Monday, December 5, 2016

Do You Know Your Brain?

Can you name all the parts of the brain and their functions? No worries, Mrs. Smith's 5th Grade GATES class at Schluter Elementary has you covered. Students embarked on a cerebral adventure in which they created original work to showcase their knowledge of the brain. Students could choose any digital tool, and their resulting products reflect each student's passion for learning.

"We made a song about the brain parts as a parody of the song Heathens. We went on YouTube and found background music. We kept on thinking of things that would fit in, if the words went with the song. We alternated between our lyrics and the rhythm of the music to make sure they matched. I don't think we would have been able to do this project without technology. We had fun and we learned more about the brain by making the song."
~Luke & Christian 

"We needed to find a way to teach people about the brain, in a more fun format. We chose to do a parody of YMCA. You have to find research, a lot of beforehand research. We used a notebook to write lyrics and multiple devices. It is easy to decide on the lyrics by finding the lyrics to the original song online and as you go along, you change out the words for what you want it to say. Then you get a device to record. We used a piano version of the music, which felt slower than the original version."
~Brandon & Trevor

"The purpose of this project was to explain what we've learned about the brain and our growth. Working with Powtoon was hard at first, but we liked it because you can express it in different ways, how you feel about it. We learned more about the brain from doing this project because you have to write it out and research and really have to think about it and plan it out a bunch. I shared it with my parents and they were amazed and proud of me because they liked how we expressed it different ways." ~Brylee & Kendall

"I've used Google Slides before; for each slide, I chose what went together. If we didn't have technology, I probably would have made a poster. I prefer Google Slides instead of a poster because it is neat and organized. If we didn't do the project, I wouldn't have wanted to learn more about the brain." ~Lucy 

"I did a Smore and I wanted to use it differently than I have before. When you share a Smore you can look and see where it went and who saw it, all over the world. For Smore, you can look more about what you're working on, which you can't do with a poster. We didn't go full-on in class about the brain, so this project let us go in more detail and learn more." ~McKenzi

These student products not only teach others about parts of the brain, they also showcase how these future-ready students are empowered learners, innovative designers, and creative communicators, standards described by the International Society for Technology in Education.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Science: Inside Out

Seventh graders in Mr. Crawford’s science class, at Medlin Middle School, recently took a closer look at their inner selves. Literally! In studying the systems of the body, students participated in a dress up day. Their “costume” would be one of the eleven systems of the body they recently studied in class. Using various supplies to represent and label the major organs of a body system, the entire campus was able to see detailed visuals of the learning taking place in Mr. Crawford’s classroom.

Additionally, students were challenged to assume the role of a scientific graphic designer. Their task was to create a digital flyer that represented their new learning of the systems of the body. Working in groups of three and four, students began researching and designing. Initial planning for the flyer took place in Google Slides. Using information gathered through their research, students were able to collaboratively contribute their portion of the project to a shared presentation before moving on to their final product. Eleanor especially enjoyed researching the body systems online stating, “it helped me enhance my learning by giving me endless answers compared to what you get out of a textbook, which is limited information.”

It was also an expectation that their digital flyer would include an original video created by the group. The video should contain information about the body system they researched, and could be presented through a variety of methods. Some groups chose to interview a professional in the field, while others created music videos or newscasts. Fliers included content from their research and images too.

When asked what he enjoyed most about the project, Luke said, “the best thing about using technology in class is that it makes things much easier and quicker. It changes the way I learn by engaging me more and getting me more interested in the project.” Dodge said he especially enjoyed, “interacting with his group in Google and FaceTiming with them while working in Smore.”

It’s no surprise that all students walked away from this project knowing so much more about themselves than when they began. They also walked away with a number of skills that will enable them to function in a digital world, as referenced in the ISTE Standards for Students.

Additional student can be viewed using the links below:

Monday, November 14, 2016

From Pages of Policy to Personal Practice

Students in Mrs. Wilsie's Tech Apps class at Tidwell Middle School were recently challenged with the task of not only understanding the nine page AUP (Acceptable Use Policy), but also working together to create a resource for other students that would help them understand and apply the AUP as well. Students started the unit by creating norms for group collaboration using Spider Scribe. Next, they used the Google Docs Outline tool to create an outline for the AUP as they broke it down into sections. According to Casen, narrowing down the information was one of the hardest parts. He comments, "At the beginning we felt overwhelmed because there were nine pages of the AUP and we had to use three types of multimedia to show how to follow it."

