. This school isn’t a Google Apps school, so Showbie has been an excellent alternative for creating a paperless classroom. Students are able to record their results instantly in Showbie and share them with their teacher. IMG_2729

One of the coolest things was that students completed all of these tasks in groups and without using paper! As someone who knows the power of technology, it KILLS me when I see teachers still creating projects that center around printing reams and reams of paper. For this task, students watched a video and worked together to try to troubleshoot. They didn’t have a set of printed directions. It was actually really neat to have the step by step directions on an iPad, because students could “rewind” the directions, zoom in, look at it from a particular angle, etc. They also didn’t have to worry about losing their results as they were all stored on the iPad and in the cloud via the Showbie app.

This was a really excellent example of integrating technology and collaboration skills. Throughout the process, I noticed all students in all groups were engaged. Those who were building the robots would watch the video and tinker, explain and talk to one another and try something else. The groups that were already testing their cars had assigned roles for each group member. One person was responsible for measuring the different angles of the ramp, another student measured how far their car went, and another group member’s job was to record the results. It was great to see the scientific method being taught and tried in a meaningful and fun way – a far cry from my 7th grade science project!

A Culture of Collaboration – MACUL 2015

It’s been about a week and a half since the MACUL Conference in Detroit, and I finally feel like I have recovered enough and organized my thoughts around my experiences. This was my fifth MACUL conference, and I would say it was my best conference as well. First, I was able to participate in a Pre-Conference workshop on Wednesday with some great folks that I interact with on Twitter – the #miched group. This was the first time I was at the conference a day before all the craziness settled in and it was great! We spent time creating using a fun tool called Tackk, we discussed a variety of challenges and issues in some roundtables, and ended with “Circles of Support” where our group tackled the challenges of successfully implementing a 1:1 initiative. While we didn’t solve ALL the world’s problems, it was incredibly refreshing to spend time with brilliant educators who support, challenge, and push my own thinking. Miched is the brainchild of a few really talented educators and began as a grassroots effort to connect technology folks across the state. There are a variety of roles represented in the #miched group – teachers, admins, tech specialists, and ISD people. I always get energized and inspired by networking with this group. There is a weekly Twitter chat on Wednesday nights at 8pm – check us out!

Beyond the Pre-Conference workshop, it is always fun to see faces of people you don’t get to see often enough. I was able to reconnect with some former colleagues and make a lot of new friends whom I have only known virtually. This was the first conference where I really felt like I had things to share and contribute; I wasn’t just a passive participant. In years past, I was a pretty new teacher and felt like I didn’t have a lot to bring to the table. In the past, I was focused on learning the newest “things” to help make my teaching better and more exciting. This time around, I really listened and participated. There were hardly any sessions like “50 Best Apps for Students”; most of the sessions were focused on specific projects or themes. This is a shift in the edtech culture. As technology continually expands, there will always be more and more tools to do the same thing. For teachers and tech integration specialists, our goal is to parse these and to help guide students to deeper learning, not to show them new things over and over again. Getting really good at one or two “things” is much more enriching than learning 10 or 12 things. For example, if we have Google Classroom, do students really need to also learn Edmodo and Schoology?

This year I attended the MACUL Conference with a new role in education. As a Technology Integration Specialist, my goal is to provide ideas and resources, support, and guidance to the teachers I work with. With that lens, I found myself engaging in many discussions with other folks who have similar roles. We discussed the unique challenges that stem from our roles, but quickly moved beyond the venting to real problem solving. That was so refreshing; it’s easy to talk about what’s wrong but more difficult to try to fix them. I left many roundtables and informal discussions with practical tips to help solve some of my challenges.

The theme for MACUL this year was A Culture of Collaboration, and I spent a lot of time pondering what that meant for me. We talk all the time about “21st Century Skills” and collaboration is a huge piece of that focus. I hear the teachers I work with use this educational buzzword all the time – and I do also. But in order to create a culture, we have to contribute to this culture. Each person helps to create a culture – positive or negative – in a workplace. Without everyone’s individual contributions, our culture is not a strong or viable. So I set a goal of being more connected and purposeful in my own actions – at MACUL and in my professional life. I want to be a valuable contributor, not just a consumer of information. To collaborate, you have to share, you have to be willing to open up.