After understanding what the AUP entailed, students used the Tools that Make IT Click Blog to choose the platform they thought would best relay their information to other students.

A Screenshot of Masongo, Keller,
Madeline, and Logan's Blendspace.
Click HERE to View
When asked why her group chose to use Blendspace for their project, Madeline commented, "I was looking at Tools That Make IT Click and I really liked how Blendspace was orgnanized into boxes. We noticed that we could add links, pictures, and box off information off for our audience." Casen, Soniya, Benaiah, and Fatou decided to use Google Slides so that they could collaborate. They embedded videos, animation, and a Kahoot quiz so that students who viewed their presentation could test their knowledge. Maggie, Corbin, Jacob, and Blake created a newsletter using Tackk. They utilized the "button" feature in order to create a series of hyperlinks to send viewers to various student-created resources. Blake pointed out, "Our favorite part was the skit that we made about AUP. We used Screencastify to record our video."

After starting to work on their presentations, classes had the opportunity to connect with, and interview a few professionals via ZOOM. The video conference allowed students to see that the AUP is a part of the 'real world' and that it impacts adults in the workplace everyday. Students talked to Brooke, who works remotely with IBM in sales and Carrie, the Human Resources Director at Fidelity Investments.

After seeing the capabilities of ZOOM, one group decided use ZOOM to connect with each other even when they weren't all in class. Blake added, "ZOOM was easy to use and we were able to work even outside of class. I liked that you can message each other during the conference, so that we don’t interrupt each other."

At the end of the project, students used Google Forms to give their teammates a rating on collaboration and teamwork. They also shared their final product on a Padlet wall for the class to view and leave feedback.

Students walked away fom this experience with a clear understanding of the AUP and how to apply it to their daily digital lives. They also learned a lot about collaboration and teamwork. Maggie points out, "When we started as a group it wasn’t that smooth, but we got better as we worked together. Team work wasn’t easy at first." Casen sums up the unit by stating, " It would be helpful for other students to view our presentation. We made something that would benefit the whole school."

Monday, November 7, 2016

Mucking Through Historical Blogs

Students in Mrs. Proudman's class have recently created blogs from the perspective of historical investigative journalists from the end of the 19th century.  These journalists looked into the dark side of the so called Gilded Age in American history, often dragging topics into the light for others to see, earning them the moniker of "muckrakers."  For this project, each student was assigned their own muckraker to research and learn about.  But instead of writing a report or a standard presentation about their subject, the students used Blogger to create blogs about the journalists.  "I really liked making the blog," said Carlos, a student in Mrs. Proudman's class.  "It made it more fun because we were able to use our imagination more and make it more of a story than a report."

Student working on the Blogger site
According to the project instructions on Mrs. Proudman's example blog, students had to imagine they were going on a "Ride-A-Long" with their journalist as they investigated an issue of the time. Students then created a blog with multiple posts to document that journey, including biographical information about the journalist, photos or pictures from the trip, and transcripts of what happened.  This allowed the students to explore the time period and the subjects in a more immersive way.  "The project was very interesting," said Carlos.  "It allowed us a chance to time-travel back and see their own views, how things looked like to them."  A good example is this blog on Samuel Hopkins Adams, which writes from a perspective of a third person traveling with Mr. Adams.   As the students wrote their blog posts, they took time to ask themselves "What does it feel like? What do you see? What do you smell?"  Some of the blog even took this a step further and wrote their posts from the first person view of the muckraker themselves, such as this blog on Nellie Bly.  The beauty of this project is that not only did it give students a chance to use their imagination to explore the time period, but it also allowed them the choice of how to present and relay that information.  They could write from different angles, include pictures, videos, or anything else they wanted on their blogs.  Students even took the time to comment on their peers' blog posts to leave both praise and constructive feedback.  Take a look at some of the blogs linked above or some more examples below, and enjoy your trip back in time!

Blog on John Spargo
Blog on Lincoln Steffner

Monday, October 31, 2016

Triple Threat… Culture, Creativity, and Technology

When you think of a traditional art class in elementary, what comes to mind? Pencil, paper, paint, pottery and maybe a few other ways to create. At Peterson Elementary, Mrs. Mock and Mrs. Ericsson’s 5th grade art classes are taking it up a notch. They are incorporating 21st Century Skills and school culture into Fine Arts Education.  

Making of the movie...ACTION!
After viewing a variety of stop motion animation videos, a technique that makes inanimate objects appear to be moving, the students were given the task to create their own. They were given the prompt “How We Do Things at Peterson” and were able interpret that idea however they saw fit, giving students ownership and choice. Once they were in their groups, students assigned roles and split up tasks.  Being able to develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively is an important skill to learn at this age. Everyone had different ideas on what they thought the video should be about. Presley pointed out, “We had to work together to come up with a plan. We knew we wanted to make sure that we represented what we do here at Peterson, so something that is really big here is our assemblies.”

Once the plan was in place, the groups created comic strips of the story they wanted to tell in the stop motion video. Mrs. Mock and Mrs. Ericsson gave them all different types of materials to to choose from for the creation of the background scene and characters.

Now it was time for the making of the movie! Students took images of their characters, moved the objects frame by frame, and created an illusion of movement in the iMotion app on the iPad. For many of the students, it was their first trying stop motion animation, and they were surprised how easy it was to create. Some groups wanted to take their movie up a level and add sound. They decided to smash the app Shadow Puppet Edu to voice over their video. Sydney commented, “Adding the second app was fun, it made our video more exciting and we were able to tell our story better.”

Mrs. Mock and Mrs. Ericsson found a way for 21st Century Learners to explore creativity, find the value of the importance of school culture, and actively use technology in the Fine Arts classroom.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

Byron Nelson 9th Grader Zooming with Lakeview 2nd Graders

Second through Fifth Grade students at Lakeview Elementary began setting up their ePortfolios and requested "experts in the field" to showcase its capabilities and uses. Who better to ask than our very own high school students! iSchool Advocates and student leaders from Byron Nelson High School and Eaton High School had the opportunity to discuss their own ePortfolio in 20 minute segments with a designated grade level using Zoom, a free video conferencing tool. During each presentation time, the HS students were asked to discuss their ePortfolio as a whole, explain the importance of having an ePortfolio, and share a specific piece of work in the ePortfolio that makes them most proud. Each segment concluded with a Q&A session in which Lakeview students were able to ask questions to the high school students regarding creation and design of the ePortfolio.

During each video conference, students utilized the "Share Screen" feature of Zoom which enabled the Lakeview students to see how their ePortfolio may be organized and designed once content was added over the years. It was especially helpful that many HS students discussed things that they wanted to add or change in their ePortolios which models self-reflection and evaluation of content since ePortfolios are constant work in progress rather than a finished product.
Utilizing Share Screen feature to discuss exemplar work

This Zoom experience supported students' growth towards being a global collaborator in the expectation that students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning. Additionally, the high school students gained insight as an empowered learner in which they used technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and [demonstrated] their learning in a variety of ways. (ISTE Student Standards 7a and 1c)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Writing Process Gone Digital

Teachers and students would easily agree revision is an important part of the writing process; however it is often cumbersome and difficult to accomplish within the constraints of a 45 minute class period.  Students in Mrs. Davis’ 8th grade GT class have taken this mundane task to the next level with a little help from Google.  

A structured process has been created in order for students to successfully collaborate with their peers as they work through the writing process digitally.  Students begin by drafting their original essay in Google Docs and then “share” their document with a classmate for feedback.  The partner is able to access the essay and provide “real-time” feedback by utilizing the comment feature available in Google Docs. The student writer is then able to view the feedback and reflect on their own work before progressing to the next stage.  As students analyze the comments received, they are able to evaluate changes they should make to their essay.  This allows students to take full advantage of the peer revision technique, while maintaining ownership of their writing. Once students are ready to share their published piece of writing with an authentic audience, they can feel confident in knowing their work is polished.  

In the example above, Anna and John were partners for the revision of their Definition of a Hero Essay.  Anna says one of the greatest benefits of this experience is, "Not having to stop to write on a sticky note or separate piece of paper. Often the comments on paper are unclear. This makes it easier to see the person's feedback and reply." John also expressed his appreciation for the ease of use associated with digital feedback, "The instantaneous collaboration is great! You and your partner can work from anywhere and you can both see what the other is doing."

Research supports the value of peer collaboration and discussion across all content areas and concepts. By providing students the opportunity for peer feedback on their writing, students were able to offer one another constructive critique in order to improve their own communication skills.  Extending, receiving, and evaluating feedback is a critical skill for all 21st Century Learners.